Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cruising the Web

Could Scott Walker be the sleeper candidate in the GOP nomination fight? Caitlin Huey-Burns argues that he could slip through while people are distracted by the Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney stories.
Recently re-elected to a second term—his third win in four years, considering his success in beating back a 2012 recall effort—Walker is making moves ahead of 2016, to be sure: he hired a top national strategist to run his campaign, with more senior staff hires coming soon, and is creating a political entity to allow him to raise money and travel. He is boning up with regular policy briefings and is traveling to Iowa next week for an early GOP cattle call. But Walker’s approach is more tortoise than hare, steadiness over speed.

Walker isn’t vying to be the top contender in the Republican field—at least not yet. He’s carving out a spot now as Second Best, a candidate who can build consensus among voters seeking an alternative to the establishment or far right, who will be ready if and when a preferred candidate falters.

“He could be the No. 2 choice of a lot of people, and being No. 2 is not a bad place to be,” says a GOP strategist familiar with the field.
Running to be everyone's second choice was how Lincoln won the nomination in 1860. It's not a bad strategy when so many people are dissatisfied with the projected front-runners. Not having a viable second-choice to Mitt Romney in 2012 was the reason why Romney was able to wrap up the nomination. Remember how it seemed that every week there was a different candidate about whom the anyone-but-Mitt efforts centered in the 2012 race? Those candidates such as Gingrich, Santorum, or Cain were not viable candidates, but Scott Walker is a different sort and could well slip through if he could hold out for the long run. I can see him being a much more viable candidate than Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, or Mike Huckabee.

Noemie Emery argues that Scott Walker's lack of a college degree might actually be a plus.

The National Journal examines how the Democrats lost the House - they've lost white, working-class districts.

New FEC rules are drafting new rules that could help the draft Elizabeth Warren movement by allowing groups to raise funds for a chosen candidate even if that candidate hasn't announced that he or she is planning to run.

Rich Lowry writes what few are daring to say - that the problem of Islamic jihadi terror in Europe, and potentially here, must be connected to immigration.
Some of the Paris suburbs are infamously known as “no go” zones, where there is essentially no official footprint. These areas are not just alienated from the French state; they are actively hostile to it.

After cataclysmic rioting emanating from these suburbs in 2005, the phrase “the French intifada” began to gain currency. In a book of that title, author Andrew Hussey describes it as “the guerrilla war with police at the edges and in the heart of French cities.”

This conflict is, Hussey argues, the continuation of France’s long, fraught interaction with colonial populations by different means and on different terrain.

It is exacerbated by the tension Muslims feel between their religious identity and the secularism of the French state, with Islamic radicalism beckoning as a source of perverse purpose.

Although France’s problem has peculiarly French characteristics, bound up in its history and national identity, a version of the Paris attacks could’ve easily happened in Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands or Germany.

They, too, have Muslim populations that, in some areas, haven’t fully integrated.
Why doesn’t the United States have the same problem (although it has experienced its own homegrown attacks)? Its assimilationist machinery, for all its flaws, is in better working order. It is an open, economically dynamic society.

But this is partly a function of numbers. Immigrants to America still largely come from Christian countries and don’t feel the powerful pull of a religious identity putting them at odds with their new country.

This is a rather basic point: The quantity of immigration inevitably affects the quality of assimilation. The elite’s reflex on immigration is always to say “more.”

The populations of many European countries want to say “less.” Their case is stronger after the horrors of the last week, although all the usual obloquy will be heaped on it, and much intellectual and political energy will be devoted to denying that the Paris attacks had anything to do with immigration or Islam.

Addressing a long-ago crisis in Athens, Demosthenes said of those demanding to know his alternative, “I will first give them this answer — the most just and true of all — ‘Do not do what you are doing now.’ ”
Meanwhile, Europe's Jews are starting to feel unsafe in their home countries as an anti-Semitic, Muslim population is going past expressions of hatred to violent attacks on Jewish targets. The murder of Jews at the Kosher store in Paris last week is not the sole attack against France's Jews. There have been attacks in Toulouse and Lyon and other attacks. French Jews are starting to move to Israel where Netanyahu has extended an open invitation. The United States should also extend an open hand of invitation to Europe's Jews fleeing anti-Semitic attacks. How about a bill in Congress to prioritize such immigrants? If the Democratic Party is so wedded to welcoming immigrants, aren't such victims ones for whom we should open the door?

I just saw that an American rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, has a column in the Washington Post arguing the same idea.
The American Jewish community must make it a priority to help Jews in France — and other European communities facing resurgent anti-Semitism. We should use existing immigration law to bring French Jews to the United States on a case-by-case basis. For example, in addition to student visas, we should be exploring H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, J-1 visas for people with medical training and E-B5 visas for people able to invest money in the United States. A rabbinical school in the Bronx, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, is already doing this: The school is actively recruiting French students. The rest of the Jewish community should immediately follow suit and invest more resources into helping French Jews come to the United States.

But to the extent that existing legal avenues do not provide the answer for many of France’s endangered Jews, policymakers must step in to fill the void. First, Congress should reauthorize the Lautenberg amendment, which was passed in 1989 to help Jews emigrate from the former Soviet Union to the United States, with updates to address the current crisis. Other possibilities of legislative reform are being explored by the National Capital Jewish Law Center, which I founded in 2013. Leadership on this issue must begin with President Obama, but it should be a bipartisan effort as well.

Michael Barone argues that Jeb Bush is asking the right questions when he says he plans to run in the primaries in order to win in the general election.
Looking back on my experience as a political consultant, I have argued that successful candidates for executive posts — mayor, governor, president — need to emphasize a short list (three or four) of policies that will work for them in the primaries, work in the general election and, most important, work in governing.

But few candidates manage to do that because it’s harder to do than to say. Republicans are tugged to the right and Democrats to the left in primaries, after which a move to the center is awkward and often unconvincing.

And anticipating what policies will work years ahead of time is always difficult and subject to error, particularly on foreign policy....What I would like to see is many candidates doing what Jeb Bush seems to be setting out to do — emphasizing a list of policy initiatives that could work in the primaries and the general and being the basis of a successful presidency. How many will manage to do so?

Jonah Goldberg describes the problem with Romney nostalgia. Just because Republicans are assured now of what a superior president he would have been to Obama doesn't mean that he was a good candidate last time.
As I’ve been saying for years, Romney has an authentic inauthenticity problem; he seems fake, but that’s actually him. Not only does he look like the picture that came with the frame, he talks like a 1920s college president. Maybe it speaks ill of America that voters put so much stock in empathy and authenticity, but they do.

It’s no secret that Romney took the loss hard. But there would be a great irony in thinking that the 59 million votes he garnered in 2012 indicate a base for him to build off of in 2016. Most of those voters voted at least as much against Obama as they did for Romney. And that’s exactly how the Romney campaign wanted it. “Our whole campaign is premised on the idea that this is a referendum on Obama,” Romney strategist Stuart Stevens admitted to the New York Times. Well, Romney nostalgia, too, is largely a referendum on Obama.

But Obama won’t be on the ticket in 2016. And the idea that a one-term Massachusetts governor, who hired Jonathan Gruber to help design his health-care plan, is just what the Republicans need to run against Hillary Clinton is odd, particularly when the GOP has a much more talented, and fresher, field than it did in 2012.
The WSJ explains why Romney is not the optimal candidate for 2016. He just wan't all the good a candidate against Obama. And there is no indication he'd be any better now.
Mr. Romney’s post-election diagnosis also doesn’t inspire confidence that he has learned the right lessons. He said Mr. Obama won because he promised “extraordinary financial gifts” to voters. “It’s a proven political strategy,” Mr. Romney said. “Giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with.” Maybe so, but if he can’t sell a larger message of growth and opportunity, he won’t defeat Hillary Clinton ’s gifts either.

The GOP should have a strong chance in 2016, after two Democratic terms of trying to take the country sharply to the left. Democrats are already preparing to run a campaign focused on economic populism and government favors to the middle class. With his instinctive belief that “47%” of America would never vote for him, and his inability to defend his Bain record, Mr. Romney would be the ideal foil for such a campaign.

Republicans are likely to have a far better field in 2016, so voters won’t lack for plausible Presidents. It’s hard to see what advantages Mr. Romney brings that the many potential first-time candidates who have succeeded as governors do not.

Byron York suggests that the Republican establishment might give Romney the message that Democrats gave John Kerry in 2008.
John Kerry came closer to becoming president than Mitt Romney did. Kerry lost the 2004 election with 251 electoral votes to incumbent George W. Bush's 286. If one state — Ohio — had gone for Kerry instead of Bush, the Democrat would have been president. In 2012, Romney lost with 206 electoral votes to incumbent Barack Obama's 332. No single state could have turned the election for Romney.

It's little remembered now, but as the 2008 election approached, Kerry gave serious thought to running again. In 2006, Kerry found himself back in Iowa and New Hampshire, laying the groundwork for a second campaign. Even when polls of Democrats found him behind Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Al Gore — at that time, Obama wasn't even on many lists — Kerry still pronounced himself "very encouraged" as he contemplated a return race.

But even as Kerry planned a second campaign, Democrats were moving on. "There was a shift inside the party," recalls Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "People were excited about the prospects of Hillary … and the activist base of the party had already begun to groom other candidates for the future, one of them Barack Obama."

Kerry was a throwback, and the party wasn't interested in throwbacks. In January 2007, discouraged by the reaction his tentative campaign had received, Kerry announced he would not seek the presidency again. "He was in effect bowing to a Democratic Party that was clearly unreceptive and that had turned its attention to new candidates, in particular Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York," the New York Times reported. "Many Democrats had said they expected Mr. Kerry would ultimately decide not to run after assessing how much strength he had in his party."

Seth Mndel explains how Bill de Blasio's ineptness basically guarantees that he'll face strong Democratic opposition in the primaries when he runs for reelection.
Thanks to his maladroit, and at times just plain lazy, management of city affairs, de Blasio is begging for a primary challenger. The fact that crime has stayed low would help him fend off a Republican, but Democratic mayors of New York don’t usually lose in the general; they get primaried. (Starting with Abe Beame in 1977, three consecutive Democratic mayors were unseated in primaries. Beame didn’t even make it to the runoff that year, in which Ed Koch beat Mario Cuomo.)

And ironically enough, the maintenance of public safety makes it easier for de Blasio to get challenged from the left. This is because the election wouldn’t be about law and order; it would take security for granted, enabling the conversation to focus on things like inequality and social justice. Actually, they would only ostensibly be about those things. In reality, a primary challenge to de Blasio would simply be about identity politics.

The reason the last Democratic mayoral primary wasn’t totally about identity politics is because the strongest candidate archetype was the role played by Anthony Weiner: a candidate with an authentic “from the boroughs” persona. But Anthony Weiner couldn’t get out of his own way, and never gave the voters reason to believe he was a changed man.

De Blasio’s ineptness, if it continues, will almost surely attract serious Democratic opposition. He needs to turn around his public image. But to do that, he’d have to listen to the advice he’s getting. And that would be a change indeed.
Of course, the city has to survive his governance until that time.

David Byler explains why the 2016 presidential election will be crucial for determining which party controls state legislatures.
One possible explanation for this trend is the distraction hypothesis -- that when federal offices are up, voters focus on those races and end up voting for the same party down-ticket without really considering how well those officials have done their jobs.

If the distraction hypothesis holds (and there’s evidence that it does), it poses a significant problem for our political system. In our federalist system, elections are the primary method of holding legislators accountable for their actions. If voters dislike how a legislator is doing his or her job, they have the option of electing someone else. But these presidential “coattails” disrupt that mechanism.

For example, suppose the Republican-controlled statehouse and Senate in Nevada govern well and pass popular laws, but the Democratic presidential nominee carries the state in 2016. If history is any guide, those Republican lawmakers would suffer electorally despite their policy successes. The same thing could happen to Democratic state legislators in a state that a Republican presidential candidate wins.

In other words, the 2016 presidential election does not just matter because a new president will take the Oval Office -- it matters because both candidates will significantly help or hurt their party’s state legislative candidates across the country.

John Podhoretz explains why the idea of Mitt Romney entering the Republican nomination fight could be a good thing for the Republican Party since he'll siphon off votes from Jeb Bush thus leaving the way clear for a more exciting candidate to slip through.
But while they may be acceptable to a great many voters, it’s unlikely anyone outside of the admittedly vast Bush family network or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is going to be wildly excited by either.

And Republicans want someone who will excite them. They don’t want to default to the boring pick.

A Mitt-Jeb faceoff would therefore atomize the race. It would ensure there would be no serious frontrunner in any realistic sense by the time the debates begin in earnest in the fall. At which point, the race would probably crack wide open.
For those debates won’t resemble the 2012 clown-car embarrassments in any way other than that they’re likely to feature a lot of candidates. The people likely to run in 2016 are not also-rans, wannabes or just plain weirdos.

Heather Wilhelm warns Christians that they should used to blasphemy since, if we're going to support Charlie Hebdo's satirical cartoons on Mohammed, Christians will have to learn to accept more "Piss Christs."
One reason to do so is practical. The ultimate irony of the Islamist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, of course, is this: In an attempt to eliminate “blasphemous” content, the murderers may have helped revive a once-struggling and almost bankrupt publication, elevating it to almost-mythic status. Before the attacks, Charlie reportedly published 60,000 copies, selling 30,000. Print numbers of this week’s post-attack issue—featuring, of course, yet another image of “The Prophet”—may reach up to 3 million.

The second and more important reason to live and let live, however, is philosophical. It boils down into one simple sentence: The freedom to worship what we want is inextricably linked to the freedom to blaspheme what we want. This is not a new or novel concept. It’s the very bedrock of the ideals of the Enlightenment, from Voltaire onward to America’s founding fathers. What is new, however, is the fact that Christians, long slammed as “intolerant” and “close-minded,” might now be among the leading candidates to take up its banner.

Many Muslims have spoken out against the Charlie Hebdo massacres, but it seems unlikely that a major Islamic movement, given the constraints of that particular faith, will soon go all out and celebrate offensive, “blasphemous” speech. Meanwhile, in a rather curious development, secularists—once the champions of free speech the world over—seem to be increasingly retreating into fragile, hypersensitive shells. In many areas of modern life, in fact, aggressive secularists look more fundamentalist than ever, issuing speech codes, howling over various “offenses” and “microaggressions,” and panicking over college guest speakers.

Years after it burst onto the scene, thanks to its bizarre government funding—which was the real problem with “Piss Christ” in the first place—a simple photo, 60-by-40, remains a lightning rod. Do Christians need to embrace “Piss Christ” and declare it great art? Of course not. You may, like me, prefer a bold new avant-garde work, crafted by a young and up-and-coming artist, courageously titled “Big Man. Big Undies. Big Poo.”

That said, should Christians protest the burial of “Piss Christ”? I certainly think so. Should we have the cultural confidence to celebrate and support the right to any and all offensive free speech in America, even if it’s aiming straight at us? Absolutely. Our faith is strong enough to handle it. Our freedom to worship depends on it.

So where have all the billions of dollars that the world, particularly the U.S., sent to Haiti after their catastrophic earthquake?
Nearly five years after a 7.0 magnitude quake killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens, Haiti’s recovery efforts remain muddled and confused, with the whereabouts of the billions of dollars pledged by the international community an apparent mystery to the country’s leaders.

“We don’t know where the money has gone,” Raymond Joseph, former ambassador of Haiti to the U.S., said Friday in an interview on Bloomberg’s “Market Makers.”

In 2010, Haiti was rocked by a deadly earthquake that claimed the lives of between 200,000 and 300,000 people. In response to the tragedy, the international community pledged an estimated nine billion dollars in foreign aid to help Haiti's recovery efforts.

However, according to Joseph, much of the pledged cash never made it to Haiti. And the money that did make it to Haiti has mysteriously disappeared.
It's a good question for both Bill and Hillary Clinton since both were prominently involved in aid to Haiti. And it's also a salutary lesson about the weaknesses of foreign aid.