Saturday, February 02, 2008

The phone campaign

If there is some shred of doubt that there is a major presidential primary occurring with national implications in which I will vote on Tuesday, that doubt can be erased with every robo-call to my house over the last 48 hours. Tennessee is filled with ringing phones and canned voices on the other end of the line today, as candidates gun for the votes of the undecided through the time-tested and proven tactic of annoyance. The targets of calls like this are not only the undecided voter, but the teaming legions of people who are as yet unaware that there is an election going on.

Such people do exist, despite the fact that a well-publicized early voting period has come and gone in this State and hundreds of thousands of people have already cast their votes, many for a candidate that has since withdrawn from the race. Those who have volunteered for campaigns before know how important these last-minute calls can be, whether from a real person or a machine. Nonetheless, these phone adventures can sometimes be entertaining.

The Hillary campaign put in a call yesterday-one that my wife says may have been a human being since the message actually began when our voicemail started recording. John McCain called earlier today, but his voice was a canned one. Among the things that Senator McCain had to say about himself was that he was a "consistent conservative" who would fight for "secure borders." The McCain camp doubtless is aware that illegal immigration is an A-list issue with many Tennessee voters, especially in heavily Republican East Tennessee (considering McCain's record on immigration issues, this makes his robo-call uniquely ironic).

Phone-banking is an important part of any campaign, but many campaigns often lose undecided voters through poor telephone strategies. In 2004, my wife and I were living in Cincinnati during the November election. On Election Day itself, we received several calls from the Kerry campaign or from Democratic headquarters asking my wife if she had voted yet. One volunteer even offered to take my wife to the polls. Three different times that day, Kerry operatives called offering my wife a ride to vote. She didn't need one because we lived within walking distance of our polling place, but if anyone would have needed transportation to the polls, it would have been me since I have a disability. The last call from the Democrats came two hours before the polls closed. The poor lady was left speechless when my wife said "yes, I have voted-I voted for President Bush."



Even on a chilly Saturday like today, it is often nice to have a cold beer. Can you lend some assistance Jim Ed Brown?


The choice we face

Joe Scarborough has become my favorite morning show host, largely because I think his program Morning Joe is a good mix of his political experience, good humor, and a casual atmosphere. Scarborough is also incredibly frank, and is often honest to a fault about the political situation as he sees it.

In this clip from prior to the Michigan Primary, Scarborough rightly criticizes John McCain, who went after Mitt Romney for not supporting the President's tax cut plan soon enough when McCain himself failed to support a tax cut at all. Scarborough is right about McCain, who is now attempting to repackage himself as the Goldwater conservative that he was when he first came to the Senate. The Romney campaign is both correct and strategic in pointing out the anti-conservative positions McCain has held on issues like immigration, tax relief, and judges.

The problem is that John McCain is exactly right about Mitt Romney's record: It is flip-flop city.

If you are as pro-life as I am, this is hard to stomach. Mitt Romney says he is one of us, but his previous record has shown something different than what he is telling anti-McCain conservatives now. Could he have changed? Yes, it is possible-and I have always said that if he is the Republican nominee he will have my full support. I do think Mitt Romney is a conservative, but when he was Governor of Massachusetts, he was afraid to stand up for what he knew to be right.

If one accepts the premise that these are the only two to choose from, the choice is between pseudo-liberal political appeaser and a Massachusetts/Michigan dynasty man with no fortitude.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

The Pre-K question

The outside assessment of Tennessee's Pre-K program has been completed, and the results are mixed to say the very least. Every major survey category in the report seemed to show at least one category in which those who did not attend Pre-K managed to outscore those who did. By no means do these results give the impression that Pre-K is completely ineffective, but we are equally left with the impression that there is simply not enough evidence to support a massive State expenditure into this effort.

Governor Phil Bredesen has made Pre-K the great project of his second term in office, and has done so at what could be great political cost. This is the same man who is now complaining about a revenue shortage (there is no deficit, just less money than Phil and the Gang were expecting) after the opposition warned that such a shortage would occur since the Governor's schemes for raising taxes were not reliable and were constitutionally questionable to say the least. Republican and conservative arguments against the Bredesen tobacco tax hike and threats by Tennessee Commissioner Reagan Farr to post revenuers at the borders-an act which was not only unconstitutional but which also failed-were dismissed as partisan. Now the promised revenue shortage is here and the Governor just wants to spend more money.

Many liberals and Democrats want State-funded mandatory Pre-K for children. That means that parents who choose to stay home with their children rather than both parents entering the workforce won't have the option of being the primary educating force in their child's early developing years. Instead, the primary educator will be the State of Tennessee.

"We're from the government, and we're here to indoctrinate your children."

I had some pre-Kindergarten education when I was very young, but I would be willing to bet the ranch that in my case that didn't impact my present abilities. Instead, I had a mother who took the time not only to read to me but to teach me to read before I entered Kindergarten-by the time I started school, I already knew how to read and was reading ahead of many of my classmates. No one can instruct a child as well as an interested parent.

The classic liberal retort is "what about the parents who aren't interested, or who won't do their job." For roughly half-a-century, this country has embraced the liberal social model of economics and education. With both parents now working outside the home on a regular basis in many situations, and with only one parent as the head of household in many others, children are often left in the hands of teachers and third-party caregivers. Liberals are right that economics have forced this upon many American families today, but they fail to see the cause-and-effect of their own practical policies and mentality. By encouraging both parents to work in the days when it wasn't necessary, the amount of disposable cash in the economy increased, and so did overall wages. Prices increased, and the value of a dollar in terms of what it would actually buy decreased dramatically. Eventually, working outside the home wasn't a matter of choice for many people-both parents had to do it out of necessity, or lose everything in some cases. What began as a movement of liberation has become a social trend resulting in throw-away children and broken families.

I'm not saying that women shouldn't work outside the home, so militant feminists can call off the dogs-not that they will. I do believe, however, that children are better when one parent (whether male or female) is home with them during their formative years. We are now discouraging that as a society, and the social end-result may not be good for the future.

I'm not sure I want my tax dollars contributing to what I see as a serious social ill.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

A victory for life

The Tennessee State Senate yesterday voted 23-9 to adopt a Constitutional Amendment that states explicitly that nothing in the Tennessee Constitution should be construed to imply that there is a constitutional right to abortion in this State.

Were the amendment to pass, it would allow the Legislature to do what so many other States have done if they and the people of this State so choose-place limits on the barbaric practice of unrestricted abortion on demand.

Thank you former Lt. Governor John Wilder, and fellow Senators Lowe Finney, Doug Henry, Doug Jackson, Tommy Kilby, and Charlotte Burks. These Democrats stood up and said that the protection of unborn life should be a bipartisan issue. If Democrats in the House care as much as many of them say they do, I urge them to follow the lead of these six of their Senate comrades.

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Debt and recession

Senator Bob Corker has announced that he will vote against the bipartisan economic stimulus package endorsed by President Bush, Nancy Pelosi, and key Republicans and Democrats alike. Corker believes the stimulus plan isn't a real help to our economy, and its motivation is entirely political on the part of both parties:
"This is not about economics," said Corker, R-Chattanooga. "This is a political stimulus to make people around the country feel good about us here in Washington."

"I'm truly happy for people all across our state who will receive a check from the government," he said. "Any time anybody can receive a check, a refund if you will, I am happy for them in that regard."

But, he added, "I know in my heart all we are doing is damaging our country."

"I believe that low taxes stimulate the economy," Corker said. "But I also believe that the only way to keep low taxes in place is to control spending."

I am glad to be getting such a sizable tax rebate, but some of the authors of this plan within both parties are expecting that the American people will spend the money and stimulate the economy through that spending. A good chunk of the coming refund in my household is likely to be saved, not spent, however. In fact, it seems to me that consumer over-spending has created much of the present economic difficulty we are in. Democrats are keen to blame Republicans and Republicans try to find a way to blame Democrats. The roots of the present economic crisis did begin during the Clinton Administration, but we can't really blame Bill Clinton for it. We can blame Americans themselves who decided they "needed" things that they could not afford and were willing to go into debt to pay for them, when they knew that their ability to repay the debt was questionable. Banks and credit card companies (most of which are in fact managed by large banks) lent money to people they knew were high-risk at interest rates that made the loans even more difficult to repay. Mortgage lenders gave loans to very high-risk customers. Now consumers are complaining about the debts they can't repay because of unholy levels of interest, and lenders are complaining because they took risks that in former times any responsible bank would have avoided.

Political incumbents will benefit from the stimulus proposal, but the country very well may not in the long term. The stimulus plan may encourage a resumption of the unchecked consumer spending spree that got the country into the present recession to begin with.

Senator Corker continues to pleasantly surprise me with his conservative good sense. Even when voting against a popular proposal, he gives a very sound and very conservative reason why.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Florida Primary results roundtable

A discussion of the results of the Florida Primary with Adam Graham, Warner Todd Huston, John McJunkin, and Ken Marrero.

Oatney On the Air-Florida Roundtable

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McCain and his veiled appeal

John McCain won the Florida Primary yesterday, and before we say anything else we must congratulate McCain on a very well-won and hard-fought victory. However, in winning a closed Republican Primary, John McCain is showing that he is quite capable of winning the nomination. He is doing so because the conservative vote is still split between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. If McCain squeaks through and wins the Republican nod it will likely be because of vote-spitting between Romney, who is now picking up more evangelical support as part of a larger movement to stop McCain, and Huckabee. If Huckabee stays in the campaign long enough to keep Mitt Romney from establishing any clear momentum and thereby handing the nomination to McCain, there may be something in it for both Huckabee and McCain.

Listen closely to McCain's words about and apparent overture to Mike Huckabee in his victory speech last night. To win in November McCain must do something that candidates do not normally do: To try and keep the Republican base in line, he will actually need to run to the right. We are already seeing evidence of this during occasions like his victory speech when he was making constant allusions to Ronald Reagan and to conservatism. Even the site of Rudy Giuliani's expected endorsement today has been strategically chosen-the Ronald Reagan Library. John McCain is also very much aware that in order to secure the Republican base, he must get Southern conservatives and especially evangelicals out to vote in November.

There are two candidates that appear the most likely to galvanize that voting bloc-Fred Thompson or Mike Huckabee. Expect McCain's health to be an issue in the General Election if he is the nominee (and that is far from certain just yet), and that makes the Vice Presidency extremely valuable. No one knows that more than John McCain.

I do not believe that I can promise in good conscience not to support the Republican nominee (as some others have done), and risk Hillary Clinton being elected. The McCain campaign can certainly rest assured that one Primary vote they won't get next Tuesday is my own.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Florida pre-show

Some thoughts on the political mechanics of today's Florida Republican Primary and how the outcome could be affected.

Oatney On the Air-Florida Primary pre-show

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Lining up against the establishment

The Florida Republican Primary takes place today amidst an atmosphere of increasing acrimony between John McCain and Mitt Romney as it now becomes increasingly clear that Florida (and perhaps the nomination fight itself) has become a race between these two men:

“By our calculation, a family of four would have to spend about an extra $1,000 a year if McCain-Lieberman became law,” Romney said, standing outside at Texaco station at dawn and discussing the measure his rival sponsored with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). “And again that's because gasoline would rise in price by approximately .50 cents a gallon and natural gas would rise about 20 percent. The burden on Florida homeowners would obviously be excessive.”

"I would note that Senator McCain is noted for three major pieces of legislation. I think all of them were badly flawed,” Romney said, widening his attack to incorporate McCain’s campaign finance legislation and the immigration reform bill “And if somebody wants to know where he would lead the country you simply need to look at the three pieces of legislation with his name at the top.”

Romney is correct about the major legislation McCain has sponsored, all of which makes John McCain's conservative credentials highly suspect. McCain has been running around Florida calling Romney a liberal, but Bill Clinton himself has said that Hillary is "very close" with John McCain. It makes one wonder where he is getting some of his legislative ideas.

The party establishment is now beginning to coalesce around John McCain, who received the endorsement of Florida Governor Charlie Crist on Sunday. Perhaps most significant to Tennesseans is that the honorary national Chair of the Fred Thompson campaign, former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, has now officially endorsed McCain. Like every Republican in this State, I have a tremendous amount of personal respect for Howard Baker-it is hard not to admire the man who did more than anyone else in the modern era to bring the GOP to Statewide electability here. He also served as President Reagan's Chief of Staff, and there are very few of us who, if Howard Baker called us up and asked us to do something, would not do it just because Howard Baker asked. Baker is an establishment man through and through, however. He opposed Ronald Reagan in 1980 (dropping out of the race after losing to Reagan in New Hampshire), and was appointed Chief of Staff partly as an olive branch to moderates within the party. One Tennessee State legislator (not Stacey Campfield) told me privately that Baker's influence over Fred Thompson was "the worst thing that could ever happen to the Thompson campaign." I can't say whether that is true or not, but Fred's performance didn't exactly help the argument that Baker's role in the campaign was a good thing. Baker's endorsement is not a signal that McCain is the most trustworthy of conservative candidates, but merely that the politically shrewd Baker believes McCain is the most electable one.

If the Country Club circuit has really lined up behind John McCain, then conservatives may need to unite behind one candidate for the sole purpose of stopping McCain-a step that some in Tennessee have decided to take. Florida is the great test for McCain, because unlike New Hampshire or South Carolina, Florida has a closed Primary. While it is possible in theory for Democrats and independents to vote in the Republican Primary, the process for doing so is just cumbersome enough that we can safely say that the winner in Florida will be chosen by Republicans. If McCain is beaten in Florida, it is going to be very hard for him to be nominated. If he wins there, he will have proven that he can win among Republicans, and to defeat him, conservatives must unite on February 5th.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

The lost virtue of patience

Peggy Noonan was right when she said in The Wall Street Journal last week that the Republican Party is in the midst of what she called a "slow civil war," and she got the reason for the fighting correct:
As for the Republicans, their slow civil war continues. The primary race itself is winnowing down and clarifying: It is John McCain versus Mitt Romney, period. At the same time the conservative journalistic world is convulsed by recrimination and attack. They're throwing each other out of the party. Republicans have become very good at that. David Brooks damns Rush Limbaugh who knocks Bill Kristol who anathematizes whoever is to be anathematized this week. This Web site opposes that magazine.

The rage is due to many things. A world is ending, the old world of conservative meaning, and ascendancy. Loss leads to resentment. (See Clinton, Bill.) Different pundits back different candidates. Some opportunistically discover new virtues in candidates who appear at the moment to be winning. Some feel they cannot be fully frank about causes and effects.

One of the things we try to do in our writing is to be fully forward and frank about causes and effects. There are a few people who read our work who are not comfortable with that frankness because it offends their (often false) notions of what conservatism is and what they think the Republican Party is, isn't, or is supposed to be. One of the reasons for the present infighting within various factions of the Reagan coalition is that the coalition has been torn asunder by the neglect of the present administration (something else Peggy Noonan got right in her column), and the coalition needs to find its moorings again. This is a feat that no single nominee in a single election cycle can accomplish. Today's conservatives have truly lost the virtue of patience.
On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"

This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.

I have heard multiple pundits, from Rush Limbaugh in the national talk radio circuit, to my good friend Adam Graham in the blogosphere, rage on about the end of the Republican Party if John McCain is nominated. I have come to agree with Adam that McCain must be stopped (that means that those of us who vote on February 5th must vote strategically in order to block McCain), but if he is nominated it will not spell doom for the GOP or for the conservative movement. Love or hate McCain-and I'm not on the love bandwagon by any means-he knows that he can only go so far in the fall without support from the Republican Party's conservative base. He will attempt to reposition himself as the Southwestern Goldwater conservative he was when he first came to the United States Senate.

Conservatives are going to have to trust that a former Massachusetts Governor really will be as conservative as he promises, that a former Arkansas Governor will not raise taxes through the roof, or that an Arizona Senator will not root the GOP out from within, as he now says he will not. The movement is far from dead, and we must remember that the state of the Republican Party is reflective of the country at-large: Uneasy, indecisive, and without clear direction.

Conservatives cannot expect to nominate a candidate they can all agree on or feel comfortable with when we ourselves have yet to decide the direction in which we want our movement to go.

This isn't the end of the movement, it is the end of an era-and the present process is an indication that conservatism is growing up.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

How dare you vote against the Clintons

Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic Primary yesterday. When he did so, the Clinton reaction reminded me of two things. The first is why I think the Clintons are singularly wicked people. The second is why I am proud to be a Republican.

Bill Clinton on Barack Obama's victory in South Carolina:

"Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign. Senator Obama's run a good campaign here, he’s run a good campaign everywhere.”

The implication here is clear-Bill (and doubtless his wife) believes Barack Obama won the South Carolina Primary because he is black. How dare black voters (or anyone else) vote against the Clintons after "all we've done for you." Bill Clinton was the first black President, remember?

The Clintons believe the Democratic base owes Hillary the nomination because she is Bill Clinton's wife. Aside from being in the Senate, her "experience" is that she was First Lady of the Land for eight years. If she had more experience than that, then all of our jokes about Hillary being the one who was running the country were very likely the truth-and now voters are indicating that they do not want her to have a third term. The Clintons are dangerous people not only because they are uppity, aging, upper-class former hippies with an ax to grind, but because these people believe themselves entitled to power. They see the Presidency as some toy with which they can play as if they were naughty children.

For all of the Clintons' past talk about equality and racial healing, we now see that this kind of talk for them is what it is for most of the Democratic leadership apparatus-talk designed to milk the African-American vote, and nothing more. Black voters ought to pay close attention and ask themselves if these people are really as devoted to their interests as they had previously been led to believe.

I do not support Barack Obama and I will not vote for him because I don't agree with him on the issues, my vote is in no way predicated upon his skin color. At least in the Republican Party race is not such an obsession that we feel the need to pander cheaply to this ethnic group or that one-than when those groups don't vote our way we don't feel the need to whine about having lost because of being white. It is one of the great things about being Republican-in our party, everyone really is treated as an equal.

As for the Clintons, I can be proud of being Republican because I don't have to worry about such snotty, uppity white trash being made the nominee of my party.


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