Obama Pursues Nuclear Danger for his Legacy (National Radio Commentary, Salem/Townhall) August 19, 2016Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
It’s the 4th quarter and President Obama wants to put points on his legacy scoreboard. So, reports say he is considering executive actions that would significantly alter America’s nuclear posture.
The first is an end-run around the Congress: The word is he wants to go directly to the United Nations with a call to ban all nuclear testing. The Senate refused to ratify a nuclear test ban treaty 20 years ago, and certainly wouldn’t pass it now, so the president wants to use his voting power in the U.N. to change America’s nuclear strategy.
There are also reports he will promise that America will not strike first with nuclear weapons, again a bold stretch of executive power and a continuation of his misguided policy of announcing in advance our military strategies. Even our allies are reported to be nervous about this one.
How disappointing that the president would act unilaterally to bolster his legacy at the risk of Congress’s proper role and the nation’s security.
To listen to the commentary: http://www.townhallreview.com
Reefer Madness: Both the Feds and the States are Wrong about Marijuana Policy (Forbes.com) August 12, 2016Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
Marijuana is very much in the news. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced this week that, for the fourth time, it is denying a petition to reduce federal restrictions on the use of marijuana. And two more states, Arizona and North Dakota, added ballot initiatives concerning marijuana to this fall’s elections, bringing the total to eight states that will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes or medical uses. With the sixth largest economy in the world, California’s vote alone could have significant national repercussions.
The states and the federal government are on a collision course over marijuana with the states steadily increasing permissible uses while the feds are still in a “just say no” regulatory mode. But, in fact, they are both wrong. The feds are wrong on process—as a matter of federalism this should be a decision for the states to make. But the states are wrong on the substance: marijuana should not, as a matter of good public policy, be legalized, at least without more study and knowledge about its personal and societal effects.
There are three key federalism questions that should be asked before government acts: (1) Is this a matter on which the government should act at all, or should it be left to individuals to decide? (2) If yes, which level of government should act: federal, state or local? (3) If yes, which branch of government: executive, legislative or judicial? The key question for marijuana is number two and it is difficult to find a case for federal action. To draw a comparison with alcohol, for example, the states make the key decisions about legalizing, age limits, and so on, with the federal government basically limited to decisions about imports and taxes. It’s difficult to see why every state needs to be the same on questions like this. Why can’t Kansas decide one thing and Oregon another?
But I think the states are also mistaken in their headlong rush toward legalizing marijuana. For one thing, there is still much we do not know about marijuana and its effects. What we do know is not encouraging. Today’s marijuana is at least four times stronger than 20 years ago—it is not your father’s marijuana from college days—and it is more addictive. A recent Gallup poll also delivered the shocking news that marijuana use has nearly doubled in three years. The Gallup poll said that 13% of adults smoke marijuana, up from 7% in 2013, and 43% have tried it, up from 38% just three years ago. The evidence for marijuana’s so-called medicinal uses is not well established.
And what do we learn from the experience of states that have already legalized marijuana: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and D.C.? First, it’s not quite the economic boon that the states expected, with people buying on black markets or avoiding the taxes in other ways. Second, and more important, a Colorado report shows increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits, school suspensions, and other legal problems. It is too early to know the true costs of all this to society and the state. Finally, legalization sometimes causes prices to fall, thereby increasing use and related disorders.
All this suggests this is not merely a question of lifestyle or personal choice, as it is sometimes advertised, but that serious social and policy questions are presented by the legalization of marijuana. It’s no wonder, then, that the California measure is opposed by law enforcement, prison officials and health groups. At the very least, the conflict between federal and state approaches to the matter has created confusion that needs to be addressed.
A recent report concluded that the federal government added 43 major new regulations last year, increasing regulatory costs by more than $22 billion.
This brings the Obama regulatory record to a stunning 299 major new regulations at a cost greater than $100 billion per year. And expect another surge in President Obama’s final year in office.
If you wonder why the economy is not growing, this is one primary culprit. If it takes several years and thousands of dollars to get permits to start new projects or hire new people, growth is killed. The tax code, environmental regulations, labor protections—these are mostly there to protect things as they are, or used to be. What we need is a dramatic cleaning out of the clogged up tax code and regulatory system in Washington, not adding more.
Our economy is growing at almost precisely half the rate it grew from 1950-2000. We need regulatory reform, not more regulatory growth.
To listen to the audio: http://www.townhallreview.com
Parties Refuse to Learn the Painful Lesson of Trump: More Super Delegates (Forbes.com) August 1, 2016Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
A primary reason that Donald Trump was able to hijack the Republican party and win its nomination is that Republicans had let down their defenses, essentially eliminating super delegates. So what are the parties doing now going forward? Reducing super delegates even further, leaving their parties more vulnerable to hostile takeovers.
As a starting point, we should recognize that parties need not follow the rules of democracy. The purpose of parties is to win elections and they are free to set their own rules. A heavy element of democracy—winning delegates through primaries—is not a bad idea, since ultimately the nominee will need to campaign and win states. But an even better idea, and one promoted by the founders of our democracy, is to construct a blended system, with some role for the people but also a key role for the established institutions in order to make certain that a vocal or well-funded faction cannot come in and disrupt the process–a la Donald Trump.
If the present convention rules allow for too much democracy, there was a day when the balance of power tipped too far the other way. There were no presidential primaries early in the last century, with political bosses controlling brokered conventions in smoke-filled rooms. It was not until the 1970s that party primaries really began to have the major say in presidential selection. But once parties learned the painful lesson that an extreme candidate could garner a lot of support in the heat of a particular moment—think George McGovern during the Vietnam War in 1972 who carried one state and the District of Columbia—the idea of balancing delegates chosen by primary votes with other delegates committed to the institutions of the party became more important.
In 2016, the Democrats allocated 15% of the convention votes to super delegates, who were not generally bound by primary results and could vote for whomever they wanted. But these were not secret people working in the shadows—they were members of Congress, former presidents, and the like. If all of them banded together and voted for the same candidate, they might control up to 30% of the votes — not enough to win, but enough to prevent the convention from doing something crazy. Bernie Sanders criticized the super delegate process for being undemocratic and it is. But let’s call it insurance, or a reasonable defense, against a hostile takeover. Corporations construct such defenses. Even the founders made sure the republic had them—the more deliberate U.S. Senate or the Electoral College for example.
Amazingly, the Republicans did not have true super delegates in 2016. There were some party officials chosen as delegates—3 from each state’s national committee, comprising 7% of the delegates—but they were bound to vote as their state’s primary had voted. These were hardly “super” delegates since they had no power other than what ordinary delegates had. In that sense, the Republican party was defenseless against Trump mania and unable to stop his takeover. Imagine how different the Cleveland convention might have been with Trump bringing only 40% of the delegates (the percentage he won overall) to the dance, and having to persuade officeholders and party regulars?
So what are the parties doing now? Unbelievably, in light of the Trump takeover, the Democrats are likely reducing the role of super delegates. They are forming a commission to review reforms to the super delegate process, the kind of reform that reduced the number and influence of super delegates in 2008 and probably will again. There is considerable pressure from Bernie Sanders and his enthusiastic supporters to eliminate super delegates altogether. Meanwhile, Republicans have their heads in the sand, wondering what just happened, rather than reviewing and strengthening the role of super delegates.
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much democracy, especially in political parties whose purpose is to win. If nothing else, the Trump takeover of the Republican Party should have taught that painful lesson.
Senator Cory Booker (D, N.J.) delivered a fiery sermon at the Democratic Convention Monday night, closing with a classic preacher call and response with the audience: We will rise. But he also played fast and loose with American history, rewriting it to suit his rhetorical needs.
First, Booker took off on a favorite Democrat strawman: rugged individualism. His words indicated that he liked it–“I respect and value the ideals of rugged individualism”–but the context in which he used it showed that he both dislikes and misunderstands it. He argued that rugged individualism didn’t defeat the British, get us to the moon, build highways or map the human genome. All those, Booker said, were done “together.”
Rugged individualism was coined by Herbert Hoover in the 1928 presidential campaign to contrast with the soft despotism and collectivism of Europe. Think today of America versus Denmark. At its heart American individualism has always been about individual liberty and conquering new frontiers. And Americans have often joined together to live out their rugged individualism with others, whether in the western wagon trains of an earlier day or building houses with Habitat for Humanity today. The key is that Americans have historically been free individuals who could voluntarily consent to cooperative efforts.
But what Senator Booker and his fellow Democrats seek is not more individual liberty and voluntary collaboration. Instead they want more government and greater government control over more things. They want government healthcare, federal control over K-12 education, free college, and income equality, all to be accomplished not by individuals cooperating and consenting, but by government mandates.
From the Progressives and Franklin Roosevelt of the last century to Cory Booker this week, there has been a concerted effort to caricature and trivialize rugged individualism in its most extreme John Wayne, devil take the hindmost form. But that woefully mischaracterizes American rugged individualism for political purposes. The French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville worried about the possibility of Americans withdrawing from public life in a kind of selfish individualism, but noted the generous correctives in American society: the impulses to join associations and churches, to do good, to help their neighbors. When Herbert Hoover spoke of American rugged individualism he added that it worked because it was combined with equality of opportunity. So, except in the fiery sermons and cartoons of Progressives and Democrats, American individualism is not some kind of naked selfishness.
President Obama has had his own stumbles over rugged individualism. In a speech during the 2012 presidential campaign, he famously said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” No, he added, government built the roads and infrastructure, so you cannot take credit for building your business. Perhaps he should ask who pays the taxes so that government can develop all that infrastructure? The answer is: the taxpaying rugged individual who built a business. Concerning Obamacare the president said it was an example of people being their brother’s keeper, not just rugged individualism. But again, he took away all voluntary consent to his brother’s keeper idea since government mandated that each individual buy into the system.
Even more ridiculous was Booker’s effort to rewrite America’s founding document into a “declaration of interdependence.” What the founders sought was to be free of collectivism, of monarchies, of state religions and rule by social classes. I don’t object to Senator Booker’s call to help each other out, but let’s be honest about America’s history and the fact that the Democrats seek neither individualism nor voluntary collaboration. Instead, as Booker did at the Democratic Convention, the Democrats prefer to paint an ugly picture of America’s history and heroes in order to make their case that only more government can save us.
To view the column at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/07/27/cory-booker-and-the-democrats-distort-history-for-political-purposes/#6c6545897ef2
Two recent court cases are a welcome reminder that the separation of powers doctrine may be slow to act, but is still alive.
A federal judge declared that the U.S. Department of Interior did not have the power to issue rules about fracking on federal land. And the U.S. Supreme Court, on a split 4-4 vote, allowed a court of appeals decision to stand holding that the president does not have the power to unilaterally allow those in the country illegally to remain. Only Congress has these powers, the courts said, not the executive branch.
The Obama administration has been pressing the envelope of executive power for years, using executive orders to carry out its agenda on gun control, immigration, environmental regulations and the like.
The founders separated powers so that no one–not even the president–could act alone on important matters. It may take years for other branches like the courts to catch up (at least in this case) but they finally have.
To listen to the audio, go to
There is a new gold rush in California, a rush for the pot of gold promised by the legalization of marijuana. Although California voters rejected it in 2010, it is on the ballot again and current polls show it winning. With the 6th largest economy in the world, California’s vote is especially important.
What have we learned from the states that have already legalized marijuana: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and D.C?
• First, it’s not quite the economic boon the states expected, with people buying on black markets or avoiding the taxes in other ways.
• More important, a Colorado report shows increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits, school suspensions and other legal problems, and:
• Legalization sometimes causes prices to fall and increases use and related disorders.
It’s no wonder that the California measure is opposed by law enforcement, prison officials and health groups. It’s not merely a question of freedom or lifestyle—it’s doubling down on serious societal problems.
To listen to the audio at Townhall.com:
Hillary’s Email in the Court of Public Opinion (National Radio Commentary, Salem/Townhall) July 13, 2016Posted by daviddavenport in Politics, Radio Commentaries.
The FBI concluded that Hillary Clinton’s email practices were “extremely careless” but not criminal. That’s the court of law, but the court of public opinion will speak on this matter at the ballot box November 8.
Let’s face it, there is plenty of room for the electorate to draw a different conclusion about electing a president than the FBI reached on a criminal indictment. “I’m extremely careless but not a crook” isn’t a great slogan for a campaign bumper sticker.
What should voters weigh about this?
• 110 emails in her personal account contained classified information
• Thousands of her emails were deleted and not made available
• It is possible, the FBI said—probable I would say—that other countries hostile to our interests hacked her insecure emails.
Voters, who already say they are concerned about Clinton’s integrity, are right to consider her lack of care and openness in handling this vital matter of national security.
“Vote early and often” is a cynical joke attributed to three different Chicagoans: gangster Al Capone and former mayors William Hale Thompson and Richard J. Dailey. Unless it’s the Major League All-Star ballot, which you can apparently submit 35 times, you can’t vote often, but nowadays in most states you can vote early. And that’s just one of several devices now used or under consideration to influence election outcomes. Call it a little pre-election gaming, and some of the little-known ideas are downright dangerous if not unconstitutional.
As a starting point, many people do not understand that an election for federal office is basically 50 different state (plus the District of Columbia) elections, per the Constitution. States control the “times, places and manner of holding elections” for U.S. Senators and Representatives (Article I, Section 4) and the popular vote for President is actually a series of state elections for “Electors” appointed “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” (Article II, Section 1). So nearly all these election games are played out state-by-state, which may be one reason they don’t gain more notoriety.
A classic example you’ve never heard of is the National Popular Vote bill, which is an end-run around the Electoral College that has now passed and been signed into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes and still campaigning hard. Believing the Electoral College system to be undemocratic, and doubtless frustrated by the electoral victory of George W. Bush over the popular vote winner Al Gore in 2000, supporters of the Bill seek a compact of states holding more than the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency to agree that they will cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. So if California, which has signed on, votes for the Democrat, but the Republican wins the national popular vote, California will cast its electoral votes for the Republican, which seems to disenfranchise state voters. It’s clearly an end-run to eliminate the Electoral College without doing so constitutionally, through an amendment.
Then there are the early votes, currently allowed in some form in 37 states and D.C. Voting in some states begins as early as 45 days before an election, with the average starting time 22 days ahead. Of course this eliminates the impact of any developments or campaigning over the last several weeks. Although this was done to make voting easier, a recent Government Accountability Office study shows that early voting has no effect or may actually reduce voter participation. Obviously this needs more study.
A truly wild card idea, perhaps prompted by 2016 candidates with record negative impressions among voters, is the possibility of voting no for a candidate, not just yes. The notion would be that the negative votes are subtracted from the positive votes and a net vote becomes the final word. The Negative Vote Association has tested the idea in Taiwan and hopes to get traction in the U.S. as well. My worry would be that in some elections no one would win!
Finally the parties constantly battle over voter registration, with Democrats trying to ease registration requirements and boost the vote while Republicans seek to restrict them. Federal courts are inevitably called upon to referee these contests, with cases now or recently under review in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. The issues raised include voter ID requirements, voter registration deadlines and the like. Ultimately the Supreme Court may have to clarify the constitutional requirements for voter registration.
Recent presidential elections have been surprisingly close, with Barack Obama winning by fewer than 200,000 votes in 2012 and George W. Bush defeating John Kerry by less than 120,000 votes in 2004. The stakes are high and this is why all this behind-the-scenes gaming of the vote merits a lot more attention.
To read the column at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/07/06/gaming-the-election-little-known-efforts-to-tip-elections-are-underway/#2651b6021079
Sorry to share this quiz again, but we are excited that it is posted at Newsweek this morning. Happy 4th!