Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category


Why is Donald Trump running for president? Marc Hodak nails it. Trump is planning to auction the Presidency to the highest bidder.

Sure, he may be happy to win the presidency. He can go for it, and see how far he gets. But what happens when it becomes plain that he can't win, that he is only polling ten percent of the vote, or five percent of the vote? No matter; he still has what every dealmaker wants--huge negotiating power.

If his support would largely draw from a Republican candidate, he can go to, say, Jeb (or whoever wins the R slot), and propose to drop out if Jeb gives him X*. Or, he can got to his old pal Hillary (assuming she wins the D slot), and propose to stay in the race if he gets X.

The art of the deal is to have something that other people desperately want, and get them to bid on it. Imagine holding the keys to the White House, and the top candidates have to get them from you.


The IRS scandal marches on -- new Lois Lerner emails have been found three years after we were told they'd all be "accidentally" destroyed. At least one of the emails gives conclusive proof that the IRS intentionally harassed conservative groups and evaded Congressional and judicial scrutiny.

The email shows that the IRS sent out intrusive inquiry letters to at least one organization purely as a stall tactic.

As Glenn Reynolds says: Tar. Feathers.

In one Nov. 3, 2011, exchange between Ms. Lerner and Cindy Thomas, a program manager in the Cincinnati office that was handling the cases and was involved in a back-and-forth with Washington, the IRS admitted to having hundreds of cases stacked up and awaiting action.

Afraid of congressional pressure, Ms. Thomas ordered one of the inquiry letters to be sent, just to prevent one of the organizations being held up from complaining.

"Just today, I instructed one of my managers to get an additional information letter out to one of these organizations -- if nothing else to buy time so he didn't contact his Congressional Office," she wrote in the email released by Judicial Watch.

Ms. Thomas said she feared a judge would get involved soon and order the IRS to move the applications more quickly.

That email exchange did confirm that IRS employees in Washington were deeply involved in making decisions about the nonprofit groups' cases.


I've tried hard not to write about Donald Trump. He's a circus act, and the only thing he cares about is himself. He blathers on, talking "tough" and insulting everyone in sight, but it's all a show, and it's all about him. Despite all that, if he breaks from the Republicans and runs on a third-party ticket he will deliver the presidency to Hillary Clinton. Is it time for despair? I don't know. I've had high hopes for a while (years?) that we'd get a great, patriotic president in 2016, but maybe it's just a fantasy.

And while happy talk (some of which I've indulged in myself) may dismiss Trump as this year's flash-in-the-pan like the 2012 Republican also-rans, right now he's more likely a version of Ross Perot in 1992 -- the man who got Bill Clinton elected. Perot managed to convince people he was only in it to talk about the deficit and the national debt when it was probably more the case he was running out of a long-standing personal animus toward George H.W. Bush and a desire to deny him the presidency based on an imagined slight. Trump doesn't even have a real issue to bring in Democrats and Republicans dissatisfied with their choices. Trump is Trump's issue.

These are unhappy times in the United States, and unhappy times generate unhappy political outcomes. Last week I made the case for despair following the Iran deal. I know people always want commentary that offers a path forward, a way out of trouble, a hope for something better. Sometimes, though, you just have to sit back and despair at the condition of things, and maybe from the despair some new wisdom may emerge.


Forget the Presidency -- will Hillary Clinton even be the Democrat's nominee? Hang in there Hillary!

Earlier, D.C. Whispers reported on federal investigators' request to initiate a full on CRIMINAL investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal due, at least in part, to Mrs. Clinton's alleged and purposeful destruction of classified material she kept on a private email server. Apparently this development is but one of several now plaguing a Hillary Clinton campaign that has a candidate who often appears "lost, confused, tired, and angry." ...

This past week saw campaign operatives trying to figure out how to break the news to candidate Clinton regarding her sudden drop in several battleground states that show her losing by wide margins to potential rivals like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker. When that news was finally delivered, Hillary Clinton is said to have initially brushed it off.

Mere hours later she proceeded to lash out her handlers, and then went on to blame what she perceives to be "unfair media coverage."


The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community says that Hillary Clinton send classified emails through her personal email server. The IG only checked 40 out of 30,000 emails, and he found 4 classified emails.

An internal government review found that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent at least four emails from her personal account containing classified information during her time heading the State Department.

In a letter to members of Congress on Thursday, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community concluded that Mrs. Clinton's email contains material from the intelligence community that should have been considered "secret" at the time it was sent, the second-highest level of classification. A copy of the letter to Congress was provided to The Wall Street Journal by a spokeswoman for the Inspector General.

The four emails in question "were classified when they were sent and are classified now," said Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for the inspector general. The inspector general reviewed just a small sample totaling about 40 emails in Mrs. Clinton's inbox--meaning that many more in the trove of more than 30,000 may contain potentially confidential, secret or top-secret information.


Argh! Being a conservative is maddening sometimes. Ok, frequently. Trump jumps to top of Republican candidate field, followed by Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. Really? Look... any of these people -- almost anyone at all -- would be better than Hillary Clinton ( ed. -- that's what you thought in 2008) but these guys are hardly my first choices. Trump would be an interesting President I guess, but he feels like a sideshow. Nominating another Bush would be intentionally throwing the race. Rand Paul is a smart guy, but some of his policy views are just wrong for America.

The more I read about the candidates, the more I like Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina.


rope press.jpg

This is pretty hilarious: Hillary herds reporters with a rope. The text doesn't really do the included video justice. It's not just that the press was contained in a roped-off area... Hillary's aides hold ropes in their hands, surrounded the reporters, and then pushed the herd along by moving the ropes as Hillary walked.

Campaign aides for Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Saturday roped off reporters from the candidate as she walked and talked with potential voters during a July Fourth parade in New Hampshire, sparking frustration from the press corps and outrage from the state Republican Party.

"Hillary Clinton continues to demonstrate her obvious contempt and disdain for the Granite State's style of grassroots campaigning," New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn said in a statement. "The use of a rope line at a New Hampshire parade is a sad joke and insults the traditions of our first-in-the-nation primary."


President Obama is now pedaling an emotional appeal to the Supreme Court, hoping that the facts on the ground will be allowed to stand despite their illegality. Just as a reminder, zero Republicans voted for Obamacare; the law's shoddy crafting is a product of the Democrats' deception, intransigence, and reckless disregard for the will of the people.

In a speech to the Catholic Health Association, Obama will talk about the hundred years it's taken to reform healthcare in the United States, and the millions it has helped over its five years of implementation. With a ruling due by the end of the month that could potentially send the new insurance marketplaces into a tailspin, Obama will warn, the social contract is at stake.

"The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a set of shared values; an enduring sense that we are in this together," Obama plans to say, according to excerpts released Tuesday morning by the White House. "That's we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor's shoes, and to see the common humanity in each other."

He continues, "Five years in, what we're talking about is no longer just a law. This isn't about the Affordable Care Act. This isn't about Obamacare. This isn't about myths or rumors that won't go away. This is reality. This is health care in America."

"This is reality" he says, but it's a reality built on lies.


Charles Murray has a novel suggestion for overcoming the suffocating rules our American bureaucracy foists on us free citizens: insure yourself against penalties and ignore the absurd regulations. I'd really like to read an analysis by an expert on insurance and insurance law who can tell us if this proposal is plausible.

Seen in this perspective, the regulatory state is the Wizard of Oz: fearsome when its booming voice is directed against any single target but, when the curtain is pulled aside, revealed as impotent to enforce its thousands of rules against widespread refusal to comply.

And so my modest proposal: Let's withhold that compliance through systematic civil disobedience. Not for all regulations, but for the pointless, stupid and tyrannical ones. ...

The risk in doing so, of course, is that one of the 70-odd regulatory agencies will find out what you're doing and come after you. But there's a way around that as well: Let's treat government as an insurable hazard, like tornadoes.

People don't build tornado-proof houses; they buy house insurance. In the case of the regulatory state, let's buy insurance that reimburses us for any fine that the government levies and that automatically triggers a proactive, tenacious legal defense against the government's allegation even if--and this is crucial--we are technically guilty.

Why litigate an allegation even if we are technically guilty? To create a disincentive for overzealous regulators. The goal is to empower citizens to say, "If you come after me, it's going to cost your office a lot of time and trouble, and probably some bad publicity." If even one citizen says that, in a case where the violation didn't harm anything or anyone, the bureaucrat has to ask, "Do I really want to take this on?" If it's the 10th citizen in the past month who says it and the office is struggling with a backlog of cases, it's unlikely that the bureaucrat's supervisor will even permit him take it on.

It's whack-a-mole, but the government doesn't have enough hammers to hit all of us.

More from Michael Barone.


The New York Times carries a river-full of water for the Democrats' argument that the words of the Affordable Care Act don't mean what they say. The NYT invokes the phrase "drafting error" four times and the words "intend" or "intent" five times in the story, as if these magic talismans can protect the sloppy law from itself. Jonathan Gruber is not mentioned even once!

The story opens with a juvenile non sequitur:

They are only four words in a 900-page law: "established by the state."

It's crazy how just a few words can change the meaning of a whole document! You'd think that a journalist who works with words would grok the power of words, rather than be astonished.

But it is in the ambiguity of those four words in the Affordable Care Act that opponents found a path to challenge the law, all the way to the Supreme Court.

How those words became the most contentious part of President Obama's signature domestic accomplishment has been a mystery. Who wrote them, and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges?

The "ambiguity" only exists insofar as the reader wills it into existence by invoking "drafting errors" and ex post facto "intent".

The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as "inadvertent," "inartful" or "a drafting error." But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia.

If every single person you talk to falls on one side of "the most contentious" issue at hand, perhaps there's some selection bias at work? The only elected Republican quoted is former Senator Olympia Snowe, who was always extremely liberal but voted against Obamacare anyway.

Also, "who are from Virginia" is apropos absolutely nothing.

The Senate bill was on the floor for 25 consecutive days before it was approved on Christmas Eve 2009 by a party-line vote of 60 to 39. Senators always assumed that their bill would be polished and refined in negotiations with the House. But the expected conference between the two chambers never occurred. Democrats switched their plans after Scott Brown, a Republican, won a special election in January 2010 to fill the seat long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who had died the previous year.

Having lost a filibuster-proof majority, Democrats believed they could not afford to make significant changes in the Senate bill; it was then approved by the House and sent to the president, with an agreement that lingering questions could be answered separately. Some were, though these four words were unaddressed.

Elections have consequences?

Anyway, it's completely nonsensical to enforce what someone claims ex post facto the law was "intended" to say. That's rule by men, not rule by law. The written word is the shared understanding that Congress voted on and the President signed. If the written words don't reflect the intent, then the solution is to pass a new law with the correct intent. Problem solved.

We humans use writing to coordinate all kinds of shared activities: contracts, laws, regulations, procedures, religious beliefs, etc. The point of writing things down is to make sure that there's a common understanding that everyone can rely on. If you can't rely on what's written down to mean what it says, then what's the point?


Real Clear Politics has constructed an election index that attempts to quantify Republican and Democrat party strength based on five values. I think it's a valuable tool for analyzing the disparate numbers.

Our index is the sum of five parts: presidential performance, House performance, Senate performance, gubernatorial performance and state legislative performance. The first is measured by the party's performance in the previous presidential popular vote (NB: In this, and all other measurements, third parties are excluded).

House performance is the average of the popular vote for the House and the average of the share of the House won by the party. This helps mitigate the effects of gerrymandering. Senate performance is the share of the Senate held by the party.

Gubernatorial performance is the party's share of governorships (again, with third party candidates excluded). We do not weight for population, for reasons explored further below. For state legislatures, we average four numbers: the share of state Houses and state Senates held by each party along with the share of state House seats and state Senate seats held by each party.

This gives us five metrics, all of which run on a scale from 0 to 100. Adding them together gives us a scale from 0 to 500. We then subtract 250 from the total. All this does is assign a score of zero to a situation where the parties are evenly matched, rather than 250. A positive score then means that the Republican Party is stronger while a negative score means the Democratic Party is stronger.


Congress has passed the first budget in a decade thanks to the new Republican majority. I haven't read the details, so who knows if it's a good budget, but at least it's something we can look at and debate. That's better than the omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions we've had for years. Good job! But, of course, President Obama will stonewall.

The White House signaled in statement Tuesday evening that the budget has no chance of getting Obama's approval. "The president has made clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, nor one that reverses sequestration for defense - whether explicitly or through backdoor gimmicks - without also reversing sequestration for non-defense," the White House said.

Sequestration is law and will require an act of Congress to reverse, so it looks like the President is going to hold it hostage.


The New York Times builds on Peter Schweizer's book, "Clinton Cash", with an investigation into Russian nuclear giant Rosatom's purchase of American owned uranium supplies around the world. It's hard to summarize the details, because transactions like this are inherently complicated, so read the whole article if you want to really understand it. Conflicts of interest abound, but it doesn't look like there's a smoking gun quid pro quo. The appearance is bad enough.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One's chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company's assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.

It's inconceivable to me that Hillary Clinton could win the presidency with a history like she has, but then I was shocked when Obama won re-election.


J. D. Tuccile makes a great point about this IRS pity party.

Whether they worked in Manhattan or Peoria, IRS veterans talk about something else that kept them at the service: the feeling of camaraderie. It was nice that they appreciated one another, because nobody else did. "You go to a party, and if you say you are from the IRS, half the people move into the other room," says Richard Schickel, a former senior collections officer in Tucson who retired in December 2013. "After a while, your wife and relatives get tired of listening to your stories. They say, 'How could you take those people's houses and their businesses?' The only place you get understanding is with other IRS people."

I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for these IRS employees, but Mr. Tuccile makes an insightful observation:

You know...When the people who live with you and (let's assume) love you recoil from you in shock and horror because of your behavior so that the only refuge you can find is among others guilty of the same conduct, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you're doing something really bad.

I don't think that the families of most government employees feel this way -- IRS families may be unique. We should consider why this is the case.


It's no coincidence that tax day is opposite of election day (April and November): this is the time of year we're all reminded of how confusing and inefficient our tax system really is. The IRS complains that it doesn't have enough money to administer the system properly, but what about the rest of us? What citizen is happy with the time and effort it takes us to deal with the system?

When callers do get a real person, they can forget about asking questions that require expertise. These are now considered "out of scope." The customer-service agents have been instructed to only tell callers what tax forms they need, where to get them and where to look for online information. Staff can no longer offer line-by-line assistance, provide guidance on tax planning or tax law, or help make payment arrangements.

The IRS doesn't know what it's doing, so how are we supposed to? Instead of pouring more money into the IRS, we need to drastically simplify our tax code to make compliance easier for everyone. Simplification is a separate issue from raising or lowering revenue. We can make a revenue-neutral tax system that is simpler for the government and for citizens.

Meanwhile, this statistic demonstrates the opposite of what the IRS probably intends:

And with 5,000 fewer agents than four years ago to go after tax cheats, officials estimate that $2 billion in revenue will go uncollected.

Each of these agents was only generating $400,000 in revenue? When you subtract the cost of their employment and the value of taxpayer time to deal with the hassle, it seems like a no-brainer to lay them off.


Hillary Clinton is promising a press conference after she attends an event at the United Nations; Ashe Schow has 18 questions worth asking Mrs. Clinton, and they aren't all about her email.


The New York Times broke the news about Hillary Clinton's secret, private email server that she used "exclusively" while secretary of state, but now the paper is poo-pooing the suggestion that this revelation could affect her chances to win the presidency in 2016.

The actual public response to the controversy is likely to be a combination of apathy and partisanship. Few Americans are paying attention to any aspect of the campaign at this point. Those who do notice will most likely divide largely along partisan lines, with Democrats interpreting her actions more charitably, especially once they see Republicans attacking Mrs. Clinton on the issue.

Any significant political costs are also likely to be fleeting because the revelations came so early in the campaign cycle. It is hard to believe that a lack of transparency in Mrs. Clinton's use of email will have a significant effect on a general election that will be held some 20 months from now. As the political scientist John Sides wrote on Twitter, "In October 2016, no persuadable voter will be thinking about Hillary Clinton's email account." It's equally implausible that this revelation will draw a second top-tier candidate into the race for the Democratic nomination given the advantages Mrs. Clinton retains over possible rivals like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

I'm certainly rooting against Hillary, so maybe I'm biased, but I'm not so sure of Brendan Nyhan's conclusion. Some thoughts:


President Obama is "very interested" in raising taxes via executive action.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unitlateral executive action.

"The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.

King Obama should learn some history.

(HT: TaxProfBlog, Instapundit.)


James Taranto thoroughly mocks John Kerry and Hillary Clinton for their flip-floppery on their support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and makes a keen observation:

Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday's column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn't. The joke would be perfect if only the Democrat were John Kerry.


It seems like you're on precarious moral ground when you feel compelled to write laws that self-destruct if your opponents win an election. Looks like bad faith and sour grapes on the part of politicians who would take such a path.

The city's new municipal ID program allows for personal info provided by applicants to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case a conservative Republican wins the White House and demands the data, the law's co-sponsor told The Post on Monday.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) said the measure was crafted so data submitted by those seeking the cards can be destroyed on Dec. 31, 2016.

The cards are aimed at undocumented immigrants.

"In case a Tea Party Republican comes into office and says, 'We want all of the data from all of the municipal ID programs in the country,' we're going to take the data," he explained.

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