Oh, Great: Disgruntled Anti-Romney Holdouts Think 1 Branch of Government Is Enough to Save America

At least two grassroots conservative leaders are still lukewarm about Mitt Romney:

“The tea party is not going to coalesce around Romney,” Judson Phillips told The Daily Caller on Thursday. “Most of us will vote for Romney, but we will not be out there with signs for him or in his campaign.”

Phillips said that surveys conducted on the Tea Party Nation website have shown that about 25 percent of tea party activists say they won’t vote for Romney in the general election […] 
“While that number will change as we get closer to the election, Romney has a huge problem with the conservative base of the GOP,” Phillips said. “He had better do something about that ASAP or he won’t have to worry about that moving to the middle nonsense. Without the GOP base, he is a lost cause.”
“Most of us,” he added, “are focusing on Senate and House races now.”
Another conservative leader, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, struck a similar note after former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the presidential race this week.
“It’s difficult for us to back a candidate our constituents don’t believe in and aren’t excited about,” Perkins told CNN, suggesting that social conservatives will instead focus their efforts on helping Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate in 2012.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins of something called the veto. It lets presidents kill legislation they don’t like, even if a majority of Congress voted yes. Super-majorities of both the House and Senate are required to overcome a veto. I hope as much as anyone that Republicans keep the House and retake the Senate, but it’s far from guaranteed, with GOP super-majorities in both chambers even less so.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins that the president has much more autonomy in foreign policy and national defense than in domestic policy. While Congress has a certain degree of oversight, it can’t force him to act against Iran if necessary. It can’t force him to pursue missile defense. It can’t force him to rebuild the military. It can’t force him to secure the border.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins that there still exists in America a massive regulatory and administrative apparatus through which the president can sidestep Congress entirely and implement much of his policy vision.
I would like to remind Mr. Phillips and Mr. Perkins that a Republican Senate can’t confirm good judges if a Republican president isn’t there to nominate them.
Of course Romney needs to work to reassure conservatives. But last time I checked, you two are leaders, too. Where’s your responsibility to remind your members of Romney’s positives, Obama’s negatives, and the stakes of this election? What’s the purpose of conservative grassroots organizations: to defeat the Left’s vision for America, or to indulge temper tantrums that some of their members didn’t get their way?

Rick Santorum Is Losing Me

In January, I enthusiastically endorsed Rick Santorum for President, having been convinced that he finally demonstrated the political acumen to complement his philosophical integrity. For a while, Santorum’s performance seemed to affirm my decision—he effortlessly assumed the role of adult in the room during the Florida CNN debate, and his strength in the polls remains far stronger than most would have predicted just a few months ago.

Unfortunately, a handful of incidents over the past two weeks have forced me to reconsider. First came his lackluster performance in the Arizona CNN debate, during which he rationalized his support of No Child Left Behind thusly:
I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sport, folks, and sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea. 
Voting against your own principles because your team leader wanted you to? That’s not only about as un-Tea Party as you can get, it also stands in stark contrast to Santorum’s own one-word description of his candidacy that very night: “courage.”

Next, Santorum came under fire for saying that John F. Kennedy’s famous Address to Protestant Ministers made him want to “throw up”:
I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.  The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. This is the First Amendment.  The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion.  That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square.  Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, “faith is not allowed in the public square.  I will keep it separate.” Go on and read the speech “I will have nothing to do with faith.  I won’t consult with people of faith.”  It was an absolutist doctrine that was foreign at the time of 1960.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand as well as anyone the truth and importance of Santorum’s underlying point, that the Left has twisted the Establishment Clause to obscure and erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. We need a candidate and a president who will make that case to the American people. But we don’t need a candidate who makes it so easy for the Left to caricature that case. While some of JFK’s rhetoric could be interpreted as Santorum describes it, it’s hardly an obvious or indisputable inference—I suspect most Americans would read it as simply meaning he wouldn’t discriminate against Protestants or take his marching orders from the Vatican. What’s more, how much mileage do you think the Democrats will get out of ads which present Santorum as a wild-eyed theocrat who “wants to throw up” when he hears passages like:
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
Or:
I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
And most recently, he and Mitt Romney have been fighting over a robocall which asks Democrats to vote for Santorum in the Michigan primary. While Romney’s reaction is overblown and hypocritical, the fact remains that it contradicts Santorum’s own stated disdain for Democrats influencing Republican primaries, and its message was worse:
Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not gonna let Romney get away with it.
Not only is Santorum resorting to the very same class warfare he so admirably resisted not so long ago, but it raises the question: how can it be a “slap in the face” for Romney to oppose the auto bailout, but not for Santorum himself to do so? Attempting to give voters a false impression that you supported something you actually oppose isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring. (And for what it’s worth, one need not support either bailout to recognize substantive differences between them.)  

I’m not saying I won’t still vote for Rick Santorum in the Wisconsin primary. Many of his biggest assets—his unquestionable sincerity on social issues, his foreign policy expertise, and his relative purity on the crucial issue of government-run healthcare—remain unshakeable. Mitt Romney’s shortcomings (the latest example being this clumsy attempt to neutralize his wealth as a campaign issue) remain substantial. But I am saying I’m no longer certain he’s a stronger general election candidate than Romney, and so I must revert from identifying as a Santorum supporter to being undecided between Santorum and Romney.

Both men are far superior to Newt Gingrich (and Ron Paul, whose name shouldn’t even be spoken in the same breath as Gingrich’s). Both men have checkered pasts but are running on strong, unambiguous full-spectrum conservative platforms. Both men have denigrated themselves with petty, misleading infighting. Both men have displayed the capacity to change their tune for political expediency. Both men have shown promise in their ability to make the case against Barack Obama, but both men have also proven themselves to be disturbingly gaffe-prone.

I like and admire Rick Santorum. But I’m simply no longer confident enough in him to guarantee that he’ll get my primary vote. He and Mitt Romney have between now and April 3 to convince me they can get their act together and run a serious, focused, and reasonably caricature-proof campaign. May the best man win.

Around the Web

Michelle Malkin has written the definitive takedown of Rick Perry’s disgraceful role in the Gardasil debacle. This guy’s even worse than you think.
Speaking of Perry, here’s his response to his Texan Tea Party critics: “A prophet is generally not loved in their hometown.” So we’re gonna beat an egotistical president with a guy who calls himself a prophet? Really?
On the other side, here’s a detailed analysis of what the job situation really is in Texas.
Some rich libertarians want to build their own utopian mini-nations on the high seas. Yes, really. To quote Allahpundit, “An isolated community populated by people desperate enough to work for less than minimum wage with easy access to weapons of all sorts sounds like quite a ride.” And don’t forget the drugs!
Abercrombie & Fitch offers to pay the cast of Jersey Shore to not wear their brand onscreen. If you’re too sleazy for Abercrombie & Fitch…wow.
Stogie has the debt crisis explained in just five easy steps.
A conference to get pedophilia mainstreamed? My favorite part of this story is probably the guy who complains that the studies the American Psychological Association relies upon “completely ignore the existence of” pedophiles – excuse me, “minor-attracted persons” – who “are law-abiding.” Er, if they engage in pedophilia, aren’t they by definition not law abiding?

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 NewsReal – Boston Professor Hails Obama for Declaring War on Deficits. Wait, What?

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

To love your country is to hate red ink.

Sounds like a Tea Party slogan, doesn’t it? This concise declaration of fiscal responsibility would look at home on many a conservative bumper or amid a sea of protest signs, but incredibly, it was uttered by Boston University history professor Andrew Bacevich as—I kid you not—a glowing endorsement of President Barack Obama’s April 13 speech on the federal budget. On the Daily Beast, Bacevich declares that the 44th president has “expanded the operative definition of patriotism to encompass belief in balanced budgets”:

This is surely a good thing. So too is the president’s willingness to finger the essence of the problem: a widespread desire for an endless free lunch—people coveting government benefits without a willingness to pay for them.

Obama also performed a useful service in pointing out that any serious effort at deficit reduction will have to target the Big Four: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security.

Regarding that last category, the president promises to reassess not only military missions and capabilities, but also America’s role in the world. In our post-unipolar moment, such a reassessment is long overdue. Yet to have more than cosmetic results, Obama will have to take on some very sacred cows and some very powerful interests.

I defy you to find a more surreal reaction to Obama’s remarks. We’ve previously discussed how Diamond Barry’s proposed budgets have been so bloated they call for new taxes by the trillions to sustain them. The president might have said on Wednesday that he wants to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years, but as Mark Knoller of noted right-wing mouthpiece CBS News reports:

Budget totals issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in February project 10 years of deficits totaling $7.2 trillion between 2012 and 2021. Another two years at that rate would bring the 12 year total to $8.6 trillion.

The Obama 12-year plan would cut the projected deficit total in half, but would leave another $4 trillion in deficits that would be added to the National Debt, which now stands at $14.27 trillion.

Separately, OMB expects the Debt to double over the next ten years to a mind-boggling total of $26.3-trillion in 2021. It’s estimated the Debt that year would cost U.S. taxpayers $928-billion in interest payments. Four trillion dollars in deficit reduction would reduce the Debt to just over $22-trillion, and still inflict $700-billion in interest on the federal budget.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Has the Ayn Rand "Cult" Brainwashed the Tea Party?

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Leftist Rule for Engaging Conservative Ideas #1: conservatives’ motives are never what they claim. It must be rigorously asserted that right-wingers are invariably driven by impulses more sinister than making people better off or trying to find solutions to the problems we face. New Republic senior editor Jonathan Chait knows that lesson by heart—on the Daily Beast, he argues that from the lowliest Tea Partier all the way up to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Right is animated by a view of “the poor as parasites” and “the rich as our rightful rulers,” a dogma we’ve picked up from philosopher Ayn Rand:

Ayn Rand, of course, was a kind of politicized L. Ron Hubbard—a novelist-philosopher who inspired a cult of acolytes who deem her the greatest human being who ever lived. The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.

John Galt, the protagonist of her iconic novel Atlas Shrugged, expressed Rand’s inverted Marxism: “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”

In 2009 Rand began popping up all over the Tea Party movement. Sales of her books skyrocketed, and signs quoting her ideas appeared constantly at rallies. Conservatives asserted that the events of the Obama administration eerily paralleled the plot of Atlas Shrugged, in which a liberal government precipitates economic collapse.

To be sure, Rand’s ultra-capitalist works have enjoyed a surge in popularity recently, a predicable response to our leaders overreaching in the opposite direction. But it’s not quite true to suggest Rand is universally embraced on the Right; for instance, consider National Review’s March 2009 symposium on Rand, which on the whole takes a dim view of the author (in fairness, she’s much more popular at Big Hollywood).

I haven’t read her, and have no strong opinions about her philosophy either way, but I can certainly tell when mainstream conservative thought is subjected to class-warfare caricatures:

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

Around the Web

Chris Christie’s won the hearts of many conservatives for standing up to charlatans in the public education establishment, but does even he have a dark side? Maybe – Jonathan Tobin has the scoop on Christie’s recent judicial appointment of Sohail Mohammed, who has represented radical Islamists in the past. Consider this a shining example of why I say we shouldn’t be too quick to anoint standard-bearers.

“An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.” Surprised? Me neither.

My NRB colleague Walter Hudson explains how Twilight star Kristin Stewart’s plan to set up a halfway house network to help women escape prostitution is only possible because we let people get rich in this country. Love Twilight or hate it (I’ve neither read the books nor seen the movies), you’ve gotta give Stewart credit for this.

Also on NewsReal, Joseph Klein takes issue with Bill O’Reilly going easy on Bill Maher for bashing the Tea Party. It never ceases to amaze me that O’Reilly has a reputation as some right-wing fire breather, considering that he gives passes to abominable liberals all the time, and his definition of “stand-up guy” is basically “anyone willing to come on my show.”

Rep. Steve King wants to get to the bottom of whether or not your federal tax dollars are paying for Planned Parenthood’s telehealth services.