Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cruising the Web

Who would think that we are at a point in our nation's history where such a list as this is even possible, but this is where we are with this President. Ilya Shapiro lists "Obama's Top Ten Constitutional Violations of 2015." He keeps taking executive actions and spending taxpayer money without any authorization from the Congress. I hadn't heard of some of the items on Shapiro's list, but it's all of a piece with how Obama has acted throughout his presidency. And I'm sure he is planning similar actions for his last year in office. And if Hillary is elected, she'll continue in the same model. Since Obama has gotten away with these sorts of actions and there doesn't seem to be anything Congress can do about it, the precedents are now in place for future presidents to keep extending their executive authority so that the idea of having a government of checks and balances will be just a distant memory. It really breaks my heart to contemplate what has become of the carefully constructed system of government set in place by the Founders.

And it won't be just Democrats who are stretching the Constitution. Donald Trump campaigns and makes promises as if the Constitution doesn't even exist. Rich Lowry laments the "post-Constitutional moment" that the right is experiencing now as Trump leads a populist movement built on one man's personality and vague, blustering promises. Lowry reminds us how many of the politicians elected by the Tea Party grounded their appeal in the Constitution and arguments for limited government. Contrast politicians like Mike Lee and Rand Paul and how they ground their arguments in the Constitution with Trump.
Trump exists in a plane where there isn’t a Congress or a Constitution. There are no trade-offs or limits. There is only his will and his team of experts who will figure out how to do whatever he wants to do, no matter how seemingly impossible.

The thought you can’t do that never occurs to him. He would deport the American-born children of illegal immigrants. He has mused about shutting down mosques and creating a database of Muslims. He praised FDR’s internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.
You can be forgiven for thinking that in Trump’s world, constitutional niceties—indeed any constraints whatsoever—are for losers. It’s only strength that matters. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he expresses admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a “powerful leader” who is “highly respected within his own country and beyond.” Trump’s calls to steal Iraq’s oil and kill the families of terrorists are in a Putinesque key.

For some on the right, clearly, the Constitution was an instrument rather than a principle. It was a means to stop Obama, and has been found lacking.

Trump is a reaction to Obama’s weakness but also to his exaggerated view of executive power. Trump rejects the former, but is comfortable taking up the latter. Whereas Obama has a cool contempt for his political opponents and for limits on his power, Trump has a burning contempt for them. The affect is different; the attitude is the same.
His crowds support him because they perceive him as strong and that's what they want now. They enjoy his rhetoric and its slap in the face of political correctness. Talk show hosts like Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham who used to celebrate the Founders and the Constitution when blasting the Democrats now seem to have forgotten about it when it comes to Trump. This is what happens when the limits on power in our government are ignored by one side. Soon the other side wants to do it themselves. And there will be people who want to cheer on the sense that they're getting to win this time. But that is not how our system is supposed to work. And, as Lowry concludes, if conservatives no longer stand for the rule of law and limited government, who will?
A pure populism is inherently in tension with constitutional conservatism. The Constitution is a device for frustrating popular enthusiasms, as are federalism, checks and balances, and the rule of law. It’s why impassioned factions usually have very little patience for them, and why they are so central to checking government and protecting individual rights.

If the right’s devotion to them wanes, it will be a loss not only for conservatism, but for the American polity.
It reminds me of Sir Thomas More's lines from A Man for All Seasons.
And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
I truly tremble for the country.

Mark Krikorian echoes Ben Franklin's concern
that we will have a republic, "if we can keep it."
But if we don’t want the November election to be between two post-constitutionalists, where we vote simply on which Duce will rule over us for the next four years, we need to persuade first GOP primary voters, then the broader electorate, why the preservation of our republican norms is vital to America’s liberty, independence, and prosperity. We can’t do that simply by pointing out what a nitwit Trump is.

This coming year will help clarify whether the American people actually still want a republic – whether we are still fit for self-government. Or whether things have changed so much that a critical mass of our countrymen will respond as Britannicus did in I, Claudius, when his father laid out his plan to restore the Roman Republic: “I don’t believe in the Republic. No one believes in the Republic anymore. No one does except you. You’re old, Father, and out of touch.”

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Jim Geraghty wonders how far Trump's insult shtick will take him. There's a long list of insulting things that Trump has said over the years about individual women based on their personal appearance. Even when a woman is beautiful like Heidi Klum or Megyn Kelly, he still manages to insult her.
Sure, some people love Trump, the Insult-Comic Candidate, but many others don’t. In a development that could shock only the most blindly faithful Trump supporter, he’s polling terribly among women. In Quinnipiac’s latest poll, only 25 percent of women have a favorable opinion of Trump, compared with 68 percent who view him unfavorably. His lack of appeal to women has remained fairly consistent from pollster to pollster throughout the year.

At what point does Trump recognize he’s already locked up his base, and try to broaden his appeal beyond it? Does he even bother? Has anyone told him that women are a larger segment of the electorate than men — 53 percent in 2012 — and that Mitt Romney won only 44 percent of them? Right now, Trump is getting 33 percent of women in a head-to-head matchup against Clinton, and she’s consistently beating him in head-to-head polling matchups.

Are more insults going to fix that perception problem? Can you win a majority of electoral votes while running around the country sounding like a hybrid of Andrew Dice Clay and Don Rickles? And if that style leads the Republican party to its third consecutive defeat in a presidential election, who’s really getting “schlonged”?
Of course, Trump is fully confident that he'll be able to bring in the women's vote. They're going to love him.
Trump, for his part, has publicly stated he’s not concerned about troubling signs in the polls among female voters. Pressed about whether it’s a problem that 6 in 10 women said they don’t believe Trump represents them on their issues, the businessman told CNN in August that he’ll do “great” with women.

“I will be the best thing that ever happened to women,” he said. “I cherish women.”

Josh Kraushaar looks at how New Hampshire moderates and party insiders are split among several GOP candidates and that is helping Trump and perhaps Cruz.
The splin­ter­ing of the cen­ter-right vote cre­ates the pos­sib­il­ity of a worst-case scen­ario for es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans in New Hamp­shire. If none of the can­did­ates surges over the next month, Trump and Cruz could eas­ily fin­ish in the top-two spots. The latest Real­Clear­Polit­ics polling av­er­age in the state shows Trump lead­ing with 28 per­cent, and Cruz and Ru­bio tied with 12 per­cent apiece.

The pro­spect of Cruz lead­ing Ru­bio, Christie, Bush, and Kasich in New Hamp­shire would be an em­bar­rass­ment to party lead­ers, and makes it very dif­fi­cult for the es­tab­lish­ment to unite be­hind any­one be­fore the del­eg­ate-rich March primar­ies.

Cruz hasn’t spent much time in the state (16 days this year), and his brand of con­ser­vat­ism is a tough sell with a mod­er­ate, less-re­li­gious GOP elect­or­ate. But if the tra­ject­ory of the GOP primary doesn’t change in the next month, it’s pos­sible there won’t even be a cred­ible al­tern­at­ive to Trump and Cruz by the time Su­per Tues­day comes around.

Since it's getting near the end of the year, it's time for end-of-the-year lists. Chris Stirewalt has a good list of "the seven deadly stupidities of 2015 political coverage." It must have been hard to limit the list to only seven.

We could add to Stirewalt's list the Washington Post cartoonist, Ann Telnaes, who thought it would be a good idea to mock Ted Cruz's humorous ad showing him reading mock Christmas books to his cute daughters by depicting them as organ grinder monkeys. Really, that is what a cartoonist thinks is funny? She seems to think that her satire was justified because Cruz used them in his video and thus they're fair game. Well, as Mollie Hemingway points out, many politicians use their children or grandchildren for political purposes. She points to ads showing the Obamas and their daughters in 2012. And Hillary has started a new campaign targeted at Hispanics with a picture of her and Bill with their granddaughter and titled "7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela." So will cartoonists now go after the Clinton grandbaby as fair game? Of course, it seems that it is only the children of Republicans who are fair game. Jim Geraghty excavates some of these attacks.
But some of us remember the Bush daughters and their issue with underage drinking on the cover of People magazine in 2001, when they were 19, and Julia Styles imitating Jenna Bush on Saturday Night Live. And we remember David Letterman joking about Sarah Palin’s daughter getting “knocked up” by Alex Rodriguez at a Yankee game.

And we remember the Post’s Robin Givhan writing an entire column about the clothes of John Roberts’ children.
That article criticizing the clothing that little kids were wearing to hear that their father had been nominated for the Supreme Court as one of the lowest of all these attacks.
In other words, we remember lots of times that Republican politicians’ kids were mocked, ridiculed, or criticized, and nowhere near as much outrage as the Facebook post of a previously Congressional staffer. And we start to suspect that a lot of people in media don’t actually think that politicians’ kids should be off-limits; we conclude they really believe that only the children of politicians they like are off-limits.
With all the flutter over the cartoon, one aspect that the Washington Post didn't address when the editor Fred Hiatt pulled the cartoon was that the cartoonist was depicting the young children of a Hispanic candidate as monkeys. Just imagine the cataclysmic reaction there would have been if Obama's daughters had been depicted that way.

However, this could be a great thing for Ted Cruz. What is better for the GOP electorate than a candidate with a righteous complaint against how the media treated his daughters? He's already fundraising off his indignation and he's tweeted out a cartoon showing Hillary walking her two lapdogs the New York Times and the Washington Post. I don't know if Cruz or a campaign operative thought of this, but that's a clever response to turn the whole contretemps back on the media and their support of Democrats.

Adrian Gray notices something about recent polls about the polls of the Republican race. They're polling a lot more people without a college degree than usually make up the sample in polls of Republicans in primaries.
He is skeptical that we're going to see an electorate in the primaries that is made up of over two-thirds those without a college degree. Perhaps Trump really is changing the electorate so drastically, but I too remain skeptical.

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Ah, so this is what 2015 was all about - it was the "Year of the Toilet." How precious.

Chalk up this prize for Hillary Clinton - she has ranked in 5th place on GQ's list of "Worst People of 2015."It's a strange list of people who really were awful and others who are on the list for no particular reason. Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for gay couples is number one followed by Cameron Crowe because GQ just didn't like his latest movie. Yeah, that makes sense. Anyway, for what it's worth, here is their characterization of Hillary Clinton.
Remember Cool Hillary Clinton, back when she was checking her phone with her sunglasses on like a BAWSE and getting drunk with foreign dignitaries on Instagram and shit? Yeah, that Hillary Clinton is gone, kids. Hopelessly corrupt pander-bot 2008 Hillary is back! And remarkably, she seems to believe—yet again—that her lengthy history of cynical, bought-and-paid-for leadership somehow entitles her to the presidency, as if her entire campaign strategy is “I didn’t betray my principles and sell out every last one of my constituents NOT to be president, you guys!” I hope she keeps that Gmail account open. She’s gonna need it after blowing this election.

The NYT fact-checks Rubio's statement on Putin and decides that, even though we don't have the sort of proof that would convict Putin in a court of a law, Rubio's characterizations of Putin's crimes are basically what our government and other Western governments have accepted.

Rand Paul airs his Festivus grievances with the other candidates. How fitting for a campaign this year that often seemed to be a Seinfeldian campaign about nothing.

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This is a setback to the arguments from lefties who seem to think that it is unconstitutional for a state to cut off funding from Planned Parenthood.
A federal judge has ruled that the state of Utah can cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, reversing an earlier decision requiring the state to keep funding the abortion provider.

Utah cut off funds to Planned Parenthood after undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress showed the organization negotiating to sell tissue from aborted fetuses. Planned Parenthood later revised its policy to stop receiving reimbursements for fetal tissue in the wake of the release of the videos.

Planned Parenthood sued Utah for cutting off state funds, resulting in a temporary restraining order to keep funding the organization on the grounds that abortion is a constitutional right. Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups overturns the temporary order, concluding it would set a bad precedent if the state is denied the right to end contracts at will. The ruling also makes the point that the exercise of political discretion from elected leaders is not something that courts should be encroaching on.
Abortion may be legal, but it has never been required that government fund those abortions. For years we had a federal policy, the Hyde Amendment, that was attached to federal spending bills to prevent federal money from funding abortions. Why would that have suddenly changed just because Democrats are outraged that Planned Parenthood has gotten such bad press that states don't want to fund it?

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Merry Christmas to all my readers celebrating Christmas tomorrow!