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#NeverTrump

As the choices for president become clearer, people ask me if there are any circumstances under which I could support Donald Trump. The answer is a clear and unequivocal no.

It’s not that I disagree with him on nearly every major issue, though I do. His specific refusal to reform entitlements, combined with his proposals to increase spending, threatens to bankrupt the nation. His anti-trade position would take us back to the days of Smoot-Hawley. He supports eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare. He backed TARP and the bank bailout. And I could go on and on. But as a libertarian, I don’t ever expect to find a candidate I agree with on everything. Hell, I didn’t agree with Rand Paul on everything. I certainly don’t agree with Hillary Clinton on, well, anything. For me, voting is almost always choosing the lesser of evils.

And it’s not his fundamental dishonesty, both as a candidate and a businessman. If I’ve learned one thing in Washington, it’s that politicians lie. Besides, Hillary Clinton has turned lying into a high art form. She lies even when the truth is perfectly fine — just for practice. Compared to her, Trump is an amateur liar.

It’s not even his temperament, though I find his bullying and name calling to be absurdly juvenile. He is thin skinned, and tolerates no dissent. His trademarks are braggadocio and loud shouting. He thinks that leadership is jumping in front of the mob and giving them whatever they want. That’s not exactly the sort of person I want with the nuclear codes. But to speak of an egotistical thin skinned politician is practically redundant. And, while Hillary may be more cold-blooded, she is no less wedded to her own lust for power. And vengeance? Thy name is Clinton.

Rather, I oppose Trump because I believe he is truly dangerous for the American experiment. This is a man who casually promises to commit war crimes. This is a man who wants to rewrite libel laws so he can sue journalists who write negative stories about him. This is a man who has tolerated if not encouraged violence by his followers. After a protester was beaten up at his event, he said that “maybe he should have been roughed up. What he was doing was disgusting.” He said of another protester, “I want to punch him in the face.” He praised Putin and said the Chinese “almost blew it” in Tienanmen Square, but finally “showed strength.” Scary stuff.

Most importantly, the man has consistently tolerated and encouraged outright bigotry. In fairness, politicians cannot be held responsible for every action of their followers. And politics often means associating with unsavory characters. Ted Cruz shared a stage with a preacher who says gays should be put to death. Barack Obama hung out with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. But Trump goes far beyond the usual necessities of politics.

He could barely bring himself to denounce David Duke and the KKK. (Aside from his wink and nod with Jake Tapper, consider his routine “I repudiate” of the Klan, with the 15 minutes he spends trashing, say, Vicente Fox.) He routinely re-tweets memes from white nationalist groups, and has tolerated their presence in his campaign. His misogynistic comments about women are legend. He mocks and denigrates Muslims, Mexicans, the disabled, and others. This is not about not being politically correct; this is about playing with evil.

In some ways the left is suffering from too often crying wolf. Almost any opposition to President Obama has been denounced as racist. We live in an era of “microaggressions.” But this time the wolf is here.

To support Trump is to give voice and legitimacy to the darkest and most repressive forces in America. That can never be allowed. For that reason, I say #NeverTrump.

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SMOD 2016

Students of politics will recall that the 1991 runoff for governor of Louisiana featured an unappetizing choice between the openly racist Republican David Duke and the three term incumbent Edwin Edwards who had twice been tried, though acquitted on corruption and racketeering charges. (Edwards would eventually be convicted following his third trial in 2000. The dismal options in that election spawned the famous pro-Edwards bumper sticker; “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.”

As I ponder the growing possibility of a Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, I begin to understand how those Louisianans must have felt.

On the one hand, we have Hillary Clinton, a woman with whom I profoundly disagree on nearly every issue. She would almost certainly wreck the economy, burdening our children with another layer of debt and drowning us in new taxes and regulations. And, the thought of Hillary Clinton appointing a Supreme Court justice fills me with dread. Worse, unlike most Democrats she doesn’t even have the virtue of being good on issues of war and peace. She is every bit as interventionist as the most hawkish Republican neoconservative. And whatever current commitment she makes to civil liberties, gay rights, and such, they ring more of opportunistic political conversion than genuine conviction. And on top of all that, I believe Hillary is fundamentally dishonest, a woman who simply could not tell the truth if her life depended on it. I would rather eat ground glass than vote for her.

On the other hand, we have Donald Trump. Even if you assume that he’s telling the truth about his ever evolving views, it is hard to find anything that I can agree with him on. OK, he would cut taxes (though his actual plan is economic nonsense) and protect Second Amendment rights, but that’s about it. His positions, when not simply incoherent, are dreadful on issues ranging from entitlement reform to health care, from eminent domain to corporate welfare. He has a terrible record on civil liberties, even worse than Hillary. His opposition to free trade is antithetical to economic growth as well as liberty. And, of course, there is his ignorant, xenophobic, and frankly racist position on immigration. Indeed, throughout his campaign, Trump flirts with racism and racists, from his casual retweeting of “white power” memes to his toleration of anti-Semitic and white nationalist elements within his campaign. He also has tolerated, and sometimes seemed to encourage violence by his followers. He exhibits utter contempt for constitutional norms, even if he understands them. At bottom, he scares the hell out of me.

What then should a lover of liberty and a believer in limited government do? The crook or the bigot?

My friend Jonah Goldberg suggests that the only real option remaining may be SMOD (the sweet meteor of death). https://twitter.com/smod2016?lang=en

Yes, SMOD would likely mean the end of all life on earth. But after looking at the way this current election is headed, wouldn’t we deserve it? Count me in SMOD2016!

Have Republican Candidates Gone Crazy?

According to polls the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is “liar.” Her number one challenger is a 73 year-old self-described socialist. After that, there’s what? Martin O’Malley? If there was ever an election when Republicans should feel that they have a good shot at winning the White House, it’s this one.

So why are Republican candidates collectively acting like someone slipped LSD into the drinking water at the RNC?

I’m not talking about the three-ring circus that is the Trump campaign. By now we should be used to The Donald saying outrageous or bizarre things. Most recently, he suggested that he would fight ISIS by invading Iraq and Syria and “taking their oil.” But, mainstream – supposedly more responsible – candidates are now saying the craziest things.

Start with Marco Rubio. The Florida Senator recently explained that his support for sugar subsidies is a matter of national security. If you are wondering why ISIS has been quivering in fear at the prospect of higher US candy prices, Rubio has an explanation for his stance – sort of. According to Rubio, without agricultural subsidies, including those for sugar, US farmers will stop farming and sell their land to real estate developers, who will pave over their land and put up condos. Then, once, all our farm land is gone forever, foreign food suppliers will cut us off. America starves. Makes sense, right?

Meanwhile, Scott Walker says that he is open to building a wall along the US Canada border. Walker, who cannot quite decide whether the 14th Amendment means what it says, is apparently frightened by the sudden influx of illegal Canadians flooding across our northern border. It has become Republican orthodoxy to advocate a wall along the 1954 mile border with Mexico, at a cost of at least $42 billion. Now Walker wants to build another one along the 5,525 mile Canadian border, including, I guess, the Great Lakes. But why stop there. Walls can be climbed over or tunneled under. What this country really needs is to be sealed inside a hermetically-sealed glass dome ala Stephen King.

Chris Christie used an appearance last weekend on Fox News to declare war on…marijuana. Christie says he plans to send federal agents into Colorado and Washington to arrest pot smokers, despite the fact that marijuana is legal in those states (under state law). Neither federalism nor the manifest failure of the War on drugs seems to matter to Christie who says “when I’m president of the United States, and we won’t have people getting high on marijuana in Colorado and Washington if the federal law says you shouldn’t.” Of course. Because arresting 8.2 million people for the possession or sale of marijuana every year has done such a good job so far.

And, Rand Paul, who should know better, defended the Kentucky county clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that states cannot bar same sex marriages. Paul described the clerk’s defiance as “part of the American way.” Um, no its not. Civil disobedience is all well and good, but elected officials (and btw the clerk was elected as a Democrat) should obey the law and do the jobs that taxpayers – including gay taxpayers – are paying them to do. If their conscience won’t let them conduct those duties, they should resign. This is very different from those cases involving private businesses such as bakers and florists who do not want to participate in gay weddings.

Paul may be pandering to the Religious Right, but he is a piker compared to Mike Huckabee, who continues to suggest that he will send federal troops to close down abortion clinics. Huckabee insists that, as president, he would not be bound by little things like Supreme Court decisions.

And on and on it goes. Lindsey Graham wants to use drones to kill any American citizen who thinks of supporting ISIS. Jeb Bush still hasn’t come up with an answer about whether his brother was right to invade Iraq. Ben Carson wonders whether prison rape can turn people gay. It is as if the rise of Donald Trump has lobotomized the entire field.

It looks like it is going to be a very, very long campaign. Sigh.

GOP Hawks and Doves

This week brings another entry in my ongoing look at where the GOP presidential candidates – and potential candidates – stand on the issues. My latest column for National Review Online looks at the candidates on foreign policy, defense, and homeland security. Rand Paul, of course, is the most dovish of the candidates, though nowhere near as noninterventionist as his father (or as he’s often portrayed in the media). After Paul, its various shades of hawk, but there are surprising nuances among the candidates. Marco Rubio, for instance, seems to take the pure neocon line, intervention everywhere, while Ted Cruz falls somewhere between Paul and Rubio.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416609/early-look-gop-candidates-positions-foreign-policy-michael-tanner

The Republicans on Health Reform — After Obamacare, What?

As part of my ongoing look at where the Republican presidential candidates stand on the issues, my latest column for National Review Online examines their proposals for health care reform. Of course they want to repeal Obamacare. Who doesn’t? But what do they want to replace it with. Most favor some form of tax break for individually purchased insurance and permitting the sale of insurance across state lines. But a few have much more detailed platforms. And, there are some big surprises (That would be you, Dr. Carson).

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416253/replacing-obamacare-michael-tanner

The GOP candidates on Debt, Spending, and Entitlement Reform

Throughout the coming months, I will be looking at where the various would-be presidential candidates stand on the vital issues of the day. Today, in my weekly column for National Review Online, I look at how they would cut spending, reduce the debt, and reform entitlements. As I point out, it is very early in the campaign, and most candidates have now yet laid out detailed proposals. So, mostly this is an exercise in tea leaf reading, based on congressional votes or state budget performance, plus a statement here or there. Still, at this point, it seems reasonable to say that it looks like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the biggest fiscal hawks, trailed to some degree by Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker, with other candidates bringing up the rear.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/398361/debt-and-gop-michael-tanner

Presenting the Huckster (Sigh)

As if there are not enough reasons to believe that the Republican Party is beyond saving, I present to you Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor, television talk show host, and wannabe preacher has now returned to the presidential campaign trail. With all the problems facing this country, Huckabee has managed to find a new one. Fresh from his critique of Beyoncé’s dance moves – he wondered if her husband, Jay-Z, was a “pimp” for allowing her to perform in public and criticized President Obama for allowing Malia and Natasha to watch her – Huckabee is now deeply concerned about women cussing in public. Such women are “trashy,” Huckabee avers. Now, I can think of many things that I look for in a presidential candidate, but the guardian of women’s virtue is not among them.

Perhaps Huckabee is just trying to fill the Rick Santorum slot in the GOP field. After all, four years ago Santorum told us that, if elected, he would use the presidential bully pulpit to warn Americans about the evils of contraception. The only problem with that is that Santorum himself is back, running once more to protect America from illicit sex.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon who has also caught the presidential bug, has been reviving the bigoted canard that gay marriage is akin to bestiality or pedophilia. That too has long been a Santorum position.

Now it is true that Huckabee, Santorum, and Carson are not going to win the Republican presidential nomination. But the fact that the party continues to treat them as serious people suggests that too many Republicans have not yet learned their lesson.