Election 2014, Good News, Bad News

The bad news is the GOP took the Senate probably just in time to own the country's problems and elect another Dem president in 2016.

The good news? Quite a bit of it!

1. The GOP took the state legislatures and governorships in numbers that will have lasting impact in the states no matter what happens in 2016.

2. The quality of the GOP class just elected. You know how I always complain about Nixon ruining the country -- not with Watergate per se, but because backlash against him caused a wave of the nation's wickedest politicians to be elected? I think there's a good chance Obama just did the same in reverse. (And Henry Waxman, emblem of the nation's wickedest congressional class, retired rather than stick around. Which is perhaps emblematic of his class being vanquished at last.)

I happened to tune in to Rush Limbaugh for a few moments a day or two after the election when he was complaining bitterly about Reince Preibus (GOP chairman) culling candidates in this manner:
On Oct. 1, 2013, 16 potential Senate Republican candidates were met at baggage claim in Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport by trackers—those annoying, hyperactive, politics-obsessed, camera-wielding twentysomethings whose job is to make a candidate lose his or hers. After a series of fundraising events and policy briefings, the candidates met at the offices of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and recounted their stories with tales of their personal, belligerent Democrat. “We said that’s interesting; We’d like to show you the video of you and how you reacted to the tracker because we put those trackers on you,” said Sen. Rob Portman, the NRSC Finance Vice Chairman.
Unless I'm confusing this piece with another similar one, I think an earlier version of the story indicated that these faux reporters specifically hounded candidates on abortion and "war on women" issues. This bothered Limbaugh for some reason -- he took it as the Party trying to downplay social issues. I think it was smart. I don't want the pro-life cause at the mercy of the Todd Akins of this world.

[Let me just digress for a moment here to say something about that. Anyone can fumble in a debate situation. But Akin's gaffe -- arguing that pregnancy from rape is a non-issue because it rarely occurs thanks to a biological defense mechanism-- was an idea advanced by Dr. Jack Willkie in the early 1990s. It may or may not have some scientific basis, but in addition to sounding horribly insensitive to the victim of an assault ("is it real rape?"), it's rhetorically weak because it opens the door to the idea that abortion is the right solution to rape cases. Most engaged pro-lifers abandoned that argument swiftly. To my mind the problem with Todd Akin was not that he was completely tin-eared, but more that he clearly hadn't thought seriously about pro-life issues since the 1990s.]

I am tired of the GOP -- both the party and its voters-- accepting as pro-life anyone who says he'll support a human life amendment with no further questions. To my mind, putting people to the test and training them is a sign of taking pro-life issues MORE seriously, not less. The social issues are winning issues in the proper hands, and we have a class of Senate candidates (now Senators-elect) who seem to be stellar: whip-smart, disciplined and of good character -- people who didn't need to run away from abortion and the birth control mandate because they are sure of themselves and know how to give as good as they get. High hopes!

3. The defeat of the "War on Women."  Others have written about this so I won't add much except to say it's naive to think the war on women tactic will just go away. What's been defeated, hopefully, is GOP/pro-life defeatism. (Ditto the whining from folks who default in every election to how much the media are against us and there's no real difference between the parties. Whatevs. The media and party hacks you have always with you. If you can't figure out your way around those things, maybe you're not a good candidate. Those assertions have differing degrees of truth, but they're both just helpless downer talk from people who are essentially apolitical and want the world to just change without anyone having to make political arguments as opposed to moral assertions. There is always something to be done....)

The next few items are just things I personally find yummy in the results.

4.  My 3-decade losing streak is broken.  For the first time in my life a candidate I voted for in a state/local election won. Maryland, of all places, elected a pro-life GOP governor (ditto Massachusetts and, most shockingly, Illinois). I wish him well. The state didn't give him a legislature to work with, but it felt good on election night. (For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my state!) To what do I attribute his decisive win? Two things: Gov. O'Malley's rain tax. (Really? Even Marylanders have some limits). And Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's being a poor candidate. The only thing he was really tasked with as Lt. Gov. was the roll-out of Maryland's Obamacare exchange, which was even worse than the Obamacare rollout itself. And he doesn't come off as the brightest fellow. By the end of campaign season the Anthony Brown signs had disappeared and generic  placards urging us to "Vote for the Democrats" were everywhere.

5. Wendy Davis lost in Texas. That's no surprise, but you know what's delicious? The poster child for late-term abortion on demand didn't even win the women's vote. Along those same lines: though I would have held my nose and voted for him if I were in NH just to wrest the Senate from the villainous Harry Reid, I don't mind that Scott Brown lost in New Hampshire. He ran a great campaign qua campaign, for which I give him credit, but he's a presidentially handsome pro-choice Republican, and had he won a certain wing of the party would be foisting him on us as a presidential candidate. No, thanks.  Ditto gay Republican Carl DeMaio's loss in CA-52. I kinda like the guy in the abstract and setting aside his disastrous ideas about family policy, but had he won he'd have been foist on us as the changing face of the GOP (indeed, the race was close and the Washington Times jumped the gun and ran such a story).

6. Scott Walker, Scott Walker, Scott Walker. I think nothing made me as happy Tuesday night as Scott Walker's re-election, simply because I viewed his race as a straight-up case of good (man of upstanding character, champion of little people) versus evil (public sector union bosses defending graft and incompetence). He proves in the hands of the right guy there are no third-rail issues in American politics.  My current choice for President 2016.

7. My other pet races: Mia Love -- first black Republican congresswoman;  Tim Scott, first black senator elected from the South -- and he's GOP;  Tom Cotton, senator-elect from Arkansas, because he talks to voters like this . (His victory speech --watch it!-- is almost a Reagan-like "time for choosing" speech.)  Mitch McConnell: because some people in the GOP have unjustly accused him of being weak or a RINO, not understanding the guy is a brilliant tactician and parliamentarian to whom we owe much.

For the record, I did endure two heartbreaks Tuesday night. It's astonishing Ed Gillespie almost beat Mark Warner in VA and sad that he didn't. Ditto my man Dan Bongino in a hard-fought congressional battle here in MD. You can tell what kind of man Bongino is by how gracious he is in his concession letter to his supporters.

I also agree with whichever wag on Twitter it was who said the election was not an endorsement of Republicans, but a restraining order on the Democrats. That's exactly right. Conservatives have a brief window now in which to make the case to the working poor, "workers" middle class families, blacks and latinos that their policies are the fairest and best. PLEASE, GOP, do not blow it by a) doing nothing and always being in reactive mode or b) having the first thing you do be passing business tax cuts or repealing the minimum wage hike -- moves which might be good eventually, but will be bad optics in this economy and will slam the open window shut, hard.

Let your first move be surprising, like pushing for education vouchers -- everyone's against the teacher's unions now. Or maybe something like Paul Ryan's opportunity grant w/ expansion of the earned income tax credit. That would help poor families right away, would be difficult for the President to veto, and would get people to sit up and listen.

Michelle to Black People: Thinking Through Issues Not Necessary

The First Lady in a phone interview to black television:
"And for most of the people that we're talking to, a Democratic ticket is the clear ticket that we should be voting on, regardless of who said what or did this. That shouldn't even come into the equation."
Alrighty then.

The Next Nate Silver

In a project for his AP History course, Eldest Weed has to follow two Senate races and predict their outcome. On a lark, and because computer programming is in his blood, he created his own election model. Here are the predictions he submitted last week (so they can't take into account late-breaking changes, which I think he will regret).

His bottom line? 47 Democratic seats and 53 GOP-caucusing seats.  Let's see how he does Tuesday night.

* Indicates lowest certainty

Oklahoma (1 & 2)
South Carolina (1 & 2)
South Dakota
West Virginia

Kansas (Orman wins)*
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina*
Rhode Island

Transginger Cookies


Francis: "I Made A Mistake"

Can't find a source more official than Raymond Arroyo's Facebook page yet, but it seems Cardinal Burke (who was quoted in the press saying it was high time for the Holy Father to clarify Church teaching in the wake of the PR fiasco accompanying this pre-Synod on the family)  got what he wanted. Money quote: 

 I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
Which is precisely what I always have understood him to mean, but I am glad he said it outright to clarify. In full context: 

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

Continuing, he made it a point to quote Pope Benedict (and Lordy I wish people who want to freak out about this Pope, or co-opt him as the case may be, would read him and note how often he recurs to Benedict): 

His [the pope's] duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

It's worth reading the whole thing for the list of temptations (right and left and human) to which we are subject and his confidence in the Ignatian discernment process. 

Update: I see Arroyo is using Vatican Radio's provisional translation.

Take Heart, Catholic Peeps

Cardinal Pell on what's REALLY happening at the Synod. Just listen.

Now ask yourself if you feel better or worse.

On the one hand, here are three reasons there was never any cause for hysteria.

1) If you're Catholic, you believe the Holy Spirit protects the Church from error in faith and morals and that the bishops of the Church teaching in union with the Holy Father will not go astray.
2) Plus, most of the guys at the Synod are solid JP II-BXVI men who were not going to simply capitulate to the culture.
3) Plus, that "relatio" document was a discussion document with no authority reaching no conclusions  at a half-way point of a synod that is a pre-meeting for the REAL meeting next year. Means zero in the long run.

However. That the orthodox bishops of the world should have to go out and try to rescue their own synod is extraordinary ... and requires explanation that is not just Vatican gossip.

Not The Chemical Weapons You Are Looking For?

For ten years the Grey Lady has insisted there were absolutely, positively, no chemical weapons in Iraq. Today she says, "there, like, totally were chemical weapons in Iraq," but the government lied about finding them -- even though they were reported in the 2004 Duelfer report as she herself admits.

The policy seems to be: if chemical weapons caches might support the policy of the president you hate, they don't exist. If ten years later you can use those same non-existent caches to pitch a "US bad to its own soldiers" story to your editors, well suddenly an ontological change occurs and those weapons become highly, highly significant.

Update: the more I think about this story, the more it burns me. I will let Gabriel Malor spell out why, but the gist is that Bush NEVER claimed Saddam had an active weapons program. Read the speeches again (they're linked at Malor's piece).

The first sentence is an absolute lie, uttered at Bush 43's expense, and made to justify the terrifying conclusion, laid at Obama's feet, in the last sentence.
This NYTimes piece has an overarching political goal: to cement forever the lie that the Iraq War was directed solely at stopping an active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. As we know, the military never found an active weapons program, which makes this a particularly compelling slander.
So let me remind you about the actual casus belli for the Iraq War.
In 2002, Saddam Hussein was doing everything he could to foil the UN weapons inspections teams about his existing weapons caches (the ones the NYTimes just "found" in its hit piece). You might recall, the U.S. was enforcing no-fly zones over Iraq at the time and attempting to ensure that Hussein remained disarmed. Hussein, for his part, was attempting to obscure both what he was capable of doing and what WMD, particularly biological and nuclear, remained to him. He was well-known, of course, for using chemical weapons against his own people and against the Iranians. Of particular concern going forward were his nuclear plans and the possibility that he would sell or give weapons to terrorists with Western ambitions.
On September 12, 2002, Bush went to the UN to plead with the useless world body to actually enforce sanctions and impose thorough weapons inspections. Nowhere in his speech will you find a claim that Hussein had an "active weapons program," as the NYTimes writers would now have you believe. Rather Bush talked about finding Hussein's old weapons and deterring his hope to once again restart his weapons programs