Two weeks ago, in a mildly prescient post, we discussed the brewing revolt against John Boehner and the toxic contribution of Donald Trump. (Blog No. 77. Embattled John Boehner: The Oozlum Caucus and the Trumpian Virus.) With the announcement by John Boehner that he will retire at the end of October, the Oozlum Caucus (aka the Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party Caucus) have clearly achieved a victory. The extent of their triumph is yet to be determined but the prospect for responsible governance in the House of Representatives is not encouraging.
As we observed in our earlier post:
Although we have sometimes been critical of both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, and have disagreed on various issues, we believe that on the whole both have performed responsibly and sometimes creatively, sometimes valiantly, in carrying out their difficult assignments.
We reiterate that assessment today. John Boehner is a patriot and a skilled legislative leader who will be missed more than many may realize. We hope that Boehner’s successor will be able to muster at least as much wit and courage as Boehner has.
Boehner’s most likely successor is the Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, athough, as a close associate of Boehner, he may face an Oozlum challenge of his own. There may also be a scramble for other positions in the GOP leadership structure in the House (Majority Leader, Majority Whip, Republican Conference Chair). However all that shakes out, the leverage of the Oozlums, and the threat of government shutdowns is likely to increase. In the short run, the threat of a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding may have been reduced because Boehner, with his Speakership no longer in play, may feel free to pass a “clean” Continuing Resolution with largely Democratic votes. Nevertheless, the reliable bugaboo of the right, a debt ceiling increase, will probably have to be confronted before the end of the year and then, here we go again.
In its most recent issue, The Economist aptly described the Oozlum (our term, not theirs) behavior. Although their comments were focused on the prospect of a shutdown over Planned Parenthood, they are equally applicable to the debt ceiling and other issues that will strike the Oozlums as opportunities to flex their muscles:
To understand why some people are incapable of learning from their mistakes, neuroscientists in Albuquerque, New Mexico, scanned the brains of 96 convicts. In repeat offenders, they discovered, an obscure quarter of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex was barely active. It would be interesting to carry out the experiment on the 40-odd Republican congressmen, members of the self-styled Freedom Caucus, who are aching for a fight with Barack Obama over the budget. If they have their way, past fights suggest, the result will be a funding crisis leading, from October 1st, to the closure of all non-essential government departments, misery for millions, damage to the economy and a further loss of trust in America’s democratic institutions, starting with the congressmen’s own party.
Since it would clearly be impractical to insist on anterior cingulate cortex transplants for forty congressmen, other remedies will have to be sought. In our earlier post we made a suggestion:
We believe that it is past time for the Republican “establishment,” and particularly its members who are significant donors, to be heard from in a way that will be heard and felt. One way comes quickly to mind. We are, for better or worse, in an era of PACs and we can think of at least two that we would like to see created. One would be to support Boehner and McConnell and to provide support for qualified primary opponents to take on those who consistently fight against their leadership.
Let us now narrow the focus a bit. Ever since the decision in Citizens United, political leaders and pundits on the left have lamented that loosening restrictions on campaign contributions gave wealthy donors control over the political process. We have been skeptical of that claim, but there could hardly be a better time to put it to a test. Although we do not happen to be personally acquainted with any major donors, we are confident that the vast majority do not appreciate the economic costs and instability associated with government shutdowns. Specifically, we suggest that every Republican who votes for a shutdown should become the presumptive target of a primary challenge. Such challenges would be funded by a PAC created by wealthy donors who have risen from their lounge chairs and opened their wallets to bring some order to our disheveled party.
After all, the threat of primary challenges is a technique that has been effectively employed by the NRA to fend off gun control, and by the Club for Growth to punish any one heretical enough to vote for the smallest kind of tax increase. Now is the time to put it to a more constructive use.
As a final thought, we believe that our party should give serious consideration to asking John Boehner to become a candidate for Vice President on the 2016 ticket. We we believe that he would be an invaluable source of advice and support for a Republican president.
A CNN poll taken after last week’s debate on CNN showed the three top spots held by candidates who have never held elective office: Donald Trump (24% ), Carly Fiorina (15%), and Ben Carson (14%). An NBC poll had similar results with Trump (29%) leading Carson (14%) and Fiorina (11%). Although that development may have come as a surprise to some, it was consistent with a Washington Post/ABC poll taken earlier this month that found 58 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of conservative Republicans want the next president to be an Outsider, “someone from outside the existing political establishment.” For our own part, we are hopeful that the romantic attraction with Outsiders will pass and that cooler heads will prevail. As a general proposition, we believe that a true conservative should regard significant experience in elective office as a qualification—and not a disqualification—for presidential candidates. More specifically, Ms Fiorina might make an effective candidate for Vice President but, in our view, does not belong at the head of the ticket. We are doubtful that Dr. Carson should have any place on the ticket and certain that Donald Trump does not. Continue reading
In recent posts, we argued that an attempt to deprive Planned Parenthood of federal funding would be a mistake, and that under no circumstances should such an attempt be pursued at the risk of a government shutdown. On September 8, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial, “Government Shutdown Redux,” in which it also argued against a government shutdown. Along the way, however, the Journal cited the controversial undercover videos of Planned Parenthood to suggest that defunding it would be a “laudable goal.” In response to that editorial, we wrote a letter explaining why the that goal was not at all laudable.
On September 12, the Journal published our letter in part–its final paragraph. The abridgement of the letter did not distort its meaning and we appreciate the Journal’s willingness to publish at least a portion of it. (We have found over the years that the Journal is considerably more more willing to publish letters expressing opposing views than is The New York Times.) Nevertheless, we thought that anyone who saw the editorial and our letter, might be intereted in the complete version. It was as follows: Continue reading
It has been obvious for some time that this autumn would be a contentious period in Congress. The most significant, and most immediate, issues to be resolved were approval or disapproval of the nuclear deal with Iran and the passage of a Continuing Resolution to keep the government in operation past September 30. Not much further down the road are the need to increase the debt ceiling and the issue of highway funding. All of that would have been quite challenging enough for the Republican leadership, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, dealing as they must, with not only the White House and Congressional Democrats, but the obstreperous rebels on their own right flanks. As long-time readers of RINOcracy.com will recall, our term for the latter group is the Oozlum Caucus, named for the legendary bird that flies in ever decreasing concentric circles until it flies up into itself and disappears. (See, e.g., Wikipedia.) That is, we have suggested, the kind of flight plan the Congressional Oozlums would dictate for the Republican Party. Continue reading
We had not intended to post anything about Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk now in jail for defying a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Earlier, Ms. Davis had declined an offer of release on a condition of non-interference with her Deputy Clerks, but licenses are now being issued by her Deputies without her sanction. Although Lyle Denniston, a respected commentator for Scotusblog, has noted that the validity of such licenses could be questioned, we doubt that they will be successfully challenged. In the meantime, The New York Times reported on Friday that Davis was continuing to stand her ground, and that Kentucky politicians were pondering possible legislative solutions. One way or another, it is inevitable that, at some point, the embarrassing controversy will be resolved with same-sex couples continuing to be issued licenses, and the matter will mercifully disappear from the front pages. Continue reading
Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have been reported to be in a state of some panic trying to figure out how to avoid a government shutdown over the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood. The issue arises by reason of the need to pass a spending bill by the end of September in order to continue government operations. Both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have learned the lessons of the past: that government shutdowns accomplish nothing except to damage the reputation of the Republican Party. Inexplicably,Senat but not surprisingly, those lessons have escaped the most prominent architect of the current plan to cause a shutdown, Senator Ted Cruz aka “Senator Shutdown.” Continue reading
In a previous Special Bulletin, we briefly addressed the proposal made by Donald Trump (and supported in varying degrees by some other Republican candidates) to eliminate “birthright citizenship.” Birthright citizenship, as everyone must know by now refers to citizenship conferred on anyone who is born in this country without regard to the citizenship or status of his or her parents.
The term dog days originated in Greek and Roman times from the rising of the dog star Sirius, just before the sun, in the summer months. In modern times, dog days have been understood to refer to the hot and sultry days of summer when temperature and humidity may have a depressing effect on dogs—and their owners. Politically, the dog days of summer are a time when typically not much happens (except in an election years when national party conventions are held then). Congress flees the Capitol and campaigning generally produces little in the way of lasting news. Is this year different? It may appear so, but one hopes not.
Part II. Ukraine and the Search for a Strategy
Back on June 4, we posted Part I, “The Islamic State and the Search for a Strategy” and promised that Part II would deal with Ukraine and Eastern Europe. After a somewhat longer interval than anticipated, we turn now to Part II. As it happens, little appears to have changed with respect to Ukraine and Eastern Europe since our previous post. Ukraine, and more broadly Eastern Europe, seems to have slid largely out of political and public consciousness. Yet that part of the world continues, in our view, to represent a highly dangerous situation that is almost certain to appear as a new crisis at some point. Continue reading
In July, we were on vacation in Europe, actually an expedition to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary, and we made little effort to absorb political insights along the way. For example, the conundrums of the Greek economy, refugees flooding the continent, and the question of whether the United Kingdom will remain in the European Union, seemed as vexing at closer range as they had from afar. We did, however, observe the presence of a large rhinoceros outside the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. We harbored no illusion that there was any political significance to that handsome statue, but one does tend to take signs and portents where one finds them. Continue reading