Mike Kueber's Blog

October 12, 2011

A timeless Joe Klein column

Filed under: Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:29 am
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I had surgery on my knee last Tuesday – a partial knee replacement.  It’s hell getting old and having your body break down.

Since the surgery, I’ve been significantly hobbled by unremitting pain in my knee.  Yesterday, I used the knee-pain excuse to answer a commentator who wondered why I had been so irritably partisan in my posts lately.  Thanks to the commentator’s encouragement, I am back on the wagon.

The knee pain has also prevented me from climbing the hill in my apartment complex to get my mail.  More trouble than it is worth, I figured.  Yesterday, one of my sons visited, and I asked him to trudge up the hill and get my mail.

Generally, the only thing worthwhile in my mail is my weekly issue of Time magazine.  That was the case again yesterday, and this morning I started reading the week-old issue.  Some of the stuff is dated, but some is timeless – like a Joe Klein column.

Klein’s column focused on Chris Christie’s wise decision against running for president.  It was not Christie’s time, and it appeared that it was Romney’s.  Which brings us to the timelessness of the Klein column:

  • “With Christie out, Mitt Romney suddenly seems solid….  This is not to say Romney is a lock.  Right now, Rick Perry is being undervalued because of his clunky debating, but a rival campaign’s strategist told me, ‘People who say Perry is toast haven’t seen him work a room.  He is very, very good.’  And Herman Cain is being overvalued: he is, at best, a parking place to Tea Partyers reeling from Michele Bachmann and Perry disappointments.  He is so flagrantly inexperienced that I doubt even Republicans would nominate him.  I would not be surprised, though, if either Newt Gingrich, whose intelligence and experience win him points with Republican audiences, although his Vesuvian temperament almost guarantee another eruption of messianic bile if he begins to surge.

This confirms the generalization that political pundits like Klein, just like the football pundits we listen to all week, don’t have any special skill for prognosticating.  Rather, they have the ability to entertain us with their colorful language.

Dirty Harry said, “A man needs to know his limitations.”  Joe, think about that the next time you feel compelled to prognosticate.

Who won the Bloomberg/Post debate?

Although presidential debates have been around for a long time, they have this quality of being a new work in progress.  The format of each debate is different because the sponsors seem genuinely earnest and undecided about which format better serves the public, and each variation of format is considered to be an experiment.

Another aspect of this experiment/“work in progress” quality concerns the process for identifying the winner(s) of the debate.  Earlier debates were more concerned about this.  Sometimes there is a panel of judges to decide on the basis of technical debating skills; other times a focus group or quickie poll decides.

In recent years, determining the debate winner has received less attention.  Pundits may offer a post-debate opinion, but their subjectivity is clearly acknowledged.  More attention is placed on gaffes and inter-personal dynamics.

Ultimately, the criterion for winning a debate has to be whether it improved a candidate’s chances of winning.  Based on that criterion, last night’s winner is not debatable.  Mitt Romney entered the debate with a 61% chance of winning the nomination, according to Intrade.  After the debate, his chances had increased to 70%.  By contrast, Rick Perry’s chances were 19% before the debate and 9.4% after the debate, while Herman Cain’s chances went from 9.0% to 9.5%.  Every other candidate was at 3% or lower before the debate and 3% or lower after the debate.  Thus, Mitt Romney won the debate and Rick Perry lost.  Herman Cain treaded water, but in doing so passed the floundering/foundering Perry.

Fyi – you might be tempted to call the difference between Perry and Cain as statistically insignificant and within the margin of error.  Technically, that is not accurate because their numbers are not statistics, but rather are betting odds.

Bait & switch?

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:28 am
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Rachel Maddow and her liberal cohorts are accusing the TEA Party of engaging in a campaign of “bait & switch.”  (I recognize that this is only a metaphor, and I will not charge the libs with unfairly comparing a TEA Party practice that is legal to something else that is actually illegal.  But I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Daily Show make fun of the libs because they have previously charged Rick Perry with unfairly comparing a legal practice, Social Security, to an illegal practice, a Ponzi scheme.  Stewart is a master at calling out hypocrites of all stripes, although he seems to especially enjoy calling out the FOX people.)

What was the TEA Party’s bait & switch?  Maddow and the liberals charge that the TEA Party campaigned on a program of jobs and the economy.  Then after being elected, they dastardly turned to their real agenda – immigration, unions, voter fraud, abortion rights, redistricting, same-sex marriage, etc.

Maddow is correct that in that conservatives (Republicans, but not the die-hard TEA Party proponents) have aggressively legislated on social issues instead of fiscal issues.  Furthermore, she will probably get even more exercised when she reads about another heretofore obscure issue that the Republicans in the state legislatures are bringing to the front burner nationally.

According to an article in the NY Times, policy makers in 36 states are attempting to establish drug-testing as a condition precedent to receiving various public benefits, such as food stamps, public housing, welfare, or unemployment compensation.   My first thought when reading about this issue was that the requirement wouldn’t be legal.  That goes to show that I don’t think out of the box enough because, thus far, the only legal challenge to enjoy even a modicum of success is the argument that mandatory testing violates an individual’s constitutional right against unreasonable search.

The Times article describes some other more emotional arguments against the drug-testing requirement:

  • Reinforces the stereotype of government beneficiaries as undeserving and morally lacking.
  • Unfairly singles out victims of the Great Recession even though studies consistently suggest that government
    beneficiaries are no more likely than the general public to use drugs.
  • Discourages individuals from applying for the benefits.
  • The cost of administering the program safeguard will exceed the savings.

These arguments are easily refuted by proponents of the testing.  Testing actually helps eliminate the stereotype because taxpayers are reassured that individuals are not concurrently receiving benefits and using drugs.  And although drug users may be discouraged from applying for program benefits, non-users of illegal drugs are not.  What’s wrong with that – America has no interest in creating sanctuary for drug-users?  And most importantly, the disbursement of government benefits needs to be aggressively managed and controlled; not placed on some sort of entitlement cruise-control.

This issue reflects how much America has changed in the past few years.  A few years ago, there would have been a knee-jerk reaction against implementing this type of reform.  At that time, there was almost no trepidation to extending in-state tuition to illegal immigrants (at least in California and Texas).  Those days are gone.  If you want to spend government money today, especially if you want to redistribute it, you’d better have a solid program and a damned good reason for doing it.

October 11, 2011

Rick Perry and birthright citizenship

While contemplating Rick Perry’s difficulty in adequately defending his position on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, it dawned on me that he might have an even bigger problem with his position on birthright citizenship – i.e., children born in America to illegal immigrants.  Democrats are generally unable to defend birthright citizenship to their electoral base, so how could Rick Perry possibly defend it to the Republican base?

But then I don’t recall Rick Perry ever discussing this issue, and that is not surprising because the liberal media in Texas has gone out of its way to avoid pushing Republican candidates to the right by asking divisive questions.  Although Perry’s position on birthright babies was not well known, surely he has said something at some time.

The internet Bible for all things immigration is NumbersUSA.com, an anti-immigration advocacy organization.  The site breaks down the subject of immigration into 12 components and then reports everything that candidates have said on each of those 12 components.  Surprisingly, in-state tuition is not one of the Big 12 of immigration issues.  (That is so yesterday.)

What does NumbersUSA say about Rick Perry and birthright citizenship?  Overall, Governor Perry received a grade of D-.  Romney received a C-, which was the highest grade except for Michele Bachmann’s B-.  Obama got the worst grade, F-.   More importantly, on birthright citizenship, Gov. Perry has made no statements regarding the ending of Birthright Citizenship.

That is amazing for a man who, as the governor of Texas for ten years, has been on the front-lines of immigration problems.  That says a lot about the lack of transparency and openness in the Perry administration.  He is obviously not the kind of guy who says what he believes and then lets the chips fall.  Instead he takes positions only when doing so is helpful or necessary to his political success.

I hope he is forced to describe his position during the Republican debate tonight.  Romney hasn’t taken a position either.  Why hasn’t this question been put to the candidates?

Although I am pretty loyal to the Republican Party and its values, I don’t think I have ever voted for Perry because he always managed to do something that pissed me off.

Things haven’t changed.

October 8, 2011

The cult of evangelical Christians

The divisiveness that is the lifeblood of many evangelical Christians made another appearance in American politics yesterday.  Dallas evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., and shortly afterwards told reporters, “Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.

This provides Rick Perry with his Reverend Wright moment – i.e., does Perry continue to associate with an intolerant, controversial supporter or does he cut the supporter loose?  Obama initially stood by Wright (“I could no more disavow Reverend Wright than I could disavow my own grandmother.”), but when Wright declined to tone down his comments, Obama and Wright eventually became estranged.  I guess Wright wasn’t quite as close to Obama as the grandmother who raised him.

Perry’s situation is every bit as precarious, and his campaign’s handling of the brouhaha has been first-rate – Perry’s camp immediately said that it disagreed with Jeffress’s accusation (“The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult.”) and that the summit organizers, not Perry, had selected Jeffress for the introduction.

But defusing the situation won’t be that simple because the summit organizers have refused to provide cover to the Perry campaign.  According to an article in the NY Times, Tony Perkins was a leading summit organizer and he said, “Pastor Jeffress was suggested as a possible introductory speaker because he serves as pastor of one of the largest churches in Texas.  We sent the request to the Perry campaign which then signed off on the request.”  Thus, the matter will not fade until Perry disavows the guy.

Perry clearly would prefer for this issue to remain out of the public radar because that would enable him to reap the votes of thousands, if not millions of intolerant evangelical Christians.  As Pastor Jeffress acknowledged about Romney’s Mormonism:

  • I think it is going to be a major factor among evangelical voters.  The thing is, they won’t be honest and tell you that it is going to be a major factor. Most people don’t want to admit — even evangelical Christians — that they have a problem with Mormonism. They think it is bigoted to say so. But what voters say to a pollster sometimes is different than what they do when they go into the privacy of a voting booth.”

But because the issue is on the radar, there are two countervailing developments:

  1. Some evangelical Christians will recognize their bigotry and then do the right thing – i.e., vote for Romney.
  2. Some moderate Republicans will vote for Romney because they will sympathize with the person being subjected to bigotry.

Notice that two highly-charged words are a part of this discussion – cult and bigotry.  By characterizing Mormonism as a cult, the evangelical Christians are coming across as bigots.   That is the last thing that Rick Perry wants to be associated with.

October 6, 2011

Who is winning the presidential sweepstakes?

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:46 pm
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With the announcements this week from Chris Christie and Sarah Palin (and even Marco Rubio’s VP pronouncement), the field for the presidential sweepstakes appears to have been finalized, and the contenders are shifting into the full-time campaigning phase.  Although future debates and assorted gaffes will cause continued volatility, I suspect there will be more stability.  Who are the current frontrunners?

  • Republican presidential candidates.  According to Intrade, Mitt Romney has pulled away to a substantial lead in the Republican presidential race.  Instead of a two-man race with Rick Perry, the race appears to have a dominant front-runner, with the remaining candidates trying to position themselves to be in the final-two against Romney.  By making the final-two, a candidate will receive enhanced media publicity (and scrutiny), which will either give him/her an opportunity to vanquish Romney or become a strong contender for VP.  Intrade says Mitt Romney has skyrocketed to a 60% chance of winning the nomination, while Rick Perry has dropped to 20%.  Herman Cain has vaulted into third place at 7.6%, while Chris Christie (0.2%), Michele Bachman (1.5%), and Sarah Palin (0.2%) have dropped off the map.  Jon Huntsman is at 3.7%, while Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are at 2.0%.  Rick Santorum (0.5%) is even lower than Gary Johnson (0.6%)
  • Republican vice-presidential candidates.  Previously, Marco Rubio was at about 30% and all other candidates were around 5% or lower.  Yesterday, however, Rubio issued a Sherman-esque statement regarding his interest in the vice-presidency.  That statement has caused his vice-presidential prospects to drop to 14%, which still leaves him alone in the first tier, but brought him back to the second tier of candidates – Herman Cain and Rob Portman are at 7%, while Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell are right behind them at 6% and Jon Huntsman is at 5%.  The only other candidates with at least a 3% chance are Bobby Jindal at 3.9, Rick Perry at 3%, and Mitt Romney at 3%.  The two female presidential prospects have little likelihood of becoming the VP nominee – Palin is at 2.5%, while Bachmann is at 1.5%.  In fact, obscure female governors Nikki Haley (SC) and Susana Martinez (NM) at 2.5% are more likely than Bachmann to be the VP nominee.
  • Democratic presidential candidate.  President Obama has a 94% chance of being the Democratic nominee, with Hillary Clinton at 5% and Joe Biden at 0.6%.
  • General election.  The Republicans have 50% chance of winning the general election, the Democrats have only a 48% chance, and a third-party has a 2% chance.

October 4, 2011

Christopher Hitchens takes on Rick Perry’s religiosity

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 5:17 am
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A few weeks ago, Christopher Hitchens wrote a provocative column in Slate magazine about Rick Perry and his religiosity.  The column was titled, “Rick Perry’s God – Does the Texas governor believe his idiotic religious rhetoric, or is he just pandering for votes?”

Hitchens is famously atheistic (he calls himself anti-theistic), so it is not surprising that he sarcastically attacks Perry’s religiosity.  Hitchens ridicules Perry’s call for prayers for rain as well as his Day of Prayer and Fasting in Houston, and he questions whether Perry and his ilk actually believe what they are saying.

According to Hitchens, religious, conservative voters don’t seem to care whether Perry is as religious as he sounds – “The risks of hypocrisy seem forever
invisible to the politicized Christians, for whom sufficient proof of faith consists of loud and unambiguous declarations

Hitchens also posits that, “religion in politics is more like an insurance policy than a true act of faith. Professing allegiance to it seldom does you any harm, at least in Republican primary season, and can do you some good.”

Hitchens’ essential point is that America cannot afford to have a president who relies on biblical inerrancy over reason and logic.  It needs a president who realizes that God is always on the side of the big battalions.

October 3, 2011

An open letter to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey on Rick Perry’s DREAM Act

Mr. Ramsey, your article, which has a nationwide platform through the New York Times, misrepresents the truth to the rest of America.

Although Texas was exceptionally accommodating to illegal immigrants during the “compassionate conservatism” of Bush-43, at other times it has not been as generous.  Please recall that the Supreme Court’s 1982 landmark Plyler decision overturned Texas laws that attempted to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving a K-12 public education.

And your proof of the current laxity is based on nothing more than your anecdotal impression of a conference in Austin.  Do you have any surveys of Texas’ current attitude on the subject?  I believe the current attitude in Texas is better reflected by Dewhurst’s recent statement that he would have vetoed the in-state tuition law if he had been governor.

Furthermore, I keep hearing (from Perry and others) that high-school educated illegal immigrants will become a drain on the Texas economy if they are not encouraged to receive a college education.  That doesn’t make sense because, according to a plethora of news reports, college-educated illegal immigrants are already blocked from securing college-type jobs.  If they can’t obtain college-type jobs, what good is it for Texas to get them college-educated?  They are already able to secure high-school type jobs, and that will probably continue unless e-Verify become mandatory.  An illegal immigrant in a high-school type jobs is not a drain on the Texas economy, and we already have enough citizens to fill our college-type jobs.

I support the DREAM Act, but it needs to be a part of a comprehensive solution (including enhanced e-Verify) that eliminates magnets for continued illegal immigration.  Perry’s 2001 law was a magnet, and as such it was part of the problem, not part of the solution.

September 29, 2011

Chris Christie

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:59 am
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There has been a lot of buzz about New Jersey governor Chris Christie entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  Consistent with that buzz, the latest Intrade.com betting odds reveal that Chris Christie has passed Sarah Palin and all other candidates in the Republican field not named Romney or Perry as the most likely nominee.

The famous NY Times political blog titled FiveThirtyEight recently considered the effect of Christie’s entry into the race.   The author of the blog, Nate Silver, suggested that Christie’s record as a moderate on gun control, global warming, immigration, and same-sex marriage would cause him to take more votes from Romney than from Perry.  That suggestion makes perfect sense.

But Silver does not make sense when he suggests that Christie and Romney may slug it out as the only viable, electable candidates, “with Mr. Perry and the other conservatives reduced to competing for a minority of delegates in especially conservative states like Iowa and parts of the Deep South.”  There are plenty of conservative states outside the Deep South, and there are plenty of conservative Republican-primary voters in every state.

If Rick Perry proves to be nonviable, the conservatives might look for someone else to challenge Romney, but they won’t be looking for another moderate.

P.S., my ultra-conservative friend Kevin says that Christie’s weight is as much a problem as his several RINO positions.  He can’t imagine America choosing as president someone as obese as Christie.

September 27, 2011

Rick Perry – who has no heart?

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:25 pm
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Rick Perry has caught a lot of flak for his most recent debate performance.  Although he had numerous low points, his lowest was his defense of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants:

  • If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought there through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society.”

There are at least three problems with this response – one was unavoidable, one was easily avoidable, and one was inexcusable:

  1. Unavoidable.  The unavoidable problem was that in 2001 Perry had signed-off on a bipartisan law, but now he is faced with partisan primary voters.  At the Christian Science Monitor cogently described – “For Perry, his state’s version of the Obama administration’s ‘Dream Act’ proposal for helping students without legal immigrant status has become like ‘RomneyCare’ – a state-specific position that’s hard to justify in the context of today’s national debate on such issues.”
  2. Avoidable.  The avoidable problem was that Perry was unable to speak clearly.  Perry knew that this question was coming, so he should have been able to rehearse an articulate response.  Instead he gave a response with jumbled syntax.
  3. Inexcusable.  Perry knew that many Republican voters disagreed with his position, but instead of trying to persuade them that his position was reasonable, he criticized them for not having a heart.  I don’t think he read Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Perry should have known thta most conservatives are already ultra-sensitive to the charge of being uncaring because liberals have been accusing them of that for years.  That’s why you would think that a conservative would never sink to that level in defending a policy position.  What was Perry thinking?

Mitt Romney wasted no time in providing an effective rejoinder.  The next day during a CPAC speech he said, “I think if you are opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a heart. It means you have a heart and a brain.”

What is the right answer?  Perry’s position is consistent with the 1982 Supreme Court decision – Plyler v. Doe – that required Texas to provide K-12 schooling to illegal immigrants.  The rationale for the decision was that to deny such schooling would result in “the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.”  Although liberal Justice Brennan writes better than Perry speaks, they are saying the same thing.

The vast majority of Republican voters, however, disagree with Brennan and Perry.  Much of the immigration talk in the debates has gravitated toward the elimination of magnets that are attracting illegal immigrants.  A job is the biggest magnet, but others include education, medical care, and birthright citizenship.

Furthermore, Brennan’s decision in Plyler v. Doe was limited to K-12 education, while Perry and the Texas legislature have extended it to a college education.  As noted in Wikipedia:

  • Other court cases and legislation … have allowed some states to pass statues that deny undocumented students eligibility for in-state tuition, scholarships, or even bar them from enrollment at public colleges and universities.”

Recently, while listening to the Mark Levin talk show on radio, a caller suggested to Mark that federal legislation not only allows states to deny in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, it requires them to deny it.

By doing some basic legal research, I was able to find the law – Public Law 104–208 – Division C – Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.  Section 505 is titled, “Limitation on eligibility for preferential treatment of aliens not lawfully present on basis of residence for higher education benefits.”  The section reads as follows:

  • Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”

The law appears clear, but the Mark Levin caller, who was a lawyer, said that several years ago a California state court had thrown out his case brought to enforce the law, but he was optimistic that a case brought today in another state would have good prospects for success.

Regardless of whether the federal law could pre-empt Texas’s version of the DREAM Act, Perry will need to do a better job in explaining his position.  I suggest that, instead of calling those who disagree as heartless, he should say that the issue is a close call.  He understands that the magnets and sanctuaries have to be eliminated, but that he also has to deal humanely with the young people in his state who were brought here as children.  As with his inoculation decision, Perry’s concern for the kids carried the day.

That’s what I’d say.

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