Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann: A Dissent

Something’s rotten in Denmark—or, in this case, the blogosphere. Much of the Right seems to have united around Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who currently leads the 2012 Republican pack by a wide margin, thanks to a combination of Texas’ impressive job-creation record, his bold, take-no-prisoners style, and his ostensible conservatism on all the major issues.

Except…he’s not all that conservative, or all that appealing a candidate. He’s got a horrendous immigration record, he initially tried to use states’ rights as an excuse to punt on gay marriage and abortion, his 2008 pick was the radically pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani, he’s a practitioner of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, he seems to have an Obama-like ego, he’s a surprisingly clumsy debater (to the point where he can’t even give a compelling defense of his own position on global warming), and, in the scandal that’s been getting the most press lately, he signed an executive order trying to force young schoolgirls to be injected with an unproven vaccine meant to prevent an illness which children cannot contract in schools through casual contact. 

As Michelle Malkin and Shannen Coffin have explained, the Gardasil mandate raises multiple serious questions about Perry’s principles and trustworthiness. There’s the fact that his EO circumvented the democratic process and tried to unilaterally impose a sweeping policy change. There’s the fact that his position presumes the government has the right to make medical decisions for parents for reasons completely unrelated to the justification for traditional school inoculations, as explained by Rick Santorum. There’s the fact that he both defends the mandate and condemns its critics with leftist-style emotional appeals about who does and doesn’t care about disease. And there’s the unproven but certainly plausible possibility that his decision was motivated at least partially by cronyism.

The defenses leveled by Perry and his supporters don’t hold water. First is that he apologized. Only partially—he’s said the EO was a mistake, but not the core policy (nor has he apologized to those he’s slandered as not caring about Texan children). Second is that the policy had an opt-out. But not only is it offensive from a limited-government perspective to presume that the state is going to do something to your child unless you take proactive measures to stop them, the opt-out itself had numerous shortcomings. Third—and most pathetic—is that the policy never went into effect. Obviously, we don’t give people a pass for trying to do wrong simply because they didn’t succeed!

Perry’s been taking a beating for this from several competitors, including Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. But this week, the focus shifted from Perry’s statism to Bachmann’s incompetence, as she relayed the story of a mother who told her Gardasil caused her daughter’s mental retardation. To be clear, she absolutely deserves criticism for recklessly passing along an anecdote without bothering to verify it. (Full disclosure: This is one of several blunders that have convinced me she doesn’t have the good sense or communication ability to be the Republican nominee, and so I no longer support her for president.)

But the response from two of the Right’s biggest professional blogs has been something else entirely. At RedState, Lori Ziganto says Bachmann “has shown she is of bad character,” Ben Howe thinks she “should be ashamed” for “diminish[ing] the pro-life movement for her own political gain,” Brad Jackson & Elizabeth Blackney discuss Bachmann needing to “pray the crazy away,” and Leon Wolfe declares that Bachmann doesn’t “deserve to be one of the 435 people who gets to contribute to the creation of legislation that might one day influence health policy in America.” (Before Bachmann became an issue here, RedState’s Streiff also impugned Malkin’s “integrity and intellect” for questioning Perry, a nasty, unfounded attack on a conservative heroine which RS editor Erick Erickson refused to criticize.)

Meanwhile, at Pajamas Media, PJM CEO Roger Simon said Bachmann and Santorum sounded “rabid, and frankly scary” in criticizing Perry (please note that he’s talking about the debate itself, not Bachmann’s subsequent retardation claim). Bryan Preston has done six posts so far blasting Bachmann over this, including declaration’s that she’s “descend[ed] into self-parody” and that her “time as a serious candidate is over.”

Again, I want to be clear that the criticism isn’t what I have a problem with. Michele Bachmann has displayed a clear pattern of factual sloppiness and rhetorical recklessness. I am, however, asking why there’s such a double-standard—why all of a sudden Bachmann is being treated with a level of scorn no GOP candidate other than Ron Paul ever gets, at least not in such volume and unanimity, from the blogosphere.

Rick Perry gives speeches to La Raza and smears lawmakers who resisted his Gardasil mandate as heartless monsters who don’t care about women’s health; Mitt Romney continues to insist his state’s healthcare plan was a good thing; and Herman Cain shows no signs of having assembled a coherent foreign policy platform, despite campaigning to become leader of the free worldall of which are bigger substantive problems than repeating an anecdote without bothering to verify it—and the blogosphere reaction is much more diverse and balanced. Some criticize, some defend, but most conclude that the problems aren’t disqualifying on their own. (Heck, going back to the last election, not even Rudy Giuliani’s support for partial-birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion was enough for a consensus that he was beyond the pale!)   

Perhaps the most suspicious thing is that these new Bachmann critics apparently weren’t this bothered by Bachmann’s own previous blunders, like signing the Iowa Family pledge without reading it, that weird talk of Tea Partiers slitting our writs and signing a blood oath together, or calling on people to be “armed and dangerous” in opposition to Obama. Those were worth varying degrees of criticism, but she was still generally considered a respectable choice for the nomination.

What happened? Rick Perry. The biggest difference between this gaffe and all of Bachmann’s others (as well as the aforementioned failings of various other candidates) seems to be that this time, she made it while crossing the latest man to be anointed Savior by a segment of the Right that still hasn’t gotten over the hero-worship tendencies that have all too often led conservatives to gloss over the failings of various politicians, including George W. Bush, Fred Thompson, and Sarah Palin.

How many times does the movement have to replay this game until we finally see that it’s about principles, not personalities? When will we stop being infatuated with alluring poll numbers and conservative-sounding bravado, and instead maintain the detached objectivity to consistently judge all those who would be our standard-bearers?
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A Less Perfect Union: How Will Conservatives Restore States’ Rights?

Note: the following article was originally written in early June for another venue, but I’ve reprinted it here because I think its point is still relevant. It is also cross-posted at RedState.

Thanks largely to the Tea Party movement, the United States is thinking harder about individual liberty and states’ rights than she has in years. But despite identifying the problem, conservatives aren’t any closer to enacting a viable long-term solution for taming our federal leviathan.

Several efforts show promise. Many states have challenged the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance, guaranteeing an eventual ruling from the Supreme Court. Though worth doing, that’s far too risky a basket to put all our eggs in, since it relies on a majority of the justices to rule based on the text of the Constitution rather than their personal ideologies.

In his popular book Men in Black, constitutional scholar and talk radio host Dr. Mark Levin suggests that Congress should restrain such activist judges via its constitutional authority to place limits on the courts’ jurisdiction and to impeach especially odious judges, and advocates constitutional amendments to give judges term limits and give Congress a supermajority veto over Supreme Court decisions. All these proposals are worth exploring in further detail, but even if enacted, there would still be legislative statism to deal with.

In Minnesota’s 2010 gubernatorial race, unsuccessful Republican nominee Tom Emmer backed a state constitutional amendment forbidding federal laws from taking effect without approval by a two-thirds vote in the state legislature. This proposal’s practical failings are obvious—preemptively nullifying all federal laws until the high bar of supermajority support is met would drastically complicate the law’s execution, and there’s no reason to expect state lawmakers’ decisions will be significantly more pro-Constitution that Congress, instead of simply turning on whether a particular majority happens to agree with whoever controls Capitol Hill at any given time.

In his recent book Power Divided is Power Checked, talk radio host Jason Lewis floats a more radical solution—a 28th Amendment, which would expressly affirm each state’s right to secession: “any state whose inhabitants desire through legal means and in accordance with state law to leave this union of the several states shall not be forcibly refrained from doing so.”

Secession is one of the Right’s more heated inter-movement debates, often distinguishing Libertarian from Republican, Northerner from Southerner. This conservative believes secession-at-will is a dangerous doctrine which undermines the rule of law and forgets the nation’s founding principles. Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Jay all considered the national Union an indispensible safeguard of liberty, and “Father of the Constitution” James Madison explicitly denied secession’s legitimacy, explaining that, as a mutually-binding legal compact, the Constitution cannot be broken by any single party.

Moreover, conservatives need to be honest about secession’s full implications—by breaking away from the country, a state wouldn’t merely be rejecting an unjust administration, but also rejecting our very Constitution as no longer worth defending within the system of government it establishes.

So what is the answer? Taking unconstitutional laws to court would certainly be worthwhile. So would Levin’s proposed remedies. But these aren’t magic bullets, and conservatives need to recognize that the problem is more complex than “good states versus evil feds.” Indeed, bad national politicians don’t just fall from the sky; they start out as bad state and local politicians.

Why do so many Americans accept statism? Because the rest of us have failed to be vigilant in our own backyards. For decades, we’ve let progressive presuppositions about government and society gradually infect our politics, education, and culture. To really change course, we must retake our institutions at the local level, particularly with renewed scrutiny of what our schools are—and aren’t—teaching. We can’t expect future generations to recognize betrayals of our founding principles if they don’t even recognize names like Locke or Publius.

We didn’t get here overnight, and we shouldn’t expect a constitutional rebirth overnight either. Every level of American government and society needs to be scrubbed clean. Meaningful, lasting reform is the work of generations, which will demand from each of us more patience, tenacity, and fortitude than ever before.

New on RedState – The Fate of Independence

My first RedState post:

As many of us celebrated the birth of our nation this weekend, our pride and gratitude were tempered by the fear that America might have a dwindling number of future Independence Days to look forward to. A survey of the political landscape reveals that such pessimism regarding the survival of our Founding principles and institutions is not without cause.

The Left’s cancerous influence over our politics, media, and culture remains widespread, and the Right’s efforts in curing it leave much to be desired:

  • Over one million unborn children are slaughtered every year, yet when the Susan B. Anthony List asks those running to be the nation’s next president for the most basic and mild of pro-life promises, National Review decides they ask too much. Reason’s Matt Welch claims that only 30% of professed libertarians apply their philosophy of liberty and unalienable right to those most in need of their protection.
  • Despite all the this-time-we-really-mean-it promises from Republicans after their 2010 victory, it’s still doubtful that the GOP has the fortitude or savvy to right our fiscal ship. Speaker John Boehner settled for a budget deal that began with far smaller spending cuts than America needs and turned out to be far, far less than even the announced numbers. Signs of further disappointment suggest the GOP still hasn’t kicked its addiction to compromise.

Read the rest on RedState.

Around the Web

A Madison teacher tells her second- and third-graders that Scott Walker’s actions are basically like racial segregation. There’s no other word than evil for someone who tries to make small children, who are much too young to understand the issues behind this debate, hate another human being over reasonable policy disputes through vicious, preposterous lies that no sound-minded adult could possibly believe in good faith. 

Thaddeus McCotter is officially in the presidential race. I’m withholding judgment, but given how underwhelming the rest of the GOP field is, I’m certainly willing to be won over if he’s got what it takes.

Robert Stacy McCain lays the smack down on a richly deserving scumbag with a history of defaming conservatives. If Taylor was sincerely worried about right-wing bloggers who aid America’s moral debasement, he could have started with the pro-choicers. No need to make stuff up.

Glenn Beck says he’s not playing the game anymore, and is ready to revolutionize the news and information system. Or something. I’m still skeptical that adding a subscription fee to what he’s basically already doing is going to do anything but decrease the number of people he reaches, not increase it.

Fox News Channel’s temporary post-Beck show, “The Five,” sounds really, really lame. “Hey, let’s throw together the C-listers we’ve got hanging around the studio anyway and call it a show!” (With apologies to Greg Gutfeld.)

Guns Don’t Kill People, Political Correctness Does

Teachers reprimanded two seven-year-old boys for playing army games – because it amounted to ‘threatening behaviour’.
The youngsters were disciplined after they were spotted making gun-shapes with their hands.

Staff at Nathaniel Newton Infant School in Nuneaton, Warks., even told the boys’ parents to ‘reprimand’ them.

A father of one of the boys said: ‘This is ridiculous. How can you tell a seven-year-old boy he cannot play guns and armies with his friends.
‘Another parent was called over for the same reason.

‘We were told to reprimand our son for this and to tell him he cannot play “guns” anymore.

Obviously, it must be made perfectly clear to kids that guns aren’t toys, and if a teacher sees signs that someone doesn’t get that, then intervention in what he’s doing during recess is probably in order. But you don’t need to crack down on perfectly innocent and natural children’s fantasies to get that message across, any more than teaching them auto safety by keeping them from pretending to be NASCAR drivers

What prevents kids from misusing either is instilling in them a much broader ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, as well as a basic respect for human life. The likelihood of misusing a gun isn’t an isolated issue that pops up in a vacuum. It’s either symptomatic of, or enabled by, broader problems that telling kids what they can’t play at recess just isn’t gonna solve, such as bad parents who don’t safely lock up their weapons or don’t teach their kids morality and responsibility.

Kids have always pretended to be cops or soldiers, and, the simple truth is that their primary purpose and characteristic of these institutions is protecting the rights of the community through lethal force, so if children are going to play army or police, then guns are going to be an unavoidable part of that scenario. And that’s not a bad thing. Because in the hands of the people these kids were emulating, guns aren’t intended to kill, but to protect. Children fantasizing about fighting fire with fire and standing up to genuine bad guys is not only natural, but healthy. 
Free societies need to pass a certain degree of fighting spirit, of warrior ethos, from one generation to the next – to venerate the fighting and punishing of evil, the willingness to fight and die if need be, etc. I’m not talking about anything close to Sparta-like indoctrination, but at the very least we shouldn’t be coming down on kids when their imaginations are captured by our society’s best and most vital role models.

Indeed, in their zeal to end “threatening behaviour” wherever it arises, the practical effect of such rules is more likely to be the message that military and police service aren’t something children should emulate or look up to, because they’re inherently “threatening” professions.

New on NewsReal – Latest Indicator of Racism: Questioning Obama’s Intellect

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

As the White House deals a devastating blow to one Obama conspiracy theory, leave it to leftists to dig up another one to browbeat allegedly-bigoted conservatives with. At the Daily Beast, pseudo-feminist Michelle Goldberg “traces the far-right history of the claim” that something funny’s going on with Barack Obama’s academic background:

Claims about Obama’s educational history date back to September 2008, when The Wall Street Journal attacked him for not releasing his school records, writing in an editorial, “Some think his transcript, if released, would reveal Mr. Obama as a mediocre student who benefited from racial preference.” Since then, Orly Taitz, queen of the birthers, has developed elaborate theories about Obama’s college years. As Taitz argues, Obama himself acknowledged that he was directionless when he started college. How, then, did he get himself accepted into the Ivy League?

Despite purporting to refute the right-wing “fever swamps,” Goldberg won’t actually reference the WSJ piece again, so it’s worth mentioning that it makes substantive points, among them that the ambiguity of Obama’s college days doesn’t square with the prominence of his personal story in his claim to fame. And as Andy McCarthy points out, Obama has a habit of modifying details of his biography for different audiences. (Ace has more solid analysis of Obama’s college days here.)

But not a peep about any of this from Goldberg. Instead of addressing what serious Obama critics have said, she spends the next couple paragraphs shooting down the theories of Orly Taitz, an especially destructive Birther attorney, who speculates that Obama attended Columbia as a foreign exchange student, attended for a mere nine months instead of two years, and even that he got into Harvard Law thanks to the machinations of a Saudi prince.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Academic Bigotry: Leftist Professor Drops an F-Bomb on College Republicans

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

The University of Iowa College Republicans’ Conservative Coming Out Week has a simple message—conservatives are people too, they aren’t alone, and they don’t need to fear discrimination on college campuses like liberal Iowa City. Leave it to faculty left-wingers, then, to demonstrate why conservative students need a little encouragement.

The Iowa Republican reports that Ellen Lewin, UI professor of—what else?—“Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies,” didn’t take kindly to the CR’s campus-wide email announcing the event:

Lewin responded to email by writing, “#*@% [F-Word] YOU, REPUBLICANS” from her official university email account.


Natalie Ginty, a University of Iowa Student and Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, demanded an apology from Lewin’s supervisors.  “We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone,” Ginty wrote to James Enloe, the head of the Department of Anthropology.

“Vile responses like Ellen’s need to end. Demonizing the other party through name-calling only further entrenches feelings of disdain for the other side. I am sure you understand that nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack,” Ginty concluded.

In an email to the College Republicans, Professor Lewin wrote, “This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government.  I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities.  I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”

Lewin followed up on Tuesday with this gem:

I should note that several things in the original message were extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity.  Despite the Republicans’ general disdain for LGBT rights you called your upcoming event “conservative coming out day,” appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement.   Your reference to the Wisconsin protests suggested that they were frivolous attempts to avoid work.  And the “Animal Rights BBQ” is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause.  Then, in the email that Ms. Ginty sent complaining about my language, she referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted.  I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive.

And, of course, UI President Sally Mason weighed in with a pitifully noncommittal statement about celebrating diversity and respecting differing viewpoints…without naming anyone who may have failed to display that respect. Let’s hear it for leadership.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.