2015 is a year for second chances
Americans are a forgiving lot, a country of second chances. Many public figures have gotten second and third chances to get elected, recover from a scandal or refurbish their public image. In 2015, there will be some opportunities for those who have fallen short before, some in spectacular fashion.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who concocted a weak argument to save Obamacare from being struck down on constitutional grounds, gets his judicial do-over this year. On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, in which challengers assert that the statute allows subsidies to be given out only in state-run exchanges. The case is a cleaner, easier matter of legislative interpretation that could restore Roberts’s reputation as a straight-shooter, rather than an amateur politician trying to keep the court in the public’s good graces.
Senate Republicans get a second chance to govern. Incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell recently told the New York Times, “The Senate basically didn’t do squat for years. I don’t think most members of the Senate wanted it run that way.” He is going to re-empower committees, bring legislation to the floor without “filling the tree” (i.e. allow, if need be, hundreds of amendments) and let members exhaust themselves with votes until they settle down to forge deals. (“It will more chaotic, there will probably be later nights. The goal is to let the Senate express its views.”) If he succeeds and if backbenchers in the GOP can contain themselves, real progress could be made on energy, education, defense spending and even tax reform.
Senate Democrats get another chance to stand up to the president, reassert control over Iran policy, block a bad deal and up the ante on sanctions. For six years, they have talked a good game about Israel and foreign policy in general but never really confronted the president on policies they know to be deeply misguided. Now they can provide more than lip service in the critical task of preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.
Hillary Clinton gets her second crack at the presidency. Her preseason book tour was a semi-disaster, and she has yet to present a rationale (other than “I’m Hillary!“) for her potential campaign. Her association with a failed foreign policy (she recently has backed the president on his half-baked strategy against the Islamic State, his ill-advised policy toward Iran and his unconditional restoration of relations with Cuba) and her ties with Wall Street present hurdles, to be sure. Republicans, however, had better come up with a plausible alternative and an agenda that appeals broadly to working-class Americans.
On the GOP side, Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets the mother of second chances, the opportunity to redeem himself after the 2012 run. He knows the margin for error will be tiny, but he is preparing rigorously, traveling widely and sounding impressive on a range of issues. Be it on his state’s economic record, on sending troops to the border or on navigating through the Ebola crisis, Perry has powerful examples of executive leadership. Like his favorite Dallas Cowboys, however, he will need to execute and exceed expectations to have any chance at rising to the top of the pack.
House Republicans have another shot at getting immigration reform right. Pass a border security bill. Pass a bill for E-Verify. Pass another one for tracking down people who overstay their visas. Pass another to expand H-1B visas and allow foreign students with academic credentials to remain in the United States. And then, House Republicans can set a timeline for addressing those here illegally. Doing nothing means the president has the final say on unilateral deferred deportation. Republicans can solve a key issue, reassert Congress’s role in legislating and make a powerful argument that they can govern from the center-right. It also might help sustain economic growth and boost revenue, as the Congressional Budget Office determined would be the case with the Senate’s immigration bill.
In many ways, 2015 may turn out to be a year in which those who have come up short before get a rare second chance at success. We will be watching to see who can make the most of it.
Merry Christmas open thread
A very Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating.
We will be back on Monday, Dec. 29. Until then, enjoy the holiday and chat among yourselves.
Jeb Bush’s real hurdles
Right-wing talk radio hosts, pro-government shutdown blogs and the mainstream media (which assume the first two are representative of the right) assume that Jeb Bush’s problem in his presidential quest will be that he is insufficiently conservative. They might want to check with reporters and other Democrats who remember his governorship or actually read his book on immigration reform, which holds the line at conditional legalization (not citizenship) for those here illegally.
Nor will his biggest problem be competition for the dollars and support of big donors and mainstream Republicans. A Bush confidant confirms to Right Turn the press reports that supporters of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have been reaching out to Bush since his announcement. Unless Bush falters, the lion’s share of the money and support we saw in 2014 go to GOP mainstream Senate candidates (opposed by flaky tea-party types) is likely to go to Bush.
Bush does have two challenges (at least) in winning the nomination. First, even those sympathetic to his cause worry whether he is aggressive enough and his organization nimble enough to operate in the 24/7 news and social media universe. Skeptics are quick to point out that Bush has not run for office in 10 years and that the media and political rhetoric are much more intense and negative than ever before. Moreover, in his stated intention to be “joyful” and not to get sucked into a negative campaign, he raises the question as to whether he will be tough enough and whether his campaign will be fierce enough in responding to attacks.
Bush supporters point to his personal adeptness at social media, noting that even his announcement was done via Facebook. He is no Luddite when it comes to technology and travels regularly to Silicon Valley and speaks to innovators and start-up founders. The challenge will be to take that knowledge and build a sophisticated campaign operation. As for his toughness, longtime aides and colleagues say his steeliness should not be underestimated.
The bottom line is that Bush, like every other candidate, must execute at a high level, construct a campaign well-suited to the times and keep control of his own message and identity. With the exception of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, none of the likely Republican contenders will have run for president before, so it will be an eye-opener for most of his competitors. And in that regard, Bush’s experience and inside knowledge of his father’s and brother’s campaigns may be an unappreciated asset.
The second challenge Bush faces is whether he is best matched up against the expected Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Don’t the Republicans want someone newer, younger, with no prior White House connection to present a contrast to Clinton? There are many ways to create contrasts. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was the older candidate and had been on the national scene far longer than Jimmy Carter, but what he offered was something new, optimistic and compelling. The message of change doesn’t depend on the age of the messenger if it is clear and genuine. If Bush makes the race about the failed liberal welfare state vs. an era of conservative, dynamic change, there will be a vivid contrast. If he makes the race about a failed foreign policy based on leading from behind and coddling dictators vs. renewed U.S. leadership in the world, there will be a clear choice. (By contrast, a new face such as Sen. Rand Paul would be offering a foreign policy vision closer to the Obama-Clinton-Kerry era than any other GOP contender.) And if Bush contrasts incompetent and divisive governance with his own record of successful, bipartisan leadership, there will be an unmistakable difference for the voters to select.
In short, Bush’s challenges are not so much contenders with similar appeal or his own conservative bona fides, but his ability to mount a modern, presidential-caliber campaign operation and to offer a compelling message that contrasts with what Clinton could offer. Come to think of it, those are the same challenges every GOP contender will face. That’s why they have campaigns — to see who rises to the occasion and performs best.
Pols who take sides against the police pay the price
Mayor Bill de Blasio is finding out that liberal New Yorkers don’t appreciate him fanning the flames of anti-police anger. New York veteran reporter Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush report:
Just over a year after sailing into office with 72 percent of the vote on a message of transformational change, de Blasio found his mayoralty subsumed by a torrent of anger, unleashed by the murder of two police officers in Brooklyn Saturday by a troubled gunman who said he was killing “pigs” to avenge the deaths of two men by cops in Staten Island and Ferguson, Missouri. By Monday, de Blasio was lashing out at the press corps that covers him, trying to paper over public divisions with his own police commissioner and coping with what friends described as the emotional blow of facing public rejection by many in the nation’s biggest police force. “He’s pretty badly shaken” by the murders, one told us.
This is not about de Blasio’s “responsibility” for the killings of two police officers. The twisted criminal who killed them is solely to blame. (Note to liberal pundits: Now would be a good time to admit that blaming right-wing pols for shootings by young men with schizophrenia was dumb.) But in siding time and again with anti-police antagonists, de Blasio has gotten out of touch with large segments of the city:
He’s often sided with the victims of police brutality, and he recently told an interviewer that he has told Dante, his teenage mixed-race son, not to reach for a cellphone around officers because it might put him in danger as a “a young man of color.” He took the unusual step — unimaginable under the mayoralties of Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg — of inviting [the Rev. Al] Sharpton to City Hall, seating him opposite [NYPD Commissioner Bill] Bratton at a table where the activist proceeded to strongly denounce the police. (“If Dante wasn’t your son, he’d be a candidate for a chokehold. And we got to deal with that reality,” Sharpton said to de Blasio as Bratton looked on.) Last week, de Blasio privately met with organizers of the [Eric] Garner protests, another moment that antagonized police.
Pols who dabble in anti-police invective and join the mantra that “the system is rigged against you” find themselves exacerbating frayed nerves, increasing polarization and losing control of their own message. It might be politically appealing to throw red-meat rhetoric to one’s base and play to the fawning liberal punditocracy, but it comes at a price. As William Galston put it, when de Blasio brought up his son, “If he had been a private citizen, his candor would have been beyond reproach. But the question is not only whether what Mr. de Blasio said is true, but also whether it was appropriate for him to say it. As mayor of the country’s largest and most complex city, he has a responsibility to weigh the impact of his words on all New Yorkers, not just those who agree with him.”
That admonition — to think first and figure out how to calm, not increase, tensions — would seem like fundamental common sense, but the desire to play to the crowd or advance an agenda that may or may not fit the facts is too tempting for many pols. And it is not just Democrats who have behaved badly.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) thought sitting down with Sharpton was a way of showing how sincere he was in promoting minority outreach. Really — this is a legitimate figure in his eyes and a figure he wants to elevate? I imagine the vast majority of Republicans disagree. Nor was his knee-jerk reaction criticizing police and the justice system at large, suggesting racial minorities legitimately believed they were being targeted and decrying “militarization” of police, appreciated by law-and-order Republicans. (“Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”)
Lloyd Green had it right when he observed, “Paul’s flirtation with Sharpton is not just a matter of ignoring the past. Paul’s minuet is also a matter of disregarding what Republican voters are thinking in the here and now, the here and now being December 2014. The latest NBC/Marist and Pew Polls show the Republican rank and file squarely behind the police, and rightly or wrongly embracing the proposition that police treat blacks and whites alike.” The meeting with Sharpton for some Republicans is inexcusable. (“Paul breaking bread with Sharpton may be too much for Republican primary voters to watch or stomach. Unlike Barack Obama or MSNBC, the GOP hasn’t forgotten that it was Sharpton who proclaimed that Tawana [Brawley] had told the truth, or that Sharpton owes more than $4 million in back taxes.”) Nor will it help Paul with rock-ribbed Republicans that he endorsed the president’s normalization of relations with Cuba without even a message about the regime’s harboring a New Jersey state trooper’s murderer.
In times when passions run high and the public is polarized, politicians need to rise above the fray, not join the scrum. And above all they are, whether they like it or not, part of the “establishment” and are expected to support law enforcement. They are also obligated to push for needed reform and to recognize the legitimate complaints of private citizens. If that seems too difficult, and if they lack the personal skills and vocabulary to be unifying, healing leaders, they should not be in positions of authority.
Whatever happened to diamonds? “Giving your wife a high-powered rifle for Christmas might seem in conflict with two turtle doves and peace on Earth, not to mention making the gun-control crowd shudder. But gun store owners and firearm instructors say gun-happy husbands are increasingly leaving weaponry under the tree for their beloveds — rifles, handguns, ammo, pretty much anything that makes a loud pop.”
What a gem this guy is. “Rep. Michael Grimm pleaded guilty to a single count of felony tax evasion on Tuesday, setting off rampant speculation about whether the New York Republican will resign or fight to keep his job. Grimm apologized and admitted to aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns, part of a 20-count indictment federal prosecutors brought against him in April. But outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Grimm was defiant and said he had no plans to step down.”
Big donors may think they’ve struck gold with Jeb Bush. “Some potential supporters of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are already saying they will instead back Jeb Bush if he runs for president, illustrating the new challenge both men face with Bush now likely to be a 2016 candidate.”
It’s not so much the snow birds as the fortune seekers. “It’s official. Florida is the nation’s third-largest state with 19.7 million people. It surpassed New York this month by adding an average of 803 new residents every day as opposed to New York’s 140. Contrary to the stereotype, sun-seeking seniors aren’t the main drivers of Florida’s population growth. James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina, told the AP that Florida’s powerful economic engine is driving its growth: ‘I think it’s going to be for the 21st century what California or New York was for the 20th century.’ As the James Madison Institute reports, Florida’s growth is built on a consensus that taxes, spending, and regulation should be restrained. Its budget is half the size of New York State’s, it lacks a state income tax, and it is much easier to start and run a business there than in many northeastern states.”
Sometimes it is better to give than receive. But this is more like don’t cast pearls before swine: “Two new Israeli-made SodaStream machines have been shipped to Harvard’s top brass following the school’s decision to ban the product and economically boycott the Jewish state, the Washington Free Beacon has learned. Pro-Israel activists on Tuesday shipped two of the soda-making devices to Harvard President Drew Faust and dining services head David Davidson following the elite university’s decision to boycott the Israeli product due to pressure from pro-Palestinian group on campus.”
Whether it is the military or the police, we should treasure those who risk their lives for our safety. “Mayor de Blasio, along with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, have spoken in ways that have created a false and pernicious narrative, one that would lead you to believe that race was a factor in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island—and, more broadly, that (a) racism is a prominent problem in many of America’s 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States; (b) African-Americans are frequently targeted by cops because of bigotry; and (c) the main problem facing inner-city blacks is white cops. . . .It isn’t a good thing when the president of the United States, the attorney general, and the mayor of New York City grant more esteem and deference to a divisive and dishonest charlatan like Al Sharpton than they do to the police.”
The plaintiffs seem not to have struck the mother lode. “Hunters, hold your fire — the Environmental Protection Agency won’t regulate your bullets. A federal appeals court denied a lawsuit Tuesday by environmental groups that the EPA must use the Toxic Substances Control Act regulate lead used in shells and cartridges.” They seriously were going to use the EPA for gun control? Sounds like something talk radio would make up.