Happy Trails Michelle Bachmann

happytrails

Earlier this week, Michelle Bachmann announced that she would not be seeking reelection for her congressional seat.  The news was met by catcalls and derision from the Left.  Yet, their top candidate, who lost to Bachmann last November by 4200 votes, announced that he would not seek election to that seat.  For many on the Right, there was sadness.  I, for one, am overjoyed.

I remember when Michelle Bachmann won her first election to Congress in 2006.  That was a very difficult midterm election for the GOP and Michelle Bachmann was a very bright light in an otherwise dismal midterm election.  I was happy she won that year.  However, in the six years since that victory, I do not recognize that person who won in 2006.

One of the problems in today’s conservative movement is there seems to be a greater premium on celebrity than gravitas.  It is a trap that many good people cannot seem to avoid.  Celebrity brings fame and money;  it also brings greater scrutiny.  For Bachmann, celebrity put her on the national stage with Sarah Palin in 2008.  In 2010, celebrity also caused her to try to get in front of the nascent TEA Party movement.  In 2012, celebrity made her believe she could win the GOP nomination for president.  It was this run for president that convinced me that her loss would be a good thing for the conservative movement.

For the past four years, I watched Michelle Bachmann on the national stage.  It also came with a huge price tag.  Bachmann would raise millions for her congressional campaigns;  claiming she was a target of the Left.  Unfortunately, many of these dollars could have gone to other conservative candidates who struggled to raise any money to win winnable races.  Many of these races were lost. After the 2010 midterm election, Bachmann became the head of the newly formed TEA Party Caucus.  Since becoming the head of the caucus, I am not aware of any meetings held by Bachmann. In 2011, she mounted a campaign for president that accomplished four things:  1)  she effectively took out fellow Minnesotan and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty;  the only candidate outside of Romney to have a national organization and money.  2)  she effectively protected Mitt Romney’s flank from any conservative candidate.  3)  she failed to pay her staff;  offering them their back pay provided they sign a nondisclosure form from speaking about the campaign, and 4)  she effectively became the poster child for breaking campaign laws. Yet, she continues to exhibit political chutzpah by claiming her problems were created by her political enemies.  These four accomplishments and results have all the character traits of an opportunist.

Michelle Bachmann, like Cassius in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, has a lean and hungry look.  However, what makes Bachmann, dangerous is that she does not think before she speaks.  To her credit, she makes incredible soundbites for media consumption.  However, when pressed, Bachmann comes off as lost and confused.  This brings us to the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s assistant Huma Abedin.  There was speculation, most of it well reasoned, that Huma Abedin had family members involved in radical Islamic groups.  Bachmann saw an opportunity to press the matter publicly.  However, when she received blowback from John McCain and members of the media, she became the controversy;  not Abedin.  Any momentum to investigate the charges were gone.

The demise of Michelle Bachmann has served two purposes.  The first is her congressional district will elect a better person to take her place.  The other is the withdrawal of Bachmann’s 2012, DFL opponent.  This tells us two things:  the Democrats know they have little chance of winning the district except if Bachman were running and they have little anticipation to sweep the 2014 midterm elections.   The Left has brilliantly played the Michelle Bachmann card.  They raise lots of money by scaring their rank-and-file with the belief that the GOP has been co-opted by the Michelle Bachmann crowd.  They also know that conservatives will instinctively react in defense of one of their celebrities.  I have long considered Michelle Bachmann to be a “show horse” and it appears the conservative movement has been a participant in a “dog and pony” show.  It is time for Michelle Bachmann to retire to her federally subsidized Wisconsin farm.  Happy trails, indeed.

The Top 10 Reasons Hillary Fell

10- the Rose Law Firm billing records showed up again

9- she just saw her cattle futures portfolio

8- the Southeastern Conference ruled it was a legal hit

7- she saw the ghost of Vince Foster

6- the note from Epstein’s mother wasn’t good enough

5- it was the only way she could have missed that 3 AM phone call

4- she slipped on a quagmire

3- another reason to blame Bush

2- the willing suspension of disbelief

1- Not tonight, Bill, I have a ……

Spartan

Where Do We Go From Here?

Part II:  Political Observations and Ideas

In the last 20 years, it has become obvious that the GOP ( as well as the conservative movement) has become collectivist in nature and in purpose.  What used to be an organization reliant on bottom-to-top ideas and movement has become DC-centric; where DC tells the state and local operations what to do and what is acceptable.  This gives rise to the dreaded political consultant/strategist whose inane ramblings become marching orders. Even sadder, it is apparent that many of the Reaganites who came to DC when Ronald Reagan became president have also been co-opted into the mindset that power and money trump principles.  During the Reagan years, the joke going around the White House was, “how many people work at the RNC?  Oh, about half of them.”  I would bet that during the Bush years it was greater than half.

Thus, the GOP needs to return the political power, talent, and money back to the states and local operations.  The states have a better idea how to allocate money and resources.  Let the states and local organizations conduct their own voter registration drives and recruit candidates.  The RNC needs to only provide guidance and knowledge.

Another problem is the primary process.  This is the area which creates the greatest havoc and provides very little benefit for the general election.  We have seen this occur in three-way races for US Senate seats held by Democrats. In 2010, three candidates ran for the GOP nomination against Harry Reid.  Sue Lowden was probably the best of the three candidates, but she was savagely attacked for every faux pas.  Meanwhile, one of her opponents, Sharon Angle, received favorable media coverage.  Sharon Angle was probably the worst of the three candidates. Angle won the primary, but did not garner 50% of the vote.  In the general election, the flawed Angle candidacy was exposed and Harry Reid easily won reelection. In 2012, we saw the same thing happen in Missouri and Florida.  In the end, two Senate seats that should have gone to the GOP remained Democrat.

The problem is even greater in the primary process for president.  The first race is the Iowa caucus.  With so much media attention focused on the Iowa caucus, a candidate must cozy up to the social conservative base or play footsies with the ethanol interests.  There were rumors this year that certain influential social conservatives were asking candidates to pay $1 million for their endorsement.  It is a small price to pay for a great showing and momentum going into the New Hampshire primary. The New Hampshire primary is beset with problems.  The current New Hampshire electorate does not resemble the electorate of William Loeb and Meldrim Thompson.  It is less conservative.  A bigger problem is that it is an open primary.  This certainly is an invitation for crossover mischief.  Thus, by the time the results of the Iowa and New Hampshire races are known, the conservative candidates are behind with little momentum going into the next primary races.

First, there needs to be closed primaries for the GOP.  They should not be open to independents and Democrats.  It is common sense only allow members of the GOP to select the GOP candidate.  If independents and Democrats desire to cross over, they need to wait two years from the date of their last ballot cast.  The next thing for the non-presidential primaries is to have an automatic runoff between the top two contenders.  This will cut down on the mischief of an opposition party trying to influence the outcome in favor of a preferred opponent.  In the end, the GOP must close ranks.  There should be no toleration for petulance from either the conservatives or the GOP establishment.  The behavior of folks like Mike Castle in 2010 and Richard Lugar in 2012 are an embarrassment.  Such divisions doom  the candidate that remains in the race.

Spartan

Where Do We Go From Here?

 Part One: Leadership

There is no simple answer to this very simple question. The problem is the GOP is divided against itself. Let’s face it; the social conservatives have issues ( and vice versa) with the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, the conservatives have issues with the GOP establishment, and no one knows if the Libertarians will fully support any agenda outside of their own.

The first thing the GOP has to address is Leadership. There really has been a dearth of leadership for several years; to the point it appears to be nonexistent. Former Chairman Michael Steele enjoys taking credit for the 63 House seats gained in 2010. However, the reality is he had very little to do with that accomplishment. It was the engine of the TEA Party that actually accomplished that result. In fact, the only thing Steele and the GOP tried to do was co-opt the TEA Party movement. This bit of dishonesty frustrated many members of this nascent movement. Michael Steele also had a frustrating habit of insulting conservatives to make the GOP seem palatable to left-wing audiences. Attacking Rush Limbaugh using Democratic Party talking points is not leadership; it is the height of inanity. Rush Limbaugh has never been the problem of the GOP. At least, he has a message.

Steele was replaced by Reince Preibus. Priebus seems like a nice enough guy, but, he exasperates the problem with the GOP by not addressing the problems with GOP political strategy combined with the lack of strategic discipline. The former is a result of poor personnel. The latter resulted in the abysmal showing this November. The areas where the GOP lacked strategic discipline were numerous. I will attempt to address some of the problems.

The first issue is quality control of candidates. The 2012 GOP primary process resembled a cross between a three ring circus and Dante’s nine circles of hell.
In my humble opinion, there were three candidates who had absolutely no business running for the office of president; Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul. All three were uniquely unqualified to be president of the United States.

Bachmann, a three term Congresswoman from Minnesota, is more of a ‘show horse’ than a ‘workhorse’. Her political accomplishments have not been stellar and I believe she is part of the GOP trying to usurp the TEA Party movement. The Movement has been focused on government overspending and government control/regulations. Bachmann, zeros in solely on Obama. It should be noted that several TEA Party Congressmen have lost their positions from the House Financial Services and House Budget Committees this week. Bachmann, as chairperson of the TEA Party caucus, has said nothing. She is an opportunist and I would not weep if she were to lose her congressional seat.

Cain, is a libertarian radio talkshow host from Atlanta, Georgia. Outside of a failed run for the Senate in 2002, he has no legislative/government experience. As described, he is a libertarian. As a true libertarian, he tries to be both pro-life and pro-choice. What eventually ended his campaign were a couple of accusations of infidelity and appearing utterly clueless about events in Libya.

Paul, who tends to be a free-market libertarian (which I like), has no reality when it comes to US foreign policy. He views foreign-policy as a combination of ‘It’s not our problem’ and ‘we caused the problem’. He ran on slogans like, “End the Fed” but when asked for specifics for what would replace the Fed, he did not know. During the debates, he appeared whiny and petulant; the crazy uncle one has at family reunions.
However, all three wreaked havoc on other contenders (Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry) and none really challenged Mitt Romney on any issue.

Quality control of candidates also means making sure they have the staff and organization to run a campaign. Outside of the aforementioned Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry, as well as Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, no other candidate had much of a staff and organization to run a campaign. In the end, it was Romney’s superior staff, money, and organization which allowed him to outlast all of his competitors. It also failed to prepare Romney for the general election.

Romney was the beneficiary of a lot of SuperPAC money which was used to attack his chief competitors. This insulated Romney from being seen as the attacker but it also led to the consequences of Romney not being able to hone any political skills with regards to Obama. Every mistake Obama made (and there were many) during the general election was met with little or no response from Romney. Romney became so dependent on the SuperPAC attacks that he became neutered and clueless when he was on center stage.

This leads to the next issue of money. The RNC raises a lot of money. However, it has serious competition for these political dollars from Karl Rove’s outfit American Crossroads, as well as other SuperPACs. Rove raised and spent approximately $400 million this election cycle. The election results showed his efforts were fruitless.
To be fair, I doubt the RNC could have done better. One of the biggest problems with the GOP is they are infested with political consultants/strategists who have either no concept of political history, no political beliefs, or are more concerned with money and power than principles. It is time for these individuals to be exposed and sent into the political wilderness. One pair of consultants from Minnesota was paid $64 million by the Romney campaign. It appears from the final results that this money would have been better spent elsewhere.

There is a lot of self-dealing among RNC staff and consultants which results in no-bid contracts being made to various vendors for mail, phone banks, and GOTV programs. Romney spent over $134 million to political firms with ties to his senior staff, for consulting and other services.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-campaign-payday-20121027,0,6084625.story

And you wonder why the GOP lost. There will be repercussions from this disaster of election. The GOP establishment was given the opportunity to lead. The GOP establishment should be told to either follow or get out of the way.

Spartan

Going Over The Numbers

As of November 22, it appears Mitt Romney has received 47,000 more votes than John McCain in 2008.  Considering George W. Bush received just over 62 million votes in 2004, it is apparent Romney woefully underperformed.   When one realizes the US population has 19 million more people than 2004, it is fair to say Romney missed out on close to 8,000,000 votes.  Yet, the Romney apologists say he is not to blame.  I believe there is much blame to go around from Romney the candidate, to the GOP leadership, to the GOP nomination process.

Romney the candidate was dreadful.  He was utterly clueless on issues outside of what he wanted to discuss and never counterpunched Obama;  even where Obama was most vulnerable.  Even economic issues, which was supposed to be Romney’s bailiwick, seemed to be PowerPoint presentations from the late-1980s to mid-1990s.  Romney looked like Ronald Reagan but campaigned like Jane Wyman.

The GOP leadership was, in essence, non-existent.  It was as though they treated the results of the 2010 midterm election as rare event, instead of a trend.  They treated the Tea Party as a bunch of ignorant yahoos and thought Senate losers like O’Donnell and Angle were the norm and not the exception.  Thus, they ran a bunch of GOP Establishment retreads for winnable Senate seats.  They all lost.  In the two other winnable races in MO and IN, the GOP ran for the tall grass from Akin (I don’t blame them as Akin should have had the decency to allow another candidate to win this race) and failed to coalesce around Mourdock.  A divided party can never win. They also lost seats in the House.  Some of the more winnable seats were lost by inept candidates (a seat in GA comes to mind).  Others were lost because leadership did nothing to combat poor redrawing of congressional districts by “non-partisan” Commissions.  Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Whip, actually agreed to the process.  And why not, he got a better district.  Others were not so fortunate.  A word of advice to the GOP;  if they have to put “non-partisan” to describe a group;  they are not.  California lost 4 seats through this process. In FL, Allan West lost his race.  He was not only a target of the Democrats but The FL State GOP redistricted West out of his old district.  A question for the Democrats;  how is it “racist” to criticize Obama, yet, okay to disparage West?

Another problem confronting the GOP is money. A lot of money has been redirected to SuperPACs like American Crossroads. American Crossroads, which is run by Karl Rove, spent close to $400 million in this election cycle.  It would be fair to say their efforts were a disaster. Unfortunately, if the money were directed to the GOP, there would be no telling what those inept political strategists would have accomplished.

The biggest problem with the GOP during this election was a lack of strategy and message.  It was amusing and sad to watch Romney discussing the need for tax cuts, without really addressing the need for significant spending cuts.  There were several moments during the campaign where Romney was asked about parts of the Paul Ryan plan, which dealt with entitlement reform.  Each time, he either punted or worse, he denied the plausibility of Ryan’s plan.  It does make one wonder why Romney even bothered putting Ryan on the ticket.

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran on the slogan, “it’s the economy, stupid”.  The Romney mantra was not to attack Obama because the voters believed Obama was nice and likable.  The political strategists who thought this was the best way to win an election should really consider another line of work.  There was certainly a lack of political acumen by Romney and his strategists.  There were many times Obama would lead with his chin and Romney refused to strike.  In the end, it was the failure of Romney and his political strategists to address economic issues such as regulation and overspending by the Democrats, foreign policy debacles, and most of all attacks on the Church and Faith by the Obama administration.  This failure allowed Obama to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This was Romney’s race to lose.  Obama did not steal this election but there was one significant event that all the punditry missed;  the decision by Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Fed, to inject $40 billion into the market.  The market soared, and many did not vote to change the presidency.  The election was lost at that moment.  Romney can discuss 12 million new jobs, but they fall on deaf ears when people are fixated on their portfolios.

Spartan

The Ghost of Moderates Past

A wise historian once claimed, “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. As I look at the results of the 2012 election, I am amused by the number of excuses why Mitt Romney lost this election. They range from the usual suspects, the TEA Party, the social conservatives, hard-line conservatives, a lot of dumb people who don’t know any better, to complete fantasies like Obama “stole” the election, Obama “bribed” the American people, and the Democrats hacked into Romney’s Orca GOTV system on election day, causing the GOP to lose Ohio. They never blame Romney and excuse all of his tactical and strategic mistakes; nor do they ever provide direct proof of their fantasies.

You see, many of these folks have no sense of reality and history. The GOP have nominated folks like Mitt Romney since Herbert Hoover and none of them have ever been elected. The one exception was Dwight Eisenhower. I doubt even the foolish of fools could compare Romney to Ike but I am sure some blonde will try. Even Nixon, who ran as a moderate in 1960, learned his lesson and became a “conservative” in 1968. Unfortunately, for the American people, Nixon left us a legacy of a greater bureaucracy with such acronyms as OSHA and EPA.

The problem is, the Republicans have slowly dismantled the Reagan coalition of fiscal, foreign-policy, and social conservatives.

The fiscal conservatives are frustrated. When the GOP did some very fine work ( thanks in large part to Bob Livingston) paring the budget during the 1990s, they were overshadowed by Newt Gingrich’s inarticulate sound bites. After the loss of Livingston from the GOP caucus, the GOP spent like drunken sailors during the Bush years. They abandoned fiscal responsibility and past bad laws like the Medicare prescription drug benefit (which is the largest new entitlement program since the 1960s) , and No Child Left Behind (which federalized our K-12 schools). They are also frustrated over the lack of respect and understanding what the midterm elections of 2010 meant. Since the election, John Boehner has signaled his willingness to work a deal with President Obama and some members of Congress want to break their pledge not to raise taxes. This will not sit well with the fiscal conservatives.

The foreign-policy conservatives are in disarray. On one hand, they embrace our venture into Libya and hope for intervention in Syria. On the other hand, they embrace the Muslim Brotherhood brokered peace plan between Hamas and Israel but they cannot articulate a good reason why.

As for the social conservatives, they are the most maligned of the Reagan coalition. They are the bogeyman of modern American politics. Yet, their influence within the GOP has greatly diminished since 1988. 1988 is the year when many either retired or were pushed out by the George HW Bush folks. They have also lost two of their most articulate spokesmen with the passing of Paul Weyrich and Father John Neuhaus.

I believe the seminal point for social conservatives was the passing of Terri Schiavo in 2005. Subsequently, they failed to vote in 2006, 2008, probably 2010, and in spite of exit poll data, I believe they failed to vote in 2012. As long as the GOP ignores the concerns of social conservatives, I believe the GOP will be relegated to, at best, mediocre candidates with inarticulate positions.

Mitt Romney could not articulate any position beyond creating jobs. He never discussed any specifics as to spending cuts. In fact, on several occasions, he took swipes at the Paul Ryan plan. It makes one wonder why he bothered making Paul Ryan his Vice President. Mitt Romney did not articulate the events surrounding the killing of our ambassador at Benghazi or the feckless response of the Obama administration in the aftermath. He could not articulate how the Obama foreign-policy, more particularly the concept of “soft power”, has been a disaster.

Most of all, Mitt Romney never used the C word to hammer the Obama administration; corruption. From ‘Fast and Furious’ to Solyndra, Romney wouldn’t make an issue of this administration’s ethical issues. In many ways, the last two debates seemed more of a love fest than a competition to be the next president of the United States. Mitt Romney failed to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan of “raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people”.

Mitt Romney now takes his place with other such GOP luminaries as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Bob Dole, John McCain; all ghosts of moderate past.

Spartan

Divide and conquer: Romney and the social conservatives

For various reasons that I have discussed, Mitt Romney was a uniquely horrible candidate to be the GOP standard bearer in 2012. He was not only a technocrat, but he lacked any sense of leadership skills. Outside of running Bain Capital, running the 1998 Winter Olympics, running against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate in 1994, and an unremarkable four-year term as the governor of Massachusetts, there is very little background to discern who is Mitt Romney and what does he believe.

Before Mitt Romney ran for president in 2008, he was, based on his previous statements made as a politician from Massachusetts, a liberal. In 1994, when the Republican Revolution embraced Ronald Reagan and won convincingly around the country, Mitt Romney ran as a liberal. In his race against Ted Kennedy, Romney ended up taking both sides of the abortion question. This led Ted Kennedy to remark; “Mitt Romney isn’t just pro-choice, he’s multiple-choice.”

In 2002, Mitt Romney ran as a pro-choice Republican. In 2008, Mitt Romney ran as a pro-life Republican. For many people, especially social conservatives, “just trust me” wasn’t going to work.

In 2012, the Democrats ran a strange ( at the time) GOP War On Woman campaign. It made very little sense. That is, until Todd Akin, the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, made the ridiculous claim that women could not get pregnant from “legitimate” rape. Romney did not respond. Republican politicians and movement conservatives demanded Todd Akin step down and allow someone else to run for the U.S. Senate. Todd Akin refused. Todd Akin lost his race by almost 16 points. It was a disaster that could have been averted.

Two weeks before the election, Richard Mourdock, running for the U.S. Senate from Indiana made a comment during a debate that was deliberately twisted by his opponent to say that “rape was a gift from God”. An examination of Mourdock’s statement shows that he had said ‘life, resulting from a rape, was a gift from God’. In response to the manufactured firestorm, the Romney campaign released the following statement: “Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views”. Richard Mourdock lost his race by 5 ½ points.

The vote totals from both states reflect an interesting trend. In Missouri, Obama received 286,175 less votes than 2008. Mitt Romney received 34,136 more votes than John McCain in 2008. In Indiana, Obama received 217,446 less votes than 2008. Romney received 70,522 more votes than John McCain in 2008.
It should be noted that Obama ran his campaign with abortion rights being the centerpiece of said campaign. I submit that Romney’s silence in Missouri and his rebuke of Mourdoch’s position in Indiana gave social conservatives the reason to stay home on election day. Romney made many egregious tactical errors. He ceded the foreign-policy debate to Obama and he took the social conservatives for granted after selecting Ryan as his VP candidate. He, and his political team, could not and would not make a reasonable and definitive argument to assuage the skeptics within the social conservatives. The more the Obama campaign promoted abortion rights, the Romney campaign responded with economic issues and promises. Obama conquered Romney by dividing the GOP base. Romney was all too willing to drive that bus.

One final note on the Indiana race. Mourdoch defeated the incumbent Richard Lugar in the primary. Lugar never endorsed or campaigned for Mourdoch in the general election. It would be safe to say the petulance of Lugar and his supporters played a greater role in defeating Mourdoch than anything Mourdoch said in the last two weeks of his campaign. Divide and conquer, indeed.

Spartan