Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jim DeMint

Correcting DeMint’s Historical Confusion

Former Senator Jim DeMint gave an interview that requires some correction and amendment.

Senator DeMint was asked what he would say to a liberal who argued, “That Founding Fathers thing worked out really well. Look at that Civil War we had eighty or so years later.” To which DeMint answered this way:

Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution. I mean it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately, there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property. But the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘”all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights” in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people. It did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Senator DeMint, who counts himself, I believe, a “constitutional conservative,” quotes from the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, but seems to ascribe the words to the Constitution. In addition the Constitution, of course, contained the three-fifths compromise (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3) and also allowed for the importation of slaves until the early part of the 19th century (Article 1 Section 9). Why? Because the Southern states threatened to withdraw from the Constitutional Convention if slavery was banned. In Madison’s words, “great as the evil [slavery] is, a dismemberment of the union would be worse.” Madison was right; it was a difficult but necessary and prudential judgment. Furthermore, he believed that the Constitution would eventually put slavery on the road to extinction. In fact, that required the Civil War.

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Former Senator Jim DeMint gave an interview that requires some correction and amendment.

Senator DeMint was asked what he would say to a liberal who argued, “That Founding Fathers thing worked out really well. Look at that Civil War we had eighty or so years later.” To which DeMint answered this way:

Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution. I mean it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately, there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property. But the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘”all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights” in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people. It did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Senator DeMint, who counts himself, I believe, a “constitutional conservative,” quotes from the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, but seems to ascribe the words to the Constitution. In addition the Constitution, of course, contained the three-fifths compromise (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3) and also allowed for the importation of slaves until the early part of the 19th century (Article 1 Section 9). Why? Because the Southern states threatened to withdraw from the Constitutional Convention if slavery was banned. In Madison’s words, “great as the evil [slavery] is, a dismemberment of the union would be worse.” Madison was right; it was a difficult but necessary and prudential judgment. Furthermore, he believed that the Constitution would eventually put slavery on the road to extinction. In fact, that required the Civil War.

Senator DeMint is certainly right that part of the impetus to end slavery came from the people, including people of faith, including abolitionists and individuals like Harriet Beecher Stowe, who authored Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the first novel to criticize the institution of slavery. (Supposedly Lincoln, upon meeting Stowe, said, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war?”) Oddly, though, DeMint mentions William Wilberforce, a great opponent of the slave trade but who was English, not American (as the interviewer, sensing trouble, quickly points out) and who died decades before the American Civil War.

Fine. But where DeMint really gets into trouble, I think, is when he claims, “the move to free the slaves came from the people. It did not come from the federal government.” In fact, the move to free the slaves did come from the federal government – in the form of Lincoln, the chief executive at the time; in the form of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment; and in the form of the Civil War itself. Lincoln himself, it should be said, vastly expanded the powers of the federal government, including instituting the first federal income tax. And Lincoln’s prosecution of the war was based first and foremost on preserving the union, though his commitment to end slavery became an increasingly important factor.

So why call attention to these matters? In part, I think, because it’s important for conservatives to undo some of the confusion that DeMint created. But there’s another, somewhat deeper point to be made about the danger of approaching history and politics through an overly ideological lens. In this case Senator DeMint, a fierce critic of the federal government, has reinterpreted history in order to make it fit into his particular narrative. He seems so eager to refuse to give credit to the federal government for anything that he insists it didn’t play a role in the abolition of slavery. And that’s where he made perhaps his biggest error.  

I worry, too, that some on the right invoke the Constitution without really understanding it and its history. For example, many conservatives who profess reverence for the Constitution are vocal and reflexive critics of compromise per se – despite the fact that the Constitution was itself a product of an enormous set of compromises. (For more, see this National Affairs essay I co-authored with Michael Gerson. As we wrote, “A recovery of constitutional ideals is, to be sure, a worthwhile endeavor — but it does not point quite where [certain Tea Party and conservative] leaders and activists often suggest.”)

In the end, I would argue that conservatism and the cause of limited government are undermined by loose talk and an excessive animus toward the federal government. These days, in fact, conservatives would be well served to focus a good deal more attention on the purposes of government, not simply its size. I say that because during the Obama era the right has been very clear about what government should not be doing, or should be doing much less of, and for understandable reasons. But it has not had nearly enough to say about just what government should do. That needs to be corrected — and in the process conservatives need to be careful to speak with care and precision about our Constitution and the role of the federal government in our history.

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Delicious Irony

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina has appointed Rep. Tim Scott to fill the Senate seat held by Jim DeMint, who has resigned to become head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. Scott will serve for two years and then have to run in November 2014 for the remaining two years of DeMint’s term.

This just abounds in delicious political and historical irony. In 2010 Scott defeated Paul Thurmond, the son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, to win the Republican nomination to the 1st congressional district seat in the House. Now he will have the same seat in the Senate that Strom Thurmond held for 47 years, from 1956 to 2003. Strom Thurmond, of course, was an arch segregationist—running for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948 and carrying four deep South states—and until the Voting Rights Act he had vehemently opposed enfranchised blacks and totally transformed the politics of the old Confederacy. Tim Scott is black.

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Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina has appointed Rep. Tim Scott to fill the Senate seat held by Jim DeMint, who has resigned to become head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. Scott will serve for two years and then have to run in November 2014 for the remaining two years of DeMint’s term.

This just abounds in delicious political and historical irony. In 2010 Scott defeated Paul Thurmond, the son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, to win the Republican nomination to the 1st congressional district seat in the House. Now he will have the same seat in the Senate that Strom Thurmond held for 47 years, from 1956 to 2003. Strom Thurmond, of course, was an arch segregationist—running for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948 and carrying four deep South states—and until the Voting Rights Act he had vehemently opposed enfranchised blacks and totally transformed the politics of the old Confederacy. Tim Scott is black.

The 1st district is centered on Charleston, the hotbed of secession and where the Civil War began, but Scott, who was born in 1965, the year the Voting Rights Act was passed, won the district in 2010 with 65 percent of the vote, thanks to being a conservative Republican in what is now a very conservative and Republican district. He won by a similar margin in 2012.

He will be the only current black senator, one of only two black Republicans in post-Reconstruction Senate history. (The other was the liberal Edward Brooke, who served two terms from Massachusetts, 1967-1979.) This means that there will now have been almost as many black Republicans who have served in the modern Senate as black Democrats (Carol Moseley Braun, Roland Burris, and Barack Obama, all from Illinois).

So the only black member of the United States Senate in 2013 will be a conservative Republican from the deep South. It just doesn’t get better than that.

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Jim DeMint and the Heritage Identity

John reflected earlier on the possibility that as the next president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint might “stress the institution’s role in opposition, which is his stock in trade as a senator, and to downgrade its policy role.” Heritage’s decision to tap DeMint is less a sign that the pathbreaking think tank is setting off in a new direction than a sign it is pleased with the direction it has been taking the last couple of years.

In recent years, and especially over the last several months, Heritage has supplemented its traditional role as a major research institution by getting more involved in day-to-day political battles on Capitol Hill. Heritage Action for America was founded in 2010 by the Heritage Foundation’s board, and serves as a vehicle for Heritage to advance its policy message in a more directly political manner. Heritage, as a 501(c)(3), is unable to participate in direct lobbying; Heritage Action, a 501(c)(4), has fewer legal limitations.

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John reflected earlier on the possibility that as the next president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint might “stress the institution’s role in opposition, which is his stock in trade as a senator, and to downgrade its policy role.” Heritage’s decision to tap DeMint is less a sign that the pathbreaking think tank is setting off in a new direction than a sign it is pleased with the direction it has been taking the last couple of years.

In recent years, and especially over the last several months, Heritage has supplemented its traditional role as a major research institution by getting more involved in day-to-day political battles on Capitol Hill. Heritage Action for America was founded in 2010 by the Heritage Foundation’s board, and serves as a vehicle for Heritage to advance its policy message in a more directly political manner. Heritage, as a 501(c)(3), is unable to participate in direct lobbying; Heritage Action, a 501(c)(4), has fewer legal limitations.

There is a great deal of overlap between Heritage and Heritage Action, both in terms of staff (eight of its 14 D.C. staffers are Heritage alumni, including its CEO and COO) and messaging. Heritage Action’s offices are actually within Heritage’s main office on Massachusetts Avenue and there is frequent staff interaction between the two (full disclosure: I’m a Heritage Foundation alumna). Heritage Action has become increasingly vocal over the past two years, calling out congressional leaders seen as insufficiently opposed to the legislative agenda of the Obama White House and congressional Democrats. Heritage Action produces a scorecard to rate members of Congress on their voting records. While they do not endorse candidates, there has been an increasing amount of coordination between Heritage Action and the more conservative members of Congress in an attempt to promote legislation.

In the current fiscal cliff debate, the Heritage Foundation and Jim DeMint took a joint stand against House Speaker John Boehner’s counteroffer. In retrospect, the coordination just two days ago between Heritage and DeMint on Boehner could indicate just how much a DeMint-run Heritage Foundation will participate in day-to-day D.C. politics. RedState’s Erick Erickson has already alluded to the fact that Heritage Action is expected to take an even larger role under a DeMint-run Heritage Foundation.

DeMint will be retiring from the Senate in order to assume his role at Heritage, four years earlier than previously announced. A major component of outgoing president Ed Feulner’s job–fundraising–was going to be a difficult challenge for almost any successor, as Heritage’s 700,000 active “members” (donors who have contributed in the last 24 months) are accustomed to seeing Feulner’s signature on their fundraising appeals. DeMint, an expert fundraiser for the Senate Conservatives Fund, is no fundraising lightweight, which may have contributed to his appeal as a successor to Feulner. While Heritage will most likely be able to maintain its membership base after a DeMint succession, DeMint’s strategy for balancing politics and policy will be under the microscope from day one.

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DeMint Takes Over the Heritage Foundation

The big news in conservative circles today is that Jim DeMint will be leaving the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, built from scratch by its innovative founder, Ed Feulner, into a colossus that redefined the way public-policy ideas could be integrated into the ongoing political process on Capitol Hill. Before Heritage was created in 1974, Capitol Hill was a vast wasteland intellectually and ideologically, especially on the Republican side; most policy was generated by the bureaucrats in the executive branch and then refined into legislative form by permanent staff on the Hill. Heritage began examining specific pieces of legislation and offering criticisms of them and proposals for their refinement, as well as producing short and coherent documents on a range of issues to educate congressmen and their staffs about the effects their votes could and would produce. This is now standard practice across the ideological camps in D.C., but it was entirely new and enormously influential.

Heritage is commonly called a “think tank,” but it’s something far more complex than that—it is one of the largest grass-roots organizations in the world, with an astonishing 700,000-plus donors and supporters and a budget of $75 million. And like most of the right, it has found itself see-sawing between trying to offer constructive policy advice advancing innovative legislation and standing in potent opposition to liberal innovations.

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The big news in conservative circles today is that Jim DeMint will be leaving the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, built from scratch by its innovative founder, Ed Feulner, into a colossus that redefined the way public-policy ideas could be integrated into the ongoing political process on Capitol Hill. Before Heritage was created in 1974, Capitol Hill was a vast wasteland intellectually and ideologically, especially on the Republican side; most policy was generated by the bureaucrats in the executive branch and then refined into legislative form by permanent staff on the Hill. Heritage began examining specific pieces of legislation and offering criticisms of them and proposals for their refinement, as well as producing short and coherent documents on a range of issues to educate congressmen and their staffs about the effects their votes could and would produce. This is now standard practice across the ideological camps in D.C., but it was entirely new and enormously influential.

Heritage is commonly called a “think tank,” but it’s something far more complex than that—it is one of the largest grass-roots organizations in the world, with an astonishing 700,000-plus donors and supporters and a budget of $75 million. And like most of the right, it has found itself see-sawing between trying to offer constructive policy advice advancing innovative legislation and standing in potent opposition to liberal innovations.

The temptation for DeMint will be to stress the institution’s role in opposition, which is his stock in trade as a senator, and to downgrade its policy role, which has had its major “up”s (welfare reform) and its blind-spot “down”s (advocating a health-care mandate in 1994). But if ideas do not play the central role, Heritage will hollow itself out, and that would be a great shame. Ed Feulner stands as one of the great public-policy innovators of the 20th century; it would be thrilling if the same could be said of Jim DeMint when he passes on the mantle to his successor.

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Preventing Another Akin

With Democrats defending almost twice as many Senate seats as Republicans in 2014, the GOP has a chance to make up for this year’s dismal performance and retake the Senate. But that also means reforming the National Republican Senatorial Committee to prevent future Todd Akin-esque candidates. Politico reports:

Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.

“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.” 

The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

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With Democrats defending almost twice as many Senate seats as Republicans in 2014, the GOP has a chance to make up for this year’s dismal performance and retake the Senate. But that also means reforming the National Republican Senatorial Committee to prevent future Todd Akin-esque candidates. Politico reports:

Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.

“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.” 

The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

Moran is an interesting choice to lead the middle-ground approach. He’s only been in the Senate for a year, and while he’s not exactly “establishment,” he also isn’t someone who thrills the grassroots. That could either help him work with both sides, or end up turning them both off. Deploying Cruz is also critical for the new NRSC strategy. Cruz replaces Orrin Hatch as vice chair, and could be instrumental in building relationships between the NRSC and local activists. He and Senator Rob Portman (who will serve as finance chair) will be important when it comes to fundraising, since Moran is expected to be weaker in that area.

Jim DeMint also tells Politico that political training — a more controversial proposal — will be necessary to prevent candidates from torpedoing their campaigns with a single stupid comment:

“We need to do a good job of recruiting; our candidates need more training, keep their foots out of their mouth,” DeMint told POLITICO. “There’s a reason why most politicians talk in sanitized sound bites: Once you get out of that, you’re opening yourself up to get attacked.”

In an interview, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman in the past two cycles, said the party needs to ask itself whether the goal is to prop up the most conservative candidate or push through the most conservative candidate that can win a general election. He said the party is reevalating its approach.

It’s actually a good time for a compromise. Both sides of the establishment vs. grassroots divide seem tired of losing for the past two elections, and both share equal amounts of the blame for it. They may finally be ready for a middle-ground approach.

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Who’s the Real Conservative? Ask Toomey

Some will call it payback but to those who know and or have followed Pat Toomey’s political career closely, it’s just yet another instance of his logical mind following a question to its proper conclusion. Pennsylvania’s junior senator told a gathering of conservative activists today that questions about the conservatism of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney are unfounded. “I think Mitt Romney is a conservative, and I think if elected, he’ll govern as a conservative,” Toomey said at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. Coming on the heels of another virtual endorsement from one of the Senate’s other leading conservatives, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, the Toomey statement is strong ammunition for the Romney campaign, especially in the lead up to the Pennsylvania Primary on April 24.

It is a given that some observers will merely put down this statement as a belated reprisal for Rick Santorum’s infamous decision to back Arlen Specter against Toomey in a 2004 Senate primary race. But Toomey and Santorum put that dispute behind them long ago. The Toomey statement is actually far worse for Santorum than merely getting even for his role in keeping him out of the Senate eight years ago. Toomey, the former head of the Club for Growth, is as principled a conservative on fiscal issues as one can find in the Senate or anywhere else and his acceptance of Romney’s bona fides is a telling statement about what he thinks about both the frontrunner as well as the challenger.

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Some will call it payback but to those who know and or have followed Pat Toomey’s political career closely, it’s just yet another instance of his logical mind following a question to its proper conclusion. Pennsylvania’s junior senator told a gathering of conservative activists today that questions about the conservatism of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney are unfounded. “I think Mitt Romney is a conservative, and I think if elected, he’ll govern as a conservative,” Toomey said at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. Coming on the heels of another virtual endorsement from one of the Senate’s other leading conservatives, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, the Toomey statement is strong ammunition for the Romney campaign, especially in the lead up to the Pennsylvania Primary on April 24.

It is a given that some observers will merely put down this statement as a belated reprisal for Rick Santorum’s infamous decision to back Arlen Specter against Toomey in a 2004 Senate primary race. But Toomey and Santorum put that dispute behind them long ago. The Toomey statement is actually far worse for Santorum than merely getting even for his role in keeping him out of the Senate eight years ago. Toomey, the former head of the Club for Growth, is as principled a conservative on fiscal issues as one can find in the Senate or anywhere else and his acceptance of Romney’s bona fides is a telling statement about what he thinks about both the frontrunner as well as the challenger.

Though Santorum has campaigned as the true conservative in the race as opposed to the “Massachusetts moderate,” there’s little doubt that Toomey has always been to his right when it came to government spending, entitlements and earmarks. Santorum spent his 12 years in the Senate working hard to bring home the federal bacon to the state Toomey has always disdained that sort of pork barrel politics even when he was representing the Allentown area in the House from 1998 to 2004. When Toomey says, as he did today that Romney stands for “the principles of limited government” that means something.

While I doubt that Toomey would take an active role in the primary or campaign for Romney (now that really would be payback), today’s statement will be a reminder to many Pennsylvania conservatives of all the things they don’t like about Santorum. It’s also why those who assume that Santorum would romp in his home state are probably exaggerating his appeal. While he is ahead in the polls and deserves to be favored, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that he will win.

Even more to the point, Toomey and DeMint are signaling to movement conservatives and Tea Partiers around the nation that it is time for them to close ranks behind the inevitable Republican standard bearer. While Santorum will undoubtedly continue to nip at Romney’s heels at least until Pennsylvania votes, it’s one more sign that the race is coming to a conclusion.

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Senate Freshmen Decline to Join Tea Party Caucus

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

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Jim DeMint to Boycott CPAC

The last time I wrote about social conservatives’ boycott of CPAC due to the participation of GOProud, a Republican gay-rights group, I predicted that it would have little impact on the success of the event unless major speakers or financial backers began to pull out. But now Sen. Jim DeMint, a regular speaker at the conference, has announced that he’ll be skipping it this year:

“With leading conservatives organizations not participating this year, Sen. DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in an e-mail.

Prominent social conservatives have dropped out of the event and criticized it for its inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud. Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the House’s Republican Study Committee, also has joined the boycott.

This in itself isn’t a huge blow to CPAC. But it could be a sign of more problems to come. DeMint is highly influential in the conservative movement, and his decision could make it easier for other speakers to drop out of the conference as well.

And while it’s unlikely that prospective candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will drop out of the event — they wouldn’t want to risk alienating disparate segments of the conservative movement at this point — it could make it more difficult for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, to book prominent speakers next year.

CPAC makes a good deal of its money off students, who attend the event to hear speeches from top conservative leaders. If the conference isn’t able to draw as many big names, it may start to lose out on student fees.

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel also notes that Rep. Mike Pence hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll be speaking. Pence is considered more mainstream than DeMint, and if he’s a no-show, that would be a major indicator that the conference’s influence in the movement is waning.

The last time I wrote about social conservatives’ boycott of CPAC due to the participation of GOProud, a Republican gay-rights group, I predicted that it would have little impact on the success of the event unless major speakers or financial backers began to pull out. But now Sen. Jim DeMint, a regular speaker at the conference, has announced that he’ll be skipping it this year:

“With leading conservatives organizations not participating this year, Sen. DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in an e-mail.

Prominent social conservatives have dropped out of the event and criticized it for its inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud. Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the House’s Republican Study Committee, also has joined the boycott.

This in itself isn’t a huge blow to CPAC. But it could be a sign of more problems to come. DeMint is highly influential in the conservative movement, and his decision could make it easier for other speakers to drop out of the conference as well.

And while it’s unlikely that prospective candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will drop out of the event — they wouldn’t want to risk alienating disparate segments of the conservative movement at this point — it could make it more difficult for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, to book prominent speakers next year.

CPAC makes a good deal of its money off students, who attend the event to hear speeches from top conservative leaders. If the conference isn’t able to draw as many big names, it may start to lose out on student fees.

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel also notes that Rep. Mike Pence hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll be speaking. Pence is considered more mainstream than DeMint, and if he’s a no-show, that would be a major indicator that the conference’s influence in the movement is waning.

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Taking Responsibility for Inherited Problems, and Other GOP Dilemmas

According to Senator Jim DeMint, even if a balanced-budget amendment were attached to a vote to raise the debt limit, he’d vote against it — and he encourages freshmen Republicans not to vote for raising the debt limit either. His argument is that since he/they didn’t create the debt problem to begin with, they shouldn’t be the people who vote to raise the ceiling. DeMint goes on to say that it’s important for the GOP to show its “strong commitment to cut spending and debt.”

I think it makes great sense to use the vote on the debt ceiling to try to extract some substantial cuts in federal spending. But what Senator DeMint is arguing for is something else. He believes that Republicans should oppose raising the debt limit regardless of the concessions they might win.

It is quite extraordinary, really. Senator DeMint is essentially urging Republicans to cast a vote that would lead to a federal default. This would have catastrophic economic consequences, since the United States depends on other nations buying our debt. Now, I understand that if you’re in the minority party in Congress, you can vote against raising the debt ceiling, as that vote won’t influence the eventually outcome. But Republicans now control one branch of Congress by a wide margin, so GOP votes are necessary to raise the debt ceiling. Symbolic votes are not an option. What Senator DeMint is counseling, then, is terribly unwise. And if the GOP were to be perceived as causing a default by the federal government, it would be extremely politically injurious.

In terms of DeMint’s argument that since he and incoming Republicans aren’t responsible for our fiscal problem they have no obligation to increase the debt-ceiling limit, it’s worth pointing out that all incoming lawmakers inherit problems not of their own making. Freshmen Members of Congress aren’t responsible for the entitlement crisis or the war in Afghanistan; Governor Chris Christie is not responsible for the pension agreements and unfunded liabilities that have created a financial nightmare in his state. No matter; they still have the duty to deal with these problems in a responsible way. Read More

According to Senator Jim DeMint, even if a balanced-budget amendment were attached to a vote to raise the debt limit, he’d vote against it — and he encourages freshmen Republicans not to vote for raising the debt limit either. His argument is that since he/they didn’t create the debt problem to begin with, they shouldn’t be the people who vote to raise the ceiling. DeMint goes on to say that it’s important for the GOP to show its “strong commitment to cut spending and debt.”

I think it makes great sense to use the vote on the debt ceiling to try to extract some substantial cuts in federal spending. But what Senator DeMint is arguing for is something else. He believes that Republicans should oppose raising the debt limit regardless of the concessions they might win.

It is quite extraordinary, really. Senator DeMint is essentially urging Republicans to cast a vote that would lead to a federal default. This would have catastrophic economic consequences, since the United States depends on other nations buying our debt. Now, I understand that if you’re in the minority party in Congress, you can vote against raising the debt ceiling, as that vote won’t influence the eventually outcome. But Republicans now control one branch of Congress by a wide margin, so GOP votes are necessary to raise the debt ceiling. Symbolic votes are not an option. What Senator DeMint is counseling, then, is terribly unwise. And if the GOP were to be perceived as causing a default by the federal government, it would be extremely politically injurious.

In terms of DeMint’s argument that since he and incoming Republicans aren’t responsible for our fiscal problem they have no obligation to increase the debt-ceiling limit, it’s worth pointing out that all incoming lawmakers inherit problems not of their own making. Freshmen Members of Congress aren’t responsible for the entitlement crisis or the war in Afghanistan; Governor Chris Christie is not responsible for the pension agreements and unfunded liabilities that have created a financial nightmare in his state. No matter; they still have the duty to deal with these problems in a responsible way.

As for Senator DeMint wanting to show that Republicans have a “strong commitment to cut spending and debt”: as I pointed out several months ago, it was DeMint who went on NBC’s Meet the Press to declare, “Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting — I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big ObamaCare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.”

The junior senator from South Carolina has things exactly backward. He wants Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling even though that doesn’t involve new spending (it needs to be raised simply to meet our existing obligations). But when it comes to entitlement programs, which is the locus of our fiscal crisis, he is assuring the public that no cuts in benefits are necessary.

It’s not clear to me why Senator DeMint (and Representative Michelle Bachman) is setting up his party up for a fight it cannot possibly win. (The debt ceiling will be raised.) More broadly, the key to success for the GOP (and conservatism) is for it to be seen as principled, reasonable, and prudent. Republicans need to be perceived as people of conviction and competence, not as revolutionaries (see Edmund Burke for more). What Senator DeMint is counseling is exactly the kind of thing that will discredit the GOP and conservatism in a hurry.

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Conservative Complaints About Tax Deal Must Be Heeded by GOP

We’ve spent most of the last week hearing about how the left thinks congressional Republicans rolled President Obama on tax cuts. After Obama’s startling rant about his liberal critics last week at a White House press conference, that embarrassing topic has lost some of its currency in the mainstream media. So today’s topic is the increasing unhappiness on the Tea Party right about the compromise. It’s one thing for Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to decry the deal; it’s quite another for Charles Krauthammer to see it as an Obama triumph.

Krauthammer made his negative opinion about the deal known early via Fox News but got little attention, since most of the negative comments about it were coming from liberals who felt betrayed by Obama’s decision not to try to increase taxes on wealthier Americans. But with articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today, the possibility of a conservative revolt, as opposed to a liberal one, is finally getting some notice.

Most conservatives were initially so happy about the GOP leadership’s forcing Obama to back down on his opposition to the across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that they didn’t notice what else is included in the deal. As Krauthammer noted on Friday, the compromise includes a lot of things that no foe of big government ought to be willing to stomach, such as more subsidies for boondoggles like ethanol and windmills, as well as extensions of death taxes and a host of other provisions that justify the columnist’s calling it another version of Obama’s failed stimulus. Indeed, as Krauthammer points out, it might well be even more expensive than that disaster, blowing “another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.”

Though extending the tax cuts was important and cutting payroll taxes is something that every Tea Party sympathizer ought to applaud, this deal may well be remembered as the final act of a profligate Congress whose largesse with taxpayer money will haunt the nation for decades to come.

Krauthammer fears that this second stimulus will help re-elect Obama by pumping up the economy in the next two years, even if it will lead to another disaster after November 2012. Maybe so, but that assumes that, unlike the first stimulus, this act will actually jump-start the economy. No matter how much federal money Obama or the Congress waste, it is unlikely that we will be able to spend our way to prosperity. And if unemployment and growth are still problems in the fall of 2012, no one will look back on this tax deal and think it was the decisive moment when Obama’s victory or defeat was preordained.

Despite the carping from both the right and the left, the compromise deal will probably be passed before the lame-duck Congress slinks out of Washington. But the anger on the right ought to serve as a wake-up call to the GOP leadership that they should not take the Tea Party’s support for granted in the future. The new Congress with more conservatives in the House and the Senate will be a less-hospitable place for the sort of deal in which both sides of the aisle get pet projects funded whether or not they make sense. Despite the applause for groups that preach such compromises (such as the laughable No Labels), that will be a change for the better.

We’ve spent most of the last week hearing about how the left thinks congressional Republicans rolled President Obama on tax cuts. After Obama’s startling rant about his liberal critics last week at a White House press conference, that embarrassing topic has lost some of its currency in the mainstream media. So today’s topic is the increasing unhappiness on the Tea Party right about the compromise. It’s one thing for Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin to decry the deal; it’s quite another for Charles Krauthammer to see it as an Obama triumph.

Krauthammer made his negative opinion about the deal known early via Fox News but got little attention, since most of the negative comments about it were coming from liberals who felt betrayed by Obama’s decision not to try to increase taxes on wealthier Americans. But with articles in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today, the possibility of a conservative revolt, as opposed to a liberal one, is finally getting some notice.

Most conservatives were initially so happy about the GOP leadership’s forcing Obama to back down on his opposition to the across-the-board extension of the Bush tax cuts that they didn’t notice what else is included in the deal. As Krauthammer noted on Friday, the compromise includes a lot of things that no foe of big government ought to be willing to stomach, such as more subsidies for boondoggles like ethanol and windmills, as well as extensions of death taxes and a host of other provisions that justify the columnist’s calling it another version of Obama’s failed stimulus. Indeed, as Krauthammer points out, it might well be even more expensive than that disaster, blowing “another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.”

Though extending the tax cuts was important and cutting payroll taxes is something that every Tea Party sympathizer ought to applaud, this deal may well be remembered as the final act of a profligate Congress whose largesse with taxpayer money will haunt the nation for decades to come.

Krauthammer fears that this second stimulus will help re-elect Obama by pumping up the economy in the next two years, even if it will lead to another disaster after November 2012. Maybe so, but that assumes that, unlike the first stimulus, this act will actually jump-start the economy. No matter how much federal money Obama or the Congress waste, it is unlikely that we will be able to spend our way to prosperity. And if unemployment and growth are still problems in the fall of 2012, no one will look back on this tax deal and think it was the decisive moment when Obama’s victory or defeat was preordained.

Despite the carping from both the right and the left, the compromise deal will probably be passed before the lame-duck Congress slinks out of Washington. But the anger on the right ought to serve as a wake-up call to the GOP leadership that they should not take the Tea Party’s support for granted in the future. The new Congress with more conservatives in the House and the Senate will be a less-hospitable place for the sort of deal in which both sides of the aisle get pet projects funded whether or not they make sense. Despite the applause for groups that preach such compromises (such as the laughable No Labels), that will be a change for the better.

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Morning Commentary

You can’t make this up: Charles Rangel is now being investigated for improperly using PAC money to fund his legal defense during his recent ethics violation case.

Cables show that cash is still flowing to terrorists from Arab states, indicating that U.S. efforts to halt terror funding since 9/11 have been woefully ineffective.

Cable Gate was a diplomatic disaster with dangerous consequences for our national security, but it’s undeniable that the leaked documents have also given the public a great deal of insight into the fascinating world of international diplomacy. The Atlantic has looked beyond the political ramifications of the leaked secrets and compiled an archive of the most captivating stories from the cables.

Muslims say that their relations with the FBI have been strained after a mosque informant filed a lawsuit against the bureau alleging that he was pressured to use unfair tactics to entrap Muslims.

While most Hollywood movies that are “based on real events” tend to stretch the truth, the film about Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson, Fair Game, starring Sean Penn, went too far, according to a scathing Washington Post editorial: “Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. [George W.] Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth — not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife — the myth endures. We’ll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.”

“Three meters between life and death” — the gripping story of a Yediot Aharonot photographer who found himself trapped in the Carmel inferno.

Is the Tea Party “wrecking” traditional GOP foreign policy and support for Israel? That’s what Barry Gewen argues in the New Republic. But the Tea Partiers hold such diverse views on foreign policy that it’s impossible to typecast them on this issue. While Ron Paul certainly has some influence over the movement, hawks like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Jim DeMint seem to have a far greater pull.

You can’t make this up: Charles Rangel is now being investigated for improperly using PAC money to fund his legal defense during his recent ethics violation case.

Cables show that cash is still flowing to terrorists from Arab states, indicating that U.S. efforts to halt terror funding since 9/11 have been woefully ineffective.

Cable Gate was a diplomatic disaster with dangerous consequences for our national security, but it’s undeniable that the leaked documents have also given the public a great deal of insight into the fascinating world of international diplomacy. The Atlantic has looked beyond the political ramifications of the leaked secrets and compiled an archive of the most captivating stories from the cables.

Muslims say that their relations with the FBI have been strained after a mosque informant filed a lawsuit against the bureau alleging that he was pressured to use unfair tactics to entrap Muslims.

While most Hollywood movies that are “based on real events” tend to stretch the truth, the film about Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson, Fair Game, starring Sean Penn, went too far, according to a scathing Washington Post editorial: “Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. [George W.] Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth — not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife — the myth endures. We’ll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.”

“Three meters between life and death” — the gripping story of a Yediot Aharonot photographer who found himself trapped in the Carmel inferno.

Is the Tea Party “wrecking” traditional GOP foreign policy and support for Israel? That’s what Barry Gewen argues in the New Republic. But the Tea Partiers hold such diverse views on foreign policy that it’s impossible to typecast them on this issue. While Ron Paul certainly has some influence over the movement, hawks like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Jim DeMint seem to have a far greater pull.

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The First Test

Elections matter. Not only in number of Republicans but also in their zest for fiscal restraint, the Senate is soon to be a very different place. As the Wall Street Journal editors note:

On earmarks, the House GOP leadership has rallied behind a ban, and 11 of 13 newly elected Republicans in the Senate—including Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul—campaigned against these special- interest spending projects that are typically dropped into bills with little debate or scrutiny. A Senate earmark moratorium is sponsored by veterans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and Jim DeMint (South Carolina) and newly elected Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire).

Some Senate veterans are either indifferent or actively hostile to the idea. Yes, it’s true the earmarks are chump change when it comes to entitlement spending, but then so is public funding of the NPR. The importance lies in the symbolism and the message it sends in larger budget fights:

After tolerating Democratic earmarks for two years, President Obama is also now pushing an earmark ban, and Republicans will give him a major talking point if they maintain earmarks as usual. If this means Senators have to give up some of their own spending priorities, then they have only themselves to blame for making earmarks so notorious.

If it were only about earmarks, the tussle would hardly be noteworthy. But it is, instead, a test as to how readily the Tea Party’s agenda — fiscal restraint, smaller government, Congressional accountability — can be integrated in the GOP’s agenda. If the Old Bulls of the Senate win this one, the outlook is not good for larger, more controversial undertakings. As for the House, this is the first of many instances, I suspect, in which it will lead the debate and set the example.

Elections matter. Not only in number of Republicans but also in their zest for fiscal restraint, the Senate is soon to be a very different place. As the Wall Street Journal editors note:

On earmarks, the House GOP leadership has rallied behind a ban, and 11 of 13 newly elected Republicans in the Senate—including Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul—campaigned against these special- interest spending projects that are typically dropped into bills with little debate or scrutiny. A Senate earmark moratorium is sponsored by veterans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) and Jim DeMint (South Carolina) and newly elected Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire).

Some Senate veterans are either indifferent or actively hostile to the idea. Yes, it’s true the earmarks are chump change when it comes to entitlement spending, but then so is public funding of the NPR. The importance lies in the symbolism and the message it sends in larger budget fights:

After tolerating Democratic earmarks for two years, President Obama is also now pushing an earmark ban, and Republicans will give him a major talking point if they maintain earmarks as usual. If this means Senators have to give up some of their own spending priorities, then they have only themselves to blame for making earmarks so notorious.

If it were only about earmarks, the tussle would hardly be noteworthy. But it is, instead, a test as to how readily the Tea Party’s agenda — fiscal restraint, smaller government, Congressional accountability — can be integrated in the GOP’s agenda. If the Old Bulls of the Senate win this one, the outlook is not good for larger, more controversial undertakings. As for the House, this is the first of many instances, I suspect, in which it will lead the debate and set the example.

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The Entitlement Crisis

On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim DeMint – widely admired by conservatives and the Tea Party for his passionate advocacy for limited government – spent a good deal of time condemning earmarks. That’s a fine idea, but it would barely begin to right our fiscal imbalance. When asked about cuts in Social Security, however, DeMint was emphatic:

Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting–I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. …

We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time – the entitlement crisis – DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare. (Bear in mind that entitlements, excluding net interest, account for 56 percent of all federal spending and 14 percent of GDP — up from 10 percent of GDP three years ago.) Read More

On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim DeMint – widely admired by conservatives and the Tea Party for his passionate advocacy for limited government – spent a good deal of time condemning earmarks. That’s a fine idea, but it would barely begin to right our fiscal imbalance. When asked about cuts in Social Security, however, DeMint was emphatic:

Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting–I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. …

We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time – the entitlement crisis – DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare. (Bear in mind that entitlements, excluding net interest, account for 56 percent of all federal spending and 14 percent of GDP — up from 10 percent of GDP three years ago.)

DeMint might consider doing two things. The first is to be a bit less sweeping in his condemnation of government. I certainly share his concerns about the size, scope, reach, and cost of the federal government, especially in the Age of Obama. At the same time, precise, rigorous arguments are important, too – and so DeMint and other Republicans need to be careful not to use rhetoric that puts them in the company of “a small breed of men whose passionate distrust for the state has developed into a theology of sorts.” (The words are William F. Buckley Jr.’s).

At the same time, DeMint should do more to close the gap between his words and his willingness to act on his words. It is simply not tenable for public officials to portray themselves as courageous voices for fiscal sanity while simultaneously fencing off cuts and reforms for entitlements. This doesn’t argue for recklessness or doing everything all at once. And it certainly doesn’t mean promoting austerity at the expense of pro-growth economic policies. But it does mean one should not declare entitlement programs off-limits. We have to deal with them; there’s no way around it. So there’s no point in making things more difficult or making commitments that are contrary to the national interest. Those who do open themselves to the charge that they are fundamentally unserious on this matter.

On the same program, by the way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was interviewed by David Gregory. In contrast to DeMint, Christie was able to say this:

We told everybody there has to be shared sacrifice among everyone, and let me be specific. We cut every department of state government. We cut funding to K to 12 education. We are proposed real pension and benefit reforms on public sector workers, increasing the retirement age, eliminating COLAs, things that are really going to bring the pension problem back under control. We cut all of this spending in the state in every state department, David, every state department. From environmental protection, to military and veterans affairs, all the way through had to sustain a cut. Those are the type of things you have to do to show people you really mean shared sacrifice. Everyone came to the table and everybody had to contribute.

When asked how he’s advising Republicans on Capitol Hill, Christie said, “What I told them was they’d better come up with a plan that’s credible like we did in New Jersey, and the public’s going to be able to smell real quickly if you’re not credible.”

Indeed. And credibility, once lost, is hard to regain.

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The Delaware Lesson

Sen. Jim DeMint declared that Christine O’Donnell lost because Republicans “so maligned her … that she didn’t have a chance.” This is both self-serving and false.

DeMint and Sarah Palin went to bat for O’Donnell, helping to fuel Tea Party enthusiasm for the hard-line novice. If anything, DeMint et. al so maligned Rep. Mike Castle (whose voting record reflected his tenuous position as the representative of a liberal state) that he didn’t have a chance in the primary.

This was shortsighted and ultimately cost the GOP a Senate seat. Long before Karl Rove dared to point out that she was an unelectable candidate, polls showed her far behind Chris Coons. It was hardly skeptical Republicans who did her in. Exit polls showed that 44 percent of the electorate was Democratic in Delaware. O’Donnell got a grand total of 9 percent of that group. Among Republicans, who comprised 30 percent of the electorate, O’Donnell got a respectable but not impressive 81 percent of the vote. She lost narrowly among independent voters (48-45 percent).

In sum, in a Blue State, O’Donnell had virtually no appeal with the largest segment of the electorate. It is important for Republicans to be clear on the facts and learn the correct lesson if they want to prevail in 2012. They need to know the makeup of the electorate in presidential races and consider whether a Christine O’Donnell–like figure — or a Jim DeMint one — is really the best approach to recapturing the White House.

Sen. Jim DeMint declared that Christine O’Donnell lost because Republicans “so maligned her … that she didn’t have a chance.” This is both self-serving and false.

DeMint and Sarah Palin went to bat for O’Donnell, helping to fuel Tea Party enthusiasm for the hard-line novice. If anything, DeMint et. al so maligned Rep. Mike Castle (whose voting record reflected his tenuous position as the representative of a liberal state) that he didn’t have a chance in the primary.

This was shortsighted and ultimately cost the GOP a Senate seat. Long before Karl Rove dared to point out that she was an unelectable candidate, polls showed her far behind Chris Coons. It was hardly skeptical Republicans who did her in. Exit polls showed that 44 percent of the electorate was Democratic in Delaware. O’Donnell got a grand total of 9 percent of that group. Among Republicans, who comprised 30 percent of the electorate, O’Donnell got a respectable but not impressive 81 percent of the vote. She lost narrowly among independent voters (48-45 percent).

In sum, in a Blue State, O’Donnell had virtually no appeal with the largest segment of the electorate. It is important for Republicans to be clear on the facts and learn the correct lesson if they want to prevail in 2012. They need to know the makeup of the electorate in presidential races and consider whether a Christine O’Donnell–like figure — or a Jim DeMint one — is really the best approach to recapturing the White House.

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The Delaware Lesson

Charles Krauthammer explains many conservatives’ frustration over Christine O’Donnell’s upset primary win:

The very people who have most alerted the country to the perils of President Obama’s social democratic agenda may have just made it impossible for Republicans to retake the Senate and definitively stop that agenda. …

That’s what makes the eleventh-hour endorsements of O’Donnell by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sarah Palin so reckless and irresponsible.

I would offer two caveats, although I agree with the sentiment. (By the way, there is much less upset with the Tea Partiers who have proved their value to the party and championed many excellent candidates than with the two supposedly professional pols). First, there are other routes (through California, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc.) to get to control of the Senate, but it sure is harder to take the Senate if Delaware is not a “solid Republican” but a “solid Democratic” race. And second, a bare majority in the Senate will not be sufficient to rip up the Obama agenda, although it sure would make a difference in confirmation fights, committee hearings, investigations, etc. That said, there is a reason why some are upset.

Krauthammer reminds us:

Bill Buckley — no Mike Castle he — had a rule: Support the most conservative candidate who is electable. …

Of course Mike Castle is a liberal Republican. What do you expect from Delaware? A DeMint? Castle voted against Obamacare and the stimulus. Yes, he voted for cap-and-trade. That’s batting .667. You’d rather have a Democrat who bats .000 and who might give the Democrats the 50th vote to control the Senate?

So Krauthammer suggests DeMint and Palin go to Delaware. (“You made it possible. Now make it happen.”) But Palin has fessed up that she might do more harm than good. (Yesterday, Palin on Fox News explained: “I’ll do whatever I can. I want to help, though, and not hurt. And, you know, sometimes it’s a double edged sword there if my name is connected to anybody.”) Because, for Pete’s sake, this is Delaware!

Perhaps, like John Boehner, the GOP will get lucky and O’Donnell will either pull a stunning upset win (bizarre things have already happened this year, but this would surely rank up there) or the party will find some other route to majority status in the Senate. Alternatively, if the GOP picks up only seven or eight states, the single Delaware seat would not have been all that critical.

Still, Delaware is a lesson worth absorbing as the prelims for 2012 get underway. The task for the GOP will be to find a standard bearer that is in the Marco Rubio mold and not in the Christine O’Donnell mold. If that message is internalized, maybe the lost seat will have been worth it to the GOP. Better to blow Delaware in 2010 than the presidency in 2012.

Charles Krauthammer explains many conservatives’ frustration over Christine O’Donnell’s upset primary win:

The very people who have most alerted the country to the perils of President Obama’s social democratic agenda may have just made it impossible for Republicans to retake the Senate and definitively stop that agenda. …

That’s what makes the eleventh-hour endorsements of O’Donnell by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sarah Palin so reckless and irresponsible.

I would offer two caveats, although I agree with the sentiment. (By the way, there is much less upset with the Tea Partiers who have proved their value to the party and championed many excellent candidates than with the two supposedly professional pols). First, there are other routes (through California, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc.) to get to control of the Senate, but it sure is harder to take the Senate if Delaware is not a “solid Republican” but a “solid Democratic” race. And second, a bare majority in the Senate will not be sufficient to rip up the Obama agenda, although it sure would make a difference in confirmation fights, committee hearings, investigations, etc. That said, there is a reason why some are upset.

Krauthammer reminds us:

Bill Buckley — no Mike Castle he — had a rule: Support the most conservative candidate who is electable. …

Of course Mike Castle is a liberal Republican. What do you expect from Delaware? A DeMint? Castle voted against Obamacare and the stimulus. Yes, he voted for cap-and-trade. That’s batting .667. You’d rather have a Democrat who bats .000 and who might give the Democrats the 50th vote to control the Senate?

So Krauthammer suggests DeMint and Palin go to Delaware. (“You made it possible. Now make it happen.”) But Palin has fessed up that she might do more harm than good. (Yesterday, Palin on Fox News explained: “I’ll do whatever I can. I want to help, though, and not hurt. And, you know, sometimes it’s a double edged sword there if my name is connected to anybody.”) Because, for Pete’s sake, this is Delaware!

Perhaps, like John Boehner, the GOP will get lucky and O’Donnell will either pull a stunning upset win (bizarre things have already happened this year, but this would surely rank up there) or the party will find some other route to majority status in the Senate. Alternatively, if the GOP picks up only seven or eight states, the single Delaware seat would not have been all that critical.

Still, Delaware is a lesson worth absorbing as the prelims for 2012 get underway. The task for the GOP will be to find a standard bearer that is in the Marco Rubio mold and not in the Christine O’Donnell mold. If that message is internalized, maybe the lost seat will have been worth it to the GOP. Better to blow Delaware in 2010 than the presidency in 2012.

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No Deal, Mr. President (Updated)

Whatever is going on with House Republicans, Senate Republicans seem to be holding firm on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the Washington Post, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic:

McConnell said Democrats have zero chance of passing Obama’s plan in the Senate. He said not a single Republican would support it, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster. “That’s a debate we’re happy to have. That’s the kind of debate that unifies my caucus, from Olympia Snowe to Jim DeMint,” McConnell said, citing the most liberal and most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

That plan, of course, is a combination of new spending and selective tax cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. It is not often that Snowe and DeMint are in lockstep, but the prospect of tax hikes in a recession has that effect. Moreover, a growing number of Democrats now support a full extension of the Bush tax cuts:

Half a dozen Democratic senators and Senate candidates have voiced support for a temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich. In the House, more and more incumbents have also taken that position. Among them is Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents a traditionally Republican seat in the Detroit suburbs. Peters told the Detroit Free Press last week that extending the cuts “is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery.”

Given all that, it is no surprise that Minority Whip Eric Cantor has put out a statement that makes clear he’s not about to allow a tax hike on “small business people and investors. Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me and millions of American small business people who are struggling to keep the lights on and meet their payroll obligations.” Cantor is calling for “Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American.” That sounds like the emerging consensus for the GOP, as well as for moderate Democrats who want to hold on to their seats.

UPDATE: Senator Lieberman has also joined the “No Deal” bipartisan coalition. He has released a statement that reads, in part: ” I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”

Whatever is going on with House Republicans, Senate Republicans seem to be holding firm on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the Washington Post, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic:

McConnell said Democrats have zero chance of passing Obama’s plan in the Senate. He said not a single Republican would support it, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster. “That’s a debate we’re happy to have. That’s the kind of debate that unifies my caucus, from Olympia Snowe to Jim DeMint,” McConnell said, citing the most liberal and most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

That plan, of course, is a combination of new spending and selective tax cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. It is not often that Snowe and DeMint are in lockstep, but the prospect of tax hikes in a recession has that effect. Moreover, a growing number of Democrats now support a full extension of the Bush tax cuts:

Half a dozen Democratic senators and Senate candidates have voiced support for a temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich. In the House, more and more incumbents have also taken that position. Among them is Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents a traditionally Republican seat in the Detroit suburbs. Peters told the Detroit Free Press last week that extending the cuts “is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery.”

Given all that, it is no surprise that Minority Whip Eric Cantor has put out a statement that makes clear he’s not about to allow a tax hike on “small business people and investors. Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me and millions of American small business people who are struggling to keep the lights on and meet their payroll obligations.” Cantor is calling for “Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American.” That sounds like the emerging consensus for the GOP, as well as for moderate Democrats who want to hold on to their seats.

UPDATE: Senator Lieberman has also joined the “No Deal” bipartisan coalition. He has released a statement that reads, in part: ” I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”

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The New Political Division

Peter writes,

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

I certainly agree that the gambit will fail. And one of the main reasons Obama has and will fail “to transcend the usual divisions in American politics,” is, I think, that the usual divisions aren’t there this election cycle. They may never be there again.

John Fund had a fascinating article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the pollster Scott Rasmussen. The White House was stunned by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts last winter. Rasmussen, he writes, thinks a principal reason,

lies in a significant division among the American public that he has tracked for the past few years — a division between what he calls the Mainstream Public and the Political Class. …

Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view . … “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner writes that,

The current GOP fault line is not exactly conservatives vs. moderates or new guard vs. old guard. For 2010, the rivalry is the Tea Party wing against the K Street wing. To tell which kind of Republican a candidate is, see how the Democrats attack him: If  he’s branded a shill for Wall Street, he’s from the K Street wing. If he’s labeled an extremist outside the mainstream, he’s a Tea Partier.

More tellingly, study their campaign contributions. K Street Republicans’ coffers are filled by the political action committees of defense contractors, drug companies, lobbying firms, and Wall Street banks. A Tea Party Republican is funded by the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is run by the Republican leadership’s least-favorite colleague, Jim DeMint.

The K Street wing is business as usual, whereas the tea parties represent the new politics that has, for thirty years and more, been slouching towards Washington to be born. The election of Chris Christie, Scott Brown, and Bob McDonnell is a sign of the growing power of tea-party politics. The SEC suit against New Jersey is a sign that the old rules are changing, as is the spate of news stories about the power of public-employee unions and their excessive compensation that is bankrupting states.

Politicians, like generals, prefer to fight the last war. The politicians who have figured out that the election of 2010 is being fought along new lines will still have jobs after November 2nd. But the Democrats under Obama have a big problem. They are the party of the political elite and big government. They can’t remake themselves in two months. That’s why they are in such terrible trouble.

Peter writes,

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

I certainly agree that the gambit will fail. And one of the main reasons Obama has and will fail “to transcend the usual divisions in American politics,” is, I think, that the usual divisions aren’t there this election cycle. They may never be there again.

John Fund had a fascinating article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about the pollster Scott Rasmussen. The White House was stunned by Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts last winter. Rasmussen, he writes, thinks a principal reason,

lies in a significant division among the American public that he has tracked for the past few years — a division between what he calls the Mainstream Public and the Political Class. …

Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view . … “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner writes that,

The current GOP fault line is not exactly conservatives vs. moderates or new guard vs. old guard. For 2010, the rivalry is the Tea Party wing against the K Street wing. To tell which kind of Republican a candidate is, see how the Democrats attack him: If  he’s branded a shill for Wall Street, he’s from the K Street wing. If he’s labeled an extremist outside the mainstream, he’s a Tea Partier.

More tellingly, study their campaign contributions. K Street Republicans’ coffers are filled by the political action committees of defense contractors, drug companies, lobbying firms, and Wall Street banks. A Tea Party Republican is funded by the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is run by the Republican leadership’s least-favorite colleague, Jim DeMint.

The K Street wing is business as usual, whereas the tea parties represent the new politics that has, for thirty years and more, been slouching towards Washington to be born. The election of Chris Christie, Scott Brown, and Bob McDonnell is a sign of the growing power of tea-party politics. The SEC suit against New Jersey is a sign that the old rules are changing, as is the spate of news stories about the power of public-employee unions and their excessive compensation that is bankrupting states.

Politicians, like generals, prefer to fight the last war. The politicians who have figured out that the election of 2010 is being fought along new lines will still have jobs after November 2nd. But the Democrats under Obama have a big problem. They are the party of the political elite and big government. They can’t remake themselves in two months. That’s why they are in such terrible trouble.

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Another Questionable Appointee, Another Recess Appointment

Obama is using the recess appointment again. Recall that is how he got the SEIU’s lawyer on to the National Labor Relations Board and how he got Donald Berwick past the Senate’s scrutiny. (“‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ [Max] Baucus said in a statement.”)

Now he’s at is again, this time to get an ambassador to El Salvador through. What was her problem? Josh Rogin explains that Mari Carmen Aponte is going to be pushed through “despite lingering GOP concerns about her long-ago relationship with a Cuban operative.” Obama’s not serious, is he? Oh, yes indeed:

Aponte’s nomination had been stalled as of April due to objections by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, who prevented the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from voting on the nomination because he was worried about a romantic involvement she had in the 1990s with Robert Tamayo, a Cuban-born insurance salesman who was alleged to have ties to both the FBI and Fidel Castro’s intelligence apparatus.

DeMint and other Republicans wanted access to all of the FBI’s records on the relationship. The FBI interviewed both Aponte and Tamayo about the matter back in 1993, but Aponte has admitted she declined to take a lie-detector test. She withdrew herself from consideration to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998 after then Sen. Jesse Helms promised to ask invasive questions about the relationship at her hearing, citing “personal reasons.”

Translation: the Clinton administration was not going to go to bat for this woman. But not Obama. Off she will go, with no examination of her ties to Castro.

This is yet another instance of both Obama’s preference for appointing questionable characters and his need (which likely will intensify with time) to resort to strong-arm tactics. (After all, none of the Democrats in the Senate really wanted to vote for this woman, did they?) This does not seem to be the sort of president who’s going to tack to the center and learn the art of compromise after November. But we’ll see.

Obama is using the recess appointment again. Recall that is how he got the SEIU’s lawyer on to the National Labor Relations Board and how he got Donald Berwick past the Senate’s scrutiny. (“‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ [Max] Baucus said in a statement.”)

Now he’s at is again, this time to get an ambassador to El Salvador through. What was her problem? Josh Rogin explains that Mari Carmen Aponte is going to be pushed through “despite lingering GOP concerns about her long-ago relationship with a Cuban operative.” Obama’s not serious, is he? Oh, yes indeed:

Aponte’s nomination had been stalled as of April due to objections by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, who prevented the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from voting on the nomination because he was worried about a romantic involvement she had in the 1990s with Robert Tamayo, a Cuban-born insurance salesman who was alleged to have ties to both the FBI and Fidel Castro’s intelligence apparatus.

DeMint and other Republicans wanted access to all of the FBI’s records on the relationship. The FBI interviewed both Aponte and Tamayo about the matter back in 1993, but Aponte has admitted she declined to take a lie-detector test. She withdrew herself from consideration to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998 after then Sen. Jesse Helms promised to ask invasive questions about the relationship at her hearing, citing “personal reasons.”

Translation: the Clinton administration was not going to go to bat for this woman. But not Obama. Off she will go, with no examination of her ties to Castro.

This is yet another instance of both Obama’s preference for appointing questionable characters and his need (which likely will intensify with time) to resort to strong-arm tactics. (After all, none of the Democrats in the Senate really wanted to vote for this woman, did they?) This does not seem to be the sort of president who’s going to tack to the center and learn the art of compromise after November. But we’ll see.

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Tea Party Movement Points the Way

James Taranto, reviewing the recent polling data and rather favorable mainstream media coverage of the Tea Party movement, concludes:

It all adds up to a remarkably broad-based and nonideological movement–one that has gained strength as the Democrats who currently run Washington have proved themselves to be narrow and ideological. Had President Obama governed from the center–above all, had he heeded public opinion and abandoned his grandiose plans to transform America, he might well have held the allegiance of many of the people who now sympathize with the tea party.

It is also worth examining why the Tea Party movement polls more favorably than the president. Well, for starters, the Tea Party activists are advancing broadly popular, fiscally conservative ideas — reduce the debt, end the bailouts, don’t increase taxes, etc. In a Center-Right country, lo and behold, these are popular themes. And, of course, the Tea Party movement doesn’t have a single figure, a devisive character leading it, who may rub people the wrong way or condescend to those who disagree with its precepts. The benefit of being an ideas movement, as opposed to a cult of personality, is that the movement doesn’t wither once the leader proves to be less than advertised.

Neither does the Tea Party movement have the obligation to govern or formulate detailed policies. In that regard, it has an advantage that neither the governing party nor the opposition party enjoys. A debate has raged as to whether the Republicans need positive, specific alternatives to counter the Democrats in the midterm elections, or whether the Democrats have become so noxious that a “not the Democrats” or ” block Obama” message is sufficient to return the Republicans to the majority in the House and rack up big gains in the Senate. The answer, I think, is that there is a great risk for the Republicans in merely opposing without offering some comfort to voters as to what they will be getting should Republicans gain power.

The voters bought a pig in the poke with Obama. They may want some greater assurance this time around. That means, at the very least, that the Republicans may be obliged to go beyond the articulated critique of the Obama administration that has been ably advanced by the Tea Party activists. And after all, Republicans have workable ideas — from Paul Ryan, Jim DeMint, and others on health care, for example. The Democrats have failed to advance a job-creation agenda, so Republicans who set forth their own proposals will certainly have a leg up on the party that has spent more than a year on everything but job growth.

The lesson of the Tea Party movement for conservative candidates is not that opposition alone is the key to popularity. It is that opposition to Obama can rally a broad-based coalition that may, if attractive candidates and a reasoned agenda are presented, be willing to vote for “change.” The country is largely dissatisfied, if not irate, with what has been offered by the Democrats; the Republicans, however, will need to close the deal if they are to wrest the reins of power back from those who sneered far too long at the popular uprising.

James Taranto, reviewing the recent polling data and rather favorable mainstream media coverage of the Tea Party movement, concludes:

It all adds up to a remarkably broad-based and nonideological movement–one that has gained strength as the Democrats who currently run Washington have proved themselves to be narrow and ideological. Had President Obama governed from the center–above all, had he heeded public opinion and abandoned his grandiose plans to transform America, he might well have held the allegiance of many of the people who now sympathize with the tea party.

It is also worth examining why the Tea Party movement polls more favorably than the president. Well, for starters, the Tea Party activists are advancing broadly popular, fiscally conservative ideas — reduce the debt, end the bailouts, don’t increase taxes, etc. In a Center-Right country, lo and behold, these are popular themes. And, of course, the Tea Party movement doesn’t have a single figure, a devisive character leading it, who may rub people the wrong way or condescend to those who disagree with its precepts. The benefit of being an ideas movement, as opposed to a cult of personality, is that the movement doesn’t wither once the leader proves to be less than advertised.

Neither does the Tea Party movement have the obligation to govern or formulate detailed policies. In that regard, it has an advantage that neither the governing party nor the opposition party enjoys. A debate has raged as to whether the Republicans need positive, specific alternatives to counter the Democrats in the midterm elections, or whether the Democrats have become so noxious that a “not the Democrats” or ” block Obama” message is sufficient to return the Republicans to the majority in the House and rack up big gains in the Senate. The answer, I think, is that there is a great risk for the Republicans in merely opposing without offering some comfort to voters as to what they will be getting should Republicans gain power.

The voters bought a pig in the poke with Obama. They may want some greater assurance this time around. That means, at the very least, that the Republicans may be obliged to go beyond the articulated critique of the Obama administration that has been ably advanced by the Tea Party activists. And after all, Republicans have workable ideas — from Paul Ryan, Jim DeMint, and others on health care, for example. The Democrats have failed to advance a job-creation agenda, so Republicans who set forth their own proposals will certainly have a leg up on the party that has spent more than a year on everything but job growth.

The lesson of the Tea Party movement for conservative candidates is not that opposition alone is the key to popularity. It is that opposition to Obama can rally a broad-based coalition that may, if attractive candidates and a reasoned agenda are presented, be willing to vote for “change.” The country is largely dissatisfied, if not irate, with what has been offered by the Democrats; the Republicans, however, will need to close the deal if they are to wrest the reins of power back from those who sneered far too long at the popular uprising.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

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