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Political Hay

What Ailes Trump?

By 1.27.16

A long time ago I met Roger Ailes. It was Monday November 2, 1970. The next day my candidate — conservative James L. Buckley — would be elected United States Senator from New York. More than a week before the end of Jim’s campaign, I had helped raise $300,000 (in 1970 dollars) from Jack Mulcahy, a wealthy confidante of Richard Nixon and Nixon’s “funding solution” to help Jim. As revealed on the “secret” 1972 Watergate tapes — Nixon would call Mulcahy “the most amazing lovable Irishman.”

After using the money to buy availabilities for 30-second television spots, we still had unspent funds. So at the last minute we bought a 30-minute bloc of time for a live election-eve telethon in New York City, also broadcast simultaneously in other New York media markets — notably Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse-Utica, and Albany.

Conservative Tastes

William F. Buckley Questions National Review on Trump

By 1.26.16

The video is old, grainy and in black-and-white. Yet there is no mistake.

There is a young William F. Buckley, Jr. citing the American columnist Franklin Adams, saying the following (hat tip: Legal Insurrection):

As Franklin Adams once said, I think the average American is a little bit above average. And under the circumstances I rejoice over the influence of the people over their elected leaders since by and large I think that they show more wisdom than their leaders or than their intellectuals. I’ve often been quoted as saying I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2000 people on the faculty of Harvard University.

Catch that line? That the American people “show more wisdom than their leaders or than their intellectuals.” 

The Hillary Watch

Greed Is Clinton’s Achilles’ Heel

By 1.26.16

When Bernie Sanders hits rival Hillary Clinton for taking humongous speaking fees from big banks — notably the $675,000 Goldman Sachs paid her for three speeches while she eyed the Oval Office — he struck Clinton’s Achilles’ heel. Both the former secretary of state and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have cashed in since they left the White House in 2000. The New York Times reported last year that the Clintons earned $139 million from 2007 to 2014. The Clintons’ focus on accumulating wealth clouds their judgment.

Start with a basic political fact: Many voters believe Wall Street got off too painlessly for its role in the financial collapse of 2008. Many Democrats blame big banks. So if you know you are going to run for president in the Democratic primary, you probably don’t want financial giants paying you five times the American median household income for one speech. It makes you look beholden to fat cats, because — earth to Hillary — most human beings are grateful when someone gives them six figures for a talk.

Another Perspective

Candidates Should Heed Martin Luther

By 1.26.16

Politicians pander. It’s what they do. But Christians seem especially susceptible to those claiming to be their spiritual brethren. It would be better if people of faith focused on candidates’ practical ability to perform the duties of what remains a secular office.

With the Iowa caucuses drawing near, it seems like every Republican tramping through the snow claims to be a Bible-believing, God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian. Some trot out their parents; others offer personal conversion stories. Some defend persecuted Christians; others explain their policies in Biblical terms. A gaggle of church leaders promote their favorite presidential wannabe.

It’s a fruitless exercise. The Israelites were told to select men who “fear God,” (Exodus 18:21), but theirs was an explicit community of faith. Governance of a secular republic with an increasingly diverse and unchurched population is very different.

The Energy Spectator

Ted and Trump Take Different Tracks on Ethanol

By 1.26.16

Terry Branstad was first elected governor of Iowa in 1982. His six terms in office have made him the longest serving governor in American history and the most influential politician in the state. He rarely takes sides in the Republican caucuses and hasn’t endorsed a primary presidential candidate since 1996.

But the 2016 election is different in so many ways.

On Tuesday, January 19, at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, Branstad jumped into the fray by attempting to influence the outcome of the February 1 caucus — not with an endorsement, but with a denouncement: “I don’t think that Ted Cruz is the right one for Iowans to support in the caucus.”

Branstad slammed Cruz because, as he told reporters: “He’s opposed to the wind energy tax credit. He’s opposed to ethanol and biodiesel” — which are the very positions that make Cruz an attractive candidate to limited-government, free-market Republicans.

Main Street U.S.A.

What Matters in Politics — And What Doesn’t

By 1.26.16

My friends and fellow Americans: This Trump thing we’re all chewing to death like a dog with a dishrag is only nominally about “Doctor” Trump and his traveling medicine show.

It’s most of all about us. And what we make of our country and its present challenges. The primaries and caucuses and polls and whatnots persuade us they are the essence of political life. Can we not see and appreciate that?

It’s a bad sign we have gotten to this point, a very bad sign, and I don’t think anyone knows what to do about it. A healthy nation — which is to say, a healthy society composed of healthy families and citizens — doesn’t wager its prospects on the promised actions of men and women who make a living asking for votes. Our disposition to make that wager shows how unhealthy we believe ourselves to have become, owing to our dependence on the distribution of votes, which are mere preferences for one course of action or another.

If we look around — except that we don’t — we notice how few preferences actually ever get written into law. Or how little they help when they do.

Sports Arena

Taking College Players for a Ride

By 1.26.16

Recently a University of Florida Football player named Jalen Tabor said he was sorry for an offensive tweet. “The SEC made $527.4 million in total revenue and players ain’t get a penny. Modern form of slavery.” Jalen expressed regret for comparing his situation to slavery, and he probably also should have apologized for his abysmal grammar as well.

But as a conservative who firmly believes in free will and the Jeffersonian pursuit of happiness, I’m convinced that the current system is willfully and knowingly taking advantage of a small number of elite collegiate athletes, primarily those who participate in college basketball and football.

The Nation's Pulse

The Demand for Villains

By 1.26.16

The latest tempest in a teapot controversy is over a lack of black nominees for this year’s Academy Awards in Hollywood.

The assumption seems to be that different groups would be proportionally represented if somebody were not doing somebody else wrong. That assumption carries great weight in far more important things than Academy Awards and in places more important than Hollywood, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

In an earlier era, the groupthink assumption was that groups that did not succeed as often, or as well, were genetically inferior. But is our current groupthink assumption based on any more hard evidence?

Having spent decades researching racial and ethnic groups around the world, I have never yet found a country in which all groups — or even most groups — are even roughly equally represented in most endeavors.

Special Report

Laura Nyro: A Tale of Two Tributes

By 1.25.16

Many performers from the 1960s and 1970s have inspired tributes in the form of cover bands, the recording of new interpretations of their material and even Broadway shows. Of course, there are hundreds, probably thousands of tributes to the Beatles. But it is certainly not limited to the Fab Four. Led Zeppelin, Carole King, the late David Bowie and the Eagles (featuring the also recently departed Glenn Frey) immediately come to mind.

Then there’s the case of Laura Nyro. Unlike the other acts mentioned, Laura Nyro is not a household name. I suspect that many music fans who were around during the ’60s and ’70s probably never even heard of her. But those who come to know Nyro’s music are a devoted lot who remain fans for life.

Another Perspective

‘Fantastic’ Democrats Hold Last-Minute Town Hall Tonight

By 1.25.16

Des Moines Register, January 25

Tonight in Des Moines, one week before the Iowa Caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party and Drake University will co-host a CNN Town Hall. The three participants are perennial presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, straight man Martin O’Malley, and life-long Marxist Bernie Sanders.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire said Democrats are honored to showcase “our fantastic candidates.” McGuire sharply rebuked Ted Cruz for being a Republican and praised “New York values.” McGuire also noted that Iowa Democrats, according to this newspaper’s poll, feel the number one issue in the state is the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards. McGuire expressed hope that CNN panelists tonight would not be diverted toward “phony issues” like the slow economic recovery over the last seven years or the resurgence of Iran amidst the meltdown in the Middle East.