A Modest Proposal: How President Obama Can Win Back Democrats, Win Over Republicans, and Win in 2012

With the tax compromise, and the open revolt of the President’s base, the White House is again unsecretly pleased with a conflict of its own making.  Triangulation.

See, triangulation is old school, two-dimensional geometry.  No disrespect to President Clinton, but that was a century ago.  This President needs to think about squaring the circle, and Yes We Can.

Policymakers and pundits alike are stuck in the Either-Or paradigm, pitting the Eithers against the Ors.  But it’s a Both-And century.  With some creative thinking, the President can have it all.  Break it down.

Gitmo.  Democrats want it closed.  Republicans want it kept open because they only grudgingly accept the fact that the remaining hard-core jihadist detainees are still alive.

Obama’s Solution.  Close Gitmo, release all the detainees, and then, you know, kill them.

Future Captured Jihadists (without Gitmo).

Obama’s Solution.  Put them in regular American prisons.  With regular Americans.

Immigration.  Democrats want amnesty for illegal immigrants, open borders, and more Democratic party voters.  Republicans want strict border enforcement, rigor in deportation of illegals, and fewer Democratic party voters.

Obama’s Solution.  Divert a swarm of those deadly unmanned drones destined for Pakistan to the southern US border.  Deploy them (with much advertising of intent to do so) and machine gun turrets all along the border, with emphasis on known crossings, force businesses who hire illegals into bankruptcy with million-dollar fines, and accept any illegal into a hospital or a school.  (Prospective party affiliation is not a basis for policy regarding potential immigrant voters, dead or alive.)

Health Care.  No one has yet finished reading the law, but a squaring-the-circle solution is nevertheless at hand.

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” –Shakespeare, Henry VI. With the lawyers gone, desperately needed tort reform is a piece of cake, the cost of medical care plummets, and private sector solutions become as bipartisan as naming new post offices.

DADT.  Democrats want gays to be able to serve in the military openly.  Republicans want to wait until such a policy wouldn’t disrupt the cohesiveness of active combat units.

Obama’s Solution.  Repeal DADT, but create gay brigades dispatched to do the worst fighting until enough courageous homosexuals have been killed to confirm their patriotism to everyone’s satisfaction.

Iranian Nuclear Ambitions, Part One.  Democrats say it’s unacceptable.  Republicans say it’s unacceptable.

Obama’s Solution.  Say it’s unacceptable.

Iranian Nuclear Ambitions, Part Two.  Democrats want a diplomatic solution, even if it takes a few weeks beyond the day Iran has a nuclear capability.  Republicans want a military solution, even if it takes a few weeks before yesterday.

Obama’s Solution.  Promise every country in the region limited nuclear capability, subject to American monitoring (but not control) and American bases, if Iran acquires a bomb.  Diplomacy follows.

Ground Zero Mosque.  One side screams sacrilege, the other screams “don’t be anti-Muslim.”

Obama’s Solution:  Broker a deal to build an ecumenical center, run by Muslims, with places of worship and devotion for Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus.  The Muslims get the biggest room — it’s their property — and get to show New York not only that they respect other faiths, but that they can actively promote inter-faith tolerance and respect.

Make it so Mr. President.



Judicial Nomination Politics: Don’t Punish Lindsey Graham For This One

President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, gets a thumbs-up from the Senate Judiciary Committee, with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham joining the Democrats in voting Yes.  The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank praises Senator Lindsey Graham’s vote, prompting a fierce denunciation from Ed Whelan and others.

Sorry Ed, you marshal facts well and ably point out some of the biases in Milbank’s piece — but I’m with Senator Graham on this one.  It’s a bad idea to demonize Senator Graham on this vote.  I’ve written of my own skepticism about Elena Kagan, in particular, her hypocritical, and, I believe, indefensible, position with respect to the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy imposed upon the military by President Clinton and Congress.  But I don’t think that position disqualifies her categorically from confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice when the elected president of the United States says she is qualified.

I agree with Senator Graham.  Elections have consequences.  One consequence — of, I hope, ever greater notoriety — is that conservative presidents nominate conservative jurists to the bench, and liberal presidents nominate liberal jurists to the bench.  I want every American, of every stripe, to appreciate that consequence, because it is one of the most significant — and, given the power of our judiciary, one of the most far-reaching.  Senator Graham’s vote promotes that understanding.  And whenever henceforth we are tempted as a nation to vote for a presidential candidate, despite our disagreement with his or her political philosophy, let the opinions that Elena Kagan will write remind us of consequences.

Conservatives are upset, and not entirely without reason, that Senator Graham’s vote is a kind of “unilateral disarmament,” a gesture that Democrats do not make when Republican presidents nominate judges.

Certainly the nomination of Samuel Alito bears out that accusation.  Samuel Alito was confirmed in January 2006 by a largely party-line vote of 58-42, with four moderate Democrats (if you include the late Senator Byrd as a moderate) voting Yes, and even one Republican, Chafee of Rhode Island, voting No.  By Democrats, there was virtually no deference to the president’s nominee.

The nomination of John Roberts the year before presents a more interesting and textured picture.  John Roberts was a brilliant and eminently qualified jurist.  Indeed, he had been credited by Supreme Court insiders with authoring the “best brief that the Justices [of the Supreme Court] had ever seen.”  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called him the “best” advocate to come before the Supreme Court.  He was a supremely qualified jurist on all but possibly ideological grounds (i.e., he was conservative).

John Roberts was confirmed in September 2005 by a vote of 78-22, with all 55 Republicans and 22 of the 44 Democrats voting Yes.  The roster of No votes is a compendium of Most Reliably Liberal Senators Ever, including Chuck Schumer, who acknowledged that even Roberts’ opponents called him “one of the best advocates, if not the best advocate, in the nation,” but nevertheless voted No, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, and Tom Harkin.

Interestingly, the No votes also included some notable moderates, most visibly Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh — and there you have one key to the politics of judicial confirmation votes.  Nothing in the admirable Senator Bayh’s record or pronouncements would have predicted a No vote on perhaps the most qualified jurist to be nominated for the Supreme Court in our lifetime.

Yet he voted No.  Unprincipled?  By strict standards of principle, yes, because his vote was driven by his presidential aspirations, and everyone knows, when you’re contemplating a presidential primary, you need to tack left if you’re a Democrat and tack right if you’re a Republican.  So whatever the actual views of Bayh and Clinton on the qualifications of John Roberts, presidential primary politics obliged them to establish bona fides with the base and say No to a conservative.

Bayh stunned the political world in February by announcing his retirement from the Senate, and set off a bit of a firestorm with his denunciation of partisan politics.  Perhaps Bayh, by all accounts a good and decent man with integrity, remembered his vote against John Roberts and how he was himself swept into the partisan politics he came to denounce with such vehemence.

On a smaller scale, Senate primary campaigns likewise dictate the partisan votes of senators when presidents nominate Supreme Court justices.  As a political calculation, what senator from a conservative state wants to invite serious challenge in the primary because he or she voted for a liberal jurist?  And what senator from a liberal state wants to invite serious challenge in the primary because he or she voted for a conservative jurist?  That calculation is aggravated by the possibility that the jurist in question might author a controversial high-profile opinion, with which challengers may tarnish the sitting senator by association.

Indeed, Lindsey Graham’s vote in favor of Kagan has already produced exactly such rumbling in South Carolina.  An unnamed political operative in South Carolina said of Graham’s primary challengers in 2014, “it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘who’ and ‘how many.'”

That’s politics.  If Lindsey Graham is punished in South Carolina for his Elena Kagan vote — either by losing the primary or by being weakened in the primary and thus losing the general to a Democrat — then we have our answer about the politics of judicial confirmation votes.  You always vote against the nominee of a president from the other party.

But that would be most unfortunate.  It would eliminate any fair assessment of nominees, and it would squander the possibility of signaling powerfully to Americans that national elections have consequences.

[Also published at The Daily Caller.]

Pro-Gay, Anti-Military Misdirection and Elena Kagan

Captain Pete Hegseth testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.  It is a short powerful statement.  It underscores succinctly the difficulty that so frequently confronts me in making sense of leftwing priorities.  Captain Hegseth doesn’t argue the merits of the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell law, and in fact acknowledges that reasonable minds can differ.  Instead, he notes merely that the source of the policy was Congress and President Clinton, for whom Ms. Kagan went to work, and that instead of directing her activist opposition to the source of the policy, she directed it at the institution upon whom it was imposed by law.

Moreover, if the opposition to DADT is a genuine instance of solidarity with gay rights (rather than an opportunistic bashing of the military), then why did Ms. Kagan invite and welcome to Harvard’s campus numerous members of Congress who voted for the policy she calls “a moral injustice of the first order”?  These members of Congress were the actual perpetrators of this first-order moral injustice.  Shouldn’t they have been flogged?

Speaking of which, Captain Hegseth notes that Harvard has three academic chairs endowed by money from Saudi Arabia — where homosexuality is a capital offense.  If you are gay, or adequately suspected of being gay, in Saudi Arabia, you will be killed.  Not fired, not scorned, not disrespected.  Killed.  There plainly must be a moral injustice of an order even higher than first.  Saudi Arabia commits that extra-magnitude moral injustice routinely.  And Ms. Kagan would therefore be obliged to oppose it with rough proportion to her activist opposition to the military and its congressionally-imposed DADT policy.  She did not.

So Ms. Kagan’s conduct at Harvard was opportunistic and hypocritical.  I do not suggest that engaging in opportunistic and hypocritical conduct automatically disqualifies Ms. Kagan from confirmation to the Supreme Court.  Let him who is without sin cast the first Saudi Arabian stone.  But can we at least call it a sin?