Conservatism

Climate Control

As their ranks diminish, global warming skeptics target scientists

AP Photo/John Giles
Last week Richard Muller and his team released the findings of their exhaustive study on global warming with definitive simplicity, saying flatly “global warming is real.” The statement is an especially damning one to climate change deniers, as Muller, himself once a global warming skeptic, conducted the study partly with funds from the Koch brothers. As even skeptics like Muller begin to accept the overwhelming science behind global warming, opponents are taking up a new tactic that goes after the scientists themselves. One of these scientists is Michael Mann, a climatologist who, since January, has been targeted by climate-deniers.Following the example of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, which have a tradition of attacking the credibility of scientists who oppose their products, skeptics are beginning question the credentials and research of individual scientists. Since 2007, when a Supreme Court ruling found that, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the right to regulate...

Running Out the Clock on Government Regulations

House bill could hamstring important protections

Tuesday, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary passed, on a party-line vote, one of the most sweeping attacks in decades on government protections. The Rules from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) bill would require that any major rule issued by a federal agency be affirmed by a majority vote in both the House and Senate. The vote would have to take place within 70 days. Proponents of the legislation claim that it would lead to improved regulations, but its real effect would be to hamstring government agencies so that rules that do not pass muster with the radical Republicans in the House—say, regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency or the Securities and Exchange Commission—would never be adopted. Leaving aside outright opposition to specific rules, many new regulations would fail simply because of time constraints. Over the past decade, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, the federal government has never issued fewer than 50 major rules in a...

The Most Inconsequential Debate

Yesterday I detailed how the leading figures of Iowa's evangelical community have all dilly-dallied about picking a favorite presidential candidate. As if on cue, one of those major players announced that he would be moderating one of the more bizarrely formatted debates of a modern presidential campaign. Rep. Steve King will referee a “modified Lincoln–Douglas debate” between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain in Texas on November 5. It should be a bizarre exchange. Gingrich has been expressing an interest of late in a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate where he would no longer face pesky questions from journalists, but it was always in the context of facing Barack Obama in the general election. Where those candidates would readily hammer away at their differences, a Cain-Gingrich matchup should be a dull affair. The two have appeared personally friendly throughout the campaign and won't diverge too substantially on policy. About the only thing the debate proves is that—despite his rise in...

Bob the Builder Bails on Perry

He dropped precipitously in recent polls after conservatives began to question his stance on illegal immigration, but most political pundits still think Rick Perry has a strong chance at winning the GOP presidential nomination. Perry's still in the running in part because of the relative weakness of the rest of the field. Mitt Romney, who looks like the consensus candidate, has made a career of straying from conservative dogma, including passing universal health care as governor of Massachusetts. And the candidates who have stuck close to the Tea Party line, Michele Bachmann specifically, are mostly unserious contenders, whose campaigns appear predicated on book sales rather than governance. With Perry, conservative Republicans were supposed to have a serious candidate who, most importantly of all, brought a fundraising infrastructure to the game. He tallied over $17 million during his first month and a half as a candidate. Super PACs sprung up to tout his campaign before Perry had...

Bachmann’s Staff Revolt

For a time it looked as though Michele Bachmann would be Mitt Romney’s main opponent for the GOP presidential nomination. She launched her campaign in June to significant fanfare, gracing the covers of national magazines and rising to the top of polls in Iowa. She was expected to be a fundraising juggernaut based on her high-dollar US House campaigns. In August she finished first at the Iowa Straw Poll, pushing fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty out of the race in the process. It turned out to be a short-lived streak. Rick Perry stole her thunder when he announced his campaign on the very same day Bachmann won the straw poll, replacing her as the front-runner. Her presence began to recede in the debates, only getting noticed when she made far-out statements scaring parents from vaccinating children. At Florida P5 in September—the next major straw poll after Iowa—Bachmann finished dead last, getting only 1.5% of the 2,600 votes. Now her campaign is officially in tatters. Late last week,...

Iowa Conservatives Still Searching for a Candidate

Photo credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Six of the Republican presidential wannabes traveled to Iowa this past Saturday to try to win over a crowd of over 1,000 evangelicals at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's banquet dinner in Des Moines. All of the major contenders (except Mitt Romney) spoke, playing up their social conservative bona fides for a crowd that could play a deciding role in the "first in the nation" state. Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition—headed by president Steve Scheffler—is one of the state's most powerful conservative organizations thanks to the voter guides they hand out during elections and the lobbying they do in the state legislature, most often pushing anti-LGBT rights legislation. Scheffler was instrumental in building the coalition of Christian activists that tilted the state's GOP further to the right over the past decade. He spearheaded the Iowa branch of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in the 1990s, but bolted to form his own group called the Iowa Christian Alliance in the mid-2000s...

Mitt Romney and the Flat Tax

Steve Forbes, famed supply-side guru, has announced his support for both Rick Perry’s presidential bid and his forth coming plan for a flat tax. Says Forbes of the Texas governor’s plan: Perry’s plan places him at the far edge of mainstream politics, but squarely within the consensus of the Republican Party, which has made a sharp turn to the right on issues of taxation. In addition, it places him in a favorable position vis a vis former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who – as The New York Times reports – has a “long record of criticizing such plans and famously derided Steve Forbes’s 1996 proposal as a ‘tax cut for fat cats.’ Of course, with prominent Republicans pushing for a flat tax, it’s likely that Romney will relent and release his own proposal for instituting a single income tax rate. As The Times writes, “Lately…his tone has been more positive. ‘I love a flat tax,’ he said in August.” There are two takeaways here. First is the fact that, as a politician, Mitt Romney has...

Herman Cain: Yesterday, Totally Pro-Choice. Today, Totally Pro-Life

Yesterday morning, I looked into my crystal ball and boldly predicted that within 48 hours, Herman Cain would walk back his surprisingly pro-choice comments on abortion ("So what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide") and come out for full-on, abortion-should-be-illegal anti-choicism. Well here you go : FOX HOST MARTHA MACCALLUM: Do you believe that abortion should be legal in this country for families who want to make that decision [to abort]? CAIN: No. I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country, if that's the question. MACCALLUM: So then you're saying that if those circumstances come up and the family does make that decision, that they decide that that is the best thing for this young person or she decides that on her own, then if that's what they decided, then it would be an illegal...

"The Romney Rule"

Priorities USA, the Democratic consulting firm backed by former Clinton staffer Paul Begala, is out with its first ad attacking former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. It’s a good one: Like the The Washington Post ’s Greg Sargent , I think that this will be a potent line of attack should Romney become the Republican nominee for president. As the wealthiest GOP candidate for president, Romney is uniquely ill-suited to press against higher taxes for the richest Americans, and for an overall low tax burden on the wealthy. Indeed, given the current popularity of higher taxes on the rich – and the growing popularity of Occupy Wall Street – an election fought on these grounds is bad territory for the Romney campaign. I should say that there is a practical policy danger in devoting so much attention to taxes for the rich. In the medium-term, middle-class taxes will have to go up. Unless we return to Clinton-era rates, there is no way – other than new taxes on consumption or carbon – to...

Everything Is Culture

The environmental story of the day concerns a project started by a climate skeptic named Richard Muller, a physicist who was so convinced that actual climate scientists were distorting or misreading the data that he started his own project, called the Berkeley Earth Science Temperature project, to double-check them. Climate deniers were excited -- at last, some actual scientists would prove that global warming is a hoax! The Charles G. Koch foundation even gave money to the project. One prominent climate denier blogger, Anthony Watts, wrote, "I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong." You may be able to guess where this is going. Brad Plumer explains : So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global...

Blame and How to Give It

That Senate Republicans used the filibuster to kill a Democratic stimulus bill isn’t a surprise – at this point, Republicans have all but announced their plan to keep the economy from significantly improving, and as a result, slash the tires on President Obama’s bid for re-election. What comes as a surprise is the extent to which the press isn’t playing along. In the past, reporters would describe yesterday's event with “balanced” language that obscured Republican responsibility for the obstruction. For example, here’s how The New York Times described last week’s failed vote on the full American Jobs Act: In a major setback for President Obama, the Senate on Tuesday blocked consideration of his $447 billion jobs bill, forcing the White House and Congressional Democrats to scramble to salvage parts of the plan, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s push to revive a listless economy. The legislation, announced with fanfare by the president at a joint session of Congress last month, fell short...

Perryland

The animosity between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry at Tuesday's debate might have surprised a few viewers, but their their dislike for each other is well known among reporters who follow the candidates. Both The New York Times and the Washington Post ran articles after the debate which highlighted that history. Here's how WaPo describes how the two related as state governors in the 2000s: They did not have a productive working relationship, according to Republicans who worked with both men, and each harbored a disdain for the other that was seemingly driven by cultural stereotypes and their perceptions of each other. They share little in their upbringings, careers, faiths or lifestyles. This isn't the first time Perry has found himself in this kind of tussle with another Republican. Perry and George W. Bush don't like each other either. And when he faced Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the gubernatorial primary last year, Perry viciously attacked her as an emblem of establishment thinking—...

The GOP's Anti-Romney Majority

If there’s anything to pay attention to in the Associated Press’ most recent poll of the Republican presidential primary, it’s not the exact distribution of votes among the candidates. That story is familiar: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney leads the pack with 30 percent support, followed by Herman Cain with 26 percent, Rick Perry at 13 percent, and Ron Paul with 8 percent. What’s most significant is the extent to which Romney occupies a minority position within the Republican Party. Sixty-two percent of Republicans want a candidate other than him, and of that number, 97 percent want a candidate who is more conservative than the former Massachusetts governor (the remaining 3 percent are Jon Huntsman supporters). This is why it’s too early to dismiss Rick Perry as a failed candidate – Republicans don’t want to nominate Romney, and if Perry can get his campaign into shape, he has a huge pool of anti-Romney conservatives to draw support from. One last thing. Head-to-head don’t...

One out of Five Ain't Bad

AP Photo/Chris Carlson Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn't win the G.O.P. debate Tuesday but he managed to rattle frontrunner Mitt Romney. Rick Perry is still a bad debater. At last night's Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, he hemmed, hawed and stammered his way through policy statements and attack lines. But for the first time since entering the race, that wasn't a detriment to his overall performance. Perry didn't win the debate, but he didn't lose it either. More importantly, he achieved his main goal: throwing Mitt Romney off of his game. From the beginning, Perry went after Romney's credentials as a conservative. "I'm Texas Governor Rick Perry, a proven job-creator and a man who is about economic growth, an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience," he said, introducing himself to the crowd. Later, Perry joined Rick Santorum's attacks on Romney's former support for Massachusetts's health-care reform, and in the most explosive exchange of the evening,...

More Reagan than Reagan

The two leading stories on the nightly news for the past week have been the Occupy Wall Street protests and the Republican primary race, a contrast so vivid that the reports could be coming from two different planets. First, we see thousands of citizens so frustrated and angry with economic inequality in the U.S. that they have organized to protest in hundreds of cities around the country. Then we see a group of contenders for president agree that the only economic problem we have is that wealth and influence are not sufficiently concentrated at the top. For the GOP, the protests renew an old dilemma. When Ronald Reagan became president, Democrats charged that he would was guided by the theory of "trickle-down economics," in which benefits are bestowed upon the wealthy, and the blessings eventually trickle down to the rest of the country — i.e. , the 99 percent. Republicans replied indignantly that this phrase misrepresented Reagan's agenda; they preferred "...

Pages