Archive for December, 2011

Newt Gingrich on the Couch

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The meteoric rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of Newt Gingrich is enough to make you want to take a Dramimine for motion sickness. He represents both the ascent of conservatism to new heights and its dramatic fall out of favor. Now, Newt Gingrich is once again rising, threatening to unseat Romney as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. His newfound support reflects many of the contradictions inherent in the current Republican party as well as the Tea Party: the desire for victory, the distrust and disdain for big government, the reliance on government for a substantial part of our retirement and health care in old age, the desire for fresh-faced uncorrupted politicians, and the desire for a known, vetted candidate willing to pull out all the stops to unseat President Obama in 2012. There is something both appealing and repulsive about Gingrich. He is careful and sloppy. He is calculating and unpredictable. He possesses expert, in-depth knowledge of a seemingly endless array of issues, which leaves one wondering whether he will be able to make the sweeping changes necessary to shepherd the country through the current crisis, or will he be frozen, overwhelmed by too many facts. In the end, the choice whether to choose Gingrich as the Republican presidential nominee, and ultimately president, will say us much about ourselves as it does about him.

Gingrich is a man of many contradictions. He is widely viewed as the leader of a conservative renaissance in the 1990’s. He was instrumental with his Contract With America in helping the Republican party sweep to victory in the House, allowing him to become Speaker. But, the seeds of his fall from grace were sown even as the fruits of victory were first tasted. There is something Nixonesque about Newt. He maintains a tight discipline which is seldom if ever broken. Like Nixon, Gingrich has had his fall. Nixon lost the White House and failed in his campaign for governor of California. Gingrich resigned as Speaker as well as from the House. Afterwards, for both Nixon and Gingrich, it appeared to be the end of the line. Yet, however improbably, Nixon, phoenix-like, rose from the ashes of failure. Newt too, at a point far removed from his halcyon days as Speaker, is rising from the ashes of scandal and disgrace. Like Nixon, Newt’s interpretation of his own history, is significantly different from those who shared the moments with him. Like Nixon, Newt experienced the agony of watching a lifetime of work unravel before his eyes. Like Nixon, there is the plotted comeback and defiance of those who sought to destroy him.

Newt, like Nixon, had humble beginnings and seeks the acceptance of the establishment. Despite his best efforts, he is still not – except for his position as powerbroker – fully accepted. Like Nixon, he often disappoints the true believer conservatives most responsible for his success. Nixon disappointed often – China, the EPA, wage and price controls. Newt has disappointed with climate change, the individual mandate in healthcare, and the EPA. Similar to Nixon, conservatives often forgive his personal, political and ethical transgressions because he is viewed as key to slaying a greater enemy – liberalism and communism for Nixon, socialism and Obama for Newt. With Newt, like Nixon, it isn’t clear whether he has learned the lessons of his past and whether giving him power will be akin to handing an alcoholic a bottle. In an interesting twist of fate, Gingrich faces a Romney, as did Nixon in his 1968 primary run. Romney, as his father before him, is not widely loved by conservatives.

There is something extremely reassuring about Gingrich. He exudes great confidence, even while feigning humility. It is interesting, perhaps ironic, that former president Clinton and Gingrich seem to possess an affinity for each other. Clinton recently praised Gingrich’s debate performance and said this of Gingrich:

“I think he’s doing well just because he’s thinking, and people are hungry for some ideas that make sense. He’s being rewarded for thinking”.

Certainly there are some similarities between Gingrich and Clinton as well. They both hail from humble beginnings, improbably rose to power by pulling their parties to the right, and have a gift for translating wonkish policy in terms that voters can understand.

Ultimately, the question will be whether or not voters feel that Gingrich has been reformed and is ready to exercise power. That is tempered by the overwhelming desire to throw Obama out of office. It will be interesting to see if, in the rush to unseat Obama, whether voters carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of their candidates – not just in terms of policy, but also temperament and character. There is little doubt that Gingrich possesses the requisite mental acuity and historical perspective to be president. What is not as clear is whether or not he can navigate his own weaknesses, the temptations of power, and the myriad of choices which will immediately confront him should he win the Republican nomination, and ultimately, the White House. Talent, experience, and intellect are necessary, but not sufficient conditions that must be met to be president. Character, decency, and self-control are also required. In the end, Nixon’s lack of those qualities led to his fall from power. For many, to this day, they deny Nixon’s basic flaws and blame his enemies. His flaws reflect our own. Once again, with Gingrich, our national psyche and character are on the couch. Who we are and who we want to be are as much at issue this election as the economy, deficit or the Obama record.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Cain Solutions

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Interesting after the implosion of the Cain campaign his Plan B is a web site – nothing more than a splash page with a sign up – not aptly titled TheCainSolutions.

The Cain Solutions name implies that somehow there are solutions – aka government schemes – that will solve the issues that face us.

Reminds me a bit of the Tim Hawkins’ video – The Government Can.

I especially like the verse –

“The government takes, everything we make to pay for all of their solutions.”

We do not need any more government “solutions”. We are in the mess we are in largely because we have a government gone wild. One less candidate proposing to solve my problems through government is just fine by me.
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Live Blogging Fox GOP Presidential Forum

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a quick reminder that I will be live blogging the Fox Republican Forum over at Sulia.

The following candidates will be there –

* Mitt Romney
* Newt Gingrich
* Ron Paul
* Rick Santorum
* Michele Bachmann
* Rick Perry

I will be primarily posting through the Sulia here –

However, you might find some posts in these locations as well –

Posts should be cross-posted to my Twitter account (@tkinder).

Hope to see you there.
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Something About Romney

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Once upon a time, early last presidential election cycle, I supported Romney for president. That support didn’t last long. In fact, the more I learned about him, and the more I observed him, the less I found to like. In the end, there was something about Romney that – while I can’t exactly put my finger on – I didn’t trust.

It’s a common criticism of Romney, and many other politicians, that he doesn’t appear to have a core set of beliefs. He is often viewed of shifting his views the way the political winds blow.

For example, on immigration, Romney presently expresses a very tough stance, but he has been tainted by the issue and haunted by his own prior position before:

On health care reform, Romney appears vulnerable. Not that Romney is the only one, but he has certainly been out front on advocating unpopular things such as the individual mandate in the past:

Romney’s statements regarding climate change being man made aren’t real crowd pleasers either – although, again, he isn’t the only Republican guilty of straying from positions on the issue more acceptable to the Republican base.

Campaign finance reform was another issue where his positions have changed:

There are simply so many of these shifting positions that you need a web site to track them all. Luckily, there is one called Mitt Romney Flip Flops:

There is just something about Mitt Romney that doesn’t set right. It doesn’t help that he even can’t get his own first name right:

In the interest of full disclosure my first name is actually Terence. But it got shortened to Terry by most people I know, so I normally go by that. However, I’m not confused as to what my first name is and I do use Terence on many legal documents.

Romney is symptomatic of the idea that government can be fixed, if only we had a CEO who could efficiently manage it all. I disagree with that notion here:

The office of the presidency primarily requires leadership. It also requires knowledge of the issues and someone who can negotiate the political landscape and know what needs to get done – or not done for that matter.

Perhaps, if our fiscal and political situation weren’t so dire, Romney might be adequate to the task. However, our situation is critical and we need someone who inspires more confidence and has a truer North than Romney does. In the end there is something about Romney that doesn’t sit right and for that reason I cannot support him for president.

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What Herman Cain’s Candidacy Says About the Tea Party

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

While we are still waiting to see what ultimately happens with the Herman Cain presidential campaign, it is interesting to look at his campaign and what it says about the Tea Party. First off, the Tea Party is not a monolithic movement, so it isn’t possible to talk about the movement as if it is one, united group of like minded individuals. However, there are recent trends, including significant support of Herman Cain for president which, taken together can give us an idea of what the Tea Party is and where it could be headed.

The Tea Party arose out of public dissatisfaction with the fiscal irresponsibility of the federal government and disgust with the government bailouts of GM, Chrysler, the Too Big to Fail (TBTF) banks, etc. The movement declared itself to be non-partisan. Over time, the Tea Party has evolved. This evolution has largely been away from non-partisanship and away from narrow issues of fiscal responsibility.

Over time, the Tea Party has taken on a more religious tone. For example, our local Tea Party group has the following mission statement:

“Our mission is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with Fiscal Responsibility, Founding Principles, and Constitutionally Limited Government under God.”

Certainly, on the face of it, there is nothing wrong with the mission statement. However, there is much more information on religion in our local Tea Party, and the Tea Party generally, than there appears in the mission statement. There is an emphasis on finding moral leaders, almost on a Biblical type of leadership. Again, I would certainly love to have a smart, knowledgeable, capable, experienced and extremely moral leader. The reality is, however, that – at least if you believe what the Bible says – we are all fallen sinners. We are only saved by the grace of God. There is nothing we can do on our own to save ourselves or make ourselves worthy of salvation.

Furthermore, judging morality and interpreting it in light of the teachings of the Bible, religious institutions, etcetera can be extremely difficult. We all make judgements on a daily basis. Life requires that we do so. It is infinitely more difficult to accurately assess whether or not someone is a good, trustworthy or moral person. We do our best to make those assessments. Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are wrong.

I attended the first meeting where the local Tea Party attempted to revitalize itself. It was marked by a few things – first, there was a Republican candidate for Congress invited as a speaker. Second, we spent a large amount of time debating the roots of the founding of our country – whether this country was founded as a Christian nation. Those who were in any way uncomfortable with that idea were essentially told that they were wrong. Now, I can see the debate from either point of view. But, my practical question is, if the Founders intended that we be governed by Biblical Law, why didn’t they institute this clearly in the Constitution? The obvious answer is that was not their clear intent. They drew on many historical examples and princliples to design the government. It was not their intent to design a theocratic form of government or one in which there was a state religion.

I wrote about the seeming contradiction between the Tea Party’s fiscal responsibility roots and its current emphasis on religion here:

The issue of partisanship within the Tea Party has been with it for some time. Within our local Tea Party, it is apparent that there aren’t a whole lot of people who lean Democratic. Most people are conservative, Republican, and perhaps, a sprinkling of libertarians – but I doubt many would feel too comfortable or welcome within our local group.

In light of the whole non-partisan claims of the Tea Party, our local group had a Republican presidential straw poll with the following results:

* Cain 35%
* Romney 15%
* Gingrich 15%
* Perry 15%
* Paul 13%

So, like much of the Tea Party, our local group had a large plurality supporting Cain. Reasons ranged from his being a political outsider, to his business experience, to the perception that he was a moral man.

I wrote about the mistaken notion that the problems of government can be solved by electing a CEO here:

It seems as though, demonstrated by the Cain phenomena, that there is a tendency to support charismatic candidates, viewed as outsiders by the Tea Party. There is the perception that an outsider is not tainted and won’t be easily corrupted. The irony is that Cain is far from being an outsider or average American. He was the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and the Chair of an advisory board to the Federal Reserve.

This is not average experience. Being part of an advisory committee to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City is not like being a member of the local school board. While Herman Cain may have risen from more humble beginnings, he is by no means today a common man. It is ironic today that while announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign he attacked the political elites. Well, from where I sit, he certainly seems elite to me. I have met a few economists from the FED, but no one there is seeking out my advice, although I do give it out freely, frequently and uninvited.

It seems there is a good possibility that the Tea Party will stray farther and farther from its original roots. The criticisms of the movement being co-opted by the Republican party don’s seem far off the mark. Mass movement are ripe for a charismatic leader to take them over and lead them astray. It is clear to me, at least, that Cain took advantage of the Tea Party to advance his agenda, political career, book tour, etc.

As a side note, I find curious the Tea Party’s criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement. While it may well be faced with difficulties maintaining its momentum and remaining true to its original intent, as the Tea Party has, OWS has many points in common with the original Tea Party. It opposes bank bailouts, is disgusted that politicians have been co-opted by special interests, and seeks to return power to the people. That being said, OWS and the Tea Party may not ultimately move in the right direction. For me, it would make sense for them to work on common parts of their agenda, but not everyone agrees.

In the final analysis, the Cain campaign demonstrates many of the weaknesses and contradictions inherent within the Tea party:

* Support of charismatic but inexperienced, ill-prepared leaders
* Tendency to be easily deceived by candidates who talk a good line, but are merely opportunists
* Movement away from demand for fiscal responsibility emphasis and toward religious tone, seeking narrowly defined moral leadership
* Transformation from non-partisan movement to partisan focused movement

The suspension of the Cain campaign leaves the Tea Party once again without a titular head or leader. It is in essence a leaderless, and too often rudderless movement. Yes, there are effective Tea Party organizations, but in general the movement lacks direction. The Tea Party bought the story and notion that Cain could take his business experience, outsider status, and personal morality and translate it into a successful run for the White House. Instead, his lack of experience and lack of dedication to mount a serious campaign saw his meteoric rise and fall. He is a true Tea Party candidate. Undoubtedly, there are a few candidates, backed by the Tea Party that won’t disappoint, but Cain is not one of them. Until the Tea Party returns to its roots demanding fiscal responsibility, there will be more Cains and more disappointment.

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Why I Didn’t Take the Cain Train

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

There has been lots of excitement surrounding the candidacy of Herman Cain for president. It was something I have not understood.  Part of this excitement seems to be the ongoing meme that the United States Government needs to be run like a business. Implicit in this idea is that the budget crisis could be resolved, in part, by more efficient operation of the machinery of government. My view has been that government and business are dissimilar and the qualities of leadership needed to be president are not the same as those needed to run a large business enterprise.

Another concern surrounding Herman Cain has been his role and support of the Federal Reserve.

Cain chaired a board that gave economic advice to the Kansas City FED.

Cain has also been quite adament in his support for the FED and criticized those who wanted to audit them.

In light of the recent news that the FED provided $16 trillion dollars in support to the Too Big to Fail (TBTF) banks, it is easy to understand why FED supporters would not want the public to know about the activities of the central bank.

That Herman Cain opposed an audit of the Federal Reserve and suggested picking up the phone and asking the FED to send over this information makes him either appear naive or disingenuous.

On foreign policy, Cain appears to be lost. Part of this may be his not altogether bad tendency to rely on the advice of experts. But it seems that his constant refrain in debates is that it all depends. Again, this may or may not be true, but it makes him appear to be lacking in confidence and knowledge. His recent stumble on Libya also casts doubt on his knowledge of one of the most widely reported foreign policy related events in recent memory.

It is also interesting that in light of criticism of Obama’s lack of experience, Cain’s supporters have not been more concerned that Cain has never held elective office. He did, however, run for the U.S. Senate in a losing campaign.

These concerns about Cain don’t  even take into account the ongoing reports of harassment and an affair. While those are definitely serious, for me they are more personal in nature and something for Cain and his wife to work through.

So, no matter what happens with the Cain campaign, I have not and have no future plans of getting on the Cain Train. For me, there are simply too many doubts about Cain’s experience, support for the central bank, and knowledge about foreign policy to consider supporting his campaign for president.

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Live Blogging Fox Republican Presidential Forum

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I will be live blogging the Fox Republican Presidential Forum hosted by Mike Huckabee tomorrow at 8pm Eastern. You can follow the posts here:

Information about the format of the forum is here:

Candidates scheduled to appear:

* Newt Gingrich
* Mitt Romney
* Ron Paul
* Michelle Bachmann
* Rick Perry
* Rick Santorum

If you Tweet about the debate be sure to use the hash tag #huckforum.

Look forward to live blogging at Sulia. Thanks again to Sulia, Jonathan Glick – founder and CEO of Sulia and Becca Alper of Sulia.


More on Jonathan Glick – founder and CEO of Sulia:

More on Becca Alper of Sulia:

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