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Entries for 'Carter Wrenn'

21
The train wreck hit so unexpectedly and with such force that, after standing his ground through the opening chaos, the President retreated which turned out to be like pouring gas on the fire – the partisan bickering soared. And Obama’s poll numbers tanked. And now listening to the wise men in Washington that was all that mattered: The President’s poll numbers dropping and Republican poll numbers rising.
 
But beyond the ruins of Washington politics the demise of Obamacare may be a sign of a subtler miscalculation: Not too long ago, from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, Utopian (or, yes, Communist) governments filled rooms with geniuses who dutifully gave birth to Five-Year Plans and Ten-Year Plans and Great Leaps Forward which grey-faced apparatchiks, without pity or remorse, promulgated to build a workers' paradise – then they learned a terrible lesson: Government-run economies didn’t work. Geniuses, even with the best of intentions, were frail vessels when faced with the unexpected, the unseen, and the ghost in the machine.
 
President Obama, with all good intentions, started out with a vision of a kind of health care paradise and had his own rooms filled with geniuses who dutifully plan the first step down the yellow brick road – and now he finds himself scrambling to turn back the hands of the clock.
 
So perhaps the lesson to be learned from Obamacare’s rollout isn’t a three-point swing in a generic ballot question in a poll – it’s humility. And a reminder that geniuses are still no match for the ghost in the machine.
 

 

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20
The other night Gary and I were invited to dinner with a dozen learned scholars who for some unfathomable reason were curious to hear us trace the roots of the demise of modern politics.
 
And, of course, it was only a matter of time before I said the word ‘poll’ and as soon as I did one of the learned gentlemen politely but firmly allowed it sure sounded like I was describing an unsavory practice used by sleazy politicians to hoodwink the unsuspecting.
 
And, of course, he had a point.
 
But on the other hand, like a bottle of whiskey or a pistol, a poll is only as wicked as the hand of the man holding it.
 
Now the hard truth is a poll won’t tell you or me or Congressmen a single word about Truth. Not about the Risen Lord. Or Satan. Or the national debt blowing the economy to smithereens.
 
Like the rest of us sinners, each Congressman or Senator has to find the answers to those questions himself – though prayer is more helpful than most folks dream of.
 
Then Good Lord willing, after he’s found the answers, when he runs for office a Congressman only needs a poll to tell him one thing – how much Truth other people see so he can carry a torch into the shadows gripped by darkness and confusion.
 
That’s the theory.
 
But, of course, we live in a fallen world where politicians and murderers labor under the same curse – so more often than not the moment the pollster says, People want a balanced budget but they don’t want to cut spending on much of anything except foreign aid – temptation whispers.
 
And right then Truth flies out the window and the aspiring Congressman looks back at the pollster and smiles and says, Well, that’s exactly what I’m for.
 
 
 

 

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18
Up in the gilded halls of Congress the Tea Partiers went on a tear last month voting against Debt Ceiling increases and budgets that didn’t cut spending but the whole proposition of fighting it out with Obama seemed altogether too risky to the Pachyderm Republicans so after a fortnight they gave up the ghost and passed Obama’s bills. 
 
Then, suddenly, the pillars of Republican Washington – like Mitch McConnell – found themselves facing primaries where folks like the Senate Conservatives Fund (which was founded by Senator Jim DeMint) were on the other side.
 
That was a serious problem.
 
So the Pachyderms ran up the distress flag and Big Business, loaded with millions of its own, charged to the rescue.
 
We want, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, a “more manageable Republican Party.”
 
Translation: We like Congressmen who vote for corporate subsidies and these Tea Partiers don’t look too ‘manageable.’
 
Then the Grand Vizier of the National Republican Senatorial Committee piped up and added ‘getting a General Election candidate who can win is the only thing we care about.’
 
Translation: Forget virtue. Principle. And spending cuts. We mean to win. And the end justifies the means.
 
Now the Tea Partiers may get buried under an avalanche of big business cash but, judging by their enemies, not being ‘manageable’ may not be a vice.
 

 

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15
The row started, oddly enough, with a single email. Which got answered. And counter answered. Then, boom, there was a full scale war of emails going on (with me watching copies flying back and forth) that lasted two days.  
 
At first I thought my two friends were arguing over who to support in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate – but then it struck me what they were really arguing over was two different wars – and which war was more important.
 
Friend #1 figured the war that matters is whipping Obama while Friend #2 figured before whipping Obama the Tea Party had to, first, whip the Pachyderm Republicans in Washington who keep making deals with Obama.
 
Now, make no mistake: Friend #1 doesn’t like deals with Obama. And he wants to cut spending too. But not bad enough to shut down the government and risk losing the next election.
 
Friend #2’s view is simpler. To him all that spending is wrong. Period. Just like adultery or bank robbery is wrong. And he’s not about to go along with adultery just to win an election. He’s also a bit like Davy Crockett standing on the wall at the Alamo – he figures he’s dead right and doesn’t mind taking on a whole army to prove it.
 
In a way this whole argument’s the return of a very old fight I saw the first time back in the mid-1970s when we were trying to elect Ronald Reagan.
 
Back then, in all of Washington, we could only find two Republican Senators who’d endorse Reagan for President. Two. That was it. The rest of Republican Washington lined up behind Gerald Ford. So, in a way, the Tea Party – which, with Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, has three Senators – is way ahead of where we were then.
 
Also, back then, everybody from liberal Democrats to mainstream Republicans let fly saying Reagan was too radical and too uncompromising and too unbending and if he ran he’d sink the Republican Party. And, in a way, that was partly right: He did run. And didn’t win. And Gerald Ford did lose to Jimmy Carter in 1976. But, then, it turned out we weren’t in the Alamo at all. Four years later, Reagan ran again and started winning elections faster than General Sherman tore through Georgia.
 
Who knows if history will repeat itself with a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, but the Tea Party is a legitimate political movement – its ideas are popular within the Republican Party. And it may have to whip the Washington Republicans first.
 
Reagan did.

 

 

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14
 
The poor Tea Partiers have been getting pounded from pillar to post by the Washington political bosses and reporters and I’ll grant there’s a streak of oddness in the Tea Partiers but they also possess virtues like fighting for lost causes and having the courage of their convictions and besides, when you get right down to it, the idea Americans could do with a few trillion dollars less government over the next decade isn’t really all that unusual or radical.
 
But, that said, according to the bosses the Tea Partiers lack the one big virtue that trumps all the lesser virtues like courage and sincerity: Pragmatism.
 
Now that is a very old form of devilment.
 
The bosses don’t say the Tea Partiers are wrong. They don’t even say they disagree with the Tea Partiers. They just say they’re impractical. Which, in the end, means pretty much the same as wrong – because it means the Tea Partiers should stop fighting for spending cuts. Because, otherwise, Republicans risk losing the next election – which is impractical.
 
Now there was a time in America when we admired politicians who stood up for what they believed in and let the chips fall where they may. But, today, that’s no longer practical. When Obama says, I won’t negotiate on spending cuts – practical means saying, Yes, sir. And passing a budget with no spending cuts.
 
And that’s it in a nutshell.
 
When a Washington Republican says he’s practical he’s saying, Boys, talking about spending cuts is fine. Heck, I agree with you. But having a fight with President Obama over cuts? Forget it. I like serving in Congress and I might not get reelected.

 

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13
Last week the newspapers were full of high-sounding stories about the Senate’s gay rights bill. They reported the Senate’s:

- Completing the civil rights crusade started fifty years ago.

- Letting the bells of freedom ring.

- Advancing tolerance.

- Barring discrimination.
 
One Illinois Democrat intoned how happy he was the Senate’s ‘fulfilling Abraham Lincoln’s life’s work.’
 
Now as an aging white Southern male I’ve just naturally gotten sort of comfortable with the old ways which, I will concede, are rapidly passing as we march, not toward equality, but toward enlightened benightment for everyone from Wiccans to Whiffenpoofs.
 
Now, of course, my daughter would say tartly, Dad, what you’ve really gotten comfortable with is your old fogey ways. And that may be true. But I mean no harm. And when I read that Senate bill I just naturally thought,  So now the politicians are going to tell some poor fellow who doesn’t want to hire a transgender he’s got to or else.
 
And to that my daughter would say: Okay. I’ll concede hiring someone who is transgender is a big leap for you. But what about someone who is gay?
 
Now, to be candid, my first reaction would be to say, I wouldn’t want some Washington hotshot putting a gun to my head and saying I have to hire a gay person either. But then, on second thought, I’ve already crossed that bridge.
 
Because there’s a gay gentleman I’ve been working with in campaigns going back thirty-eight years and I’m still working with him, which establishes there are exceptions to my bias – which allows me to say with a small claim to open-mindedness that when bunch of vote-pandering Senators tell me I’ve got to hire someone transgender because transgenderism is glorious and wonderful and fulfills the dream of Abraham Lincoln’s lifetime – that’s pure bunk.
 

 

 

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12
Mitch McConnell sounded a lot like an old-fashioned political boss: He sat down with a columnist from the Wall Street Journal, whipped out a knife, and plunged it right into the Tea Party.
 
To govern, McConnell said, parties must win. And to win they have to run candidates who’re adults.
 
That was a backhanded slap at Ted Cruz.
 
Then Boss McConnell threw a haymaker: He said the Tea Party narrative that Republicans could whip Obama if they were more ‘feisty’ is a fabrication and, what’s more, the Tea Party leaders are only spreading that tale for one reason: Money. To raise millions from gullible supporters then ‘take their cut’ and spend what’s left not to help but to hurt Republicans.  
 
Why, McConnell said, one Tea Party group was actually running ads to defeat him in his primary and that one group, by itself, had elected more Democrats than the entire Democratic Party over the last three elections. (The group McConnell was talking about is the Senate Conservative Fund which was founded by former Senator Jim DeMint and helped elect Ted Cruz.)
 
So there it is, straight from an adult candidate: The folks opposing Mitch McConnell are crooks who’ve elected more Democrats than the Democratic Party.
 

 

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12
 
Polymorphous America enjoyed a boom week last week.
 
The Senate passed a bill to show any fellow who doesn’t cotton to hiring transgenders, bisexuals or gay people the error of his ways. And, overjoyed, the President announced a more tolerant America goes hand in hand with a more prosperous America – as if entrepreneurs are now going to rush out and say, Gosh, the Senate banned transgender discrimination – I better hire more workers.
 
Who would have ever dreamed gay rights is the key to prosperity?
 
Shame on Obama for keeping that secret to himself all these years.
 
There’s just no rational way to explain it.
 

 

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11
The way the Tea Partiers see it, to save the country they have to do to the Washington Republicans what General Sheridan did to the Indians during the Indian Wars.
 
Because when the Tea Partiers say, We can’t vote to raise the Debt Ceiling unless Obama cuts spending – the Republican Bosses say back, Geez, not raise the Debt Ceiling? That’s risky. Forget about it.
 
The Tea Partiers figure when it comes to saving the country a little risk is fine, but the Washington Bosses see that same risk as getting in the way of their winning elections.
 
Which brings us to a very old subject: Fiction in politics.
 
Up in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli just lost the Republican campaign for Governor and before the sun rose the next morning, the Washington Bosses were telling the press, He’d have won if the Tea Partiers hadn’t shut down the government.
 
Which sounds eminently logical.
 
The Tea Partiers shut down the government, Cuccinelli lost, so Cuccinelli lost because the Tea Partiers shut down the government.
 
The Tea Partiers didn’t take that lying down. They shot back with their own logic: The Washington Bosses didn’t lift a finger to help Cuccinelli, Cuccinelli lost by two points, so Cuccinelli lost because of the Washington Bosses.
 
Now there was one more interesting fact in the press: Cuccinelli’s campaign, Slate.com reported, didn’t poll in the last few weeks of the race.
 
Now whoever heard of a major campaign not polling at the end of the race? That’s political malpractice. So here’s a bit more logic: Cuccinelli didn’t poll, Cuccinelli lost by two points, so Cuccinelli lost because he didn’t poll.
 
Of course, that’s not the whole story but it’s almost surely a reason Cuccinelli lost. Which is being ignored.
 
Instead, both Tea Partiers and Washington Bosses are pointing fingers and serving up explanations that serve one purpose: To hurt their political opponents.
 
And the press, instead of cutting through the political smokescreens, is going right along debating a pair of fictions.
 

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08
My grandmother, years ago, would regularly tell me, Carter, you’ve got your wants and your needs confused.  
 
It turns out reporters have the same problem.
 
What reporters need, just about every day, is a story. And what they want is a crisis to make it an interesting story.
 
Take the newspaper headlines the other morning that roared: A year after Romney’s loss, GOP woes run even deeper.
 
Of course, it would be no story at all to say, A year after Romney loses, no change for the GOP.
 
But to say, A year after Romney loses, GOP hits iceberg – now, that’s a story. And it opens the door to a whole line of good stories such as: GOP Ship Sinks. Or, Hole in GOP ship miraculously patched.
 
So ‘Republicans hit iceberg’ is a big story around Washington – which spawns a kind of mischief. Because, beneath the surface, the political tides haven’t really shifted much one way or the other. We still have an unpopular President. And slightly more unpopular Republican opposition.  And just about every time President Obama climbs into the ring with John Boehner or Mitch McConnell the same old thing happens: Obama wins.
 
So maybe there’s a better storyline that’s been missed – like: Why does Boehner lose? Or: Republicans need new champion – to beat Obama. And think of all the stories that might lead to: New Obama challenger knocked down. New challenger back on his feet. Or maybe even:  New challenger wins round – Obama shaken.
 

 

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