Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mitch Daniels

McDonnell’s Mistake

Conservatives dislike it when politicians on the right are told to be more like Democrats. And they are usually just as suspicious when the political press tells prominent Democrats to be more like certain Republicans. Such is the conservative movement’s relationship with the media that good press is often the wrong press, and that is no less true today of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Fresh off of getting slammed in the Wall Street Journal and by Red State’s Erick Erickson for his plan to hike sales and transportation taxes in the state and for opening the door to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, the Republican governor is, unsurprisingly, now the recipient of stories extolling his supposed moderation. National Journal nudges President Obama in McDonnell’s direction on the willingness to embrace compromise and stand up to his party’s base. McDonnell right now needs such headlines like he needs a hole in the head, but it’s worth noting why. Erickson hints at it when he writes:

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Conservatives dislike it when politicians on the right are told to be more like Democrats. And they are usually just as suspicious when the political press tells prominent Democrats to be more like certain Republicans. Such is the conservative movement’s relationship with the media that good press is often the wrong press, and that is no less true today of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Fresh off of getting slammed in the Wall Street Journal and by Red State’s Erick Erickson for his plan to hike sales and transportation taxes in the state and for opening the door to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, the Republican governor is, unsurprisingly, now the recipient of stories extolling his supposed moderation. National Journal nudges President Obama in McDonnell’s direction on the willingness to embrace compromise and stand up to his party’s base. McDonnell right now needs such headlines like he needs a hole in the head, but it’s worth noting why. Erickson hints at it when he writes:

What tells you that Bob McDonnell isn’t really a conservative is that there was never any interest on the part of his administration in finding funding for roads through cuts or privatizing state services. Contrast this with what a real conservative does, like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker – when a state commission recommended he raise the gas tax to pay for roads, he said he’d sell off state property and privatize other functions to pay for it rather than raise taxes. McDonnell was never interested in doing that.

The emergence, and success, of a genuine conservative reform movement has deprived Republican politicians of an excuse they used to be able to lean on when attacked from their right flank: political necessity. All throughout the Republican primary process last year, the longest shadow of all the Republicans who chose not to run was cast by then-Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Daniels was considered serious and electable by election watchers on both sides of the isle. But the most powerful case for Daniels was that he, perhaps more (or at least earlier) than anyone else, had proven that conservatives can govern successfully–as conservatives.

This has always been a knock on the modern conservative movement: the right is accused of going so far in its anti-government zealotry that it couldn’t possibly be trusted to govern. It won’t wield the levers of power responsibly; it’ll just start tossing out all the levers. This was encapsulated perfectly in the GOP primaries. When Rick Perry famously forgot the third federal department he would eliminate, what is often lost in the recollection of that moment is Ron Paul’s response on that debate stage: “You mean five!” What kind of big-government bureaucrat, after all, only wants to get rid of three federal agencies?

Erickson is right to mention Walker’s reforms in Wisconsin, but the real problem for those like McDonnell is that Daniels pushed for a total change in the way state executives approached management and spending. Andrew Ferguson’s profile of Daniels in the Weekly Standard lays out Daniels’s blueprint:

In fact, the governor’s office has publicized a “Citizens’ Checklist” that people can take to their local school boards to see if school officials have made every possible economy. Citizens in Vincennes need to take that list and get answers, he said. The list is filled with questions. Have the administrators “eliminated memberships in professional associations and reduced travel expenses”? Have they “sold, leased, or closed underutilized buildings”? Have they “outsourced transportation and custodial services”?

[…]

Regulatory agencies track the speed with which permits and variances are granted. The economic development agency has to compare the hourly wage of each new job brought to the state with the average hourly wage of existing jobs. In the case of the [Bureau of Motor Vehicles], the two most important metrics were wait times and customer satisfaction. Now each receipt is stamped with the time the customer arrives and the time his transaction is completed. Wait times have dropped from over 40 minutes to under 10 minutes. Surveys put customer satisfaction at 97 percent.

“But when you meet your goal,” Kitchell said, sitting at his office conference table, “he just moves the goalpost.” He turned to his computer and scrolled to an email the governor had just sent. That morning a transportation official had emailed with the happy news that bids on a new road construction project were coming in 28 percent below projections. No doubt he expected a hearty attaboy for driving a hard bargain to save the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Kitchell read me the governor’s reply: “Shoot for 30 percent.”

As Erickson notes, McDonnell didn’t seem nearly interested enough in finding other ways to pay the bill. This attitude toward spending–you better have a good reason behind every single dollar you want to confiscate in taxes–has been embraced in red states and blue state too, by GOP reform-minded governors. In many ways, though the 2012 election may be over, the long shadow of Mitch Daniels hasn’t gone anywhere.

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The Age of the GOP Governors

Yesterday a landmark event happened in Michigan. The Wolverine State–which is not simply home of the United Auto Workers but in many respects is the birthplace of the modern labor movement–has become the 24th state to ban compulsory union fees. Workers will no longer be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. And if history–and other states, like Indiana–is any guide, this action will not only grant workers freedom but also attract new businesses to Michigan. (Michigan desperately needs this, since it has the sixth-highest state jobless rate in America at 9.1 percent.) 

This move came after unions once again overshot, having tried to enshrine collective bargaining into the state constitution (through Proposition 2).  

“Everybody has this image of Michigan as a labor state,” Bill Ballenger, the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, told the New York Times. “But organized labor has been losing clout, and the Republicans saw an opportunity, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.”

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Yesterday a landmark event happened in Michigan. The Wolverine State–which is not simply home of the United Auto Workers but in many respects is the birthplace of the modern labor movement–has become the 24th state to ban compulsory union fees. Workers will no longer be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. And if history–and other states, like Indiana–is any guide, this action will not only grant workers freedom but also attract new businesses to Michigan. (Michigan desperately needs this, since it has the sixth-highest state jobless rate in America at 9.1 percent.) 

This move came after unions once again overshot, having tried to enshrine collective bargaining into the state constitution (through Proposition 2).  

“Everybody has this image of Michigan as a labor state,” Bill Ballenger, the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, told the New York Times. “But organized labor has been losing clout, and the Republicans saw an opportunity, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.”

This victory was important, then, both substantively and politically. And it brought into sharper focus the best news about the GOP these days: Governors. Despite a very disappointing showing at the federal level in November, at the state level things are quite encouraging. Republicans now control 30 governorships–the highest number for either party in a dozen years. (Democrats control 19 governorships and Rhode Island has an independent governor.) 

Moreover, many of the brightest stars in the conservative constellation are governors–people like Mitch Daniels (Indiana), Bob McDonnell (Virginia), Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Chris Christie (New Jersey), John Kasich (Ohio), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), and Nikki Haley (South Carolina), as well as former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

These men and women are models for governance: conservative, reform-minded, growth-oriented, and interested in what works. They tend to be principled but not ideological. They’re problem solvers, they have to balance their budgets, and they are generally popular in their states. As a general rule they practice politics in a way that doesn’t deepen mistrust or cynicism among the citizens of their states.

This period reminds me a bit of the 1990s, when many of the best reforms (in areas like welfare and education) were coming from governors. That’s certainly the case today. And it’s why many on the right were hoping that in 2012 the best of the current class, Mitch Daniels, had run for president of the United States (he opted for becoming, starting next year, president of Purdue University). For now, Republicans could hardly do better than to turn their lonely eyes to state capitals throughout the country.

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How Vanilla Are the GOP Veep Hopefuls?

Now that the Republican presidential nomination is no longer in doubt, attention is starting to focus on the next big question to be answered in 2012: who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? The main candidates for the job are well known: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels and Bob McDonnell. But the only thing we know for sure is that unlike in 2000 when George W. Bush ultimately tapped the person running the job search —Dick Cheney — for the position himself, Romney won’t be asking his longtime advisor Beth Myers to put her own name at the top of the list she will be vetting.

With months to go before we find out the answer, anybody’s guess is good as any other as to the identity of the GOP veep. But Michael Barone points out that those expecting any great contrast between Romney and his choice or an attempt at balance are probably barking up the wrong tree. Romney would probably be best off picking someone like himself: a competent moderate conservative who would give the Republicans a “double vanilla” ticket. He’s probably right about that, but the only argument I have with this view is that one of the quintet of most likely candidates is anything but vanilla. If Romney were to choose Paul Ryan, he would be adding one of the most dynamic and ideas-oriented politicians in the country.

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Now that the Republican presidential nomination is no longer in doubt, attention is starting to focus on the next big question to be answered in 2012: who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? The main candidates for the job are well known: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels and Bob McDonnell. But the only thing we know for sure is that unlike in 2000 when George W. Bush ultimately tapped the person running the job search —Dick Cheney — for the position himself, Romney won’t be asking his longtime advisor Beth Myers to put her own name at the top of the list she will be vetting.

With months to go before we find out the answer, anybody’s guess is good as any other as to the identity of the GOP veep. But Michael Barone points out that those expecting any great contrast between Romney and his choice or an attempt at balance are probably barking up the wrong tree. Romney would probably be best off picking someone like himself: a competent moderate conservative who would give the Republicans a “double vanilla” ticket. He’s probably right about that, but the only argument I have with this view is that one of the quintet of most likely candidates is anything but vanilla. If Romney were to choose Paul Ryan, he would be adding one of the most dynamic and ideas-oriented politicians in the country.

Analyzing this list, I agree with Barone that Marco Rubio should be taken at his word. If Rubio says that running with Romney “isn’t going to happen,” I assume that is going to be the case. Moreover, as Barone points out, the idea that Romney must have a Hispanic on the ticket to win is overblown. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but it won’t make the difference between winning and losing.

Looking at the other four, both Daniels and McDonnell bring a lot of competence and intelligence to the ticket but not much in the way of charisma. Despite being as dull as dishwater, Daniels remains the idol of many conservative ideologues, but the same reasons that caused him to stay out of the presidential race are likely to keep him off of Romney’s ticket. McDonnell would help the Republicans take back Virginia, a key swing state, which will be a not insignificant factor in his favor.

In recent weeks, there’s been something of a boomlet for Portman. The senator from Ohio has the perfect background to appeal to a technocrat like Romney. As a former budget director and trade representative, he has the knowledge of key areas of economics that will be Romney’s priority if he gets to the White House. And though it’s not clear that he could ensure a Republican victory in Ohio, anything that would put that state back in the GOP column would weigh heavily on his behalf.

Paul Ryan also should appeal to Romney’s inner policy wonk. Ryan is his party’s leader on budget and tax issues and a powerful voice for reform of entitlements. Barone thinks his role, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is so essential to the passage of any future legislation in a Romney administration that it constitutes the most powerful argument against him being picked to run for vice president.

But Ryan’s leadership on issues of substance also makes him something of a lightening rod for Republicans. Whether or not he winds up on the ticket, he will be an issue in the general election. Democrats will seek to demonize his reformist agenda and brand Romney as being as willing to destroy Medicaid as they claim Ryan is. To some that constitutes a powerful reason not to choose him, but if Romney is looking for a game changing choice for vice president, Ryan is the man.

For those who recall the last time a GOP candidate picked a “game changing” vice presidential nominee, rest assured that Ryan is no Sarah Palin. He’s among the smartest people in Washington and used to the give and take of debate in the big leagues of American politics.

Though all of the other potential veeps bring a lot to the table, Ryan is the top ideas person in his party and a perfect foil to Romney in the sense that he can’t be accused of flip-flopping on his principles. Far from hiding him in a congressional corner, Republicans would be well advised to put him center stage where he can wage the battle for conservative principles in the limelight. Ryan may be controversial, but he’s anything but vanilla, and that may be exactly what Romney needs.

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Indiana Spikes Union Coercion

The trade union movement has been feeling its oats lately. It has the strong support of President Obama, who is counting on union manpower to help his re-election effort. Unions also flexed their muscles in Wisconsin as they threatened Governor Scott Walker with recall for having the temerity to change the laws that enabled state workers to collectively bargain the state into bankruptcy. But they suffered a major defeat yesterday when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a right-to-work statute recently passed by the legislature there. The bill curtails the ability of unions to compel non-members to join or pay fees as a price of employment.

The measure is yet another indication that the American people understand that while unions serve a purpose, their political agenda is more about power and leverage than the rights of workers. The concept of the “union shop” in which the government allows workers to be bullied and taxed into submission is repugnant. It also is the underlying factor behind the trend by which powerful municipal and state unions have used their leverage to win contracts taxpayers cannot afford. Though Indiana, like the battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, is just one front in a wide-ranging battle to overturn the tyranny of union thuggery, it is a signal triumph that should encourage other states to do the same (currently only 23 states have right-to-work laws).

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The trade union movement has been feeling its oats lately. It has the strong support of President Obama, who is counting on union manpower to help his re-election effort. Unions also flexed their muscles in Wisconsin as they threatened Governor Scott Walker with recall for having the temerity to change the laws that enabled state workers to collectively bargain the state into bankruptcy. But they suffered a major defeat yesterday when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a right-to-work statute recently passed by the legislature there. The bill curtails the ability of unions to compel non-members to join or pay fees as a price of employment.

The measure is yet another indication that the American people understand that while unions serve a purpose, their political agenda is more about power and leverage than the rights of workers. The concept of the “union shop” in which the government allows workers to be bullied and taxed into submission is repugnant. It also is the underlying factor behind the trend by which powerful municipal and state unions have used their leverage to win contracts taxpayers cannot afford. Though Indiana, like the battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, is just one front in a wide-ranging battle to overturn the tyranny of union thuggery, it is a signal triumph that should encourage other states to do the same (currently only 23 states have right-to-work laws).

The argument put forth by the unions that they only wish to stop some workers from benefitting from their negotiating efforts without paying for them is utterly disingenuous. As Jeff Jacoby writes in the Boston Globe in a brilliant takedown of those who oppose right-to-work laws:

That’s not a principle, it’s a shameless pretext. Unions demand monopoly bargaining power — the right to exclusively represent everyone in a workplace — and then insist that each of those workers must pay for the privilege. This is the “principle” of the squeegee-man who aggressively wipes your windshield when you stop at a red light, then demands that you pay for the service he has rendered you.

By the union’s “free-rider” logic, shouldn’t all voters be forced to subscribe to a daily newspaper, since all of them benefit from its journalism? And shouldn’t every company be compelled to support the Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies on behalf of business whether individual firms ask it to or not?

The passion with which Big Labor fights right-to-work helps explain why so many Americans have abandoned unions. The labor movement was born in freedom and choice. That’s not what it stands for anymore.

The struggle against union coercion is not a minor issue. Unless states find the political will to stand up against the unions and restore a semblance of democracy to the workplace and the bargaining table, the vast tide of public debt will eventually overwhelm the ability of citizens to pay for it. Big labor is fighting hard to preserve its grip on power and the public purse. The question voters in Wisconsin and many other states will have to answer in the coming months and years is whether the taxpayers have the will and the courage to resist them.

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Read it and Weep

I had some critical things to say about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But the evening was not a total waste, thanks to the response by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

Looking at it simply from the craftsmanship of speechwriting, it’s quite impressive. Several things stand out about it, starting with its tone at the opening, which showed genuine good will toward the president. Grace notes like these are not in oversupply these days. There’s also an economy of words in Daniels’s address, which helps create a sense of movement. One paragraph builds on another.

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I had some critical things to say about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But the evening was not a total waste, thanks to the response by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

Looking at it simply from the craftsmanship of speechwriting, it’s quite impressive. Several things stand out about it, starting with its tone at the opening, which showed genuine good will toward the president. Grace notes like these are not in oversupply these days. There’s also an economy of words in Daniels’s address, which helps create a sense of movement. One paragraph builds on another.

But beyond the rhetoric is the analysis, which is both sophisticated and honest. Governor Daniels resists the temptation to overstate the blame that rests with the president, even while offering a substantive, and at times a withering, critique of Obama’s failures. And Daniels offered something the president’s State of the Union address didn’t, which is an actual theory of government. And Daniels did all this in a fraction of the time and words used by Obama.

Mitch Daniels turns out to be not only the best governor in America, but also perhaps the best writer among America’s major political figures. George Will, in describing Daniels, refers to his “low-key charisma of competence.” True enough, but there’s also an understated elegance to Daniels’s words.

Needless to say, those of us who wanted Daniels to run for president this year were reminded why. In that sense, listening to Daniels’s speech left some of us more depressed than listening to Obama’s speech.

 

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Note to GOP: Pick Your Poison

Almost on cue, the blogosphere is lighting up today with talk about the possibility of a Republican presidential candidate emerging in the coming weeks who will save the GOP from being led into November by a weakened Mitt Romney or, even worse, a guaranteed loser like Newt Gingrich. The latest pundit to pick up on this theme is the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who writes to defend the honor of The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, whom he feels has been unfairly maligned for his constant calls for an alternative.

Kristol, whom I also greatly admire, needs no help from Douthat in defending his ideas. But the point is not that, as Douthat puts it, “he’s been right all along” about the need for a better candidate. Of course, a stronger field of presidential wannabes would have better served the Republicans. The problem with Kristol’s thesis is not that the GOP doesn’t need a better candidate, but that it is too late for a potential messiah to win the nomination.

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Almost on cue, the blogosphere is lighting up today with talk about the possibility of a Republican presidential candidate emerging in the coming weeks who will save the GOP from being led into November by a weakened Mitt Romney or, even worse, a guaranteed loser like Newt Gingrich. The latest pundit to pick up on this theme is the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who writes to defend the honor of The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, whom he feels has been unfairly maligned for his constant calls for an alternative.

Kristol, whom I also greatly admire, needs no help from Douthat in defending his ideas. But the point is not that, as Douthat puts it, “he’s been right all along” about the need for a better candidate. Of course, a stronger field of presidential wannabes would have better served the Republicans. The problem with Kristol’s thesis is not that the GOP doesn’t need a better candidate, but that it is too late for a potential messiah to win the nomination.

Eric Kleefeld at TPM does a good job outlining the difficulties that would face any Republican who declared his candidacy today even if it was someone as widely admired as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, for whom Douthat is particularly pining. The primary calendar is such that the filing deadline has already passed to get on the ballot in most states. So what would have to happen for Daniels or any other such savior is the new candidate would have to miraculously win every caucus state and have a successful write-in campaign in the states where the deadline is passed. Oh, and one other thing is required: Mitt Romney would have to drop out and persuade all of his delegates, supporters and financial contributors to back the messiah.

This is, as Kleefeld rightly puts it, pure “political science fiction.” Moreover, if the Gingrich surge is for real and not just a temporary trend, can Douthat or Kristol really be sure the former speaker can’t beat Daniels or anyone else who would parachute into the race with the unhelpful label as the establishment’s replacement for Romney? If the Republican grass roots is willing to embrace a candidate with doubtful general election prospects like Gingrich simply to teach the insiders a lesson, the chances that anyone thus anointed will take the party back from them are slim and none.

Like the savior scenario, the alternative option proposed by those dreaming of stopping Gingrich via a brokered convention is not impossible; it’s just incredibly unlikely and would require a series of even unlikelier events to occur for it to be even a remote possibility.

All of this brings me back to a point I’ve made a few times in the past when similar suggestions were made, though, to be fair, proposals for a late entry by Daniels, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie were much more realistic back in late August and early September than they are now. Anyone who really wanted to be president and thought they could win has already jumped in (and in a number of cases they have also already jumped out again). The only realistic possibilities for the Republican presidential nomination are named Gingrich or Romney with a long shot chance still belonging to Rick Santorum. That this roster of possibilities dismays most Republicans is understandable. But that’s the reality they face.  If you can’t stand Romney, you can back Gingrich or Santorum. And if you are appalled at the idea of Gingrich, then you’ve got to hope Romney pulls himself together in time for this week’s debates and the Florida primary. The GOP must pick its poison.

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Is CPAC Going to Be Hurt by the Recent Calls for Boycott?

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

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Evening Commentary

Secret recordings were released this week showing Nixon and Kissinger callously dismissing the plight of Soviet Jews. But Seth Lipsky argues that leaders should be judged by their actions — such as Nixon’s appointment of Jews to high-level posts in his administration and support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War — as opposed to their private prejudices: “Is it better to have a president who loves African Americans and Jews and disappoints them strategically? Or one who privately voices prejudice but defends their rights and supports them strategically?”

There was a time when Ehud Barak could have made this call. Bibi kindly points out that now is not that time.

Reports this week that 25 percent of Gitmo alums have already returned to the battlefield further highlight the necessity of keeping the detention center open: “Contrary to the Gitmo myth, innocent teenagers and wandering goat herders do not fill the base. Last May, an administration task force found that of the 240 detainees at Gitmo when Mr. Obama took office, almost all were leaders, fighters or organizers for al Qaeda, the Taliban or other jihadist groups. None was judged innocent,” write John Yoo and Robert Delahunty in the Wall Street Journal.

Mitch Daniels is known for his laser focus on the economic crisis, but values voters shouldn’t discount his solid track record on social issues, writes Mona Charen.

With Rahm Emanuel gone, Joe Biden will begin playing a much larger role in the Obama administration, reports the New York Times. (Could this translate into even more inside access for Bad Rachel?)

Even as the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing dies down, Republicans are still preparing to battle NPR over public funding next year, reports Politico.

Secret recordings were released this week showing Nixon and Kissinger callously dismissing the plight of Soviet Jews. But Seth Lipsky argues that leaders should be judged by their actions — such as Nixon’s appointment of Jews to high-level posts in his administration and support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War — as opposed to their private prejudices: “Is it better to have a president who loves African Americans and Jews and disappoints them strategically? Or one who privately voices prejudice but defends their rights and supports them strategically?”

There was a time when Ehud Barak could have made this call. Bibi kindly points out that now is not that time.

Reports this week that 25 percent of Gitmo alums have already returned to the battlefield further highlight the necessity of keeping the detention center open: “Contrary to the Gitmo myth, innocent teenagers and wandering goat herders do not fill the base. Last May, an administration task force found that of the 240 detainees at Gitmo when Mr. Obama took office, almost all were leaders, fighters or organizers for al Qaeda, the Taliban or other jihadist groups. None was judged innocent,” write John Yoo and Robert Delahunty in the Wall Street Journal.

Mitch Daniels is known for his laser focus on the economic crisis, but values voters shouldn’t discount his solid track record on social issues, writes Mona Charen.

With Rahm Emanuel gone, Joe Biden will begin playing a much larger role in the Obama administration, reports the New York Times. (Could this translate into even more inside access for Bad Rachel?)

Even as the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing dies down, Republicans are still preparing to battle NPR over public funding next year, reports Politico.

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Who Is Tim Pawlenty?

In the 2012 prognostications, Tim Pawlenty has sometimes been an afterthought. It’s not for lack of earnestness or for lack of a good track record as governor. He has both. But he’s yet to break through the clutter and explain why him — rather than Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, John Thune, or Mitt Romney. That may change over time, and each of those four may fizzle or decide against a run. Pawlenty is inching closer to a decision, in the same methodical fashion in which he governed:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has not made a final decision on whether to make a White House bid, but he’s laying the groundwork and is confident he could run a serious and well-funded campaign if he decides to go ahead.

In a meeting with reporters last week in San Diego, Pawlenty said he is still contemplating whether he is the right person to lead the country out of an economic crisis.

“I haven’t made a final decision yet. I mean, we’re obviously looking at it. But as to whether we do it or don’t do it, I’m not going to make up my mind internally for probably a few months yet,” Pawlenty said. “I’ve got a set of experiences and skills that might benefit the country. But, I haven’t made a decision whether I’m the right person to do that, whether I’m the only person who can do that.”

For now, Pawlenty is mainly defined as what the other candidates are not. Sarah Palin quit the governorship, but Pawlenty makes the case that the key issue will be “‘as you look at the personal and political records of those individuals, what does that tell you about their fortitude personally? Do they have the record to actually back up the rhetoric?’ Pawlenty asked. ‘In other words, are they just giving you pretty rhetoric or do they actually get it done?’” He’s a Midwesterner from a Purple State, not a Southerner from a deep Red State as is Barbour. He’s been uncompromising on social issues rather than suggesting that such issues are irrelevant as McDaniels did. And he’s never supported ObamaCare lite. But being “not flawed like each of the others” isn’t likely to deliver the nomination.

Pawlenty could use a theme and a distinct persona. Once he has those, he would do well to start communicating what he is all about to the conservative electorate. If he doesn’t, he’s going to soon drift into the also-ran category, or if he’s solid (but unexceptional) on the campaign trail, the short list for VP candidates.

In the 2012 prognostications, Tim Pawlenty has sometimes been an afterthought. It’s not for lack of earnestness or for lack of a good track record as governor. He has both. But he’s yet to break through the clutter and explain why him — rather than Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, John Thune, or Mitt Romney. That may change over time, and each of those four may fizzle or decide against a run. Pawlenty is inching closer to a decision, in the same methodical fashion in which he governed:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has not made a final decision on whether to make a White House bid, but he’s laying the groundwork and is confident he could run a serious and well-funded campaign if he decides to go ahead.

In a meeting with reporters last week in San Diego, Pawlenty said he is still contemplating whether he is the right person to lead the country out of an economic crisis.

“I haven’t made a final decision yet. I mean, we’re obviously looking at it. But as to whether we do it or don’t do it, I’m not going to make up my mind internally for probably a few months yet,” Pawlenty said. “I’ve got a set of experiences and skills that might benefit the country. But, I haven’t made a decision whether I’m the right person to do that, whether I’m the only person who can do that.”

For now, Pawlenty is mainly defined as what the other candidates are not. Sarah Palin quit the governorship, but Pawlenty makes the case that the key issue will be “‘as you look at the personal and political records of those individuals, what does that tell you about their fortitude personally? Do they have the record to actually back up the rhetoric?’ Pawlenty asked. ‘In other words, are they just giving you pretty rhetoric or do they actually get it done?’” He’s a Midwesterner from a Purple State, not a Southerner from a deep Red State as is Barbour. He’s been uncompromising on social issues rather than suggesting that such issues are irrelevant as McDaniels did. And he’s never supported ObamaCare lite. But being “not flawed like each of the others” isn’t likely to deliver the nomination.

Pawlenty could use a theme and a distinct persona. Once he has those, he would do well to start communicating what he is all about to the conservative electorate. If he doesn’t, he’s going to soon drift into the also-ran category, or if he’s solid (but unexceptional) on the campaign trail, the short list for VP candidates.

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Pence Raises His Profile

We had the Mitch Daniels flutter. Then it was the John Thune ripple (if you missed it, don’t worry — most of the country did). Now we are seeing some signs that Mike Pence is seriously considering a 2102 presidential run — and that movement conservatives are seriously looking him over. In my e-mail in-box I have word that “U.S. Congressman Mike Pence will give a major economic speech to members of the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, November 29th.”

There is this profile:

Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

That will likely pass muster with the Tea Party crowd. And unlike Daniels, who has already alarmed social conservatives, value voters are rather comfortable with him:

“When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

The conventional wisdom is that a House member can’t win the presidency. I don’t buy that — the conventional wisdom also told us that Hillary Clinton would win and that a newly elected senator with no executive or foreign policy experience couldn’t be elected. As I’ve said several times, forget the election rulebook.

In a crowded field with no clear-cut front-runner, a candidate with a solid conservative record can, if he picks his spots, “break out” of the pack. A debate, a YouTube moment, or a face-off with the president can elevate a candidate like Pence. The greatest challenge he faces, I would argue, is to differentiate himself from the other, traditional Republicans (e.g., Mitt Romney, John Thune, Mitch Daniels). Why him and not one of them?

The challenge, I would argue, for the GOP is to find a Tea Party–friendly figure who is still capable of expanding the base and capturing key independent voters. There aren’t many contenders who fit that bill — Chris Christie and Paul Ryan may be the most widely discussed among GOP activists and serious conservative wonks. But Pence, if he runs a smart race and can break through the clutter, might make it into that category. We’ll find out in the next few months how serious — and effective — he is convincing both Tea Party activists and mainstream Republicans that he can fuse the two wings of the GOP.

We had the Mitch Daniels flutter. Then it was the John Thune ripple (if you missed it, don’t worry — most of the country did). Now we are seeing some signs that Mike Pence is seriously considering a 2102 presidential run — and that movement conservatives are seriously looking him over. In my e-mail in-box I have word that “U.S. Congressman Mike Pence will give a major economic speech to members of the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, November 29th.”

There is this profile:

Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

That will likely pass muster with the Tea Party crowd. And unlike Daniels, who has already alarmed social conservatives, value voters are rather comfortable with him:

“When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

The conventional wisdom is that a House member can’t win the presidency. I don’t buy that — the conventional wisdom also told us that Hillary Clinton would win and that a newly elected senator with no executive or foreign policy experience couldn’t be elected. As I’ve said several times, forget the election rulebook.

In a crowded field with no clear-cut front-runner, a candidate with a solid conservative record can, if he picks his spots, “break out” of the pack. A debate, a YouTube moment, or a face-off with the president can elevate a candidate like Pence. The greatest challenge he faces, I would argue, is to differentiate himself from the other, traditional Republicans (e.g., Mitt Romney, John Thune, Mitch Daniels). Why him and not one of them?

The challenge, I would argue, for the GOP is to find a Tea Party–friendly figure who is still capable of expanding the base and capturing key independent voters. There aren’t many contenders who fit that bill — Chris Christie and Paul Ryan may be the most widely discussed among GOP activists and serious conservative wonks. But Pence, if he runs a smart race and can break through the clutter, might make it into that category. We’ll find out in the next few months how serious — and effective — he is convincing both Tea Party activists and mainstream Republicans that he can fuse the two wings of the GOP.

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Christie-mania

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie. Read More

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie.

That explains the search for someone, but why him?

He has set the tone, in part, by being “a strong governor who has opinions and is willing to express them,” he said. When I asked him about New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg’s criticism of his decision to cancel the tunnel, Christie shot back, “All he knows how to do is blow hot air … so I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.” Anything? “I’m always willing to read something in the paper that he said, and if he makes sense, I’m happy to work with him on it. I haven’t found one yet.” Christie believes his aggressive approach sends a signal to everyone else in the state. “The tone I’m trying to set for New Jersey is: action. Less talk, more action. And I think that’s what I’m doing as governor, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done already because of that, because I’m pushing and pushing and pushing.” …

Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. “People just want to be treated like adults,” Christie says. “They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.”

Less well known is his ability to co-opt and work with key Democrats in the deep Blue State. (He’s “cultivated strong relationships with the three most prominent Democratic power brokers currently not in jail.”)

The good news for Christie fans is that there are a few scraps suggesting that he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a 2012 run.  (“Christie’s actions aren’t those of someone who has ruled out a presidential bid.”) His staff’s YouTube videos, the trip to Iowa, and some whispers from his political confidantes are encouraging those in the GOP who are searching for Mr. Right.

But the premise underlying the piece is a bit off. The reason Christie has become a “star” is not because he’s captured the imagination of the “sane” wing of the party but because he transcends the divide (which is part real and part media-driven hype) between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans. He combines serious governance with political theater. He’s got undeniable stage presence, but he’s also a serious budget wonk. He has no patience with political insiders, yet he’s learned to handle his opponents. And he’s become a master at disarming the liberal media without personal acrimony or a sense of victimhood.

But your reading glasses would have to be exceptionally rosy to see real evidence of a 2012 stealth campaign. The most his supporters can hope for is that the field of current contenders will prove underwhelming and that a serious movement to draft Christie will develop. But if the governor resists the entreaties of his fans, Republicans should remember that he became an overnight success thanks to a bunch of irresistible YouTube moments. Who’s to say that someone else couldn’t do the same?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

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Add at Least One More Name to the 2012 List

In her post about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Jennifer noted that “the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism” and that fresher faces such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are not interested.

Even with the addition of Christie and Rubio, however, that list contains only eight names. Consider the following from Jimmy Carter’s White House Diaries, indicating that only a year and a half before being nominated, Carter ranked considerably lower than ninth:

About the time I announced my candidacy for president in December 1974, Gallup published a poll that included the question “Among Democrats, whom do you prefer as the next nominee?” There were thirty-two names on Gallup’s list of potential candidates, including George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Henry (Scoop) Jackson, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and even Georgia legislator Julian Bond. My name was not mentioned.

This is not to say that Republicans should be looking for a new face simply because the usual suspects carry varying weights of baggage. Someone may seem an attractive alternative only because he lacks the baggage any person who has been in the arena will have acquired. Surely the past two years have taught us that the presidency is not the right place for someone, no matter how attractive, who does not have much on his resume under the categories of “Experience,” “Accomplishments,” and “Significant Votes Other Than Present.”

But there is at least one person who combines a relatively fresh face with substantial experience and accomplishments: Mike Pence. The current issue of Imprimis features his remarkable Hillsdale College speech, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” worth reading in its entirety. Here are excerpts from the final paragraphs, which reach a level of eloquence considerably beyond hope, change, and receding oceans:

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past—and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. … We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. …

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful and sad eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. …

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

It may be worth noting that Pence also gave a significant speech last month at the 10th Annual Friends of the Family Banquet. It was in Iowa.

In her post about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Jennifer noted that “the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism” and that fresher faces such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are not interested.

Even with the addition of Christie and Rubio, however, that list contains only eight names. Consider the following from Jimmy Carter’s White House Diaries, indicating that only a year and a half before being nominated, Carter ranked considerably lower than ninth:

About the time I announced my candidacy for president in December 1974, Gallup published a poll that included the question “Among Democrats, whom do you prefer as the next nominee?” There were thirty-two names on Gallup’s list of potential candidates, including George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Henry (Scoop) Jackson, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and even Georgia legislator Julian Bond. My name was not mentioned.

This is not to say that Republicans should be looking for a new face simply because the usual suspects carry varying weights of baggage. Someone may seem an attractive alternative only because he lacks the baggage any person who has been in the arena will have acquired. Surely the past two years have taught us that the presidency is not the right place for someone, no matter how attractive, who does not have much on his resume under the categories of “Experience,” “Accomplishments,” and “Significant Votes Other Than Present.”

But there is at least one person who combines a relatively fresh face with substantial experience and accomplishments: Mike Pence. The current issue of Imprimis features his remarkable Hillsdale College speech, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” worth reading in its entirety. Here are excerpts from the final paragraphs, which reach a level of eloquence considerably beyond hope, change, and receding oceans:

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past—and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. … We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. …

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful and sad eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. …

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

It may be worth noting that Pence also gave a significant speech last month at the 10th Annual Friends of the Family Banquet. It was in Iowa.

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Follow the States, But Only the Right Ones

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

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Right to Be Concerned, But Not Panicked, About 2012

Monday morning I was in a supermarket parking lot in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. An older gentleman was putting grocery bags in his truck, festooned with “NO OBAMA” and “McCain-Palin” stickers. Another shopper approached him, commenting, “I like your McCain sticker but who we gonna get this time!”

That sums up what most Republicans are wondering these days. To say that the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism would be putting it mildly. That, in part, accounts for the effort to change Chris Christie’s mind about a 2012 run or lure some other candidate(s) into the race. The media narrative that Palin would instantly be the “front runner” (I guess, in the way, Rudy Giuliani was the front runner before it meant anything) is belied by the determination by so many Republicans to find some other, not yet obvious, candidate.

This is more, I think, than the usual desire to find that mythical perfect candidate with oodles of experience, a fresh face, and no baggage. There is unease that those who are running are deeply flawed (either hobbled within the party or not viable in a general election) or unexciting, while those most attractive aren’t interested this time around (e.g., Christie, Marco Rubio).

To a large degree, the concern is premature. If 2008 showed us anything, it was that an early start, high name recognition, and gobs of organization don’t necessarily mean all that much two years before the first primary. Otherwise, Giuliani or Romney would have been the last nominee. But the concern among Republican activists is a healthy sign — a recognition that electability, personality, experience, and ideology must all be balanced and that this is a very critical election, too critical to roll the dice on a shaky candidate. Along with the sober House GOP leaders has come recognition in the GOP ranks that not any Republican on the ballot can win, no matter how badly the Obama administration performs.

There’s no rush for the Republicans to find the right candidate, but the GOP may have learned some lessons: get viable candidates into the race, choose wisely, and don’t sit around waiting for Obama to complete his meltdown.

Monday morning I was in a supermarket parking lot in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. An older gentleman was putting grocery bags in his truck, festooned with “NO OBAMA” and “McCain-Palin” stickers. Another shopper approached him, commenting, “I like your McCain sticker but who we gonna get this time!”

That sums up what most Republicans are wondering these days. To say that the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism would be putting it mildly. That, in part, accounts for the effort to change Chris Christie’s mind about a 2012 run or lure some other candidate(s) into the race. The media narrative that Palin would instantly be the “front runner” (I guess, in the way, Rudy Giuliani was the front runner before it meant anything) is belied by the determination by so many Republicans to find some other, not yet obvious, candidate.

This is more, I think, than the usual desire to find that mythical perfect candidate with oodles of experience, a fresh face, and no baggage. There is unease that those who are running are deeply flawed (either hobbled within the party or not viable in a general election) or unexciting, while those most attractive aren’t interested this time around (e.g., Christie, Marco Rubio).

To a large degree, the concern is premature. If 2008 showed us anything, it was that an early start, high name recognition, and gobs of organization don’t necessarily mean all that much two years before the first primary. Otherwise, Giuliani or Romney would have been the last nominee. But the concern among Republican activists is a healthy sign — a recognition that electability, personality, experience, and ideology must all be balanced and that this is a very critical election, too critical to roll the dice on a shaky candidate. Along with the sober House GOP leaders has come recognition in the GOP ranks that not any Republican on the ballot can win, no matter how badly the Obama administration performs.

There’s no rush for the Republicans to find the right candidate, but the GOP may have learned some lessons: get viable candidates into the race, choose wisely, and don’t sit around waiting for Obama to complete his meltdown.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Who’ve They Got?

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

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Who Decides What’s ‘Beyond the Pale’ of the Republican Party?

In a speech to the Hudson Institute last week, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in accepting the Herman Kahn Award, spoke admiringly of Kahn. Daniels quoted from Kahn’s 1982 book, The Coming Boom (it can be found near the 27-minute mark): “It would be most useful to redesign the tax system to discourage consumption and encourage savings and investment. One obvious possibility is a value added tax and a flat income tax, with the only exception being a lower standard deduction.” Daniels went on to add: “That might suit our current situation pretty well. It might also fit Bill Simon’s line in the late 70s that the nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose.”

Governor Daniels’s statement was too much for Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who said:

This is outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought, and it is only the zone of extremely left-wing Democrats who publicly talk about those things because all Democrats pretending to be moderates wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot poll. Absent some explanation, such as large quantities of crystal meth, this is disqualifying. This is beyond the pale.

Grover has given himself quite a task: defining for the rest of us what is “outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought.” What Daniels said is not simply wrong; it is “disqualifying.” Read More

In a speech to the Hudson Institute last week, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in accepting the Herman Kahn Award, spoke admiringly of Kahn. Daniels quoted from Kahn’s 1982 book, The Coming Boom (it can be found near the 27-minute mark): “It would be most useful to redesign the tax system to discourage consumption and encourage savings and investment. One obvious possibility is a value added tax and a flat income tax, with the only exception being a lower standard deduction.” Daniels went on to add: “That might suit our current situation pretty well. It might also fit Bill Simon’s line in the late 70s that the nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose.”

Governor Daniels’s statement was too much for Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who said:

This is outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought, and it is only the zone of extremely left-wing Democrats who publicly talk about those things because all Democrats pretending to be moderates wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot poll. Absent some explanation, such as large quantities of crystal meth, this is disqualifying. This is beyond the pale.

Grover has given himself quite a task: defining for the rest of us what is “outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought.” What Daniels said is not simply wrong; it is “disqualifying.”

Norquist has been an influential figure in the conservative movement for a generation, but his response to Governor Daniels is almost laughably self-important. He acts as if he were speaking ex cathedra. There is an imperiousness and intolerance to Norquist’s words, an effort to shut down debate rather than to engage it. This approach shouldn’t be used in any case — but to employ it against arguably the nation’s most successful governor is very unwise.

As this article in Human Events (!) points out, Daniels’s record as governor is extremely impressive and quite conservative, from job growth to championing free-market reforms to limiting the size of government to cutting taxes. (Daniels did raise taxes, but overall, Human Events points out, “the tax cuts far outweighed the increases.”)

I’d add that one of Daniels’s more attractive qualities is that he’s an idea-oriented politician. He’s clearly at home in the realm of ideas, can speak knowledgeable and easily about them, and likes to provoke discussion and different ways of thinking. It may well be that what Herman Kahn recommended in the early 1980s is a flawed proposal, but what Daniels said hardly qualifies as heresy. For Norquist, however, Daniels is an apostate (apparently for the second time). He needs to be read out of the movement. Perhaps the same standard would have applied to Ronald Reagan, who in 1982 signed what at the time was the largest tax increase in American history (the TEFRA tax).

Norquist’s words reveal a cast of mind that conservatism would be better to avoid. It is the kind of attitude that has come to define many modern universities, which are among the most illiberal and intellectually rigid and stifling institutions in America. A healthy, self-confident conservative movement doesn’t declare what Daniels said to be “outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought”; rather, it allows for and even encourages genuine debate and creative thinking, the probing of ideas and holding them up to scrutiny, self-examination, and self-reflection. Let’s leave it to others to employ the tactics found in a George Orwell novel.

Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Vaclav Havel wrote a powerful essay about Eastern Europe. He spoke about a system committed to “eliminating all expressions of nonconformity” and that had become “ossified.” He went on to speak about the greengrocer who has to put a slogan in his window in order to contribute “to the panorama that everyone is very aware of.” This panorama, Havel went on to write, had a subliminal message: “it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don’t want to be excluded, to fall into isolation.”

Conservatism found such a system repugnant then. We shouldn’t begin to borrow from it now.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.’”

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.’”

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Widening Conservatives’ Vision

Matt Continetti makes an extraordinarily smart point about conservatives’ agenda:

Numbercrunching is a valuable skill, but it also has a tendency to crimp the political imagination. So Republicans must be careful as they trim expenses. Otherwise they’ll fall into the austerity trap.

In the austerity trap, Republican congressmen get so outraged over earmarks to fund studies of the mating patterns of red-bellied newts, they neglect legislation that would foster long-term growth. Deficit anxiety causes conservative lawmakers to rule out sensible policies like a payroll tax cut. A myopic focus on government spending causes Republican leaders to short-change the defense budget and renege on America’s global responsibilities. The entitlement nightmare frightens GOP candidates into framing their economic agenda in strictly negative terms.

To a degree, we have already seen this in the preliminary rounds of the 2012 campaign. As Michael Barone points out, Mitch Daniels is gaining visibility as a sober-minded skinflint. No one has a better command of numbers or can come up with more creative ways of taming entitlements. But he also exhibits the danger signs that Matt enumerates. When I asked Daniels about foreign policy, it was apparent that he regarded this as a line item. He cautioned that we need to prune defense spending and also that we the need to cut back on our overseas commitments. (Which ones?)

Matt suggests one way to avoid the “austerity trap”: “The best place to combine fiscal rectitude and pro-growth economics is the tax code. After repealing Obama-care, the second agenda item for the new GOP Congress is extending current tax rates. Then, go for tax reform.”

And there is something else that is needed: a positive message centered on faith in the common man, love of liberty, and restoration of America’s greatness. Americans may be overdosed on charisma and lofty messages, you say. But perhaps it’s just substanceless rhetoric that has worn out its welcome. Conservatism needs both the notes and the melody — smart policies combined with a reminder that the rationale for limited government isn’t found in accounting manuals, but in the Preamble to the Constitution.

Matt Continetti makes an extraordinarily smart point about conservatives’ agenda:

Numbercrunching is a valuable skill, but it also has a tendency to crimp the political imagination. So Republicans must be careful as they trim expenses. Otherwise they’ll fall into the austerity trap.

In the austerity trap, Republican congressmen get so outraged over earmarks to fund studies of the mating patterns of red-bellied newts, they neglect legislation that would foster long-term growth. Deficit anxiety causes conservative lawmakers to rule out sensible policies like a payroll tax cut. A myopic focus on government spending causes Republican leaders to short-change the defense budget and renege on America’s global responsibilities. The entitlement nightmare frightens GOP candidates into framing their economic agenda in strictly negative terms.

To a degree, we have already seen this in the preliminary rounds of the 2012 campaign. As Michael Barone points out, Mitch Daniels is gaining visibility as a sober-minded skinflint. No one has a better command of numbers or can come up with more creative ways of taming entitlements. But he also exhibits the danger signs that Matt enumerates. When I asked Daniels about foreign policy, it was apparent that he regarded this as a line item. He cautioned that we need to prune defense spending and also that we the need to cut back on our overseas commitments. (Which ones?)

Matt suggests one way to avoid the “austerity trap”: “The best place to combine fiscal rectitude and pro-growth economics is the tax code. After repealing Obama-care, the second agenda item for the new GOP Congress is extending current tax rates. Then, go for tax reform.”

And there is something else that is needed: a positive message centered on faith in the common man, love of liberty, and restoration of America’s greatness. Americans may be overdosed on charisma and lofty messages, you say. But perhaps it’s just substanceless rhetoric that has worn out its welcome. Conservatism needs both the notes and the melody — smart policies combined with a reminder that the rationale for limited government isn’t found in accounting manuals, but in the Preamble to the Constitution.

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