Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cruising the Web

Marc Thiessen explains how President Obama is applying the lessons of Jonathan Gruber to his foreign policy.
Well it seems, Obama is applying the “Gruber Doctrine” once again — this time to foreign policy.

The Gruber Doctrine is based on the premise that, in the words of the now infamous MIT professor, “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” and that the “basic exploitation of the lack of . . . understanding of the American voter” is “really, really critical” for enacting your preferred policies.

That is precisely what Obama is doing when it comes to Iran and Cuba.
It's been clear that the Obama administration is misleading us about what is in the supposed deal with Iran. It's not a good sign when the Iranians keep saying that the deal is different from what Obama and Kerry claim it says. But Obama will keep saying that there is this deal which is the only possible approach to Iran and hope that most Americans aren't paying attention. And he's doing the same thing with Cuba.
A new poll commissioned by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Roger Noriega for InterAmerican Security Watch finds that Americans do support Obama’s plan by a margin of 51 to 38 percent . . . until they learn some basic facts about Cuba. When Americans are told that Cuba is hosting Russian ships in its harbors, opposition to normalization jumps to 58 percent while support sinks to 30 percent. When Americans are told of Cuba’s attempts to smuggle 240 tons of weaponry to North Korea, opposition jumps to 63 percent and support drops to 26 percent. When Americans are told that Cuba is harboring a cop-killer and terrorists, opposition jumps to 63 percent, and support plummets to 23 percent. When asked whether sanctions should be maintained pending Cuba’s progress on human rights and free elections, Americans agree by a margin of 64-16. And when asked whether Cuba’s designation as a supporter of terrorism should be maintained because it harbors terrorists, respondents agreed 68 percent to 16 percent.

In other words, Noriega says, “When Americans hear basic facts about Castro’s hostility and human-rights violations, they know that the president’s unilateral concessions only emboldened a dangerous, despotic regime.”
But Obama can depend on American ignorance just as they did for passing Obamacare.

The National Journal looks at the vision that Marco Rubio's supporters have for how he might thread his way through to victory. Or how he could just crash and burn. He gives a better speech than any of the other candidates. If he can travel around Iowa and win them over with his personal appearances, he might have a chance. In some ways he's the anti-Hillary. Her announcement on Sunday might have overshadowed his, but it also guaranteed that they would be discussed in the same stories. And his youth, eloquence, and story are stark contrasts to her studied phoniness. He inhabits some of the same ground as his competitors. Ted Cruz is also the descendant of Cuban immigrants. Rubio and Jeb Bush have been friends and allies in Florida and might be going after some of the same financial supporters. He is a fresh, young face like Scott Walker without the executive experience. And he still has to overcome conservative distrust stemming from his stand on immigration. However, Ted Cruz has antagonized a lot of people, including Republicans, and demonstrated a temperament unsuited for governing. Jeb Bush has antagonized even more Republicans and the whole dynasty question rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Rand Paul's approach to foreign policy and echoes of his father are going to repel a lot of conservatives. And Scott Walker has had some notable gaffes that raise questions of his readiness. We'll see if Rubio can avoid the media-generated gaffes that were used to trip up Walker.

The NRO explains why Rubio makes such an attractive candidate.
Rubio is probably the most charismatic potential Republican nominee. He speaks movingly about his love for the United States and the opportunities it has offered him and his family. He is the field’s most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs. These traits alone would be enough to put him in the top tier of Republican candidates.

But he has gone above and beyond that, spending the last couple of years churning out a number of innovative, conservative policy proposals on taxes, higher education, health care, and entitlements. Rubio enters the field with a comprehensive plan for individual and corporate tax reform, which he produced alongside Senator Mike Lee of Utah. The plan is not perfect, but it is an excellent starting point for how conservatives should be thinking about tax policy: It reduces distortions in the tax code, cuts rates for almost all Americans and businesses, encourages corporate investment, and provides badly needed tax relief to middle-class families.

Hillary's biggest fear? The economy.
That’s because the economy has never fully recovered from the financial collapse that President Obama faced when he took office.
The spin from the Obama team on the lousy March jobs report went about like this: Lots of snow and frigid temperatures stopped an otherwise robust economy in its tracks, as people temporarily cut back on eating, drinking and shopping, to the point where employers just didn’t need to hire many new workers.

For those of us waiting for a good laugh, let’s hope Hillary makes these same nonsensical points on the campaign trail.

Fact is, many analysts believe the economy is worse than the headline numbers, filtered through the Obamaites and their media lackeys, suggest. They point to other data that hint things could even get worse in the months ahead.

That weak jobs report alone, of course, should make Clinton fear that — once again — the Obama economy isn’t really getting better.

Again, the headline number sounds good: Unemployment kept steady at a reasonable 5.5 percent, far below the double-digit mess Obama inherited, and not far from our pre-financial-crisis glory days.

But scratch a bit deeper, as many economists and savvy Wall Street investors have, and the economy looks weaker. For example, the real jobless rate — which takes into account the marginally employed and those not looking for jobs, folks who don’t show up in the official stats — is closer to 11 percent, as it’s been for the past year.

Worse, the workforce only gained 126,000 new jobs in March, down from around 200,000 or more a month for the past year.

And a year of 200,000 new jobs a month isn’t much to celebrate: Under President Ronald Reagan, the economy added more than 300,000 jobs a month for 23 months, and had plenty more months above 200,000 over his two terms — and the workforce was smaller then. (Reagan, like Obama, inherited a recession.)

....Consider: The country’s economic growth, as defined by Gross Domestic Product, in last year’s fourth quarter was recently revised downward to a paltry 2.2 percent. And that’s for the period before all the real cold weather kicked in (and before the strong dollar, which hurts exports, really took hold).

All told, the US economy under Obama has grown at an average seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.9 percent — the lowest in nearly 70 years. And it could get worse: The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has cut its projected growth rate for the economy to nearly zero for the first quarter of 2015.

That’s right, zero, which is better than negative — but not enough for Hillary Clinton to be picking new color patterns for the curtains in the Oval office.

Remember when Hillary Clinton told 60 Minutes that she wasn't "some little woman standing by man like Tammy Wynette." Well, it turns out Wynette's story is so much more than that one song title.
It’s certainly true that the late country singer Tammy Wynette was best known for her mega-hit “Stand by Your Man.” But Hillary’s statement was wrong on two counts. In her own life, the thrice-married, twice-divorced Wynette actually did not stand by her men.

Hillary, by any measure, has. In fact, Wynette might be considered a paragon of feminist courage and independence, while Hillary, to win the White House, will have to prove that she has what it takes to accomplish great things on her own.

Here’s some of what Hillary apparently didn’t know about the life of Tammy Wynette. From a start picking cotton on her grandfather’s farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi, Virgina Wynette Pugh rose to become the acknowledged First Lady of country music even before she ended up marrying its king, George Jones. Married as a teenager, she overcame a divorce from her often-unemployed, construction-worker husband to raise three children on her own. To do so, she earned a beautician’s license and worked as a hairdresser, all while singing at night in clubs. Even after becoming a star she kept the license up to date, lest her luck run out.
Hillary certainly never showed that sort of independent toughness. Instead she stuck with her man so she could ride his coattails to success.

The similarities between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney.

Sean Trende notes little problems with the rollout of Hillary's campaign and wonders if they augur anything beyond an inattention to details. He notes Obama ran a flawless campaign in 2008 and contrasts that with Gore and Romney.
This brings me to the Hillary Clinton campaign rollout yesterday. The video was delayed, and ended up being pre-empted by an e-mail from her campaign manager. The press release had a typo, claiming that she had “fought children and families” her whole career. Her TweetDeck photo was positioned such that the checkmark covered her eye. Whatever you might think about the logo, it wasn’t as powerful as Obama’s. It may well be that the lines on an “H” are never going to produce an image as visually pleasing as an “O,” but even taking that into account, the little things were off (the arrow pointing rightward, for example).

If Hillary loses, it won’t be because of a typo in her campaign announcement. There were also good things about the rollout: The actual video was solid. But like her famous email press conference, the risk is that the mistakes are indicative of a deeper problem. These little things are minor, until it emerges that a higher-up in the campaign doesn’t know that the delegates in the nomination battle are awarded proportionally. Then, suddenly, there is a problem. If the race is close, the little things really can make a difference.

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John Podhoretz has several takeaways from Hillary's announcement and the similarities to George H.W. Bush's race in 1988.
3) Reagan could take credit for the changes because he was president. Hillary seems to be attempting to invoke a sense of optimism about the current American condition (at least among Democrats) for which she can realistically take no credit—which is also helpful, because to the extent that people do not feel optimistic, she doesn’t bear any responsibility for the bad feeling either.

4) Optimism is nice. The ad is nice. Hillary probably needs to look nice. She’s trying to look nice. You don’t immediately associate her with the word “upbeat.” Maybe if she spends $500 million to show she’s upbeat, people will come to agree. On the other hand, New Coke.

5) In the end, as E.J. Dionne points out, she has determined to run the way George H.W. Bush ran in 1988—and that Bush ran as “Reagan plus,” with promises to improve education and the environment. But Bush’s “thousands points of light” argle-bargle really had little to do with his landslide victory, as I recounted in my 1993 book, Hell of a Ride (now available on Amazon for the amazing price of one penny). He was Reagan’s third term, pure and simple; in the fall of 1988, Reagan hit an approval rating of 54 percent, and Bush received…53.4 percent. (And this was, of course, a decline of more than five points from Reagan’s 1984 margin of 58.9 percent. In 1986, before he fell into the trough of Iran-Contra, Reagan routinely scored approval ratings in the low 60s—a number Barack Obama has never even approached.)
6) In 1988, all the data suggested the public believed it was “time for a change.” I worked in the Reagan White House at the time, writing speeches for the president, and this was a problem we addressed head on—and helped Bush win as a result. In rally speech after rally speech, Ronald Reagan said, “People say it’s time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are the change.” The point was that the changes of the 1980s had not fully solidified and Bush was needed in large measure to assure that change was not reversed.

7) The bottom line: If Hillary is to be the second coming of George H.W. Bush, albeit a Democrat, Obama better up his game and fast. In the last quarter of 1988, when people were choosing between Bush or Michael Dukakis, the economy was growing by 5.4 percent. Reagan’s signature policies, from the tax cuts to tax reform to the defense buildup that put the Soviet Union on the track to dissolution, were all judged successes by the electorate. Obama’s signature policy, Obamacare, still polls badly—and his foreign policy isn’t looking any too good either, to put it mildly. To win, Hillary needs to be able to take advantage of the “we are the change” idea. Right now, it would work against her. Pretty badly.