Why I’m rooting for Carly

Carly-Fiorina-Republican-Debate-GOP In the rough and tumble Republican nomination battle, a key dynamic has emerged.  The primary electorate, particularly the activist base, is hungry for a political outsider, someone it hopes can shake up the status quo in Washington.  It attaches momentum to unconventional candidates who can make their cases most effectively under the glare of the media spotlight.  This dynamic will persist until the last man (or woman) is standing.

And for this reason, Carly Fiorina is the Great GOP Hope.

Like current front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, Fiorina has never been elected to office or otherwise served in a government job.  Similarly, she has found a way to stir the base with crisp, memorable sound-bites on the stump.  Unlike the other two outsider candidates, however, Fiorina has demonstrated policy depth and has confidently articulated her positions with intelligence and clarity.  She works hard and has thought seriously about the issues.  Her preparation shows.

Fiorina’s performance during and after the first two candidate debates has catapulted her from relative obscurity to the top tier of contenders.  The RealClearPolitics average of national polls over the last two weeks now has her ranked third, just after Trump and Carson.

Begrudging commentators have dismissed Fiorina’s rise as another infatuation with the latest shiny object, predicting her lack of political experience and campaign resources will cause her to collapse like 2012 flavors-of-the-month (such as Herman Cain).

Here’s why Fiorina is different.

First of all, she packs a rhetorical punch.  She doesn’t just parrot the requisite talking points for a receptive audience.  She brings the house down with razor-sharp attack lines which address the point at hand even as they paint a broader vision for conservative governance.

For example, here’s how Fiorina tackled the thorny issue of Iran during the CNN debate:

You haven’t heard a plan about Iran from any politician up here.  Here is my plan. On day one I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him that we will stand with the state of Israel. The second to the Supreme Leader to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we the United States of America will make it as difficult as possible to move money around the global financial system.  We can do that.  We don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and adversary we have in the world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with allies.

And then on the funding of Planned Parenthood:

I dare, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

Even liberals — especially liberal women, who feel compelled to confront her policy positions, are at great pains to resist the appeal of her powerful stage presence.

Secondly, Fiorina promotes conservative principles with more than empty platitudes.  Whether it’s reasserting American strength abroad, defending the sanctity of life, or embracing a pro-growth economic policy, she makes her point and backs it up with specific ideas.  A critic might not agree with her conclusions but he would be hard pressed to refute her arguments on the spot, while millions of viewers were tuning in.

At the same time, Fiorina doesn’t throw out base-pleasing proclamations that would paint her into a corner.  Ted Cruz might also be a good debater, but unlike Fiorina, he has alienated the majority of the electorate, burning bridges with personal attacks and futile parliamentary maneuvers, which do little other than burnish his image with the hard-right.

Lastly, Fiorina readily dodges the bean-balls that typically trip up GOP candidates.  As an accomplished female executive, wife, stepmother, and breast cancer survivor, she gives no quarter the tiresome “war on women” diatribes coming from the politically correct feminist left.  As a wealthy person, she makes no apologies for her success, which she earned through individual labor and merit, something Democratic front-runner Hilary Clinton can scarcely claim.

As could be expected, the projectiles of critics have flown with Fiorina’s ascent in the polls.  Her controversial tenure as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard featured deal-making and boardroom drama, but little definitive success.  She outsourced jobs and cut thousands of employees from the payroll.  And when the board finally took her job away, she exited with a rich pay package.  She hasn’t been hired by another big company since.

Fiorina has her counterpoints to all of these knocks, and she seems well-prepared to push back against the kind of attacks which doomed her 2010 campaign for Senate in California.  Given the well-calibrated but fearless response to shots fired by Donald Trump, it’s easy to imagine her dispensing with Democratic critiques of her business record and pivoting quickly to the substance of the 2016 campaign.

Compared to Clinton, Fiorina is an icon of personal accountability and achievement.  She may have ruffled feathers climbing the corporate ladder, but she did it on her own.  Compared to most of her Republican rivals (excepting possibly Cruz and Marco Rubio), she speaks more clearly, more confidently, and more consistently on the stump and on the screen.  Compared to the other front-runners, she is the most presidential.

Money can’t buy these qualities and it won’t.  Just look at the middling Jeb Bush campaign.  But money will help a candidate compete if she otherwise has the right stuff.  That’s why I’m hoping big dollars start to flow her way.

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A sudden case of rule of law

dt_131216_cherry_picking_fruit_250x188 The executive branch of the U.S. Government — yes, the same one administered by President Obama — appears to be looking closely into the conduct of Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton.

Following a request in late July by inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies, the FBI has begun investigating the potential mishandling of classified information by Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Despite her best efforts to ignore, deny, deflect, misdirect, and redirect criticism over her decision to conduct official business through a private email server, and then to scrub the server clean, the wheels of justice have started to turn on Clinton.

Perhaps this development seems reasonable.  After all, if an official who is charged with safeguarding our nation’s most sensitive communications circumvents policies and procedures designed to protect them, then something should be done about it.

Then again, the agency that can do something is the Department of Justice.  Under President Obama, this agency does not have a track record of objectivity.  Consider the lack of accountability for the Operation Fast and Furious gun-running debacle, the IRS targeting of conservative advocacy groups, the self-dealing and gross malfeasance by VA bureaucrats, and the strong-arming of investigative journalists.  While a few political appointees have been eased out of their jobs under pressure from lawmakers, DOJ has not pursued charges against any ringleaders of the scandals.  If there still are investigations underway, DOJ is setting new standards for foot-dragging.  When is the last time we heard from the White House about any of these shameful episodes?

It’s not as if DOJ couldn’t move quickly if it wanted to.  Take the events in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore over the past year.  When white police officers harmed unarmed blacks, the government found a way to move federal investigations — and their resolutions — to the front of the queue.

When it suits a political agenda, the White House is all in.  In 2009, President Obama appointed a special prosecutor to investigate possible abuses by intelligence agencies in the wake of 9/11.  None of the alleged abuses occurred on his watch, so there was little political risk to the move (even if he later elected to quash any charges to avoid friction with the intelligence apparatus).

But when it comes to wrongdoing within his own administration, the president demurs.  In the case of IRS misconduct, he flatly dismissed the idea of a special prosecutor. “I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong,” he told the press, “and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.”  More than two years later, we are no closer to resolving the issue or restoring confidence in IRS impartiality.

From the very start, this administration has used a cherry-picker approach to law enforcement.  The letter of the law matters little when it comes to our immigration or drug statutes.  States are free to legislate in direct opposition to federal prohibitions against the sale of marijuana and cities are free to shield illegal aliens from ICE detention, all without fear of reprisal from the feds.  Despite laws on the books he once claimed tied his hands, President Obama issued executive orders blocking authorities from deporting whole classes of undocumented immigrants.   Defenders called it “prosecutorial discretion.”   Of course, when Arizona or Texas employed measures to beef up inadequate border security, no such discretion could be found.  The Obama administration came down hard.

All of which makes the probe into Clinton’s email practices curious.  Why would the president green-light an investigation of his would-be successor if he has the power to quash, or at least to slow-walk it?  Some attribute the decision to the independence and integrity of his new attorney general.  Others see Frank Underwood-style maneuvers behind-the-scenes to engineer a Joe Biden candidacy.  There may be a bit of truth in both explanations, but my bet is simply that there is fire behind the smoke.  Hillary has tested the limits of our collective tolerance for the Clinton way of doing business.  Even President Obama lacks the stomach to run interference on this one.

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Filed under Domestic Policy, Electoral Politics, Justice

A heart is more than tissue

80617969-640x525 When I was a twenty-something student, a friend of mine confided how he had got his girlfriend pregnant, and how he had quickly resolved the problem by getting her an abortion.  The aborted fetus was just a little piece of tissue, he explained.  Hardly anything that looked like a human life.

With zero personal knowledge at the time to suggest otherwise, I took comfort in this straight-forward explanation.  And for many years since I have resisted wading too far into the emotionally charged abortion debate.  The moral ambiguities just did not seem acute enough to take a position against unfettered abortion rights.  After all, a policy that would force a woman to see her unwanted pregnancy to term is also not morally unambiguous.

Fast-forward a couple decades, and we see a brighter light shining on the less than comfortable realities of abortion on demand.  In a secretly recorded video published this week by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola casually discusses methods for harvesting fetal organs during an abortion procedure.

Instantly battle lines were drawn.  Conservative pundits and politicians raced to denounce Planned Parenthood for grisly, potentially illegal practices.  Liberals quickly counterattacked, defending the organization and disparaging the “anti-choice” motives of critics.

Both sides are being disingenuous when they focus on the legality of the practice.  Whether abortion providers are “selling” organs for profit or “donating” them for vital medical research, partisans seem to be fighting a proxy battle in the bigger war over abortion rights.

A more fair-minded debate would explore the ethical quandary of harvesting fetal organs in the first place.  That harvested organs might be used for life-saving medical research in no way cleanses them of immoral provenance.  We do not condone the horrific medical research conducted by Nazi physicians during the Holocaust — of for that matter, the modern day extraction of organs from executed Chinese inmates — because the victims did not freely consent to bodily assault.

Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, tries to blur the issue.  “We help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research,” Ferrero insists, “and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards.”

One would think he is talking about a pint of blood at the local blood bank.  Organs are more than tissue, and the patient who is granting consent is not the one whose organs are being harvested during an abortion.

On the video Nucatola explains how to “crush” the fetus in the just the right place — not to extract assorted nondescript tissue, but so as to preserve the vital organs, “getting heart, lung, liver… all intact.”

As a father I now do have personal knowledge about fetal development.  A baby’s heart starts to beat by about the fifth week of gestation.  By six weeks it is pumping blood, so that you can hear it on an ultrasound machine.  When you terminate a pregnancy at this stage, the fetus may not be viable outside the womb, but it is pretty hard to say it is just a piece of tissue.

The pro-choice industrial complex is so fearful of weakening abortion rights that it refuses to engage honestly on such legitimately problematic concerns.  The mainstream media is equal to the task, shaping the narrative about the video as a legal or political debate, obscuring the thorny ethical issues raised by pro-life activists.

The arc of history so often regaled by President Obama may be trending leftward on gay marriage and drug policy, but the jury is still out on abortion restrictions.  While most Americans are not keen to outlaw abortion, a significant percentage sees virtue in erecting a speed bump or two.

Why shouldn’t a fetal ultrasound be required before a woman consents to aborting her fetus?  Some percentage of women might reconsider their decision when they hear their little piece of tissue beating a hundred times per minute.

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Greece can’t vote its way out

thelma-louise As Greeks head to the polls tomorrow in a national referendum to ratify (or defy) additional austerity measures demanded by international creditors, I can not escape the feeling that I am rooting for a “No” vote.

While I have argued here for a balanced approach to the Greek debt crisis, leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been pushing his luck in a game of chicken he just cannot win.  His strategy seems to boil down to this:  back down or we will jump off a cliff… and take a few of our Mediterranean neighbors along with us!

Tsipras is campaigning for Greeks to vote down more budget cuts and other reforms that creditors insist are needed to justify the release of new bailout funds.  Somehow he calculates that the Eurozone will be swayed by the democratic will of his electorate, which he is agitating with provocative accusations of “criminal” behavior by outsiders seeking to “humiliate” the Greek nation.  What he overlooks is the increased capacity of the Eurozone to withstand economic shock waves of a Greek exit from the common currency.  That, as well as the fact that fellow member nations have to be responsive to their own restive populations, who are weary of supporting continued Greek profligacy.

Many analysts have sympathized with Greek concerns, insisting that austerity is a self-defeating policy because it further dampens demand and drives the economy into an ever deeper hole from which it will never escape.  Greeks have suffered enough, they insist.  Forgive debt and let Greece reopen its public sector spigots of spending.

While long-term debt does need to be restructured, more stimulus is unlikely to solve deep-seated issues with deficient Greek productivity.  Greek austerity measures to date have hardly reformed its public sector or labor markets.  The vast majority of job losses have come from the private sector, which has been crippled by ever-increasing tax burdens.  And what does it say to the people of the other struggling European economies, such as Portugal, Ireland, and Bulgaria?  The Portuguese and Irish bore great difficulties to weather the changes imposed as conditions to their own bailouts.  They know what it takes to right the ship, and they are among the least sympathetic to Greek pleas for leniency.

There would be no hope for fiscal discipline of any kind going forward if the Greeks could win concessions by threatening self-destruction.  So if the Greek public votes to support the defiant Greek government, it is signing its own European exit visa.

As George Will has argued, a Greek exit from the Euro might just be the medicine the Eurozone needs to scare its members straight.  Yes, it will establish a previously unthinkable precedent that European economic integration is reversible.  But maybe that is not such a big deal after all.  The economic dislocation of a “Grexit” will be most painful for the Greeks themselves.  Radical politicians elsewhere along the spendthrift Mediterranean coast will have to think twice before campaigning to follow the suicidal road paved by Greek leftists.

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Liberty and justice for all who fall in line

statism-force

The media lit up after last week’s momentous news of the Supreme Court narrowly preserving Obamacare and establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Less noticed was a potentially more significant ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project.  This decision, which affirmed the right to claim housing discrimination based on “disparate impact,” left the door open for equal housing advocates to litigate over statistics rather than discriminatory intent.  The ripple effect of this decision will surely be felt more broadly than that of the others.

Although the Court went great lengths to define limits, it refused to undo what the White House considers an essential tool to ferret out more subtle, equally pernicious forms of discrimination.

So fearful had the Obama administration been of an adverse decision that it had cut deals to keep the question of disparate impact out of the nation’s highest court.  With a ruling in his favor, the president can now move forward with his agenda to re-engineer the composition of our neighborhoods.  The federal government will begin to take “affirmative” steps to coerce demographic change.

For the progressive movement, it is not enough that American society forsake discrimination.  To cleanse the sins of our racist past, our zip codes must comply with preordained metrics of diversity.  Developers, financiers, and even public housing agencies are racist if their activity results in statistics which do not live up to the multicultural ideal.  Never mind that the rational choices of free citizens may lead them to cluster with people who look and live as they do.

Sadly, disparate impact is just another example of progressive disrespect for the individual.

Consider President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.  Individuals are not permitted to purchase health insurance that meets their needs if the policies do not meet the government’s mandated standards.  Apparently, people simply do not understand what the government knows is good for them, including the absurdity of maternity coverage for men and for women who cannot get pregnant.

Generations of children are trapped in public schools that do more to protect the livelihood of staff than the education of students.  Should parents be allowed to choose another school that works better for them?  Not according to the teachers unions and their guardians in the Democratic party establishment, who claim school choice undermines public education.  Their solution is to throw more of your money at failing schools.

But at least the teachers unions speak for their members, right?  Some workers think it makes sense to join a union, while others do not.  So we can let them vote with a secret ballot, where they decide for themselves which way to go, right?  Think again.  President Obama, an original co-sponsor of the dubiously named Employee Free Choice Act, would rather unionization decisions be made in public.  Under this legislation, employees would only sign a card to authorize the union — and have no free choice to decide privately in accordance with their conscience.

Who is really threatening the American worker: an employer, who has no access to authorization cards or ballots, or union bosses, who know exactly which employees have refused to sign a card?

If you think the liberal elite strong-arm the population merely to help ill-informed poor and working classes, you should take a look at our prestigious universities, training grounds for our best and brightest.  In the academy the left’s authoritarian tendencies have soared to unparalleled heights.  Students are deemed too helpless and fragile to hear ideas that diverge from politically correct orthodoxy.  Nonconforming speakers must be harrassed or “disinvited,” and students must be afforded “safe rooms” to shield their tender ears from classroom lectures that challenge their beliefs.

Yesterday Facebook was awash in celebratory posts about the monumental leap forward for American society.  Like it or not, the Court enshrined a constitutional “freedom to marry” by judicial fiat, short-circuiting the democratic process that was trending toward marriage equality on its own.  It remains to be seen whether the imposition of a mandate by unelected jurists ushers in challenges to religious freedom and other liberties we hold dear.

The left claims to honor human freedom and dignity but its methods disparage individual liberty at every turn.  When we put more faith in government than ourselves, we invite tyranny.

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Filed under Domestic Policy, Education, Supreme Court

Who are you fighting for?

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Hillary Clinton officially officially launched her presidential campaign last weekend.

After plenty of analysis and calibration since her unofficial official launch via video recording in April, the Democratic frontrunner delivered an address on New York’s Roosevelt Island setting forth the theme of her campaign.  “I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans,” she assured the crowd. “I’ll wage and win four fights for you” — most of all a populist economic program to uplift struggling poor and middle class Americans.

The speech went on to recite a litany of liberal policy prescriptions, what commentators have interpreted as a nod to the Democratic Party’s increasingly vocal progressive wing.

If the fighter proposition represents Hillary’s long-awaited “reason to run,” then it’s worth asking how well the progressive agenda has delivered for its purported beneficiaries.

In recent months, progressives have gone to bat for raising the minimum wage, denounced proactive policing methods, and blocked the president’s bid for Trade Promotion Authority.  For his part, President Obama has taken the Supreme Court to task for threatening the viability of Obamacare.

All these positions the left portrays as salves for the downtrodden.  But who pays the bill for all this medicine?

Let’s start with the minimum wage.  It sounds good that workers should receive more pay for their labors.  Economists debate the macroeconomic impact, but one thing is for sure:  raising the wage destroys jobs at the lowest end of the wage scale.  Employers of hourly wage earners make do with fewer workers, reduce plans to expand headcount, or go out of business altogether.  Those workers remaining on the payroll get a boost, but those shut out of the workforce do worse.  What’s better for workers — low wages or no wages?

Liberal advocates (who seemingly have never had to make a payroll) like to imagine that mandated wage increases make for better, more productive employees, which compensates for the increased costs.  But if the benefits were so self-evidently compelling, it would not take the force of law to generate an increase.  Costco and other large corporations can absorb the impact, so they are happy to gain a competitive advantage while they play the role of good corporate citizens.  In contrast, small businesses, the true engines of job growth, have tighter margins and less room to give.

How about proactive policing, such as New York’s supposedly oppressive “stop-and-frisk” policies?  Under Mayor de Blasio, who pulled the plug on these measures, criminal shootings and homicides are on the rise.  The so-called “Ferguson Effect” seems to be causing police to shy away from aggressive tactics as they fear mistakes that could jeopardize their freedom, let alone their careers.  The changes are emboldening criminal elements throughout our nation’s biggest cities, destroying any hope of economic development and revival.  It’s not affecting affluent white suburbs.  Poor, minority communities of the inner city are paying the price.

Free trade?  Progressives lambast the supposed horrors trade inflicts on working men and women.  But nothing has lifted more people out of poverty than the economic growth driven by the free exchange of goods and services across borders.  Would the left be so parochial as to say job security measures stop at the water’s edge?  Putting aside the universal benefits of economic growth, free trade has a direct impact on the cost of consumer goods.  Who is most sensitive to fluctuations in the price of food, clothing, and other staples?  The people who shop at Whole Foods?  More like those roaming the aisles at Wal-Mart.

And then there’s the showpiece of the Obama presidency, the Affordable Care Act.  Far from bending the cost curve down, the ACA, with its assortment of taxes, regulations, and mandates, has made health care less affordable not more.  Yes, the most impoverished uninsured have gained premium support or access to Medicaid, but at a cost of diminished benefits and increased out-of-pocket costs for the vast majority of the population.  The result hardly comports with a commitment to fight “for all Americans.”

The list goes on and on.  Liberal environmental decrees, labor regulations, and energy policies all sound good from the ivory tower, but cut deep in the real world where people struggle to pay the bills.  In their fervor to coerce societal change, the left rarely takes account of the damage left behind.  Nothing does more good for more Americans than economic growth, and the surest way to help the most vulnerable in our society is to unshackle the economy.

Now that’s something worth fighting for.

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What’s in a terrible name?

terrorism

With little fanfare on Friday, Secretary of State Kerry signed an order removing Cuba from our list of state sponsors of terrorism, leaving only Iran, Sudan, and Syria with the odious designation.

Because the change reverses a number of financial and trade barriers imposed by statute, it paves the way for additional steps toward normalization being negotiated by Washington and Havana.  Opponents have railed against what they view as another unjustified concession to a recalcitrant adversary, but no one in Congress took material steps to block this latest move by the administration.

The point of the state sponsor list is to sanction countries that facilitate terrorist activity directly or indirectly.  On that count, Cuba’s continued inclusion was tenuous at best.  Cuba’s efforts to foment violent revolution abroad are largely a thing of the past.  Its presence on the list has persisted due to Washington’s animosity with the Castro regime rather than any continued material links to terrorist organizations.

So while there may be good reasons to isolate Cuba, and I have weighed in on their respective merits previously in this space, it is also a good thing that we have stopped calling Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.

One can only hope that the rest of the world begins to show a similar fidelity to labels which are fraught with political meaning.

Let’s begin with “terror” itself.  World leaders and activists regularly throw around the terrorist moniker to discredit anyone who uses force in a way that conflicts with their political agendas.  Since March 2011 Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has denounced the popular uprising against his government as a terrorist enterprise requiring violent repression.  The actor Morgan Freeman decries the terrorism of police against blacks in urban America.  Even Israel, which should know a thing or two about the importance of political language, regularly conflates Palestinian guerrilla attacks against soldiers with terrorism.

Playing fast and loose with claims of terrorism undermines efforts to build a consensus among civilized people against its use.  We should be clear what terror is and what it is not.

Terrorism means intentional violence against non-combatants to further political, religious, or other ideological aims.  If the targets are soldiers, attacks may be loathsome, but they are not terrorist.  If an action is cruel or repressive, but not violent, it is not terror.  Wanton bloodshed without a political purpose may be criminal, but that does not make it terror.

When we heap derision on conduct by attaching a despicable but inappropriate label, it serves no purpose but to dilute the meaning of the label and to create daylight for justification.

Put another way, if one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, then we have opened the door for political sympathizers to rationalize — or at least accommodate — the indefensible.  If terror is permitted anywhere, it will be possible everywhere.

For years irresponsible petrodollars have funded Islamic terrorist organizations.  Now the Gulf states are seeing how shortsighted it was to enable jihadist violence. With the rise of ISIS, the chickens have started to come home (to Saudi Arabia) to roost.

Ignorant activists, well-meaning or otherwise, stumble into this semantic sinkhole whenever they lash out at their villain of choice with reckless accusations of rape, genocide, Naziism, Apartheid, and the like.  When facts do not match the rhetoric, words lose their force, and moral boundaries become matters of opinion.

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