Monday, May 23, 2016

Why I May Pull the Lever for Trump: Shooting Oneself in the Head vs. in the Foot

I can’t stand Donald Trump. Like many others I’ve been long aware of him since he first splashed his way onto the national stage as a self proclaimed real estate genius. It was, frankly, pretty entertaining to watch him showcase government dysfunction in the Wollman Rink affair and I found myself visiting the glitzy Taj Mahal when it first opened after years in the news. I even applied to be on the second season of The Apprentice. In other words, I was aware of Donald Trump to the degree I was aware of any celebrity in our celebrity driven culture and took a mild interest in stories or events that caught my eye.

After a year of Trump being on the campaign trail however, I feel like I know him a lot more than I used to… and I like him a lot less! Why? Because previously he was some distant arrogant rich guy who was crowing about crossing home but tried to pretend he wasn’t born on third base. But there are lots of guys like that and other than taking $20 bucks or so from me at his casino, I had little reason to have a real opinion about him one way or another.

That all changed when he threw his ring in the hat for president. At first I was glad he had stepped in, particularly with the issue that I think is probably the single most important facing the Republic right now… the unfettered immigration of people from dysfunctional third world disasters. I was glad he put the issue on the map but had little thought that he might actually get the nomination.

As his competitors fell to the side one by one however, I started to pay closer attention, and I didn’t like much of what I saw or read. Donald Trump is a crony capitalist. Donald Trump is duplicitous. Donald Trump has anti-freedom, fascist tendencies. Donald Trump has little use for free markets, indeed he’s a protectionist – and don’t forget, protectionism turned a mild recession into the Great Depression. In other words, Donald Trump stands for pretty much everything I don’t, what’s more, he stands against most of the things I stand for and care about. So, how in the world could I possibly even remotely consider voting for him?

Because, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, Donald Trump is the worst viable candidate running for president… expect for the other viable candidate running for president.

I may dislike and, frankly, fear Donald Trump, but not as much as I abhor virtually every single thing Barack Obama has done since he entered the White House, and I expect Hillary Clinton to be exactly like him, only worse, if that’s even remotely possible. For eight years the country has been wrecked with racial animus due to Barack Obama’s constant race baiting. For eight years we’ve seen the government insert itself into everything from where companies must hire employees, to what the demographics of your neighborhood must be to when a man is a man and when you have to let him pee in the stall next to your daughter. We’ve seen government literally steal companies out from under the real owners, we’ve seen government use the banking system to put law abiding companies out of business, we’ve seen government decide they can dictate virtually everything that has to do with the Internet while at the same time deciding dictators around the world could better run it than Americans have. In eight years we’ve seen the economy and prosperity wither, we’ve seen regulations strangle businesses big and small and we’ve added more debt than in the previous two centuries. And that’s just domestic policy…

On the foreign policy front, we’ve careened from one disaster to another, from prematurely exiting Iraq and laying the foundation for ISIS to capitulating to the Chinese in the South China Sea to essentially handing the Iranians $150 billion and the keys to nuclear weapons. From Egypt to Russia to Cuba we have embraced tyrants while in Iran and Honduras we rebuffed those advocating freedom. We’ve thrown allies like Israel, Poland and the UK under the bus. The world was certainly challenging under George Bush, under Barack Obama it’s become an abject disaster.

As much as I dislike Donald Trump and worry he will do some of the same things Barack Obama has, I know for certain that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would do all of the same things Barack Obama has done, and more.

Donald Trump may not appoint a clone of Scalia to replace Scalia, but I expect he’s not going to appoint another Ginsberg, Sotomayor, or Breyer. He may be a crony capitalist, but he’s unlikely to use regulation to try and strangle the energy companies, farms and gun manufacturers – the latter particularly after the NRA just endorsed him. Hey may have isolationist tendencies, but he at least professes the need to restore a military that Barack Obama gutted back to WWI levels. He may backtrack on his promise to build a wall along the southern border, but at a minimum one would imagine he’ll rescind the open invitation Barack Obama has sent to the third world. He’s every bit as arrogant at Barack Obama, but at least he recognizes the United States is a positive influence in the world and won’t betray her every time he walks onto the international stage.

I have no illusion that a Donald Trump presidency will be anything remotely close to what we need right now… i.e. a president who reins in government and restores free markets and liberty. No, my only hope with pulling a lever for Donald Trump would be to slow the advance of liberalism sufficiently that conservatives can figure out how to make a stand outside of the treacherous Republican Party. That may be a pipe dream and the liberal steamrolling of American values and the Constitution may continue, but with Trump in the Oval Office and advisors who used to be considered conservatives, it’s possible that the crush will be slowed to such a degree that the country doesn’t devolve into revolution and can be pulled back from the brink.

I’m not, frankly, optimistic, but in a country where voters have seen fit to put Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the top of their respective tickets, who would be? It’s sad, but for me it’s the difference between shooting oneself in the head vs. shooting oneself in the foot. One will certainly kill you, the other probably won’t. It could if left unattended, but if treated properly it’s possible to fully recover and maybe even go on to run again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Calling BS on Bootlickers Hannity, Gallagher et. al Because I Don't Slobber at the Altar of Donald Trump

NOTE: Previously I suggested Dennis Prager as part of this group. I actually meant Mike Gallagher. From what I have heard, Prager is decidedly anti-Clinton and not a Trump apologist. My apologies... 

Carl von Clausewitz famously said “War is the continuation of politics by other means”. He is of course right. But it’s also true that politics is war by other means.

Frankly, I’m tired of listening to guys like Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, Herman Cain and others suggest that I’m not a real conservative or that I must be a closet Hillary supporter or something of that ilk because I do not support Donald Trump for president. (Which probably explains why I listen to a LOT more sports talk radio these days…) These paragons of conservatism gripe “Why aren’t they focusing their attention on Hillary?” or “Why haven’t you been focusing this much energy on President Obama?” Well, the fact is, since my first blogposts seven years ago: Racism: America’s Original Sin  and The Gift of Freedom, I have done little else than write about the perils of the cancer of liberalism, tried to highlight the irrefutable fact that free markets, individual freedom and limited government are the keys to prosperity, and argue that our Constitution is the greatest document in human history.

Now I don’t harbor the conceit that Hannity, Cain or any of the others are actually talking about me specifically. They don’t know me and I’ve no idea if they’ve ever even read my blog. But there are no doubt more than a few conservatives who have spent years listening to the talking heads on “conservative radio” opining that if we only had a real conservative carrying the banner for the GOP then we’d have a chance to save the nation, who are now stunned to watch as those same talking heads have swooned like teenage girls as they fawn over Donald Trump. And now they lecture us that we’re somehow traitors to the conservative cause because we don’t become sycophants too?

The reality is, standing for conservative principals applies whether a candidate is in the Democrat or the Republican Party. Principals don’t bend just because the liberal candidate is on your side of the isle. That’s why I supported Christine O’Donnell over RINO Mike Castle. Sure, she may have been a flawed candidate, but she was an actual conservative rather than being part of the squish GOP establishment that has proven itself to be all about power and privilege – its own – as opposed to standing for limited government and actually trying to stop Barack Obama.

So today we find ourselves subjected to tirades that the #nevertrump movement – of which I’m not a member – and conservatives who are trying to figure out how to push an illiberal liberal from the perch the media anointed him with – via $2 billion in fawning coverage – atop the GOP are somehow not true conservatives at all but are really Hillary supporters. Somehow if we still fight, even if it’s only for the flicker of hope that somehow Trump will implode or the convention will somehow figure out how to nominate someone else, we are somehow turncoats who were never believers in the first place.

That is, frankly, bullshit. It’s not that we don’t have disdain for fascist Barack Obama’s extra constitutional progressive policies. It’s not that we don’t despair at the thought of a vain liberal, crony capitalist opportunist sitting in the White House. We do. But the point is, we don’t want a vain liberal, crony capitalist opportunist running for president under the banner of the party that claims to represent conservatism and limited government. While I agree that a President Hillary Clinton – or Bernie Sanders or Pocahontas Warren – would be a disaster for freedom and prosperity that doesn’t mean that I have to support Donald Trump as the savior. The reality is, Donald Trump is every bit as much a big government crony capitalist as Clinton is. Well, maybe he’s a bit less of one, but at least Clinton only whined about the “vast right wing conspiracy” where as Trump has actually suggested that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post as a tax dodge with the implicit threat that once in office he will use the mechanisms of government to punish Bezos and Amazon. Maybe he’s right about Bezos, but his threat, along with a similar approach to dealing with Ford and Carrier certainly suggests that a President Trump won’t be much of a free market and limited government guy.

Which brings us back to the point… conservatives are conservatives because they are (generally) conservative and believe in things like limited government, individual freedom and free markets. Conservative does not equal Republican, particularly when the Republican banner is being carried by a guy who is anathema to all of those things. That does not mean that I won’t vote for or even argue for Trump against Clinton in the general. I may do both, albeit reluctantly, but we’re not there yet. Strange things can happen… I remember shaking hands with Gary Hart in Florida a few months before he shot himself in the political head when he invited reporters to follow him, and they did.

Until Donald Trump is absolutely the only real option for keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House, he will not get my support and I will continue to do what I can to highlight the fact that he is no conservative savior, no conservative and no savior at all. He is a petty, spiteful, manipulative crony capitalist narcissist who would continue Barack Obama’s assault on the Constitution. Maybe it will be all for naught and maybe I’ll end up pulling the lever for him in the general as a nod to the reality that the other crony capitalist in the race would be even worse, but don’t accuse me of being a closet liberal because I don’t rejoice that bootlickers like Hannity et al have turned the party of Abraham Lincoln into the party of Bozo the Clown.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hitler, Chavez, Putin and Trump... The Constitutional Road to Tyranny

Many people make the mistake of thinking that dictators or tyrants always came to power illegally, through some coup or some other extra constitutional manner. Of course that is sometimes true. Both Mao and Fidel Castro fomented and then won revolutions which put them in power. But more often tyrants and dictators come to power perfectly legally.

Take Adolf Hitler as example. While Hitler was a miscreant and led a group of violent thugs in Weimar Germany, he is not guilty of a palace coup. In 1930 his Nazi party won 18% of the seats in the Reichstag and became the 2nd largest party in Germany. Two years later, building on the violence in the streets – much of which they incited – the Nazis became the largest party in government. On 30 January 1933 President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor and not long thereafter the Nazis began twisting the Constitution, suspending civil liberties and eliminating opposition. By August of 1934 Adolf Hitler was the dictator of Germany.

Hugo Chavez took a similar path. A lifelong military man, in the early 1990s he was a participant in several attempted coups d'etat. Each failed, with Chavez ending up in prison once and forcibly retired from the Army after another. In 1998 Chavez ran for and won the presidency and immediately set about rewriting of the constitution. Empowered by a constitution that eliminated the senate and strengthened the presidency, Chavez would eliminate almost all political opposition, put a stranglehold on the press and purge opponents from the military and courts. He died in 2013 having spent a decade and a half in almost complete control of every aspect of Venezuela, having nationalized most of the once productive economy and leaving in his wake a failed state.

And then there is Chavez’s contemporary, Vladimir Putin. In 1999 Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin Prime Minister. Later he would make Putin acting President. In 2000, on a backdrop of terrorism, crime and economic malaise, Putin would win the presidency with 53% of the vote. Thus began a period oppression of the opposition, intimidation of the media and constitutional gymnastics that would keep Putin with a steel grip on Russia that he maintains today. Along the way he has accumulated $200 billion in personal wealth and turned the Russian economy into an ATM for favored businessmen while leaving the average Russian living near poverty.

All three of these men used populist movements against state dysfunction to legally step into power. Once in power they all moved to eliminate virtually all opposition and take total control. Political opponents were often intimidated by supporters and sometimes simply thrown in jail. Opposition or objective newspapers and television stations were either closed or taken over. Economic rivals had their property taken and or found themselves in jail. Citizens voicing opposition often found themselves in the same place or worse.

Under the veneer of official authority a would-be tyrant’s power is almost absolute. Whether that power is backed up by partisans terrorizing citizens in the street, badged stormtroopers kicking down doors or bureaucrats using regulations to outlaw everything and everyone who might pose a threat, legislatures and courts are rarely a match for a determined would-be dictator. Such men rarely seize absolute power by overtly eliminating competing power centers, but rather usually couch the takeover in trumped up charges that lead to arrests or calls for equality of one sort or another. Under the cover of such populist movements properties are seized, businesses are closed and opponents are arrested. With the fa├žade of legitimacy intact dictators then portray themselves as the heroes just doing what is necessary to defend the nation and the people.

So why does any of this matter here? Because in January we may well find ourselves inaugurating a man who could very much move down that road of tyrants. Barack Obama has already mainstreamed the idea of an extra constitutional presidency. From appointing members of the NLRB outside of the Constitution’s framework to rewriting his own Obamacare via executive fiat to nationalizing auto companies, he’s already laid the groundwork for a banana republic like strongman president, and that is exactly what Donald Trump would be. As a citizen Trump sought to use bankruptcy laws and the government’s eminent domain powers to threaten, intimidate and coerce opponents. He has threatened to use the courts to punish journalists who dare to write unflattering pieces on him. Prior to Ted Cruz exiting the race, Trump threatened violence if he was not handed the nomination, even if he hadn’t won. He has threatened corporations with bills of attainder for escaping the US’s confiscatory tax rates and suffocating regulations. Add to that the fact that he has made a career out of demonizing and making viscous personal attacks against real and perceived opponents, and it becomes clear that things might not look good for those who choose not to get on board the Trump Train.

The office of President of the United States is the single most powerful position in the world. That power would be intoxicating to the most level headed of people. Put it in the hands of the man with perhaps the biggest ego since Napoleon Bonaparte, and it could make for a toxic and tragic combination. We’ve heard Donald Trump tell us for a year that he will get things done, that he will make America great again, and that he will revive the American economy. As he pursues those things and figures out that it takes more than bluster and intimidation to “get things done” in Washington and on the world stage, it’s difficult to imagine he won’t pick up on Barack Obama’s success in implementing extra constitutional actions and decide that he can do the same, only bigger and better. No doubt it will be a HUUUUUUUUUGE success.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night... Ted Cruz, The Constitution and Third Party Choices

I’ve never seen a train wreck, but I’m told they are somewhat difficult to turn away from if you see one occurring right in front of you. That was my experience two nights ago watching Donald Trump roll in Indiana and then Ted Cruz suspending his campaign.

What made the night almost surreal is that it came on the heels of Ted Cruz simply destroying Trump at a press conference earlier in the day. I couldn’t help but wonder if things might have turned out differently had Cruz not done the same a month before. I’m not sure it would have made a difference with the treacherous John Kasich still in the race, but one never knows.

So now we have it… A GOP nominee selected by Democrats, the media – and that includes the faux conservative media – and angry GOP voters not bright enough to recognize that while bluster and bombast might make for great reality TV, they rarely make for successful real world leaders, at least other than dictators. While the former two groups can be forgiven for trying to select the weakest challenger to their nominee – after all, that’s just good politics – the latter deserves a particular level of enmity as they profess anger at the establishment and then vote for someone who has spent his entire life canoodling with that very establishment.

Now the question facing many of us is whether or not to pull the lever for Trump or take the quixotic path of supporting a third party candidate. On the one hand it would almost be suicidal to do so – in terms of the pursuit of reviving the Constitution – as Clinton would certainly triumph, but on the other hand, the Constitution stands little chance of surviving regardless of whether Clinton or Trump is elected. The only reason to ever consider voting for Trump in the first place was his promise to build a wall. Given that he told the NY Times that he wouldn’t be building any walls, there is literally zero reason to bother pulling the lever for him.

Whether Clinton or Trump makes it into the White House, the freedoms that Americans used to cherish, free speech, free markets, gun ownership and limited government find themselves on the ash heap of history. Barack Obama started down the strongman path of extra constitutionality, and either Trump or Clinton would pick up that ball and run with it.

The 2016 election is simply lost. Absent some miracle that keeps Trump from the nomination, the 2016 will be the end of the Republican party as we know it, and potentially the Republic as we know it. So the question is, what are conservatives to do? What are those who value freedom and limited government to do? What are those who prefer Madison, Jefferson and Reagan to Marx and Castro and Obama to do? Do we take our lumps, swallow our pride and pull the lever for Trump simply because he’s representing the party ostensibly opposing the socialists? Do we sit out the election so that whichever candidate wins we can honestly say we had nothing to do with the consequences? Or do we do something else?

I’d suggest something else. Given that Donald spells the end of the GOP, why not use 2016 the way the Tea Party did in 2010… build something… but rather than hitching our wagon to the festering, corrupt and debauched Republican Party, build something far superior. Build a party that actually stands for something other than its own power. Build a party that champions real limited government, not the use of government to support big business and hinder small business. Build a party that advances the notion that prosperity is the result of free markets, not government intervention in favored industries. Build a party where free speech and free religion are the valued over the feelings of delicate flowers who are offended by practically everything. Build a party where hard work and individual achievement are valued and empowered rather than punished by confiscatory taxes and government social engineering.

Of course building such a party might guarantee a Hillary Clinton presidency. That’s true, but a Clinton presidency is the likely outcome of a contest against Donald Trump regardless. So be it. I once had a friend who told me she didn’t want to go to college because she was 27 and would be 31 when she graduated. I asked her how old she would be in 4 years if she didn’t go to college… Win or lose, a GOP party headed by Donald Trump is no longer a party that respects the Constitution, is no longer a party that respects free markets, is no longer a party that respects free speech and individual liberty. As such, we can choose to do nothing with the five months until November, or we can choose to do something that lays the foundation of a new party to stand up and challenge the big government GOP Democrat duopoly in 2018 and beyond. (Don't forget, the GOP itself was founded in 1854 but didn't win the White House until 1860.)  Granted, it will be an uphill battle, and given the track records of 3rd parties over the last century, it may even be a Sisyphean one, but at the end of the day the choices are clear. Stand by and watch as the foundations of your beloved country crumble, or choose to fight to save the Constitution and greatest republic the world has ever known. I hope Ted Cruz is listening and chooses not to go gently into that good night…

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ted Cruz's Only Hope for Indiana and Beyond: "The Government didn't build the American Dream..."

This has been a tough week for Ted Cruz. He lost 5 states by double digits. Of course they were all northeastern states which means there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell that they will be landing in the red column in November. Nonetheless Trump won them fair and square and he appears to have momentum.

So now there’s Indiana. The numbers are such that if Cruz does not win Indiana, it becomes almost impossible for him to stop Trump from getting to 1237. Given the glowing coverage that Trump gets from the mainstream media, as well as his cheerleaders in the erstwhile conservative media such as Drudge, Rush, and Hannity, Cruz finds himself very much fighting an uphill battle.

He can’t outTrump Trump. He can’t accuse Trump of lying – despite the fact that he is. He can’t accuse Trump of seeking to intimidate delegates – which he is doing. He can’t make nonsensical appeals to uninformed voters’ base instincts – because that’s not who he (Cruz) is. No, the only chance Ted Cruz has to win Indiana – and California beyond that – is to make his pitch for the American Dream.

Basically, it's that Dream that is behind so many voters flocking to Trump in the first place… that along with our celebrity worship culture where many elevate celebrities to a demigod state, regardless of their less than godlike behavior. Americans are angry that opportunities for advancement are disappearing. Americans are angry that every widget found in Wal-Mart is manufactured in China and every tee shirt in Pakistan. Americans are angry that an American icon, Ford, would reduce production here just to add production in Mexico. And Indianans are angry that Carrier would close a plant in Indiana just to open one in Mexico. The bottom line is, many Americans wonder what happened to a country where hard work and innovation were rewarded and where half the population was not on welfare of one sort of another.

One guy seems to be harnessing their anger and making it so they don’t feel like no one is listening… and that guy is Donald Trump. Ted Cruz needs to jump into the scrum. Ted Cruz needs to be crystal clear that he understands what they are feeling… but he shouldn’t pander while doing so… or he’ll be seen like Hillary trying to use an MTA card. No, Cruz has to talk about their issues, but do so in the context of what is causing them. Manufacturing is indeed moving the Mexico and China… but it’s not because companies like Ford and Carrier hate Americans… it’s because the government has made it so difficult for them to operate and earn a profit in the United States. And it’s not just labor costs, because Ford could have saved half its labor costs simply building the Focus in Alabama or Kentucky rather than Michigan. No, the much bigger problem for companies trying to manufacture and keep jobs in the United States is regulation.

Ted Cruz needs to point out that it’s not malice that encourages American companies to build products outside our borders… it’s government. Federal regulation costs the US $2 trillion a year… Looked at in jobs, just half that total would translate to 10 million new jobs at an average salary of $75,000 each. Unfortunately, this regulatory burden not only makes it more difficult for American companies to build here, it scares off international companies who might otherwise invest in the United States. Fundamentally, if the government would loosen the regulatory yoke and unleash American industry, our economy would once again dominate the world.

And then there is the IRS. Because at 40%, the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world, companies find it less competitive to invest in the United States. Not only that, American companies have $2 trillion in profits sitting in subsidiaries around the world that they can’t bring home because it would cost them too much in taxes. That $2 trillion alone would provide 2 years of paychecks for 15 million Americans at $50,000 a year. By eliminating the IRS and implementing the Fair Tax – which Cruz likes but doesn’t push – a President Cruz would welcome trillions of dollars of investment in the United States from around the world.  Cruz's 10% income tax would have a similar, albeit a somewhat smaller impact.

At the end of the day, the only chance Cruz has to win Indiana and keep Trump from becoming the nominee is to clearly and forcefully articulate that the enemy of prosperity is not Carrier moving a plant to Mexico or Burger King moving its headquarters to Canada… it’s government strangling the American Dream one regulation at a time, it’s tax rates that handicap the country relative to the rest of the world. And in setting up that argument, he has to highlight the fact that Donald Trump’s solution of trying to tax Carrier back into the country is not the answer because for every Carrier that makes the news, there are hundreds of other companies around the world that aren’t located here and never will be because taxes and regulations simply make it too expensive to invest in the United States and create American jobs.

Donald Trump wants to scare companies into staying in the United States and employing Americans. Ted Cruz wants to inspire companies, both American and foreign, to invest in the United States and employ American workers. That’s a big difference and Cruz has to make that clear to voters. Trump wants to use the government to coerce companies to do what he wants while Cruz wants to lighten the government burden and allow American companies and American workers do what they do best, which is innovate and build their way to prosperity. The government did not invent the air conditioner, Willis Carrier did. The government did not bring the assembly line to the automobile, Henry Ford did. But government regulations have sent the companies those two men founded scurrying south of the border to build products in their names.  That is the shame of America in 2016... America used to be a place for entrepreneurship, innovation, invention and most of all, prosperity.  It's not today because of government.  The American Dream used to inspire both Americans and the rest of the world.  It doesn't do that much today because the government has smothered it...

And that's the message Cruz needs to get out:  "The government needs to get out of the prosperity killing business and out of the dream killing business... I understand that and I'll make it happen... Lifelong crony capitalist and John Boehner's golfing and texting buddy Donald Trump won't."