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Tea Party to the Rescue

The Wall Street Journal

DECLARATIONS

OCTOBER 22, 2010.

How the GOP was saved from Bush and the establishment.
By PEGGY NOONAN..

Two central facts give shape to the historic 2010 election. The first is not understood by Republicans, and the second not admitted by Democrats.

The first: the tea party is not a “threat” to the Republican Party, the tea party saved the Republican Party. In a broad sense, the tea party rescued it from being the fat, unhappy, querulous creature it had become, a party that didn’t remember anymore why it existed, or what its historical purpose was. The tea party, with its energy and earnestness, restored the GOP to itself.

.In a practical sense, the tea party saved the Republican Party in this cycle by not going third-party. It could have. The broadly based, locally autonomous movement seems to have made a rolling decision, group by group, to take part in Republican primaries and back Republican hopefuls. (According to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, four million more Republicans voted in primaries this year than Democrats, the GOP’s highest such turnout since 1970. I wonder who those people were?)

Because of this, because they did not go third-party, Nov. 2 is not going to be a disaster for the Republicans, but a triumph.

The tea party did something the Republican establishment was incapable of doing: It got the party out from under George W. Bush. The tea party rejected his administration’s spending, overreach and immigration proposals, among other items, and has become only too willing to say so. In doing this, the tea party allowed the Republican establishment itself to get out from under Mr. Bush: “We had to, boss, it was a political necessity!” They released the GOP establishment from its shame cringe.

And they not only freed the Washington establishment, they woke it up. That establishment, composed largely of 50- to 75-year-olds who came to Washington during the Reagan era in a great rush of idealism, in many cases stayed on, as they say, not to do good but to do well. They populated a conservative infrastructure that barely existed when Reagan was coming up: the think tanks and PR groups, the media outlets and governmental organizations. They did not do what conservatives are supposed to do, which is finish their patriotic work and go home, taking the knowledge and sophistication derived from Washington and applying it to local problems. (This accounts in part for the esteem in which former Bush budget chief and current Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is held. He went home.)

The GOP establishment stayed, and one way or another lived off government, breathed in its ways and came to know—learned all too well!—the limits of what is possible and passable. Part of the social and cultural reality behind the tea party-GOP establishment split has been the sheer fact that tea partiers live in non-D.C. America. The establishment came from America, but hasn’t lived there in a long time.

I know and respect some of the establishmentarians, but after dinner, on the third glass of wine, when they get misty-eyed about Reagan and the old days, they are not, I think, weeping for him and what he did but for themselves and who they were. Back when they were new and believed in something.

Finally, the tea party stiffened the GOP’s spine by forcing it to recognize what it had not actually noticed, that we are a nation in crisis. The tea party famously has no party chiefs and no conventions but it does have a theme—stop the spending, stop the sloth, incompetence and unneeded regulation—and has lent it to the GOP.

Actually, Maureen “Moe” Tucker, former drummer of the Velvet Underground, has done the best job ever of explaining where the tea party stands and why it stands there. She also suggests the breadth and variety of the movement. In an interview this week in St. Louis’s Riverfront Times, Ms. Tucker said she’d never been particularly political but grew alarmed by the direction the country was taking. In the summer of 2009, she went to a tea-party rally in southern Georgia. A chance man-on-the-street interview became a YouTube sensation. No one on the left could believe this intelligent rally-goer was the former drummer of the 1960s breakthrough band; no one on the left understood that an artist could be a tea partier. Because that’s so not cool, and the Velvet Underground was cool.

Ms. Tucker, in the interview, ran through the misconceptions people have about tea partiers: “that they’re all racists, they’re all religious nuts, they’re all uninformed, they’re all stupid, they want no taxes at all and no regulations whatsoever.” These stereotypes, she observed, are encouraged by Democrats to keep their base “on their side.” But she is not a stereotype: “Anyone who thinks I’m crazy about Sarah Palin, Bush, etc., has made quite the presumption. I have voted Democrat all my life, until I started listening to what Obama was promising and started wondering how the hell will this utopian dream be paid for?

There is also this week a striking essay by Fareed Zakaria, no tea partier he, in Time magazine. He unknowingly touched on part of the reason for the tea party. Mr. Zakaria, born and raised in India, got his first sense of America’s vitality, outsized ways, glamour and crazy high-spiritedness as a young boy in the late 1970s watching bootlegged videotapes of “Dallas.” What a country! His own land, in comparison, seemed sleepy, hidebound. Now when he travels to India, “it’s as if the world has been turned upside down. Indians are brimming with hope and faith in the future. After centuries of stagnation, their economy is on the move, fueling animal spirits and ambition. The whole country feels as if it has been unlocked.” Meanwhile the mood in the U.S. seems glum, dispirited. “The middle class, in particular, feels under assault.” Sixty-three percent of Americans say they do not think they will be able to maintain their current standard of living. “The can-do country is convinced that it can’t.”

All true. And yet. We may be witnessing a new political dynamism. The Tea Party’s rise reflects anything but fatalism, and maybe even a new high-spiritedness. After all, they’re only two years old and they just saved a political party and woke up an elephant.

The second fact of 2010 is understood by Republicans but not admitted by Democrats. It is that this is a fully nationalized election, and at its center it is about one thing: Barack Obama.

It is not, broadly, about the strengths or weaknesses of various local candidates, about constituent services or seniority, although these elements will be at play in some outcomes, Barney Frank’s race likely being one. But it is significant that this year Mr. Frank is in the race of his life, and this week on TV he did not portray the finger-drumming smugness and impatience with your foolishness he usually displays on talk shows. He looked pale and mildly concussed, like someone who just found out that liberals die, too.

This election is about one man, Barack Obama, who fairly or not represents the following: the status quo, Washington, leftism, Nancy Pelosi, Fannie and Freddie, and deficits in trillions, not billions.

Everyone who votes is going to be pretty much voting yay or nay on all of that. And nothing can change that story line now.

Obama, Warren and The Imperial Presidency

The Wall Street journal
OPINION
SEPTEMBER 22, 2010
The Senate should vote on all senior appointments within 60 days. But the president should give it a chance to vote.


By BRUCE ACKERMAN
President Obama’s appointment of Elizabeth Warren late last week is another milestone down the path toward an imperial presidency. During America’s first 150 years, Ms. Warren’s appointment as a special adviser to the White House would have been unthinkable. Today, it’s par for the course.
Only in 1939 did Franklin Roosevelt win the right to appoint six “special assistants.” To gain congressional approval, he pledged that his assistants would act strictly as advisers. Thus they did not require Senate confirmation.
Since Roosevelt’s initiative, presidents of both parties have consistently expanded the size and power of the White House establishment. There are now more than 500 super-loyalists intervening in the affairs of Cabinet departments. But until now, presidents have maintained the legal fiction that they were merely advisers without decision-making powers.
No longer. As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained, Ms. Warren has been appointed “to lead” a team of “about 30 or 40 people at the Department of Treasury working” in “standing up” the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This burst of candor punctures the legal fiction that has exempted White House appointees from the Constitution’s requirement of “advice and consent” from the Senate. Since Ms. Warren will be a key executive in Treasury, earning the salary of an undersecretary, shouldn’t she be treated as an undersecretary and be required to run the gauntlet of Senate approval?
To deflect this question, the president’s lawyers have cobbled together yet another legal fiction. The trick is to give her a second appointment. In addition to serving as President Obama’s special assistant, she will also serve as a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. This allows her to pretend she is Mr. Geithner’s humble consultant when she and her staff come up with an action plan for the new agency.
This legalistic gambit serves as a fig leaf for a very different reality: Mr. Geithner will never reject any of Ms. Warren’s “advice.” The simple truth is that the Treasury secretary is being transformed into a rubber stamp for a White House staffer.
In his great book on 19th-century British government, “The English Constitution,” Walter Bagehot emphasized the importance of distinguishing the “efficient” from the “dignified” aspects of the constitution. Britain’s “dignified” constitution then focused on the Queen, diverting attention from the “efficient” power wielded by the Cabinet.
A similar but opposite transformation is happening in today’s America. The dignified Constitution emphasizes Senate confirmation of cabinet officers, but effective power is increasingly exercised by presidential assistants. Despite Mr. Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush White House, he is now making his own contribution to the ongoing construction of an imperial presidency.
Maybe so, say the president’s defenders, but the Senate has only itself to blame. John Kennedy had to wait two months for the Senate to confirm his initial round of nominees. It took six months for Ronald Reagan, and nine for George W. Bush, and even longer for Mr. Obama. Given the Senate’s increasing intransigence, the president has no choice but to engage in legal fictions that will allow him to govern effectively. Although Republicans are condemning Mr. Obama for creating another White House czar, they will change their tune if their party regains control of the presidency and confronts a Democratic roadblock in the Senate.
Americans can break through this impasse if both sides negotiate a “grand bargain.” Here is the deal: The Senate should change its rules to require an up-or-down vote on all executive branch appointments within 60 days. In exchange, the president should sign legislation to require Senate approval of all senior White House appointments. By reaching this agreement, the president regains the powers to govern effectively and the Senate regains its authority to approve all major appointments—regardless of their location in the executive branch.
This grand bargain requires both sides to give up the petty privileges of the existing system. Senators will lose their power to hold up nominations to blackmail the administration into approving their pet projects. Presidents will lose their ability to appoint super-loyalists who can’t convince 51 senators that they merit powerful White House positions. But the rest of us will profit greatly from the reinvigoration of the founding principle of checks-and-balances for a new century.
Mr. Ackerman is a professor at Yale and the author of “The Decline and Fall of the American Republic,” forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

Maxine Waters Says it’s Bush’s Fault

Is there anything else the progressives can blame on Bush?

Embattled Rep. Maxine Waters on Friday blamed the Bush administration for her ethics problems — saying she had to intervene with the Treasury Department on behalf of minority-owned banks seeking federal bailout funds — including one tied to her husband — because the Treasury Department wouldn’t schedule its own appointments.

The California Democrat said in a Capitol Hill news conference — an event rarely held during a congressional recess — that she reached out to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in late 2008 when his department failed to respond to the National Bank Association’s request for a meeting.

“The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson, but why I had to,” she said. “The question at this point should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis.”

But the House ethics committee, which is investigating Waters for allegedly improperly using her position for personal gain, says in its report of charges that when the meeting was held, the officers of only one bank came — OneUnited.

That’s a problem for Waters since her husband, Sidney Williams, served as a member of OneUnited’s board of directors from January 2004 until April 2008, and was a stockholder in the bank.

OneUnited eventually got $12 million of the $50 million in bailout money it requested, enough to keep the bank afloat. The ethics panel says that kept Waters’ family stock from becoming worthless, which the committee says shows that she personally benefited by using her office.

Waters said she wasn’t concerned about her husband’s stocks in the bank, which were worth about $350,000 at the time and which her husband still owns, if only because he can’t unload them.

“No one wants to buy them,” she said.

Waters said the media need to distinguish between making a call on behalf of one bank and making a call for an entire trade association. She added that even Paulson told the ethics committee that she never approached his office to speak about only one bank.

“When Paulson responded as a witness, he didn’t tell anybody I called him and asked for a meeting with OneUnited,” she said.

The 10-term representative from Los Angeles, insisted that she hasn’t done anything to violate House rules, and she “will not cut a deal.”

“I am teetering on a border here. What I am doing here is rare and unprecedented. I won’t go behind closed doors,” she said.

Waters pushed for a speedy trial, slamming the ethics committee for not setting a date for the hearing.

“Such a delay is unacceptable, considering that the investigation has dragged on for almost one year,” she said. “It does not provide due process.”

She added that neither her staff nor she “engaged in any improper behavior.”

“We did not influence anyone and we did not gain any benefit,” she said, reading from a written statement.

Waters, who holds a senior position on the Financial Services Committee, is the second prominent Democrat lawmaker facing ethics charges during a fiery election season. New York Rep. Charles Rangel of New York is facing 13 charges, including failing to disclose assets and income and delayed payment of federal taxes.

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