March 10, 2010 11:13AM

Message to Republicans: Stop Hiding Behind the Troops

In what can only be described as a cheap partisan attack masquerading as patriotic chest‐​thumping, House Republicans this morning issued a statement opposing Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich’s resolution for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan because… [drum roll please] the Republicans strongly support the troops in Afghanistan.


In a statement of Republican policy forwarded to GOP politicians and their staffers, the House Republican Leadership and the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Republicans write, “Since the President’s speech, more United States Armed Forces have been deployed to the Afghanistan theatre in support of the implementation of our nation’s counterinsurgency strategy. Many of them leave behind family and friends for the second, third, and fourth time. They have been engaged in the largest offensive since the beginning of the war there, and they have done a magnificent job. House Republicans are mindful these troops and their families will be watching this debate and remain committed to working towards swift and clean action when the resources impacting their military readiness, operational needs, and family support is debated and passed this spring.”


The GOP has got to stop hiding behind the troops. As I mention in a recent article, our brave servicemen and women are being deployed to prop up a regime Washington doesn’t trust, for goals our president can’t define. Sadly, the war not only provides a potent recruiting tool for militants, but it’s clear that it does little to appreciably protect America. As aptly demonstrated by the Christmas Day crotch bomber, the old argument of “We fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” is complete and utter hogwash.

February 26, 2010 10:20AM

Weekend Links — Health Care Edition

  • Republicans and Democrats are both missing the point of true health care reform: “Health care reform cannot just be about giving more stuff to more people. It should be about actually ‘reforming’ the system. That means scrapping the current bills, and crafting the type of reform that makes consumers responsible for their health care decisions.”

http://​bit​.ly/​a​h1bNN

February 12, 2010 7:54AM

Stimulus Hypocrisy and the Tea Partiers

The Washington Times recently used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain letters sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by numerous Republican lawmakers seeking stimulus money for their constituents. All of these Republicans had publicly criticized the stimulus and voted against it.

Georgia Rep. John Linder wrote on his website in October that recent unemployment figures "only reinforce the fact that the $787 billion 'stimulus' signed into law eight months ago has done nothing for job growth in this country." But just two weeks earlier the congressman had sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on behalf of a foundation in his district seeking stimulus funds in which he claimed "the employment opportunities created by this [foundation’s] program would be quickly utilized."

Remember South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson who infamously shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to Congress in September? Here’s what he had to say in a letter to Secretary Vilsack on behalf of a foundation in his district:

“We know their endeavor will provide jobs and investment in one of the poorer sections of the Congressional District.”

According to his spokeswoman, Rep. Wilson opposed the stimulus as a "misguided spending bill," but wanted to make sure his constituents "receive their share of the pie." That’s pretty much the same excuse the rest of the GOP lawmakers gave: the stimulus is bad but my constituents deserve their “fair share.”

So much for principles.

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February 3, 2010 3:54PM

Criminalizing Politics

Steve Poizner, the California insurance commissioner who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, created a stir this week by charging opponent Meg Whitman’s campaign with attempting to coerce him out of the race. He said he had reported her campaign to state and federal law enforcement authorities.


What did Whitman actually do? Well, Poizner said that Whitman consultant Mike Murphy had contacted a Poizner staffer by phone and email to urge him to withdraw from the race. The email, released by Poizner, said: “I hate the idea of each of us spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a badly damaged nominee. And we can spend $40 million tearing up Steve if we must; bad for him, bad for us, and a crazy waste to tear up a guy with great future statewide potential.” In the email, Murphy went on to suggest that if Poizner dropped out of the race before the June 8 vote, Whitman and her team would immediately get behind him for a 2012 challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.


Poizner says that’s not only “strong‐​arm tactics” but possibly an illegal inducement to get him to withdraw. But isn’t this really just politics as usual? Don’t candidates as a matter of course say “support me this time, and I’ll support you next time” or “run for a different office and I’ll endorse you”? Presidential candidates, or their campaign managers, are often said to have promised the vice presidency to more than one rival to clear the field.


The point about spending $40 million of Republican money tearing up fellow Republicans is a pretty common complaint about party primaries. In fact, National Review correspondent John J. Miller raised just that concern about the Rick Perry‐​Kay Bailey Hutchison showdown in Texas.


Even during the Rod Blagojevich flap over “selling” a Senate seat, the always‐​provocative Jack Shafer and Jim Harper both asked, Isn’t this what politicians do? They make deals — including deals like “I’ll support your campaign if you’ll make my buddy (or me) a Cabinet secretary.” No doubt the promises are often worthless, but they still get made. Blagojevich and Murphy have reminded pols all over the country that such deals are better made in person, not via email or telephone.


Politics ain’t beanbag, Mr. Poizner. Accept the deal or reject it. But “let’s clear the field and spend our money fighting the other party” is pretty standard politics. And a darn sight better than another standard political practice, using the taxpayers’ money to bribe the voters to support you.

February 2, 2010 2:46PM

Time to Lose the Trade Enforcement Fig Leaf

During his SOTU address last week, the president declared it a national goal to double our exports over the next five years. As my colleague Dan Griswold argues (a point that is echoed by others in this NYT article), such growth is probably unrealistic. But with incomes rising in China, India and throughout the developing world, and with huge amounts of savings accumulated in Asia, strong U.S. export growth in the years ahead should be a given—unless we screw it up with a provocative enforcement regime.


The president said:

If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules.

Ah, the enforcement canard!


One of the more persistent myths about trade is that we don’t adequately enforce our trade agreements, which has given our trade partners license to cheat. And that chronic cheating — dumping, subsidization, currency manipulation, opaque market barriers, and other underhanded practices — the argument goes, explains our trade deficit and anemic job growth.


But lack of enforcement is a myth that was concocted by congressional Democrats (Sander Levin chief among them) as a fig leaf behind which they could abide Big Labor’s wish to terminate the trade agenda. As the Democrats prepared to assume control of Congress in January 2007, better enforcement — along with demands for actionable labor and environmental standards — was used to cast their opposition to trade as conditional, even vaguely appealing to moderate sensibilities. But as is evident in Congress’s enduring refusal to consider the three completed bilateral agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea (which all exceed Democratic demands with respect to labor and the environment), Democratic opposition to trade is not conditional, but systemic.

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January 29, 2010 4:12PM

The Presidential Scold

Today, Politico Arena asks for comments on:

Duking it out in Baltimore

My response:


It’s all well and good that President Obama wants to meet with Republicans — giving the appearance of reaching out — but when it’s mainly to “chastise” them for opposing his programs, as the AP is reporting after his session at the House Republicans’ retreat in Baltimore today, it’s little but a continuation of the lecture he gave to Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the American people on Wednesday evening. “I am not an ideologue,” he’s reported to have said. Yet it appears that he rejected the Republicans’ proposals for a different approach to health care, a line‐​item veto for spending bills, and across‐​the‐​board tax cuts.


But why should that surprise? Ideologues aren’t open to new or different ideas, because they have the truth. Yet the deeper truth that’s been apparent all along is that we have here a president who, along with so many on his staff, has little grasp of economic reality, because he has no experience in the business world — indeed, appears often to be hostile to that world. Just today, for example, the White House unveiled its plan for a new tax break to spur job creation. As reported by CNN, Obama “wants to give businesses a $5,000 tax credit for each net new employee they hire this year.” The CNN headline captures it all: “Here’s $5,000. Go hire someone.” That’s not the way the world works. Temporary tax gimmicks like that, which the White House estimates will cost $33 billion, are hardly what’s needed. If businesses are to start hiring on a regular basis, they need assurance of a regular climate that will enable them to plan rationally. This administration has given them anything but that kind of assurance. And today’s meeting in Baltimore, like Wednesday night’s lecture, hasn’t helped.