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Archive for the tag “Newt Gingrich”

Obamacare Judicially Reviewed

Pete Spiliakos provides a nice review of Solicitor General Verrilli’s attempts to defend Obamacare in front of the Supreme Court this past week (“What Part of ‘Because I Said So’ Don’t You Understand?”).  Most tv and print pundits say the government’s lawyers (Verrilli) did a poor job defending the law in front of the court and many blame Verrilli personally.  In the final analysis however

 …Solicitor General Verrilli did his pitiful tap dance about how the health care market is “different” and how the federal government has the power to compel you to buy health insurance but not a cell phone or burial insurance.  And the result was that the more conservative Justices pounded him into the ground.  The problem wasn’t Verrilli.  It was the quality of his arguments.

From the day it passed I assumed Obamacare would be struck down by the courts as an unlawful abuse of Congressional power.  Article I of the Constitution enumerates the specific powers of Congress; the power to force purchases on people is not among that enumeration.

Although Article I grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, that power does not extend to forcing people to participate in commerce — so that they can then in turn be regulated!  Here I’m reminded of the climactic scene in Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.” Eastwood’s character points a rifle at a frontier journalist who sputters “certainly you wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man!” Eastwood then points to a gun lying on the floor and growls “See that rifle there?  Pick it up!”  That’s the Pelosi-Reid Congress at work — Join the national health market so we can regulate you!  Or else!

A proper judicial review should thwart such an abuse of power.  In doing so the Court would exercise its proper role of oversight first used in Marbury vs Madison over 200 years ago. That’s judicial review in its proper place.  In case you’re wondering, should the Court strike down Obamacare it could not be justly accused of judicial activism — the judicial exercise of power not found in the Constitution.  Remember forced bussing of school children back in the 1970s?  That was judicial activism.  Obamacare is simply an unlawful abuse of power which needs to be vacated.

For more on the Obamacare arguments see also “I Wonder Why Solicitor General Verrilli…”

For a more practical (rather than legal) explanation of why Obamacare (or any other centralized planning solution to health care) is a foolish idea please see Walter Russell Mead “The Health Care Disaster and the Miseries of Blue.”

Finally, I think it’s important to remember why Obamacare is key to November’s election. The health care law is President Obama’s signature legislation. It’s also the perfect archetype of all he stands for: central planning, centralized government control of markets and industries, all supposedly for the benefit of the people yet in actuality at the people’s great expense and for the benefit of those who fund and support the party in power.  In an age of rapid technological advancement such policies are the exact opposite of the direction that America should take for the protection of individual freedom and the protection of individuals against the tools available to those who would seek despotic power.

All four remaining Republican candidates are running against Obama by running against Obamacare and the implications of Obamacare for government power.  Although Mitt Romney is the frontrunner he has failed to close the deal largely because of his association with “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.  Rick Santorum has said that the danger posed by the implications of Obamacare compelled him to enter the Presidential race (see “Rick Santorum — The Servant“). His stump speeches focus on freedom and resonate with the crowd (See Daniel Henninger’s “Santorum and Freedom“).  Gingrich and Paul are also strong opponents of the law.

I’m not in the prediction game; I’m lousy at picking football games against the spread and I won’t try to handicap the Supreme Court vote.  I just know how they should vote.

Manistique — The Battle for Michigan

February 25, 2012

The Michigan primary is next Tuesday. Since political talk can sometimes become dry I thought I’d combine a travel post with some thoughts about the upcoming contest. In fact my first blog post was such a combination — “Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimarron Kansas” — and I thought it came out well, photos and all, so here goes. (All photos are my own, taken in February, 2009.)

Manistique, a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is so small that it reminds me of an Alaskan town, or what I imagine an Alaskan town might look like.  Few of the buildings here are as tall as two stories and there are just a couple of those.  Streets are lined with piles of shovelled snow that can dwarf the cars parked next to them. In fact, in the wintertime snowmobiles become as common a means of transportation as cars. When I was here in February 2009 the noontime temperature struggled to reach 17 degrees, and that was on a sunny day.

Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

At the turn of the 20th Century Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (known as the “U.P.”) was famous for its Jacobsville red sandstone, a burgundy red stone in demand worldwide. Architects loved to use Jacobsville for the facades of their best structures since artisans could carve intricate designs into the stone without compromising its strength. Jacobsville was used in the Tribune Building in Chicago and at the original Waldorf-Astoria in New York among many other places.  Manistique has one such Jacobsville building — it originally housed a prominent bank but now a home health agency occupies the first and second floors.

Corner bank building, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

Manistique is the seat of Schoolcraft County. The courthouse here is a fairly new ranch style building which does not photograph well.  The only markers are the county’s war memorial in front of the adjacent sheriff’s office.

Schoolcraft County Courthouse, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

Behind the courthouse I saw two official Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department snowmobiles parked in a trailer.  So — the local police chase ne’er-do-wells on snowmobiles! Can you imagine if Hollywood was to make a tv show called “The U.P.”?  These cop snowmobiles would be on the opening credits tearing paths through the wilderness with sirens blaring and emergency lights blazing red and blue over the snow trails! Wouldn’t that put Erik Estrada’s old CHiPs motorcycles to shame?

Official Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department Snowmobile Cruisers (“Sheriff” emblem on visor)

I ate lunch at the Cedar Street Café and Coffee House. This is a fine place, built into one of the refurbished older business buildings in the old town business district. Such cafes are becoming common in small Midwestern towns. Yet they shouldn’t be called “mom and pop” places because typically they are run entirely by women entrepreneurs. The inside decor was inviting — festive Mardi Gras beads bedecked the wooden tables while oil paintings (for sale by local artists) decorated a wall of exposed brick.  Painted on the opposite wall was a country mural covering over 20 square feet from the hard wood floor to the antique pressed metal ceiling. By the way, the sausage gumbo here was just fantastic — rich brown gravy with chunks of sausage and spices over rice.  Of course I don’t know if any Louisianan would call it “gumbo” but being authentic doesn’t matter if you’re just plain good.

What’s interesting about Manistique politically is that it sits in the heart of former Democrat Bart Stupak’s 1st Congressional District, most of which was on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The majority of the people in the U.P. are the descendants of German and Polish immigrants who came here in the late 19th century to work the iron mines and rock quarries. It is a heavily Catholic, heavily Democratic, working class region. Bart Stupak has represented the district since 1993. Obama won this district 49%-48% in 2008.

Yet Michigan’s 1st District went Republican in the elections of 2010 for the first time since 1933. Here’s what happened. During the Congressional debate over Obamacare in 2009, Stupak led a group of pro-life House Democrats wary of passing Obamacare since they feared the bill would mandate government funding of abortions. They held out for a while, but long story short Stupak and his gang finally caved to pressure from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted for legislation. In return for their votes they were given a pledge that Obamacare would not fund abortions, but the pledge turned out to be phony and Bart Stupak became very unpopular with his Catholic, working class constituency. Stupak decided to retire rather than run for re-election in 2010 and has since taken up the lobbyist’s trade.

In Tuesday’s primary the focus will be on Romney versus Santorum, although Ron Paul will get some votes. Gingrich isn’t campaigning in Michigan, choosing instead to concentrate his energies on upcoming primaries in the South.

Romney is the home state guy, of course. Mitt’s father George Romney was Michigan’s governor for many years. That will mean a lot. Residents of the U.P. (called “Yoopers”) are proud to be from Michigan. Local radio broadcasts Detroit Tigers games, not the Milwaukee Brewers even though Milwaukee is a shorter drive than Detroit for most yoopers.

At the same time these are exactly the kind of voters Rick Santorum is banking on. They are Catholic, working class, rural, Democratic historically but not afraid to switch parties.  Michigan’s is an open primary, meaning that registered Democrats can cross party lines to vote in the Republican primary. This might boost Santorum’s turnout in the U.P., and apparently his campaign has picked up on this possibility and has scheduled a Santorum campaign rally in the U.P.’s largest town of Marquette. (Info here. Link was good as of 2/25/12)

The Michigan Primary will put to the test two competing opinions of Santorum’s campaign strategy.  On one side is demographics expert Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute. (Henry is an old graduate school colleague of mine — he’s a very bright guy and has an unstoppable hook shot.) He wrote a piece a few weeks ago called “Two Decades Too Late” in which he described Santorum’s campaign strategy as an attempt

…to resurrect the Reagan general-election strategy of 1980 — first and foremost, to win over the conservative base on fiscal and social issues by portraying himself as a man of principle, the only candidate who will not waver.

But, according to Olsen, Santorum’s strategy is doomed to failure because the demographics of 1980 have changed during the past 30 years — a resurrection of the coalition with the old “Reagan Democrats” is no longer possible. In a nod to the timeliness of Olsen’s piece the archetypes of the 1980 Reagan Democrats were Michigan voters.  We’ll see how many Reagan Democrats turn out for Santorum Tuesday night.

On the other side of the strategy argument is Jeffrey Bell, an “early supply-sider” and author of the forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics.”  In a recent interview with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal (“Social Issues and the Santorum Surge“), Bell argues that social conservatism is a winning strategy for the GOP because its appeal is strongest amongst not the wealthy but the working class:

Mr. Bell notes that social conservatism is largely a working-class phenomenon: “Middle America does have more children than elite America, and they vote socially conservative, even though they might not necessarily be behaving that way in their personal life. They may be overwhelmed by the sexual revolution and its cultural impacts.”

Mr. Bell squares that circle by arguing that social conservatism is “aspirational” and “driven by a sense in Middle America that the kind of cultural atmosphere we have, the kind of incentives, the example set by government, is something that has to be pushed back against.”

In an ironic twist, Santorum has become identified with the social issues mostly because of the media’s portrayal of him as such. He has not actually campaigned on contraception, abortion or gay marriage. I can personally attest to this fact as I’ve attended four Santorum events and at none of them were these issues part of the candidate’s speech. Not once.

So, Michigan will be a test. Romney has the home-state advantage while Santorum tests his campaign strategy.  We’ll see what happens in Manistique.

Snow-bound church, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Newt Gingrich — The Visionary

As the 2012 campaign season comes to my state with the Colorado Caucuses on Tuesday the 7th, I’ve decided to attend as many of the candidates’ local speeches as can be managed.

I attended a Rick Santorum rally last Wednesday the 1st. You can read my comments at this link: Rick Santorum – The Servant.

I attended a Mitt Romney rally last Saturday the 4th.  You can read my comments at this link: Mitt Romney — The Executive.

In past posts I’ve described the remaining two candidates in a single word: Gingrich is The Visionary and Ron Paul is The Ideologue.

This article will discuss Newt Gingrich — The Visionary.

Unfortunately I missed Ron Paul when he was here last week and it looks like he won’t be coming back to Colorado any time soon. So there probably will never be a post for Ron Paul — The Ideologue and my series is no doubt the worse for the omission.

Dateline: Marriott Denver West Hotel, Golden, Colorado, Monday February 6, 11:30 am.

I’m not a professional reporter. First I’ll do my best to recapitulate the speech objectively and then offer my opinions of it at the bottom of the post.

The hotel ballroom was only one-quarter full. I overheard someone estimate the crowd at 300 but I think it was less. Although both Santorum’s and Romney’s crowds were much larger this fact must be discounted since today’s event was announced only last night and was held on a weekday afternoon.

After an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, Newt Gingrich approached the podium in a suit and tie with his wife Calista at his side.

He spoke without notes.

Newt began by offering a few pleasantries and recognizing some of the dignitaries and family standing behind him, including some children. He said “this race is about the children’s future.” “We’ve been trying to rethink the campaign,” Newt continued. “We need to break through the news media by talking about the children.”

At this point some of the media in attendance took a breath, hoping to hear details of a rumored “new campaign approach” to be offered by Newt. That was not forthcoming; instead the rest of the speech was similar to his standard stump speech.

The rest of Newt’s speech was delivered a train of consciousness style, mixing standard themes with tidbits of breaking news. He was interrupted by cheers every second or third line.

What follows is a close approximation of his actual cadence based on the notes I jotted down on my I-phone:

We need very large changes in this country. Beyond the Republican debates and the November voting, even if we win, the Left will still remain. They will oppose us in the courts and through picketing and protests. We need huge changes in America. The number one difference between me and others in the race is the scale of change needed. We need a whole team running in this election, not just one candidate. George Soros said it doesn’t matter to him if Obama or Romney win the election because either way government policies will remain largely the same, only the people in the administration will change. Romney is only small change. He accommodated the liberals by choosing liberal judges in Massachusetts. As President he will accommodate the liberals in Washington as well. We need fundamental change instead.

Today is Ronald Reagan’s birthday. As I was taping an interview with Sean Hannity this morning I heard that Egypt will try the American hostages [Newt’s exact words–my note] they are currently detaining. The Pakistanis arrested the doctor who helped us find bin Laden. The Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is now the moderate of the two ruling parties there, yet our own State Department is holding a conference with representatives of Islamic countries about our how to curb anti-Muslim rhetoric. This is just like the Carter years. We need Reagan’s change.

The main stream media wants to re-elect Obama so they are pushing for a moderate to win the GOP nomination. We don’t need to nominate another moderate like John McCain or Bob Dole — we need to nominate a conservative. Do you know what Reagan’s foreign policy strategy was? “We win; they lose.” One of Reagan’s first actions was to eliminate Jimmy Carter’s gas rationing programs. Gas prices started to fall within six months. We need an American energy strategy. The President of the United States should never again bow to a Saudi King. We should create so much domestic energy that we won’t care about Iran blockading the Straits of Hormuz.

On the afternoon of my inauguration in January my first executive order will be to eliminate all of Obama’s czars. On the same day I will authorize the Keystone Pipeline. The Canadians can count on it. It’s a three-pronged win for us. We will gain 20 to 50 thousand jobs building it, we will be safer because our oil supplies will come from Canada instead of from some country that hates us, and we will create refinery jobs in Houston that will last a generation. On my first day in office I will direct that the American Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem. Our economic recovery will begin late on election night when the markets realize that Obama will be gone.

I will propose reforms to teach the judiciary and the bureaucracy their proper role in regards to the country and the Constitution. In our schools we need to give our kids a sense of American history & American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is the reason that people came to this country in the first place. I’ve written books, and Calista has written a children’s book, explaining to kids that we are an exceptional nation.

America is built on truths, not ideology. ‘All Men are Created Equal’ is an ideal and it took us a long time to reach that ideal. [This was Lincoln’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates — my note.] We are endowed by our Creator; each of us is sovereign. Each of us loans power to the government. This means that no politician can come between your rights and God. You have the right to Pursue Happiness but you are not guaranteed happiness. By the way, Happiness in the 18th Century meant a life of wisdom and virtue, not a life of hedonism.

I have a profound disagreement with Governor Romney who says he does not care about the poor because they have a safety net. The safety net is actually a safety web because it traps people into dependence. I want to convert the safety net into a springboard. I favor work. I had an argument with Juan Williams a few weeks ago who thought that something was wrong with young people working. The Obama administration has lowered the unemployment rate recently primarily by reducing the number of people in the job pool. That’s not the same as getting people working. Instead of food stamps we want programs that help people rise. Children should learn English which is the national and international language of commerce and success. We must rethink from ground up. The safety web actually denies people the opportunity to pursue Happiness.

I need your help tomorrow. If I become the nominee I will run a truly American campaign. I want to go to every ethnic neighborhood in every part of this country and tell them that if you believe in the Declaration and not in Saul Alinsky then come exercise your American citizenship with us.

After long applause Newt went to the crowd, shaking hands and signing autographs. He posed for some photos also. Newt had spoken for about 15 minutes.

Newt speaks easily and extemporaneously. He draws from a deep well of facts, figures and anecdotes which feed his stream-of-consciousness presentation. As a listener I felt like a runner trying to keep up with a faster runner ahead of me as he jumped hurdles and twisted around obstacles.

Newt’s general theme was that America needs bigger, more fundamental change than what is being offered by Mitt Romney. Neither Rick Santorum nor Ron Paul was mentioned. Like Romney’s speech two days ago, and unlike Santorum’s, Newt’s speech was filled with applause lines.

In a previous post (Rick Santorum – The Servant), I described Gingrich as The Visionary in the following terms:

Gingrich is The Visionary. He has wondrous ideas every minute of every day. However, we end up bickering as to which of his ideas are brilliant and which are idiocy.

I describe Gingrich as a Visionary and I use that term in the more restrictive sense that he is a man of many ideas who is motivated by those ideas. Making those ideas workable or getting them implemented is another matter entirely.

It is clear from Newt’s speech that he favors an activist government in many instances. For example he has said many times that the current Environmental Protection Agency should be replaced with an Environmental Solutions Agency. He is a strong advocate of finding better means of children’s education with the goal being an education to lift up children from the poorest neighborhoods.

When listening to Newt speak the question arises as to whether government power once established, even with good intent, can be trusted to be the people’s servant rather than its master? Newt says he wants to instill into the bureaucracy a “collaborative” rather than a “dictatorial” attitude. That’s a nice idea, but eventually doesn’t power tend to corrupt? Even if Newt is successful implementing this new attitude the bureaucracy will remain in place after he has left the Presidency. A new administration will take control with the instruments of power still available for their use. This particular idea lacks the structural basis for permanent change. Newt’s position does not add the Checks and Balances to the Executive bureaucracy that would mirror the Constitution’s own structure and which has worked so well for the country over two and a half centuries.

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney serve as an interesting contrast. Each one has the virtue the other one lacks while carrying the defect which is the other one’s forte.

In Mitt Romney — The Executive I explained that Romney was an executive by temperament. He is a high focus, action- and achievement-oriented individual. His virtue consists of achieving what he sets out to do. His weakness is that he is not a thinker. His flip-flops on so many positions tell us that he lacks the deep understanding needed to lead the country.

Newt Gingrich by contrast is a thinker and a writer and a bit of a dreamer. He is versed in a million subjects. He can offer facts and bits of historical wisdom faster than a Wikipedia search. But he has no focus to be an executive. He flits from one place to another as fast as his curiosity takes him and in so doing he often leaves behind details which become fatal flaws. Re-read my recapitulation of his speech above and notice how often he moves from one subject to another. That’s the way he thinks — a little of everything but focused on nothing.

Here are some more examples. He says he will propose reforms to teach the judiciary and the bureaucracy their proper role. How would those reforms work? He doesn’t say. Would a Constitutional Amendment be needed for these “reforms” or just legislation? He doesn’t say. Newt says we need massive, fundamental change but he doesn’t explain why that statement can sound so much like Obama’s rhetoric yet be a repudiation of Obama.

With Mitt I am concerned he will not know which things to do; with Newt I am concerned that he will not be able to any things at all.

Newt and Calista Gingrich

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