Monday, August 28, 2017

A Government Shutdown Is A Bad Idea

There are some issues that conservatives of good conscience can disagree on and remain well within core conservative principles. One of these is the issue of shutting down the government. As President Trump and congressional Republicans consider shutting down the government over funding for the “big, beautiful wall,” they should avoid falling into what is Democrat trap.

The core problem for Republicans is a lack of votes. Although Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress, the margins are slim and they lack the 60 votes required to end a Democrat filibuster. As a legislative strategy, a government shutdown does nothing to resolve this problem.

The only way for Republicans to pass a bill funding the wall, or anything else for that matter, is to make Democrats and moderate Republicans change their votes. The way to do that is to sweeten the pot. To give Democrats something they want in exchange for something that Republicans want.

A shutdown would do the opposite. It would be a combative policy that would further alienate Democrats and give them no incentive at all to vote for the Republican bill. In fact, a government shutdown would play directly into the hands of Democrats who want nothing more than for the Trump Administration to fail.

Further, if Republicans are determined to pick a fight, the border wall is the wrong issue.  Polling indicates that about two-thirds of Americans oppose Trump’s wall. Numerous studies, including one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have indicated that a Trump-style wall would be a boondoggle that is hugely expensive yet ineffective. This is especially true in Texas where the Rio Grande forms the border with Mexico and much of the land on the border is privately owned by ranchers who need access to the river’s water.

Add to that the fact that voters don’t like shutdowns. When Republicans shut down the government over Obamacare in 2013, the party’s approval quickly tanked. In fact, Gallup found that Republican approval sank to its lowest point ever. If Obamacare’s failures had not turned the tables on the Democrats, Republicans would have likely suffered a wipeout in the 2014 midterms. Through it all, Obamacare remained intact.

The 2013 shutdown occurred with a Democrat president in office and the GOP still took the brunt of the blame. There is little question who would be blamed if Republicans, who now control the White House as well as both houses of Congress, shut the government down over the wall.

As a strategy, a government shutdown offers very little for conservatives to like. It would be an unpopular strategy used to enact an unpopular policy, but that isn’t the worst part.

The worst part is that it won’t work. A government shutdown would inevitably lead to yet another embarrassing defeat for the GOP and President Trump. There is simply no way for the party to win without Democrat votes for cloture.

Democrats would use a shutdown to tell the country that President Trump and the Republicans are incapable of governing. It would be difficult to prove them wrong.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Roy Moore Is Heavy Favorite In Alabama Senate Runoff

A new poll shows that former judge Roy Moore has a landslide-size lead in the runoff to decide which Republican faces the Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s special Senate election. The poll by JMC Analytics found that Moore currently has a lead of almost 20 points over Luther Strange, the sitting Senator appointed to fill the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The poll, which contacted Alabamans from across the state, found that 51 percent of respondents who were considering voting in the runoff favored Moore. Thirty-two percent planned to vote for Strange with 17 percent undecided.

The big surprise from the poll was how ineffective the Republican endorsements of Strange have been. President Trump carried Alabama with 62 percent of the vote last year, but his endorsement of Strange seems to have had no net effect at all. The poll found that 51 percent said that Trump’s endorsement made no difference. The remainder were split almost evenly between those who said that Trump’s endorsement helped Strange (25 percent) and those who said it hurt him (23 percent).

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fared even worse. Forty-six percent said McConnell’s endorsement made no difference while 45 percent said it made them less likely to support Strange. Only 10 percent seemed to value McConnell’s endorsement.

Sixty-eight percent self-identified as evangelical Christians. Roy Moore, who is considered a hero by many Christians for his battles to keep a monument to the Ten Commandments in the State Supreme Court building and for his refusal to uphold the Supreme Court ruling instituting same-sex marriage, has a definite advantage among Christian voters. The poll shows Moore with 58 percent support among evangelicals.

Luther Strange has been bedeviled by several corruption scandals. Strange, the former attorney general of Alabama, was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Robert Bentley who was forced to resign in disgrace. Strange, who was in charge of the investigation into Bentley’s extramarital affair and the ensuing cover-up and abuses of power, has been accused of delaying the impeachment proceedings against the former governor.

Strange and many other Alabama politicians also took donations from two companies that are accused of paying outright bribes to state legislator Oliver Robinson. The $360,000 in bribes were associated with an Alabama coal company’s attempt to avoid paying for the EPA cleanup of a toxic site.

Finally, Strange s the subject of an investigation into two felony campaign finance violations. An ethics hearing was originally scheduled for August 2, but was moved to August 16, the day after the initial primary election.

Moore was the top finisher in the first round of polling with 38 percent to Strange’s 32 percent. Pre-election polling had showed the two men in a virtual dead heat. Since neither candidate received a majority, a runoff was scheduled for Sept. 26. The general election will be on Dec. 12.

The new poll was conducted among 515 likely voters and the margin of error is 4.3 percent.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Unbelievable! Trump Surrogate Calls Slavery and Civil War 'Good History'

You might think that racial controversy could finally be dying down after President Trump’s statements last night that “love for America requires love for all of its people” and that “there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.” If so, you would be wrong. This time the blame doesn’t lie with the president, however, but with a Trump surrogate who seems to think that slavery was a good thing.

The Trump supporter in question is Katrina Pierson who was the national spokesperson for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Pierson appeared on a Fox & Friends segment with Ainsley Earhardt and Wendy Osefo, a “social justice” activist. Two minutes into the discussion on the removal of Confederate monuments, Pierson went off the rails.

Osefo: This is not a symbol of patriotism. This is a symbol of hatred and division and, while it is a piece of American history, it is not necessarily the good part of American history. It is nefarious. So it doesn’t deserve a place on state grounds. It deserves a place in museums and that’s where they need to be.
Pierson: It absolutely deserves a place because bad history is still good history for this country.
Osefo: Slavery is good history?
Pierson: Where we are today, where we are today, absolutely!
Osefo (still more incredulously): Slavery is good history? Absolutely?
Pierson: During those times, during those times, think about this for a second: Where would we be today if not for that Civil War?
Osefo (still more incredulously): Where would we be without slavery? Are you even serious?
Pierson: Would our children even know how special and wonderful this country even is?

At that point, the exchange became unintelligible with both women talking at the same time.

Since the Trump Administration seems to be having problems in the area of race relations, I will offer them some advice to help prevent further missteps:

  • ·         When someone asks about Nazis, your answer should be, “They are bad. We don’t support them and we don’t want their support.” That is guaranteed to be a slam dunk with no potential for blowback.
  • ·         If someone asks you about the Ku Klux Klan, the same answer will work equally well.
  •        If someone asks about slavery, the answer should be, “It was morally wrong, bad for the country and we are glad it was ended.”
  • ·         Don’t try to justify it.
  • ·     Don’t try to sugarcoat it.
  •       Repeat as necessary.

What of Katrina Pierson’s question about where America would be without slavery and the Civil War? For starters, 620,000 American soldiers, more than all other wars combined until Vietnam, would not have been killed. Without slavery, almost 13 million Africans would not have been ripped from their families and shipped to the New World with about two million dying enroute. Without slavery and the Civil War, the US would not have the enduring racial divide and the animosity between North and South that has lasted 150 years. The South would not have been razed by Federal armies and that destruction would not have impoverished the region for the next 100 years.

If slavery and the Civil War had never happened, America would be even more special and wonderful than it already is. Our children, black and white, would have even more reason to love her and be proud of her.  

Slavery and the Civil War represent one of the darkest aspects of American history and Katrina Pierson’s comments are likely to be one of the dumbest things you will hear this week. It’s only Tuesday though. Who knows what the rest of the week will bring? 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, August 19, 2017

On Race And Growing Up Southern

The controversy over Confederate statues is something I have thought a lot about. Perhaps unlike many, my experience has allowed my position to change over the years.

I grew up in small town Georgia. I attended an elementary school that was predominantly black. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were growing up in the shadow of the Jim Crow South. I was in elementary school in the 1970s, less than a decade after the full integration of Georgia public schools.  Lester Maddox (D-Ga.), the avowed segregationist governor, was not even a distant memory.

What’s more, my classmates and I were scarcely a decade and 20 miles away from the murder of Col. Lemuel Penn, a decorated hero of WWII who happened to be black. Penn was murdered by a trio of Ku Klux Klansmen for the crime of driving through Athens, Georgia in 1964. The murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury prompting the FBI to charge the men with civil rights violations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

I can only remember two brushes with the Klan. As a high school student, a classmate showed me a Ku Klux Klan ring one day. It was like a class ring, but instead of the school name, it was engraved with the words “Ku Klux Klan.”

In the other instance, I was a college student working part-time at a local pharmacy when Klan members appeared on the town square one day. The Klansmen, dressed in white robes with no hoods, tried to hand out leaflets to anyone who would take them. Even at that point, they were such an anachronism that everyone in the store took turns driving by to gawk at them. No one seemed to be taking leaflets.

The world had changed a lot in a short time. My classmates and I scarcely thought about race. We got along fine as kids generally do. In my youth, we were aware of race, but pushed it to the background. I remember my parents telling me that I should treat everyone with respect, but that the races should not mix sexually.

I would be willing to bet that they have evolved past the intermarriage taboo now. I know I have. I care more about the content of the character of my children’s future spouses than skin color. I would prefer they have an honorable and decent mate who is black, Hispanic or Asian than what is referred to as “white trash” in the South.

My experience taught me that children have to learn hatred. They don’t come to it naturally. A proud moment for me as a father was when my own children failed to even comprehend race as a descriptive characteristic. “Why does anybody care about skin color?” they asked.

For years, I subscribed to the notion that race relations were nothing to be concerned about. No living blacks were slaves and no living whites were slave owners. If that was the case, what was there to argue about?

As I learned about civil rights history and talked to my black friends, my opinion slowly changed.

My family has been in Georgia since the early 1800s. In an undated photo, my ancestors are standing outside their cabin with a black man who is almost certainly their slave.

Several of my ancestors were Confederate soldiers. My great-grandfather was captured at the Battle of Spotsylvania and spent the rest of the war in a (damn)Yankee prison camp in Elmira, N.Y. Today, Elmira is forgotten by history, but it was a brutal place in 1864.

The mortality rate among the prisoners was 25 percent, rivalling the notorious Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Ga. But Georgia was subject to a federal naval blockade that meant that even Confederate soldiers didn’t have enough to eat. Supplies were plentiful in New York, but overcrowding, disease, inadequate protection from the New York winter and lack of food still killed thousands of prisoners. Many of those who survived were emaciated and unrecognizable when they returned home.  

If I feel bitter about the treatment of my grandfather and his brothers-in-arms, none of which I never met, how much more bitter do blacks feel about slavery and Jim Crow? I can scarcely imagine.

While there are no living slaves today, Jim Crow is a recent memory. Older blacks experienced it personally. Younger blacks have heard first-hand accounts of whites-only water fountains and lunch counters, of the Freedom Riders, of lynchings, of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in which Klansmen killed four little girls, of the murders of Medgar Evers, Lemuel Penn, Martin Luther King and more.

While slavery and Jim Crow are distant history in my experience, they aren’t so far in the past for my black friends. Even black conservatives like Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have stories of prejudice and “driving while black” to tell. Racism is in retreat, Charlottesville notwithstanding, but it isn’t dead and never will be. Vestiges of racism will probably be around forever.

The world is full of longstanding ethnic problems. There is the black-white divide in America. We also have tension between Native Americans and European newcomers. In Texas, there are still hard feelings on both sides over the Alamo, Goliad, San Jacinto and the border clashes that occurred after Texas independence. In other countries, there are ethnic conflicts that have lasted for centuries between Jews and Arabs, Armenians and Turks, ethnic Russians and their subjugated countries, the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans…. The list goes on and on.

In most cases, people have dealt with these conflicts by dredging up old hurts and killing people because of it. Then the children of these victims take vengeance on the next generation of the other group in an endless cycle.

One way to avoid this vicious cycle is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would most whites hold a grudge if their parents and grandparents had been treated as second-class citizens and had to fear for their lives if they acted as normal human beings, as Emmett Till did? You bet they would.

Would blacks and non-Southerners feel protective about Confederate memorials if their ancestors had fought and died under the Confederate banner?  Many Confederates who did not own slaves simply fought to protect their homes from the federal invaders. Sherman burned everything in his path on his march to the sea and Union soldiers committed numerous atrocities on Southerners. In 1864, for example, Union forces forcibly deported 400 civilian women from Roswell, Ga. to the North. Most of these women never returned home.

The point is that both sides have legitimate grievances. If we persist in fighting over the status of biggest victim and inflicting revenge on the other side, then the dispute will continue to fester and grow.

The ultimate answer is forgiveness. The Bible that most of us, black and white, purport to believe teaches that forgiveness heals the victim as well as the perpetrator. The Bible also teaches that race is unimportant, that we are all equal – and equally sinful – at the foot of the cross.

As to Confederate statues, I prefer to keep them, but I understand the point of view of those who oppose them. To me, the issue of statues is unimportant compared to other issues we face such as the national debt, Islamic terror, and the fundamental decay of American society. To me, the disposition of statues of should be a local issue decided by the people of the community, not outsiders with an axe to grind.

Who was more right and who was more wrong is less important than that we now live together as Americans. That’s why it distresses me when my conservative friends take the bait so easily and quickly find themselves in the moral equivalence game between leftists and neo-Nazis who claim to be working toward the president’s agenda.

Solutions to many of the world’s problems would be possible if more people would attempt to understand the point of view of the opposing side. Before making up your mind on an issue, walk a mile in their shoes. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, August 18, 2017

ACLU Tosses Second Amendment Under the Bus

The American Civil Liberties Union is a group that was founded to protect the constitutional freedoms of Americans. The ACLU website brags, “For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Yet there seems to be one freedom that is too controversial for the ACLU to protect.

After the Virginia branch of the ACLU aided the alt-right groups that participated in the riot in Charlottesville last weekend, the Wall Street Journal reports that the ACLU will not defend the right of “hate groups” to march with firearms. The group will also consider the potential for violence when considering whether to work with potential clients.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”

There were many pictures of the white supremacist marchers openly carrying guns, which is legal in Virginia. At this point, it is unclear if any of these guns were fired during the riot, but photographer Zach Roberts did photograph an alt-right militant using a pistol to provide cover to the white supremacists who savagely beat Deandre Harris, a black special education teacher, with metal poles.

In an online statement, the ACLU said, “If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution.”

The question is one of intent. How can the ACLU determine whether marchers are peacefully exercising their Second Amendment rights or using guns to intimidate political opponents? Without evidence, the answer to that question is in the eye of the beholder.

Until they show intent to break the law, white supremacists have the same rights as any other American. The ACLU has recognized this for decades. As far back as 1978, the group defended the right of neo-Nazis in to march in Skokie, Illinois.

The problem seems to be on the Second Amendment, where the ACLU has long been ambivalent. The group historically considered the right to bear arms to be a government right to arm the militia. In 1980, the ACLU said, “With respect to firearms, the ACLU believes that this quality of dangerousness justifies legal regulation which substantially restricts the individual’s interest in freedom of choice.”

The freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are both enshrined in the Constitution that the ACLU claims to protect. These rights apply to neo-Nazis and Klan members just as they do to every other American. The ACLU has said that it would continue to deal with requests for aid by white supremacist groups on a case-by-case basis, but it is disingenuous to protect one right and not the other, even after Charlottesville.

No right is absolute. Just as freedom of speech does not include yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, the right to carry is subject to reasonable limits. It should be up to state and local governments to learn from Charlottesville and, if they see a legitimate need, enact constitutional legislation that restrict weapons under certain conditions. Virginia law already contains restrictions on the right to carry in certain circumstances.

If anyone, white supremacist or otherwise, abuses their right to bear arms by using legal guns to commit crimes, they should face stiff penalties. If this gunman, who used his gun to aid in the assault and battery of Deandre Harris, can be identified, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including the loss of his Second Amendment rights if he is convicted of a felony.

If the alt-right had not exercised their right to freely assemble and speak their minds, the Charlottesville riot would never have happened. In spite of that, the ACLU is not denying First Amendment aid to racist groups. Why should the Second Amendment be any different? 

Originally published on The Resurgent

'Fine People' Were Told To Avoid Charlottesville Nazi Rally

One of President Trump’s most controversial statements about the Charlottesville riot was his comment that there were “fine people” on both sides of the fracas that left one woman dead. Now new information casts doubt on the president’s assumption that not all the participants in the rally were part of radical groups.

The president’s statement seems to hinge on his belief that some attendees at the rally were not members of the alt-right, but were merely there to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. In a press conference on Tuesday, Trump said, “You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

A report by the Wall Street Journal casts doubt on the president’s claim that the protesters were not exclusively white supremacists. The Journal cites a source with knowledge of the Monument Fund, Inc., one of the groups that originally obtained an injunction against removal of the Lee statue, who said that their members did not participate in the rally.

“Nobody from our group attended the protests or counter-protests,” the source said. “We all stayed away. As everybody should have done. As President Sullivan of U VA urged people to do. Just stay home. But City Councilors and a coalition of leftist groups invited their followers to show up for counter protests. And show up they did, angry and spoiling for a fight.”

The narrative continued, “If City Council had just said: let the Nazis shout idiot slogans at empty air, ignore them, stay home -- no violence would have happened. The police are unfairly criticized for not stopping the fighting. How could they? These two groups wanted to fight. They found ways to get at each other. These are public streets, they could not all be locked down and cleared of belligerents.”

Contrary to President Trump and some on the right, the Charlottesville rally was not about preservation of historic statues. The rally, as advertised, was a “Unite the Right” rally for white supremacists. Rather than mainstream historians or politicians, speakers included alt-right figures such as Richard Spencer, Mike Peinovich, Matthew Heimbach and David Duke.

On Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe urged people to avoid the Charlottesville rally. McAuliffe asked in a statement for people “either in support or opposition to the planned rally to make alternative plans.”

Since President Trump claimed to wait until the facts were in to make a statement, he may have additional information of “fine people” in attendance at the alt-right rally. If so, the burden of proof is on him. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

When You've Lost Republicans On Fox News, You've Lost Middle America

President Trump’s comments about the Charlottesville riot have drawn condemnation from all quarters of the country. The true extent of the political damage to the president is not fully known at this point, but Fox News host Shepard Smith offered a clue. According to Smith, Fox News, a channel normally friendly to Trump and Republicans, could not find a single Republican to defend Trump’s statements on the air.

“Our booking team — and they're good — reached out to Republicans of all stripes across the country today,” Smith said on his show Wednesday. “Let's be honest, Republicans don't often really mind coming on Fox News Channel. We couldn't get anyone to come and defend him here because we thought, in balance, someone should do that.”

“We worked very hard at it throughout the day, and we were unsuccessful,” Smith continued.

Throughout his short political career, the president has never had trouble finding Republicans to defend him. On issues from his connections to Russia to the Access Hollywood tape, there were always people willing to go on record to back Donald Trump and excuse his behavior.

While few, if any, Republicans are defending Trump, several are now condemning him by name. On Wednesday, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement, “Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

“Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world,” Graham continued.

In a tweet, John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “There's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.”

Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) launched a series of tweets in which he said that the white supremacist organizers of the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville are “100% to blame for a number of reasons.”

“Mr. President,” Rubio tweeted, “you can't allow White Supremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain.”

The list of other Republicans breaking with Trump on the issue is growing. CNN reports that it now includes Corey Gardner (R-Col.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and John Kasich (R-Ohio).

While Republicans have largely stood by the president since his nomination, Trump’s behavior is increasingly becoming a liability to Republicans who must face voters themselves. This is especially true when Trump veers into the emotionally charged world of race.

One of the few things that unites almost all Americans is a hatred for racism and Nazis. With his statement that there were “very fine people on both sides,” Trump has put his administration and the Republican Party firmly on the wrong side of the issue.

The proof is the lack of Republicans willing to back the president on Charlottesville. When Republicans won’t go on Fox News to defend President Trump, he is in serious trouble.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Four CEOs Desert Manufacturing Council As Trump Approval Sinks After Charlottesville

President Trump’s delayed condemnation of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville seems to be taking a toll among his more mainstream support. In the wake of this weekend’s riots, three corporate CEOs who had been a part of the president’s council on manufacturing jobs abruptly resigned and the president’s approval rating has plummeted to its lowest point ever.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier was the first CEO to jump ship. In a tweet on Monday, August 15, Frazier explicitly linked his resignation to Trump’s silence on the Nazis who claimed to be part of the Trump movement.

In part, Frazier’s statement reads, “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.” He added, “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Later on Monday, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich both left the council as well. Business Insider quotes Plank in a statement that says Under Armour “engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”

Krzanich said, “I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base.”

President Trump responded to the resignation of Merck’s Frazier with a tweet on Monday that attacked Merck for high drug prices: “@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!”

A second tweet on August 15 addressed the subsequent resignations of Plank and Krzanich. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place,” Trump tweeted. “Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”

After the president’s second tweet, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, tweeted that he too was leaving the council. “I'm resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it's the right thing for me to do,” Paul said.
At the same time, Gallup released a three-day polling average that showed President Trump’s approval rating at 34 percent, its lowest level ever, with 61 percent disapproval. The poll ran from Friday through Sunday so it partially reflected the events in Charlottesville.

The American Manufacturing Council was set up by President Trump to allow corporate CEOs to advise him on manufacturing policy. Twenty corporate CEOs remain on the council. One additional member of the council, Elon Musk of Tesla, had previously resigned to protest Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accords.

On Monday, two days after the Charlottesville riots, President Trump issued a more forceful and specific statement denouncing the white supremacist movement. It is interesting to note that his tweet attacking Merck came only 10 hours after Frazier’s resignation. The response time after Plank and Krzanich quit was even shorter.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Defending Charlottesville Nazis is Trap for Conservatives

In the wake of the Charlottesville protests, the equivocations among Republicans are already beginning, starting with President Trump. The president, who seldom fails to speak his mind on Twitter, offered an uncharacteristically judicious tweet in the wake of the violence.

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one!” the president tweeted.

If ever there was a time for President Trump to issue a strong message that parses no words, this is it. While the message of unity is appropriate, it is also appropriate to condemn the white supremacists who started the whole fracas.

While radicals on both sides deserve to be condemned, it should not be hard to single out neo-Nazis who march under the swastika flag for specific condemnation. The German Nazi flag cannot be considered to be part of our heritage. Far from it. We fought a world war to keep the swastika flag far from our shores.

Neo-Nazi radicals have the right to their opinion. They have the right to peacefully and lawfully assemble. That does not mean that they should not be criticized and condemned for their actions and the violence that they have instigated.

While all the groups involved in the Charlottesville skirmishing are worthy of condemnation, it is especially important for conservatives and Republicans to denounce the alt-right demonstrators for two reasons. First, in the minds of many people, the Republican Party is already associated with racism. Republicans should take every opportunity to distance themselves from that perception.

Second, the demonstrators explicitly claim to be associated with President Trump and the GOP. There are numerous reports of white supremacists wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and other Trump gear. Former Klansman and Republican candidate David Duke said at the rally, “We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back and that's what we gotta [sic] do.”

Failure to publicly renounce Duke’s words is a trap for conservatives. If Republicans do not rebuke racists claiming to act in the name of the Trump Administration it will be an implicit endorsement of their actions. For once, it would be to President Trump’s advantage to fire off an angry tweet specifically rebuking the Charlottesville Nazis in terms at least as strong as he reprimanded Jeff Sessions.

If President Trump fails to condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville, it will be a break with the true traditions of the Republican Party. The GOP was founded as an anti-white supremacist party at the dawn of the Civil War with the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, as its first president. Another Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, ordered the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce school integration a century later.

More recently, President Reagan specifically excluded bigots from the big tent of the GOP in his second inaugural address. “In the party of Lincoln, there is no room for intolerance and not even a small corner for anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind,” Reagan said. “Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots.”

In modern America, what easier target for condemnation is there than white supremacists rallying under a Nazi banner? If the president cannot find words to denounce American Nazis, it will speak volumes about his Administration and the new Republican Party.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ride To Goliad To Learn Texas History

Presidio La Bahia (David Thornton)
“It isn’t what you expect,” people told me. “You’ll be disappointed.”

A lot of people had the same reaction about my upcoming visit to the Alamo. After a year in Texas, we decided to take our family to visit the famous shrine to the Texas Revolution in San Antonio. When we got there, even my children sensed what our native Texan friends had been telling us.

I have visited many different battlefields from the Revolution and the Civil War, but the Alamo was different. Most battlefields are national parks that have preserved the tranquility and dignity of the historic sites. The fact that the Alamo was located just outside the town of Bexar in Mexican Tejas and, after Texas independence, the city of San Antonio grew up around it probably accounts for much of why the Alamo battlefield is different.

When we arrived at the Alamo, we found that, unlike the Gettysburg battlefield, for instance, the Alamo was surrounded by a carnival atmosphere akin to that of a boardwalk. While the actual remnants of the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the old Spanish mission that became the Alamo fortress, were a solemn place, across the street was a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, The Amazing Mirror Maze and Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. To us, the festive atmosphere seemed out of place on the site where hundreds of soldiers on both sides had died.

A few years later, we made a brief detour through Goliad, the south Texas town most known to outsiders as the town that didn’t send reinforcements to the Alamo. Goliad is home to two old Spanish missions that have been restored. The two missions, EspĂ­ritu Santo at Goliad State Park and Presidio La Bahia just down the road, are much better representations of the history of the Texas revolution.

In particular, the Presidio La Bahia, which has been completely restored, stands in contrast to the Alamo, most of which was destroyed in the battle. The building commonly referred to as the Alamo was the mission’s chapel, only one small part of entire complex. The Presidio La Bahia gives visitors a feel for what the Alamo would have been like in 1836.

While there was no major battle at Goliad, La Bahia was the site of a lesser known massacre of Texas soldiers by the Mexican army. Shortly after the fall of the Alamo, Col. James Fannin’s men surrendered to the Mexicans and were imprisoned at Goliad. Santa Ana ordered the execution of the prisoners a short time later. More Texans were killed in the Goliad Massacre than at the Alamo. Their common grave and memorial is just outside the presidio walls.

Today, Goliad State Park and the Presidio La Bahia, privately owned by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria, Texas, both provide good museums with that describe the area’s history in context and showcase period artifacts. La Bahia also features a short video that recounts the Texas Revolution.

Whether you’re a Texan or visitor to the Lone Star State, if you are in San Antonio, by all means, visit the Alamo. From the bar of the historic Menger Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt enlisted the Rough Riders, to the Riverwalk and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio has a lot to offer as a vacation destination.

But don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path. If you’re interested in the Texas Revolution, a side trip to Goliad may be even more enlightening and rewarding.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, August 11, 2017

China May Be Testing Trump In North Korea

China figures strongly into the current North Korea crisis, but exactly how is a matter of dispute. President Trump seems to believe that China is the key to resolving the matter of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, but it is far from certain that China’s interests in the region align with our own.

Beyond the fact that Trump was overtly hostile and, at times, insulting to China during the presidential campaign, China is in the midst of a long campaign to expand its power in Asia and beyond. Chinese island-building in the South China Sea is common knowledge. Less known is how Chinese influence is growing in the Middle East, Africa and even the Americas.

As Chinese military and economic influence grows around the world, the inescapable conclusion is that China has dreams of replacing the US as the world’s dominant superpower. That being the case, it would be in China’s interest to make the US look bad in the confrontation with North Korea. If China can use North Korea to hasten the American decline in Asia, which began with the 1953 stalemate in Korea and continued with Vietnam and the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, it would probably not hesitate to do so.

Aside from their aim of overtaking the United States, a secondary goal of the Chinese government could be to test President Trump. There is pattern of Chinese crises shortly after Republican presidents take office. In June 1989, five months after George H. W. Bush became president, violent repression of the Chinese democracy protests at Tiananmen Square led to soured relations between the two countries. In April 2001, three months into the presidency of George W. Bush, a Chinese fighter collided with a US Navy reconnaissance plane. The American plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island and the crew was detained for 11 days by the Chinese government. Now, soon after President Trump took office, the North Koreans increased their missile testing. While these incidents were presumably not manufactured by China, they may well have used the events to test the mettle of the new occupants of the Oval Office.

What could be the Chinese endgame for the Korean crisis? After President Trump made trade concessions to China last spring for doing approximately nothing to help with the Korean situation, Beijing may believe that they can win additional concessions from the US if the crisis is allowed to get worse.

If President Trump backs down after having made resolving the North Korean issue a priority, the Chinese will win by default. The United States and President Trump will lose face and credibility around the world. With both President Trump and Kim Jong Un trying to outdo the other’s bellicose rhetoric, at the moment China is playing the role of the adult in the room.

If the US actually attacks North Korea, it would present a problem for China. China has a longstanding relationship with its patron government in Pyongyang. Animosity between the Chinese and the Koreans goes back centuries, but for the past 75 years, North Korea has been a loyal client of Communist China.

In 1950, when American and United Nations troops advanced too close to the Chinese border, China intervened with a massive attack that sent allied armies reeling. Those who doubt that China would do the same thing in 2017 need only consider the unofficial nickname of Korea, “a dagger aimed at the heart of China.” China cannot allow the US or its allies to occupy North Korea.

A US attack on North Korea would require a Chinese response and the Chinese have said as much in an editorial in the Chinese Global Times. The paper notes that “Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time,” but that “it needs to make clear… when their actions jeopardize China's interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

The editorial says that if North Korea strikes first China will remain neutral. This may be a tacit assurance that the North will not attack without provocation. Then it issues a warning: “If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

Regardless of whether China is goading North Korea forward behind the scenes or Kim is acting on his own, the brinksmanship is a most dangerous game that could easily get out of hand and lead to a major conflict. Whatever President Trump does, on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere, the Chinese will undoubtedly be watching.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump's Golf Course Diplomacy Trolls Putin

True to his promise to be unpredictable, Donald Trump had an unpredictable reaction to Russia’s decision to expel 755 of approximately 1,200 U.S. diplomatic staff in retaliation for the passage of the new Russia sanctions bill. In response to the largest expulsion of diplomats in modern times, President Trump did something that he rarely does: He publicly thanked Vladimir Putin for his help in reducing the State Department payroll.

Russia ordered the U.S. to reduce the number of its diplomats in Russia to 455, the same number of Russian diplomats in the U.S. after President Obama expelled 35 in retaliation for Russian meddling in the election. In a statement, Russia said that the new sanctions showed “the extreme aggression of the United States in international affairs.”

In an example of “golf course diplomacy” from his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. where he is on a “working vacation,” President Trump told reporters, “I want to thank him [Putin] because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

Trolling level: Above average. The president is obviously drawing on years of experience as a Twitter troll in this response.

The typical response from a leader that is an experienced diplomat would be to issue a sternly worded statement to the effect that Russia had better straighten-up-and-fly-right. The Russians would have responded with another stern communique in a tit-for-tat. Instead, Trump has rewritten the playbook with a sarcastic personal message aimed directly at President Putin.

Putin and most of the rest of the world know that Trump’s statement was utter BS, to use an appropriate, but impolitic term, but it still comes across as a slap in the face to Putin. Inside, we all know that Donald Trump, the egomaniac who cannot stand to be disrespected, must be seething. The president typically has a strong reaction to much smaller and less formal slights. Take, for instance, his blistering attacks on Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest and strongest supporters.

Beyond the emotional reaction that Trump is undoubtedly repressing, there is the fact that Trump’s statement is blatantly false. Few people would expect that these diplomats are going to be fired because Russia sent them home. They will likely be retrained and reassigned to other posts. The savings on living expenses of having fewer U.S. diplomats in Russia would be negligible in terms of the entire State Department budget.

The expulsions also represent difficulty for U.S. intelligence. An unknown number of the diplomats are almost certainly spies. Although spies will remain, their increased workload will mean that they accomplish less. Fewer Americans also means that it will be easier for Russian counterintelligence to watch and track those who remain.

The cuts will also affect the ability of the U.S. embassy to conduct legitimate business. Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs analyst, told the Independent, “It will create an enormous inconvenience for the US Mission here, essentially slowing down the work but not affecting its core functions.” The cuts could affect the ability of U.S. businesses to work in Russia.

By cutting the U.S. foreign service staff by about two-thirds, Vladimir Putin is playing mind games with President Trump. Trump’s sharp, albeit transparent, response, returned the ball to Putin’s court in one of the few examples of the president standing strong against Putin. 

Read the full article on The Resurgent

Bernie Bros Throw Tantrum Over DNC Treatment

It looks as if the Republican Party is not the only major political party that is beset by internal divisions. While the Republican divisions have been on display since long before the nomination of Donald Trump, Democratic divisions have been masked by their united opposition to President Trump. However, an incident that occurred in late July may underscore just how fragile the Democrat coalition is.  

Bernie Bros and sisters in his group, Our Revolution, are upset with their treatment at the hands of the DNC. Per Buzzfeed, Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, marched on DNC offices in Washington, D.C. on July 25 to deliver petitions supporting Our Revolution’s “People’s Platform,” a policy agenda for 2018.

Turner, a member of the DNC and a former Ohio state senator, complained that the emissaries from Our Revolution were greeted outside the building by a handful of DNC staffers. Security barricades prevented the group from approaching the building.  

“I was absolutely stunned,” Turner said. “For them to be that tone-deaf, or that arrogant, to think that it’s OK to put up a barricade so that the people can’t even — I mean, we were not even good enough to stand on their stairs.”

DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said that the barricades and security were put in place by the “building security team” rather than party officials. Hinojosa said that such steps were deemed necessary by the current security climate.

A table of water and donuts set up by the DNC as a peace offering did nothing to temper Turner’s outrage. “They tried to seduce us with donuts and water,” she said. “They’re pompous and arrogant enough to say to the people, you’re not good enough to be on our property — and, oh by the way, we’re just gonna [sic] hand you donuts and water over the barricade. That is insulting. Absolutely insulting.”

Turner wrote about the incident in a fundraising email in which she complained that the DNC response was another example of why progressives mistrust the Democratic Party. Citing remarks in which DNC political director Amanda Brown Lierman asked for support in 2018, Turner said, “That’s the problem. You think people are just gonna [sic] do what you say, and you don’t have to really listen.”

The host of adjectives employed by Turner to describe the meeting with DNC officials also included the phrases “dictatorial,” “pompous,” and “arrogant.”

DNC officials offered a different take on Lierman’s speech to the Our Revolution delegation. Hinojosa said that Lierman “expressed gratitude on behalf of the DNC” and spoke about “shared values.”

DNC officials also noted that Our Revolution has been invited to meetings with other progressive groups at the DNC, but that so far “they haven’t showed up” other than to join a party unity tour headlined by DNC Chairman Tom Perez and Deputy Chair Keith Ellison earlier this year.

Turner, who took the reins as president of Our Revolution in July, seems intent on a combative role. She has called upon Perez to apologize for the incident, saying, “The chairman would be wise to embrace this energy. He would be wise to make a phone call. He should have reached out to me by now to apologize for the way the people who came to the DNC were treated.” In her email to Our Revolution supporters, she wrote, “It is time to make the Democratic Party ‘Feel the Bern’ again.”

Sanders himself has maintained a low profile about the incident. One Sanders aide noted that the Vermont senator, who is officially an independent, is working “inside the system” while Our Revolution is working “outside the system.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Immigration Bill Represents Fundamental Shift in GOP

Fresh from their defeat on Obamacare, the Republicans have decided to throw caution to the wind and touch a third rail of politics. A bill introduced into the Senate by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) and supported by President Trump would overhaul the U.S. immigration system. The bill would shift priorities for immigrants to an employment basis while reducing the number of legal immigrants overall.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the RAISE Act, “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy,” would replace the current application process and reallocate the current number of employment-based green cards. Under the new system, green cards would be issued to highly skilled workers, English speakers and immigrants with the financial means to avoid becoming welfare recipients. The bill would also make it more difficult for current legal US residents to get green cards for extended families and eliminate the lottery system in which immigrants from underrepresented countries can win a green card.

Per the Journal’s report, the US currently issues about 1 million green cards annually. Of these, the majority, about two-thirds, are issued on the basis of family connections to US citizens and legal residents. 140,000 green cards are employment based and the remainder are issued by lotteries and to refugees.

While the bill would reprioritize green cards for business purposes, the overall goal seems to be to reduce legal immigration. An aide to Tom Cotton cited by the Journal said that the legislation would reduce immigration by 41 percent or 638,000 people in its first year. After 10 years, immigration would be halved from current levels, a decrease of about 540,000 immigrants annually.

In a press release, Cotton said that the bill would increase wages for blue-collar workers. “For decades, our immigration system has been completely divorced from the needs of our economy, and working Americans’ wages have suffered as a result. Our legislation will set things right,” Cotton said. “We will build an immigration system that raises working wages, creates jobs, and gives every American a fair shot at creating wealth, whether your family came over on the Mayflower or just took the oath of citizenship.”

“Right now, our current immigration system does not meet the needs of our economy,” Perdue said. “We want to welcome talented individuals from around the world who wish to come to the United States legally to work and make a better life for themselves. The RAISE Act will create a skills-based system that is more responsive to the needs of our economy and preserves the quality of jobs available to American workers.”

President Trump has indicated his support, even introducing the bill in a White House press conference. “For decades, the U.S. has operated a very low-skilled immigration system. It has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers,” Trump said.

The bill is likely to cause more division within the already fractured GOP. The pro-business wing of the party typically favors looser restrictions on immigration while protectionists want to reduce the number of immigrants competing for American jobs.  

Exit polling from Republican primaries in 2016 indicated that immigration was a minor issue and that voters were split on whether to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but the RAISE Act goes farther than the most recent attempts at immigration reform. Rather than dealing with the problem of illegal immigration, it attempts to restrict and reduce legal immigration.

While prioritizing visas based on the needs of American companies is a good idea, reducing the number of visas overall is not. A major driver of illegal immigration has been the long wait and difficult process to come to the U.S. legally. Business Insider notes that immigrating legally can take years or decades and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. Making it more difficult to come to the U.S. legally will make illegal immigration more attractive.

Making immigration more difficult also hurts American companies. Shortages of qualified workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields means that many American tech companies rely on highly skilled foreign workers, but low-skilled immigrants are also needed. In the past, immigration crackdowns have led to shortages of farm workers and the loss of billions of dollars in crops. The LA Times reported in March that Napa Valley farmers were offering $16 per hour for farm workers with no takers.

Cotton and Perdue and probably correct that reducing immigration will increase wages for American workers. Economic law dictates that as the supply of available workers decreases, the price of labor will rise, but that is only half the story. The other half is that prices of goods, such as farm-grown food, and services will also rise to compensate for the higher cost of production.

Some companies may choose to move operations outside of the United States where labor is cheaper. Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Uber are among the American tech companies expanding operations in Canada where it is easier to hire the skilled immigrants that they need.

The economic fallacy of restricting immigration to raise wages is similar to the liberal policy of artificially raising the minimum wage. Even if wages go up under the plan, gains for blue-collar workers are likely to evaporate due to the higher cost of living.

In the end, the bill will likely go nowhere. Senate rules require 60 votes for cloture and no Democrats are likely to support the measure. Many Republicans will probably also oppose the curbs to legal immigration.

The RAISE Act has some good aspects, but, at its core, the bill represents a shift in Republican attitudes. For years, Republicans have argued that they were against illegal immigration, but in favor of legal immigration. No more. The Cotton-Perdue bill can only be considered to be anti- legal immigration. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Gun Owners of America endorses candidates in Alabama special senate election

The Gun Owners of America (GOA) has endorsed two candidates for senator in the race to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions, who was appointed by Donald Trump to become  attorney general. Interestingly, neither of the two recommended candidates is the sitting Republican senator who was appointed to Sessions’ seat in the interim by a former governor.

In a press release, the GOA said that it supports Rep. Mo Brooks and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore to fill Sessions’ seat in the Senate. Tim Macy, chairman of the GOA, praised Brooks and Moore for their “strong, uncompromising records on gun rights.”
“Mo Brooks has an ‘A’ rating from GOA as U.S. Representative, and Judge Moore has long been an articulate, and uncompromising, champion for gun rights,” Macy said in the release. “Either of these candidates would fight for gun rights, instead of the D.C. establishment.”

The current frontrunner in the field of 11 Republicans and eight Democrats is the incumbent Senator Luther Strange. Strange was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat by the disgraced Robert Bentley, who was forced to resign as governor after his affair with Rebekah Mason and the subsequent cover up became a national scandal. Strange previously served as Alabama’s attorney general and had responsibility for investigating Gov. Bentley’s crimes. The circumstances of Strange’s appointment as he investigated the governor left a sour taste in the mouths of many Alabamans, especially after accusations that Strange intentionally delayed the impeachment proceedings against Bentley for six months.

Some political opponents are also attempting to tie Strange to the case of Oliver Robinson, a state legislator accused of taking $360,000 in bribes. The Project on Government Oversight reported that Strange and many other Alabama politicians, including Jeff Sessions, took money from Drummond Coal and Balch & Bingham, a Birmingham law firm. Drummond and Balch are accused of paying bribes to Robinson in connection with an EPA Superfund site that would have cost the coal company tens of millions of dollars in cleanup funds.

The Alabama Ethics Commission was also scheduled to hold a hearing on alleged campaign finance violations by Strange on August 2. The Resurgent reported that the hearing was postponed until August 16, the day after the Republican primary for the special election.

The reason that GOA is not supporting Strange is a simple one. “Strange has pledged his loyalty to Senate leaders,” Macy said. “Unfortunately, he has quickly become a ‘Swamp Creature.’”

The Washington Examiner reported that the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC affiliated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), spent millions of dollars to buy attack ads against both Brooks and Moore. The support from McConnell will further cement the perception that Strange is part of the Republican establishment.

Mo Brooks is currently a congressman from Alabama’s fifth district, which incorporates the northern part of the state. Brooks has served in the House of Representatives since 2011. He endorsed Ted Cruz for president in 2016 and was critical of Donald Trump throughout the campaign, a fact which Strange has used to attack him. In 2011, the American Conservative Union called Brooks the most conservative member of the Alabama House delegation. He maintains an 89 percent lifetime rating from the ACU.

Roy Moore is best known outside Alabama for his battle with the federal judiciary over the Ten Commandments. As chief justice, Moore kept a promise to install a Ten Commandments monument in the state Supreme Court building. He was removed from office by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in 2003 for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove the monument. He was reelected as chief justice in 2012, but was forced to resign for refusing to uphold the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Both Brooks and Moore have a large following in Alabama, while Strange has the advantages of incumbency and support of the party leadership. Recent polling shows Strange and Moore in a statistical heat with 35 and 33 percent respectively. Brooks trails with 16 percent.

The primary vote for the special election will be held on August 15. If no Republican earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff on September 26. The special election will be held on December 12.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

McConnell Plans To Pass Tax Reform With Only GOP Votes

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced his intention to move forward on tax reform with no Democrat support. To advance the bill without a filibuster by Democrats, Republicans will need to use the Senate’s budget reconciliation process that requires only 51 votes for cloture.

“We will need to use reconciliation,” McConnell told reporters, adding that Democrats are “not interested in addressing” items that Republicans favor. McConnell referenced a letter signed by 45 of the 48 Senate Democrats in which they refused to consider tax plans that cut rates for “the top 1 percent” or that added to the deficit. At the same time, Democrats called for a bipartisan reform bill.

“I don’t think this is going to be 1986, when you had a bipartisan effort to scrub the code,” McConnell said. He added, “Democratic senators who did not sign the letter who may be open to pro-growth tax reform.”

Unlike healthcare reform, where no Democrats broke ranks to vote with Republicans, the failure of three Democrats to sign the letter on tax reform may represent an opening to Republicans. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) are all up for reelection in 2018 in states that Donald Trump won. They are expected to have tough re-election battles, which may inspire them to side with Republicans on the tax bill.

There are difficulties for the Republicans as well. McConnell faced heavy criticism from his own side for his heavy-handed tactics and secret drafting of the healthcare bill. The secrecy and rapid changes in the content of the bill apparently swayed some senators to vote against the Obamacare reform.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, recently told Politico that there was less disagreement among Republicans on tax reform than there had been on healthcare. Norquist claimed that the GOP was at “97 percent” agreement after the decision to drop the border adjustment tax on imports, adding, “It’s now a question of making it fit” within the rules for reconciliation bills.

Under Senate rules, reconciliations can be used to pass bills that increase the deficit, but, per the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, senators can still block bills that are projected to raise deficits beyond the period that the budget resolution covers. Because scoring by the Congressional Budget Office often predicts that tax cuts will add to the deficit, these changes may be required to be temporary, probably less than 10 years, in order to be enacted as a budget reconciliation.

If McConnell and congressional Republicans can avoid the mistakes and division that they experienced in the run-up to the healthcare vote, they stand a slightly better chance of enacting tax reform. If Republicans can split off some Democrat votes to pass a bipartisan bill it would be a major victory for the Trump Administration and one that is sorely needed.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

McConnell Criticized For Pelosi-like Tactics

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing questions about his leadership after the Obamacare repeal debacle. Many Republican senators are criticizing McConnell’s strategy of crafting the bill in secret without input from members of the GOP caucus.

Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a consistent no vote on health care reform, said that she was often in the dark about what the most current version of the bill contained and lamented that she didn’t have time to study the draft legislation before voting.

In a situation reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi’s statement that Congress needed to vote on Obamacare to see what was in it, Murkowski told The Hill that, under McConnell, it was like “It’s 10 o’clock and we’re going to vote on it in two hours, what do you think, gang?”

John McCain (R-Ariz.), who cast the deciding vote to kill the healthcare bill, cited the secrecy surrounding the drafting of the bill as a reason to vote against it. McCain said in a statement, “We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.”

Other senators agreed with Murkowski’s criticism of the closed-door drafting of the legislation. In June, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said in a Facebook video, “Even though I’ve been a member of this working group among Senate Republicans assigned to help narrow some of the focus of this, I haven’t seen the bill.”

“And it has become increasingly apparent in the last few days that even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us,” Lee continued. “It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate.”

Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) went further a few weeks later. After a report by the Washington Post that McConnell told moderate Republicans that Medicaid cuts in the bill would not happen because they are so far into the future, Johnson told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that McConnell’s comments were a “breach of trust.”

Even without arousing the anger and suspicion of Republican senators, there was always a narrow window to pass an Obamacare reform bill. The Republican majority of only two votes meant that McConnell “needed to pitch a perfect game,” one senator told The Hill. “Unfortunately, he pitched a two-hitter,” the senator continued.

The criticism doesn’t mean that McConnell’s leadership will be challenged any time soon. No Republicans are stepping up to contest the Kentucky Republican’s position at the helm of the Senate. As Republican failures mount, that could change.

It is widely expected that the next step for the GOP is to tackle tax reform, an issue that faces many of the same challenges as healthcare reform. If Republicans use the budget reconciliation to avoid a Democrat filibuster, permanent changes would have to be scored as not adding to the deficit by the Congressional Budget Office. As with the healthcare bill, Republican moderates will be under intense pressure from the media and Democrats and it will only take three Republican defections to kill the bill since no Democrats are expected to vote yes.

After six months of stinging defeats in Congress, Republicans badly need a legislative victory to shore up the conservative base. Republican voters are angry at what they see as a betrayal of one of the party’s core promises. If Republicans can show no results from their majorities in both houses of Congress, Republican voters may stay home in November 2018. That could imperil McConnell’s position as majority leader even more surely than a revolt among Republican senators.

Originally published on The Resurgent