Republicans are divided over gay marriage

Republicans are hesitant to make an issue over President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, both because they aren’t sure what position is the winner politically and, more importantly, because the party itself is divided over the issue.  From The Washington Post:

Some top Republicans described a growing divide within the GOP, with most of the party’s elected leaders in step with the social conservative base by publicly opposing same-sex marriage but softening their tone to avoid alienating the moderate middle.

Some of Romney’s biggest financial backers — including Lewis M. Eisenberg, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman, and hedge fund managers Paul Singer and Daniel S. Loeb — have become public advocates for gay marriage, as have other Romney supporters, including former vice president Dick Cheney and former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Behind the scenes, influential donors and top strategists are counseling Republican candidates to avoid hot rhetoric or stigmatizing gay people, fearing a potential backlash from voters, who, polling suggests, are fast growing more open to gay marriage.

Steve Schmidt, a strategist for John McCain’s 2008 campaign as well as Bush’s campaigns, said Obama’s announcement Wednesday drew attention to “deep division” within the GOP on the issue.

“This really spotlights a fissure in the Republican Party between the southern evangelical wing of the party — where they don’t mind government intrusion into the bedroom and into individuals’ private space — and the limited-government side of the party,” Schmidt said. “Looking back at this from 50 years in the future, people who are on the wrong side of this issue aren’t going to stand very well in history’s light.”

via GOP treads lightly on gay marriage issue – The Washington Post.

President announces his support for gay marriage

President Obama’s position on gay marriage has evolved to the point that he’s now all for it.  That’s what he told ABC News.

One reason he cited was his Christian faith.  “You know, we [his wife Michele and he] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.”

Will this help him or hurt him politically?  It would seem to bolster his progressive base, which has been somewhat disillusioned with him, while social conservatives are not likely to vote for him anyway.  Then again, support for gay marriage seems to be the cultural wave, with polls showing that more and more Americans are willing to change the very nature of marriage to accommodate homosexuals.

President Obama Affirms His Support for Same Sex Marriage | ABC News Blogs – Yahoo!.

Europe rejects austerity–how about the USA?

The countries of the European Union are voting out the leaders who had been pushing austerity measures to reduce debt, cut back the welfare states, and get their economies on a more solid footing.  French President Sarkozy was ousted in favor of  socialist Francois Hollande.  Greece, the nation in the worst shape of all, has voted out the coalition of center-left and center-right parties that accepted the tough conditions of Germany’s bailout.  In fact, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel is herself facing political setbacks.  And so is Great Britain’s David Cameron.

Now is all of this just the political dynamic of voters turning against the incumbents when the economy is a mess?  In that case, the trend might seem positive for American conservatives.  Or is it, as most commentators are saying, a reaction against the austerity measures, with voters not wanting their benefits cut, to the point of embracing politicians who promise to spend even more in order to help the economy grow.  In that case, it would herald well for American progressives.

Not that America has experienced much austerity from the current administration.  But do you think the general public would support a serious attempt to cut the budget any more than the Europeans would?

via After voters reject austerity, Europe ponders future of grand project – The Washington Post.

The People’s Rights Amendment

House Democrats have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would specify that the rights guaranteed by that document apply only to individuals and not to “corporate” entities.  The intention is to undo the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows organizations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns since they have free speech.  But a “corporation” is not just a business organization.  The Amendment–introduced by Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and co-sponsored by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 26 other Democrats, and one Republican–would have far-reaching consequences, as George Will points out:

[McGovern's]  “People’s Rights Amendment” declares that the Constitution protects only the rights of “natural persons,” not such persons organized in corporations, and that Congress can impose on corporations whatever restrictions Congress deems “reasonable.” His amendment says that it shall not be construed “to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.” But the amendment is explicitly designed to deny such rights to natural persons who, exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of association, come together in corporate entities to speak in concert.

McGovern stresses that his amendment decrees that “all corporate entities — for-profit and nonprofit alike” — have no constitutional rights. So Congress — and state legislatures and local governments — could regulate to the point of proscription political speech, or any other speech, by the Sierra Club, the National Rifle Association, NARAL Pro-Choice America or any of the other tens of thousands of nonprofit corporate advocacy groups, including political parties and campaign committees.

Newspapers, magazines, broadcasting entities, online journalism operations — and most religious institutions — are corporate entities. McGovern’s amendment would strip them of all constitutional rights. By doing so, the amendment would empower the government to do much more than proscribe speech. Ilya Somin of George Mason University Law School, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy blog, notes that government, unleashed by McGovern’s amendment, could regulate religious practices at most houses of worship, conduct whatever searches it wants, reasonable or not, of corporate entities, and seize corporate-owned property for whatever it deems public uses — without paying compensation. Yes, McGovern’s scythe would mow down the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, as well as the First.

The proposed amendment is intended to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which affirmed the right of persons to associate in corporate entities for the purpose of unrestricted collective speech independent of candidates’ campaigns. The court’s decision was foreshadowed when, in oral argument, the government’s lawyer insisted that the government could ban a 500-page book that contained one sentence that said “vote for” a particular candidate. McGovern’s amendment would confer upon Congress the power to ban publishing corporations from producing books containing political advocacy, when Congress considers a ban reasonable — never mind the amendment’s rhetoric about the “inalienable” rights people enjoy until they band together to act in corporate entities.

via Taking a scythe to the Bill of Rights – The Washington Post.

Reform conservatives vs. Rejectionist conservatives

Michael Gerson says that there are currently two kinds of conservatives:

On one side there are Rejectionist Conservatives, who come in a variety of forms. There are libertarians who view federal taxation, except to fund a few night-watchman roles, as theft. There are tea party activists who believe that any federal power must be specifically enumerated in the Constitution — and then interpret the Constitution as if it were the Articles of Confederation. And then there is Ron Paul, who seeks to overturn the Lincoln and Hamilton revolutions.

But Obama’s overreach has also produced another conservative reaction — a Reform Conservatism. The key figure here is Paul Ryan, the main author of two House Republican budgets. The movement’s intellectual headquarters is National Affairs, a journal of small but potent distribution. Its brain trust includes thinkers such as Yuval Levin, James Capretta and Peter Wehner.

The reform movement — being prone to long, self-reflective policy articles — is not hard to summarize.

First, it asserts that America’s massive fiscal crisis is a result of public-sector inefficiency. So it looks for ways to achieve the ends of the welfare state both through more private means and more efficient public means.

Second, it asserts that America’s economic challenge is also a function of public-sector inefficiency and seeks above all to encourage growth — by streamlining the tax code, reducing burdens on competitiveness and showing confidence in market mechanisms and consumer pressure.

Third, Reform Conservatism argues that America’s social problem is largely a function of the collapse of social capital among the poor and seeks to transform the safety net — encouraging responsibility and providing training toward integration in the broader stream of American life.

Reform Conservatism is less ideologically ambitious than Rejectionist Conservatism. It would replace Obamacare, for example, rather than simply abolish it. Similarly, it focuses on education reform — school accountability, parental empowerment and teacher quality — rather than on the demolition of the Education Department. Reform Conservatism tends to be politically pragmatic. In exchange for serious Medicare reform, for example, it would certainly accept a higher portion of gross domestic product taken in taxes to ease cuts in discretionary spending — if those taxes are designed in a way that doesn’t undermine economic growth.

via The GOP’s conservative reformers win out – The Washington Post.

OK, but I thought Paul Ryan was a hero of the “rejectionist” Tea partiers.  And are any conservatives really committed to achieving the ends of the welfare state?   But still, perhaps there is something to this.  Clearly different Republicans have different priorities.  Then again, Is “reform conservative” just another name for “moderate”?  Are the “rejectionists” so extreme that they cannot anything done, as Mr. Gerson suggests?  Are there any other ways forward?  At any rate, according to Mr. Gerson’s taxonomy, Mitt Romney is of the reform party.

What grates about the GSA scandal

More from that brilliant column by Peggy Noonan, America’s Crisis of Character:

There is the General Services Administration scandal. An agency devoted to efficiency is outed as an agency of mindless bread-and-circuses indulgence. They had a four-day regional conference in Las Vegas, with clowns and mind readers.

The reason the story is news, and actually upsetting, is not that a government agency wasted money. That is not news. The reason it’s news is that the people involved thought what they were doing was funny, and appropriate. In the past, bureaucratic misuse of taxpayer money was quiet. You needed investigators to find it, trace it, expose it. Now it’s a big public joke. They held an awards show. They sang songs about the perks of a government job: “Brand new computer and underground parking and a corner office. . . . Love to the taxpayer. . . . I’ll never be under OIG investigation.” At the show, the singer was made Commissioner for a Day. “The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner’s suite last night” the emcee said. It got a big laugh.

On the “red carpet” leading into the event, GSA chief Jeffrey Neely said: “I am wearing an Armani.” One worker said, “I have a talent for drinking Margarita. . . . It all began with the introduction of performance measures.” That got a big laugh too.

All the workers looked affluent, satisfied. Only a generation ago, earnest, tidy government bureaucrats were spoofed as drudges and drones. Not anymore. Now they’re way cool. Immature, selfish and vain, but way cool.

Their leaders didn’t even pretend to have a sense of mission and responsibility. They reminded me of the story a year ago of the dizzy captain of a U.S. Navy ship who made off-color videos and played them for his crew. He wasn’t interested in the burdens of leadership—the need to be the adult, the uncool one, the one who maintains standards. No one at GSA seemed interested in playing the part of the grown-up, either.

Why? Why did they think this is OK? They seemed mildly decadent. Or proudly decadent. In contrast to you, low, toiling taxpayer that you are, poor drudges and drones.

via America’s Crisis of Character – WSJ.com.

HT:  Doug Reynolds


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