An impeachable offense?

Did someone in the White House offer Rep. Joe Sestak a job in the administration if he would drop out of the Senate race against Arlen Specter?  That’s what Sestak claimed during his successful Democratic primary race against the White-House endorsed Specter.  If so, that would be a federal crime.  If the president did it, so people are claiming, that would be an impeachable offense.

The controversy revolves around an oft-repeated statement by Rep. Sestak, D-Pa., that he had been offered a job by the Obama administration in exchange for dropping out of the senatorial primary against Obama supporter Sen. Arlen Specter.

Sestak said he refused the offer. He continued in the Senate primary and defeated Specter for the Democratic nomination.

But Karl Rove, longtime White House adviser to President George W. Bush, said the charge is explosive because of federal law.

“This is a pretty extraordinary charge:  ‘They tried to bribe me out of the race by offering me a job,’” he said on Greta Van Susteran’s “On the Record” program on the Fox News Channel. “Look, that’s a violation of the federal code: 18 USC 600 says that a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government, in return for a political act.

“Somebody violated the law. If Sestak is telling the truth, somebody violated the law,” Rove said. “Section 18 USC 211 says you cannot accept anything of value in return for hiring somebody. Well, arguably, providing a clear path to the nomination for a fellow Democrat is something of value.

He continued, citing a third law passage: “18 USC 595, which prohibits a federal official from interfering with the nomination or election for office. … ‘If you’ll get out, we’ll appoint you to a federal office’ – that’s a violation of the law.”

via Sestak White House scandal called ‘impeachable offense’.

Is this just a tempest in a teapot brewed up by Fox News?  Or is it a tempest in a Teapot Dome-scale scandal?

Democrats seek new language

An exceedingly odd tidbit from The Washington Post’s political columnist Perry Bacon:

Democrats should not talk about “the environment,” “the unemployed” or “the uninsured.” Instead, they should replace those phrases with ones that have more appeal to voters, such as “the air we breathe and the water we drink,” “people who’ve lost their jobs” and “people who used to have insurance.”

That’s the advice of one of the party’s newest and more unusual gurus, Drew Westen. Westen is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who, unlike most political advisers, has never worked full time on Capitol Hill or for a political campaign.

But party leaders in the House and the Senate brought in Westen recently to discuss his expertise: “The Political Brain,” as he called it in his 2007 book. Westen argues that Democrats constantly try to sell policies to voters through reason and facts, ignoring research showing that people respond more to emotional appeals.

via Language lessons for Democrats, from the political brain of Drew Westen.

Democrats using reason and facts?  When was the last time that happen?  All I recall in their appeals is moralistic exhortation and guilt-tripping.  That was all we heard in the health care debate, but hardly any reasonable explanation of how the new system could possibly work and nary a fact about how we can pay for it.  The same goes for all of the bailouts, the environmental policies, and immigration policies they keep recommending.  Now I happen to think that moral exhortation is a legitimate appeal, one not necessarily counter to reason and facts.  But if Democrats think that they are the ones who trade in rationality and facts, they are delusional!  And if they think they can make their policies more palatable by manipulating the language, they are either cynical or naive.

Primaries reject establishment politics

Talk about “what’s in a name,” as in the post below.  Consider naming your boy “Rand.”  That is what small-government congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul did.  It seems exceedingly odd for a Christian to name his kid after the militantly atheistic virtue-of-selfishness philosopher Ayn Rand.  (And are there girls named “Ayn”?)

Anyway, Rand Paul has won the Republican senate primary in Kentucky.  He is the Tea Party candidate, defeating  the Republican establishment’s choice, Trey Grayson.

Also, long-time Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who changed from being a Republican to being a Democrat so as to give his new party a filibuster-busting super-majority, got beat.  This, despite the personal endorsement of President Obama and the Democratic national machine, seeking to reward him for his treachery.  He was beaten in the primary by Congressman Joe Sestak, who will be up against Republican Pat Toomey in what is expected to be a close race.

In Arkansas, Democratic incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln was forced into a run-off with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.  The Democrats did hold on to the late John Murtha’s congressional seat from Pennsylvania in a mid-term election.

But virtually all of the winners, Republicans and Democrats (who in primary elections, of course, are not running against each other, but against other members of their own party) were running anti-Washington, anti-political establishment  campaigns.

Sen. Arlen Specter loses Pennsylvania primary; Rand Paul wins in Kentucky.

Another Christian politician caught in adultery

Is it any wonder that Christians are losing their credibility?

Indiana congressman Mark Souder’s resignation, announced Tuesday, came after anonymous tipsters called his aides and his opponents in a Republican primary to say he was having an extramarital affair with a part-time staffer, according to sources familiar with the calls.

The conservative Christian congressman’s chief of staff, Renee Howell, confronted him last week over the rumored affair with Tracy Meadows Jackson, according to a source in the office. On Tuesday morning, two weeks after winning the primary, Souder publicly admitted the affair — without naming the staffer — and said he would resign effective Friday.

The affair began after Jackson was hired in 2004, according to the source in the office. Jackson, who is married, was to be a guest host with Souder for a daily radio spot he recorded for WFCV, a Christian radio station in Fort Wayne, Ind. Jackson also at one point played host for a local cable-access show that served as a platform for Souder to discuss conservative issues, and she helped produce numerous videos of Souder’s speeches and positions, including one in which they discussed his strong support for teen abstinence.

via Rep. Mark Souder’s resignation comes after anonymous tips about affair.

That these two, both of whom are married, started their cheating while exercising their religiosity at a Christian radio station and while making videos on Christian sexual morality is just too much.

Republicans’ new ideas

Republicans are reportedly working on  some  innovative but controversial ideas.  Here are three examples:

The parent tax cut

Robert Stein, a conservative economist who served as deputy assistant secretary for macroeconomic analysis in George W. Bush's administration, says the tax code is unfair to one particular group of Americans: parents.

He says that parents invest thousands of dollars in raising members of society who eventually fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare, but retirees who chose not to raise children get the same old-age benefits as those who did.

“Once a country adopts an old-age pension system, it creates an implicit bias against raising children,” Stein said. “One of the natural reasons for raising children is not just because you like kids, but to take care of yourself in old age. Once a country gives everybody access to everyone else's kids' money, it undermines the natural economic incentive to raise kids.”

Under current law, parents with children get a $1,000 tax credit plus a tax exemption for each child, saving a typical middle-class family of four about $1,550 per child.

Stein would replace this system with a $4,000-per-child tax credit. That parental tax credit would be funded in part through Stein's other big idea: Simplify the personal income tax to two brackets — one that taxes 15 percent of income and the other 35 percent. He estimates that few people now in the 10 percent bracket would pay more if they move to 15 percent, because of the child exemption.

But he acknowledges that some people would be bumped up to the 35 percent tax rate, mainly upper-middle-class taxpayers who either didn't raise children or whose children have already left home.

“To be blunt, the plan is a tax hike on the rich and makes the tax code even more progressive than it is today,” he wrote in a recent piece in the conservative journal National Affairs.

The idea has not been debated among the GOP leadership in Congress, but it has generated criticism among conservative thinkers who say the government should not reward people for behavior that they might do anyway, such as having children.

Marriage insurance

Conservatives have long touted the importance of marriage. Bush even established a “Healthy Marriage Initiative” that created small federal grants for pilot programs to help couples strengthen their marriages. (That funding expires next year, and President Obama created a pilot program focused on fatherhood to replace it.)

Much of the energy from conservatives went to promoting marriage as a cultural virtue. But Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, says that it is important to highlight the economic benefits of marriage.

The divorce rate among college-educated Americans has dropped since the 1980s, but the rate has increased among people without college degrees. This creates what he calls a “marriage gap” that denies lower-income people the advantages of marriage if they, for example, get laid off from their jobs.

“We need to appreciate that marriage is more than an emotional connection between two people,” Wilcox said. “There are kids; it’s a kind of economic cooperation, a form of social insurance.”

Wilcox says churches, the entertainment industry and other cultural institutions would have to embrace this view of marriage, not just the government. He proposes federal funding for public-service announcements and other social marketing to promote marriage, modeled on anti-smoking campaigns.

And to discourage divorce, he says, states should change marriage laws so spouses who are being divorced against their will and have not engaged in abuse or adultery would be given preferential treatment by family courts in determining alimony, child support and custody of children.

Eyeing entitlement programs

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants to dramatically change Social Security and Medicare. He says that the country can’t afford the scheduled increases in benefits, and he proposes remaking the system for future beneficiaries while keeping the current benefits in place for people already 55 or older.

He would turn Medicare from a government-run program to one in which people get vouchers to buy private health insurance. The amount of the vouchers would depend on the health and age of the retiree but would grow at a slower rate than health spending, which could mean voucher recipients pay more out of pocket to buy insurance. Ryan says competition among private companies would drive down costs.

For Social Security, he would change the way benefits are calculated for upper-income beneficiaries, basing increases on inflation instead of increases in wages, which in the long term would mean lower benefits than under the current structure.

For Ryan, these changes are not only about balancing the budget. By reducing some benefits, recipients of government entitlement programs would be turned into consumers while the role of the federal government would be reduced. For instance, he would allow — as Bush proposed to much consternation from Democrats — younger workers to put some of the money they would pay in Social Security into individual investment accounts.

“Government increasingly dictates how Americans live their lives; they are not only wards of the state but also its subjects,” Ryan said. “Dependency drains individual character, which in turn weakens American society.”

Democrats have attacked Ryan’s plan as a shift toward privatization with which most Americans would be uncomfortable. Other conservative thinkers privately say his plans are so expansive that they would be politically toxic to propose in the near future.

via Conservative thinkers tout three innovative and controversial proposals.

Which of these would be good policies and which would be  more  government activism, though in a different direction?

Christianity & politics, when everything is politics

Douglas Wilson has some penetrating things to say about Christians getting involved in politics:

James Davison Hunter has this to say about contemporary Christian political involvement.

“These qualifications notwithstanding, the reality is that politics is the tactic of choice for many Christians as they think about changing the world . . . It is not an exaggeration to say that the dominant public witness of the Christian churches in America since the early 1980s has been a political witness” (To Change the World, p. 12).

. . . .

Think about this for a moment. The “most dominant public witness” of Christians has been political. Assuming this to be so (and I believe it is), there are different reasons why it might be so. One reason could be that Christians are the ones with the problem. They have politics on the brain. They rush to the mechanisms of the state (which were modestly hiding in a distant village), in order to advance their public faith with the politics of coercion. In other words, these Christians have lost faith in Jesus their Savior, and are trying to use the political process as a sort of savior's-little-helper.

Another option, and one that I consider far more likely, is this. The political state in our day is swollen and overgrown, and has gotten into everything. Politics, the great secular idol of modernity, has virtually filled up every public space. This means that it is not possible to go into any public space in order to have a public witness of any kind without it resulting in some kind of political confrontation.

To this extent, to blame public Christians for being “too political” is like blaming Noah’s ark for being “too wet.”

Abortion and sodomy were sins long before they were constitutional rights. If a minister preached against them a thousand years ago, he was preaching against moral failings, and he was not being political. He was being public, but not political. When I do it, I am preaching against moral failings also, but I am also being political. What changed? It wasn’t the Decalogue. It wasn’t the history of the church, or the history of preaching. It wasn’t the nature of the gospel. It wasn’t me. Rather, it was the nature of the idol being challenged — and this idol aspires to omnipresence.

We are told, ad nauseam, to keep our morality out of politics. It would be more to the point to tell the idol-mongers to keep their politics out of morality. Public morality need not be political, in the sense we are discussing. Public morality need not be a matter that concerns the legislature. But if the legislature concerns itself with everything, then any faithful Christian expression will immediately be concerned with the political.

The secular polis is an in-your-face polis. The polis tells me what kind of light bulbs I must have, how far apart my sheetrock screws have to be, whether or not I can smoke in a restaurant that wants to let me, whether or not I can remove that tag from my mattress, and whether I can say that sodomy is a sin from the pulpit, whether or not it is in my text. In short, if I step into any public space in the name of Jesus Christ, I will be indignantly told, almost immediately, that this space is taken, and not to be a claim-jumper. I may (for the present) believe in Jesus behind my eyes and between my ears, but if it goes any further than that, I am clearly out of control. I am meddling with politics.

via How Noah’s Ark Was Way Too Wet.

HT: Joe Carter