Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Problem With Calls For “American Leadership”…Who Exactly Are The Followers?

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As Speaker of the House John Boehner succinctly put it, “A leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk”. It’s not often that I quote the Speaker approvingly but that quote nicely sums up the problem with the right’s constant calls for a more robust form of “American leadership” around the world.

But which countries are screaming to be led?

In the Mideast, the Israelis don’t want to be “led” to a force peace with the Palestinians. The Saudis don’t want to be “led” in their efforts to dominate the Sunni nations around the Persian Gulf. What both want is for America to carry the burden of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The story is the same in Asia. Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and others want American security guarantees from an expansionist China but in other areas, they have their own interests and policy prescriptions.
There’s no sign that India, a major emerging regional power, has any interest in American leadership or even security guarantees against China or Pakistan.

Does anyone think Brazil is interested “American leadership” on how to exploit and profit from its energy resources?

And in Europe where the once was American leadership (for a very brief time following WWII), “old Europe” is clearly uninterested in “American leadership” on any number of issues from economics to defense to dealing with Russia. Granted, in the “new Europe” there are countries that are interested in being seen as reliable partners and friends to the United States. From its participation in Iraq, a willingness to host missile defense bases and CIA black sites, Poland has stood out and been badly used by this administration. But at its heart, Poland’s interests are in security guarantees from a resurgent Russia.

It’s in Russia where calls for “strong American leadership” seem the most ridiculous. During the run up to the Iraq War France and Germany didn’t see fit to be led by George W. Bush (a man the “leadership” brigade would certainly call a strong leader) and even Tony Blair’s UK, as steadfast ally as there was, wasn’t simply “led” into war. Remember much of the time wasted at the UN prior to the invasion was because Blair thought explicit UN approval was necessary or at least desirable.

In the current crisis with Russia over Ukraine, there’s no amount of US “leadership” that is going to get Germany to forego its energy supplies. France won’t commit to not delivering the Russians an advanced amphibious assault ship. And even the usually reliable UK has decided that Ukraine isn’t the hill to give up billions of Dollars, Pounds and Euros sitting in their banks, markets and economy courtesy of Russian oligarchs.

Another example from the Bush years to demonstrate how amenable our ersatz followers are to our “leadership” is Iran.

The Bush administration made it clear they were interested in dealing with the Iranian regime but our European followers got us bogged down in a series of debates and processes at the UN (P5+1) and the IAEA. They ran out the clock on Bush (and were assisted by a mendacious National Intelligence Estimate).

If invoking “America leadership” were all that were necessary to get the world to fall in line, surely George W. Bush was the man to do it
People who talk about wanting “American leadership” aren’t using leadership in the traditional sense of influencing others to pursue a common goal. What they are really saying is they want America to take on the burdens of dealing with whatever problem they want solved. From Europe to Asia and South America to the Mideast, countries don’t want America telling what to do, they want us to come running when they call (you don’t consider the police or fire department your leaders do you? You just call 911 and expect them to show up and solve the problem). They also want to tell us how to solve their problems and reserve the right to complain the entire time we are doing it.

Others want “America to lead” as long as we’re buying. The second we ask others to pay their share for our supposed “common goals”, our leadership is out the window.

There are arguments in favor of America bearing a disproportionate share of the world’s load. People advocating for that course should have the decency to admit they aren’t arguing for shared responsibilities of leaders and the led but for unilateral American burdens that are occasionally covered by a fig leaf of coalition


Mitch McConnell Tries To Take A Shot At Conservatives, Hits Mitt Romney Instead

Bad Aim

Bad Aim


Mitch McConnell tried to take a shot a conservatives who see the government as too big and dangerous to their liberty yesterday. Sadly for him, he wound up hitting a entirely different target.

In a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, McConnell said that Republicans “have often lost sight of the fact that our average voter is not John Galt,” a reference to the persecuted inventor in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged who leads business elites in a strike against socialism.

McConnell said this tendency was a natural outgrowth of the GOP’s emphasis on the free market and business, but one that helped cement the party’s elitist image on an electoral level.

“It’s a good impulse to be sure, but for most Americans whose daily concerns revolve around aging parents, long commutes, shrinking budgets, and obscenely high tuition bills, these hymns to entrepreneurialism are as a practical matter largely irrelevant,” McConnell said. “And the audience for them is probably a lot smaller than we think.”

“These hymns to entrepreneurialism”, are they anything like a candidate for President endlessly talking about the need to focus on “job creators” and how he was “a job creator”? I think they are and I seem to recall someone who fits that bill but I’m pretty sure he’s not a hero to the “going Galt” set.

“Well, it’s pretty straight forward,” Romney began. “You want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for innovators and for job creators. What the president has done instead has made it harder and harder for a small business to grow or for a big business to hire more people.”-Mitt “I am John Galt” Romeny.

Bye everybody. I'm leaving for Galt's Gultch.

Bye everybody. I’m leaving for Galt’s Gultch.

Anyone who remembers anything about the 2012 campaign knows that wasn’t an uncommon (to say the least) invocation of “job creators” by Romney.

And some of us, while not members of the “going Galt” crowd, but are are more sympathetic to that than Mitt and Mitch’s K-Street approach to America, even chided Romney about it.

So yeah, Mitch, keep going on about how government run the Republicans will be better for average people while mocking people you don’t understand. I’m sure it’ll turn out great. Just like 2006, 2008 and 2012 did.

A Simple Message Conservatives Should Adopt: Government Doesn’t Work



One of the problems I have with conservative messaging is it tends to be aimed mostly at people who are already conservatives and a lot of what we pitch to people is too conceptual. We talk a lot about the founding principles of the country and the appeal to traditional values and point to the Constitution as if it that settles the argument.

Now don’t get me wrong, I agree with these things but that’s the catch…I already agree. People who don’t think they are terribly important or in most cases unfamiliar with what those things means aren’t likely to be persuaded by appeals to things like the “proper constitutional role” of government”. You can insist that they should but you can’t actually make them. In many ways we are speaking a foreign language to people like that. It’s frustrating but one of the key philosophical tenets of conservatism is dealing with the world as it is, not as we wish it were.

So how can we appeal to people who don’t share our philosophical approach? Concrete real world examples of why government doesn’t really work.

When I find myself in a political discussion with someone who thinks more government is better or that less government would be a disaster I ask them why they are so confident that government is the answer.

Assuming I’m in the mood to try and change a mind or at least plant a seed of doubt as opposed to being up for a good fight, I’ll respond to their very general (it’s almost always a string of platitudes, liberals or mushy “moderates” tend not to be very deep thinkers about these things) by offering some concrete examples of big government failures.

Head Start is a great place to begin. Everyone wants to do something “for the children” and while it might be a bit pricey ($180 billion since its inception) but you can’t put a price on giving children a “head start” in life, right?

Well, Head Start has been shown time and time again to provide no measurable benefit to the children enrolled. These are scientific studies (We all like and trust science, right? Sure we do!) sponsored in many case not by people who hate government programs in general or Head Start in particular but in many cases by the people who are in charge of administering Head Start.

If I talked about the fact that the federal government has no constitutional role in education no one would listen. My objection to Head Start isn’t rank ideological dislike but rather I’m upset that money is being spent by people who obviously don’t know how to improve the lives of children.

Healthcare is like shooting fish in a barrel these days.
You simply point to the unimpeachable Oregon study showing that it doesn’t improve healthcare outcomes (Again, you don’t disagree with science, do you?), the failing state exchanges, or the disgrace of the Veterans Administration killing American heroes in order to protect their bureaucratic scorecard.

How is the government going to manage the healthcare of millions more Americans when it can’t even manage the ones currently under its care?
Again, my objections when talking to people like this aren’t ideological (well it is but that’s not going to move a non-ideological person, so why go there?), it’s just noting a simple truth…the government hasn’t shown itself to be competent to manage things. If it were maybe I’d be on board with the government doing more (I wouldn’t but again, we never get to that point because governments aren’t competent to do most of the things it takes on).

It’s not a question of getting smarter or more caring people to run things, we’ve tried Democrats and Republicans for 60 years (see, I’m not partisan! I just care about getting the dang thing right!) and these programs just don’t work. Sure the people who created them and do their best to make them work had the best of intentions but you need to use the right tools. You wouldn’t use a piano to fix a car why would you use government to fix all these problems we have today? It’s only common sense that we admit the government will all the best will and money in the world is just the wrong tool. We need to be pragmatic and try something else!

We as conservatives need to think more about how we talk to non-conservatives and try to bring them to our side. Asking them to buy into a philosophy they are unfamiliar with (or worse abandon the one they currently have) is simply an overly large ask. People like to flatter themselves about how rationale and reasonable they are so appeal to that vanity. Present facts of government failure not as a battle of he said/she said ideologies that reasonable people can disagree over but practical examples offered more in sadness than anger.

This approach is not as flashy as demanding that people understand the limitations the founders placed on the government or how the Bill of Rights doesn’t grant rights but recognizes natural rights that existed prior to the creation of the US government. That’s just too big a leap for people who don’t think about or care about that kind of thing.
It’s not sexy and it’s not going to lead to many Road to Damascus type conversion but it sews doubt. It makes people question what they think they know. The left has spent generations creating dogma around the presumed goodness of government. We have to begin the long process of chipping away at that underlying assumption. And it’s not just liberals we have to work on, it’s rank and file Republicans and their candidates too. They are as enamored with government as any lefty.

If you find yourself talking to a liberal or “moderate” don’t try and hit a grand slam, settle for a solid single. String enough of those together and we might make some progress.

“Climate Change” Is The Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel (Michigan Senate Race Edition)

A Democratic Senate candidate in an unexpectedly tough race in a reliably blue state is going to run on “Climate Change” with a side order of Koch brothers. And there was much rejoicing in the liberal blogosphere!

“Michigan is on the front lines of climate change with our Great Lakes and economic system. The Great Lakes are incredibly important for Michigan,” [Democratic Senate Candidate Gary] Peters said. He noted the possibility that climate change could cause “dropping lake levels,” which could have a “big economic impact,” due to harbors on the Great Lakes and the shipping that goes on there. As a result, Peters said, it’s incumbent on Land to take a stand on climate change and what she would do about it.

“This is something elected officials should be talking about — we have to be concerned about it,” Peters said. “Certainly the voters would like to know where she is. It’s a major issue. I think the science shows overwhelmingly that human activities have contributed a great deal towards climate change.”

The Great Lakes are going to be drained because of global warming, cooling, Koch brothers putting in a big straw and sucking out all the water, I don’t know and Peters doesn’t say (they never do, helps to keep their options to blame whatever weather comes up on “climate change”.)

Meanwhile in the real world.

As of April 16, 38 percent of the Great Lakes were covered in ice.

“Normally, only about 3 percent of the Great Lakes are still covered with ice at this time of year,” said [ Senior Meteorologist Brett] Anderson.

So is the planet heating up so much that Great Lakes are going to bubble away to nothing or is the planet so cold that they will freeze over for longer periods of time? It’s a trick question! It doesn’t matter, just institute more government control and raise taxes!

Someone should as Peters what he would do if elected to ensure that Harry Reid brings a climate bill to the floor. Reid has refused to that for FOUR years because it’s electoral poison to many of his red state members.

By the way, the Michigan Senate race is basically a tie at this point.

The Strange “Rubio Resurgence” Article At National Review

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Marco Rubio is back! Or at least on the comeback trail for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination. That’s the take away from Eliana Johnson’s piece this morning at National Review Online.

Having read the piece I’m far less convinced than Johnson is about Rubio’s supposed “resurgence”. Sure he’s doing some talk shows and cutting Spanish language ads for a candidate in Colorado but beyond that the evidence of a comeback is…minimal. And by “minimal” I mean “non-existent”.

Before we discuss the “comeback”, such as it is, we should look at where Rubio was and why he fell from that place.

Shortly after the 2012 elections Marco Rubio was seen as the GOP front runner in polling. Now polling that far out, or even this far out, from the actual campaign is useless but it’s what we have.

Here’s the RCP “poll of polls” from December 2012 (at bottom) to November of 2013.



Rubio went from leading to…not leading. What could have possible occurred around the summer of 2013 that might account for Rubio’s disappearance? Oh, right. He went from opposing amnesty to championing it. You can follow his collapse in polling here.

But according to Johnson, this doesn’t merit a mention in the comeback narrative. You see Rubio’s immigration problem isn’t as bad as Jeb Bush’s. In fact, it’s not even really a problem.

Among the party’s most conservative voters, the former Florida governor is handicapped by his support for immigration reform and for the Common Core educational standards, against which the tea-party base is waging a vocal revolt; Bush lacks the conservative bona fides that would help conservatives overlook his own support for a sweeping immigration overhaul.

Rubio took a significant risk on immigration as part of a bipartisan group of eight senators who joined to propose a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s laws; controversially in the eyes of some Republicans, their plan included a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Though the effort ultimately failed, Rubio’s position is likely to benefit him among the party’s establishment forces: The business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, has long supported immigration reform along the lines proposed by Rubio and the Gang of Eight.

So amnesty is a liability for Bush but Rubio is risk taker who has Chamber of Commerce and some imaginary credibility in the bank with conservatives. (Spoiler, it’s a liability for both with GOP voters)

This is notion that Rubio has credit built up with conservatives that will offset the damage of his amnesty reversal is merely asserted with no actual evidence. Yes, conservatives supported Rubio over Charlie Crist. That was of course at a time when Rubio was seen as an outsider who opposed Crist, most notably over…amnesty (Rubio opposed, Crist supported).

Johnson relies on some odd sources to backup her claim that Rubio is still a tea party favorite but none odder than this one.

“[Rubio] talks about economic growth, but he also talks about kitchen-table issues,” says the Chamber’s Reed, a longtime political consultant who ran Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996. “He talks about foreign policy, and he travels the world. He’s building a strong résumé, and he has the ability to be forward-looking, youthful, and positive. Those are sharp contrasts with the rest of the field.”

Yes, nothing says “tea party hero” like kind words from a US Chamber of Commerce operative who ran Bob Dole’s campaign. If anyone has his finger on the pulse of the GOP grassroots it’s him.

As Johnson notes, Rubio has always been more of a hybrid candidate than a true outsider. He’s a career politician who rose to be Speaker of the House in Florida (not normally considered an outsider position). In fact, Rubio’s only real connection with the tea party was a matter of timing of chance. He’s run for the Senate came just as the tea party was developing and he had the good fortune to challenge Charlie Crist just as the GOP grassroots were ready to rebel against the party establishment after devastating defeats in 2006 and 2008. And Rubio’s challenge got more than a little help from the establishment in the form of one Jeb Bush.

So Rubio is not making any sort of comeback with actual GOP voters and he was never on the outs with the GOP establishment (he simply wasn’t their first choice). So in what way is this a “resurgence”?

Today In GOP Stupidity

Fresh off their victories in North Carolina, the GOP establishment shows it’s the adult in the room by doing the following:

1- On his personal Twitter feed a RNC spokesman calls a fellow Republican who dared to challenge an incumbent Republican a “fraud”. Then deletes the tweet. Because that’s…honesty. Or something.

2- The day after House Speaker John Boehner announces a select committee to investigate Benghazi the Republicans demonstrate to America this isn’t a partisan witch hunt by...releasing a fundraising program based on the Benghazi investigation.


3- Last week the GOP made headlines by releasing a survey that claimed only 65-70% of ObamaCare signups paid their first month’s premiums. Supporters of ObamaCare pointed out the survey period cut off weeks of time when people still could pay and that payment rates would be significantly higher.

The supporters were right and the GOP looks like a bunch of hacks.

But yeah, these are the guys that are going to deliver the goods.

Benghazi Emails And Talking Points: I Just Don’t See The Big Deal

In going back and rereading stuff to see what, if anything, I’m missing everyone else seems to see I think there’s one thing people are using that I’m not sure is such a big deal.

It’s a complicated topic with a lot of separate strands so I’m not going to try and write a comprehensive analysis of everything we know to date. My goal here is to look at one or two of the topics and see where I’m not on board with people I normally agree with.

Let’s start with the talking points.

First we need to be clear that there are two set of talking points in play. The original set were requested by members of Congress who wanted to know what the administration knew in the days after the Benghazi attack so they could answer media questions. These were generated initially by the CIA and went through several revisions as other agencies (State and the White House mostly) weighed in.

The second set of talking points was developed from this first set but included other topics as they were used to prepare then UN Ambassador Susan Rice who was going to go on every network’s Sunday show to talk about Benghazi and the protests/attacks in other parts of the Mideast.

One thing I think we need to recognize upfront is that there’s nothing unusual about agencies preparing talking points and hashing them out in an inter-agency forum. This is an everyday occurrence across the government.

What got things going this week was a batch of emails form the White House which detailed how the administration took the original IC talking points, massaged and expanded on them to prep Rice.

The “explosive” email was from Ben Rhodes, then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser , where he is the one who first says the the Benghazi attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”

This is the thing people are talking about as showing the WH, not the IC blamed the video, right?

But if you look at the IC talking points generated by the CIA they say, (pg.45 of the pdf) “the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi”

It strikes me as Rhodes was using “internet video” and “protests at the US Embassy in Cairo” as interchangeable terms and not without reason. Obama and Clinton had been saying that for 2 or 3 days by then.

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