Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Last Saturday rising Republican star Sheriff Paul Babeu, an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration's border and immigration policy currently running for Congress, "came out" as a gay man at a press conference he had called to address recent and sensational claims that he used the authority of his office to intimidate an immigrant with whom he had a relationship to keep the affair under wraps.   

The almost immediate reaction of most in the politosphere re: the revelations of Babeu's sexual orientation is that it would bring an abrupt end to the political aspirations of this rising star in the Republican Party, who as a result has been forced to resign his position as State Co-Chair of the Arizona Romney Campaign.  Indeed, many from the conservative-leaning and largely rural Arizona district which he seeks to represent, including many well connected political observers in that State and around the nation, have speculated he is all but doomed in his campaign to represent the newly-formed 4th Congressional district in Arizona.

And we admit, portions of the recent claims are extremely troubling, not just for the stark juxtaposition of the revelations with the squeaky-clean "All American" image he has successfully portrayed, but even more saliently the allegations that Mr. Babeu may have used his position as Pinal County Sheriff to threaten his allegedly illegal immigrant lover with deportation if he did not agree to remain quiet about their affair so as not to damage Babeu's chances to win a seat in Congress.  Such claims, if substantiated, would not only raise serious questions of abuse of power, but would seemingly open Babeu, who has made a name for himself with a "get tough on illegal immigration" persona that he has developed in extremely public disagreements with Administration immigration and border enforcement policy, to charges of hypocrisy in his area of strongest political appeal to Arizona voters.  

While Sheriff Paul's "guilt" or innocence to the most serious charges that have been made against him are not at issue hereindeed, the right to be innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental and sacrosanct value we champion here at the ACLP and we certainly are firmly on the "conservative" side in the raging national debate on such social issues as the enshrinement in federal law of "gay marriage," in this case however we see a much more basic point.

Should an otherwise qualified candidate for Congress be prevented and/or excluded from a seemingly otherwise successful run for Congress due solely to his sexual orientation? Of course, the question presupposes that Sheriff is, in fact, innocent of the "intimidation" or "abuse of power" allegations that have surfaced in conjunction with his outinga factor that could obviously changebut nevertheless, the question, at least at this point, remains. So what?

Does it really matter the sexual practices of a candidate in their private life, as long as they are able to adequately perform their duties as an elected official? Or, put another way, are we unconsciously limiting the pool of qualified candidates to elected positions due to the "gotcha" style of politics that seems to pervade our political system nowdays?

Of course, the fact that Sheriff Paul felt constrained to attempt to keep the affair silent by having his attorney contact his alleged lover speaks volumes about a related issue, certainly a legitimate question, to wit: Is a person in position of authority more susceptible to blackmail and/or "pressure" to not faithfully exercise their duties if they are homosexual? (a particularly important question in the areas of military intelligence, politics or national security.)  

And if so, is this due to irrational "homophobia" in society, and thus an argument in favor of more tolerant "mainstreaming" of homosexuals into all positions of service in the military and society overall in order to force more "acceptance" of "alternate" lifestyles and an according drop in "stigma," (as the Obama Administration seems to think), or, rather, erring on the side of caution, should homosexuals be banned from certain positions to protect them (and society) from the corrupting effects of susceptibility to blackmail that fear of involuntary "outing" necessarily involves? Tough questions, and all ones we are not going to tackle today, (as if we even could settle such thorny issues that easy!)

But taken simply on an individual basis, in the contexts of Sheriff Paul's case before us, we find certain implications for the "big tent" party of Lincoln, as well as society, disturbing and worthy of address.

Of course, the ultimate determination on Sheriff Paul, at least politically, will be up to the voters to decide. One could certainly make the argument that by deceiving voters as to this salient and core feature of who he is, he doesn't now deserve the benefit of the doubt to be elected, (or re-elected for that matter). And one would certainly be entitled to that belief.

However, that still leaves unaddressed the question of why, in this particular case, (other than the above-mentioned intimidation claims), Sheriff Babeu's orientation should really matter at all?

On Babeu's watch, spending and waste in his department has been reduced, even as effectiveness and morale has gone up. Drug and illegal-immigrant interdiction have grown markedly more effective, and he has proven courageous and effective in addressing real public-safety issues of the people whom he serves in the rugged area near the border of Mexico in which he works on a daily basis.

Indeed, there is no one who can claim, at least with a straight face, that Paul has not been an effective leader and public servant as Sheriff of Pinal County for the years he has headed that law enforcement agency, (indeed, he has been selected multiple years in a row by his peers to head the Arizona Sheriff's Association).

And politics aside, he has certainly been an effective voice for better drug and border enforcement, an important issue for large swaths of the electorateand indeed, arguably to the safety of Arizona and the Nationeven if agreement on the importance of this from a public policy and political standpoint is in dispute.

So again, assuming the allegations of abuse of power and intimidation are not substantiated, and assuming one agrees with Mr. Babeu's public policy prescriptions for border issues, why should this former military man who has served with distinction in every position he has ever held be excluded from consideration for a seat in Congress based solely on his sexual orientation? Or, put another way, is a man's (or women's for that matter) sexual orientation sufficient cause to end their career?  Indeed, the simple answer is, in fairness, it shouldn't be.  Now I know what some of my conservative brethren are thinking here.  Has the man lost his moral marbles?  But before I answer that question, (or you do!), it behooves us to examine a few other matters first.   

I'm sure most Americans would agree that it is a basic axiom of our individually merit-based society that one should only be prevented from securing a position, any position, due to their not being suited to the position by their training and/or an inability to carry out the duties which that job entails.

Indeed, it is a principle that has been fundamental to the American dream, and dear to political conservatives in particular, from almost the foundation of the Republic in spirit, if not in deed.

It is also a core part of the bulwark preventing our nation from dividing (degenerating?) into separate "special interest" groups which the nation's founding fathers would have called the danger of "faction" in America, (Federalist Nos. 10), and constituted in their minds a real and present danger to the success of our national experiment in liberty.  

Indeed, this principle is the only rational basis which one can employ even handedly to prevent discrimination of all kinds from wreaking the kind of social unrest and injustice that otherwise would rage unchecked much like the "class warfare" rhetoric of today engenders on a parallel plane. And it is a road we do not, as a nation, want to go down.

Indeed, if sexual orientationnote I say "orientation," not sexual conductt becomes a "legitimate" grounds upon which to fire or promote, it opens a can of worms that has no end.

Similar to that invidious distinction of race, when governmental policy favors one race over another, it guarantees future discrimination and injustice in a most destabilizing way, as those who "merit" the privilege of special preference and protection from government today may be the exact opposite "group" who claims it tomorrow, (with the only distinction being which societal "group" can wrest control of the levers of popularly elected government from their former "oppressors"). It doesn't take much to imagine the destructive effect this could have to a representative democracy in which all are supposed to be treated "equal" in the eyes of the law. (Indeed, the avoidance of such mischief was a chief concern the Founders sought when they "built in" so many "checks and balances" into the our Republic's primary law, the U.S. Constitution).

So back to Sheriff Babeu. 

 In light of such principles, and the danger to our Republic that abandoning them in one case however shocking the specifics of an individual case may be to us personally holds for the our national good, we believe it behooves us to 1) Resist the temptation to rush to judgment, and 2) Unashamedly pronounce that as Americans dedicated to the Rule of Law, precluding consideration of an otherwise and obviously qualified candidate for public office based solely on his sexual orientation is anathema to core principles of law and fairness our government is founded on and ought to be vehemently opposed by all persons of good will.

So in conclusion we say, let the Arizona election proceed, and let the voters decide... but let them do so not based upon such an extremely personal matter of Sheriff Babeu's as has been exposed of late. Rather, let it be on the public policies, governmental preferences and performance Mr. Babeu has exhibited as a public servant of the people of Pinal county, Arizona. Fairness, as well as sound public policy considerations, demand no less. Jp

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Has the Republican Party been taken over by Ron Paul Libertarianism?- An analysis of the causes, history, and effects of the GOP's Libertarian Streak

In the course of following-- or attempting to follow-- the crazy ups and downs of the near fratricidal intra-party war currently being waged in the Republican primary for which candidate will be the party's standard bearer to go against Barack Obama in the Fall, one thing has become increasingly clear, or maybe two. There are deep fissures of division among the parties core constituencies, with each passionately devoted to their policies and version of the truth vis a vis what they think it will take to defeat the sitting Democratic President in November.

In this regard there are none for whom this is more true than Ron Paul supporters, who in spite of few victories thus far in the campaign, and even fewer delegates, clearly compensate by sheer determination and enthusiasm for their cause.  We thus thought it appropriate to take a moment and examine this core component of the modern Republican party in light of a few key considerations, 1) The history and roots of Libertarianism (in the Gop and nationally), 2) The effects within the party with an emphasis on primary and general election politics, and, 3) The potential consequences of Ron Paul Libertarianism upon national policy as expressed in social, economic and foreign policy.

The Libertarian "wing" of the Republican party makes up one of three key groups making up the bulk of the Republican base today, the other two being the Christian or cultural conservatives and so-called "Establishment" or "country club" Republicans. And while the Libertarians certainly agree with the other two "legs" of the Republican stool, if you will, on the need to defeat President Obama to meet party goals and reverse various national policies and objectives of the Obama Administration which they view as destructive to our economy and very way of life, they differ markedly in both the specific policies they view as most destructive as well as their level of enthusiasm and dedication to the party in general. As this author can personally attest, this has sometimes resulted in a seeming unwillingness and/or or inability of the those on the extreme end of the Libertarian wing to "play nicely" with the other wings in the GOP, and has led in the eyes of the other two legs, fairly or not, to a perception that the Libertarian wing has a "take their ball and go home" attitude not conducive to party unity and the ability to come together for common goals necessary to achieve electoral success.  Of course, this could perhaps be equally said of any of a major party's key groups, and in the case of the GOP could perhaps equally apply to the Cultural converservatives for whom "social issues" are most important, or the "establishment Republicans" for whom stability and an emphasis on free market economics is most important.  However, those wings of the GOP are not currently the subject of this article.  Rather, this post shall examine the history of the Libertarian movement in general and within the GOP, the reality of the perceptions often associated with and the practical effect upon the party, i.e., how it helps, or hurts, in our humble opinion, the GOP's overall chances to win, (and as an aside, Ron Paul's chances at the nomination).

For starters, as alluded to above, the Libertarian wing is easily a contender, along with the Christian/cultural conservative wing of the GOP, for the most enthusiastic group in the party.  Many have noted that the Libertarian movement, and the youthful and energetic "fresh blood" that it brings into the party, is critical to the Republicans' success in the kind of campaigning and "street level" politics that provide energy and awareness among the general public in a way that is helpful to the party and its nominee leading up to the General election.  However, there is a darker side, a "cost" if you will of their particular brand of politics as well, one which this article will examine in detail.  To do that we must delve into Libertarianism's beginnings.

The national and political history of American Libertarianism

American Libertarianism has its roots in American politics going back to the nation's founding.

The philosophical underpinnings of American Libertarianism

Friday, February 3, 2012

Insulting Ann Coulter- A critique of Philip A. Klein et al's response to “Three Cheers for Romneycare.”

  Inasmuch as we are a non-partisan organization operating in the public interest, and nothing could be more in the public interest than a full understanding of matters impacting on the 2012 Presidential race, we thought it appropriate if we took a moment to respond to the Washington Examiner's senior editorial writer and blogger Philip A. Klein's rebuttal to Ann Coulter's controversial Feb 1, 2011 article “Three cheers for Romney Care.” We do so due to three primary reasons.

  1. Because Romneycare, and by extension Obamacare-- on which at least a large number of conservatives seemingly are convinced is no different than Romneycare and have asserted was the “model” for the federal legislation which includes a similar “must purchase” insurance mandate-- is an incredibly important matter of national importance.
  2. Because Philip Klein has asserted that Coulter has gone awol and “insulted” the “true conservatives” in the GOP with her assertions and claims in the above-mentioned article, AND
  3. Because a proper understanding of these issues is critically important to the selection of the Republican nominee and next President of the United States, as it acts as a “wedge issue” which motivates significant numbers of GOP voters, if not the electorate generally.
  Initially we must note that it is Ann Coulter's rhetorical trademark to be bombastically sarcastic and drive home her logical points and premises with acerbic wit, sometimes to the point of it being difficult to determine the lines of demarcation between where her sarcasm ends and where she should be taken seriously. Indeed, sarcasm is always a delicate matter of interpretation, (and the reason one should, in general, avoid its extreme use in everyday conversation). It is, however, as noted, Ms. Coulter's trademark feature and, of course, her right to employ as she wishes, in our view to increase controversy and hence, her readership, (even if it sometimes results in misunderstanding or offense).

 Having thus explained, it is in this light that we think Mr. Klein takes far too seriously some of the Ms. Coulter's comments in finding occasion for “insult” in her article, (instead of choosing to respond in a purely calm and rationed way to its main points). Don't get us wrong, we are not saying that Mr. Klein is not at all rational in his response, or doesn't draw blood with any of his own reasoned points, (of which he certainly has some good ones); we are merely suggesting for consideration that Mr. Klein has fallen unwittingly perhaps into Coulter's trap of baiting him to respond in an overly emotional way.

  It is in this sense-- and particularly re: Klein's essential grievance with Coulter that she has intentionally insulted conservatives and/or misconstrued their views regarding Obamacare and Romneycare and erroneously exaggerated the differences between them-- that Klein seems, at least to us, to himself be guilty of the logical fallacy of “paper tiger,” (setting up an opponent's views so weakly or ridiculously as to be easy to knock them down).

  Indeed, as to the specific claim of Klein and Co. expressed separately by blogger Jeff Emanuel in a similar piece citing Klein's published yesterday at redstate.com, this lack of appreciation for Coulter's trademark sarcasm in interpreting her comments is clearly evident:

Coulter puts her derision for members of the conservative movement on full display by declaring that the only reason opposition to the law exists is because the nickname ‘Romneycare’ sounds like ‘Obamacare.’ 
Jeff Emanuel piece at redstate.com, Feb. 2, 2012. 

In support of this theory, Klein and Co. cite Coulter's piece, where she says, clearly tongue in cheek:

[B]ecause both Obamacare and Romneycare concern the same general topic area — health care — and can be nicknamed (politician’s name plus “care”), Romney’s health care bill is suddenly perceived as virtually the same thing as the widely detested Obamacare. (How about “Romneycare-gate”?) As The New York Times put it, “Mr. Romney’s bellicose opposition to ‘Obamacare’ is an almost comical contradiction to his support for the same idea in Massachusetts when he was governor there.” This is like saying state school-choice plans are “the same idea” as the Department of Education.
         Ann Coulter, "Three Cheers for Romneycare," Feb. 1, 2012.

  While admittedly a bit over the top, Coulter clearly makes, in typical sarcastic fashion, an extremely rational point completely ignored by her critics, i.e., that their leap in logic equating Romneycare, a state law based on market principles, with Obamacare, an entire federal bureaucracy that is clearly not, is quite a leap of logic indeed.  Unfortunately, the near-reflexive response of her critics makes it appear as if the conservative movement has suddenly lost, in addition to its ability to reason, all sense of humor or memory as to who Coulter, a champion of conservatism known for controversy, (who we formerly loved for years of faithfully ridiculing liberals), is.

  For the record, and for the reasons as are set out herein, we are not at all convinced that Ms. Coulter is near so gung ho for health care mandates as her article's very sarcastic title and comments might imply at first blush. Rather, as the above example suggests, we submit that Coulter uses, (to great effect we may add!), such sarcasm as a rhetorical tool to not only increase her readership, but to make valid points on the critical matter under discussion which her critics ignore at their peril, (and, if it needs saying, secondarily to support who she sees as the most worthy Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, who for obvious reasons is inextricably connected to the subject at hand.)

 We would also like to point out that our goal isn't to “show up” or embarrass Mr. Klein or other conservative bloggers in any way, (as if he is not capable of clarification or response to even today's post by this insignificant blogger); rather our goal is to try and facilitate a more sensible discourse between the two camps on this critical issue, so that any disagreement, if upon a proper understanding such continues to exist, is at least on the merits of the relevant issues instead of based on knee-jerk emotionalism and what one may think their opposite-minded fellows in the movement believe, (but in fact don't).

 Further, it is our concern these very public and divisive disagreements are doing real and positive damage to the conservative movement which is in danger of splintering into a thousand pieces and sabotaging the GOP's chances to come together in the all important goal of defeating Obama in the Fall. It is our earnest hope that a more reasoned and civil approach that results in a balanced and thorough discussion of all relevant issues re: such matters and our future nominee might accordingly accrue to the Republican party and general body politic without need of resorting to such damaging and emotionally-laden accusations and counter-accusations we have witnessed of late which benefit no one in understanding what's at stake in this critical debate. Indeed, such public squabbles and misunderstandings can only cause the broader public to question if we are truly ready to govern other than as children and benefit the progressive left who are delighted at the prospect of our continued bickering aiding them in re-electing Barack Obama to a second Presidential term.

 And while we cannot speak to Mr. Klein's motives, (who as far as we can see is otherwise a solid conservative, as we would also grant to Ms. Coulter), we think Klein's response, as a whole, misses the forest for the trees, (more on this below). Moreover, we would be remiss not to note that the differences in their respective perspectives may arise, at least in part, from Coulter's training as a lawyer.

 Take for example, the following passage from Coulter's piece, (laced with her typical sarcasm of course):

One difference between the health care bills is that Romneycare is constitutional and Obamacare is not. True, Obamacare’s unconstitutional provisions are the least of its horrors, but the Constitution still matters to some Americans. (Oh, to be there when someone at The Times discovers this document called “the Constitution”!) As Rick Santorum has pointed out, states can enact all sorts of laws — including laws banning contraception — without violating the Constitution. That document places strict limits on what Congress can do, not what the states can do. Romney, incidentally, has always said his plan would be a bad idea nationally. The only reason the “individual mandate” has become a malediction is because the legal argument against Obamacare is that Congress has no constitutional authority to force citizens to buy a particular product. The hyperventilating over government-mandated health insurance confuses a legal argument with a policy objection. (read more here)
Ann Coulter, "Three Cheers for Romneycare," Feb. 1, 2012.

  Now contrast that with comments in Klein's rebuttal:

Coulter then spends the next chunk of her column making the case that Romneycare is constitutional. That’s true – states have police powers that the federal government does not – but that’s a total straw man. That’s not the argument conservative critics are making. We oppose Romneycare because it’s a massive expansion of government, regardless of the fact that Massachusetts was within its power to enact it. To use another example, it’s perfectly legal for a Republican governor to sign a massive tax increase and a budget that doubles spending, but that doesn’t make it a conservative policy.
Philip A. Klein, Washington Examiner editorial, Feb. 1, 2012, click here for rest of Klein's rebuttal of Coulter's article.
  From just this simple comparison it is immediately evident that Coulter is absolutely correct in assertion that “the hyperventilating over government-mandated health insurance confuses a legal argument with a policy objection,” (notice Klein's statement ending the above quote “that doesn't make it a conservative policy,” italics added for emphasis). 

  Thus, it is clear that Coulter is arguing from a legal perspective, and her critics are arguing from a policy perspective. We will talk more about this in coming days, (and whether, in fact, the State should have the right to mandate that you do anything at all, such as laws forcing you to have car insurance, or give vaccinations to your kids), as well as the further political ramifications of all this. 
(Suffice it to say for now, and as an aside, that unless we want to have complete societal anarchy a la Ron Paul style, just because we don't like a policy does not mean it is unconstitutional; it is however why we have national elections, which, if you haven't noticed, we are in the middle of an election year now!)  In sum, while Mr. Klein may have an excellent understanding about the similarities in the Massachusetts law vs. the national version of Obamacare vis a vis their shared “individual mandate” and certain other provisions, he and other critics give short shrift to affirming (or even understanding?) Coulter's point that the critical difference between the two is in fact a legal one, i.e., the fact Obamacare tramples States Rights and, by implication, the legal provision that gives them effect, (the Tenth Amendment), must logically by the same token render “Romneycare” a lawful exercise of State police power.  Thus rather than the tangential and seemingly insignificant difference that Klein makes this out to be, we submit it is the quintessential, defining difference between these two pieces of legislation, (however similar they may otherwise appear on first impression).  

  Klein, however, ostensibly failing to understand the critical legal nature of this point, or even that Coulter is not necessarily saying that State mandates are all hunky dorie, as opposed to merely lawful-- which again, in light of her propensity for sarcastic exaggeration we suggest a latent disapproval of  state mandates may yet be a distinct possibility on Coulter's part but one she eschews due to a sincerely held legal and conservative philosophy of judicial restraint-- simply barrels on with his own philosophical objection to mandates generally.

 Then too, Coulter's critics seem to miss (or ignore) her point that Romneycare, while certainly imposing an obligation to purchase insurance on Mass. residents similar to Obamacare's mandate on citizens of all states, is a far cry from the 2000+ page bureaucratic-laden Obamacare which, in its full manifestation, will determine what kind of health services one can receive, where and by whom they will be received, and when they can be received, (something which Romneycare, with its emphasis on private insurance purchased in government “exchanges,” doesn't come even near the same level of regulation of the health industry). As Ms. Coulter poignantly said in her article, Obamacare is:

[A] 2,000-page, trillion-dollar federal program micromanaging every aspect of health care in America with enormous, unresponsive federal bureaucracies manned by no-show public-sector union members enforcing a mountain of regulations that will bankrupt the country and destroy medical care, as liberals scratch their heads and wonder why Obamacare is costing 20 times more than they expected and doctors are leaving the profession in droves for more lucrative careers, such as video store clerk. 

 Now before I get any hate mail please don't misunderstand; Klein, and any conservatives so inclined, certainly have the right to object to either Romneycare or Obamacare on any grounds they wish to advance in the public arena, (and indeed, we have exercised our rights accordingly, see our post “So what's really the problem with Obamacare?”). What is wrong however, and what one cannot do, at least logically and fairly, is to act like Coulter's emphasis on the legal aspects which are currently the focus of the pending Supreme Court appeal of Obamacare by 26 states' Attorney Generals is a willful ignoring and “twisting” of the issue under discussion or some kind of rejection of conservative values and philosophy generally. 

 Again, as Coulter points out:

Until Obamacare, mandatory private health insurance was considered the free-market alternative to the Democrats' piecemeal socialization of the entire medical industry. In November 2004, for example, libertarian Ronald Bailey praised mandated private health insurance in Reason magazine, saying that it "could preserve and extend the advantages of a free market with a minimal amount of coercion." A leading conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, helped design Romneycare, and its health care analyst, Bob Moffit, flew to Boston for the bill signing. Romneycare was also supported by Regina Herzlinger, Harvard Business School professor and health policy analyst for the conservative Manhattan Institute. Herzlinger praised Romneycare for making consumers, not business or government, the primary purchasers of health care. 

In this regard, again, the critics' reply, like Jeff Emanuel in his post on redstate.com yesterday, is:

[W]hat Coulter ignores is the fact that Heritage has since repudiated the idea of an individual mandate at any level, writing in an amicus brief (pdf) filed in a challenge to Obamacare that “since [the passage and implementation of Obamacare], a growing body of research has provided a strong basis to conclude that any government insurance mandate is not only unnecessary, but is a bad policy option.”
Jeff Emanuel piece, redstate.com, Feb 2, 2012. 

 But what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Policy makers rely all the time on the best information available at the time, as even Mr. Emanuel's argument concedes. To hold Romney, or Coulter responsible that, in hindsight, this or that might not have been the best policy solution to the problem is to ask the impossible of our leaders and those like Coulter, who at best are limited to rallying citizens to make their wishes known to their leaders beforehand and afterwards can only comment on the governmental action. Indeed, it is completely irrelevant that the Heritage Foundation, or any other organization or think tank, may, years later, file a legal brief making certain policy arguments, (arguments by the way which are not really “legal” at all but rather "political questions" better addressed to the legislative branches than the Supreme Court which must as a proper function of the judiciary grapple with matters of Constitutional law such as Coulter has rightly focused on).

Then too, Klein states:

Romney signed the health care law with a smiling Ted Kennedy at his side knowing that Democrats had the votes to override any symbolic line-item vetoes of certain provisions. Furthermore, when he signed the law, he had already announced he wasn’t seeking reelection as governor and knew that it would almost certainly fall on Democrats to implement the law. Part of being a limited government Republican is realizing that once you put the infrastructure in place, successors can always add to it.

 Leaving aside another obvious logical fallacy for now, (that of guilt by association), what does the fact that Romney was shortly leaving his office as Governor of MA. have to do with anything?

 First of all, to claim that Romney somehow should have “known” that “it would almost certainly fall to Democrats to implment the law” is again, a standard no politician could ever meet. By this logic I expect every conservative to immediately denounce George Bush (and the Democratic Congress, there's that “guilt by association” thing again!) for passing the Patriot Act in the aftermath of 9/11.  Of course, other than for Ron Paul, whose extreme isolationist ideas and fears enforcing our borders may lead to the government “keeping Americans in” have not mustered more than token support in recent primaries, this will never happen, as conservatives distinctly and almost universally recognize such views as being both irrational and out of the mainstream.

 Lest you should miss my point here, to say that Romney “should have known better” than to pass a law attempting to deal with a real policy problem is akin to saying Bush shouldn't have passed the Patriot Act because “successors can always add to it.” But this surely could be said about any law, and is the reason we have the ability to take action by exercising our rights at the ballot box, (as well as to petition the government for redress of grievances generally); for the purpose of defeating legislators and laws that are burdensome to our liberty or that we don't approve of, (as occurred recently with the ill-fated Sopa and Pipa legislation, see our post on that subject here).  Indeed, and contrary to the idea put forth by Mssrs. Klein and Emanuel, Democracy is not a “do once and done” kind of thing, and never has been.  Rather, as Thomas Jefferson poignantly said, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

 Furthermore, if the Democratic legislature in Massachusetts had the power to “override any symbolic line-item vetoes of certain provisions,” as Klein insists, then they could just as easily have passed a much worse single-payer government health delivery system and, absent Romney's moderating influence, overrode his veto to pass such a plan into law, (even if he had never tried to reach a market based solution to broadly provide health insurance in MA.).  Indeed, by this token, one could easily argue that rather than proof of Romney's "liberalness" and impotence as a "conservative" governor, the truth was in fact just the opposite, as he was able to prevent this much more invasive approach long favored by leftist Democrats from becoming law instead of "Romneycare."   

  Indeed, while any idiot can argue after the fact that as governor Romney should have done this or that differently, the plain fact is that you or I weren't governor of Massachusetts at that time; it is thus simply unfair and unreasonable to hold Romney to a standard that no one could have met, or worse, to somehow conclude that Romney is a “closet liberal” from such actions, rather than a pragmatic Republican governing a very liberal state that did the best he could under difficult circumstances with an extremely liberal state legislature.

 Now I know that will not satisfy the “purists,” for whom nothing short of a blood oath to a "scorched earth" conservatism that strictly subscribes to their pet beliefs and personalities will do, but politics is the art of compromise and incremental reform, and sometimes the best we can do is be involved to protect the fairness and dignity of the process and let our voices be heard in the hopes to effect the outcome. Sometimes the results are immediate, and sometimes that takes decades, (like the fight of Wilber Wilberforce to end slavery in Great Britain), but trying to force an immediate outcome that accords with our views, or, worse, attempt to erect someone who will assume powers to do so, is a prescription that always ends in tyranny! (Indeed, it is also the reason why the way the Democratic Congress forced Obamacare through in a lame duck Congress with backroom deals and sweetheart deals for key Senators was widely seen, and rightly so, as corrupt; My question is, if as conservatives we universally condemned such tactics, are we now willing to adopt the very same corrupt practices as those we then condemned? (Indeed, and again as an aside for those ignorant of American history, this is also why our founders discouraged “direct democracy” in favor of the much more stable "Republican" system of representation by elected representatives guaranteed by our Constitution).

 Thus, and in short, to make the argument that Coulter has “ignored” the relevant arguments of her critics or abandoned conservative principles makes no more sense than the simplistic arguments of Michael Moore or the “Occupy” movement which conservatives reject, e.g., the argument “Bush lied, people died” made in derogation of the fact that at the time the Bush Administration acted on the best data it had available to it and which other countries also stated as fact.  If we now are going to start engaging in Monday morning “after the fact” litmus quarterbacking of fellow Gopers to determine who is truly “conservative” we are going to be busy shooting each other for a very long time. Moreover, again for those short on history, no one would pass that test, (remember, even that “stalwart” of conservatism Ronald Reagan whose name all Republicans revere passed the largest tax increase in California history at the time and, unbelievably, was once pro-abortion!). Accordingly, and along those lines, if we are only going to vote for perfect candidates we might as well reject Reagan's legacy and give our democracy over to dictators now!

 Yes, it is a fact that Romneycare has resulted in a huge increase of public expenditures on health care, but again, as Coulter and her critics both seem to agree, this is due to the state Democratic legislators additions since Romney's original market-based idea, (and as Coulter points out, at least in regard to Mass., a full 45% off their health care budget was paid for by the Feds before Romneycare was passed in the State). Thus, rather than such facts being used to bludgeon fellow conservatives and our leading Presidential nominee to death over things that happened in the past, might we not rather use such facts to come together in universal agreement in the present re: the ills that can be expected of Obamacare, a much more invasive and government-mandated system which everyone, including Coulter and Romney, agree must not stand? Instead, liberals are laughing in glee as we lynch Ann Coulter who we now “purge” as a “betrayer to the cause” with such fervor as would make the strictest Stalinist proud!

 Moreover, our doing so appears, at worst, to ascribe willfully-ill motives to Ms. Coulter which are far from proven, (which we have notably refused to do in regards to Mr. Klein), or, most charitably, to fundamentally misunderstand Ms. Coulter's point that like it or not Romneycare at the time was considered a conservative alternative to the “single payer” system long sought by liberals.

  And while we don't have the time to go point by point through every one of Mr. Klein's and others “responses” to Ms. Coulter, a careful reading of Klein's indignant rebuttal by those so inclined reveals that there are many such examples of such erroneous-- and judgmental?-- fallacies prevalent throughout. Indeed, it seems that Klien and Co. are at least equally at fault for ignoring Coulter's claims as they assert she ignores theirs! (If we were writing about liberals we would call this “hipocrisy.”)

  But as to perhaps Mr. Klein's most vaunted “factual” point, he exerts significant effort to proving that the “premium subsidy” provision of Romneycare requiring that Mass. residents pay something towards their health insurance costs is not to “balance out” the “freeloaders” who use the system-- or in fact, even come close to paying the costs of the expanded number of people now utilizing the health care system in Mass under Romneycare-- and that the requirement to “repay” by way of premiums of residents is not, in fact, utilized for this purpose. Most saliently, he takes Coulter's alleged reliance on this claim, as prima facia evidence proving Ms. Coulter has an ax to grind or is otherwise arguing in bad faith. However, again, in our view, his argument misses the forest for the trees; Indeed, who really cares why Romneycare requires such payments into the system in such a way as to go towards repaying the State for their residents' actual share of health care use or whether such “savings” are achieved by forcing healthier people into the system? More to the point, does it really matter whether the costs of health care are fully reimbursed by people contributing back to the system in the form of premiums or is just representative of the fact they have taken some responsibility for their health insurance costs? (Of course, we concede such hypothetical questions are certainly critical from a fiscal perspective; however, this is not a fair basis on which Klein attacks Coulter because she has not addressed such matters and the question of increased fiscal expense is one on which we surmise all conservatives would agree; thus it is irrelevant to purposes of our discussion here). Rather than center on how or if such savings are attainable, again, the key question that must remain at issue is whether requiring citizens of the individual states to purchase health insurance, or any product for that matter, is a constitutionally valid exercise of federal power under the Constitution's “Commerce Clause.”

  In this light, and while we could certainly have a discussion about whether the alleged savings or “economies of scale” allegedly attainable by mandating that all must purchase some sort of health insurance are, in fact, illusory in light of the increased number of people receiving care, or whether such “savings” could be achieved by increasing the numbers of “healthy” people contributing to the system, accepting such premises on which to argue is not only irrelevant but to cede the argument to the social engineers, (because all such arguments presume that the ends justify the means if we can just show sufficient “savings,” thereby conceding the validity of the ultimate goal of liberal social engineers to establish health care as another entitlement or “right” provided by the government).

  Such an error of course in turn leads straight to what conservatives are supposed to fear most, (not only the loss of personal autonomy in health decisions but the inevitable rationing of care, as if the only worthy goal of our health care system is “savings” an approach utilizing, say, the euthanasia of the elderly could certainly achieve that goal in short order, an utterly abhorrent idea). Again, such arguments as advanced by Klein's "rebuttal" to Coulter's article, philosophically-based as they are, miss the point that it doesn't really matter why government mandates increase the cost of health care or how they are reimbursed, (or not); The questions on which we must remain focused are rather, a) Whether the individual mandate of Obamacare is legally permissible under the Commerce Clause, AND, b) Whether there are other considerations, such as one's genetic makeup predisposing them to certain disease, which justifies the sort of “one size fits all” entitlement approach of mandates as a moral imperative regardless of the cost to society, (which conservatives, again, almost uniformly reject).

  Therefore, while we here at the ACLP certainly believe that the loss in freedom and patient autonomy in making these most personal determinations by individuals themselves instead of allowing the government to determine when and how individuals access healthcare is the primary principal at stake here, to pretend that the Coulter's of the world are literally “off their rocker” or have turned into “liberals” and left the conservative reservation in the dark of night by simply disagreeing on the basis for their dissent is to itself engage in a sort of political correctness which demeans the rigorous intellectual discussion that has long been the hallmark of the conservative movement.

  Of course, surely Mr. Klein must know this, all of which leaves us wondering if perhaps Mr. Klein isn't himself utilizing Ms. Coulter's fondest rhetorical flourish of triggering reactions in others for his own reasons of increasing readership. As they say, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. jp

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


In the wake of last night's blow out by the Romney campaign in the Florida GOP Presidential Primary, some, especially those in the Romney camp, might be tempted to write off the chances of a Gingrich Presidency. Aside from the obvious fact that “it aint over till the fat lady sings,” we thought it an appropriate time to outline five reasons why it would be extraordinary foolish to do so prematurely.

1. The Republican field is still very fluid

  If there is one thing this race has shown us so far, with its up today down tomorrow nature in which several different presidential candidates have surged only to fall back into obscurity subsequently, (including Newt Gingrich, who just a week before the Florida primary held a lead in the polls there), is that things can and do change rapidly.

  In spite of Romney's soundly beating Newt among almost every demographic of the primary electorate in Florida, (especially among independents by a margin of 39 points and women by double digits), and finally cracking the salient “40% threshold” critics said he couldn't, the GOP base's still lingering dissatisfaction with Romney over his ostensibly questionable conservative credentials makes anything possible. Accordingly, provided Newt can raise enough money to be competitive and stay in the race through Super Tuesday, it is still possible for him to exploit any stumble by Romney in order to garner enough electoral votes to win the nomination, (or at least force a “brokered” convention in August).

  Indeed, just this morning Twitter was all abuzz about Mitt Romney's allegedly “insensitive and elitist” remarks in a morning interview that he “wasn't concerned with the very poor.” Concededly, he said this in the context of emphasizing the main focus of his campaign on a familiar theme, that of restoring jobs to American to help the beleaguered middle class-- a seemingly uncontroversial position meant to counter Obama's politicking of late with an emphasis on the same-- but it was immediately pounced on as just the sort of “verbal slip” that would be class-warfared to maximum advantage by President Obama in the Fall, (and maybe by Mitt's primary opponents before then).

  Such verbal “gaffes” could undoubtedly be repeated by the liberal leaning media in such a way as to have a devastating effect on a damaging narrative already hinted at by opponent Newt Gingrich's attacks on Romney for his alleged “role” in the housing crisis through his Bain Capitial connections and holdings in Fannie Mae. Even more damaging, they feed into a larger narrative that President Obama and the liberals would like to drive home, i.e., that Mitt is a rich, greedy elitist out of touch with the common American, (if Newt doesn't do it first).

  And while the actual merits of such a claim seems to have been soundly rejected by the GOP faithful in Florida, (and even caused a backlash of sorts to Newt as Mitt has pointedly responded, “I don't apologize for being successful” and stated the obvious, i.e., rather than encouraging this class warfare narrative of the Democrats we ought to be rewarding people who dare to dream and create a better life for themselves and their families (and thus lift everyone's boats in the process, Steve Jobs is a good example of this).  Indeed, such a belief in Free Enterprise and its associated dream of upward mobility for all Americans used to be a core Republican ideal shared in common with all wings of the party!

  What this potential shift says for the future of the GOP is uncertain, but the fact of the effectiveness on the general electorate of such a claim in times of economic hardship is potentially explosive. Indeed, such a claim could potentially gain traction among the ranks of the disaffected and displaced which this Administration has done everything it can to woo, (from increasing social services to ensuring maximum political participation by taking legal action to prevent states like S. Carolina from implementing voter ID laws which are alleged to disenfranchise minorities and the poor).  Unfortunately, in this sense such claims and populist attacks of Newt on the alleged rich and elitist Mitt can only hasten the acceptance of this socialist fiction and play into the Democrats hands in November; indeed all Obama will have to do is play an endless loop of Newt's claims to the great disadvantage of the party, and more importantly, the country, (particularly if it helps Obama to win re-election, as others have also pointed out, see HERE and here).

  Of course, it is doubtful if such a claim can accurately, if effectively, be made against a candidate whose tax returns show he gives, on average, over 13% of his income to charity every year. But presidential campaigns have been lost on lessor gaffes, and only go to show that this race is still very, very fluid, and one in which literally anything can happen. Especially when such attacks come from one so rhetorically gifted as Newt Gingrich.  Which brings us to the second of our points why the Romney camp ignoring Newt upon its "victory" in Florida does so at its peril. 

2.  Newt is a resilient and wiley campaigner and framer of issues.

  Newt has shown again and again, that regardless of the potential damage to the broader Republican party of feeding into a Democrat narrative of the Republicans as the “party of the rich” that can only aid in the effectivness of Obama's class warfare rhetoric, he is more than capable of moving to the left and/or utilizing such populist themes to his great advantage, (remember his Nancy Pelosi couch ad on global warming and his support, as recently as May of 2011, of the same health care mandates he now denounces?  Ahh the short term political memory of the American people in the age of 30 second soundbites!)

  Indeed, in listening to the candidates's speeches following last night's primary results, one thing that struck me was Newt's unending ability to connect with the voters by using direct, emotional appeals to the “common” American; (never mind that, he, as all Republicans running, with the possible exception of Rick Santorum, are Millionaires with a 401k balance that would seem foreign to most Americans).

  As if the point needed proving, a review of Newt's twenty minute (concession?) speech in which he repeatedly stated such things as “This campaign will prove that 'people power' beats 'money power,'” “We will, with your help, show the world that ideas matter,” and “We will return Washington away from the career politicians and bureaucrats and back to the people,” (not exact quotes but similar such things), aptly demonstrates that his ability to move the masses with populist rhetoric has not waned, but if anything, has accelerated in his bid for the Presidency.

  Moreover, judging from his previous successes coming back from the brink of destruction in June of last year and his low numbers in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests largely on the basis of his debate performances, (as well as those of his entire political career as speaker of the house), Newt has shown he is an apt campaigner with a knack for one-liners that can re-frame such issues to his own advantage in a way few others are capable of.  Indeed, if nothing else is clear in Florida's aftermath, make no mistake that Newt is a master politician who can say what he needs in language that connects to the crowd he is speaking to like few other politicians today.

  Such connecting and “think on your feet” skills are noticeably lacking in Romney who tends to stick to carefully scripted remarks, (which in light of this morning's developments might be a good thing!), and, to a lessor extent, Santorum, (the other serious contender for the GOP nod).  As such, and if history is any guide in the age of mass media, it would be a serious mistake to count Newt out just yet.

3.  Newt's legislative experience and accomplishments as speaker

  The third reason it would be a mistake to dismiss Newt's campaign as "toast," at least at this point, would be Newt's significant experience as speaker of the House, (particularly his role in electing a Republican majority for the first time in 40 years in 1994 and implementation of vast portions of the Contract with America with Bill Clinton in the White House).  Such accomplishments speak to his ability to get work with Congress and show that he understands the Legislative process.

  True enough, the same could probably be said of Mitt Romney, who served as Governor of Democratic Massachusetts in an executive role arguably more akin to the Presidency, but Newt's role in the 90's is still remembered, especially to a large swath of conservatives in the party, as responsible for significant policy changes in the Contract, including welfare reform (which President Clinton, due to his own troubles and the popularity of such reforms, was essentially forced to go along with).

  As a result, and in spite of the government shutdowns which also came with Newt's sometimes abrasive style and his sudden departure amidst ethical lapses, many in the conservative base still think fondly of his days as speaker in their hopes Newt can bring the same kind of reform to Washington in the new Millenium. (Of course, it remains to be seen whether the risk of Newt's other "unknowns," such as his penchant for women and multiple affairs, might yield other unpleasant surprises come the Fall which could potentially be devastating to the GOP ticket, especially when contrasted by the MSM with Obama's “family man” image, something that must also fairly be considered.)

4.  Newts aggressive and well defined policy prescriptions for Washington reform

  Fourth in this list of reasons one cannot quite write off Newt's chances for the Presidential nomination of the Republican party following the Florida primary are Newt's well outlined and thought-out policy prescriptions on issues that matter to a large portion of the American electorate, (including this organization). In addition to more typical Republican fare such as promises to streamline the federal bureaucracy, and reduce federal regulation and taxes, issues like reigning in an out-of-control “imperial” judiciary play well to the base and give the impression that Gingrich is a man unafraid to tackle what's needs fixing. And rightly or wrongly, whether you agree with his prescriptions for what ails America, many Americans, and certainly Republicans, are tired of the same old same old in Washington and yearn for someone who will actually refuse to settle for “business as usual.”

  This "reformist" flavor was on full display in last night's speech, as Newt reeled off several issues on his “to do” list for the first few hours after his inauguration which appeal to the party faithful in a way that seemed earnest and credible.

  Such a performance, while at the same time declaring “I will be the party's nominee come August,” some might consider incongruent with his-- at least numbers wise-- astounding loss in the primary, which at once illustrates his tenacity, (and/or much ballyhooed “grandiosity"), on an evening in which one might think he would be more subdued. (Indeed, some have pointed out how starkly Newt's refusing to even congratulate Romney on the Florida win might even evidence a lack of common political courtesy, or perhaps vindictiveness for the onslaught of negative ads he has faced in this contest, funded particularly from Romney's "Superpac" in Iowa and again in Florida).

  Again, however, such theatre seems particularly well-designed to appeal to the right wing of the party and serves in the minds of many to illustrate his persistence and/or dedication to the conservative cause, (which in many ways and at diverse times in our history has always been the scrappy underdog in the rough and tumble barnyard rabble that politics always is, at least since Barry Goldwater days).

5. Newt's debate skills

  Last but not least, we would be remiss not to mention Newt's above-referenced debate skills which are largely credited with his coming back from the political dead last time around in S. Carolina. While it is true that Newt's less-than-stellar Florida debate performances had an impact on the outcome on Florida, we are not convinced that the closed primary and a hankering for an reliable, “electable” candidate didn't play equal roles in his sunshine state defeat, (where Democrats couldn't play the spoiler as they could in S. Carolina's “open” primary).

  In any event, any shortcomings in Newt's Florida debate performances we feel are surely temporary and, as some have speculated, due perhaps to a desire to not come across as “angry” at the insistence of campaign advisors.  Regardless of the cause, this results in a disconnect with the perceived personality of a candidate who has become famous for his willingness to bluntly challenge all comers, especially the "liberal" main stream media, much to the delight of tea party conservatives, and his "kinder, more subdued" debate performance in Florida.  This, of course, creates a sort of "credibility gap" with what the voters thought was Newt and what he demonstrated in his Florida debate performances that results in an even more negative perception on swing voters than his usual irascible self.

   This has undoubtedly not been lost on Newt, who, following last night's loss, is not likely a mistake Newt will make again. Unfortunately for Newt however, there is not another debate scheduled until Feb. 22 in which he can restore his credibility and prove that his Florida performances were just a hiccup. (Which means, practically speaking, Newt's survival in the meantime comes down to that most arbitrary and leveling of all factors; money!)


  Of course whether Newt can raise sufficient funds to continue in turn depend on to what extent his fiery and policy laden "concession" speech-- if one can call a speech in which Newt didn't "concede" anything a "concession speech"!--  and internet appeals for funds meets with success, and to a lessor extent, the impact of factors beyond his control, (such as any drop from the race and an ensuing endorsement of other candidates such as Ron Paul or even more cash-strapped Rick Santorum who might be expected to endorse Romney after his reference in his own speech to the "nominee becoming the issue" in November). On such matters we shall have to see.

  However, due to the above factors it would be a serious mistake to count Newt out just yet, (as we ourselves might have done just a couple days ago, and majority of the media seem to be doing).

  While undoubtedly he still remains the clear underdog, if-- and it is certainly a big if-- Mr. Gingrich can raise enough money to stay in the race through Super Tuesday and make it through the next round of debates, there is a chance, however slight, that he could still become the GOP's nominee to face Obama in the fall. That's not to say that such an outcome should happen or would be good, bad, or even in line with our preferences for Romney, (who we still think, in spite of his recent stumbles, remains the favored and all-around best general election candidate, a matter really irrelevant to the question here under discussion).  Indeed, though we have been frank with our positions on the issues and the need for a candidate who can pull independents as well as unify the party if the GOP is going to have any chance of limiting Barack Obama to a single term, due to the strengths of Gingrich here pointed out we can not rule out that he could not still become the party's nominee.  It is just one possibility in the realm of possibilities that seems slightly more likely now than we otherwise foresaw a few short days ago, and a development we felt warranted informing our readers of.

  Regardless how this roller coaster ride turns out, one thing's for sure that will likely not break the pattern thus far in the political season: for political watchers it should be a very exciting February! jp