Time to Remove Berkley

Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee met last week at the Advance in Chantilly. Among the items they discussed was the removal of Jon Berkley from the 5th District chairmanship. The move is called a remedy for a dysfunctional committee. The case against Berkley is lengthy and baffling. He thinks he is a king but he is really just someone who falls under the party plan and therefore needs to play nice with the others in the sandbox. Berkley has acted in revenge against Republicans, has ignored State Central and RPV General Counsel rulings, and he has handled himself like a real jerk. Our party should have no place for anyone who chooses to conduct themselves as he has in this last year. It is time to remove Berkley.

Berkley’s baffling incompetence first popped up on my radar last spring during the pre-filing period for the state convention. As Charlotte County chair Berkley did everything he could to stop 19 Republicans from being delegates because they would have voted against Berkley for chairman at the 5th District convention. The story is obnoxiously ridiculous. The Bull Elephant ran it when it happened. Berkley claims that the envelope of forms he received could have contained a playboy magazine or a bomb, he didn’t know. So he put an envelope that may have had a bomb in it in his car? How often do you put bombs in your car?

When word of Berkley’s actions in refusing those forms came out, the campaign I was working on blasted out an email alerting Republicans of Berkley’s shenanigans so that the grassroots could rise up and stop this injustice. That is when Berkley and I first spoke as he called me cursing me out with f this and f that. What a nice guy. I had not yet met him nor ever spoken with him, but here he is acting all tough and threatening to me over the phone. How about engage me in conversation first, then act as you need to but opening up with cursing and demands and threats is, at the least, unprofessional.

Next came Berkley’s baffling refusal to turn in the Charlotte County delegate list to the U.S. Senate campaigns and to RPV. I kept calling and emailing Berkley asking for the names of those who signed up. Technically the party plan does not compel him to hand over the names, but EVERY other chair did so in a judicious fashion. State Central Committee members have told me the reason the pre-file deadlines for signing up for the convention were so early was it would allow the campaigns more time to engage the delegates. By withholding the delegate list from the campaigns Berkley was doing his county committee a disservice because he was preventing those delegates from being engaged by the candidates and therefore they were going to a convention without all the information they should have to cast their vote.

I saw Berkley at the 5th District convention and I approached him about sending me the Charlotte County delegate list. He actually told me that he hadn’t sent it to me because his feelings were hurt after the email about throwing out the 19 delegate forms. Unbelievable. I can’t believe he admitted to me how small and petty he is. I told him that grown men do not let hurt feelings prevent us from meeting our responsibilities. Berkley responded without class, but eventually promised me that he would email me the list “Monday/Tuesday.” That Wednesday I called Berkley leaving an obnoxious message of my own pointing out the fact that Monday/Tuesday had come and gone and no list was sent. At the state convention I saw Berkley and reminded him that he broke the only promise he ever made to me. I also pointed out that the effort required on his part was minimal, just attach an excel file to an email and hit send, that’s it!

This next part is the worst part of all. I witnessed it and I still can’t believe it. After Berkley won the chairman’s race at the 5th District convention one of Berkley’s cronies stood up and made a motion to strip the 5th District State Central Committee members of voting rights at the 5th District Committee level. Why? How does that serve the 5th District? Berkley did so out of revenge. The five members of the 5th District State Central Committee did not support Berkley in the chairman’s race so petty little Berkley wanted to strike back. With few people left the question of a quorum was brought up, but the convention chair was a Berkley supporter who ruled that a quorum wasn’t needed. The floor then voted in favor of this motion only because Berkley’s minions were holding up Robert Hurt for Congress signs that had a big “yes” attached to them. I stood by the doorway and asked people as they left if they knew what they had just voted for and the dozen I spoke to said no. State Central Committee members are voted to serve their district by district members at a convention or mass meeting. But here we saw just a few Berkley and Hurt supporters overturn the results of the 5th District convention from 2 years ago. By stripping these popularly elected members of voting rights Berkley disrespected the will of his own committee. And he did this out of revenge.

Funny thing about all of this is State Central’s move to remove Berkley is based entirely on how Berkley has handled himself since all of these events I described happened. He came into the chair acting like he doesn’t have to follow the rules and then proceeded to do just that. He has ignored State Central and General Counsel throughout. At the meeting on Friday Berkley was absent and he didn’t even send a proxy. I was at the Advance over the weekend and when I heard about State Central’s move I started lobbying State Central members with the firsthand information I have from dealing with Berkley. Just like me, they couldn’t understand why a Republican would act like that to other Republicans.

Berkley’s fate will be decided at the next State Central Committee meeting in January. He will be given the chance to defend himself at this meeting, if he decides to show up.

Individually these events make Berkley look like a real jerk, collectively they illustrate that Berkley does not have the integrity to serve in any elected capacity. Looking at things as a whole we see a pattern which establishes a behavior, a behavior unbecoming a member of our party, a behavior we can just simply do without. It is time to remove Jon Berkley from the 5th District chair.

Cross-posted to Red NoVA

Frank Wagner is running for Governor in 2017

Yes, that’s right. According to the Shad Plank, he confirmed it to John Fredericks at the Republican Party of Virginia’s Advance this past weekend. Anyone who follows RPV politics knows that, on top of being a mediocre Senator in the first place, Wagner teamed up with Eric Cantor and a gaggle of other Republican electeds and consultants to try and slate off delegates to Congressional district conventions this past year, with some limited success. It’s widely thought that this brilliant idea galvanized grassroots support behind Dave Brat, and cost Cantor his job. Nevertheless, Frank Wagner believes he can somehow win a nomination for statewide office.

The solution to this is to teach establishment hacks like Wagner a hard lesson by defeating him for renomination to his Senate seat (the 7th) this year. There are a number of other Republican elected officials who must be held accountable, most notably Delegate Scott Taylor, but Frank Wagner stands out. For his arrogance, for his condescension, for his ruthlessness, for his dishonesty, and, not least, for his sense of entitlement. In short, he needs to be the example made by the grassroots this year.

Tax issue helped Republicans expand the wave election (too bad Virginia Republicans took it away from Gillespie)

Disaffection with the president was a major driver for Republican success in last night’s election – of that there is no doubt. That said, the extent of success was greatly helped by…wait for it…taxes.

We begin with the epicenter of the tax argument: Kansas. Governor Sam Brownback’s tax reduction were supposed to be his own worst enemy – a political millstone that might not only drag him down, but Senator Pat Roberts, too. Instead, Roberts won going away, and Brownback not only won re-election, but came within 100 votes of an absolute majority (a Libertarian nominee took 4% of the vote). AP (via the Lawrence Journal-World), explains why in their exit poll analysis:

TAX CUTS: Roughly half of the voters said that tax cuts Brownback pushed had mostly helped Kansas, while about two in five said they had hurt.

So the tax cuts broke roughly 10 ten points in Brownback’s favor, contrary to the conventional wisdom…not that this is any surprise to me.

In the rest of the country, the tax issue popped up in referenda. John Hood (NRO – The Corner) has the details:

It’s worth noting also that conservatives won all of the nation’s big fiscal-policy referenda this year, beating a gas-tax hike in Massachusetts and business-tax hike in Nevada, while winning tax limitations in Tennessee, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

Note the states listed: Massachusetts also elected a Republican Governor. In Georgia, both Republicans (Purdue for Senate and Governor Deal for re-election) managed to avoid runoff and win outright (yet another “surprise” for the chattering classes). Finally, of course, Wisconsin re-elected Governor Scott Walker with unexpected ease.

Finally, there is Maryland, where I must spend two nights a week for work. As such, I saw every add Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown (D) put up in his race to succeed his previous running mate, Governor Martin O’Malley. Brown’s ads ran the gamut of positive and negative, hard-hitting issue ads and soft-touch personal ones. By contrast, I only saw one ad for Republican Larry Hogan – an ad that tried to squeeze in all of O’Malley’s tax increases in 30 seconds (practically one per second), along with a promise to give taxpayers a rest if he (Hogan) won.

In fact, Hogan did win.

Similarly, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn used major tax increases to keep his state government afloat. Despite being in the president’s home state, Quinn lost to Republican Bruce Rauner last night.

Again, anger and disaffection with the president was the big driver here, but voters especially rewarded Republicans where they could also take advantage of the tax issue…

…which makes one wonder what could have happened in Virginia had Republican Ed Gillespie not had the headwinds of tax-hiking Republican Bob McDonnell to face.

I’m just sayin’.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Bob McDonnell was a WHAT?!?!

Reactions to the Bob McDonnell verdict our pouring in, and there’s one in particular (from many of his defenders) that I find completely flabbergasting.

The ex-Governor’s defenders are calling him a “man of integrity.” My jaw hits the table each time I see that.

Folks, Bob McDonnell spent all of 2009 insisting he would not raise taxes. He blasted his opponent (Creigh Deeds) for even considering it, and rode the issue to a landslide win in November of that year.

In the last year of his term (as it happens, last year) he broke that promise in spectacular fashion, ramming through the largest tax increase in at least 40 years.

Even then, he skirted the truth. He insisted the tax hike was for relieving commuter congestion, but in fact his top priority was actually a parallel road to US 460 that wasn’t needed for traffic relief – and which the Army Corps of Engineers said he couldn’t build anyway (Bacon’s Rebellion).

So please, spare me the “man of integrity” nonsense. If you want to complain about the federal decision to prosecute McDonnell (as opposed to other Virginians) or the bizarre nature of the “honest service fraud” statute, that’s one thing.

But Bob McDonnell was no angel.

Cross-posted from the right-wing liberal

State Senator Phil Puckett resigns; deck chairs on Titanic to be re-arranged

Richmond is all agog over the resignation of State Senate Phil Puckett (Richmond Times-Dispatch), which grants the Republicans a temporary majority in the State Senate, pending a special election which the Republicans are favored to win. According to the RTD, Puckett’s resignation paves the way for his daughter to be elected to a judgeship, while he himself could land on the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

All eyes (in Richmond) went immediately to the budget, where according to the Constitution (emphasis added):

No bill which creates or establishes a new office, or which creates, continues, or revives a debt or charge, or which makes, continues, or revives any appropriation of public or trust money or property, or which releases, discharges, or commutes any claim or demand of the Commonwealth, or which imposes, continues, or revives a tax, shall be passed except by the affirmative vote of a majority of all the members elected to each house, the name of each member voting and how he voted to be recorded in the journal.

Normally, that means 21 out of 40. Given that we only have 39 at the moment, 20 should actually work…for the State Senate to pass the budget until the special election. In the grand scheme of things, though, there is a lot less than meets the eye. Here’s why.

First, not every Republican State Senator supported the Republican budget: Walter Stosch (Dave Brat’s patron), John Watkins, and Emmett Hanger all voted with the Democrats to add Medicaid expansion to the budget. In theory, party unity could convince them to change their minds, but there’s no guarantee of that.

Second, there is still the Governor: If one wanted to hand Terry McAuliffe the perfect excuse for a budget veto, coaxing a Senator’s resignation with the promise of appointments for himself and his daughter would be it. I’ll admit, a veto is unlikely, but this deal is excellent ammunition for Election Day 2014, 2015, and 2017.

Speaking of…

Third, even if the GOP wins the budget battle, the fight of Medicaid will go on, and this will make it harder to win: According to Christopher Newport University (poll), the Republicans were actually winning the debate on Medicaid expansion. That might, and probably will, change if T-Mac can now claim perfidy from the opposition. This allows Terry McAuliffe – Terry F–king McAuliffe - to run as Mr. Clean, and the Democrats to present themselves as the Clean Team in 2015 and 2017.

Odds are this will even damage our recent nominee for U.S. Senate – Ed Gillespie, the consummate Virginia Republican insider.

We may even see the Republicans cave on Medicaid expansion just to neutralize the issue in 2015.

Fourth, the State Senate is the poisoned chalice of recent times. Let’s say the GOP does win the special election and holds all 21 seats next year, which I’ll admit is still likely despite the above (or because of the previous sentence). Let’s take a look at the fate of the party controlling the state senate after the last six midterm elections (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011). In all six cases, the party lost the ensuing gubernatorial election. In five of them, they lost House seats and a majority of the statewide races. In three, they lost all statewide races, and in two they lost the senate itself.

Now, one could say even that might be worth it if a Republican Senate would mean greater momentum for limited government, but that just isn’t so…

Every Republican-controlled State Senate in the 21st Century has enacted a tax increase: That’s right; there was the referendum of 2002 (defeated by the voters), the Warner tax hike of 2004 (which, at $1.5 billion, was only half what the State Senate originally wanted), HB3202 (largely overturned by the courts), and Plan ’13 From Outer Space. If anything, it has been minority status that forces Republicans to behave.

Given all of the above, I can’t help thinking that this victory is meager, if not pyrrhic.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Nordvig Indicts Tea Party, Brat Judgment at Brat Rally

There are a number of reasons why a sizable group of conservatives in the Virginia Republican Party are uncomfortable with those who raise the tea party banner high and identify themselves as such primarily. Sometimes proudly. ‘I’m not a Republican’ they will say, ‘I’m a member of the tea party.’

Yet these same folks show up to Republican meetings and Republican conventions — not usually to Republican fundraisers — and seemingly want to participate in the GOP. Fantastic. Welcome. We certainly agree on some issues.

Still the discomfort exists.

Ultimately, many of those anecdotal reasons boil down to judgment. Good judgment. Sound judgment.

That’s where Larry Nordvig head of the Richmond Tea Party and Vice Chairman of the Powhatan Republican Committee comes in.

At Dave Brat’s rally on Tuesday, Nordvig told the following joke:

“A politician, a Muslim and an illegal alien walk into a bar, and you know what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. President.”

Here are the questions that immediately come to mind:
1) Is this an appropriate joke to tell?
2) If so, in front of what groups?
3) Did Dave Brat find this joke funny?
4) How do you expect this joke to attract people to the Republican party?
5) Does this joke help us win elections?
6) Do you have a filter between your brain and your mouth?
7) Could we have adjusted the joke to insult other groups of people besides immigrants and Muslims and people of fair mind?

This is an unfortunate example of why some so-called tea party leaders cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

And it is why no matter how hard Dave Brat runs, he will hit a ceiling of support.

This is not something to be proud of.

Rob Wittman for Re-election

Unlike the painful situation in the 7th District, Republican voters in the 1st (which included me until I moved into the 4th last year) are blessed with two superior choices: incumbent Rob Wittman and challenger Anthony Riedel. They are both near-perfect on the issues (the only major blemishes are Wittman’s farm policy votes and Riedel’s overly doctrinaire non-interventionism). Either would do their constituents proud.

However, I am endorsing Wittman, for one very simple reason: he opposed TARP, not once, but twice.

Readers of this blog know how much importance I give to the bank bailout. I have called TARP a policy mistake practically since its conception, and I am still convinced of that. I am also certain that support for TARP has been a serious problem for Republicans. Given this, when presented with Republican elected officials who were willing to defy their own president, their own candidate for president, and their own party leaders to do the right thing and vote No, I am compelled to stick by them.

Thus, I am sticking by Rob Wittman.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Time and Geography Back Up Shaun Kenney’s Side of the Story

Late last week, the Virginia Pilot ran a story stating that Republican Party of Virginia Exec. Dir. Shaun Kenney was under investigation with regard to property that he purchased last year and whether he used his position while on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors to enhance the value of that property. Based upon the facts that I have been able to discern here, both time and geography appear to vindicate Shaun’s side of the story.

First of all, let’s get this part out of the way. Anyone can ask for a state investigation of an elected official, whether it’s a state senator or a supervisor. The state police are duty bound to look into the nature of the allegations and offer whether or not there is merit to the accusation or not. Right now, state investigators are said to be wrapping up their investigation of Kenney and the accusations that he bought property in the Town of Columbia in order to sell it back to the James River Water Authority (JRWA) for an amount of $1.25 million so that it could build a pumping station or the alternate accusation that he bought the land in order to benefit from a revitalization grant.

With regard to geography, the Town of Columbia is one-mile away from the proposed pipeline route and none of the town lots are next to a water source. The JRWA can only serve Fluvanna and Louisa customers, which is why Columbia already has its own water treatment facility. (The black marks on the map below are Shaun’s property in Columbia. The proposed pipeline, as previously indicated, is a mile west and would not serve the town.)

columbia map

This is pretty clear-cut to me that Kenney’s property is not of interest to the JRWA. Furthermore, all of the information with regard to the JRWA proposal is public, so even if Kenney’s property would have been of interest to them, he would not have been utilizing inside information unavailable to the general public in order to make a profit (unlike how Virginia’s senior senator Mark Warner made his millions upon departing his staff job on Capitol Hill.)

The alternative allegation that Shaun purchased the property in order to benefit from a revitalization grant falls due to timing. The county’s application for a grant to restore the main street in Columbia was declined by the state in the summer of 2013. The major property owner along the main street in Columbia then began selling all of his properties at which time Kenney bought four buildings and six lots for the assessed price of the properties. So Kenney bought the property AFTER the grant was denied.

Even if the county reapplies for the grant in the future (and Kenney is no longer serving on the county board, so that issue is off the table), it was public knowledge at the time these lots were being sold that a grant had been applied for and anyone could have purchased them if they wanted to speculate that a grant might yet be approved one day. Plus Kenney bought the property for their assessed value, so it isn’t as if he received a sweetheart deal on the land like the Clintons did with Whitewater.

So, with both geography and time on Kenney’s side who filed the complaint against him and why?

In March, when Shaun was interviewing for Executive Director of RPV, State Senator Tom Garrett made statements insisting that Shaun not be hired.  Garrett not only referenced his involvement in helping a Fluvanna citizen file the request for a state investigation of Kenney, but stated specifically that Shaun was only taking the position as executive director so that Kenney could primary Garrett for state senate in 2015 (something that I have been assured Kenney is not looking to do, but Garrett’s actions sure are a great way to get someone to change their mind.) It makes you wonder if Garrett has been pushing this story with the media (and this blog comment mentioning Garrett is particularly interesting since it almost appears like a pre-emptive defense.)

Meanwhile, on Medicaid expansion in Virginia, the Republicans are actually winning

“First, you win the argument, then you win the vote” – Margaret Thatcher

On Medicaid expansion in Virginia, proponents have the newly-elected Governor, all of Virginia’s Democrats, a few dissenting Republicans,the State Senate and various well-heeled interests.

Opponents have the reality of Medicaid’s damage to poor people and (most of) the Republican Party of Virginia – a party that is badly, badly divided, controls only a majority in the House of Delegates, and was just handed it’s first goose-egg in Virginia offices in over twenty years.

Yet, according to Christopher Newport University, the RPV is actually winning the debate:

Virginians have been paying attention to the debate over Medicaid expansion taking place in Richmond, with 58% saying they have been following it either very closely or somewhat closely, and only 20% saying they have not followed it at all. Given the current contours of that debate, Virginians say 53% to 41% that they oppose Medicaid expansion. This is a reversal from the Wason Center survey released February 3 (see below), which showed general support for Medicaid expansion, 56% to 38%.

However, in that February survey, support for Medicaid expansion fell to 41% with 54% opposed, when respondents were asked if they would still support expansion if the federal government did not pay its share and Virginia had to cover the cost. That risk has been a key contention in the Republican argument against expansion. Those February numbers are very close to the 41% to 53% in the current poll, suggesting that Republican skepticism concerning expansion has gotten through to voters.

Simply put, this was hardly what was expected. In fact, I suspect most in the Virginia rightosphere still suspect that the Republicans in the House will cave on this issue…and perhaps they still will.

However, we should give credit where it’s due: not only has the Howell-led HoD held the line so far against Medicaid expansion, they also are winning the argument – the first critical step to winning votes, as Thatcher noted.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Oh joy…another immigration flame-fest

So, new RPV Executive Director Shaun Kenney (full disclosure, close friend of mine) takes some time to sit with center-left activists on the immigration issue. Much of his talk centers around thanking them for stopping by, talking about how it’s important to talk to folks who don’t necessarily agree with them, and an observation on the debate that was miles above anything discussed on the matter since…

I genuinely believe that both sides of this debate want to do the right thing; it’s just a matter of getting those wires to touch.

It didn’t take long for the wires to vehemently protest. Soon Greg Letiecq (also a friend) was slamming Shaun for advocating amnesty – something which, I confess, I didn’t catch in the video excerpt Greg provided, although Greg and Shaun have made clear their disagreement on the issue for years. Soon Jeanine Martin and Brian Schoeneman (whom I would also call friends, but as I’ve never met either of them in person, I don’t know what they would think), joined in the fray, with Martin claiming Shaun would hurt poor people and Brian calling Jeanine and Greg racists (in the comments).

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

Sadly, as both sides spent their time reminding themselves how wonderful they are – hey, we’re bloggers; it’s what we do – the questions I raised almost two months ago remain completely outside of the discussion:

  • What are we doing to encourage entrepreneurs to come to America?
  • What labor shortages in the American economy (such as, health care) can be alleviated via immigration reform?
  • How can we use our immigration policies to take advantage of capital flight in areas around the world, so that those who own that capital will feel more welcome here (along with their capital, of course)?
  • In other words, how can we use immigration reform as a supply-side economic opportunity, rather than merely an argument about Keynesian “aggregate demand”?

As I stated in that post, anything that doesn’t address the above subjects is just noise…which is exactly what we got from nearly everyone concerned – a lot of heat, but very little light.

As for Shaun, I’m glad he’s willing to talk to folks outside his political comfort zone. At the very least, we all need to remember how to disagree without being disagreeable.

I would have been much happier if he and Mr. Sajur had spent some time talking about the above topics….

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Cuccinelli Gave $25K to RPV Yesterday; Why Is Bolling Still Sitting On $334K?

From an email sent out today by RPV Chairman Pat Mullins:

[New RPV Exec. Dir. Shaun Kenney] had a pretty good first day on the job, too. Ken Cuccinelli stepped up to the plate and gave us $25,000 to help us put all of our attention on Mark Warner going into the fall! Ken hasn’t stopped fighting Obamacare yet, and I’m grateful that he’s staying in the fight!

So, why is former LG Bill Bolling still sitting on more than $334,000 in his campaign account? (Even he couldn’t eat that many sandwiches.)

BOLLINGHow about donating a chunk of that to the party that you professed to love? Perhaps he isn’t done throwing his temper tantrum yet or maybe he’s planning to be the next John Chichester / Russ Potts and become the “Republican” that seeks attention by endorsing Democratic candidates.

We’ll be watching to see which path Bolling chooses to follow.

Kenney In At RPV, Foreman Out In Dumfries

In light of Virtucon’s long track record of April Fool’s Day posts dating back to 2006, we thought it wise to hold off until today to report two unexpected political moves in the Commonwealth lest they thought to be pranks on our part.

First of all, in a bombshell announcement that took everyone by surprise, Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman announced during the town council meeting last night that he was withdrawing from the race for mayor next month. Foreman had declared for reelection back in November and when I spoke with him just two weeks ago he was gung-ho about the future. No reason for his decision was given. We hope that everything is okay with Mayor Foreman and the members of his family and wish him all the best in the future. He has served the Town of Dumfries well as both a councilman and mayor.

On the other side of the coin today is Shaun Kenney who has been named as the new Executive Director for the Republican Party of Virginia. I have known Shaun for years from both our days in the Young Republican Federation of Virginia and as fellow bloggers. He will undoubtedly bring a great deal of energy and ideas to the RPV just at the time when it needs it the most. Shaun brings something else as well – the ability and the will to take the political fight to the Democrats. For far too long Republicans in Virginia have sat idly by while Democrats have rolled over them because they viewed themselves above getting into the fray. If they expect Shaun to continue in that tradition, they are sadly mistaken.

On the Bank Bailout, the Buckley Rule, and Ed Gillespie

There has been increasing talk among Virginia Republicans about “the Buckley Rule,” and how it should impact decision on the nomination for U.S. Senate. There are, however, two problems with the application (usually from Ed Gillespie supporters): the rule isn’t quite what they think it is; and even if it did, Gillespie still wouldn’t qualify.

First of all, the rule itself is repeatedly “both misquoted and misapplied” as Neal Freeman noted in his account of when the rule was first promulgated (National Review). He should know; he was there. Buckley came up with the rule during the 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller nomination battle. Despite what we may think, Rockefeller had his defenders on the right. He trailed LBJ by less than Goldwater, and his anti-Communism was rock-solid and unquestionable (Goldwater himself noted in his autobiography that before he decided to run himself, he was leaning to Rockefeller). It took months for NR itself to make a decision:

These intramural arguments, as I say, were protracted, begun in the winter and carrying on into the early spring. WFB sat at the head of the table, encouraging others to speak, keeping his own counsel. In early June, after Rockefeller had won the Oregon primary and Goldwater had won California, after all of us had had our say, after rumors had begun to creep out of 35th Street that NR might shift its support to Nelson Rockefeller — the equivalent, today, of word leaking out of 15th Street that the Washington Post might endorse Michele Bachmann — Bill, who rarely proposed, decided that it was time to dispose. With each of us in our assigned seat and with six pairs of eyeballs staring at him unblinkingly, Bill announced that “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.”

Victory for Team Goldwater! We all knew what “viable” meant in Bill’s lexicon. It meant somebody who saw the world as we did. Somebody who would bring credit to our cause. Somebody who, win or lose, would conservatize the Republican party and the country. It meant somebody like Barry Goldwater.

Indeed, NR did endorse Goldwater. More to the point, one year after this, Buckley himself chose to run for Mayor of New York – despite having no shot at winning – against the Republican establishment’s candidate, John Lindsay….

in the general election.

So clearly, those who use the Buckley rule as an electability argument have it wrong. However, even if they had it right, Ed Gillespie has a problem that sinks his electability: his support for TARP (a.k.a. the Bank Bailout).

Gillespie supporters will, of course, take issue with this. They will tell you (and me) that the key issue in 2014 isn’t the bank bailout, but the failures of the Obama Administration. As it happens, the critique against the Administration has three planks: government has grown massively large and costly; the economic “recovery” is so sluggish as to be hardly felt; and the president’s dangerous habit of assuming the Affordable Care Act is an American Enabling Act giving him legislative powers to change the law on the flyThe problem is that pro-TARP candidates are unable to use any of these arguments.

If Ed Gillespie tries to criticize the president and Mark Warner for reckless spending and government enlargement, Warner can throw the $700 billion bank bailout back in his face, but Mark Warner cannot accuse Shak Hill of supporting hundreds of billions in spending for America’s biggest banks.

Likewise, any attempt by Gillespie to discuss the economy will be trumped by Warner mentioning the 2008 financial crisis – and then remind everyone that Gillespie agreed the crisis was exceptional because of his support for the bank bailout. Only Shak Hill can remind voters that the bank bailout and hysteria ginned up by Washington to get it enacted made things worse, not better.

Finally, there is the fact that after TARP was enacted, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen rewrote the law at whim. That he had the authority to do so was bad enough, but Warner can play it simple and demand to know why Bush can change the law at whim but not Obama. Only Shak Hill can address this issue with the hypocrisy charge being thrown back in his face.

In short, Shak Hill can deliver the conservative message in 2014 far batter than Ed Gillespie can. As a result, he is a more “viable” candidate than Ed, and in my opinion, a more electable one, too.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Barbara Comstock for Congress

Some time ago, this blog endorsed Barbara Comstock for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District. Since then, a new entrant, Bob Marshall, has garnered a lot of attention – and deservedly so. That does not change our position, however. Delegate Comstock is still our preferred choice for the seat.

To be fair, Bob Marshall has done yeoman’s work for all Virginia taxpayers in his 20-plus years as a Delegate. In fact, that’s the problem: the House of Representatives is a far different body, one in which individual members have far less power than legislators do in Richmond. If Bob were running for the Senate, we might react differently, but he’s not.

Moreover, Barbara Comstock is not your typical “Establishment” Republican in Virginia. Last year – as a Fairfax County Delegate with nearly every interest group screaming, begging, and cajoling her to support Plan ’13 From Outer Space – she said No. If she is the now the model for the Republican Establishment in the Commonwealth, than perhaps said establishment really has learned a thing or two after all.

In other words, assuming this comes down to Comstock and Marshall (and given the rest of the field, it almost certainly will), it is in fact a battle between two genuine supporters of limited government. The question is this: would Virginia be better served by Comstock in Washington and Marshall in Richmond? Or the other way around?

The answer is obvious. Virginia would lose far more than it could possibly gain if Marshall is sent to Congress. Better for him to stay where he is most valuable (Richmond), while Comstock can continue standing up for taxpayers in her own, quiet way in Washington.

The economy, blame, TARP, and what it means for the GOP

CNN conducted a poll on the state of the economy, and as one would expect, the people are not happy (emphasis added):

Thirty-six percent of those questioned rate the current economic conditions as good. That’s up four percentage points from December and it is the highest level since January 2008, a year before Obama entered the White House. Sixty-four percent continue to say the economy is in poor shape.

But that’s not the key takeaway. This is (emphasis added):

Five years into Obama’s presidency, only a third of the public believes that Obama and the Democrats are primarily responsible for the country’s current economic problems.

More Americans continue to blame former President Bush and the Republicans.  But the number who say the GOP is more responsible – now at 44% – has dipped below the 50% mark for the first time since Bush left the White House.  Fourteen percent blame both parties equally.

I would humbly submit that the above poll (which, as implied in the excerpt, had blame for Bush over 50% in 2012) is the most important poll of the last several years – more important than the demographic polls, or the issue polls, or the “branding” polls, or anything else. I say that because it makes clear that the economy is still a winning issue for the Democrats – and has been since 2008. It also reveals the way forward for the GOP – which the other polls don’t.

First, let’s address the key takeaway: how can it still be Bush’s fault five years after he left office?

The answer is the Democrats’ message on the economy, and the GOP’s complete inability to counter it – something we are in danger of seeing all over again in Virginia if Ed Gillespie is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Ever since the president put his hand on the Bible the first time (in 2009), the Democrats have had the same message regarding the economy: “the crisis did it.” Any comments from the Democrats on the subject go back to the fall of 2008. That has been their get-out-of-jail-free card for five years…and it has worked because Republicans have been foolish enough to present supporters of the 2008 bank bailout as their leaders (Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Romney, and Ryan). If your leaders all think things were so bad that the major banks needed $700 billion, it’s impossible to argue that the Great Recession and weak recovery that followed were due to Obama policies – no matter how true it might be.

This is why I can not support TARP supporters for Republican nominations. We should have learned this lesson when Romney lost (I know I did). Unless we nominated candidates who did not support TARP (and thus can argue that it did more to exacerbate the problems of 2008 than to solve them), we are simply swallowing the Democrats’ economic narrative whole. That means the economy is no longer a winning issue for us, period (it also means we can’t change the subject when “War on Women” nonsense comes up, because switching the economy does us no favors).

Until the Republican Party repudiates the bank bailout, it will always be blamed for the state of the economy so long as it remains this weak. We have to counter the Democrats’ narrative on 2008, and we can’t do this if we nominate candidates who agree that things were so bad that the bailout was necessary.

Unfortunately, for all my friends who support Ed Gillespie, that means he cannot be nominated, for he will not win.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Impeaching Mark Herring is a terrible idea

“I’ve never seen anything as brutally clear as this…an odd, set, stony quality to it, as if tomorrow’s already happening and there’s nothing you can do about it. The way you feel before an ill-considered attack – knowing it’ll fail. But you cannot stop it.”

- General John Buford (acted by Sam Elliot), Gettysburg (1993)

Of course, Buford did manage to “stop” his nightmare scenario (the Union Army charging up a hill that could not be taken) by his own actions. I doubt I will be as successful, but I feel I have to try to stop what will be a catastrophic error by the Richmond Republicans: the impeachment of Mark Herring.

Plans to impeach Herring are already afoot. My friend Shaun Kenney has the details. The crime: Herring agreed with plaintiffs suing the state over the 2006 Marriage Amendment. The plaintiffs said it violates the federal constitution, and Herring essentially said the plaintiffs were right. This is apparently a “constitutional crisis.”

I beg to differ. The “crisis” will be within the Republican Party if they actually try to impeach and remove Herring. This is a mistake on multiple levels.

First, there is the matter of constitutions: In case anyone forgot, Herring’s oath is to uphold both the Federal and state constitutions, and the Federal one comes first. You can argue with Herring’s reasoning on whether or not the 2006 amendment violates the Federal Constitution, but he has the power to express his opinion and act on it. To attempt to remove him from office for upholding the Federal constitution (as he sees it) is a much greater danger than anything Herring has done. I would also note that this great concern for the state constitution was appallingly missing back in 2007 when “transportation solutions” were a priority, the result being a dog’s breakfast of legislation that nearly every Republican not named Bob Marshall swore was a great achievement, yet was laughed out of town by a unanimous state Supreme Court. Voters might find the idea that the Constitution is paramount when it can stop same-sex-marriage but irrelevant when it protects their money from the taxman to be…a bit strange (more on that later).

Second, there is the question of Herring’s action: I’m reading some bizarre hair-splitting from some who say that Herring didn’t have to defend the 2006 amendment, but he shouldn’t have opposed it publicly. Why? Based on the rulings from the federal Supreme Court on this matter last year, refusing to defend and openly advocating for the plaintiffs is a distinction without a difference. Does it really matter that Herring is simply open about his agreement with the plaintiffs?

Next up, we have the political implications, which are vast and multi-dimensional. For starters, as I noted above, the RPV’s respect for the state constitution is hardly consistent, and Democrats will gleefully remind voters of that for months and years. Again, voters saw the Richmond Republican crew pass and celebrate a blatantly unconstitutional tax scheme less than a decade ago. They will wonder why the constitution is so important now, and they will conclude that the Republicans care more about stopping gay marriages than keeping taxes low and government limited. That’s the political equivalent of drowning the Commonwealth in blue paint.

Yet there are also ramifications for just this year. Political capital that would otherwise be saved up for stopping Medicaid expansion (Brian Schoeneman explains the financial implications here; he didn’t mention that Medicaid does – at best – nothing to improve the health of the poor, but that would just reinforce the point) or Governor McAuliffe’s budget spending spree will be wasted on an effort doomed to fail (seven Senate Democrats would have to vote to remove Herring from office, and that’s not happening).

Finally, there is the one thing we are all forgetting – the flip side of what Herring has done: I may be the only person to notice this, but there are serious problems with the 1971 Virginia Constitution. Article 10 (on education) specifically discriminates against schools of faith, and could be read to make vouchers illegal in the Commonwealth (a potential violation of freedom of religion). Article 11 (on environmental protection) could be used to ride roughshod over property rights (and the Fifth and Fourteenth federal amendments). Do we really want future Attorneys General to arbitrarily defend an overreaching state government? Or muzzle itself in the face of such overreach? I feel the question answers itself.

For these reasons, impeaching Mark Herring is a terrible idea – one that will damage Virginia, the cause of limited government within Virginia, and the Republican Party of Virginia for years – if not decades.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

The Republican Party, TARP, and Ed Gillespie (plus some personal news)

For those wondering where I’ve been for the past three weeks, I was recently married (Sunday, the 12th, to be exact). For those interested, meet the new Mrs. Liberal.

Anyhow, while I’ve been on my honeymoon, Ed Gillespie made it official – he is running for the U.S. Senate. Whether he wins the nomination or not is an open question (I’ll admit it may not be wide open at this point); for what it’s worth, I do think he would be a better Senator than Mark Warner. However, as I have discussed before wedding planning dominated my time, Ed has one fatal flaw to the party: his support for TARP (a.k.a., the Bank Bailout).

I should note that I have considered TARP a policy mistake practically since its conception, and I have maintained that view over the years. I have also explained why Republican nominees who support TARP are badly handicapped against their opponents: because they essentially agree with the Democrats’ excuse for the poor economic performance of the Obama Administration (i.e., the “2008 crisis” did it).

There are, however, even greater problems for TARP-backing Republicans when they get into office. Whatever arguments may roil the GOP, there is near universal recognition that spending needs to be reduced in general, and entitlement spending in particular. However, any pro-TARP Republican who talks about entitlement reductions and/or reductions in anti-poverty programs (no matter how inefficient or counter-productive said programs might be), will get slammed as a friend of the rich and a hypocrite for supporting the $700 billion bailout. While many, many Democrats also supported the bailout, they aren’t talking about these cuts. We Republicans are, and thus we suffer the consequences of cynical voters and lack of trust when we say America can’t afford spending X on entitlements or Y on discretionary spending when our spokesmen voted for $700 billion for the nation’s biggest banks.

I will admit that TARP, as a stand-alone issue, doesn’t resonate with voters as it did in 2008. However, its effects still scar the political landscape. Its damage still affects Republican politicians who supported it (such as Romney and Ryan in 2012)…

…which brings us to Gillespie. Whatever else one may say of him, as White House Counsel during 2008, he was at the forefront of defending TARP (see here). He is the epitome of the TARP-stained Republican pol. He will find his ability to maneuver on political issues far more restrained than he or his supporters believe.

In short, I do not think he will defeat Warner. More to the point, whether he does or not, his nomination and (if it happens) election will keep the party stuck in its TARP-supporting past, when it must instead highlight the TARP opponents in the party in order to re-establish trust on spending with the voters.

I have many friends who are fond of Gillespie (and some who aren’t); I don’t know the man personally. I do, however, know his stance on TARP, and that is enough for me to say that if he were nominated, the party – and the country – will lose more than it gains.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Ed Gillespie – would-be Senate candidate – backed TARP (meaning I can’t support him)

This has been cross-posted from my personal blog, the right-wing liberal. I speak only for myself.

There have been whispers (and much louder) about Ed Gillespie running for United States Senate next year. Given his national connections and the potential vulnerability of Senator Mark Warner, one can understand why there is excitement around Gillespie’s potential candidacy.

That said, Gillespie has one very critical flaw: as White House Counsel in 2008, he was a loud defender of TARP (CNN):

(CNN’s John) KING: You mentioned the economy. One of the last acts was this bailout. And $350 billion of it has been spent on George W. Bush’s watch. The second installment will come on Barack Obama’s. But many Americans, when you travel, they think, where did this money go? Did big banks get it on Wall Street? It is being flushed literally down the toilet? They don’t see the impact on Main Street.

But can you cite specific evidence that the first $350 billion has done anything to begin the turnaround?

GILLESPIE: You can, John. And in fact, if you look at the rates that have narrowed in terms of credit markets, the TED spreads and LIBOR, things, frankly, I didn’t know that much about until about six months ago, they were very — the spreads were high. And that’s not good for the credit markets.

The injection that the Treasury has put into the capital markets has helped ease those. Again, this is a difficult time. But the president said the other night, I believe rightly, that had we not acted boldly and had we not put this money into the financial markets, we would have seen a lot worse of a financial strain on the American people today than what we’re already witnessing.

Now, readers of my blog will know that I’ve been critical of TARP practically since its conception, and I have maintained that it was a terrible mistake. However, there is more to it than that. When Republicans nominate TARP supporters, they are essentially agreeing with the Democrats’ claim that the situation in 2008 was so terrible that President Obama should essentially be given a pass for any economic problems under his watch. It was one of the reasons Mitt Romney’s criticism of the president on the economy was so ineffective. It also damaged his efforts to criticize enlarging government in general.

As for Gillespie’s specific comments, we now know LIBOR was a badly corrupted indicator, one that even at the time should have been eclipsed by SONIA and EONIA (which were based on actual transactions, had already discounted the pre-September concerns about the economy, and thus did not jump in panic when Lehman Brothers sank beneath the waves).

Thus, for policy and political reasons, I cannot support Gillespie for the nomination. Support for TARP is a stain that cannot be removed.

Election Take-aways

Number of tax increases enacted by Governor Chris Christie during his term: zero

Number of tax increase endorsed by Ken Cuccinelli during his campaign: two

Advantage of Democrats over Republicans in Virginia yesterday: five

Advantage of Democrats over Republicans in New Jersey yesterday: twelve

Cuccinelli’s support for election: 45%

Christie’s support for re-election: 60%

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Ken Cuccinelli goes squishy again

As Election 2013 comes careening towards November, Ken Cuccinelli continues to transform himself into the biggest Republican disappointment of the campaigns.

In an appalling Loudoun Times-Mirror interview, Cuccinelli tries to take credit for the $1.2-billion-plus tax hike that I have called Plan ’13 From Outer Space:

Attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli last week reiterated his belief that there wouldn’t be the current transportation funding reform law if it weren’t for him.

“There wouldn’t be a transportation bill right now if I didn’t save it as attorney general,” Cuccinelli said during an Oct. 7 interview with the Times-Mirror.

Unreal. Ken Cuccinelli is now boasting about saving a massive tax hike…

…and he wonders why he’s losing.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

North Carolina GOP Preparing to Siphon Virginia Jobs and Growth

Just a heads-up. When you hear that “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving Virginia for points south, now you’ll know why.

Republican legislators in North Carolina have unveiled a plan to completely eliminate the state’s income tax, to be replaced with a consumption tax. This pro-growth measure, designed to place North Carolina squarely in the same league as jobs-creating giant Texas, has the support of the state’s Republican leaders and comes on the heels of last year’s across the board cuts in corporate and personal income taxes.

Imagine. Pro-growth, pro-taxpayer Republicans.

By contrast, Republican leaders in Virginia, led by Gov. McDonnell, argued that the largest tax increase in the state’s history passed earlier this year was absolutely necessary for economic growth. People other than Republican leaders, such as Bill Bolling, even went so far as to argue the economic benefits of expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, provisions for which were included in this year’s Virginia budget.

Silly me, but that sounds an awful lot like what Democrats typically say about deficit-busting entitlement programs and enterprise-crushing tax increases.

So, now we watch and wait to see the natural experiment in action. Who will have better economic growth? Which state will create more jobs and opportunities? I suppose we’re fixing to see. But Detroit-style economics (characterized by higher taxes and greater “investment” of other people’s money) has never worked wherever it has been tried. Texas economics (low taxes, less regulation) works every time.

But at least we’ll get to ride Amtrak to Roanoke. We still got that going for us.

Cross-posted to The Bull Elephant