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“Abstract And Brief”: Conservatives Argue For A GOP Platform Vague And Minimalist Enough To Accommodate Trump

For a political party known until quite recently for its virtually unanimous support for the dictates of conservative ideology, the GOP has got some shockingly large divisions on issues today, thanks to Donald Trump. His speech earlier this week on trade is an example: There is no way to identify a single inch of common ground between Trump’s attacks on globalization as the source of all evil and the views of the Republican-leaning U.S. business community (see this angry op-ed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donahue). Slightly less heated but still important are Trump-GOP differences over social security and Medicare, treated by Trump as part of an inviolable social contract and by most Republicans as sacred cows that need to be slaughtered to bring federal spending under control. Immigration, of course, has created its own well-known intra-party fault lines. And there’s trouble all over the national-security landscape, beginning with Trump’s skepticism about NATO and his non-interventionist instincts, in a party where there’s a lot of lusty desire for Middle Eastern wars or maybe a nostalgic dustup with Russia.

All these divisions make the drafting and adoption of a party platform — normally a chore so routine and boring you don’t even hear about it beyond marginal arguments over the precise language of planks on abortion or guns — perilous. It would be natural for Team Trump to want to place the mogul’s personal stamp on the party’s statement of principles and proposals. And it would be tempting for those resisting Trump’s takeover of the GOP to start a platform fight at the convention.

How to avoid trouble? Well, two distinguished conservatives (one the president of Hillsdale College, the other a member of the actual platform committee) writing at the Washington Examiner have an idea: Make the platform so abstract and brief that none of the divisions even appear.

That’s not exactly how they put it, of course. Check out this lofty appeal:

On the eve of a convention that threatens disorder, Republicans should learn from the greatness of their party’s past.

The platform upon which Abraham Lincoln ran for president in 1860 was one and a half pages and 1200 words — quite a contrast to the 65 page, 33,000 word GOP platform of 2012. Written in the succinct and beautiful language of principle, it was meant to be read by all Americans, not just policy elites, and to guide great political action rather than make promises to special interests.

Might such a document today help to heal the divisions in the party as a preparation to healing those in the nation?

You betcha. The platform these gentlemen have in mind would focus strictly on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the need for limited instead of expanded government. It would view America and its problems from such a great distance that you can’t see those messy differences over the actual issues that will confront the next president and Congress. Hell, it would be broad enough and vague enough to accommodate Trumpism!

The Trump candidacy, although unwelcome to many in the party, has the virtue of simplicity. He says that government belongs to, must respond to, and must in all cases seek to benefit the American people.

Every politician in either party would affirm the same principle, of course, but the whole idea here is not to get bogged down in details.

The devil, of course, is in the details. But platforms should not be about details. They should be about principles and broad lines of policy. The details will be worked out in due course between the President and Congress, as is right and good. The platform supplies a direction, not a specific route.

Or perhaps the platform is just a collection of platitudes supplying the directive that the future lies ahead.

Maybe that’s all a party can do when it is nominating a presidential candidate that so many of its leading members regard with ill-disguised fear and loathing. It’s so much easier to talk about the platform from a rarefied perspective so distant from the actual country with its actual challenges and choices.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 1, 2016

July 2, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald The Dangerous”: Heartbreaking Prospect That America’s Next Commander In Chief May Be A Global Joke

Is there any scarier nightmare than President Donald J. Trump in a tense international crisis, indignant and impatient, with his sweaty finger on the nuclear trigger?

“Trump is a danger to our national security,” John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to the State Department under President George W. Bush, bluntly warned.

Most of the discussion about Trump focuses on domestic policy. But checks and balances mean that there are limits to what a president can achieve domestically, while the Constitution gives a commander in chief a much freer hand abroad.

That’s what horrifies America-watchers overseas. Der Spiegel, the German magazine, has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Even the leader of a Swedish nationalist party that started as a neo-Nazi white supremacist group has disavowed Trump. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, reflected the views of many Britons when she tweeted that Trump is worse than Voldemort.

Leading American conservative thinkers on foreign policy issued an open letter a few days ago warning that they could not support Trump. The signatories include Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security, Robert Zoellick, the former deputy secretary of state, and more than 100 others.

“Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe,” the letter declared.

A starting point is Trump’s remarkable ignorance about international affairs. And every time he tries to reassure, he digs the hole deeper. Asked in the latest debate to name people whose foreign policy ideas he respects, Trump offered Gen. Jack Keane, and mispronounced his name.

Asked about Syria, Trump said last year that he would unleash ISIS to destroy Syria’s government. That is insane: ISIS is already murdering or enslaving Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities; executing gays; destroying antiquities; oppressing women. And Trump wants ISIS to capture Damascus?

A second major concern is that Trump would start a trade war, or a real war. Trump told The New York Times in January that he favored a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods, then denied ever having said such a thing. The Times produced the audio (that part of the conversation was on the record) in which Trump clearly backed the 45 percent tariff, risking a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump has also called for more U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, and raised the prospect of bombing North Korean nuclear sites. A poorly informed, impatient and pugnacious leader can cause devastation, and that’s true of either Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump.

The third risk is to America’s reputation and soft power. Both Bush and President Obama worked hard to reassure the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. Trump has pretty much declared war on all Muslims.

The damage to America’s image is already done, even if Trump is never elected. Simply as a blowhard who gains headlines around the world, he reinforces caricatures of the United States and tarnishes our global reputation. He turns America into an object of derision. He is America’s Ahmadinejad.

On Twitter, I suggested that Trump was pugnacious, pugilistic, preening and puerile, and asked for other P words to describe him. The result was a deluge: petulant, pandering, pathetic, peevish, prickly, pernicious, patronizing, Pantagruelian, prevaricating, phony, presumptuous, potty-mouthed, provocative, pompous, predatory and so many more, including the troubling “probably president.”

There’s something heartbreaking about the prospect that America’s next commander in chief may be a global joke, a man regarded in most foreign capitals as a buffoon, and a dangerous one.

Trump is not particularly ideological, and it’s possible that as president he would surround himself with experts and would back off extreme positions. It was a good sign that on Friday he appeared to reverse himself and pledged that he would not order the U.S. military to commit war crimes, yet that’s such an astonishingly low bar that I can’t believe I just wrote this sentence!

In any case, Trump is nothing if not unpredictable, and it seems equally plausible that he would start new wars. It’s a risk that few sensible people want to take. As Mitt Romney notes, “This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who was a national security official in the Bush White House, noted that most Republicans are united in believing that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have damaged the United States and added to the burdens of the next president.

“Yet what Trump promises to do would in some important ways make all of the problems we face dramatically worse,” he told me. “Why, at a moment when the country desperately needs our A-team, would we send in the clowns?”

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 5, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Cheating Our Children”: The Deficit Scolds Are Actually The Bad Guys In This Story

So, about that fiscal crisis — the one that would, any day now, turn us into Greece. Greece, I tell you: Never mind.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a remarkable change of position among the deficit scolds who have dominated economic policy debate for more than three years. It’s as if someone sent out a memo saying that the Chicken Little act, with its repeated warnings of a U.S. debt crisis that keeps not happening, has outlived its usefulness. Suddenly, the argument has changed: It’s not about the crisis next month; it’s about the long run, about not cheating our children. The deficit, we’re told, is really a moral issue.

There’s just one problem: The new argument is as bad as the old one. Yes, we are cheating our children, but the deficit has nothing to do with it.

Before I get there, a few words about the sudden switch in arguments.

There has, of course, been no explicit announcement of a change in position. But the signs are everywhere. Pundits who spent years trying to foster a sense of panic over the deficit have begun writing pieces lamenting the likelihood that there won’t be a crisis, after all. Maybe it wasn’t that significant when President Obama declared that we don’t face any “immediate” debt crisis, but it did represent a change in tone from his previous deficit-hawk rhetoric. And it was startling, indeed, when John Boehner, the speaker of the House, said exactly the same thing a few days later.

What happened? Basically, the numbers refuse to cooperate: Interest rates remain stubbornly low, deficits are declining and even 10-year budget projections basically show a stable fiscal outlook rather than exploding debt.

So talk of a fiscal crisis has subsided. Yet the deficit scolds haven’t given up on their determination to bully the nation into slashing Social Security and Medicare. So they have a new line: We must bring down the deficit right away because it’s “generational warfare,” imposing a crippling burden on the next generation.

What’s wrong with this argument? For one thing, it involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what debt does to the economy.

Contrary to almost everything you read in the papers or see on TV, debt doesn’t directly make our nation poorer; it’s essentially money we owe to ourselves. Deficits would indirectly be making us poorer if they were either leading to big trade deficits, increasing our overseas borrowing, or crowding out investment, reducing future productive capacity. But they aren’t: Trade deficits are down, not up, while business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly from the slump. And the main reason businesses aren’t investing more is inadequate demand. They’re sitting on lots of cash, despite soaring profits, because there’s no reason to expand capacity when you aren’t selling enough to use the capacity you have. In fact, you can think of deficits mainly as a way to put some of that idle cash to use.

Yet there is, as I said, a lot of truth to the charge that we’re cheating our children. How? By neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.

You don’t have to be a civil engineer to realize that America needs more and better infrastructure, but the latest “report card” from the American Society of Civil Engineers — with its tally of deficient dams, bridges, and more, and its overall grade of D+ — still makes startling and depressing reading. And right now — with vast numbers of unemployed construction workers and vast amounts of cash sitting idle — would be a great time to rebuild our infrastructure. Yet public investment has actually plunged since the slump began.

Or what about investing in our young? We’re cutting back there, too, having laid off hundreds of thousands of school teachers and slashed the aid that used to make college affordable for children of less-affluent families.

Last but not least, think of the waste of human potential caused by high unemployment among younger Americans — for example, among recent college graduates who can’t start their careers and will probably never make up the lost ground.

And why are we shortchanging the future so dramatically and inexcusably? Blame the deficit scolds, who weep crocodile tears over the supposed burden of debt on the next generation, but whose constant inveighing against the risks of government borrowing, by undercutting political support for public investment and job creation, has done far more to cheat our children than deficits ever did.

Fiscal policy is, indeed, a moral issue, and we should be ashamed of what we’re doing to the next generation’s economic prospects. But our sin involves investing too little, not borrowing too much — and the deficit scolds, for all their claims to have our children’s interests at heart, are actually the bad guys in this story.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 28, 2013

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Deficits, Economic Recovery | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Exotically Countercultural”: The Unhappy Triumph Of The Marketplace

This objection to Obamacare’s individual mandate, by Jonathan Adler at the libertarian Volokh Conspiracy website, grabbed my attention:

“Virtually everyone” may acquire health care—but “virtually everyone” is not “everyone.” Most people may purchase health care at some point in their lives, but some will not. Some people will refuse to purchase health care for religious reasons. Some will not purchase health care because they are lucky enough not to need such care before a sudden death. Still others may decide not to purchase health care because they have chosen to remove themselves from commerce—consider a survivalist or other person who decides to live in a shack, growing their own food, and not engaging in commerce with others.

Consider Adler’s latter example: It strikes me that the vast majority of Americans would find the idea of “not engaging in commerce with others” to be exotically countercultural at best, possibly antisocial or even deviant. Such a reaction is symptomatic of the fact that the marketplace has long enjoyed pride of place in Americans’ moral psychology. “The chief business of the American people is business,” as President Calvin Coolidge famously said.

This ethos has made proper small-l liberals of us, hasn’t it? Americans have been taught by the libertarian right and the Clintonian middle to believe that a commercial relationship between nations—trade—is the only way to achieve lasting international harmony. At least before the great stock market crash of 2008, CEOs were like cult heroes in the popular imagination. From the pluckiness of Horatio Alger’s heroes to the theology of Joel Osteen, success in the marketplace has been seen as an outward confirmation of inward virtue and divine blessedness.

So it’s with some sense of schadenfreude that I see conservatives of the classical liberal variety chafing at the requirement to buy health insurance, calling it an attempt by Congress to “create commerce.” I’m fully aware of the contractarian basis for this objection: that a forced purchase is not a legitimate commercial exchange.

But the paleocon in me responds this way: This is the antitraditional bed you’ve made for us. Now lie in it.

 

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, March 27, 2012

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Koch Brothers’ Big Bucks

In case anyone needed a reminder about the kind of forces Democrats will be up against next year, the Koch brothers are putting together their plan to help buy the 2012 elections.

The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million — potentially much more — to conservative groups ahead of Election Day, POLITICO has learned. That puts their libertarian-leaning network in the same league as the most active of the groups in the more establishment-oriented network conceived last year by veteran GOP operatives Rove and Ed Gillespie, which plans to raise $240 million.

That’s financing for an awful lot of attack ads, nearly all of which will be dishonest, and which a whole lot of voters will believe.

It’ll be interesting, though, to see whether Democrats are able to make the Koch money toxic. We learned last week that there’s ample evidence that Koch Industries made “improper payments” (read: bribes) to “secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002.” One of those countries, it turns out, is Iran, which has purchased millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment from the Kochs’ company, despite a trade ban and the U.S. labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. The Kochs’ business also stand accused of having “rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada.”

This is the money that’s going to buy elections for Republicans?

Over the summer, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared, “Plain and simple, if you do business with Iran, you cannot do business with America.”

Follow-up question for Cantor, who’s accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Koch Industries: those who do business with Iran cannot do business with America, but can they partner with the Republican Party to swing an election cycle?

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, October 10, 2011

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Corporations, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Republicans, Right Wing, Super PAC's, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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