Political Hay

Political Hay

Scott Walker’s Opening Move

By 2.9.15

With his recent appearance in Iowa generating rave reviews, Scott Walker, the intrepid Republican Governor of Wisconsin, has made his opening move in the 2016 presidential primary.

Walker, of course, is the man who has basically been running, non-stop, for office while engaging in a take-no-prisoners battle with the public employee unions in the Dairy State. He has had to manage, in close succession, an election campaign, a fight against a recall, and an impressive re-election victory. He is the Iron Man of state electoral politics. He racked up wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” said Friedrich Nietzsche.

Walker’s January 24th speech to the Freedom Summit in Iowa prompted the seasoned political observer Michael Barone to ask, “Can a single speech at an Iowa political event change the course of a presidential nomination race?” His answer: “Maybe.”

Political Hay

Smart Medicine, Foolish Politics

By 2.5.15

I believe that parents should vaccinate their children. Because children are vulnerable, the media have a responsibility to inform parents about the risks involved when they don’t vaccinate their children.

Instead, I see news outlets turning vaccines into a political issue starring anti-science Republicans in need of correction by pro-science Democrats. “Measles moves to forefront for GOP,” read the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wednesday headline. “Potential presidential hopefuls jump into vaccination debate.” You see, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, an ophthalmologist who should know better, spoke of “many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound medical disorders after vaccines.” Paul also said vaccines are “a good thing” but parents should have “some input.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another Republican, said his children are vaccinated but he believes “parents need to have some measure of choice in things.” Team Christie sort of walked back that vanilla remark later.

Political Hay

Republicans Should Go Big to Win the Budget Showdown

By 2.4.15

On Monday, the news broke that our president and his cadre of Top Men were fulfilling his duty to submit a budget to Congress by releasing a $4 trillion boondoggle replete with tax increases and leftist fantasies of burgeoning government swag. Barack Obama’s new budget never balances. In fact, by his own estimate he’ll be leaving the federal debt at $26 trillion in ten years—and the real effect, were Congress to allow this insanity to become reality, would be far worse.

Political Hay

Sarah Palin and the Sons of Liberty

By 2.3.15

Oh the humanity! Good heavens. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has a bad day and suddenly out comes this stream of ill-disguised venom going after the woman. She’s a this and a that and “we told you so.” Yada yada yada.

Get the smelling salts! Methinks all this commotion over Sarah Palin is really representative of something else. 

Let’s go back to an event from last week that was presented courtesy of the History Channel. It was a show called Sons of Liberty, a three-parter that dramatized the events in Boston leading up to the Declaration of Independence. The show was riveting. Yes, the telling of this famous American tale was a trifle Hollywoodized. Growing up in Massachusetts and spending time tromping the Freedom Trail and other landmarks of the Revolution in Boston, I am pretty sure that Sam Adams was kind of your basic portly guy. Hardly the glamorous English actor Ben Barnes who portrayed him. (Although in fact Barnes did an excellent job capturing the Sam Adams spirit.)

Political Hay

Howard Dean Targets Rahm Emanuel

By 1.29.15

Can you say “Democrat civil war”? How about “progressive civil war”? Howard Dean and brother Jim, the founder and chairman respectively of the progressive PAC Democracy for America, have declared war on…Rahm Emanuel.

Yes, you read that right. The PAC founded by Howard Dean — the former Democratic governor of Vermont, one-time presidential candidate, and ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee — has unleashed an angry fundraising email dedicated to electing leftist city council candidates opposed to the notorious Rahm “Rahmbo” Emanuel, the progressive mayor of Chicago and Obama's ex-White House chief of staff. The letter is signed by Jim Dean. 

The email in its entirety reads (with all the bold print in the original):

One of the most important elections of 2015 is right around the corner -- and Democracy for America is in the thick of it, defending progressive champions against a notorious corporate Democrat.

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?

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?

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.”

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.”

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.”