Jonathan Tobin Talks Sense about the Budget Deal

“Ideologues Shouldn’t Torpedo Budget Truce”
Jonathan Tobin

Commentary
December 11, 2013

We are starting to see more common sense coming from my fellow conservatives, and Jonathan Tobin at Commentary offers yet another example of the growing ranks of Republicans who are tired of playing juvenile ideology games with the governance of the nation. In an emphatically worded article, Tobin puts the Tea Partistas on notice that blocking the budget deal would be unadulterated stupidity.

Many on the right are also denouncing Ryan’s deal not just because it doesn’t give them what they want on taxes and spending but because they don’t see the need to compromise at this moment. They see President Obama’s poll numbers falling and think the time is right to push hard again for the kind of reform that is needed, not an agreement that merely kicks the can down the road. But this is the same kind of faulty thinking from groups like Heritage Action and Freedom Works that led conservatives to shut down the government as part of a vain effort to defund ObamaCare. Apparently they’ve learned nothing from that debacle.

That Tobin would name names, calling out the hardliners and risking open schism on the right underscores that we are in the advanced stages of a battle for the soul – and the future – of the Republican Party. The time for juvenile procedural games and emotional non-cooperation are over. Instead, it is time we won with ideas, intelligence, and logic.

Equally important, as Tobin points out, there comes a time in every debate where we have to compromise in order to allow the country to move forward, if nothing else to buy time until we have the legislative wherewithal to offer our own solutions (assuming we have some by then.) The country comes before our ideologies. Anyone who debates that is less a leader than a demagogue.

Alec Baldwin and Tolerance

Yeah, Alec Baldwin Really Is a Bigot”
The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates
November 27, 2013

English: to fill
Alec Baldwin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After long years fighting the battle for the soul of the GOP, it is a bit of a relief to look across the aisle and watch similar battles take place on the other side.

At a superficial level, it is fascinating to watch the American left try to find a way to reconcile Alec Baldwin’s vocal and active support of LGBT rights on the one hand, and his insensitive, ostensibly homophobic outbursts on the other. It echoes struggles we have on the right about some of the personalities in our own party.

Schadenfreude aside, though, Baldwin’s less-savory remarks hint at something darker, the possibility that there are those hiding among the ranks of celebrities and other notables whose professed values are at odds with the values they truly hold. How difficult it must be for such luminaries to live a life in contradiction of their values, merely because they fear the approbation of others who are less tolerant of viewpoints other than their own.

I do not know if this is the case for Baldwin, and even if it is I do not wish to defend his outbursts. He is a public figure and thus must live with the consequences of his public behavior.

But it does suggest that we need to remain vigilant against all forms of intolerance, not just racism, sexism, or religious chauvinism, but also intolerance of alternate viewpoints. We have become a nation where racial intolerance is unacceptable, but where it is still considered quietly appropriate to shun someone because his political viewpoints are different than yours. For example, fear of blacklisting has driven many Republicans in Hollywood all but underground, yet the industry that did much to celebrate the defeat of McCarthyism now seems to be cultivating the same sort of ideological intolerance from the other side of the spectrum.

We may never know whether Baldwin was just a closet conservative who was finally driven to extreme behavior by his own cognitive dissonance. We do know, however, that no American should cultivate or countenance political intolerance. We are all entitled to our views, however unfathomable they may seem to others, and if those views are arrived at honestly, without fear or enticement, they are legitimate. We must go back to the ethos that says that I may disagree with what you believe and say, but I will fight to the death for your right to believe and say that.

That is a good fight, and it does not just take place on a battlefield, but in the workplace an in our own hearts. This holiday season, we would do well to recommit ourselves to the sort of open-mindedness that allows us to believe good things about fellow Americans with whom we disagree vehemently.

Bull Moose of the Day: Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner at the Ethics and Public Policy Center is our Bull Moose of the Day.

Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage
Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage (Photo credit: Alaskan Dude)

In his essay “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Virtue” in Commentary, Wehner fires an important shot against the forces that brought the GOP so far to the right and, if they had their way, would continue to drag us down that path. By harkening to Barry Goldwater‘s infamous speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention (a moment that GOP historian Geoffery Kabaservice flags as the beginning of the Republican lurch to the right), Wehner points us back to the kind of Republican Party and the kind of conservatism that is built on principle but ultimately dedicated to an America for all Americans.

Wehner notes that we can all envision moments when extreme measures would be justified, but they are rare. However:

That said, my concern about those who endorse extremism is that it is by its very nature militant, a break with the kind of moderation that is essential for a free society. Extremism, of course, characterized the French Revolution, which (unlike the American Revolution) so unnerved Edmund Burke. It leads to dogmatism and distorted thinking, to viewing politics in apocalyptic terms.

He has captured in a single paragraph the problem of the Tea Party, and of those Republicans who find themselves sucked into the apocalyptic dogmatism of the Tea Partistas, whether by inclination or compulsion.

And in so doing he has, I hope, begun a process that will lead the GOP not just away from the reactionary leanings of the Tea Party, but back to its roots as the party of wise, practical, balanced progress typified by Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and (on their better days) Dick Nixon and Ron Reagan.

There is always a role for the ideologue in any political organization. But we cannot govern the nation as prisoners of absolutes, whether they be radical or reactionary. Wehner, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, gets this, to his lasting credit.

Leadership vs. The Bureaucracy

Obama: ACA Rollout Doesn’t Reflect on Management Style”
Sophie Novack

NationalJournal.com
December 6, 2013

English: Kathleen Sebelius speaking after her ...
Kathleen Sebelius speaking after her official nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Barack Obama is standing behind Sebelius (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pacific Bull Moose endeavors to refrain from gratuitous displays of partisanship. We prefer to eschew tossing spitballs across the aisle, choosing instead to develop principles upon which the nation should be governed, approaches to its challenges, and policies rooted in both.

Presidents Lead the Government

President Obama’s remarks to Chris Matthews on the matter of his management style deserve a response, but ours is aimed less at POTUS than at a principle.

As the National Review notes:

“President Obama said Thursday that the problems that have plagued the first couple months of the health care law rollout are not an indication that he needs to change his management style, Politico reports.

Obama instead pointed to larger issues with the federal bureaucracy.”

As a matter of principle, POTUS is being disingenuous. Anyone who has taken a high school civics class can tell you that the President sits at the head of the bureaucracy. His constitutional role is to lead the executive branch of government, which includes the bureaucracy. An inability to lead the apparatus of government, to implement programs, is, prima facie, a management problem.

Implementation issues come part-and-parcel with any effort to bring about major change, and they have dogged every modern president for the past century. Dealing with the inertia of large bureaucracies comes with the job of President of the United States along with the house, the plane, the salary, and the benefits.

Bureaucracies do Stink, Regardless of Size

At the same time, those of my fellow Republicans who would jump on this issue and suggest that the president’s lament is a proof point for small government had best hold their horses. The problem here is not size, it is effectiveness.

Management guru Tom Peters once noted that “any organization larger than five people is a hopeless bureaucracy.” Big organizations come with big jobs. The question is whether those organizations are properly constructed, staffed, budgeted, and led to make them effective and efficient at those jobs.

Where the Buck Stops

Giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt, it is entirely likely that the Department of Health and Human Services is not properly constructed, staffed, budgeted, and led to enable it to effectively and efficiently implement the Affordable Care Act. But if that is the case, the failure still lands on the White House for not seeing – and adjusting – to that.

A fish stinks from the head, as my father once told me. We hold CEOs and boards to credit for the successes of their companies, and we hold them accountable for their failures. We do the same for leaders of non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, sports teams, and vessels at sea. The same is true for the Executive Branch of government

No sitting President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, can dodge responsibility for the actions and behavior of the constituent parts of the government. Harry Truman, a Democrat like Mr. Obama, understood as much, and made it a mantra of his administration rather than resort to blaming a bureaucracy largely created by and for his predecessor.

On Corporations

“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.”

Theodore Roosevelt

I will take this one half-step further, because I am sure TR would agree: implicit in this statement is the contention that our aim is not to coddle or provide aid to corporations any more than it is to attack them for simply being corporations. 

 

A Little Insight into Assange

At one point in the film, as it discusses the information known as the Afghan war logs that came from the material provided by Manning, British journalist Nick Davies says in an interview, “During the four or five weeks when reporters were working on the Afghan war logs, all of us became concerned that there was material in there which, if published, could get people hurt on the ground in Afghanistan.” He then goes on to say, “I raised this with Julian and he said if an Afghan civilian helps coalition forces he deserves to die.”

From “Alex Gibney Fires Back at Julian Assange: “People are Finally Seeing the Darker Side.”
The Hollywood Reporter

This is what Julian Assange thinks of American, British, and allied young men and women who are risking their lives to help Afghanistan rise from the pit of its own ashes. This is not the voice of liberty. This is the voice of a sociopath.

The decisions about what information needs to be made public and what needs to be withheld should be placed on people for whom the release of the wrong information has real consequences. It should not be left in the hands of a petty demagogue with no skin in the game.

Our Response to the Shutdown: Fire Congress

English: Breakdown of political party represen...
English: Breakdown of political party representation in the United States House of Representatives during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A degree of political maneuvering is to be expected in a democracy. Indeed, it is an essential tool in the legislative process, forcing compromise and often providing the means to forestall legislation that might otherwise be railroaded through Congress.

But when politics is allowed to stand in the way of lawful governance, politicians surrender the last vestige of pretense that the are serving the people. And at that time, it is incumbent upon the people to act.

Congress has failed. As a result, it is time for Americans to stiffen their resolve and send a message that will be remembered for generations. In refusing to return any incumbent member of Congress in the 2014 election, we will make it clear that no representative of the people, regardless of party affiliation, will be permitted to place partisan concerns above the need to sustain a functioning nation and of our national assets.

Politics is not a substitute for governance, and governance Job #1 for the Congress. When you don’t do your job, you’re fired.

Fire Congress in 2014, and send our national legislature back into the business of government, rather than the business of politics.

Saving Capitalism in a Democracy

The intensity of politics in a democracy emerges when the business community is challenged by other forms of countervailing power. Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, like FDR, were stigmatized by short-sighted business leaders; but their historic eminence shows their indispensable role in the dynamics of democratic capitalism. Their historic function is to rescue capitalism from the capitalists, functions belatedly recognized by intelligent capitalists themselves.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Of, by, and for…Us

William F. Buckley, Jr. attends the second ina...
William F. Buckley, Jr. attends the second inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free.”

William F. Buckley, Jr.

I smack the Tea Partistas and the Libertarians a lot, but at the core of both movements there is a valid sentiment: we must never forget that the government works for us; that any power we grant the government is temporary, conditional, and subject to repeal; and that while we choose to allow the government the ability to act for the collective good, the choice of whether to do so is ours. And we must think and act accordingly at all times.

Religion, Law and Morality

If the history of states that have outlawed the practice of religion offers any lesson, it is this. When you take away religion, the only way to sustain social order is to replace it with a series of laws that place the state in the position vacated by faith. Put simply, banning religion leads to the criminalization of immorality. When that happens, you do not get nirvana: you get the totalitarian nightmare of the police state.

One of the unspoken responsibilities of liberty is that we take it upon ourselves to live by a common code of moral behavior that ensures social harmony, in addition to acquiescence to the system of laws necessary to ensure public order. If we remove that moral code, and especially if we fail to replace it with a prescriptive ethical system that regulates our private (as well as our public) behavior, we remove that comfortable pathway between tyranny and chaos.

Adherence to any given faith – or any faith at all – must never be a prerequiste to citizenship. Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that we are a society that is formed on a series of shared behavioral principles. While adherence to some of the more key principles must be enshrined in law, the obligation to ensure moral behavior belongs outside the scope of law, and within the longstanding framework that enshrines ethical behavior as the price of communal membership.

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