Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category
Megan McArdle, who I really like, says that Trump voters (and other angry Americans) should face reality: nothing in Washington can be changed. Very cynical of her, or as she says, "realistic". Yes, the federal bureaucracy has a huge amount of inertia, but McArdle neglects to mention a few things that a President has significant control over.
Washingtonians, unlike the people making the demands, actually have to analyze the feasibility of these various sorts of requests. When they do, they quickly see that they are impossible, and set about finding innovative ways to ignore them. The insiders who need to get elected nonetheless say, "Yup, I'll get right on that," and then ignore them.
This makes people think that Washingtonians don't care about them. This is false. Washingtonians do care. It's just that they seem to have misplaced their magic wand.
The second problem has to do with Item No. 4: Everything you do in Washington is a compromise. There are a lot of people in the country, and most of them don't care about what you want. To get money spent or unspent, taxes raised or lowered, you have to give those people something they do want. The result is an ugly mess with little resemblance to the original plan.
Don't like it? Welcome to representative democracy. If you have a plan to deal with this problem that doesn't involve fantasizing about the sudden (but nonviolent) disappearance of more than half your fellow citizens, we're all ears. Otherwise, this is what we're stuck with.
But the next president will be able to do lots of things that will have a huge effects:
- Appoint judges
- Appoint various commissioners
- Negotiate treaties and trade agreements
- Direct the military
- Issue (and negate) executive orders
- Set law enforcement priorities for the Department of Justice
- Use federal funding to pull strings on state and local governments
- Sign and veto laws
Iowa caucus results make the Republican primary a three-man race.
Talk of Donald Trump's unstoppable momentum is over. As the race for the Republican nomination speeds into New Hampshire today, the campaign has morphed into a three-man contest.
Ted Cruz won Iowa in such a decisive manner that the Republican National Committeewoman for New Hampshire went so far as to call Trump the "underdog now" while another GOP operative said more donors are suddenly eager to fund an ad campaign against the New York billionaire.
I like Rubio, but I'm apprehensive of his lack of executive experience (see: Obama). I don't much like Trump, but I admire his executive experience. I like a lot of what Cruz says, but could he run the country?
Ezra Klein analyzes the interview styles of Trump and Rubio and concludes:
One reason Trump is ahead in the polls is that he's simply better at this than his opponents are -- he talks directly to the electorates' id, while his establishment-lane challengers keep trying to win over Washington's superego.
(HT: Scott Adams, who should get royalties from Vox.)
Ann Althouse (with Glenn Loury) wonder whether there's an imminent preference cascade in favor of Donald Trump among "smart, educated people".
"It troubles me that there can't be a serious discussion about immigration issues because people are afraid of being called racist. People are afraid of being called a bigot. And I think one of the things that people like about Donald Trump -- those who like him -- is that he's going ahead and saying it, and it's creating a kind of inoculation against something people have feared so much, which is being called a bigot. It's just too effective to call people bigots, and a lot of people are very intimidated and silenced and don't even want to talk about certain issues because they don't want to be called that. So I think part of his popularity is: He goes there, he says it, he takes the hit, and it still works for him. So that's a kind of a liberating change in the discourse."
If there's a preference cascade, don't forget that Scott Adams predicted it in August!
Marco Rubio is questioned by an atheist on the influence his faith will have on his potential presidency. I'm super-impressed.
WaPo has posted detailed "will this matter?" article about the numerous allegations of sexual abuse that have been made against Bill Clinton, and how the allegations might derail Hillary's campaign. The article covers several of his accusers:
- Broaddrick had accused Bill Clinton of raping her in 1978, when she was working on his Arkansas gubernatorial campaign.
- Willey, a former White House volunteer, said he had attempted to kiss and grope her in a private hallway leading to the Oval Office.
- Jones, a onetime Arkansas state employee, sued Clinton in 1994 for sexual harassment, saying he had three years earlier exposed his erect penis to her and asked her to kiss it.
And, of course, the biggest of all was the scandal over Clinton's extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, who was a White House intern at the time. Diane Blair, a close friend of Hillary Clinton, wrote in her journal unearthed in 2014 that the then-first lady had privately called Lewinsky a "narcissistic loony toon."
But the authors neglect to mention what might be the most damaging scandal: Bill Clinton's close friendship with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
A new lawsuit has revealed the extent of former President Clinton's friendship with a fundraiser who was later jailed for having sex with an underage prostitute.
Bill Clinton's relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, who served time in 2008 for his illegal sexual partners, included up multiple trips to the onetime billionaire's private island in the Caribbean where underage girls were allegedly kept as sex slaves. ...
Tales of orgies and young girls being shipped to the island, called Little St. James, have been revealed as part of an ongoing lawsuit between Epstein and his former lawyers Scott Rothstein and Bradley Edwards.
It is unclear what the basis of the suit is, but they go on to call witness testimony from some of the frequent guests at Epstein's island to talk about the wild parties that were held there in the early 2000s.
Flight logs pinpoint Clinton's trips on Epstein's jet between the years 2002 and 2005, while he was working on his philanthropic post-presidential career and while his wife Hillary was a Senator for their adopted state of New York.
'I remember asking Jeffrey what's Bill Clinton doing here kind [of] thing, and he laughed it off and said well he owes me a favor,' one unidentified woman said in the lawsuit, which was filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court.
The woman went on to say how orgies were a regular occurrence and she recalled two young girls from New York who were always seen around the five-house compound but their personal backstories were never revealed.
I'm sure there are more details waiting to be revealed.
In his first paid campaign ad, Donald Trump says that he will get Mexico to pay for for a border wall to stop illegal immigration.
How is that possible? Scott Adams points out that almost any deal is possible.
I am not smart enough to know who would do the best job as president. But I do have a graduate degree in business from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, and one of the things I learned is that you can always make a deal when two parties want different things. The only time you can't make a deal is when people want exactly the same limited resource.
The United States and Mexico want different things, generally speaking, so according to my business training, a deal is possible.
You might be wondering... is this really Trump's first campaign ad? We've been hearing about him non-stop for months! One of Adams' commenters notes:
Trump has gotten the media to fund most of his campaign. No doubt he can get Mexico to pay for the wall.
Hillary Clinton says that she didn't blame the internet video for the attack on our embassy in Benghazi when she met with the families of the dead, but the families say she did exactly that. I guess you've got to decide for yourself who to believe.
George Stephanopoulos asked her Sunday if she'd told the victims it was about the film. Clinton gave a flat "no."
She added: "I said very clearly there had been a terrorist group, uh, that had taken responsibility on Facebook, um . . ."
At least four family members disagree.
Tyrone Woods' father said he hugged Clinton and shook her hand. Then "she said we are going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of my son . . . She said 'the filmmaker who was responsible for the death of your son.' "
Sean Smith's mother said Hillary is "absolutely lying . . . She said it was because of the video." Smith's uncle backs her up.
Glen Doherty's sister agreed: "When I think back now to that day and what she knew, it shows me a lot about her character that she would choose in that moment to basically perpetuate what she knew was untrue."
President Obama wants more restrictions on gun ownership, and apparently he's willing to deceive people to get his way. He says that America has more mass shootings than other developed countries, but he completely neglects to account for our vastly larger population.
Let's look at mass public shootings from 2009 to the middle of June this year. To compare fairly with American shootings, I excluded attacks that might be better classified as struggles over sovereignty. For instance, I did not count the 22 people killed in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo last month.
Norway had the highest annual death rate, with two mass public shooting fatalities per million people. Macedonia had a rate of 0.38, Serbia 0.28, Slovakia 0.20, Finland 0.14, Belgium 0.14 and the Czech Republic 0.13. The U.S. comes in eighth with 0.095 mass public shooting fatalities per million people. Austria and Switzerland are close behind.
In terms of the frequency of attacks, the U.S. ranks ninth, with 0.09 attacks per million people. Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Slovakia, Finland, Belgium and the Czech Republic all had higher rates.
It's funny that the term "liberal" is so backwards now... modern leftists see authoritarianism as the solution to every problem.
Normally, What We Learned This Week is a digest of the week's most curiously important facts. This week, it is not. This week the only thing we learned is that America has a gun problem.
Blah blah blah.
When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. I'll disarm right after the rich and powerful lay off their professional armed bodyguards.
This is disgraceful: Inspector General reports that HUD can't be audited due to poor records. The people responsible for this failure should be prosecuted. Government that is both big and incompetent is the worst of both worlds. It seems incapable of competence, so it needs to be shrunken drastically.
A government watchdog says it can't audit billions in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spending because the agency's financial books are kept so poorly.
HUD's financial statements and systems are missing records, inaccurate and sometimes even violated federal laws, according to a HUD inspector general report released Monday. Included among the programs with useless financial accounting records is nearly $20 billion at the Government National Mortgage Association.
Try this with the IRS in April and see what happens.
Jay Rosen explains that Donald Trump's vast wealth makes him immune to the forces that normally confine presidential candidates.
But notice: Trump is not an institution. trumpairHe is really his own campaign manager, spokesman and chief strategist, which means that the chief strategist of the Trump campaign -- Trump -- doesn't care if he ever gets hired by another campaign. Poof! There goes one of the little structural forces that tend toward isomorphism. Multiply by 100 and you have pundits asking: have the laws of political gravity been repealed?
Rosen has several other good points, but I think they all come down to the fact that Trump's wealth makes him willing to alienate powerful/important people that other politicians want to be liked by.
Andrew McCarthy lays out the timeline of Hillary's Benghazi lies. This woman should probably be in jail.
A State Department memo documents that on the very next day after her duplicitous public statement, Clinton informed Egypt's prime minister: "We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. . . . It was a planned attack -- not a protest."
That was just two days before Clinton, in cold-blooded disgrace, looked Charles Woods in the eye and said, "We are going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of your son." That was at Andrews as they were receiving the body of Ty Woods, killed while saving American lives in the late hours of a terrorist siege during which his government made no effort to save American lives.
What's more, murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens didn't have Hillary's email address and couldn't request reinforcements while under attack. Maybe she would have known what was going on if she had been using the normal SecState methods of communication instead of a privately-run email server.
Clinton stammered a bit as she confessed this, realizing that she was contradicting her earlier characterization of Stevens as someone she knew and respected, the personal anecdotes that suggested a close relationship and her statement that she had personally asked him to take the job.
Clinton family retainers like Sidney Blumenthal, a notorious conspiracist who was barred from working in her State Department by the Obama administration, were able to reach her whenever they pleased -- but men and women on the front lines of dangerous places had to go through depressing, labyrinthine bureaucratic channels.
Stevens and his team requested more security for the doomed Benghazi compound 600 times. Clinton's response: Sorry, I didn't know. Nobody told me. Oops.
Why didn't anyone tell her? Because no one, outside a carefully handpicked circle of cronies and sycophants, could reach her. Her inner circle treated her the way courtiers treat a queen -- with comical levels of deference and jealous protection of their privilege. Nobody wants to bring Hillary bad news.
Megan McArdle notes that the present period of political chaos is the result of the removal of the various sticks and carrots that the party bosses used to wield to keep control. Americans highly favored the elimination of these tools -- rightly sensing that they were generally used to reinforce the existing power structures at the expense of the citizenry. Now that the tools are gone, the existing power structures are collapsing and things will look chaotic for a while.
Maybe we didn't anticipate the disruption when we removed the carrots and sticks, but this period of chaos will pass. Hopefully we'll end up with a more responsive government.
Meanwhile, we should also count the cost of some of those campaign reforms: They've helped sideline the political parties' establishment leadership, and helped create the current partisan gridlock that so many people lament. People keep asking why John Boehner can't control his caucus, even though the answer is obvious: He has neither carrots nor sticks with which to keep them in line. He can't use earmarks to give anything, and he can't take anything away, because parties no longer control either ballot access or fundraising the way they once did. What's left? Jawboning them about the good of the party, which he has tried, endlessly, with little success. At this point, both the Democratic and Republican parties look more like heritage brands than the powerful institutions they used to be.
One by one, we've stripped away the means that parties used to control their membership: replaced party bosses with primary elections, limited the ability of big donors to directly fund and influence campaigns, cracked down on earmarks and other pork-barrel policies, torn down the congressional institutional structures that used to let a few powerful politicians essentially control what bills made it to a vote. Each step was hailed as a progressive move toward a more flourishing democracy, and perhaps they were. But the more perfect our democracy gets, the more it seems to tend towards chaos. Witness the astonishing longevity of Trump as an electoral force.
Jim Webb dropped out of the Democrat primary a couple of days ago. As a conservative, it's easy to lament that the Other Party is so far out of whack that an honorable man like Webb can't attract much support.
However, don't forget that Senator Webb was the 60th vote required to break a filibuster and pass Obamacare. Webb's decision to run as a Democrat in 2006 was opportunistic, and his support for Obamacare was opportunistic. Now that his usefulness to the Democrats has passed, he shouldn't be surprised to be looking up at the underside of the bus.
Conceding that his "views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and base of the Democratic Party," Webb, a U.S. senator from 2007 to 2013, left the race Tuesday.
Webb's differences with the party are not entirely about policy issues.
He's just too much of a traditional man to suit the tastes of today's Democrats.
Webb, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served multiple tours in Vietnam where he took shrapnel, and was secretary of the Navy under President Reagan.
He was an honorable and decorated Marine who said during last week's Democratic debate that the enemy he was most proud of making was the "the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he's not around right now to talk to."
I learned a new term today that I like: sortition. My spellchecker doesn't recognize the word. Basically, instead of elections, you just randomly select a few hundred citizens to join the legislature every few years. I like it. It would make graft a lot harder.
In governance, sortition (also known as allotment) is the selection of officers as a random sample from a larger pool of candidates.
In ancient Athenian democracy, sortition was the primary method for appointing political officials and its use was regarded as a principal characteristic of democracy.
Sortition is commonly used to select prospective jurors in common law-based legal systems and is sometimes used today in forming citizen groups with political advisory power (citizens' juries or citizens' assemblies).
This interview about Robot Hillary is by far the funniest, most humanizing thing I've ever hear from her.
HILLARY CLINTON: You guys are the first to realize that I'm really not even a human being. I was constructed in a garage in Palo Alto a very long time ago. People think that, you know, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, they created it. Oh no. I mean, a man whose name shall remain nameless created me in his garage.
ANOTHER ROUND: Are there more of you?
HILLARY CLINTON: I thought he threw away the plans, at least that's what he told me when he programmed me -- that there would be no more. I've seen more people that kind of don't sweat, and other things, that make me think maybe they are part of the new race that he created: the robot race.
ANOTHER ROUND: So there's a cyborg army is what you're saying.
HILLARY CLINTON: But you have to cut this, you can't tell anybody this. I don't want anybody to know this. This has been a secret until here we are in Davenport, Iowa, and I'm just spillin' my electronic guts to you.
Scott Walker was my first choice for President out of the available candidates, so I'm sorry to read that he's withdrawn from the race. I agree with Byron York's assessment however -- Walker just didn't seem ready for the national stage. He's young, only 47, and I hope he regains his footing and has another opportunity to run for the presidency.
Walker was not a candidate prepared to deal with national policy in the context of a presidential campaign. In an interview, I asked him whether things had moved too quickly, whether the ground had shifted under his feet after the Iowa speech. His answer was instant: "Totally."
"We thought all along if we got in, it would be kind of this slow and steady, don't worry about the other guys, just keep focused on moving forward, and as candidates chose not to get in or fell off, we'd be in a position to make a compelling case to them," Walker explained. "We had no idea that after that Iowa summit there would be that kind of acceleration to the race. But we're here, and we're not going to complain about it."
Still, many Walker supporters thought the problems were fixable. So did Walker. He could get those experts together, dive into the briefing books, and find his footing.
It didn't work. As the campaign went on, Walker made error after error, all based in the fact that he wasn't well versed in national issues.