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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Time for This Blogger to Take a Break

The correction made necessary for the previous post makes me think it has come time for this blogger to take a break from posting for a while.

How long? I don't know. My duties as editorial page editor at The Washington Examiner have to come first and there is so much going on with the Examiner - much of it involving bloggers, the Internet, citizen journalism, etc. - it probably won't seem like much of a break.

But for now I'm taking a cue from my buddy La Shawn Barber and taking a bit of time off from Tapscott's Copy Desk. I'll keep posting automotive stuff over at Tapscott Behind the Wheel, including the increasingly well-read Carnival of Cars.

Who knows, maybe after a week or two away from the lap top, the urge to put my two cents worth in will once again be irresistible.

Specter, GOP Members Are Earmark Champions on Senate Appropriations Committee, Feinstein Tops Democrats

CORRECTION: Folks, I misread the report on which the following data was taken. First, all of these earmarks are for museum projects only and thus are far from representing all of the earmarks that may have been requested by a particular senator. Second and more important, these earmarks are grouped by state in the report and were not necessarily requested by the senator from that state who sits on the Appropriations Committee.
I apologize for the foulup here, which is entirely my own and not in any way the result of the good folks at Porkbusters, Instapundit or anybody else. I done this one all by my lonesome!
At least this incident illustrates a distinct advantage of the Blogosphere over the Mainstream Media - you get the correction here within minutes. With the other guys, it would be tomorrow at the earliest before the dead-tree edition would carry a correction.
How's that for finding a silver lining?

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, is the most frequent requester of earmarks on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, with 77 requests for such special interest spending measures between 2001 and 2006.

Specter lead the earmark fest that saw GOP members of the panel request an average of 27 earmarks during the five years. By contrast, the dozen Democrat members of the committee requested an average of 17 earmarks.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, was the leading earmark requester among Democrat members of the appropriations committee, with 75. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, was shown with only one earmark request.

The data for this analysis was compiled for a report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK. The report was based on information provided by the Congressional Research Service.

Trailing Specter - who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee - among the top five GOP requesters was Sen. Mike DeWine, R-OH, with 53, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, with 33, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, with 21, and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, with 19. Cochran is chairman of the committee.

DeWine faces a tough re-election battle in November. Stevens made headlines last year when he threatened to resign if Congress withdrew funds for the infamous "Bridges to Nowhere," which will be located in his state.

Cochran, along with Sen. Trent Lott, R-MS, has requested the "Railroad to Nowhere," a $700 million earmark to tear up a recently rebuilt rail line on the Gulf Coast and move it a short distance away.

Trailing Feinstein among the top five Democrat earmark requesters on the appropriations panel were Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL, with 39, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, with 21, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, with 19 and Sen. Daniel Inuoye, D-HI, with 14.

During the same 2005 Senate battle in which Stevens threatened to resign, Murray threatened retaliation against earmarks sought by senators who voted in support of Coburn's efforts to expose and curtail such special interest spending measures.

Here are the names, party identification and number of earmarks requested by each member of the Senate Appropriations Committee between 2001 and 2006:




























GOP Average
Dem Average

UPDATE: Thursday Ledger is Up!

The Heritage Foundation's fine roundup of media and blogger coverage of the earmark issue is up and you can read it all here. Don't miss the items on Coburn's hearing today on how Congress ignores its own budget rules and The New Orleans Times-Picayune report on Lott's disapointment over the failure of Senate and House conferees to reach agreement on the emergency appropriation bill.

UPDATE: Walker is Swinging

Comptroller General David Walker that is and Heritage's Andrew Grossman has a full report here, including Walker's analysis of how three reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire apply to America today as a result of the spending and entitlements crisis.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Immigration Reform to Take Big Step Toward Federal Wage Controls

Immigration reform focuses on what should be done about the flood of illegal immigrants swarming into this country from Mexico and about the estimated 11 million already here, right? Bet you didn't know immigration reform is also about putting federal bureaucrats in charge of deciding who gets paid how much for what jobs.

It's true, the 600+ page immigration reform bill now making its way through the U.S. Senate with support from President Bush includes hundeds of provisions that most Members probably will never read, even though they are casting repeated votes on the measure and proposed amendments to it.

Fortunately, other people are reading the legislation, including Dr. Tim Kane of The Heritage Foundation. Kane just published a quick summary of what he found when he looked over the guest worker provision in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. What Kane found is shocking:

"The Senate has devised a guest worker program that would extend bureaucratic control over some 5 percent of the labor force, via wage controls on the private sector. Rather than establish a simple cap on the number of temporary visas issued each month (which could be distributed fairly in a simple monthly auction), the Senate bill would create of a new Department of Labor bureaucracy that would be nothing less than a central planning agency for the U.S. labor market."

This is classic Washington politics, with a problem that at first glance has nothing at all to do with how much people should be paid becoming the leveraging point for vastly expanding the power of the federal government to regulate more and more of our daily lives.

Under the bill as it is currently written, according to Kane, the Secretary of Labor would be authorized to decide which occupations have need of additional workers coming into the country via the guest workers program and to insure that occupations in which those workers become employed are covered by the Davis-Bacon Act.

Don't remember Davis-Bacon? It's one of Big Labor's most prized achievements from the Great Society. Davis-Bacon requires all workers in a given industry to be paid the "prevailing wage" of that industry i.e. it imposes union wage scales on all affected employers, thereby driving up the cost of doing things like constructing new homes. So much for illegal immigrants providing needed labor "to do jobs Americans won't do."

The bill also imposes costly new red tape on businesses, including 10 new forms for certifying that hiring a migrant worker won't impact wages in their chosen occupation. Given the imposition of Davis-Bacon requirements, it appears the bill would thus require employers to submit false certifications.

Once the government is controlling wages in occupations in which migrants are employed, how long before the special interests like Big Labor and Big Business start demanding expansion of the regulations? The slippery slope here is easy to envision - five percent of all wages controlled today, tomorrow yours, mine, his, hers, everybodys.

There is much, much more that Kane found and you should read it all here on the Heritage web site. Frankly, the Senate immigration reform bill is beginning to look like one of the all-time legislative nightmares because it appears to be stuffed with Blackmarks like this guest worker wage-setting bureaucracy.


The Washington Examiner's Thursday editorial addresses the Obama provision of the immigration reform bill, which may be brought to the full Senate for a vote today. If it is, the odds that even half of the senators or any members of their staffs will have read the entire text of the proposal are slim and none.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cut Their Pay and Send Them Home?

Remember Sen. Lamar Alexander's campaign slogan when he was seeking the White House years ago? I was reminded of that slogan last week while observing the events on Capitol Hill as the House voted to limit the number of bureaucrats taking vacations on official business.

Putting a limit on such bureaucratic fun junkets was a good thing but what about the emerging evidence of hypocrisy in the House lobbying reform bill that requires public identification of earmkarks and their congressional sponsors?

One small step forward on bureaucrats junkets, two giant leaps backward on the lobbying bill. Here's a point from The Washington Examiner's editorial take on the situation:

"On the one hand, many of these representatives stood before America and crowed about the importance of lobbying reforms. On the other, they were busily inserting exceptions like the one that exempts from disclosure the identity of the author of an earmark that directs tax dollars to a federal agency. About half of the thousands of earmarks approved in recent years would thus be exempted from public knowledge."

Be sure and read the whole editorial and email your response to the Examiner.

UPDATE: National Journal's Glover on Conservative Battle Fatigue

Danny Glover is a mainstream media guy who serves as managing editor of National Journal's Technology Daily. He is also a rising star in the Blogosphere, having launched Beltway Blogroll a little more than a year ago and enjoying growing visibility and influence as a result.

Glover has a great eye for details and his description of the recent Conservative Battle Fatigue debate on the Blogosphere does a great job of capturing the several players and their arguments as the discussion progressed.

One of the major contexts for that discussion is the failure of the GOP majority in Congress to pursue with credible aggressiveness the conservative agenda, so Glover's account dovetails effectively with the "Cut their pay and send them home" meme above.

Go here for the full Glover.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Who Will They Blame For the GOP's November Loss?

The GOP Establishment's ire will most likely be aimed at those on the Right who believe American political parties are actually supposed to deliver on the promises they make in order to attract voters.

In the meantime, Richard Viguerie, who has bedevilled too-comfortable GOPers for many years, provides in today's edition of The Washington Post some important historical context to the coming debacle.

The current debate in the Blogosphere is the latest manifestation of a contest that goes back before more most of the present participants were born:

"But unhappy conservatives should be taken seriously. When conservatives are unhappy, bad things happen to the Republican Party.
"In 1948, conservatives were unhappy with Thomas E. Dewey's liberal Republican 'me too' campaign, and enough of them stayed home to give the election to Harry S. Truman. In 1960, conservatives were unhappy with Richard M. Nixon's negotiations with Nelson A. Rockefeller to divide the spoils of victory before victory was even achieved, and John F. Kennedy won.
"In 1974, conservatives were unhappy with the corruption and Big Government policies of Nixon's White House and with President Gerald R. Ford's selection of Rockefeller as his vice president, and this led to major Republican losses in the congressional races that year.
"By 1976, conservatives were fed up with Ford's adoption of Rockefeller's agenda, and Jimmy Carter was elected with the backing of Christian conservatives.
"In 1992, conservatives were so unhappy with President George H.W. Bush's open disdain for them that they staged an open rebellion, first with the candidacy of Patrick J. Buchanan and then with Ross Perot. The result was an incumbent president receiving a paltry 37 percent of the vote.

"In 1998, conservatives were demoralized by congressional Republicans' wild spending and their backing away from conservative ideas. The result was an unexpected loss of seats in the House and the resignation of Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)."

But the lesson here isn't simply that the GOP has for long taken its conservative base for granted. Let us also remember that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. We conservatives keep wondering when the GOP Establishment will learn. I ask when we will learn.

UPDATE: Livy knew

Professor Stepphen Bainbridge knows Livy. Livy knows men.

UPDATE II: More symbolism from Bush, GOP

Another piece in The Washington Post, this time in the Monday news section, provides additional evidence that neither the White House political strategists nor those of the congressional GOP understand that their strategy of election-year sops to the Right is the heart of the problem, not the solution to their dwindling poll numbers and November prospects.

UPDATE III: Captain's Quarters says RAV wrong Bush, conservatives

Ed Morrissey takes issue with Viguerie's version of the relationship between President Bush and the conservatives, noting that:

"First off, let's get rid of the notion that we ever thought George Bush was a conservative on anything but right-to-life and tax issues. The reason Dick Cheney is the vice president is because Bush needed a staunch conservative on the ticket in order to get the conservatives to come out and vote, a fact that many seem to have forgotten.

"This wasn't a 'triumph of hope over experience,' it was the political calculation that we needed a moderate-sounding candidate to beat the sitting vice-president of a popular president. George Bush ran for office on the promise of increased spending on education and a Medicare prescription plan; weren't conservatives paying attention?"

Ed, who has consistently been the most reasoned and factually grounded advocates of conservatives remaining within the GOP, goes on to reiterate his view that the best course for conservatives in 06 and 08 is to defund the national GOP electoral aparatus while encouraging with our money, brains and muscles the fielding of top-flight conservative alternatives in party primaries:

"The history of our strikes should demonstrate the necessity of our continued engagement. We need to take one piece of advice from Vigurie: stop donating to party-leadership committees. No money to the RNC, the Republican Senatorial or Congressional Campaign Commitees, until that leadership proves its responsiveness to conservatives.

"We need to redirect those funds to conservative candidates instead, loosening the power that current leadership has on our representatives. If they do not fear the cutoff of electoral funding, they will be less inclined to follow in lockstep behind the spendthrifts. It's this activism that will enable conservatives to take control of the GOP, instead of abandoning it to the people who spend like drunken sailors."

As always, I encourage you to read the entirety of Ed's analysis, which is here.

Friday, May 19, 2006


PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A Victory on Emergency Spending Bill

National Journal's Peter Cohn is reporting an agreement among Senate and House negotiators to cap spending in the emergency spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery to $94.5 billion.

The total would include, according to Cohn, the $92.5 billion originally requested by President Bush and approved by the House of Representatives, plus an additional $2.3 billion to fund avian flu preparations. The National Journal is a subscription-only publication, so I can't provide a link to the full article.

There are questions yet to be resolved about how to include in the measure funding to send 6,000 National Guardsmen to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in securing the border against illiegal immigrants coming from Mexico and other countries.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Conservative Battle Fatigue? A Final Note

Two things:

First, I'm not sure how I missed it but this column by Peggy Noonan says everything I've been seeking to express but so much more effectively that I cringe when I go back and re-read my postings on this topic.

Second, I'm baffled by this post by Hugh Hewitt. What on earth did I say to justify this kind of Kossian mockery?


It is just a joke.

UPDATE II: I just discovered All Things Beautiful!

A wonderfully well-written blog, including this post in which the author declares herself a Gerghtyite.

HT: SOXBLOG. And yes, I am quite familiar with Chamberlin.

Pennsylvania Revolt a New Prop 13? A Pittsburgh-Tribune Reporter is the Unsung Hero

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters properly frames the amazing events Tuesday evening in the Keystone State that resulted in the primary defeats of a dozen GOP state legislators, including two members of the GOP's legislative leadership.

The New York Times notes the connection between the Pennsylvania election, which featured a determined horde of rebel conservatives running against Establishment Republicans-in-Name-Only, and the growing debate at the national level among conservatives, as illustrated in the recent "Conservative Battle Fatigue" discussion about what to do when the RINOs complete their squandering of the 1994 Contract with America opportunity.

Ed notes another historically relevant parallel for the Pennsylvania Earthquake with the grassroots taxpayer revolt that started in California and resulted in passage of Proposition 13 to limit the ability of state officials to tax residents of John Fremont's great adventure.

"When Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann put Proposition 13 on the ballot, the state's political intelligentsia fought it bitterly, spending millions of dollars to convince Californians that the state's problems involved a lack of revenue and not out-of-control spending.
"No one thought that California voters would pass the referendum -- but it turned out to be highly popular indeed, winning by a large margin and shocking the political establishment. That victory started a nationwide demand for tax reform that continues to this day, forcing Rockefeller Republicans out of the GOP leadership and paving the way for Ronald Reagan in 1980."

Don't miss the rest of Ed's analysis because it puts a period on the Conservative Battle Fatigue discussion.

After you read Ed's Pennsylvania post, go to The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan in her column on the Bush immigration speech. Why doesn't the White House and the national GOP leadership get it on immigration, she wonders:

"The disinterest in the White House and among congressional Republicans in establishing authority on America's borders is so amazing--the people want it, the age of terror demands it--that great histories will be written about it.
"Thinking about this has left me contemplating a question that admittedly seems farfetched: Is it possible our flinty president is so committed to protecting the Republican Party from losing, forever, the Hispanic vote, that he's decided to take a blurred and unsatisfying stand on immigration, and sacrifice all personal popularity, in order to keep the party of the future electorally competitive with a growing ethnic group?
"This would, I admit, be rather unlike an American political professional. And it speaks of a long-term thinking that has not been the hallmark of this administration. But at least it would render explicable the president's moves.
"The other possibility is that the administration's slow and ambivalent action is the result of being lost in some geopolitical-globalist abstract-athon that has left them puffed with the rightness of their superior knowledge, sure in their membership in a higher brotherhood, and looking down on the low concerns of normal Americans living in America.
"I continue to believe the administration's problem is not that the base lately doesn't like it, but that the White House has decided it actually doesn't like the base. That's a worse problem. It's hard to fire a base. Hard to get a new one."

You can read the rest of Noonan's eloquent column here. Are you listening, Karl Rove?

Finally, the unsung hero of the Pennsylvania Earthquake is Brad Bumsted, a reporter for The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Back in 2001, Bumsted started asking state legislators for their expense records.

Because the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Act law exempted the state legislature, Bumsted's requests got the cold shoulder. But being a determined, resourceful journalist, Bumsted found other sources for the most of the documents he was seeking. His subsequent reporting exposed serious waste and fraud and sparked the political firestorm that culminated in the election day events Tuesday.

I wrote a Townhall.com column about Bumsted five years ago praising him and encouraging conservatives to follow his example, especially at the federal level where there is a fairly good FOIA law. One of the effects of his work was a reform of the state FOIA that made it tougher and added coverage of the state legislature.

Somebody ought to give Brad Bumsted a medal.

Conservative Battle Fatigue? What About SCOTUS?

Yesterday we considered what if the GOP suffers a disaster in November and the Democrats regain control of one or both houses of Congress. And I noted that the data for the latest Washington Post/ABC News survey contains evidence of two vitally important developments.

Today I want to look at those two developments in the context of the other issue that ought to be considered in this discussion of "Conservative Battle Fatigue," and in the course of doing so let's take up Master Hewitt's insistent query about judges and the U.S. Supreme Court.

First, nothing is guaranteed for the Democrats. Look at the data in question 16 of the Post survey and you see there is little statistical difference between the low opinion two of three Americans now express toward both parties in Congress. For the GOP, the disapproval figure is 64 percent and for the Democrats the number is 58 percent.

Yes, Democrats win the "which party do you intend to vote for in November" query (question 18) in the Post survey by a wide margin, 56 percent to 33 percent. But that's not the most important data in the survey.

Look at question 19, which asks if respondents are inclined to look around for somebody besides their incumbent congressman to support in November. A clear majority of 55 percent said they would look around, even though 62 percent said previously in the survey in response to question 17 that they approve of the job being done by their incumbent.

Put these data together and we see an electorate that is disgusted with both parties in Congress and would very much like to have an alternative. That shouldn't surprise us, considering how the GOP majority promised conservative legislation but has on so many issues acted more like the Democrats.

This Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum factor is the dynamite waiting to be exploded under both parties. The last time the "look around" response was as intense as it is now was October 1994. Then the GOP's "Contract with America" provided the alternative.

Today it is doubtful the GOP can credibly offer another contract unless it prefaces that offer with significant and concrete action toward enactment of long-promised conservative policies accomplished in a dramatic manner - "emergency session" - that nationalizes the election on our terms rather than the Democrats' terms. Do Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert have the political acumen and courage to do this?

Karl Rove's idea that conservatives can be lured back in sufficient numbers to protect the GOP majority by focusing on four critical issues to create the appearance of such genuine progress reminds me of the last desperate effort of the Bush I re-election campaign to portray W's father as a conservative advocate. It wasn't credible then thanks to the broken "read my lips" promise and it isn't credible now because Bush hasn't vetoed irresponsible spending and seems determined to grant amnesty to most of the 11 million illegal immigrants.

That's the bad news, at least for the GOP and the Democrats. The good news is the opportunity thereby created for conservatives to provide the credible alternative being sought by that 55 percent who are looking around for somebody else to support in November.

So in my view the most likely scenario is this: The GOP Establishment won't/can't seize this opportunity and so will lose in November, but the Moonbat extremism that afflicts the Democrats will quickly squander their gains.

With Bush finally using the veto, the period leading to the 2008 presidential race will be stalemate in Congress and continued opportunity for the creation and articulation of a credible new conservative alternative. The Democrats only hope will be a triangulating Hillary, but even that won't work if her negatives remain at their typical level.

Is that scenario evidence that yours truly inhabits LaLa Land, as claimed by The Anchoress? We will see.

Now what about Master Hewitt's question regarding the Supreme Court? As I understand it, Hugh believes it is absolutely vital to protect the GOP majority in order to preserve control of the confirmation process in the event Bush is able to nominate a third member of the Supreme Court before leaving office.

About which I humbly offer two observations: First, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito are likely anchors with Scalia and Thomas of a presumptively conservative majority on the Court. Adding a third Bush appointee of the same quality as Roberts/Alito would probably insure a working conservative majority for a generation.

But there are no guarantees that Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts will all remain healthy. Odds are greater for a Ginsburg departure, but we cannot assume the next exit from the Court will be from the left side.

Far more important, however, is that it may not make much difference. If the "experts" are to be believed, a third Bush appointee is most likely to be Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Maybe Gonzalez would be another Scalia. More likely he would be another David Souter.

Second, Supreme Court appointments are important but they aren't the most important consideration in these matters. Elevating the Court to such prominence is a sort of conservative echo of the liberals dependance upon the federal judiciary to impose decisions that ought instead be made in Congress.

For me, keeping our gaze fixed on the most important goal means seeking the creation of a reliably conservative vehicle for delivering genuine conservative reforms in Congress, so that even when a liberal occupies the White House the inevitable compromises that must be made will be made with our principles and programs as the starting point, not preservation of the Leviathan bequethed to us by FDR, LBJ and, yes, Richard Nixon.

The priority is, in short, to find a way of completing the Reagan Revolution. The Leviathan in Moscow was brought down and so can the one on the Potomac. May God grant that it be in my lifetime.

UPDATE: The Definitive Geraghtyite Response

Jim provides a comprehensive refutation of my arguments above and concludes that, hey, maybe The Anchoress is right about my being in LaLa Land. One thing is certain: The major voices in this debate have offered their arguments with wit, passion and undoubted principle.

UPDATE II: Master Hewitt swats a gnat

Well, an argument he clearly considers to be of about the same weight as a gnat. I am referring, of course, to my own, above, and Master Hewitt's lengthy, detailed and passionate response. I have to confess that every time I've read a response from Hugh, Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters and Jim Geraghty at NRO, I've found myself nodding in agreement and being tremendously impressed with the strength and reasonableness of their arguments.

A partial explanation for that is undoubtedly the fact that I've grown up as a conservative Republican, beginning with Reagan's speech for Goldwater in 64 and continuing through my own service to President Reagan during the 1980s and during my years at The Heritage Foundation, which is to conservative thinking what the library in Alexandria was to learning for the Ancients.

But I keep coming back to this one undeniable fact: The GOP has for three decades talked the talk before the election but then mostly run the other way after the ballots are counted. Maybe I am, as Bruce Kesler first suggested, suffering from battle fatigue.

More likely, mine is but one small voice among the many in the Blogosphere who love this country devoutly and only wish to see its priceless freedoms nurtured and protected. It's been a great discussion that has certainly helped me clarify my own thinking on these matters and I suspect that of a lot of other folks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Conservative Battle Fatigue? The "What If" Issue

More bad news for the GOP in today's edition of The Washington Post as 56 percent of the respondents to the latest Post/ABC News survey say they prefer Democrats in control of Congress.

There is a distinct, though not quite as deep, bias against the GOP in the demographics as 34 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Democrats, 28 percent as Republicans and 33 percent as independents.

Even so, there are two vitally important qualifiers on this survey's results that figure directly into the consideration by conservatives of the likely consequences of a GOP defeat come November.

So, as the discussion incited around the Blogosphere by Bruce Kesler's "Conservative Battle Fatigue" post continues, let's sqaurely face the What If issue:

What if present trends continue and the GOP loses control of one or both chambers of Congress? This prospect has been the hole card argument of the Republican Establishment for decades - "Yes, we've made some mistakes but look at all the terrible things that will happen if you conservatives stay home and let the Democrats take over."

First, the worst possible scenario is that the Democrats win veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and House. The situation would then be quite analogous to the first post-Watergate Congress after the GOP lost 74 House seats and the Democrats ran roughshod over President Gerald Ford.

No doubt with Democrats in such complete control, the War in Iraq would be lost, the Bush administration's successes in the War on Terror would be reversed, there would be disastrous tax and spending policies enacted and few if any conservative judicial nominees would be confirmed.

But is such a nightmare scenario likely today? I doubt it for two reasons. First, there is the built-in GOP advantage stemming from the nation's increasingly suburban and Sunbelt (remember this term?) demographics. The increasingly populous and conservative South and West provide a cushion against electoral disasters such as are conjured up every two years by GOP Establishmentarians.

Second, even in 1994 when Congress last turned over, the GOP did not win veto-proof majorities. The depth of current dissatisfaction is quite similar to that seen in the final weeks before the 1994 election and that election was conducted under the previous reapportionment regime, which clearly favored the Democrats.

There are other considerations here but these two factors ought to be sufficient to make the nightmare scenario little more than the Washington Establishment's perennial bogeyman. Worried conservatives who rightly recoil at the prospect of such an outcome ought to step back, take a deep breath and look at the situation realistically rather than allowing themselves to be swept away by like Roman children hearing their mothers warn that "Hannibal is at the gate!"

A far more likely outcome is Democrats in control but not quite able to overcome a Bush veto that is aggressively threatened and mercilessly delivered. Divided government would be the result. Let's not forget that during most of the 90s when the GOP had similarly slim majorities that forced Bill Clinton to accept things like welfare reform, spending increased at a dramatically lower rate than has been the case under Bush and the GOP since 2001.

But there is another factor here and that is the effect on the Moonbat elements of the Democrats of being out of power for more than a decade but finding themselves hamstrung by the continued presence of the hated Bush (finally!) using his veto pen in the White House.

There would be lots of talk about insanities like impeachment, congressional investigations, repealing the Bush tax cuts and the like. But the lack of actual results would drive the Moonbats into venegeful desperation and a general revulsion among independent and conservative voters, with a bloody and perhaps permanently crippling splintering of the Democrats to follow.

It would in short be the perfect setup for a stengthened conservative majority to return in Congress in 2008, most likely with a White House occupant wise enough to recognize that the "emerging Republican(i.e conservative) majority" had become a reality.

Historic things would be happening within and around the GOP during this period as well and it is to those events that next we turn.


Have you read today's editorial in The Washington Examiner? It's titled "Stubborn" and it explains why President Bush's stubborness - a virtue on issues like the War on Terror - is proving to be his biggest political problem on immigration.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty is a wise man

He responds to the arguments made above and quickly gets to what I see as the (potentially) weak link in my case - a Democrat flood in November might not quite produce a veto-proof majority consisting only of donkeys but what if it does result in a veto-proof majority of donkeys and RINOs?

That is a scary prospect indeed. Obviously nobody can know in advance, but I think that it is equally possible that a Democrat flood would drown some of those RINOs. Big sweeps usually bring in some marginal candidates of the winning party who would not quite otherwise make it.

Since the RINOS are almost uniformly from otherwise reliably blue states, they would likely be the first to lose Democrat votes in November and some of them would lose enough such votes to go down. (And wouldn't it be their just reward for years of helping the Democrats subvert the conservative agenda!).

If that is how it came down, the vast majority of GOP survivors of such a November debacle would almost certainly be mainly conservative stalwarts who didn't depend upon crossover Democrats.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, would then be the obvious choice for a two-year stint as House Minority Leader. And how about Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, for Senate Minority Leader? Or Cornyn. Or Coburn. Or?

Jim makes other excellent points and concludes with a neat rhetorical twist of the blade. Read and enjoy but, most important, think about these things seriously and with an eye for the long run. And then let me, Jim and the rest of the world know your thoughts.

UPDATE II: Bruce Kesler is listening to his inner Marine

And I am glad he is, even though it leads him to conclusions contrary to my own regarding the future of conservatives and the GOP. Go here for his latest.

UPDATE III: Pa primary demonstrates Morrissey's strategy

Then there's the result of some primaries in Pennsylvania in which some high-ranking GOP muckety-mucks in the state legislator meet their Waterloo in contests with conservative alternative candidates.

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters sees the Pennsylvania result as a clear demonstration of the efficacy of his view that the solution for dissatisfied conservatives is to redouble their efforts in the GOP primaries to challenge incumbents who don't share our principles or who have been coopted by the allures of power in the nation's capitol.

UPDATE IV: Thus Spake Tapscottustra?

Well, this has certainly been interesting. Scanning the comments on this post to date, I see that I am a "religious nut" with no credentials as a journalist, the "Republican equivalent of Howard Dean and the Daily Kos" and a "chump." Just another day in the Blogosphere, I guess.

Oh yes, I am also accused of being a Nietzschian in conservative drag. All I can say about that is it's the first instance I can recall from 35 years of public policy advocacy of somebody reading something I've penned and concluded that I have anything at all in common with the failed German philologist.

Cheap shots don't surprise me, but it does bother me when otherwise responsible and intelligent commentators mistate my views. Exhibit A in this discussion is The Anchoress, who says I live in "LaLa land" and "desire a loss in 06 in order to win in 08."

I doubt that any of my fellow residents of Sykesville, Md., consider the joint anything comparable to LaLa Land, but, come on, folks, at least accurately state my argument before taking it apart. Otherwise, you simply end up punching a straw man and what fun is there in that?

Let me be clear on this point: I don't desire, yearn for or otherwise pine after a GOP disaster in November, nor do I believe such a turn of events guarantees a win in 08. I'm simply observing that, given current surveys and recent political history, it seems fairly certain that many GOP candidates are going to have a rather unpleasant time come election night and we need to understand why.

My analysis seeks to first help understand why the GOP faces such a prospect - essentially, bad faith with its conservative base - and second to open a discussion of what conservatives should do as a result. Nowhere do I say I seek or welcome the prospect of a GOP disaster this November in order to guarantee a victory in 08.

I am using this forum to address the Anchoress because I don't know that individual and am unable to locate an email address for her.

Okay, I feel better now. Critics are free to return to loading and firing at will. :-)

UPDATE V: Now here's a man who understands!

Thanks Ed, much appreciated. A little balance is always a good idea.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Geraghtyite "What is to be Done"

NRO's TKS blogger Jim Geraghty follows up his previous posts on why he believes conservatives must remain within the GOP in order to avoid turning the reins of power over to the Moonbats on the Left with a new post on his ideas of how conservatives should be involved.

Lots of excellent advice here regardless of whether one believes the GOP is the only appropriate vehicle available to conservatives or that the GOP is fatally flawed and headed for the ash heap of history sooner or later.

May the debate continue ... I will have more myself later today. First, I have to write an editorial on the Bush speech last night for tomorrow's edition of The Washington Examiner.

Not sure about the "Geraghtyite" reference? It's from Master Hewitt and you can read all about it here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

If the Bush Speech Tonight Sounded Familiar ....

... it should have. Take this passage for example:

"Our reforms should be guided by a few basic principles. First, America must control its borders. Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, this duty of the federal government has become even more urgent. And we're fulfilling that duty.
"For the first time in our history, we have consolidated all border agencies under one roof to make sure they share information and the work is more effective. We're matching all visa applicants against an expanded screening list to identify terrorists and criminals and immigration violators.

"This month, we have begun using advanced technology to better record and track aliens who enter our country -- and to make sure they leave as scheduled. We have deployed new gamma and X-ray systems to scan cargo and containers and shipments at ports of entry to America.
" We have significantly expanded the Border Patrol -- with more than a thousand new agents on the borders, and 40 percent greater funding over the last two years. We're working closely with the Canadian and Mexican governments to increase border security.
"America is acting on a basic belief: our borders should be open to legal travel and honest trade; our borders should be shut and barred tight to criminals, to drug traders, to drug traffickers and to criminals, and to terrorists."

Bush spoke those words more than two years ago during a Jan. 7, 2004 speech on immigration policy. Go here for the complete text. You will be surprised by how much else in this address sounds so very much like what the President said tonight.

Compare the above graphs to these from tonight's nationally televised speech, the full text of which is available on the Fox web site:

"Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that. Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border.
"By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed, we will have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my Presidency.
"At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors … infrared cameras … and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings. America has the best technology in the world - and we will ensure that the Border Patrol has the technology they need to do their job and secure our border."

So we must ask: If things have gotten so bad in the most recent two years despite the actions initiated in 2004 that Bush is now calling out the National Guard, is that a confession of failure of the measures detailed above, including especially those high-tech measures that were again presented tonight as the key to protecting our borders?

Rove Tells AEI Bush Likely Won't Veto Supplemental

More evidence that the Bush veto threat was hollow, as CQ reports on a speech this morning at the American Enterprise Institute by Karl Rove:

"House and Senate negotiators working to reach a conference deal on a huge supplemental appropriations package for war costs and hurricane relief should be able to shrink the package enough to avert a first-ever veto by President Bush, according to Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser.
"Rove said Monday after a speech on economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute that he doubted Bush would need to follow through on his threat to veto the bill (HR 4939) if its costs exceed $94.5 billion.
"The House-passed measure is a relatively lean $91.9 billion, compared with the Senate's $108.9 billion bill. Negotiators hope to close that $17 billion gap and reach a conference deal by Memorial Day.

"'At the end of the day, we'll get a supplemental that falls within the president's numbers,' Rove said."

No presidential veto. No messy public fight between the Senate and the House. No end of earmarks. Everybody wins, right?

Things just never seem to change in the nation's capitol.

Conservative Battle Fatigue? The Responses Just Keep Rolling In

NRO's Jim Geraghty does the campaign research and finds extensive and credible evidence of the horrendous consequences of Democratic ascendancy following the November elections and draws the conclusion that it is foolhardy for conservatives to do anything that helps the other side win.

Jim has thus provided the best articulation I've yet read of the Rovian argument that the country simply cannot afford to let the Demcorats back in power. Read and heed, as virtually everything he says is almost unchallengeably true:

"If the GOP base doesn't show up in Minnesota, you get Amy Klobuchar instead of Mark Kennedy (90 rating lifetime, 84 in 2005).
"If the GOP base doesn't show in Maryland, you get Ben Cardin (lifetime rating of 6, 2005 rating of 0!) or Kweise Mfume (lifetime ACU rating of 4) instead of Michael Steele.
"If the GOP base doesn't show in Tennessee, you get Harold Ford (19 lifetime, 21 in 2005) instead of Ed Bryant (lifetime ACU score of 98!) Van Hilleary (lifetime score of 97!). Another GOP candidate is Bob Corker, Chattanooga mayor.
"If the GOP base doesn't show in West Virginia, you get Robert Byrd (lifetime rating of 30, 20 in 2005) as Appropriations Committee Chairman, instead of businessman John Raese.
"If the GOP base doesn't show in Washington, you keep Maria Cantwell (11 lifetime, 8 in 2005) instead of businessman Mike McGavick.
"Okay, maybe Chafee goes down. But you've lost how many solid conservatives to remove this one guy?"

It's tough to argue with facts like those Geraghty marshall's but it is possible and I will have a response to the TKS post later. In the meantime, please let me know if you have posted a contribution to this discussion that I can link to here.

Meanwhile, Tradesports has the odds of the GOP keeping control of Congress at less than 50-50. No, I am not a betting man but it is worth noting.

UPDATE: Geraghtyites vs Tapscottians

Hugh Hewitt does have a way with words, doesn't he? Do you detect a certain Swiftian tone to his title for the ongoing discussion about conservatives and the GOP? Is Hugh really a closet Straussian?

Whatever he is, Hugh is as always on top of everything Blogosphere-wise and politics-wise, so no surprise that he cuts to the chase on the issue before us:

"One question for my pal Mark: If the GOP loses three net seats in the Senate (or more), and with it the ability to break filibusters of SCOTUS nominees (or even get them out of a Leahy-chaired Judiciary Committee), will the 'message' that you want to send be worth the cost of the postage?

"When you write that 'I am no longer convinced that it makes a sufficiently critical difference in the day-to-day function of government that the Bill Frists, Trent Lotts, Jerry Lewises and Bill Youngs are in control of Congress instead of Harry Reid, Teddy Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi,' have you thought through the implications for SCOTUS?"

Now I know what Aristotle must have felt like when Plato responded to one of his queries with a look of patient resignation that the kid just doesn't get it. Well, okay, probably Aristotle never got that look, but the guy always sitting in back named Donkeycles (a lesser known Platonic student whose tenure at the Academy was, shall we say, not as extensive as others) probably did on more than one occasion.

This American Donkeycles will have a response later.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Conservative Battle Fatigue?

Democracy Project's Bruce Kesler has an interesting post up in which he argues with his usual direct, no-nonsense approach that folks like me on the Right - whom he believes are talking about sitting out the 2006 election - are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Referring to yours truly as well as Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters and Professor Stephen Bainbridge, Bruce opines that we suffer as a result of being "worn down by defending difficult positions at the forefront of the battle against irredentist Democrats in Congress and their fifth-column in the media."

That Bruce is posting on the issue is a good sign that I am succeeding in one of my goals, which is to encourage a dicussion in the Blogosphere about whether the GOP deserves the continued support and loyalty of those millions of us who since the 1960s have provided most of the party's human, intellectual and financial muscle.

Bruce is not alone in thinking my view that the GOP has forfeited conservative support is in error, as Powerline's Paul Mirengoff also posted earlier this week a thoughtful and direct response to an editorial I wrote in The Washington Examiner that encapsulates the conservative dissatisfaction with Bush and the GOP.

I will have much more to say in response to Bruce and Paul, but for now I urge readers to read their posts carefully and seriously consider their arguments. Other than that concerning the War on Terror and its associated issues, there is no more important political discussion in America right now than that beginning among conservatives about what in coming months and years should be our proper course of action to restore the vibrancy and effectiveness of the age-old struggle for individual liberty and limited government.

And make no mistake about it folks, that is what is ultimately at stake as we debate what to do about November 2006 and beyond.

UPDATE: Political Bad Faith, Not Iraq, is the Problem

Unlike Professor Bainbridge and others of a more libertarian bent, I find much to laud in President Bush's conduct of the War on Terror and his decision to invade Iraq, topple Saddam Hussein and maintain a U.S. military presence as the Middle East's second (Israel being the first) genuine democracy is birthed.

Indeed, Bush as war-time president and his federal judicial appointments are two strong reasons why many conservatives who otherwise find his domestic policies objectionable would continue to support him, if only grudgingly and for lack of a better alternative, if he was on the ballot.

But it is not President Bush, it is the congressional wing of the GOP - and by extension the national party apparatus that goes on regardless of who is in the White House - that is on the ballot and it is chiefly to them that I find myself no longer willing to extend the benefit of the doubt for two reasons:

First, I am no longer convinced that it makes a sufficiently critical difference in the day-to-day function of government that the Bill Frists, Trent Lotts, Jerry Lewises and Bill Youngs are in control of Congress instead of Harry Reid, Teddy Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi.

The GOP majority has hiked spending and expanded entitlements at a rate that would astound LBJ. Congressional oversight has become a mere memory under the GOP's control for the past dozen years. It was under a GOP majority in the House and with Bush in the White House that campaign finance reform was approved, thus setting in motion the most extensive undermining of the First Amendment and political speech since Lincoln threw opposition newspaper editors in jail during the Civil War.

I could go on because the list of essentially liberal programs and policies enacted and/or expanded under GOP control is lengthy. I didn't come to Washington 30 years ago to help Me, Too Republicans further the Liberal Democrats' Leviathan state; I came to help put it back in the cage that is the Constitution, traditionally understood.

So, with national security issues, Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court, the 2001 tax cuts and welfare reform of 1996 excepted, having this GOP majority for the past dozen years has accomplished very little. Given how the GOP congressional leadership avoids genuine congressional oversight of the federal bureaucracy and is terror-stricken by the prospect of actually engaging in sustained and determined political hand-to-hand combat with the Democrats, odds are even these accomplishments are anything but permanent.

In short, what the GOP majority has done is waste a unique historical opportunity - one that voters might not ever grant them again.

Second, there is the congressional and national GOP's bad faith with conservatives for lo these many years as they've frittered away their opportunity. John N. Mitchell, Nixon's first Attorney General, reassured worried liberals that Nixon's conservative campaign rhetoric of 1968 was nothing more than talk.

"Watch what we do, not what we say," Mitchell cooed in a pattern that has been evident ever since, with only the Reagan years being an exception (and even then not always). This is why the GOP Establishment loves the conservatives voter on Election Day but the day after always forgets the promises made to get us to the polls.

Conservatives end up getting lots of smoke and mirrors talk, but little genuine accomplishment. The GOP wants our money, our energy and our votes, but then they expect us to sit down and shut up until the next election while they perpetuate Big Government.

Put simply, the GOP has been giving conservatives the idiot's treatment since 1968.

UPDATE II: What is to be Done?

Bruce and Paul assume that the key point of what I advocate is having conservatives stay at home on election day this year. It is never so simple as that. I am at least partially responsible for this misconception since I've not previously gone into any detail on what I think conservatives should do. I've focused instead on describing why conservatives are upset and assessing the response to date of the White House and Hill GOP.

So what is to be done? Three things:

First, conservatives should make clear to the White House and national GOP leadership that who we vote for, work for and provide financial support for this November depends absolutely upon what is accomplished in Congress between now and Election Day.

With Congress' approval rating at near-record lows, the GOP leadership has nothing to lose but everything to gain by embarking on an emergency campaign to enact long-promised major conservative reforms and thereby to challenge the Democrats - and President Bush - to say no on the core issues of the conservative agenda.

Cancel all congressional recesses between now and the election. Stay in session on Mondays and Fridays. Read and study on Saturdays. Rest on Sundays. Forget about kissing babies back home. The campaign that determines your future is right here in the nation's capitol. The time for talk is past, it is time to act.

The Democrats think they are nationalizing the election via Iraq. Most Americans just want the GOP to do what its been promising to do for years. Nationalize the election with actual reforms, not mere promises of reform.

Consistent majorities of the American people have for decades supported essential conservative reforms, so a succession of roll call votes making those reforms real between now and November is likely the GOP's only hope (short of total lunacy on the Left, a possibility I don't for a minute dismiss).

What kind of reforms?

* Immigration reform, including building the wall and whatever other measures are required to secure our borders and disavowing any form of amnesty for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in America. These measures are essential because as 9/11 made clear we must know who is coming into our country and who is already here.

* Federal spending must be brought under control, starting with an end of all earmarks. If doing this means out-of-touch Old Bulls like Ted Stevens, Trent Lott, Thad Cochran or Arlen Specter resign, so much the better. Sen. Tom Coburn would make an outstanding Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman.

* Entitlements must be controlled. We simply cannot afford to pay the benefits promised to the Baby Boomers (of which I am one) under Social Security and Medicare. The Liberal welfare state's defined benefit-based retirement program is bankrupt and must be replaced with a defined contribution-based program (compare the Civil Service Retirement System to the Federal Employees Retirement System for respective models).

Similarly, the current system in which government bureaucrats make the basic decisions about the nation's health care must be replaced with one that puts the power of consumer choice in the hands of health care consumers and the integrity of treatment choices in the hands of doctors. As The Heritage Foundation's Bob Moffit has argued for decades, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is a suitable model here.

* The size and scope of federal power must be reduced and rebalanced. Congress must create the equivalent of a Base Re-Alignment and Closure (BRAC) process for the federal bureaucracy. The budget process must be reformed. Duplicative federal programs must be eliminated. Here's a suitable blueprint.

* President Bush's judicial nominees must all receive up or down votes before Labor Day.

* Repeal McCain-Feingold. It is the shame of the GOP that under the party's watch Congress abrogated to itself authority to regulate political speech. President Bush's decision to punt the constitutional issue to the Supreme Court was the worst decision of his tenure.

As George Will notes in today's edition of The Washington Post, it is "sinister" to argue that the government should determine what is and is not appropriate political speech in campaigns to determine control of the government. Repeal is the only way the GOP can erase this terrible blackmark on its record.

* Pass the Cornyn-Leahy Open Government Act of 2005. Transparency is Big Government's biggest enemy and individual liberty's greatest ally. Making the federal Freedom of Information Act effective is an essential first step towards making the federal government functionally transparent. The second step is putting all government spending, contracts and supporting documentation on the Internet so that any citizen can see how his or her tax dollars are being spent with just a few clicks of the mouse.

If the GOP majority in Congress makes acceptable progress on these issues in coming months, conservatives will work, contribute and vote accordingly. If Congress doesn't act on these issues - or merely goes through the same old rhetorical motions - it will be clear beyond any further doubt that GOP majority really doesn't care about enacting conservative reforms and the GOP is useless as a tool for advancing political liberty.

Second, if the GOP majority fails to act or merely continues to talk about it, conservatives then have an obligation to find or create a new party. I'm not unaware of the immense difficulties that face new parties in American politics. The GOP's sucess in coming to power in only three elections (1856, 58 and 60) is the great exception to the norm for minority parties.

I'm not talking here of a political Kamikaze ala Bob Smith of New Hampshire. The reason the GOP succeeded in the pre-Civil War era was it provided a new home for dissatisfied Whigs and Democrats. The hard work of creating and sustaining a new home for conservatives leaving the GOP is what must be done before any Member of Congress, sitting governor, state legislator or other elected GOP official switches parties.

How to do that? There is no shortage of third parties already out there, including perhaps most prominently the Libertarian Party. But for a variety of reasons, I don't think the answer will be found in an existing entity. If the GOP loses its majority in November, millions of conservatives are going to be willing as never before to consider a new party.

At that point, the historical analogies for third parties in American politics may not be so applicable, thanks to the advent of the Internet in general and the Blogosphere in particular. Thanks to cyberspace, it may still take several elections to gain a new majority, but the time required to make potential recruits aware of a new option and to provide them with tangible courses of actions to empower that option sufficiently to make it a genuine factor in the next election could well be months rather than years. (Yes, I am also aware of the ballot access difficulties placed by the major parties in the way of aspiring political parties.)

Odds are also excellent that the first wave of Karl Roves of the Internet era of American politics is already out there, most likely consisting of politically savvy conservative/libertarian Thirty-Somethings old enough to have seen up close and been repelled by the present system and young enough to recognize and seize the opportunity afforded by developing and perfecting the new tools provided by the internet.

This is why skeptics in the GOP (and the Democrats, too, for that matter) should beware: What the Internet has done to the mainstream media - see Dan Rather and CBS for a relevant example - can and most likely will be done to all of the "Bigs" of our society, including Big Government and the political parties that live by it. See Hugh Hewitt's "Blog" and Glenn Reynolds' "An Army of Davids."

Third, there is no reason for conservatives to lose heart. If anything, this is the time conservatives should be most optimistic and energized. The Hewitt and Reynolds works make clear the incredible opportunity that has been given the present and emerging generations of conservatives by the internet.

President Reagan in his First Innaugural Address famously asked of liberals who dominated the previous era of American politics: "If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?" The trenchancy of Reagan's query for us today is brought home as never before by the Internet.

With the internet, the capacity of every individual to govern himself is immensely expanded and the capacity of networks of individuals to engage in concerted action for the common good is similarly magnified. The need for massive bureaucracies is less now than ever before (if indeed it ever really was needed) and the opportunities created by the internet to expand the realm of individual freedom are without historical precedent.

But human nature and history being what that they are, there are no guarantees. The Left is aware of these opportunities as well and in some ways is ahead of the Right. Thus, conservatives must embrace the internet and make it our own. There is no time to waste, my friends.

In conclusion, allow me to correct one point that is a frequent theme among those who believe it inappropriate to discuss these matters. The term Bruce used to describe us summarily in this regard was, I believe, "petulant."

Traditional American liberty has never been more threatened, either externally or domestically, thanks to the Jihadists and continued expansion of Leviathan at home. I hope this foregoing analysis and explanation is sufficient illustration of the inaccuracy of such a description.

UPDATE III: Jim Gerahty at TKS Responds

With a flood of election prophesies that ought to scare the bejeebers out of everybody on the Right. His is among many responses to the dialogue begun by Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project.

It looks like there will be more substantial responses this week, so I have started a new post that you will find here for the TKS and subsequent posts in the discussion.

Friday, May 12, 2006

White House Waffling on Veto Threat - Just As Predicted Here

Don't expect President Bush to veto the emergency supplemental appropriation bill for the military and hurricane recovery, even if it comes to him with funding intact at some level for pork barrel projects like the $700 million "Railroad to Nowhere."

As Tapscott's Copy Desk predicted here earlier this week, a "compromise" version of the bill first floated by aides to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has given the pork barrelers in Congress and the White House just what they needed - a political fig leaf in the form of an "across-the-board" cut of about 13 percent in the funding levels provided by the measure.

None of the billions of dollars worth of earmarked pork barrel projects - not one of which qualifies as an emergency need - would be removed from the bill, just reduced in terms of how many tax dollars will go for them this year. The House version of the bill contained no earmarks and House leaders have said they will not go along with the pork-stuffed Senate version.

Next year, the same politicians will be back for the 13 percent that appears slated to be cut this year in order to finese passage, avoid a confrontation between the House and Senate and give Bush a way out of his first-ever veto of a spending bill.

Here's the key graphs from a BNA report circulating on Capitol Hill today:

"Sen. Trent Lott, R-MS, who with [Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad] Cochran fended off an attempt by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, to strip the 'railroad to nowhere' project out of the bill, said he and others are working to protect such projects and trying to show appropriators that some projects in the bill will not require as large an outlay of funds in the coming year as some believe.
"Given the pressure to drop projects, Lott said an across-the-board cut in all programs covered by the bill would be his preference. 'That would suit me fine,' Lott told reporters.
"The White House criticized the $700 million project in its statement of administration of policy on the Senate bill. But a spokeswoman for Bush said May 11 that its inclusion in a final conference report would not in itself cause the president to veto the bill.

"'I believe that the veto threat was on the total amount,' spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters when asked if Bush would veto a bill that included the rail project."

So, the Washington politicians' smoke and mirrors game on earmarks and federal spending goes on as before - corrupt to the core.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What if U.S. Won a War But Nobody Reported It?

Go to Google and do a search on "captured al-Qaeda documents" and the first entry you will find from an MSM outlet is a February story in USA Today. Go to Captain's Quarters blog here and you find a complete report by Ed Morrissey on captured al-Qaeda documents in which insurgent leaders all but admit defeat.

Actually, Ed posted that report several days ago, so the mainstream media folks have had more than sufficient time to get up to speed on this story. How big a story is it? Well, ask yourself how big it would be if those captured documents claimed victory and described the insurgents' plan for the first 30 days after U.S. troops are out of Iraq. That would be on the front page of every major daily.

But the captured documents instead include insurgents all but admitting that they have lost the war in Iraq and have a steadily weakening capability of launching militarily significant operations there.

For example, Ed quotes from one of the documents in which the author acknowledges that al-Qaeda's "strategy" is to influence the media, not occupy and control territory:

"The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them.
This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.
"This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, preserving it and assuming power in Baghdad (for example, taking control of a university, a hospital, or a Sunni religious site)."

Ed also quotes a passage in the documents in which the author describes how U.S., allied and Iraqi forces have absorbed al-Qaeda's best shots, adjusted accordingly and come back stronger, which is a prescription for continued defeat for the insurgents:

"At the same time, the Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad."

Every year is worse for the insurgents? Why haven't we seen that story in The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times. Why did we first read that news from al-Qaeda in the Blogosphere?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why Conservatives Are Leaving Bush, GOP

Andrew Grossman at the Heritage Policy Blog brings news of what appears to be a back-channel attempt by the Senate to forge a "compromise" with the House on the emergency spending bill for the military in Afghanistan and Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

Not coincidentally, this news comes the same week a number of new surveys show conservatives are abandoning President Bush and the number of respondents saying they will vote to keep Republicans in control of Congress at levels that virtually assure a Democratic takeover in November.

The compromise Grossman reports being floated by aides to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist would impose an across-the-board 13 percent reduction in the spending contained in the bill. Such a compromise would let all those GOP big spenders tell the folks back home about how they really got tough and cut that terrible emergency spending bill by 13 percent across the board.

It's a "win-win" deal, to put it in Washingtonese. No messy election-year confrontation between Senate and House GOP leaders, no need for President Bush to, finally after six years in the White House, actually veto a bloated spending bill. Everybody gets to look tough on waste, everybody wins, right?

Actually, no. Such an across-the-board cut would be a political illusion meant to convey a false message and thereby further distort reality. The false message is that Congress is finally clamping down on unnecessary spending and imposing new spending discipline across-the-board.

Note: Expect to hear this "across-the-board-spending-cut" mantra over and over from GOP proponents of this deal. No matter how many times proponents use that phrase (remember Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority" repitition?) , however, the only way such an approach be taken seriously would be to apply it to all spending bills.

The reality is the compromise would preserve the bulk of the earmarks treasured by the Senate's Old Bulls while reducing funding needed by the military in the War against Terrorism.

Maybe the $700 million "Railroad to Nowhere" championed by Mississippi senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran would be reduced 13 percent but it would still be funded at some level. At worst, such a compromise would be a pebble in the road to earmark heaven for folks like Cochran, Lott and a bunch of other GOP senators.

This is the kind of fundamental smoke and mirrors dishonesty that has helped fuel the biggest increase in federal spending and entitlements since World War II ... under a Republican Congress and a Republican President, both of which were elected in great part because they promised to complete the job begun by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Since George W. Bush took office in 2001, he and the Republican majorities in the Senate and House have talked the talk on cutting federal spending and reducing the power and influence of government but they haven't walked it.

In fact, they have run about as fast as their political legs would take them in the opposite direction, piling up thousands of special interest earmarks, adding the biggest expansion of entitlement spending since 1965, pushing failed federal programs in areas like education to record heights and increasing the national debt to previously unimagined levels.

Put another way, they've done pretty much what a Democratic president and Congress would have done had the election of 1994 not prompted Bill Clinton's hollow 1995 State of the Union proclamation that "the era of Big Government is over."

Bush and the Republicans in Congress have done this with tactics that often have reminded of those used by the Democrats during the 40 years they held sway before 1994. Just think of how the administration held back cost estimates it knew would kill its Medicare prescription drug proposal.

But not even Sam Rayburn went as far as Speaker Dennis Hastert who took the unprecedented action of holding the House at bay for hours until administration lobbyists could dragoon enough Members to vote for the prescription drug bill.

Frankly, my sad expectation is that the Senate and House conferees probably will go along with some sort of fake compromise along the lines of the 13 percent across-the-board cut and Bush will sign the bill. They will think that once again they have finessed the voters, the Democrats, the mainstream media and the conservative base of the Republican party.

That is what we get with incumbents who don't have to worry about getting re-elected, thanks to all those incumbent protection measures they've passed over the years. It has produced a culture of political and legislative corruption that infects both major parties and renders Congress incapable of doing what the nation so desperately needs on critical issues.

Yes, Bush has been tough on defense, he has put two excellent conservative jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court and he persuaded Congress to cut taxes. But the nation's increasingly perilous financial straits sooner or later will undermine even those accomplishments.

Millions of conservatives across the country worked so hard for so many years for a GOP majority in Congress and a GOP President and for all those years they were told that doing so would produce genuine change in Washington, even the consumation and completion of the Reagan Revolution.

Now, with another legislative subterfuge in the offing, we see all too clearly that we've been taken for a ride. Come November, the ride will be over for a bunch of Republicans who think the base "has nowhere to go."

UPDATE: "Smoke and Mirrors" Border Protection, Too

U.S. Border Patrol agents provide continuous information to the Mexican government about the locations of Minutemen, the private volunteers who stepped forward to do what Washington refuses to do - protect America's border. Note that this scoop was first reported by The Inland Valley Bulletin, a medium-size California daily, not The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Michelle Malkin goes through the official response from the Department of Homeland Security and demonstrates that DHS is playing the same kind of smoke and mirrors distortion of the facts that increasingly characterizes official responses on many issues.

Why can't people in Washington simply tell the truth? "Yes, we are tipping off the Mexicans" or "no, we aren't." James, the natural brother of Jesus, had it right in the 12th verse of the fifth chapter of his book in the New Testament.

UPDATE II: Can Conservatives Be Fooled Again?

Karl Rove has a plan to stir up the conservative base with fears of how much worse things will be if the Democrats win the November congressional elections, according to The Washington Post:

"Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and GOP leaders are well aware of the problem and are planning a summer offensive to win back conservatives with a mix of policy fights and warnings of how a Democratic Congress would govern. The plan includes votes on tax cuts, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, new abortion restrictions, and measures to restrain government spending."

Rove's strategy is well reflected in this interview of Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman for the Glenn and Helen Show. Also, don't miss their talk with Michael Barone who knows more about American politics than any other five people I know.

As for the Rove plan, I am intensely skeptical because it sounds so familiar - throw the Right some election year bones, so they'll "come back," then once we're safely re-elected, go on our merry earmark-laden way. It will work, Rove thinks, because the Right "has nowhere else to go."

What about the borders? What about the 11 million illegal aliens already in the country? What about the earmarks? What about the judges who still haven't been confirmed? What about the expansion of federal power since 2001? What about the $25 billion the government admits it can't account for last year?

Why should conservatives believe things will be any different after the election if the conservatives do turn out and save the GOP's hide yet again? That's exactly what the GOP Establishment has been doing for decades --- talking the talk just long enough to get elected, and then mostly dropping the issues the base cares about until the next election.

Will we be fooled again?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tendon Update: Everything Healing Nicely

Some folks have inquired about the tendon surgery from last week. I appreciate very much the concern and especially the prayers! Everything seems fine so far. I had a solid cast for the first week but for the past week and for the next five weeks I have a hinged brace that allows me to type with both hands. The physical therapy will continue for a month or two thereafter, depending on how quickly the tendon heals.

It's an inconvenience to be sure, but I can take the brace off to shower (a relief to my long-suffering family!) and, since I can't get a dress shirt over it or tie a tie, I still get to wear polo shirts to the newsroom It's gonna be so hard going back to the braces and tie thing!

Anyway, thanks again for the inquiries and prayers.

Check Out Article6Blog

Article6Blog looks at issues raised by the provision of the Constitution that bans religious tests for holding public office. Lowell Brown of Hedgehog and John Schroeder of Blogotional are the creators and main forces behind this new blog and my buddy, Dale "Okie on the Lam" Baker is the genius designer responsible for making it look great and be functional for readers.

The prospective presidential run by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the proximate inspiration for Article6Blog, but don't be surprised if it evolves into one of the Blogosphere's best sources of news, analysis and commentary about the role of faith in American government and public policy.

Great work, guys!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Senate Conferees Voted 2-1 For More Pork

Check out the voting records of the Senate conferees at the Porkbusters web site. I went through the data and found 84 votes cast by the conferees on the three key anti-earmark votes. Of the 84 votes cast by the conferees, 61 were in favor of the earmarks, 23 were against.

In other words, the conferees appointed by the Senate's Republican and Democrat leadership to negotiate with the House voted in favor of earmarks twice as often as they did against earmarks. Of the 28 conferees, 13 voted for earmarks every chance they had. The only conferee who voted against earmarks at every opportunity was Kohl.

Of the 23 votes cast by conferees against earmarks, 11 were by GOP senators, the other dozen by Democrats. That apparent balance is a bit deceiving, however, as there were 8 GOP senators who voted for earmarks every time, compared to five among the Democrats.

Coburn Floor Statement on Why He Opposes Emergency Spending Bill

Mr. President, in the past week, the Senate has voted to reduce the overall cost of H.R. 4939, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006, now totaling nearly $110 billion by a mere $15 million. I'm delighted that President Bush has pledged to veto this bill because Congress has, once again, been unable to resist the temptation to load up a must-pass bill with pork.

Mr. President, I offered several amendments to eliminate non-emergency items in this bill. I appreciate the patience of my colleagues. I'm very pleased and encouraged that this body is increasingly willing to depart from our business-as-usual practices.

That's good, because the American people are paying attention to this process. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, the American people said that ending earmarks should be the number one priority for Congress this session.

Thirty-nine percent said that members should be prohibited from "directing federal funds to specific projects benefiting only certain constituents." It's interesting to note that ending earmarks was ranked ahead of immigration reform, which was cited as the number one priority by 32 percent of Americans.

I hope that these results, combined with polls showing a 22 percent approval rating for Congress, will encourage conferees to avoid a confrontation with President Bush over spending. I would hope that when conferees look for items to remove from this bill they take a close look at my amendments that lost by a narrow margin as well as those I withdrew.

Mr. President, I believe that in this time of war and disaster recovery the American people expect us to make hard choices about spending. Taxpayers want us to be serving in a spirit of service and sacrifice, not searching for new ways to raid the public treasury.

Congress is raiding the treasury in two ways with this bill. First, many of the items in this bill should be considered in the regular appropriations process and through the regular order. The War on Terror is no longer a surprise.

We're entering our fifth year of this war. It shouldn't come as a surprise to Congress that we have needs related to this effort. We've also developed a good understanding about many of the priorities in the Gulf Coast that could have been addressed in the regular budget process.

Congress has also added billions of dollars for items that have no connection to the War on Terror and the Gulf Coast recovery. Again, few of these items are true emergencies. The American people deserve to understand what defines a true emergency. According to the budget resolution for fiscal year 2006 all of the following five criteria must be met to be considered an emergency:

* Necessary, essential, or vital;

* Sudden, quickly coming into being, and not building up over time;
* An urgent, pressing, and compelling need requiring immediate action;
* Unforeseen, unpredictable, and unanticipated;
* Not permanent, temporary in nature.

Designating a project as an "emergency" excuses Congress from paying for a project. The result of abusing the "emergency" designation is an even greater emergency. Our nation's debt is nearly $8.4 trillion.

Each American's share of this debt is $27,964.86. Our national debt is increasing by an average of $1.95 billion per day. Social Security, Medicare and the standard of living of future generations of Americans are in jeopardy as a result of decades of fiscal irresponsibility and rationalizations for spending more money today without considering the consequences tomorrow.

The Social Security trustees' reported this week the program will exhaust its trust fund and begin running annual cash deficits in 2040. A year ago, that prediction was 2041 effectively meaning two years have been lost by a refusal to act. The trustees reported Social Security's unfunded liability is $13.4 trillion.

Of course, the real problem with Social Security and Medicare is much worse because the federal government uses an Enron-style accounting scheme. We habitually borrow or, more accurately, steal money from these trust funds to pay for more spending today.

When the 77 million Baby Boomers begin to retire in 2011, our nation will be faced with the greatest economic challenge in our history. If we continue to indulge in earmarks, the gateway drug to spending addictions, we will never address these complex challenges, particularly if we can't resist the urge to abuse the earmark process on a bill designed to address the emergency needs of our troops and displaced people in the Gulf Coast.

Another reason we must act today to rein in wasteful spending is because our ability to influence world events is diminished by our debt to other nations. We now have the distinction of being the world's largest debtor nation, and this bill will add to that debt.

Many serious economists are warning that our excessive borrowing from foreign sources could cause the value of the dollar to collapse, which would lead to a disaster for our economy. It is incredibly short-sighted for this body to sell treasury bills to countries like China so we can finance economic develop programs and other pet projects while, at the same time, we hope to encourage China to be more aggressive in terms of discouraging Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

This is not just a numbers game. The future vitality of our nation is at stake. We are slowly but surely whittling away our national power and ability to leverage other nations away by our refusal to make hard choices about spending.

Many of the items in this bill are obviously not emergencies, which is why this bill will be vetoed by President Bush if it is sent to him in its current form. Again, I hope conferees do not force the President to take this step. I'm confident the President will veto this bill. He understands that it is more important to secure the next generation rather than the next election.

Past presidents and Congresses have made hard choices during difficult times. Between 1939 and 1942, Congress and FDR cut spending for nondefense programs by 22 percent. In 1950, President Truman and Congress cut nonmilitary spending by 28 percent. I would suggest to my colleagues that if we want to be here past 2006 we better do the same.

Still, I agree with my colleagues who say that the President's priorities don't come down from heaven. I would suggest, however, that we are all subject to the judgment that comes down from the taxpayers. If we flippantly disregard the President's insistence that we make hard choices, the judgment of the taxpayers will not be kind to any of us.

Families across this country are faced with hard choices every day in order to live within their budget. They have elected to us to make hard choices. Our refusal to do this only reinforces the perception that we are disconnected from the priority-setting reality that governs the rest of the country.

It is wrong, for example, for this body to fund pork projects like grape research in the state of California then force the taxpayers in my state and every other state to pay for a so-called "emergency" project that has been ongoing for the last 46 years and has already received more than $130 million from the American taxpayer. Where this body sees an emergency the taxpayers often see a series of misplaced priorities.

The state of California received 549 federal earmarks this year totaling $733 million. That included $10 million in federal resources alone for museums. Is it more important to protect the residents at risk from flooding by the Sacramento River or to fund grape research? Congress is spending over $3.6 million on a grape research center in California this year.

We are spending another $1 million on a pedestrian walkway project in Calimesa and a half a million on pedestrian/bike improvements on Tower Bridge in Sacramento? What is more important for Sacramento? Why can't we prioritize today so future generations are not forced to make even tougher choices between massive tax hikes, drastic cuts to Medicare and Social Security or the defense of our nation?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it popular? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right?"

I plead with my colleagues. Do what is right. Our nation is on an unsustainable course and that course correction must begin today, not when it is too late.

I yield the floor.