Bill Clinton, Global Warming Fool

This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been fearing – and expecting – from the Democratic party – the foolish idea that western nations should throttle back on economic and technological development to fight the will-o’-the-wisp of climate change:

Former President Bill Clinton was in Denver, Colorado, stumping for his wife yesterday.

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren."

It’s my opinion that the exact opposite is true, that we need to accelerate our rate of progress regarding nuclear and fuel cell technology in order to produce cleaner power in the quantities we need to maintain our pace of life and development rather than shutting down our minds, computers, and businesses.

McCain Wins Florida

With 74% of precincts reporting, the NY Times has called the Florida Republican primary for John McCain by a 36-31% margin over Mitt Romney.

Rudy Guiliani’s Florida firewall was hacked.  He managed to get only 15% of the vote, a sure sign that his campaign is coming to an end.  The thinking here in Texas is that McCain will benefit most from his inevitable resignation owing to his – and Rudy’s – more centrist positions on social issues.

Mike Huckabee finished 4th with 13%, making strong performances on Tuesday a must for him.  Will he be a possible vice-presidential pick?  It seems to me that he would be more likely to accept the position than any of the Republicans still in the race for president.

Morris on Clinton, Obama

When I wrote about what Dick Morris said about Hillary Clinton’s bullying, us-versus-them political tactics back in September, there was a bit of a negative reaction.  Morris is biased, unreliable, even a kook, some said.  True, but was he right?

A refresher:

Hillary emphatically comes from the “us versus them” school of American politics. Like Richard Nixon, the politician she so closely resembles, she sees the world in extraordinarily simple terms: there are those who agree with her and support her and then there’s the rest of the world. Those who don’t agree with her are bunched together and known collectively as “the enemy” — that vast right wing conspiracy that must be vilified, beaten, and destroyed … whatever it takes.

After watching the Clintons slinging mud balls made of race and gender about for the last couple of weeks I submit to you that Morris was dead on in his assessment of the Clintons.  In fact, the only trick Dick missed was Slick Bill Clinton’s red-faced, disdain-laced tirades against his wife’s opponent, a man who, when considered solely as a person, is head-and-shoulders above either Clinton.  In peacetime there would be no question about who the better president would be; only on national security would a Clinton White House be distinctly stronger.  Happily for Hillary, we are embroiled in a 2 front war and she’ll win the Dems’ nod because of it.

Now Morris has this to say about the race that the Clintons’ tag-team, ultra-spiteful tactics have shaped:

The massive outpouring of criticism of the Clintons for their tactics in South Carolina is withering fire which may take a serious toll among Hillary’s voters. Caroline Kennedy’s invocation of her father in endorsing Obama seems right on the money. Ted Kennedy’s support for him legitimizes white backing for the Illinois Senator and could have a big impact.

The Clintons were banking on a silent invocation of racial division stemming from a massive Obama win in South Carolina among black voters and a last place finish among whites. Their hopes were that whites would note the racial split in South Carolina and react by voting for Clinton.

But this racial divisiveness can only take place in the dark, out of sight. With the glare of Obama’s idealism shining on the dialogue, conscience comes into play and the American electorate may overcome the divisiveness of the Clintons.

As it stands today an Obama nomination lessens the likelihood of a Republican being elected president.  Even so I can’t help but hope that the Clintons are turned back in the primaries.  I recognize Obama’s naivety vis-a-vis foreign policy and the likelihood his presidency would cost me thousands of $$$ in extra taxes, but the self-righteous, self-serving arrogance that Bill Clinton displayed on the campaign trail very nearly makes rejecting the Clintons a national imperative.

We shouldn’t have to endure that man’s despoiling presence in the White House again, not when we have so many better options to choose from.  This fact is not lost on prominent Democrats like the Kennedy’s, who endorsed Senator Obama today.

If only we weren’t at war.  But we are and so I have to stand by earlier statements that Hillary Clinton is, if a Democrat must be elected president, the best choice. 

Talk about holding one’s nose while voting.  Conservatives will have it easy if John McCain is the Republican nominee.

Cyd Mizell’s Condition Unknown

From ABC:


On Monday, the police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said police had not turned up any new information about the kidnapping.

"All of our security forces and intelligence agents are trying to find them," he said.

"Nobody really knows" who the kidnappers are, [foundation director Jeff] Palmer said, adding that the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation had taken precautionary measures for other staff members in Kandahar. He declined to give further details.

Mizell, who taught English at Kandahar University and gave embroidery lessons at a girl’s school, speaks the local Pashtu language well, colleagues said. She has worked for ARLDF in Kandahar for the last three years, Palmer said.

Kidnappings of Afghans have been on the rise in the last year, including the abduction of dozens of Afghans. Rumors persist of foreign governments paying large ransoms to win the freedom of their citizens.

2 South Korean kidnap victims were killed last year while in the custody of terrorists, so Ms. Mizell’s safety is by no means certain, particularly if the U.S. is contacted and is unwilling to cooperate, as per policy.

As Claudia described earlier, terrorists armed with rocket launchers and explosives also held than 300 school children hostage and threatened to blow them up after failing to kidnap a local government official. 

Happily, this standoff has come to an end, apparently without any of the youngsters being harmed.  Hopefully Cyd Mizell will be as fortunate.

Greenwald on FISA, Congress

Glen Greenwald has an excellent piece up about the FISA amendments that are about to expire, the Bush administration’s bullying scare tactics that got them passed in the first place, and how the "imminent" danger no longer seems important to the president. 

If the threat isn’t present, why shouldn’t we let the invasive surveillance measures lapse permanently?  If it is, no gap in time should be allowed.

What’s a Congress to do?  How about standing up for what’s best for the country?  How about showing just a hint of personal and political courage?  How about "making change" by reining in a runaway security apparatus?

Glen’s conclusion:

Any rational person has long ago given up the hope that Congressional Democrats will stand for any actual political convictions, but the most basic sense of personal pride and human dignity — which one thought was an intrinsic part of human nature — would preclude their capitulation today. If they don’t stand up to the White House and Senate Republicans under these circumstances, one might as well accept that they never will do so.

Miss America Now a Crass Boor

Scanning the DirectTV guide last night I decided to switch on the Miss American pageant just in time for the winnowing down to the final 10 contestants.  As one who despises Survivor and other so-called "reality" shows I was unpleasantly surprised to see the six young ladies being eliminated called out and told goodbye American Idol style.

As the Baltimore Sun reports, crowd fave and Army medic Jill Stevens and her friends dropped and did a set of pushups after her name was called, an uplifting move in an otherwise dismal display of modern non-winner bashing.  Granted, the pageant is trying hard to update its look and feel, but frankly the outcome was more than a little crass – a definite step back for the classic American event.

Ah memories.  I vividly recall my first Miss America pageant.  I was seven years old, visiting my great-aunt in Rock Island, IL, and wanted nothing more than for Rocky, her 19 year old son, to come outside and throw the baseball with me.

"Someday you’ll be old enough to want to watch these girls," he said with a distracted smile, one eye still on the TV.

Not likely, I thought defiantly.  And that proved to be more or less true.  During my mid and late teens – prime babe ogling years – I was too busy with sports, friends, and real girls to watch them on the tube.  In my twenties, when I might have liked looking at the beautiful young women only a few years my junior my own young, beautiful wife frowned on that sort of behavior in no uncertain terms.  Now I’m old enough and round enough that she doesn’t care any longer if I watch the pageant or not.  But while the contestants were as lovely as ever last night, if not more so, the format of the show is distinctly less appealing now. 

Perhaps at 41 I have vaulted over the generation gap.  But I really think that there’s something unsavory about this gleeful eliminating, voting off, and "firing" of contestants, especially in front of a TV audience who, in most cases, have never done anything as gutsy as getting up on stage with 49 of the most beautiful women in American to be judged on national TV.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this piece at first.  Times change, I thought, why fight it?   You’re just getting old and grumpy.  In fact, I had already switched over to and old Seinfeld rerun when I decided to flip back on the spur of the moment to give the contest another chance.

What was I greeted with?  A vocal performance of Feelings or God Bless America?  A young American beauty promising to use her crown to foment world peace?  I wish.

Instead a young-ish, scruffy-faced dude with a hideous bit of chin stubble sat among the freshly dropped contestants with his mike open. 

(I’ve since learned that this was one Clinton Kelly, star of TV’s What Not to Wear, something that explains so much).

Kelly’s scintillating question?

"How did you keep your bikini bottoms from riding up?"

Not exactly Bert Parks, is he?

American Woman Kidnapped in Afghanistan

From the Houston Chronicle:

Gunmen kidnapped a burqa-clad American aid worker and her driver while they were traveling through southern Afghanistan early today, a provincial governor said.

The two were stopped by gunmen outside the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, said Gov. Asadullah Khalid. He blamed the kidnappings on the "enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan."

More proof that Afghanistan has not yet been stabilized, as if we needed any. 

Earlier this week Hamid Karzai said that American and British forces were making Afghanistan less secure.  While this is a dubious assertion – I don’t think that anyone has particular faith in Afghan police or troops – it certainly goes to the point that the U.S. took it’s eye off the ball in that country to focus on Iraq, a well-documented mistake.

Khalid said the 49-year-old American was wearing a burqa when she was taken. She worked for the aid agency Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, he said.

Projects run by the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation are located around the city of Kandahar and include food for work, irrigation rehabilitation, health care and restoration projects, according to the group’s Web site.

These projects are the last thing the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their ilk – as well as the drug growers known to be in the area – want to see come to fruition.  People who can provide for themselves have no need of authoritarian or criminal masters such as these.

Let’s pray that this brave woman is not harmed by her kidnappers.

Democrats Crumble, Again

A million miles from the campaign trail, House Democrats have been railing against President Bush’s plan to grant immunity to the telecommunications companies that provides information to the government prior to changes in the law that allowed them to do so.

As I’ve written several times, this position is all of the below:

  1. Useless posturing
  2. Wrong
  3. Doomed to failure

Actually, as of today, it seems likely that all of this will be in the past now that the Senate has rejected the House Dems’ legislation that would have kept said immunity out of the new security bill.

In a lopsided 60 to 36 vote — with 12 Democrats joining Republicans in the majority — the Senate rejected a version of the proposed legislation sponsored by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. That bill omitted immunity for the telecommunications firms involved in warrantless eavesdropping.

Expressing his anger, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the maneuver has put the fate of the entire bill in jeopardy. A temporary surveillance law, passed in August, is due to expire next Friday.

No surprise.  The no-immunity stance was such an obvious loser that one has to wonder whether it was simply token political resistance to a Republican agenda that the Dems had no way of defeating anyway.

That’s unfortunate, because the NSA may be about the get additional, unsupervised abilities to eavesdrop on some Americans’ communications without having to go before a judge:

The Senate will instead consider a measure passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee that has the backing of the White House. It would give legal immunity to AT&T and the other phone companies against some 40 lawsuits growing out of their alleged roles in eavesdropping. It would also give the N.S.A. a freer hand to eavesdrop on foreign-based communications without judicial checks.

I’m all for national security; however, it is not a good idea to give intelligence agencies unfettered access to our communications.  The argument that getting judicial approval takes too long simply doesn’t hold water:  We’re spending billions fighting terrorists, I think we can spring for a couple additional judges to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Too bad the Dems in the House didn’t spend their time on the right fight.

Florida Live Blogging

Tonight’s debate in Florida is Rudy Guiliani’s last stand is and, perhaps, almost as important for Mike Huckabee who has not been able to capitalize on his success in Iowa, in part because of position changes.

Without further ado, here are my notes from tonight’s MSNBC debate.

Stimulus Plan

Romney:  The compromise stimulus plan has some good points but I would make tax cuts permanent.  Corporations need the incentive to buy capital equipment, which the plan provides, but I would do more.  Companies need to create new jobs.

We have a housing crisis that has spread across the country and reversing the course of this is important.  I support the plan, on the whole.

McCain:  I will vote for the plan.  I also want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and I voted for them twice.  If we don’t make them permanent we will experience a de facto tax increase.

Corporate income taxes need to be reduced.  Only Japan pays higher corporate taxes than the U.S.

No pork barrel projects should be attached to the bill.  We need to reduce taxes and spending in this country.

Guiliani:  The bill does not go far enough.  Corporate and capital gains taxes should be reduced.  We are competing with the rest of the world:  if we over spend, over regulate, and over litigate America will not be competitive at the international level.

How many jobs are we pushing out of the U.S.?


McCain:  I am very well versed in economics.  I was chairman of the commerce committe in the Senate.  That’s why Jack Kemp, Phil Graham, and Marty Feldstein support me.  The majority of economists in a recent survey felt I would manage the economy best.  I’ll match my credentials against anyone running.

Huckabee:  I left a surplus of $850M when I left office.  I raised the income level at which residents paid taxes and lowered the marriage penalty. 

One important question is whose economy will be stimulated, ours or the Chinese?  That’s where the money will go in interest and in imports.

Updating the country’s infrastructure, e.g., a highway down the east coast, would do more to stimulate the economy than this plan?

Romney:  I trust McCain and Guiliani in regard to tax cuts.  Massachusetts had a $3B shortfall when I came into office.  I balanced the budget 4 years in a row without raising taxes .

The Bush tax cuts should be made permanent and I’m glad John McCain has changed his mind on this issue. 

It’s important that a president have an intimate understanding of the business world and how it works. I am the best candidate to do that.

McCain:  Raising fees and taxes is the same same thing.  Republicans lost an election because we failed voters in our promise to exercise fiscal restraint.  I’m very proud of my record as a fiscal conservative.

Paul:  The government should not stimulate the economy by meddling with interest rates or printing and spending money.  Government should not appropriate and spend more money – that is why the dollar is crashing relative to other currencies.

We’re spending $1T per year overseas policing the world.  But no one is suggesting we reduce that.  I’d like to see massive tax cuts and much less in the way of regulations.

Guiliani:  America is part of a global economy and we should understand who we are dealing with and what their motives are.  But foreign countries investing in the U.S. is a good thing because it creates relationships that bind us together.  Japanese investment in this country made our relationship stronger.  We should be aggressive in investing in the global economy.  We should be asking what we can sell overseas.

Running On or Away from the Republican Record

McCain:  Democrats will raise taxes, increase spending, and pass more regulations if they are elected.  Democrats have already said that.  The president signed 2 years of pork-barrel budgets but I will veto every one of these spending bills.  We will regain the confidence of the American people, restore fiscal responsibility, and balance the budget if I am elected.

Huckabee:  I have to remind you that I wasn’t in Washington messing things up over the last 8 years.  But this cannot be blamed on the president.  Last year everyone here said that the economy was great.  It is, at the top.  But for the average American health and energy costs are up.  Trickle-down economics are not working for them.

We need a president who understands the effect of economic policies on all facets of society.

Romney:  Washington has made promises that they have not kept.  Social security, ear marks, ethics, illegal immigration, and foreign oil dependence.  Both parties have failed in this regard.  When Republicans act like Democrats America loses.  Entitlement costs must be reigned in.

A weakening dollar and excessive foreign investment signals a weakening economic foundation.

Guiliani:  I turned around New York City from a similar situation by growing the economy and cutting taxes at the same time.

Paul:  I’m the taxpayer’s best friend because I vote for low taxes and spending at all times.  I am the only old-fashioned Republican candidate in the race.

McCain on Troops in Iraq:  No military leader says that we cannot sustain our military effort in Iraq.  We are succeeding in Iraq and leaving Iraq will result in loss of American lives and dollars.  I’m proud to be the only one on the stage to have stuck with the war effort the entire way.

The military does not want to surrender like Senator Clinton does, they want to be allowed to win the war.

Romney on increasing the size of the military:  We need to add 100K military personnel to the rolls.  In Mass. we added more financial incentives and increased the number of new enrollees.

It is unthinkable that Democrats said that getting out of Iraq ASAP is more important than securing the country.  We cannot leave the country to al Qaeda.  Our success there is due to the military men and women, not due to the Democrats’ push for withdrawal.

Will you go to the country and say that the war in Iraq was a good idea?

McCain:  Getting rid of Hussein was a good idea.  The problem was not the invasion but the mishandling of the country after the invasion was complete. 

We will, at the end of the day, have peace in the Middle East.

Guiliani:  I was for it when 60% of Americans approved of the war, I am still for it now.

Paul:  It was a very bad idea and wasn’t worth it.  al Qaeda wasn’t there; they are now.  This policy was put in place by the Clinton administration.

Huckabee:  I, and the Democrats, supported the president in this war.  The courage of the president needs to be recognized.  We were united at that time and we all went into it.  We should not let the polls dictate our actions.  Just because we didn’t find weapons of mass destruction doesn’t mean they weren’t there.

Romney:  I have and do supported it.  The years that followed showed that we were undermanned and lacked planning.  It is critical to ensure that Iraq is not a safe haven for our enemies to launch attacks on the U.S.


Romney to Guiliani:  How do we ensure that China’s growth is not at America’s expense:

Guiliani:  China is a great opportunity for America.  Trade breeds relationships and reduces the likelihood of military conflict.

We need to view Chinese as potential customers, not threats.  Their development can come from buying things from us if we sell ourselves and our ingenuity.

McCain to Huckabee:  How do you answer those who say that the Fair Tax would take more from low income Americans?

Huckabee:  The people want to do away with the IRS.  We’re penalized for productivity and the Fair Tax stops that by encouraging people to work and get rewarded for it.

The poor come out best of all because all Americans untaxes the poor and elderly up to the poverty line.  Everyone in the economy benefits, the poor most of all, and the underground economy would be eliminated.

The Fair Tax is a transparent tax as opposed to the system that we have now.

Follow-up:  How does the Fair Tax benefit the 15% tax bracket?

Huckabee:  The break-even point for the Fair Tax is 23% and the average American pays more than that, of which no all taxes are visible.

Paul:  Would you get rid of or expose the dealings of the president’s advisory panel on economics?

McCain:  I would like to see more visibility into the president’s economic planning.  But I would rely on my SecTreas and people like Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm more than an advisory panel.

Huckabee to Romney:  Do you support both the 2nd amendment and the Brady bill and what restrictions should be placed on weapon ownership?

Romney:  I do support the 2nd amendment as an individual, not governmental right.  But I would have signed an assault weapon ban, though I would not seek new legislation on this issue.

Guiliani to Romney:  John McCain doesn’t support a catastrophic backup fund, I do.  What is your position?

Romney:  I support such a plan so that people in high risk areas can obtain insurance for their personal properties.  This should not be implemented in terms of a national tax such that low risk states do not have to pay for coast areas, for example.  But it should be an industry and government joint effort.

McCain’s Rebuttal:  Environmental disasters are a terrible problem.  Every American that is in jeopardy will be able to obtain insurance as the result of a joint federal, state, and industry

Moderator Question to Rudy Guiliani:  Why are you against caps on greenhouse gasses?

Guiliani:  Technology advances are the best way to combat greenhouse gasses.  We need to increase investment in nuclear power and clean coal.

We need a project equivalent to putting a man on the moon to make us energy independent.  Caps and negative incentives will not work; only supporting industry here in the U.S. will achieve the goal of reducing emissions.

McCain:  I am not in favor of caps, I’m in favor of cap and trade.

We cannot pay $400B for foreign oil; we need to go back to nuclear power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The challenge of reducing greenhouses gasses is worth taking on even if man-made global warming is proven false:  we’ll give our children a cleaner world.

Moderator Questions

Moderator to Guiliani:  Why has your approval rate gone from 58% to 29% positive and why have you not been placing well in the primaries?

Guiliani:  We are lulling them into a false sense of security.  We’re going to do well in Florida and the upcoming primaries.

Moderator to McCain:  Your mom says Republicans will have to hold their nose to vote for you because of your maverick votes.  How can you unite the party?

McCain:  I can make America safer and restore the fundamental basis of our economy.  Israel’s independence and the environment are not just important to a few; many Republicans are concerned with these things.

I have support among independents because I put my country first, above my party.  I’m proud to be a conservative.

Romney:  I can’t imagine Bill Clinton back in the White House and I don’t think the American people can either.

Hillary wants to raise taxes.  Her health plan will cost $110B every year.  She wants to get out of Iraq ASAP.  She is exactly what is wrong with Washington.  Washington is broken and I want to fix it.

We need to get back to the Ronald Reagan conservatism to win the election and restore America to health.

Moderator:  How much money are you spending, of your own money, in Florida?

Romney:  I’ll report that when required by law. 

Moderator presses him.

Romney:  I’ve made a substantial contribution, but not as much as Mayor Bloomberg or Steve Forbes, for example.  I have raised more money than any other Republican.  I owe no one; I’m running  because I am concerned about the America my kids will inherit.

44% say that a Mormon would have a hard time uniting the country.  Your response?

Romney:  I don’t believe that Americans will elect their president based on what church he goes to.  No religious test should be required for the secular office of president. 

I believe in the Republican virtues of low taxes and limited regulation; Hillary Clinton believes in the opposite.  She is so out of step with the American people it’s unbelievable.

Paul:  I am still in favor of eliminating Social Security, not overnight.  I would still take care of the elderly by cutting spending overseas.  I would make sure the elderly’s benefits keep pace with inflation.

But I would get the young people out of the system because there is not going to be any money there for them.  My program has a better chance of helping them than any other.

Moderator:  What will you do to save Social Security?

Huckabee:  The system is failing because we have a smaller wage pool as baby boomers retire.  Social Security should be funded by the general fund as a result of implementing the Fair Tax.

The Fair Tax may be unlikely but Americans can do unlikely things.  If it’s passed we can bring back the trillions of dollars that are parked off-shore and bring that money back into the system.

Romney:  I would not raise taxes because it takes money away from people and slows down the economy.

Private accounts, different benchmarks, or changes in the retirement age should all be on the table to solve the problem.  A bi-partisanship approach is needed to change the system for the 20-40 year olds.

Question:  Why is your campaign airing an ad in Spanish given your emphasis on English?

Guiliani:  America’s language is English and all Americans should speak it.  Other languages are great for America, but only as a second language.

We will solve the immigration problem at the border and issue tamper-proof IDs to manage the legality of workers, etc.

Question:  What is the difference between Cuban refugees and Mexican illegal immigrants?

Guiliani:  The cold war relic was put in place because of Castro’s status as a long-standing dictator and a Communist; therefore there’s a presumption that they should be treated differently, because of the oppression of the people in Cuba.

Question:  Is John McCain too old, as Chuck Norris suggested?

Huckabee:  I didn’t disagree with Norris at the time – he was standing there! – but I do not think that Senator McCain lacks the vigor to be president.  There may be other reasons but he has demonstrated the capacity to run for the office.

Personal Perception Issues and Responses

Guiliani on being mean-spirited, etc.:  I’m called that because I didn’t do anything the NY Times said I should; if I did I wouldn’t be a conservative.  I put people back to work and the Times wrote about how mean I was.

Romney on not being liked:  I’m not going to Washington to make friends, I’m going there to make a difference.  I’m proud of what I accomplished as governor.  I came down on the side of life on every occasion.  I fought against same-sex marriage and went to Washington to fight against it.  I have a sound record in regard to the 2nd Amendment.  I cut taxes many times.

McCain on his alleged temper:  I don’t see my temper as an impediment.  My many friends and colleagues wouldn’t support me if it was a problem, including people from across the aisle.

Off-topic, Rudy Guiliani is an American people who I respect now and will respect him after the election.

Huckabee on his faith making people queasy:  My faith grounds me and gives me a solid core.  But I would not use government to push my faith.  If that gives some people a queasy feeling that’s their problem.

If a person hates me because of my faith I’m not sure that person understands what it is to be an America.  Most Americans believe in God, as I do.  If you don’t want that in a president you’ll have to pick someone else.

Paul on a 3rd party candidacy:  My concern is that the other candidates will not stick to the Republican principles.

I have no intention of running as a 3rd party candidate.  I’m a Republican. 

But the Republican party has a problem because we are not acting like Republicans.  We’ve doubled the size of the Dept. of Education.  We used to stop wars like Korea and Vietnam, now we’re starting them.

Why should people who believe in the Constitution strictly be excluded from the Republican party?  We should welcome them into the party.


I’m sitting here wondering if Tim Russert could be any more biased against Republicans than he obviously is.  Consider that rhetorical.

Rudy Guiliani is now irrelevant.  I’d guess that we’ll have seen the last of him by midnight on Super Tuesday.  He was off-stride and uncomfortable all night, offering nothing to voters who are in the camps of other candidates.

Ron Paul scored some points with his ultra-conservative, isolationist positions.  By declaring himself a loyal Republican he’s probably doomed himself to obscurity, at least in this race.  But perhaps that will help him in his home district where he is facing a Republican challenger.

Of the big 3 I thought that Mitt Romney really performed well tonight, in part because Russert lobbed some easy ones over the plate for him, but also because he has come to play and isn’t going to quit.  Pretty impressive, this time.

I don’t feel like John McCain matches his energy or ability, for that matter.  But there is still the sense that Romney adopts the style of the moment rather than having principles.

John McCain tried to reach out to the Republican base of conservatives by pounding out the "cut taxes" drum and I think they will embrace him, whatever Rush says, because no one on this side of the fence can bear the thought of 8 more years of the Clintons.

As for my guy Mike Huckabee, he did not get as much face time as I would have liked.  He made his points for the Fair Tax succinctly and accurately underscored Americans’ desire for a simple, fair, transparent tax structure.  Huckabee also stood up for his faith with a quiet, gentle certainty that resonates with Christians and antagonizes non-believers, including allied fiscal conservatives.

Tax Rebates and Stimuli

In a rare show of bi-partisan glad-handing, the House and President Bush have agreed on a so-called economic stimulus package that consists largely of "tax rebates" to be given to individuals earning < $75K per year and couples making < $150K.

From this perspective the plan could be called a tax cut and therefore be considered a good thing.  However, the NY Times says that "the stipend of at least $300 would be paid to all workers receiving a paycheck, even those who did not earn enough to pay taxes last year." 

So yes, it’s a tax cut for most of the middle class, but also a giveaway – there’s no other word for it – for those who are either in need or who did nothing to earn the money, depending on your perspective. 

John Aravois says the plan is geared towards redistributing wealth without helping the middle class:

That’s because far too often the Democrats don’t give a damn about anybody who isn’t a minority or starving to death (both valid causes to be sure, but are they the ONLY causes out there?). If you’re in the middle, you’re on your own.

And don’t think this is only about a stupid $300. It’s about health care. It’s about education. It’s about every single issue you care about. The powers that be simply aren’t in this to help people in the middle. The Republicans want to help the big pharmaceuticals and the big business hospitals, while the Democrats want to help uninsured poor people and kids. And while all of that’s nice, what are the rest of us supposed to do when our premiums hit $2000 a month and, God forbid, something catastrophic hits us?

I have to wonder, though, exactly who John considers the middle class to be.  Virtually everyone would consider a family making $150K a year to be well off, so I’m not sure the characterization of this plan failing to help the middle class is accurate.  In the bigger picture his question is a good one; in this case I’m not convinced it’s relevant.

That said, whether so much wealth – my back-of-the-envelope numbers says it’s at least a $40B/year payout – should be redistributed to the middle and lower classes is another question, particularly at a time when the federal budget is in the red to the tune of $300B/year.

2008 is an election year, however, and everyone whose seat is up has to prove their generosity to the folks at home, whether it makes fiscal sense to do so or not.  I can name that tune in 3 notes, how ’bout you?  Although my family will benefit significantly from this plan should it pass, frankly the familiar melody is a bit flat now.  Where is the fiscal responsibility in government?

Indeed, this is the sort of legislation that makes Fred Thompson’s disappointing results in the early primaries a tragedy – he was the only candidate from either party with a reasonable grasp of economic fundamentals.

Of the rest, Mike Huckabee’s Fair Tax plan should be given its due as, if nothing else, a mechanism for introducing transparency into the government’s "revenue collection" process.  The IRS code is currently unfathomable for most Americans because of its incredible complexity.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Some have complained that Huckabee’s tax is too light on higher wage earners.  Although I am not one of the wealthy, I don’t see that as a problem.  Others have said that the tax rate would have to be astronomical by U.S. terms – 30% or higher – to be revenue neutral compared to the current system.

(Comments, anyone?  I have not run these numbers…)

What of it?  If that’s how much money the government is collecting from us and spending on their giveaways, wouldn’t it be better for every American to know that up front?  Then we can feel the pain of our tax burden constantly rather than walking around in the dark all year while hoping to win the 3 Card Monte game on April 15th.