One thing I have learned from Thomas Sowell over the years is that it is the LEFT that obsesses over the alleged motives of a policy rather than its efficacy. The thing my conservative friends miss with the childish obsession about Obama’s this-and-that is that fundamentally the policies are all that matter. Sincere and deep love for country followed by idiotic policies is not to be commended any more than a goofball agenda followed by idiotic policies is (case in point: Pat Buchannan). All the talk of Obama as a Marxist Muslim colonialist Kenyan freak can be true or false, or WORSE, he could just be a Harvard Law grad (the scariest thing in this country). But it all doesn’t mean squat beyond “what is he proposing for this country and will it work?”. His policy prescriptions are across the board demonstrably wrong. So just focus on that, and the results will be meaningful.
I subscribe to the ecclesiastical wisdom that “there is nothing new under the sun”, which is a different way of saying that whenever someone says that all of a sudden something is totally different than it has ever been before, it probably isn’t. It would have been hard to sit back over the last ten years and deny that the American electorate, largely for understandable reasons, was “war-fatigued”. And so it should be – war is a fatiguing thing, particularly with all the baggage and controversy associated with the two that were being prosecuted over the last ten years. Political calculus understandably has leaned towards the notion that “he (or she) who runs most in the lane of foreign policy dovishness has the best chance to win”. On its face, reasonable and logical.
Something strange has happened going into the 2016 Presidential season, and that is the time-tested wisdom of not believing that “this time it’s different”. Indeed, Americans have ALWAYS been repelled by war right after fighting one, and they have ALWAYS dialed up their hawkishness when forced to. In a perfect world, would this sort of cyclicality to mood and sentiment level out and not fluctuate as it does? I have no answer to that question, because in a perfect world there wouldn’t even be the need for vigilant national defense. But alas, there is, and I would argue that we are going to see the real American DNA on these very challenging issues resurface in a big way entering 2016.
There has not been a time since 9/11 that I have doubted America’s commitment towards a strong national defense IF another attack were to take place on America’s homeland. Thankfully, and the Patriot Act is probably the single biggest reason for this, no such attack has happened in the 13.5 years since 9/11. I pray for a continuation of such protection, but I am not optimistic. The enemy is committed, and the opportunities simply vast. However, I am both detecting and forecasting a changing of the guard in the political winds right now – a trend that will agitate the Blame America First crowd, the radical isolationist crowd, and the “if we just leave them alone I have to think they will leave us alone” crowd. Those three different crowds have a lot of overlap at points, and there is certainly a spectrum of both moral clarity and intellectual capability amongst the respective groups, but at the end of the day, I think the “peak” for this group’s popular appeal has come and gone. A more enlightened (but not new) perspective is resurfacing just in time for the 2016 election.
Part of this post is mere political handicapping, but part of it is also intense prescription. A poorly prosecuted Iraq war is not the foreign policy zenith, and neither is thoughtless intervention. On that, nearly all Americans agree. But the worldview that denies we are under attack by a radical group of Islamofascist madmen (not a small group, but a massive one) is the worldview that has no traction whatsoever in the lexicon of reasonable grown-ups. The present administration’s efforts to parse words have repulsed the American people who have eyes, have ears, and frankly, don’t buy what they have been sold. From the recent shootings in France to the frequent flow of ISIS beheadings, the idea that Al Qaida has been neutralized, or that the enemy is on equal moral ground to the Americans, has been debunked (and more so, serves as a source of ire to most reasonable people). The political legs to Bush administration inadequacies and exhaustion with foreign “interventions” has run its course. What we face now is rather vanilla.
And it is now that I put aside the politics and polling and mood discussion, and just focus on the vanilla reality we face. American people ought not have any tolerance for refusing to name and claim the enemy we face. They ought not live in denial about the vigilance necessary to exterminate this threat. And they ought not deny the sustainability and longevity of the ISIS threat (and other bacterial spawns of ISIS) if it is not exterminated. The capability necessary to launch a significant attack on American soil is not a hard one to come by., We have been protected by a handful of factors so far which are by no means surefire or foolproof. The great and legitimate task of federal government is to protect citizens from psychopathic movements like ISIS etc. There should be no fluctuation in this objective.
And this brings me to 2016. A hawkish and childish foreign policy looking to get in a gun fight with anyone who looks at us funny is not going to resonate with the American people, but the utter incompetence of a Secretary of State who proclaimed Putin in a reset mode, Assad of Syria a good guy, and fumbled so badly in Libya, Iraq, and Iran is not the 3am phone call TV commercial stuff you dream about. The Ron Paul wing of the right will have to keep their foreign policy wingnutness hidden, as it is now a liability, not an asset. The need is for a sensible, mature, proficient candidate to speak to the threat we face with moral clarity, and understand the 21st century realities of how the threat is growing (which is to say, understands the homegrown domestic threat of radicalization taking place with select American-born sociopaths). There will always be a Michael Moore extreme on the left and a Ron Paul extreme on the right (if that is where you want to locate it), but the vast majority of Americans will enter 2016 fully aware that the Obama administration is delusional or deceptive if they claim the war is over. We are in a war that we did not start. The winning candidate in 2016 needs to be someone prepared to take the necessary steps to end it.
One of my life mentors and good friends, Larry Kudlow, invited my wife and I to join him and a small group of folks here in New York City last evening for a small roundtable with Gov. Rick Perry. Larry along with pro-growth champions Steve Forbes and Stephen Moore are launching a Committee on Growth and Prosperity in the same vein as the dearly missed Jeane Kirkpatrick’s Committee on the Present Danger which proved so valuable in assessing the cold war for what it was decades ago. The idea behind this dinner last night was to put a few pro-growth proponents at the dinner table with Gov. Perry and have an open discussion about his economic message.
I have been commenting and noting for at least a couple years now that Governor Perry is an entirely different person from the one the country got briefly introduced to in the 2012 campaign. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the end of the day Perry is a tremendous communicator and has a deeper command on issues than most politicians you will get to meet in your life. He has embarked upon a tour of sorts between CNBC, Fox News, the Sunday morning talk shows, etc. where his ideological bona fides and his intellectual gravitas are clearly on display. Americans love a comeback story. As far as I am concerned, he is as viable as anyone.
Speaking of which, I do believe it is safe to frame the Republican 2016 field as follows: (1) The group of three solid men who will unfairly be branded moderates, and would prove unable to build the necessary coalition to win (Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie); (2) The group of two men who have plenty of good to say (one more than the other), but would never build coalitions outside of their own base (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul); and then (3) The group of four or five solid conservatives who both possess the needed leadership traits to govern the country and the capability to build coalitions within their own base and outside of it (in this group I include Rick Perry, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and potentially Mike Pence). Anyone of those names from group #3 I see as viable. Anyone in groups 1 or 2 I do not. Moving on.
Gov. Perry can let much of his track record speak for itself. From 2009-2012 Texas created more net new jobs than 49 other states combined. The only problem with that stat is I don’t know how many people will even believe it; it is just overwhelming (but true) on its face. Because the Governor and I share a deep appreciation for the shale revolution, it is deeply satisfying to hear the real life accolades of what their natural gas accomplishments have meant to the state as well (23% reduction in ozone levels, 62% reduction in nitrogen oxide levels, dramatic % drop in their carbon footprint, etc.). Readers are free to have their own opinions on what environmental feats are and are not important to them, but the facts should still be presented as they are. At the end of the day, Governor Perry served 14 years in the Governor’s mansion and did not merely oversee a renaissance in the energy industry of Texas (though he certainly did that too). Texas is now the largest exporter of high tech product in the country. The economy of Texas as seen massive diversification over the last 10-12 years, so much so that despite the explosion of the oil and gas business behind the shale revolution, the energy sector is a lower percentage of Texas GDP than when the Governor took office. Companies from Toyota to Apple to Oracle to Facebook to Ebay to a plethora of pharmaceutical companies and even food businesses have planted a flag in Texas in recent years, taking advantage of the state’s extraordinary friendliness around tax and regulation for businesses. A friendly business climate is a friendly jobs climate, and the result has been the magical word guys like Kudlow and Moore care so much about: Growth. The beauty of growth is that it transcends class warfare, and lifts all boats. The 1% is not a phrase used in Texas, because the 100% have enjoyed the fruits of economic growth in Texas. So much of this can be a model to the entire country.
A lot of our dialogue last night is not for mass distribution, but I will say that he is going to need to better polish his delivery on the crucial issue of immigration. I am firmly in the Governor’s camp on the policy side of the issue, but I am not convinced that a mere focus on securing the border will be enough to pacify the far right fringe on this issue (where someone like Laura Ingraham can get away with saying that we should be going door to door finding illegals to deport). Perry has the right policy prescription (secure borders and a guest worker program) and it surely will be the right message in a a general election (Perry always won a minimum of 40%+ Hispanics in his three gubernatorial races), but I am not sure the primary message where candidates will be vying to carve out the silliest message possible on this pivotal human and economic message has been fully developed yet.
What I am sure of is this: Picking a primary horse this early has not been a good strategy for quite some time as those with a Hillary 2008 sticker can attest. Perry will need early good luck to get in the top five of candidates once this thing gets underway. He is a solid fundraiser and a compelling candidate. If he can break into that top five, I am convinced he can become a serious contender in the primary. And I will close with this: Should he survive what I expect will be a grueling primary, and end up in a one-on-one race with Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt in my mind that the great feats of the Texas Governor’s mansion over the last 14 years will be coming to The White House.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a compelling piece yesterday entitled Romney Recycled in which it laid out all the reasons a third Romney campaign may not be a very good idea. It was not stating that Romney would be a bad President; it was making the case that Romney would be a bad candidate. I believe most objective followers of the political world would be forced to agree with its conclusions.
I believe the country made a mistake of incalculable proportions when it elected Barack Obama to a second term over Mitt Romney in 2012. I further believe despite the rather unfounded and dubious thinking of many of my conservative brethren that he would have been a great, not just good, President. The context of my sentiments in this article are not driven by a dislike of Mitt Romney the man, whom I hold in very high regard as a family man and businessman, or a belief that he would be a weak-kneed middle-of-the-road, unprincipled moderate of a President. I don’t believe he would have been. But it is a waste of energy to make the case for what it is both an unprovable thesis and a non-falsifiable one now. He was not elected, and besides, I’ve learned that there is a brand of folks on the right (some well-meaning, many not) for whom logic and reasoned discourse are as foreign as maybe Hayek and Kirk would be for Gov. Romney.
So with that backdrop I do still feel the need to echo what the WSJ laid out yesterday. I simply do not believe an additional effort by Gov. Romney will end well. And I believe that for no other reason than his flaws as a candidate, not fears of flaws as an actual President.
It is important to note that Gov. Romney essentially has a 20% LIFETIME success rate in elections. His 1994 loss to Ted Kennedy for Senate is rather forgivable. His 2002 gubernatorial win is the only reason any of us have heard of Mitt Romney, and that was about as fertile of a year for Republican candidates as 2014 was. But Romney chose not to run for re-election in 2006 because he was going to lose by 20 points. That is incontestable. And then we know about his 2008 and 2012 Presidential losses. I realize most people elected President have at one time or another in their political careers suffered a painful loss (Bill Clinton had one, Reagan had a couple, Nixon obviously had a couple, etc.), but in those high profile cases a loss (or two) is up against a plethora of wins that far outweigh the losses. A candidate who has only won one race he has ever been in has a big hurdle to get over in defending their viability as a candidate. It is not unfair for an objective political enthusiast, one who actually likes Romney as I do, to simply point out that maybe, just maybe, there is some reason this candidate struggles to close the deal with voters.
But a past win-loss record of 1-4 notwithstanding, there is a more fundamental reason I believe Gov. Romney would be wise to re-think this decision. The GOP faces a race in 2016 that one way or the other is going to delve into issues of class. The far left and neo-Marxian wing of the democratic party led by gifted orators but Che Guevara type ideologues like Elizabeth Warren are going to make this a more populist election than we have seen in our country’s history. The Dems will have a problem of their own to deal with in that because they will nominate the uber-wealthy and hyper-elitist Hilary Clinton as their nominee. It does not matter that Romney and the right have the far superior solutions for dealing with issues on class, poverty, education, and economic growth, and it certainly doesn’t matter that Elizabeth Warren and her ilk have absolutely nothing new to offer on the subject (eliminating ATM card fees is not a profound policy objective in case you were wondering, and further steepening the disgusting progressive tax code is not exactly new school thinking). This is politics, and for the GOP to nominate their wealthiest candidate is a bad idea – even a candidate who loves his family, and who has been beyond generous with his hard-earned wealth. Romney (or his 2012 handlers) allowed himself to be branded as a daddy warbucks Gordon Gecko symbol in the last race. It was wrong. It was unfair. But he will not be able to shake it. And that brings me to my final point.
It isn’t necessary this time around. The 2012 field was a walking Saturday Night Live skit. The idea that Herman Cain or Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum were ever going to be elected President is so silly it is embarrassing to think about as a devoted conservative enthusiast. Romney was a flawed candidate (for a handful of reasons) but clearly had the most gravitas and compelling case to make. And he couldn’t close. A lot of mistakes were made by his team, but he couldn’t close. In 2016, if it were a matter of Romney, Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz running, yes, I would think Mitt Romney want to consider entering the race. If it were just Chris Christie in the field, yes, I would hope Mitt Romney would consider running. Rand Paul is not going to be your President and if you don’t know that yet you soon will. Neither is Ted Cruz, though I believe that is because of mistakes Ted willingly made, not because of an intrinsic flaw or ideological kookiness. Christie is really, really not going to be your President. I’ll save character spaces in defending that assertion. However, a field with Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Mike Pence does not need the oft-failed candidate with the best name recognition to come in and save the day. We will see what happens with Jeb Bush. My own guess is that, as a candidate, he faces a lot of the same problems Mitt Romney would face with an even worse last name (though like Romney, I believe Jeb would actually make a fine President, imperfect as he may be). But Walker, Perry, Rubio, Jindal, Kasich, Pence is a field that does not need Romney to find someone outside the fringe of conspiracy lunacy (Paul), with inadequate credentials and gravitas (Bachman, Cain). Whether we like it or not, we need a real Republican who has not isolated his coalition to a narrow group that lacks the ability to win an election. The men I have identified all of strong points and maybe some flaws, but it is an exponentially better field than it was in 2012. Period.
I want Mitt Romney to play a role in American politics for the rest of his life. I want him to enjoy his beautiful family, and enjoy the fruits of his labors. If this thing shakes out in such a way that he ends up one-on-one with Hillary Clinton, he will have my support. But I echo the WSJ yesterday, that I simply believe the third time will not be a charm if he goes down this path.
I have rarely looked forward to a movie release more than I did Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Zamperini is a hero, a national treasure, and happens to share two things near and dear to my heart: A faith in the one, true God, and the fight on spirit that is the heart of Troy (yes, in that order). He was from the same city I was born in (Torrance, California). The story of an Olympic medal winning track star who became a World War II fighter pilot who survived 47 days stranded on a lifeboat at sea before being taken as a prisoner-of-war by the Japanese army and ultimately freed is a pretty remarkable story. Angelina sort of told that part (let’s give her 20 minutes for narrative and two hours for blood lust torture porn). She got about 5-10 minutes in of his childhood and family life. And then the movie ended. Having spent 75 minutes more than she needed to on Japanese torture, she had to roll the credits. She managed to skip over 70 years of his life, like the years where he dived into abusive alcoholism, severe PTSD, and then went to a Billy Graham crusade, accepted the Lord, went back the next night, and devoted the next 65+ years of his life to a sober service to God. Louie believed in good and evil, and he spent his life seeking the former.
Jolie was given the blessing of making a movie based on a phenomenal book, about a phenomenal person. Jolie doesn’t believe Louie’s faith is relevant to this story, so she broke it out of the movie. She stuck to her dumbed-down Hollywood vomit about generic love, peace, and harmony rooted in the goodness of man blah blah blah. It was ideologically childish, creatively irresponsible, and cinematically insulting. She broke the story of a man who couldn’t be broken, and in the transcendental truths of life found redemption. If you can’t make a movie about THAT, you shouldn’t be making movies.