Political Hay

Political Hay

Rand Paul Jumps In

By 4.8.15

Although it is not named for the hero of Ayn Rand’s influential novel Atlas Shrugged, Louisville’s Galt House Hotel was an appropriate place for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to make official his candidacy to be the next president of the United States.

On Tuesday, in front of a crowd cheering “President Paul! President Paul!” the ophthalmologist turned politician made a strong case for a libertarian brand of Republicanism in a dynamic, well-delivered speech.

Political Hay

O’Malley’s Steep Climb

By 4.8.15

The people who know Martin O’Malley best, the people of Maryland whom he led as governor for two terms, don’t see him as presidential material. Polls consistently show that Marylanders view his likely presidential run unfavorably. But O’Malley’s ego is large enough to be untroubled by his own state’s lack of confidence in him.

Marylanders also expressed their dismay at O’Malley’s national ambitions by rejecting his hand-picked successor as governor in favor of Republican Larry Hogan. “I can tell you my feelings were hurt,” said O’Malley after the defeat. “We had done a lot of really good things in Maryland and in the end, you did not hear much about it during the campaign.”

O’Malley, whose ambition has always outstripped his political talents, is implausibly convinced that Democrats who don’t know him at all will come to see him as more impressive than Democrats in his own state. Despite receiving supportive press from reporters eager to see a challenge to Hillary Clinton, O’Malley is still unknown to most national Democrats and largely unappealing to those who do know him.

Political Hay

Corn, Scorn, and Policy Porn

By 4.6.15

Imagine a government energy program that is such a disaster that the Environmental Working Group and the American Petroleum Institute both oppose it. The anti-poverty group ActionAid USA wants to get rid of it, as does the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants to end it. So does Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. They’re both sponsors of the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015.

Feinstein pans the ethanol mandate as “both unwise and unworkable.” Quoth Toomey: “It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines and is harmful to the environment.” Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group told me the Environmental Protection Agency “shows corn ethanol is worse for the environment than gasoline.” The free market-promoting Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce believes that the renewable fuel standard costs American families $10 billion annually in higher fuel prices. But will Congress vote to kill the program? And if so, will President Barack Obama, a longtime ethanol booster, sign the bill?

Political Hay

Pistols At Dawn

By 4.2.15

Have you seen it?

The outgoing Senate minority leader Harry Reid, whose pitiful lie about being severely beaten in a vicious attack by an elastic exercise band continues largely unchallenged by our lugubrious mainstream media, said in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash that he had no regrets about another pitiful lie he told back in 2012.

Asked whether he felt any regret for defaming then-Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 by accusing him of tax evasion, in no less a venue than the floor of the U.S. Senate where he would be immune from suit, Reid’s answer was haughty and dismissive.

In the interview, Bash asked Reid if it bothered him that his tactics in telling that lie (disproven as it was when Romney later released his tax returns) were reminiscent to some of McCarthyism, Reid said, “They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?”

Political Hay

Two Rematches for 2016

By 3.26.15

Statewide ballots in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin next year will look awfully familiar.

First-term Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are likely to face off in 2016 against the same Democratic opponents they defeated in the 2010 tea party-fueled GOP wave. That would be former Rep. Joe Sestak and ex-Sen. Russ Feingold, respectively.

Of the rematch pair, Feingold stands the better chance of getting his old job back. The three-term senator, a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School grad, was among the most prominent casualties of the 2010 GOP electoral romp.

In his Senate days Feingold was an iconoclast. Though generally a reliable liberal vote for the Democratic leadership, he tended to annoy his party colleagues at inopportune times. Feingold was the only Democratic senator voting to extend the early 1999 Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Two-and-a-half years later Feingold cast the sole lone vote against the Patriot Act, defying post-9/11 concerns about national security. And Feingold was always somewhat of a deficit hawk, zeroing in on colleagues pork projects with zeal.

Political Hay

The Texas Reagan Announces for President

By 3.23.15

You could call him the Texas Reagan.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is announcing today that he is a candidate for president.

The announcement will come in a speech at Liberty University, the famous Virginia school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. There will be no “exploratory committee,” with Cruz moving straight to an announcement of candidacy. This will make the Texas son of a Cuban immigrant and one-time star of Harvard Law School the first officially declared candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Political Hay

Jeb Claims His Baggage

By 3.18.15

Jeb Bush spent a good deal of time campaigning in New Hampshire last week. Among his other messages he assured the famously unpredictable Republicans there that he won’t tailor his positions to please conservatives. This has a nice symmetry to it, because conservative Republicans in New Hampshire, and elsewhere, won’t tailor their primary votes to accommodate Bush.

“You don’t abandon your core beliefs,” Bush said, a statement most conservative Republicans can get behind. Misfortunately for Bush, his core beliefs on immigration and Common Core — he’s big with both — are crosswise with the conservative portion of the Republican base, a group it will be difficult to secure the Republican nomination in 2016 without.

Political Hay

Medical Marijuana Bill Lost in Smoke

By 3.17.15

Last year, Congress passed an amendment that barred the Department of Justice from using federal dollars to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized them. Last week, three senators proposed a measure to clean up the federal-state medical marijuana mess once and for all.

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced their Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act, which should draw support from the right and left. Why? First, it would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II, granting recognition that marijuana has legitimate medical uses, a sop to the left. Second, it would direct the federal government to stop prosecuting dispensers in states that have legalized marijuana for medical use — a states’ rights emphasis that should draw GOP votes. The measure also would allow cannabidiol imports to help patients with epilepsy and seizure disorders — the folks who need medical marijuana the most — and allow Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe medical marijuana. Booker sees his legislation as a matter of “common sense, fiscal prudence and compassion.”

Political Hay

Return to Sender

By 3.12.15

The recent “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” that was signed by 47 Republican senators led by Arkansas freshman Sen. Tom Cotton reminds us why the GOP can’t seem to get away from its reputation as having an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of political victory.

The letter explains to the Islamofascist apocalyptic ayatollahs how “our constitutional system” regarding the ratification of international treaties works, essentially saying “We senators will be here long after President Obama is gone and therefore you should not expect any deal you make now to be respected by the United States for longer than the 22 months remaining in Obama’s term.”

Political Hay

Jindal… for President?

By 3.10.15

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal isn’t particularly burning up the pre-campaign polls for 2016, in large measure because he’s a relatively little-known governor of a relatively small state with a poor tradition of successful political leadership, and most of what voters know about Jindal is his nationally televised fizzle of a speech responding to Barack Obama’s first congressional address.

Jindal has a nice story, of course — the young wunderkind policy wonk, born of Indian immigrants and educated at Brown, with a good track record as a reformist bureaucrat at an astonishingly young age, and two terms as the governor of Louisiana who ushered in greatly expanded school choice, privatization, and a reduction in the size of government. Jindal gives a better speech now than he did in 2009, often regaling audiences with his father’s poor-immigrant story including the fact that the governor was actually a “baby born on layaway.”

There’s a lot to like where Jindal is concerned, and he’s still quite young with a potential for a good political future.