Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Moderate Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus (who was anti-war) does a number on Senator Chuck Hagel's so-called courage:

"Saying "the war was wrong but the surge is worth a try"--that would be courageous. There's no ready-made constituency eager to cheer a pol who says that.

Bucking your party to actively fight against the war when it would have made a difference--that would have been courageous.**

Hagel hasn't done either of those things. Instead, he let loose at the precise moment when letting loose was least brave and least timely. Lest the MSM miss the point, his eruption took the form, not of arguing that his Republican colleagues were wrong, but of denouncing them for, in effect, being cowards, unlike you-know-who:

If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. ... Don't hide anymore; none of us.

Never mind that the anti-surge resolution Hagel has cosponsored is all about hiding. It has no binding effect. But it does provide Senators who supported the war a convenient bit of late-inning skepticism they can point to when trying to save their skins."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

If history is any guide, Hillary Clinton will not be the next President of the United States. There is one thing that all elected U.S. Presidents over the last forty years have in common (besides gender) and that is they all lost political races prior to becoming President. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II all suffered the agony of losing a political race. I do not believe that this is a coincidence. It seems through losing they ended up winning. Like most people they learned from their mistakes.

The top-tier presidential candidates this time around with the exception of Hillary all suffered political defeat as well. Romney in 1994, Rudy in 1989, McCain in 2000, Obama in 2000, and Edwards in 2004. Whether Hillary can overcome this factor remains to be seen (as she already had one competitive race), but I would not be surprised if it hurts her.
Governor Mike Huckabee was on Meet the Press today. He did a good job but seemed a little rehearsed as opposed to an authentic guy. He barely laughed when Tim Russert showed footage of Huckabee playing at the Governors Association Meeting and then launched into a speech about how he thought it was wrong that we have cut funding for arts and music in schools (which I am not even sure is accurate). In general, I didn’t notice a single proposal to cut any program.

It seemed all the problems that libertarians have with the President: that he is too big a spender and too focused on social issues is magnified with Huckabee. Yet while Bush is a graduate of Yale and Harvard Business School and as a former businessman himself he can appeal to a wide range of voters, Huckabee’s support will be considerably more limited. He is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and his past work experience is as a preacher.

He can be a spoiler but not the nominee. Republicans should be encouraging him to make another Senate run not a run for President.
A lot of Democrats can't understand why anyone voted for President Bush in the last election. I have trouble understanding why anyone voted for John Kerry. This is Kerry at his worst. For an elected official to make comments on a prominent foreign stage, seated nexted to the former leader of Iran, is just awful. Sadly enough, his harsh rhetoric was reserved for American foreign policy and not Iran.

Friday, January 26, 2007

In defense of America's Mayor

There has been a lot of nonsense going around in the Conservative world that somehow Mayor Giuliani is a liberal. Anyone, who has followed his career, knows that Mayor Giuliani was about as conservative a mayor as possible for one of America's most liberal cities. While many conservatives talk a big game, Mayor Giuliani actually implemented many conservative principles on economics and crime. This article does a good job in defending his record.

Additionally, in a party that is having trouble retaining the suburban swing-voters (most of whom are pro-choice and tend to be socially moderate-to-liberal), the GOP could do far worse than one of the most successful big city mayors of recent times and a true leader in a crisis situation.
Apparently, Scooter Libby doesn't expect a pardon according to the liberal journalist, Josh Marshall. I am not sure why Scooter Libby believed he wouldn't be pardened by the President. If President Clinton was able to get away with pardoning wanted fugitive, Marc Rich (Libby was his lawyer), why would President Bush not pardon Libby?

However, in light of the recent court strategy taken by Libby's lawyer, this appears to be the case.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Realclearpolitics has a good bit on New Gingrich. I happen to agree with his argument that we should make English the official language of this country. It is both good politics and good policy lest we have the problems that Canada now has.

"American civilization eventually will collapse if government doesn't do a better job assimilating immigrants into society, possible GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Wednesday as he urged Congress to enshrine English as the nation's official language.
The former House speaker said political correctness and multiculturalism are clouding the debate about language.

If you are pro-immigration to America, you should be pro-assimilation into English as the common language because in fact your children and grandchildren will have a dramatically better future if they are part of the common commercial civilization," Gingrich said."

However, it would be important to soften this type of legislation with some kind of comprehensive immigration reform bill. I believe that if you could put this into some kind of legislation package dealing with illegal immigration, Conservatives would be more amenable to supporting an immigration bill and I think Democrats would take a big political risk alienating many Reagan Democrats by opposing the legislation on the grounds that it is unfair.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More bad news for Republicans, Kerry is not running in 2008. Republicans should get a draft Kerry movement going:-)
As expected, Jim Webb's self-congratulatory speech with empty rhetoric has been praised by the media. However, as liberal Newsweek journalist Jonathan Alter points out in an otherwise praiseworthy evaluation of Webb's speech:

"The problem with the populist theme is that Democrats have no real remedies for the effects of globalization on the middle class. And they are not yet entirely clear on what should be done in Iraq."

As someone who has researched executive compensation, I can tell you that most government involvement to curb the practice has backfired in the past and may do so in the future. The government in the 1990's was concerned about rising executive executive compensation, especially in cases where the managers were generously compensated but thought to have done a lousy job and stock price had not performed up to expectations. As such, the government gave tax incentives to issuing stock options as stock options were thought to be a good way to condition compensation based on company performance (also known as pay-per-performance). An additional incentive was the expense sheet benefits (stock options didn't hve to be expensed). Just on a side note, when the SEC advocated for expensing these options, Silicon Valley and their advocates like Nancy Pelosi (that champion of the working man:)) successfully fought against it on the grounds that stock options were impossible to value.

The granting of stock options as compensation, far from curbing executive compensation actually exacerbated it. At a recent Senate Hearing, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox stated, "[a]s a Member of Congress at the time, I remember the stated purpose was to control the rate of growth in CEO pay. With complete hindsight, we can now all agree that this purpose was not achieved. Indeed, this tax-law change deserves pride of place in the Museum of Unintended Consequences".

The best way to curtail executive compensation is through disclosure, which SOX has already addressed (although it can be quite costly and there has to be a cost/benefit analysis) and through shareholders. For the most part, government can do very little additionally to curb executive compensation without significantly hurting the private sector and the stock market.

If Senator Webb has any additional ideas, he should state what they are. Until then, he should keep quiet and avoid making platitudes. Most people recognize that there is some egregious compensation but recognizing the problem and being able to craft a workable solution are two different matters.
I hope Scooter Libby's defense is not going down this road. Libby has every right to be angry as it is not even clear that he committed a crime and if he did, it was probably inadvertent. That said, even in the event he is convicted he was almost guaranteed to be pardoned by the President if he stayed loyal. His career would be hurt by a conviction but not ruined (see Elliott Abrams).

However, if his defense is predicated on blaming everything on Karl Rove and claiming he was the White House's fall guy, he may be found not guilty but his political career is probably over and in the event he is convicted he may not get the pardon.

Currently, the Vice President is standing behind him (and I suspect will continue to do so), I am just hoping this doesn't become a huge media story where Joe Wilson is once again seen as this great victim.
President Bush gave a good but not a great speech tonight. Under the circumstances, I think he did as well as he could. As I have mentioned previously, I don't like Senator Webb. Senator Webb claimed he would not give a "partisan speech" tonight. He has an odd definition of partisanship as his speech was as a partisan as one could imagine.

He blamed Bush for Iraq while simultaneously continually praising himself. He emphasized economic inequality and "robber barrons" (notwithstanding the fact that many of those "robber barrons" donate quite generously to his party). That said, unfortunately a good portion of Americans can't see past this empty rhetoric and I suspect his speech will be well-received.

Republicans did quite well when they attacked people like Teresa Heinz Kerry who complained about tax cuts for the "wealthy" while they simultaneously and hypocritcally avoided paying taxes themselves. Republicans should defend themselves through ad hominem attacks if need be. I have no problem with any ultra-wealthy person voluntarily paying more in taxes and would actually encourage it. I do have a problem when they seem to believe that upper-middle class professionals should bare the brunt of the taxes, while they setup tax loopholes to avoid doing so.

Despite Democratic rhetoric, many of the billionaires in this country are partisan Democrats (Eli Broad, George Soros, Ted Turner, Haim Saban, to name a few) or very non-partisan. There is a reason Republicans win amongst middle class voters, they actually represent their interests. Republicans should not let themselves get tagged the party of the rich, while the Democrats are going to fundraisers on Park Avenue and Beverly Hills.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I will be the first one to say I was wrong about the President's poll numbers. I previously believed they would rebound after the midterm election as I couldn't imagine that they could get much worse. However, this recent cbs poll shows that his approval numbers are now at the lowest point of his presidency.

Until either the Iraq War turns around or we withdraw, it doesn't seem that he will be able to advance any kind of domestic agenda.

With tomorrow's state of the union, it seems he is betting the remaining part of his presidency on Iraq. Let's hope it pays off.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

An interesting tidbit on the Miers nomination:

"Bush's decision to nominate Miers was driven by his determination not to repeat his father's mistake with Souter. Of all the possible nominees, he knew Miers best, and he knew she would not change. She had been involved in the selection of Roberts; in fact, Miers had originally worried that he wasn't conservative enough. Bush was confident that she wouldn't disappoint."
So much for loyalty. The infamous FEMA Director, Michael Brown, who was a disastrous and unqualified director and was appointed to the position because of cronyism repaid the White House for their loyalty.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "'We can't do it to Haley (Barbour) because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

It is disappointing when a person who owed his job to the White House and was defended to his political detriment by the President would do this. Bush's strongest personal asset is his loyalty but it may also be his weakest one politically as it seems to override his judgment. (Brown, McClellan, just to name a few).
Hillary Clinton has officially announced (in a surprise to almost no one) her candidacy for president. The one surprise is how she characterized her upbringing:

"I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, and we believed in that promise," the 59-year-old Chicago native said."

She, in fact, grew up in an upper-middle class suburb as the daughter of an executive. While not super wealthy, I am sure her father was either in or close to the two percent of wage earners that received a tax cut that she continually rails against.

Then again, she also claimed to be a lifelong Yankee fan:-)

BTW, I am not sure if Al Gore can make a credible run for President given all the problems of options backdating at Apple computers, where he is an active member of the board.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Romney-Too many shifts

In some ways, I would like to support Mitt Romney, if my favored candidate Rudy Giuliani doesn't run.

(1) He has an amazing resume. Romney was an excellent student who got in to Stanford before transferring and graduating first in his class at BYU and then obtained a JD/MBA from Harvard. He proceeded to advance up the corporate ladder at Bain, one of the top consulting firms in the world before starting up Bain Capital, a very successful venture capital firm. He did by most accounts a very good job managing the 2002 Olympics games and then went on to win election as a Republican in a very blue state.

(2) He looks extremely presidential. In this day and age, where a picture is in many cases more valuable than a speech, Romney has a commanding presence and seems to be straight out of Hollywood casting.

(3) He and not McCain has picked up the better economic advisors for his campaign including Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw (who btw has an excellent blog). I believe Romney is the most knowledgeable credible candidate about ways to create economic growth, which to me is right after national security/foreign policy in importance.

However, Romney is a difficult guy to support. In the last two elections, Republicans portrayed (correctly) the Democratic candidate as a flip-flopper who stood for very little but winning. Romney, so far appears to be the epitome of this.

Romney campaigning in 1994 for the Massachusetts Senate was a liberal Republican in the mold of William Weld. He is now campaigning to be the conservative candidate in the primaries. He has gone on social issues (to paraphrase one Republican) from being Jerry Nadler to being Jerry Faldwell. Yet, unlike many who become more conservative with age or because of some profound event/events in their life, he has never plausibly explained the switch in positions. For example, what motivated his recent switches on guns?

Many candidates modify or switch a position or two to win a primary but his problem is it appears that on almost every important social issue he has modified his position in the last two years. While in 2002, he was more of a moderate than a liberal Republican, he still held most of the same positions he had stated in 1994.

Given his dearth of political experience, a one-term governor who has very little in the way of accomplishments to run on and would have most probably not been re-elected, I would be hard-pressed to support someone like Romney in the primary without some kind of explanation for this drastic shift. Even with an explanation, I am not sure I would want him as the Republican nominee (I believe you should be popular enough in your own state to win re-election before seeking the presidency) but I would be more amenable to doing so if he could given a more plausible explanation for his shift on so many issues other than political positioning.

The 2002 Romney struck me as an improved version of George H.W. Bush, the new Romney strikes me as an improved version of John Kerry.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Although Senator Boxer's questioning is getting most of the media attention, the most offensive comments from the whole episode came from Congressman Abercrombie:

Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii called Miss Rice "the most overrated, underperforming individual in executive authority that I have ever seen." "She constantly gets a pass," he told the Honolulu Star Bulletin this week, days before the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day. "Who knows if the whole question of race and gender come into it, but ... I can't account for it, except to say she isn't up to the mark."

I happen to believe Rice is probably overrated but I don't think race or gender has anything to do with it. She is PR savvy, attractive, likeable, and tends to have a less hawkish outlook than some other foreign policy leaders in this adminstration, all of which help account for her being less criticized in the media than some of her counterparts. Furthermore, she appeared to have less of a role in the lead up to the Iraq War than say Rumsfeld or Powell.

Do you think if a Republican raised the same issues, the media wouldn't be all over him/her? Talking about passes, it seems like Congressman Abercrombie is getting one so far.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Is this the "libertarian west" that Ryan Sager and other pundits speak of?

"There’s a saying in North and South Dakota politics: The voters send Republicans to the state capitol to be conservative with their money, and they send Democrats to Washington to bring back other people’s money."

Somehow, I haven't bought the argument that Republican's Senate, Gubernatorial and Congessional losses in the west in 2004 and 2006 is either recent a phenomenom (MT, CO, AZ, NM have always had Democratic Senators) or that was in motivated primarily by the recent lack of Republican fiscal discipline (although admittedly I would like Republicans to improve on that front).
Charles Krauthammer makes some good points on the federal funding of stem cell research. However, regardless of the merits or drawbacks to the federal funding of stem cell research, the country as a whole is in favor of it and it is a divisive issue for Republicans. With a few exceptions, the Democrats are fairly united on the federal funding of stem cell research.

I cannot help but wonder if the best scenario for Republicans from a purely political standpoint, would be for the Senate to also pass the bill, a subsequent White House veto, and then an override of the veto (with a few conservative Democrats flipping to override and thereby breaking their campaign promise).

Presumably, this could take the issue off the table in '08 and help Republicans defeat Democrats in GOP-leaning districts. I admit there is the possibility of this backfiring but right now I think this is the best bet if there cannot be some kind of political compromise on the issue.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

See Wes Clark’s offensive remarks and commentary over at powerblog. In addition to his remarks being offensive, it also demonstrated how influenced Democrats are by money. Democratic activists constantly chide Republicans for being beholden to corporate interests but Republicans get money from a much wider variety of sources than Democrats do. Democrats tend to get their money from: trial lawyers in the south, Wall Street and real estate tycoons in the Northeast, and Hollywood and Sillicon Valley in the West. Any Democratic presidential hopeful despite all his/her populist man of the people rhetoric spends a good deal of time courting these groups and can ill afford to piss any of these groups off.

While Republicans raise a lot of money from “big business”, Republicans mainly get it because they are in fact supportive of big business and tend to be supportive of even businesses or people that don't support them. Goldman Sachs, gives more to Democrats than Republicans but you never see Republicans attack them. Even Martha Stewart, who is a huge Democratic donor was defended by the Conservative Wall Street Journal op-ed page and Republicans like Larry Kudlow. Since Democrats claim to be the party of “main street” and “average joe” and not “Wall Street”, one wonders what Democrats promise people on Wall Street in return for their support.
There is a good post on Harry Reid at realclearpolitics.
Harold Ford Jr. apparently has no shame. He wrote this in an article for Blueprint Magazine:

"Predictably, the other side once again tried to capitalize on traditional "wedge" issues -- such as gay marriage, gun control, and abortion -- that have plagued our party in recent elections. But their effect was muted by two key factors. First, most voters understood that our positions were squarely in the mainstream of Tennessee voters. Second, in the face of almost 3,000 American troops killed in Iraq and skyrocketing debt and deficits here at home, voters saw the GOP's wedge issues as divisive diversionary tactics to hide the appalling governing failures of the last six years."

Conveniently and disinengenuously, he forgot to mention that the Republican effort to win based on these "wedge issues" was muted because he actually ran to the right of Bob Corker on social issues. He was against gay marriage, pro-gun, and he even blamed Roe v. Wade on Republicans since the majority of justices in that decision were appointed by Republicans. He futhermore, ran a protectionist campaign which he came out strongly against illegal immigration and harsh measures to curtail it and came out strongly against any trade agreements.

But of course in his mind he ran a campaign on the "real issues" facing America.