July 31, 2011

Debt Ceiling Fuss Exposes the Worst of Congress

By Donald G. Mashburn

It appears an agreement has been reached to raise the Nation’s debt ceiling. The agreement has some hurdles to clear, but Democratic sources say the Senate will pass the compromise deal, and Republican Representative Tom Cole thinks the deal will pass the House.

President Obama, who did little but talk as he helped push the nation to the brink of default, is getting deeper cuts in spending than he wanted, but he’s getting a huge chunk of “debt space” of $2.3 trillion to get him past the 2012 election cycle.

The nation is getting a huge 16.1-percent increase in the debt ceiling. In return, taxpayers are getting promises of slowing the rate of debt increase, but with no real hope of spending cuts that will keep us from taking on more debt.

Even with the uncertainties, it appears that the Congress and the No-Plan-But-Talk White House have agreed on a plan that will squelch – for now – talk of default or government shutdown.

During the prolonged squabble, the stock market has nosedived; our national credit rating has come under closer scrutiny and is in danger of being lowered. And the debate has exposed the worst and the ugliest in both the Congressional and the Executive branches.

For a concise summary of this debate, one could hardly expect to top the commentator who said, “The House legislated, the President talked, and the Senate killed.”

There’s an old saying: “When the elephants wrestle, the grass gets hurt.” In this case, it means that as the political factions wrestle for their own objectives, it’s the people – that is, our country and its people – that get hurt.

The debt ceiling battle has seen more than enough posturing and hypocrisy to go around. Both the Dems and the GOP have done it. But on hypocrisy, the Democrats outscore the Republicans by a large margin. To see that, one has only to look back at the positions of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Democrats and note the times they spoke out against raising the debt ceiling during the George Bush years.

The GOP, for its part, has tried to hold fast to its main goals of lower spending, no new taxes, and a plan to reduce the national debt that has reached $14.3 trillion! And with Democrats controlling the Senate, and being in thrall to the present occupant of the White House, any effective limits on spending will be virtually impossible to achieve.

But now it appears the new agreement may cut spending some $3 trillion over 10 years, while raising the debt ceiling some $2.3 trillion into early 2013. That will get Obama and the Democrats in Congress past the 2012 elections.

But the worst part is that it will raise the existing national debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion to an eye-boggling $16.6 trillion!

That figure is large enough to choke an elephant, especially if the elephant is carrying a GOP banner and trying to get into the White House in 2012.

July 31, 2011

GOP Futile Five Should Bow Out

By Donald G. Mashburn

The crowded GOP presidential candidate field is likely to get more crowded before it thins out. Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to announce his candidacy in early August. Sarah Palin isn’t saying what she will do. Rudy Giuliani is looking.

Mitch Daniels, second term governor of Indiana, has removed himself as a candidate. In addition, in displays of common sense and good judgment, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, and Donald Trump have taken themselves out of the race. Others in the GOP field should show similar good judgment and bow out of the crowded field.

In particular, the “Futile Five” should bow out to avoid candidate “clutter,” and let voters pay more attention to candidates that have a decent chance to win the Republican nomination. The Futile Five – unelectable and perhaps unaware of it – are, in alphabetical order: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, and Ron Paul.

Their names have grown tiresome from the wear and tear of being in the news and on television screens too long. Their faces – except Palin’s – have a not-fresh look, and the bodies of the guys are beginning to show the effects of high-mileage and inadequate maintenance that voters will not find appealing in 2012.

Moreover, their negatives are too high for them to be seriously considered as heavyweight contenders for the presidency of the United States of America. Two of them, Palin and Giuliani, have good credentials in experience and political savvy and experience. But the others should take stock of their resumes and do what’s best for their country and not themselves.

Some of The Five have decent credentials, until viewed against the background of the Oval Office and the world stage on which presidents perform.

Representative Michele Bachmann (Minn.-R) is causing quit a stir as she works for recognition and credibility in the early caucuses and primaries. And as a native-born Iowan, she may make a strong showing in that state. She’s also a Tea Party favorite, and generally makes a good impression on crowds. But she makes simples mistakes. Moreover, she sometimes sounds as if she’s too “light” to compete in the presidential heavyweight class.

Newt Gingrich’s negatives are many and well known. He carries much personal baggage from both his time as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and from his personal life. Gingrich does have a prolific mind, and has numerous supporters who think he would serve the nation well if he were president.

But Gingrich doesn’t wear well when issues are many and divisive. The professorial demeanor occasionally gives way to comments that are not only overly blunt but also are off the wall. Newt Gingrich is a better fit as a commentator and writer than he is for the Oval Office.

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, built a strong record of leadership as mayor of the Big Apple. That leadership steered the city through improvements few thought were possible: charter schools, a better school system, less waste, less corruption in city government, and a truly remarkable reduction in the number of people on welfare roles.

Additionally, Giuliani’s outstanding performance during the 9/11 horror gave him name recognition and a public image that would be the envy of most presidential wannabes. Yet Giuliani’s 2008 effort in the 2008 Presidential Sweepstakes was mediocre at best.

Giuliani also has some personal baggage from his personal life. That did not appear to be a big factor in 2008, however. His lackluster showing was generally seen as a combination of poor planning, average performance, and a message that became old much too early.

Giuliani could potentially be an effective member of a Republican administration, but he’s not the kind of candidate that can give the GOP possession of the White House in 2012.

Both Sarah Palin and Ron Paul have respectable followings. Palin is not an announced candidate. She drew big crowds in 2008, and perhaps if she had been paired with a stronger, more high-powered candidate, she might be Vice President today.

Still, even with going down with an ineffective John McCain as running mate, Palin shook up the political world, and has remained popular with a large part of the Republican base. But her negatives have risen, along with a general feeling that her talents are better suited for running a part of a country than for running the country itself.

Palin would look like a winner to everyone if she could pick the eventual GOP nominee and support that nominee with her many talents.

As for Ron Paul, he has said some things that needed to be said to a nation that is listing badly in a sea of ever-rising debt. But Paul also has said a number of things and has stated positions that will keep him from ever becoming considered seriously as presidential timber by a majority of voters.

It isn’t often that individual Americans have the opportunity to do something that really counts for their country. Something that shows they were thinking about what’s best for the country, not what they want for themselves. But in the days ahead, such an opportunity is available to The Futile Five.

They can take a realistic look at their prospects as possible GOP presidential candidates and see that they are “possibles” only in their own minds. They should be realistic about their chances and realize they can help their Party and their country simply by taking themselves out of the running for the 2012 GOP nomination.

The “futility” list could be and will be longer. But The Five above are automatic candidates for the non-active candidate roster. They have only two chances in the 2012 presidential race: – slim and none.

The GOP does have some viable candidates. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Tim Pawlenty, (R-MN) as governors of Massachusetts and Minnesota, respectively, have executive and governing experience that Barack Obama could not even imagine or talk about in 2008 – and still can’t.

Both have some private sector business, but Romney’s’ much stronger business and financial background makes Pawlenty look like the labor lawyer he was in earlier years and the politician he became later. The GOP will be hard pressed to come up with a candidate with the business and financial experience even approaching that of Romney and Daniels.

However, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas will be a major force if he enters the race. His record in the military and state government is impressive. He served as a pilot in the Air Force for five years, as Representative in the Texas Houses of Representatives, Agricultural Commissioner, Lieutenant Governor, and 10 years as governor of Texas. His administration’s achievements are impressive. And his personality and looks would be big pluses on the stump, on television, and in facing people at any level.

The Democrats, by contrast, chose as their 2008 candidate– and the country elected – a labor lawyer with no business or military experience, who became a community organizer in South Chicago.

Gen. Davis Petraeus, new head of the CIA, is an intriguing figure and name. He is best known for his general success in Iraq. Gen. Petraeus has stated that he has no interest in a political career, and his becoming a presidential candidate is problematic. But his name on a ticket with someone like Romney or Perry would be a strong combination.

Whoever heads the GOP ticket in 2012, the “Futile Five” should step aside now and clear the field for candidates who have a real chance of getting elected.