Between now and the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, there will be many predictions of what the next four years will bring. Most of those will be wrong. As it always does, the fate of the administration will hinge on things that no one can predict.
In recent days, reporters have talked of a sudden rightward shift in the GOP. They point to the platform’s support of: the unborn child’s individual right to life, a balanced budget amendment, supermajority requirements for tax increases, consideration of the gold standard, voluntary school prayer, public display of the Ten Commandments, crackdowns on Internet porn, and repeal of the Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” law. They also note that the platform opposes same-sex marriage and the use of foreign law in court decisions. There is just one problem in the “sudden shift” theme: all of these positions appeared in previous platforms, and in the case of school prayer, as long ago as 1972.
Several years ago, my student Nathan Harden transferred from Claremont McKenna College to Yale. Although I was disappointed to lose one of our stars, I was happy for Nathan. Having gone to graduate school at Yale, I knew the intellectual riches that it offered to undergraduates. As his excellent new book points out, his experience turned out to be bittersweet. Mingled with the intellectual dazzle was something darker. At this point, I need only quote the publisher’s summary:
In MSNBC ads, Rachel Maddow has been pointing to bridges and other public works as examples of the need for government. Private enterprise cannot produce the public goods we need, she says. Perhaps surprisingly, Newt Gingrich has long been making the very same case. More here.
When I stopped my car at an intersection on Friday night, I heard yelling from the car behind me. It was hard to make out what the commotion was about until the car pulled up to the next lane. The young driver, his face contorted with hate and rage, was yelling at me, “F— Israel! F– ISRAEL!” Apparently he had seen the sticker on my car’s back bumper: “I Stand with Israel.”
A New York Times article made it seem as if the friendship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and congressional Republicans were a new development. In fact, their bond goes back many years, involving political connections and shared convictions about economics, security, and many other things. More here.
According to new reports, students remain woefully ill-informed about government and history, and citizens worry about the inadequacy of civic education. Meanwhile, the number of Americans renouncing citizenship is going up.
For the 1996 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, I wrote a paper titled “Understanding Newt Gingrich.” Click the link for full text: the takeaway is that typical ideological labels really do not apply, which helps us understand his controversial comments about the Ryan plan. Some other materials on Newt:
The idea of American exceptionalism is much in the news. Critics disparage it as the idea that Americans are better than everyone else and that the United States can do whatever it wants.But it doesn’t necessarily mean that at all.In its most modest form, it is simply the idea that the United States tends to differ from other nations in certain important respects.There is abundant empirical evidence for this point:for instance, there are other rich countries, and other religious countries, but the United States is unusual for being both rich and religious.
In today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman rails against the filibuster. He writes: “A Congressional Research Service report from 2005, when a Republican majority was threatening to abolish the filibuster so it could push through Bush judicial nominees, suggests several ways this could happen - for example, through a majority vote changing Senate rules on the first day of a new session.” Funny - back then, he seemed to think that the filibuster was a valuable safeguard against a zealous majority. On March 29, 2005, he warned that “the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law than Mr. Greer [the judge in the Schiavo case].”
As Greg Pollowitz notes, Senator Charles Schumer recently called a flight attendant a “b****.” Some history is relevant here. During Schumer’s first Senate race in 1998, incumbent Al D’Amato called him a “putzhead.” Expressing outrage, Schumer milked the incident for all the advantage he could get. The Washington Post reported: “The remark, made Tuesday, was seized upon today by Schumer, who called it `a cheap slur against me.’ He linked the insult to D’Amato’s claim earlier this week to be more committed than Schumer to helping survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. He also challenged the senator to `have the guts to use that same slur to my face’ when the two meet for debates this weekend.” After his own outburst this week, Schumer merely had an aide issue a pro forma apology. So here is Schumer’s Law: It is an outrage to use a vulgar epithet against a Harvard-educated politician, but it’s no big deal to use one against a working-class woman.
Most Americans favor cutting salariesfor lawmakers and White House officials as a way of reducing government spending. Adam Kokesh, seeking the GOP nomination in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, may thus be onto something. He has a bold proposal for his fellow candidates: pledge that you will refuse any salary in excess of average family income. See video here.