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Five Surprising Super Tuesday Predictions

March 07, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Here are five surprising 2012 Super Tuesday delegate predictions, based on my analysis of Real Clear Politics polling averages, public opinion polls, straw polls, and recent events in the ten states voting tomorrow.

(The takeaway: Non-Romney candidates will have their moments in the sun… and then the Romney juggernaut will continue crushing everything in its path.)

Prediction #1: In almost every primary state, the candidate who wins the most delegates will win more delegates than all other candidates combined in that state

In other words, in each of the seven primary states (not the three caucus states, where anything goes), one candidate will almost always win more than 50% of that state’s delegates.  This may seem surprising, given the fractious nature of the 2012 GOP primaries, dispersed support for the remaining candidates, and the proportional nature of delegate allegation.  However, these states’ apportionment systems are quasi-proportional, which means that large numbers of delegates end up going to the top two (occasionally three) candidates, and none to those who fail to meet a minimum threshold of 15% or 20% of the vote.  An even larger haul goes to the first-place winner, even if he beats the runner-up by only a small percentage.

Prediction #2: Rick Santorum will win only two states, Oklahoma and Tennessee

Santorum leads the polls in these two southern states, but Romney’s ahead of Santorum in the other eight.  Ohio’s too close to call but has been trending toward Romney since his Michigan victory.  Santorum failed to submit complete paperwork for nine Ohio districts, which makes him ineligible for 18 state delegates.  This means that recent polls showing him and Romney neck-and-neck may overpredict Santorum’s delegates relative to Romney’s.  If Santorum takes Ohio, the deciding factor may be Operation Hilarity.

Prediction #3: Only Romney will win delegates in all 10 states—and he’ll win at least 10 in each state

Romney is second in the polls to Santorum in two states, second to Newt Gingrich in one, and on top in the other seven.  Vermont has only 17 delegates, but Romney is heavily favored to win there.  Ron Paul will do better in caucus states—Idaho (32 delegates), North Dakota (28), and Alaska (27)—but Romney should do well enough to pick up 10 delegates each.  Second-place Santorum will win nothing in Virginia, where he’s not on the ballot, and possibly none in Idaho, where he received 0 votes in a Tea Party Straw Poll.  For about half the states, Paul and Gingrich will pick up no delegates.

Prediction #4: Paul will win more delegates in Idaho than in the other nine states combined

Paul does better in small caucus states, where his well-organized operation is more influential (i.e. where his fanatical supporters can rig the vote).  Santorum will likely be eliminated in early rounds of voting in Idaho, where candidates are dropped in successive rounds until one has at least 50% of the vote.  Outside of the three caucus states, Paul should win at most five delegates, all in Virginia.  Paul cleaned up in early caucus states, but he won’t be able to replicate that success in the proportional allocation states.  He will likely be the only candidate who doesn’t win more delegates on Super Tuesday than he has won to date.

Prediction #5: After Romney’s rout on Tuesday, Santorum will still have at least half the number of Romney’s delegates and a quarter of all delegates awarded to date

Romney’s likely to clean up on Super Tuesday; Gingrich is far from his December polling highs; and Paul never had a chance of winning the nomination; but the race isn’t over, if only because the three also-rans are too stubborn to quit.  It’ll be virtually impossible for Gingrich or Paul to reach the required 1,144 delegates to win—either would have to win about 75% of the remaining delegates.  Santorum’s not likely to quit soon, even though he’d have to win two-thirds of the remaining delegates, which would be possible only in the event of a major Romney scandal or sudden shift in public opinion.

As Romney’s political director put it, Santorum’s showing on Super Tuesday will not “do anything to cut the delegate lead.  He is going to fall further and further behind.  It becomes a mathematical battle as much as it is a political one, and the math just doesn’t add up for Santorum.”  (As one Santorum senior strategist put it, “The argument that math is on their side is uninspiring and laughable,” which just proves that the Santorum campaign doesn’t understand math.)

Note: For these predictions I used RCP polling averages, recent polls where averages were unavailable, and straw poll results.  I made no firm predictions for fruity caucus state North Dakota, for which there was only a Tea Party straw poll last fall in which Herman Cain won and Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich didn’t even place; and nutty caucus state Alaska, for which there was only a poll from October 2010 with Mike Huckabee in first place.  Nate Silver and Intrade were not consulted for this article.

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Dear Newt: Please Stick Around as Long as You Like

February 01, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Much has been written about 2012 GOP presidential primary frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich’s weaknesses as candidates.

Less has been written about how they stand up next to each other, and whom the comparison favors.  A close look at their records makes it clear that Romney can only benefit from Gingrich staying in the race as long as possible.

Gingrich will likely help Romney in two ways: first, by making Romney seem more conservative to hesitant members of the Tea Party wing of the GOP.  This will happen via Gingrich’s patchwork quilt of liberal positions on such issues as Romney’s role at Bain Capital (“Exploitive!”), Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity (“Right-wing social engineering!”), and Nancy Pelosi’s cap-and-trade bill (“Bipartisan!”).

Second, Gingrich may push Romney to the right on some issues, nudging his competitor to come out more forcefully for the conservative aspects of his platform and commit to them more unwaveringly as campaign promises.

(This is in contrast to the advantage Romney gains by Ron Paul staying in the race, which is for Paul to make Romney seem like a spring chicken with a manly laugh instead of an old goat with a girlish giggle.)

Newt’s attacks on Romney from the left will help Romney develop defenses against the charges the Obama campaign will inevitably fling at him in the general election.

And positions on which Gingrich is good—for example, his promise to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office—may spur Romney to take ever bolder stances.  If you have any doubts about Romney fulfilling his oath to issue a 50-state executive waiver, Newt’s upping the ante on Obamacare will make it harder for Romney to back down.  Newt’s grandiosity, however annoying and impracticable, will prod Romney to promise and act bigger.

(Give Newt credit, I guess, for proposing too many ideas rather than too few.  It’s just that voters get suspicious when the ideas include things like giving the moon statehood.)

Newt’s arrogance and intemperance will make Romney seem even-handed and statesmanlike.  Take Newt’s petulant refusal to debate Obama in the general election if the events are moderated by “the media.”  And they say Newt won’t help build party unity!

What of Newt’s endless, reckless assaults on Romney?  Won’t they hurt Romney in voters’ eyes?  I doubt it.  Being called fickle by Newt is like being called a blowhard by Al Sharpton.

But it’s not only Newt’s venomous attacks on Romney that will drive voters to side with the former Massachusetts governor.  Newt’s pathetic justifications for his dips in the polls and poor recent debate performances belie his claim that Romney is the forked-tongue prevaricator in the race.  My favorite Newt excuse, on his Tampa debate with Romney last week, is: “I stood there thinking, ‘How can you say these things you know are falsehoods?’  That’s why I was quiet, because there was no civil way to call him out on what was in fact a series of falsehoods that were astonishing.”  Because if there’s one thing we know about Newt, it’s that he’d rather be quiet than uncivil!

Or consider this half-baked zinger, which Gingrich offered as a rationalization for why Romney would win the Florida primary: “He can bury me for a very short amount of time with four or five or six times as much money, most of it raised in Wall Street from the guys who got bailouts from the government.”

Let’s unpack this obfuscating, run-on defense, which sounds like something a Democrat would say.  Under normal circumstances, we tend to accept that candidates who raise lots of cash have many passionate supporters.  Gingrich himself has been bragging about how much cash he raised after his unexpected South Carolina victory.  Now suddenly campaign cash is bad?

“A very short amount of time” implies that Romney will best Gingrich in the polls for just a few days, maybe a few weeks—a mere blip in the unstoppable wave of his opponent’s gathering momentum.  Um, wait—doesn’t that precisely describe Gingrich’s standing?

As for Wall Street: Which former GOP Speaker of the House supported the September 2008 bank bailout?  Why, that’s right—Newt Gingrich!

Gingrich has threatened to stay in the race until the 2012 Republican National Convention in August.  I say bring it on.

Romney doesn’t give the GOP exactly what it wants as a candidate, but what he gives us is better than what any of the remaining candidates gives us—and Newt’s presence in the race makes Romney an especially appealing contrast.  Rick Santorum obsesses over social issues and is an unreliable fiscal conservative.  Ron Paul is terrible on foreign policy.  But Newt is in a category of his own: erratic and reckless, bombastic and bloviating, he alienates independents, many conservatives, and probably his own dog.

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Coulter-Romney vs. Levin-Gingrich

December 21, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Over the past few weeks, a controversy has been brewing between conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Mark Levin over the relative fitness of frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

In her columns and TV appearances, Coulter has been stumping for Romney and stomping all over Gingrich.  On his syndicated radio talk show, Levin has been denouncing Romney as a non-conservative and bolstering Gingrich as a flawed but superior alternative.

The tiff echoes Coulter’s endorsement earlier this year of Chris Christie, before he insisted he wasn’t running, and Levin’s dismissal of Christie as a RINO.  In both cases, Levin has expressed contempt for the “Republican establishment” trying to decide the GOP nominee, though it would be hard to characterize Coulter as part of any establishment.

Coulter’s endorsement of Romney is a bit puzzling, when one recalls her animosity toward John McCain and her tongue-in-cheek threat to campaign for Hillary Clinton if McCain got the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.  Coulter argued then that Republicans do not win elections when they run moderate candidates, because such candidates appear ideologically weak against genuine leftists such as Obama.  On the contrary, because this is a center-right country, Republicans win when they run unapologetic conservatives such as Ronald Reagan, who offer a contrasting alternative to the Democratic candidate.

Coulter has reconciled this apparent contradiction by arguing that McCain was consistently moderate or center-left.  In contrast, Romney has flip-flopped and been inconsistent, but has switched from liberal to conservative positions.

Levin claims that Gingrich has a stronger track record as a conservative than Romney, including the former’s efforts to get the first Republican majority reelected in the House in 68 years and his implementation of welfare reform.  Levin warns that we can’t trust Romney to go to bat for conservative principles, given his spotty past.

I sympathize greatly with Levin’s frustration that we can’t seem to find a strong, consistent, articulate conservative this election cycle who’s willing to run, doesn’t have heavy personal or political baggage, and can maintain a double-digit showing in the polls.  I worry whether anyone we nominate—Romney, Gingrich, or someone else—will consistently stand up for conservative principles once president.

I’m no Romney fan, and I empathize with those who claim his major virtue is his electability.  However, the more I think about Coulter’s argument—or rather, my take on it—the more I think she’s right, but with one major caveat.

As Coulter explained to Sean Hannity recently, the most important thing we need our next president to do—among the many Democratic messes that have to be cleaned up—is to repeal ObamaCare.  The GOP can’t get rid of ObamaCare without a Republican president, unless they have a supermajority in the Senate, a majority in the House, and no Republican defectors.  None of this is guaranteed.  A Senate supermajority will be especially difficult to achieve, perhaps even more so than putting a Republican in the White House.

As Coulter noted, ObamaCare must be repealed as soon as the 113th Congress and the 45th president are sworn in.  One of the many compromises/blunders Congressional Democrats made in order to ram ObamaCare through was pacifying voters with a phony claim that the bill would save money over the next 10 years; they did so by having ObamaCare taxes kick in starting in 2010 but most benefits not begin until 2014.  This gave the GOP a leg up in getting the bill repealed—but it gave them only so much time.  Coulter predicts that once people start collecting their “treats” and federal insurance starts crowding out the private market, the bill will never be repealed.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments for and against the ObamaCare individual mandate in March; however, it is not certain that the court will find the provision unconstitutional, or that Congressional Democrats won’t find some way around the ruling.

Thus, if the most important thing for the next president to do is to repeal ObamaCare, then I would paraphrase William F. Buckley, Jr. and recommend that we vote for the most electable Republican who will repeal ObamaCare.  Assuming that all seven contenders would repeal it—and all have credibly pledged to do so—and that Romney is the most electable candidate, this suggests we go with Romney.  Other issues are important—but not as important as repealing ObamaCare.

The situation recalls moderate Republican Scott Brown’s battle against Democrat Martha Coakley for the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat in November 2009.  Brown’s win in liberal Massachusetts, and his swearing in as the 41st GOP Senator—the one needed to block Democrats’ supermajority—was seen as a referendum on ObamaCare, because Brown had sworn to vote against the House’s version of the bill.  (Democrats cheated by using budget reconciliation to meld the Senate and House bills, but that’s another story.)

Brown ran on a platform of promising to vote against ObamaCare.  As I wrote at the time, Senator Brown could propose “a bill using Medicare funds to subsidize partial-birth abortions for illegal Islamist immigrant tax cheats with Al-Qaeda ties, and he would still be Republicans’ hero for having voted down the health care bill.”

Similarly, Romney could be squishy on all kinds of issues, and conservatives would still be grateful—as long as he repeals ObamaCare.

But here’s the caveat: Is Romney in fact the most electable Republican?  Will RomneyCare, and the fact that Obama cited it as a model for ObamaCare, do him in?  Will Romney be more electable than Gingrich, who formerly supported the individual mandate on a national level?

For those who find some issue other than ObamaCare more important, or are willing to risk not having it repealed for the satisfaction of running a preferable but less electable candidate, my arguments won’t be persuasive.

But for those who think that the #1 priority of the next president should be undoing ObamaCare, Romney’s electability is the pressing unknown that must be discovered.

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Newt Is Right: The Palestinians Are an Invented People

December 14, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Israel

Frontrunner-of-the-month GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich caused a stir at Saturday night’s Iowa debate when he affirmed his previous characterization of “an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community.”

For once, Gingrich is correct.

The label “Palestine” was used historically to refer to the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (and beyond); the term had no political import.  During the first half of the 20th century, “Palestinian” referred largely to Jews living in Palestine.  The Palestine Post, for example, was printed in Hebrew and English, and in 1950 was renamed The Jerusalem Post.

The British, who controlled Palestine after WWI, divided it in two in 1923, giving 75% of the land—the area that is now Jordan—to Palestinian Arabs, and the remaining 25% to Palestinian Jews.  But that wasn’t good enough to satisfy regional Arabic despots.

In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan to create side-by-side Jewish and Arab states out of the 25% that was left of the original Palestine, west of the Jordan River.  The Arab regimes surrounding Palestine rejected the deal; this resulted in the 1947-1948 Civil War and the creation of the Jewish state.

During the subsequent 1948 Arab-Israeli War, started against Israel one day after it declared statehood, Arab governments encouraged hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs to flee their homes in order to facilitate the onslaught of the invading armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen against Israelis.  These regimes promised to return to Palestinian Arabs the property they had left once Israel was defeated; however, Israel won, and refugees were forced to relocate outside of Palestine.

As Gingrich noted, plenty of Muslim countries could have given Palestinian Arab refugees a state, but none did.  The countries to which refugees scattered—chiefly Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—suppressed any burgeoning sense of Palestinian identity to a far greater degree than Israel ever did.

Strangely, Palestinian Arab refugees did not protest after the Arab-Israeli war when Egypt and Jordan grabbed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem—the same territories that the United Nations had set aside to serve as their home state.  To this day, Palestinian Arabs insist on being granted, not the territory set aside for them in 1923 in present-day Jordan, not the territory taken over in 1948 by Egypt and Jordan, but one tiny sliver of land in the Middle East that has served as a refuge for Jewish Holocaust survivors and a base for Jews to call their home state.

The “Palestinian people” was a fiction created post-WWII to facilitate the insertion of a fifth column inside Israel to demand endless, untenable land concessions and eventually encroach upon the entire Jewish state.

In an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977, former Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Zuheir Mohsen admitted, “The Palestinian people does not exist.  The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.  In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.  Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”

How much clearer can it get?  How much more nakedly could the founders of the Palestinian strategy reveal their modus operandi?

That the Palestinian people are invented is not in question.  The only question is whether they should be awarded their own state.  Anyone who cares about the security of Israel, the only free nation in the region, should answer with a resounding no.

Back to Saturday’s debate: Moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Gingrich if he thought his comments were dangerous.  Gingrich replied, “Is what I said factually correct?  Yes.  Is it historically true?  Yes…  [E]very day, rockets are fired into Israel…  Hamas does not admit the right of Israel to exist, and says publicly, ‘Not a single Jew will remain.’ The Palestinian Authority ambassador to India said last month… ‘Israel has no right to exist.’”

He continued: “The Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story.  Somebody ought to have the courage to go all the way back to… the context in which Israel came into existence…  ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.  This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage.”

In response to Gingrich’s defense, hapless Mitt Romney floundered all over the place, claiming that, although he mostly agreed with Gingrich, it was a “mistake” to call the Palestinians an invented people (though they are), Gingrich had made it “more difficult for [Israelis] to sit down with the Palestinians” (though it’s already impossible), and Gingrich had decided to “throw incendiary words into a place which is a boiling pot” (though the situation is already hopeless).

Despite his ideological missteps, character flaws, and general unsuitability to be our nominee, I’m happy to give credit where credit is due, and in this case it goes squarely to Gingrich.  As he summed up, “It is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth, [like] Ronald Reagan, who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’  Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and reframed the world…  I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion… with the timid.”

If Gingrich doesn’t get the nomination—and he doesn’t especially deserve to—he may at least serve the same function that other unlikely nominees have served on various issues from Santorum (Iran) to Cain (taxes) to Bachmann (ObamaCare) to Perry (Social Security): namely, to push Mitt Romney to the right.  Based on his comments on the Palestinians, Gingrich may even serve as a model for pressuring our nominee to speak the truth.

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A Conservative Who Can Talk

September 28, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Christie

FiveThirtyEight whiz Nate Silver recently asked whether Chris Christie is the anti-Romney or the anti-Perry.

The answer is yes.

Christie is the anti-Romney, because he genuinely and unapologetically embraces and enacts conservative policies, at least on fiscal matters—in particular entitlement reform, the most important policy realm our nation currently faces.

Critics charge that he’s not consistently conservative on issues such as global warming and gun control.  Yet Rick Perry critics complain that he’s not consistently conservative on issues such as immigration and the HPV vaccine, and most people wouldn’t call Perry a liberal.

Christie is the anti-Perry, because he knows how to identify, articulate, and justify his positions, using fiery, uncompromising rhetoric that doesn’t sound rehearsed, and isn’t afraid to say things that tick off hallowed interest groups.

Critics charge that he’s arrogant, has a temper, and insults people.  Yet his style has proven wildly popular with voters who are fed up with politicians who can’t or won’t stand up to bullying public employee unions that are bankrupting the nation’s most populous states.

If Mitt Romney held more consistently conservative positions on the major issues of the day, he’d be able to articulate them to voters.  But he doesn’t.

If Rick Perry were more articulate and had a better understanding of the issues, his positions would be conservative enough for most Republicans.  But he isn’t.

The other candidates still in the running all have their weaknesses, with most embodying one of the fatal flaws represented by frontrunners Romney and Perry.

Ron Paul is blisteringly conservative on economic issues but crazily isolationist on foreign policy, to the extent that he thinks Iran should be allowed to build nuclear weapons to defend themselves against the U.S., and to the degree that he approvingly quotes Osama bin Laden’s reasons for attacking us on 9/11.  Newt Gingrich led the Republican Revolution of 1995 and enacted welfare reform, but is prone to making insane statements such as claiming that repealing ObamaCare involves as much abridgment of people’s liberty as enacting it.

Michele Bachmann is a solid conservative, but is prone to gaffes and sloppy slips of the tongue such as her mindboggling insinuation that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.  Herman Cain is a successful former businessman with sensible ideas about the economy but a stunning, blissful ignorance about foreign policy.

Michael Barone correctly notes that just about the only remaining feasible Republican presidential candidates who both are conservative enough and know how to speak without sounding like idiots are Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie.  Daniels is concerned about his family’s privacy and has decided not to run; Ryan is young, early on in his career, and clearly has no intention of running in 2012.

That leaves Christie, who has certainly denied numerous times that he is running, but whose supporters and staffers seem to be leaking rumors that he may change his mind.  Christie has spent the past few months jetting around the country speaking at high-profile Republican fundraisers, giving speeches at prominent venues such as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and meeting with potential donors.

Elsewhere I have written at length about why we should encourage Christie in particular to run, including the fact that Republican candidates for governor did well in 2010 in part by emulating his substance and style; that he knows how to take the fight to his opponents; that his popularity among Republican voters is underreported; and that his electability among independents and Democrats is underappreciated.

Christie’s not perfect.  But where is the glaring RomneyCare albatross–whose defense Romney cheekily deleted from the paperback version of his book No Apology—in Christie’s past that will come back to haunt him in the general election, when voters are focused perhaps foremost on repealing ObamaCare?

Christie’s not perfect.  But where are the embarrassing misstatements—like Perry’s lame, botched attack on Romney’s flip-flopping in last week’s debate in Orlando—that lead us to fear Christie will flounder in debates with the supposedly golden-voiced Obama?

Contrast Christie, if you will, with the Republicans’ 2008 nominee, John McCain, who combined the worst aspects of Romney and Perry: liberal policies and inarticulateness.  Republicans should never again have to suffer the ignominy of a nominee who differs only a little bit from the Democratic candidate—or who can’t convincingly explain why he’s to the right of Barack Obama.

The conservative establishment prefers Romney to Perry because they believe him to be more electable.  Some commentators, such as columnist Sandy Rios, believe Republicans will break for Perry over Romney because people “prefer an honest hesitator over a slickster with all the answers.”

But why should Republicans have to choose between a conservative and someone who can talk?

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Presidential Debate Cliffs Notes: So You Don’t Have To Watch

June 15, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE- JUNE 13: Republican...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

John King: Welcome to our 2012 Republican primary debate.  On stage are all the candidates who felt like showing up tonight.  Let’s skip the boring opening statements and have candidates introduce themselves.

Rick Santorum: I’m a former senator who nonetheless has experience making tough executive governing managerial ruling leadership decisions.

Michele Bachmann: I’m a businesswoman with 5 children and 23 foster children.

Newt Gingrich: Obama sucks.

Mitt Romney: I lost in 2008, but that won’t happen again, because Republicans are the party of “it’s his turn.”

Ron Paul: I am a senator who used to deliver babies and now champions liberty and libertarianism.

Tim Pawlenty: I’m a husband, father, neighbor, and lover.  Of America.

Herman Cain: I am not a politician and have no political experience.  I know pizza.

King: What would you do to create jobs?

Cain: Uncertainty is stalling this train that is our economy.  We need to lower taxes, which is like greasing the caboose, and then decrease interest rates, which is like putting the fuel in the tank of the train that is our economy.

King: Is it possible for the economy to grow at 5% a year?

Pawlenty: Our president is an anemic declinist who thinks we can’t have 5% growth like China or Brazil.

King: What are your views on Dodd-Frank?

Bachmann: I’m looking forward to answering that question.  But first… Guess what: I’m running for president!

King: What three steps would you take to repeal ObamaCare?

Bachmann: I introduced the first bill to kill ObamaCare and will not rest until it is dead and buried.  Take that to the bank and cash the check.

King: Governor Romney, how will you ever be elected, given that you passed ObamaCare in Massachusetts?

Romney: That’s not fair.  Massachusetts’ plan was different, because it abridged people’s liberties and introduced massive regulations on the state level, not the federal level.

Pawlenty: Obama said he looked to Massachusetts as a model for his plan.  [Nelson Muntz laugh and finger-pointing at Romney]  Ha-ha!

King: Speaker, should there be an individual mandate, as you have passionately argued hundreds of times in the past before it became unpopular?

Gingrich: In addition to the presidency, we also need more Senate seats.

Audience member: Do you support right-to-work laws?

Pawlenty: Yes, even though I and most of my family have been in unions most of our lives.

Gingrich: I hope New Hampshire adopts it.  Why would you want to be stupid like California when you could be smart like Texas?

King: Every time we go to or come back from a break, I’m going to ask a pointless random personal question.  Leno or Conan?

Santorum: Leno.  Conan is too edgy.

King: And we’re back.  Elvis or Johnny Cash?

Bachmann: Both.  I love “Christmas with Elvis.”

Audience member: What assistance should government give to private industry?

Paul: None, duh.

King: Stop applauding, audience.  We know you’re Republicans and love their answers, but you’re taking up too much time.  Mr. Cain, why did you support TARP?

Cain: I actually supported TARP before I opposed it.

King: “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol”?

Gingrich: “American Idol.”

King: BlackBerry or iPhone?

Paul: BlackBerry.

Audience member: How will you keep Medicare solvent forever?

Paul: It is not solvent, will never be solvent, and was never designed to be solvent.  That’s why we need to cut our military.

Pawlenty: I have a plan that’s better than Paul Ryan’s.  I’m not going to show it to you.

King: Speaker, why did you call Ryan’s plan “social engineering”?

Gingrich: I put my foot in my mouth.  But the question was too narrow and the answer was taken out of context.

Audience member: How do you feel about separation of church and state?

Pawlenty: It was designed to protect religious people from atheists.

Paul: Congress should make no law abridging the right to express your faith, especially if it’s Christian.

King: Deep dish or thin crust?

Cain: Deep dish.

King: Spicy or mild barbecue?

Romney: Spicy, of course.

Audience member: Gay marriage is legal in New Hampshire.  Would you interfere with states’ rights on the issue?

Bachmann: Marriage should be between a man and a woman, because children need a mother and a father.  I come from a broken home, and I was raised by a single mother, and I turned out great.

King: Should Congress pass a federal marriage amendment, or should states deal with it?

Cain: States.

Paul: Get government out of marriage.

Pawlenty: Amendment.

Romney: Amendment.

Gingrich: Amendment.

Santorum: Amendment.

Bachmann: Oh, are all the real candidates in favor of an amendment?  Well, let me jump in and say that I am too, but let me also remind you that I don’t favor trampling on states’ rights, even though I’m totally contradicting myself.

Audience member: What are your views on immigration?

Gingrich: We are not a heartless nation.  We can kick 20 million people out of the country without being cruel.

King: Coke or Pepsi?

Pawlenty: Coke.

Audience member: Should we get out of Afghanistan?

Romney: We should bring the troops home quickly, assuming the Afghan military can defend the country against the Taliban, which it obviously can’t.

Paul: I would get us out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan, because we have no national security interests there, or anywhere else in the world.

Pawlenty: That’s crazy.  I favor defending the nation against outside threats.  Hello, it’s called “Commander in Chief”?

Cain: To paraphrase my grandmother, Libya is a mess.

King: Who made the worse vice presidential pick in 2008—Obama or McCain?

Pawlenty: Biden is a horse’s ass.

Romney: I have bad blood with Palin, so I’m going to avoid the question and just reiterate that Obama sucks.

King: What have you learned in the past two hours?

Santorum: Nothing.  If I’m delusional enough to think I have a chance of winning, do you think I’m capable of absorbing new information about the candidates or my prospects?

Bachmann: I’ve learned about the goodness of the American people.

Romney: New Hampshire loves the future.

Cain: It’s all about the children and the grandchildren.

King: Good night.  God, I feel old.

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Democratic Sleazeballs Don’t Resign, They Become Elder Statesmen

June 08, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Crime/Ethics

weiner

Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Democratic politicians believe that resigning after a scandal is more damning to their reputations than clinging to power and tarnishing their offices.

Based on the reaction of their voting base, apparently they’re right.

On Monday, New York Representative Anthony Weiner held a tearful press conference in which he admitted to having sent lewd photos of himself to half a dozen women and falsely claiming his Twitter account had been hacked.  In the same speech, he declared that he nonetheless had no intention of resigning.  His defenders in the press have been positively huffy at the mere suggestion of resignation.

Last year New York Representative Charles Rangel was found guilty of 11 ethics violations, including failure to pay taxes and non-disclosure of income.  The former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman remains proudly in office, after having abused reporters with multiple rounds of curse-laden scolding for daring to inquire about his wrongdoing.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senators Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Roland Burris were all under investigation, reprimanded, or indicted in connection with the pay-for-play scandal involving President-elect Obama’s Senate seat in 2008, yet all refused to give up their seats.  Blagojevich was forced to step down by the Illinois legislature, which barred him from public service for life.

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was compelled to resign after a prostitution scandal in 2008, but shamelessly accepted an offer to host a highly-touted, prime time political talk show on CNN two years later.

Louisiana Representative William Jefferson was found guilty of 11 bribery and corruption charges in 2007 and sentenced to 13 years in jail, but did not resign.  He won reelection in 2006, a year after the FBI recovered $90,000 hidden in his freezer, but was voted out next election.

Ohio Representative Jim Traficant was sentenced to 8 years in jail for financial corruption in 2002, but did not resign and was expelled from the House.  Not deterred in the least in his political ambitions, Traficant ran a historic (losing) reelection campaign from his prison cell in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.  Around the same time, California Representative Gary Condit was revealed to have had an affair with intern Chandra Levy, but declined to resign and even ran for reelection (and lost).  Proving that sleazeballs stick up for one another, Condit was the sole ‘nay’ vote in the 420-1 resolution to expel Traficant.

President Bill Clinton lied under oath about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky in 1998.  Clinton was a serial philanderer and sexual harasser and possible rapist.  His punishment: increased approval ratings, the chance to stay in office for the remainder of his term, and status since then as a highly sought-after speaker, political consultant, and international ambassador.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was caught on tape smoking crack with an FBI informant in 1990 and sent to jail on drug charges.  Nonetheless, Barry served out his full term as mayor while awaiting trial.  After fulfilling his six-month sentence, Barry shocked the nation by running for and winning the mayoralty in 1994 and serving another four-year term.

Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank spent the 1980s living with a paid escort and convicted felon who was running a prostitution ring out of Frank’s Washington townhouse.  Frank was reprimanded by the House, yet won reelection with 66% of the vote the year the scandal was uncovered.  He has never resigned, has been given plum political appointments, and has only become more popular among supporters over time.

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy drove a young woman off a bridge and left her to drown in 1969, yet received only a two-month suspended sentence.  Though the notoriety from the incident dampened his presidential aspirations, Kennedy never resigned and held office until his death four decades later.

In contrast to these Democratic sleazebags, Republican politicians are more likely to recognize that the honorable thing to do when found guilty of wrongdoing is to quit, even when they have carried out far less egregious acts than Democrats.

Senator John Ensign of Nevada resigned last month over an extramarital affair.

New York Representative Chris Lee resigned this year after it was discovered he had sent shirtless photos to a woman he met online.

Idaho Senator Larry Craig tapped his foot in a bathroom stall to solicit a sexual act, was charged with disorderly conduct, and subsequently announced his resignation in 2007, though the charges were so flimsy that he changed his mind and simply decided not to run for reelection.

Florida Representative Mark Foley sent flirty texts to postpubescent aides; he resigned in 2006.

George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove resigned over his role in the “Lawyergate” non-scandal and the trumped-up Valerie Plame affair.  Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also resigned over Lawyergate.

Tom DeLay resigned in 2006 after being investigated but not indicted in connection with the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Louisiana Senator and Speaker-elect Bob Livingston resigned in 1999 due to an extramarital affair.  Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich resigned after charges of financial impropriety in 1997.

President Richard Nixon was involved in activity that would have constituted a slow day at the office during the Clinton presidency, yet he resigned in 1974.  Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 after committing tax fraud.

There’s clearly ample wrongdoing on both sides.  Why do Democratic politicians feel they have the sacred right to stay in office even after they’ve disgraced themselves and embarrassed the constituents who voted for them?

Simple: Liberals see themselves as sagacious, visionary elites who wield power because they have been sanctioned to control the lives of the ignorant masses.

In contrast, Republican politicians understand that, just as government should be limited in size and scope, so should their powers, which means that if they prove themselves unfit for the job, they are easily replaceable.

Anthony Weiner is a sleazeball, a liar, and a fraud—but hey, he can’t leave, because there’s important work to be done, like nationalizing the country’s health care system.

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Newt Gingrich: The New John McCain

May 18, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

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Now that Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee have been neutralized as 2012 Republican presidential primary candidates, it’s time to get to work discrediting the thoroughly inadequate and inappropriate front-runner wannabe, Newt Gingrich.

The former Speaker of the House, who initiated the groundbreaking Contract With America in 1994, then pissed away the Republican Congress’s momentum out of timidity after President Bill Clinton was reelected, had his chance to influence the course of national events.  With the notable exception of the successful Welfare Reform Act of 1996, he failed in his mission.

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” candidate Gingrich revealed that he had fallen for the trap of thinking that not raising the federal debt ceiling means that the U.S. will default on its debt, or that default is necessarily a bad thing.  He told host David Gregory that if Obama and the Democratic Senate don’t compromise with House Republicans, he would favor an endless, niggling series of tiny budget cuts and “a debt ceiling [increase] every three weeks” until a long-term solution was reached.

Gingrich thinks the individual mandate component of ObamaCare—the most contentious, despised, and constitutionally dubious element of the bill—is a dandy idea.  He’s quick to clarify that he thinks such an undue violation of our individual freedoms should be carried out on the state level, not the federal level—though that’s not what he said a few years ago.

Gingrich cut a cutesy commercial with Nancy Pelosi in which the odd couple argued for Congress to act more precipitously to adopt anti-global warming legislation, though now he claims to oppose a cap-and-trade system.  He continues to support wasteful ethanol subsidies.

Gingrich famously partnered with race huckster Al Sharpton to promote greater federal involvement in the country’s educational system, based on the fantastic job Washington has done so far.

He opposed the Wall Street bank bailout proposed in the fall of 2008, until moderates in his party pressured him to change his mind, such that by the end of September he suddenly supported it.

Tea Party activists were aghast at Gingrich’s inexplicable endorsement of RINO Dede Scozzafava—who subsequently endorsed the Democrat in the general election after she lost the primary—over true conservative Doug Hoffman in the 2009 special election in NY-23.

On foreign policy, Gingrich opposes waterboarding as an interrogation technique, even though it was demonstrably successful in helping gain intelligence that led to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

But Gingrich’s biggest blunder so far was his mindless, shallow condemnation of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, which would cut $5 trillion from the budget over the next 10 years and take the painful and necessary step of instituting Medicare entitlement reform.  According to Gingrich on “Meet the Press,” such a plan is “right-wing social engineering.”  Reminder to Newt: Implementing a shortsighted, wealth-redistributing, unsustainable “social insurance” program in 1965 was “left-wing social engineering.”

According to Gingrich, undoing Medicare is too radical, even though instituting Medicare was too radical.  As Orwell might say: Redemption = sin.  Theft = generosity.

At this rate, Gingrich is on track to become the left-wing’s GOP darling, the John McCain of 2012.  He’ll be praised to high heaven by the New York Times editorial board for his forthrightness, bipartisanship, and flexibility—and then he’ll lose in a landslide to Obama, whom The Times and every other liberal media outlet will endorse in the general election before you can say “My friends…”

Proving that his only consistency is inconsistency, Gingrich disavowed his comments on Ryan and the individual mandate the next day.  His opposition to Ryan’s plan lingered in his stated reversal, however: “I think we should be very careful about imposing things on the American people.”  The implication being that privatizing Medicare is just as much an imposition on people as instituting Medicare.  Relief = imposition.  Slavery = freedom.

Gingrich added, “I don’t think you want to come in and to say to every single American, we’re going to come in and change uniformly for all of you in the most fundamental way what happens to you when you are 65.”  Rather than clarifying his position, Gingrich’s comments demonstrated only that he doesn’t understand the first detail of Ryan’s plan, or that he’s shamelessly misrepresenting and oversimplifying it to cover up for his blunder.

Gingrich thinks the will of the people should be respected in implementing major social legislation, but evidently the constitutionality of the legislation is of no great concern, nor does he harbor any presumption that more intrusive legislation should inherently be held to a higher standard of scrutiny than less intrusive legislation.

In a charitable characterization, Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey said, “It’s typical of Newt to be whimsical.  We always say: Newt always has so many great ideas.  Well yeah, but then he shifts between them at such a rate it’s pretty hard to track it let alone keep up with it.”

Gingrich used to be considered a man of principle, but desperation for political relevance has made it clear that he, like McCain—and Huckabee, Trump, and too many other contenders in the GOP field—has no principles.

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DOMA Is Not Roe v. Wade

March 02, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gay Rights

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President Obama announced last week that his Attorney General Eric Holder would no longer be defending the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which Congress passed in 1996.

His declaration may have had something to do with the fact that Ninth Circuit Court Justice Stephen Reinhardt and federal trial judge Joseph Tauro of Massachusetts ruled across three separate cases in 2009 and 2010 that DOMA was unconstitutional.

Obama’s Justice Department will be submitting its official response next week to two fresh lawsuits against DOMA filed last year in New York and Connecticut.  The Department is not expected to argue in favor of the law’s constitutionality.

Constitution-revering conservatives have responded to Obama’s announcement by howling that there is no precedent for his declaration in all of American history, that Obama is overturning DOMA just because he doesn’t like it, and that his actions may be grounds for impeachment.

Jonah Goldberg of National Review claimed Obama has “thrown in the towel on the Constitution.”  On her radio show, Monica Crowley stooped to the level of Wisconsin pro-union protestors by labeling the president “Oba-Mubarak.”

Newt Gingrich declared that Obama’s actions could lead to a constitutional crisis.  He offered the hypothetical counterexample of President Sarah Palin declaring that she doesn’t like Roe v. Wade, thinks it’s unconstitutional, and will no longer allow the executive to enforce the right to an abortion.

There’s just one little difference between the Obama and Gingrich scenarios: no court has ever ruled Roe v. Wade unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, had the last word on that matter in 1973, and no lower court or the Supreme Court has declared the unconstitutionality of the fundamental right to an abortion since then.  State courts have chipped away at the edges of the ruling and allowed restrictions on abortion, some of which the Supreme Court has upheld, but no court has ever reversed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the basic right to an abortion.  In fact, because the Supreme Court has already ruled on the matter, only that court would be able to reverse its 1973 ruling.

In the Gingrich scenario, Palin would indeed be imposing her preference on the nation illegally.

In the Obama scenario, in contrast, his Justice Department would be upholding the interpretation of the law offered by two members of the judiciary in three different court cases.

Obama hasn’t even said his Justice Department isn’t going to enforce the law—only that it will not be arguing in court that the law is constitutional.  Which, you may remember, is what two of the highest courts in the land to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA have found in three separate cases.

Even after Obama’s announcement, courts will still be able to rule on DOMA, regardless of the arguments Eric Holder declines to proffer in support of it.  Outside parties, including Congressmen who support the law, will still be able to file friend-of-the-court briefs outlining the exact same by-now-familiar arguments the Justice Department will no longer be citing.

Other conservatives who are upset with Obama’s actions have argued that Florida District Court Justice Roger Vinson recently found ObamaCare unconstitutional, yet Obama is still implementing that law.

Well, yes—clearly Obama is ideologically disposed toward overturning DOMA and not Roe v. Wade or ObamaCare.  But that doesn’t mean he does not have the prerogative to disavow the identified-as-unconstitutional DOMA, or the obligation to uphold the never-identified-as-unconstitutional Roe v. Wade.

As for ObamaCare, two justices had already (ludicrously) upheld the constitutionality of ObamaCare before Virginia District Justice Henry Hudson ruled the individual mandate component of the bill unconstitutional last December, and before Justice Vinson ruled the entire bill unconstitutional in January.  So while one would hope for Obama to take Hudson and Vinson’s cues once their rulings came down, one wouldn’t hold one’s breath.  A third justice has since found ObamaCare constitutional, which sadly gives liberals more cover for continuing to defend ObamaCare until the Supreme Court rules on it.

In the same interview in which he claimed Obama couldn’t decline to enforce DOMA, Gingrich declared that Justice Vinson’s ruling represented “solid grounds for the House to cut off all funding for implementation.”  Apparently the link between Gingrich’s stances on DOMA and ObamaCare was that both criticized supposedly unconstitutional actions of Obama’s.  Yet evidently Justice Reinhardt and Tauro’s rulings on the unconstitutionality of DOMA didn’t figure into Gingrich’s equation.

Other conservatives have questioned the timing of Obama’s announcement, suggesting that it was made to distract voters from the economy or set a trap for Republicans—as though this determined the propriety of Obama’s non-enforcement of a law.  Gingrich noted that Obama had campaigned for president in opposition to gay marriage and promised to uphold DOMA, and is therefore breaking a campaign pledge—again, as though this has anything to do with the legality of Obama’s decision not to defend the law.

Without trying to read Obama’s mind, I can say only that his motives for no longer defending DOMA have absolutely nothing to do with the constitutional appropriateness of his decision.

Here are some hypothetical actions that would be unconstitutional if Obama actually took them: Not enforcing DOMA after the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.  Enforcing DOMA after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.  Implementing ObamaCare after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.  Implementing ObamaCare after Congress cut off funding for implementing it.

But deciding not to defend an argument behind one section of a law while still enforcing it, when two of the highest courts in the land have deemed the law unconstitutional in three cases—sorry, but that is not unconstitutional.

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