Monday, January 05, 2015

Cruising the Web

One senator I'm truly going to miss in the new Congress is Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Kimberley Strassel explains how Tom Coburn made a difference in Washington.
What Mr. Coburn does leave is a more informed electorate and a better Republican Party—two groups that benefited enormously from his focus on first principles: adhering to the Constitution, limiting federal government, and protecting individual liberties. In his three terms in the House and 10 years in the Senate, he became most known for forcing Congress (in particular his own caucus) to reconcile its actions against those principles. His long-term efforts to decode the federal government—voluminous reports on waste and fraud, demands for more transparency—were likewise aimed at giving voters the tools they need to hold members true to those principles.

The real key to Mr. Coburn’s success was a skill too little valued in Washington today: hard work. He was an accountant and then an obstetrician before coming to D.C., and never lost that belief that he needed to earn his paycheck. He was in the office every morning by 7:30. He’d read every word of every report his staff gave him—and send it back with typos circled. He read every bill and objected if he wasn’t given the time to do so before a vote. He’d dive into monstrous sections of the federal government—the budget, veteran affairs, disability payments, the tax code—and not re-emerge until he knew it front to back. He was a policy innovator, in particular on health care.

Many was the time this reporter would stumble across some government outrage, and call Mr. Coburn’s office for his take—only to discover he’d written a bill to fix the problem a year earlier. That knowledge was power; he was a formidable opponent because he knew more than the appropriators, the negotiators, the bills’ authors. An all-time favorite line came from one of his staffers who, in the middle of a Coburn budget fight with Congress, wryly commented: “I don’t know why they bother. Fighting with Coburn over the budget is like waging a land war in Asia. You can’t win.”

Another Coburn strength was his skill at practicing politics, without being political. He knew every arcane rule in the Senate and was willing to use them to force a clarifying moment. When he first arrived in Washington, some accused him of grandstanding—until they realized his interest was in shining a light on everyone but himself. The pity is that history rarely hands out awards to those who stop bad things. Tom Coburn blocked more bad ideas and lousy legislation in Congress than most Americans will ever know.

W. James Antle pays tribute to Coburn, calling him the "thinking man's Ted Cruz." He's been so much more than that in his career in the Senate.
The Oklahoman was a rarity. He promised to limit himself to two Senate terms and then kept his promise, even though he could have easily won a third.

Coburn was a real citizen lawmaker, a man who was in his mid-40s and had delivered 4,000 babies — like Ron Paul, the congressman with whom he shared the nickname "Dr. No," Coburn was an obstetrician — before seeking his first elected office.

As Andrew Ferguson observed in The Weekly Standard, "Among 'antigovernment' Republicans no less than Leviathan-loving liberals, our political ranks brim over with men and women whose careers began in second grade with their first campaign for hall monitor."

Not so Tom Coburn.

Coburn also stood out for the respect he elicited from the other side of the aisle, to a much greater extent than other standout conservatives like Jesse Helms in the recent past and Ted Cruz today.

We can't chalk this up to what the conservative writer Tom Bethell described as "strange new respect," the liberal adulation that greets conservatives who suddenly adopt liberal positions....

"You could say Coburn was Tea Party before the Tea Party," The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney quipped.

Indeed he was. Coburn's annual wastebook, in the tradition of the late Democratic Sen. William Proxmire's "Golden Fleece" awards, tabulated the misuse of taxpayer dollars in an easily digestible format.

Heeding former Reagan budget director David Stockman's advice to go after weak claims and not just weak claimants, Coburn was an outspoken foe of corporate welfare. He also did not fail to scrutinize the military budget, supporting Pentagon audits and pointing out that taxpayers were spending more money for less defense.

This defied the liberal bumper sticker slogan about education having all the money it needed while the military had to hold bake sales, as well as the belief held by some Republicans that one's commitment to national security can be measured in dollars spent.

Like Barry Goldwater and other conservative statesmen before him, it probably won't be long after Coburn's retirement before liberals hold him up as an example of how reasonable conservatives used to be, even if they often savaged him when he actually served.

"Even Barry Goldwater" is how the standard liberal lament begins in such cases. Soon it will be "even Tom Coburn."

The government is leaking information to indicate that the Sony hacking was, indeed, done by North Korea. It sounds like they're responding to other reports denying that it was done by North Korea. In the real world, of course, it doesn't matter what anyone leaks for the public; it only matters what is known and done in private. We don't have any way of deciding which set of reports to believe, but I cross my fingers that the government knows what it's doing. We really do seem deeply vulnerable to such cyber threats and it's dismaying to read that the government has been tracking the hackers thought to be behind the Sony attack for years yet nothing could be done to stop their attack.

Harvard Law School has lost to the Obama Department of Education which didn't want the law school to provide too many due process rights to those accused of sexual assault. Rather ironic that the law school can't provided the accused with the same rights that accused outside of school would be accorded and which students at the school are being taught.

Scott Conroy explains what GOP 2016 hopefuls can learn from Jim Valvano.

So President Obama has been working behind the scenes for months for an improved relationship with Putin. He's trying to reset his own reset. I'm sure Putin is intrigued to find out what Obama is prepared to give away in exchange for symbolic, meaningless moves by Putin. After all, it's been working for Iran, Syria, and Cuba.

Oh, what a surprise! Wendy Davis lied about supporting an open-carry law in order to get elected. Now that she lost spectacularly, she's taking it all back. I wonder how many people were deceived in the first place.

Jim Geraghty examines Hillary Clinton's paranoia. Why would her operatives already be pitching dirt on Jim Webb?
It’s not unusual for a politician to have an “enemies list.” But only Hillary Clinton has an enemies spreadsheet....

If anything, going after perceived enemies is an even bigger obsession in Clinton’s circle now than during the 2008 campaign:
To this day she’s surrounded herself with media conspiracy theorists who remain some of her favorite confidants, urged wealthy allies to bankroll independent organizations tasked with knee-capping reporters perceived as unfriendly, withdrawn into a gilded shell when attacked and rolled her eyes at several generations of aides who suggested she reach out to journalists rather than just disdaining them. Not even being nice to her in print has been a guarantor of access; reporters likely to write positive stories have been screened as ruthlessly as perceived enemies, dismissed as time-sucking sycophants or pretend-friends.
It is not hyperbolic to declare Hillary Clinton the most paranoid presidential candidate since Richard Nixon:
Amy Chozick is the reporter tasked with covering the Clintons — and the runup to the now-almost-inevitable Hillary Clinton presidential bid — for the New York Times. Sounds like a plum gig, right? Until, that is, a press aide for the Clinton Global Initiative follows you into the bathroom.

Chozick describes a “friendly 20-something press aide who the Clinton Global Initiative tasked with escorting me to the restroom,” adding: “She waited outside the stall in the ladies’ room at the Sheraton Hotel, where the conference is held each year.”
In this light, Hillary’s allies’ making a ludicrously early and unpersuasive effort to shop dirt on long-shot Jim Webb doesn’t look so unexpected. It’s just what the Hillary 2016 campaign is going to be: paranoid, needlessly nasty, and making unnecessary enemies.

Jeff Jacoby explains
how, despite claims by Democrats, racism has become less of a political factor than it has ever been.
Indeed, for all the controversy over voter-ID requirements and other election-law reforms, black participation in the electoral process is more robust than ever. Accusations that such laws are motivated by a desire to suppress minority voting may be cynical or sincere, but if the proof of the pudding is in the turnout, the black franchise is perfectly sound.

“Voting rates for blacks were higher in 2012 than in any recent presidential election, the result of a steady increase in black voting rates since 1996,” reported the US Census Bureau in 2013. What’s more, with 66.2 percent of black voters casting ballots, turnout among blacks was the highest of any racial group, surpassing the voting rate among whites by 2.1 percentage points. If this is voter suppression, let’s have more of it.

Black turnout has been rising everywhere, even in states dominated by Republicans. Jason Riley, author of the new book “Please Stop Helping Us,” observes that the trend “was most pronounced in red states like Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi,” and that black voter turnout in 2012 surpassed white turnout by statistically significant margins . . . [even] in states with the strictest voter-ID laws.” When skeptical researchers at PolitiFact dug into Riley’s claim, they rated it True.

There wasn’t much joy for Obama or his party in last November’s midterm elections, but the evidence of democratic engagement among African-Americans showed no signs of letup. Black turnout accounted for a higher share of the vote in 2014 than it had in 2010. Once again, it was hard to find significant evidence that voter-ID laws stifled voting, even in GOP strongholds. Looking at seven states below the Mason-Dixon Line, Bloomberg writer Francis Barry found that “the states with a voter-ID requirement, including Louisiana and Florida, had the highest turnout rates; the two states where no ID is required — Maryland and North Carolina — had the lowest.”

Racial tensions obviously haven’t vanished entirely from American life, but for all intents and purposes, racism as a political factor has. As the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act approaches, Jim Crow is dead in its grave, while black electoral vitality in America is alive and well.

Dan Balz looks at the parallels between the Mario Cuomo-Bill Clinton dynamic and that between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton.

Jennifer Rubin sees quite a few reasons for optimism for the U.S. in the coming year. It's a nice change.

Egyptian President al-Sisi has made an extraordinary speech on Islam. Roger Simon compares it to Khrushchev's secret speech on Stalin.
The whole world has been waiting for a long time for the next move of these imams or for somebody, anybody that will modernize Islam as other religions have done.. Whether that will happen, of course, is another question, but what al-Sisi is saying here is in many ways more revolutionary than the “Arab Spring.” People ask, where are the “moderate Muslims”? Well, one of them may be the president of Egypt. The boys from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, etc., etc., are probably not too happy about what al-Sisi said. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the fate of Anwar Sadat for his courage.

Meet the freshmen in Congress.