Monday, January 31, 2011




One of the significant statements in Judge Vison's Order was this:

It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.


The Constitutional Moment

Judge Vinson introduces ObamaCare to Madison and Marshall.

'If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Federal Judge Roger Vinson opens his decision declaring ObamaCare unconstitutional with that citation from Federalist No. 51, written by James Madison in 1788. His exhaustive and erudite opinion is an important moment for American liberty, and yesterday may well stand as the moment the political branches were obliged to return to the government of limited and enumerated powers that the framers envisioned.

As Judge Vinson took pains to emphasize, the case is not really about health care at all, or the wisdom—we would argue the destructiveness—of the newest entitlement. Rather, the Florida case goes to the core of the architecture of the American system, and whether there are any remaining limits on federal control. Judge Vinson's 78-page ruling in favor of 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, among others, is by far the best legal vindication to date of Constitutional principles that form the outer boundaries of federal power.

At the heart of the states' lawsuit is the individual mandate, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance or be penalized for not doing so. "Never before has Congress required that everyone buy a product from a private company (essentially for life) just for being alive and residing in the United States," Judge Vinson writes.

Getty Images

Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration justified this coercion under the Commerce Clause, so it is fitting that Judge Vinson conducts a deep investigation into its history and intent, including Madison's notes at the Constitutional Convention and the jurisprudence of the first Chief Justice, John Marshall. The original purpose of the Commerce Clause was to eliminate the interstate trade barriers that prevailed under the Articles of Confederation—among the major national problems that gave rise to the Constitution.

The courts affirmed this limited and narrow understanding until the New Deal, when Congress began to regulate harum-scarum and the Supreme Court inflated the clause into a general license for anything a majority happened to favor.

In a major 1942 case, Wickard v. Filburn, the Court held that even growing wheat for personal use was an activity with a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, thus justifying federal restrictions on the use of agricultural land meant to prop up commodity prices. It wasn't until the William Rehnquist Court, a half-century later, that the Justices began to recover some of the original limits, notably in the Lopez (1995) and Morrison (2000) cases.

Yet even in its most elastic interpretations, the Commerce Clause applied only to "clear and inarguable activity," Judge Vinson writes, the emphasis his. It never applied to inactivity like not buying health insurance, which has "no impact whatsoever" on interstate commerce. He argues that breaching this frontier converts the clause into a general police power of the kind that the Constitution reserves to the states. As the High Court put it in Lopez, obliterating this distinction would "create a completely centralized government."

The Administration contends that not purchasing insurance—inactivity—is really activity, because everyone will eventually need medical care and their costs will be transferred to the insured. But Judge Vinson dissects that as a "radical departure" from the Constitution and U.S. case law. It is "not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted," he writes. "Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended."

He notes that no one can opt out of eating any more than they can from the medical system, so return to the Wickard example of wheat: "Congress could more directly raise too-low wheat prices merely by increasing demand through mandating that every adult purchase and consume wheat bread daily, rationalized on the grounds that because everyone must participate in the market for food, non-consumers of wheat bread adversely affect prices in the wheat market."

Unlike Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia, who also found ObamaCare to be unconstitutional, Judge Vinson addresses the Administration's fallback argument that the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause justifies the law even if the Commerce Clause doesn't. He writes that this clause "is not an independent source of federal power" and "would vitiate the enumerated powers principle." In other words, the clause can't justify inherently unconstitutional actions.

Judge Vinson also went beyond the Virginia case in striking down the entire ObamaCare statute—paradoxically, an act of judicial modesty. Democrats intentionally left out a "severability" clause if one part of the bill was struck down, and the Administration repeatedly argued that the individual mandate was "essential" to the bill's goals and mechanisms and compared it to "a finely crafted watch." Judge Vinson writes that picking and choosing among thousands of sections would be "tantamount to rewriting a statute in an attempt to salvage it."


We take a measure of vindication in the decision—David Rivkin and Lee Casey, the lawyers who argued the Florida case, first suggested in these pages that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. Judge Vinson's learned opinion has put down a Constitutional argument that will reverberate all the way to the Supreme Court.


  • The Wall Street Journal

Professor Cornpone

Ethanol lobbyist Newt Gingrich and us—and the future of the GOP

The last time these columns were lambasted by a presidential candidate in Iowa, he was Democrat Richard Gephardt and the year was 1988. The Missouri populist won the state caucuses in part on the rallying cry that "we've got to stop listening to the editorial writers and the establishment," especially about ethanol and trade. Imagine our amusement to find Republican Newt Gingrich joining such company.

Associated Press

The former Speaker blew through Des Moines last Tuesday for the Renewable Fuels Association summit, and his keynote speech to the ethanol lobby was as pious a tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars as we've ever heard. Mr. Gingrich explained that "the big-city attacks" on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America, adding that "Obviously big urban newspapers want to kill it because it's working, and you wonder, 'What are their values?'"

Mr. Gingrich traced the roots of these supposed antipathies to the 1880s, an observation that he repeatedly tendered "as an historian." The Ph.D. and star pupil of futurist Alvin Toffler then singled out the Journal's long-held anti-ethanol views as "just plain flat intellectually wrong."

Mr. Gingrich is right that ethanol poses an intellectual problem, but it has nothing to do with a culture war between Des Moines and New York City. The real fight is between the House Republicans now trying to rationalize the federal fisc and the kind of corporate welfare that President Obama advanced in his State of the Union. We'll dwell on this problem not merely because Mr. Gingrich the historian brought it up, but because it and he illustrate so many of the snares facing the modern GOP.


Mr. Gingrich was particularly troubled by our January 22 editorial about food inflation, "Amber Waves of Ethanol," saying that we "at least ought to use facts that are accurate." For the record, we cited figures from the Agriculture Department showing that four of every 10 rows of corn now go to ethanol, up from about one of 10 a decade ago.

A Gingrich spokesman said that what his boss meant to say is that this redistribution has a "negligible" effect on global food costs, especially compared to "higher fuel and energy prices and rampant speculation in the commodities markets."

Here's how he put in Des Moines, with that special Gingrich nuance: "The morning that I see the folks who are worried about 'food versus fuel' worry about the cost of diesel fuel, worry about the cost of commodities on the world market, worry about the inflation the Federal Reserve is building into our system, all of which is going to show up as higher prices, worry about the inefficiencies of big corporations that manufacture and process food products—the morning they do that, I'll take them seriously."

The morning Mr. Gingrich read the offending editorial, if he did, he must have overlooked the part about precisely those concerns. He must have also missed our editorial last month raising the possibility that easy money was contributing to another asset bubble in the Farm Belt, especially in land prices. For that matter, he must have missed the dozens of pieces we've run in recent years critiquing Fed monetary policy.

Of course, the ethanol boom isn't due to the misallocation of resources that always stalks inflation. It is the result of decades of deliberate industrial policy, as Mr. Gingrich well knows. In 1998, then Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer tried to kill ethanol's subsidies for good, only to land in the wet cement that Speaker Gingrich had poured.

Yet today this now-mature industry enjoys far more than cash handouts, including tariffs on foreign competitors and a mandate to buy its product. Supporters are always inventing new reasons for these dispensations, like carbon benefits (nonexistent, according to the greens and most scientific evidence) and replacing foreign oil (imports are up). An historian of Mr. Gingrich's distinction surely knows all that.


Given that Mr. Gingrich aspires to be President, his ethanol lobbying raises larger questions about his convictions and judgment. The Georgian has been campaigning in the tea party age as a fierce critic of spending and government, but his record on that score is, well, mixed.

As Speaker in 1995, he thought he could govern from Congress, refused to bargain with President Clinton and after a veto was forced to retreat in a way that hurt Bob Dole and nearly cost the House majority. In 1997, he did manage a balanced-budget deal with Mr. Clinton, but the price included phony Medicare cuts on doctors and a new entitlement for children's health care.

Mr. Gingrich stepped down after the GOP lost House seats in 1998, but he re-emerged in 2003 to campaign for George W. Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit. His personal contribution was to promote the bill's modest market fillips as epic virtues that lesser minds couldn't grasp. Instead, the bill damaged the GOP's fiscal credibility, while Democrats have since rolled back medical savings accounts and private insurance options for seniors.

Now Republicans have another chance to reform government, and a limited window of opportunity in which to do it. The temptation will be to allow their first principles to be as elastic as many voters suspect they are, especially as Mr. Obama appropriates the language of "investments" and "incentives" to transfer capital to politically favored companies. Many Republicans have their own industry favorites, and such parochial interests could undercut their opposition to Mr. Obama's wider agenda.

So along comes Mr. Gingrich to offer his support for Mr. Obama's brand of green-energy welfare, undermining House Republicans in the process. In his Iowa speak-power-to-truth lecture, he even suggested that the government should mandate that all new cars in the U.S. be flex-fuel vehicles—meaning those that can run on an ethanol-gas mix as high as 85%—as if King Corn were in any danger of being deposed.

Yet there are currently dozens of flex-fuel models on the market, and auto makers already get a benefit if they sell them, via the prior fuel-economy mandates that did so much to devastate Detroit. The problem is consumers rarely want to pay more for flex-fuel cars when they get 25% to 30% fewer miles per gallon with E85, according to Energy Department data.


Some pandering is inevitable in presidential politics, but, befitting a college professor, Mr. Gingrich insists on portraying his low vote-buying as high "intellectual" policy. This doesn't bode well for his judgment as a president. Even Al Gore now admits that the only reason he supported ethanol in 2000 was to goose his presidential prospects, and the only difference now between Al and Newt is that Al admits he was wrong.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The Error of Big Government

The new Congressional Budget Office analysis of the federal budget is full of bad news, but Republican budget experts still fear the report manages to sugar coat the extent of the problem.

The cumulative federal deficits during President Obama's first term will total more than $5 trillion. By 2021, that number is expected to rise by another $7 trillion, according to the report. CBO forecasts that the deficit as a share of GDP will fall to 3 percent in 2015 from 9.8 percent this year. But this progress is highly doubtful, given budget changes that Congress is likely to make between now and then.

The projections assume that all of the Bush tax cuts -- not just those on the rich -- are repealed in 2011. They assume that 25 million more Americans, mostly in the middle class, will have to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax. And they assume that payments to doctors for treating Medicare patients will be severely cut after 2012. "None of that is likely to happen," House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan tells me. "We have to cut the entitlements to get these deficits down in the out years."

Other budget hawks complain that CB0 fails to take into account the true deficit impact of ObamaCare, which the agency still officially pretends is a debt reducer. "That's just a complete fantasy," says Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director. "That forecast is off by hundreds of billions of dollars."

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation recalculated the CBO baseline with more realistic assumptions and found that the 10-year deficits will equal $13.6 trillion through 2021. "Annual deficits never fall below $1 trillion," he writes, "and even that assumes a return to peace and prosperity."

In sum, the Obama deficit and spending blowout in Washington isn't as bad as we're being told. It's worse.

by Stephen Moore


Thursday, 27 January 11

Wednesday, January 26, 2011




Abortion’s awful euphemisms

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
January 26, 2011

GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACIES and legal panels are not usually known for their vivid writing style. But “vivid” doesn’t come close to conveying the driving force of the grand jury report released last week by the Philadelphia district attorney in connection with the Women’s Medical Society, a long-established abortion clinic operated by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The report was issued on the same day that Gosnell and nine of his employees were arrested on charges including murder, infanticide, and abuse of a corpse. In 261 pages of shatteringly clear prose, the grand jurors laid out their findings.

The remains of dozens of dead babies were found amid appallingly squalid conditions at this abortion clinic in West Philadelphia.

“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women,” the report begins. “What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”

The report goes on to describe a horror-show — a squalid operation in which hygiene was ignored, equipment was broken, and late-term abortions were routine. Pregnant women coming to Gosnell’s clinic were treated with callous disdain, often left for hours to sit, semi-conscious and in pain, on dirty recliners covered with bloodstained blankets. Untrained and unsupervised employees administered powerful drugs to induce labor, and heavy sedatives to keep women from screaming.

Time and again, the grand jury says, late-term babies were delivered alive — fully intact and breathing — and then killed. But Gosnell didn’t use the word “kill” to describe what he or his employees were doing. “He called it ‘ensuring fetal demise.’ The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that ‘snipping.’ Over the years, there were hundreds of ‘snippings.’” The report describes a case in which one of the clinic employees played with a newborn before slitting its neck.

The grand jury report came out just days before the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the endlessly controversial Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in every state. By the usual newsroom calculus, that should have made the ghastly revelations of this “baby charnel house” — the grand jury’s term — a huge story. But outside of Philadelphia, the story got only muted attention.

Even after the story broke, Philadelphia’s local Planned Parenthood chapter could only bring itself to “condemn any physician who does not follow the law or endangers anyone’s health,” and said women in such cases should “complain to the Department of Health.” But the grand jury found that Pennsylvania authorities knew what was happening at Gosnell’s abortion mill, yet deliberately looked the other way. In 1993, with the accession of a pro-choice governor, Republican Tom Ridge, the Pennsylvania Department of Health stopped inspecting abortion clinics. “Officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions,” the report says, and decided “to leave clinics to do as they pleased.”

Kermit Gosnell, who ran the Women’s Medical Society, an abortion clinic, for decades, has been arrested on multiple charges of murder, infanticide, and abuse of a corpse.

The blunt clarity of the grand jury’s findings could not contrast more sharply with the abstract euphemisms preferred by abortion’s supporters.

In a statement marking Roe v. Wade’s anniversary, President Obama referred not to “abortion,” but to “women’s health and reproductive freedom” and the importance of keeping government out of “private family matters.” Planned Parenthood and NARAL’s Blog for Choice celebrated Roe for enshrining “a woman’s right to choose.” Rarely can those who extoll “choice” bring themselves to acknowledge openly that what is being chosen is death.

Since 1973, Roe has led to the destruction of more than 40 million unborn babies. It has led to a desensitizing debasement of our language as well. Americans have gotten so used to the idea of life in the womb being violently killed in part because they camouflage that killing with feel-good labels like “reproductive freedom” and “choice.” So pervasive is the mindset such language sustains that even when an alleged butcher like Gosnell comes along, the champions of “choice” offer only muted criticism.

Abortion is always a violent and awful thing, whether it happens in a squalid cesspit or in an immaculate doctor’s office. Reasonable people can debate whether abortion should be legal, and under what circumstances. But they ought to be able to do so without euphemistic evasions. Too many Americans have grown too comfortable with abortion’s terrible reality. For that as well, we have Roe to thank.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


States with laws punishing faithless electors


One of the major points of controversy in the election was the challenge to the eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to be president of the United States.

I was one of the many persons who did not, and still do not, believe that he was eligible. While many based their objections to his eligibility solely on his place of birth,
contending that he was not born in the United States, I was one of those who, while also believing that he was born in Monbassa, Kenya, believed that he was ineligible because he was not born of two parents who were both citizens of the United States at the time of his birth. The constitutional requirement that one must be a NATURAL BORN CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES in order to be eligible for the presidency has traditionally been understood to require that one be born of two such parents. He was not.

In order to head off the casting of ballots for Obama by the members of the Electoral College following the general election in which he received the majority of the popular vote, packets of documentation were sent to every member of the College detailing his ineligibility. It was a great disappointment to many of us that the electors cast their ballots for him when the College met in December, 2008 and the Congress accepted their voting and declared Obama president.

What I did not know at the time was that, while the policy varies from state to state, the majority states require their electors to vote for the candidate for whom they have been pledged to vote. There is such a thing as a faithless elector.



Faithless elector
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In United States presidential elections, a faithless elector is a member of the Electoral College who does not vote for the candidate they have pledged to vote for. Faithless electors are pledged electors and thus different from unpledged electors.
On 158 occasions, electors have cast their votes for President or Vice President in a manner different from that prescribed by the legislature of the state they represented. Of those, 71 votes were changed because the original candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote. Two votes were not cast at all when electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The remaining 85 were changed by the elector's personal interest, or perhaps by accident. Usually, the faithless electors act alone. An exception was the U.S. presidential election of 1836, in which 23 Virginia electors conspired to change their vote together.
Political parties choose their slate of electors in each state, and they generally select party members with a reputation for high loyalty to the party and its candidate. Moreover, a faithless elector runs a risk of censure and other political retaliation from his party. Thus, the parties have generally been successful in keeping their electors faithful, leaving out the cases in which a candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote.
Twenty-four states have laws to punish faithless electors.[1] While no faithless elector has ever been punished, the constitutionality of state pledge laws was brought before the Supreme Court in 1952 (Ray v. Blair, 343 U.S. 214). The court ruled in favor of the state's right to require electors to pledge to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, as well as to remove electors who refuse to pledge. Once the elector has voted, their vote can only be changed in states such as Michigan and Minnesota, where votes other than those pledged are rendered invalid. However, in all twenty-four states, a faithless elector may only be punished after he or she votes. The Supreme Court has ruled that, as electors are chosen via state elections, they act as a function of the state, not the federal government. Therefore states have the right to govern electors. The constitutionality of state laws punishing electors for actually casting a faithless vote, rather than refusing to pledge, has never been decided by the Supreme Court.
To date, faithless electors have never changed the otherwise expected outcome of the election.
List of faithless electors
Electors do not have to vote for the candidate who received the most votes in any particular state. The following is a list of all faithless electors (in chronological order). The number preceding each entry is the number of faithless electors for the given year.
Election year
Faithless electors
Samuel Miles, an elector from Pennsylvania, was pledged to vote for Federalist presidential candidate John Adams, but voted for Democratic Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson. He cast his other presidential vote as pledged for Thomas Pinckney. (This election took place prior to the passage of the 12th Amendment, so there were not separate ballots for president and vice president.)

New York elector Anthony Lispenard demanded to be able to cast a secret ballot, rather than a public one as state law required, apparently because he wanted to cast both of his votes for Aaron Burr instead of one each for Burr and Thomas Jefferson. This demand was necessary to force Burr's election as President, since voting for Burr and someone else would have (in theory) simply created a deadlock in the electoral college and a run-off vote, which Jefferson would have likely won. However, Lispenard's demand was rejected by the state, and he voted as pledged, for Jefferson and Burr. Ironically, errors in the Democratic-Republican voting strategy meant that Jefferson and Burr ended up tying 73-73 in the electoral college, meaning that Lispenard could have caused Burr to become President all along by simply not casting his second vote, or voting for someone who was not a candidate, although he had no way of knowing this would be the case when he voted.[2]
Six electors from New York were pledged to vote for Democratic Republican James Madison as President and George Clinton as Vice President. Instead, they voted for Clinton to be President, with three voting for Madison as Vice President and the other three voting for James Monroe to be Vice President.
Three electors pledged to vote for Federalist vice presidential candidate Jared Ingersoll voted for Democratic Republican Elbridge Gerry. One Ohio elector did not vote.
William Plumer pledged to vote for Democratic Republican candidate James Monroe, but he cast his vote for John Quincy Adams who was also a Democratic Republican, but was not a candidate in the 1820 election. Some historians contend that Plumer did not feel that the Electoral College should unanimously elect any President other than George Washington, but this claim is disputed. (Monroe lost another three votes because three electors died before casting ballots and were not replaced.)
Seven (of nine) electors from Georgia refused to vote for vice presidential candidate John C. Calhoun. All seven cast their vice presidential votes for William Smith instead.
Two National Republican Party electors from the state of Maryland refused to vote for presidential candidate Henry Clay and did not cast a vote for him or for his running mate. All 30 electors from Pennsylvania refused to support the Democratic vice presidential candidate Martin Van Buren, voting instead for William Wilkins.
The Democratic Party nominated Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky as their vice presidential candidate. The 23 electors from Virginia refused to support Johnson with their votes upon learning of the allegation that he had lived with an African-American woman. There was no majority in the Electoral College and the decision was deferred to the Senate, which supported Johnson as the Vice President.

In New Jersey, where a fusion ticket was attempted, a Democratic supporter of Douglas refused to issue fusion tickets that would have supported Breckinridge. As a result, only three Democratic electors were chosen (all supporters of Douglas), and the other four electors chosen were Republican supporters of Abraham Lincoln.[3]
63 electors for Horace Greeley changed their votes after Greeley's death, which occurred before the electoral vote could be cast. Greeley's remaining three electors cast their presidential votes for Greeley and had their votes discounted by Congress.
In Oregon, three electors voted for Democrat Grover Cleveland, and one for the third-party Populist candidate. All four were pledged to Republican President Benjamin Harrison, who failed to get reelected. Also, in North Dakota, one elector voted for the Democrats and one for the Populists, while the Republicans had won the state.
The Democratic Party and the People’s Party both ran William Jennings Bryan as their presidential candidate, but ran different candidates for Vice President. The Democratic Party nominated Arthur Sewall and the People’s Party nominated Thomas E. Watson. The People’s Party won 31 electoral votes but four of those electors voted with the Democratic ticket, supporting Bryan as President and Sewall as Vice President.
Republican vice presidential candidate James S. Sherman died before the election. Eight Republican electors had pledged their votes to him but voted for Nicholas Murray Butler instead.
Two Tennessee electors were on both the Democratic Party and the States' Rights Democratic Party slates. When the Democratic Party slate won, one of these electors voted for the Democratic nominees Harry Truman and Alben Barkley. The other, Preston Parks, cast his votes for States' Rights Democratic Party candidates Strom Thurmond and Fielding Wright, making him a faithless elector.
Alabama Elector W. F. Turner, pledged for Democrats Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver, cast his votes for Walter Burgwyn Jones and Herman Talmadge.
Oklahoma Elector Henry D. Irwin, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., cast his presidential electoral vote for Democratic non-candidate Harry Flood Byrd and his vice presidential electoral vote for Republican Barry Goldwater. (Fourteen unpledged electors also voted for Byrd for president, but supported Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat, for vice president.)
North Carolina Elector Lloyd W. Bailey, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, cast his votes for American Independent Party candidates George Wallace and Curtis LeMay.
Virginia Elector Roger MacBride, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, cast his electoral votes for Libertarian candidates John Hospers and Theodora Nathan. MacBride's vote for Nathan was the first electoral vote cast for a woman in U.S. history. MacBride became the Libertarian candidate for President in the 1976 election.
Washington Elector Mike Padden, pledged for Republicans Gerald Ford and Bob Dole, cast his presidential electoral vote for Ronald Reagan, who had challenged Ford for the Republican nomination. He cast his vice presidential vote, as pledged, for Dole.

In Illinois, the electors, pledged to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, conducted their vote in a secret ballot. When the electors voted for Vice President, one of the votes was for Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic nominee. After several minutes of confusion, a second ballot was taken. Bush won unanimously in this ballot, and it was this ballot that was reported to Congress.
West Virginia Elector Margaret Leach, pledged for Democrats Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen, instead cast her votes for the candidates in the reverse of their positions on the national ticket; her presidential vote went to Bentsen and her vice presidential vote to Dukakis.
Washington, D.C. Elector Barbara Lett-Simmons, pledged for Democrats Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, cast no electoral votes as a protest of Washington D.C.'s lack of statehood, which she described as the federal district's "colonial status."[4]
A Minnesota elector, pledged for Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for John Ewards [sic],[5] rather than Kerry, presumably by accident.[6] (All of Minnesota's electors cast their vice presidential ballots for John Edwards.) Minnesota's electors cast secret ballots, so unless one of the electors claims responsibility, it is unlikely that the identity of the faithless elector will ever be known. As a result of this incident, Minnesota Statutes were amended to provide for public balloting of the electors' votes and invalidation of a vote cast for someone other than the candidate to whom the elector is pledged.[7]

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Obama, the Great Deregulator?

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
January 23, 2011

WHEN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA announced last week that he was ordering executive agencies to scrap "outdated" federal regulations "that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb," and to ensure that new rules use the "least burdensome" means of achieving their goals, the response from the right was polite but doubtful.

The Code of Federal Regulations now runs to more than 35,000 pages.

"This executive order is hardly a war on red tape," the Competitive Enterprise Institute pointed out, noting that it duplicates a Clinton-era order that has been on the books all along. The Cato Institute's Walter Olson was unimpressed by Obama's single example of an unwarranted regulation: an EPA rule classifying saccharin as hazardous waste. "It was almost as if his point was to pick a regulation so minor that no one cared much about it one way or the other." If the president is serious, The Wall Street Journal editorialized, "this will be one of the great policy walkbacks in American history" -- but it counseled keeping "a Missouri state of mind."

The skeptics can hardly be blamed for not rushing to acclaim Obama as the Great Deregulator.

It was only last spring, after all, that The New York Times -- in a story headlined "With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion" -- was reporting on "the surge in rule-making" and how the administration "has pressed forward on hundreds of new mandates, while also stepping up enforcement." In October, a Heritage Foundation report on "Obama's torrent of new regulation" concluded that the federal regulatory burden was increasing at an unprecedented rate: In fiscal 2010 alone, the administration had adopted 43 major new regulations, at an estimated annual cost to the economy of $26.5 billion, a record.

And even as Obama promises to throttle back the regulatory overdrive, the White House says that ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank -- the massive new laws overhauling health-care and the financial industry, which will create scores of new agencies and generate hundreds of new regulations -- will not be affected. You don't have to be an Obama-wary conservative to assume that the impact of the president's order -- as the Times put it last week -- "is likely to be more political than substantive."

Much harder to make sense of is the outraged response on the left.

Public Citizen, the anti-business lobby group founded by Ralph Nader, slammed Obama's call for restoring "balance" to federal rulemaking as "the wrong way to think about regulation" and accused the administration of "echoing Big Business's talking points." Salon's War Room blog said the president's call for reviewing burdensome rules "reads like an apology to the business community." Rena Steinzor, head of the Center for Progressive Reform, suggested that what the nation needs is not less regulation, but more.

"Think about all the disasters that we have suffered in the last couple of years," she lamented to NPR. "The Deepwater Horizon spill; the collapse of the Big Branch mine; peanut paste with salmonella; Toyotas that suddenly accelerate; cadmium in children's jewelry. What you see is a massive failure of a regulatory system."

That may be persuasive to someone who starts from the simplistic premise that disasters are caused by insufficiently aggressive government oversight. But if more regulation is the right response to every corporate debacle or marketplace calamity, then be definition there can never be enough government control.

As long as there are human beings, there will be failures, foul-ups, and blunders. It is delusional to imagine that we can always protect ourselves with another federal "czar," or with more rigorous regulation. Czars and regulators -- like the politicians who empower them -- are no more honest or infallible than anyone else, and the harm caused by their failures, foul-ups, and blunders can be devastating. To take just one example, think of all the economic agony that could have been avoided in recent years if the government hadn't deliberately weakened market discipline in its quest to expand homeownership.

"By 2010," writes former US Senator and Court of Appeals Judge James Buckley in a new book, "the Code of Federal Regulations consisted of 225 volumes containing 35,367 pages of detailed, fine-print regulations." More than 4,200 proposed rules are in currently in the pipeline at federal agencies. According to a study commissioned by the Small Business Administration, the annual cost of federal regulation surpasses $1.75 trillion -- and that was in 2008. There are many ways to characterize the relationship between Americans and their government. "Underregulated" isn't one of them.

The president's call for restoring regulatory balance is encouraging, no matter how aghast it leaves his critics on the left. As for the rest of us, we'll wait to see if he means it.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His website is

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Zina Saunder


22 January 11

'Sometimes I sarcastically, perhaps cynically, say that I'm glad that I received virtually all of my education before it became fashionable for white people to like black people," writes Walter Williams in his new autobiography, "Up from the Projects." "By that I mean that I encountered back then a more honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Professors didn't hesitate to criticize me—sometimes to the point of saying, 'That's nonsense.'"

Mr. Williams, an economist at George Mason University, is contrasting being black and poor in the 1940s and '50s with today's experience. It's a theme that permeates his short, bracing volume of reminiscence, and it's where we began our conversation on a recent morning at his home in suburban Philadelphia.

"We lived in the Richard Allen housing projects" in Philadelphia, says Mr. Williams. "My father deserted us when I was three and my sister was two. But we were the only kids who didn't have a mother and father in the house. These were poor black people and a few whites living in a housing project, and it was unusual not to have a mother and father in the house. Today, in the same projects, it would be rare to have a mother and father in the house."

Even in the antebellum era, when slaves often weren't permitted to wed, most black children lived with a biological mother and father. During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."

Government programs and regulations are favorite butts of the professor, who is best known today for his weekly column—started in 1977 and now appearing in more than 140 newspapers—and for his stints guest-hosting Rush Limbaugh's popular radio program. Libertarianism is currently in vogue, thanks to the election of a statist president and the subsequent rise of the tea party movement. But Walter Williams was a libertarian before it was cool. And like other prominent right-of-center blacks—Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele—his intellectual odyssey began on the political left.

"I was more than anything a radical," says Mr. Williams. "I was more sympathetic to Malcolm X than Martin Luther King because Malcolm X was more of a radical who was willing to confront discrimination in ways that I thought it should be confronted, including perhaps the use of violence.

"But I really just wanted to be left alone. I thought some laws, like minimum-wage laws, helped poor people and poor black people and protected workers from exploitation. I thought they were a good thing until I was pressed by professors to look at the evidence."

During his junior year at California State College in Los Angeles, Mr. Williams switched his major from sociology to economics after reading W.E.B. Du Bois's "Black Reconstruction in America," a Marxist take on the South's transformation after the Civil War that will never be confused with "The Wealth of Nations." Even so, the book taught him that "black people cannot make great progress until they understand the economic system, until they know something about economics."

He earned his doctorate in 1972 from UCLA, which had one of the top economics departments in the country, and he says he "probably became a libertarian through exposure to tough-mined professors"—James Buchanan, Armen Alchian, Milton Friedman—"who encouraged me to think with my brain instead of my heart. I learned that you have to evaluate the effects of public policy as opposed to intentions."

Mr. Williams distinguished himself in the mid-1970s through his research on the effects of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931—which got the government involved in setting wage levels—and on the impact of minimum-wage law on youth and minority unemployment. He concluded that minimum wages caused high rates of teenage unemployment, particularly among minority teenagers. His research also showed that Davis-Bacon, which requires high prevailing (read: union) wages on federally financed or assisted construction projects, was the product of lawmakers with explicitly racist motivations.

One of Congress's goals at the time was to stop black laborers from displacing whites by working for less money. Missouri Rep. John Cochran said that he had "received numerous complaints in recent months about Southern contractors employing low-paid colored mechanics." And Alabama Rep. Clayton Allgood fretted about contractors with "cheap colored labor . . . of the sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country."

Today just 17% of construction workers are unionized, but Democratic politicians, in deference to the AFL-CIO, have kept Davis-Bacon in place to protect them. Because most black construction workers aren't union members, however, the law has the effect of freezing them out of jobs. It also serves to significantly increase the costs of government projects, since there are fewer contractors to bid on them than there would be without Davis-Bacon.

Analysis of this issue launched Mr. Williams's career as a public intellectual, and in 1982 he published his first book, "The State Against Blacks," arguing that laws regulating economic activity are far larger impediments to black progress than racial bigotry and discrimination. Nearly 30 years later, he stands by that premise.

"Racial discrimination is not the problem of black people that it used to be" in his youth, says Mr. Williams. "Today I doubt you could find any significant problem that blacks face that is caused by racial discrimination. The 70% illegitimacy rate is a devastating problem, but it doesn't have a damn thing to do with racism. The fact that in some areas black people are huddled in their homes at night, sometimes serving meals on the floor so they don't get hit by a stray bullet—that's not because the Klan is riding through the neighborhood."
Over the decades, Mr. Williams's writings have sought to highlight "the moral superiority of individual liberty and free markets," as he puts it. "I try to write so that economics is understandable to the ordinary person without an economics background." His motivation? "I think it's important for people to understand the ideas of scarcity and decision-making in everyday life so that they won't be ripped off by politicians," he says. "Politicians exploit economic illiteracy."

Which is why, he adds, the tea party movement is a positive development in our politics and long overdue. "For the first time in my lifetime—and I'm approaching 75 years old—you hear Americans debating about the U.S. Constitution," he says. "You hear them saying 'This is unconstitutional' or 'We need limits on government'—things that I haven't heard before. I've been arguing them for years, but now there's widespread acceptance of the idea that we need to limit the government."

Still, he's concerned about how far the country has strayed from the type of limited government envisioned by the Founding Fathers. "In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 to help some French refugees," he says. In objection, "James Madison stood on the House floor and said he could not take to lay his finger on that article in the Constitution that allows Congress to take the money of its constituents for the purposes of benevolence. Well, if you look at the federal budget today, two-thirds to three-quarters of it is for the purposes of benevolence."

Mr. Williams says that "if there is anything good to be said about the Democratic White House and the [previous] Congress and their brazen attempt to take over the economy and control our lives, it's that the tea party movement has come out of it. But we have gone so far from the basic constitutional principles that made us a great country that it's a question of whether we can get back."

The place to start, says Mr. Williams by way of advice to the new Republican House, is on the spending side of the federal ledger. "We need a constitutional amendment that limits the amount of money the government can spend," he says. "Let's say 18% of GDP to start. The benefit of a spending limitation amendment is that you're going to force Congress to trade off against the various spending constituencies. Somebody says, 'I want you to spend $10 billion on this,' and the congressman can respond, 'My hands are tied, so you have to show me where I can cut $10 billion first.'"

Mr. Williams says he hopes that the tea party has staying power, but "liberty and limited government is the unusual state of human affairs. The normal state throughout mankind's history is for him to be subject to arbitrary abuse and control by government."
He adds: "A historian writing 100 or 200 years from now might well say, 'You know, there was this little historical curiosity that existed for maybe 200 years, where people were free from arbitrary abuse and control by government and where there was a large measure of respect for private property rights. But then it went back to the normal state of affairs.'"

Hoping to end our conversation on a sunnier note, I pose a final question about race. "A Man of Letters," Thomas Sowell's fabulous book of correspondence, includes a letter the Stanford economist sent in 2006 to Mr. Williams, whom he's known for four decades. "[B]ack in the early years," writes Mr. Sowell, "you and I were pretty pessimistic as to whether what we were writing would make an impact—especially since the two of us seemed to be the only ones saying what we were saying. Today at least we know that there are lots of other blacks writing and saying similar things . . . and many of them are sufficiently younger that we know there will be good people carrying on the fight after we are gone."

Asked if he shares his friend's optimism, Mr. Williams responds that he does. "You find more and more black people—not enough in my opinion but more and more—questioning the status quo," he says. "When I fill in for Rush, I get emails from blacks who say they agree with what I'm saying. And there are a lot of white people questioning ideas on race, too. There's less white guilt out there. It's progress."

Mr. Riley is a member of The Journal's editorial board.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A13

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Presidential Possibilities

A First Line-Up for 2012

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics January 20th, 2011

Precisely two years from today, America will be inaugurating a president. But much sooner, the full-blown contest for the White House will begin.

Just a year from now, we’ll all be watching presidential candidates slog through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire (with sunny side trips to Nevada and South Carolina). There is only one guarantee: It will be a year full of tumult and unexpected developments.

Presidential general elections are often far more predictable than the nominating contests. Why? The general elections are shaped by fundamental factors (shape of the economy, war and peace, scandal, presence of an incumbent, etc.), and these are not easily altered and can be seen–to a certain degree–well in advance. But nominating battles are very different. The vast majority of the voters agree with the vast majority of the candidates on a vast majority of the issues. They all share the same party label. So differences in personality and character, sectionalism, campaign spending, alliances with key constituencies, and other factors substitute for the fundamentals of a general election.

Voters try to pick a candidate (1) who can win in November; (2) with whom they agree on issues; and (3) whom they like. And choosing among friends in the primaries is much more painful than the easy selection of friend versus enemy in a general election.

While President Obama may or may not have one or more Democratic primary foes, he is a lead pipe cinch to be the Democratic nominee for president, and to win the party nod by a mile. At this point, there is nothing to analyze, except to say that Obama will want to stave off a challenge if possible. Major intra-party challenges to the incumbent president in 1968 (Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy for LBJ), 1976 (Ronald Reagan for Gerald Ford), 1980 (Ted Kennedy for Jimmy Carter), and 1992 (Pat Buchanan for George H.W. Bush) all helped to send presidents into early retirement.

In 2011-2012, the nominating action is on the Republican side, and a vigorous “invisible primary” contest is already underway. The term “invisible primary” refers to the early, pre-primary accumulation of money and endorsements, the building of organizations in key states, the management of a campaign infrastructure, and the shaping of issue positions and public relations among the various real and possible presidential candidates.

The GOP field is not set. The contenders are in various stages of undress as the strip tease proceeds. So we begin with a catch-all listing of those clearly running (such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty); those seriously toying with running (Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, etc.); those who might be persuaded to run (such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio); and those who are running but tilting at windmills (Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and so on). In total, we evaluate nineteen actual or potential candidates here.

There may be more to come. Somewhat inexplicably, Rudy Giuliani is ruminating about another White House bid, though he crashed and burned in 2008–and has the very same problems (such as liberal positions on social issues) for 2012. This time around, Rudy isn’t even assured of being in Tier 2. Reality will dawn at some point and the former New York City mayor will probably stay out. Several state governors, such as Rick Perry of Texas and Bob Riley of Alabama (who just left the executive mansion after eight years), are mentioned here and there, but so far no signs have emerged to suggest a serious effort. And let’s not forget about ex-Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana, who is toying with a candidacy though not by popular demand. He’s been out of office since his reelection defeat in 1991, but the fires of ambition are never extinguished for some politicians until the cold of the grave.

At the starting gate, all we can do is offer a preliminary assessment of their chances for the Republican nomination by weighing their advantages and disadvantages. The general election is another story. Some candidates who have a good or fair chance to be nominated will be hard-pressed to win in November. Yes, Sarah Palin is a prominent example of the latter principle.

No one can be rated as having an “excellent” chance at winning the nomination (yet someone will eventually win). Mitt Romney, widely considered to be leading the early pack, starts out as a weak frontrunner. Six actual or possible contenders are placed in the First Tier; four more in the Second Tier: four in the Third Tier; and five in the Fourth Tier. Obviously, the nominee is likely to be found in Tiers 1 and 2.

There is only one more thing we know for sure. The ratings will change. Presidential primaries are a demolition derby. Even the top-of-the-line cars can occasionally be put out of commission by a junk heap. To switch political metaphors, dark horses (at least those in Tiers 1 and 2) cannot be written off with anything near certainty. A few actually win, and others run a much stronger race than expected, upsetting the field’s line-up.

It’s a terrific spectator sport. Prepare to be amused.

GOP Presidential Possibilities

Mitt Romney: If the Republican field has a frontrunner, it is Mitt Romney, but he’s a very weak frontrunner. Republicans by nature are hierarchical, and in the modern era they have usually nominated the next-in-line prince. Romney and Mike Huckabee were, for all practical purposes, tied as the number two to McCain in 2008, but Romney had a more traditional and effective campaign operation and fundraising machine. As expected, Romney is running a frontrunner’s campaign in 2012–keeping aloof from many day-to-day controversies, funding allies across the country and especially in early primary and caucus states, and trying to maintain the flexibility to position himself when it really matters for the nominating process. However, at this early stage, no one is going to put a heavy bet on a Romney nomination. He has too many weaknesses, from policy (healthcare in particular) to politics (little common touch or populist appeal) to religion (Mormonism remains controversial with the GOP fundamentalist Christian base). For the moment, Romney is methodically running down the checklist for a serious presidential candidate: traveling abroad, raising money, assembling a team, trading endorsements, and the like.

Mike Huckabee: No one is sure if Mike Huckabee is going to mount a second bid for the White House in 2012. He would have to give up a lucrative FOX contract in order to do so, and he would also have to find a way to raise much more money than he was able to do in 2008. At the same time, Huckabee has substantial residual support in Iowa, South Carolina, and other places where fundamentalist Christians are a big part of the GOP base. Huckabee is a blue-collar Republican rather than a blue blood one. It is no surprise, then, that Huckabee and Mitt Romney do not like one another very much; it is far more than a policy dispute between the two. No doubt, Huckabee will do what he can to stop Romney from getting the Republican nomination, whether Huckabee runs or not. Another difficulty for Huckabee is that he draws support from many of the same individuals and groups that back other candidates, including Sarah Palin. Huckabee has pointed out that he has actually led some of the very early presidential polling, for whatever that is worth, but it is obvious that he is of two minds about making the race. We will just have to see what he decides, presumably by spring. Whether he wants to weigh this factor or not, Huckabee should be concerned about some controversial pardons he issued while governor of Arkansas. It won’t be easy to sell his lenient actions to a Republican electorate that is traditionally “tough on crime” and once supported George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis because of Dukakis’s furloughs of convicted criminals.

Sarah Palin: One of the most famous pre-candidates in recent presidential history, Sarah Palin continues to dominate a campaign she has not entered and may never enter. It is impossible to know whether Palin will become a candidate. In selecting her as his 2008 vice presidential nominee, John McCain made her a national star and also immensely wealthy, and she is now a business empire with few precedents in America’s political history. Of course, all of that has come at a considerable price. Beloved by the Tea Party and other conservatives, Palin is highly controversial, divisive, and polarizing. Should she enter the 2012 contest, Palin will instantly become one of the frontrunners. But is she really interested in giving up the empire she has built to trudge through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire and endure the indignities that come automatically to all candidates, famous and obscure alike? The record is not encouraging, given her midterm resignation from the one significant office she has ever held, that of Alaska state governor. No one will be surprised if she takes a pass on the campaign, after having teased and tweaked and twittered about it for as long as possible. It is a smart thing to draw out the attention and maximize one’s influence on the process. If Palin does end up running for president, she will benefit from a split field of GOP candidates–for as long as that lasts. Yet even in the Tea Party, Palin is viewed in a mixed way. The activists appreciate what she stands for, but wonder whether she can win a general election–and her poor handling of the Tucson shootings has only added to the deep doubts about her. Virtually every poll shows her losing to President Obama by the widest margin of any major Republican contender. This worry about Palin is widespread and discussed privately everywhere. As long as Republicans believe they have a strong chance of winning in 2012, they may hesitate to put forward a candidate who will have great difficulty capturing moderates and swing independent voters. No one is foolish enough to underestimate Sarah Palin, but few political analysts can currently imagine her being elevated to the Oval Office either.

Tim Pawlenty: The former two-term governor of Minnesota is by all accounts a dark horse for the GOP nomination. Even Pawlenty would agree with that. But there are long longshots and short longshots, and Pawlenty is in the latter category. He has been out in the field early and often, most recently promoting a new book, and while he has not made much of a splash, he has made progress. Pawlenty hopes that his blue-collar background will contrast with the Bluenose candidacy of Mitt Romney, if indeed Romney is able to maintain his front-runner status. Perhaps a little suspect because he was governor of a state with a liberal image, Pawlenty has insisted, maybe a little too strenuously, that he has been comprehensively conservative during his public life. As his supporters would suggest, at least he didn’t pass a version of Obamacare in Minnesota. Pawlenty is understated, with a wry sense of humor, and he hasn’t yet left much of an impression on the nascent campaign. But there is plenty of time, and as long as he can keep up his fundraising, Pawlenty can hope that the GOP field shakes out just right for an acceptable if bland Midwestern conservative. Stranger things have happened in presidential politics.

Haley Barbour: Republicans regard Haley Barbour as one of their historic heroes, having laid the organizational groundwork for the 1994 GOP takeover of both houses of Congress. Barbour has also made the unusual transition from party operative and Washington, DC lobbyist to elected official, having served two terms as governor of Mississippi. There is no question that he is a Republican senior statesman, and having been so close to power for decades, he naturally looks in the mirror and asks, “Why not me?” There is no better political strategist in the party, and no one who understands Republican politics discounts him. Potentially, he would have strong support in the South, which is the most powerful region in the GOP nominating process. Nonetheless, Barbour has a mountain to climb in winning the nomination and, along the way, convincing Republicans he can win the general election. Tea Party activists are naturally suspicious of his senior lobbyist status, and unquestionably he is a charter member of the Establishment rather than a pitchfork populist. Barbour bears the burdens of Mississippi, too. He has badly mishandled a recent racial controversy about what he recalls from the Magnolia State’s sad civil rights past, and pardoning a couple of convicted African-American sisters at Christmastime is unlikely to change his image. Mississippi is also nearly last in almost everything, and he would be called to account for that, much as Bill Clinton had to explain why Arkansas was in such poor shape in almost every respect in 1992. Of course, that didn’t stop Bill Clinton, and it may not stop Haley Barbour.

Mitch Daniels: Here is another accomplished governor from a vital Midwestern swing state. Unlike Pawlenty, Daniels has not thrown his hat into the ring and may never do so. In an old-fashioned way, he has been testing the waters, dipping a toe in here and there, dropping hints and suggesting that he might, just might, try for higher office. Again, it is impossible to get into the head of a potential candidate, though the old political rule of ambition usually applies: you have to want the White House so badly that the fire in your belly can substitute for heating oil all winter long. If Daniels does run, he has an impressive record to tout. Daniels has been a very popular two-term governor in Indiana, and his earlier service as head of the Office of Management and Budget in the George W. Bush White House potentially qualifies him to make a case for reducing yawning national deficits and debt–although he can also be accused of having helped to create the debt mountain. The problem for Daniels is that he may be viewed as more of a manager than a potential president. In addition, while Daniels fits the old definition of conservative to a T, he is not much of a revolutionary from the Tea Party perspective, and he is suspected of having moderate tendencies on both about the possible need to raise taxes in order to reduce the deficit as well as the kind of priority a president should give to controversial social issues. Daniels is leaving office in 2012 since he cannot run for a third term, so the timing of a presidential campaign is perfect–if he really wants to spend his last couple of years as Indiana’s chief executive roaming the nation in an extended, humbling job interview.

Newt Gingrich: Other than Sarah Palin, no candidate in the 2012 GOP field is as well known as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. As with Palin, however, 100% name recognition is a mixed blessing. Republicans will always appreciate Gingrich’s role in the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress. His relentless drive and cornucopia of policy ideas helped to restore a party’s confidence after 40 years out of power in the House. But it was all downhill from there. Gingrich didn’t understand the difference between holding the speakership and being president of the United States. He badly overreached, led the Republicans into a disastrous government shutdown, and helped to restore the tattered Clinton presidency. More than any single individual, including 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, Gingrich created the conditions for Clinton’s reelection. Then his disagreements with other Republicans and bad judgment calls were a factor in the disappointing outcome (for Republicans) of the 1998 midterm election. The GOP actually lost House seats when they had had the opportunity to increase their numbers substantially. Once again, Gingrich had overreached in seeking the impeachment of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Almost unbelievably, during the very time when Gingrich was capitalizing on Clinton infidelity, Gingrich himself was having an extramarital affair which inevitably became public. His three messy marriages are part of the heavy baggage Gingrich would carry into the 2012 Republican nominating battle. At the age of 69 in 2012, it will be difficult for the polarizing, controversial former House Speaker to present himself as a winning alternative to President Obama. Overall, Gingrich does poorly in the general election matchups with Obama, and this undoubtedly will influence many Republicans during the primary season. No one underestimates Gingrich’s ability to dominate the political debate with new ideas and clever soundbites, should he choose to run. Gingrich has toyed with the idea of running for president for years, but has never done so. His close associates say he is closer than he has ever been before to getting in, but time will tell.

Mike Pence: The odds are that Congressman Pence will be running for governor of Indiana in 2012, and he has a good chance to win that. The presidency is very probably a bridge too far. First, it is exceedingly difficult for a member of the House to move directly to the Presidency. Only James A. Garfield has managed that in American history. All recent House candidacies, such as that of former Democratic House leader Richard Gephardt, have failed. Yes, Pence is well respected, especially among the fiscal and social conservatives who dominate many of the early Republican caucuses and primaries. But those activists will have a wide choice among better-known and funded potential nominees.

John Thune: Another dark horse who is receiving attention, at least inside the Beltway, is South Dakota Sen. John Thune. This picture–perfect, made–for–TV politician has a lot of experience to back up his good looks. Having been involved in politics and government since the 1980s, Thune has made a career of service in both houses of Congress. Thune served in the House from 1996 to 2002, when he mounted an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson. It was a nailbiter, decided by about 500 votes out of over 330,000 cast. Undeterred, Thune turned right around and challenged Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D) in 2004, and defeated Daschle by about 4,500 votes. This victory made Thune a giant–killer, and it was a headliner race around the nation, and one of the most expensive. Remarkably, Thune ran unopposed for reelection in 2010, and thus he is tanned, rested, and ready should he decide to run in 2012. South Dakota is a small base from which to launch a presidential campaign, though that didn’t stop George McGovern. One advantage is that Iowa is nearby, and Thune would have to do well in Iowa to survive and fight in other states. Thune knows he will be an asterisk in the polls unless and until he wins a major caucus or primary state, and it is still uncertain whether he will run at all. Should the planets and stars align for Thune in the GOP process, however, he has the potential to be a formidable foe for President Obama.

Marco Rubio: The new senator from Florida is much more likely to end up on the 2012 GOP ticket as vice president. It will be a shock if he is not on the eventual nominee’s shortlist. He’s got it all: high office from one of the premier swing mega–states, good looks and rhetorical flourish, and ethnic membership in arguably the most significant political group of the 21st century, Hispanics. Rubio is new to the national scene, but had a career as speaker of the state House of Representatives–no minor position. And after Barack Obama’s meteoric rise, Democrats would be in no position to question Rubio’s experience. However, similar to the circumstances facing Chris Christie, when you’re hot you’re hot, and it is difficult to keep the griddle warm. Will Rubio find a way to achieve quick prominence in the Senate, and decide the Republicans need him in order to defeat Obama in 2012? Once again, Obama has blazed the trail for very junior senators, so this is not as unthinkable as it once might have been.

Chris Christie: Sometimes an unexpected politician comes out of nowhere and captures the public’s imagination. Chris Christie has done just that, especially within the universe of the Republican party faithful. Elected governor of New Jersey in 2009, Christie has become a hero to the Tea Party movement, and his blunt confrontational style–especially about government spending–has resonated deeply. Christie says he isn’t running, and we believe him. There is no such thing as a presidential draft these days, so Christie would have to change his mind about seeking the White House in 2012. In doing so, he would probably damage severely his gubernatorial reelection prospects in 2013, should he still be in New Jersey. The rule in politics is that you run while you are hot, and it’s doubtful that Christie can maintain a high temperature all the way to 2016. (Maybe the poor snow removal and Christie’s absence from New Jersey during the Christmas blizzard of 2010 will cool him down quickly.) But let’s see if Christie gets Potomac fever. If he does, Christie is not to be underestimated in a large field that may become very fractured during the nominating process.

Rick Santorum: This is an unusual case of presidential fever. Santorum, a two-term senator from Pennsylvania, lost his seat in 2006 by a massive 18 percentage points. Not many would consider this a qualification to run for president, assuming a party hopes to win in November. But Santorum is self-confident and determined to spread his socially conservative views to an attentive audience in the Iowa caucus, which is dominated on the Republican side by fundamentalist Christians. To his credit, he is already on the campaign trail working as hard as any other candidate–harder than most, in fact–but so far his appeal is limited. Oddly, Santorum’s case was undermined by the election of Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2010. If anything, Toomey is more conservative than Santorum, and yet he won in Pennsylvania, albeit in a better year for the GOP. President Obama would probably make quick work of Santorum in a general election, and this is obvious to most Republican activists. A decent early showing in Iowa is a real possibility, but it is difficult to see how Santorum becomes the nominee of a party that thinks it can win in November 2012.

Jon Huntsman: A surprise, possible new year’s entry is Huntsman, currently serving as the Obama administration’s ambassador to China. Huntsman resigned his governorship of Utah just over a half-year into the second term to which he was elected in 2008 to take the ambassadorship. Well regarded as governor and very popular in the Beehive State, his ambassadorial appointment was seen at the time as a clever move by Obama to remove a potential 2012 GOP rival from seeking the White House. Apparently, that calculus may have assumed less ambition than Huntsman possesses–if in fact the reports of Huntsman’s interest in a presidential bid are true. It may be a feint, after all, designed to keep his name out in public and associated with the GOP. Within the Republican party, he has all but disappeared as a force, and is viewed as someone working for the enemy. Maybe Huntsman can sell this to a politics-weary nation as bipartisanship, but we doubt a conservative GOP electorate is going to buy that. Adding to Huntsman’s woes is that he has taken a number of moderate-to-liberal positions on gay rights, environmentalism, and other subjects, none of which are helpful in running for a Republican party nomination. Huntsman’s family wealth is enormous, but money can only carry you so far in nomination politics. The former governor is being pushed by ex-McCain associates viewed as moderates within the GOP, another fact not likely to sell well in Iowa or South Carolina, just to pick two early contests. Finally, Mitt Romney has a big head start in nailing down the Mormon political activist corps of volunteers and contributors. Huntsman will inherit the problems of being a Mormon candidate in a conservative Christian party without the same benefits as Romney. This is a strange development, and while Huntsman’s assets mean he certainly cannot be written off, assuming he’s running, he will have to quickly exit the China post and get to work mending fences if he is to be taken seriously.

Michele Bachmann: Just elected to her third term in the U. S. House representing Minnesota’s conservative Sixth Congressional District, Bachmann had been thought to be aiming for the Senate seat of freshman Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar in 2012. But apparently, her ambitions are still greater. While she has given no firm indication of a White House candidacy, there have been hints, including a scheduled trip to Iowa. Bachmann is a Tea Party favorite, and she has been a fierce advocate for virtually every socially and fiscally conservative position, from opposing abortion and gay rights to promoting property rights, stringent debt reduction, and lower taxes. Bachmann has a controversial style, and she is no favorite of the House Republican leadership. But if she played by the rules, this junior congresswoman wouldn’t be on this list of possible presidential candidates. The most conservative activists love her, and she isn’t about to step aside easily for the former governor of her state, Tim Pawlenty, or another woman with even higher visibility in the Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin. (Pawlenty in particular must be unhappy with Bachmann’s maneuverings.) We believe that gaining the GOP nomination for president is a bridge too far for any House member, including Bachmann. But she would certainly stir the pot; more accurately, she would be a stick of dynamite in the Republican pond.

Ron Paul: The 11-term Texas congressman, whose congressional career has stretched (intermittently) from the mid-1970s to the present, may be better known nationally as the father of new Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Like father, like son; both are firebrands. As politicians go, Paul is about as principled as one can find. He’s a mixture of traditional GOP, isolationist, libertarian, and Tea Party–an unconventional and occasionally unpredictable mix, for sure. In fact, he was the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988, garnering 432,000 votes in the George H.W. Bush-Michael Dukakis race. Paul ran for president again in 2008, but this time as a Republican. He actually finished fourth, with 1,165,112 votes (5.6%), behind John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee. Any college professor knows he drew a fair number of young people to his banner, mainly young men who liked his anti-Iraq War stand and his staunch anti-debt positions. But Paul’s time may have passed, and he himself says there’s only a 50-50 chance he’ll run in 2012. Just age 41 when first elected to the House in April 1976, Paul will be 77 years old in 2012. No question that Paul would enliven the GOP debates and would again be a youth and press favorite, but his chances of winning the Republican nomination for president are somewhere between very small and nonexistent.

John Bolton: A surprise entry into the GOP field, former UN ambassador John Bolton might be able to insure that foreign-policy is a major part of the discussion during the Republican campaign. That in itself is a useful contribution. But Bolton has no elective experience, no real political base, and likely no major argument for his possessions among the top Republican candidates. As he himself would probably admit, he is no populist, and comes across on TV as stern and academic. It is also difficult to see how he would raise the money for a credible bid. He may or may not run, and is still considering the race.

Gary Johnson: This two-term governor of New Mexico is almost totally unknown outside his home state. A wealthy businessman, he was something of a surprise winner in the Land of Enchantment during his years of service (1994 to 2002). Johnson is a most exceptional kind of Republican, a libertarian on many issues including drug legalization, and a Ron Paul supporter in 2008. He has practiced what he has preached, openly admitting to smoking marijuana with frequency for several recent years, as he sought to overcome residual pain from an accident. Much like John Bolton, but from a different direction, he will enrich the debate by being in the race. But Johnson’s chances of nomination are mighty slim, and that is putting it kindly. Johnson probably hopes for a Paul endorsement if the Texas congressman does not run again.

Herman Cain: Another wealthy businessman, Cain is a favorite among some activists. An African-American and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Cain often hosts conservative radio shows. He is a staunch critic of President Obama and has a blunt, no-holds-barred style. But as someone with no elective experience and the perception that he is too far right to win a general election, Cain is most unlikely to be the Republican presidential nominee, even as he appears to be moving forward to become an official candidate.

Donald Trump: As if the 2012 presidential election didn’t have enough sass and color, along comes Donald Trump. He has not made a final commitment to running, but he certainly did sound interested in a recent Newsmax interview. Trump made his fortune in real estate, starting in Manhattan and extending to Las Vegas and multiple locations around the world. He is perhaps the premier celebrity businessman in the United States, and he has published best-selling books such as “The Art of the Deal.” Today he is best known for his hit TV series, “The Apprentice.” Millions have watched it for years, enjoying the competition among aspiring young business types, but perhaps taking the greatest guilty pleasure in hearing Trump say to one participant at the end of each show, “You’re fired.” It is difficult to know whether to take Trump seriously when he suggests a presidential candidacy, and he has given himself until the summer–when the TV season concludes–to make a decision. Trump would have all the money he needs and could certainly draw a crowd wherever he goes. But like many celebrities who jump into politics, he will have difficulty being taken seriously, at least at first. Trump has never served in any public office, and he’s no Dwight David Eisenhower. On the campaign trail, Trump could be a hit, or he could be a bust. Our initial suspicion is that the Republican primary voters will end up saying, “You’re fired.” Turnabout is fair play.




James Taranto, columnist for the Wall Street Journal published an incisive column today on the subject. I have reproduced it below. Let me make a disclaimer at this point. Although I am filled with awe of her and admire her very much, I do not believe that Sarah Palin is ready to become the next president of the United States in 2012. She needs to mature as a national politician before running for that office. Perhaps she will be ready in 2016 or even 2020, but not 2012.

Palinoia, the Destroyer

What’s behind the left’s deranged hatred.


Why does their hatred of her burn so hot?

Ask them, and they’ll most likely tell you: Because she’s a moron. But that is obviously false. To be sure, her skills at extemporaneous speaking leave much to be desired. But that can be said of a good many politicians on both sides of the aisle, including George W. Bush, John Kerry and, yes, Barack Obama. And don’t get us started on the man who defeated her for the vice presidency.

[botwt011911] Associated PressShe drives them crazy.

Whether or not she is presidential timber–and we are inclined to think that she is not–there is no denying that she is a highly accomplished person. She is also a highly accomplished woman, what in an earlier age would have been called a feminist pioneer: the first female governor of the malest state in the country, the first woman on the presidential ticket of the party on the male side of the “gender gap.” Having left politics, whether temporarily or permanently, she has established herself as one of the most consequential voices in the political media.

They say she is uneducated. What they mean is that her education is not elite–not Harvard or Yale, or even Michigan or UCLA. They resent her because, in their view, she has risen above her station.

In this respect we identify fully with Palin, for we have been on the receiving end of similar disdain. Our education, like Sarah Palin’s, consisted of too many years at inferior state universities, although unlike her, we never even got around to graduating. The other day Paul Reidlinger took a shot at us for featuring one of his restaurant reviews under our “Wannabe Pundits” heading last month: “I was even denounced by noted high school graduate James Taranto.” (For the record, our high school diploma is a GED.)

“Denounced” is far too strong a word; “mocked” is more like it. Reidlinger writes for San Francisco Bay Guardian, whatever that is. He doesn’t say, but we surmise that he possesses advanced degrees from Stanford or the University of California, both very fine institutions. He observes that “it is a writer’s job to afflict the comfortable and complacent.” That would be an insufferably pretentious way to describe our job as a political columnist for an elite newspaper. What is a restaurant critic going to “afflict the comfortable” with? Food poisoning?

Professional jealousy and intellectual snobbery, however, only scratch the surface of the left’s bizarre attitude toward Palin. They explain the intensity of the disdain, but not the outright hatred–not why some people whose grasp of reality is sufficient to function in society made the insane inference that she was to blame for a madman’s attempt to murder Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

This unhinged hatred of Palin comes mostly from women. That is an awkward observation for us to offer, because a man risks sounding sexist or unchivalrous when he makes unflattering generalizations about women. Therefore, we are going to hide behind the skirts of our friend Jessica Faller, a New Yorker in her 30s of generally liberal politics. Over the weekend, she wrote us this analysis of Palin-hatred, which she has generously given us permission to quote:

I am starting out with a guess that this stems from her abrupt appearance on the national scene during the McCain-Obama race. She appeared out of nowhere and landed squarely in a position of extreme attention and media power. Her sex appeal might not have been as much of an issue had she been a known entity with a tremendous, watertight political résumé.

Even lacking that, her sex appeal might not have been such an issue if her demeanor on the campaign trail had been more, well, conservative. But here is this comely woman, in a curvy red suit, giving “shout-outs” during the debate with Joe Biden, giving controversial interviews without apology, basically driving in there, parking the car, and walking in like she owned the place.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But she couldn’t have pulled it off if she were a gray mouse in a pantsuit, and because the devil in the red dress wasn’t orating like a professor, it roused an unquenchable forest fire of rage and loathing in the breasts of many women, perhaps of the toiling gray mouse variety, who projected onto her their own career resentments and personal frustrations.

I am amazed at how people still abhor her. I personally do not. I don’t feel she would be a good choice to run this country, but she does not deserve the horrific treatment she gets. I can tell you, being privy to the endless, incendiary rants this past week about her, coming from hordes of liberal women–age demo 25 to 45–they rip her to pieces, they blame her for everything, and the jealousy/resentment factor is so clear and primal. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We’d say this goes beyond mere jealousy. For many liberal women, Palin threatens their sexual identity, which is bound up with their politics in a way that it is not for any other group (possibly excepting gays, though that is unrelated to today’s topic).

An important strand of contemporary liberalism is feminism. As a label, “feminist” is passé; outside the academic fever swamps, you will find few women below Social Security age who embrace it.

That is because what used to be called feminism–the proposition that women deserve equality before the law and protection from discrimination–is almost universally accepted today. Politically speaking, a woman is the equal of a man. No woman in public life better symbolizes this than Sarah Palin–especially not Hillary Clinton, the left’s favorite icon. No one can deny Mrs. Clinton’s accomplishments, but neither can one escape crediting them in substantial part to her role as the wife of a powerful man.

But there is more to feminism than political and legal equality. Men and women are intrinsically unequal in ways that are ultimately beyond the power of government to remediate. That is because nature is unfair. Sexual reproduction is far more demanding, both physically and temporally, for women than for men. Men simply do not face the sort of children-or-career conundrums that vex women in an era of workplace equality.

Except for the small minority of women with no interest in having children, this is an inescapable problem, one that cannot be obviated by political means. Aspects of it can, however, be ameliorated by technology–most notably contraception, which at least gives women considerable control over the timing of reproduction.

As a political matter, contraception is essentially uncontroversial today, which is to say that any suggestion that adult women be legally prevented from using birth control is outside the realm of serious debate. The same cannot be said of abortion, and that is at the root of Palinoia.

To the extent that “feminism” remains controversial, it is because of the position it takes on abortion: not just that a woman should have the “right to choose,” but that this is a matter over which reasonable people cannot disagree–that to favor any limitations on the right to abortion, or even to acknowledge that abortion is morally problematic, is to deny the basic dignity of women.

To a woman who has internalized this point of view, Sarah Palin’s opposition to abortion rights is a personal affront, and a deep one. It doesn’t help that Palin lives by her beliefs. To the contrary, it intensifies the offense.

It used to be a trope for liberal interviewers to try to unmask hypocrisy by asking antiabortion politicians–male ones, of course–what they would do if their single teen daughters got pregnant. It’s a rude question, but Palin, whose 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy coincided with Mom’s introduction to the nation, answered it in real life.

Recently we were at a party where a woman in her 60s, a self-described feminist, called Palin a “moron” for having encouraged her daughter to carry her child to term and “to marry the sperm donor.” Even apart from the gross language, this was a completely irrational thing to say. First, that Palin’s values are different in no way reflects on her intelligence.

More important, why is Bristol Palin’s decision to carry her child to term any of this lady’s business? Those who claim to be champions of privacy and choice need to do some serious soul-searching if they have so much trouble tolerating the private choices of others.

What about male Palin-hatred? It seems to us that it is of decidedly secondary importance. Liberal men put down Palin as a cheap way to score points with the women in their lives, or they use her as an outlet for more-general misogynistic impulses that would otherwise be socially unacceptable to express.

Liberal women are the active, driving force behind hatred of Sarah Palin, while liberal men’s behavior is passive and manipulative. In this respect, feminism has succeeded in reversing the traditional sexual stereotypes. If this is the result, you have to wonder why anyone would have bothered.