Mike Kueber's Blog

November 30, 2011

Gingrich tries to turn his stance on illegal immigration from a liability into an asset

Newt Gingrich recently caught a lot of flak for his defense of illegal immigrants who have been productive, law-abiding citizens in American for 25 years.  To many Republicans, Newt’s defense sounds like amnesty, and that can be a death knell for a Republican politician.  Not surprisingly, however, liberals have come to Newt’s defense.

There are news reports that, because Newt currently needs support from Republicans more so than from liberals, he is walking back from his “humane” position on illegal immigration, but I suggest that a close review of his new “Ten Steps to a Legal Nation” on his website reveals that he is sticking with his guns.  The ten steps are as follows:

  1. Control the border (big surprise – not)
  2. Upgrade the visa program (of course)
  3. Attract the brains from other countries (no brainer)
  4. Privatize the legal guest-worker program from e-verify to Visa/MC/AmExp (creative)
  5. Authorize residency to foreigners who can create jobs (sure)
  6. Create a path to earned legality for the 8-12 million illegal immigrants (the 800-pound gorilla here)
  7. Deport criminals quickly (does anyone disagree?)
  8. Teach American history and America exceptionalism (bit of demagoguing here)
  9. English must be the official language (bit of demagoguing here)
  10. DREAM Act should create citizenship for military volunteers (surprisingly trimmed back)

Although Gingrich has significantly trimmed the benefits of the federal DREAM Act (e.g., college attendance will not suffice and military volunteers will not be able to rely on chain immigration to get their relatives into the country), the big 800-pound gorilla amongst Gingrich’s solutions is #6 – i.e., the path to earned legality.

Obviously, the distinction between earned legality and earned citizenship is slight.  With Newt’s earned legality, the illegal immigrants will get to remain in the country while those who have patiently followed legal channels in most foreign countries will continue to wait, and wait, and wait (like in Casablanca in WWII).

Gingrich’s plan does contain a creative mechanism for deciding which of the 8-12 million illegal immigrants will be awarded a path to legality.  He suggests that the Department of Justice create thousands of local boards (like a draft board) that would review the application of each illegal immigrant based on “family and community ties, and ability to support oneself via employment without the assistance of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs.  The government will rigorously enforce a requirement that all individuals seeking this path to legality must be able to prove that they can independently pay for private health insurance. If an individual cannot prove this, they will lose the ability to stay in the United States.  Furthermore, proficiency in English within a certain number of years, similar to the requirement for naturalization, will be required for anyone who seeks continued legal status in the United States.”

Approval under Gingrich’s review process concludes with the immigrant being required to pay a penalty of at least $5,000.  Those not approved will be deported.

I like Gingrich’s plan.  Although I disagree with the way he trimmed back the DREAM Act from college students, he has given many more people an opportunity to become legal.

Gingrich suggests that his proposals don’t need to be adopted together as comprehensive immigration reform, but rather can be evaluated and decided on their own merits.  I disagree.  We can’t be imposing any new anti-work measures like e-verify until we have developed some process to protect those who may eventually be awared legal status.

Let’s hope that Gingrich’s excellent ideas force Romney to raise the level of his game.

November 29, 2011

Politics makes strange bedfellows, or how Obama is going to cobble together a winning coalition for 2012

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:33 pm
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Back in the 70s when I was studying to be a political scientist, one of my favorite books was The Emerging Republican Majority.  This 1969 book by Kevin Phillips, which coined the term “Sunbelt,” presciently predicted that the Sunbelt would provide a core of support that would make the Republicans the majority party in America for a generation.  Incidentally, the book also predicted that my rock-ribbed conservative Upper Midwest would trend Democratic in congressional races because the burgeoning farm programs would convert farmers from independent businessmen to dependent supplicants.  My home state of North Dakota has had one or two Democratic senators ever since.  The New Emerging Republican Majority, just like Goodwin’s Lincoln book called Team of Rivals, reveals that much of what goes into the development of party positions is not based on merit or political philosophy, but rather on the practical need to secure a majority of the votes.

There was an excellent, lengthy article in the NY Times a yesterday by Thomas Edsall in which he attempted to play Kevin Phillips’ role by describing how President Obama and the Democratic Party plan to cobble together a winning coalition in 2012.  I found the article so fascinating for two reasons:

  • Its simplicity – Obama planned to win with an upscale white-downscale minority approach.
  • Its treatment of working-class (high-school educated) whites – the Democratic party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

In support of the upscale white-downscale minority approach, the article quotes a passage from a 60-page paper written by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin of the Center for American Progress, a D.C.- based progressive think tank:

  • Will the president hold sufficient support among communities of color, educated whites, Millennials, single women, and seculars and avoid a catastrophic meltdown among white working-class voters?

It also referred to a campaign memo drafted by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg and consultant James Carville that failed to mention the white working class:

  • Seizing the New Progressive Common Ground” describes instead a “new progressive coalition” made up of “young people, Hispanics, unmarried women, and affluent suburbanites.”

The article details that the erosion of working-class whites toward the Republican Party has been going on for decades, but the margin was manageable until the 2010 congressional elections had a split of 63-33 in favor of the Republicans.  The Democratic plan is deal with this gap is to minimize their losses in the white cohort and rely on the demographic fact that percentage of minority voters will increase by 2% in the next decade and the percentage of white voters will decrease by 2%.

Obviously, the Republicans aren’t going to be sitting around twiddling their thumbs while this is happening, but the article didn’t concern itself with the Republicans.  The article did, however, elaborate on the danger when politics makes strange bedfellows.  It did this by describing FDR’s New Deal Coalition, which included unions, city machines, blue-collar workers, farmers, blacks, people on relief, and generally non-affluent progressive intellectuals.  This coalition had “economic coherence.  It received support across the board from voters of all races and religions in the bottom half of the income distribution, the very coherence the current Democratic coalition lacks.”

By contrast, with the current Democratic coalition, the less affluent wing cares about strengthening the safety net whereas the more affluent wing cares about social liberalism and a less aggressive national defense.  Thus, although demographics seem to favor a Democratic ascendency, the lack of overlapping interests create great danger of fracturing the coalition, which by 2020 is expected to be “majority minority.”

One day soon I hope that ethnicity and race cease to be special interest.

November 28, 2011

The Rising Star called Marco Rubio and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants

Rick Perry’s presidential campaign started foundering when he defended in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in a presidential debate.  I previously blogged that he had touched a new 3rd-rail in Republican politics, and questioned why Newt Gingrich would recently venture near that 3rd rail by arguing for humane treatment for long-term illegal immigrants.  (As I recall, John McCain got in trouble for using the same term, “humane,” during his first presidential run.  Amazing that “humane” can be a bad thing.)

An article in today’s Daily Beast touched on the in-state tuition issue in the context of providing an interesting up-dated profile on the Republican Party’s Hispanic Rising Star, Marco Rubio.  The article is written by Howie Kurtz of Reliable Sources, and he goes out of his way to present Rubio’s hardline position in a soft, sensitive way:

  • “This is not just a theoretical argument,” Rubio told me during a recent visit to his Capitol Hill office, emotion creeping into his voice. “You’re talking about people’s neighbors, people’s moms, people’s sisters, people’s brothers, their loved ones, maybe their spouse or their children. You know kids that have grown up here their entire lives but are undocumented.” His dark eyes flash as he imagines the plight of those who cross the border illegally: “If your kids are hungry and hurting and living in a dangerous environment, there’s very little you won’t do to help them.”

By contrast, Kurtz states that Herman Cain “muses publicly about an electrified border fence that would kill trespassers. Michele Bachmann says she wouldn’t lift a finger for the children of people in this country illegally because ‘we don’t owe them anything.’”

But the bottom line for Rubio and the others on this issue of in-state tuition is essentially the same as other Republicans, yet Kurtz buries this fact in the penultimate paragraph of a long article and attributes it to a highly partisan Democrat:

  • But Rubio himself has made a sharp right turn in abandoning his earlier support for tuition breaks for children of illegal immigrants. “He changed his mind on that because he was so focused on pandering to the Tea Party that he abandoned some core principles,” says Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who chairs the Democratic National Committee.

All of thus suggests that virtually all Republican candidates, including Rubio, consider in-state tuition for illegal immigrants to be a 3rd-rail of Republican politics.  However, Kurtz concludes is article with the following:

  • Rubio’s response? A delicate high-wire act. “It’s not my position that has changed. The country has changed,” he says, adding that Americans are feeling less generous toward immigrants in tough economic times….  He leaves the door ajar to doing something to help “high-achieving” students brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own, but then pivots to argue that “people are taking advantage of America’s generosity.” For a Republican with a national profile, it’s a very thin tightrope indeed.

I suspect Newt Gingrich is similarly feeling this “very thin tightrope,” and we shall soon find out if he is able to walk it.

Andrew Sullivan on Reliable Sources

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 3:29 pm
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My favorite Sunday talk show is CNN’s Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz, a left-center journalist who discusses current issues related to the media’s coverage of current political issues.  My love for the show is not surprising because it matches my main interests in life since college, when I studied political science and briefly considering shifting to journalism.  (My main love in life was sports, but that was not a viable career option.)

This week on Reliable Sources, Kurtz had an in-depth interview with a blogger who I had never heard of – Andrew Sullivan.  Kurtz said that Sullivan is a prolific, former-Brit blogger (over 270 posts a week) on The Daily Beast (his blog is titled, “The Dish”), but what really caught my attention was Kurtz’s comment that Sullivan is a conservative who is very disappointed with the Republican Party in America.    Sounds like a kindred spirit, so I decided to do a little research on the guy.

Before getting to the research, however, I learned during the Reliable Sources interview that Sullivan had been afflicted with HIV form more than a decade, he wishes the House would pass the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan and dare the Senate to defeat it, Gingrich is hugely overrated as an intellectual, Perry is ignorant, Cain should drop out because of the numerous allegations of sexual harassment, a quality candidate like Huntsman is totally shunted, the Republican Party has moved dramatically to the right, and Obama has done an awful lot of good things.  All of which made me wonder why this guy characterizes himself as a conservative.  That will take additional reading.

November 27, 2011

Newt Gingrich as the Comback Kid

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:46 pm

While watching Reliable Sources today, I listened to a fascinating blogger by the name of Andrew Sullivan.  He is a conservative blogger who is disgusted with the Republican Party in America and apparently blogs over 250 times a week.  Because of the frequency of his blogs, he says that his entries are often subject to revision.

I feel that way now about my recent blog about Newt Gingrich in which I suggested that his reasonable position on illegal immigrants (those who have been productive residents for a large number of years deserved to stay) would severely damage him in the upcoming Republican primaries.

But yesterday the San Antonio Express-News contained a column from the Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker asking if “Is the GOP getting ‘smart?’”   It was subtitled, “Gingrich’s recent surge refreshing after years of dumbing down.”    The main focus of Parker’s column is that the Republican Party shouldn’t accept anti-science politicians or those who are can’t intelligently discuss the issues.  That makes perfect sense to me, but there is unmistakably attraction by a large percentage of the people in the party for such charlatans.

In another news article, the Express-News reported that two Texas congressmen – Silvestre Reyes and Charlie Gonzalez – were publically complimenting Newt Gingrich for his “humane” position on illegal immigration and, conversely denouncing his principal opponent Mitt Romney as an extremist.

Today, the Express-News finished its trilogy by publishing a column by Ruben Navarrette titled, “GOP comeback kid Newt Gingrich is a fighter.”  (Not online yet.)  Incredibly, although nearly half of Navarrette’s columns typically deal with immigration, this one did not even mention the subject though Gingrich recently took the highly controversial position in favor of a path to citizenship.  Instead, Navarrette attributed Gingrich’s rise in the polls to his being the smartest person in the race, a master communicator, perseverant, and determined.  He concludes his column by saying, “He has earned his new standing in the polls and his return to the spotlight through something as simple as talent and hard work.  That’s the way it ought to be…. But has we have now learned, Gingrich is also a fighter who hits hard and doesn’t give up.  Come to think of it, those might not be bad qualities to have in a president.”

That’s about as close to an endorsement as you can get.  But it remains to be seen how much the love of Ruben Navarrette, Democratic congressmen, the San Antonio Express-News, and Kathleen Parker will help in the Republican primaries.  So far, Newt’s poll numbers are holding up, and just today the New Hampshire Union-Leader endorsed him, complaining that Romney tries to please too many people.  Personally, I think that is what a democracy is all about.

Shapes up to be a fascinating contest.

November 24, 2011

Sports and politics

Filed under: Issues,Politics,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 3:23 pm
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As I prepare to spend a large portion of Thanksgiving at my son’s home watching professional and college football, including the Thanksgiving Classic between Texas and A&M, I noticed an article in the Texas Tribune reporting that a state legislator from San Antonio (A&M alum Lyle Larson) is lobbying to ensure that this century-old traditional game doesn’t end.  You see, A&M is moving to another conference next year, and Texas has decided against including A&M on its non-conference schedule.

Unfortunately, politics and sports usually don’t mix.  We had that experience a few months ago in North Dakota.  The heavy-handed, politically-correct NCAA insisted that my alma mater, the University of North Dakota (UND), drop the Fighting Sioux as our mascot, and the University administration caved; but not so, our politicians.  The North Dakota legislature passed a law that required UND to keep its mascot, but even the legislature had to recently capitulate when they learned the effect of NCAA-imposed sanctions.

I also remember more than three years ago when a refreshing, energetic, sports-minded presidential candidate, Barack Obama, told us that he would use his presidential power to solve the single greatest, intractable sports problem in America – i.e., the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).  Virtually all American college football fans want a playoff instead of the single-game BCS, but the Establishment (college presidents) isn’t listening.  As with many of candidate Obama’s promises, it met with reality and things haven’t changed that much from the Bush-43 administration.

As a Texas fan, I would vote to see the Texas/A&M tradition continue.  Furthermore, this sports vs. politics dispute is exceptional because we are dealing with two state schools.  Therefore, I think the state legislature has the right to intervene and do what’s right for Texas voters.

Go Lyle Larson, and hopefully we will see you next Thanksgiving, too.

Newt steps into the immigration mess

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:33 am
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For many years, Social Security was the 3rd rail of politics – i.e., to touch it was to die politically.  In recent years, however, America’s fiscal mess has made it politically acceptable to assert that Social Security must be reformed, just don’t get too specific about how you want to reform it.

The Republican presidential primary this year has developed at least one, and possible two new 3rd rails.  The first new rail was starkly revealed at an early debate during which all the candidates were asked if they would agree to a budget compromise that included ten dollars of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increases.  Virtually every moderate in America thinks that would be a great deal for Republican values, but every Republican candidate on the debate stage rejected the compromise.  That position is hard to understand for a party that claims its major objective is to reduce the size of government.  A relatively small tax increase seems like a small price to pay for a major reduction in government spending.  Yet every politician on the stage wouldn’t touch it, and they lived to fight another day.

The other 3rd rail in Republican politics concerns illegal immigration.  Several weeks ago, Rick Perry touched the 3rd rail by defending Texas’ law providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, and he has been a dead-man-walking since then.

Despite what happened to Rick Perry, the current frontrunner Newt Gingrich inexplicably took a similar position during the most recent debate.  According to an article in the Washington Post, Gingrich said the following:

  • If you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. Period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.”

I think this is an eminently reasonable position.  Coincidentally, I was interviewed on Tuesday by a St. Edwards’ senior who is writing her senior paper on the federal DREAM Act.  I suggested to her that, although the DREAM Act would enable immigrants to profit from their illegal act, the Act was analogous to the legal concept called adverse possession (squatter’s rights) – i.e., people who openly claim a status that is not legally authorized will be protected from being dispossessed after a certain number of years (10-20 years).

Although Gingrich’s position is eminently reasonable, so is agreeing to $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts.  Although most pundits credit Gingrich for defending his position in a more careful manner than Perry did (my opponents have no heart), they also believe that Gingrich has likely done his Iowa campaign serious damage.

Unfortunately, I think they are right.  Gingrich is likely to join the ranks of the Republican also-rans.

November 22, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:11 pm
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Just when I was about to give up on Washington D.C. for its inability to deal with its fiscal mess, I heard a moderate Republican enter the fray with a promising solution.

Senator John Cornyn, from San Antonio, suggested during a TV interview that Congress should take another look at the Simpson-Bowles proposal.  He reminded listeners that the proposal had earned bipartisan support (11-7) back in December 2010, but President Obama refused to endorse it because it hadn’t earned the super-majority status of 12-4 that he had arbitrarily insisted on.  (Where was that super-status requirement when we needed it – i.e., ObamaCare?)  Cornyn said that if President Obama were to endorse Simpson-Bowles now, it would provide cover for congressional Democrats to support it.

I don’t understand that last piece of rationale by Cornyn because it was unified opposition of all three congressional Republicans that blocked the proposal from gaining super-majority status.  Nevertheless, if the Senate passed Simpson-Bowles, I would bet a dime to a doughnut that congressional Republicans would do the same.  Were they to reject Simpson-Bowles, I suspect the Republican congressmen who were swept into office in 2010 would be peremptorily swept out of office in 2012.

All of this militates in favor of getting my name on the Republican primary ballot for the 23rd Congressional District because I suspect my congressman would be one of the last to vote in favor of Simpson-Bowles, and I can’t think of a better issue for me to campaign on.

A perfect storm

Filed under: Medical,Retirement — Mike Kueber @ 2:43 pm
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The past few days I think my life has run into a perfect storm.

Just a few weeks ago, everything was hunky-dory.  I was working out every day with an hour bike ride in the hill country and another hour practicing yoga with friends.  My knee was acting up, so I decided to have knee-replacement surgery in early November.  Enjoyable blogging and reading consumed much of my day.  My college son graduated and moved out of my apartment to move in with his girlfriend, and the additional space seemed fine.  Everything was going so well that I decided to stop using the anti-anxiety mediation, Lexapro, that I had been using since my divorce.

Then the perfect storm hit.  The after-effects of the knee surgery were worse than I expected.  I have a low pain threshold, so I used the hydrocodone as much as authorized, but still experienced significant pain because the dosage was too weak.  Then when I started weaning myself from the pills, I felt like I was in a funk, and a friend has told me that it is common to feel that way when getting off pain pills.

But another friend has told me that it is also common to feel that way when a person is suddenly prevented from exercising.  Even though I am now riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes a day, she said that is no substitute for the one-hour outdoor ride I did for 68 straight days before the surgery.  She said something about endorphins and such.

And what about the fact that I discontinued the Lexapro just prior to the surgery?  That certainly can contribute toward a funk.

For good measure, let’s add that one of my best friends moved out of town, the stock market is in a dive, and Washington D.C. is justifying its 9% approval rating.  Further, I finished a fascinating book on Lincoln.  Finishing a great book is always depressing, but this was even worse because of the sad ending.  And finally, the shortest day of the year is just around the corner.

Because of this perfect storm, I was so depressed about politics last night that, for the first time in forever, I simply turned off the TV at 7PM and went to bed.

Now, to snap out of it, I have resumed taking Lexapro, I am going to redouble my efforts get back on my road bike and back into yoga class.  And most importantly, I have concluded that my life was already getting too solitary, and in the past month it became significantly worse.

Time for a mid-course adjustment.

November 21, 2011

Where is Lincoln when you need him?

Filed under: History,Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:51 pm
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I have been totally preoccupied the past few days with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals.  This Lincoln biography was suggested to me by one of my best friends, who went to law school with me and is now studying Lincoln while pursuing a doctorate at UT-Austin.  The subject of his dissertation is whether Lee and Davis should have been tried for treason.

In previous discussions with my Austin friend, I have expressed skepticism about the greatness of Lincoln. All I knew was that he refused to let the Southern states leave the Union (something I disagree with) and that he was an ineffective commander in chief who took four years to defeat a much weaker opponent.  My Austin friend suggested that I dig a little deeper, and when I asked him for the title of a book to read, he said, Team of Rivals.

Although Team of Rivals is 750 pages long, it is not a comprehensive biography.  Rather, as suggested by its subtitle, “The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” it focuses on Lincoln’s unsurpassed ability to deal with conflicting demands and still achieve his objectives.  Lincoln’s presidential objectives were simple – namely, to keep the Union together and to stop the spread of slavery beyond the Southern states – and the author makes a convincing argument that no other person could have done that.  A lesser politician would have either lost the Union or allowed the spread of slavery westward.

Unfortunately, Lincoln’s assassination just as the Civil War was ending deprived America of those skills that were sorely during the Reconstruction, and you can’t avoid wondering how much better off America would have been if Lincoln had served four more years.

Which brings me to the title of this entry – Where’s Lincoln when you need him?  In Washington today, the parties are behaving more like Union and the Confederacy leading up to the Civil War.  First Boehner and Obama failed, and now that the Super Committee is giving up, you can’t avoid wondering whether a person with Lincoln’s political skills could save America from its impending economic disaster.  Lincoln was a master of keeping the middle together despite the competing demands from the abolitionist Republicans and the appeasing Democrats/Whigs.  The situation today in Washington certainly has a large middle ground for resolving our current problem, but no politician seems to have the ability to control the radicals who are pulling us apart.  Perhaps the 2012 election will bring us our Lincoln.





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