Friday, August 28, 2015

I Like Whitney Westerfield's Odds

Everyone knew the Kentucky Attorney General's race would be tough for Republicans. Gov. Steve Beshear's been shaking down people to give to his son Andy for long time and to great success. However, money is not everything, even in an election.

I have finally met Whitney Westerfield and was very impressed. He struck me as quite bright. And like the best lawyers, he is creative. He has an excellent grasp of the issues and a good political instinct. He's personable.

This is the only competitive AG race in the country this year, so the Republican Attorney General's Association is poised to spend several millions here. For that to happen, Whitney needs to raise his share.

Once RAGA gets involved, Beshear's fundraising advantage will be cancelled out. With a level playing field, this is a winnable race for Republicans; Kentucky is now a red state.

It's time for Republicans to dig deep and support him.  Andy Beshear does not have to be inevitable any more than Hillary Clinton needs to be inevitable. But the election is fast approaching. Whitney needs money yesterday.

For those Republicans who have not been energized by this election, you need to meet and then donate to Whitney. Likewise for my friend Allison Ball, who is running for Treasurer. It really encourages me about the future of the Republican Party of Kentucky with such strong candidates in the down-ticket races.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Donald Channels Henry VIII

In case you missed my Courier-Journal column yesterday, here it is:

he narrative for this presidential election was supposed to be about which competing political dynasty would get to crown its heir.
This “inevitability” narrative is belied by the thousands who flock to hear Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Apparently Trump and Sanders did not get the memo about Bush and Clinton having a lock on the nomination.
Meanwhile, Bush and Clinton, like King Louis XVI or Tsar Nicholas II, are in denial. The excitement for Trump and Sanders reflects lack of enthusiasm for both heirs apparent. Both are waiting for their respective nemesis to self-destruct and for the peasants to wake up. It’s hard to see how that is a winning strategy, but we are nonetheless assured that Clinton and Bush remain as certain as death and taxes.
During the recent Republican debate, Jeb looked like he was having about as much fun as King George III reading the Declaration of Independence. Nor does Hillary seem to enjoy campaigning, evading reporters and questions about servers (and not the kind who pass canap├ęs for Jerry Lundergan).
Jeb and Hillary give the impression that they are running due to a sense of duty sprung from a sense of entitlement. They convey no passion for the position they seek or pleasure in the process to obtain it. As candidates, they are joyless. Voters should do them the favor of sparing them the burden of governing.
Watching Clinton and Bush campaign harkens back to Sen. Teddy Kennedy’s failed candidacy and his interview with Roger Mudd in 1979. When asked why he wanted to be president, Kennedy stuttered and flailed as his chances evaporated. His famous last name was an insufficient justification for a presidential campaign. Nostalgia for Camelot and kinship in a political royal family was not enough.
Neither Jeb nor Hillary has self-destructed the way Kennedy did; there has been no dramatic moment when it all went wrong. There have been no dramatic moments whatsoever. Maybe that’s why the prospect of a Bush-Clinton election feels so stale. Regardless of how one views Bill Clinton, or Bush 41, or George W. Bush, America need not and should not recycle our leaders from the same few families. It’s the electoral equivalent of inbreeding.
Jeb enthusiasts argue that the presence of another Clinton on the ballot negates the dynasty issue for him. No doubt Hillary’s supporters give her the same assurance about Jeb. But two dynasties running against each other doesn’t take away the issue, it just robs the American voters of fresh blood.
It starts looking like the War of the Roses, with the Yorks fighting the Lancasters for the British throne. The War of the Roses ended with the establishment of the House of Tudor, which drew from the competing dynasties to start a new one. Maybe that’s why Trump, who has donated to both parties, is so optimistic about his prospects.
Donald Trump does resemble Henry (Tudor) VIII, starting with the strawberry blonde hair. There is a similar swagger, a similar propensity to flaunt wealth with glamorous excess, a refusal to be bound by rules, tradition or courtesy. Though he never used the term, Henry VIII attacked political correctness centuries before Trump took up that mantle.
Both Trump and Henry VIII appreciated beautiful women, which led to complicated marital histories. To be sure, Trump hasn’t decapitated any of his ex-wives. But he decrees “You’re fired!” with an executioner’s gusto.
And like you know who, Trump has even started taking on the Pope – says he needs to scare the Pope for his own good. As Hillary channels Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe Trump is channeling Henry VIII.
Perhaps that’s why Trump has seized upon illegal immigration as his signature issue: Henry VIII had no tolerance for those Scots who slipped in over the border.
As with Henry VIII, we never know what Trump will do or say from one day to the next. That unpredictability is exhilarating, and terrifying. It’s exactly the opposite of what we get from Jeb or Hillary. It keeps us mesmerized. The notion that Trump will make Jeb and Hillary look like grown-ups is not working. He just makes them look boring.
Trump’s rivals should emulate what he does well. He speaks bluntly about America’s challenges. He believes in American exceptionalism. He does not appease anyone. He has panache. He enjoys campaigning.
But we need a Man (or Woman) For All Seasons with wisdom and gravitas to stand up to him when he goes too far.
The Framers would not want us to pass the presidency between dynasties. Nor would they want to see us elect a president who styles himself as an autocrat. As the Israelites learned in the time of Samuel, think twice before you seek a king.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why Won't Bevin Endorse Rand?

I have tried to respect Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment by not criticizing Matt Bevin.  He won the primary, and I will vote for him as our party's nominee.  The fact that I will vote straight ticket will make it easier.

Bevin's recent refusal to endorse Sen. Rand Paul's presidential bid bothers me enough that I will break the 11th Commandment.

Rand is our native son and Republicans here should back him, including Bevin.  It's a matter of loyalty to our own.

I was particularly disturbed that Bevin sought the opportunity to appear with Rand and then, when asked, declined to endorse Rand. It struck me as ungrateful and discourteous.

If Bevin is going to take the position that he will not endorse anyone, including Rand, then don't appear with Rand.  Indeed, I would be surprised if Rand invites him to appear with him again any time soon.

Is Bevin going to turn down endorsements, since he won't give any?

Bevin doesn't want to be beholden to anyone, and to some reasonable extent, that's laudable.  But independence, taken to an extreme, seems prideful.

That's fine that Bevin doesn't need our money; it frees us up to donate to our outstanding down-ticket candidates. However, Bevin refuses to take advice from longstanding Republicans who sincerely would like to help him win.

 Bevin's a smart guy, but he gives the impression that he thinks he is too smart to listen to anyone. That lack of humility may haunt him.  How will he ever get good people to work in a Bevin administration?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rand Gets His Caucus!

The Central Committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky voted 114 to 37 to hold a caucus in 2016.  It took 98 votes to pass.

That removes the obstacle of Rand Paul's name appearing on the ballot twice, in violation of a Kentucky statute.  At least it removes that obstacle during the primary phase.

RPK Central Committee Requests Secret Ballot

Those members of the Republican Party of Kentucky Central Committee who oppose the caucus should be forced to go on the record. The request for a secret ballot was cowardly.

Leaders don't hid.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Give Rand His Caucus Already

Tomorrow the Central  Committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky will vote again on whether to adopt a caucus format for 2016.  This is necessary to allow Sen. Rand Paul to simultaneously run for president and senator.

Members of the Committee and are muttering about cost. They say they don't want the party to be stuck with the cost of the caucus. (In contrast to a caucus, the party does not have to pay to participate in a primary election.)

The notion that Rand is not good for the money is complete garbage. This is a small state and Kentuckians know Rand.  He is a man of integrity. If he says that he will pay for it and that the party won't get stuck with any costs, his word is his bond. I am appalled that anyone in the party would doubt him on this.

Yes, there was a snafu on the timing of the first round of money being transferred. Nonetheless, he is still good for the money. The party doesn't need the money yet. So why the fuss?

It's true that Rand's fundraising for his presidential campaign has been disappointing recently. That is not true in Kentucky. I went to a fundraiser for him a few months ago that raised $100,000 without the organizers even having to hunt down donors.

As a matter of integrity, Rand will honor his promise to the party. As a matter of political ability, he will be able to raise the money -- whatever the amount. Indeed, some members of the Committee appear intent on exaggerating the potential costs.

I find it very odd that party members want the money up front. When you build a house, you make payments based on the progress of the house; you don't pay the entire cost up front. Similarly, Rand is entitled to make payments as the party demonstrates that it is actually committed to going through with this thing.

It makes no difference whom one is supporting in the presidential primary. Rand Paul is a Kentuckian. Members of his own party should have his back at least to the extent that he can explore his viability as a presidential candidate.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Checking in on Bevin v. Conway

Louisvillians who attended Friday's GLI lunch are still talking about Matt Bevin's stellar performance. Some have said that Bevin is the best extemporaneous speaker they have ever seen.

Bevin contends that if elected, he will be the first Kentucky governor in a generation who is not beholden to anyone. That seems to imply that Bevin is willing to write a significant check to self-fund his campaign.  (He is said to be worth $38 million, $30 million of which is said to be liquid). This explains the curious lack of direct mail solicitations and invitations to Bevin fundraisers.

In addition, the Republican Governors' Association has the opportunity to play a big role in this race given the dearth of off-cycle elections.

That opens up fund-raising possibilites for the down-ticket candidates, who have been quick to seize that opportunity.

At this point, it feels like the race is essentially a toss-up. Bevin could not have asked for a more ideal opponent than Jack Conway. For some reason, the longer that Conway is in the public eye, the more detestable he becomes. He just doesn't wear well.  It's like his expiration date is almost up. Perhaps Conway really hasn't liked being Attorney General or really doesn't like to campaign.

Given the political environment at this point, I'd give the edge to Bevin.

Monday, August 10, 2015

ICYMI: My C-J Column on the Obamacare Tanning Tax

Thanks to the Courier-Journal for giving me permission to print this in its entirety. I chose this topic because it gives people who are not necessarily political -- young women -- a chance to consider the impact of tax policy on their day to day lives. mI was therefore pleased to see that this column was widely-shared on FaceBook. We conservatives need to be on the look-out for issues that appeal to people who don't think of themselves as conservative. That's how we grow the party.

Here's the column;

Democrats could not figure out a way to tax the sunshine, thank God. So they taxed the man-made equivalent: indoor tanning. That tax just turned 5 years old. It has burned consumers and small businesses across the country, including here.
The 10 percent federal tax on indoor tanning was one of the more bizarre inclusions in Obamacare. It generated lots of laughs at the time. Some called it the “Snooki tax” in homage to Jersey Shore. Some speculated that it was a passive-aggressive attack on House Speaker John Boehner’s tawny complexion. One congressman called it “racist” because of its disparate impact on the fair-skinned.
This tax was one of 21 in Obamacare, and one of the first to take effect. It was supposed to do two things: help fund healthcare for the previously uninsured, and reduce skin cancer by deterring indoor tanning. Both of those goals were problematic from the outset.
First, the tanning tax was projected to raise only a fraction of the revenue necessary to pay for Obamacare — pennies on the dollar. Obamacare will cost approximately $2trillion over 10 years. The tanning tax, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, was projected to raise $2.7 billion over that period.
It would never have been enough, even if the projected numbers had been accurate. They were not. Indeed, according to Forbes, the tax has generated only one-third of the revenue projected. Whoops! Look for big premium increases to make up for that shortfall.
Second, the goal of deterring people from indoor tanning smacks of paternalism, as do all sin taxes. Anyone who worries that tanning beds or outdoor tanning will cause skin cancer — which the industry disputes — has the freedom to not tan. Those adults who choose to tan have the same liberty interest. Whatever happened to that Democrat mantra: “my body, my choice”? Surely it applies more here than to the recently exposed atrocities of Planned-Parenthood doctors.
Then there is the issue of the government picking winners and losers. This tax was directed against a specific industry that the elite in power at the time disfavored. This tax replaced one that would have taxed Botox injections and breast augmentations. The only reason that indoor sun tanning is subject to a federal excise tax but Botox and breast augmentations are not is that the latter industries won the lobbying battle. That is, access to power rather than sound public policy dictated the tax imposed.
What bothers me most about the tanning bed tax is its disproportionate effect on women. Tanning customers stuck with the tax are overwhelmingly women: 75 percent. Seventy percent of tanning salons are owned by women. These are small business owners. Their employers, too, are overwhelmingly women: ninety-five percent. (Why, why do the Democrats keep waging a war on women?)
As was predicted at the time of its inclusion into Obamacare, the tax is rapidly killing the indoor tanning industry. Since Obamacare’s enactment, more than 9,000 tanning salons have closed nationwide. As a consequence, 76,000 jobs have been eliminated, according to the American Suntanning Association.
The numbers in Kentucky reflect that trend. Nearly 200 salons have closed here; 1,600 jobs have been lost as a result.
Those who oppose indoor tanning as supposed a way to reduce skin cancer must be delighted with the closing of all these tanning salons.
However, that cannot be squared with the stated rationale of the tax as a means to fund Obamacare for the uninsured. The tax is killing the very industry that it was designed to tap as a source of funds. Obamacare’s goals with respect to the tax are mutually exclusive and contradictory.
Congress is considering a one-page bill to repeal the tanning tax. One page: Nancy Pelosi won’t have to pass it to find out what’s in it, provided she’s willing to read the one page. Maybe someone can read it to her.
The bill has bipartisan support. It’s something that all members of the Kentucky delegation should support (and co-sponsor), because a homegrown Louisville-based company, Sun Tan City, needs it to maintain and expand its franchises.
This is no different than recent legislative efforts to help the hemp industry, or the bourbon industry or the coal industry. Our congressional delegation should look out for Kentucky companies and jobs.
Republicans do not have a veto-proof majority. That means we are stuck with Obamacare for the time being. It cannot be repealed anytime soon. What we can do in the meantime, however, is chip away at it. Let’s fix what we can fix now.
Even some Democrats recognize that the tanning tax was a bad idea that has not lived up to expectations. Kentucky jobs are at stake. Incremental improvement is better than nothing.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Few Quick Thoughts on the Debate

Carly Fiorina plainly belonged at the Big Boys' table, and she will be there next time as a result of her performance last night. The only question:  whom will she displace?  I like her better each time I see her.  She has an intellectual toughness that surpasses most if not all of the other candidates.

In the prime time debate, Ben Carson gained the most, particularly with his last two or three answers. His comments on race were brilliant.  He explained that he doesn't talk about race much because as a neurosurgeon, he looks at people's brains, which determines who they are way beyond the color of our skin. His comment that he would be fortunate if Hillary Clinton is the Democrat nominee was humorously delivered, as was his closing remark that he was the only candidate to have removed half of a person's brain, with an aside that one would have thought that would have already been accomplished among politicians in D.C.

Time doesn't permit me to amplify, but Carson's comments are well worth a look for those who did not see the debate. The man is freaky smart, but humble.  He projects a decency and a sense of humor.  His personal attributes make up for any short-comings in not knowing the answer to Beltway wonk questions that most Americans wouldn't know either.

I thought Rand Paul won the fourth amendment exchange with Chris Christie. Good for Rand for bringing up The Hug. That needed to be said.  In fact, it should be said at every remaining debate in which Christie gets to participate. His opening salvo against pointing out Donald Trump's self-absorption was effective, coming on the heels of Trump's admission that he could not commit at this point to supporting the ultimate Republican nominee if he/she is not Trump.

The Donald. His exchange with Megan Kelly was unnecessary. His pattern is that he makes a good point that gets some applause or some laughter and he keeps going and going until he has crossed into the terrain of did you really just say that?

I was shocked that the New York Times reported that Ted Cruz had about the median amount of air time.  Cruz disappeared during the debate. There seemed to be an effort to freeze him out. He comported himself very well and yet did not seem to be in the mix.

Huckabee, as usual, was earnest and articulate.  His closing -- describing all the negative qualities that everyone assumed applied to the Donald, but then substituting Hillary for punch line -- was outstanding.

John Kasich was repetitive but had some good themes. His response to the gay marriage question was well formed -- not backing away from his "old fashioned" position, as he point it, that marriage is between a man and a woman, but also expressing unconditional love for others who disagree with him just as God has unconditional love for all of us.

It is interesting how little airplay that LGBT issues received during the debate, even though they ranked as number three on the Facebook poll (after race relations and the economy) as important issues for voters. Huckabee was asked a question about transgenders in the military, which he deftly swatted away with the more relevant point that he is more concerned with the soldiers protecting our nation's security than using them to make a social statement. Other than that remark, I don't recall anything else coming up about the topic that the most famous Republican transgendered spotlighted earlier this year.

The social issue with the most prominence was life. It was a recurring theme of many candidates, who seemed invigorated by the recent Planned Parenthood videos to go on the attack of pro-abortion forces.

I could write much more, but the bottom line is that last night's debate was perhaps the most riveting I have seen and the Republican field -- both in the primetime and "kiddie table" debates -- is quite strong.  I'm looking forward to the next round.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So Did You Go to Fancy Farm?

I took a pass, as apparently a lot of people did. My sense was that neither party was all that excited about going. That's because there is a dearth of excitement about each party's respective ticket.

My kids went, and their take was that Sen.Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave the best speech.  They loved the selfie he gave to outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear. Payback for Beshear's tacky stunt last year.

As for those seeking office this year, many thought Allison Joy Ball, Republican candidate for Treasurer, gave a very good speech.  Allison is a consistently good communicator. She is also probably the smartest candidate running for state-wide office this year. She is a real conservative, a nice person and a fighter. Treasurer is sort of a dumb office; it is a waste of her talents. But it is a good place for Allison to get some experience in public service to set her up for a more substantive office in the future.

From what my kids and others tell me, the crowd was mystified by Matt Bevin's speech. The Pledge of Allegiance is a beautiful thing. I am all for it. However, requesting everyone to say it -- not at the beginning of the event, but rather at the beginning of Bevin's speech -- is just odd.

It was also peculiar, and rather petulant, for Bevin to come to Fancy Farm and complain about the coarseness of politics, the silliness of the attacks, and otherwise lecture his audience like he's Miss Manners. Does Bevin think we don't remember his speech last year?   If he's had an epiphany about what should constitute the tone of political discourse, than why go to Fancy Farm at all?

Jack Conway continues his downward spiral as a candidate. The most remarkable thing about Conway is that his talent for campaigning is getting worse over time, with each passing election. That said, he may still win.

I will vote for Bevin. Indeed, I will vote straight ticket. But as I look at our choices for governor, I am reminded of all those many lists in which Kentucky comes in near the bottom. (Thank God for Mississippi).  I am hoping that Bevin can step it up and generate some enthusiasm and a sense of optimism that Kentucky can do better.