Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Portrait of Two Establishment “Institutions”

The Washington Examiner looks at Orin Hatch and Dick Lugar, both of whom are Washington "institutions" facing potential primary challengers come 2012.

Their reactions could not be more different. Hatch is tacking to the right, going back to where he should be. Lugar is defiantly staying where he is, nonsensically doubling down on a bad hand not unlike ones that have seen other Washington "institutions" shown the door by restive conservative primary voters.

No Republican in Washington is more worried about the Tea Party than Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. But a few Republicans should be as worried as Hatch, notably Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar.

The Tea Party last year got the attention of many Republicans. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, was the prime victim, losing his Senate seat in the party convention, while establishment Republicans Mike Castle, Charlie Crist, Arlen Specter and Trey Grayson also felt the insurgent sting. Defeating or driving out of the party all these moderates were Tea Party-backed conservatives who railed against pork, high taxes and overspending.

Hatch and Lugar are the 2012 candidates who most fit the mold of Tea Party targets, and both have credible potential challengers. But the two incumbents appear to be taking different tacks: Hatch is banking Right, while Lugar stays his centrist course.

Hatch's most likely challenger is Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz is politically savvy and expert at sounding the anti-establishment message. "Jason was Tea Party before the Tea Party," says his friend state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, referring to Chaffetz's 2008 primary victory over incumbent Chris Cannon. Liljenquist could run against Hatch as well.

Strike one against Hatch: He's a porker. Strike two is his history of courting Democrats and partnering with the likes of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Strike three is simply how long he's been in D.C. Media accounts regularly describe Hatch (like Lugar) as "an institution." This is not a good time to be "an institution."

Could the Tea Party take him out? Liljenquist thinks so. "I think a lot of people are emboldened by what happened to Bennett," he tells me, "and that Hatch is in worse shape than Bennett."

Hatch sees the target on his back. Last week, Hatch pulled all of his earmark requests out of the omnibus spending bill before it imploded. After being an original sponsor of the DREAM Act -- granting amnesty to illegal immigrants in college and the military -- Hatch has this year come out against it. After supporting a food safety bill in committee in 2009, Hatch voted nay on the Senate floor.

Conservative political operatives say that since Bennett's defeat, Hatch has courted those same donors and operatives that helped make 2010 so tough for incumbents.

In Indiana, though, Dick Lugar isn't tacking right. "It's almost as if he's inviting a primary challenge," one frustrated Beltway Republican said this week as Lugar agitated for the DREAM Act and stood by his earmarks in the omnibus. Lugar's spokesman told me Friday that the senator had not made up his mind on the omnibus before Democrats pulled it.

Being undecided on that pork-filled spending bill puts Lugar at the far Left end of the GOP caucus. Spokesman Mark Helmke attributed Lugar's indecision to his focus on ratifying the START Treaty with Russia, which is a prime target for Sen. Jim DeMint, the champion of insurgent Republicans.

"I think he still doesn't get it," a conservative Hill staffer told me. One Republican political operative says Lugar's just been in town so long he's lost touch with his party. "I don't think he's intentionally trying to dare people to run against him. I just think he's tone-deaf."

But Lugar doesn't think he's tone-deaf. After the election, he wrote an article interpreting the results and roughly laying out an agenda. A conservative piece in the centrist-Republican Ripon Forum, it defended the Tea Partiers against common slurs, and advocated tax reform, spending cuts and entitlement reform.

Lugar also knows he's in the cross hairs. "He is anticipating a challenge by somebody," Helmke told me. "He is raising money actively. He is organizing a campaign. ... He will campaign actively on his conservative positions."

State Sen. Mike Delph has openly considered challenging Lugar, and many Beltway conservatives consider him a credible candidate. Other names -- like State Treasurer Richard Mourdock -- are floated. A crowded field would be Lugar's salvation, as he would be able to win with less than 50 percent.

If conservatives take on Lugar or Hatch, the Club for Growth -- which provided financial firepower for many Tea Party insurgents -- would likely play a role. Club Vice President Andy Roth gave me this comment about Hatch and Lugar: "Let's just say they're under the microscope. We are keenly aware of Hatch and Lugar's past voting record and we plan to track every vote they take in the foreseeable future."

This attention seems to be having an effect on Hatch's voting record. Will it move Lugar?
Lugar has done all sorts of things to indicate that he is aware that there is a threat of a primary challenge. He's raising money, conducting polling, and meeting with conservative Tea Party activists, and so forth.

And after all of this, he has apparently decided that his path to electoral success is to not only keep doing the sort of things that have angered the conservative base of the party, but to do it even more.

The Pence Moment Continues in the WSJ

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal had what has become but the latest look by major national media outlets at the possibility of a "Pence for America" campaign.

And again, it's a story of conservatives kicking the tires and liking what they see.

It's also, increasingly, a story of a guy whose inner circle is hinting that he's not going to be running for president.

It occurs to me that for all of the momentous changes it has brought to the Hoosier political landscape, 2010 will probably be remembered in Indiana history by the risks that Hoosier politicians declined to take, rather than the gambles they took.

Most big-name Republicans inside of the state viewed it as too risky to challenge Evan Bayh. For his part, Evan Bayh eventually viewed it as too risky to run for reelection, and even too risky to return to the governorship. Indiana's Democratic Congressmen declined to risk defying their party and voted the party line on things like health care reform, sealing two of their fates at the ballot box in November. Becky Skillman preferred not to risk her health in a bid for governor.

Hoosiers, they always say, are classically risk-averse.

And now, one of the first Hoosier political events of 2011 could well be whether Mike Pence wants to risk a run for the White House, or wants to take--as Frost would put it--the road more traveled by, and instead run for governor in a field that has been all but cleared for him.

We'll all know soon enough.

The Wall Street Journal article:

A Bit of History: Democrats Have Always Liked Past-Tense Republicans (Be They Defeated, Out of Office, or Just Dead)

A bit of irony and historical perspective from Red State:

Republicans, so long as I can recall, have faced an endless barrage of attacks from Democrats and their media allies derived from the theme that today’s Republicans are mean, scary extremists not like those Republicans of the past who won elections because they were moderate and civil and whatnot. The only really good Republicans, to these critics, are dead ones (or live ones who lose elections), although past Republicans do come in for some rehabilitation as soon as they can be used as a club against their successors - we’ve already seen some examples of George W. Bush being cited by liberals on issues like immigration and the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.

Now, it’s true, of course, that political coalitions grow and change all the time as different issues rise in importance, and that the GOP in particular has been influenced by the growth of systematic conservative thinking on a variety of fronts. But let’s not fool ourselves that this is a new development. In 1854, Abe Lincoln - six years before he became the first Republican president - was already defending himself against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas’ contention that Lincoln’s anti-slavery position on the Kansas-Nebraska Act showed him to be out of step with those sane, moderate Whigs of the past, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster (by then, both dead). Here is Lincoln’s response:

Finally, the Judge [Douglas] invokes against me, the memory of Clay and of Webster. They were great men; and men of great deeds. But where have I assailed them? For what is it, that their life-long enemy, shall now make profit, by assuming to defend them against me, their life-long friend? I go against the repeal of the Missouri compromise; did they ever go for it? They went for the compromise of 1850; did I ever go against them? They were greatly devoted to the Union; to the small measure of my ability, was I ever less so? Clay and Webster were dead before this question arose; by what authority shall our Senator say they would espouse his side of it, if alive? Mr. Clay was the leading spirit in making the Missouri compromise; is it very credible that if now alive, he would take the lead in the breaking of it? The truth is that some support from whigs is now a necessity with the Judge, and for thus it is, that the names of Clay and Webster are now invoked. His old friends have deserted him in such numbers as to leave too few to live by. He came to his own, and his own received him not, and Lo! he turns unto the Gentiles.

Along the way, Lincoln also made a critical point about the fact you just can’t wish away political debates over who is, and who is not, a human being, nor ever hope to achieve a permanent settlement of a debate that merely assumes that some are not:

In the course of his reply, Senator Douglas remarked, in substance, that he had always considered this government was made for the white people and not for the negroes. Why, in point of mere fact, I think so too. But in this remark of the Judge, there is a significance, which I think is the key to the great mistake (if there is any such mistake) which he has made in this Nebraska measure. It shows that the Judge has no very vivid impression that the negro is a human; and consequently has no idea that there can be any moral question in legislating about him. In his view, the question of whether a new country shall be slave or free, is a matter of as utter indifference, as it is whether his neighbor shall plant his farm with tobacco, or stock it with horned cattle. Now, whether this view is right or wrong, it is very certain that the great mass of mankind take a totally different view. They consider slavery a great moral wrong; and their feelings against it, is not evanescent, but eternal. It lies at the very foundation of their sense of justice; and it cannot be trifled with. It is a great and durable element of popular action, and, I think, no statesman can safely disregard it.

Another reason why Lincoln remains the original inspiration of the Party of Lincoln. There is hardly an accusation hurled at today’s Republicans that doesn’t echo the ones he faced, back in his day, seen as he was as a self-educated country rustic overly devoted to a moral crusade that upset the applecarts of the sophisticates of his day.

Unintended WikiLeaks Consequences: Bush Was Right & Conspiracy Theories Are Wrong

Larry Elder:

The WikiLeaks de facto declassification of privileged material makes it case closed: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction — and intended to restart his program once the heat was off.

Wired magazine's contributing editor Noah Shachtman — a nonresident fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution — researched the 400,000 WikiLeaked documents released in October. Here's what he found: "By late 2003, even the Bush White House's staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks' newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction (emphasis added). ... Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam's toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents."

In 2008, our military shipped out of Iraq — on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels — what even The Associated Press called "the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program": 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake. The New York Sun editorialized: "The uranium issue is not a trivial one, because Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. ... To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam ... would have been too big a risk."
Commentary:

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deserves a medal rather than prison. “He and WikiLeaks have done America a massive favour,” he writes, “by inadvertently debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy.”

He’s right. And I suspect Rachman’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek when he says Assange should be rewarded. If the United States wanted all that information made public, the government hardly needed his help getting it out there.

Anyway, Rachman points out that many rightists in China and Russia, and leftists in Europe and Latin America, assume that whatever American foreign-policy officials say in public is a lie. I’d add that Arabs on both the “left” and the “right” do, too. Not all of them, surely, but perhaps a majority. I’ve met people in the Middle East who actually like parts of the American rationale for the war in Iraq — that the promotion of democracy in the Arab world might leech out its toxins — they just don’t believe the U.S. was actually serious.

And let’s not forget the most ridiculous theories of all. Surely somewhere in all these leaked files there’d be references to a war for oil in Iraq if the war was, in fact, about oil. Likewise, if 9/11 was an inside job — or a joint Mossad–al-Qaeda job — there should be at least some suggestive evidence in all those classified documents. If the U.S. government lied, rather than guessed wrong, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, or if NATO invaded Afghanistan to install a pipeline, this information would have to be written down somewhere. The State and Defense department bureaucracies are far too vast to have no records of what they’re up to.

Conspiracy theories, though, as someone once said, are history for stupid people. Those who actually believe this stuff — whether about American foreign policy, the president’s birth certificate, or whatever — think the historical record is part of the con job, that anyone who debunks the conspiracy is either deluded or in on it.

So Assange is accused of working for the CIA.

Rachman points out other silly theories that are debunked, or at the very least unsupported, by the leaked cables. “The Americans say, in public, that they would like to build a strong relationship with China based on mutual interests,” he writes, “but that they are worried that some Chinese economic policies are damaging American workers. This turns out to be what they are saying in private, as well. In a cable predicting a more turbulent phase in US-Chinese relations, Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador, insists: ‘We need to find ways to keep the relationship positive,’ while ensuring that American workers benefit more. Many Chinese nationalists and netizens have developed elaborate theories about American plots to thwart China’s rise. There is not a hint of this in WikiLeaks.”

Julian Assange is stridently anti-American. He is not trying to boost the government’s credibility by leaking thousands of cables, and he almost certainly would refuse a medal if one were offered. He should not have done what he did for a number of reasons, and the least rational among our species won’t be persuaded of anything by this material, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t still feel a little bit satisfied.

How the Elephant Became Extinct

This should really read "how the RINO" became extinct.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Decision by Mike Pence Coming Soon

Politico tells us the obvious.

With Becky Skillman and Evan Bayh having bowed out, there is nobody of consequence left in either party to challenge Mike Pence if he wants to move his office to the Statehouse, and a presidential bid by a member of Congress is an uphill battle that will require starting early.

So early, I'd say, that where Mike Pence chose to campaign during the run-up to the November election was very important.

And where was Mike Pence campaigning in the September and October? Iowa? New Hampshire? South Carolina? Swing districts across the country?

Nope. Mike Pence was on the stump in small towns right here in Indiana, campaigning for a Republican majority in the Indiana House (a majority that, since it will draw maps for the next ten years, will have a big say in the success or failure of any future legislative agenda by a Governor Mike Pence).

Mike Pence is running for Governor. I'd bet money on it (and I work at a casino, so I'm not a gambler by nature).

We'll know soon enough, but this decision has been telegraphed miles away, since around Labor Day. If I'm right, we'll know his decision for sure in the next couple of weeks, as county Republican Parties across Indiana start to announce their Lincoln Day Dinner schedules and speakers.

If Mike Pence is scheduled as a speaker at a lot of those dinners, then he's running for Governor. If he's nowhere to be seen, he's running for president.

The road to the Statehouse goes through Lincoln Day Dinners in counties across Indiana. The road to the White House goes through speaking at Republican dinners in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and so the other early primary states.

Now, I'll add that I've heard Pence is already scheduled to speak at the Lincoln Day Dinners in Floyd, Hendricks, and Lake Counties, among others. None of those counties are in the 6th District (where you'd expect an incumbent Congressman to be speaking at Lincoln Days), and (obviously) they're all in Indiana. Now, three dinners does not a hard pattern make--those county parties could have just gotten in early--but I'd say it's broadly indicative of something when it comes to Mike Pence's priorities (or what his staff reads as his priorities).

Politico:

If Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) decides to run for president, he’ll announce his candidacy before the end of January.

A source close to Pence told POLITICO that the conservative congressman still hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for president or opt, instead, for a gubernatorial bid. But sitting Republican Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman’s announcement Monday that she won’t run for governor appears to be pushing Pence toward Indianapolis.

“He will make a decision in the very near future,” within the “first couple weeks of January,” the Pence ally said.

Pence praised Skillman’s service in a statement Monday, shortly after Skillman said a minor health issue had contributed to her decision not to run for governor.

“Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman has served Indiana with integrity for more than 30 years and is among our most beloved public officials,” Pence said. “My family and I hold Becky in the highest regard and were troubled to learn that she was encountering challenges to her health.”

Pence’s decision to step aside from his role in the House Republican leadership shortly after the November elections was widely seen as a signal that he’s interested in higher office. Publicly, his office wasn’t offering any new clues on Monday.

“Congressman Pence believes that the focus today should be on the lieutenant governor, her health and her long career of distinguished service to the state of Indiana,” Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd said. “As he has said before, any decision concerning his future will come after the first of the year.”

But pressure is mounting on Pence to make a quick decision, in part because Skillman’s exit means the Republican field is wide open. If Pence steps in to fill the void, he could clear the field; if he waits, Republicans risk a messier primary.

Also working in Pence’s favor: retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s announcement earlier this month that he won’t run for governor, a move that made waves in the Pence camp and is significantly affecting his decision making.

If Pence decides to run for president, an early start date is just as important. As a member of the House, Pence has a steep climb to gain the name recognition he’ll need in the contest’s early caucus and primary states.

Christmas Wishes

Red State:

Over the past few weeks, as happens every year, I’ve been asked, “what do you want for Christmas?” And, as happens every year, I really can’t think of anything. It’s not that there are not materials things out there that would be nice to have—there are. But, I really don’t want them.

Then it struck me. Last night, as we put the presents under the tree for the kids to open this morning, it hit me: There really isn’t anything that I want in the material sense, but there are things I want for my country and for my children:

I want my children to grow up knowing that America can once again be the land of the free;

I want my children to know that, whether they live richly or poorly, they have a nation that lives by its founders’ principles;

I want my children to have a government that fears its people, not the people fearing the government;

I want my children to live a country that does not hate and punish success, nor reward mediocrity or failure;

I want my children to grow up knowing that no matter how high or low they set their sights, they still live in the land of opportunity, that nothing (except themselves) can hold them back from achieving their dreams;

I want my children to live in a country where wealth is created and produced and not stolen by some redistributive petty bureaucrat;

I want my children to grow up without being saddled with the debt accumulated by whorish politicians and the masters they serve;

I want my children to live in a country where politicians do not sell themselves to the highest bidder and whose sole responsibility is to respect the Constitution;

I want my children to know that, win or lose, for all these things we fight for, we have not and will not give up, that we will continue the fight until the end;

I want my children to know that, even if it means we tear it down and rebuild it with our own hands, that living free is far greater than living under the yoke of a tyrannical state;

I want my children to know that, should we lose, there once stood the greatest country on this earth, a nation that was toppled only by the avarice of its politicians and the apathy of its citizenry; and,

I want my children to know that, should we lose, America was once the shining city on a hill for millions of people throughout the world, a land where Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are and always be inalienable rights and that these are self-evident truths.

I wish, when I’d been asked over these past few weeks what I want for Christmas that, instead of saying “nothing,” I would have answered bluntly: I want my children to grow up knowing that America is secure. But, of course, these are things that cannot be wrapped with a bow, nor placed under a tree.

These are things that my children don’t yet understand, but I do…and so do you.

In your heart of hearts, you know, like I do, that 2010 was the easier fight. You know that the next two years (and beyond) are going to require greater actions, greater coordination and greater sacrifice, if we are going to save this nation for your children and my children.

In a week, we need to start 2011, hopefully, refreshed and renewed, but start we must. The fight over the next few years will be more brutal, as the stakes for them and for us are so high. But, it is a fight that must continue until either they lose, or we lose and America is lost forever.
Read the whole thing.

Quote of the Day

Mourdock just won his second race for treasurer, leading Republicans' victories in state offices with more than 1 million votes.

Newly elected state Sen. Jim Banks thinks Mourdock would be a strong challenger. "He is a formidable candidate for anything he wants to run for statewide," Banks said. "Of 92 Republican county chairmen, I bet 92 of them have Richard Mourdock's cell phone number."
- Russ Pulliam, quoting Senate Senator and Republican State Committeeman Jim Banks on a possible primary challenge by Richard Mourdock against Dick Lugar

Good News: TSA Airport Screeners Will Grope People, But Won't Catch Guns

Just in time for you to feel warm and fuzzy while traveling via plane during the holidays.

ABC News:

TSA checkpoints at airports are at the front lines of preventing terrorism. When you go through security, you expect to be scanned and searched. And you expect TSA to prevent contraband from getting on planes, but as we've learned, that doesn't always happen.

Houston businessman Farid Seif says it was a startling discovery. He didn't intend to bring a loaded gun on a flight out of Houston and can't understand how TSA screeners didn't catch it.

Nearing the height of last year's Christmas travel season, TSA screeners at Bush Intercontinental Airport somehow missed a loaded pistol, one that was tucked away inside a carry-on computer bag.

"I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif said. "It's a .40 caliber gun."

Seif says it was an accident which he didn't realize until he arrived at his destination. He says he carries the glock for protection but forgot to remove it from his bag. He reported the incident as soon as he landed, shocked at the security lapse.

"There's nothing else in there. How can you miss it? You cannot miss it," Seif said.

Authorities tell ABC News the incident is not uncommon, but how often it occurs is a closely guarded government secret. Experts say every year since the September 11 attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert tests of airport security.

A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports. Two weeks ago, TSA's new director said every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners at some airports.


"It's very concerning. I'm very scared. First of al, I can't even believe it could happen," traveler Joy Mansfield said.

"It makes you wonder what exactly all the security hoopla is all about if a loaded gun can go through," traveler Leeza Erfesoglou said.

KTRK's Aviation Security Expert Jim Conway says screeners have a demanding job and are susceptible to fatigue, staring for hours at monitors while looking for prohibited items.

"Look, this is simply human error," Conway said. "When something like this happens, it's human error. I mean, these folks are doing the best job they can."

Seif and others say that's not good enough, not when lives are on the line.

Photo of the Day: Santa's Fighter Jet

No Returns

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tea Partiers After Meeting Lugar: “Our Ideas of Conservatism Do Not Match His”

I can't imagine whatever might possibly give them the idea that Dick Lugar's definition of being a conservative doesn't match with their definition of being conservative.

There was a time when Richard Lugar was Richard "We are all Keynesians now" Nixon's favorite mayor, after all, and Nixon was about the most liberal Republican president since the Great Depression. Lugar just might not have a whole lot in common with conservatives and Tea Party folks.

For the average conservative Republican primary voter, and the average Tea Party voter too, conservative isn't a label that you tack onto yourself at election time that is politically convenient and has relatively limited meaning except when campaigning. It's something they feel in their gut. It's something they know when they see. It's something that is deeply connected to the very foundation of their being and to how they live their lives. It also has a profound linkage to their view of the role of government in the lives of the American people and their view of the role of the United States in the world.

I know that sounds sappy, and I'm sure there's all sorts of establishment snobs rolling their eyes right now as they read this, but it's true. I also cannot emphasize this enough and politicians everywhere misunderstand it at their peril, and it's even worse to belittle it (as Lugar appears to be doing).

From the email bag:

Statement from Hoosiers for Conservative Senate:

Yesterday, December 13th, 2010, Representatives of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, Greg Fettig of Hoosier Patriots and Monica Boyer of Kosciusko Silent NO More met with Senator Richard Lugar in Indianapolis.

Please read their response below:

We found Senator Lugar to be a very gracious and kind man. We were grateful for the opportunity to have breakfast with him and share our deep concerns regarding his philosophy and his voting record. However, we found at the conclusion of the meeting that our ideas of "Conservatism" do not match his. Hoosiers for Conservative Senate does not support his big government, big spending and liberal philosophy that is contrary to conservative Hoosier values .

The issues addressed with the Senator included the START Treaty, the DREAM act, the Liberal Judges he has rubberstamped for President Obama, Illegal Immigration, Earmarks, and the Federal Reserve. Senator Lugar stands firmly behind each of his decisions. We believe he has clearly lost touch with Indiana Hoosiers. It is the mission of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate to elect a new Conservative Senator that represents the true voice of Hoosiers and not the voices of special interests and lobbyists entrenched in Washington DC.

We are grateful for the opportunity to have met with Senator Lugar and we wish him wisdom and courage in the next two years as congress deals with the serious issues threatening our economy and country. Our prayers are with him.

Mitch Daniels on the Hugh Hewitt Show

A while back, I caught Mitch Daniels being interviewed on Hugh Hewitt's radio show from the Republican Governors Association. I was never able to find audio of the interview, but here's the transcript.

The interview covered everything from running for president to education reform to "selling" California companies on moving to Indiana (Hewitt broadcasts from California) to Hewitt's personal crusade at the moment, liberal MSM involvement in Republican presidential primary debates.

HH: Joined now by Governor Mitch Daniels of the great state of Indiana. Governor Daniels, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you on.

MD: Appreciate it.

HH: Now Tim Pawlenty was sitting there an hour ago, and I asked him if he’d like to declare for president today, and he declined. How about you?

MD: Well, I wish he had. He’s a good man.

HH: Okay.

MD: He’d make a good president.

HH: That’s a good diversion, though.

MD: And your ratings would be a little higher. They’re probably going to take a hit after this conversation.

HH: No, but have you got a timetable for this decision?

MD: No, I have a timetable now for what I hope will be a very successful, another very successful round of reforms in Indiana. There’s some things that we would like to do, and the door is now open because of a very successful election. We have conducive majorities in both houses, so I’m thinking only about reforming education, and reforming local and state government, and keeping Indiana in the black without any taxes.

HH: Have you seen the movie Waiting For Superman yet?

MD: Have not seen it. I feel as though I have. I’ve known about it a long time. I’ve read a lot about it. And I’m remiss in not having actually gone to see it. But I’m pretty sure…

HH: So what do you want to do for education?

MD: We want to pay the best teachers more. We want to identify those teachers who aren’t helping students, and either help them to improve, or find a different line of work. We want teachers to earn their tenure, not simply get it by living an extra year. And we want to protect the teachers who get the best student outcomes. We want to free up school boards and superintendents to run their schools the way they see fit. That means repealing some bad state law, or some, let’s say, state mandates anyway, some regulations, and avoiding them getting their hands tied in local contracts. And then finally, we want families to be able to have a much wider range of options for educating their children. We’ve got to take the handcuffs off charter schools in our state, of virtual charters, and empower parents who may not be wealthy.

HH: Is the legislature going to do this for you? Are they going to work with you on this?

MD: I believe they will, and by the way, I hope on a bipartisan basis. The door is open because of an election success, but on the morning after the election. I began meeting with Democratic representatives and senators who we know care about kids, care about reforming local government, and might be willing to help us. Hey, I’ve got another idea that I’m kind of fond of, which is that I discovered, visiting with young people in our state, that an increasing number of them complete, or easily could complete their high school graduation requirements in less than twelve years. So I got this idea and said look, if you finished in eleven years at your own choice, what would you think about we give you the money we were going to spend while you marked time in senior year, as long as you take it and apply it to the high cost of higher education. And we asked Indiana young people about this, and 73…

HH: Ask Indiana parents about that. That’s…

MD: Right you are. 73% of the young people said man, I’d love to have that option.

HH: Because they’re going to be borrowing, too. It’s on their nickel. Most of them are going to be borrowing on their nickel.

MD: Yes, sir. And so the whole idea is let’s liberate the system from end to end.

HH: That’s a great idea. Has that been tried anywhere?

MD: Not that I know of.

HH: Did you think that up?

MD: Well, I’d say some of these young people helped me think it up.

HH: That’s a very good idea. Let me ask you then, Governor Mitch Daniels, about tort reform. I’m asking all of the governors who are outgoing governors. You’ve got a Republican legislature now. You could adopt the English rule. You can do anything you want. What do you want to do?

MD: Well, I think the English rule is an interesting, would be an interesting next step. Indiana’s got a good tort law. It’s one of those reasons we are now at the top of everybody’s lists of good states to do business. You will not be abused in an Indiana courtroom. And our courts have been, as I see it, faithful to their duty on their end. So we’re a very positive state in this regard. But we could be better. And of course, the English rule, which I believe is the rule in most of the world, they should call ours the American rule, I think…

HH: Yeah.

MD: …because we’re the outlier, aren’t we, in the way we do it?

HH: Yes.

MD: And it would be a nice improvement for any of our states.

HH: Anything else on the top of that agenda, because you know, Rick Perry is probably around here trying to grab businesses out of San Diego. Whenever Governor Perry comes to California, he takes a couple of businesses home.

MD: Yeah.

HH: You probably want to do the same thing to my state. So how do you sell Indiana vis-à-vis California?

MD: You know, we don’t have to do it to your state, Hugh. You do it to yourself.

HH: Right.

MD: These are self-inflicted wounds. I mean, we’ve welcomed a number of California businesses. And I always say, I just got back off a plane from Asia, and I always say I like to go to foreign countries and grab up dollars that we usually just spend, and bring them back and put our citizens to work. So Japan, China, California, all kinds of foreign countries.

HH: And so…not California. I would prefer if you did that there. Let me ask you about, I want to put your old OMB hat on. You were a very successful director of OMB for George W. Bush, and before that in the Reagan White House. Right now, this tax hike is looming at us. It’s coming at us like a tidal wave. And Paul Ryan said on Hannity the other night, and we love Paul Ryan, but he said we’ll take a two or three year extension of the existing tax rates. What do you think of that policy? What ought to be the policy of the Republicans going into this negotiation?

MD: Those are two different questions. I mean, first of all, I trust Paul Ryan. He’s one of the best assets the country’s got now. And he and I think alike about a lot of things. I mean, the right policy, of course, would be certainty, permanence, predictability. This is always the case in tax policy. A lot of businesses say they can live with a sub-optimal tax system as long as they know what the rules will be. You know, in Indiana, we passed the biggest tax cut in state history, and we cut property taxes, which are now the lowest in America. But maybe the more important thing that we did was we, and we just made this part of our constitution two weeks ago, we put those caps, there’s a cap now at 1% on the value of your house, 2% on your farm or rental property, 3% your business, permanently. It can be lower than that, but it can never be above it. And a lot of businesses say that it’s the certainty of that that’s as important to them as the fact that the rates are low. And the same would apply, I think, to federal policy. But look, if Paul Ryan and other folks down there who know that think that let’s get the best deal we can now and fight another day, I’d defer to their tactical judgment.

HH: Let me switch up on you on a policy area over to the New York City verdict yesterday, in which a terrorist is going to go to jail for 20 years to life, but walks, is acquitted on all these other things. Your reaction to that verdict?

MD: You know, I probably know less about it than most Americans. I was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, I guess, when it came out. And I’ve only just read the sketchy reports. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was stunned at the whole notion. And you know, I guess I read it as another sign of a lack of seriousness about the survival level threat that this poses to our country. And for the first time in my life, I see two dangers that rise to that level. I try to avoid hyperbole and exaggeration. But you know, the debt we’re facing, the thing that has Paul Ryan’s full attention, and the threat from people in a WMD world who have proven that they will stop at nothing, and the more Americans they kill the better. We have to take these things with dead seriousness. And once again, I think we’ve shown something less than that.

HH: Okay, I’ve got two more…A) I’ve got to ask you a political question. Reagan Library, Nancy Reagan, great American, obviously, you worked for her and her husband as I did. And now she wanted to have the Reagan Library host the first GOP debate among would-be presidential candidates. You might be one of those. And they want to do it in the spring of 2011. Is that too early? And if it’s not, or if it is, and whenever you want to hold it, or suggest it be held, should NBC and Politico get to ask to the questions?

MD: Well, it would be too early for me, I’ll tell you that both as someone who might think about it, but just also as a citizen. One thing I like about the way this round is unfolded is that it’s not started two and a half years early. People aren’t camped out all over Iowa and New Hampshire. And I’d love it if we sort of wrote a new rule book and give the American people a little respite for goodness sake. So it does strike me as…

HH: What about those media partners, though?

MD: Yeah…

HH: Should Republicans’ nominee be mediated by mainstream media?

MD: Oh, you know, first of all, they’ve got a right, and they’ll exercise it over and over again to interrogate people. And anybody who’s going to be our standard-bearer better be good at handling those folks. So I guess if that’s the way the thing is set up, you’d prefer a little more balance in the panel. But you know, I happen to believe that the case for change, I mean real change this time, from the current policies, and we have a very, very strong, I don’t care who asks the questions, I think that we have the better answers for America. And people might as well get some batting practice responding to folks who don’t agree.

HH: Do you read widely on the left? Do you try and stay abreast of what…

MD: I do. You know, it’s often observed these days that the proliferation of channels and blogs and all these other things can lead some folks to sort of zoom in on the people they agree with, and not remain either open to other ideas, or even aware. And so I do make an effort.

HH: Is anyone making an argument out there that persuades you they have anything left in their intellectual arsenal regarding the spending and the tax policy?

MD: No. And by the way, I don’t consider this particularly an ideological question anymore. I say to folks at home all the time, Hugh, if they bring up national issues like this.

HH: 30 seconds.

MD: I say you know, let’s have the philosophical debate tomorrow. I happen to believe in very limited government, and you may or may not. But can we just agree about the arithmetic of this? This country is going to go broke in a way that will hurt everybody – left, right, and every other description. And so let’s get together and work on that, and we’ll, we can have our ideological arguments after we’ve done it.

HH: Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a pleasure to meet you, come back early and often. Great to have you here.

MD: I’d love to.

HH: Thank you.

A Portrait of Mitch

A Portrait of Mitch

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Becky Skillman Declines Gubernatorial Bid

Christmas sure has come early for Mike Pence in the past week or so.

First, Evan Bayh bowed out, denying bloggers everywhere countless future posts about a battle royale for the Hoosier governorship.

Then Baron Hill said he wouldn't run, either (probably sparing Hoosier voters statewide a brutal expansion of the bare-knuckle politics of the bloody 9th over the entire state).

Now, Becky Skillman unexpectedly bows out, denying bloggers everywhere countless future posts about what would have been a knock-down, drag-out Republican gubernatorial primary.

This was truly unexpected, and I sure hope she's okay and that the "minor health issues" stay minor and that all is soon well for her.

The Indy Star:

Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced today that she will not run for governor in 2012 after learning of minor health issues.

"My end of year physical exam revealed minor health issues," she said in a statement. "Nothing will interfere with my devotion to my duties as lieutenant governor, and I plan to continue the same pace as always."

Skillman, a Republican, expressed her disappointment, but gave no details on the health issues; a spokesman, Jay Kentworthy, also declined to elaborate beyond saying they won't affect her ability to continue her duties as lieutenant governor. She took the office in 2005 alongside Daniels.

The lieutenant governor, 60, lives in Greenwood.

She and U.S. Rep. Mike Pence have been considered the highest-profile potential candidates for governor. Skillman's decision would seem to clear the way for Pence, but a spokesman for Pence reiterated today that he won't make any announcement about his future -- whether he will run for governor or president in 2012 -- until after Jan. 1.

A statement issued by Pence said: "My family and I hold Becky in the highest regard and were troubled to learn that she was encountering challenges to her health. Like every Hoosier, we were relieved to learn that her health challenges are minor and that she will be able to continue to serve the people of Indiana.

"Hoosiers owe a debt of gratitude to Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman and I cherish her friendship and ongoing leadership for our state."

Gov. Mitch Daniels also lauded Skillman.

"Indiana has never had a better lieutenant governor than Becky Skillman," a statement from Daniels said. "No governor has ever had a better partner; she has been a central figure in every reform and every big change we have brought about.

“Since we citizens won’t be fortunate enough to experience it, take it from me that Becky would have made a superb governor, ready in every respect and Hoosier to her core.”

Who Had the Worst Year in Washington?

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, which is laughably absurd unless he's interpreting Obama's endless vacations to mean that the president wasn't in D.C. enough this year.

But then that still leaves Nancy Pelosi, who will soon find herself to no longer be the Speaker of the House, and countless Democrats that will soon find themselves out of office or no longer chairing powerful committees.

Michael Steele hasn't had a great year, and I've been critical of him. But the idea that he has had a worse year than a very long list of notable Democrats is a joke.

Tweet of the Day

A question for American readers: is The Onion a legitimate news source? 550 ICBMs aimed at your major cities await your answer.
- Vladimir Putin (a parody account on Twitter)

So Long to Ya 2010

Is Mitch the Tea Party's Man?

The Daily Caller thinks so.

Personally, I doubt it. A more in-depth examination of Mitch's policies as Governor would probably give Tea Party activists a lot to dislike, but that's not exactly an uncommon problem among many in the currently presumed GOP presidential field. Mitch has enacted some expansions of Indiana state government that they probably won't find appealing, to say nothing of the various times he has proposed (and at other times signed) increases in taxes.

His record on other issues of concern to Tea Party conservatives (perhaps secondary to their fiscal concerns) will probably dampen their enthusiasm for him a bit more. Again, that's not uncommon either; it's probably a question of degree on all of the candidates.

Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. This is no more obvious than when assessing Mitch Daniels. The popular governor of Indiana may be short on hair and height, but he could well be the hero conservatives and Tea Partiers have been searching for.

He doesn’t have the theatrical flair and rock star appeal of Sarah Palin. Nor does he possess the leading man looks of Mitt Romney. But what he does have is an extensive resume accompanied by a popular and imaginative tenure as Indiana’s governor.

Daniels has occupied a smorgasbord of political and private sector positions: Senate staffer, political aide in the Reagan White House, head of a think tank, executive of a major pharmaceutical company, and OMB director in the early years of the Bush administration. His tenure as governor of Indiana has been filled with plenty of goodies for conservatives to gush over. He cut Indiana’s budget significantly, privatized state roads and services, and reformed the state’s healthcare system. Daniels has tried to lay the blueprint for innovative governance by thinking big while spending small.

The combination of his glossy resume and frugal governing record has turned Daniels into a hot commodity on the insider circuit, with some encouraging him to think long and hard about jumping into the presidential fray. By the time 2012 rolls around, the country may be exhausted by the youthful inexperience of the Obama years and could be hungry for an energetic executive with experience in turning things around.

Daniels remains lukewarm on the idea of running for president, though overtures in recent months suggest that he is seriously considering it. And like the cadre of other Republican contenders, Daniels is not without organizational challenges or political flaws. He’s not exactly a heavy presence in any of the polls and his lack of name ID outside the Hoosier State would require a strong dose of fire-in-the-belly campaigning, a potentially daunting task for someone whose heart isn’t fully invested in the game. On policy, he’s already irked fiscal and social conservatives due to his open ruminations about the possibility of raising taxes and his lax approach on social issues. Some also wonder if his modest and affable demeanor is in sync with the more riled up, us-against-them passions of the Tea Party movement.

Upon closer examination, however, Daniels quite possibly captures the mood and sentiment of Tea Partiers better than anyone else. Issues of debt and spending seem to consume his political being and would clearly serve as the driving force behind any presidential candidacy. And as social and foreign policy issues take a back seat to more pressing domestic concerns, Daniels and the Tea Party share a strong common bond: their focus on preventing the country from going into a terminal condition as a result of its excessive spending. In interview after interview, Daniels is adamant in pressing his point home. “Any fair reading of the nation’s balance sheet suggests we’re in a dangerous moment,” he explained to the conservative magazine the American Spectator last month. “If we don’t act soon, we don’t have a prayer.” The rhetoric may have a sky-is-falling pitch to it, but Tea Partiers share similar sentiments.

Speaking the language of Tea Partiers will certainly help Daniels if he decides to pursue his party’s nomination. He may not be thinking much about the culture wars, but his laser-like focus and everything-is-on-the-table talk about the chief issues on everyone’s mind is sure to get him a look or two from conservatives looking for a leader who is strong enough to alter the country’s fiscal habits.

Gubernatorial Candidates Wanted

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

I suspect that the vacuum will be filled in relatively short order.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Government Republicanism Strikes Again

There seem to be some Republicans in the Indiana state legislature that believe that people should be wrapped in bubble wrap for their own protection and that the government can legislate personal responsibility. At the start of every legislative session, they come around with these ostensibly good ideas that are, in the final analysis, horrible examples of big government liberalism and progressivism.

The latest two examples are a proposed statewide ban on smoking and a proposed ban on texting while driving.

The term RINO gets thrown around a lot (too much, I think, and perhaps so much that the term has lost all real meaning). But our problem is not that the Republican Party has "Republicans In Name Only", but that we have Republicans that are not conservative (or who are "Conservative In Name Only").

A conservative looks at legislation like this and finds it an undue expansion of government power into the lives and upon the liberties and rights of the people. I don't doubt that it is well-intentioned, but it is not conservative.

And this isn't the only place that we find Republicans lining up behind "well-intentioned" legislation that expands the power of the state at the expense of the people. Mitt Romney (and anyone that supports or supported him) falls into this category, for example. Mitch often falls into this category (he says he will sign the smoking ban, for example). Dick Lugar has spent his entire political career living in this category.

Many Republicans, conservative on spending and social issues, nevertheless have no problem expanding the power of the state into other aspects of the lives of the citizenry (sometimes in the name of their social values). That's certainly not meant as a critique of social conservatives, who in recent times have resorted to legislative means primarily to stop activism by the judiciary (the chief examples being in abortion and marriage).

Yet, here, we have a problem of legislative activism, and not in response to anything other than people being irresponsible. "Government," Ronald Reagan said, "exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves." (And just trying to do so wastes resources and needlessly expands the power of the state.)

Lugar Opposes Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal

Credit where due; Lugar stood firm on this one.

The Senate voted 65-31 to pass the bill, with eight Republicans siding with 55 Democrats and two independents in favor of repeal.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar was among the Republicans who opposed the measure, saying: "I am concerned about the impact of lifting 'don't ask, don't tell' on unit cohesion and combat effectiveness, particularly at a time when so many U.S. military personnel are engaged in combat-intensive missions in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The House passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, last week.

Teacher in Chief: Obama Visits 2nd Graders, Reads Them Book He Wrote

Sigh.

Usually, big-name authors plug their books on a nationwide book tour. President Barack Obama took a lower-key approach Friday, reading selections from his new children's book to a group of delighted second-graders in suburban Virginia.

In the library of Long Branch Elementary School, some four dozen youngsters giggled and squirmed as Obama gave voice to passages from "Of Thee I Sing," an illustrated volume in the form of a letter to his daughters describing the lives of 13 great Americans. It was written in 2008 but just came out this fall, with proceeds going to a scholarship fund for the children of fallen and disabled soldiers.

"I wanted to borrow you guys, and read to you," Obama explained, sitting down on a wooden chair as the children sat cross-legged on the carpet.

He began with entries on Albert Einstein - "he was one of the smartest men ever" - and Jackie Robinson - "he was the first African-American to play in major league baseball" - before skipping to the end, and the entry on Abraham Lincoln.

"Everybody know who Abraham Lincoln is?" Obama asked, to a chorus of "Yes!" from the youngsters. "He helped to end slavery in the United States."

Obama left behind a signed copy for the school library. "You can read about all these other different people who are brave and imaginative and creative and smart, just like you guys are," he said. "I hope you enjoy it."
Look at it this way, at least he didn't read to them the sections in Dreams from My Father about him doing drugs when he was a kid.

Silent Monks Sing Hallelujah Chorus

Irony: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Upset that Court Documents Were Leaked in His Rape Case

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy:

LAWYERS for Julian Assange have expressed anger about an alleged smear campaign against the Australian WikiLeaks founder.

Incriminating police files were published in the British newspaper that has used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

In a move that surprised many of Mr Assange's closest supporters on Saturday, The Guardian newspaper published previously unseen police documents that accused Mr Assange in graphic detail of sexually assaulting two Swedish women. One witness is said to have stated: "Not only had it been the world's worst screw, it had also been violent."

Bjorn Hurtig, Mr Assange's Swedish lawyer, said he would lodge a formal complaint to the authorities and ask them to investigate how such sensitive police material leaked into the public domain. "It is with great concern that I hear about this because it puts Julian and his defence in a bad position," he told a colleague.

"I do not like the idea that Julian may be forced into a trial in the media. And I feel especially concerned that he will be presented with the evidence in his own language for the first time when reading the newspaper. I do not know who has given these documents to the media, but the purpose can only be one thing - trying to make Julian look bad."

Mr Assange is facing criminal allegations in Sweden over claims by two women that he sexually assaulted them while he was in the country earlier this year.

Another supporter close to the WikiLeaks founder said the leak appeared designed by the authorities in Sweden to jeopardise Mr Assange's defence. "There has been a selective smear through the disclosure of material. That material, in Swedish, was passed to a journalist at The Guardian," a source said. "The timing appears to have been cynically calculated to have the material published in the middle of the bail application and the appeal."
But wait! There's more!

The newspaper that leaked Assange's court documents? They leaked the diplomatic cables, too.

In an editorial, The Guardian defended its decision to report on the incriminating police files. It said having been given access to the official papers, it had a duty to present a "brief summary" of the sex allegations against Mr Assange, together with his response.

Others were less enthused by The Guardian's treatment of its top source, pointing out that this is someone whom the newspaper has elevated into hero status as a campaigner for freedom of information. Some commentators point to the apparent hypocrisy of some of Mr Assange's supporters, such as the journalist John Pilger, bemoaning the Swedish police leaks, given their campaign for a man whose life is devoted to publishing confidential material. "Hoist by his own petard," said one observer.

Ever since the sex assault claims surfaced, Mr Assange has claimed that they are part of a conspiracy by the Swedes and the Americans to punish him for having masterminded the leak of the US cables. His lawyers, including Mark Stephens, are confident they can stop Mr Assange's extradition on both legal and human rights grounds. They point out that the offence of "minor rape", with which he may be charged, has no equivalent in British law because the accused can be guilty even if a woman consents.

A spokesman for The Guardian said: "Julian is not a confidential source. The argument that the papers involved with the WikiLeaks cables should not report criticism of him is one all journalists would find ridiculous."

Is This the Case for Mitt Romney?

Ross Douthat mocks David Frum and supporters of Mitt "I was for ObamaCare before it was ObamaCare" Romney.

The short version? He's a pander-bear, but he just can't help it. It's not his fault.

It's pretty much in line with my opinion about Romney; I can't help but feeling that everything he does is just an insincere and craven political play designed to help him get elected so that he can do whatever it is he really believes (if he even really believes anything).

I hear similar things from Romney supporters (or people trying to convince themselves to be Romney supporters) with remarkable frequency. Yes, the argument runs, Romney seems serially insincere, and nearly every position he stakes out comes across as a blatant (and often inconsistent-looking) pander to a conservative electorate that regards him with suspicion. But there are good ideas concealed within the pandering — you just have to know where to look! And in your heart, you know he’s a smart guy who’d make a solid center-right president — wonkish, detail-oriented, sensible on policy, all the rest of it. He’s just a prisoner of the process! And heck, maybe his transparent insincerity is even a virtue: It shows that try as he might, he can’t give himself over completely to the carnival of a primary campaign, because he’s fundamentally too sober and serious to be a carnival barker. (He’s no Palin, is the implication …) Even when he’s mid-pander, you always know that he knows that it’s all just a freak show, and you can always sense that he’d rather be at a policy seminar somewhere, instead of just forking red meat. There’s a highly competent chief executive trapped inside his campaign persona, in other words, and the only way to liberate him is to put him in the White House!

This is an … unusual argument. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong: There were probably people who said the same thing about George H.W. Bush during his lackluster 1988 race — and he did turn out to be a reasonably good president, all things considered. But there’s still an element of absurdity about it. I believe that Mitt Romney is a more serious person, and would probably be a better president, than his campaign style suggests. But issue by issue, policy by policy, that same campaign style makes it awfully hard to figure out where he would actually stand when the pandering stops and the governing begins. In the last couple years, Romney has taken high-profile positions that I agree with (opposing the G.M. bailout), high-profile positions that I disagree with (opposing the START Treaty), and high-profile positions on issues I’m uncertain about (the current tax deal). But because everything he does feels like a pander, I don’t know where he really stands on any of them. And freak show or no freak show, base or no base, that’s no way to run for president.

How the Lame Duck Became Extinct

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Holcomb

Sources on the state committee have confirmed that the Governor's pick to be Indiana State Party Chairman is likely to be close Daniels political advisor Eric Holcomb (I put my money on him last night).

Kevin Kellems effectively bowed out of the running late yesterday, and in an email to your humble correspondent said:

"I have been lobbying Eric Holcomb for months to consider becoming the next chairman of the Indiana GOP if it became available. I am heartened that he is now doing so, because Eric would be a tremendous asset to the Republican Party and the Governor as progress continues on the reform agenda that Hoosiers voted overwhelmingly for last month."
Brian Howey, in his daily report, all but lobbied for Anne Hathaway, calling her a candidate that would "break the glass ceiling" (there has never been a female GOP state party chair that I can recall). Breaking glass ceilings has never been a primary motivator for Mitch Daniels relative to his perception of their competence in the position (he passed over a woman for his recent Supreme Court appointment, after all), and Hathaway's proximity to Becky Skillman and Dick Lugar could have been seen as problematic.

Holcomb is as close to a Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, or David Axelrod as you're going to get with Mitch Daniels. His appointment, which will probably be unanimously approved by the state committee in its meeting next month unless something changes (Holcomb decides not to run, or Mitch is floating him in order to clear the field for someone else, etc).

I maintain that Holcomb's appointment is particularly interesting not merely because it represents the de facto seizure of the levers of power of the state party by the Governor (to the extent that he didn't already hold them completely under Murray Clark), but also because of the implications it has for a Daniels presidential bid. An Eric Holcomb at 47 South Meridian is not an Eric Holcomb working behind the scenes in early primary states for a Mitch for President campaign. I said before that if anyone can do two such jobs, it is Holcomb, but one can't help but see the implications of this choice as not advantageous for a presidential bid.

State party will now be in the hands of the Governor's most trusted political lieutenant (just think of him as a taller, bespectacled version of Mitch Daniels with hair that bears an uncanny resemblance to either Clark Kent or Keith Olberman). The future of politics in Indiana just got a bit more interesting (and the Mitch for President campaign just potentially got a notable distraction).

After Bayh, IN Gov Race Moved to Lean GOP

National Journal says the Cook Political Report has affirmed what we all knew, namely that Democratic hopes to regain the governorship in 2012 are dashed without Evan Bayh:

The governor's race in Indiana -- a key pickup state for Barack Obama in 2008 -- has moved from a toss-up to a likely Republican win in 2012, according to the latest rankings from the Cook Political Report.

Democrats turned over three House seats in 2006, and Obama became the first Democratic presidential nominee since 1964 to win the state in 2008. But Republicans regained two of those congressional districts in 2010 as well as the Senate seat vacated by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh. The GOP also won control of the state House and a supermajority in the state Senate.

Making matters worse for Democrats, Bayh recently announced that he would not run for governor in 2012. Potential Democratic contenders include Rep. Joe Donnelly, outgoing Reps. Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill, Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, and Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez. On the Republican side, Rep. Mike Pence is viewed as the strongest candidate if he doesn't run for president. Other Republicans in the mix: Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, outgoing state party chair Murray Clark, state Auditor Tim Berry, state House Speaker Brian Bosma, and state Senate President Pro-Tem David Long.

"Unless there is a remarkable shift in the political environment, which is not outside the realm of possibility, it seems that Democrats' hopes of winning the governorship are considerably dimmer without Bayh in the race,'' says the Cook Political Report. "This contest has a very long way to go since the candidate fields on both sides remain undefined, but Republicans begin as the favorites to hold the seat.''

GOP State Chairman Update

According to the Indy Star's Mary Beth Schneider, Kevin Kellems has gone from the first guy running (Murray Clark wasn't even gone and he was making phone calls) to instead advocating that the Governor appoint Eric Holcomb (Mitch's right-hand man on all things political) to the position. I suppose that's Kellems conceding that he can't get the votes (or the support of the Governor for an appointment).

My money would be on an appointment of Holcomb, but for one little detail. If Mitch Daniels really wants to run for President, he's going to want Eric Holcomb to be out working for him in D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, not back here in Indiana. It would be hard to get a presidential campaign off the ground while also running the Indiana Republican Party. If anyone could do it Holcomb could, but the odds of Mitch's presidential ambitions are long enough without his top political advisor having what would amount (in that context) to be a distraction on the home front.

At the same time, 6th District Chairman and Mike Pence ally Ted Ogle (shown in the picture) has formally thrown his hat into the ring and says he is "praying about it."

So even as Kellems appears to be out, Ogle appears to be in. What a difference twenty-four hours makes.

The plot thickens.

Baron Hill Not Running for Governor in 2012

This isn't entirely unexpected; it would be very difficult to come off of a losing election and expect to be able to bounce back so quickly into a completely unrelated office. Getting reelected to the office you got beaten from is hard enough (though Baron has already done that once before.)

The question now will be whether Ellsworth (who got beat much worse than Baron) will similarly recognize that political reality, or not.

The Courier-Journal:

U.S. Rep. Baron Hill says he's looking for a job as his time in Congress comes to an end, but governor of Indiana isn't likely to wind up on his resume — at least not yet.

Hill, who lost his bid for a sixth term to Republican Todd Young, told The Republic newspaper that the need to provide for his family likely will preclude a run for political office in 2012.

“I'm not a wealthy man, so it's important to take care of my family,” the 9th District Democrat said, adding that a Statehouse run would require a full-time campaign and would make providing for his family almost impossible.

That doesn't mean he's stepping out of politics for good. Hill, 57, said he is looking into private sector jobs in Washington and Indiana but wants to continue to help the Democratic Party locally and nationally.

He also hopes to talk to President Barack Obama soon about a possible job with his re-election campaign.

Hill said he doesn't expect to run for Congress again. He isn't ruling out a run for U.S. Senate but said the governor's office has more appeal.

“You can get a whole lot more done as an executive,” said Hill, who has run a small business in Seymour and served as executive director of Indiana State Student Assistance Commission.

He isn't committing to a 2016 campaign and said a run for governor would depend on timing, finances and whether “people think I would be a good candidate.”

“I don't know if I will be alive in 2016,” Hill joked.

Hill is the second prominent Democrat to pass on the 2012 governor's race in recent days. Sen. Evan Bayh, who did not seek re-election to the Senate, told The Indianapolis Star that he would not seek to return to his former role as Indiana's chief executive.
I don't think that 2016 is going to be more viable from a Democratic perspective than 2012. For as long as the state constitution has allowed governors to hold two terms, Hoosiers have given every governor they have elected a second term in office. Incumbency couples with a conservative "don't change horses in midstream" sentiment from the electorate in a powerful combination here.

Harry Reid Caves, Withdraws Trillion-Dollar Omnibus

From the AP:

Democrats controlling the Senate have abandoned a 1,924-page catchall spending measure that's laced with homestate pet projects known as earmarks and that would have provided another $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nevada Democrat Harry Reid gave up on the nearly $1.3 trillion bill after several Republicans who had been thinking of voting for the bill pulled back their support.

GOP leader Mitch McConnell threw his weight against the bill in recent days, saying it was in his words "unbelievable" that Democrats would try to muscle through in just a few days legislation that usually takes months to debate.

Reid said he would work with McConnell to produce a short-term funding bill to keep the government running into early next year.

The top Senate Republican has offered a one-page bill to prevent a government shutdown on Saturday as an alternative to a 1,924-page catchall spending measure offered by Democrats.

Bridges Authority Approves Tolls, Tells Southern Indiana Businesses & Commuters to Drop Dead

Well, what a nice Christmas present this is for anyone in southern Indiana that commutes to Louisville to work or any business owner in Indiana that gets business from people that drive to Indiana from Kentucky.

A big lump of coal in their stocking for the future.

The Courier-Journal:

A report that assumes tolls will pay for more than half of the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project is on its way to the Federal Highway Administration to meet a deadline imposed by Kentucky legislators.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky General Assembly required the plan be sent to federal regulators by the end of 2010 or the state would be forced to stop spending money on the project.

The plan is an update to one, which didn’t include tolls, approved by the federal government more than three years ago. Federal highway officials said there’s no timeline for considering the update.

Christi Lanier-Robinson, spokeswoman for the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, said approval would keep the project on track for a planned 2012 construction start. Federal rejection would prompt revisions to address regulators’ concerns, she said.

Two agencies — the bridges authority and the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority — endorsed the plan to use high-speed, electronic tolls to raise $2.2 billion of the project’s cost. The report contains no specifics about how much would be charged or which highways would be tolled.

The bridges authority voted 13-0 in favor of the report during a morning meeting, with a state authority following with a 7-0 vote later in the day.

The possibility that bridges or highways that have long been completed and paid for would be tolled has raised opposition from some businesses and commuters. The bridges authority is still waiting the hear whether it can place tolls on existing interstate highways.
I would like to know if there is a single example in the entire United States of the Federal Department of Transportation allowing the enacting of tolls on existing interstate highways. So far, no one in this discussion has been able to provide an example of one place where this has been done insofar as I am aware.

It is entirely possible that the bridge authority has approved a plan that is (fortunately) in that regard entirely unfeasible and unrealistic.

Co-chair Kerry Stemler, a Sellersburg general contractor, said any tolls wouldn’t start, at the earliest, until a span between Prospect and Utica, Ind., is complete in 2017.
What a relief that they won't have to deal with the tolls until the bridges are built. I mean, it'd be horrible to pay a toll on a bridge that isn't even there, right?

Board member Jerry Finn, director of the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, urged the authority to consider whether local traffic might be exempt from tolls and to seek studies from across the country showing the effect of tolls on small businesses. The foundation is affiliated with the Horseshoe Casino Hotel in Southern Indiana.
I'd like to know how as a practical matter you go about tolling some cars and not others. If you live in the counties in the immediate area, you get an electronic doohickey to put in your car that lets you go through the EZ Pass (or whatever analogue is used) lane without paying?

The authority also recognized non-binding resolutions from 10 governments in Kentucky and Southern Indiana — including the Louisville Metro Council and bodies in Jeffersonville, New Albany and Clarksville — that oppose various toll scenarios.
After all, nobody cares what elected representatives in local governments think.

And authority members dismissed talk of seeking changes that would allow the project to be built in phases with the intention of avoiding tolls by spreading out the construction.
This is the real thing that gets me. The only bridge here that really needs to be built is the one in the East End. All of the other bridges are completely unrelated and should be examined as separate projects.

For longer than I have been alive, they have wanted to build the East End bridge.

For folks not from southern Indiana or Louisville, Louisville is ringed by an interstate highway bypass, just like Indianapolis. Except the bypass is shaped like a big letter C. It stops near the river on the east side of Louisville a few miles short of the Ohio River on each side. The bridge over the river was never completed and its construction has always been delayed because that area of Louisville is extremely affluent and thus politically powerful. They don't want an interstate running near their multi-million-dollar houses.

There have been endless studies about building the bridge and endless lawsuits that have delayed its construction. Groups backed by wealthy homeowners in the East End of Louisville (one of which was led by John Yarmuth, a lefty quack that is now the Congressman for the Louisville area) have lobbied against its construction.

When momentum to get the bridge built seemed to overcome this opposition and the lobbying and lawsuits no longer worked to stop the plan to build the bridge, tolling on the new bridge became an issue. This new hurdle became a political football; nobody was for bridge tolls. Yet the plan moved forward despite the lack of tolls.

Then the mayor of Louisville decided that they needed to rebuild an interchange in downtown Louisville locally known as Spaghetti Junction and build another bridge downtown. He insisted on that project being combined with the East End bridge project. Then they added rebuilding two additional existing downtown bridges to the whole thing, along with the redesign of the approaches to all of these downtown bridges. What was once one project became six projects all (irrationally) lumped together.

The cynic in me thinks that Abramson (the Louisville mayor who gets a lot of his support from the well-heeled bridge opponents in the East End) and East End bridge opponents wanted to add a poison pill that would cause Indiana to balk at the entire project. (After all, why should Hoosiers pay to rebuild an interchange in downtown Louisville?)

But momentum to "just build the bridge" was not slowed by the addition of ever-more poison pills to the project. The thing had a life of its own. Then the unelected bridge authority, sort of a modern-day Robert Moses in committee form, decided that the bridges couldn't be built without tolls regardless of the broader negative impact on the community the bridges were supposedly being built to serve.

Again, the cynic in me thinks that the East End bridge opponents figured that, surely, nobody in Indiana would be stupid enough to want tolls on not merely all of these new bridges, but all of the other unrelated existing bridges in the area as well.

And yet here we are.

Daniels to Support Statewide Smoking Ban

Because, of course, the intervention of the state into the lives of private citizens is a pressing issue and an important aspect of a conservative policy agenda.

Shella:

Gov. Mitch Daniels says he would sign a statewide smoking ban if Indiana lawmakers approve sweeping restrictions on indoor smoking in public places. Daniels tells the Evansville Courier & Press he would definitely sign such a bill because “there seems to be growing momentum” for such a ban.

State Rep. Charlie Brown plans again to sponsor legislation in January that would prohibit indoor smoking statewide in public places. The Gary Democrat has won House approval of a smoking ban with exemptions in previous legislative sessions. This time he’s seeking a ban with no exemptions.

Daniels said he hesitated initially at supporting the idea of a statewide ban. But he said towns and cities have shown it’s possible to enact smoking bans with significant benefits and minimal cost.

Quote of the Day: ObamaCare & Lawsuits

Ultimately, Obamacare can be mortally wounded in federal court, but it can only be slain in the court of public opinion.
- National Review

Rich Bastards

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who Will Replace Murray Clark?

Before too long, it's entirely likely that everyone will be wondering who will replace Dan Parker, Murray Clark's counterpart as Democratic Party chairman.

This is mostly just a list of names I've seen floated so far (along with links to where I saw their name, if linkage is possible). To the extent that I can, I'm going to provide a bit of information about each person.

It's important to note that Indiana has two potential large-scale primaries (US Senate and Governor) coming up in two years. To some degree, the landscape of those primaries can be shaped and the strength (or weakness) and success (or failure) of some of their candidates (particularly Dick Lugar) may well depend in some significant measure on who is chosen to replace Murray Clark as Chairman of the Indiana Republican State Committee.

Where I think it notable, I will indicate connections between various names and potential primary candidates (Skillman, Pence, Lugar, Mourdock, Delph).

It's also important to note that there is an election coming up for the Republican National Committee Chairman, and the new Indiana State GOP Chairman (or Chairwoman) will vote in that election.

But first, a bit about process. The state chairman is elected by the eighteen members of the state committee (the chair and vice chair from each of Indiana's nine Congressional districts). The state officers (unless they are district chairs or vice chairs, and I don't recall any of them being so) do not get to vote. Indiana's two Republican National Committee members (Jim Bopp and Dee Dee Benkie) do not get to vote either.

This means that the electorate is very small, at only eighteen votes. Ten votes, therefore, are needed to win. The vote will likely take place on January 19, when the State Committee (which met on Wednesday, December 15) will next meet again.

Now, to the list...

We already know that, probably thanks to his interestingly coincidental DUI arrest, Jim Kittle will not be running. I'll list the rest alphabetically.

Jim Banks, newly-elected state senator, retired campaign consultant, 3rd District GOP Vice Chairman (and thus a state committee member), former campaign manager for John Hostettler, former campaign manager for Greg Zoeller (convention floor fight and general election) in 2008, and worked politics for Focus on the Family in Colorado. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Dee Dee Benkie, current RNC Committeewoman from Indiana, former White House staffer, worked for Karl Rove, former 9th District Vice Chairwoman, and Versailles town council member (among other things). Listed in poll at Angry White Boy. She is currently running for RNC Secretary, so I don't see a bid for state chairman happening. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Steve Carter, former Indiana Attorney General, not sure what else he's up to these days. Vigorous campaigner who knows the party from one end of the state to the other. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Bill Friend, state representative and 5th District GOP Chairman (and thus a state committee member). Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Mike Gentry, chief of the House Republican Campaign Committee and important architect of the GOP majority in the Indiana House of Representatives, ally of Brian Bosma. Ruffled some feathers during the 2008 Senate primary. There is a Facebook page up to draft him to run. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

John Hammond, lobbyist, attorney, 7th District GOP Chairman (and thus a state committee member), is reported in the Indy Star to be thinking about running. Since he serves entirely at the pleasure of the Marion County Chairman (who is now someone new), he may or may not even be in this position when the time comes to vote.

Anne Hathaway, former staff boss of the Republican National Committee and aide to Dan Quayle, is reportedly interested in running according to the Indy Star. She has not, contrary to "exuberant supporters", formally declared. She is tight with Coats and with Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Eric Holcomb, right-hand-man and political advisor for Mitch Daniels, also reported in the Indy Star. As there is never daylight between Mitch and Holcomb on anything, he's likely in the Lugar camp (Mitch being Lugar's protege). Should Mitch weigh in on a gubernatorial primary, he can also be counted upon to fall in line on that score as well. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Sandi Huddleston, current state party vice chairwoman. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Kevin Kellems has said he is running and he was calling people before Murray formally announced his departure. He got his start in Dick Lugar's office, was involved in the Coats campaign this time, and recently returned to Indiana from working for Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz (at the Department of Defense and the World Bank). He lost the Republican Congressional primary in the 9th District to anti-abortion activist Michael Bailey in 1998. He's also got a nice YouTube video out there of him licking Paul Wolfowitz's hair. Senator-Elect Dan Coats is reportedly backing Kellems. Almost certainly in the Lugar camp. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy.

Mike O'Brien, lobbyist, Daniels ally (used to write for Frugal Hoosiers, I think), and Hendricks County Chairman. Name mentioned on Northwest Indiana Politics, here.

Ted Ogle, 6th District Chairman (and thus a state committee member), Bartholomew County Chairman, and real estate developer. Has considered running in the past. Listed in poll at Angry White Boy. There's never any daylight between Ogle and Mike Pence.

Cam Savage, former chief of staff and campaign manager for Mike Sodrel, communications guy for the Mitch 2008 reelect campaign, and campaign manager for Coats during the general election. Close to Mitch, so likely to be similar in primary inclinations to Holcomb. Name mentioned by Jim Shella.

~

I'm sure I'm missing somebody.

Anyway, I think that a list of this sort is extremely likely to be immaterial to this process. A more detailed handicapping of each of those names (beyond adding information about their connections to potential primary candidates down the line) would probably be a waste of time.

Tradition generally holds that the state committee defers to the Governor (when the Governor is of their party) as the leader of their party to pick the state chairman. There is every indication that Mitch intends to weigh in on who he wants to be Murray Clark's replacement as state chairman, and there's absolutely nothing to indicate that the state committee will not rubber stamp his choice.

Mitch Daniels is by no means a "lame duck" in political terms (it's a bit early for that) and the state committee probably isn't going to go off and choose someone contrary to the Governor's wishes unless the Governor's pick is just off-the-wall mad or too closely aligned with someone in terms of a potential future primary.

I think that about the only thing that could provoke the state committee to defy the Governor would be a choice for state chairman that might be more involved in or connected to the 2012 primary process than the state committee thinks would be proper. But Mitch is politically savvy; I doubt he would divide the party and split the state committee by making such a nomination in the first place.