Neil Gorsuch being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice guarantees President Donald Trump will be forever known as appointing one of the most qualified, strict constitutionalist to the bench in modern history.
Gorsuch is every bit as an originalist as Justice Antonin Scalia, and at the young age of 49, he could have forty years of influence on the court. Just as Reagan’s legacy was solidified with Scalia’s appointment (following his appointment of the first woman to the Supreme Court, Arizona’s own Sandra Day O’Connor) Trump will enjoy kudos for this selection until he dies.
While I had suggested that Trump consider selecting Senator Ted Cruz, Gorsuch is a great pick. And given that he was confirmed to the federal bench unanimously, the hypocrisy of Senate Democrats in filibustering him is almost too easy to criticize. For one thing, by forcing McConnell to return to the pre-2003 standard of nominees being confirmed by simple majority, the Democrats have given up any leverage for future nominees. It’s almost certain that if Trump wins a second term he could get at least three and maybe as many as five picks.
If any of those picks are anywhere close to as solid as Gorsuch, Trump will do more to save this republic than any single person has done since Lincoln. Yes, that sounds like hyperbole, but it is, in fact, true. The invasion of government into the everyday lives of the American people over the last few decades is astounding when you really stop and think about it. There is no aspect of your own life that doesn’t have government fingerprints on it.
When you wake up in the morning and turn on your lights, you are paying fees to subsidize “green energy.” When you take a shower, you are paying extra for your water so your municipality can conduct water conservation programs. When you cook your breakfast, your butter, your jam, and your toast are more expensive because of regulations requiring nutritional information to be printed on the packaging.
You drive to work and you are paying gas taxes that pay for a lot of things that have nothing to do with roads and bridges (think light rail, bike paths, even hiking trails), and your car cost significantly more than it needs to because of government imposed miles-per-gallon requirements placed on car manufacturers.
When you work, you don’t earn your full paycheck, you pay income taxes, Medicaid taxes, Social Security taxes, state income taxes (in most states), to the tune of taking upwards of 40% of your paycheck before you even see the money.
And for what? What do you personally get for all that money that is taken?
As recently as 2000, the annual federal budget was $2.2 TRILLION and the debt was $5.6 TRILLION. Today, the federal budget is $3.9 TRILLION and the debt is an eye-popping $19.8 TRILLION! The share of the current debt is more than $61,000 for every single person in the U.S.
And yet, Democrats, and some Republicans want to spend more and more – the numbers are so out of sight even comparing it to monopoly money doesn’t do justice.
While Gorsuch may not have an immediate impact on reducing federal spending, there is no doubt that his influence on the court will help slow down and eventually turn back the invasion of government in our daily lives. It may take time, but it needs to start now.
President-elect Donald Trump can point to any number of factors that led to his election to be the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Other than the desire for change (which was a huge factor) a leading reason was the vacancy on the Supreme Court left when Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly passed away.
For many moderate to lean conservative voters who may have otherwise voted for Clinton, the prospect of the liberals taking over the court was too much to bear.
The big question is, who will Trump pick? In an unconventional move (in a very unconventional election) Trump released a list of his possible picks before the election. Chances are he will likely pick from that list. It’s become a D.C. parlor game to try to guess who he will pick.
Even though he was not on the list, I would argue Trump should consider Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz clerked at the Supreme Court, was the Solicitor General for Texas, and obviously, ran for President. The calculation for Trump would be like the move President Obama made in appointing Jon Huntsman Jr. as Ambassador to China – neutralize potential opposition. Obama believed that Huntsman would be a formidable opponent in his re-election efforts. As it turned out, Huntsman took the job, only to resign and return to the U.S. and mount a campaign. Obama’s concerns about Huntsman may have been accurate in a General Election, but he hadn’t thought through how difficult it would be for Huntsman to get through the primary.
If Trump were to pick Cruz for the Supreme Court, it would be (in part) to prevent Cruz from mounting a primary challenge in 2020. It would also be a pretty good move because Cruz is a conservative and he is young – he could be on the bench for 30 or 40 years.
Another reason to pick Cruz would be that he is so unpopular with both Republican and Democrat Senators that he may get Senate approval by acclamation! Anyone else is certain to face a brutal confirmation process as Democrats take their frustrations of losing the White House out on Trump’s nominee.
Either way, it’s going to be a fascinating process to watch.
Usually, when political hacks talk about the “undervote” we are talking about how many fewer votes a particular race had than votes for President or Governor in a district or state. However, the 2016 election exposed a new phenomenon: the presidential undervote.
In Arizona, there were 2,554,240 votes cast for President. However, there were a total of 2,661,497 ballots cast. That means that 107,257 people voted in the election but did not cast a vote for President. That is an astounding number when you compare it with the undervote in previous presidential elections. In 2012 it was 34,777, in 2008 it was 28,771, and in 2004 it was 28,734.
And the presidential undervote this year was not unique to Arizona. A Washington Post analysis shows that in the 33 state where they were able to collect the data, 1.7 million people cast a ballot but did not vote for President. Arizona ranked 2nd highest as a percentage of people who did not vote for President (behind Montana).
Obviously, the record number of people abstaining in the Presidential election is a reflection on the candidates. Donald Trump had some seriously unfavorable ratings heading into Election Day, as did Hillary Clinton. And Clinton didn’t inspire the Democratic base the way Obama did in 2008 and 2012.
Clinton was also a terrible candidate, and while the media fawned over the “amazing” operation coming out of Brooklyn, we now know that they were too smart for their own good. They made some assumptions about the election, created a model, and then never tested the model with inputs throughout the campaign.
On the morning of Election Day, internal Clinton campaign numbers had her winning Michigan by 5 points. By 1 p.m., an aide on the ground called headquarters; the voter turnout tracking system they’d built themselves in defiance of orders — Brooklyn had told operatives in the state they didn’t care about those numbers, and specifically told them not to use any resources to get them — showed urban precincts down 25 percent. Maybe they should get worried, the Michigan operatives said.
Nope, they were told. She was going to win by 5. All Brooklyn’s data said so.
President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign on the other hand was hopeful, but not confident, that he would pull off the win. They also had a data operation, but the difference was they were continuing to get inputs and making changes to strategy up to the weekend before the election. It was not just on a whim that Trump went to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the last days of the campaign.
The question is how will future Presidential elections look? Is the 2016 presidential undervote an anomaly, or is this the new normal? We won’t know for four more years.
This has been the craziest, most bizarre election cycle in modern history. Hillary Clinton was supposed to have a coronation as the Democratic nominee, but a crazy socialist dragged the process until weeks before the convention. On the Republican side, it took nearly a year to go from 17 candidates to one. And the one was the probably the weakest general election candidate the Republicans could field.
After the crazy ups and downs it all comes down to a few predictable states to try to guess the outcome on November 8th.
Conventional wisdom has Hillary Clinton winning in a landslide. However, this year has been anything but an election following conventional wisdom. While our analysis would put Clinton at a clear advantage of winning, there is a still a narrow path for Trump to get to 270 Electoral College votes.
According to private polling that has not been released to the press, there is a less than one percentage point difference between Trump and Clinton in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Iowa. Trump leads Clinton by 4% in Ohio.
While the Democrats typically have better turnout operations than Republicans, if there is a sentiment shift with late-deciders, it is plausible that Trump could add Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Iowa to his column. If that happens, and Clinton wins the remainder of the traditional swing states the outcome is 270 Electoral College votes for Trump and 268 for Clinton.
Think about that: 270-268. Guess who would be screaming “rigged election!” at that point.
However, if Trump can’t tip it over in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Iowa, Clinton ends up with more than 320 Electoral College votes.
There is another crazy possibility. In Utah Trump leads Independent candidate Evan McMullin 32%-30%, with Clinton at 24%. If Trump does win those states as outlined above, but loses Utah to McMullin, that would put the Electoral college count at 268 Clinton, 264 Trump, and 6 McMullin. If no one has the required 270 votes, then the election is determined by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Now THAT would be some post-election drama!
Every election cycle has what pundits call “inflection points”: moments in a campaign that have some defining impact. Moments like Rick Perry in a 2012 debate forgetting the third department of the federal government he would shut down. Or like Marco Rubio deciding to go to Trump’s level of rancor.
Interestingly, the Wisconsin primary was one of those inflection points for both the GOP and Democratic races.
Ted Cruz’s big win all but assured that Republicans are headed to a contested convention in Cleveland. Yes, it’s still possible for Donald Trump to secure 1,237 delegates by the time the last vote is cast on June 7th in California, but it is very improbable.
And, with Bernie Sanders’s trouncing of Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, he continues to chip away at what most had believed was an insurmountable lead in delegates. Part of why Clinton’s lead has appeared so daunting is because the vast majority of super delegates have committed to her over Sanders (469-31).
However, if you count only the pledged delegates (those are the normal delegates that you win in primaries and caucuses) Hillary leads Sanders by 1,298 to 1,079 – just 221. There are still 1,977 unpledged delegates remaining.
Still, Clinton has all those super delegates. But here is the caveat: a large number of those super delegates are Democrat elected officials (think Members of Congress, state legislators, etc.) who are ultimately going to act on self-interest. If they start to feel the pressure of Sanders’s momentum and see Sanders continue to tighten the race, Clinton could suffer defections of super delegates just like she did in 2008 when late in the primary season Barack Obama got the big mo.
Does Bernie have the big mo? Well, he has won 7 of the last 8 contests. He will win Wyoming this coming weekend. Polling shows that voters in New York, the state Hillary represented in the Senate and she should win handily, are warming to Sanders. Two months ago, Clinton led by more than 20 points; now it’s barely 10 points.
It’s looking increasingly likely that both the Republicans and the Democrats will face contested conventions. And that will be good for Republicans for two reasons: 1) the Democratic convention will be more chaotic than the Republican convention. Democratic base activists tend to be much more aggressive (especially towards law enforcement) than Republican activists and will create more tension, 2) and the Democratic convention comes the week after the Republican convention, so as we enter the General Election phase of the cycle the voters will have the imagery of chaos and tension seared into their minds from the nightly news coverage.
For Democrats, this could be Chicago 1968 all over again: 1968 Democratic Convention Riots
Thursday night’s Fox News GOP debate had all the makings of a classic showdown with tough questions, candidates sharply criticizing each other, and the moderators and even candidates whining about how they were being treated. And Trump wasn’t even there.
Mountains of words have been written about how Trump has changed the campaign landscape. I was originally dismissive of Trump, figuring he would flame out in due time, but have grudgingly come to the realization that there are just enough Republican voters who simply don’t care about ideology and eat up the showmanship and blunt talk of the entertainer/businessman.
And that kind depresses me. I’d like to think that voters have a better sense of decency. If there is one word I associate with Trump it is indecent. He is vulgar, ugly, mean, misogynistic, and completely in love with himself. It appears that there is nothing this guy would not do or say to get ahead.
It doesn’t make the American political process look very attractive when someone like Trump has the kind of support that polls indicate he has. I truly hope the polling is wrong. This presidential race would be so much better without Trump in the mix.
What struck me as I watched the debate: how much it didn’t matter that Trump was not on the stage. It was a robust discussion of policy and how the candidates would approach various issues. It was an adult conversation. It was our democratic process on display, and I was proud to be an American on Thursday night.
All that said, I’m truly torn on how to handicap the Iowa caucus. I don’t really know whether Cruz or Trump will win, but I think it will be pretty close. Rubio will come in a strong third and Rand Paul will way over-perform his polling numbers in Iowa.
Iowa can do this nation a huge favor by rejecting Trump and stopping his momentum. That could reset the course of the nominating process, give us our sanity back, and send the indecent proposal that is Trump to the dustbin of history.
The first week of 2016 brought something that I hadn’t expected: President Obama and I are in agreement. Last week, the president previewed his State of the Union Address from the Oval Office saying, “Since I took office seven years ago, in the midst of crisis, I don’t think I’ve ever been more optimistic abut the year ahead.” (odd for him to say considering in January of 2009 he had his vision of change and a Democrat Congress to achieve it, but I guess “yes, we can” was less convincing to him than his followers.) What’s more, we both agree on at least one cause of this optimism: that this is his last year as president.
My other reason for optimism, Paul Ryan’s speakership, is likely not shared by the president. Ryan’s ability to communicate the way in which conservative principles can improve Americans’ daily lives and his Midwestern, earnest and steadfast promise keeping will be refreshing for the Republican base and the House Freedom Caucus. If Speaker Ryan says he will do something, it’s going to happen.
2015 closed with a budget deal that had Rush Limbaugh shrieking the “GOP [sold] America down the river.” In a nutshell, the pundits and many in the Freedom Caucus were frustrated that Ryan didn’t threaten a government shutdown in order to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood—two things that won’t happen while Barack Obama is in the White House. Political punditry and showmanship are easy, governing is hard; it requires wisdom and patience, uncommon virtues in Washington. Thankfully for Republicans, Paul Ryan has both.
Upon assuming speakership, Ryan was handed a budget deal that was a fait accompli. He had two options: blow the deal up, shutdown the government, and start the 2016 Election Year in turmoil; or snatch a few important victories within the deal and start 2016 with a clean slate on which to write a clear, conservative vision for the country. Paul Ryan withstood pressure from the “politics-over-governance crew” and chose the latter.
The budget deal permanently removed the ban on oil exports, strengthening our position in dealing with the Middle East and Russia while boosting our economy at home; prevented the sequester from hitting the military so that our beleaguered forces get the resources they need in this dangerous world; and protected free speech by preventing the IRS from transforming abusive tactics into sanctioned policies. The IRS provision alone was worth the price, because we can undo spending in the future easier than re-instating First Amendment rights taken away. Not bad for an admittedly crappy bill.
Then, in the first week of the New Year, Paul Ryan did exactly what he promised, sending to Obama’s desk a bill that defunds Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Of course, the president vetoed it, but the public discussion will be about the issues presented in the bill, rather than inside-the-beltway gridlock and bickering. Moreover, passage of the bill shows the American people that Republicans are capable of governing.
As the year continues, with Speaker Paul Ryan’s help, Americans will realize that “a more prosperous, a more secure, and a more confident America is possible.”
Yes Mr. President, I’m very optimistic.
Something stirred in my conscience in the fall of 1979. I was 9 years old, I had gotten into the habit of setting my clock radio alarm to go off at the very moment the local radio station was beginning its broadcast day with the Star Spangled Banner. I would leap out of bed, grab by younger brothers out of bed and stand stick-straight with my hand over my heart – and on more than one occasion, a tear in my eye.
Yes, I was that much of a nerd.
But that period of time was an ideological awaking. I began to read National Review, and my mother was teaching us about the Founding Fathers and the threat of the Soviets. And my parents had real hope in some guy named Ronald Reagan (I had never heard of him before I was nine) who was going to run for President again.
By the time the U.S. Hockey team beat the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics, I was a full-throated American patriot. I believed (probably because my mom believed) that Ronald Reagan was going to win the presidency and save the nation from communism, because God helped a bunch of young scrappy amateurs beat the most fierce hockey machine in the world. Just like God helped the young scrappy amateurs of the colonies beat the fiercest army on the planet when we won the Revolutionary War.
That was my idealistic mindset: that God truly loved this nation and would help it succeed so that millions upon millions of His children could enjoy the blessings of liberty.
That’s what made me a conservative. It’s what motivates what I do to try to advance conservatism every day. It’s because I want my children to continue to be free. I cherish my conservatism – because I spent years reading the great conservative thinkers and plunging into a career in politics and public policy to defend and advance those ideals.
So you’ll forgive me if I fear what Donald Trump is doing to conservatism.
That theme was masterfully addressed by Jonah Goldberg in this piece last week. Here are a couple excerpts:
The late Bill Rusher, longtime publisher of National Review, often counseled young writers to remember, “Politicians will always disappoint you.” As I’ve often said around here, this isn’t because politicians are evil. It’s because politicians are politicians. Their interests too often lie in votes, not in principles. That’s why the conservative movement has always recognized that victory lies not simply in electing conservative politicians, but in shaping a conservative electorate that lines up the incentives so that politicians define their self-interest in a conservative way. But if it’s true that politicians can disappoint, I think one has to say that the people can, too.
And when I say “the people” I don’t mean “those people.” I mean my people. I mean many of you, Dear Readers. Normally, when conservatives talk about how the public can be wrong, we mean that public. You know the one. The “low-information voters” Rush Limbaugh is always talking about. The folks we laughed at when Jay Leno interviewed them on the street. But we don’t just mean the unwashed and the ill-informed. We sometimes mean Jews, blacks, college kids, Lena Dunham fans, and countless other partisan slices of the electorate who reflexively vote on strict party lines for emotional or irrational reasons. We laugh at liberals who let know-nothing celebrities do their thinking for them.
Well, many of the same people we laughed at are now laughing at us because we are going ga-ga over our own celebrity.
If I sound dismayed, it’s only because I am. Conservatives have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter. That is the conservative movement I joined and dedicated my professional life to. And now, in a moment of passion, many of my comrades-in-arms are throwing it all away in a fit of pique. Because “Trump fights!” How many Republicans have been deemed unfit for the Oval Office because of comparatively minor character flaws or ideological shortcomings? Rick Perry in 2012 saw his candidacy implode when he couldn’t remember the third item on his checklist of agencies he’d close down. Well, even in that “oops” moment, Rick Perry comes off as Lincolnesque compared with Donald Trump.
Unsurprisingly, Jonah received a lot of hate mail and pretty harsh comments. As he wrote in his follow-up piece:
There’s no way I could — or should — respond to all of the criticisms or attacks. So I’ll just focus on a couple themes. The biggest criticism — in terms of quantity, not quality — is that I am a RINO squish faker fraud no-goodnik lib sucking at the teat of the establishment blah blah and blah. These usually take the form of angry tweets and e-mails. So I’ll fold my response to this silliness into my responses to the longer-form stuff.
He then does a pretty good job explaining why he feel strongly about this issue:
I don’t think Trump is a conservative. I don’t think he’s a very serious person. I don’t think he’s a man of particularly good character. I don’t think he can be trusted to do the things he promises. Etc. If all that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry. But there’s no need to make up imaginary motives. The reason I’m writing such things is that I believe them — and that’s my job.
Even though it may not necessarily be “my job” to point out that Trump is no conservative and is doing real harm to the conservative movement, I feel very, very strongly about it – because I became a conservative as a result of years of thinking, reading, arguing, debating, defending, and advocating.
Trump just decided the next step in his ego-fueled, reality-TV existence was to run for President as a Republican, so he magically became a “conservative” overnight. Terrific!
I believe if William F. Buckley were alive today, he would once again stand athwart history yelling, Stop!
On November 1, 1950, the 3d Battalion, 8th Calvary Regiment, 1st Calvary Division fought back a vicious onslaught of Chinese Communist forces in Unsan Korea. Though repelled, the enemy soon surrounded them. Those Americans still able to do so were ordered to evacuate.
Captain Emil Kapaun, a Catholic chaplain who courageously ministered to the men throughout the battle, “elected to stay behind,” reads his Medal of Honor Citation, “fully aware of his certain capture.” After his capture, “Chaplain Kapaun…bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present.” Kapaun and the other POWs were marched 80 miles, in the Tiger Death March, to a prison camp.
In the camp, Kapaun continued his selfless service, ministering to the men, stealing food, and lifting spirits. “People had lost a great deal of their civility,” a fellow POW told the Washington Post, “…and here is this one man—in all of this chaos—who has kept his principles.” Kapaun died in captivity on May 23, 1951.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” Donald Trump recently told an audience in Ames, Iowa. He was referring to Senator John McCain, but his comments could just as easily have applied to Chaplain Kapaun; or Doug Hegdahl, a young POW during Vietnam who convinced his captors that he was stupid and posed no threat, then proceeded to memorize—to the tune of “Old McDonald”——the names of his over 200 fellow POW’s. Granted an early release, which he was ordered to accept by an American officer being held with him, Hegdahl provided to the American government the names of all the POWs held at the camp along with other invaluable information. Trump could have been talking about Jeremiah Denton, who used a televised Vietnamese propaganda press conference to confirm to the US that he and other American prisoners were being tortured by blinking, in Morse Code, T-O-R-T-U-R-E repeatedly. Trumps comments could be applied to Louis Zamperini, the Olympian-turned-bombardier who refused to allow the brutal treatment by his Japanese captors to break him, demonstrating to all the resolve and strength of the American spirit.
We know all of these men, because they were captured. But it is their heroism, their dignity, and their perpetual dedication to our nation, in the face of terrifying, excruciating conditions that we honor when we call them heroes. Mr. Trump’s failure to understand this disqualifies him to serve as Commander-in-Chief.
In the days following his senseless remarks, Trump’s response to the backlash has revealed much about his character: he is an immature, wannabe bully. He doubled down and tried to claim that his comments have been taken out of context. Saying, “People who fought hard and weren’t captured and went through a lot, they get no credit. Nobody even talks about them; they’re, like, forgotten.” Honoring John McCain does not mean that John Basilone, Audie Murphy, Riley Pitts, Dakota Meyers, Michael Murphy, Ross McGinnis, or countless other heroes do not receive appropriate recognition. There is not a finite amount of honor; celebrating one heroic act does not detract from another.
Trump also said, “I used to like [McCain] a lot. I supported him…but I would love to see him do a much better job taking care of the veterans.” After 5 and a half years of unimaginable pain and torture in service to America and her military, John McCain has paid in full. Anything else that he does is above and beyond. And certainly, someone like Donald Trump who, while John McCain languished in prison was, as the Washington Post pointed out, “living large…He ate in New York City’s finest restaurants, rode in his father’s limousines and began hitting the clubs with beautiful women,” is certainly in no position to demand more of the senator.
Trump’s best excuse for this attack on John McCain is that McCain attacked him—basically, Trump is whining “he started it.” Thin skin and a bad attitude is not going to turn Washington around, after all that’s what we’ve had for the past six years. Republican primary voters owe America—and certainly America’s service members—a better candidate than Donald Trump. It’s time for him to go.
Sometimes you read a story in the newspaper (well, on a news website at least) and just shake your head at the profound stupidity of the reporter.
The New York Times first wrote a breathless story about how Senator Marco Rubio and his wife have had a serious problem with driving infractions – 17 total.
On it’s face, you might think, “that dude’s got a lead foot.” The problem is, of the 17 tickets cited in the story, only four of those tickets were given to Senator Rubio. The other 13 were his wife. That’s four in the last 15 years.
So, that’s a bit of a cheap shot by the New York Times.
Then, a couple days later, you had this story with this headline: Marco Rubio’s Career Bedeviled by Financial Struggles.
My first reaction was, this is good for Rubio, a contrast to millionaire Hillary Clinton. And, taken as a whole, the story is about a 44 year-old father of three who has had some ups and downs financially as he has tried to balance a life in politics and raising a family.
One of the more absurd parts of the story was the Times reporting that following him earning an $800,000 advance on his book, “he splurged on an extravagant purchase: $80,000 for a luxury speedboat, state records show. At the time, Mr. Rubio confided to a friend that it was a potentially inadvisable outlay that he could not resist. The 24-foot boat, he said, fulfilled a dream.”
OK, so I’m a kid from Show Low, AZ and not an expert in watercraft. But, I have had friends who owned boats (bass fishing boats, speed boats, deep sea fishing boats) and I’ve been on a couple “luxury” boats.
When I read “$80,000 luxury speedboat” I just chuckled. A 24-ft boat that costs $80,000 is far from “luxury.” You want a “luxury speedboat?” That’s going to put you out a few hundred thousand to start.
For example, this Tiara is used and is for sale for more than $300,000.
Turns out this is the “luxury speedboat” Marco bought:
It’s a standard deep sea fishing boat. As I commented to someone, “If a luxury speedboat was a Bentley, this is a Hyundai.”
So the New York Times is getting some criticism. Even Politico thinks they’ve crossed the line. Think about that, when even Politico thinks you’ve gone over the line, you can guarantee you have crossed the line a mile back.
Then last night, Jon Stewart jumped into the mix. It’s pretty amazing TV.
The New York Times has lost even more of what little credibility they have remaining. The Gray Lady weeps…