Too many pundits in the national news media glibly stated over and over again that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul stood on the floor of the United States Senate -- for nearly thirteen straight hours last Wednesday -- to “filibuster” President Obama’s nominee for CIA Director. And sure, while this is technically true, in my view this sort of political analysis completely misses the mark. Writing in the Washington Times on Friday, the senator explained in his own words why he rose to speak that day -- namely, to defend the principles enshrined in the United States Constitution:
On Wednesday, I rose to begin a filibuster on the nomination of John O. Brennan to be director of the CIA. I stood up with the intent of speaking until I was no longer able to speak. I vowed to speak as long as it took, until an alarm was sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that our rights to trial by jury are precious, and that no American should be killed by a drone on U.S. soil without having been found guilty in a court of law.
I didn’t rise to oppose Mr. Brennan’s nomination simply based on him as a person. I rose to defend the principles of our Constitution, principles for which we have fought long and hard. To give up on that principle — the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment — is a travesty. I will not sit back and allow the president to shred our Constitution.
In other words, the purpose of Senator Paul’s filibuster was not necessarily to derail John Brennan’s nomination to become CIA Director. (Paul, incidentally, is on the record saying he believes presidents should be given a certain degree of latitude when choosing political appointees). Rather, it was to raise awareness about an issue that should concern any citizen who values his or her God-given civil liberties: Can the federal government kill American citizens on U.S. soil without due process? This -- and only this -- is the unanswered question which compelled him to invoke the old-school filibuster last Wednesday morning:
When the president took the oath of office, he vowed that he would, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He raised his hand, his right hand, put his left hand on the Bible and said, “I will.” What the president doesn’t say is, “I intend to if it’s convenient. I intend to, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.”
When Mr. Brennan was asked directly, “Is there any limit to your killing? Is there any geographic limitation to your drone strike program?” He responded no, there is no limitation. The obvious question would be, then, if there’s no limitation to whom you can kill and where you can kill and there’s no due process, does that mean you will do it in America?
We have separation of powers to protect our rights. That’s what government was organized to do, and that’s what the Constitution was put into place to do.
I think this is something we shouldn’t give up on so easily. The president does not have the power to act as the judge, jury and executioner. Are we so afraid of terrorism that we’re willing to just throw out our rights and our freedoms?
Montesquieu said there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the legislative. I would say that there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the judiciary, yet that’s what we would be doing here. No man should have that power. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. It has to do with whether or not you fear the consolidation of power.
This is what our Founding Fathers wanted to fight. They wanted to limit the role and the power of the president. They wanted to check the president’s power with the power of the Senate, House and judiciary. Wednesday night, I stood proudly with bipartisan senators declaring that we will not tolerate this. We all came together to tell the president, to tell any president, that no one will ever have the authority to kill Americans without a trial.
It’s deeply disconcerting that Mr. Brennan effectively said during his confirmation hearing last month that there’s no limit to the scope of the president’s drone policy. Remember, as Dr. Paul reminded us during his hours-long filibuster, channeling the 19th century British historian Lord Acton, that power corrupts, and “absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” Put simply, no American president should be given the right to act as “judge, jury and executioner” when it comes to the lives of U.S. citizens, according to Paul. That’s simply too much power for an individual to wield -- and totally anathema to the American way of life.
I’m glad that Senator Paul -- and his Senate colleagues as well as the House members who stood by his side -- had the fortitude to stand up and demand answers to tough questions. And in the end, while Senator Paul got precisely what he wanted, he actually accomplished so much more than that. If anything, he showed that traditional ways of doing business (and getting answers) in Washington are still viable, even if such tactics invite ridicule and contempt.
So congratulations, Dr. Paul. And for those Americans reading this and who will sleep a little bit easier tonight, you know who to thank.
“Turns out that losing has been good for Scott Brown’s political image,” the Boston Herald reported earlier this week. You don’t say:
A new UMass Lowell/Boston Herald poll shows the former GOP senator is much more popular now than when he lost his re-election race in November and is in a strong position to run for governor in 2014.
Six in 10 Massachusetts voters have a favorable opinion of Brown and say they are very or somewhat likely to back him if he runs for governor next year, according to the poll of 589 registered voters.
Brown’s unfavorable rating has dropped dramatically since his loss, from 39 percent in early November to just 24 percent now, the poll shows.
The other potential GOP gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Baker, who lost to Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, is not faring so well. Just 22 percent have a favorable view of him, while two-thirds of voters say they haven’t heard of Baker or have no opinion of him.
What to make of this? For starters, I can’t imagine Scott Brown passing up an opportunity to run for governor in 2014. His decision to bow out of the Massachusetts special election was somewhat surprising, of course, but understandable. Essentially, if he had run for Secretary of State Kerry’s now-vacated Senate seat and won, he would have had to run again for re-election in 2014. And that, in turn, would’ve meant four U.S. Senate campaigns in less than five years. I don’t even think the president would enjoy campaigning that much.
But with 60 percent of Massachusetts voters (remember, this is a frustratingly blue state) giving Brown -- a Republican -- two thumbs up, why shouldn’t he run? Sure, he’s got a nice, cushy gig over at Fox News and probably enjoys spending additional time with his family, but the man has a chance to become governor. Who could pass that up? Certainly not a guy who said during his concession speech last November that “defeat is only temporary,” right? We’ll see.
Serious question: How on earth could anyone oppose a policy that would effectively give low-skilled workers (workers who barely make enough money to feed themselves, let alone a family), higher wages? After all, we live in difficult economic times, and it doesn’t seem wholly unreasonable that individuals working in low-skilled jobs should be entitled to a minimum, universally agreed upon standard of living. And indeed, as you might expect, this isn’t by any means an unpopular idea: According to a recent Gallup poll, almost all the Democrats -- and precisely half the Republicans -- surveyed would vote “for” a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, an idea the president himself proposed in his second inaugural address:
But is raising the minimum wage law smart public policy? The late economist Milton Friedman didn’t think so, and neither do I. In fact, Dr. Friedman went to great lengths to expose the flawed logic of the “do-gooders,” explaining that any type of federal or state minimum wage law was inherently discriminatory, and disproportionally hurt teenagers and African-Americans:
The minimum wage law is most properly described as a law saying, ‘Employers must discriminate against people who have low skills.’ That’s what the law says. The law says here’s a man who has a skill which would justify a wage rate of a dollar and a half/two dollars an hour. You may not employ him it’s illegal because if you employ him you have to pay him $2.50 … Thus, the consequences of minimum wage rates have been almost wholly bad -- to increase unemployment and increase poverty. Moreover, the effects have been concentrated on the groups that the do-gooders would most like to help … There is absolutely no positive objective achieved by minimum wages. Its real purpose is to reduce competition for the trade unions and make it easier for them to maintain the wages of their privileged members.
Friedman’s argument runs as follows: While he concedes that teenage unemployment rates have always been higher than those of the general population for obvious reasons, it wasn’t until the 1950s -- when the minimum wage was increased to an unprecedented degree -- that unemployment rose sharply and poverty became more widespread. Go figure. In other words, raising the federal minimum wage had the opposite effect the do-gooders intended -- despite how ostensibly practical and well-intentioned the idea seemed at the time.
But the truth is that minimum wage laws bring about more pronounced levels of unemployment. Why? Because minimum wage laws actually force businesses to discriminate against workers lacking the requisite skills necessary to justify a government-mandated minimum wage (in this case, $9 per hour, in keeping with the Gallup survey question). To put it differently, if the proposed law passed (as it almost certainly would) hiring a teenager and paying him anything less than $9 per hour would be illegal. But how does this make any sense? Prohibiting employers from hiring individuals with skills that fall short of the government’s arbitrary standard (thus making it unlawful to pay a teenager $7 or $8 per hour to work at a fast food restaurant, for example) defies common sense, and leads inevitably to ever-higher levels of unemployment. Is it any coincidence, then, that the teenage unemployment rate in 2013 hovers around 25 percent? Milton Friedman’s words are as true today as they were when he first uttered them fifty years ago.
And yet part of the problem too, I think, is that some Republicans and Democrats believe minimum-wage jobs can -- and should -- provide a permanent, sustainable standard of living for American workers and their families. I don’t necessarily agree. In an ideal world, minimum-wage jobs would be predominately filled by young people (and perhaps individuals trying to re-enter the labor market after a pro-longed absence) as a means of acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to advance one’s professional career. The problem today, however, is that after years of economic stagnation, opportunities for advancement and good job prospects seem harder and harder to find. And so one solution might be rather than raising the federal minimum wage -- a quixotic and implausible way to end poverty in America -- perhaps we should instead focus on growing the economy. Only then can we usher in a new era of prosperity in which good, higher-paying jobs are plentiful -- and more and more Americans than ever before can make their dreams a reality and finally make it into the middle class.
Yes they are. Appearing on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday morning, former New York City Mayer Rudy Giuliani called out Team Obama’s obvious push to make the "effects" of sequestration as damaging -- and noticeable -- as possible:
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday it was “absurd” that the White House was shutting down tours because of the sequester.
“Closing the White House [tours] is absurd, it’s a joke,” the former GOP presidential candidate said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”
In an email to members of Congress earlier this week, White House officials announced they were cancelling the tours because of sequestration, the automatic $1.2 trillion cuts in federal spending over a decade that took effect Friday.
According to the email: “Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours… We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season.”
The “Fireman First” approach to governance is back in full swing, it seems. Rather than telling TSA agents they’re going to have to wait a little longer to get their new uniforms or cutting taxpayer funding for video games, the Obama administration prefers to cut programs that will inconvenience and alarm the public. Perfect. (Don’t forget, also, that when Republicans offered the White House more leeway to make unilateral cuts, thus making sequestration less unpalatable, they declined and threatened to veto such a proposal). Perhaps this is one reason why The One’s approval rating is sinking … fast? Via Ed Morrissey:
A Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Wednesday showed 43 percent of people approve of Obama's handling of his job, down 7 percentage points from February 19.
Most of that steep drop came in the week to February 26 when it was becoming clear that Washington was going to be unable to put aside partisan differences and agree to halt automatic budget cuts which started last Friday.
Confounding the White House's efforts to blame Republicans for the cuts, most respondents in the online survey hold both Democrats and Republicans responsible.
As Carol noted last night, President Obama took a solemn oath to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution of the United States (and, by extension, every citizen living under its guiding principles). But sadly, he seems utterly determined to make the lives of middle class Americans as painful as possible in the hopes of making Republicans look bad. Why? Because he recognizes if -- and only if -- Democrats recapture the House of Representatives in 2014, can he implement his radical agenda and cement his legacy. That process is already underway, my friends, and won't be letting up anytime soon.
Guy touched on this subject earlier today, but I nevertheless wanted to remind readers that this clip is another pitch-perfect example of a misinformed Democrat -- in this case, Iowa Senate hopeful Bruce Braley -- spending too much time digesting the Senate Majority Leader’s false talking points and not enough time doing his own homework (via Michael Warren and Ed Morrissey):
"How is that possible? One word," Braley replied. "The filibuster."
Braley blamed Senate Republicans for holding up business by imposing a 60-vote supermajority on moving forward on the debate. "[It's] incredibly frustrating to everyone in the House, Democrat and Republican," he said. "And I know it's incredibly frustrating to Senator Harkin."
And this man wants to be a United States Senator? Yikes. It really is difficult to comprehend how a candidate running for a seat in the world's most prestigious legislative body could say something so false and misleading on public television. Then again, demonizing Congressional Republicans is a much more effective way to get elected than telling the truth, and -- in fairness -- he’s merely following a well-established precedent. To wit, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Jack Lew -- now President Obama’s own handpicked Treasury Secretary -- made this exact same point on Meet the Press last year:
“[I]t takes sixty not fifty votes to pass something.”
These comments raise an inescapable question: Do Democrats knowingly lie to the public for political gain, or does they really not understand -- as Ed points outs -- that budget proposals need only a simple majority to pass and thus cannot be filibustered? It’s exceedingly difficult to imagine these answers weren't contrived beforehand, of course, but if Braley really isn’t familiar with how the upper chamber operates -- as he should be -- that pretty much sums up everything we need to know about him.
Step one, draft a budget in committee.
Step two, mark up the budget in committee.
Step three, vote on the proposal in committee.
Step four (after you advance it, generally along party lines), debate the budget.
Step six (after the speeches through and amendments are offered), vote on the budget.
Step seven, pass the budget with at least 51 votes -- only a simple majority is needed; filibusters do not apply.
Perhaps Mr. Braley should have read this post and learned more about the budget process before embarrassing himself on television and damaging his credibility. Regrettably, though, how many voters actually noticed the Senate hopeful was flagrantly lying and blaming Republicans for his own party’s failures? Here's to hoping most of them did.
So much time and money and digital ink has been spent in recent months trying to figure out “what went wrong” during the last election cycle. But perhaps the answer is simpler than we realize: Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, AEI president Arthur C. Brooks argued that conservatives are failing to discuss an issue every voter in America cares deeply about -- namely, how to empower and improve the lives of poor people:
[T]here is only one statistic needed to explain the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. An April YouGov.com poll—which mirrored every other poll on the subject—found that only 33% of Americans said that Mitt Romney "cares about people like me." Only 38% said he cared about the poor.
Conservatives rightly complain that this perception was inflamed by President Obama's class-warfare campaign theme. But perception is political reality, and over the decades many Americans have become convinced that conservatives care only about the rich and powerful.
Perhaps it doesn't matter. If Republicans and conservatives double down on the promotion of economic growth, job creation and traditional values, Americans might turn away from softheaded concerns about "caring." Right?
Wrong. As New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has shown in his research on 132,000 Americans, care for the vulnerable is a universal moral concern in the U.S. In his best-selling 2012 book "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion," Mr. Haidt demonstrated that citizens across the political spectrum place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak. By contrast, moral values such as sexual purity and respect for authority—to which conservative politicians often give greater emphasis—resonate deeply with only a minority of the population. Raw money arguments, e.g., about the dire effects of the country's growing entitlement spending, don't register morally at all.
Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.
The irony is maddening. America's poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.
The general consensus in America today is that Democrats “care” about the less fortunate and Republicans, for their part, do not; they seek only to protect the interests (and bank accounts) of “rich” people. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but this is nevertheless the world we live in. And if Republicans are hoping to win the 2016 presidential election, I think they would be wise to heed Brooks’ advice:
Some say the solution for conservatives is either to redouble the attacks on big government per se, or give up and try to build a better welfare state. Neither path is correct. Raging against government debt and tax rates that most Americans don't pay gets conservatives nowhere, and it will always be an exercise in futility to compete with liberals on government spending and transfers.
Instead, the answer is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies. For example, the core problem with out-of-control entitlements is not that they are costly—it is that the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare imperils the social safety net for the neediest citizens. Education innovation and school choice are not needed to fight rapacious unions and bureaucrats—too often the most prominent focus of conservative education concerns—but because poor children and their parents deserve better schools.
Conservatives don’t need to change their principles or ideas. According to Brooks, they need only change the way in which they articulate those principles and ideas. If anything, this would be a step in the right direction -- and one way to refute the flawed notion that because Republicans disagree with Democrats on, say, how to solve poverty in America, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care deeply about the plight of poor people. We all know they do.
Now it’s just a question of showing it.
The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein had an important op-ed out this week making the case that conservatives should not give up the health care fight. And perhaps they shouldn’t: according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll -- the first one conducted since the November elections -- support for the Affordable Care Act is plummeting … among Democrats:
Democratic support for President Obama's healthcare law has dropped 15 points since November, contributing to a rise in negative attitudes toward the reform, according to a new poll.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act currently outnumber supporters (42 percent to 36), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest tracking survey. Public opinion has switched back and forth since the law passed in 2010, and in November, support for the law was 4 percent higher than opposition (43 percent to 39).
Kaiser attributed the marked slide in support among Democrats to a "post-presidential election fade." In November, 72 percent of that group expressed support for the law, compared with 57 percent who feel favorably toward it now.
Unaffiliated voters saw a similar but less dramatic decline in support, with 32 percent approving of the healthcare law compared with 37 percent in November.
"It's difficult to say whether this downward drop will last," Kaiser analysts wrote of the decline in overall support for the law. "Support seems to have shifted to the no-opinion category, up to nearly a quarter, a new high in Kaiser polling."
Obama's win in November cements the future of the Affordable Care Act. Implementation has begun in earnest in anticipation of 2014, when several major provisions will take effect.
Wednesday's poll was Kaiser's first effort since November to survey opinions on healthcare reform.
That last nugget caught my immediate attention: nearly a quarter of those surveyed had “no opinion” whatsoever of the president’s health care law? I find that extremely hard to believe, but if true, seems to suggest that Klein’s analysis is all the more relevant. Here’s an excerpt:
Now that Obamacare has survived a Supreme Court challenge and the 2012 election, it's looking as if conservative activists are reverting back to their typical hibernation on the health care issue.
This is a big mistake. At some point in the future, liberals will be looking to build on Obamacare. Whenever conservatives point out problems with the law, liberals will counter that the problem is that the law left too much of the health care system in the hands of private insurers. Incrementally, liberals will seek to move the nation toward a true government-run, single-payer system.
And if conservatives spend the intervening years between now and then tuning out the health care issue, the liberals just may achieve their long-term goal.
In fairness, Republicans have a lot to be worried about these days: High unemployment, trillion dollar-plus deficits, and a liberal Democrat in the White House who wants to “fundamentally transform” America. But conservatives, according to Klein, will rue the day they ever gave up fighting for sensible, market-based solutions that could, if implemented, fix our broken health care system. We all know what progressives really want -- many of whom have said so on the record. But perhaps now is not the time to give up and concede that the president “won” -- especially if Democrats are finally starting to realize how prohibitively expensive the Affordable Care Act really is.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama promised to slow “the rise of the oceans” and “heal” the planet if elected President of the United States. And of course, when he was elected -- as far as I can tell -- none of that actually happened. But it’s worth pointing out that in early 2009 he made another, perhaps more realistic promise to the American public: overseeing an open and transparent administration:
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of my presidency.”
So, five years later, how’s he doing? Ahem:
Earlier this month President Barack Obama praised his administration as “the most transparent administration in history.”
American voters disagree.
A new Fox News poll finds that 37 percent of voters think the Obama administration is less open and transparent than previous administrations, and another 35 percent say it is about as transparent as others.
Twenty-six percent agree President Obama has met a 2008 presidential campaign commitment to openness and that his administration is more transparent than others.
The issue rose to the surface again last week when the White House press corps was shut out from watching President Obama play golf with Tiger Woods. Prior to that reporters had been questioning the openness of the administration on weightier issues, such as the Benghazi attack on U.S. diplomats.
The differing views of the administration’s transparency have a strong partisan bias.
By a 38 percentage-point margin, Democrats say Obama has been more transparent than previous presidents, while Republicans say it has been less open by a 58-point margin. Among independents, 14 percent say Obama has been more open, 40 percent say less open and 45 percent say it’s been about the same as others.
By contrast, by a 62-29 percent margin, voters say media coverage of Washington and the White House is focusing more on silly issues of little importance for the country than serious issues of great importance.
Sure, the results have “a strong partisan bias,” but it’s telling that more than a third of voters think The One hasn’t kept his promise, and is in fact leading the least transparent administration in our nation’s history. Good times. From the administration’s public equivocations on questions related to drones strikes, Benghazi, and his Super-Pac-turned-non-profit, many agree that Team Obama’s transparency track record is -- at best -- mixed. At worst, the White House has been known to threaten those with whom they disagree and perhaps even deliberately mislead the American public on issues of paramount importance. And while we can certainly disagree to what extend the president has been open and honest with us, to say that transparency has been a “touchstone” of his presidency is, I think, a bit of a stretch by any objective measure.
Yes, the dreaded “sequester” cuts begin taking effect today, but syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer is reminding Republicans that -- at least for the moment -- they actually have the upper hand politically. During an appearance on “Special Report” last night, he urged Republicans to do two things to expose the Left’s cynical, doomsday scare tactics and curry favor with the public: 1) emphasize that the GOP has indeed offered Senate Democrats and the president “utter discretion” to pick and choose which government programs to cut in lieu of “sequestration” -- which the former rejected and the latter threatened to veto, and 2) highlight how much waste/fraud/abuse there actually is in Washington -- “an example a day,” he suggests -- thereby forcing the president to explain why he didn’t work with Republicans to cut those programs, and instead allowed the sequester to happen when it was easily avoidable (via Ed Morrissey):
Dr. K’s column this week reinforces these points, of course, but also zeros in on the White House’s well-known singular objective:
When the GOP House passed an alternative that cut where the real money is — entitlement spending — President Obama threatened a veto. Meaning, he would have insisted that the sequester go into effect — the very same sequester he now tells us will bring on Armageddon.
Good grief. The entire sequester would have reduced last year’s deficit from $1.33 trillion to $1.24 trillion. A fraction of a fraction. Nonetheless, insists Obama, such a cut is intolerable. It has to be “balanced” — i.e., largely replaced — by yet more taxes.
Which demonstrates that, for Obama, this is not about deficit reduction, which interests him not at all. The purpose is purely political: to complete his Election Day victory by breaking the Republican opposition.
At the fiscal cliff, Obama broke — and split — the Republicans on taxes. With the sequester, he intends to break them on spending. Make the cuts as painful as possible, and watch the Republicans come crawling for a “balanced” (i.e., tax-hiking) deal.
In the past two years, House Republicans stopped cold Obama’s left-liberal agenda. Break them now, and the road is open to resume enactment of the expansive, entitlement-state liberalism that Obama proclaimed in his second inaugural address.
But he cannot win if “nothing bad really happens.” Indeed, he’d look both foolish and cynical for having cried wolf.
Obama’s incentive to deliberately make the most painful and socially disruptive cuts possible (say, oh, releasing illegal immigrants from prison) is enormous. And alarming.
Destroying the Republican Party may be Team Obama’s top priority, but the GOP is on solid footing now in part because the Left's failed to win -- in Krauthammer’s words -- “the propaganda war.” We’ll see how long this lasts.
The White House wants you to believe that tomorrow’s looming “sequester” cuts will be so devastating and draconian that once they take effect, America as we know it will cease to exist. But on Wednesday perhaps the fear-mongering reached a new level of insane when the vice president announced publicly he would no longer accept military aircraft escorts during his weekend sojourns, and instead take public transportation to save “taxpayers” money:
As the federal budget goes off the rails, Joe Biden's getting back on -- with Amtrak.
The looming sequester is forcing the veep to once again take the train -- as opposed to military aircraft -- to his weekend trips home to Delaware.
Biden said Wednesday he initiated the change, calling it the one thing about the sequester that's working to his "benefit."
Speaking at the National Association of Attorneys General, Biden said that while he took nearly 8,000 train trips as senator, the Secret Service made him travel by air because the Amtrak "gives too many opportunities for people to interact with me in a way they wouldn't like to see."
But because of the looming budget cuts, Biden said: "I was able to say, 'Look guys, I've got to take the train now -- it's cheaper than flying.' So I get to take the train again."
The implicit message is clear: sequestration could very well put the vice president’s personal safety at risk. Why do I say this? Because the express reason Mr. Biden initially stopped taking Amtrak in the first place, according to the Secret Service, was because too many people had unrestricted access to him in “a way they wouldn’t like to see.” In other words, they frankly thought it was unsafe. But now -- because of these coming budget cuts -- Biden heroically agreed to start taking the train again (a less secure option) every weekend. See how this works?
Never mind that the proposed cuts are far from draconian (indeed, projected federal spending levels will still be higher in 2013 than they were last year even if the cuts take effect), but there’s scores of other government programs that could obviously be cut way before the vice president should even consider traveling without the protection he needs. But Biden’s public declaration fits nicely into the president’s narrative that the “meat cleaver” approach to governance is bad for America, and Republicans are to blame.
And yet this isn’t to say that military escorts are inexpensive, and that the White House couldn’t find cheaper or better ways to transport the vice president to and from where he needs to go. Nor do I doubt that the Veep actually enjoys taking the Amtrak or mingling with the public. But it does seem as though the White House is once again using fear-mongering and scare tactics to win a political argument. The looming, across-the-board spending cuts will hurt the economy, of course, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should jeopardize the safety and well-being of our vice president. And that’s exactly what the White House seems to be implying.