Gov. Rick Perry’s More or Less Happy Ending

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry won’t be doing any prison time for vetoing a bill while in office, and we’re glad of that, but the political ruthlessness that created any doubt about it is likely to continue.
Perry’s case took so long winding through the justice before Texas’ top criminal appeals court dismissed all charges that you might have forgotten what it was all about. The story began when Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, and and was so belligerent and issued so many threats of her official power while being processed that she wound up in the same sort of restraints used on cinematic cannibal Hannibal Lecter. A video of the fuss was widely replayed on Texas news stations, became a runaway hit on YouTube, and Perry was among the many Texans calling for Lehmberg’s resignation. When the Democrat Lehmberg defiantly refused to leave, the Republican Perry threatened to veto the funding for a commission she headed that was charged with rooting out official corruption, which seemed reasonable use of the governor’s constitutional veto power to most Texans but aroused the ire of a leftist group and a special prosecutor and some Democratic judges who alleged it was an abuse of power that deserved a 109-year sentence.
The dismissal of such absurd charges was inevitable, but not before Perry was perp-walked and finger-printed and had his mug shot printed in all the papers, and perhaps not coincidentally after his presidential campaign came to a quick end. The vindication didn’t get the attention that the perp-walk and finger-prints and mug shots did, of course, and the legal fees were no doubt high, so it’s hard to consider Perry a winner.
Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay were also vindicated of the charges that ended their political careers after prolonged and costly legal battles, with the acquittals getting far less attention than the allegations, and there are local examples of the same thing happening in all sorts of jurisdictions. It happens often enough to arouse suspicions even when the charges seem to have weight, such as the corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Bob Mendendez, a rare Democrat to find himself on the docket but only after he became an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s awful Iran deal. There are also suspicions when charges aren’t filed despite a considerable weight of evidence, such as in the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of “tea party” groups, and perhaps former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s highly suspicious private e-mail account.
Such efforts to criminalize one’s political opposition and shield one’s allies are not helpful to maintaining a republic of free men and women under the rule of law, nor are the suspicions they arouse and the cynicism they create. The tactic has usually been employed by the left, which in its heart does believe that any political opposition is criminal and that any allies deserve shielding, but these days we’re hearing a lot of folks on the right insisting that a similar ruthlessness is called for. Much ugliness is likely to ensue, and to whatever extent the right is less interested in maintaining a republic of free men and women under the rule than it is in punishing its enemies the ugliness will be greater. We’d like to think that an appeal to constitutional principles, and the sound arguments for limited government and free markets and a general policy of being nice to one another leaving people be would have some appeal in these times, but at the moment that seems a pipe dream.
In any case, we’re pleased for Perry, who was an excellent governor and might have made a good president. We wish him well in his days free of prison, and hope he’ll also enjoy his freedom from politics.

— Bud Norman

How to Trump a Record of Accomplishment

We can well understand the anti-establishment mood of the Republican electorate, given the timid resistance of the party’s congressional leadership to the past several years of the Obama administration, but when a buffoonish and oft-bankrupt billionaire is leading the pack and two governors who did outstanding jobs far away from Washington are the first to drop out it’s starting to get a bit ridiculous.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced his withdrawal from the race on Monday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry did the same last week, and its hard to see what fault even the most disgruntled Republican might find with either of them. During Perry’s long tenure as Texas’ governor the state became the economic powerhouse of the country, creating most of the jobs that the Obama administration likes to claim credit for, and he did it with the low-tax, low-spending, low-regulation policies that conservatives have long championed. Walker bravely took on the powerful public sector unions in a stronghold of the labor movement and somehow prevailed through an election and a recall and re-election despite all the money and mobs and rogue prosecutors that his enemies could throw at him. With all the talk about Republicans seeking someone who’s willing to fight, and the clamoring for results, Walker and Perry seemed well-positioned for a serious run.
Both were once wobbly on the illegal immigration issue that is now crucial to the party, but with Walker’s recent rhetoric and Perry’s decision to deploy the Texas militia to the border both seem to have found the light. Perry still suffered from an embarrassing moment during an early debate in his previous presidential campaign when he returned too early after a surgery and paused to remember some small detail of his proposals, but that hardly seems sufficient to overshadow his many years of effective public service. Walker’s plain-spoken and low-key style might not have fit the fighting spirit that the Republicans seem to be in, but surely that humble appearance was belied by his steadfastness through one of the most bare-knuckle political battles of recent years.
As recently as mid-summer Walker was considered the front-runner in the race, and the Democrats were nervous enough about that they unleashed a torrent of media criticism about everything from his alleged “Unelectable Whiteness” to his being a few hours short of a college degree after dropping out of Marquette University. Whiteness does not render a candidate unelectable among the Republican electorate, of course, and the fact that Walker long ago chose to begin his extraordinarily successful career in politics rather take another useless course in political science likely only burnished his anti-establishment credentials and made him seem Truman-esque to a typical Republican voter, so there must be some other explanation for his fall from front-runner to back-of-the-pack.
Our best guess is that it has something to do with Donald Trump’s entry in the race. Since his vainglorious announcement Trump has received more free media attention than the combined war chests of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush could ever buy, with the Democratic-friendly press eager to publicize his latest put-downs and bizarre conspiracy theories rather than Walker’s or any other Republican candidate’s record of accomplishments, and a worrisome plurality of Republicans has apparently bought into the idea that schoolyard taunts and petulant facial expressions and obnoxious boastfulness are better indications of a fighting spirit than a willingness to steadfastly defy the money and mobs and rogue prosecutors of a powerful special interest. We live in a time, alas, when a substantive record of accomplishment is less important than flash.
This is nothing new, of course. At this point in the ’08 election cycle we were rooting for Rudy Giuliani, whose track record of transforming New York City from a bankrupt and crime-ridden and otherwise socialist hell-hole into a livable city seemed to fit him for an even bigger job, but his “big state strategy” of sitting out Iowa and New Hampshire and other places where New York social values don’t hold sway left him too far behind by the time the big states started voting to stay in the race. The Republicans wound up with the war hero and “maverick” image of Arizona Sen. John McCain instead. At this point in ’12 we held out hope for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another soft-spoken but rock-ribbed conservative who had somehow done a lot of good things in the blue state of Minnesota, and we wound up with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who would have made a better president than he did a presidential candidate. This time around we’re once again looking for a second choice, and remain hopeful that there are still good choices left in the game, but it seems the preference for flash over substance is worse than ever, so we’ll have to see how it plays out.
Walker made mistakes, of course, and for the remainder of the news cycle they’ll be carefully analyzed and then forgotten. One pundit blames it all on his reliance on one of those “establishment” campaign managers, which might explain his cautious performances in the two highly-related debates against his far flashier opponents, the panel of sensible people on one of our favorite talk radio shows cite his failure to emphasize his long record of fighting the good fight, and of course he should have known the rest of the media were unlikely to pay any attention to his remarkable history. One can hope that he’ll learn from these mistakes in future elections, but any good conservative will also be hoping that his next chance is in eight years when the Republicans will be up against the long history of parties failing to win a third term in the White House.
The fact that Walker has been a remarkable governor concedes the fact he’s also been an office-holder, which somehow suddenly seems a black mark on any office-seeker in a Republican nomination race, but there’s still some hope. Former high-tech executive Carly Fiorina has greatly impressed us in the debates, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also strikes us as far better than any of the Democrats. Should the Republican electorate decide that having held office isn’t a disqualification for any office seekers there’s also Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose obvious lack of timidity has annoyed the party’s congressional leadership enough to earn the establishment’s scorn and perhaps some exemption from the disgruntled base, and even Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose heresy on immigration is troubling but whose record otherwise is exemplary. There’s even a chance that such an impressive fellow as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will get some traction, and for all his squishiness we’d settle for a proven winner such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich to go up against whatever nominee the even more crazed Democrats are likely to settle on.
Reports indicate that Walker’s departure from the race was prompted by his concerns about going into debt to support the campaign operation he was forced to organize by his momentary front-runner status, which further endears him to us, and his parting speech suggests he wants to clear the way for any of the other candidates to defeat Trump, which is even more endearing. His retreat is getting at least a day’s worth of media attention that otherwise would have paid to Trump’s latest schoolyard taunt or crazy conspiracy theory, so his short-lived candidacy has at least accomplished that.

— Bud Norman

Abortion and the Second Videotape

The public relations department at Planned Parenthood is probably working overtime today, as there’s yet another undercover video of some of their top officials casually discussing over dinner and drinks at a nice restaurant the sale of organs from the fetuses are that aborted at their clinics.
The first one was bad enough that Planned Parenthood’s president felt it necessary to release a videotaped statement claiming that no one at at the organization would ever think of profiting from the sale of organs from fetuses aborted at their clinics, regardless of what that high official was chatting about in the videotape, but apologizing for the secretly recorded high official’s “tone and statements” which do no reflect the “compassion” of the abortion industry. The second one features an even higher official haggling for a price “big enough that it’s worthwhile for me,” adding that “I want a Lamborghini,” and offers to instruct her doctors to use abortion techniques that are “less crunchy” to insure the organs retain their market value, so the tone statements come across even less compassionate.
There’s a reasonable argument to be made that the fetal organs being bargained over could help further research that might save and improve lives, although they’re increasingly less persuasive as scientific methods improve, and there are reasonable ethical questions about the use of hidden cameras and sting investigations, although they never seem to be made when “60 Minutes” or some of the other old media are using such methods against industries less beloved by liberalism, and Planned Parenthood’s most steadfast supporters would no doubt be susceptible to the notion that its highest officials should be driving Lamborghinis as compensation for the good works they do, although the tone and statements involved would be seen in less entitled segments of the population as lacking in compassion, so instead there are the usual attacks on the opposition. Some of the old and new media who have bothered to pay any attention are questioning the tax-exempt status of the Center For Medical Progress, whose operatives portrayed themselves as a for-profit start-up company acquiring fetal tissue for medical researchers, and the denial and apology issued by Planned Parenthood note that their tormentors are opposed to abortion, and all of the apologists are noting how very carefully both high officials tip-toed around the federal regulations regarding the sale of fetal tissue, and of course there are allegations that the tapes have been selectively edit, but the public relations department at Planned Parenthood surely realizes that they’re on the defense, and that the tone is not helpful.
The same Internal Revenue Service officials who gave extra scrutiny to any organization with “tea party” or “liberty” or “Constitution” in its name will probably be inclined to be just as skeptical of the Center for Medical Progress, but the broader public will be more interested an organization already well-funded by taxpayer dollars trying to add a few more dollars toward that Lamborghini by selling organs from aborted fetuses. Whatever misrepresentations the Center for Medical Progress might have made about its affiliations with other anti-abortion groups never hid the fact they are also an anti-abortion group. The careful statements made by both high officials about the law sound more conspiratorial than comforting, too, and they’ve also published the entirety of the videotaped meetings as well as the edited versions to demonstrate they’ve not taken any statements out of context. The unexpurgated versions make the “tone” all the starker, with both high officials happily swilling wine and making small talk in swank restaurants as they haggle over the price of an aborted fetus. The tone is redolent of Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “The Banality of Evil,” as Planned Parenthood’s own defense and apologies frankly acknowledge, and they raise issues that the most fervent abortion rights supporters would rather not confront.
Both high officials acknowledge that Planned Parenthood would be willing to use different abortion techniques to harvest salable fetal organization, or “less crunchy” ones in the gruesomely tone-deaf terminology of one, and at this point we can ascertain whether the women who signed those consent forms that Planned Parenthood boasts of were informed of what risks those procedures might entail. There’s also the matter of whether those high Planned Parenthood officials had tip-toed carefully enough around the laws regarding the sale of fetal organs, and the unmistakeable impression that they’re trying their best. Worse yet, there’s the acknowledgement that the meaningless mass of fetal tissue they’re blithely aborting has human organs and human cellular structures and a potential for human life that the crunchier methods of abortion routinely mutilate.
The abortion issue is more complicated than that, and will continue to be debated long past the soon-to-be-released sequels to this sting operation, but Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party and the mainstream media and the rest of the abortion rights side seem to know they’ve lost this round. Longtime media star Mark Halperin tried to trip up presidential nominee and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry about his longstanding opposition to Planned Parenthood, but found himself stuttering a sort agreement when Perry asked if his interlocutor had seen the video and whether he had any problems with it. Some of the media have already noticed that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been conspicuously silent about the story, and any long-shot challengers that try to fire up the base by rushing to Planned Parenthood’s defense know they won’t be helping their chances in a general election. The ambivalent middle ground of the abortion debate know that it is at best an evil to be tolerated rather than a right and rite to be celebrated, and even those who reluctantly conclude that it must allowed would hope that the grisly business is carried on with regret and the highest regard for the law, and that is not at all the tone of either of two high Planned Parenthood officials as they sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants and haggle over the price of the organs of the fetuses their organization has recently aborted.

— Bud Norman

Romney Rides Again

The Washington press is abuzz that Mitt Romney seems poised for another run at the presidency, but we wonder how many of the people who will be voting in the Republican primaries and caucuses share the excitement.
There’s no wondering why the press is excited. The investment mogul and former Massachusetts governor and past Republican nominee adds a familiar name to to their too-early-to-read campaign reports full of little-known governors and congressional long shots, sets up an intriguing storyline about the inevitable fight for big-money donors and the party establishment’s support against a former Florida governor with the familiar last name of Bush, and otherwise serves a favorite press narrative about top hat-wearing and moustache-twirling plutocratic Republicans and their internecine battle with the tin foil hat-wearing conservative crazies. Romney will also be a legitimate contender for the nomination, given all that big-donor money and establishment support and the fact he was once palatable enough to the people who vote in Republican primaries and caucuses to become the past nominee, so there are even valid journalistic reasons for the attention being paid.
Presidential re-runs are not unprecedented, of course. In the early 1800’s Charles Pinckney was twice the candidate of the Federalist Party, losing both times, which helps explain why there is no longer a Federalist Party. Grover Cleveland won, lost, then won again for the Democrats in the late 1880s. William Jennings Bryan won the Democratic nomination three times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with his brand of prairie populism, and lost the general election in each case. Thomas Dewey was twice the Republican nominee in the ’40s and twice the loser to Franklin Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson was twice the Democratic nominee in the ’50s and twice the loser to Dwight Eisenhower. Nixon was the Republican nominee in ’60 and lost but came back “tanned, rested, and ready” to win in ’68, so unless you remember how that turned out the record isn’t entirely gloomy.
There were those polls a while back showing that Romney would have won a re-match with President Barack Obama, too, and the next batch of surveys will no doubt show that he has a lead on all the candidates whose names are being thrown in the mix. Whoever survives the early blows between Romney and Bush will have the “establishment” support to himself while a wide field of contenders are still battling for “conservative” bloc, and that does provide a plausible plot for the Romney scenario. Money and organization and professional expertise matter, as well, and Romney will have plenty of them. There’s also an argument to be made that he would be a good president, and we proudly made the argument that he would have been better than Barack Obama, and that also matters even if it won’t be a part of the press narrative.
All of that will earn Romney a look from Republicans, but we expect it will be quite skeptical. A more robustly conservative candidate running an effective national campaign could have beaten Obama at any point in the last two years, which Romney failed to do when he had the chance, and that lead you see in the next batch of polls is over a group of more conservative Republicans that have not yet announced their candidacy much less launched a campaign. Among those little-known governors and congressional long shots are some impressive candidates, and they comprise a field far more formidable than Romney faced last time around.
Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry imploded with poor campaigning after a surgery and the weight of the deals he had made on immigration to win a crucial share of the Latino vote in his home state, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was tarred by personal scandals and lobbying ties and the years of vituperation by the left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum couldn’t resist being lured into divisive social issues, former pizza magnate and future talk show host Herman Cain had a sex scandal, “tea party” favorite Rep. Michelle Bachmann dropped out early on, promising former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty dropped out for no apparent reason even earlier, and the likable and competent Romney suddenly seemed the best shot. This time he’ll face the likes of Gov. Scott Walker, who has won three elections to serve two astoundingly successful terms despite the most furious efforts of the Democratic left, Governors Rick Snyder and John Kasich of Michigan and Ohio, respectively, who have won re-election in their crucial states with the same sort of conservative policies, as well as a fully-recovered Perry who managed to demonstrate his anti-illegal immigration bona fides before leaving office, and the likes of Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul and Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz, who have shown the sort of boldness conservatives desire on economic issues and represent the polar ends of a crucial intra-party debate on foreign policy.
Any candidate that emerges from that field should be able to win the nomination. Our guess is that the Romney will win the fight with Gov. Jeb Bush for the “establishment” mantle, given that Bush has irrevocable positions on illegal immigration and that horrible “Common Core” curriculum that the federal wants to impose on local education systems that are anathema to all but the wealthiest Republicans, but the Washington press doesn’t seem to understand that “establishment” is now a most foul epithet among the people who vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. The intense scrutiny that the other contenders have already endured suggests there won’t be scandals to knock any of them out of the race, and they’ll have strong arguments to make about Obamacare and regulations and taxes and getting the government out of the way that the technocratic Romney will have trouble countering. He’s a legitimate contender, but by no means a front-runner.
We might be proved wrong, of course, in which case our only consolation is in knowing that Romney would be a better candidate than anyone the Democrats might put up.

— Bud Norman

The Conventional Wisdom and the Race Ahead

There’s a seasonal shortage of news at the moment, with the politicians at home for the holidays and the stock markets still mulling over the Black Friday sales figures and the rage of the Ferguson rioters seemingly chilled by the early winter weather, so the pundits are availing themselves of the opportunity to speculate about the next presidential election. Our powers of prophecy are limited, especially about matters two years away, but lacking a more urgent topic we will be so bold as to venture a few thoughts about the matter.
The conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton will inevitably be the Democrats’ nominee, but that was also the conventional wisdom at this early point in the ’08 election cycle and we all know how that turned out. According to the prevailing theory Clinton has all the name recognition, organization, and money, and no one in her party has the resources to challenge her, but all of that was also true in ’08. We are suspicious of conventional wisdom and prevailing theories in every case, but especially so about Clinton’s inevitability.
Since ’08 Clinton has added a four-year stint as Secretary of State to her lengthy resume, but even the State Department’s well-paid spokeswomen have trouble naming anything good that came of it while her critics can point to the “reset” with Russia and the failure to provide adequate security to the diplomatic staff in Benghazi and the scapegoating of a filmmaker in the aftermath among a number of very bad things came of it. The rest of that lengthy resume looks even less impressive than it did ’08, too. Her legal career was mostly known for her ability to parlay her husband’s more well-heeled constituents into clients until an audio recording surfaced of her chortling about the child rapist she had ruthlessly defended despite being convinced of his guilt, intermittent publicity tours by Monica Lewinsky will continue to remind a scandal-weary public that her time as First Lady was mostly spent defending her husband’s serial adulteries when she wasn’t firing White House travel agents for her friends’ benefit or attempting to foist some crazy health care scheme on the public, and at this point no one can remember anything from her brief time in the Senate except for some very harsh-sounding orating against a George W. Bush administration that will also be largely forgotten by the time ’16 rolls around. Her more recent career as a memoirist has proved equally disastrous, with countless gaffes and some surprisingly negative press accompanying her publicity efforts. In ’16 she’ll be eight years older than she was when the Democrats rejected her in ’08, and no more appealing.
The conventional wisdom further holds that this time around there are no challengers to Clinton who have the necessary credentials to be president, but this overlooks the fact that last time around the Democrats preferred a candidate with no qualifications for the job whatsoever. That “weak bench” all the pundits seem to mention is filled with equally unqualified potential challengers, which means that none of them will have less to explain on their shorter resumes, and any of them could at least claim to be a fresher face. One shudders think that a Saul Alinsky groupie such as Clinton is insufficiently liberal for the primary voters and caucus-goers of the Democratic Party, but her lucrative ties to big business and reputation for high living leaves her vulnerable to a challenge from a further left that is consumed with anti-corporate sentiment and obsessed with income inequality. Many of our liberal friends are already enthused by the possibility of nominating Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the fake Indian who will have been in the Senate for as long as the last Democratic nominee had been and is best known for delivering a ridiculous speech arguing that because government builds roads and hires cops businesses should be obliged to pay for any cockamamie idea the government comes up with.
Over on the Republican side, the conventional wisdom holds that the Republicans have a deep bench but no front-runner. Such mixed sports metaphors leave us unsure if this is a good thing or not, but we think it means Republicans are in better shape than the other team. The deep bench part strikes us as true enough, as the possible candidates include such a diverse lot as Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, as well as Rep. Paul Ryan as well as several past and present governors such as Texas’ Rick Perry, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Ohio’s John Kasich, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Florida’s Jeb Bush, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Throw in pediatric neurosurgeon and non-politician Ben Carson and other a few dark horses who are bound to emerge, and it’s a very competitive field. If none are thought to be inevitable, that only suggests there is much to choose from.
The conventional wisdom is partial to one of the Senators or Christie or Bush, but that’s because the conventional wisdom always puts too much stock in name recognition, organization, and money. Cruz is beloved by conservatives for his willingness to employ all the constitutional means at his disposal on behalf of his stands, but those same tactics will make him easily caricatured as an out-of-control right winger. Paul is too much an isolationist for a party that hasn’t been isolationist since Eisenhower. Rubio has hurt himself with a soft-on-illegal immigration policy. Ryan was was Mitt Romney’s running mate and has since been perceived as too willing to make deals. All are unavoidably associated with Washington, which is currently regarded unfavorably by both parties as well as independents, and even the Republicans inclined to favor gridlock can argue that no one in Congress has made it gridlocked quite enough. The conventional wisdom’s infatuation with Christie and Bush is downright fanciful, as both have stacked out important positions that are anathema to the typical Republican primary voter. Christie’s suspicious bridge closings and infuriating embrace of President Barack Obama are enough to remove him from his contention, but he’s also shown a soft-on-Islamism streak and has views on gun control and immigration that are too northeastern for a party dominated by the south, middle-west, and west. Bush has also ruined his chances with his sentimental views on illegal immigration, and his outspoken support for a ridiculous Common Core that would federalize school curricula is another problem, and at this point the party faithful seem to have had enough of Bushes or any other dynastic line of politicians.
Our guess is that one of the other governors will likely wind up with the nomination. Several have impressive records of balancing budgets and promoting economic growth and not bossing their citizens around, all of which will have more appeal to the average voter than any Democrat’s promise to equalize incomes and enforce proper attitudes regarding homosexuality or whatever the civil rights cause of the moment might be, and several have made this case in states usually inclined to vote for Democratic presidential nominees. All have faced ferocious opposition from the public sector unions and legal establishments and press in their home states, so any debilitating scandals they might have should be well known by now. We’re most intrigued by Walker, who has won election and staved off a recall effort and then won re-election in a traditionally liberal state despite the best efforts of well-funded and ruthless enemies, and somehow retained a reputation for being polite.
The same conventional wisdom that admires Christie’s confrontational style regards Walker politeness as bland, even if Walker has proved himself adept at the most bare-knuckle sort of political combat, but we think the public might be inclined to appreciate a more low-key and accomplished candidate after eight years of soaring rhetoric and crashing results. Although we forget the title, we recall a novel that featured a political consultant character saying that the only campaign themes that had ever been invented were “bright shiny day” and “back to basics,” and after two terms of bright shiny days the Republicans could do well with the alternative. The Republicans face daunting demographic challenges and a stubborn presidential electoral map and the usual disadvantage in the mass media, as even the conventional wisdom can see, but with their deep bench and the opposition’s flawed front-runner they might have a fighting chance.

— Bud Norman

A Good Day, All in All

There was a lot of good news on Tuesday. Republicans won control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House of Representatives, reelected a few governors who will now be formidable presidential candidates, and the drubbed Democrats are blaming their already unpopular president. Still, our reaction is a sense of relief rather than elation.
That unpopular president will remain in office for another two years to create all sorts of domestic havoc with his pen and phone and penchant for ignoring constitutional restraints, he’ll still have plenty of legitimate authority to continue his disastrous foreign policy, and the best one can hope for from the newly Republican Congress is that they’ll limit the damage. Although the president was brusquely rebuffed by the electorate that will likely make him all the more defiant of public opinion, and the election results cannot be seen as a widespread public embrace of any Republican principles rather a much-needed obstructionism. Several races were saved by a temporary truce between the warring factions of the Republican party, a welcome development, but the divisions remain and the elections will likely bolster the less conservative side. Such godawful Democrats as Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall survived the night, too, and such sizable states as New York and California remain lost causes.
Our reflexive Republican gloominess notwithstanding, however, there really was a lot of good news. The sound of “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid” is soothing to our ears, and a more conservative and assertive House majority might well prod its Senate colleagues into a more confrontational stance. The surviving Democrats won’t feel any further obligation to rally around a lame duck president who did little to offer them help and often seemed intent on sabotaging their campaigns, and whatever mischief the president might attempt on his own is going to be a good issue for the Republicans to run on in the next presidential race should the country survive to that late date. That nonsense about a “Republican war on women” fell so flat it probably won’t be revived any time soon, shameful efforts to increase black turnout with talk of Republicans gunning down innocent black children in the streets didn’t prevent their candidates from losing in Georgia and North Carolina and other southern states, and even great gobs of money from labor unions and fashionably liberal billionaires and gullible unemployed hipsters living in their parents’ basements under a fading “Hope and Change” poster couldn’t buy a win in the most hotly contested races.
Some pretty impressive politicians also stepped into the spotlight, too. We’re expecting good things from Senator-elect Joni Ernst in Iowa and Representative-elect Elise Stefanik in New York and Utah’s Representative-elect Mia Love, among others who won their first races, and we can also hope that their hard-earned wins put a final nail in the coffin of that “war on women” nonsense. Gov. Scott Walker’s comfortable margin of victory in Wisconsin, which was his third win in four years after a brutal recall effort two years ago, and came despite the more bare-knuckle sort of tactics by the pubic sector unions he had bravely challenge, sets him up nicely for a presidential run that we would be inclined to support. Wins by the similarly successful governors Rick Perry of Texas, John Kasich of Ohio, and Rick Snyder of Michigan indicate that the party will have a strong field of candidates outside of Washington, D.C., to choose from. Almost as satisfying was that such odious Democrats as Texas gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis and incumbent Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and Wisconsin gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke not only lost but wound up as laughingstocks in the process.
Things worked out well here in Kansas, as well, although it was too close for the comfort to which we have become accustomed. Gov. Sam Brownback had to sweat out a tight race, having annoyed the teachers’ unions and the Republicans who had been nicked by his budget-cutting and the hard-core Democrats who for some reason seethe with a red-hot hatred for every curly hair on his head, but he won despite the further disadvantage of not being able to tie a gubernatorial candidate to that unpopular president. We know Brownback to be a good man, but we’re mainly glad that the Democrats won’t be able to claim that his tax-and-budget-cutting policies had been repudiated.  In a race without an admitted Democrat, Sen. Pat Roberts won by a more comfortable margin, although not nearly what a Republican incumbent should expect in this state.  We attribute the victory mainly to that unpopular president and the putatively independent opponent’s inability to avoid an association with him, but also to the endorsements of such locally beloved conservative icons as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been at the forefront of a national effort to restrict voting to eligible voters, survived an challenge that had been well-funded from donors around the nation who seek make voter fraud easier. All the Republican congressional incumbents won handily, including the First District’s Tim Huelskamp, whose conservative fervency had so annoyed his own party’s leadership that he was stripped of important committee assignments and was at one point thought vulnerable. Our favorite Sedgwick County Commissioner won, too, despite the reservation of the Republicans with a business interest in county politics and the Democrats’ lavish backing of an heiress to a local black political dynasty.

All the state and local races were close enough that the Democrats around here had great expectations, so it was also nice to see their hopes dashed yet again. Tuesday might not prevent another desultory couples of years, but it did provide some compensatory satisfactions.

— Bud Norman

Making Conservatism a Crime

That grand jury indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is outrageous, dangerous, and unsurprising. Such blatant abuses of the judicial process are by now an all too familiar tactic of the Democratic party.

Similarly heavy-handed legal actions have been employed with varying degrees of success against former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, who was forced to resign his post as House Majority leader during a years-long process of clearing his name,  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose prosecutorial investigators never came up with anything but allowed the media to report that he was being investigated by prosecutors, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who might or might not have had anything to do with a bridge closing that did actually occur but is getting far more media scrutiny thnt the Democratic governor suspected of equally appalling behavior over in neighboring New York. There’s a former Attorney General here in Kansas who is still trying to get his law license back after offending the state’s legal establishment with his anti-abortion stances, some past political opponents of the president who had their ballot eligibility questioned or their divorce records unsealed, a prominent conservative writer is being sued by a mad climate scientist, and we expect there are many more we haven’t heard of.
Each of them should feel honored, as such brusque treatment is usually reserved for politicians the Democratic Party regards as threatening, but we can well understand their outrage. Being subjected to the vicissitudes of the court for one’s political opinions is the sort of thing that was widely decried back in the bad old days of McCarthysim, and they’re entitled to wonder why they aren’t afford the same sympathy that Hollywood and bon pensant opinion routinely bestows on those old screenwriting commies who were dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee. That the legal tactics are often far more effective than the blacklist ever was in keeping the movies all-American must be all the frustrating, but in Perry’s case there’s some hope for an old-fashioned happy ending.
The Perry indictment is a result of the night that the Travis County District Attorney got rip-roaring drunk and was arrested for driving while intoxicated on her way home. A dashboard camera in the arresting officer’s vehicle showed that she was staggering and surly during the arrests, tests showed she had twice the legal blood alcohol contest allowed by law, and videos that became a YouTube sensation show she was abusive to the officers and attempted to use her political position during her booking. Like many other Texans, Perry thought this was conduct unbecoming the official in charge of enforcing the laws of a Texas county and demanded her resignation. As governor, Perry also threatened to exercise his constitutionally granted right to veto funding for her “Office of Public Integrity” unit if she didn’t resign, and he eventually made good on that threat. The subsequent Travis County District Attorney has now convinced a grand jury that this amounts to threatening and coercing a public official, both felony charges that entail lengthy prison sentences, and Perry is now officially indicted for the purposes of any headline writers who want to smear him and is obligated to defend in his innocence in a years-long series of appellate state and probably federal courts. This will probably play according to the Democratic script in Travis County, which is mostly Austin, which is mostly state bureaucrats and a typically progressive university and some high-tech yuppies and God only knows how many tattooed hippie freaks, and is the same Democratic bastion in that otherwise Republican state that started the ordeal of Tom DeLay, but it’s unlikely to have the same appeal in the rest of Texas or the rest of the country.
Those YouTube videos are well worth watching, as they’re the best drunken comedy since the heyday of the late Foster Brooks, and anyone familiar with the story will surely concur with Perry that the star did not deserve public funding to enforce the integrity of her fellow public officials. After so many years of Republican governors the state court system probably has enough sensible judges to ultimately conclude that it is quite legal for a governor issue a veto on such grounds, too, and Perry will prevail in both the court of public opinion and the actual court. In so doing he might he even draw the public’s attention and even its scorn on the under-handed tactic of making conservatism a crime. Already some of the more principled liberals are fretting about where this might lead if conservatives should ever decide to take up the game, and we expect even those uninformed types who are spooked by the word “indictment” in a headline will eventually grow wise.

— Bud Norman

Don’t Mess With Texas

Unaccustomed as we are to rooting for Texas, we’re obliged to raise a toast to the Lone Star State’s Gov. Rick Perry for his decision to send a thousand state militia troops to secure his portion of the nation’s southern border. The troops have no legal authority to arrest or deport anyone and are therefore unlikely to do anything meaningful about the recent invasion of unaccompanied illegal minors into the country, but we like the gesture nonetheless.
At the very least Perry’s gesture keeps the border crisis in the news, and at a time when the implosion of America’s recent foreign recent policy in Gaza and Ukraine and other usually overlooked lands is dominating the headlines. A few hundred thousand invaders are easily ignored by the media, even when they’re underaged and stacked up in makeshift detention centers or being expensively unloaded on a school district and law enforcement community near you, so anything that forces the necessary public attention is welcome.
Those who peruse past the headline about the story will also note that Gov. Perry is taking a more steadfast stand against the the invasion than the current presidential administration, and that should also have a salutary effect on American public opinion. The current presidential administration has been talking tough about sending the invaders back home, just as it has been talking tough about Russia’s misdeeds in the Ukraine and Israel’s right to be doing damage in Gaza, but in each case the insincerity is by now apparent. Gov. Perry is on tenuous legal ground with even his purely symbolic gesture, given the Supreme Court’s inexplicable decision that states have no right to enforce any immigration laws that the federal government declines to enforce, but perhaps the casual reader of the obligatory news stories will wonder how this bizarre situation came to be.
If the gesture is intended only to bolster Gov. Perry’s standing in the ’16 presidential race that is also fine by us. All the pundits like to believe that his aspirations in ’12 were derailed by a brief brain freeze following major surgery during one of those interminable Republican primary debates, but the bigger problem was his past support for in-state tuition for the “dreamers” who had been snuck into the country by their invading parents, and to whatever extent the gesture is intended as penance we accept it gratefully. Aside from those few seconds of stammering during that long-forgotten primary debate Gov. Perry has done a pretty good job of not screwing up his state’s remarkable record of economic expansion while the rest of the non-fracking country has been stuck in neutral, and he warrants consideration as a replacement to the current presidential administration.

— Bud Norman