Scott Walker Is the Right’s Barack Obama

One of the reasons why Barack Obama has been a successful politician is the fact that he has been fortunate in his choice of political opponents. Those opponents regularly make themselves look bad when they are seen as entertaining theories that the president was not born an American citizen, that he is a secret Muslim, that he is a secret atheist, and/or that he is a “socialist” (it really ought to be enough to say that Barack Obama is a contemporary American liberal, and run with that). To be sure, most political opponents of the president don’t subscribe to these views, but some do, and those who do are remarkably good at hijacking the microphone from those who don’t, and causing public relations disasters for the anti-Obama crowd in the process. Whether by design or inadvertently, Barack Obama drives his political opponents up the wall, and when they tell the rest of America “look how far up the wall we have gone,” the rest of America tends to look askance.

Scott Walker has the same effect on his political opponents. They and the media (but I repeat myself) absolutely cannot stand the guy, and they are willing to latch on to any story about Walker in order to discredit him. And so, we have this:

Another major media outlet has apologized after getting a story about Scott Walker wrong. Last week, it was the New York Times; now, it’s The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast has retracted an article from one of its college columnists that claimed that the Wisconsin governor’s budget would cut sexual assault reporting from the state’s universities.

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

There will be more like this, of course. I suppose that it is possible that Walker’s political opponents and the media (but I repeat myself) have decided that it is a good strategy to throw everything–including the kitchen sink–at Walker, and then “apologize” when they get called out for it, in the hope that the original charges overshadow any “apology” that comes afterwards. But that would require some semblance of calm deliberation when it comes to dealing with Walker, something that his political opponents do not seem to have. Remember: These are the guys that made it necessary for Scott Walker to run three election races in four years because they tried to recall Walker almost immediately after he was elected. When that failed, they hoped that Walker would lose his re-election bid. Instead, Walker won all three races and thoroughly embarrassed his political opponents, while enacting policies that spiked the American left’s collective blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Scott Walker’s political opponents don’t just oppose Scott Walker. They hate Scott Walker with the hot fury of a million supernovae. They foam at the mouth at the very mention of the Wisconsin governor’s name. They don’t care who knows it. And Walker–who is nothing if not a very canny politician–is more than glad to let Walker Derangement Syndrome take hold among his political foes, and keep them from thinking clearly about things as a consequence.

Why Would We Want the Headaches of a Clinton Presidency?

Oh, look; an ethical lapse associated with the Clintons. And it’s a doozy.

The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.

The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.

In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.

Anyone really surprised by any of this? Of course, even in instances when foreign government donations did not violate the ethics agreement, money was very likely being given in order to ensure that the foreign government in question would be able to get access to the State Department. Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state created any number of conflicts of interest, and those conflicts of interest would only magnify if she becomes president; the Clinton Foundation will continue to accept donations, after all. Are we really comfortable with having a president whose relationship with foreign governments was–and could be–so ethically complicated?

And of course, no story about the Clintons would be complete without a reminder of Clintonian hypocrisy:

Hillary Clinton emerged from her undisclosed location Tuesday to reportedly earn $300,000 speaking to a group in Silicon Valley, where she couldn’t resist praising actress Patricia Arquette’s Oscar night exhortation for equal pay. It’s especially staggering in light of reporting out the day before showing that Clinton paid women less than men while serving in the U.S. Senate.

It’s one thing when Hollywood stars dripping in couture get up on their soap boxes and make political statements at awards ceremonies, but quite another when an all but announced presidential candidate earning more for a speech than most Americans will in several years trumpets wage equality, when it already exists and she knows it.

Did she pay men more for the same work in her Senate office? Probably not, but she’s not answering the hypocrisy raised by the report published by the Free Beacon on Monday. The article reveals Clinton’s own U.S. Senate staff had a wage gap on average of $15,708.33 between male and female staffers. Clinton, according to the analysis of Senate expenditure filings, paid women 72 cents to every dollar that men on her staff were paid. That doesn’t seem to bother her — she just needs a campaign message and the gender wage gap seems real convenient. It’s not the no-brainer Democrats make it out to be, but that won’t stop Clinton from using it.

You know, we can do better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to choosing our next president. The question is whether we as a nation will decide to do better.

An Open Letter

TO: Thomas Piketty

FROM: Pejman Yousefzadeh

RE: Incurring Paul Krugman’s Contempt

Dear Professor Piketty:

Congratulations on successfully positioning yourself so that you may be looked down upon by Paul Krugman until the end of time itself. Your ability to cause Professor Krugman to consider you to be less intellectually developed than your average paramecium–and make no mistake; this is what he must think of you right now, given that you have the temerity to disagree with him–is tremendously impressive and merits your warm welcome into a special club of people whom Professor Krugman considers to be the dust and grime beneath the soles of his shoes.

We are working on tailoring your dinner and smoking jackets; you should have them delivered to you shortly. In the meantime, you can expect the following now that you are the latest target of Professor Krugman’s ire and disdain:

  • Constant and incessant talk about how you supposedly believe in some kind of “Education Fairy” who will reduce inequality. Professor Krugman enjoys claiming that his intellectual opponents are guided by magical thinking, and he will argue that your alleged belief in the Education Fairy shows that you are but the latest in a long line of people to forgo reliance on facts in favor of believing in the supernatural.
  • Professor Krugman will not be content to consider you merely stupid. Neither will Professor Krugman be content to consider you merely evil. No; Professor Krugman will be sure to consider you both stupid and evil. Yes, you read that right; Professor Krugman will argue that you are a slack-jawed idiot, drooling constantly and unstoppably out of the side of your mouth, while at the same time claiming that you are some kind of malignant mastermind who is out to ruin the utopia Professor Krugman has kindly and brilliantly planned out for the rest of us mere mortals. Please know that when it comes to Professor Krugman, it is never enough to merely question the intelligence of intellectual and political opponents. Professor Krugman insists upon questioning the motives of those intellectual and political opponents as well.
  • As James Pethokoukis states, you will–in addition to being called stupid and evil–also be called unserious, or a “Very Serious Person” all the time (note that “Very Serious Person” is meant to be used ironically). Get used to it.

Of course, it should be noted that you support massive taxation as well, in order to reduce inequality, so it might be argued that there is no substantial difference between your position and that of Professor Krugman. But to Professor Krugman, this will not matter. You disagree with Professor Krugman’s stance on whether education can help reduce inequality, and as far as he is and will be concerned, that is enough to earn you a lifetime of lip-curling sneers from Professor Krugman.

Once again, Professor Piketty, we congratulate you most heartily on having caused Professor Krugman to consider you his latest Public Enemy Number One. If there is anything that can be done to make your life any more intolerable, please do feel free to let Professor Krugman know; he does so enjoy spreading misery around.

Yours truly and sincerely,

Pejman Yousefzadeh

(Cross-posted.)

Quote of the Day

A journalist decided to test how safe the streets of Paris are for Jews – by wearing a religious skullcap and filming the public’s reaction using a hidden camera.

Zvika Klein, a reporter for Jewish news outlet NRG, silently walked in the city for ten hours wearing a kippah – also known as a yarmulke – on his head and a tzitzit (knotted ritual tassels).

And the shocking hidden camera footage shows antisemitism is rife in the French capital as he is seen harassed and intimidated.

As he wanders around neighbourhoods wearing the garments associated with the Jewish faith, he is spat at, threatened and even called a ‘dog’.  

[. . .]

In an article accompanying the video, he said tourist attractions were ‘relatively calm’ – ‘but the further from them we walked, the more anxious I became over the hateful stares, the belligerent remarks, and the hostile body language,’ he wrote.

Boys shouted ‘Viva Palestine’ and as he passes a group of youths, one remarks: ‘I’m joking, the dog will not eat you’.

Fingers were pointed at him in a cafe – and moments later, thugs awaited him on a street corner, he adds.

A little boy was shocked at his appearance in his neighbourhood, he reports. ‘What is he doing here Mommy?’ he asked. ‘Doesn’t he know he will be killed?’

Khaleda Rahman. But I am confused; I could have sworn that people have said that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.”

Jeb Bush’s Foreign Policy Fluency

Edward Luce finds much to like in Jeb Bush’s recent speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

Jeb Bush knows George W Bush, he was raised with George W Bush and can safely declare that he is no George W Bush. That — in a manner of speaking — was the message the former governor of Florida wanted to convey in Chicago. Billed as his first foreign policy speech since he chose “to actively explore” a presidential bid, Mr Bush has doubtless garnered the “I am my own man” headlines he sought. Yet people listening to the detail of his address had already drawn that conclusion for themselves. The older brother was all hat and no cattle, as one saying had it. On the evidence from Chicago, the younger Bush has plenty of cattle — but is not so big on the hat.

Their personalities could hardly be more different. In his first campaign in 2000, George W famously was unable to name the leaders of several foreign governments — Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf among them. George W happily wore his ignorance on his sleeve. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, is a fluent wonk. Mr Bush corrected one questioner about the general failure of the Arab Spring — “not Tunisia,” he said, “Tunisia is doing OK.” When asked about the decline of the nation state in today’s Middle East, Mr Bush skipped back to 1915 as the birth of the modern Arab nation state (when the Ottoman Empire began to collapse). Asked about the risks of Iran acquiring a ready-made nuclear weapon, Mr Bush gave a brief summary of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani freelance nuclear salesman, who was arrested in 2002. Asked about how to tackle poverty on Chicago’s south side, phrases such as “stickiness at the top end and the bottom end” of the income scale tripped off Mr Bush’s tongue.

I’d be delighted to have a president who actually knows what he is talking about when it comes to foreign affairs and national security policy. Luce does critique Jeb Bush for not having the retail campaigning skills of his brother. To be sure, in order to win an election, one has to actually be a good campaigner, and to the extent that Jeb Bush is not a good campaigner, he needs to do something really quick in order to augment his campaigning skills. There is no getting around that.

But it would be kind of nice if the voters tried to meet him halfway on this issue. We currently have a president who is a very good campaigner, and whose foreign and national security policies have been quite disappointing; we are, after all, talking about sending troops back into Iraq in order to combat the ISIL threat because Barack Obama hastily promised to remove all troops from Iraq and hastily delivered on that hastily considered promise. Jeb Bush many need to be a better campaigner, but more importantly, America needs a better president and this American, for one, is willing to have a president who can actually do the job and who shows familiarity and fluency with the issues, even if the president in question may not be the world’s greatest glad-hander.

Speaking of Curbs on Freedom . . .

The onetime fans of the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela–the ones who thought that the regime was filled with wonderful people and ideas and who thought it was just marvelous that Chávez went to the United Nations to call George W. Bush “the devil”–have been rather quiet (as noted many times on this blog), now that it is clear that the regime is responsible for an economic catastrophe and the decline of political freedoms. One would think that they might say something about how they now regret having supported Chávez and his gang, but thus far, most of the past supporters of the Chávez regime haven’t had the integrity to own up to their bad judgment and to apologize for it.

I suppose these folks get more and more uncomfortable with each and every new story that comes out of Venezuela and shows the current chavista regime to be intellectually and morally bankrupt. If so, this story ought to make current chavistas–and former ones who never expressed regret for the error of their ways–very uncomfortable indeed:

Police in camouflaged uniforms smashed into the office of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma on Thursday and carried the opposition leader away in a move heightening political tensions in the socialist-run South American country.

President Nicolas Maduro announced that Ledezma, one of his most vocal critics, would be punished for his efforts to sow unrest.

[. . .]

“He’ll be held accountable for all his crimes,” Maduro said in comments that TV and radio stations across the country were required to carry.

Last week, Maduro named Ledezma among government critics and Western powers he accused of plotting a coup to bring down his socialist government, one of more than a dozen such denunciations Maduro has made since taking power in 2013. Ledezma mocked the accusation in multiple interviews, saying the real destabilizing force in Venezuela was the government’s corruption.

Tensions have been running high in Venezuela this week, with the one-year anniversary of the start of weeks of anti-government street protests that choked the country with tear gas and smoke from flaming barricades and resulted in more than 40 deaths. National police arrested several other mayors and former mayors during last year’s unrest, including Leopoldo Lopez, who is considered by human rights groups as Latin America’s most high-profile political prisoner.

Allies of the 59-year-old mayor called for more protests Friday to demand his immediate release, a call echoed by Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. State Department called Venezuela’s accusations of coup-plotting “baseless and false” and intended to direct attention away from mounting economic problems such as widespread shortages and galloping inflation that reached 68 percent last year.

“The Venezuelan government needs to deal with the grave situation it faces,” the State Department said in a statement.

But of course, the Venezuelan government is not interested in “deal[ing] with the grave situation that it faces.” Rather, it is interested in finding and persecuting scapegoats in order to distract from the incompetence of the government and the monstrousness of its actions. And it will likely continue to be aided and abetted by the silence of those who once lauded the chavista regime, and who now remain silent instead of speaking out against the regime, and expressing some semblance of remorse for their past awful judgments.

The “Most Transparent Administration Ever” Helps Bring about Less Transparency

Kudos to the New York Times for recognizing the harm that has been done to press freedom by the Obama administration. And the harm, it should be noted, is quite real:

The United States has dropped 29 spots in the annual Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking since 2009, when President Barack Obama took office.

The U.S. ranked 49th this year out of 180 countries included in the organization’s World Press Freedom Index, joining the ranks of countries like Niger, Malta and Romania.

The decline from its position at No. 20 in 2009 has been spurred by the Obama administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, said Delphine Halgand, the organization’s U.S. director.

“We consider that the Obama administration has launched a war against whistleblowers,” Halgand said. “This year is a continuation of the concern we already expressed that national security protection has been more and more threatening freedom of information in the U.S.”

The U.S. has prosecuted eight alleged whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous presidential administrations combined, Halgand said.

Despite Obama’s campaign pledge to make his administration one of the most transparent in history, reporters and press freedom watchdogs have continually slammed the administration as one of the least transparent and criticized its dogged efforts to plug leaks.

Reporters without Borders, an organization that works to protect journalists around the world, tied the U.S.’s drop in this year’s rankings to the “judicial harassment” of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who last year stared down federal prosecutors pushing him to reveal the identity of an anonymous source.

The purported source, ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, was convicted early this year on nine felony counts for leaking classified information. Risen refused to reveal his source, and federal prosecutors decided not to indict him on any charges.

Reporters without Borders also pointed to the Ferguson protests, where it says at least 15 journalists were arrested.

I can certainly appreciate the fact that oftentimes, national security secrets need to be protected. I am not a fan of Edward Snowden or others who harm American intelligence gathering operations in the name of “openness.” But under this administration, we have not received the transparency that we have been promised. Rather, press freedoms have been under continuous assault, and the Obama administration has done little to nothing to stand in the way of that assault. And of course, the president usually cannot be bothered to say anything in support of press freedoms.

So I hope that more news organizations like the New York Times speak out against the curbing of press freedoms. The First Amendment is supposed to mean something, and freedom of the press has come to mean a whole lot less than it used to mean over the past six years. That has got to change, and it cannot change soon enough.

The Worst Analysis Regarding ISIL that You Have Ever Seen

Courtesy of Marie Harf, who actually has a job in our State Department, and who said the following regarding the war with ISIL:

. . . We can not win this war by killing them. We can not kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs–

Harf has now taken to Twitter to claim that her critics are too dumb to have properly understood her comments. Or something.

To be sure, there is much more that has to be done–in addition to military campaigns–in order to defeat terrorism. But a “lack of opportunity for jobs” is not driving the creation of ISIL, and a jobs program won’t stop the beheadings. To claim otherwise is to live in a fantasy world; something this administration and its foreign policy/national security team seem to make a habit of doing.

The Difference Between Me and Hillary Clinton

If I were crazy enough to run for president of the United States, I wouldn’t allow foreign donors to be perceived as being able to buy access to my potential administration:

The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.

Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.

In 2009, the Clinton Foundation stopped raising money from foreign governments after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state. Former President Bill Clinton, who ran the foundation while his wife was at the State Department, agreed to the gift ban at the behest of the Obama administration, which worried about a secretary of state’s husband raising millions while she represented U.S. interests abroad.

The ban wasn’t absolute; some foreign government donations were permitted for ongoing programs approved by State Department ethics officials.

The donations come as Mrs. Clinton prepares for an expected run for the Democratic nomination for president, and they raise many of the same ethical quandaries. Since leaving the State Department in early 2013, Mrs. Clinton officially joined the foundation, which changed its name to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and has become a prodigious fundraiser as the foundation launched a $250 million endowment campaign, officials said.

Of course, the donors in question are not giving money out of the goodness of their own hearts. They are giving money because they hope and expect that by giving money, they will be able to gain influence in any future Clinton administration. Remember all of the claims that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling would allow foreigners to buy American elections? That claim was always nonsensical, but the exact scenario is playing itself out in this case.

I would expect Democrats who are critics of the Citizens United ruling–even though the overwhelming majority of them don’t seem to understand it–to be similarly upset that access to a future Clinton White House is being bought and paid for by foreign donations. Thus far, however, I have heard crickets from other Democrats regarding this particular issue. It must be campaign season; the air is thick with hypocrisy.

Running Campaigns and Running the Country

Back in 2008, Obama partisans pointed to the fact that their candidate presided over a well-run and well-executed campaign, and claimed that this would translate into an ability to run the country as well as the campaign was run. The claim was always bogus–being a competent president of the United States is harder (by many orders of magnitude) than being a candidate in a well-run campaign, and furthermore, candidates don’t run their own campaigns–but if we are to take the claim seriously, Hillary Clinton is already showing that she would make for a poor president of the United States:

Lingering tensions between Hillary Rodham Clinton’s loyalists and the strategists who helped President Obama defeat her in 2008 have erupted into an intense public struggle over who will wield money and clout in her emerging 2016 presidential campaign.

At issue is controlling access to the deep-pocketed donors whose support is critical to sustain the outside organizations that are paving the way for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. It is a competition that has been exacerbated, many Clinton supporters said, by Mrs. Clinton’s reluctance to formally enter the race and establish a campaign organization with clear lines of authority.

The dispute broke into the open on Monday after David Brock, a Clinton ally, accused Priorities USA Action — a pro-Clinton “super PAC” whose co-chairman is Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign manager — of planting negative stories about the fund-raising practices of Mr. Brock’s organizations. Mr. Brock resigned from the super PAC’s board in protest.

Mr. Messina is one of the half-dozen top veterans of Mr. Obama’s campaigns that Mrs. Clinton’s tightknit circle of advisers has hired or courted, vexing some longtime Clintonites seeking more prominent roles for themselves. Other former Obama aides are working with pro-Clinton groups to organize grass-roots volunteers or to fend off attacks on her record, efforts that some Democrats view as the first step toward a place in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign when it finally gets off the ground.

All recognize that Mrs. Clinton’s political operation could dominate the Democratic Party for the next decade, controlling the flow of commissions, consulting work and political appointments. But the marriage between the two camps — based to a large degree on mutual interest, if not love — now appears more uneasy than at any time since Mr. Obama asked Mrs. Clinton to serve in his administration after the 2008 election.

All of this drama, and the campaign has barely even begun.

I am waiting for Obama partisans–many of whom have signed on to the Clinton campaign, or have pledged to support it–to recall their stances in 2008 and to conclude that this early dysfunction shows that Hillary Clinton should never be elected president. They won’t do that, of course, but that is more an indication of their hypocrisy than anything else.

Marxist Economist Begins to Realize that Marxist Economics Does Not Work

You’d think that the lesson would have taken earlier:

Venezuela’s economic failings are turning it into the “laughing-stock” of Latin America, according to late president Hugo Chavez’s top economic planner.

Former Finance and Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who was sacked in mid-2014 by Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, said in an interview this week that reforms in the South American OPEC nation are years overdue.

“We should have taken measures from Oct. 7, 2012,” Giordani told local website notitimes.com, referring to the date of Chavez’s last presidential election victory. Chavez, who was president for 14 years, died of cancer in 2013.

“In truth, we are almost the laughing stock of Latin America,” Giordani, 75, said. “If the situation is bad, if the thermometer is at 40 degrees, there are those who blame the thermometer … We need to acknowledge the crisis, comrades.”

It’s nice to see the beginnings of wisdom, but of course, it ought to be noted–as it is at the end of the story–that Giordani still hasn’t fully grasped that he is part of an utterly unworkable system:

However, “of course we must defend the revolutionary government … and the construction of socialism,” he added, in the face of “fascist” threats from Venezuela’s domestic opponents and the United States.

How much more does the situation have to deteriorate before Giordani finally understands that Venezuela’s most dangerous opponent is its own government?

As always, it is worth remembering that all of the bloggers who once had really nice things to say about chavista Venezuela–in part because they liked the fact that Hug Chávez went to the United Nations and called George W. Bush “the devil”–are really quiet now that it is clear that Chavismo is a failed ideology.

Alternative Quote of the Day

Behold. A lot of policy problems would cease to exist if people recalled that “poverty is the normal condition of man,” and strove with urgency to combat poverty through innovation, creation and–yes–creative destruction whenever appropriate. But somehow, the lessons that people like Robert Heinlein try to impart keep getting forgotten.

Quote of the Day

The autistic brain is not particularly good at understanding irony, and yet most people I’ve met on the autism spectrum have, over time, developed a pretty strong grasp of the concept. Many of us have even managed to teach ourselves how to wield it. I’ve begun to suspect that this is due to our constant hands-on experience.

Having an autism spectrum disorder in an ableist world means that you’re constantly exposed to cruel irony. Most frequently, this comes in the form of neurotypical (i.e. non-autistic) people who tell you, incorrectly, that you can’t or don’t feel empathy like them, and then stubbornly refuse to care about your feelings when they claim that you’re lost, that you’re a burden, and that your life is a constant source of misery for you and everyone who loves you. There’s also my current favorite: parents who are willing to put the lives of countless human beings at risk because they’re so afraid that the mercury fairy will gives their kids a tragic case of autism if they vaccinate. Gotta protect the kids from not being able to feel empathy — who cares whether other children live or die?

No matter what other lofty ideas of toxins and vaccine-related injury anti-vaxxers try to float around in their defense, that’s really what all of this is about: we’re facing a massive public health crisis because a disturbing number of people believe that autism is worse than illness or death. My neurology is the boogeyman behind a completely preventable plague in the making.

Sarah Kurchak, detailing just how crazy the anti-vaccination movement really is.

How Easy Will It Be for Ashton Carter to Work with Barack Obama?

I have written before that I am glad that Ashton Carter has been nominated to be secretary of defense. I am still glad. I think that he can be very good at his soon-to-be new job. But like Jennifer Rubin, I wonder whether the Obama administration will let Carter be good at his job. Carter has repeatedly said during his confirmation hearings that he will not shy away from giving the president his best advice, and it is entirely possible that Carter will succeed in getting the president to follow that advice. But I do wish that some senator would ask Carter whether he will resign if there remain the policy gulfs between him and the president that Rubin discussed. The answer might actually be somewhat revealing.

My Policy on Vaccines and Vaccinations

I’ll have something to say about individual politicians and their stances on vaccines and vaccination policy later. For now, here is where I stand:

1. Vaccinations should be mandatory.

2. Any religious objections to vaccinations should be found to fail even when strict scrutiny is applied as the standard of review. The state certainly can show that vaccinations are necessary to further a compelling state interest (maintaining herd immunity), and that there are no less restrictive means to achieving that interest. This is a no-brainer.

3. State legislatures should pass legislation, if necessary, to establish liability for parents who fail to vaccinate their kids, and whose failure leads to the sickness, injury or death of others.

4. If Congress wants to get in on the act and establish penalties for failing to vaccinate, I really won’t have a problem with such a move. It would be justified by Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, in terms of promoting the general welfare and providing for the common defense.

Why Jeb Bush Is Such an Appealing Presidential Candidate

Because he believes in more than just talking about what he is against:

Jeb Bush was winding through remarks to the U.S.’s National Automobile Dealers Association a few days ago when he struck what figures to be the central but little-appreciated tenet of his likely presidential campaign.

What, he was asked, is the most important message for Republicans to offer voters?

“Hope,” he replied succinctly. “I mean, an optimistic message grounded in the greatness of our country…an optimistic message, not a reactionary message.”

[. . .]

In talking privately to his supporters and advisers, and in his own limited public remarks so far, Mr. Bush has made it clear that he wants his campaign to be distinguished by a positive and optimistic tone, which he thinks will contrast favorably with most of political discourse in recent years and with most of Washington debate these days.

[. . .]

For conservatives to win, the Bush camp believes, they have to widen the GOP’s circle, and that can only happen if they are playing offense with a positive message rather than playing defense.

Implicit in this quest is an acknowledgment that Republicans have come to be defined more by what they are against than what they are for. Against Obamacare. Against raising the minimum wage. Against gay marriage. Against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Now, most recently, against making community-college education free to most comers.

That perception has done sustained damage to the Republican brand name. One consistent characteristic of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns was that Barack Obama was viewed more positively by voters across the board than were either John McCain or Mitt Romney . The overall trend has held even in the lowest stretches of Mr. Obama’s presidency. In The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, there hasn’t been a sustained period in which Americans held a net positive view of the Republican Party in a decade.

Of course, as we know, Barack Obama also talked about hope. But unlike Jeb Bush, Barack Obama didn’t serve two terms as governor of a large state and actually have substantive accomplishments to complement a positive message. Bush has wisely figured out that by adopting the president’s positive message, while at the same time presenting an actual record of leadership to voters, he will best position himself to win the support of establishment Republicans who are hungry for a general election win, and who may well be inclined to give Bush the financial and personnel support he needs to win the nomination and go on to a fall campaign. By no means has Bush secured the Republican nomination, let alone made himself into an overwhelming favorite for the presidency. But he is demonstrating that of all of the other Republican presidential candidates, he has the best background, strategy and chance to win the general election.

Surely, that has to count for something. If Republican voters are smart, it will.

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