Déjà Vu All Over Again

We all know — and are still suffering for — the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was defeated by an incumbent who had (and continues to have) abysmal approval ratings while presiding over an economy that is leaving millions of Americans living a nightmare rather than the American Dream.

Prior to the 2012 election, polls, reporters and pundits across the political spectrum pointed out how Barack Obama was vulnerable. That conversation, as true as it was, neglected the weaknesses of Mr. Romney, which were further magnified to the point of caricature by the Obama machine and its useful pawns in the “mainstream” media.

When it comes to 2016, it is becoming increasingly likely that we’ll see a mirror image of this play out to the benefit of the GOP.

Let’s go over some of the main weaknesses of candidate Romney as over-analyzed in the pre- and post-mortems of the 2012 election:

  • Romney is so rich that voters didn’t believe he really understood them and their problems.
  • Romney was “not a strong campaigner with little ability to build connections with people.”
  • Romney moved so far to the right during the primaries that he made it difficult for swing voters to buy him as a moderate, even though he had governed Massachusetts as a moderate.
  • Romney’s gaffes (or at least political unforced errors) reinforced the idea that he did not understand the ordinary American (“47 percent,” “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs,” “Severely conservative”) and was outside of the mainstream of American thought (including the majority of Republicans) by proposing “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants.
  • Romney was the worst possible Republican to argue against Obamacare because of his implementation of Romneycare in Massachusetts.
  • Romney’s ties to Bain Capital were twisted to show his finances as somewhere between inscrutable and corrupt, including claims of avoiding taxes.

A version of each of these (with the possible exception of the third, depending on which other Democrats enter that party’s primary fray) is likely to have an analogue for Hillary Clinton, leading to 2016 playing out as a repeat of 2012 with, as strange as it might seem, the Democrat being portrayed as the out-of-touch barely-likable fat cat.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:

My first article for National Review: The Left’s Outrage over Giuliani Rings False

I'm pleased to announce my first ever article for National Review's website. I hope to contribute to them on a regular basis going forward.

Does anybody really buy the Left’s faux outrage over former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s opinion, offered at a private event for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker last Wednesday, that President Obama does not love America? After all, it’s a matter of orthodoxy on the right that Barack Obama’s opinion of America ranges from mild disapproval to outright hatred. In my own estimation, it is somewhere between.
A thought experiment for you: How do you think a spouse, a friend, or a colleague would react if you suggested — in your nicest voice — “I think you’re wonderful, but I want to fundamentally transform you”? After all, nothing says “I love you” like telling someone you want to change everything about her. A proper reaction would sound something like, “Go transform yourself, buddy.”
Yet in 2008, just before his first election, then-candidate Obama said, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” To be sure, he went on to specify a few items of economic policy that fell into his transformative plans. But it is simply not credible to believe that he was speaking only of “expanding the middle class,” as he suggested in a 2014 interview with Bill O’Reilly.
Instead, the transformation that Obama envisions encompasses everything from government control of health care to massively diminishing the power of the United States in international affairs so that “no world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed.”
None of this is surprising from a man who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” After all, nobody is exceptional if everybody is, and if the U.S. isn’t exceptional, that’s just one less reason to love it.

Please read the entirety of my article for National Review here:

Leadership Program of the Rockies 2015 Annual Retreat

The Leadership Program of the Rockies Annual Retreat, which this year is on February 20 and 21 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, is always one of the highlights of my year. Full of lovers of liberty, and packed full of some of the most interesting speakers you’ll ever hear (if you’re interested in politics, and especially if you have a conservative/libertarian pro-free market viewpoint), the 2014 event promises to be another great one. And the hotel is so fantastic, that even non-political spouses love the event.

The registration deadline is February 13th.

I highly recommend the "deluxe" attendance packages (either for an individual or for a couple) which include the VIP reception on Friday night. It's a great chance to mingle and converse with some great (and like-minded) people, including members of Congress and state and local political leaders...and to meet and have your picture taken with the keynote speaker. And the Standard Package, though not with the VIP reception, is a GREAT deal.

The keynote speaker for the Friday night dinner will be Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan.

Other great speakers include Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Fox Business personality Charles Payne, Mary Katharine Ham, and for the Saturday lunch, National Review editor Rich Lowry. You can see the whole lineup of speakers on the Retreat's web page (any of the links in this note.)

Click here to learn more and register online. The sooner you book, the better your chances of getting one of the block of discounted rooms.

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re in your own little corner of paradise now.”

The words could have been straight from the “just what I’d expect him to say” files — Jeremy is a marketing manager for the resort — yet they were strangely comforting, and proved happily accurate for our family, much in need of a respite, even if brief, from the intense stress and deep sadness of my wife’s father’s death less than a week earlier.

Our trip had been planned eight months prior and was intended to end in Australia with a celebration of Bob Baillie’s 70th birthday (please do click on that link); instead it ended with his memorial service after a brief but brutal battle with merciless pancreatic cancer. But his wife, my mother-in-law, was insistent that we go on our trip as planned because Bob (whom she more frequently calls Rob) had been so enthusiastic about it for us and particularly for our children. Indeed, he had paid for much of it; Bob was always a remarkably generous person.

We had arrived at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort on the northeastern coast of Borneo after spending a couple of blurry jet-lagged days in Kuala Lumpur, the major highlight of which was taking our kids to the Sunway Lagoon, which includes the world largest waterpark ride. We were joined that day by my wife’s friend Kristina, whom she has known since second grade and who lives in KL with her husband, the headmaster (English for “principal”) at a large international school. They enjoy life in Malaysia, and not only because it’s easy to afford a maid. The major downside is that since locals drink very little alcohol, it being a plurality Muslim country with a very Muslim government, beer and wine are taxed heavily in Malaysia, making drinking an expensive proposition — something no good Aussie accepts without complaint.

At Sunway Lagoon in KL (check the giant funnel slide!)
[All pictures displayed in this article were taken and are owned by me or my wife;
none of the pictures linked to within the article were taken by us.

The trip to the resort from the airport at Kota Kinabalu (“KK”), the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, was in its own way noteworthy — and not just because we took Malaysian Airways despite warnings from over-cautious friends and family.

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:

Democratic Pickpockets and Purse-Snatchers

Like walking in a neighborhood full of pickpockets and purse snatchers, living under the Obama administration should leave all Americans worried about what will be pilfered from them next.

In one of the most hypocritical moves yet — and that’s saying something — by a man who exhaled a lot of hot air in recent weeks, including during the State of the Union speech, talking about the importance of a college education, President Obama is now proposing to end tax-free withdrawals from 529 college savings accounts, diminishing (or perhaps even eliminating) their attractiveness as savings vehicles and thereby reducing incentives for millions of American families to create a college nest egg for their children.

Contributions to 529 plans are not deductible for federal income tax purposes but are deductible in 34 states and the District of Columbia. (Since seven states have no state income tax, 529 plans receive favorable tax treatment in all but nine states.) The income earned within a 529 plan can be withdrawn tax free when used for “qualified higher education expenses.”

The most recent study of the 529 program by the College Savings Plan Network says that “total assets and total number of open accounts have reached new record levels of more than $244 billion and 11.8 million, respectively.” The number of 529 accounts grew by six percent in the first half of 2014 alone.

President Obama is one of those 11.8 million, having contributed a stunning $240,000 to his daughters’ 529 plans in 2007. Since the president’s proposal would impact new contributions rather than those already made, it would leave his daughters’ college savings in good shape; he had the financial wherewithal to drop a quarter million dollars into those accounts all at once. But for those of us (including me) who make modest monthly or annual contributions to our children’s futures, we’re out of luck.

Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:


Delayed Reaction (to SOTU)

It took me a couple of days to summon the strength to watch President Obama’s seventh State of the Union Address (the sixth if you don’t count his 2009 address to a joint session of Congress); the speech was an hour-long exercise in deception, hypocrisy, and narcissism — which is to say it was more of the same from the most insular and self-absorbed politician of our generation, a man who never stops campaigning.

Within the first seconds of his long-winded address, the president, missing only a cone-shaped hat and a magic wand in his attempt to recast reality, said that while the first part of the 21st century was replete with terrorism and economic turmoil, “tonight, we turn the page.”

Yes, the man who told us that his election would cause the end of rising seas now suggests that the thrilling chapter of history in which The One, outdoing even Moses, saved his people and perhaps the world, has come to an blissful close and we are now to enter a new gilded age of pax Americana in which everyone can have everything for free. Apparently our president studied at the Big Rock Candy Mountain School of Public Policy.

He also hopes — perhaps with good reason — that Americans are ignorant of some basic facts.

Obama noted that the economy is growing but neglected that this is the slowest economic recovery in modern American history. He pointed out the declining unemployment rate but neglected that much of the drop is due to people simply leaving the workforce. He cheered our declining dependence on foreign oil but neglected to mention that he has opposed increased domestic energy production at every turn and (in)famously said “you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” (Actually, we can. And the Energy Minister of the United Arab Emirates made clear last week that OPEC’s decision not to try to prop up prices is because they want to force American shale oil producers out of business.)

Perhaps the most galling line of the speech — and that’s saying something — was the president’s claim that “the shadow of crisis has passed,” a remarkable assertion as ISIS (which the president, nearly alone, insists on calling ISIL to avoid reminding people of his failure in Syria) is seizing territory in Iraq, Syria, and now “gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda.”

How stupid does Obama think we are? (Don’t answer that question.)

Please read the rest of my article for The American Spectator here:

Can’t We Do Better?

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist — and I certainly have nothing on Paul Craig Roberts whose most recent article, helpfully disseminated by the Ron Paul Institute, claims the Charlie Hebdo attacks to be a “false flag” operation — but I can’t help but wonder if the “mainstream media” is playing up the potential presidential candidacies of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum simply to depress Republican voters.

Or, going the full tin-foil-hat route, maybe these guys are themselves double agents, part of a MoveOn.org (does it still exist?) sleeper cell which was just activated (by someone who doesn’t get that Americans don’t want to talk about the 2016 election in January of 2015). Their goal: To make the GOP look so ridiculous, so full of unappealing candidates, that independent voters scoff and Republicans begin considering staying home in 2016 the same way they did in 2012, handing an eminently winnable election to a living national nightmare in a pants suit.

To be sure, some press coverage of Mitt Romney is skeptical, with recent articles describing Republican ambivalence (to put it kindly) about his potential candidacy. Other pieces, though, including in liberal outlets such as the Boston Globe (an outfit that knows Romney better than most), seem to be trying to help Romney push an explanation for his “stunning change of heart.”

The thing is, Mitt, I don’t care why you changed your mind.

Please read the entirety of my article for The American Spectator here:

Obama’s Keystone Confusion

In his appearance last Monday on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

Second, the usual climate alarmist assumptions, namely that humans are having a substantial impact on the climate and that a warming of the planet is likely to be harmful.

Third, and most important, the implicit assumption that climate change — even if you believe the alarmists’ claims — is the only risk worth considering.

Please read the entirety of my article for the American Spectator here:

The one unintended positive of ObamaCare

I, like anybody who appreciates personal and economic liberty and rational policy, oppose ObamaCare. That does not mean, however, that it does not have any beneficial impact or, along with its many ill-conceived taxes and bureaucracies and nanny state regulations (such as the impending annoyance of having to see calorie counts on every menu), offer a useful object lesson to guide future policy.

If Jonathan Gruber, despite his apologies for being rude, is correct that American voters are both stupid and selfish, it will be intellectually difficult as well as politically risky for Republicans to point out such object lessons — not least to each other.

But it's worth a try.

And recent data about the declining growth in total healthcare spending (which doesn't mean total spending is declining, nor does it mean that health insurance premiums are not still rising — quite rapidly in certain categories of plans) are worth talking about.

Please read the entirety of my note for The Hill here:

We Can Handle the Truth

What do the recent University of Virginia gang-rape charges made in Rolling Stone magazine, rape implications against an Oberlin College “campus conservative” by talented-but-annoying darling-of-the-left Lena Dunham, and the unending “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “die-in” pantomimes of murder-by-racist-cop regarding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have in common?

The obvious answer is that all three stories are unsupported by actual evidence. While something tragic certainly happened in Ferguson and something bad may have happened to a young woman in Virginia, the aspects of the stories that made them national sensations were fabrications.

(Given Lena Dunham’s admissions that she was drunk and high on both illegal and prescription drugs, and that she willingly had sex with someone even after he had done something exceptionally inappropriate to her in public, no part of her insinuation of rape seems credible… and further scrutiny demolishes it entirely.)

The more important answer is that in each case liberal activists, whether “feminists” (the true motivation of too many being hatred of men) or race hustlers like Al Sharpton (who needs to raise a few bucks to pay down $4.5 million in tax liens), are telling us that the truth doesn’t matter.

Please read the entirety of my article for The American Spectator here: