Boehner and the Disappearing Art of the Deal

It was easy to miss in yesterday’s flurry of news about indictments and Kevin Spacey, but Politico has published a long and fascinating piece based on 18 hours of interviews with former House Speaker and longtime congressman John Boehner. After 25 years of hard-driving Washington deal-making, Boehner retired from Congress in near-ignominy in 2014, having been driven out in part by ultra-conservative firebrands who didn’t care for some of Boehner’s deals.

The article is full of juicy tidbits about Washington personalities and the machinations that make our government run. But it also sparks a little nostalgia for the old-school Washington politics that are quickly dying out.

Boehner embodied those politics–he knew the art of the deal and understood that, to accomplish anything in Washington, he needed to cultivate relationships with his “enemies” across the aisle. Contrast that with today’s stubborn ideologues who seem to be taking over Congress: to appease their base, they refuse to make even the slightest concession to the other side. To compromise, they think, is to cave in to “evil”–and so the divide between Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, keeps widening and deepening.

These ideologues seem to forget that America is a republic, which means that all voices–no matter how extreme or distasteful–have representation in government. It means that someone whose beliefs are repugnant to you still has a say, and a lot of folks in this entitled generation don’t like that. They want what they want, and they won’t take anything less.

There is plenty to dislike about Boehner and his style of legislating. He’s a mixed bag–just like those old-school Washington politics were, with their cronyism and backroom dealing. But if our “principled” representatives won’t compromise, it ultimately renders the Everyman powerless. Only the powerful who know how to work the system will get a voice, and that power will keep consolidating. And then America won’t look much like America anymore.

The Electoral College is now a national security threat? No, but here’s why we still need it.

How bad is it to want to use “lol” when talking about a commentary on a major media website? Bad. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what comes to mind when reading Politico’s recent absurd attack on the Electoral College.

As usual, when an election doesn’t go their way, the left wants to change things so it will the next time. I’ll distill their argument down for you: the Electoral College needs to finally be done away with because the Russians were able to purchase $100,000 in illegal ads in Wisconsin, which might possibly have persuaded enough voters to give Donald Trump the victory.

Never mind the $200 million spent by the two candidates on advertising. No, it’s the election of Donald Trump, apparently brought to you by the Russians via Facebook that is the latest ax being used to chip away at the Electoral College. Also … wait for it … yes, it’s racist.

As we all know, since Rahm Emmanuel spilled the beans, the left never lets a crisis go to waste. And, knowing that removing the way our Constitution mandates how presidents are elected is a long, uphill battle, they take every opportunity they can to create suspicion and disdain for it in the minds of Americans.

So let’s take a step back and talk about the purpose and necessity of the Electoral College – and why it matters to you – shall we?

A friend recently reminded me that Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” That might be a true statement were it not for the republican form of government.

No system of government will ever be perfect – because people are in charge and people aren’t perfect. But our founders knew, as John Adams pointed out: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” That is why we are a republic and not a democracy.

The Electoral College is an integral part of our form of government. The desire to abolish and replace it with a National Popular Vote is the desire to move us ever closer to direct democracy.

Shouldn’t we have a National Popular Vote, you ask? One person, one vote, after all. We elect everyone else, so it’s only “fair” to directly elect the president, too.

What would elections look like, and how would they change if we switched to a National Popular Vote? Campaigning would immediately and nearly exclusively be relegated to the coasts where the largest population centers are. Nearly all the states within the coastal states would largely be ignored. Many might think, “Good! Keep those filthy politicians away from here.”

But would elections like that be truly representative of the population? Should all subsequent elections be decided by New York, L.A., and a few other cities? And what would politicians do to win votes there? Democrats and too many Republicans already buy votes with giveaways. All politicians would have to outdo one another – by being generous with your money – with promises made for greater and greater largesse to the voters.

And what about recounts? If it’s a close election, how does a nationwide recount sound? Fun, eh? Voter fraud? Scratch that. We definitely have no problem with that whatsoever, and I’m sure it would never, ever occur under a system where only a handful of localities need to be targeted.

In this, as with so many things, the Founders demonstrated their brilliance by giving us the Electoral College. They wanted to ensure that the smaller states would not be ignored and that cities were not given undue attention.

In speaking of government generally, James Madison said it well:  “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

We should tread lightly and be very circumspect when contemplating removing sections of the foundation of our form of government. Incidentally, this is precisely why the Founders mistrusted democracy: because the emotions of the masses could be whipped up and they could make a snap decision – one they might later regret.

Our form of government was intended to cause things to move slowly: to allow passions to cool and level heads to prevail (that was the idea, anyway – it doesn’t happen so much anymore).

As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Whenever you remove any fence, always pause long enough to ask yourself, ‘Why was it put there in the first place?'”

Perhaps we ought to do the same with the Electoral College.

Matthew Nussbaum of Politico Provides Yet Another Example of the Press Undermining Its Own Credibility

I do not know Matthew Nussbaum, but according to Twitter he is a White House reporter for Politico. Last night on Twitter, I noted that the national political press is itself complicit in undermining its freedoms and privileges. The press has given President Trump and others ample evidence of its biases and allowed others to make the case the press is not objective, but agenda driven.

Nussbaum put up two tweets that are relevant to this:

and then this one:

Does he not know how the Senate and the process works? Does he not know that the majority of votes in the Senate are not really partisan votes? Does he not understand that Ben Sasse is more conservative than those other Senators and his votes are a reflection of his conservatism? Notice the “as Trump wants him to” bit. Does he presume Sasse, a man who refused to endorse or support the President right up through the election is suddenly a Trump yes man in the Senate? Has he considered Sasse actually has his own convictions or is reflecting voter wishes? You would not think Nussbaum has considered those from his tweets.

Ben Sasse voting to name a post office really is not aligning himself with President Trump. But if Ben Sasse votes to name a post office and the President signs it into law, that’s data going towards Nussbaum’s 93.6%. Ben Sasse standing up to the President on Venezuela, Jeff Sessions, the budget, etc. sets him apart. Likewise, I would assume Nussbaum would realize that a lot of the President’s agenda that Sasse and other Republicans are opposed to would never even make it to a vote on the Senate floor.

Then there are the nominations, that also go to that 93.6% number. Did Nussbaum really expect Sasse to vote against Gorsuch or other nominees? And let’s use McCain as a comparison. Part of the reason Nussbaum can use people like McCain against Sasse is because McCain is actually more moderate than Sasse and opposed repealing Obamacare. Yes, that means McCain stood up to the President, but then both Sasse and McCain promised to repeal Obamacare and one of them lied to their voters. Hint: it wasn’t Sasse.

What Matthew Nussbaum’s tweets reveal is that he does not know as much about the political process as he might claim and that he also, as a White House reporter covering the President, lacks respect for Sasse for not standing up to the President he covers. At least I think that is the most obvious interpretation of his tweets.

That Matthew Nussbaum, who provides national political coverage of the White House for a reputable news organization, would tweet those two things hints at both his biases and his obliviousness to Washington’s processes. It suggests an open liberal bias that taints his coverage. He ignores that Sasse is standing up to the President consistently on big issues that define a Presidency.

He is providing President Trump ample ammunition with which to further attack the press as political and motivated by partisan politics. He has allowed others the ammunition to attack the press as oblivious.

I really am increasingly convinced Twitter is not a good thing for supposedly objective reporters to participate in unless they can truly figure out how to demonstrate their objectivity.

Politico Goes After Trump for Not Being Fitness-Trainer-in-Chief

I’ve gone on record many times as not the greatest fan of Donald Trump. I’ve been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as president, while at the same time being willing to call balls and strikes on him and his administration.

Nevertheless, the media never cease to amaze me with their incessant nitpicky criticisms of Trump. This time, Politico is going after Trump for his apparent lack of commitment to physical fitness – even going so far as to call him the “least athletic president in generations” in the sub-headline to Ben Strauss’ article.

In the modern history of American presidents, no occupant of the Oval Office has evinced less interest in his own health. He does not smoke or drink, but his fast-food, red meat-heavy diet, his aversion to exercise and a tendency to gorge on television for hours at a time put him at odds with his predecessors.

What’s laughable about Strauss’ criticism of Trump’s love for fast food and penchant for riding in golf carts is that the author plays the comparison game. Sure, past presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush put forth an image of fit masculinity, and Gerald Ford was actually a college football star, but the Democrats that Strauss tried to compare Trump to pale by comparison.

Strauss says Bill Clinton was a jogger, but I recall late night hosts referring to the pudgy president as “President Fatboy.” Barack Obama? Maybe he stayed rail-thin and played hoops in the executive mansion for show, but who can forget his inability to throw a baseball, his riding a bike in mom jeans, or – worst of all – his unrepentant smoking habit.

Most glaringly, Strauss writes of John F. Kennedy’s “youthful vitality even as he secretly took painkillers for his bad back and other ailments.” Is a president who looks fit while addicted to prescription drugs in his 40s really a better role model than one who loves him some KFC and gets “exhausted” on an international trip at age 71?

Strauss relies on former Trump acquaintances who have written tell-all books about the man who would be president for anecdotes about Trump’s eating and exercise routines, and he tries to tie in the president’s predilection for pointing out others’ appearances with Trump’s apparent lack of fitness. Bless his heart, Strauss tries his best to make Trump look like a dumpy slob, but in the end it doesn’t really matter.

Here’s the thing: in my own life, I’ve realized my shortcomings when it comes to fitness and have recently made a commitment to get as close as possible to what I weighed in college. But when I look at role models in my quest, past and present chief executives don’t come to mind, nor do other politicians, for that matter.

The millions who elected Trump weren’t looking for a fitness-trainer-in-chief when they went to the polls, and I would wager that the same went for past presidents. And as long as Trump is doing his best to serve the country as president, his eating and workout habits are between him and his doctor, as far as I’m concerned. Ben Strauss is just another media figure looking for a way to take a Republican president down by a thousand paper cuts.

Politico Demonstrates a Shortsighted View of the Book of Proverbs

The way the news media approach scripture is always interesting. Quite often, the only time you’ll see a reporter or author quoting scripture in the media is when they are using a verse against a conservative, to call him or her a hypocrite or to throw a verse or two in his or her face (often out of context).

The latest example? Over at Politico, Joel Baden, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, has noticed that Marco Rubio has been tweeting scripture verses lately, many of them from Proverbs. So Baden decided to hold forth on what he calls “probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible.” Here’s a taste:

Some of the statements in Proverbs look strikingly similar to those made by modern-day conservative policymakers. Take, for example, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who, arguing that poorer people should pay more for health care, recently said, “Those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy.” It’s not quite a direct quote from Proverbs, but it’s not too far from these: “The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry” (Proverbs 10:3) and “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4).

With all due respect to Professor Baden, that comparison doesn’t exactly make sense. Those verses from Proverbs, which express the wisdom that God takes care of those who follow Him and that laziness leads to destitution, don’t exactly correlate to Brooks’ vague statement that good people lead healthy lives. Oh, and Proverbs doesn’t have anything to say about federal government health care policy. I’m not a biblical scholar, and I can see that.

Baden plays his political hand when he looks at the fact that Republicans tend to quote Proverbs more often in inaugural speeches than Democrats, and he points out Donald Trump’s illiteracy when it comes to scripture, as though he’s representative of rank-and-file conservative Christians.

Most interestingly, he shows the left’s shortsighted tendencies to politicize scripture when he oversimplifies entire book of Proverbs:

In the understanding of Proverbs, everyone gets what is coming to them; behavior is directly linked to reward or punishment. This worldview has social consequences: Those who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle.

Baden also plays one of the left’s favorite tricks: suggesting scriptures for Republicans to read. (And he projects a little when he accuses only Republicans of confirmation bias: “concentrating exclusively on the parts of it that affirm one’s own perspective…”)

One might advise Rubio to read, and tweet, more widely: from Ecclesiastes, perhaps, or from prophets such as Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone—but you shall not live in them” (Amos 5:11). Maybe Leviticus: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33–34). Or even the gospels of the New Testament: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24/Mark 10:25/Luke 18:25).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Bible is not a political book. There’s very little in the Bible that applies to government policy, because it’s meant to be a guidebook on how we are to conduct ourselves in our individual and family lives.

Yes, both sides of the political aisle use and misuse scripture, but in Baden’s case, he shows a shortsighted view of the Bible. Maybe he just doesn’t understand Proverbs, even though he’s a professor of the Bible, but I don’t think that’s the case. More likely, he’s applying his own political biases to the timeless truth of God’s Word.

SCANDAL: John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett at The Politico Appear to Have Plagiarized From BuzzFeed

John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett, two reporters at Politico, appear to have copied the work of BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner. In a Politico story that peddles easily refuted Democrat attacks on Neil Gorsuch, Bresnahan and Everitt write:

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

But earlier, BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner covered the same topic and wrote:

The section at issue in his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, is a brief one: It is a summary of the facts and ruling in the 1982 case of Baby Doe, a baby born in Indiana with Down syndrome. It takes up only two paragraphs and seven endnotes in a book that covers more than 300 pages, including endnotes. The book came out of his 2004 Doctor of Philosophy dissertation from the University of Oxford.

Ruh-roh. Not good. It looks like Politico relied on the Democrats’ talking point sheets they sent over earlier to both BuzzFeed and Politico and did not cite BuzzFeed, which published first.

Oh wait! That is exactly what Neil Gorsuch did. In fact, as if subconsciously admitting their story is bulls**t, the Politico reporters include this:

Yet a review of the documents provided to POLITICO shows Gorsuch parroting other writers’ prose and sourcing without citing them. Instead, Gorsuch often acknowledges the primary sources cited by those writers.

In the most striking example, Gorsuch, in his book, appears to duplicate sentences from an Indiana Law Journal article written by Abigail Lawlis Kuzma without attributing her. Instead, he uses the same sources that Kuzma used: A 1982 Indiana court ruling that was later sealed, a well-known pediatrics textbook, “Rudolph’s Pediatrics,” and a 1983 article in the Bloomington Sunday Herald.

What?! Gorsuch provides citations to primary sources that might have provided the original wording used by someone he did not cite?! How dare he!!

This is such a crap story. The attack on Gorsuch is that he did his own research and cited the original, primary sources, instead of just copying what someone else did.

The reason this is a big story in the press is that this is what the press does. Normally, BuzzFeed runs a story and then Politico runs a story citing BuzzFeed because they are too damn lazy to do their own work.

The outrage here is really that Gorsuch is not a lazy Washington millennial reporter with no sense of history, but actually put in the time to do his own research and cite original sources.

Meanwhile, reporters at Politico and BuzzFeed were both spoonfed the story from Democrats. In fact, Politico even admits they were too damn lazy to do in depth work.

POLITICO did not conduct a full examination of the federal judge’s writings.

So in documents spoonfed by Democrats with talking points supplied by Democrats, it appears Neil Gorsuch failed to cite someone who had previously written about a topic. He had the audacity to, instead, do his own work relying on original sources.

By the way, it is worth noting that the purported victim of the plagiarization denies being plagiarized. She too notes that Gorsuch simply looked at the same primary sources she looked at and there was really only one way to describe them.

Maybe if reporters would actually do what Gorsuch did, they wouldn’t get duped into spoonfed stupidity. John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett did not actually plagiarize BuzzFeed. But using the standard they are holding Gorsuch to, they did. That is why this is a crap story. No one committed plagiarism. They just want to generate controversy, damn the facts.

The Politico Inaccurately Reports Donald Trump “Did Not Highlight Action on Religious Freedom”

This is a very interesting report from the Politico about Donald Trump keeping in place an Obama era executive order that Trump had promised to repeal. Now, it would seem, he might carve out an exception to it for sectarian organizations. But otherwise this is a broken promise.

Nonetheless, the Politico engages in a bit of fiction at the end of the piece written by Annie Karni. This is included:

“This president’s No. 1 priority is demonstrating to the people that got him elected that he is doing the people’s business,” said [James] Carafano, who’s organization backs a religious freedom executive order.

But Carafano noted that it makes most sense for the administration to churn out executive orders that are in line with Trump’s campaign promises. Trump, the first Republican nominee to feature an openly gay speaker at his convention, did not highlight action on religious freedom . “For them to put out an executive order that didn’t try and match up with the priorities that he campaigned on would be an unforced error,” said Carafano.

Note that this is not a quote from James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, but an insert by the reporter. It is also very much not true.

In both Donald Trump’s convention acceptance speech and on the campaign trail he highlighted religious liberty issues. The Daily Signal has a pretty comprehensive list, including this quote from his acceptance speech in Cleveland:

[The Johnson Amendment], pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away. I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans.

To say he “did not highlight action on religious freedom” at either the Republican Convention or on the campaign trail is completely inaccurate.

The Politico Completely Botched a Story on Donald Trump’s Money

The Politico and its reporters might as well stand down on trying to convince conservatives there is no bias and they are not in the tank for Clinton. The news organization got sensational and widespread coverage yesterday over its story that Donald Trump had given exactly $0.00 to the RNC in October.

Now they’ve issued a correction. As the Blaze notes, “The actual truth is that Trump has transferred about $2.2 million so far this month, along with several hundred thousand dollars to various state committees.”

Pretty big difference between zero and two million.

True, it is really anemic fundraising and Trump has way less on hand than Clinton right now. But zero? It got lots of traffic for Politico, and the correction surely will not get as much traffic, but all it is doing is feeding the notion of media malpractice.

This all comes on the heels of Wikileaks revealing a sycophantic email from Politico’s Glenn Thrush to John Podesta. In the aftermath, Thrush was highly defensive and attacked conservatives for pointing out what he’d done.