Friday, November 8, 2013

Shut Up and Act!

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership have a great video that mocks Alison Grimes ties to Hollywood, and all the Liberals there who have funded her campaign, according to her most recent FEC filing.

Grimes even took money from that old Liberal cliche, Barbara Streisand.  And James Cameron, who I did not know until I saw this video is a Canadian. That's right, AGL is taking foreign money. Nor did I realize that Rob Reiner had compared the Tea Party to Hitler.  So the sad or perhaps scary thing about this video as that it is highly informative.  It is also hilarious.

 Watch it and pass it on.

Peggy Noonan Interviews Mitch McConnell

Peggy Noonan interviewed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in today's Wall Street Journal.  I don't recall seeing a Noonan column quite like it; this is not so much a column as a true interview, even a transcript of an interview.

To those who look forward to Noonan's prose -- the lady can turn a phrase -- today's piece probably disappoints.  This is all McConnell, with almost none of Noonan's clever commentary.  That is itself striking, not just for Noonan's self-restraint, but for the respect it shows for McConnell.  Even McConnell's enemies acknowledge his brilliance as a political tactician.  Noonan's made some mistakes over the years; she was swept away in the Obama fairy tale.  Nonetheless, she still has the ability to capture the mood of an electorate and translate that into rhetoric. By sitting and taking notes, transcribing McConnell's insights, seems to me to be an acknowledgement that she had an opportunity to learn from a very skilled politician.  So she listened.

McConnell discusses the shut-down, reaffirming that it will not happen again. He makes the point that the Defund Obamacare effort in the Senate was a waste of time, destined to fail because as a matter of math, Republicans lacked the votes.

He promises that he will be the Republican nominee, never uttering the name of his primary opponent.

Perhaps his harshest words are for the Senate Conservative Fund:

The fund "has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles." The group is targeting Mr. McConnell with ads slamming his leadership during the shutdown. "Right now they're on the air in obvious coordination withHarry Reid's super PAC—Harry Reid's!—in the same markets, at roughly the same amount, at the same time."
McConnell is careful to distinguish between  the Tea Party leaders and its followers.  The latter, McConnell says, are angry, and rightfully so.  What McConnell does not say is that people don't think clearly when angry; they make mistakes.  The issue, McConnell reiterates, is not opposition to Obamacare.  On that point, conservatives are united.  The issue is winning enough elections to repeal it.  
Quoting Buckley, McConnell says that Republicans should run the most conservative candidates who can win.   In Kentucky,that is clearly McConnell

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Elaine Chao on Mayor Nan Gorman

Elaine Chao has a great piece on Politico regarding her admiration of Nan Gorman, the 80-something  year old  mayor of Hazard (elected as a write-in candidate!). This is part of a series of essays about women changing politics, policy and their communities.

I must admit that I had not heard of Mrs. Gorman previously.  Her life story, in some respects, is similar to Elaine Chao's:  both have traveled the world, and shattered glass ceilings. The two women have lived their lives guided by similar values of hard work and perseverance, a willingness to take risks, love of family and pride in Kentucky and a calling to public service.  And as Mrs. Gorman's photo reflects, they are both blessed with great beauty.

Here's Elaine's essay:

Deep in the heart of Kentucky’s rugged Eastern Mountain region there lives a woman who has fascinated and inspired me for two decades. She is known locally these days as “Mayor Nan” — the octogenarian chief executive of Hazard and advocate for its 5,467 residents.

. . .

Hazard was not just small but remote because of the lack of roads in the region so the Hagan family, with little Nan in tow, traveled there from Tennessee via Virginia mountain passes. Nan’s parents, who she says still inspire and guide her today, ensured that she had a good education and gave her the opportunity to attend college but, as was prevalent then, expected that she would soon settle down as a young woman, marry and have children.

She eventually did all that but not until after she had experienced some of the world far from Hazard and her beloved Eastern Kentucky mountains that she says “are like the arms of a mother around us.” So enraptured was she with the natural beauty around Hazard that she became an artist to record scenes in pencil, ink, watercolors and oil paints.

After World War II, Nan graduated from the University of Cincinnati and attended the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York City. With an adventurous spirit, Nan flew to Egypt by herself to study ancient history and then traveled on for solo explorations of Greece, Rome, Paris and London. Having been exposed to such exotic, vibrant cities so full of opportunity, one could hardly have begrudged a choice to make her life elsewhere. But instead, she chose to come home to Kentucky. She got an apartment in Lexington and worked as a freelance artist drawing
advertisements for clothing stores, doing architectural renderings and sketching historical landmarks. One day she saw a classified advertisement in which the state was looking for a full-time artist, and she subsequently became the first one ever employed by the commonwealth of Kentucky. Among her tasks was designing the state seal — United We Stand, Divided We Fall — which is still in use today
At age 50, Nan settled again in Hazard, remarried — to her high school sweetheart, Bill, and together they formed a partnership that would have a lasting impact on virtually every sphere of the community. Bill was elected mayor in 1978, served for 35 years and never accepted a salary. When he returned home to the Lord three years ago, Nan asked that donations go to a fund to benefit local public schools. Wishing to continue Bill’s legacy of service to the community, Nan was subsequently elected mayor as a write-in candidate, winning by a 3-to-1 margin.

Nan’s governing personal ethic is to constantly strive to do better for Hazard’s residents for as long as she can. When last I spoke with her, Nan was alternately expressing pride over a young local girl’s success overcoming disadvantages, helping with the Appalachian Regional Hospital’s fundraising campaign and her efforts to obtain refrigerators for families in need.

An octogenarian well-deserving of retirement, Mayor Nan instead toils from sunrise to late in the evening on behalf of her town. She takes pleasure in the people and the mountain scenery and loves nothing more than to watch wildlife in her yard or to hear that some good fortune is improving someone’s life. My takeaway from every visit with Nan is appreciation for the big difference that one woman in a little town can make.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bevin and Grimes Silent on Olmsted Dam Appropriation

Blogs on the right, left, and everywhere in between are going crazy about McConnell's so called $2.9 billion "earmark." There are thousands of comments blasting McConnell as a typical, corrupt politician. This sounds like perfect ammunition for the Senator's opponents. With that said, why have Alison Grimes and Met Bevin been silent on this?

At first glance, it may seem suspicious that such a large sum of money is going to Kentucky, considering that it happens to be the home state of the man largely responsible for the deal that ended the government shutdown. To many, it sounds like McConnell is rewarding himself for his role in the compromise. However, upon further research, one will notice that McConnell is in fact not behind this appropriation. Senators Lamar Alexander and Diane Feinstein, members of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, are the ones who requested this. It's fair to say that a debt ceiling bill is a strange place to put this request, but it's not exactly an "earmark." The bill is only 35 pages long, so it's not like this was hidden on page 4,000 of the healthcare bill. This does not seem deceitful to me due to the relatively short length of the bill. The media were able to uncover this within hours of the bill's passage, so surely a senator could do the same. Nonetheless, I bet that many senators did know about this and even supported it, because this truly is an essential project.

Located just 13 miles from where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet, the Olmsted Dam is critical to our nation's inland water infrastructure. This is one of the most heavily trafficked segments of any inland waterway, and the region's unpredictable flooding severely limits shipping companies' ability to move goods during certain times of the year. This dam is clearly very important to our nation, not just Kentucky and Illinois. Any state that sends or receives goods via either of these rivers will be affected by this project. In an effort to save money, engineers tried to construct this dam without the use of temporary dams known as "coffer dams." In theory, this was a great idea. Not only are coffer dams bad for the river bed, they are also expensive. Unfortunately, things didn't go as engineers anticipated, and now the project is severely behind budget. As with the expression "in hindsight, we all have 20/20," engineers should have constructed the dam using traditional methods. However, we can't give up on the project now, considering how much we have already invested, and how important it is to transportation and commerce throughout the country. That is why the $2.9 billion is so important.

Recently, Matt Bevin released a video outlining his opposition to the McConnell's deal. He criticizes the Senator for compromising on Obamacare, but fails to mention this supposed "pork." As for Grimes, her Twitter page makes no mention of the deal at all, probably because it is a perfect example of McConnell reaching across the aisle, undermining her entire campaign's theme. The bottom line is that this project is extremely important, and both Bevin and Grimes understand that this $2.9 billion is a good thing for Kentucky and the nation as a whole.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"At Least We Have One Adult Leader In Washington"

The title is borrowed from a reader comment to The Fix column published on-line earlier this afternoon at the Washington Post website.  This comment completed the thought expressed in the title to the column:  "Mitch McConnell closes the deal. Again."

In an era in which it is fashionable for both the left and right to complain of too much gridlock in Washington, the latest deal is a reminder of who actually is able to bridge the party divide.  Had either Matt Bevin or Alison Lundergan Grimes been in the Senate, neither could have pulled this off.  As freshmen, Bevin and Grimes would be carrying Ted Cruz's and Harry Reid's respective briefcases, so to speak. And the scary thing is--for the entire country, this is scary--had McConnell not been the Senate Republican Leader, there wouldn't have been anyone else to resolve, temporarily at least, the dysfunction in D.C.

Long-winded speeches can be entertaining, and I enjoy Green Eggs and Ham as much as anyone. But all in all, I prefer a Senator and Republican Leader who, rather than grandstand, actually can get something done when the country really needs it.
Please note: The postings of "G. Morris", written by John K. Bush and which end in 2016, stated his views as of the dates of posting and should not be understood as current assertions of his views. The postings, which have not been altered since they came to an end, remain on this blog to preserve the historical record. In 2017, Mr. Bush took a position that precludes further public political comments or endorsements. He will no longer be contributing to this blog.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Update on GOP Women's Roundtable

Time is running out to rsvp to this weekend's Kentucky Republican Women's Roundtable Fall Forum and Luncheon (Saturday, October 5th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Louisville).

CNN and Meet the Press political analyst Alex Castellanos is  the key note speaker. Castellanos will moderate a national panel that now includes Peggy Grande, former personal assistant to President Ronald Reagan.( I bet she has some stories to tell!)

Scott Reynolds from WAVE 3 will be moderating instead of Claudia Coffey

The theme for this year's forum is "Step Up." 
"We hope that women will be encouraged to step up at whatever capacity they want to be involved with in the political arena," said Cathy Bailey, Honorary Chair and Founder of the Kentucky Republican Women’s Roundtable. "We want to reach out to women within our own state and across the country and create a dialogue and share similar concerns that we have as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and aunts about the economy, education, national security, health care and other pressing issues facing our country. Women are underrepresented in public office, and we have an important voice that needs to be heard."

Here's the link to Cathy Bailey's interview.

If you are interested in attending the luncheon, please RSVP to Lauren Bosler at or 502.554.5480. Cost is $25 per person to attend. This is opportunity to network and show that women care about more than our "lady parts." Some of us, for example, would like the government to get out of the way of the free enterprise system so that just maybe, our kids won't need to be on our health insurance plans when they're 26 . . . .

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

GOP Women's Roundtable

The Kentucky Republican Women's Roundtable certainly gets points for timeliness:  there Fall Forum and Luncheon is this Saturday, October 5, 2013 -- just days after the first government shut-down in 17 years. That should make for some fascinating discussion

They've brought in both state and national panels.  The Kentucky Panel includes: Sen. Sara Beth Gregor; the Hon. Joyce Moore; Commonwealth Attorney Courtney Baxter; Sen. Julie Denton; Jefferson County Clerk Bobby Holsclaw; and moderator Claudia Coffey from WHAS.

The National Panel will be moderated by Alex Castellanos, political analyst and contributor for CNN and Meet the Press. His panel includes: Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch from Wisconsin; Suanne Terrell (first Republican woman ever elected as Louisiana Commissioner of Elections); and Alexandra Smith, Chair of the College Republican National Committee. I'm particularly interested to hear how Republicans are doing at the college level.

The cost is a mere $25.  Reserve your spot by emailing Lauren Bosler, (502)554-5480.

If half the amazing women come who attended the Women for Team Mitch rally, this will be quite a group.  Rest assured you won't hear any nonsense about voting with our "lady parts." 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Matt Bevin, Civics Illiterate

Bogus Constitutional Conservative Matt Bevin did not know the difference between Article V of the Constitution and the 5th Amendment.  For real.  It looked like Jay Leno interviewing random people on the streets of Burbank rather than a serious candidate for U.S. Senate speaking at a Constitution Day public event.

Page One has the video, shot at UK's Constitution Day celebration.

Asked about Article V, Bevin clearly did not know that this constitutional provision provides for the process to amend the Constitution.  Instead, Bevin swaggered up to the microphone and condescends to his audience:  "How many of you have ever heard the term 'plead the fifth?'"

Rather than let Bevin step into it even further, Jesse Benton noted that "plead the fifth" refers to the 5th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, not Article V.

Bevin at that point gets testy about how we could all sit down and read the Constitution together and debate it or the like.

Bottom line:  to not be able to discern the difference between an article of the Constitution and an amendment to the Bill of Rights is just ignorant -- particularly for a guy running as the candidate who will supposedly restore our government to the Constitutional constraints established by the Framers.

It would be one thing if Bevin had mixed up the numbers of the various articles -- if he had mixed up Article IV with Article V.  However, his inability to understand that the basic structure of the Constitution and hence our government is predicated on its Articles suggests that he has not read the document carefully or recently, and has not thought about it deeply.

Again, this was a Constitution Day event.  A candidate who agrees to attend such event might be expected to have, uh, read the book in advance.  It's not that long.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell knows the Constitution -- and Senate procedure -- better than most Constitutional law professors (That would be you, Barry).

So trading McConnell for Bevin not only would deprive Kentucky of McConnell's seniority and influence, it would be a literal brain drain for the Republican caucus.  The difference is a Senator who can out-fox Harry Reid -- and a Senator who has to sing "I'm Just a Bill on Capitol Hill" to remember how to introduce legislation.

Bevin's fancy prep school, the Gould Academy,  might have a great snow boarding team, but the government class, apparently, not so much.  No wonder the guy is so insecure about not having gone to MIT.

Please note: The postings of "G. Morris", written by John K. Bush and which end in 2016, stated his views as of the dates of posting and should not be understood as current assertions of his views. The postings, which have not been altered since they came to an end, remain on this blog to preserve the historical record. In 2017, Mr. Bush took a position that precludes further public political comments or endorsements. He will no longer be contributing to this blog.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Text of McConnell Syria Speech

Read the entire thing. It's that good:

“First, I’d like to welcome the President to the Capitol today. Members on both sides of the aisle are eager to hear from him, and to share their own thoughts. We look forward to a spirited and constructive exchange.

“It’s often said that of all the questions we face as lawmakers, none is more serious or indeed more difficult than the question of whether to commit ourselves to a military action. That’s why it is so important for us to have this debate, to lay out the arguments for and against military action in Syria, to let the public know where we stand on this issue, and why.

“But if debates like this are always challenging, in some ways this one has been even more difficult. Not because of some political calculus, though cynics will always suspect that. No, this debate has been made more difficult because even those of us who truly want to support the Commander in Chief have struggled to understand the purpose of the mission.

“Over the past several days, I’ve spoken with a lot of people, a lot of Kentuckians. And I have to tell you, most of them aren’t exactly clear about the mission themselves, or shy about saying so. What I’ve told them is that I understand their concerns. I share them. I also appreciate the war-weariness out there. But then, I tell them that there other potential concerns that we can’t ignore here either.

“Chief among them is the fact that the credibility of the Commander of Chief matters, and related to that is the fact that we can’t afford as a country to withdraw from the world stage.

“So no one should be faulted for being skeptical about this proposal, regardless of what party they’re in, or for being dumfounded at the ham-handed manner in which the White House announced it; there is absolutely no reason to signal to the enemy when and how, and for how long, you plan to strike them — none. As I’ve said before, you don’t send out a “save-the-date” card to the enemy. And yet there are other important considerations to keep in mind here as well that go beyond the wisdom or the marketing of this proposal.

“I’ve spent a lot of time weighing all these things. I’ve thought a lot about America’s obligations, and the irreplaceable role that I’ve always believed, and still believe, America plays in the world.

“And I’ve also thought a lot about the context, about this President’s vision, and his record, and what it says about whether we should be confident in his ability to bring about a favorable outcome in Syria. Because how we got to this point says a lot about where we may be headed.

“And that’s why, before announcing my vote, I think it’s important to look back at some of this President’s other decisions on matters of foreign policy and national security, and then turn back to what he’s proposing now in Syria, because, in the end, these things can’t be separated.
“Now, it’s not exactly a state secret that I’m no fan of this President’s foreign policy. On the deepest level, I think it comes down to a fundamentally different view of America’s role in the world. Unlike the President, I’ve always been a firm and unapologetic believer in the idea that America isn’t just another nation among many; that we’re exceptional. As I’ve said, I believe we have a duty, as a superpower without imperialistic aims, to help maintain an international order and balance of power that we and other allies have worked very hard on over the years.
“This President, on the other hand, has always been a very reluctant Commander in Chief. We saw that in the rhetoric of his famous Cairo speech, and in speeches he gave in other foreign capitals in the early days of his administration. The tone, and the policies that followed, were meant to project a humbler, more withdrawn America … and, frankly, I’m hard pressed to see any of the good that’s come from it.

“Any list would have to start with the arbitrary deadlines for military withdrawal ... and the triumphant declaration that Guantanamo would be closed within a year, without any plan for what to do with its detainees … there were the executive orders that ended the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation programs…
“We all saw the so-called reset with Russia, and how the President’s stated commitment to a world without nuclear weapons led him to hastily sign an arms treaty with Russia that did nothing to substantially reduce its nuclear stockpile, or its tactical nuclear weapons. We saw the President announce a strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific, without any real plan to fund it, and an effort to end the capture, interrogation, and detention of terrorists, as well as the return of the old idea that terrorism should be treated as a law-enforcement matter. After a decade-long counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, we’ve seen the President’s failure to invest in the kind of strategic modernization that’s needed to make his pivot to Asia meaningful.

“Specifically, his failure to make the kind of investments that are needed to maintain our dominance in the Asia Pacific theatre, in the kind of naval, air, and Marine Corps forces that we’ll need there in the years ahead, could have tragic consequences down the road. 

“His domestic agenda has also obviously had serious implications for our global standing. While borrowing trillions and wasting taxpayer dollars here at home, the President has imposed a policy of austerity at the Pentagon that threatens to undermine our stabilizing presence around the globe. And, of course, we’ve all seen how eager the President is to declare an end to the War on Terror.

“Well, unfortunately, the world just hasn’t cooperated with the President’s vision or his hopes. Far from responding favorably to this gentler approach, it’s become arguably more dangerous. We’ve learned the hard way that being nice to our enemies doesn’t make them like you, or clear a path to peace.  I understand that the President ran for office on an anti-war platform, that his rise to political power was marked by a determination to get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq and declare an end to the War on Terror. I know he’d rather focus on his domestic agenda. But the ongoing threat from Al Qaeda and its affiliates and the turmoil unleashed by uprisings in North Africa and the broader Middle East, not to mention the rise of Chinese military power, make it clear to me, at least, that this is not the time for America to shrink from the world stage.
“The world is a dangerous place. In the wake of the Arab Spring, large parts of the Sinai, of Libya, of Syria are now basically ungoverned. We’ve seen prison breaks in Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, and the release of hundreds of prisoners in Egypt. Terrorists have also escaped from prisons in Yemen, a country that is no more ready to detain the terrorists at Guantanamo now they were in 2009. And the flow of foreign fighters into Syria suggests that the civil war there will last for years, regardless of whether Assad is still in power. Yes, the President deserves praise for weakening Al Qaeda’s senior leadership. But the threat we face from Al Qaeda affiliates is very real. These terrorists are adaptable. They’re versatile, lethal, resilient, and they aren’t going away. Pockets of these terrorists extend from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. It’s time he faced up to it. 
“And it’s time he face up to something else as well: international order is not maintained by some global police force; which only exists in a liberal fantasy. International order is maintained — its backbone — is American military might.

“Which brings me back to Syria.

“For about two years now, Syria has been mired in a ferocious civil war, with more than 100,000 killed with conventional arms, according to U.N. estimates. This tragic situation has prompted many to look to the United States for help. And so one year ago, President Obama made a declaration: if Assad used or started moving chemical weapons, he’d do something about it.

“Well, as we all know, on August 21 of this year, that red line was crossed. The President’s delayed response was to call for a show of force, for targeted, limited strikes against the regime. We have been told that the purpose of these strikes is to deter and degrade the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons.

“Let’s take a closer look at these aims.

“First, no one disputes that the atrocities committed in Syria in recent weeks are unspeakable. No one disputes that those responsible for these crimes against the innocent should be held to account. We were right to condemn these crimes.

“But let’s be very clear about something. These attacks, monstrous as they are, were not a direct attack against the United States or one of its treaty allies. And just so there’s no confusion, let me assure everyone that if a weapon of mass destruction were used against the U.S. or one of our allies, Congress would react immediately with an authorization for the use of force in support of an overwhelming response. I would introduce the resolution myself.
“So no leader in North Korea or Iran, or any other enemy of the United States, should take any solace if the U.S. were not to respond to these attacks with an action against Syria. We will never tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the United States or any of our treaty allies.
“Second, in the course of administration hearings and briefings over the past several days, Secretary of State Kerry has revealed that Assad has used chemical weapons repeatedly over the last year. So there’s a further question here about why the administration didn’t respond on those occasions.

“Third, Assad, as I’ve indicated, has killed tens of thousands of people with conventional weapons. Is there any reason to believe he won’t continue if the President’s strikes are as limited as we’re told they’ll be?

“Fourth, what if in degrading Assad’s control of these weapons you make it easier for other extremist elements, like those associated with the Al Nusrah front and Al Qaeda, to get hold of them?

“Or what if by weakening the Syrian military, you end up tilting the military balance toward a fractured opposition that’s in no position to govern or control anything right now? I think the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, put this particular issue best when he recently suggested in a letter to Congress that the issue here isn’t about choosing between two sides in Syria, it’s about choosing one among many sides, and that, in his estimation, even if we were to choose sides, the side we chose wouldn’t be in a position to promote their own interests or ours.

“And then there’s the question of how Assad himself would react to U.S. action in Syria. If Assad views an air campaign as preparation for regime change, then he may lose all constraint in the use of his arsenal, chemical or otherwise, and lose any incentive whatsoever to move to the negotiating table. It’s very clear that the unintended consequences of this strike could very well be a new cycle of escalation, which then drags us into a larger war that we’re all seeking to avoid. Some have even suggested that the humanitarian crisis surrounding the Syrian Civil War could actually be made worse as a result of even targeted U.S. strikes. In the end, then the President’s proposal seems fundamentally flawed, since if it’s too narrow it may not deter Assad’s further use of chemical weapons. But if it’s too broad, it risks jeopardizing the security of these same stockpiles, potentially putting them into the hands of extremists.

“And that’s why I think we’re compelled in this case to apply a more traditional standard on whether to proceed with a use of force, one that asks a simple question: does Assad’s use of chemical weapons pose a threat to the vital national security interests of the United States? And the answer to that question is fairly obvious: even the President himself says it doesn’t.
“Now, one could argue, as I’ve suggested, that there is an important national security concern at play, that we have a very strong interest in preserving the credibility of our Commander in Chief, regardless of the party in power, and in giving him the political support that reinforces that credibility. This is an issue that I take very seriously. It’s the main reason I’ve wanted to take my time in making a final decision.
“But ultimately, I’ve concluded that being credible on Syria requires presenting a credible response, and having a credible strategy. And for all the reasons I’ve indicated, this proposal just doesn’t pass muster.

“Indeed, if through this limited strike the President’s credibility is not restored, because Assad uses chemical weapons again, what then? Add new targets aimed at toppling the regime which end up jeopardizing control of these same chemical weapons stashes — allowing them to fall into the hands of Al Qaeda or others intent on using them against the United States or our allies. Where would the cycle of escalation end?

“Last night, we learned about a Russian diplomatic gambit to forestall U.S. military action through a proposal to secure and eventually destroy the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile.  This morning there are initial reports that suggest Syria is supportive of it.  Let me remind everyone that even if this is agreed to, it’s still a long way off to reaching an agreement at the United Nations, to Syria gaining entry to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to eventually securing, and destroying the stockpile.  As we’ve seen in my own state of Kentucky, destroying chemical weapons is extremely challenging and requires a great deal of attention to detail and safety. Nonetheless, this proposal is worth exploring.

“But more broadly, and this is my larger point, this one punitive strike we’re debating could not make up for the President’s performance over the past five years. The only way — the only way — for him to achieve the credibility he seeks is by embracing the kind of serious, integrated national security plan that matches strategy to resources, capabilities to commitments, and which shows our allies around the world that the U.S. is fully engaged and ready to act at a moment’s notice in all the major areas of concern around the globe, whether it’s the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, or in the South China Sea. And, just as importantly, that he’s willing to invest in that strategy for the long-term.

“In Syria, a limited strike would not resolve the civil war there. Nor will it remove Assad from power. There appears to be no broader strategy to train, advise, and assist a vetted opposition group on a meaningful scale, as we did during the Cold War. What’s needed in Syria is what’s needed almost everywhere else in the world from America right now: a clear strategy and a President who is determined to carry it out.
“When it comes to Syria, our partners in the Middle East —countries like Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel — all of them face real consequences from instability, refugee flows or the growth of terrorist networks. Responding to this crisis requires a regional strategy and leadership. What we’ve gotten instead is an administration that seems more interested in telling us what this mission is not, rather than what it is.
“We’ve gotten the same timid, reluctant leadership that we’ve seen from this President for nearly five years.
“As I’ve said, this decision was not easy. When the President of the United States asks you to take a question like this seriously, you do so. Because just as our credibility in Syria is tied up with our credibility in places like Iran and North Korea, so too is the credibility of the Commander in Chief tied up, to a large extent, with America’s credibility in general. There’s no doubt about that. So let me repeat: I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with this President or any other in any case where our vital national security interests are threatened, our treaty allies are attacked, or we face an imminent threat.
“As for Israel, very few people, if anyone, expect that Syria would test its readiness to respond on its own, which just goes to show you the importance of credibility on the world stage. As Prime Minister Netanyahu put it last week, the enemies of Israel have very good reason not to test its might. But the Prime Minister should know nonetheless that America stands with him.
“I have never been an isolationist. And a vote against this resolution shouldn’t be confused by anyone as a turn in that direction. But just as the most committed isolationist could be convinced of the need for intervention under the right circumstances when confronted with a threat, so too do the internationalists among us believe that all interventions are not created equal. And this proposal just does not stand up.
“So I will be voting against this resolution. A vital national security risk is clearly not at play, there are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including the fact that this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there, and on the specific question of deterring the use of chemical weapons, the President’s proposal appears to be based on a contradiction. Either we will strike targets that threaten the stability of the regime — something the President says he does not intend to do — or we will execute a strike so narrow as to be a mere demonstration.
“It is not enough, as General Dempsey has also noted, to simply alter the balance of military power without carefully considering what’s needed to preserve a functioning state after the fact. We cannot ignore the unintended consequences of our actions.
“But we also cannot ignore our broader obligations in the world.
“I firmly believe that the international system that was constructed on the ashes of the Second World War rests upon the stability provided by the American military, and by our commitments to our allies. It’s a necessary role that only we can continue to fulfill in the decades to come. And especially in times like this, the United States cannot afford to withdraw from the world stage. My record reflects that belief, and that commitment, regardless of which party has controlled the White House. We either choose to be dominant in the world, or we resign ourselves and our allies to the mercy of our enemies. We either defend our freedoms and our civilization, or it crumbles.
“So as we shift our military focus to the Asia Pacific, we cannot ignore our commitments to the Middle East, to stability in the Persian Gulf, to an enduring presence in Afghanistan, to hunting down the terrorists that would threaten the United States and its people. And when the Commander in Chief sets his mind to action, the world should think he believes in it. Frankly, the President didn’t exactly inspire confidence when he distanced himself from his own red lines in Stockholm last week.
“It is long past time this President drops the pose of the reluctant warrior — and lead. You can’t build an effective foreign policy on the vilification of your predecessor alone. At some point, you have to take responsibility for your own actions, and see the world the way it is, not the way you’d liked it to be.
“If you wish to engage countries that have been hostile, so be it. But be a realist. Know the limits of rhetoric, and prepare for the worst.

“For too long, this President has put his faith in the power of his own rhetoric to change the minds of America’s enemies. For too long, he’s been more interested in showing the world that America is somehow different now than it has been in the past. It’s humbler. It isn’t interested in meddling in the affairs of others or in shaping events.
“But in his eagerness to turn the page, he’s blinded himself to worrisome trends and developments from Tunisia to Damascus to Tehran, and in countless places in between. 
“A year ago this month, four Americans were senselessly murdered on sovereign U.S. territory in Benghazi. And just last month, the President ordered the closing of more than two-dozen diplomatic posts stretching from West Africa to the Bay of Bengal. As I’ve indicated, and as the decision to close these embassies clearly shows, the terrorist threat is real. Expressions of anti-Americanism are rampant throughout Africa and the Middle East, even more so now perhaps than when the President first took office.
“So the President’s new approach has clearly come with a cost. And for the sake of our own security and that of our allies, it’s time he recognized it. Because if America doesn’t meet its international commitments, who will? That’s one question that those on the Left who are comfortable with a weakened America can’t answer, because the answer is too frightening.

“No one will.
“If this episode has shown us anything, it’s that the time has come for the President to finally acknowledge that there’s no substitute for American might. It is time for America to lead again, this time from the front. But we need strategic vision, in the Middle East and in many other places around the world, to do it.”

McConnell Opposes Syria Strike

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell gave a truly brilliant speech today outlining why he opposes the administration's request for an authorization of force to bomb Syria -- including a shout out to Kentuckians who in recent days have not been shy about voicing to him their deep skepticism of the proposed strike.

 This speech was presidential in the quality of the rhetoric, statesmanlike in the way he set the context and outlined his reasoning.  In many ways, the speech seemed like a well-crafted judicial opinion. McConnell laid out the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and then explained the standard by which he made his decision:  the use of chemical weapons in Syria did not threaten America or any of our treaty allies.

McConnell schooled Obama for five years of incoherent foreign policy, beginning with the Obama Apology Tour. His criticism of how Obama has conducted America's relations with the rest of the world was just scathing, particularly for the precise, methodical way McConnell built his case. And McConnell castigated Obama's "ham-fisted roll out" of the proposed strike, saying "you don't send a save the date card before you attack," to paraphrase.

His opposition to the request for authorization to strike Syria should not be read to mean that McConnell is now an isolationist.  To the contrary, he emphasized that he considers himself an internationalist; he made the case for American exceptionalism in Reaganesque terms. The problem here (aside from Obama's sheer incompetence) is that the proposed strike is unlinked to any broader strategy to protect or promote America's interests.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't Strike Syria Yet

Watching President Obama's Saturday presser was alike a re-run from Welcome Back Carter.  One could imagine our enemies guffawing, our allies wincing as our president tries to walk back his own red line:  an ad lib that has elevated the presidential teleprompter to national security lynch-pin.

Obama was right to call for a vote, but not for the reason he called it.  The Constitutional Conservatives, in my view, have won the debate about the need for Congress to declare war before the president wages war.

That is not why Obama is seeking a vote; this a grandiose exercise in covering the presidential derriere. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, and regardless of what he does in response to that vote, Obama has positioned himself to blame Congress. One wonders, listening to Obama, whether he believes himself:  he interrupts our Labor Day weekend to inform us of an urgent situation that warrants a Congressional vote in ten days or so, not that he needs a vote. Then he hits the links.

The process of Congressional hearings, however, can help us as a nation to understand a situation that mystifies many of us. This may be a function of a press that never had the inclination to scrutinize anything this administrations says. Or it may be that the intelligence is just that incomplete. It is time to find out.

There are many questions about Syria that need to be answered before this country takes any military action -- no matter how limited in scope or duration.  The use of chemical weapons to kill women and children -- who can forget those photographs? The images, the acts that resulted in them, were simply monstrous. Yet, as I watch the news coverage, I am unconvinced that the Assad regime gassed these victims.  It may well have, but it appears that the rebels have chemical weapons as well. That gives rise to a reasonable doubt as to who is culpable. If we don't know who is responsible for the use of chemicals, we cannot be sure that our use of force would punish the perpetrators.

Then there is the issue of  the rebels.  Some pundits maintain that the opponents to the Assad regime are "moderates" -- that the al Qaeda types, in contrast, are in the north of Syria (and presumably could not have gassed the women and children). Rebels don't stay still; that's why the situation is -- literally -- fluid.

Who are the good guys in Syria?  (Are there any good guys?) Who are the bad guys?  It seems to me that there are bad guys on both sides of the Syrian war, and that rather than trying to pick the lesser of two evils, we should wait for now.

Congressional hearings may convince me otherwise. Those hearings need to be thorough and searching. Unless they reveal something new, my preference is that Congress deny the authorization of force at this time.  I am unconvinced that America's national security requires a strike now.  I am fearful that a strike may harm more civilians. And I fear that a strike will prompt retaliation aimed at Israel, at which point we might find ourselves in the middle of a regional, maybe even global war.

Some argue that American prestige will suffer unless Obama wins this vote. It is too late for that. Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world has taken the full measure of Obama. No Congressional vote can change that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Matt Bevin to Play Gatsby!

The latest McConnell attack ad on Matt Bevin does the most damage so far with the revelation that Bevin falsely claimed on his LinkedIn profile that he had received a degree from M.I.T. -- like Jay Gatsby claimed he went to Oxford.

The Hill contacted M.I.T., which says that Bevin was never enrolled there. Bevin then changed his LinkedIn profile to read that his education includes the "School of Life." Whatever that is.

Bevin's campaign released a copy of the "Certificate of Recognition" -- not diploma -- that Bevin says he received from the "EO/Entrepreneurial Masters Program"in 2008.  The "Certificate of Recognition" includes the M.I.T. logo.

"Certificate of Recognition"?  This sounds like something my kids received for participating in U-6 soccer. The reference to the "Masters Program," on the other hand, plainly connotes an M.B.A.

 Bevin describes the programs as located on the M.I.T. "Endicott Campus."  M.I.T. does not have an "Endicott Campus," according to the  M.I.T. spokesperson interviewed by the The Hill -- just a building called Endicott. So if those individuals who put this program on had met at a Starbuck's near M.I.T., that would have been the M.I.T. "Starbuck's Campus."

Bevin's campaign contends that McConnell is "childish" to criticize Bevin for lying about where he went to school. Apparently the theory is that lots of people puff up their resumes, so who cares? This, of course, impugns the integrity of those voters Bevin is attempting to court.

There are two distinct aspects to any resume, the subjective and objective.  There may be room for puffery in the subjective -- perhaps exaggerating one's contribution to a project at work.  These are the parts of a resume, or LinkedIn profile, with which people can legitimately disagree, because it is a matter of opinion and oftentimes unquantifiable.  But that's not what happened with Bevin.

Where Bevin received his education is not subjective. It is an objectively verifiable fact -- one that M.I.T. has soundly refuted.  Bevin has crossed the line from truthiness to deceitfulness

What's truly bizarre about Bevin's assertion that he was educated at M.I.T. is that he went to a very good university, Washington and Lee.  Why make stuff up when you have a degree of which most people would be justifiably proud?

As fine a school as Washington and Lee is,  I can't think of any movies set there. In contrast, Good Will Hunting was set at M.I.T.  Maybe Matt Bevin was channelling another Matt who became a star on the set at M.I.T.:  Matt Damon.

Or perhaps the answer lies in another part of Bevin's background he doesn't discuss much.  Bevin attended a New England prep school, just like Ryan O'Neil in Love Story.  Now, the Preppy in Love Story went on to Harvard, but hey, M.I.T. is just down the road and those students are allowed to join the Harvard Coop and row crew on the Charles.  The point here is that New England prep schools like Bevin's alma mater, the Gould Academy in Maine, survive because parents see them as pathways to places like Harvard and M.I.T.  Parents aren't paying the $49,500 a year just for the competitive skiing and snow-boarding.

Students in  prep schools like Gould, particularly in New England, must feel a certain pressure to get into schools like M.I.T. In that respect, I get why M.I.T. would have held an irresistible allure for Bevin.

The Gould Academy lists Matt Bevin as a "notable" alum for being a "Businessman and candidate in Kentucky's 2014 Senate Election." After The Hill  put the lie Bevin's M.I.T. education, I bet the Bevin campaign let Gould Academy know about his candidacy -- makes it easier for us skeptics to see whether that part of his education actually occurred.  Memo to the Gould Academy:  Bevin will have to defeat Mitch McConnell in a primary before he will be a candidate in Kentucky's 2014 Senate Election. Might want to correct that notable alum link to state that he's a candidate in the Republican primary of U.S. Senate.

In the meantime, Bevin's M.I.T. charade makes me think of two Kentuckians who desperately wanted to attend M.I.T. next month and did not get in, despite perfect scores on the ACT.  I think of those two Kentuckians and any and every child who did not get into his first choice school, and who felt his heart sink at receiving a skinny envelope with a rejection letter instead of the fat envelope with the course catalogue.

As adults, we should encourage students that they can be not just successful but fabulous without admission to M.I.T. or whatever the dream school was.  The last thing we want to say, or model, is no worries; you can attend a bogus seminar there and still put it on your resume.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Congress Exempts Self From Obamacare Exchange?

This just sickens me with disappointment and disgust.  That deal Obama negotiated to exempt Members of Congress and staff from the Obamacare Exchange -- and the big price increase -- was a bipartisan deal.

How could Republicans have been so politically tone-deaf?  So elitist? So detached from the fact that their constituents will soon be suffering under Obamacare, while their elected leaders cut themselves a deal to be exempt?

Sen. David Vitter gets it, but he seems to be the only one.  Writing for the D.C. Examiner,

After intense and, sadly, bipartisan lobbying and scheming in Washington, the Obama administration announced that it is creating out of thin air a special rule to ease the pain of Obamacare -- for Washington only.

You see, a specific provision of the Obamacare law says that all Members of Congress and their staffs have to procure their health care coverage on the Obamacare Exchange, just like tens of millions of Americans. This was causing mounting fear and loathing in Washington because it threatened real disruption and significantly increased expenses. No problem, the new administration rule fixes that and ensures that a huge, special taxpayer-funded subsidy will follow the ruling class to the Obamacare Exchange to take any sting out.

Even worse, as Vitter points out, is that Congress and its staff will get a taxpayer-funded subsidy of $5,000 for individuals or $10,000 for families.  It['s not just that Congress won't be able to "feel our pain;" we are paying for them to enjoy that privilege. 
It's like we are living in the Hunger Games: life is better in the Capitol.  Or as Vitter put it, 
this is exactly what America hates most about Washington. Washington constantly treats itself better, exempts itself from the laws it imposes on middle-class Americans, and thus sets itself up as a privileged ruling class.
It is one thing for Republicans to disagree about whether the symbolism of a vote to defund Obamacare is worth the political fallout of shutting down the government.  The reality is that until Republicans control the Senate and have a veto proof majority in the House, we cannot repeal Obamacare.  There is a broad consensus among Republicans that Obamacare must go; the disagreement is about the tactics to  to accomplish that goal.

It is quite another, however, for Republicans to join Democrats in insulating themselves from the pain that this foolish law will inflict on the rest of us.  Worse yet, this deal was not subject to a vote. Not only is there the lack of accountability due to the lack of a vote, it feels undemocratic -- particularly since the Affordable Care Act specifically provided that Members of Congress would be subject to it.  The deal, in essence, repeals a little tiny portion of Obamacare, but does so without a vote.

Congress should be subject to the laws it passes. Even the really stupid laws, like Obamacare.  It's that simple.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Matt Bevin Lacked an Invite?

Matt Bevin tells Pure Politics that the reason he didn't attend any of the Republics events leading up to Fancy Farm is that no one invited him.

Memo to Matt:  the Friday night dinner and the Saturday morning breakfast were posted on the RPK website. (Perhaps you've heard of it? The "R" stands for Republican.) Tickets were available at the door.  The dinner was so loosely structured that several speakers, stage legislators, were asked to speak only upon their arrival.

More than 400 people made it to the breakfast. Even the Lamestream Media.  The point here is not just to hear the speakers but to meet the people who actually get out the vote, all over the state.

Sen,  Rand Paul has said, many times, that he could not have won but for the rank and file Republicans who backed him in the general election. I don't see Bevin making it to the general in this race, but he is a young man; there could be other races. And to that end he ought to stop waiting for an engraved invitation to party events for which us common folk look to the party web site.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fancy Farm Pictures

Senator McConnell and Secretary Chao

"George Washington"

A group of McConnell supporters

Team Mitch

McConnell supporters chanting for the repeal of Obamacare

Fancy Farm 2013

The Courier-Journal overstated the number of McConnell supporters who rode on buses.  In the first place, four, not five buses were planned; if there was a fifth, it was likely due to overflow -- a good problem for Team Mitch.  Secondly, roughly half of the Republicans present did not ride the bus.  A fair number who drove separately did leave after listening to Matt Bevin, but not because their ride was pulling out.  More out of disgust or indifference.

The Democrats who came were mostly dressed in chartreuse union shirts.  Not only were there way less Democrats than Republicans, the Democrats were quite a bit older.

Tackiest moment of the whole day:  when the Democrats booed former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.  Democrats wage a war on women, they just pick and choose who to go after.  Apparently an American success story, who immigrated here at age eight, speaking no English, graduated from Harvard Business school and was appointed to serve our president in the cabinet, that's the sort of women Democrats want to wage war on, because she has the gall to step off the Feminist reservation and think for herself.

The speeches generally were geared to minimize gaffes.  Every speaker was very aware that their opponent would like nothing better than to seize upon a clip for a future opposition ad.  Rule changes similarly reduced the antics of Fancy Forms of yore.  For example, the rule that prohibits props -- that stems from McConnell bringing a giant cut-out of Bill Clinton on stage and daring any Democratic candidate to come have a picture taken with Bill. (Stupidly, one did, resulting in the election of Congressman Ed Whitfield.)

McConnell's speech correctly framed his election in national terms:  it is not about who represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate but rather who runs the Senate.  He's right about that.   If Alision Lundergan Grimes wins, Harry Reid will almost certainly be Majority Leader.  And if Matt Bevin wins the primary, AL-G will win the general, again making Harry Reid Majority Leader.  We saw what happened in the first two years of the Obama administration, when Dems controlled the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.  That's when they muscled through Obamacare (without even reading the bill prior to the Christmas Eve vote).  We cannot allow them to control the Congress. Because McConnell has been the firewall in the Senate, his defeat is the Democrats number one priority this election cycle.

Grimes's speech was much uglier than I had expected.  For all her talk about not wanting to be bullied, she is a mean girl.  Elaine Chao shook her head in disgust as Grimes misrepresented McConnell's record.  Note to Grimes:  saying no to a bad idea is called wisdom and courage.  The teenager who tells his car mates that it's not a good idea to race the train could be called an obstructionist. He could also be called a hero.  McConnell has stood up to the train wreck that is Obamacare from its inception, as he has stood up to all the other steps Obama would take to turn us into Greece.

As far as the other speeches by elected officials, Ed Whitfield's was outstanding.  He methodically attacked the Obama administration's war on coal and tied Grimes to it. He's right. Grimes's personal views about coal are beside the point, because if she is elected, Harry Reid will be able to bring regulations to the Senate floor that will cripple what is left of Kentucky's coal industry.

Jack Conway's speech, to my mind, was the worst.  Recall that the No Profanity Rule at Fancy Farm was instituted because Jack Conway at a previous Fancy Farm boasted that he was "one tough son of a bitch."  Not real genteel for a church picnic.  Conway didn't curse this time, he just boasted.  He lauded his record ad nauseum  Clearly he is running for governor.  And clearly, he is a narcissist of the highest order.  He also looked angry; still bitter not be be a U.S. Senator, maybe.

Matt Bevin's speech came second to last. Remaining Republicans from Team Mitch sat in polite but stony silence at first and then began to quietly leave.  Plainly, Bevin is a smart, articulate guy.  His few supporters (maybe two dozen)  shook cow bells that Bevin's Connecticut company made -- the one that took the bailout.  This was in violation of the Fancy Farm rule, announced at the beginning, and not particularly effective.  Bevin, like Grimes, pulled no punches in attacking McConnell.  At one point, he appealed to the Democrats to applaud his attacks on McConnell, saying "we're on the same page here."  (Note to Republicans: remember that line.)  Democrats mostly seemed unconvinced.

The net effect of the combined attacks on McConnell by Grimes and Bevin reminded me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears:  one bed was too long, one bed was too short, but the third bed was just right. Grimes complained that McConnell was too right wing and Bevin complained that McConnell was not right wing enough.

As best I could tell, the only Democrat who spoke to mention the name Obama was some crank at the end who is challenging Grimes in the primary.  For all the other Democrats, Obama was He Who Must Not Be Named.  What a pity McConnell couldn't bring a cardboard cutout of Obama on stage for the Democrats to come be photographed.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Unintended Consequences of a Grime's Candidacy

Just when we could no longer take the suspense:  Alison Lundergan Grimes has announced that she will challenge Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. She wants to bring those speedy powers of analysis and decision-making she used to decide to run and go to Washington, where she can perform "due diligence" by wringing her hands and mulling over some really tough decisions.

Grimes will get a decent amount of the votes, certainly 45 percent. Democrats still maintain their registration advantage here.

 And her daddy's buddy, Bill Clinton, will see that she has a reasonable amount of money, but probably not the $20 plus million that McConnell will raise. But Grimes cannot self-fund. Her candidacy, therefore, will siphon off Democratic dollars that are needed in other Senate races around the country. This may have the unintended consequence of giving Republicans the seats necessary to make McConnell majority leader.

Grimes's advantage: her youth and gender. The flip side of youth, however, is inexperience -- the perfect foil to McConnell's seniority.

This is a small, poor state, and Kentuckians are justifiably proud of the fact that the most important senator in the country represents Kentucky. Indeed, many would say that the two most powerful senators in the country both represent Kentucky.

The most tedious part about the Grimes candidacy is that we will have to listen, for months, to her prattle about the so-called Republican War on Women. Time to vote with our Lady Parts and all that.

Meanwhile, Obamacare is unraveling even before its implementation. And Obama has chosen to take a weak economy and further harm it by ratcheting up his War on Coal. Grimes should ask (former Congressman) Ben Chandler how that issue worked out. By taking on the coal industry just days before she announced, Obama has increased the number of Republicans who will vote fore McConnell in the eastern and western parts of the state. He has made her election less likely. Surely Grimes knows this; perhaps she hopes to perform well enough to clear a path not to Washington, but to the Governor's Mansion.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Just Start Over On Immigration

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Brilliant) made a great point on Fox yesterday about the sheer size of the immigration bill: why does the Senate persist in filing these enormous bills?  Whether it's immigration or Obamacare, no bill should be 1,000 pages. The sheer size destroys transparency.

There might be a few senators who will read a bill that large, but very, very few. And they shouldn't have to.

As with Obamacare, why not start with something discrete and capable of wielding a broad consensus, even unanimity. Health care reform should have started with the issue of the need for Americans with preexisting condition to obtain health insurance.  Despite the MSM's obfuscation on the point, I am aware of no Republican who opposes providing health insurance to those who have preexisting conditions.

Likewise, with immigration, there should be unanimity on the need to secure the boarder. So start with a narrow piece of legislation that accomplishes just that.  Then move on to something else. At the very least, it would force anyone who truly does oppose securing the boarder to go on the record with a vote that so states.

If the Congress picked the low-hanging fruit of those problems for which the solution is obvious, than at least something would get done. Save the divisiveness for those issues that are more complex, more intractable.

Friday, June 21, 2013

McConnell Calls Out Obama Administration's Threats to Free Speech

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has spent his career defending the First Amendment. I had forgotten, however, that last June he warned of the Obama administration's efforts to stifle speech on the right, and particularly to misuse governmental policy to target conservative groups and individuals. In short, McConnell warned us of the thuggery we now know as the IRS scandal, an entire year before the scandal broke.

McConnell did this in his speech last June at the American Enterprise Institute.  Today, he returned to that topic with another blockbuster speech at AEI. McConnell points out that Obama did not need to call up the IRS Commissioner and order the targeting of conservative groups; Obama and his progressive allies have been very public and very clear about the need to silence "shadowy" conservative groups.

McConnell puts Citizens United into historical context.  He's correct:  the decision fits comfortably within established First Amendment case law -- such as not forcing the NAACP to disclose its membership.

Further, McConnell notes the destructive effect of government unions and calls for a national debate on the issue. Again, he's right:  government unions have been a 50 year mistake that has contributed to the unrestrained growth of government, a deficit that forces to destroy us, and a culture of arrogant corruption that the IRS scandal exemplifies.

I was going to excerpt McConnell's speech.  But it is just too good for that. Read the whole thing:

Last June, I stood here and warned of a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment. That threat has not let up. Our ability to freely engage in civic life and to organize in defense of our beliefs is still under coordinated assault from groups on the Left that don’t like the idea of anyone criticizing their aims, and from a White House that appears determined to shut up anybody who challenges it.

On the outside, there’s a well-documented effort by a number of Left-wing groups like Media Matters to harass and intimidate conservatives with the goal of scaring them off the political playing field and off the airwaves.

An internal Media Matters memo from January 2010 showed the extent to which these tactics have been turned into a science. In it, we learned of the group’s plan to conduct opposition research into the lives of on-air news personalities and other key decision makers at Fox News, and to coordinate with 100 or so partner groups to pressure the network’s advertisers and shareholders, get this, “by the threat of actual boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, shame, embarrassment and other tactics on a variety of issues important to the progressive agenda.”

Its multiple databases could also be used, the memo said, to remove what it describes as “chronically problematic media figures,” or “to preempt programming” … altogether.

Then, of course, there’s the widespread effort to stifle speech from within the government itself, something the Obama Administration has been engaged in from its earliest days.

Some have traced this back even further, to the 2008 campaign. But my central point last June, and my central point today, is this: the attacks on speech that we’ve seen over the past several years were never limited to a few Left-wing pressure groups or the DISCLOSE Act, which I’ll turn to in a minute. They extend throughout the federal government, to places like the FEC, the FCC, HHS, the SEC, and as all Americans now know — even to the IRS. These assaults have often been aided and abetted by the administration’s allies in Congress. And they’re as virulent as ever.

As for the IRS, my own concerns trace back to a phone call I got from a constituent early last year, who said he’d been subjected to excessive questioning and unreasonable deadlines from the IRS. When similar complaints followed, I sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Shulman asking for assurances that there wasn’t any political targeting going on. I said public confidence in the IRS depended on it. Six weeks later I got a lengthy response from the Deputy Commissioner, Steven Miller, in which he basically told me “move along, nothing to see here.”

Well, now we know that wasn’t the case.
Now we know that the IRS was actually engaged in the targeted slow-walking of applications by conservatives, and others who were, get this, criticizing “how the country [was] being run.” It overwhelmed them with questions and paperwork, and in some cases initiated audits on folks that had never been audited before.

In one case, an IRS agent allegedly demanded that the board members of an Iowa pro-life group sign a declaration that they wouldn’t picket Planned Parenthood. Several pro-Israel groups have said that they were singled out by the IRS for audits after clashing with the administration over its policy on settlements.
Then there’s the story of Catherine Engelbrecht.

Catherine says that after applying for tax-exempt status for a voter-integrity group called True the Vote, she and her husband were visited by the FBI, the ATF, OSHA, and an affiliate of the EPA. When all was said and done, OSHA told the Engelbrecht’s they had to cough up $25,000 in fines. The EPA affiliate demanded they spend $42,000 on new sheds. And three years after applying for tax-exempt status, True the Vote is still awaiting approval.

The list of stories like these goes on and on. And so now we have an administration that’s desperately trying to prove that nobody at the top was involved in any of this stuff, even as they hope that the media loses interest in this scandal and moves on.

But we can’t move on.

Because as serious as the IRS scandal is, what we’re dealing with here is larger than the actions of one agency or any group of employees. This administration has institutionalized the practice of pitting bureaucrats against the very people they’re supposed to be serving, and it needs to stop.
The good news is, more people are beginning to catch on.

When I warned about all this last year, I got slammed by the usual suspects on the Left. They said I was full of it. But even some of them now seem to realize that just because McConnell’s the one pulling the alarm doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire. The IRS scandal has reminded people of the temptations to abuse that big government, and its political patrons, are prone to. People are waking up to a pattern. They’re connecting the dots. And they’re rightly troubled.

Looking back, the IRS scandal helps explain a lot of the things this administration has done. You all remember the President wagging his finger at the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union address. Well, I assure you this little piece of presidential theater wasn’t done for the ratings. There was a good reason the President and his allies devoted so much time and energy to denouncing the Citizens United case. But it’s not the reason they gave. I realize this may be shocking to some of the interns in the crowd. But the fact is, the Court’s decision was actually fairly unremarkable.

All it really said was that, under the First Amendment, every corporation in America should be free to participate in the political process, not just the ones that own newspapers and TV stations. In other words, there shouldn’t be a carve-out when it comes to political speech for folks who own media companies. It was a good and fair decision aimed at leveling the playing field.

The real reason the Left was so concerned about Citizens United was that they thought it meant more conservatives would start to form what are known as social welfare organizations — something they’d been doing, with groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club, for years. And what’s notable about social welfare groups is they don’t have to disclose their donors.

That was the main concern of the President and his allies. They weren’t interested in the integrity of the process. If they were, they’d have been just as upset at Left-wing groups for maintaining the privacy of their donors. What they really wanted was a hook that enabled them to stir up outrage about conservative groups, so they could get their hands on the names of the folks who supported them — and then go after them. Citizens United provided that hook.

As a longtime political observer and First Amendment hawk, I knew exactly what the Democrats were up to with their complaints about this decision. I’ve seen what the loudest proponents of disclosure have intended in the past, and it’s not good government. That’s why the FEC has protected the donor lists of the Socialist Worker’s Party since 1979. That’s also why the Supreme Court told the State of Alabama it couldn’t force the NAACP to disclose the names and addresses of its members back in the 1950s.

The President could claim, as he did six months after wagging his finger at the Supreme Court, that “the only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.” But the fact is, there’s a very good and legitimate reason that courts have protected folks from forced disclosure — because they know that failing to do so would subject them to harassment.

So the political response to Citizens United, the so-called DISCLOSE Act, wasn’t really about cleaning up politics: It was about finding a blunt political weapon to use against one group and one group only: conservatives. Those who doubt this haven’t been paying attention to the tactics of the Left. They must not have noticed the stories about top administration officials holding weekly phone calls with groups like Media Matters. They clearly don’t know their history. And they must not have noticed the enemies list of conservative donors on the Obama campaign’s Web site. Or the strategic name-dropping of conservative targets by the President’s campaign team.

These folks were talking about the Koch Brothers so much last year you’d think they were running for President. About six months after the President berated the Supreme Court, he even went so far as to call out Americans for Prosperity by name. It was like sending a memo to the IRS that said “audit these guys”.
All these things together point to a coordinated effort to stifle speech. And that’s why one of the most enduring lessons from the IRS scandal comes from the timeline.

Based on the IG report, we now know that a team of IRS specialists was tasked with isolating conservatives for scrutiny as early as March 2010. What matters isn’t whether they were doing it in Washington or Cincinnati — or Duluth, for that matter. What really matters is that it coincided with a very public campaign by the President, and a small army of Left-wing allies in and out of government, to vilify anyone who had recently formed a group around conservative causes.

What happened before this targeting began is just as important as what happened after.
What matters here was the atmosphere; what matters is the culture of intimidation this President and his allies created around any person or group that spoke up for conservatism — or against the direction the President and his administration wanted to take us.

The so-called “special interests,” he said, would “flood” the political process, with money that might be coming from “foreign entities.” “The problem”, he said, “is nobody knows” who’s behind these groups. They were “shadowy.” They might even be “foreign controlled”. These were the kinds of unsubstantiated claims the President and his allies trafficked in from early 2010 right up through the election, and they were just as reckless and preposterous as Harry Reid saying Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes in 10 years. They may have been wrapped in the appealing rhetoric of disclosure, but make no mistake: the goal was to win at any cost, and that meant shutting up their opponents in any way they could. So, no, I don’t believe that the President ever actually picked up a phone and told someone over at the IRS to slow-walk those applications or audit anybody. But the truth is, he didn’t have to. The message was clear enough.

But if the message was clear, the medium was also perfectly suited to the cause.
The federal bureaucracy, and in particular the growth of public sector unions, has created an inherent and undeniable tension between those who believe in limited self-government and those who stand to benefit from its growth. Let’s face it, when elected leaders and union bosses tell the folks who work at these agencies that they should view half the people they’re supposed to be serving as a threat to democracy, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that they would. Why would we even expect a public employee — whose union more or less exists to grow the government — to treat someone who opposes that goal to a fair hearing? When the head of the union that represents unionized IRS workers publicly vilifies the Tea Party, is it any wonder that members of her union would get caught targeting them?

This is something liberals used to worry about.

FDR himself was horrified at the idea of public workers conspiring with lawmakers over how to divide up the taxpayer pie. To him, it was completely incompatible with public service for the public to be cut out of a negotiation in which the two sides are bartering over their money. Even the first president of the AFL-CIO once said it was impossible to bargain collectively with the government. Yet that’s exactly what we have today. Over the past several decades, the same public employees who’ve arrogated vast powers to themselves have conspired with their patrons in Congress to expand those powers even more, and to endlessly increase the budgets that finance them. This isn’t done in the interest of serving taxpayers; it’s done in the interest of fleecing them. Because that’s what happens when politicians start competing for the support of public-sector unions – they stop serving the interests of the people who elected them and start serving the interests of a government they’re supposed to be keeping in check.

There’s no better illustration of this than the news this week that in the midst of congressional hearings into their activities, unionized employees at the IRS are about to get $70 million in bonuses. The IRS union is thumbing its nose at the American people. It’s telling them in the clearest terms possible that it doesn’t care about this scandal, or how well government works, or how well it’s serving the public. All it cares about is helping union workers get theirs. It’s pure arrogance, and it reflects a sense of entitlement better suited to an aristocracy than to a nation of constitutional self-government. So it’s increasingly appropriate to ask whose interests these public sector unions have in mind — the taxpayers’, or their own. And on this question, I’m with Jonah Goldberg: public sector unions are a 50-year mistake.

Years ago, I saw the dangerous potential for collusion between lawmakers and public employee unions when I served as County Executive of Jefferson County, Kentucky. And I fought hard against the formation of public sector unions. At the time, there was bipartisan agreement on this issue. Most people realized it wasn’t in the public interest. But unfortunately the appeal of union support proved too great for some, and shortly after I was elected to the Senate, the dam of resistance broke, ushering in the same destructive arrangement that’s been gutting the finances of other cities across the country.

The existence of public-employee unions is without question a big part of the reason people have so little trust in government these days. They are the reason so many state and local municipalities are flat broke. They’re behind the unsustainable expansion of public pensions. They’re a major problem, and today I’m calling for a serious national debate about them.

On the federal level, the first thing we should do is stop the automatic transfer of union dues from employee salaries at the taxpayer’s expense. If the unions want their dues, it should be incumbent on them, not us, to pay for it.

So the assault on free speech continues, and it’s clearly an uphill battle, but if we’re alert to the tactics of the Left, and take these assaults one by one, I’m confident we’ll beat them back.

Let me give you a couple final examples of what I’m talking about. Right now, there’s an effort over at the FCC to get groups that buy campaign ads to disclose their supporters. This is utterly irrelevant to the mission of the FCC. We need to say so. The SEC is under pressure right now to force publicly-traded companies into disclosing all their political spending, even though it has no core interest in knowing what political causes companies support. This proposal doesn’t protect shareholders, and it doesn’t lead to better corporate governance. We need to call this stuff out.

For the Left, this isn’t about good government or corporate governance, it’s about winning at all costs – even if that means shredding the First Amendment.

And that’s why we need to be vigilant about every one of these assaults. They may seem small and isolated in the particular, but together they reflect a culture of intimidation that extends throughout the government — a culture abetted by a bureaucracy that stands to benefit from it.

The moment a gang of U.S. Senators started writing letters last year demanding the IRS step in and force more disclosure upon conservative groups, we all should have cried foul.

The moment the White House proposed a draft order requiring applicants for government contracts to disclose their political affiliations, we all should have called them out.

When the HHS Secretary told insurance companies they couldn’t tell their customers how Obamacare would impact them, we all should have pulled the alarm.

And as soon as we realized that Left-wing groups were manufacturing a public outcry for corporate disclosure at the SEC, we should have exposed it for what it was.

There might be some folks out there waiting for a hand-signed memo from President Obama to Lois Lerner to turn up. What I’m saying is that a coordinated campaign to use the levers of government to target conservatives and stifle speech has been in full swing and open view for years. It’s been carried out by the same people who say there’s nothing more to the DISCLOSE Act than transparency, and no more to other disclosure regulations than good government.

But the IRS scandal puts the lie to all this posturing.

Because now we know what happens when government gets its hands on this kind of information, when it’s able to isolate its opponents. And whether you’re a pro-Israel group, or a Tea Party organization in Louisville, they can make your life miserable. Even worse for democracy, they can force you off the political playing field …which is really what they want, and precisely what we cannot allow. There are a lot of important questions that remain to be answered about the IRS scandal. But let’s not lose sight of the larger scandal that’s been right in front of us for five years: a sitting president who simply refuses to accept the fact that the public isn’t going to applaud everything he does.

So my plea to you today is that you call out these attacks on the First Amendment whenever you see them, regardless of the target. Because the right to free speech doesn’t exist to protect what’s popular. It exists to protect what’s unpopular. And the moment we forget that is the moment we’re all at risk. If liberals can’t compete on a level playing field, they should think up better arguments. But until they do, we need to be vigilant, and fight every assault on the First Amendment with everything we’ve got.

The only way to beat a bully is to fight back. So be wise to the ways of the Left, and never give an inch when it comes to free speech.