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Don’t Cut Foreign Aid

I’m on board with a lot of the cuts in the proposed budget. I can support cutting out, for example, the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Corporation for National and Community Service. I can support cutting the Essential Air Service program. I can support cutting the funding for Meals on Wheels, if the funding really isn’t helping proportionately to the amount that is being contributed. (But I don’t object to the funding if it’s effective, however). In general, I can agree with the argument of this Commentary piece – that “[i]f that which Democrats say they value is of real worth, it—like Big Bird—can survive the tempestuousness of the marketplace.” I support the cuts to the United Nations, especially the climate change initiatives.

But I do have a problem with one area targeted for cuts. That is the across-the-board cuts to foreign aid. As Max Boot notes, it looks as though this budget proposal conveniently uses cuts to foreign aid to offset some of the increase in defense spending – even though there isn’t enough to make up for it. Boot futher lists several countries that receive significant funding and points out how those countries (Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, etc.) are important to our foreign policy. Foreign aid spending and the State Department play a vital role in maintaining American power and helping countries to do things that we might otherwise have to do ourselves with our own military. Over 120 retired generals signed a letter urging Congress to avoid cutting the State Department and the aid budget.

There is something else to think about here as well, something near and dear to me: the opinion of Christian leaders, especially those involved in international development and poverty relief. Foreign aid can be instrumental not only in matters directly related to security, but also in saving lives, eradicating diseases, and protecting religious freedom, which are good in and of themselves and thus deserve serious consideration before cutting any of those efforts, but also, those things promote stability and engender good will for the United States and thus promote American interests abroad as well. Over 100 Christian leaders have signed a letter urging Congress not to cut these programs. Signees include Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who prayed at the inauguration, Leith Anderson (president of the National Association of Evangelicals), Rich Stearns (president of World Vision), Samuel Rodriguez (who also spoke at the inauguration), Rev. Eugene Cho, Dr. O. Alan Noble, Michael W. Smith, Brandon Heath, and Matt Maher. They argued:

At a time when we’re especially security conscious, the International Affairs Budget is crucial to demonstrating our values to the world, building friendships with other nations, and lowering security risks around the world.

With just 1 percent of our nation’s budget, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions; drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. Additionally, it promotes freedom and human rights, protecting religious freedom for millions around the world.

As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the “shining city upon a hill.”

That shining city on a hill is what I’d like to continue to be as well.

Former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who is now chairman of an organization called Hope through Healing Hands, wrote an article in Christianity Today also arguing that foreign aid should not be cut. He notes that, while the global church does help, “the burden is too great.” Millions require clinical care, need bed nets to prevent malaria infection, suffer from malnutrition, etc. He says:

But because these programs are less than one percent of the budget, it is analogous to getting a haircut when we need emergency surgery. We support a balanced budget, but to do so will require deep cuts in the mandatory spending that account for two-thirds of federal spending—not much smaller discretionary accounts like foreign assistance, which represents less than two-thirds of one percent of the budget. For less than a penny on the dollar, we provide the critical safety net for people around the globe who live on less than a dollar a day… As a nation, our leadership in health and development assistance is first and foremost a moral issue… Economists and historians posit that when countries fail economically, they become breeding grounds for terrorism and conflict… For Christians, such aid also aligns with our convictions to care for the poor and support a culture of life. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures compel us to care for the marginalized—to care for the widow, the orphan, and the refugee…

So he says foreign aid “can be a win-win for America and the world.”

I agree.

Problem in North Carolina

Kay Hagan was one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators coming into this election cycle, and Republicans sensed a great opportunity to take a seat away from the Democrats. Yet Thom Tillis, the Republican nominee, hasn’t been able to take advantage and pull ahead. In fact, Hagan has managed to maintain a small but steady lead – including in a new poll by Marist/NBC News that has her leading 44-40%, and a Yougov poll that shows her with a 46-45% lead (when include “leaners”). Hagan had a negative public approval rating in July, with 40% approving and 50% disapproving, and although that has improved somewhat for her, she’s still in negative territory. She’s been helped a lot by mistakes from Tillis. The speaker of the state House of Representatives has had subpar fundraising – caused in part by a summer spent distracted with problems in the state legislature. The legislature itself is pretty unpopular, so being a member of it doesn’t help Tillis. There is still a month left, so we’ll see if Tillis can close the gap before election day.

Abbott leads Davis by double digits in Texas race

A new poll by Rasmussen Reports shows Gregg Abbott leading Wendy Davis 51%-40% in the race for Texas governor. There’s still a month to go but it looks like Texas will remain solidly Republican this round. Abbott has been working to win more Hispanic voters this cycle, so we’ll see how that plays out. The GOP will probably need to start attracting more minorities, especially Hispanics, in the future to maintain control of Texas and give them a better chance at winning other states including potential swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada.

Davis is best known for filibustering late-term abortion restrictions in the Texas legislature, which propelled her into a star on the left. In the typical procedure that she defended, the abortionist reaches into the uterus with a long toothed clamp, grasps body parts of the developing fetus and literally rips them off and out of the uterus, finishing with the head which is crushed before pulling it out. How a person can vehemently defend such barbaric actions and be hailed for it is beyond me. She deserves to be absolutely crushed in this election, and I wish Abbott the best in this last month.

Ryan the strongest candidate in 2016?

A recent poll by Gravis Marketing in Montana showed Paul Ryan beating Hillary Clinton by 14 points – 51% to 37%. That’s to be expected in a red state, though Montana sometimes teases Democrats with close polls during the race, and McCain won with less than 3% of the vote in 2008. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul also beat Hillary, but by 9% and 8%, respectively.

Is it possible Ryan will be the strongest GOP candidate in 2016? It is way too early to quote the polls as gospel, but Ryan has name-recognition, smarts, policy chops, and youthful good looks in his favor. Both sides, if they’re honest, respect his policy acumen. He has won reelection several times pretty easily in his relatively purple district, showing that he can win voters.

Another recent Gravis poll, this one in Iowa, showed Ryan and Jeb both tied with Clinton. If accurate, this would be pretty impressive in such a purple state that Obama won twice. The national average at RealClearPolitics shows Ryan within single digits against Hillary. It would be nice to see polls including other candidates like Marco Rubio and Scott Walker as well.

What do you think?

GOP 2016 nomination race: best and worst-case field of candidates

In 2011-2012, the Republican candidates for President were rather weak, leading to a feeling of dissatisfaction among many Republicans as they surveyed the field. Mitt Romney had his ardent supporters, but many people who ended up supporting him recognized his weaknesses but simply felt he was better than his opponents in the race. The list of GOP candidates who may run looks quite a bit better than the list of candidates who ran in 2012, but what if a lot of them decide not to run? Will a lot of people be underwhelmed again next year as they try to decide who to support? For me personally, here are some groups of candidates that I’d love, and others that I’d be underwhelmed with.

Worst case first. If these are the candidates, I’d feel pretty underwhelmed:

Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Peter King, Rick Santorum.

Unfortunately, the above scenario is entirely possible. The establishment would probably coalesce around Chris Christie, who probably doesn’t have as many flaws as Romney did, but like Romney, will have trouble uniting the base and the establishment. The conservative grassroots could split 4 ways between Paul, Perry, Cruz, and maybe Carson, depending on how much they value experience in government. It’s not clear to me which one would be the biggest threat to Christie. But all of these guys are flawed – some (or maybe all) with electability issues, some with various scandals or investigations into their conduct that they could be tarred with (particularly Perry and Christie), some with peculiar/kooky views and statements (particularly Carson, but also Paul); none of them look very likely to unite the base and establishment better than Romney did, except maybe Perry.

I’m expecting Christie, Paul, Cruz, and Santorum to run for sure. Probably also King, but that’s inconsequential; he has no shot.

Here are the candidates that I would love to see in the contest:

Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Nikki Haley, Kelly Ayotte, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence.

It’s highly unlikely that all of them would run, especially with Christie and the others already in the race. But if two or three of them would run, I would be quite delighted with the choices. I really hope at least one of them runs.

Here are some names that I am not sure how I feel about:

Mike Huckabee (I like him, but can he raise money and can he unite the party, outside of just social conservatives?); Jeb Bush (Impressive record, but can the base forgive him for supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and Common Core? Plus, is the public ready for another Bush?) John Kasich (on his way to an easy reelection, but can he distinguish himself other than that? I don’t really have a feel on how well he connects with voters or how good his record is); Scott Walker (is he too polarizing to be very electable on a national level?)

 

Top Republican campaign ads of 2014

Here is my list of some of the top 2014 GOP campaign ads so far. But keep in mind that this is a subjective list. Some of them reportedly played a large part in helping a candidate win a primary or take the lead in polls, but I have not tried to objectively measure how much they helped, nor am I sure how one would do that.

Squeal (Joni Ernst, Senate candidate in Iowa)

Although all the GOP candidates talked about cutting spending, Ernst made it memorable. This helped her stand out and win her primary.

Home (Mitch McConnell, Senator from Kentucky)

McConnell is already leading, but this touching new ad may help him close the deal with Kentucky voters.

Already Fighting for Oklahoma (James Lankford, Senate candidate in Oklahoma)

This ad helped inoculate Lankford, a member of the House of Representatives, against charges that he is a Washington insider by turning his House membership into a positive.

Has My Back (Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina)

Haley has a number of effective ads touting her record, but this touching ad is probably the best.

Nice Guy (Cory Gardner, Senate candidate in Colorado)

This ad was so effective, Democrats immediately tried to decry it as a nasty attack on Udall’s family.

Coach (Mike McFadden, Senate candidate in Minnesota)

McFadden is probably fighting a lost cause against Al Franken, but this was an interesting and rather memorable ad.

Anthem (Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin)

Walker kicked off his reelection campaign with this ad touting his record.

 

 

Significant recent polls

Here is an update on some significant recent polls on political races around the country.

First, a CNN poll in North Carolina showed Republican nominee Thom Tillis still trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by a narrow margin. This race so far has been one of the more disappointing races for the GOP, as Hagan’s unpopularity offers a prime opportunity to pick up this seat. But there is still time for Tillis to turn it around. One possible complication is the Libertarian’s third party candidate, who is probably taking votes from Tillis.

(R) Tillis 43% (D) Hagan 46% (L) Haugh 7%

Second, a University of New Hampshire poll found incumbent Republican Governor Paul LePage within the margin of error against his Democratic opponent – trailing by only 2%. Here, an independent candidate is complicating things for Democrats, just as he did in 2010 – the only way a Tea Party conservative like LePage has a chance to win in a blue state like Maine.

(R) LePage 38% (D) Michaud 40% (I) Cutler 12%

Third, a South Dakota poll showed Republican candidate Mike Rounds with a double-digit lead over two opponents. Rounds does not have as much support as one would like to see, but the lead is solid.

(R) Rounds 39% (D) Weiland 26% (I) Pressler 24%

Fourth, a PPP poll confirms a new development in the Iowa Senate race – Republican Joni Ernst has slipped slightly ahead, a huge development for the GOP if it holds. The poll shows a narrower margin than the poll released on Saturday by the Des Moines Register which shows Ernst up by 6 points.

(R) Ernst 44% (D) Braley 42%