Don’t Point Fingers, Do the Job.

The first Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to gain enough votes in the House to pass. Ok, that’s a big setback for the party that’s promised to get rid of the disastrous healthcare law since it became law in 2010.

Some commentators and politicians have already started pointing the finger of blame. Some are pointing at the Freedom Caucus, who were intransigent in their insistence Obamacare be repealed in full.

Others are pointing at more moderate Republicans, who feared the dubious CBO score that claimed 24 million people would lose their insurance and premiums would continue to increase under the AHCA.

Many on both sides are trying to pin the blame on Speaker Ryan. Some say he didn’t let the Freedom Caucus in on the process of creating  the bill, kept it hidden from members for too long, and/or didn’t adequately communicate the big picture (the three-phase plan of which the AHCA was just the first part).

Still others blame Trump, who trusted his advisers that the AHCA was the best way forward and that healthcare should’ve been the first priority of the administration as opposed to tax reform.

While the failure of the AHCA is at least nominally a failure, going down the course of blame placing and finger pointing will turn that surface wound into a swollen pustule.

The American people are sick of Washington. They are sick of politicians making promises they can’t or don’t keep. They are sick of political spin and politicians blaming everyone but themselves when their failures become manifest.

They’re also sick of Washington meddling in their business, confiscating their money, lying to them, playing them for fools, and treating them like they’re moronic trolls who can’t run their own lives – or see through D.C. political tricks. And their impatience is increasing.

If squabbling must be done, Republicans should do it behind the scenes. Let the Democrats publicly gloat that their ruinous law is still in place.

I applaud President Trump for throwing up his hands and demanding a vote. He was elected to get things done, and another protracted few weeks of intra-GOP squabbling wouldn’t have produced a substantially different bill that could’ve both gained enough House support to pass that body and clear the Senate’s ridiculous cloture hurdle. I also applaud Speaker Ryan for avoiding placing blame and gently chiding his caucus for failing to grow into a governing party, rather than a grandstanding, statement making opposition party.

Speaker Ryan and the House GOP have compounded their challenge. They must still deal with Obamacare, or face a major revolt in 2018 from the voters. The seething mass of Americans in the populist ring who have grown increasingly agitated with Washington won’t put up with more inaction. Simultaneously, Ryan and company must now deal with tax reform.

If they don’t accomplish tax reform, they will lose all credibility as a governing party and all trust that the American people have placed in them to actually get something done – to shrink a government that takes trillions of tax dollars annually but renders little to middle class taxpayers except pothole-riddled highways and nonstop cable news bickering.

If they don’t accomplish health care reform – and there’s still time – they will break one of the longest-running political promises ever made to the American people.

It’s time for the GOP to figure out the way forward and to act and produce results, or else the nationwide uprising among flyover country voters will continue and GOP incumbents will be told en masse by voters, “You’re Fired.”

An Idea For Trump’s Salary

We don’t usually opine about national issues unless they have at least a tangential Wisconsin connection, so this post is an unusual one and a rare violation of our prime directive. This is an idea for President Trump re: his promise to forego taking a salary or to donate it to charity.

By law, the president is required to take a salary. Should Trump take a nominal $1 salary? I suggest something different.

Hot Air reported on Sean Spicer’s handling of the question – what is the president doing to fulfill that pledge?

My idea? The president is paid monthly. The White House should give the public a say. They can put up a poll at the start of each month with a list of potential charitable causes (with an open-ended option) and promote voting throughout the month. (the cynical strategist in me sees a nonstop source of positive media).

At the end of the month, the White House sets up a GoFundMe page for the winning organization or cause. President Trump would be the first donor, pitching in what’s left after taxes of his $33,000 monthly salary (that’s $400,000 per year, plus other expense accounts, et cetera). The fundraising campaign would last a month.

Sure, the potential exists for such a system to be hijacked by lefties, but that would (cynical strategist again) likely backfire.

Trump would likely be accused of opportunism and cynicism, but the check presentation photo ops would erase any blowback. Plus, it would highlight the amazing powers of non-governmental entities to fulfill roles government has appropriated for itself in recent decades, a cornerstone of conservative thought about the proper role of government.

The Donald is a billionaire elected by hoards of Americans sick of politics as usual; such a campaign by this president would be uniquely Trump.

Update: After reading the whole Hot Air post, it seems Ed Morrissey and I essentially arrive at the same suggestion, though mine is a little more specific. Credit where credit’s due:

The Trump administration is opting for one news cycle in the Christmas holiday doldrums for its charitable award, when it could have twelve news cycles throughout the year when people are paying more attention and the White House can use the distraction. This is a media-management no-brainer, especially since the media has already shown itself so invested in the story.

Four tweets that are politics in 2016

 

National Pundits Catch Up To Morning Martini

In a January 7 column, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote that Donald Trump’s nomination would “rip the heart out of the Republican Party.”

Ever certain to keep my arrogance tank filled to the brim, I write simply to state that Mr. Gershon is a month behind me. He writes:

The nomination of Trump would reduce Republican politics — at the presidential level — to an enterprise of squalid prejudice. And many Republicans could not follow, precisely because they are Republicans. By seizing the GOP, Trump would break it to pieces.

I’m sure Mr. Gershon is a smart man – indeed, I’m writing on a political blog in Wisconsin and he’s…well, prominent. Nonetheless, a month ago, I made the same point:

The choice writ large is a possible inflection point for the conservatism of modern times, which is a strong scaffolding built over the past 60-plus years from the ashes of classical liberalism. Efforts by thinkers and leaders from Goldwater to Buckley to Friedman to Reagan has built that scaffolding plank-by-plank since even before Buckley founded The National Review in 1955. In many ways, the electoral culmination of the work of the aforementioned visionaries was Reagan’s presidency.

Gershon isn’t the first national commentator to have stumbled upon the consequences of a Trump nomination. There have even been whispers…very very quiet, and probably kooky ones…have been emerging in the blabbosphere about an “establishment” (traditional conservative) alternative candidacy of some sort, should Trump win the GOP nomination. For my part, I’m not sure jumping off the USS Grand Old Party would be a great strategy.

It seems that commentators with traditional conservative beliefs rooted in the Buckley/Reagan tradition are uniting around the idea that Trump would be a wrecking ball for the unified conservative movement that has slowed the advance of the progressive state thus far.

By contrast, I believe a Rubio candidacy would easily beat Hillary Clinton and carry with it U.S. Senate victories in key swing states like Wisconsin. With both houses of Congress and The White House, conservatives would be able to roll back progressive victories under both Obama and Bush.

By contrast, a Trump candidacy would likely dock points from each Republican running for re-election, in addition to smashing the conservative platform that, brushed up for the 21st Century, will lead America to prosperity.

In short, I was right.

Talk Radio’s Trump Divide

The divide between Wisconsin conservative talk radio and national talk radio over Donald Trump is remarkable.

The other day, I wrote that it’s time for Wisconsin conservatives who are still on the sidelines to get active, to step up and start making the case against the candidate who will topple the infrastructure of conservative thought and policy that’s taken decades to build.

(That candidate is Trump, in case you were wondering)

In Wisconsin, WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes, on-air and via his Right Wisconsin website, has made his stance against Trump clear. See my call to action for more on that.

WISN’s Mark Belling has also repeatedly criticized Trump in harsh terms, perhaps most harshly after comments where the bombastic billionaire said he prefers American soldiers who are not taken prisoner. Belling has contended it’s only a matter of time before conservative interest groups like the NRA and pro-life groups start firing artillery at Trump, considering he demonstrably opposes their positions.

Vicki McKenna of WIBA and WISN has been less forceful in opposing Trump, but she also hasn’t gone into full-blown Trump adulation. Playing the fence, she points out that Trump is a trailblazer in encouraging conversations about previously “forbidden” topics (as has Belling – and both are correct).

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others have spent months drooling all over Trump – essentially writing Trump a blank check payable not to cash but to an unlimited amount of air time and sickening adulation.

Their slobbering, nonstop Trump coverage is so obscenely over-the-top that one wonders if the country’s top conservative radio hosts have collectively lost their minds.

Putting a solid, square frame around the stark divide over Trump on the airwaves, Jerry Bader of WTAQ recently published a piece calling for Republicans to disown national radio talkers:

For reasons known only to them, Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, et. al have chosen to flush their credibility down the toilet and defend Trump no matter what he says. Any Establishment Republican that criticizes Trump for what he said should be equally critical of his collective terrestrial radio house organ. And elected Republicans should refuse to appear on their shows (Hannity is the host that tends to have the most guests). And elected Republicans who have said privately they would never vote for Trump if he’s the party nominee should start saying it publically.

Bader is right – and he makes a point I touched on months ago:

The reversal of this right-wing opinion leader’s commentary – and his silence about Walker following Trump’s entrance – is mind-blowing to the point of being suspicious…It’s time for conservatives to seriously re-assess whether these entertainers should really occupy the role of right-wing opinion leaders that William F. Buckley once held.

Bader’s admonition highlights the stark divide among Wisconsin’s most influential talkers and the national ones. For my part, I have in the interest of preventing nausea and dizziness stopped listening to national talk radio.

Either they’ve determined wall-to-wall coverage of Trump is good for ratings, they’ve lost all intellectual honesty, or they’re just being paid off by the Trump Organization. In any case, they’ve chosen to quit explaining contemporary news in conservative terms in order to promote a loudmouth billionaire who gives money to Democrats, supports Democrat policies, and only makes fun of Republicans.

Thankfully, the Limbaugh website makes cancelling my Rush 24/7 subscription as easy as a couple clicks.

Trumping Conservatism

The smackdown over Donald Trump has been remarkable, and it looks like a robust debate is emerging as Wisconsinites realize we’ll actually have a voice in the nominating process next spring.

Right Wisconsin in particular has been a battleground over Trump in the past few days. From the Savvy Pundit to Rick Esenberg to Charlie Sykes himself, opinions of the bombastic billionaire run the gamut.

Trump is relatively strong in Wisconsin. A Marquette poll in November showed him tied for second place with Sen. Marco Rubio, both with 19 percent. In that poll, Carson was on top with 22 percent, but if Carson sees a similar slide in Wisconsin as he has in Iowa, frontrunners like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will likely benefit.

Republican leaders in Wisconsin have largely lined up behind Rubio. I also suggested upon Gov. Walker’s withdrawal from the race that much of his infrastructure would go to Rubio’s benefit. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and 19 other state legislators were quick to endorse Rubio following Walker’s exit, with several actively working on his behalf.

But Trump appears to remain relatively strong, forcing conservative activists to make a choice. The choice isn’t just whom to support, but which ideological direction the GOP and conservatism itself will take.

The choice writ large is a possible inflection point for the conservatism of modern times, which is a strong scaffolding built over the past 60-plus years from the ashes of classical liberalism. Efforts by thinkers and leaders from Goldwater to Buckley to Friedman to Reagan has built that scaffolding plank-by-plank since even before Buckley founded The National Review in 1955. In many ways, the electoral culmination of the work of the aforementioned visionaries was Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan embodied both the ideal of conservative style and substance, and Americans made their preference very clear – twice.

The choice now is whether to rip down that scaffolding.

Donald Trump presents coarse, low-context, unintellectual, tough-sounding, monosyllabic promises fit for the age of Twitter, in which kibbles and bits are fed to shallow people yearning to be entertained. A reality TV star from New York, Trump is the anti-Reagan.

The two are similar only in the age at which they’d take the oath of office: Reagan was age 69 when he took the oath; Trump is currently age 69 and will be 70 at the time next fall’s general election.

Or conservatives can pick some other candidate and continue building on the intellectual scaffolding that’s guided serious conservatives for decades. In that respect, any candidate would be better than Trump. Politically speaking, Rubio is among the best bets against Hillary.

I’ve contended Rubio could, in fact, defeat Hillary in a near-landslide if he’s the nominee, but that’s just the hunch of an armchair politico.

Unlike previous elections that were stitched up long before the Badger State went to the polls, it’s likely Wisconsin will still be in play when we vote on April 5 – and that Wisconsin voters will still have plenty of choices. In particular, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio are unlikely to fade before April.

Wisconsin will, in fact, have an impact on the course of the election if the field remains clogged following Super Tuesday and subsequent state primaries, which is likely. Ours is the only primary between March 22 and April 19, an eternity in political years, and Wisconsin alone holds a primary that day, so all eyes will be on the home state of the new Speaker of the House and a former heavyweight presidential contender.

Armchair conservatives who still think it’s too early to decide on a candidate are wrong – we now have four months left. Four months ago, Scott Walker was still a strong candidate. In politics, minutes can seem like hours, and hours can seem like days.

Now’s the time for conservatives in Wisconsin to reflect on who they’ll support, both at the polls, in discussions with family and friends, in opinion pages, and of course on social media.

Grassroots conservatives hold sway over their own respective circles of less-plugged-in voters. For conservatives who oppose the nomination of Donald Trump, deciding on an alternative now and evangelizing on his or her behalf could be a difference maker considering The Donald’s dominance of mainstream media coverage.

Few conservatives would advocate allowing the mainstream media’s editorial decisions to dictate the GOP nomination.

So for those in the conservative grassroots interested in the future of their party and ideology, nows the time to gear up and take the field.

Now That Walker’s Out

Obligatory opening that everyone already knows: Scott Walker suspended his campaign this afternoon in a brief statement that savaged Donald Trump. The one-time Republican frontrunner’s terse exit brings up some questions about the future of the nomination contest that this blog hadn’t fathomed would be compelled so early.

What do Walker’s slide and Trump’s ascent tell us about this campaign cycle?

Walker adopted and hewed to a positive message about America’s future. He steadfastly refused to attack other Republicans, abandoning that philosophy only to go after Trump in the final debate. That debate performance was admirable and, in a different race, effective. But he didn’t do the impossible of recapturing lost voters who unmoored from Walker following a handful of much-critiqued and predictable-in-hindsight gaffes. Before and during his campaign, Walker repeatedly admonished that candidates should tell voters what they’re for, not what they’re against.

On the other hand, Trump has focused his grade school aspersions almost exclusively on his Republican rivals. The success of his knuckle-dragging appeals to the ugly, bitter side of bedraggled voters is a sign of the times. These days, our country has a vile appreciation for caustic rhetoric with the shock value of clickbait on social media. However, the basics of the human condition still apply in an era of anti-intellectualism, and an appeal to peoples’ optimism is still far more potent than easy, disposable cheapshots flung against the headboard by a sleazy star of rhetorical porn like Trump.

What role did talk radio play?

Regular listeners of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity know that these two kings of conservative talk radio have propped up Trump since his announcement. They know their bread is buttered by the ratings buttress of wall-to-wall Trump talk. But earlier in the year, Limbaugh in particular spoke very highly of Walker – until a shinier object came along. The reversal of this right-wing opinion leader’s commentary – and his silence about Walker following Trump’s entrance – is mind-blowing to the point of being suspicious.

It’s time for conservatives to seriously re-assess whether these entertainers should really occupy the role of right-wing opinion leaders that William F. Buckley once held.

Where will Walker’s support go?

Though he might have been barely registering one percent in the polls, Walker did raise a lot of money early on, allowing him to build a strong organization and attract top talent in many key states. One Walker statewide leader has already switched to Rubio, a youthful carrier of the torch who has broad appeal, who comes from the same “class” of leaders elected in 2010, and is ideologically Walker’s twin.

Walker has also praised Rubio in the past. In his exit speech, Walker urged Republicans to unite around a positive message of conservative reform, as opposed to the Faustian deal Trump offers. Rubio’s genuine, articulate, informed, positive message could, maybe, might be what Walker was referring to. But even if the Walker-to-Rubio exodus isn’t the result of phone calls by Scott, I believe it will happen anyway, and it will help Rubio build the right support at the right time in the coming months.

What should Walker do now?

Walker will come back to Wisconsin and get back to governing, but with the budget process over, he needs to focus on re-building the state GOP’s grassroots infrastructure. Walker builds a powerful voter turnout machine – he needs to devote his political energy to doing everything possible to re-elect Sen. Ron Johnson and carry Wisconsin for the eventual GOP nominee.

While I doubt he’ll publicly endorse, I suspect Walker will follow through by urging inevitable losers like Huckabee to understand their role in making way for Trump by dividing the 76 percent of Republicans who don’t support the bombastic billionaire. But given the focus of one of the most important speeches of his life, his exit, it looks like Scott Walker will now make the case for popping Trump’s sulfurous balloon.

And more power to him – the world had to find out that our current president is a joke they needn’t take seriously. With a President Trump, the world will have already known it for years.

ENTERTAIN us!

Over at Right Wisconsin, editor Collin Roth gently nudges conservatives tempted to succumb to the siren song of the Trump away from the bombastic billionaire’s fiery, alas empty, rhetoric. He starts by commiserating with the anger of conservative voters:

The economy recovered without really recovering. The world feels more dangerous and unpredictable than its been in some time. Leaders in Washington are deadlocked while major issues go untouched. The rule of law is ignored while a law of rules strangles everything that moves in red tape. The national debt balloons, student loan debt soars, and American cities are touched with violence and protest.

But rage and frustration don’t win. Just ask the recallers here in Wisconsin.

Roth connects some important dots. In describing Scott Walker’s “aggressively normal” background and positive demeanor, he contrasts the governor sharply with Trump, who is outrageous, bombastic, and until very recently an outspoken liberal and Clinton supporter. This is a fact, and it’s one that Trump supporters are willfully ignoring (supporters many of whom just four years ago eschewed Mitt Romney for his support of state-level “Romneycare”). Perhaps Trump supporters are mainly interested in being entertained, which Trump does as second nature.

Just ask another bombastic billionaire Trump knows well who we love to hate but who we’d never want as president, Vince McMahon.

Trump’s on-the-record support of abortion, universal healthcare, and the Clintons is his most incandescent difference with Walker, whose policies are like sledgehammer blows to the edifice of progressivism in its very birthplace, Wisconsin.

The picture, though, needs broadening. To bring in historical context, there is no doubt that events both within and without America’s borders are coalescing into a very ugly and dangerous set of circumstances just a few years down the road. But storm clouds have gathered in America’s path before, and we’ve always managed to pick the right leader at the right time. The Founders. Lincoln. FDR (I held my nose, but read on…). Reagan.

Great American leaders who shepherded the country through the greatest challenges and led us to our greatest achievements were universally happy warriors. Take Lincoln, for example. A lawyer-poet and humble scion of the dirty frontier, Lincoln used self-deprecating humor, cheerful anecdotes, and a “charity for all, malice toward none” magnanimity to win the White House and forge a “new birth of freedom” for the continent.

FDR famously said “All we have to fear is fear itself” and held “fireside chats” designed to put the American people at ease and whose 1932 campaign slogan was “Happy days are here again.” Notably, it wasn’t a Trumpian denoucement like, America is in one hell of a shit storm, and it’s Wall Street and our incompetent loser leaders who did this.

More recently, Reagan won in a massive landslide twice thanks to his storytelling, asskicking grandpa routine (not to mention the spectacular success of his policies). The Gipper used all the same qualities in communication as Abe along with a bludgeoning foreign policy that contained precisely zero political correctness to forge an economic revival and precipitate the collapse of our decades-long enemy, global communism.

Americans want leaders with records of success. Conservatives want a contrast with the jello-spined, politically correct coward who is currently in the Oval. But we also want to be entertained – to be made to feel, rather than just to think, thus the rise of Trump, and for that matter, the mini-rise of no-nonsense Carly Fiorina. In the absence of a leader who will make us feel better about the future, Marco Rubio’s efforts notwithstanding, some will zombishly stagger toward the voice that makes us feel angry (Trump), a category into which economically illiterate crypto-commies who populate The Left also do, in the opposite direction, when they thrust their “Feel The Bern” stanchions into the heavy air of a Bernie Sanders diatribe/rally.

In February, I suggested the Walker campaign stays on simmer to avoid the Price-Is-Right-Cliffhanger treatment in which the little yodeling dude falls off the cliff and the contestant’s dreams are crushed. It appears he has. Now, the time has come for Walker to slowly dial up the rhetoric and grab some more mass-media attention. But the rhetoric shouldn’t be Trumpish, it should be Reaganesque.

From Reagan’s staccato “Tear down this wall” that reminds us of hammers hitting graffiti-strewn concrete, to “Morning in America” and “Evil Empire,” or even Lincoln’s admonition that slaves are “Men, not mere merchandise,” one thing Walker does not do well that great leaders of previous eras have is ditch facts and figures and use penetrating language.

Roth concludes:

We have to win with ideas. We have to win with our hearts. We have to prove that we care. And we have to believe that our ideas and our policies will strengthen America and provide freedom and prosperity for all – including a lot of voters who don’t vote Republican.

He’s right–and Walker can do just that, if he uses a sharper and longer rhetorical knife.