Chris Cillizza argues that Sen. Rand Paul’s Freebird routine on the Senate floor last night was not a slam dunk win for Republicans. (Lindsay Graham and John McCain, both apparently still Senators, agree.) Cillizza’s points are mostly valid, but also mostly incorrect.
Point 1: Obama is now the tough on terror guy.
The basic point is wrong; President Obama became the tough on terror guy when Seal Team 6 successfully carried out his order to put a bullet between Osama bin Laden’s eyes. But setting that aside, Cillizza suggests that opposing drone strikes could put Republicans in the same camp as anti-war liberals were about 10 years ago.
Democrats were perceived as weak on terror not just because they opposed the Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but because they didn’t speak out one way or another for several years. In 2003 everyone was a hawk except for Howard Dean; Hillary Clinton’s early support of the war was one issue that Barack Obama would use to pry away support during the 2008 primaries.
There’s another side to it, too: If you are going to oppose the policies of the War on Terror as a government official, you can hold press conferences, ask pointed questions at committee hearings, speak out at in-district town meetings, or engage in a host of other tactics that involve you talking. While a sitting President and his administration can talk about their policies while killing terrorists, a sitting Senator can basically just talk. So if talking is your only weapon, it has to be some pretty dramatic talking or you seem wimpy by default. A filibuster works because it is definitely not the same as pointed hearing questions or town meeting blather.
Finally, while Cillizza correctly notes that drone are popular, they are popular because they Americans out of harms way. There’s some space for moral high ground in saying those drones should not be aimed at Americans.
A definitive and unique stand like Paul’s is not a wishy-washy or knee-jerk opposition to the concept of war, but a strong and considered statement against a policy that infringes on civil liberties.
Point 2: Republicans are (still) afraid of the primary electorate.
After starting out on his own, Paul had some friends join him on the floor – including Republicans up for reelection in 2012 and a couple of 2016 Presidential contenders. Was this a matter of pandering to tea partiers?
It’s hard to call it pandering when most of the people who joined Paul – such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee – were elected on the wave of conservative activism that has marked Republican primaries of the last three years. Primary voters have favored candidates who stood up for individual rights and limited government. Is it a big surprise that these people oppose a government killing its own citizens without a trial?
The continued fundamental misunderstanding of so-called “tea party conservatives” is amazing, especially from political press that ought to know better. Voters of any stripe want strong leaders – people who can stand up for strongly-held values without sounding crazy.
Point 3: It’s the economy, stupid.
First off, can we retire this now 21-year-old phrase?
Second, this quote makes this point a bit flawed:
And, in case you forgot, the [Republican] party still lacks a big-picture vision on the way forward regarding the country’s debt and spending issues that goes beyond simply saying: “No new taxes”.
That’s funny, because Paul Ryan’s 99-page Path to Prosperity isn’t just the words “no new taxes” written over and over like the manuscript in The Shining. Also, terms like “reducing spending” and “entitlement reform” have been bandied about by Republicans. Conversely, Democrat solutions seem to hinge on “new taxes.”
Point 4: DC process = not good.
That’s true – but a filibuster is hardly routine DC process. Voting against cloture is a process. Supporting a poison pill amendment is process. But some dude talking for 13 hours to kill time and eating a Kit Kat bar? It’s probably not the most interesting thing in the world, but it sure isn’t ordinary. Jimmy Stewart’s filibuster was the climax of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (just as it was in Mel Gibson’s remake).
It was a public, and coherent, display of a small government school of conservatism that helped the Republicans take the House in 2010 and will be the bedrock of future success. It won’t win him the Presidential nomination in 2016, nor will it solve all the Republican party’s electoral problems of the 2012 cycle. But Paul’s rant might help the party start to find it’s voice again – which is a big and important step.
In a minor story this week, Speaker John Boehner rejected CSPAN’s request to install robotic cameras in the House of Representatives. In doing so, Boehner follows in the footsteps of previous Speakers – and makes the right decision.
CSPAN wanted the cameras to spice up their coverage of the US House – capturing wide shots of the arena and getting reaction shots from Members of Congress who aren’t speaking at a certain time.
If you want an example of what such a broadcast might look like, the Super Bowl kicks off in a few hours. If Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger throws an interception, Fox’s cameras will capture them on the sideline, shaking their heads or talking to coaches. If a kicker – whatever their names are – misses a field goal, you’ll see the typical lingering shot of them staring at the goalposts and shaking their heads, followed (or preceded) by a shot of the coach looking at the kick, preparing to raise his arms before dejectedly slumping his shoulders. When a defensive player blows a coverage, you’ll see his coach glaring at him from the sideline.
Fox isn’t just broadcasting the game, they are telling a story. It’s one reason why sports is interesting to watch, and CSPAN wants to do the same.
But if CSPAN is telling a story about Congressional debate, who gets to write it? And why stop at jumping around during floor debates? Why not give individual Representative theme music and bring in Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler to add commentary, WWE style?
The extra cameras that Boehner rejected would have allowed CSPAN to create their own filter of the coverage, instead of simply showing the debate. Yes, it’s dull, but CSPAN isn’t supposed to be engaging all the time – it’s supposed to be a stream of raw information.
The White House’s Open Government Initiative – President Barack Obama’s directive to for more transparency and public involvement in the often-arcane machinations of the Executive Branch – celebrates its first birthday today. The initiative’s first year has been largely overshadowed by legislative fights, but the real test will come in 2011 – when the Obama Administration likely becomes the Ministry of Regulation.
The President faces a split Congress in 2011, and lawmaking wasn’t all that easy when he had strong majorities in both Houses. Beyond that, he faces the dual risks of losing his far-left base and alienating the middle by allowing the Republicans to play some offense with their House majority. Of course, any revolutionary bill passed by a Republican House will be shot down by the Democratic Senate – and then the Democrats become the sideline-sitting, Slurpee-sipping, “Party of No” just in time for the 2012 election – freeing them up to hand down edicts on everything from internet regulation to carbon emissions.
What is a President to do?
The answer lies in the alphabet soup of agencies throughout the Executive branch, including such classics as the FCC, the FTC, the SEC, and everyone’s favorite, the EPA. Each has regulatory authority delegated from Congress. And, unlike the President’s allies in Congress, bureaucrats will not have to face voters in 2012.
Regulatory agencies are not immune to public input, but they sure can make it a challenge.
For instance, anyone who has been involved in a land use issue which included federal oversight knows the mass of documents required. Each document (along with draft, final, and supplemental versions) must have its own public comment period, where citizens can submit their thoughts.
In theory, that should mean more avenues for input; in practice it is confusing and redundant. Making the process more complex is the fact that each agency may count comments differently; a regulator has the discretion to decide if a comment should be dismissed for being immaterial. Individual bureaucrats have tremendous interpretive power over the public input that crosses their desk.
Is the grassroots wave against big government – and the nascent GOP House majority they produced – already backed into a corner? Far from it.
The American people haven’t fallen back in love with Washington quite yet, so the electorate is likely to listen to the case against shadow laws via bureaucracy. Grassroots activists should participate in comment periods whenever they can – and make sure elected policymakers get a copy of the same letter or message that went to the regulators. (It isn’t as much fun as a protest or an angry phone call to your local Congressional office, but it’s still important.)
House Republicans can and will schedule oversight hearings. These hearings should include scrutiny over public participation opportunities Members of Congress should hold regulators accountable for providing opportunities for public access to the process – and for being receptive to the will of the people.
The Administration, which so dearly values open government, will be happy to comply – right?
After exposing catty gossip and American state secrets, WikiLeaks has been taken down – but not by government action. Amazon refuses to host the site on its servers, and the quest for a new home is proving difficult.
Some proponents of internet regulation are pointing to this as an excellent reason to support net neutrality. Like any media outlet, Wikileaks is entitled to freedom of the press; the problem here is that Amazon owns the press – and Amazon is exercising its freedom to tell Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to take a long walk off a short pier. (Admittedly, with some coaxing from Joe Lieberman, but it’s still Amazon’s call.)
Amazon didn’t want to put up with an organization revealing state secrets for the sole reason of embarrassing America. In short, Assange was a jerk and they no longer wanted to deal with him.
In a parallel move, the House of Representatives chastised tax cheat and self-proclaimed “honest guy” Charles Rangel. Rangel tried to wrangle up support from his email list, sending a blast message calling on supporters to call their members of Congress and urge them to speak out against a censure vote. (Side note: Wouldn’t most of the supporters on Rangel’s email list have Rangel as their Congressman? This email blast couldn’t have been that effective.)
Rangel called it a “political” vote, claiming throughout the process that his 11 ethics violations did not merit the rebuke of his peers. Yet, incredibly, rebuke him they did – overwhelmingly and in the first truly bipartisan vote Congress has seen in some time.
As Washington Times reporter Kerry Pickett found out, Rangel doesn’t view himself as someone who has to answer questions. Maybe that’s why Rangel, like Julian Assange, ran out of friends so fast:
The historic highs Republicans are enjoying in this week’s generic ballot poll numbers are nice, but it alone won’t restore GOP control of Congress in November. A pretty cool website called 40seats.com literally provides a map to GOP victory in November by allowing potential activists to be connected to nearby Congressional races which are up for grabs.
Ballots aren’t generic – and in some cases Democrats have plenty of advantages. For instance, let’s say your Congressman had a long list of embarassments – maybe he famously accused an eight year old of attempting to carjack him, or promised to “earmark the [expletive] out of” appropriations under his purview, or said “I like to hit people” when describing his affinity for boxing, and/or had a birthday party interrupted by what eyewitness observers described as two girlfriends fighting. Yet, the people of your district keep electing him to the House, apparently for earmarks and giggles. But next door, maybe even in a Congressional district you lived in up until, say, June 28 of this year, your involvement could really help the folks on the ground.
40Seats gives you an at-a-glance view of what’s wrong with the incumbent, and gives users options to allow varying degrees of activity – from making phone calls to putting a yard sign out to donating to walking precincts:
The credits indicate the site is mostly a mashup of tools that are open, available, and free - which is what makes 40Seats even smarter than it looks.
And no, sadly, Jim Moran is not targeted.
Two things are evident: O’Keefe still understands the power of online video, and he still understands the power of timing.
The ethics charges flying around various Democrats are starting to look like a trend – much like Republican scandals leading up to the 2006 election painted the picture of a power-happy party inviting a rude awakening at the hands of voters. Getting Waters on camera in a sting operation like this could make the ethics violations very real to voter and underscore the broken promises of Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008.
But on top of that, you can’t say enough about O’Keefe’s media-savvy release strategy, either.
By releasing a teaser, O’Keefe capitalizes on this week’s news cycle about Waters and her ethics charges. After controversy surrounding his presence in a Senate office earlier this year (and the storm surrounding his associate Andrew Breitbart’s role in the Shirley Sherrod affair), he can expect that this initial release will lead to a round of denouncement from left-leaning talking heads; for a while the story will be that James O’Keefe has a Waters video. The Congresswoman’s office will likely be asked to comment; maybe she’ll even say something embarrassing and unwittingly drum up more coverage.
True, O’Keefe could have gotten just as much coverage this week by releasing a completed video. But what about next week? This strategy allows O’Keefe, after the initial frenzy, to drop a second video and get another round of coverage. And, the vile and hatred he receives from the left this week may make the release of the full video that much more newsworthy.
If it sounds familiar, it should – it’s exactly how O’Keefe and Breitbart set up ACORN to take itself down.