More Reasons Not To Like Huckabee

When asked what I think of the Republican presidential field, I have said–until now–that I like everyone in it, in various ways. That changed yesterday when Mike Huckabee threw his hat into the ring. A reader expresses my view of Huck:

The Huckster is a left populist. It’s just pro-life statism.

Particularly appalling, as this reader points out, were Huckabee’s promises on Social Security and Medicare:

This is outright left-wing demagoguery, for old white people. It is completely and intentionally dishonest:

[S]enior citizens are one of the groups that Governor Mike Huckabee will be targeting in his newly launched presidential bid. That strategy helps to explain this passage from his announcement speech today:

Some propose that to save safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we need to chop off the payouts for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politicians promising that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick.

Good grief. Has anyone since Roosevelt tried to tell voters that under Social Security, “their money” is “waiting for them” in a government account? Or maybe a “trust fund.” Huckabee continued:

You were forced to pay for Social Security and Medicare for 50 years. The government grabs money from our paychecks and says it will be waiting for us when we turn 65. If Congress wants to take away someone’s retirement, let them end their own Congressional pensions-not your Social Security. As President, I promise you will get what you paid for!

To which our reader responds:

Yeah, baby! Keep your government welfare state away from my Social Security and Medicare! Although…I’m not so sure the Huckster should be “promis[ing] you will get what you paid for.” Know what I mean? We old white people might be surprised and dismayed once we realize what this really is.

Social Security needs to be reformed, and, more important, Medicare needs to be reformed drastically. Otherwise, we are doomed fiscally. It is distinctly unhelpful to have Republican politicians joining with Democrats to demagogue these unsustainable entitlements.

The really sad thing about Huckabee is that he is the most naturally talented politician in the presidential field, on either side.

Hillary Goes Whole Hog On Immigration

Yesterday Hillary Clinton addressed a gathering of illegal immigrants in Nevada, and promised to outdo Barack Obama as an immigration activist. Byron York writes:

Changing the immigration system will be a top priority should she become president, Clinton said. “We can’t wait any longer. We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship.”

Clinton made clear she would go beyond any Republican, be it Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or any other, in conferring benefits on currently illegal immigrants. “This is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side,” she said. “Make no mistakes — today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status.” …

“I want to do everything we can to defend the president’s executive orders,” Clinton said at another point. “Because I think they were certainly within his authority, constitutionally, legally, they were based on precedent that I certainly believe is adequate. And then still try to go further and deal with some of these other issues, like the re-unification of families that were here and that have been split up.” …

A number of words were missing from Clinton’s discussion of immigration. She did not say “border,” for example, or “visa” or “E-Verify” or “workplace.” The notion of enforcing the nation’s immigration laws as they currently exist was not on the table.

Of course not! If there is one thing Hillary can identify with, it is lawlessness.

Still, I find Mrs. Clinton’s posture intriguing. Barack Obama didn’t start issuing executive orders on immigration until he had been safely re-elected (until then, he repeatedly said, correctly, that he had no authority to rewrite the immigration laws). Nor is yesterday’s endorsement of immigration radicalism an instance of conviction politics. As Byron notes, she has been considerably more circumspect in the past.

Most likely, Hillary is protecting her left flank against real or imagined challenges. (Bernie Sanders? Seriously?) But in doing so, she is setting herself up for trouble in the general election. Can Hillary possibly be unaware of how unpopular open borders activism is with voters? Even Hispanic voters mostly disapprove. An extreme position on immigration may help her fundraising at the margin, but we are talking about the difference between $2.25 billion and $2.5 billion. She is, regardless of this issue, the candidate of millionaires.

No doubt the GOP campaigns are all filing away footage of yesterday’s event, in hopes of being able to use it against Hillary next year.

Is Corker-Menendez worse than nothing?

National Journal reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved yesterday to end debate on the Corker-Menendez bill, shortening what he had hoped would be an open amendment process out of concern that some “poison pill” amendment votes could potentially sink it. “We’re going to move quickly,” Senator McConnell explained.

National Review’s Joel Gehrke explored the procedural maneuvering:

After Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) tried to force votes on amendments that would, respectively, require Iran to close its nuclear facilities and recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, Democrats refused to grant unanimous consent to proceed to vote on any amendments.

This put McConnell in a time crunch; the rules of the Senate allow him to call up any amendment after 30 hours of debate, but doing that several times over could consume weeks of legislative time.

Gehrke’s take derives from comments made to him by Senator John Thune, the chairman of the Republican conference. Senator Thune elaborated on McConnell’s expected move to shut down the process and bring the Corker-Menendez bill to a vote:

“It’s just the coin of the realm in the Senate is floor time and we’ve got [a trade promotion authority bill],” Senator John Thune (R., S.D.), the chairman of the Republican conference, tells National Review. “We’ve got the FISA deadline coming up at the end of the month; we’ve got the highway [bill] deadline coming up at the end of the month; there’s just a lot of stuff that we need to try and transact and, you know, you could stay on this thing indefinitely but I’m not sure what that really gets you.”

The need to pass those bills apparently means that not even the hope of embarrassing Democrats who don’t want votes on amendments pertaining to Israel could induce GOP leadership to keep debating the Iran bill.

And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) opposes the trade bill, meaning he has an incentive to slow down the process on the Iran amendments. “I just think it’s a function of time and schedule and trying to get as much done as you can,” Thune says.

In the spirit of the Oxford literary journal, I want to offer the a few Notes & Queries. In the process of defending Corker-Menendez and disparaging its GOP critics, Jennifer Rubin argued last week at her Washington Post/Right Turn site: “Senator McConnell has promised regular order in the Senate and there is no reason to make an exception here.” (Commenting yesterday on the procedural developments that will bring Corker-Menendez to a vote on Thursday, Jennifer Rubin elides this point that she made only last week.)

That was then, this is now. To push Corker-Menendez through, Senator McConnell is, as I understand it, short-circuiting the amendment process. It would be one thing to do that to disadvantage Democrats. But to stiff-arm Republicans who have a point?

Is Corker-Menendez better than nothing? Is it worse than nothing? Or is it, as Paul argues, simply nothing? That is the question of substance here.

The fundamental problem with Corker-Menendez is the sense in which it turns the Constitution on its head. Majorities in both the House and the Senate oppose the likely deal President Obama is about to enter into with Iran as an executive agreement, yet the majority falls short of the two-thirds vote that will be required to override an Obama veto opposing the deal.

Without Corker-Menendez, however, Congress will be cut out of any review of the deal and will have no vehicle to vote on it. Jennifer Rubin makes a few other points incidental to the merits.

Senator McConnell’s professed devotion to regular order could have killed the bill. Letting the bill die on this ground would be a good, nonsubstantive reason for its death.

The dissenting Republican senators must take the view that Corker-Menendez is worse than nothing. So far as I am aware, however, neither Senator Rubio nor Cotton, has expressly made this argument. (I took a close look at Senator Cotton’s comments expressing his limited support of the bill here.)

Senators Rubio and Cotton, who take the brunt of Jennifer Rubin’s criticism, have tapped into a creative vein to improve or oppose Corker-Menendez. Senator Rubio’s proposed amendment requiring the final agreement to include the terms put forth in the White House’s own description of the framework agreement deserves special recognition. When I ask myself what would Churchill do, I think he would proceed much as Senators Cotton has, going back to his open letter to the Supreme Leader et al.

Corker-Menendez will allow a majority in Congress to review and oppose to the utterly humiliating arrangement in process with Iran, even if the failure of Congress to override Obama’s veto will confuse the issue.

Yet Corker-Menendez is problematic at best. President Obama refuses to submit the arrangement in process to the Senate as a treaty. Congress can’t make him do it, even if by tradition he should. Corker-Menendez gives Congress a role, but it inverts the constitutional sense of the matter.

How do you solve a problem like Obama? I don’t have the answer, and neither does Corker-Menendez.

The first obligation of the federal government is to provide for our national security. There is no national security issue more salient than the catastrophic arrangement in process with Iran. The stated rationale of Republican leadership concerning the need to move on does not pass muster. I take it as a procedural argument masquerading as support for the bill.

Mark Falcoff: Why liberals love Castro

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at AEI. He is the author of several books including Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes further to posts for us on Cuba, most recently, in “Castro’s dreams come true,” “The Cuban paradox” and “More thoughts on Cuba.”

What is it with Castro and the liberals? It’s still a good question. Mark Falcoff writes:

The cat is now out of the bag as far as American liberals are concerned. They have always secretly adored the Castro regime, and now they can shamelessly express their feelings, since our president himself seems to think the dictatorship on the island is quite all right. There are few examples as tawdry, however, as the statements of Governor Cuomo, who, while visiting the island, pronounced the kind of tributes to the dictatorship one used to hear from Texas businessmen in the 1940s when visiting Trujillo’s Dominican Republic.

Why do American liberals love the Cuban dictatorship? Let me count the ways. First, it is a counter-example of the American way of life (suburbs, tacky shopping centers, automobiles, uninhibited consumerism). Second, it is a reproach to American foreign policy–if the Cuban dictator jails dissidents, or tortures them, or deprives their families of their ration cards, then it is OUR fault. If only we would be more loving and caring in 1959, none of this would have happened. (The Bay of Pigs is often cited even though their chronology is invariably wrong.)

Third–and this I get from a liberal with whom I had dinner recently–their love of Havana represents the obverse of their hatred of Miami Cubans, who are everything American liberals despise. Try as I might t explain to this guy that the people in Miami are far from his caricature, he would hear none of it. Their major sin seems to be the only ethnic group that solidly votes for the GOP.

Some of the arguments I hear from liberals are really quit amazing. One I hear quite often is, “Well, we’ve supported many dictatorships in the past and even do so today, so what’s the difference?” When I ask whether they approve of past U.S. support (real ore alleged) of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile or the Somozas in Nicaragua, they change the subject.

The point is, they love Communism (in Cuba, that is), they love the Castros, they can’t wait to visit Havana, or so they tell me. So much for all their handwringing about human rights, torture, dictatorships, and so forth, that were their battle flags throughout the 1980s, when the Cold War was at its height.

The war on standards makes major headway in New York City

Bob McManus of the New York Post wonders whether Demetrius Blackwell, who shot NYPD officer Brian Moore dead, would have been on the street with his gun had the old stop-and-frisk policies, which Mayor de Blasio eliminated, been in effect. Chances are that Blackwell, a reckless hard core thug, would have been, but we will never know for sure.

More broadly, McManus wonders about the consequences of what he calls “the astonishing shift, both in tone and in content, of New York’s public-safety ­debate.”

Whereas a decade ago there was a deep appreciation of what living in a city with 2,000-plus recorded murders every year was like, that memory has faded.

Nobody’s afraid of the subways any more, or most parks, and that’s a good thing. But sad experience demonstrates that safe trains, safe parks and safe streets generally don’t occur naturally — they must be achieved and maintained.

This takes wisdom, determination and, most of all, courage — qualities in short supply of late.

By contrast, there is no shortage of mindless leftism. For example, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is pushing to decriminalize public urination and other “quality of living” offenses. As McManus puts it, who would have thought that New York’s pee-puddle community would have a serious constituency in New York City government?

The rot is spreading to the city’s public schools. According to McManus, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña — a de Blasio appointee — has liberalized school-safety rules and reduced sanctions against potentially dangerous students. The result? Last week, city Comptroller Scott Stringer reported that violence in the city schools is up sharply, and that the Department of Education is lying about it.

It’s pretty basic. Go easy on dangerous students and you get more violence in schools. Go easy on gun-toting thugs and you get more violence in the street. Go easy on public urination and you get — well, you know.

McManus calls for “for strong leadership, clarity of purpose and a resurrection of will — the qualities that led New York from the wilderness a generation ago.” I fear, however, that the left’s war on standards is leading New York, and not just New York, back into that wilderness.

Mike Huckabee enters four years late

Mike Huckabee announced today that he is entering the race for president. He’s considered by most a second-tier candidate for the Republican nomination. However, Huckabee proved in his last outing that he’s an excellent campaigner/debater and capable of outperforming expectations.

Even so, I can’t help but think that Huckabee missed his best chance for the nomination by not entering the 2012 race. In his absence, Rick Santorum became the favorite of evangelical voters and gave Mitt Romney a good run for his money.

We shouldn’t assume that Huckabee would have pushed Santorum aside and that, running as the preferred candidate of evangelicals, he would have beaten Mitt Romney in, say, Ohio where Santorum fell only 12,000 votes short. But it’s not far-fetched to believe Huckabee would have done so. In this scenario, one can envisage Huckabee winning the nomination.

This time, the obstacles seem more formidable. When it comes to evangelical voters, Huckabee will have to compete not just with Santorum, but also with Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. And if he prevails in this race-within-a-race, he might well find himself matched up with a more formidable candidate than Romney (say, Marco Rubio or the aforementioned Walker; Jeb Bush would be more like Romney, I think).

In sum, Huckabee may, with difficulty, be able to push himself into the first tier, but it’s very difficult to see him capturing the nomination. He will enliven the race, though.

The Telos of Liberalism: Your Children’s Bedtime Stories

The largest source of inequality today is the family, so it is not surprising that liberals obsessed with inequality have to control family life eventually, either by nationalizing children (Plato’s idea, only he was kidding), or by extending regulation to family matters.

Think this is far-fetched? The Australian Broadcasting Company has found a philosopher named Adam Swift who thinks parents reading to their children helps increase inequality, and therefore we might have to think about regulating the reading of bedtime stories.

Swift in particular has been conflicted for some time over the curious situation that arises when a parent wants to do the best for her child but in the process makes the playing field for others even more lopsided.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’ . . .

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’. . .

‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says.

This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted.

Swift later draws back from this insanity, but only after allowing it to do the dirty work of saying that private schooling should be prohibited. And also that he has no earthly idea of what a “family” actually is any more:

‘We think that although in practice it makes sense to parent your biological offspring, that is not the same as saying that in virtue of having produced the child the biological parent has the right to parent.’

‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.

But as usual there is no coherent principle at work. Not-So-Swift adds:

‘If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.’

Is that a bug or a feature?  And will bedtime stories be okay again if the government mandates that we read Heather Has Two Mommies to the kids?