Sunday, December 28, 2014

Old Guard Grip on GOP Appears Ready to Wan

Three days ago I witnessed a somewhat eye opening interview on CSPAN. The guest was Peter Wehner, a senior member of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His smarmy, overly self confident demeanor was reminiscent of former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor.

Wehner is a somebody within GOP ranks. He was a senior adviser to the Romney-Ryan campaign. He has written for numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine and the Weekly Standard. In 2013 he was named as one of a handful of reform minded conservatives by the Washington Monthly.

Mr. Wehner also served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations prior to becoming a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Books that he has authored or co-authored include City and Man, Religion and Politics in a new Era, and Wealth and Justice: The Morally of Democratic Capitalism.

When the subject turned to the 2016 Republican Presidential field, Mr. Wehner proffered his take: It amounted to Jeb Bush would be an outstanding nominee, but Govenor Romney remained a viable option.

Wehner then went down the list of Republican candidates, from Ted Cruz to Scott Walker to Dr. Ben Carson. Chris Christie, he professed, has "excellent credentials," but "needed to work on his foreign policy positions." Surprisingly, twelve names deep in his analysis, I realized that Governor Rick Perry's name was not one of them..

"Why" would someone so learned, so apparently prevalent within the GOP inner circle, negate to mention Perry? An attempt to stonewall? Strange...Almost, as if, Perry is a member of a different party...

Closer examination to Wehner's writings and insights reveal a paradigm consisent with Bill Kristol. In essence, "pure Neo-Con." It is here where the battle for the soul of the Republican party begins!

Most conservatives haven't put it together. Yet! But, as 2015 unfolds, expect some very predictable developments. It begins with Governor Bush's expected candidacy.

Jeb Bush is slightly to the right of Mitt Romney. Especially on social issues. More significantly is his appeal to Hispanic voters. The quickest way for Republicans to hand the White House to Democrats is to tally 27% of Latino votes; as Governor Romney did in 2012. Bush scored 56% in the 2002 Florida Gubernatorial general election.

Sadly, there are some Romney supporters, who would break for Hillary Clinton, if the choice were between she and Rand Paul, Ted Cruz or even Rick Perry. Not to say that Wehner is among them! Yet, there exist a pocket of mostly Northeasterners, who continue to see the base as: "simple, rough-around-the-edges, naive, Jesus fearing, folks."

Scholars such as Wehner are confident that Jeb can be sold to them. After all, Jeb holds Yankee roots! Even though he was born in Texas, graduated from a Texas University, is a full fledged Floridian and even has a Mexican wife, the pedigree is there.

Not to say that Perry wouldn't be preferable to the "wrong kind" of Democrat! Wehner has written several articles describing the "dangers" of an Elizabeth Warren Presidency. He has emphasized the importance for Clinton Democrats not to take Ms. Warren lightly. Her message is "powerful Populism" and could gain traction with disgruntled Demcrats in lightening fashion!

Where Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and most of the others find the most common ground is their comfort with big government. Once we get past media sizzle, sound bites and one liners, one question will define the GOP: "Are we with Neo-Cons, and Democrats in their preference for "top down from Washington?" Or, are we seeking a new direction?"

Governor Perry obviously is. That's why he is feared by the Peter Wahner's, George Will's and Bill Kristols! A message of "reducing the size, scope and cost" of central government takes the air out of a lot of tires! The assertion "red team versus blue team, playing for the same university," is now contrasted by a real alternative.

Neo-Con's know that Jeb Bush would be a stronger candidate than either Mitt Romney or Chris Christie. His only real negative, aside being out of politics for while, is his name. Nobody truly knows how much of an impact the moniker "Bush" will have until the primaries begin!

Smart money predicts that Romney, Christie and even Senator Marco Rubio will stay out if Jeb enters the race; for different reasons. It would also be a good bet to assume that neither Scott Walker or John Kasich will enter. The latter is already being seen as a possible running mate for Bush.

It makes for a tidy conclusion, in the name of party unity. But there are concerns. Starting with "what if" Ted Cruz succumbs to expected Texas pressure, (coming from both Bush and Perry camps)and stays out? Then there is Rand Paul's dilemma in Kentucky. All the Senate muscle, starting with Mitch McConnell, will urge him to run for re-election. Under Kentucky law, he can't run for both offices.

There are other candidates to be sure. But, it's easy to see how a "forty-man race" could become a "two-man race;" in a remarkably short time. Bush insiders see this scenario playing out. So do the Peter Wehner's of the Republican world.

Ironically, Wehner and friends would be scrambling madly for Perry buttons if Elizabeth Warren managed to grab the nomination. America may be ready for such a choice! There is a weariness with our present status quot. New, outside the beltway, faces are coveted more than perhaps anytime in American history.

Don't think Democrats wouldn't welcome a Perry-Warren match-up! Not solely because they think of the Texas Governor as an easier opponent! There may actualy be millions of Dems ready to chance the wind with Perry and his Jeffersonian ideas. Even in the most elite circles of New England Liberalism, there is concern that the "Professor" may be a bit too much "in the clouds."

Much of "blue collar" America has lost faith in all things political. A plain spoken, "Will Rogers type," might be just what the doctor ordered!

In short, the general election will likely be won before the primaries are concluded. Clearing the first obsticle, namely sending those traditionally in charge to the "back of the room" is our beginning.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is Jeb "the Man?" Or is There an Alternative?

Several months ago, we asked on this blog, "is Jeb the man?" The answer was a resounding "no!"

Amid numerous predictions of his passing on a 2016 Presidential run, it now looks as if Jeb Bush will take the plunge. This will come as a great relief to establishment backers. It should also clear the field early, making it possible for a clear alternative to emerge.

Nothing is definite. But, smart money would suggest that if Mitt Romney ever entertained ideas about the Presidency, they would disappear 100% with Jeb's announcement. You can probably say 90% for Chris Christie and 80% for both Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. Assuming that all stay out, the Republican primary would look quite different. Before turning to the rest, let us evaluate each of the afore named.

Mitt Romney is well respected within the GOP hierarchy. An announcement not to run, followed by a subsequent endorsement of Bush would put tremendous pressure on Chris Christie to "be a team player." Besides the donors are one in the same!

Ditto for Marco Rubio! Could Rubio seriously take on his mentor? And, assuming that he did, what would the "moneybags" say? My guess is, "run for re-election, Marco. We'll be with you! And we know that you'll be with us in getting Governor Bush elected President."

Scott Walker? While a grassroots favorite, the chances of his overcoming this kind of inertia is improbable. Better to stay put, and finish what is becoming a conservative success story in Wisconsin. That is the way that Reince Pribus and friends would see it...

The early polls are essentially meaningless. Newsmax continues to post a survey that places Ted Cruz and Ben Carson as running number one and two. These are similar to the LA Dodger fans stuffing the all star ballot boxes in the eighties. Same held true for the Millennial heavy Conservative Leadership conference which gave Rand Paul an overwhelming victory. Enthusiasm is great! So is passion for a fresh face with new ideas.

The questions confronting the Republican base are "is Jeb the man?" Or, "can we agree on one alternative?"

With no Romney, Rubio, Christie and Walker, the field does thin out significantly. Left are Paul, Cruz, Carson, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry. Governor Palin is almost certainly not running. Governor Perry almost certainly is running. Odds are, Jindal will do what he did in 2012: endorse Perry and be a key advocate in the campaign. Senator Santorum? Who knows!

A blogger on Tea Party Nation stated emphatically that Rick Perry was "Establishment." Yet, in 2010, Perry proclaimed himself "Tea Party." Which leads to the next question: "Which Tea Party?"

The original Tea Party Patriots organization allowed discussion only on fiscal issues. They would not publish comments on abortion, gay rights, immigration or any subject that was not related to fiscal issues. The objective of this original Tea Party was to bring America's fiscal house in order. Independents made up a lot of the original Tea Party. They also included disgruntled Democrats, unhappy with their parties lack of fiscal restraint.

Assuming that Rick Perry was a member of the Tea Party, it is probably this specific Tea Party that he referenced.

Should Perry be classified Establishment, it's a fair assertion to label him "to the right" of the remaining Establishment players. Most notably, Jeb Bush.

Why the significance? Could not Rand Paul or Ben Carson defeat Jeb Bush? If they did, they would do it with no Establishment support!

To truly understand the dynamics of a face-off between Perry and Bush, one must return to the Texas 2010 Gubernatorial election. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was returning home to take on Perry, the incumbent. The polls had her winning by 20-30 points. While George W. Bush didn't endorsement her, Dad did. Her entire staff was made up on Dubya's old people. Karl Rove headed up "Team Hutchinson."

National Review's Kevin Williamson described Hutchinson as a "mushy oatmeal" Republican. She paraded across the Lone Star state reminding voters what she in Washington had done for them. Perry's retort was simple: "Yeah, but those duties should be reserved for the states."

Beginning with Dubya's signature accomplishment, "No Child Left Behind." You can also throw "The Department of Homeland Security" into that bin! Both programs were well intended. Yet, both amounted to more big government from Washington D.C..

In the end, Perry trounced Hutchinson and went on to handily win the general election.

This is the core argument going forward for Republicans. "Big government that is Washington based" versus "smaller government with more power given to the individual states." It begins with Common Core.

Jeb Bush embraces Common Core. Rick Perry vehemently opposes Common Core. In fact, Perry advocates abolishing the Department of Education altogether!

Most conservatives hold a yearning for "reducing the size, scope and cost" of the federal government. Getting there requires some practical cogitation. To be sure, Perry stands for those things. But, do any of the alternatives have a true zeal, not to mention an actual, on-the-job report card reflecting as much?

It comes down to being serious about retaking this country. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Ben Carson are superlative Americans. But this is about two questions:

"Is Jeb the man?" Likely he will be if facing Cruz, Paul or Carson!

"Who" is truly qualified to lead the free world?

Like Jeb or not, he has run a large, diverse state effectively. So has Perry.

Assuming that we are not satisfied with the experience level of our current chief executive, the rest of the field is clearly founding wanting.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Conservative Orientation, Previous Achievements, Should Deliver Best Republican Nominee

"It ain't braggin' if you've done it!"

A Texan truism? Actually it was Arkansan, Dizzy Dean who coined this classic phrase. But, it indeed applies to Rick Perry's tenure as Governor of the Lone Star state. In fact, Dean's prose might ultimately be the unofficial campaign slogan of a 2016 Presidential campaign.

Republican conservatives can't seem to agree on anything. EXCEPT that they want neither Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or Mitt Romney as the 2016 Republican nominee! Partly due to the fact that the GOP Establishment likes all three men.

The Tea Party is quick to remind of the failures in '96, '08 and '12. Yet, when proffering their alternative, the preferences range from congressmen, junior senators to people with ABSOLUTELY ZERO public service experience!

Get real!

The 2012 Republican primary was a monkey show; a feast for the lame stream media! Too many candidates and too many debates resulted in a nominee who was not the first choice of two thirds of the party base! How did it happen? Because the Republican Establishment was organized and unified. 2016 is sure to be a repeat. UNLESS, conservatives become practical.

Michelle Bachmann was Mitt Romney's greatest asset in 2012. She represented the far right and was successful in taking the discussion away from "reducing the size, scope and cost" of government to getting lost in the weeds on individual state issues and preferences.

I still cringe at her tainted references to an HPV vaccine that was never actually implemented, a $5000 Merck contribution and a state autobahn. She was joined by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in blasting Texas for passing(by vote of 177-4) an out-of-state, tuition waiver for Texas Higb School grads; who happened to be the sons and daughters of illegal aliens.

2016 approaches and we are still hearing about the "oops" moment for Perry. And, his questionable debating skills. But what about his actual report card! 14 years is a long time to weigh and assess a Governor's job performance. Most Americans rate "jobs and the economy" as the number one issue. During the past six years, "three of every eight American full time jobs" have been created in Texas. That leaves the other five jobs for the remaining 49 states!

It ain't braggin' if you've done it!

Liberals deeply fear Rick Perry. If you don't believe it, check out the Huffington Post! Perry has been called "George Bush on steroids." In reality, he is decisively to the fiscal right of Dubya. More specifically, Perry is a different kind of conservative. This is where the debate begins.

To truly understand what differentiates Rick Perry from Dubya,Romney, Santorum, Bachmann, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and yes, Ted Cruz, one must first define conservativism.

Rand Paul best did that in his book, "The Tea Party Goes to Washington." According to Paul, "New Conservatives," AKA as "Neo-Cons" support a "large, Washington D.C. based government" having a role to "advance and facilitate conservative principles."

The Charlieston Voice, a Libertarian leaning blog goes one step further is asserting that Neo-Cons "favor big government, preemptive wars and hold strong CFR ties."

Perry, like Paul, falls under the alternative conservative, the Constitutional Conservative. This perception of conservativism is based on a "strict constructionist" view of the constitution. In short, if the 10th amendment did not assign a duty to the federal government, it should be reserved for the individual state.

"Centralist versus Federtalist" is another nethod of drawing the distinction.

Paul and Perry hold similar orientations. Paul's biggest drawback is that he lacks Executive experience. He would be a much easier matchup for Hillary Clinton, the probable Democrat nominee.

Conversely, Perry would create a matchup problem for Mrs. Clinton. Where running against Rand would amount to "scaring the socks" off voters by referencing some of Ron Paul's notions, Perry can simply stand by his record. Hillary defintely doesn't want to get into a "report card" campaign!

Contrary to popular opinion, Americans DO want to hear about achievements in a previous position. Texas is the second largest American state and represents the world's 13th largest economy. It shares a 1200 mile border with a foreign country and is seen as "point" on the immigration debate.

The looming question for Republicans not wanting a Bush, Christie or Romney nomination is "which candidate"(and ticket) would be able to defeat Hillary Clinton?

Everyone can agree that Mrs. Clinton has no record to run on. But, she will have a massive war chest. An opponent holding a "thin" resume will be easy to define and spin. Perry, however, provides nothing, save the normal liberal tripe seen on Huff Post.

It should come down to the "Centralist versus Federalist" preference. Are most Americans "Constitutionalists?" Or, are they "Neo-Cons?" Should this become the litmus test for GOP Presidential wannabees, Rick Perry's chances for the nomination will greatly improve.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Transcending the Brand

It appears that old preferences die hard!

As of this past week, the Christian Science Monitor has dusted off the "Mitt Romney for President in 2016" idea. Hasn't anybody been paying attention?

For reasons highly obvious, the "Dewey-Rockefeller wing" of Republican Party maintains aspirations for a "1968 definition" of conservatism. It amounts to "big government is good. Preemptive wars are profitable. Keynesian economic theory is the way."

All signs from the Sunshine state indicate that Jeb Bush will pass on a Presidential run. This is unfortunate, especially for Wall Street bankers. Jeb Bush, after all, is a banker. And, he certainly has name recognition! Better yet, he successfully governed a "must win" swing state. Even better, he was elected Governor in 2002 with the help of 56% of Hispanic voters.

Fueled by a nine-seat Senate pickup, some in the GOP are evidently overlooking the fact that the electorate voted against Democrats, not for Republicans. The Republican brand continues to be more liability than asset.

Jeb Bush has been out of politics eight years. His soft position on amnesty and support for Common Core better matched the mood of America in 2008. Or, for that matter, 1988. 2014 is new ground. Indications are his time may have passed.

Where would Romney fall in today's mix?

His immigration position is more akin to that of Tom Tancredo, which was reflected in his 27% Latino vote tally in 2012. Common Core and probably Obamacare would be like most positions Romney has taken over the years. As former Utah Governor, Jon Huntsman described, "Mitt's views are like a weather vane."

Credit Romney for recognizing Russia as more menancing than first thought. But, one could also credit Joe Biden for proposing that Iraq be partitioned. Only average intelligence is required to finger Vladimir Putin as a K.G.B. thug! Or conclude that affluent Sunni Moslems and Separatist Kurds are not going to be contented in a governemt run by corrupt, mostly illiterate Shia Moslems!

Which brings the party base to the next question: "If not Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, who?"

The readily available answer for Northeasterners is "Chris Christie." He is a seated Republican Governor in a deep blue state. His tough guy antics are seen by some as "what's needed" in Washington. Never mind those tendencies of the "tap dancer"
that the more perceptive are recognizing with each passing day! In the end, Christie would be another "big government Keynesian who would placate Wall Street."

The question becomes "why" does the party continue to allow the Northeast to dictate nominees. Money? It is certainly not electoral votes. New Hampshire proved with it's re-election of ultra-liberal Senator, Janine Shaheen that it is as deep blue as Rhode Island. Smart money should write the Northeast off as "hopelessly Democrat," and stop wasting resources on it! That includes considering Presidential nominees from this region.

Perhaps it is time to do the unthinkable: "Change the name." It worked for Abraham Lincoln in 1864! There are growing numbers of Independents who might readily join the existing party base. Especially, if it were made clear that the Dewey-Rockefellers were no longer running the party!

In truth, the Republican brand carries mostly negative connotations. A rebranding or renaming of the party to become the "Jeffersonians" would invoke the true ideals of the base: "Smaller government, lower taxes, less centralization, and more individual rights for American citizens."

It amounts to transcending the brand, replacing a label that is considered negative by even the most stalwart members. In one sweep of the pen, conseratives divorce those determined to maintain the anachromism. Their long overdue replacement would truly represent the general paradigm.

Positioning begins with citing the bad. In this case, "we're making a clean break from those in the party who continue to push "big government, preemptive wars, and Keynesian economic theory," because "those positions are more aligned with Democrats and modern liberals."

Yet, identifying the problem is only part of it. Conservatives who make up the base must think both logically and politically. This is easier said than done!

Merely changing the name won't suffice. An appeal to Americans' who consider themselves neither Republican or Democrat must be on the table. It begins with a push to reduce the size, scope and cost of the the federal government. To genuinely do this, one must first become reacquainted with the 10th amendment.

It is here that the Dewey Rockefellers have traditionally raised objections. By citing them as the main detractors from attaining this standard, half of the battle is won. What remains is the need of a true leader, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan.

One advantage Reagan had was the experience of running a large, diverse state. Executive experience and it's importance cannot be underestimated. We have certainly seen the fruits of "on the job training" with our current President!

Reagan had a vision. It began with "reducing the cost of government." Even though he never enjoyed the benefits of a Republican contolled House, his administration scored huge successes. Especially in reviving the confidence of the American people.

Ironically, his primary opponent and later Vice President, George H.W. Bush described Reagan's "Supply Side" economics, as "voodoo economics." Bush was the choice of the Dewey-Rockefellers. Many say he drifted right in later years. But his true orientation surfaced as late as 1993 with support of Agenda 21.

In essence, the base doesn't trust much of the party leadership. No matter how careful the packaging, there will always be memories of Agenda 21, Keynensian economic theory, Common Core and Romneycare. It is time for a new direction, complete with a new standard.

Beginning with "reducing the size, scope and cost" of the federal government.