Obama’s Worst Enemy

Despite President Obama’s obvious allure in California and other bluish states, his political foes are popping out of the woodwork nationwide as the political season gears up after Labor Day, begging the question:  Who is Obama’s worst enemy? Oddly, it really isn’t the raging ire of the Tea Party. It isn’t the sequential, cool logic of Mitt Romney’s 59-point economic plan, or even Rick Perry’s rampant boasting about job creation. And it certainly isn’t the prospect that Ron Paul will somehow gain speed and run Obama out of the White House on a platform of abolishing the Transportation Security Administration.

Obama’s worst enemy is himself. It is Obama’s role in which he appears to be most comfortable:  that of a community organizer.

We watched him deliver his Labor Day speech before auto workers in Detroit, at an event sponsored by the AFL-CIO, where he confidently paced before union members, striking his community organizer cadence. He empathized with them. He shared their burdens. He told them he was fighting for their economic security. He exclaimed:  “I’m not scared of tough times because I know we’re going to be all marching together and walking together and working together and rebuilding together.” At one point, he even resurrected his old campaign slogan, referring to naysayers:  “…for everybody who keeps going around saying, ‘No, we can’t – for everybody who can always find a reason why we can’t rebuild America, I meet Americans every day who, in the face of impossible odds they’ve got a different belief. They believe we can. You believe we can.” In essence, he gave them, well…hope. He played his base for all it was worth, evoking the “we/they” class warfare dynamic of union workers while vilifying “the CEO in the corner office.” On TV at least, the union crowd seemed to like his message.

But in a time of raging economic fear—replete with a 12 percent unemployment rate in California (and our 9 percent unemployment nationally), a faltering stock market with the worst September start in recent history, and talk of a double dip recession that may extend two more miserable years—it is hard to believe that voters will resort to a “community organizer” to oversee this economic mess.

However rational a political argument may be made, people vote with their emotions. Drew Westen’s book on this subject, “The Political Brain”, uses research from the fields of psychology and political science to demonstrate the dominance of emotion over reason as people vote. Mr. Westen states:  “The political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures, and policies to make a reasoned decision.” The voters who are the subjects of his research were thinking “with their guts.” This emotional thinking applies to political arguments, policies, and leaders: “We are not moved by leaders with whom we do not feel an emotional resonance.”

Even though the unions clearly supported Obama with his Labor Day, “community organizer” speech, the polls are undoubtedly showing an overwhelming lack of emotional resonance between voters and Obama on economic issues and his leadership generally. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday (9/6), 62 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy. This week’s Politico-GW poll (9/5) basically tracks that result, reporting 59 percent disapproval. More telling, according to the same poll, 72 percent of those surveyed believed America is on the “wrong track”—that’s almost 3 out of 4 Americans.

If it is true that Americans vote from their guts, and given his dismal poll results for economic leadership, Obama will need to conjure up an entirely new emotionally-relevant message to connect with voters on the economy. This feat, however, poses a host of problems. First, Obama has famously branded himself as a “community organizer” who looks most at home in front of a crowd of union members in Detroit leading a movement of union workers, a brand that might work in different times, but fails to connect with voters trying to survive in the current gloomy economic climate. Second, Obama’s handling of the budget deficit didn’t win him (or Congress) many points, and pretty much destroyed his image as an economic leader.

Most importantly, if all political voting decisions are indeed based on gut, emotional reactions, then what economic rhetoric does Obama have in his arsenal to appeal to the 62 percent of Americans—some of whom are the independents who decide elections and even Democrats who might jump ship—who disapprove of his handling of the economy? The nitty-gritty of economic issues and job creation is unforgiving; a President either succeeds or he doesn’t. The numbers tell the story.

His recent economic speech to Congress notwithstanding, Obama simply may be incapable of connecting to voters on the level required to evoke the emotional response that would lead him to victory. Political rhetoric evoking “hope” and “yes we can” have their place in movement politics and can generate a wide scale appeal to voters at certain times in history. But that old familiar rhetoric from Obama’s Labor Day speech just isn’t going to win it this time. It reeks of yesterday, to gentler economic times, when Obama was new and untested, and Americans had the stomach to see if he could pull off his reforms. Now it evokes nothing more than an unqualified President’s lack of substance whose policies generated zero jobs in August. What kind of economic rhetoric can a self-proclaimed community organizer say from the heart that will speak to all Americans? Probably nothing that stirs the hearts outside his union, “progressive” base. And if he cannot talk to us about the economy as a leader, then he is his own worst enemy, creating a vacuum that even he cannot fill.

Is Rick Perry the one?

For those concerned with a philosophically conservative, free market approach to government and economics in the White House perhaps look no further than Texas Governor Rick Perry who at the Republican Presidential Debate, hit the core principles that ought to be most important to conservative and Republican voters: responsible military policy, free market economics and aggressive entitlement reform.

Going into the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library the spotlight was hoisted on Rick Perry as the new kid on the block and the frontrunner in the campaign. As a debater in the presidential setting, Perry has far less experience than many of those in the race, especially former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Even if one were to concede that Perry did not carry himself as a slick debater, when examining his debate rhetoric closely, it becomes clear what Perry believes and why he might be the best choice to lead a new movement within the Republican Party, and more importantly, the nation.

Perhaps the most thoughtful insight into the economic philosophy of the Lone Star State chief were his comments during the debate about chastising the use of government spending to stimulate the economy.  President Obama, Perry argued, “has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done. We’ll never have to have that experiment on America again.” Perry appears not to believe in government manipulation of the economic system to spur job creation and activity in the economy. While Perry does not say it outright, he defacto endorses a more Austrian approach or a pure free market approach to economics.

His criticism of government involvement in economic activity is also evident in his beliefs about how jobs are created: “You want to create jobs in America?  You free the American entrepreneur to do what he or she does, which is risk their capital, and I’ll guarantee you, the entrepreneur in America, the small businessman and woman, they’re looking for a president that will say we’re going to lower the tax burden on you and we’re going to lower the regulation impact on you, and free them to do what they do best: create jobs.”

Perry though, is by no means a free market purest—at least on the state level—his use of enterprise to lure businesses to Texas is problematic, but he makes it clear through his rhetoric frequently that states should choose policies that work best locally. One example of this were his debate comments on health care policy, “we understand that if we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to health care, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more health care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is mandating today with their strings attached, here’s how you do it, one-size-fits-all effort out of Washington, D.C.”

Perry’s harsh rhetoric on Social Security also demonstrates that he will push hard as president for entitlement reform. His comments accurately calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” have been widely publicized and criticized but during the debate he did not back away from his statements even when challenged by Romney: “It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there. Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it’s not right.”

Perry did not go as far to call for changing the Social Security system during the debate like former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain did when he astutely advocated for the Chilean approach to Social Security. “I believe in the Chilean model,” Cain said, “where you give a personal retirement account option so we can move this society from an entitlement society to an empowerment society.” Perry has not demonstrated a willingness to advocate the same approach as Cain perhaps because of the problems it caused the President Bush while in the Oval Office.

As for military policy, Perry advocated a more sensible approach showing a skepticism towards imperialistic approaches to foreign policy. “I don’t think America needs to be in the business of adventurism,” Perry said. “Americans don’t want to see their young men and women going into foreign countries without a clear reason that American interests are at stake. And they want to see not only a clear entrance; they want to see a clear exit strategy, as well.”

Emphasizing differences in foreign policy with the Obama administration Perry said “We should never put our young men and women’s lives at risk when American interests are not clearly defined by the president of the United States, and that’s one of the problems this president is doing today.”

Characterizing Perry’s first debate performance as blockbuster would be a stretch but when dissecting his rhetoric one might be led to believe that Rick Perry is the real deal.

California Redistricting is a Disaster

When voters approved Prop 11 in 2008, and Prop 20 in 2010, they were told that political reforms would change the way that politicians drew districts.  Voters approved the measure because they were tired of the endless backroom political deals that created circumstances where incumbents were re-elected 99% of the time.

The idea to take the drawing of political districts out of the hands of politicians and put it into the hands of a non-partisan citizens redistricting commission was one that was well intentioned, but after watching its implementation, has fatal flaws. The Commission is unelected and, therefore, unaccountable to the taxpayers. To dream that politics could have been removed from something as political as the drawing political districts, well that turned out to be just a fantasy.

Right from the start the newly created California Redistricting Commission showed signs of problems, multiple commissioners failed to disclose their prohibited political backgrounds. These commissioners hid donations to Democrats, and relationships with political organizations, such as MALDEF, without disclosing these items in their background to investigators.  Offenses such as these should have excluded liberal activists from serving on the Commission, however, they were permitted to serve and allowed to have their liberal activism impact our process of drawing districts.

In a public statement, Commissioner Mike Ward disclosed what he witnessed as a Commissioner, stating that maps were actually drawn outside of the public view, and some members used secret meetings to allow political party affiliation to draw districts. Quite simply, Commissioner Ward, stated, This commission broke the law.

However, we don’t have to rely solely upon a Commissioner’s observations.  The real evidence of Democrat activist manipulation with a predetermined political outcome is in the final maps.  It’s clear that the Commission intended to “gerrymander” several districts to achieve a political outcome by frivolously applying the term “community of interest,” while ignoring their mandate by law to consider “compactness.” For example, along the California’s Central Coast, the Commission was able to draw a Democrat district by creating a district that runs from the San Jose all the way to Santa Barbara, a distance of approximately 220 miles.  The reasoning the Commission cited was that the coast represented a “community of interest.” However, when the Commission drew Senate lines in Sacramento County, which has enough population for one and a half Senate Districts, they managed to divide the County into six completely different districts.

Several of the Commission-drawn districts are blatant evidence that “compactness” was not considered as mandated by the law.  One district stretches from the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova all the way to Death Valley California – from end to end, this district stretches a mind-boggling 365 miles!

The true impact of the manipulation of the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission won’t be felt until the 2012 elections.  Remember, the Commission’s job was to apply the law, creating fair districts.  However, the current districts heavily favor a Democratic “super-majority” in the State Senate, with Republicans set to lose 3-4 seats in this Presidential election year.

A supermajority in the Senate will render Republicans irrelevant in the fight against any tax increases, fees, mandates, and regulations proposed by Legislative Democrats, including a “Split-Roll” property tax system and the increase of the car tax.  In addition, it would be impossible to hold the line against anti-business policies such as an Obamacare-style mandate here in California.

A group that I’m supporting, Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) has been created to circulate a referendum measure that would stop the implementation of the Commission’s tainted maps. By the effort to pursue the referendum simply submitting the requisite number of signatures, it will result in the Supreme Court stopping the Commission’s corrupt lines and overseeing the drawing of fair and unbiased Senate districts for the 2012 election cycle.  This is important because the last time the California Supreme court oversaw the drawing of fair district lines, the Republicans in the Senate gained 3 seats. If sufficient signatures are filed, the California Supreme Court will draw new lines and correct the inequities and blatant gerrymandering which has taken place.

Fair districts are what voters believed what they were getting when they approved Propositions 11, and 20, and that is what they will get if the referendum is successful next year.

For more information on Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting please visit www.fairdistricts2012.com


(Mimi Walters is a member of the California State Senate)

Nixon legacy tarnished at his own library?

Some controversy over the recently revised Watergate exhibit at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, California has provoked some questions over presidential libraries, their value, purpose for public consumption and their role in the remembrance of past presidents.

One docent at the Nixon library, my colleague at the Orange County Register  Will Alexander, opted to resign in protest of the new exhibit after 10 years of volunteer service. And friends and former colleagues of Richard Nixon have been critical of the museum’s new director, Timothy Naftali. Some critics  have even suggested that the Nixon library is becoming an anti-Nixon monument.

What is the purpose of a presidential library? Are presidential libraries meant to showcase the positive legacy of a president or provide an unfiltered historical – and perhaps, critical – view of a former U.S. commander in chief?

On March 31, the library opened a new exhibit on the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign the presidency in 1974. It replaced the original Watergate exhibit, which dated back 15 years and in which Nixon was involved in curating. The new exhibit offers a much harsher depiction of Watergate.

The visual imagery and titles reflect a strongly critical vibe, if not a completely anti-Nixon tone to the presentation. The start of the gallery features big, bold, red and black letters spelling out “Road to Resignation.” Other parts of the exhibit are labeled “Dirty Tricks and Political Espionage” and “The Cover-Up, Break-In and Evidence,” just to give a few examples. After walking through the gallery, one would be hard pressed to feel warm and fuzzy about the former president, who died in 1994 and is buried on the library grounds.

Also raising some eyebrows are some of the speakers featured in events at the library since Naftali officially took the reins in 2007, when the federal government took over the administration of the library. Former Democratic Sen. George McGovern who lost a bitter presidential race to Nixon in 1972, has spoken at the library, as have Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and former Nixon aide John Dean, the foremost whistleblower in the Watergate scandal.

Of course, there is no disputing the facts on display at the library but those close to Nixon and his admirers have been critical of the new approach, which they believe is skewed towards focusing on Nixon’s darkest moments.

Bruce Herschensohn, a former special assistant during the Nixon administration and personal friend to Nixon, told me he rarely goes to the Nixon library because of the way his former boss and friend is now portrayed. Herschensohn, who had once donated his personal papers to the library has taken them back and instead given them to Pepperdine University because, as he said, he does not “trust the government” to oversee them.

At the heart of the controversy is the belief among some – including Alexander and Herschensohn – that Naftali is attempting to disgrace the legacy of Nixon. “Every indication to me is that Tim Naftali is anti-President Nixon,” Herschensohn told me by phone. “From the kind of guests he invites, to the whole feeling of the library … he is trying to make it totally different from the kind of presidential library I’ve been to for other presidents.”

“I expect and want presidential libraries to be staffed by those people who have been ardently supportive of that president,” Herschensohn said. “I do not want to go to any presidential library that tells stories opposing those things a president did while in office. I do not want to go to President Clinton’s library and see Monica Lewinsky’s book for sale just like I do not want to see Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein or any of those people who oppose President Nixon selling their book at his library, especially on the grounds where President and Mrs. Nixon are buried.”

Naftali responded that presidential libraries are “portals into the history of our country.”

“If you only focus on positive legacy,” he told me, “you give visitors a skewed view of American history.” For Naftali, “the best public use” of presidential libraries is to show the good and bad of a president. “We are a stronger nation if our citizens understand the strengths and weaknesses of government,” he said.

Giving citizens a complete view of a president is a noble enough goal, but some have argued that the Nixon library has tilted too far in negatively depicting Nixon especially with the revised Watergate exhibit.

“We had to do it.” Naftali said. “I was concerned that the credibility of the archive would be questioned if the Watergate gallery was not thorough.”

Naftali says he was bound by law to explicitly highlight abuses of government power. He pointed me to the 1974 Presidential Recordings and Materials Act, which applies specifically to the Nixon presidency, “stipulates that those materials relevant to the understanding of abuse of governmental power and Watergate are to be processed and released to the public prior to the release of all other materials.”

It is unusual for a presidential library to depict abuses of power, Naftali notes “but this library is a product of Watergate.”

Some question why the National Archives, with a core responsibility of protecting and making accessible presidential papers, is involved in the library’s exhibits and guest lectures. Herschensohn said, “Why they should be in charge of exhibits or speakers? That has nothing to do with the duty of the archives. The speakers and the exhibits are not archival business.”

What complicates the management of presidential libraries is their structure; they are sort of absurd quasipublic-private partnerships where private foundations often build the structures but the National Archives manages and oversees the presidential papers.

Is there serious value in publicly funded shrines for American presidents?

In the case of Nixon, his presidential papers had been seized by the government, and to get them released to his library certain conditions had to be met, including bringing in the National Archives to administer the facility. “President Nixon is the only president who had his papers seized by the federal government,” Naftali told me. Until Nixon, presidential papers were considered private property, presidents would then deed them to the federal government and take a tax deduction for doing so.

“This library did not have to be public,” Naftali said. “The National Archives was not asking for it to change but with that change there were implications, and one of those was that the Watergate exhibit had to change.”

In this digital age though, it would seem less important to have the original presidential papers on site at a presidential museum, especially when the information could be searched on the Internet and duplicates could be made for presidential libraries. If that were the case, the National Archives could keep all original documents at its Maryland facility and leave the business of running libraries and museums to private entities, keeping taxpayer dollars out of it and giving more control to local constituencies perhaps more invested in the legacy of a particular president.

“I am not so sure if Nixon were alive today that he would be so adamant himself about having the original presidential papers at his library if he knew what it would bring,” Herschensohn said.

There’s a lesson here for presidents – and taxpayers – about government involvement in presidential libraries and the politicization that comes with it. Perhaps it would be more prudent to keep such libraries completely private and rely on digitized versions of the papers.

Dream Act is Wrong for Undocumented Immigrant Students and Taxpayers

Governor Brown has supposedly pledged to sign AB 131 (the Dream Act).  It would grant qualified undocumented immigrants access to public funding normally reserved for legal residents to pursue a college education in California.

Dream Act proponents maintain that enacting it would contribute to the overall betterment of our society at relatively little cost to taxpayers.  However, the Dream Act would put into operation a costly policy that, as things now stand, would ultimately not benefit the very students who it is intended to help or the taxpayers who are funding it.

The Dream Act is wrong headed because it is a well known but, in this case, ignored fact that an undocumented immigrant student who obtains a college degree is nevertheless unable to work anywhere in this country legally.  Thus, after devoting time and effort obtaining an expensive (and taxpayer subsidized) education, such a student faces a future of (illegal) underemployment – if not of unemployment.

A Dream Act participant can realize his or her economic potential only if he or she possesses both an education and an opportunity to maximize its value, i.e., legally work.  To achieve that end, we cannot rely on singular efforts like the Dream Act.  Instead, the solution lays in comprehensive immigration reform which results in a permanent legalized presence in the U.S. for these students.  Moreover, the solution need not lead to automatic citizenship or expulsion.

It is high time we recognize that each affected undocumented immigrant student has very likely lived in the U.S. for most of his or her life.  To that student, this is home, now and forever.

The Dream Act might feel good to some, but, contrary to its name, it will only instill false hopes of gainful employment and plant the seeds of disillusionment.


(John Cruz is an attorney and practices law in Orange County, He served as the Appointments Secretary for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2007 – 2010.)

Recall Jerry Brown

California Republicans need to get off defense and start playing offense. They need to throw the long bomb.

They need to imitate the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s under quarterback Ken “The Snake” Stabler, cornerback Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas, wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, offensive tackle Art Shell and Coach John Madden. Not the pathetic Raiders of the recent years of principal owner Al Davis’ meddling senescence.

The Classic Raiders were junkyard dogs who took chances and won. As linebacker Phil “Foo” Villapiano said, “When you play for the Raiders you play to win and you play tough.”

The first “long bomb” Republicans should throw is to start a recall of Gov. Jerry Brown. Now.

That would set him reeling on the defensive. Remember how Gov. Gray Davis, once the recall began against him in 2003, started stammering like Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) when he got nervous on the old “Honeymooners” TV show, “Hamamamamamahamama”? Davis’ administration shut down. What fun.

The whole 2003 recall was fun. It turned out badly when Gov. Arnold “Adulterinator” Schwarzenegger won the simultaneous replacement election and, after two so-so years, panicked like a wimp after he lost his 2005 reform election. Then the Austrian Oaf turned his governorship over to wife Maria and we got Kennedy Government for the next five years.

But so what? Arnold’s gone. His main celebrity project now is Divorce Court. He can’t ruin another recall.

It doesn’t even matter if Brown could be unseated. Just challenging him would take the air out of his governorship for four months or more. He would have to take a break from his tax-increase obsession

A recall costs about $2 million to circulate the petitions. That’s not chump change, especially in the depths of the Obama Depression. But there are enough Republican moneybags around to raise the cash.

Moreover, for wealthy Republicans considering a run for statewide office or U.S. Congress, ponying up some serious cash for a Recall Jerry Brown effort should be the opening ante of their campaigns. Put up or shut up, boys.

There are a lot of ways a Recall Jerry Brown campaign would be fun. For one thing, it would scramble the plans of Brown’s potential successors. Remember how Democratic candidates, such as then-Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi – now a U.S. Congressman – first started campaigning in the replacement election, then were told to quit or face reprisals? Garamendi, a fan of Cuba’s socialized medicine system, obeyed.

In the end, the only serious Democrat to stay in the repelacement election was Lt. Gov. Cruze Bustamante, campaigning on the hilarious theme, “No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante.” A couple of years later, Cruisin’ Cruz campaigned for insurance commissioner on a platform of his diet program. Perhaps, in a new recall, he could come out of his lucrative retirement as a lobbyist to run again on his slimming scheme.

And remember the entertaining candidates, 135 of them? Gary Coleman, alas, no longer is with us. Arianna Huffington probably would run again. New campaign theme: “This time, dummies, elect the right immigrant.”

After selling the Huffington Post to America Online for $315 million, she sits on a lot more dough than when she was just blowing her alimony from her ex-hubby, GOP ex-Rep. Michael Huffington.

This is a family publication. So decorum prevents me from mentioning the names of some of the indecent candidates who ran. But they did add to the recall’s circus atmosphere.

In a Brown Recall, we could see run:

* Meg Whitman. Hey, it’s been almost a year since she blew $183,000,000.00 on her previous losing campaign. Maybe she’s defrosted a little.

* Steve Poizner, who lost to Meg in the 2010 GOP primary. He’s had another year to move from his tax-increase past.

* Rep. Tom McClintock, who would have won in the 2003 recall if silly Republicans hadn’t backed Kennedy Klone Arnold.

* “Unable” Abel Maldonado, the former Light Gov. who was appointed to that pointless post by Arnold. It was a reward for Maldonado, as a state senator, selling out the taxpayers on Arnold’s record, $13 billion 2009 Kennedy Klone tax increase.

* Carly Simon – excuse me, that’s how I always think of her – Carly Fiorina, who lost last year’s U.S. Senate race to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Pyongyang).

* B-1 “Bob” Dornan, the former U.S. congressman and victim of logorrhea. He’s always amusing, even though he needs an “off” button we can push.

But Democrats also might run against a septuaginarian governor who, even in 2010, ran a campaign too far. In addition to the above-mentioned Cruzinator, these Donkey Party hopefuls might include:

* Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, currently in a duel with Brown over who can come up with the more pointless “jobs creation” program, when their own high-tax, sky-high regulation policies are to blame for Joblessfornia.

* Attorney General Kamala Harris, the California Vyshinsky. She’s so Left she makes Brown look like Reagan.

* Los Angeles Mayor Tony Villar (a/k/a Antonio Villaraigosa), who just took a pot shot at Brown by calling for gutting Proposition 13 and jacking up property taxes on businesses. Having cast the City of Angeles into the Inferno, he seeks to melt down the Golden State.

So, Elephants, what are you waiting for?

Recall Jerry Brown.


(John Seiler is managing editor of CalWatchDog.com.)

Republican Candidates Should Push for Real Education Reform

In light of his presidential candidacy, several commentators have cast wary glances at Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s record on crony capitalism and its implications for how he and other Republican candidates will approach education policy. Jay Greene commented on Wall Street Journal article outlining the crony capitalism charge: “The real problem is the hubris of thinking that a handful of government leaders can identify the ‘right’ businesses to which capital should be allocated. … In short, crony capitalism is an example of the errors of central planning.”

The predilection for central planning has been a hallmark of both Democratic and Republican policy for many decades. The hated No Child Left Behind law serves as a prime example; yet in all the controversy now surrounding the president and his education secretary’s decision to waive the law for some states (Montana received the first last week), neither the complaining states nor congressional Republicans planning to reauthorize NCLB under a slightly less centrist strategy seem to have noticed this fatal flaw in federal education policy. NCLB rests on the premise that the federal government should centrally plan education policy.

One would think this a prime target for Republican presidential candidates, a wide-open opportunity to distance themselves from the president’s command-and-control style and to talk about how the failure to propagate an educated citizenry means we’ll never have a chance to “grow our way out” of our economic hole. But we’ve heard only the faintest peep on the subject.

Writer RiShawn Biddle notes Perry’s weak record on K-12 education reform and speculates on why Republican candidates seem to avoid the topic: Although it serves as both a symbol and instrument of federal overreach, NCLB’s accountability provisions have helped governors overcome special interests and expand school choice by exposing the public schools’ poor performance.

Biddle suggests Republican candidates should offer a less sweeping, more “centrist” vision for improving the nation’s schools, based at the federal level and using the same formula of sticks and carrots as in NCLB.

I have a better idea. The Republican candidates should consider that education, like health care, is one of the dominant sectors in the United States today and one of the few actually expanding parts of the U.S. economy. If the forces of government expansion in these areas continue unchecked, they will ultimately drown the nation in statism.

The solution is not a different federal role in central planning. It’s for the federal government to get out of central planning altogether. The Republican candidate who perceives this truth will have a real alternative to offer the nation and its voters.

(Joy Pullmann ([email protected]) is an education research fellow and managing editor of School Reform News at The Heartland Institute.)


CA Ballot Prop Limits Union and Corporate Interests

There is a new ballot initiative being circulated for signatures, to place an important question before the voters of California at the June 2012 election.  Designed to prevent special interests from buying favors from our elected officials, the “Stop Special Money Interest Now” initiative would do four things:

1.       Ban corporations and labor unions from making direct contributions to candidates;

2.      Prohibit government contractors from contributing money to government officials who award them contracts;

3.      Prohibits corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds using the inherently coercive method of paycheck deductions; and

4.      Requires that employee contributions to the political funds of either corporations or labor unions be voluntary, via annual written consents.

This common-sense initiative is sorely needed if we are to get California back on the right track, because right now special interests own our government, bought and paid for.  In the 2010 election cycle, for example, $715 million was contributed to state-level campaigns and candidates, 79% of which came from groups outside the candidate’s district.  The top 15 special interest organizations have spent nearly $1 billion on political activities over the past decade.  In return for all this political cash, nearly 40% of all bills introduced in the legislature are sponsored by special interest organizations, and these bills are more than twice as likely to pass as those sponsored by the elected officials themselves.  If you think that $1 billion has been spent to advance the public good, you are naively mistaken.  Whether through sweetheart “no-bid” government contracts for multi-national corporations, or excessive pensions for public employee unions that those of us in the private sector cannot begin to fathom, the legislature has been generous in lining the pockets of their special interest benefactors.  They have nearly bankrupt the state in the process, squeezing out the legitimate needs of our communities, whether it be roads, or schools, or public safety.

Some have argued that the initiative amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on First Amendment speech rights.  Not so.  The Supreme Court has already upheld bans on direct contributions to candidates by corporations and labor unions because of the particularly corrupting effect such contributions can have on our political system.  The Court’s recent decision in Citizens United did not involve direct contribution bans; rather, it struck down limits on independent expenditures, and the Initiative leaves both corporations and unions free to make independent expenditures on their own.  It also leaves individuals free to make direct contributions to candidates themselves, whichever candidates they (rather than their corporate or union bosses) decide to support.

The Stop Special Interest Money Now initiative is designed to prevent the corrupting flow of money directly to elected officials, while leaving open the avenues for campaign speech by everyone—citizens, corporations, and unions alike—that the Constitution rightly requires.  This simple, fair initiative removes the current abuses in our campaign finance system that have made elected officials more beholden to their special interest paymasters than to the rights and concerns of ordinary voters.  It is time to return our government to the people of California rather than the special interests.  You can read more about the initiative at its website, stopspecialinterestmoney.org.  I hope you will agree to join me in supporting this important effort.


(John C. Eastman is a Constitutional Law Professor and former candidate for Attorney General)


In the Aftermath of Iowa

The race to nominate a Republican presidential candidate has heated up considerably since the Iowa straw poll.

Republicans, clamoring for someone to rally behind with prospects of defeating President Barack Obama in next year’s election, may have exhaled a sigh of relief Aug. 13 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry threw his cowboy hat into the race for the GOP presidential nod.

While Michele Bachmann celebrated her victory in the Iowa straw poll, Perry basked in a national spotlight when he announced his candidacy the same day. Perry’s momentum continued Tuesday as he all but assumed national frontrunner status when Rasmussen’s GOP primary poll results showed Perry leading both Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by double-digit margins: 29 percent of poll respondents favored Perry, versus 18 percent for Romney and 13 percent for Bachmann.

What makes Perry’s entrance into the race special is that he was almost drafted. It seemed for months that he did not intend to run, but with what many conservatives, Tea Partiers and Republicans viewed as a lackluster field, calls for a Perry candidacy began to build, especially as it has become more evident that jobs and the economy will be the biggest issues of next year’s election. Perry, arguably, has the best record of any of the Republicans running on job creation – in fact, Texas accounts for the creation of more jobs during the so-called economic recovery than all other states combined.

Perry’s announcement overshadowed the results of the Iowa straw poll, but the poll is little more than a gauge of candidates’ popularity. Mitt Romney won the straw poll in 2007, then lost the 2008 Iowa Caucuses to Mike Huckabee. And, of course, inevitably the Republican nominee was John McCain. In fact, since 1979, the Iowa straw poll has picked only two candidates who won the Republican nomination – and in one case it was a tie between Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. George W. Bush was the only candidate to win the poll, the Republican nomination and the presidency.

While Perry appears to be the quasi-frontrunner nationwide, in New Hampshire, an important early primary state, a recent poll conducted by the New Hampshire Journal shows Romney with a commanding lead, 36 percent to Perry’s 18 percent. But Romney has been on the campaign trail for some time.

In California, and Orange County, in particular, an important campaign fundraising stop for GOP presidential hopefuls, Romney has the strongest support according to a Probolsky Research poll released Thursday. Romney is preferred by California Republicans, 22 percent to Perry’s 15 percent, the poll shows.

The preference for Romney makes sense, though, given that during the 2008 campaign he established a stronghold in Southern California, bolstered by the support of the Orange County Republican Party chairman, Scott Baugh, and major political donors. This time, however, all signs point to Baugh throwing his weight behind the Perry campaign – especially after Monday’s Orange County GOP Central Committee meeting, where a straw poll taken by Baugh showed about 85 percent of members preferring Perry.

“My goal is to always support the most conservative candidate,” Baugh told me in a phone interview, “and Rick Perry has stepped to fill a void in the primary contest as a credible, national figure who doesn’t intend to manage our inefficient government; he intends to reform it and give more power back to the states.”

Major Orange County business leaders have signed on for the Perry campaign. Real estate developer Hadi Makarechian, who helped Romney raise about $2 million in the previous campaign, is backing Perry, as is Auto Club CEO Tom McKernan; Family Action PAC chairman Larry Smith; and former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, to name a few.

Romney still has some considerable backing in Orange County, including Dale Dykema, CEO of TD Service Co., and Glenn Stearns, CEO of Santa Ana-based Stearns Lending.

Romney also has what some may consider a decisive advantage because he is viewed as the heir apparent to the nomination, something not to be underestimated among Republicans. McCain benefited from such perceived status in 2008, as did Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Some believe it is Romney’s turn, that he is next in line.

What both Perry and Romney may find difficult, though, is engaging a new, powerful force in the GOP nomination process: the Tea Party. Many credit the Tea Party for propelling Texas Rep. Ron Paul to a close second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll. Romney is not a Tea Party favorite, and neither is Perry a natural fit for Tea Party support. Bachmann, however, has been soundly embraced by the movement.

There are several other wild cards in the mix, the two biggest potential spoilers being Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin.

Palin’s bus tour suggests she is testing the waters, but many Republicans would prefer she sit out the race, questioning her electability in a general election. As conservative columnist George Will has said about the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee, “There is no undecided vote in this country about Sarah Palin.”

As for Ryan, time grows short for him to make a serious run. He has the intellectual capacity and the credibility among conservatives, especially economic conservatives. He is being encouraged to jump into the race by some Republican heavyweights, including Reagan-era education secretary Bill Bennett, who, in a recent email to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, said, “There are many talented candidates in the race already, but there is always room for a man of Paul Ryan’s intellectual depth, temperament, talent and conviction.”

If Ryan were to enter the race he would make an already interesting GOP primary more competitive. But for now the race appears to be between Romney, the heir apparent, and the Texas job engine, and momentum looks to be on the side of Perry, at least for now.

(Originally published at the Orange County Register.)

Obama’s EPA is Killing Job Creation

Obama says he will get focused on the jobs problem just as soon as he returns from his August vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Like the more famous Hamptons, the Vineyard is a playground of the rich and famous out to find some summer enjoyment on the Atlantic shore. Just before leaving, Obama articulated his number one goal is to grow the economy.

But while Obama is playing jetsetter, back in Washington a crucial regulatory agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been captured by a group of extremists who actually believe the USA would be better off with a smaller economy.

In some of the economy’s most hopeful corners, these bureaucrats are wielding all of the levers of regulatory authority in their arsenal to kill growth. Just as the “green shoots” of recovery sprout, they come along with a can of herbicidal regulations and kill the sprout. As long as Obama leaves these extremists in charge of the agency, the economy is unlikely to recover and will suffer.

Having a reliable national electrical infrastructure is vital to new job creation.

Yet new EPA regulations will significantly reduce the amount of electricity generated from coal-fired energy flowing from our power grid. The EPA told the public that the agency was working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to determine the impact of its regulations on the reliability of the nation’s electricity capacity. This was to include a joint modeling effort.

However, responses from FERC Commissioners to an inquiry from Congress regarding the degree of agency coordination on the impact of the agency’s new rules clearly shows the EPA statements were not truthful. Correspondence from the FERC chairman and commissioners revealed the commission is not working on a formal assessment of the impact of the EPA regulations on the ability of our power grid to reliably deliver electricity to the nation’s homes and businesses.

“The EPA’s deception of the public is outrageous and it exposes the agency’s underlying zeal to regulate without regard to the consequences of its actions. EPA’s actions may very well put the reliability of our electricity supply in jeopardy,” said Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project.

These job killing EPA regulations are part of a wider program to “curb man made climate change” or global warming. But the science behind this believed threat to the planet’s existence keeps melting away under scrutiny.

The latest example is the Polar Bear’s supposed struggle against extinction.

[Read more…]