September 26, 2014
"Foreign policy is the one area the President does not have to rely on Congress."

Erick Erickson

I could not disagree more, Erick.

Comments like this are part of the reason I was never able to relate to modern American Conservatism as a political ideology.  The idea that the President shouldn’t need to consult Congress on foreign policy matters strikes me as a subplot of the “Strong Leader” paradigm that many Conservative opinion leaders talk about.  And this obsession with the President being a “Strong Leader” is toxic.  It is even more toxic when a “Strong Leader” is defined as a person who dictates U.S. foreign policy unilaterally.  It’s an idea that is as scary as it is incoherent from a legal standpoint.

What is strange about Erickson’s comment is that he criticized Obama elsewhere for exceeding the Constitutional limits of Executive Power.  He has railed against the Obama administration taking unilateral action under the Affordable Care Act.  But apparently Erickson has no concern about the President unilaterally sending American troops to other countries without Congressional authorization.  

It’s possible that Erickson was using “foreign policy” to refer strictly to diplomatic relations with other countries.  But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The term “foreign policy” encompasses military action.  That necessarily includes things like dropping bombs on countries the U.S. government doesn’t like.  And given that Erickson made this statement in the same paragraph that he mentions ISIS, it sure seems like he’s not just talking about diplomacy here.  To wit, here is the whole paragraph I took the above quote from:

The past six years have seen the undoing of almost seventy years of gains abroad. Foreign policy is the one area the President does not have to rely on Congress. The inter-party fighting should not matter. But China is rattling its sabers, Russia has crossed into Ukraine, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, ISIS is cutting off American heads, commercial airliners are missing in Libya, and the list goes on.

What exactly is the U.S. President supposed to do about all this?  The President realistically only has three coercive foreign policy tools at his disposal: the bully pulpit, economic sanctions, and war.  The Obama administration has already declared economic sanctions against Russia.  What else should it do?  The Ukraine is an independent state where many of the residents are sympathetic to Russia and welcome Russia’s involvement in the region.    There is little the Obama Administration can realistically do here unless they want to start a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine—a war in which a number of Ukrainians would probably fight against the U.S.  

The Obama administrations options with China are also few in number.  There is basically nothing that can be done against China because (a) they have a large, capable military, (b) the U.S. economy benefits handsomely from Chinese commerce, and (c) the Chinese government is a sizable creditor of the U.S. treasury.  Any drastic measures taken against the Chinese government would inevitably double back and bite the U.S. in the ass, because both countries are, at this point, heavily invested in one another’s future.

Here is the bottom line: the President cannot Constitutionally declare a war.  Only Congress can.  It is unfortunately true that Congress has not actually declared war on another country for a long time.  It is also true that numerous Presidents of both parties have deployed U.S. military forces into war zones without Congressional approval.  But that does not change the fact that under Article I, § 8, cl. 11 of the U.S. Constitution, not a single American soldier ought to be anywhere near the middle east without Congressional authorization.  Erick Erickson’s fear of ISIS does not change the wording of the Constitution he claims to revere.  Nor does it make his tacit approval of the atrocious piece of legislation known as the AUMF any more coherent when measured against Article I of that same Constitution.

Erick Erickson wants a President who will “keep him safe and get out of his way.”  Fair enough.  But from where I stand, the “Strong Leader” Erick Erickson wants in the White House is someone who will ignore Congress on foreign policy, and isn’t afraid to start wars—and not just with powerless third-world nations and isolated dictators—but wars with countries that are large and powerful enough that a large-scale armed conflict would be a catastrophic event (e.g. China, Russia).  

That makes me feel less safe.  I want a leader who is extraordinarily hesitant to go to war.  I’m tired of the U.S. leaking blood and treasure from its pores to bomb other countries.  I’m also tired of the boondoggles and unintended consequences that seem to accompany every recent attempt by the U.S. to militarily intervene in other countries’ affairs.  And none of this is to suggest that I think the Democratic party or the Obama administration are angels.  But if Erick Erickson’s version of the President is any indication of what the modern American Conservative movement deems to be a competent leader, I want no part of it.

March 10, 2014

CPAC: The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform

"You want to talk about real conservative governance?  Shut prisons down." - Texas Gov. Rick Perry, CPAC 2014

July 19, 2013
VIDEO: Trayvon protesters beat woman trying to rush granddaughter to hospital



The left really isn’t handling the Zimmerman verdict with dignity. From death threats to physical violence, the liberal mob is acting like a spoiled 4-year-old brat throwing a temper tantrum. None of this is about about justice but about pitching a fit.

Case in point: A Houston grandmother, attempting to rush her granddaughter to the hospital after an allergic reaction to some medication, was stopped by protesters in the middle of the street. When she rolled down her window to express to the protesters how urgent her trip was, she got hit by one of them.

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Hundreds of people marched in protest to the George Zimmerman verdict on Monday.

"No justice, no peace," they yelled as they walked from the Byrd Funeral Home in the 2500 block of Wheeler to the Southmore Street overpass bridge near Highway 288.

Just after 7p.m. Monday, the demonstrators spilled out onto the road and blocked traffic for about 15 minutes.

"I looked up and I see all the protesters, they’re everywhere," said Georgia, who asked that her last name not be used. “So, we got into the traffic and they’re stopping us and not letting us go."

…”One of them was hitting the windshield and I was just screaming, ‘We’ve got to get to the hospital,’ and they were screaming and chanting,” she said. “All I could think of was, I got to get my granddaughter to the hospital.”

"My mom rolled down the window," said Georgia’s daughter. “She said, ‘We’re trying to get my granddaughter to the hospital,’ and a guy just started hitting her."

Read the Rest

Look, I know we say this a lot on this blog but it bears repeating: this is who the left is. If they truly cared about justice, they would demand that NBC and ABC apologize to Zimmerman for purposely misreporting the facts of the case in an attempt to make him look like a racist and a liar. Instead, they block traffic and assault innocent people and use the jury’s verdict to justify their senseless violence. 

This kind of behavior is barbaric and un-American.

LTMC: This is pretty weak.  I’m willing to bet that 99% of the people who self-identify as left-leaning in this country are home on their couches right now, not rioting in the streets.  I’m also willing to bet many of those people feel that the guy who hit the woman above as she was trying to drive through is a douchebag.  To wit, here is a Trayvon Martin sympathizer condemning this sort of behavior.  

Despicable behavior at political protests is not the unique bailiwick of “the left,” insofar as that term fairly applies to those present at this particular protest.  We could, for example, talk about the mosque protest where anti-muslim activists called 5-year old children murderers and threatened to kill their parents.  That’s pretty awful.  But as one of the victims of the fore-going protest said, it would be unfair to attribute their behavior beyond those involved:

“When I go to school to drop off my kids, everyone is so friendly. They don’t make me feel as if I am intruding or I don’t belong here. So I was shocked that these people hated us so much, but I also realized it’s not everybody — it’s just a few people.”

In other words, your argument here is really just an overbroad, selectively blind non sequitur. It’s fine to call attention to bad behavior. But it’s an overreach to claim that it represents everybody of a particular political persuasion.  In fact, here’s a couple of White dudes who show up to a pro-Trayvon Martin protest with a camera and a shirt that says “NIGGER” on the front.  What do you think they were trying to do?  Probably start a riot (they were unsuccessful).  Do they represent everyone who supports Zimmerman and thinks he’s a good human being?  Of course not.  It would be pretty foolhardy to assert otherwise.

June 9, 2013



Bill Maher DESTROYS the myth of Reagan

(full transcript via Daily Kos)

In my experience, this was one of the more interesting episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher. 

LTMC: I partially disagree with Maher here.  He’s right that Reagan was in many ways the progenitor of the craven political culture that defines the modern Republican party, but I also think that Reagan did things during his presidency that would get him excommunicated from the modern Republican party.  

For example, remember the 47% line?  The idea that 47% of Americans have no tax liability, and that’s a problem?  That’s actually something Reagan is responsible for.  Here’s what the Joint Committee on Taxation said about the Tax Reform Act of 1986:

An overriding goal of the Committee is to relieve families with the lowest incomes from Federal income tax liability.  Consequently, the Bill increases the amounts of both the personal exemption and the standard deduction…so that the income level at which individuals begin to have tax liability will be raised sufficiently to free millions of poverty-level individual from Federal income tax liability.

Here’s what Reagan himself said about the bill:

When I sign this bill, America will have the lowest marginal tax rates, and the most modern tax code among major industrialized nations…in our lifetime, we’ve seen marginal tax rates skyrocket as high as 90%, and not even the poor have been spared…taxation [has fallen] most cruelly on the poor, making a difficult climb up from poverty even harder…millions of working poor will be dropped from the tax rolls altogether, and families will get a long overdue break with lower rates and an almost doubled personal exemption…i’m certain the bill i’m signing today is not only an historic overhaul of our tax code…but the best anti-poverty bill…ever to come out of the Congress of the United States.

Reagan wanted the poor to pay no federal taxes.  Yes, his tax policies did help widen the income gap between rich and poor, but the guy also thought that the poor shouldn’t have to pay income taxes.  Today, that’s generally viewed as a “liberal” position, and he would get nowhere in a modern Republican primary with that view.

Here’s a decent summary of the rest of Reagan’s sins:

Reagan raised taxes 11 times, gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrantssmuggled weapons to Iran, and “cut and ran” from Lebanon after 299 American and French servicemen died in a barracks in Beirut.  He also had a bad habit of regularly compromising with democratic lawmakers, which would probably get him uninvited from Eric Cantor’s birthday party.  One wonders how a list of accomplishments like this would fare in today’s political zeitgeist.  Not well, I’d imagine.

Reagan also expanded Medicaid and infamously stated that "Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit."   He also would’ve been much more open to compromise on deficit reduction than his modern peers, who infamously said during the 2012 Republican primaries that they would not accept a deficit reduction deal even if it was composed of 10-to-1 cuts vs. tax increases.  As Pete Wehner notes at the link above:

[I]n 1982 Ronald Reagan was willing to sign what was then the largest tax increase in American history (TEFRA) because he believed he’d get three dollars in cuts for one dollar in tax increase. Reagan came to regret his tax increase — but not because the ratio was wrong but because Democrats never delivered on the spending cuts. If Reagan had gotten the cuts he asked for — and the York/Baier question pre-supposes the spending cuts would be real – he would have taken that deal. Are Republicans in 2011 saying that a deal that would be far better than one Reagan expected and agreed to is simply beyond the pale? If so — if taxes cannot be raised under any circumstance — then we have veered from economic policy to religious catechism[.]

Maher’s right that Reagan was “patient zero” for a lot of the terrible politics that define modern American Conservatism.  I’m definitely not a fan of Reagan, and am in no hurry to excuse him for the terrible policy choices he’s made.  Maher is wrong, however, that Reagan would have a comfortable place in the Republican party today.  He was much more open to compromise than many of his successors, despite his less savory aspects (and when I say unsavory, I mean downright atrocious).

(via genericlatino)

February 28, 2013
"Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting: W5 + H, as I learned in grade school, also known as who, what, where, when, why, and how…There are scandals to uncover and there are outrageous stories to be outraged over, but I would submit conservatives are spending a lot more time trying to find things to be outraged over than reporting the news and basic facts online from a conservative perspective."

RedState’s Erick Erickson, making a frank but much-needed plea to his colleagues on the right. While Erickson still sees a liberal bias in the media, he doesn’t think conservative journalists are attempting to overcome it the right way: “There is an institutional media bias against the right, but we must also honestly acknowledge that conservatives have also screamed ‘Wolf’ these past few years more often than there was one. Conservatives must start telling stories, not just producing white papers and peddling daily outrage.” A lot of conservative outfits will probably be upset at Erickson’s manifesto, but those are probably the ones that need to hear it the most (we’re looking at you, Daily Caller). The whole post is worth giving a read. source (via shortformblog)

LTMC: It’s nice to see a prominent Conservative writer finally admit that the Conservative media’s generally shitty journalism is not the result of a liberal conspiracy, or the inevitable consequence of liberal media bias.  We’re definitely a long way away from Will Buckley’s National Review— which despite its parochialism could at least boast that not every article was dedicated to writing about how liberals and/or democrats are responsible for every terrible thing that’s ever happened in the world.

January 10, 2013
Conservativism And Marijuana

David L. Nathan, Clinical Professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, discusses a recent op-ed from David Frum, in which Frum states that he supports decriminalization of marijuana, but wants to keep it as a fine-worthy violation to “send a message” to kids that society still disapproves of the drug:

Frum would reduce the punishment for marijuana use for adults but nominally maintain its illegality in order to send a message to young people that pot is a “bad choice,” as if breaking the rules wasn’t as much an incentive as a deterrent for adolescents.

Nathan continues:

Kids are smart enough to recognize and dismiss a “because I said so” argument when they see one. By trying to hide marijuana from innately curious young people, we have elevated its status to that of a forbidden fruit. I believe a better approach is to bring pot into the open, make it legal for people over the age of 21, and educate children from a young age about the actual dangers of its recreational use.

Frum’s proposal is a good example of the ethical backflips that people perform in light of the collective insanity that the drug war produces.  In this case, Frum fears that without a legal ban of some kind, parents won’t be able to convince their kids not to smoke marijuana.  Yet it strikes me as terribly unconservative to assume that the government is better at instilling morals in people than parents are.  What kind of conservative thinks that we can’t trust families to teach their kids about the dangers of drug use without government intervention?  Put differently, what kind of Conservative trusts government more than family values?

Frum might respond by making the obvious point that Conservatives don’t oppose laws per se, just unnecessary ones.  But that of course, is the point: after forty years of drug prohibition, marijuana is the most ubiquitous black market drug in the United States.  In most American cities, it is easier for a teenager to acquire marijuana than alcohol or cigarettes.  This is a textbook example of a law that is not only unnecessary, but actively undermining the very purpose it exists for.

When viewed in this light, Frum’s proposal contains a law that Conservatives should be railing against, rather than for.  Yet even a smart guy like David Frum still apparently cannot bring himself out from under the collective hysteria of “Reefer Madness.”  He’s so afraid of marijuana that he can’t imagine a world in which parents can successfully teach their kids not to smoke marijuana without the help of government.  The fact that we’re hearing this from a self-described Conservative shows just how subversive the effects of drug prohibition are on public discourse in America.  It shows how relatively intelligent public thinkers have to tie themselves in ideological knots to make room for prohibition in their worldview—even when those knots create internal contradictions that are difficult to reconcile.

July 7, 2012
"I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy,"

Judge Posner.

July 2, 2012
"I started getting into philosophy — Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers. And then into present philosophers — Saul Kripke, David Chalmers. It was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics that gave me a breather and made me realize that a lot of what I said was ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful."

Jonathan Krohn, discussing his move away from political Conservatism.

h/t shortformblog

May 24, 2012
Another Conservative Apostate

Michael Fumento, who worked for the Reagan administrations and has written for Wall Street Journal, National Review, Weekly Standard, and Forbes, no longer wishes to associate himself with the modern Conservative Movement.  He views the contemporary American Right as caught up in “Mass Hysteria,” which he says is completely antithetical to traditional Conservatism:

Civility and respect for order – nay,demand for order – have always been tenets of conservatism. The most prominent work of history’s most prominent conservative, Edmund Burke, was a reaction to the anger and hatred that swept France during the revolution. It would eventually rip the country apart and plunge all of Europe into decades of war. Such is the rotted fruit of mass-produced hate and rage. Burke, not incidentally, was a true Tea Party supporter, risking everything as a member of Parliament to support the rebellion in the United States.

All of today’s right-wing darlings got there by mastering what Burke feared most: screaming “J’accuse! J’accuse!” Turning people against each other. Taking seeds of fear, anger and hatred and planting them to grow a new crop.

Fumento’s article names quite a few of today’s most prominent Conservative pundits and politicians as part of the problem:

Last month U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican recently considered by some as vice-president material, insisted that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party, again with little condemnation from the new right.

Mitt Romney took a question at a town hall meeting this month from a woman who insisted President Obama be “tried for treason,” without challenging, demurring from or evencommentingon her assertion.

And then there’s the late Andrew Breitbart (assassinated on the orders of Obama, natch). A video from February shows him shrieking at peaceful protesters: “You’re freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!” He went on for a minute-and-a-half like that. Speak not ill of the dead? Sen. Ted Kennedy’s body was barely cold when Breitbart labeled him “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” a “prick” and “a special pile of human excrement.”

Fumento’s article is extraordinarily difficult to excerpt.  Needless to say, he leaves few of America’s most well-known right-wing shock-jocks untouched.  On Breitbart:

There was nothing “conservative” about Breitbart. Ever-consummate gentlemen like Buckley and Ronald Reagan would have been mortified by such behavior as Breitbart’s – or West’s or Heartland’s. “There you go again,” the Gipper would have said in his soft but powerful voice.

Ann Coulter & Michelle Malkin:

single author, Ann Coulter, has published best-selling books accusing liberals, in the titles, of being demonic, godless and treasonous. Michelle Malkin, ranked by the Internet search company PeekYou as having the most traffic of any political blogger, routinely dismisses them as “moonbats, morons and idiots.” Limbaugh infamously dispatched a young woman who expressed her opinion that the government should provide free birth control as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

More Michelle Malkin:

Malkin, who revels in playing the victimsays that she’s been called all sorts of horrible things, many based on her Filipina heritage. But most of what she cites come from email or anonymous comments on blog sites. It wasn’t usually from paid professionals with large audiences, like her, aimed at paid professionals like her. It’s thus hard to compare with the host of the most popular talk show host in history taking shots at an unknown 22-year-old woman [Sandra Fluke]. (She’s hardly that now; Limbaugh himself promoted her to a national spokeswoman.)

And a bit of irony:

In the grief-fest at Breitbart’s death, forgiven (and indeed practically forgotten) was his crucial role in building the single most popular liberal website, the Huffington Post. Some of Breitbart’s friends admitted he was absent of ideology. “I don’t recall Andrew Breitbart ever mentioning electoral politics,” wrote Tucker Carlson. “It bored him.” Breitbart’s inspiration, then? George Washington through Benjamin Franklin – printed in primarily green ink on cotton stock.

It’s worth reading in full.  Fumento joins the likes of Bruce Bartlett, David Frum, and of course, Andrew Sullivan (who spotted the story before I did), all of whom were excised from Right-wing zeitgeist for committing the cardinal sin of taking policy stances and/or social stances that were out of step with the party line.  

This phenomenon, of course, is symptomatic of the American Conservative Movement’s increasing Epistemic Closure, wherein GOP moderates are being excised from the party, just as Conservative thinkers are being thrown to the wolves for daring to criticize a Republican president, or worse, point out that liberals may have been right about something.  

None of this is new, of course.  But it will be interesting to see if more public Conservative intellectuals abandon their Conservative credentials in the name of sane discourse and re-establishing an intellectually vibrant Conservativism.  Only time will tell.

May 22, 2012
"A lot of effort has been invested since 2009 to create a narrative of white endangerment and beleaguerment. The Drudge Report showcases selected local police blotters to create an impression of an intensifying criminal rampage by blacks against whites. Rush Limbaugh very explicitly describes the Obama presidency as a project of racial revenge. Fox News suggests the same idea more obliquely. The theme is taken up—with appropriate euphemism—by elected politicians and some conservative writers as well."

David Frum

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