Political Hay

Political Hay

The Boehner and Bush Problem

By 1.28.15

So there sat the Republican Speaker of the House on 60 Minutes, and the conversation with Scott Pelley went like this:  

PELLEY: Mr. Speaker, can you bring the Tea Party in line? There are Tea Party groups that hold fundraisers under the heading of, “Let’s fire the Speaker.” They don’t think you’re very conservative.

BOEHNER: Well my voting record is as conservative as anybody here. The issue with the Tea Party isn’t one of— strategy. It’s not one of different vision. It’s— it’s a disagreement over tactics, from time to time. Frankly, a lot is being driven by national groups here in Washington who have raised money and just beating the dickens out of me.

PELLEY: Conservative groups, raising money, beating the dickens out of you.

BOEHNER: It works. They raise money, put it in their pocket, and pay themselves big salaries. 

PELLEY: How many Republican parties are there?

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Political Hay

A Replacement for the Republican Study Committee?

By 1.27.15

Two weeks ago I castigated House conservatives for failing to present a real alternative to reelecting their mediocre speaker, John Boehner. That week, following the vote that saw Boehner retain his speakership on the first ballot, Congressman Mick Mulvaney issued a letter to his constituents decrying the attempt to beat something (Boehner) with nothing (halfhearted candidacies by Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Ted Yoho and a slightly-more-successful attempt by moderate Congressman Daniel Webster).

Mulvaney recalled the insurgent run for Boehner’s speakership two years ago, by Congressman Raul Labrador, which fell apart when many of the members who’d promised to support Labrador fell off his bandwagon at the last moment. To repeat that song and dance again, Mulvaney groused, would be foolish — and he wasn’t going to put himself in a position to be punished by the leadership in pursuit of a hopeless challenge.

All that was fine, I said, but if Mulvaney and those House conservatives like him were serious about replacing Boehner, then where was the effort to set the groundwork for a real challenge?

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Political Hay

That Other Bush Steps in the Ring

By 1.27.15

Jeb Bush may be the front-runner in the GOP 2016 primary. He is the son and brother of former presidents and can tap into their vaunted fundraising machines. In some eyes, the former Florida governor always was the more disciplined, thoughtful and worthy son. Maybe. But Jeb Bush also has a problem: He is a boring speaker.

Now that he’s apparently running for president, has Bush stepped up his game? I walked two blocks from where I work, at the San Francisco Chronicle, to the National Automobile Dealers Association convention Friday to watch him address the crowd. Did he hit rhetorical heights? No, he did not.

Addressing a mostly friendly room, Bush started off well enough. He saluted his parents and the best father a son could have. He injected a little humor. People kept asking him how his brother is doing, so Bush told the crowd: “Since you asked, Marvin is doing spectacularly well.”

He had some good lines. “Sixty percent of Americans believe that we’re still in a recession. They’re not dumb. It’s because they are in a recession.” And: “Portfolios are strong, but paychecks are weak.”

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Political Hay

Democratic Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers

By 1.26.15

Like walking in a neighborhood full of pickpockets and purse snatchers, living under the Obama administration should leave all Americans worried about what will be pilfered from them next.

In one of the most hypocritical moves yet — and that’s saying something — by a man who exhaled a lot of hot air in recent weeks, including during the State of the Union speech, talking about the importance of a college education, President Obama is now proposing to end tax-free withdrawals from 529 college savings accounts, diminishing (or perhaps even eliminating) their attractiveness as savings vehicles and thereby reducing incentives for millions of American families to create a college nest egg for their children.

Contributions to 529 plans are not deductible for federal income tax purposes but are deductible in 34 states and the District of Columbia. (Since seven states have no state income tax, 529 plans receive favorable tax treatment in all but nine states.) The income earned within a 529 plan can be withdrawn tax free when used for “qualified higher education expenses.”

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Political Hay

President No Comes Into His Own

By 1.22.15

Call him President No. He doesn’t want to cut taxes. He will veto any attempt to overturn the mess of Obamacare. He is adamant about opposing anyone who wants to undoing his executive order on amnesty, or his sudden turnabout of U.S. policy on Cuba. He won’t say yes to the Keystone XL pipeline. And hell will freeze over before he utters the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Now the White House is furious that Speaker John Boehner has issued a February 11th invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, this just hours after the president made it clear that he would say no to any new sanctions on Iran. “But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails  —  alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again,” Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”

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Political Hay

Early Presidential Prospects

By 1.21.15

With 2015 just getting under way, the buzz of political activity makes it seem almost as if we are already in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton is honing her message to appeal to the mindset of the left wing of her party, whose support she will need in her second attempt to get the nomination as the Democrats’ presidential candidate in 2016.

The left wing’s true believers would of course prefer Senator Elizabeth Warren, who gives them the dogmas of the left pure and straight, uncontaminated by reality. But she says she is not running.

Maybe she thinks the country is not ready to put another rookie Senator in the White House. After the multiple disasters of Barack Obama, at home and abroad, that self-indulgence should not be habit-forming.

We can certainly hope that the country has learned that lesson — and that Republican rookie Senators get eliminated early in the 2016 primaries, so that we can concentrate on people who have had some serious experience running things — and taking responsibility for the consequences — rather than people whose only accomplishments have been in rhetoric and posturing.

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Political Hay

Can’t We Do Better?

By 1.16.15

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist — and I certainly have nothing on Paul Craig Roberts whose most recent article, helpfully disseminated by the Ron Paul Institute, claims the Charlie Hebdo attacks to be a “false flag” operation — but I can’t help but wonder if the “mainstream media” is playing up the potential presidential candidacies of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum simply to depress Republican voters.

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Washington’s Next Two Years: More Fissures, More Fights

By 1.13.15

Congress needed just one month to preview Washington’s next two years. The federal spending bill completed in December showed how fractious Obama’s relations with Congress will be for the remainder of his presidency. This fractured nature goes beyond partisan politics, and into ideological divides as well.

The recent legislation to fund the government showed the fault lines now arcing through Washington following November’s midterm elections. Despite such legislation’s routine nature, and with the president and leaders of both parties supporting it, passage proved a struggle.

In the House, where partisan passions are more exposed, the bill narrowly passed 219-206. Despite their majority, Republicans could not manage it on their own, as 67 of their members voted against it. Despite their president’s support, Democrats could muster just over one third of their members for it.

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Mulvaney Unwittingly Damns Conservative Colleagues As Unserious

By 1.8.15

Amid a great deal of publicity about a brewing conservative coup in the U.S. House of Representatives that would dispatch to a back bench the current Speaker John Boehner came Tuesday’s vote, in which the efforts of multiple would-be revolutionaries — Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho and Daniel Webster of Florida — produced no tangible results.

Boehner managed to win the Speakership again with 216 votes, needing just 201 since for various reasons only 401 of the 434 current House members (following New York Republican Michael Grimm’s resignation) were in the chamber for the vote. Some 24 Republicans voted for another candidate — 12 for Webster, three for Gohmert, two apiece for Yoho and Rep. Jim Jordan, and one apiece for Sens. Rand Paul and Jeff Sessions, Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Duncan, and Trey Gowdy. Another Republican, Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, voted present.

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Political Hay

Cuomo’s Impact

By 1.7.15

It is strange to hear pundits like E.J. Dionne hail the departed Mario Cuomo as a monument to conscience, since his most lasting legacy is the popularizing of political expediency. Cuomo explicitly argued against adherence to conscience. He counseled the religious to lighten up and accept our morally relativistic times.

His famous Notre Dame speech was an argument for the suspension of conscience in the name of “pluralism.” If a moral evil is politically popular, don’t challenge it, he in effect said.

“In addition to all the weaknesses, dilemmas and temptations that impede every pilgrim’s progress, the Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy -- who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims, atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics -- bears special responsibility,” he said. “He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones -- sometimes contradictory to them; where the laws protect people’s right to divorce, to use birth control and even to choose abortion.”

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