Shortly after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama invited Republican leaders in Congress to a White House meeting. The House members brought a proposal with ideas for stimulating the economy, then suffering through the Great Recession. In the meeting, Eric Cantor, then the House minority leader, suggested a small business-related tax cut. A few days later, Obama complained Republicans had decided to oppose his stimulus before he had spoken to their conference. Republicans had a reason. House Democrats had already drafted the bill without consulting them. Every GOP idea had been left out.There were deals that were out there between Obama and more moderate Republicans, especially in early 2009 when Republicans were so shellshocked from the 2008 election. But Obama disdained doing so. Obama disdained Bill Clinton-like triangulation and continued to govern from the far left whether he had the votes or not.
This was Obama’s first mistake. At the time, Republicans were ripe for the picking. They had lost both the House and Senate in 2006 and the presidency in 2008. They were terrified. A concession or two—even small ones—would have gone a long way toward gaining their votes. And Republicans would inherit part ownership of the stimulus package. No concessions were offered. Every House Republican voted against the bill, as did all but three in the Senate.
Then came Obamacare and the second mistake. The president and Democrats were in a hurry. They didn't have the time or the inclination to seek Republican support. Instead, the health care bill was put together, in secret, in the office of then-majority leader Harry Reid. No Republicans were invited to the drafting party and none voted for it. Democrats became sole proprietors of Obamacare.
The third mistake was the handling of Dodd-Frank, which increased regulation of financial markets. Republicans were interested. And Democrat Max Baucus, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and now ambassador to China, was negotiating with Republican Bob Corker on a bipartisan bill. But Obama and liberal Democrats feared Baucus was conceding too much. So the measure was snatched from the committee and written without Republican input. Just four GOP senators and three House members voted for it.
Mistakes one, two, and three were the beginning of a disaster for Obama. He and his party have an explanation for blowing off Republicans. In 2009 and 2010, they had large majorities in both chambers and didn't need GOP votes. So why compromise? They could pass exactly what they wanted without adulterating their signature initiatives with Republican ingredients.
Politically speaking, this approach was justified. But there's a rub—a very big rub. There happens to be great value in compromise and bipartisanship. On most legislation, those features don't matter. On big matters that involve the entire country and affect most Americans, they are critical. They act like a seal of national approval. When both parties agree, controversial measures are no longer in serious dispute. When one party insists on having its way, controversy lingers....
As bad as Obama's relations were with Republicans in his first two years, he's managed to make them worse since then. He's benefited not at all from this. In 2011, he and House speaker John Boehner agreed to a $4 trillion deal of spending cuts and tax hikes—the so-called grand bargain. But the agreement unraveled when Obama insisted on hundreds of billions more in tax revenue. At that point, Boehner pulled out, saying he couldn't trust Obama to honor a deal. Obama threw away a breakthrough that would have enhanced his presidency. Another mistake.
Thus ended Obama's efforts, minimal though they were, to get along with Republicans in Congress. Reelected in 2012, he announced he would use his pen and the phone to handle Congress. He mainly used the pen. Rather than negotiate with Republicans, he turned to executive orders and memoranda. No need to compromise on those. He routinely exceeded his constitutional authority. He issued presidential orders on matters Congress was already working on and might enact. This was a fifth mistake.
As Barnes recommends, Republicans shouldn't get drunk with the power they have right now. They will be stronger if they govern from the center-right and try to bring in a few Democrats rather than ramming things through from the hard right.
For Republicans, there's a lesson in Obama's experience. It's a simple one: don't spurn negotiation and compromise. In this, the filibuster may be their friend. Republicans can repeal Obamacare with 51 votes in the Senate. But they will need 60 to replace it, when Democrats unleash a filibuster. Republicans will have to find at least eight Democratic votes. The more they get, the better. A bipartisan replacement, with emphasis on free markets and patient choice, is bound to have flaws. That's the price of compromise. But the replacement won't be doomed to an early death like Obamacare.There is a deal to be made on tax reform along the lines of the 1986 tax bill. There are enough controversial items on the GOP and Trump agenda, but they shouldn't eschew the areas where compromises are possible.
Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball site takes a look at the dangers the Democrats are in for the 2018 Senate races.
A potential silver lining for Democrats is that they head into the 2018 midterm as the party that does not hold the White House, and the “out” party typically makes gains down the ballot in midterms. But it will be difficult for Democrats to make Senate gains in 2018: Despite being in the minority, they face a near-historic level of exposure in the group of Senate seats being contested in two years, Senate Class 1.Given those narrow victories, particularly in some red states, there are many vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2018. Those Democrats should be potential compromise targets for the GOP. And that means more than inviting them for a meeting at Trump Tower and then ignoring them afterwards.
It’s hard to overstate how disappointing 2016 was for Democrats in the Senate. Yes, the party did net an extra two seats by defeating Republican incumbents in Illinois and New Hampshire despite Hillary Clinton losing her bid for the presidency, so the next Senate will be 52-48 Republican. But given that for most of the cycle it looked like Clinton would win the White House and also deliver the Senate, the Democrats clearly did not realize their potential this year.
One of the big reasons why the Senate majority appeared in reach for the Democrats in 2016 was that the Republicans were, and still are, overexposed in Senate Class 3, the 34 seats that were up for election this past November. Republicans controlled 24 of 34 seats on a map where they had made substantial gains the last two times it had been contested, the GOP wave year of 2010 (when the Republicans gained six seats) and President George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 (when they gained four). But the GOP largely held the line and now hold a 22-12 advantage in this Senate class, which won’t be up for election again until 2022, which could be President Donald Trump’s second midterm election (although that’s of course a very long way off).
Always looming over 2016, though, was the 2018 map. Including the two independents who caucus with the Democrats, the party holds 25 of the Class I Senate seats that are up for election in 2018, while the Republicans hold only eight. Again, a look back at the last few times this group of seats was contested explains the Democrats’ exposure. After Republicans netted eight seats on this map in the 1994 Republican Revolution (and party switches by Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado from Democrat to Republican would essentially make it 10 by the time of Campbell’s switch in March 1995), Democrats made big gains in Class 1 in both 2000 (four) and 2006 (six). Going into 2012, it appeared that Democrats would lose seats, but they upset expectations and instead gained two, which is why they are so overextended now.
I know the temptation will be for Republicans to serve up the Democrats every bit of revenge possible for past slights and rule-twisting that Harry Reid employed. But in the long run, they can build a more long-lasting legacy and have more of an impact if they strive for a bit of compromise. I'm not sure Donald Trump has it in him, but the guy who brags about the art of his deals should know that compromises come from both sides giving up a little for the greater good. The GOP hardliners such as Ted Cruz who would rather grandstand than make a deal have been a bit sidelined by this year's election results. If Republicans want to keep those Trump Democrats who helped turn some of the blue wall states red, they're going to have to get some things done. Brinkmanship and ideological showboating are not the path forward.
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Chuck Schumer is going to have his own problems on his side of the aisle. In 2006, he led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and was able to shrewdly choose more moderate Democrats to run in red states and take back control of the Senate. It helped that the Iraq War was going very badly at the time and Bush was at the nadir of his popularity. But things aren't going to be so smooth for such maneuvering now because there is a left wing of the party led by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders that will insist on staking out intransigent positions.
Outside agitators are signaling that they're ready to crack down on Democrats if they attempt to chart the sort of pragmatic course Schumer might pursue to put Republicans on the defensive and protect Democratic senators up for re-election.Well, there goes the idea of compromise. It's not clear if there are a few Democrats who are willing to ignore party leadership on repealing and replacing Obamacare in order to craft a compromise. It won't be as easy as sloganeering would make it seem.
"We encourage all Democrats to follow Elizabeth Warren's lead. Don't cave; fight," said Kaitlin Sweeney, a spokesman for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, referring to the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who is revered on the left.
Schumer's developing strategy to maintain unity and keep outside groups at bay hinges on taking a no-comprises approach to defending and preserving Obama's legacy. That means, for instance, refusing to work with Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"We don't feel compelled to compromise for the sake of compromise, which I think the Left is afraid of," said a senior Democratic Senate aide, who requested anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.
Schumer expects that this approach will satisfy the hardliners in his party and grant him the license to act with tactical and ideological flexibility when he believes a pragmatic approach would benefit his goal of picking up seats in 2018....
That could involve compromise with Senate Republicans, or at least giving vulnerable Democratic senators like Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; and Claire McCaskill of Missouri the freedom to do so.
It also could involve triangulation.
Schumer is prepared to work with the Trump to secure liberal priorities and sideline congressional Republicans.
Ramesh Ponnuru takes a look at the gender gap and where it stands since the 2016 election. As he writes, the marriage gap is actually larger than the gender gap. And this has been true ever since the media started talking about a gender gap with Reagan.
While Donald Trump did better among male voters than female ones by 11 points, his support among married voters was 15 points higher than it was with unmarried voters. Married America voted for Trump by a solid margin (52 to 44 percent), while single America voted for Hillary Clinton in a landslide (55 to 37 percent).The marriage gap may result mostly from who makes up married couples. They tend, as Ponnuru points out, to have higher incomes and often are more religious. They also skew older. Two researchers have found differences in how Trump's election relates to the marriage gap compared to previous elections.
These patterns have held for every presidential election since 1984, when exit pollsters started differentiating between married and unmarried voters. In 2008, for example, John McCain scored five points better among men than among women, and 19 points higher among the married than among the unmarried.
Wilcox and McEwan note, first, that the Republican advantage among married people extended to the county level: The higher a county’s ratio of two-parent to single-parent families, the more heavily it voted for Trump. But the researchers also point out that the married and the unmarried voted more similarly in 2016 than they did in 2012. The marriage gap fell by six points. That’s the largest shift we have seen and the only decline. The marriage gap had steadily widened from 1984 (when married people favored Ronald Reagan by 10 points more than unmarried people) until 2012 (when Mitt Romney did 21 points better among the married).
The county data they examine tells the same story. Swing counties, the ones that flipped from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to supporting Trump in 2016, had a higher proportion of single-parent families than the solidly Republican counties that supported Romney in 2012.
Wilcox and McEwan suggest that the decline of the married two-parent family in those counties may have made voters who live there more attracted to Trump. It may have reduced their sense of both economic and social security, and made them feel that what they value about America is slipping away.
Jonah Goldberg has an intriguing column on how to decipher Trumpspeak. His analysis is based on an observation by Salena Zito who observed in The Atlantic during the campaign that "The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally." Goldberg buys in to this analysis, just as Trump and his aides do.
As a defense of some of candidate Trump’s statements, this distinction is not bad, and as an indictment of the media, it’s pretty good. The press treated Trump as a joke, not appreciating the fact that for many voters, the media’s scorn is a badge of honor....However, as Goldberg writes, this might have been fine for candidate Trump, but it's a disaster for President Trump.
On his own terms he’s an outsider and a “disrupter” who claims that political elites range from stupid to malevolent. He also has zero experience in foreign or domestic policy. What he says — and how he says it — takes on greater importance precisely because he lacks a track record in public office to put his language in context.
This seriously-not-literally thing is a great analytical insight into how then-candidate Trump communicated with his supporters. But it is fairly ridiculous hogwash as a prescription for how to treat an actual president, or president-elect, of the United States.Surely, as a businessman, there must have been times when he had to watch what he said so he didn't mess up a deal. Though he's been more of a reality star than a regular businessman in recent years so maybe he's lost that skill. We've already seen how his tweets about Boeing affected the stock price; just wait for him to start riffing on foreign policy.
When Trump says millions of people voted illegally, how should the news media go about taking that indefensible claim “seriously but not literally”? Should reporters assume that some number of people voted illegally, but not millions? Or that millions of people voted, but not illegally?
When Trump says he spoke on the telephone with the president of Taiwan, should China be expected to take what it sees as a grave violation of diplomatic norms “seriously but not literally”? What does that even mean?
Perhaps we shouldn’t take the literally–seriously distinction too literally. Perhaps what Trump supporters really mean is that he should get a free pass whenever his mouth gets him in trouble?
Trump has said, “I know words, I have the best words.” He’s also said he could be more presidential than anybody, except maybe Abraham Lincoln. He’d be well advised to take his own words seriously, if not literally.
What a president says matters. And credibility — with citizens, allies, enemies, and markets — is a finite resource, easily depleted when you think you’ll never be held to account for what you blurt out.
Victor Davis Hanson looks at what President Obama said in his 2016 State of the Union concerning Obama's accomplishments back then and annotates Obama's triumphalism to reveal what a transient and sparse legacy Obama has.
Now that he will be leaving, how well did these initiatives listed in the press release actually work out?
“Securing the historic Paris climate agreement.”
The accord was never submitted to Congress as a treaty. It will be ignored by President-elect Trump.
“Achieving the Iran nuclear deal.”
That “deal” was another effort to circumvent the treaty-ratifying authority of Congress. It has green-lighted Iranian aggression, and it probably ensured nuclear proliferation. Iran’s violations will cause the new Trump administration to either scrap the accord or send it to Congress for certain rejection.
“Securing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Even Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton came out against this failed initiative. It has little support in Congress or among the public. Opposition to the TTP helped fuel the Trump victory....
“Destroying ISIL” and “dismantling al Qaeda.”
We are at last making some progress against some of these “jayvee” teams, as Obama once described the Islamic State. Neither group has been dismantled or destroyed. Despite the death of Osama bin Laden, the widespread reach of radical Islam into Europe and the United States remains largely unchecked.
“Ending combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The Afghan war rages on. The precipitous withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeepers in 2011 from a quiet Iraq helped sow chaos in the rest of the Middle East. We are now sending more troops back into Iraq....
Democrats claimed Russian interference in the recent election. If true, it is proof that there is no such thing as “cybersecurity.” The WikiLeaks releases, the hacked Clinton e-mails and the Edward Snowden disclosures confirm that the Obama administration was the least cybersecure presidency in history.
“Growing the Open Government Partnership.”
The NSA scandal, the hounding of Associated Press journalists, some of the WikiLeaks troves, and the corruption at the IRS all reveal that the Obama administration was one of the least transparent presidencies in memory.
“Honoring our nation’s veterans.”
Obama’s Department of Veteran Affairs was mired in scandal, and some of its nightmarish VA hospitals were awash in disease and unnecessary deaths. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign amid controversy. Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized for issuing an offensive report falsely concluding that returning war vets were liable to join right-wing terrorist groups.
Also writing about how Obama's actions hasn't lived up to his rhetoric, Elaina Plott writes about his vow to keep lobbyists out of his administration. He issued an executive order right away banning lobbyists who had lobbied on an issue from working in his administration on that issue. Sounds good, but it's not working out exactly.
As it turned out, however, the order’s effect didn’t end influence-peddling as we know it—it just pasted a new facade onto an old game.Ah, the "to seem rather than be" ploy.
Lobbyists stopped calling themselves lobbyists—they “deregistered,” in industry jargon, downsizing to less than 20 percent the amount of time they spent facilitating meetings between a corporate client and officeholders, and upping their time spent “consulting for” and “educating” that client. According to American University government professor James Thurber, who tracks the industry, there were 2,905 fewer lobbyists registered in DC in 2016 compared with 2009. Suddenly, working as a “strategic adviser” never sounded better—something one prominent Democratic lobbyist refers to as a “self-reclassification of people in Washington” that ultimately led to less transparency, not more.
“At one point, lobbyists were eager to register and show off how many clients we had, how big our portfolio was,” says the lobbyist. . . . “But nobody wanted that mark anymore.”
Case in point: Steve Ricchetti, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff. At the end of 2008, Ricchetti—whose lobbying clients included AT&T and the American Bankers Association—deregistered. So when Biden tapped him in 2012, Ricchetti didn’t need a special waiver. He was unregistered, yes, but he was still president of his firm, where he had made $1.8 million the year before. The revolving door was still spinning, and by 2014, according to a Politico analysis, the White House had hired more than 70 staffers who had once been registered lobbyists.
“It’s clear at this point it was a branding exercise,” says lawyer/lobbyist Jack Quinn. “I was always able to present my case to people in government. I haven’t had difficulty in the last eight years in making sure that my clients are represented. It was still business as usual.”
Michael Barone has an interesting column about the Electoral College and California. Having lived in California for graduate school from 1978 to 1983, I well remember when it was a Republican state. But it's become now an intensely Democratic state since then and keeps trending more and more Democratic.
White middle-class families have been pretty much priced out of the state by high taxes and housing costs, and the Hispanic and Asian immigrants who have replaced them vote far more Democratic.Barone points out that California may well continue to vote differently from the rest of the country and that will lead to more splits between the popular vote and the Electoral College decision.
Those developments have put California increasingly out of line with the national average. In 2012, six states and D.C. were more Democratic. In 2008, it was eight states and D.C.; in 2004, it was seven. Now it is only one — and not by much.
The trend is recent — and clear. California was about 14 points more Democratic than the nation this year, versus 10 points in 2012, 9 points in 2008 and 6 points in 2004 and 2000. In the nine elections before that and after California passed New York to become the most populous state in 1963, the average of California’s Democratic and Republican percentages was never more than 5 points off the national figures. In four of the five elections between 1964 and 1980 (the exception was the McGovern year, 1972), it actually voted more Republican than the nation as a whole.
If California continues to occupy one extreme of the national political spectrum, there may well be more such splits — at least until the Democratic party figures it needs to make a case with more appeal beyond California if it wants to win 270 electoral votes.
All of which prompts renewed arguments about the Electoral College. The case for abolishing it is simple: Every American’s vote should count the same. But it won’t happen. Two-thirds of each house of Congress and 38 of the 50 state legislatures will never go along.
The case against abolition is one suggested by the Framers’ fears that voters in one large but highly atypical state could impose their will on a contrary-minded nation. That largest state in 1787 was Virginia, home of four of the first five presidents. New York and California, by remaining closely in line with national opinion up through 1996, made the issue moot.
California’s 21st-century veer to the left makes it a live issue again. In a popular-vote system, the voters of this geographically distant and culturally distinct state, whose contempt for heartland Christians resembles imperial London’s disdain for the “lesser breeds” it governed, could impose something like colonial rule over the rest of the nation. Sounds exactly like what the Framers strove to prevent.
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I like Daniel Henninger's characterization of Donald Trump as the Lady Gaga of political performance art.
Lady Gaga once talked about the doubters in an interview: “They would say, ‘This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It’s not marketable.’ And I would say, ‘My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.’ And look . . . I was right.”
Who does that sound like?
In “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump described what he was up to: “I play to people’s fantasies.”
Anti-Trumpers will say: Precisely. We can’t have a performance artist as president of the United States.
That’s irrelevant now.
In four years it may be possible to say that making a performance artist president was a mistake. But that will only be true if he fails. If the Trump method succeeds, even reasonably so, it will be important to understand his art from the start.
So far, the media and the comedians are stuck in pre-Trump consciousness. You’d think the comedians would get it, but getting laughs from left-wing audiences has taken a toll....
Donald Trump treats the truth as only one of several props he’s willing to use to achieve an effect. Truth sits on his workbench alongside hyperbole, sentimentality, bluster and just kidding. Use as needed.
Another important distinction: Performers merely entertain. Performance artists challenge, subvert and alter. They may be slightly crazy, but they’re crazy serious, though usually a little unclear about where they’re going.
Donald Trump’s voters believed the country was going in the wrong direction—the most powerful metric in the election. They thought he was the one person who shared their sense of wrong direction. These voters wanted to move from point A (Obama) to point B (post-Obama), and they were willing to see the facts bent if indeed they could arrive at point B, such as an improvement in their economic well-being or escape from the politically correct alt-left.
Treating the presidency as political performance art has multiple liabilities. An initially exciting performance can turn tedious. I’ve talked to Trumpians, die-hards from day one, who think the tweets worked in the campaign but not for the Oval Office. An overworked exclamation point loses its meaning!
Will Donald Trump, like Madonna, be driven to ever more outrageous public performances (“Cancel order!”) to keep the world’s attention trained on his persona? From Beijing to Washington, he’s got the world’s attention.
In light of that interpretation of Trump, is this news such a shocker?
President-elect Trump will hold onto his title as executive producer of NBC reality TV show "Celebrity Apprentice" as it debuts next month, weeks before he is sworn into office.
MGM and NBC will credit creator Mark Burnett, then Trump, and on to the new host, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., according to a report by Variety on Thursday evening. Schwarzenegger is also an executive producer, along with Page Feldman and Eric Van Wagenen.
Trump's press secretary Hope Hicks also confirmed Trump's continuing role in the show, telling a reporter Trump has a "big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett."
For those worried about Trump's nominating retired military to top-level positions, the Washington Examiner reminds us that Obama named three retired generals to top positions in 2009.
Obama's initial team included, as pointed out by the Washington Examiner's Jamie McIntyre on Wednesday: retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones as national security adviser; retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki as veterans affairs secretary; and retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence.So if a president is viewed as being skeptical of or even disliking the military, it's a good thing for him to have them advising him. If a president admires the military (except those who get themselves captured and tortured as POWs), it's a dangerous trend. Right.
The jobs they filled were indeed different than the ones Trump's generals will fill. Much of the controversy over Trump's selections comes from nominating a retired general, only three years out of uniform, to be defense secretary, which is not the same as a retired general running the VA. Yet others focus squarely on the number of retired officers tapped so far, and the possibility that Trump will choose more.
The Journal said Trump's selections may symbolize "Mr. Trump's reaction to the Obama presidency. The Obama White House is widely seen as being leery of the Pentagon's power and the agendas of its generals ever since the decision to 'surge' troops into Afghanistan in 2009."
Press accounts of Obama's selection of two generals and an admiral seven years ago, however, were framed not as a sign that people should be wary, but more as an olive branch to an institution that didn't trust its new president.
"Military officials say that a big step in Mr. Obama's campaign to build their trust was his retention not only of Mr. Bush's defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, but also his appointment of three other military men to top positions," the New York Times wrote Jan. 30, 2009 in an article headlined "After Campaign Push, Obama Cultivates Military."
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Congratulations to Raleigh Charter High School where I teach. The real estate website, Niche, has rated us as the number two school in North Carolina.
And we're rated number one for teachers. Woo hoo! I love working there and have the highest respect for my colleagues with whom it's an honor to work. The kids and families are pretty great also.