Archive for March, 2013

GOP’s reform report arrives at a debate already well under way

The Republican National Committee has released its “autopsy” on the 2012 election and outline of how to win future federal elections, and it appears to pull no punches. But I have a bone to pick with the way it is being reported, for instance by the Associated Press story linked by my AJC colleague Jim Galloway:

In calling for the GOP to develop “a more welcoming conservatism,” the report rebukes those who remain in denial about the seriousness of the problem and those who are unwilling to broaden the party’s appeal.

A just-concluded gathering of conservatives in Washington cheered speaker after speaker who urged the GOP to stick to its guns and, instead, largely blamed the 2012 defeat on Romney or the way he ran his campaign.

I don’t know whether the AP reporter was at CPAC, the “just-concluded gathering” to which the story referred, and which I attended. But that second paragraph, in my view, completely misrepresents the take-away from the conference.

To say the attendees …

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CPAC 2013: Hearing from some of the possible next GOP standard bearers

We’re approaching the midpoint of CPAC 2013, and we’ve heard from about half of the people expected to be contenders in 2016 (at least, those who are on the agenda — and no, Donald Trump isn’t one of the people I have in mind). We can begin to see the ground these potential candidates are beginning to stake out.

The first of these possible candidates was Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio covered the waterfront of long-held conservative beliefs, on  both fiscal and social issues. “Our challenge,” he said, “is to create an agenda applying our principles.” The broad outlines of such an agenda from him mostly included conventionally conservative stuff. If there is one theme he wants to own, I’d say it is American exceptionalism.

He cited a different book: “The China Dream,” recently written by a Chinese army colonel. The gist, Rubio said, is that “China’s goals should be to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent military and economic power,” and that the 21st …

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CPAC 2013: Who deserves the blame for the 2012 debacle?

The central question facing those attending or speaking at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference this week is why they failed to produce a GOP challenger who could beat a relatively weak incumbent in President Obama last November. For some, it’s about policies, for others it’s about message, for still others it’s about the candidate himself, and for those who don’t fall into one of the first three groups it’s about the nuts and bolts of campaigning — technology, infrastructure and everything that falls into the category known as the “ground game.”

Each of these debates matters, because the GOP had significant failures in each respect in 2012. Anyone who wants to see conservative politicians elected to implement conservative policies needs to pay attention.

While there are differing opinions among the folks here concerning each of those items, the most passionate disagreements I saw Thursday, by far, were those pertaining to the consultants who run many a campaign. …

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CPAC 2013: Where does conservative military policy go from here?

Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster last week, in which he demanded the Obama administration clarify if it believes it has the authority to kill Americans on U.S. soil with drones, sparked blowback from some of his fellow Republicans, including Sen. John McCain. That has sparked debate about whether the GOP is moving in a new direction regarding foreign and military policy, or drifting apart into two, ahem, warring camps.

But foreign-policy and military experts speaking on a Thursday morning panel at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference sounded a relatively consistent line of thinking, albeit more about the use of force overseas while largely staying away from the topic of domestic drones.

“The proper natural end of war is your peace, the peace according to you, the peace you want,” said Angelo Codevilla, professor of international relations at Boston University. “Victory is that achievement. And defeat is in fact letting the enemy achieve his version of peace. …

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Morehead eyes private money to sustain UGA’s rise

In January, as the University of Georgia was wrapping up the search for its new president, I came across an open letter former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote to the people of Purdue University, whose presidency he had just assumed.

The letter made so many good points about the role and future of higher education that I considered writing a column about it, along the lines of: “I don’t know who the next president of UGA should be, but he or she should think like this.” Before I did, UGA announced its next president. And he was thinking about Daniels’ letter, too.

In particular, Jere Morehead noticed this part of the missive:

“We should all remind ourselves every day that the dollars we are privileged to spend come, for the most part, from either a family or a taxpayer. We measure many activities by FTEs, full-time equivalents; we should likewise see every $10,000 we spend as an ‘STE,’ a student tuition equivalent. Any unnecessary expenditure of that amount could …

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Live from D.C.: House GOP preps for visit from Obama

WASHINGTON — President Obama comes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with House Republicans. Or, as Rep. Tom Price put it to me Tuesday, “Four years and two months into his term in office, it’s nice that he comes and visits us for a second time.”

Clearly, there are some trust issues between the two sides.

“Trust is the coin of the political realm, and you can’t do anything without trust,” the Roswell Republican continued. But he did leave an opening for optimism.

“Anything the president does to begin to build a foundation of trust is important. … We’re hopeful this is a sincere effort. But time will tell. A single meeting does not trust build.”

Price’s comments on both the limits of what can be accomplished in one meeting and the promise of even having a meeting were echoed by another Georgia Republican congressman.

“There are no words [Wednesday] that can bring us closer to a solution,” said Rep. Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville. “What we need are deeds. … I’m certain we have …

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Live from D.C.: Is budget bipartisanship in the works?

WASHINGTON — Greetings from the nation’s capital, where I’m spending this week to meet with members of Georgia’s congressional delegation before attending the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC conference. (I had some technical issues when I first arrived yesterday, but those have been resolved.)

I’m early into my schedule on Capitol Hill, where I’m spending most of Tuesday and Wednesday, but there’s a buzz about President Obama’s outreach to congressional Republicans — and whether it’s real.

Last week, of course, Obama dined with a dozen Republicans and called several more. This week, he’s meeting with both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the House and the Senate — not part of the routine for this president. All of these moves have come since the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration took effect March 1, after Obama and the GOP couldn’t agree on a substitute package.

Obama has talked a good game about bipartisanship before, but some folks on the …

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Don’t move backward on school choice

Gerard Robinson recalls the first time people called on legislators to put income limits on Georgia’s tax-credit scholarships. He was one of them.

“When the coalition in Georgia worked to create” the scholarships in 2008, Robinson told me Thursday, “I was actually in the minority asking and pushing for a means-tested voucher. … When it became law, I said fine, let’s make this work.”

Robinson certainly has tried to make the $51.5 million-a-year tax-credit scholarship work. He’s a board member for the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, the largest of Georgia’s student scholarship organizations (SSOs) which collect donations via the tax-credit program and award them to deserving students.

But he also brings a national perspective, having worked with Milwaukee’s voucher program and as a top education officer in Florida and Virginia. And he thinks Georgia shouldn’t move backward and impose income limits, the practice known as means-testing, as other states do.

“I believe the Georgia …

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Corporate welfare alive and well in the Obama administration

Who is happiest with President Obama’s nominees to head the EPA (Gina McCarthy) and the Energy Department (Ernest Moniz)? As Tim Carney explains, it’s neither environmentalists on the left nor free marketeers on the right, but the lobby groups that seek as many beneficial — for their corporate members — government subsidies and mandates as possible:

Although Obama regularly talks about ending “corporate welfare,” battling the “special interests” and creating a “level playing field,” he has steadfastly supported government favors for the ethanol industry — favors that increase costs for drivers, taxpayers, ranchers and grocery shoppers.

The Solar Energy Industries Association also applauded Obama’s nomination of McCarthy and Moniz. Solar companies profit from a production tax credit that Obama recently fought to extend, and a plethora of stimulus subsidies such as loan guarantees, tax credits and grants.

Check who’s investing big in solar energy, and you’ll notice a lot of …

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Pressuring the people to pressure the politicians about our national debt

First came the New Year’s tax increases of the “fiscal cliff.” Last week, the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration took effect. Still, Congress will spend much of March negotiating a deal to fund the federal government for the next six months — a deal that, in all likelihood, will mean borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars more.

Lurching from one crisis to the next, however real or contrived each one may be, has not put the country on a more solid, sustainable fiscal path. That’s where Maya MacGuineas comes in.

“We actually know for the most part what the parameters of a fix are,” MacGuineas, head of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told me during a stop in Atlanta two weeks ago. “You know that you’re going to have to look at all parts of the budget.

“You know that a key challenge here is reforming our entitlement programs, as aging and health care are driving the debt, and that … we can reform entitlement programs in …

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