October 28, 2005
The Grand Mulligan
At last, Real Clear Politics has a real clear blog! So far, I love it. I had no idea this was coming; I knew that the paucity of "commentary" was due to an ongoing site redesign, but even before they started that, Tom and John tended to post little each week... I hope they can keep up the current pace.
John MacIntyre's only contribution so far (he posted it twice, first as preview) is also, in my opinion, the most significant:
The politics of this is very simple to distill: 24 hours ago liberals were giddy in anticipation of multiple indictments and what other early Christmas presents the Special Prosecutor might bring. Meanwhile, conservatives were despondent over the prospect of having to beat up on a President they want to support, all because of the unfortunate Miers nomination.
With the announcement of Miers' withdrawal everything changed. Conservatives are the happiest and most energized they have been in months. Liberals like Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy have a sick feeling in their stomach, because they realize the conservative suicide pact has been called off and the Senate is likely to get a rock solid appointment who is anathema to everything they believe - and they know there is little they can do to stop that person from getting on the court.
Let me amplify that if I can. It's very, very common for the presidential wheels to come off in the second term: it happened to Clinton, who spent years fighting impeachment; to Reagan, who had to deal with Iran-Contra; to Nixon (duh!); and to Johnson, whose Vietnam troubles forced him to withdraw from reelection in 1968. The last president to have a fairly smooth second term was Dwight D. Eisenhower, and that began nearly fifty years ago!
What is not so common is for a president in his second term to get a Mulligan. I don't play golf, but I understand that means a do-over. Reagan earned himself a Mulligan with his magnificant speech in which he apologized to the American people for allowing personal concern for the hostages to overwhelm his common sense, leading him to make an arms-for-hostages deal. (I actually think that Iran-Contra policy was correct, by the way; but the speech was still a transcendent political moment.) After that point, his approval soared, and he was able to complete an ambitious second-term agenda, with more tax cutting and the final vindication of his stubbornness in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), the beginning of the collapse of the Evil Empire.
I do not believe Bush pushed Miers out the airlock. I think that was entirely her idea. And I know that Bush did not armtwist Patrick Fitzgerald into laying the golden egg -- one major indictment after two plus years of high-profile investigation, and it was an indictment of someone that 75% of the electorate has likely never heard of, a man with the improbable name of "Scooter." Yeah, yeah, the investigation continues, blah blah. But the admission that after two years and millions of dollars, Fitzgerald still could not find even a single charge to lay against Karl Rove makes it extraordinarily unlikely that the next couple of years with a different grand jury will turn up anything significant.
So I guess somebody out there just plain likes George W. Bush. (I wonder if he's given God a nickname?)
But gift it was; Christmas came early for the Bush family. And now W. has the chance to start off fresh with a reasonably clear scandal slate -- and a unified base, assuming he takes advantage and names a "consensus" candidate... where the consensus is between the various wings of the Republican Party, and to hell with what Ted Kennedy and Charles Schumer want!
There are two main areas where Bush needs to offer a strong proposal: spending and immigration. In both cases, he can build on ideas he has been floating for years, but which he has been too busy with other agenda items -- like, you know, an economic crash he inherited from his predecessor, ditto a staggering terrorist attack, and fighting two wars -- to really pursue: illegal immigration and excess federal spending.
Take a look at a couple of ideas for both of them; I plucked these from ideas that Bush himself has floated, but which are still in "emergent" form, not yet fully articulated to the American people or to Congress:
- He really does have an immigration plan, and it really is significantly different from the "amnesty" caricature that the Tancredoites have flung at it.
He has a very good story to tell here: everybody now agrees that with the present flood across (mostly) the southern border, there is no possible way to wall them all out -- let alone round up millions of people already here, hold them (where, in special camps?) while awaiting immigration status determination, and then ship them somewhere, anywhere, especially if the countries of origin refuse to accept them.
The only possible way to get control of our borders is first to reduce the number of otherwise honest immigrants who sneak in solely to work and earn a better life for their familiies. The system must be regularized, giving would-be immigrants a clear path they can follow that will lead from immigration to assimilation to citizenship -- with lots of emphasis on that middle item, how to be an American. Give immigrants a door, and they won't keep trying to come in by the window.
Yes, I've heard the arguments: why should we reward all those illegal immigrants by letting them in? The problem is that finger-pointing has led to nothing but millions more immigrants... completely unregulated, out of control, and invisible to the eyes of the INS. Great plan!
The obvious analogy is to a flood -- and a dam: if you stop and think about it, no matter how strong your dam is, the swelling water will eventually shatter it or overflow the top unless you let just as much water through the floodgates as pours in at the back end. Again, duh! The only question is whether the deluge sneaks over the top and around the sides, or overwhelms us entirely -- or is channeled and controlled through the gates... where it can be harnessed to generate energy and push this increasingly soggy analogy to the breaking point.
If Bush were to couple immigration reform and regularization with a vigorous effort to beef up terrorism-focused border security, particularly at the northern border and the ports, and heavy sanctions on companies that hire illegal aliens, I think he could even get Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) on his side... especially if he were to reach across to Tancredo and John McCain for help in developing the program in the first place.
You can't bring the hammer down on companies now, because they need to hire immigrants to survive; but once they can get that lower cost, unskilled labor legally (which today they cannot), there is no more excuse to get it illegally. I'm talking jail time for corporate officers.
And when the decent and honest immigrants are coming in openly through the door, that frees the border patrol to act more like the military against those evil-doers who still try to sneak in under the wire, since there must be some nefarious reason why they can't just go through the checkpoints legally like everybody else.
We need better checking of ships' cargo and a refocus of the CIA onto tracking known terrorists, even when they're "whitewashed" through the Great White North... something like Able Danger, with no apologies and no bowing to the PC crowd. It's a great idea, and it's about time Bush put the hard choice to Congress with a truly hard sell -- and totally out in the open. I think the American people would be behind it, if you told them of the program's successes, even in the limited form it had. I'll bet most Americans don't even know about it (sadly, most Americans don't read Captain's Quarters!)
- A presidential plan to rein in spending. Alas, Republicans discovered that they, too, can imitate drunken sailors when they get control of the Congressional grouch bag. This has got to stop. Republicans disagree on what constitutes valid spending, but every one of us agrees that spending is too high.
Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) approach was well intentioned but stupidly executed: why go after only one senator's pork, and one of the most powerful ones at that -- Senator-for-Life Ted Stevens of Alaska? Everyone in the Senate pushes for "pork," and one man's pork is another man's urgently needed projects for the constituency.
There is nothing wrong with pork; there's just too much of it. So instead of trying to completely eliminate it, why not just reduce it... for everyone? Since everyone in the House supposedly represents the same number of constituents (more or less), give everyone a "pork allotment": that allotment can be traded to other representatives (consolidated) in exchange for various other favors -- keeping a helpful federal program going, for example -- but the total level would be limited, and the president would promise to veto any budget that failed to abide by the pork allotment. For senators, it's a little tricker, because they represent varying amounts of people; but some formula based on the allotments for each representative within the state, so the House and Senate versions of the budget are the same, should work.
Not everyone would go along at first... but if the president were to veto a budget or two, just to prove that he's now serious about it, the American people would cheer. And there would be no way to override such a veto in the face of overwhelming public pressure to "hold down spending," especially since Bush could use the fairness argument: there is an overall pork allotment, and as with Milo Minderbinder, "everybody has a share."
In fact, I think it would be a stroke of genius if Bush were to call it exactly that: a Pork Allotment. He could explain it to the American people with a wry grin, then go on to praise local "pork" projects, and say that he didn't want to stop all that... just hold it down enough that overall spending can be decreased. The amount of pork allowed per budget would be deterimined by the state of the economy: more pork when the economy is good, less if it turns down. Perhaps even an exterior panel, similar to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which determines in a bipartisan way which military bases to close or move, and which has been tremendously successful in Congress. (Everyone grouses about it, but they still accept the recommendations.)
Bush could join that to a general cut in many other, larger budget items -- across the board, even some aspects of the military budget (we can get into that later). The combination would make it clear the Republicans were utterly serious about stopping the spending spree.
With those in place, we would see a reinvigorated presidency, one of those rare times when the second term could produce more substantial achievements than even the first -- which "merely" produced tax cuts, corporate reform, strong economic recovery from the Clinton Recession of 2000-2002, recovery from the worst terrorist attack in American history, the transformation of two terrorist states into democracies, the reintroduction of faith into social work (and I'm not talking about Harriet Miers' nomination!), the realignment of much of the district- and circuit-cout judiciary towards judicial conservatism (that finally began to occur after the 2004 reelection, but the seeds were planted starting in 2001), and the brilliant idea -- which needs to explode forth into new proposals this term -- of the "ownership society."
If Bush grabs hold of this Grand Mulligan and does just a couple things right, the rest will fall into place... and in 2008, the Republican nominee for president will welcome President Bush's help barnstorming across the country!
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 28, 2005, at the time of 2:44 PM
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It’s getting harder and harder to argue that the campaign to boot Harriet Miers was a bad thing. Just look at a Washington Post story today titled Appellate Judges Cited as Focus of New Search: The administration has backed away from any insis... [Read More]
Tracked on October 30, 2005 7:01 AM
The following hissed in response by: stackja1945
The Crisis by Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776, these are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value
The above hissed in response by: stackja1945 at October 28, 2005 8:50 PM
The following hissed in response by: David
1.) About Miers... Were Machiavelli pulling the White House strings, I might suspect the Miers nomination to have been a stalking horse, effected to stiffen the spine of some single-celled Republican Senators.
But surely no one in the White House—not even Karl "Satan Incarnate (to Demoncraps)" Rove—is that Machiavellian... are they? (I sincerely doubt there is anyone "channeling" Niccolo in the Bush WH.)
2.) Agree strongly with your "two things". May I suggest a third that is also on the same order of importance? Genuine tax reform. No, not tinkering with income tax to make the situation worse. Genuine tax reform. Perhaps a fourth... I have serious security concerns about the amount of manufacturing that's moving to countries inimical to the U.S.--yes, I do mean China.
But immigration and spending are two genuine concerns that have big, big political upsides for the pols that decide to take the issues seriously--especially as you outline.
I'll continue to especially link your posts on immigration. Your fences and gateways approach is the right thing to do.
The above hissed in response by: David at October 28, 2005 10:33 PM
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