20 July 2011

Is Michele Bachmann fit to be president?

The story of Michele Bachmann's migraines is sweeping the internet.

Politico had a wide-ranging story this morning citing several sources close to Bachmann, who confirmed that Bachmann has suffered several serious migraines during her time in the House that have affected her ability to work. The sources confirmed that Bachmann occasionally has to close the door to her office during the workday and lie down on the floor, in the dark.

Bachmann pushed back on the migraine issue last summer, alleging that while she suffered from them, they didn't affect her ability to legislate, but these new revelations have resuscitated the story. Due to Bachmann's original denials, this story has suddenly become much bigger than it needs to be.

I frankly don't care whether Bachmann suffers from migraines. I certainly hope she gets relief and stops having them, because I understand they are miserable and utterly debilitating. But it doesn't affect my evaluation of her fitness to be president one bit.

Michele Bachmann is unfit to be president because in five years in Congress, she has never drafted a bill that has been signed into law. She is unfit to be president because she routinely engages in wild conspiracy theories and name-calling. She is unfit to be president because, like Sarah Palin, she is woefully inexperienced. She is unfit to be president because she wraps herself in some parts of the Constitution (2nd Amendment) while completely ignoring others (4th Amendment). She is unfit to be president because her short, utterly unremarkable congressional career demonstrates that she would rather grandstand than legislate.

Bachmann is also unfit to be president because, when pushing back on the migraine story, she argued that migraines wouldn't affect her ability "to be commander in chief." It is not the president's primary constitutional responsibility to be commander in chief. Bachmann's job as president would be to take care that the nation's laws are faithfully executed. The Constitution -- which Bachmann claims to venerate -- states that the president is only the commander in chief of the armed forces -- not the entire country -- and the plain language of Article II indicates that the commander in chief power only vests once Congress declares war. If Bachmann believes her primary responsibility as president is to be in charge of the military, that is yet another strike against her.

Whether she suffers from migraines is irrelevant.

Any conservative who even fathoms voting for Bachmann for president is a hypocrite, since much of the conservative case against Barack Obama in 2008 was based on his nonexistent legislative resume and laughable inexperience. Now, many tea partiers are ready to elevate Bachmann -- who manages to have even fewer legislative accomplishments under her belt than Obama -- to the exact same office they said Obama was unfit to hold.

14 July 2011

Musings on the debt-ceiling showdown

It's no secret that this site is an avowed opponent of big government and believes that America's debt crisis is solely a function of out-of-control spending and government profligacy in virtually every area the state infects.

The fact is that out-of-control discretionary spending, unfunded wars and a looming entitlement crisis are pushing America to the brink of fiscal collapse. Both Republicans and Democrats share equally in the blame. George W. Bush -- enabled by first a Republican Congress, then a Democratic one -- doubled the size of the national debt in just eight years. Despite his assurances that he would do something about the deficit, Barack Obama has managed to be even worse than his predecessor, with his last fiscal budget clocking in with a $1.4 trillion deficit. Democrats in Congress have even failed to pass a budget. Short of taxing the rich and shrieking about rich yacht owners, the Democrats have done little to demonstrate any concern whatsoever with the massive fiscal crisis. President Obama -- as with the perpetual warfare state, executive power and civil liberties -- has completely ignored Candidate Obama's own words. Given that Obama promised to cut the deficit in half in four years, his presidency has been an utter failure.

But I was bitterly disappointed to see Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor walk the GOP away from a plan that would cut the deficit by an estimated $4 trillion over the next decade. Here's why:

1. Big-picture legislation requires compromise. There is not a single piece of significant legislation passed in the last 50 years that did not require each side to give, even a little.

2. Ronald Reagan, the ultimate conservative icon and the greatest president of the 20th century, presided over some sort of tax increase 11 times in 8 years. For conservatives to suggest -- as Cantor has implied -- that any tax increases are completely off the table because they are "not conservative" is preposterous. It's yet another example of the 21st century Republican Party wrapping itself in only part of Reagan's legacy while completely ignoring others.

3. Politically, Republicans (again, particularly Cantor) need to be careful about defending taxes and loopholes, such as the capital gains tax, that benefit only the wealthiest Americans. While most Americans do not want marginal rates to increase, the GOP is playing a very dangerous game by appearing to align themselves behind policies that only benefit the rich.

4. We've noted this before, but it is highly misleading for Republicans to suggest that the way to a balanced budget is through tax cuts, as Tim Pawlenty has. Marginal rates increased incrementally in 1993, and due to a combination of increased revenue and spending cuts, the government was running a surplus by 1999. That increase was reversed by the Bush tax cuts in 2001, and in FY 2002, the government began running a budget deficit and has never recovered. It is so mind-bogglingly stupid for anyone to suggest that cutting taxes automatically increases revenue, or raising taxes cuts revenue, that I cannot take them seriously.

5. Just so we are clear, my ideal tax reform would include 2 items: (i) throwing out the entire tax code, including all tax breaks and loopholes; and (ii) instituting a flat tax of 22 percent, applied equally to individuals and corporations.

6. For conservatives to suggest -- as Gov. Pawlenty has implied -- that it would be better for the U.S. to default on its obligations than to raise the debt limit is as unconservative a policy as one could concoct. Conservatism values stability, order and reason; it eschews radical change. And if the U.S. government defaults, it would throw the global financial market into upheaval. This is not in any way conservative. It is suicidal and stupid.

7. Since he took office, President Obama has engaged in egregious demagoguery on Social Security, but the fact that he put not only Social Security, but Medicare, on the table is significant. This has upset liberals like Glenn Greenwald, who have shrieked about taking money out of seniors' pockets and giving it to Wall Street.

8. The most critical part of any long-term deal is revamping Social Security and making it sustainable. As such, please ignore the atrocious AARP ads.

9. Finally, most damning to the Republicans: In March 2011, the House GOP blasted out a fantastic, in-depth study of comparable debt crises that had taken place over the past several decades across the globe. The report found that successful policy solutions to these crises had an average ratio of about 85% spending cuts to 15% revenue increases. In March, this was considered the "conservative" avenue. It has recently come to light that Republicans walked away from a package with a ratio of roughly 83/17. Minimally, walking away over such a small change in ratio makes the GOP look petulant at best, and hyper-partisan at worst.

10 July 2011

Michele Bachmann's "constitutional conservatism"

She may be the rising anti-Romney, but contrary to her campaign tagline, Michele Bachmann is no "constitutional conservative."

For Bachmann, the actual words of the Constitution don't matter, outside of the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, and the Tenth's exhortation that the powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. Perhaps she also likes Article I's commerce clause limitation on Congress, or Article II's commander in chief language.

What I'm certain of is that Bachmann is no big fan of Amendments 1, 4, 5, 6 or 14. If she actually took the time to internalize what those parts of the Constitution actually say, her critique of federal power would sound a lot like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.

This past week, Bachmann pledged to support an outright ban on all pornography, a position that is patently violative of the First Amendment and Stanley v. Georgia, a 40-year-old case holding that the government cannot regulate the private possession of pornography.

George W. Bush claimed the novel power to break federal wiretapping laws, in obvious violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Since time immemorial, jurisprudence has required a warrant before the government infringes on one's privacy. But for Bachmann, allowing the president to break the law is allowable under the Orwellian defense of Keeping Us Safe.

I have yet to hear Bachmann bring up the "state secrets" doctrine, extrajudicial assassinations, Jose Padilla or Yaser Hamdi. The plain language of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause notwithstanding, I have never heard Bachmann levy one complaint against the Imperial Executive's war on liberty.

Bachmann further has never levied a Constitution-based complaint against the Bush administration for its myriad violations of the Sixth Amendment's notice, speedy trial, right to counsel or confrontation provisions.

Ironically, Bachmann's "Pledge" also violates the Tenth Amendment which she claims to hold so dearly, in that it usurps the traditional rights of states by pushing a federal gay marriage ban, instead of allowing for federalist, state-by-state self-determination.

Conservatives -- mainly tea-party types -- love to wrap themselves in the flag and wave around copies of the Constitution, but when you dig into what the Constitution actually says, it's quite obvious that if you love the Constitution, you've ceased being a Republican.

Republicans claimed the president has unlimited wartime powers. Republicans claimed the president could break federal law without consequence. Republicans claimed that the president could designate someone an "enemy combatant" and make them disappear. Republicans -- led by John Yoo, championed by Dick Cheney -- crafted the most constitutionally destructive powers in our republic's history. And Republicans, led by Bachmann and the likes of Mike Huckabee, are pushing a "Pledge" that would impose a sweeping set of "family values" on individual states, federalism be damned.

If Michele Bachmann was truly a "constitutional conservative," she would conclude that the type of government championed by the 21st century Republican Party has very little in common with the text of the actual Constitution. Bachmann's critique would not include just President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, but George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales. It would include not only the folly of intervention in Libya, but also the ill-advised war in Iraq. It would include not only Obamacare, but warrantless wiretaps, extrajudicial renditions and yes, a "Pledge" that aggregates federal power.

If Michele Bachmann takes Conor Friedersdorf's advice and runs at Obama from the left -- not only criticizing the Libyan intervention, but also his ridiculous conception of the "state secrets" doctrine, his presidential assassination program and the absurd executive powers he has claimed -- then perhaps I could take her claims of "constitutional conservatism" seriously. As it is, Bachmann has almost as little in common with the Constitution as Obama.