Posts Tagged ‘michael barone’

Who’s to Blame

October 4, 2013
James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

It’s all his fault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael Barone has placed the blame for the current government shutdown and gridlock generally squarely where it belongs, on James Madison. He explains his reasoning in his column at Townhall.com.

The problem was caused by James Madison. And by the 39 other men who signed the Constitution in 1787.

The problem, of course, is the government shutdown. It was caused because the Framers of the Constitution wisely provided for separation of powers among the three branches of government.

The president would faithfully execute the laws and be commander in chief of the military, but both houses of Congress would have to approve of every penny the government could spend.

In the early republic, it was widely assumed that presidents could veto legislation only it was deemed unconstitutional. Disagreeing with policy was not enough.

That changed after Andrew Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832 and was promptly reelected. Jackson claimed to act on constitutional grounds, but it came to be understood that presidents could veto laws they disagreed with.

That understanding, together with the constitutional structure, imposes something like a duty of consultation between the president and members of Congress. Otherwise — and you may have heard about this — the government will have to shut down.

Government shutdowns have occurred more frequently than the media is telling us.

Astonishingly, Obama said in a prepared statement that no president had negotiated ancillary issues with Congress when a shutdown was threatened. Four Pinocchios, said Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler.

The Post’s Wonkblog helpfully listed 17 government shutdowns since the late 1970s. Almost all involved legislative-executive disagreement over ancillary issues

Divided government is more the norm than the exception, and is likely to be a continuing feature of American politics.

Democratic voters — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — are heavily clustered in certain central cities. They give Democrats an advantage in the Electoral College.

Republican voters are more evenly spread around beyond these Democratic bastions. That gives Republicans an advantage in the House of Representatives.

So both sides have a legitimate mandate — but not an unlimited one.

Republicans are furious that their members can’t defund or delay Obamacare. They want to see politicians stand up yelling, “No!” Theater has a function in politics.

But in fact, they’ve had a partial victory this year, a win that didn’t seem likely last December. By accepting the sequester despite its defense cuts, Republicans have actually dialed down domestic discretionary spending.

Democrats’ position now is essentially the sequester. They’re swallowing something they hate. No wonder Obama seems sullen.

So both sides will have frustratingly partial victories and not get everything they want. That’s how James Madison’s system is supposed to work in a closely divided country.

Darn those founding fathers. It almost seems that they were afraid that a government that was too centralized and powerful would devolve into tyranny so they placed all sorts of limits on the government. That’s just silly. Everybody knows that could never happen. The government is here to help us all and the best way to allow it to so it would be to get rid of all those pesky constitutional restrictions and allow the Light Worker to do his job. Right?

 

 

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A Little Optimistic

August 20, 2012

 

 

I don’t want to be overconfident, but I am starting to feel just a little optimistic about our chances in November. Most of the polls that I have seen have Romney and Obama tied. That is not the reason for my slight optimism. Polls this early don’t really mean a lot. I have, however, seen all kinds of signs that voters do not like Obama, or what he represents very much.

There was the Chick-Fil-A incident. I imagine that a lot of the people who went out of their way to buy chicken sandwiches can just as easily go out of their way to vote. I doubt many will be voting for the first Presidential candidate for support same-sex marriage. Then there is the baker who refused to be part of a photo-op with Vice-President Joe Biden, and who saw his business increase exponentially.

There is Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan to be his running mate. Ryan was supposed to be too extreme with his plans to reform Medicare. The Democrats are already planning to depict Ryan throwing old people over a cliff, but according to Michael Barone, this doesn’t seem to be working out so well.

Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan was supposed to be a problem for the Republicans. So said a chorus of chortling Democrats. So said a gaggle of anonymous seasoned Republican operatives. All of which was echoed gleefully by mainstream media.

The problem, these purveyors of the conventional wisdom all said, was Medicare — to be more specific, the future changes in Medicare set out in the budget resolutions Ryan fashioned as House Budget Committee chairman and persuaded almost all House and Senate Republicans to vote for.

But while Democrats licked their chops at the prospect of scaring old ladies that they’d be sent downhill in wheelchairs, the Medicare issue seems to be working in the other direction.

Romney and Ryan have gone on the offense, noting that while their plan calls for no changes for current Medicare recipients and those over 55, Obamacare, saved from demolition by Chief Justice John Roberts, cuts $716 billion from the politically popular Medicare to pay for Obama’s politically unpopular health care law.

The Romney campaign is putting TV advertising money behind this message, and it will have plenty more to spend — quite possibly more than the Obama forces — once the Romney-Ryan ticket is officially nominated in Tampa, Fla., in 10 days. Team Obama is visibly squirming.

It turns out that Ryan and Romney, who in late 2011 and early 2012 moved quietly but deliberately toward embracing the Ryan agenda, may have outthought their adversaries.

Those last-minute Mediscare-type mailings to seniors, which enabled Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles to narrowly defeat Jeb Bush in the 1994 Florida governor race, don’t work so well anymore when the issue is brought out fully in the light of day.

Dare I hope that the American people are ready for an intelligent conversation on our looming entitlements crisis? If so, than Obama doesn’t have a chance. All he and the Democrats have to offer is scare tactics and a stubborn refusal to permit any reform that might possibly harm any of the interests that fund their party. So much for being “progressive”. As Barone concludes.

This election can be seen as a contest between the Founders’ ideas and those of the Progressives, who saw the Founders as outmoded in an industrial era.

Ryan strengthens Romney in his invocation of the Founders. Obama is stuck with the tinny and outdated debunking of the Progressives. Which rings truer today?

 

 

End of the Global Warming Cult

October 25, 2011

Michael Barone reports that the global warming cult is rapidly losing influence on public opinion. it seems that the more people know, especially about the costs of policies meant to combat climate change. I suppose that it was inevitable that the public would turn against these charlatans. Their mistake was their ceaseless alarmism, which began to stretch the bounds of credibility some time ago.

A similar but more peaceable fate is befalling believers in what I think can be called the religion of the global warming alarmists.

They have an unshakeable faith that manmade carbon emissions will produce a hotter climate, causing multiple natural disasters. Their insistence that we can be absolutely certain this will come to pass is based not on science — which is never fully settled, witness the recent experiments that may undermine Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity — but on something very much like religious faith.

 

But like the Millerites, the global warming clergy has preached apocalyptic doom — and is now facing an increasingly skeptical public. The idea that we can be so completely certain of climate change 70 to 90 years hence that we must inflict serious economic damage on ourselves in the meantime seems increasingly absurd.

I am intrigued, however by Barone’s comparison of the global warming movement.

All the trappings of religion are there. Original sin: Mankind is responsible for these prophesied disasters, especially those slobs who live on suburban cul-de-sacs and drive their SUVs to strip malls and tacky chain restaurants.

The need for atonement and repentance: We must impose a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, which will increase the cost of everything and stunt economic growth.

Ritual, from the annual Earth Day to weekly recycling.

Indulgences, like those Martin Luther railed against: private jet-fliers like Al Gore and sitcom heiress Laurie David can buy carbon offsets to compensate for their carbon-emitting sins.

Corporate elitists, like General Electric’s Jeff Immelt, profess to share this faith, just as cynical Venetian merchants and prim Victorian bankers gave lip service to the religious enthusiasms of their days. Bad for business not to. And if you’re clever, you can figure out how to make money off it.

Believers in this religion have flocked to conferences in Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto and Copenhagen, just as Catholic bishops flocked to councils in Constance, Ferrara and Trent, to codify dogma and set new rules.

 

It is possible to go overboard with this sort of comparison. There is no actual Church of Global Warming. If there were though, would Al Gore be its Pope ? Still, I think it is a good point. I don’t imagine that many people who are active in the radical environmental movement are much involved in any conventional religion. Since it is a part of human nature to worship something, if someone will not worship the Creator of the universe, they, might well come to worship the universe itself.

Paul wrote to the Romans’

25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans1:25)

He was writing about the pagans of his time, of course, but he could have said much the same about the followers of the global warming cult.

 

 

 

Harry S. Obama

August 18, 2011

That is the title of Michael Barone‘s column here.

Harry S.?

 

Barone speculates on the possibility that Obama will pull a Harry Truman, that is come from behind in the polls and win unexpectedly. Barone seems skeptical.

In addition, Truman’s victory was brought about by two “F factors” — the farm vote and foreign policy — the first of which scarcely exists today and the second of which seems unlikely to benefit Obama in the same way.

When the nation went to war in the 1940s, 1 in 4 Americans still lived on farms. The 1948 electorate still reflected that America. Voter turnout was actually lower than it was in 1940, and the vast postwar demographic changes were not reflected in elections until turnout surged in the contest between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Truman promised to keep Depression-era farm subsidies in place and charged that Dewey and the Republicans would repeal them. That enabled him to run ahead of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 showing in 13 states with large farm populations, from Indiana to Colorado and Minnesota to Oklahoma.

Without that swing in the farm vote, Truman would not have won. Dewey, waking up to find that he would not be president as he and almost everyone expected, spotted that immediately the morning after the election.

Today only 2 to 3 percent of Americans live on farms. Farm prices currently are running far ahead of subsidy prices. Obama is not going to be re-elected by the farm vote.

The second F factor that helped Truman was foreign policy. As Ornstein correctly notes, Truman’s Cold War policies — the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan — were supported by Republican congressional leaders and by Dewey. Top Dewey advisers were taken into confidence by Truman’s foreign policy appointees. It was the golden era of bipartisan foreign policy.

But on one policy, Truman went further than his top advisers and Dewey’s. When the Soviets blocked land access to West Berlin in June 1948, Truman’s advisers — men of the caliber of George Marshall and Omar Bradley — said that it was impossible to supply food and fuel to Berlin and that we should just abandon it.

At a crucial meeting in July 1948, Truman listened to this advice. After others had finished talking, Truman said simply, “We’re not leaving Berlin.” Gen. Lucius Clay, our proconsul in Germany, set about organizing what became the Berlin Airlift.

Gen. William Tunner, who had run the wartime airlift from Burma to China, made the Berlin Airlift work. Vast quantities of food and coal — far more than experts had estimated — were brought into Tempelhof Airport on planes landing in foul weather every 90 seconds. And the pilots took to throwing out pieces of candy to the hungry kids lining the runways.

Andrei Cherny​, now the chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, tells the story in his book “The Candy Bombers.” He argues persuasively that the Berlin Airlift — an example of American strength, determination, technological prowess and generosity — played a key role in re-electing Truman.

Well, we already know that Obama will not be known in history for his tough foreign policy.

All I can say to Barak Obama is, “Mr. President, I knew Harry Truman, Harry Truman was my friend, and Mr. President, You’re no Harry S. Truman”.

Well, I didn’t really of course, that was before my time, but you get the idea.

 

Debt Deal Winners

August 3, 2011

I am still not certain who has come out ahead in the debt ceiling deal. Michael Barone seems to think that the Republicans go the better of the deal. In his latest column, courtesy of Human Events, he explains that the Republicans win when the debate is over spending cuts.

First of all, the liberals seem to be a whole lot angrier over the deal.

Democrats seem especially unhappy. They could have avoided the fight in the first place by raising the debt ceiling in the lame duck session in December, when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress.

But they decided not to. Reid’s comments then suggested that he expected the issue to split the House Republicans, pitting the leadership against the 87 Tea Party-sympathizing freshmen. The leaders would have to agree to a tax increase in order to get a deal, with a party schism like the one that followed George H.W. Bush’s agreement to a tax increase in 1990.

That didn’t happen. Instead Reid abandoned his demand for a tax increase. The reason, I think, is that he hasn’t had a 50-vote majority for a tax increase in the Senate, just as Senate Democrats haven’t been able to pass a budget.

All of which left Barack Obama looking somewhat ridiculous when he called for more taxes in his televised speech Monday night. When you’re trying to show you’re leading and your followers have already gone off in another direction, you tend to look like something other than a leader.

Some Democrats, in frustration, have said House Republicans are acting “almost like a dictatorship” or are using “terrorist tactics.” But in opposing tax increases, House Republicans are just being true to the voters who gave them in November 2010 a larger majority than they have won since 1946.

Other Democrats have taken to blaming Obama. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, decries an empty bully pulpit. Paul Krugman​, the trade economist who writes partisan vitriol for The New York Times, talks about a centrist copout.

That’s what they get for being too clever. Here is the point of the column.

All of which weakens Boehner’s bargaining position and may mean a final bill less tilted to Republican demands. But, as many Democrats note, the battle is being fought over how much spending to cut, which means that Republicans are winning. The question is just how much.

Democrats went into this fight with a precedent in mind, the budget fight between President Clinton​ and Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995-96. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton won that fight and Republicans lost.

That’s not quite right: After shifting to noticeably more moderate policies, Clinton was re-elected in 1996, but Republicans lost few House seats and held onto their congressional majorities at the same time.

The difference this time is that Obama has not shifted policies noticeably, but instead has seemed to position himself as a complainer on the sidelines, asking voters to call their congressman. He has presented no specific plan of his own. His chief of staff reports that he hasn’t spoken at all to Boehner lately.

One major difference which Barone neglects to mention is the simply fact that with the loss of their monopoly over the news media, the Liberals are no longer able to completely control the narrative. Back in Clinton’s day, before Fox, the Internet, and when Conservative talk radio was just beginning to get big, Clinton enjoyed the advantage of being able to fight almost entirely on his own terms. If the media slammed the Republicans for being extreme and stubborn, there was really only Rush Limbaugh to tell the other side. Now, of course, Obama does not have that advantage and the fight is more equal.

I think that on the whole the republicans did get the better of the deal. It’s no where near enough to avert eventual catastrophe but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Political Bickering

April 17, 2011

Michael Barone thinks political columnists and reporters should be banned from using the words “squabble” or “bicker” to describe the debates of politicians.

Reporters who use the verbs “bicker” and “squabble” seem to believe that it is silly for opposing parties to waste their time negotiating — they should just split the difference at the beginning. You can see something like this feeling in the polls showing majorities of voters “disgusted” with politicians.

But the truth is:

The Constitution establishes not a single united government but an arena for conflict. The Founders expected the House, the Senate, the president and the courts to disagree, and they hoped the net result of those conflicts would be good governance.

What we’re watching is not children bickering but adults with sharply different ideas trying to shape public policy as much as they can. It’s not squabbling, it’s democracy.

He’s right, of course. One thing that irritates me is this notion that differences between politicians are due to “partisanship” and it everyone will  just put it aside and work together, they can come up with simple commonsense solutions to all of our problems. The problem is that even people with the best will in the world are going to have very different ideas about problems are important and what the best solutions are. People have different experiences and different principles, so there is always going to be some debate and squabbling in government. This is a good and healthy thing as long as it doesn’t get out of hand

Congressional debate 1856

One thing though, I would like to ban comparing American politicians to dictators. There is no one in American politics even remotely like Hitler, Stalin, Mubarrak, or Castro. Not only is this kind of rhetoric ridiculous hyperbole, but it insults all of the people who have suffered under real dictatorships.


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