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“Not Much To Chew On”: Conservatives Show A Lack Of Appetite For Sen Mike Lee

Whoever thinks there’s no such thing as a free lunch has not been to the Heritage Foundation.

After Sen. Mike Lee’s speech to the conservative think tank Monday, his listeners didn’t rush to the front of the room, where the Utah Republican was greeting well-wishers, but to the back to get in line for sandwiches, cookies and soft drinks provided gratis to the hungry young conservatives who sat through the hour.

Such an inducement may have been necessary to fill the room for Lee, who is not exactly an electrifying speaker. His colleague Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a fellow first-term senator with tea party backing, packed a much larger auditorium at Heritage in February. But Lee is no bomb-thrower; he is amiable and cerebral and uses phrases such as “We can start ensuring policy sustainability” and “The true and proper end of political subsidiarity is social solidarity.” Even Lee’s former Senate colleague Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who took over as Heritage’s president this month, apparently had more pressing business elsewhere.

This lack of appetite for Lee helps explain why the vision he outlined for conservatives, though worthy, is unlikely to receive serious GOP consideration. He essentially wants a return to “compassionate conservatism,” but there are a few big problems: George W. Bush tarnished the notion (by giving it lip service but little else), Paul’s libertarian wing is ascendant in the party, and Lee has little to propose other than vague notions of federalism.

Lee, a young man with a round face and thinning hair, diagnosed the conservatives’ condition fairly well. “The left has created this false narrative that liberals are for things and conservatives are against things,” he said. “A liberal proposes an idea, we explain why it won’t work and we think we’ve won the debate.”

Lee sounded much like Bush when he campaigned in 1999 against the “Leave us alone” conservatives. “Freedom doesn’t mean you’re on your own,” the senator said. “It means we’re all in this together.” He even echoed Bush’s “No child left behind” phrase as he argued for a “voluntary civil society that strengthens our communities, protects the vulnerable and minds the gaps to make sure no one gets left behind.”

Lee criticized Bush for misapplying the philosophy, referring to “one politician’s occasional conflation of ‘compassion’ and ‘bigger government.’ ” He also criticized past conservatives for overusing federal power and for being intolerant (“The price of allowing conservative states to be conservative is allowing liberal states to be liberal”). His criticism of Paul’s libertarian wing was particularly colorful: “This vision of America conservatives seek is not an Ayn Rand novel. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Frank Capra movie.”

But as a practical matter, Lee wasn’t offering anything much different from the Rand acolytes. He spoke of an end to “corporate welfare” — an admirable goal, but his targets were the same old villains such as Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. He employed the usual straw-man characterization of liberals: “They attack free enterprise. . . . Elite progressives in Washington . . . believe in community organizers, self-anointed strangers, preferably ones with Ivy League degrees.” (This from a man who is the son of Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, grew up in McLean and went on to clerk for Samuel Alito.)

Lee’s grand solution is one that conservatives have wanted for decades: the devolution of power to state and local governments. “We must make this fundamental principle of pluralistic diversity a pillar of our agenda,” he said, in a typically airy phrase.

But how? A questioner asked the senator how to “translate what you’re saying to benefit the 40 percent at the bottom” rather than “protecting the 1 percent.”

Lee’s answer provided nothing specific. “When you take government out of the equation,” he replied, “it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game between this top percentage and that bottom percentage.”

Another questioner asked whether the government should support the “social entrepreneurs” who Lee said are crucial to strengthening society. Again, he had no specifics. He said the government should “establish a neutral set of rules” for all. To do more, he said, would be “destructive.”

A third questioner asked bluntly: “Which policies . . . help promote these vibrant communities which we as conservatives want to foster?”

Lee replied: “The single most important policy would be federalism,” which means making “as many decisions at the most local level as possible.”

That’s a philosophy, not a policy. If Lee wants conservatives to rediscover compassion, he’ll have to provide something more substantial for them to chew on.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 22, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unending War On Obamacare: Count On Republicans To Stand In The Way Of Fixing Whatever’s Wrong With It

I’m not a historian, so maybe there’s something I don’t know, but it seems to me that there may never have been a piece of legislation that has inspired such partisan venom as the Affordable Care Act. Sure, Republicans hated Medicare. And yes, their rhetoric at the time, particularly Ronald Reagan’s famous warning that if it passed, “We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free,” was very similar to what they now say about Obamacare. But once it passed, their attempts to undermine it ran more to the occasional raid than the ongoing siege.

I bring this up because Kevin Drum makes an unsettling point today about the future of Obamacare:

No, my biggest concern is what happens after 2014. No big law is ever perfect. But what normally happens is that it gets tweaked over time. Sometimes this is done via agency rules, other times via minor amendments in Congress. It’s routine. But Obamacare has become such a political bomb that it’s not clear that Congress will be willing to fix the minor problems that crop up over time. There’s simply too big a contingent of Republicans who are eager to see Obamacare fail and are actively delighted whenever a problem crops up. This has the potential to be a problem that no other big law has ever had to face.

It’s hard to overstate just how enormous a symbolic presence Obamacare has come to occupy in Republicans’ minds. They’ve invested so much time in not just criticizing it but telling their constituents that it is the worst thing to ever happen to America—and yes, sometimes they literally say things like that—that they’ve lost all moral perspective. To them, trying to fix a feature of the law so that it works better or helps people more would be a horrifying moral compromise, tantamount to sending fur coats to the guards at Stalin’s labor camps in Siberia. If you say to them, “Look, it’s the law now—why don’t we make sure it works as well as possible?” it just won’t register.

Combine that with the fact that in general, congressional Republicans have stopped caring much about policy at all, and they never cared about health care in the first place. They don’t want to know the details of issues; it just isn’t their priority. In the House, conservatives are spending their time clamoring for an opportunity to cast yet another vote to repeal Obamacare. “The guys who have been up here the last two years, we can go home and say, ‘Listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace ObamaCare,” said Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say?” Your tax dollars at work.

You can look at this state of affairs and assume that as new difficulties with the law come to light, it will be possible for the Obama administration to address them with administrative action, through the Department of Health and Human Services. And that may be true to an extent. But other changes could require legislation, and it’s a fair bet that no matter what is involved, Republicans in Congress would reject anything having to do with the law that didn’t involve repealing it. You could tell them that there was a typo in the bill which was causing orphans to be turned into Soylent Green and all it would require to fix was a quick voice-vote, and they’d say no, because Obamacare kills freedom.

And let’s not forget, it’s entirely possible that 45 months from now, there will be a Republican president. If that happens, it’s possible that in order to get confirmed, his or her nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services will have to pledge to Senate Republicans to work every day to dismantle Obamacare. The clock is ticking.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 25, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Politics of Paranoia”: A Constant Stream Of Desperate Drivel By The Far-Right

Out-of-control federal government. An immediate and immense Muslim threat. Gun grabbing, national registries and eventual mass confiscations. Tyranny.

The politics of the political right have become the politics of paranoia.

According to too many of them, the country is collapsing, and the government is not to be trusted. The circle of safety is contracting. You must arm yourselves to defend your own.

It is no wonder, then, that in this environment, a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found that while 47 percent of Americans were angry or disappointed that new gun control legislation in the Senate (including the enormously popular background-checks provision) had failed to pass, 39 percent were very happy or relieved. Fifty-one percent of Republicans had those sentiments, compared with 22 percent of Democrats.

This underscores just how frightened of the government far-right Republicans are.

A Quinnipiac University poll this month found that 91 percent of Americans (including 88 percent of Republicans) said that they supported background checks for all gun buyers. But that same poll found that 61 percent of Republicans worried that if there were background checks for all gun purchases, the government would use that information in the future to confiscate legally owned guns.

Furthermore, a January Pew Research Center report found that for the first time since the question was asked in 1995, most Americans now believe that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

According to the report:

“The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76 percent of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54 percent describe the government as a ‘major’ threat.”

The report continued:

“By comparison, there has been little change in opinions among Democrats; 38 percent say the government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms and just 16 percent view it as a major threat.”

Incidentally, 62 percent of those who had a gun in their home thought the government posed a threat, as opposed to 45 percent of those without a gun in the home.

In January, the right-wing Web site World Net Daily, writing about a poll the site conducted with the consulting firm Wenzel Strategies, bemoaned:

“The seeds of a tyrannical government are present in the United States, with a citizenry happy with a heavily armed law enforcement presence and a disbelief that their government could do anything that would make them want to revolt, according to a new poll.” The poll revealed “widespread belief” that the Second Amendment “really is for self-protection and hunting, not for ‘fighting back against a tyrannical government.’”

Fritz Wenzel of the consulting firm is quoted as saying that the poll’s finding “demonstrates the downside of more than 230 years of government stability. This survey shows it is hard for many Americans to think of a situation in which their government would need to be overthrown. Of course, the last time there was a serious fight for the future of the federal government, in the Civil War, Washington won.”

And that’s just the tip of it. Last month, Glenn Beck described the makeup of what he believed was the coming “New World Order.” It did not bode well for America.

“I think you might even have some Nazi influence in the United States, unfortunately, because we’ve had it before. And it will happen there and there, I think,” Beck said, placing dots over the Northwest and the Northeast on a map.

Discussing the Muslim Brotherhood’s “influence,” Beck said:

“I think there’s going to be a slight influence in South America and Mexico and in the United States. I think it is going to be more significant than anyone imagines, and I believe that you are also then going to be co-ruled by a thug-ocracy of this part of the world. And I think it’s going to be, at least in our case, I think it’s going to be China. China will be the balance of our power. They will use Muslim, um, Islam as the real enforcers that they will then help us and whoever is in power in our country. We will be ruled by an American, but it will be a technocrat that will answer to China. And, they will stomp things out and use Islam as much as they have to, to get rid of anyone who’s standing up, I think.”


And Beck delivered this prattle in a suit jacket, not a straitjacket.

This is the constant stream of desperate drivel that has fostered a climate of fear on the far right that makes common-sense consensus nearly impossible.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 24, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cherry Picking The Constitution”: Conservative Constitutional Hypocrisy On Gun Control And The 4th Amendment

The Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. They’re like kissing cousins, separated in the Constitution by a mere 32 words. And lately they’ve been all over the news.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about the amendments; maybe you have no opinion of them at all. But ask some conservatives and it’s like they don’t even appear in the same document. And when you think about it, that’s a pretty strange thing. Pretty revealing, too. Here’s why:

If you read the Second and the Fourth Amendments without knowing anything about the surrounding politics and then were asked which one conservatives like better, you might well pick the latter. If ever there was an amendment written to appeal to people who are skeptical of big government, this is it. There’s the big bad government, it wants to take your property and your freedom, but the Fourth Amendment says “no way, not on my watch.” It’s a Tea Partier’s dream.

But conservative courts have spent the past few decades carving one exception after another out of the Fourth Amendment and, if the reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing is any indication, a loud contingent on the right is intent on finding even more.

No, it’s the Second Amendment that most conservatives love. Try to pass even the most benign measure aimed at reducing gun violence, as the Senate did just days ago, and they’ll marshal their every resource to defeat it. The reason: They say it’s because they’re strict constructionists and any restraint on guns would violate the plain meaning of the Second Amendment.

One approach to one amendment, a very different approach to another. How to reconcile? There’s one thing that can help make sense of this mess: a marked lack of intestinal fortitude.

Let’s say your thinking about criminal justice is principally governed by being afraid. In that context, if you think guns are an effective way to protect yourself, you’ll want your right to have guns interpreted as expansively as possible, because you’re afraid of what will happen to you if it isn’t. And you’ll want the rights of people who have been accused of committing crimes to be interpreted as narrowly as possible so they are taken off the streets.

As it happens, that’s a pretty good summation of conservative doctrine when it comes to these amendments.

All of which reveals something else about how conservatives think when they look at the Constitution:

It matters who its provisions are perceived to be protecting. Conservatives think the Second Amendment protects them, so they want it as unfettered as possible; but they think the Fourth Amendment protects someone who they find threatening, so they want it to be as weak as possible.

You can take this approach to constitutional interpretation, of course, but if you do, please stop suggesting it has anything to do with fidelity to profound constitutional principles.

There can be no doubt that the Fourth Amendment makes it harder on law enforcement to solve some crimes, but it does so in the service of a larger goal: protecting the accused from the unfettered predations of an overreaching state or the passions of the mob. And, as has been roundly discussed, the idea that the Second Amendment was designed to allow every citizen to be a weapons armory all their own reflects a willful misreading of history.

Both amendments reflect trade-offs that the framers consciously made. We may not like them, but they’re there. And respect for the Constitution requires that we recognize them. If you call yourself a strict constructionist, you can’t pick and choose which provisions of the Constitution you are going to strictly construe. If that’s your approach, there’s another word that may provide a more apt description: hypocrite.

In a lot of cases, fear is a good thing. It’s a warning system that keeps us out of trouble, guides us away from danger, and, in some cases, keeps us alive. But when we allow fear to be the guiding principle of our public policy that gives rise to dangers all its own.

Many conservatives spend a lot of time portraying themselves as tough guys, straight shooters who don’t let emotion get in the way of what has to be done. In the same breath they are likely to portray liberals as weak and craven. But this is just one example of how the reverse is true.

Setting aside something that makes you feel secure on a personal level in the advent of reforms that will actually make many others safer and sticking to the principles upon which our country was founded even in times of crisis — that’s what takes guts. And it’s time for conservatives to show some.


By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, April 25, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Constitution | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Temperatures Rising”: The Remorseless Rightward Pressure On The GOP

Any time I read one of those articles about the Republican Party “rebranding” itself or “moving to the center” or “coming to its senses,” I think of the drift of political life in my home state of Georgia. After Sen. Saxby Chambliss was more or less pushed into retirement for the sin of contemplating a “grand bargain” between the GOP and Obama, a large early field of very conservative would-be Senators has assembled, driven (by most accounts) into a more-conservative-than-thou competition by Rep. Paul Broun, who makes Michele Bachmann look like the soul of sweet reason.

But it’s not like this is some passing wave of Tea Party/Christian Right extremism in Georgia. The House members running for the Senate could well be succeeded by a new bunch that’s even wilder. Consider Phil Gingrey’s 11th district, where I lived during high school. The first candidate into the race is a famous radical voice, Bob Barr, who once represented a similar district as a classic Gingrich-era right-wing firebrand (serving as a Clinton Impeachment co-manager, and sponsoring the original Patriot Act and Defense of Marriage Act) before later becoming the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party. But Barr could become the RINO in the field, as “constitutional conservatives” unite behind state senator Barry Loudermilk.

Described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Jim Galloway as a “constitutionalist somewhat in the mold of Paul Broun,” Loudermilk became famous even before running for office as the author of a post-9/11 local newspaper screed that went globally viral, encouraging non-Christians and immigrants to pack up and leave America if they didn’t like “our culture.” During his climb through the Georgia Republican ranks, Loudermilk has championed a variety of anti-immigrant bills, “personhood” initiatives, efforts to shut down all state agencies not specifically authorized by the state constitution, and serial theocratic gestures. He was also one of the participants in a colleague’s “briefing” for state senators on the evil United Nations Agenda 21 effort to destroy private property rights.

At the recent 11th district Republican convention where Loudermilk formally announced his congressional candidacy, a straw poll (reported by Galloway) showed him trouncing Bob Barr and the rest of the field. Just as interestingly, the poll showed Paul Broun leading the 11th district’s own Phil Gingrey in the Senate contest.

Now maybe Broun won’t win and maybe Loudermilk won’t win; neither has any national support so far, and neither is known for fundraising prowess. But it’s important to understand that these zany men are wildly popular among the kind of grassroots conservative activists who have been lashing the GOP to the hard right in recent years. In his remarks to the 11th district convention, Loudermilk said: “I don’t come from the grassroots; I am the grassroots!” and that would seem to be an entirely accurate statement. So even if “establishment Republicans” can squelch such candidates, it will involve competing with them avidly on fever-swamp themes. And that’s how people like Phil Gingrey or another intensely conservative Senate likely, Tom Price, wind up looking like moderate “squishes.” To adapt the president’s term for the ideological passions gripping the conservative movement and dominating the GOP, the “fever” is not “breaking,” at least down at the level where people don’t bother to sanitize their views. It may, actually, be getting worse.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 24, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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