Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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In addition to my core issues of national security, law enforcement/public safety, and illegal migration/border security, I want to be a voice for the diverse issues, concerns, and causes of Sixth District residents.

On this page, I provide an open forum for Sixth District constituents and other Americans to express their views. Publishing these opinions should not be construed as personal endorsement of those views; they constitute the personal opinion of the writer.



For Me, the Party Is Over

By Michael Smerconish
Radio host and columnist
The Huffington Post
February 21, 2010

It took only the single tap of a computer key, and just like that I’d exited the Republican Party after 30 years of active membership. The context might sound impulsive, but I’d been thinking of becoming an independent for a long time. I just hadn’t expected that a trip to renew my driver’s license would mark the end.

Just before my photo was snapped, I was asked if I wanted to register to vote. For me, the question was borderline offensive. I first registered after turning 18 in the spring of 1980 and haven’t missed an election since. And I’m not just talking presidential races. I mean all elections. Congress, town council, school board, whatever.

“I’m already registered,” I offered. Next came the unexpected question of whether I wished to change my political affiliation. I’m not sure why that is asked of someone renewing a driver’s license, and I question whether it is even appropriate for most. But in my case, it was the only impetus I needed.

Years ago, I grew tired of having my television or radio introduction accompanied by a label, with some implied expectation that what would then come from my mouth were the party talking points. That was me 26 years ago, when I was the youngest elected member of the state delegation to the Republican National Convention, but not today. I’m not sure if I left the Republican Party or the party left me. All I know is that I no longer feel comfortable.

The national GOP is a party of exclusion and litmus tests, dominated on social issues by the religious right, with zero discernible outreach by the national party to anyone who doesn’t fit neatly within its parameters. Instead, the GOP has extended itself to its fringe while throwing under the bus long-standing members like New York Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a McCain-Palin supporter in 2008 who told me she voted with her Republican leadership 90 percent of the time before running for Congress last fall.

Which is not to say I feel comfortable in the Democratic Party, either. Weeks before Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s announcement that he will not seek reelection, I noted the centrist former governor’s words to the Wall Street Journal‘s Gerald Seib. Too many Democrats, Bayh said in that interview, are “tone-deaf” to Americans’ belief that the party had “overreached rather than looking for consensus with moderates and independents.”

Where political parties once existed to create coalitions and win elections, now they seek to advance strict ideological agendas. In today’s terms, it’s hard to imagine the GOP tent once housing such disparate figures as conservative Barry Goldwater and liberal New Yorker Jacob Javits, while John Stennis of Mississippi and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts coexisted as Democratic contemporaries.

Collegiality is nonexistent today, and any outreach across an aisle is castigated as weakness by the talking heads who constantly stir a pot of discontent. So vicious is the political climate that within two years, Sen. John McCain has gone from GOP standard-bearer to its endangered-species list. All of which leaves homeless those of us with views that don’t stack up neatly in any ideological box the way we’re told they should.

Consider that I’ve long insisted on the need to profile in the war against terrorists. I believe that if someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has actionable intelligence on future terrorism, you try the least coercive methods to extract it but ultimately stop at damn near nothing to get what you need to save American lives. I want the U.S. military out of Iraq, but into Pakistan. I’m for capital punishment. I think our porous borders need to be secured before we determine how to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already within them. Sounds pretty conservative. But wait.

I think that in 2008, the GOP was wrong to adopt a party platform that maintained a strict opposition to abortion without at least carving out exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life. I was appalled that legislators tried to decide Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life plan. I don’t care if two guys hook up any more than they should care about my heterosexual lifestyle. And I still don’t know what to think about climate change.

I think President Obama is earnest, smart, and much more centrist than his tea party caricature suggests. He has never been given a fair chance to succeed by those who openly crow about their desire to see him fail (while somehow congratulating one another on their relative patriotism). I know he was born in America, isn’t a socialist, and doesn’t worship in a mosque. I get that he inherited a minefield. Still, the level of federal spending concerns me. And he never closed the deal with me that health insurance is a right, not a privilege. But I’m not folding the tent on him. Not now. Not with the nation fighting two wars while its economy still teeters on the brink of collapse.

All of which leaves me in a partisan no-man’s-land, albeit surrounded by many others, especially my neighbors. By quitting the GOP, I have actually joined the largest group of American voters. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 39 percent of Americans identify themselves as independents — compared with 32 percent who say they are Democrats and 26 percent who are self-described members of the GOP. Nowhere is this more pronounced than locally, where a shift away from the Republican Party has taken place in the four bellwether counties surrounding Philadelphia.

I will miss casting a ballot in the spring, as current state election law prohibits unaffiliated voters from voting in GOP or Democratic primary elections. Instead, I’ll join the others who bide their time until fall, when we can temper the extremes of both parties.

“My decision should not be interpreted for more than it is: a very difficult, deeply personal one. . . . I value my independence. I am not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology.”

Those are Bayh’s words, not mine. But he was speaking for both of us.

Cross-posted with the Philadelphia Inquirer.


GOP Poised for Comeback in Midterm Elections

Republicans could have a big year, but they need to win 40 House and 11 Senate seats to regain control of Congress. That’s a tall order.

By Mark Z. Barabak
Los Angeles Times - logo
January 1, 2010


After losing the White House and nearly 70 congressional seats in the last two elections, Republicans are poised for a strong comeback in 2010, with significant gains likely in the House and a good chance of boosting their numbers in the Senate and statehouses across the country. …

All 435 House seats, 36 in the Senate and the governorships of 37 states will be on the ballot in November. …

“It all adds up to a pretty bad year for the party in power,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “How bad? I’m not sure we know yet.”

However, for all Republicans stand to gain, the party still has problems. Polls show that many voters, though unhappy with Democrats, are even less enamored of the GOP. …

One big question is whether the GOP can capitalize on the free-floating hostility embodied by the anti-incumbent “tea party” movement to seize back control of Congress, four years after Democrats won power. Republicans need to win 40 House seats and 11 in the Senate — which, for now, seems unlikely.

But plenty can change by November. Last spring, Democrats seemed well positioned to add Senate seats. Today, a Republican gain appears more probable, costing Democrats their 60-vote supermajority and ability to stop GOP filibusters — though that could change again. …

Obama was elected with the strongest showing by a Democratic presidential candidate in more than 30 years, thanks largely to a plunging economy and unhappiness with Bush. There was talk of a long-term realignment after decades of conservative ascendance. But after battles over healthcare, a climate-change bill and hundreds of billions in spending to spur the economy, it is Democrats who face a backlash and Republicans who are campaigning on a promise of change. …

Since World War II, the party of a new president has lost an average of 16 House seats in midterm elections, a handful of governorships and more than 200 state legislative seats. The parties have come out close to even in Senate races.

The problem for Democrats is evident in polling, which shows a precipitous slide in Obama’s job approval rating, from a high of about 80% before he took office to 48% in the latest aggregation by, a political website. The fortunes of the two major parties often rise or fall with their leader in the White House: Bill Clinton, bruised by his failed effort to pass healthcare reform, had a 46% approval rating in 1994 when Republicans took over Congress. Bush, plagued by the unpopular war in Iraq, was at 38% when Democrats won control in 2006.

More worrisome for Democrats is the likelihood that many of their voters will stay home. Turnout always falls in nonpresidential election years, and that is why strategists closely gauge voter interest. Repeated surveys have found Republicans much more animated than Democrats; a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in mid-December found that 56% of Republicans were “very interested,” compared with 46% of Democrats. …


John McCain’s Mission: A GOP Makeover

John McCain speaks at a health care town hall.
Sen. John McCain is working behind the scenes to reshape the Republican Party in his own center-right image. (Photo credit: AP — Politico)

By Alex Isenstadt Logo - Click to return to home page
October 2, 2009

Fresh from a humbling loss in last years presidential election, Sen. John McCain is working behind-the-scenes to reshape the Republican Party in his own center-right image.

McCain is recruiting candidates, raising money for them and hitting the campaign trail on their behalf. He’s taken sides in competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial primaries and introduced his preferred candidates to his top donors. …

It’s all part of an approach that is at odds with most other recent failed presidential nominees, whose immediate response to defeat was to retreat from the electoral arena. But those familiar with McCain’s thinking say he has expressed serious concern about the direction of the party [emphasis added] and is actively seeking out and supporting candidates who can broaden the party’s reach.

In McCain’s case, that means backing conservative pragmatists and moderates.

“I think he’s endorsed people with center-right politics because he has an understanding that the party is in trouble with certain demographics and wants to have a tone that would allow us to grow,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is McCain’s closest friend and ally in the Senate.

“At a time when our party is struggling and has a lot of shrill voices and aggressive voices, he’s one that can expand our party, said John Weaver, a longtime McCain friend and strategist. …

In mid-September, McCain invited his favored candidates to the St. Regis Hotel in midtown Manhattan to rub shoulders with 40 of the senator’s top donors at a reception for the Arizona Republican. …

McCain’s increasingly active role — and his attempts to advance candidates cut from his own ideological mold — isn’t necessarily welcomed in all corners of the party.

“John McCain is a moderate. Birds of a feather fly together,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “It’s not surprising.”

Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative blog, RedState, was even sharper in his criticism of McCain’s initiative.

“I’m sure John McCain has a lot of political favors he wants to return in 2010, but I don’t trust his views of who a winning candidate is anymore than I trust his ability to pick a winning campaign staff,” he said. “McCain has never really been a conservative, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s picking non-conservative candidates.”

McCain told POLITICO in a brief interview that he was determined to play a major role in the GOP’s rebuilding effort — beginning with the party’s 2010 campaign.

“I think it’s important, at this stage in my career, to try to support candidates that I think represent the next generation of leadership in the Republican Party,” the 73-year-old McCain said on his way to the Senate floor for a vote last week. …


2010: A GOP-Friendly Environment

Though not exactly of seismic proportions, the political landscape shifted considerably this summer in favor of the Republican Party — most likely in response to President Obama’s healthcare reform proposals on top of a grinding economic recession.

Chris Cillizza writes in his “Friday Fix” (Sept. 25, 2009) political blog at the Washington Post that two of the nation’s leading political prognosticators, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato, are predicting that “Democrats are headed for a world of hurt in 2010 with losses of 20 or more seats not out of the question,” while a third respected political analyst, Stu Rothenberg, is “slightly more circumspect” about just how bad the environment is for House Democrats.


Yes, It’s That Bad for the GOP

By Chuck Todd
Chief White House correspondent
and political director
May 14, 2009

WASHINGTON — There are a number of ugly debates going on inside the Republican Party right now.

There is the debate over whether or not there is even something wrong; there’s the debate over whether or not RNC chair Michael Steele should be trusted with making financial decisions for the party; there’s the debate over whether or not the party should come up with an alternative to being just a party for conservatives; and there’s the debate over whether or not all of this is just an over-reaction. …

Barely glimmers of hope

I have yet to find a race where Republicans seem to be on the upswing just for being Republican when the Democrat in the race is an incumbent in some form. Sure, there are some glimmers of hope for the GOP but only in places where Democrats have unique problems. …

Things for the Republicans are bad, very bad. It is worse than just about any Republican wants to admit.

The party is defined too much by social issues and the brands of Bush and Cheney, rather than by what some in the party wish to define it by, mainly, limited government, personal freedom and a strong national defense.

One could argue the GOP made no progress on limiting government in their four years of total control, from 2002 to 2006. If anything, government expanded like never before.

From the Medicare prescription drug plan, to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and the passage of No Child Left Behind, President Bush presided over a major expansion of the reach of government.

Individually, strong cases can be made for all of these programs. But the big picture is clear for all to see: Under Republican rule, government got bigger and more intrusive.

Which brings us to personal freedoms: From the legislating of morality (Schiavo as the prime example), to the various conservative-led state bans on gay marriage, the Republicans did very little to expand personal freedoms and if anything looked like the party trying to take freedoms away.

Sure, on certain issues, like guns, the GOP stood by their personal freedom mantras, but there are few other examples.

And then there’s the issue of national defense: George Bush’s Republican Party did more to hurt the GOP’s historical advantage on national security issues than any Republican president in modern times.

In fact, if President Obama is able to get some big concrete successes on the foreign policy front during his presidency, he could relegate Bush to LBJ status — the Democratic president, who along with Jimmy Carter, created the public perception deficit for Democrats on national security. To this day, the perception dogs Democrats. …

So the GOP has a long way to go. To the credit of some inside the party, there is a serious awareness of this problem.

Battle around ‘New America’

One effort getting a ton of attention is called the National Council for a New America. Im not sure the title makes a lot of sense, as it feels a bit like it was created by a C+ student in an undergrad business program. But it’s something.

The only thing that surprises me about the concept is that it is the first major attempt by a prominent Republican or two to actually address the issues of the party. In fact, I can’t believe we’re not seeing more efforts like this one. It is being launched by Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip from Virginia, and former Governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.

And yet, the level of ridicule some Republicans, particularly social conservatives, are throwing at them seems completely counterproductive.

Wake-up Republicans of all stripes: You are losing confidence with every part of the American political landscape, even among true believers. Anyone who doesn’t believe the party needs to change in some form needs their head examined.

The debate inside the GOP over the next few years should be about how to change the party. And if done right, this can be a healthy process.

At the moment it is unhealthy. There are too many voices like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney automatically ruling out ideas. To attack folks right now for critiquing the party seems only to undermine the party.

The problem is the loudest folks in the party believe the answer to the GOPs problems is to win the debate or win the argument, not to step back and examine whats not working. No one is having a debate about whether Ronald Reagan’s mantra is still right, the idea of whether government is part of the problem or part of the solution. I happen to believe this single issue is what divides the establishment wing of the party from the grassroots conservatives who turn to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck for their news and commentary.

Every single Republican leader should be taking some responsibility for the problems facing the GOP. It is amazing to me that few key leaders of the past 10 years are accepting any blame. Instead, most point to where they believe they were right, but weren’t listened to.

The excuses sound awfully familiar, like those weve been hearing from the financial sectors on the current economic crisis. No one is stepping up and accepting any responsibility. The public only sees a bunch of cowards afraid to take responsibility. …

Time for a re-branding

Bottom line: Demographic trends from the past 10 years, and the erosion of Republican support on a number of levels, indicates the GOP desperately needs a re-branding campaign.

They also need to refine their principles. Be conservative, but become common sense conservatives. Become the so-called ‘competent managers’ of government; become a party of solutions.

Jeb Bush seemed to have it right when he indicated his own party didn’t have anything to offer up against the Democrats “something.” In this case, that something is a bunch of proposals conservatives may label as big government ideas, but they are ideas.

Republicans aren’t offering ideas, just an argument and a philosophy, but not concrete alternatives which seem innovative or different.

Ironically, Mitt Romney did seem to come up with innovative ideas regarding health care in Massachusetts, yet Romney now runs from those very ideas.

The party needs hundreds of efforts like the one Cantor is offering, not fewer. The party needs to learn how to talk to voters without sounding anti-intellectual. The party needs its governors to start experimenting again: to come up with conservative solutions, to figure out public-private partnerships that work. They need to steal a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook about looking for the right answer. President Obama is running circles around the Republicans on this front, and he has the bully pulpit, so it can seem easy for him to do.

It is ugly right now. Republicans shouldn’t sit back and wait for the pendulum to swing. Democrats tried that and it didn’t work. Just ask Bill Clinton. He didn’t make the changes he wanted to. And he didn’t have an entire party buying into him the way Democrats are now buying into Obama.

To truly succeed at governing, the party needs to create a foundation that has voters believing Republicans want to govern again, not just tear down Democrats or the government.

It is time for Republicans to provide their own vision.


GOP Tussles Over Leadership, Party’s Future Path

Limbaugh just one of many challenges facing embattled party

March 8, 2009

NEW YORK — Rush Limbaugh has been Topic A in the political world, with Republicans debating his influence on their party and Democrats trying to elevate the conservative radio host to the GOP’s de facto spokesman.

The skirmish has cast a bright light on the GOP and its search for leadership in the Obama era. But the personality-driven diversion has deflected attention from the deeper problems the party faces.

Simply put, the public isn’t buying what Republicans are selling right now.

Popularity at near historic lows

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this past week put Republican popularity at near historic lows. Just 26 percent in the survey viewed the party positively, compared with 68 percent for President Barack Obama, despite the economic crisis and sharp GOP criticism of his $3.8 trillion budget plan.

Republicans trailed by more than a 30-point margin on the question of which party is best positioned to end the recession.

Congressional Republicans did show remarkable near-unanimity in opposing Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan. Yet party leaders have proved less successful in articulating a competing message on the economy. Their call for smaller government and further tax cuts has rung hollow with the public, a majority of whom believe sizable federal intervention is necessary to improve the country’s bleak financial condition.

Electorally, the GOP faces an environment that is uncertain at best and challenging at worst. …

‘A situation that is not enviable’

“We are in a situation that is not enviable,” longtime New Hampshire GOP activist Tom Rath said. “We don’t control the White House, either house in Congress, and we don’t have a huge number of governors. And we had eight years where President Bush set the tone for the party.”

Luckily for the GOP, many of those problems were obscured this past week by the Limbaugh flap.

To be sure, lots of Republicans are furious their party got bogged down in a fight over Limbaugh, a bombastic bomb thrower who repeatedly has declared he hopes Obama’s economic policies will fail.

Party leaders reluctant to criticize

Party leaders are reluctant to criticize a radio host who commands an audience of 13 million largely Republican listeners per week. But Limbaugh is a polarizing figure who has limited appeal beyond the party’s most conservative base.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sharply criticized White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who kicked off the anti-Limbaugh strategy last weekend by calling Limbaugh “the voice and intellectual force and energy” driving the GOP.

“As long as Rahm Emanuel is in the White House, it’s a Nixon White House,” Gingrich said in an interview. Gingrich said the effort to tie Republicans to Limbaugh was “a totally cynical and divisive ploy that undermines what Obama has said about being bipartisan.”

‘Fingernails on a blackboard’

Other leading Democrats were part of the chorus as well. Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe wrote a newspaper column comparing Limbaugh to “fingernails on a blackboard.”

Limbaugh seemed to relish the brouhaha. On Wednesday, he invited Obama to debate him and offered to pay the president’s way to his radio studio in Florida. …

Gingrich has started a new Web based group,, to help Republicans think creatively about issues such as financial markets, the environment and science and technological innovation.

He praised several GOP leaders as promising new voices for the party, including Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Bob Corker of Tennessee, and Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia, Kevin McCarthy of California and Mike Pence of Indiana.

High praise for Jindal, Palin

And he had high praise for Jindal and Palin, whom he called “very smart” with a promising future.

“Think of the Republican Party as a tapestry where there are many threads,” Gingrich said. “This is a tapestry that will emerge with tremendous strength and coherence.”

Still, the challenges are such that the GOP chairman, Michael Steele, pledged in a radio interview to put the GOP on a “12-step program” to cure it of its ills. That came after he was forced to apologize to Limbaugh for calling his message “incendiary and ugly.”

No less the Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential candidate, said this past week that the party was on the ropes.

“We just lost two elections in a row, big time. Let’s get together,” McCain told Fox News.


Minnesota’s Progressive Republicans (01:14)

Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) premiered “Minnesota’s Progressive Republicans” on Dec. 20, 2008, on TPT-Channel 17. Co-produced with Growth & Justice, the documentary explores the strong progressive Republican tradition that has contributed to the state’s success. It features speeches made by Govs. Al Quie and Arne Carlson and U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad at a symposium hosted in September 2008 by Growth & Justice.


How the GOP Will Define Itself in 2010 Campaigns

By Tom Curry
National affairs writer
December 5, 2008

WASHINGTON – The 2010 elections may seem to exist only in the distant future, but candidates are already raising money and plotting possible strategies. And the beleaguered Republicans, with a smaller minority than before last month’s elections, are already wondering how they’ll define themselves and how their foes will define them in 2010.

Will voters see the GOP as the party of principled opposition to taxpayer bailouts of mismanaged companies? Or will it be the party that let General Motors and Chrysler die, allowing millions of jobs to vanish?

There is, of course, a related question for 2010: At what point do president-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats “own” the economy as a campaign issue?

Republican pollster Whit Ayres said that while Democrats will try to portray the Republicans who vote against an auto bailout as job killers, “most Americans will recognize the fault lies more in Detroit than in Washington.”

But Democratic economist and former Clinton administration official Rob Shapiro said, “GOP opposition to the bailout seems to embody the general Republican approach of ‘no matter how bad things are, you’re on your own.'” Even though the public may oppose this bailout, they are going to even more strongly oppose deterioration in the economy without a bailout.

He said, “If the economy turns significantly worse after the failure of the auto companies, the public will blame it on those who helped create the conditions that let the economy deteriorate further.” …

Full story


First Step to GOP Recovery: Fire Rush Limbaugh

By Morton M. Kondracke
Roll Call Executive Editor
November 20, 2008

How can the Republican Party rebound? The first step would be to quit letting Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham set its agenda. [Subscription required to access full article]


Free the GOP

The party won’t win back the middle as long as its hostage to social fundamentalists

Albright United Methodist Church in Phoenix on Election Day.
Albright United Methodist Church in Phoenix on Election Day
(Photo credit: Mark Wilson — Getty Images)

By Christine Todd Whitman and Robert M. Bostock
The Washington Post
November 14, 2008; page A19

Four years ago, in the week after the 2004 presidential election, we were working furiously to put the finishing touches on the book we co-authored, “Its My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America.”

Our central thesis was simple: The Republican Party had been taken hostage by “social fundamentalists,” the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Unless the GOP freed itself from their grip, we argued, it would so alienate itself from the broad center of the American electorate that it would become increasingly marginalized and find itself out of power.

At the time, this idea was roundly attacked by many who were convinced that holding on to the “base” at all costs was the way to go. A former speechwriter for President Bush, Matthew Scully, who went on to work for the McCain campaign this year, called the book “airy blather” and said its argument fell somewhere between “insufferable snobbery” and “complete cluelessness.”

Gary Bauer suggested that the book sounded as if it came from a “Michael Moore radical.” National Review said its warnings were, “at best, counterintuitive,” and Ann Coulter said the book was “based on conventional wisdom that is now known to be false.”

What a difference four years makes — and the data show it. While a host of issues were at play in this election, the primary reason John McCain lost was the substantial erosion of support from self-identified moderates compared with four years ago.

In 2004, Democratic nominee John Kerry held just a nine-percentage-point margin among moderate voters over President Bush. This year, the spread between Barack Obama and McCain was 21 points among this group. The net difference between the two elections is a deficit of nearly 6.4 million moderate votes for the Republicans in 2008.

In seven of the nine states that switched this year from Republican to Democratic, Obama’s vote total exceeded the total won by President Bush four years ago. So even if McCain had equaled the president’s numbers from 2004 (and he did not), he still would have lost in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia (81 total electoral votes) — and lost the election.

McCain didn’t lose those states because he failed to hold the base. He lost them because Obama broadened his base. Nor did the Republican ticket lose because “values voters” stayed home. On the contrary, according to exit polls, such voters made up a larger proportion of the electorate this year than in 2004 — 26 percent, up from 23 percent.

Extrapolating from those data, McCain actually won more votes from self-identified white evangelical/born-again voters than Bush did four years ago — 1.8 million more. But that was not enough to offset the loss of so many moderates.

Following the conventional wisdom of the past two presidential elections, McCain tried mightily to assuage the Republican Party’s social-fundamentalist wing. His selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose social views are entirely aligned with that wing, as his running mate was clearly meant to demonstrate his commitment to that bloc.

Yet while his choice did comfort those voters, it made many others uncomfortable. Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moments notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party’s consent.

In the wake of the Democrats’ landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldnt support him. They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate.

This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don’t find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders.

Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division.

It’s long past time for the GOP to do the same.

Christine Todd Whitman, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, is co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council. Robert M. Bostock, a freelance speechwriter, was her co-author for the book “It’s My Party Too.”



The Washington Post opinion column below, by Kathleen Parker, could draw a sharper distinction between traditional religious practice and the politicized, fundamentalist variety that threatens to become a millstone around the neck for the Republican Party. However, it points to some of the same issues as the above article by Whitman and Bostock. Here are some excerpts:

The Washington Post
November 14, 2008

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit. …

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh. The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it. …

So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners. …

In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle. …

And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party — and conservatism with it — eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one’s heart where it belongs. …

Meanwhile, it isnt necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. …

Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly. …

Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base — or the nation may need a new party.



Darkness at Dusk

By David Brooks

November 11, 2008

It’s only been a week since the defeat, but the battle lines have already been drawn in the fight over the future of conservatism. In one camp, there are the Traditionalists, the people who believe that conservatives have lost elections because they have strayed from the true creed.

George W. Bush was a big-government type who betrayed conservatism. John McCain was a Republican moderate, and his defeat discredits the moderate wing. To regain power, the Traditionalists argue, the G.O.P. should return to its core ideas: Cut government, cut taxes, restrict immigration. Rally behind Sarah Palin.

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are the most prominent voices in the Traditionalist camp, but there is also the alliance of Old Guard institutions. For example, a group of Traditionalists met in Virginia last weekend to plot strategy, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

According to reports, the attendees were pleased that the election wiped out some of the party’s remaining moderates. “There’s a sense that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are freer of wobbly-kneed Republicans than they were before the election,” the writer R. Emmett Tyrrell told a reporter.

The other camp, the Reformers, argue that the old G.O.P. priorities were fine for the 1970s but need to be modernized for new conditions. The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government.

The Reformers propose new policies to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety. They tend to take global warming seriously. They tend to be intrigued by the way David Cameron has modernized the British Conservative Party.

Moreover, the Reformers say, conservatives need to pay attention to the way the country has changed. Conservatives have to appeal more to Hispanics, independents and younger voters. They cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class and the entire East and West Coasts.

The Reformist view is articulated most fully by books such as “Comeback” by David Frum and “Grand New Party” by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, as well as the various writings of people like Ramesh Ponnuru, Yuval Levin, Jim Manzi, Rod Dreher, Peggy Noonan and, at the moderate edge, me.

The debate between the camps is heating up. Only one thing is for sure: In the near term, the Traditionalists are going to win the fight for supremacy in the G.O.P.

They are going to win, first, because Congressional Republicans are predominantly Traditionalists. Republicans from the coasts and the upper Midwest are largely gone. Among the remaining members, the popular view is that Republicans have been losing because they haven’t been conservative enough.

Second, Traditionalists have the institutions. Over the past 40 years, the Conservative Old Guard has built up a movement of activist groups, donor networks, think tanks and publicity arms. The reformists, on the other hand, have no institutions.

There is not yet an effective Republican Leadership Council to nurture modernizing conservative ideas. There is no moderate Club for Growth, supporting centrist Republicans. The Public Interest, which used to publish an array of public policy ideas, has closed. Reformist Republican donors don’t seem to exist. Any publication or think tank that headed in an explicitly reformist direction would be pummeled by its financial backers. National candidates who begin with reformist records — Giuliani, Romney or McCain — immediately tack right to be acceptable to the power base.

Finally, Traditionalists own the conservative mythology. Members of the conservative Old Guard see themselves as members of a small, heroic movement marching bravely from the Heartland into belly of the liberal elite. In this narrative, anybody who deviates toward the center, who departs from established doctrine, is a coward, and a sellout.

This narrative happens to be mostly bogus at this point. Most professional conservatives are lifelong Washingtonians who live comfortably as organization heads, lobbyists and publicists. Their supposed heroism consists of living inside the large conservative cocoon and telling each other things they already agree with.

But this embattled-movement mythology provides a rationale for crushing dissent, purging deviationists and enforcing doctrinal purity. It has allowed the old leaders to define who is a true conservative and who is not. It has enabled them to maintain control of (an ever more rigid) movement.

In short, the Republican Party will probably veer right in the years ahead, and suffer more defeats. Then, finally, some new Reformist donors and organizers will emerge. They will build new institutions, new structures and new ideas, and the cycle of conservative ascendance will begin again.


With G.O.P. Congressmans Loss, a Moderate Tradition Ends in New England

After conceding on election night, Representative Christopher Shays comforted his daughter, Jeramy, as his wife, Betsi, spoke to supporters in Norwalk, Conn. (Photo credit: Bob Child / The Associated Press)

By Peter Applebome

November 5, 2008

The odd thing is it was the race two years earlier that on the surface seemed tougher. Battered over his support for an unpopular war, agitated and anguished, Representative Christopher Shays seemed so under siege and buffeted by conflicting impulses in 2006 that David Broder of The Washington Post wrote that “the war has reduced this 60-year-old nine-term veteran of the House to a complete head case.”

That time he managed to survive. This time, in an election defined more by his district’s angst and sense of dread than his own, Mr. Shays, the Republicans leading escape artist, ran out of rope. So after 10 terms in Congress, and after holding on as the last Republican representative from New England, Mr. Shays, 63, was back in Washington on Wednesday. He had 15 days to move out of his office, and plenty of time to ponder the wreckage of the Republican brand, particularly in the Northeast.

“I thought I could win,” he said via cellphone after being defeated, 51 to 48 percent, by a political newcomer, Jim Himes, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who is an executive with a nonprofit agency. …

When he went to Congress in 1987, he was one of nine Republican representatives from the six New England states. Now there are none. He inherited a seat long held by independent-minded Republicans like Lowell P. Weicker Jr. And he was part of a tradition of Northeastern moderates like Clifford P. Case of New Jersey and Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York and, later, Christie Whitman of New Jersey.

Mr. Shays, who broke with Republicans over the years on issues like Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the environment and campaign finance reform, has often been a lonely figure in a party whose leaders and/or would-be leaders have been in the vein of George W. Bush, Tom DeLay and, perhaps, Sarah Palin. …

On Tuesday, Mr. Shays ran as well or better than he did in 2006 in much of the district, but he was swamped by a huge tide of new Democratic voters and by Mr. Himes’s overwhelming victory in Bridgeport, the district’s largest city. …

Mr. Shays, who once said Republicans were “in danger of becoming a theocracy,” sees much to second-guess about the party’s evolution. He tends to focus not on the biggest catastrophes like the war and the economy, but rather on the many missteps along the way that reflect a party that had lost its direction — like Mr. DeLay’s successful push in 2005 for Congress to ask the federal courts to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who had been kept alive for more than a decade by a feeding tube.

“I had a fund-raiser in Westport and I asked, ‘How many of you think we should take this out of state court and into a federal one?’ And not one person raised their hand,” he said. “Republicans tend to think you leave those things to the states and judicial activism in the federal courts is an anathema.”

He also cited Hurricane Katrina. “I think people thought the president was competent but arrogant, and after Katrina they said, ‘Oh my God, they’re incompetent, and they’re still arrogant,'”  he said. Mr. Shays said the president and Karl Rove needed a vision and a cause — like achieving energy independence — beyond finding ways to get 50 percent of the vote plus one.

And he said the party desperately needed to broaden its base at a time when Mr. Obama was able to mobilize blacks and tap into the emerging demographics of the country. “We’re not a diverse party,” he said. “I don’t see how we move forward as a party if we don’t find a way to appeal to all regions and all races.”

Some Democrats say Mr. Shays has been more maverick in style than substance, that on the big issues of the times — like the war and government deregulation — he’s been with his party more often than not. He signed on early to Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, and Mr. Gingrich campaigned for him this year.

Mr. Shays said he has never considered switching parties. Still, it’s not hard to look at the rise of the social conservatives and see why Northeastern Republicans are disappearing one by one. “I don’t see us winning with social conservatism,” he said. “The party will not be rebuilt without moderates being a part of it.”



Statisticians Reject Global Cooling

Some skeptics claim Earth is cooling despite contrary data

Image: Mountain is reflected in a bay that used to be covered by the Sheldon glacier on the Antarctic peninsula
A mountain is reflected in a bay that used to be covered by the Sheldon glacier on the Antarctic peninsula. (Photo credit: Reuters)

By Seth Borenstein
Science Writer

October 26, 2009

WASHINGTON — An analysis of global temperatures by independent statisticians shows the Earth is still warming and not cooling as some global warming skeptics are claiming.

The analysis was conducted at the request of The Associated Press to investigate the legitimacy of talk of a cooling trend that has been spreading on the Internet, fueled by some news reports, a new book and temperatures that have been cooler in a few recent years.

In short, it is not true, according to the statisticians who contributed to the AP analysis.

The statisticians, reviewing two sets of temperature data, found no trend of falling temperatures over time.

2005 hottest year recorded

U.S. government data show the decade that ends in December will be the warmest in 130 years of record-keeping, and 2005 was the hottest year recorded.

The case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather. Last year was cooler than previous years. It has been a while since the superhot years of 1998 and 2005. So is this a longer climate trend or just weather’s normal ups and downs?

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time. …

Yet the idea that things are cooling has been repeated in opinion columns, a BBC news story posted on the Drudge Report and in a new book by the authors of the best-seller “Freakonomics.” Last week, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 57 percent of Americans now believe there is strong scientific evidence for global warming, down from 77 percent in 2006.

Global warming skeptics base their claims on an unusually hot year in 1998. Since then, they say, temperatures have dropped — thus, a cooling trend. But it is not that simple.

Temps rising once more

Since 1998, temperatures have dipped, soared, fallen again and are now rising once more. Records kept by the British meteorological office and satellite data used by climate skeptics still show 1998 as the hottest year. However, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show 2005 has topped 1998. Published peer-reviewed scientific research generally cites temperatures measured by ground sensors, which are from NOAA, NASA and the British, more than the satellite data.

The recent Internet chatter about cooling led NOAA’s climate data center to re-examine its temperature data. It found no cooling trend.

“The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record,” said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. “Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming.”

The AP sent expert statisticians NOAA’s year-to-year ground temperature changes over 130 years and the 30 years of satellite-measured temperatures preferred by skeptics and gathered by scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880.

Saying there’s a downward trend since 1998 is not scientifically legitimate, said David Peterson, a retired Duke University statistics professor and one of those analyzing the numbers.

Identifying a downward trend is a case of “people coming at the data with preconceived notions,” said Peterson, author of the book “Why Did They Do That? An Introduction to Forensic Decision Analysis.” …

Conflicting data analyses

Apart from the conflicting data analyses is the eyebrow-raising new book title from Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, “Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.”

A line in the book says: “Then there’s this little-discussed fact about global warming: While the drumbeat of doom has grown louder over the past several years, the average global temperature during that time has in fact decreased.”

That led to a sharp rebuke from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which said the book mischaracterizes climate science with “distorted statistics.” …

Moving averages over 10 years important

Statisticians say that in sizing up climate change, it’s important to look at moving averages of about 10 years. They compare the average of 1999-2008 to the average of 2000-2009. In all data sets, 10-year moving averages have been higher in the last five years than in any previous years.

“To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous,” said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University.

Ben Santer, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab, called it “a concerted strategy to obfuscate and generate confusion in the minds of the public and policy-makers” ahead of international climate talks in December in Copenhagen.

President Barack Obama weighed in on the topic Friday at the Massechusetts Institute of Technology. He said some opponents “make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.”

Early this year, climate scientists in two peer-reviewed publications statistically analyzed recent years’ temperatures against claims of cooling and found them invalid.

Not all skeptical scientists make the flat-out cooling argument.

“It pretty much depends on when you start,” wrote John Christy, the Alabama atmospheric scientist who collects the satellite data that skeptics use. He said in an e-mail that looking back 31 years, temperatures have gone up nearly three-quarters of a degree Fahrenheit (four-tenths of a degree Celsius). The last dozen years have been flat, and temperatures over the last eight years have declined a bit, he wrote.

Oceans influence short-term weather

Oceans, which take longer to heat up and longer to cool, greatly influence short-term weather, causing temperatures to rise and fall temporarily on top of the overall steady warming trend, scientists say. The biggest example of that is El Nino.

El Nino, a temporary warming of part of the Pacific Ocean, usually spikes global temperatures, scientists say. The two recent warm years, both 1998 and 2005, were El Nino years. The flip side of El Nino is La Nina, which lowers temperatures. A La Nina bloomed last year and temperatures slipped a bit, but 2008 was still the ninth hottest in 130 years of NOAA records.

Of the 10 hottest years recorded by NOAA, eight have occurred since 2000, and after this year it will be nine because this year is on track to be the sixth-warmest on record.

The current El Nino is forecast to get stronger, which probably will pushing global temperatures even higher next year, scientists say. NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt predicts 2010 may break a record, so a cooling trend “will be never talked about again.”


Expect 1,000-Year Cimate Impacts, Experts Say

Study: Stopping emissions won’t prevent decreased rainfall, higher seas

Vital Signs of a Warming World
The science, impacts and scenarios of climate shifts



Maybe We Should

Del “Abe” Jones — The Poor Man’s Poet

Maybe We Should —
Have ourselves an “adjustment”
And let the fat cats feel the pain
To bring our economy in line
And not let, this happen again.

Maybe We Should —
Get rid of the Federal Reserve
Which is illegal, anyway
President Kennedy gave a decree (I)
And said, they should go away.

Maybe We Should —
Make sure all the people know
We all pay interest on our money
Which is printed/owned by the banks (II)
For them, a bottomless, jar of honey.

Maybe We Should —
End the unlawful income tax
And charge a flat tax on all spent (III)
Except for food and such things
And house payments, and rent.

Maybe We Should —
Vote every incumbent out
Forget our political persuasion
Vote in new folks who really care
About the future, of our Nation.

Maybe We Should —
Get rid of the electoral vote
And the flawed voting machines
Make everybody’s vote count
So, they can’t win, by any, means.

Maybe We Should —
End foreign aid to unfriendly nations
Spend that money, here at home
Quit bankrolling those foreigners
And start, to take care of our own.

Maybe We Should —
Stop all subsidies for companies (IV) (V)
And tax breaks for all the wealthy
Spend that money, on other programs
That teach kids, and keep us safe and healthy.

Maybe We Should —
Make companies who go bust
And those invested in that kind
Suffer the consequence of their acts
Along with CEOs who rob them blind. (VI)

Maybe We Should —
Quit turning a blind eye to those
Who commit, white-collar crime
Make them pay back the piper
And make them all, do the time.

Maybe We Should —
End our dependence on oil
And go for the alternatives
Like wind power and solar
With no charge, for what it gives.

Maybe We Should —
Get out of groups like the WTO (VII)
Where we buy more than we can sell
When we complain about poisoned stuff
And they just tell us, “Go to hell!”

Maybe We Should —
Have someone that we can trust
To find products, which make us ill
Not, protecting those who sell them
Who don’t care, who they may kill.

Maybe We Should —
Make it against our Nation’s law
To send our jobs, overseas
And, when we make a phone call
That, “Press one, for English, please.”

Maybe We Should —
Let no one be, above the Law
From our President, on down
As long as we let them get away
True Justice, never will be found.

Maybe We Should —
Fire those inept, prosecutors
Who put our Border Guards in prison
We can thank, those like Johnny Sutton
For how, border violence has risen.

Maybe We Should —
Realize, we do have a problem
With our World’s global warning
The worsening of our storms
Is, Mother Nature’s warning.

Maybe We Should —
Quit trying to change the World
And, forcing our Democracy
In places it will never work
First, make it work for you and me.

Maybe We Should —
End the spying on our people
It’s against our Constitution
And loss of habeas corpus
Is surely wrong, and no solution.

Maybe We Should —
Bring our Troops back home
And, have them guard our border
Stop all illegals coming in
And enforce our Law and Order.

Maybe We Should —
Stop going to War on a whim
For propaganda, lies, and fear (VIII )
For, every time we do it
Our apocalypse, draws nearer.

Maybe We Should —
Learn about the New World Order (IX)
(Some say, there is nothing to fear)
When, the rich will have all the power
Though maybe, that time’s already here!

Maybe We Should —
Get our own house in order
And try, to take care of our own
Then, we might again, be thought of
The greatest, this World has known.

Please educate yourself and read the references: