Thank You, Iowa, and Hello Huntsman
[For a very brief comment on the President’s recess appointments, click here.]
I love Iowa, although I’ve never lived there. Its unique caucus system gave Barack Obama his first real break in his uphill battle against our first serious female candidate for president.
Iowa’s Democrats had a chance to meet the President, up close in and in person. They did so with an open mind and liked what they saw. They voted their hearts, and the rest is history.
Even this week, Iowa’s Republicans made some sense. They’re not responsible for the ridiculous field that the fiends of fate handed them. Their task was to choose the lesser of evils among a passel of (mostly) utterly unqualified buffoons.
Given that awful task, they didn’t do a bad job. They preferred the button-down business downsizer with brains over the idiots. But they did so by the slimmest of possible margins: eight votes. They didn’t seem to like his flip-flopping and his apparently complete lack of any moral core.
In second place they put a man who definitely has a moral core, which he wears on both sleeves and both lapels. He’s honest, doesn’t flip-flop, and has a stable home life.
But Rick Santorum isn’t very bright, or at least his political persona isn’t. Anyone who thinks abortion and gay marriage are leading issues—at a time when eleven gravely real issues have festered for an average of at least 17.5 years, and any could undo us at any time—simply doesn’t have the basic intelligence to serve as president.
We just suffered eight years of a presidency with that sort of low intellectual wattage. It nearly destroyed us. We don’t need another.
Apparently Iowa’s Republicans split the difference: put Romney’s brains and cunning together with Santorum’s honesty and “cleanliness,” and you might actually have something. That’s what one prominent Iowa pol’s wife said; you could create a decent candidate from this abysmal field by making a chimera.
Then there’s Ron Paul. Some of his “solutions”—including no new optional wars and downsizing our military—are absolutely right and long overdue. Others—like repealing or ignoring the civil rights laws that make our ideal of equality real—are absolutely wrong and dangerous.
But by putting Paul in third place, Iowa’s Republicans recognized a basic truth: we as a nation are in deep guano. Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic just won’t cut it. We need some bold, new, even radical ideas. In voting for Paul, a quarter of Iowa’s caucus-goers (mostly the young and disaffected) recognized this basic truth, as unpalatable as it may be in a peaceful, prosperous state where farming is the primary occupation and unemployment is 5.7%.
Iowa’s Republicans also did something else—no small thing, when you think about it. They disqualified candidates who had no business running for President in the first place. They relegated to the dustbin of history a world-class scoundrel, flake and troublemaker (Newt), a man so stupid he couldn’t even remember his own propaganda (Rick), and a woman who apparently thought the presidency is a place for a high-school cheerleader (Michele).
Two of these buffoons don’t yet know it, but they are all toast, thanks in part to Iowa. It’s a testament to the dysfunction and decline of our society that we had to be subjected to their random musings for several months, under the guise of “debates.” But Iowans weren’t responsible for that, any more than they will be responsible for the same sort of moronic debates continuing until lack of funds and prospects make the remaining two tire of hearing their own voices. Despite it all, Iowans did their job in helping winnow the sorry field.
Which brings me to Jon Huntsman. Being a smart man of limited political resources, he didn’t even compete in Iowa. He bided his time. And now he is going to make a credible showing, with a decent campaign, in New Hampshire, where reason and pragmatism precede the Bible as selection criteria.
A life-long Democrat, I can’t recall being as excited about a Republican presidential candidate in my 66 years.
I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s sheer relief from seeing a real candidate among a passel of morons and scoundrels. Perhaps it’s the mystery. I don’t know much about Huntsman, and I want to know more.
Perhaps it’s hope. I have a firm conviction that China is our most important bilateral relationship. I expect it to be the world’s leading economic power before I exit this world. And here’s a Republican candidate who learned to speak fluent Mandarin and spent two years as our Ambassador to China under a Democratic president. He probably has deeper and more recent knowledge of China and the Chinese than all but a handful of so-called “China experts” in our leading universities.
And that’s not all. Alone among the presidential candidates, Huntsman has proposed cutting our big banks down to size, so they are no longer “too big to fail.” That simple structural solution would be the best way to make sure our casinos don’t blow up the world economy again, just as we are getting back on our feet.
And that’s still not all. Huntsman didn’t become our ambassador to China as an ingenue. He had five years of trade-related diplomatic experience under the two Bushes, including stints as US Trade Representative and Ambassador to Singapore. What experience could possibly be more important now, when trade in general, and trade with China and Asia in particular, will likely determine our economic future?
When you add his five years of trade-related diplomacy to two years as Ambassador to China and four years as Governor of Utah, that’s a total of eleven years of intensely relevant political and international experience. On that score Huntsman outclasses Romney’s four years as Massachusetts governor by nearly a factor of three in years alone, and infinitely in international trade expertise.
A man with that kind of résumé has got to be smart. That thought helps me answer my own question as to why he’s running now, in 2012, when his party is utterly dysfunctional and in disarray.
It’s practice. Huntsman knows he hasn’t the ghost of a chance to be the Republican nominee. He also knows that no Republican has much of a chance of winning this year. So he’s learning the ropes for a real run in 2016.
By then the economy will have had four more years to heal (if the casinos don’t blow it up again first). By then his losing party will have self-destructed in recrimination and (God willing) will have begun to reform and rebuild. From a man who spent five years learning the ropes of international trade diplomacy, we should expect no less. Unlike most Americans, he thinks long term.
So this campaign, starting in New Hampshire, is Huntsman’s opportunity to introduce himself to the nation. Against the background of buffoons, his résumé and low-key pragmatism will shine like the morning star.
Even I, a Democrat, am excited about him. If my new state allows, I might switch parties temporarily to vote for him in the Republican primary.
If worse comes to worst and the President loses, I want to be able to say that I did my best to assure us a qualified candidate on both sides. I have no fear of a challenge to the President from within his own party, or from the left. And the President doesn’t need my vote in the primary, where he will have no or token opposition, to know I support him strongly.
But I’m starting to wonder what the President and the Democrats are doing to nurture a successor on the Democratic side for 2016. Next summer’s Democratic convention, whose outcome is foreordained, would be the perfect place to introduce future Democratic presidents, just as the 2004 convention introduced the President himself. Whoever runs in 2016 will have formidable competition, in the form of a practiced and ready Huntsman, perhaps aided by a reformed and renewing opposition party.
The President’s Recess AppointmentsI have one word of comment on the President’s recess appointments of Richard Cordray (to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and three members of the National Labor Relations Board: Yes !!!!
At last the President has taken action against the obstructionism and extortion that has characterized the GOP’s approach to so-called “loyal opposition” since before his inauguration.
Why did he wait so long? Because of his superb political sensitivity. He had to wait long enough for the stupidest, laziest and most ill-informed voter to see what the GOP are up to. Now he has. The GOP have made crystal clear that they will stoop to whatever ruse they can devise—down to holding sham “sessions” of the Senate that do absolutely nothing—in order to hamstring and discredit our President and get their way.
The GOP will try to make this seem like a power play by the President. But it’s not. The power play was by bought cretins like Senator Shelby of Alabama (our first or second most backward state), who singlehandedly placed 70 “holds” on judicial and administrative appointments, including a Nobel Prize winner and Elizabeth Warren.
The President is doing what he must to restore constitutional government by the duly elected representative of all the people, namely him. If our Founders had wanted to let a single senator eviscerate the executive branch by blocking appointments of the people it needs to run, they would have said so. They didn’t. Instead, they gave the President explicit power to make appointments when the Senate is not in session. Sending senators who happen to live in or near Washington into the chamber every three days to turn on the lights and do none of the nation’s business is a sham, not a “session.”
Might the Supreme Court disagree and declare the President’s action unlawful? Possibly. This particular Court has become a political body, as much governed by precedent as was Stalin. But if it follows age-old precedent, it should duck the question as a political one for political resolution, and let the “political branches”—executive and legislative—continue to duke it out.
If the Senate as a whole—as distinguished from an individual senator or a small group—wants to block an appointment, it can do so simply, in a single hour, by convening and voting the appointment down. But the Senate cannot continually block numerous appointments, in secret and without a vote or any public accounting, at the behest of small groups of its members. The Senate must take the political heat of public, collective action if it wants to stop the executive from appointing the administrators and judges it and the judiciary need to function. What about “personal responsibility” do some senators not understand?
Under current circumstances, the President’s action is absolutely necessary for the executive branch to function. If the Supreme Court dares to overturn it, its fingerprints, not the President’s, will be all over the unrest and destruction of our democracy that follow.