Saturday, February 26, 2011

Presidents can not pick and choose the laws they enforce

President Obama, in an effort to show his support of gay marriage rights, instructed the Department of Justice to no longer act to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act that states that marriage in the United States is between one man and one woman.  It was a political payback to gays who supported the President.

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich spoke out against the President’s decision.  Gingrich correctly pointed out that the President of the United States enforces the laws and is not a personal Supreme Court deciding which laws are constitutional and which laws should or should not be enforced.  Gingrich offered an outstanding example.  Gingrich offered what would happen if a President Sarah Palin would decide that she would direct the Justice Department to no longer enforce Roe v. Wade, as abortion on demand is against her personal beliefs.  Gingrich correctly pointed out that there would be national outrage on the left and in the media, as frankly, there should be.

Frankly, Presidents of the United States are not dictators.  They are constitutionally bound to enforce the laws of the United States, not pick and choose them.  To do otherwise throws out the ideal of checks and balances that has kept America together for over two centuries, through good times and bad.

That said, no staffer of VUI feels threatened by gay relationships.  We are all straight and what gays do with their personal lives does not even cross our minds. We also think dwelling on gays, hating gays and other such stupid acts are a waste in a free market society.    Gays do exist and produce in our society and they can have the better ideas in the marketplace.  Let the marketplace decide such.  If a gay man or woman can provide a good or service in the market, let them be free to do so.  We waste resources in the market when we do not allow such.  And, perhaps some see that there is a legislative need at the state level to recognize some sort of civil unions. Let the states choose such things as best fits them and their people.  That is the ideal of federalism. But, that is not the issue here.

The real issue is a President of the United States picking and choosing what laws he thinks should be enforced.  While those on the left might cheer today for President Obama, will they cheer a conservative ignoring abortion rights or perhaps saying environmental laws and securities regulations do not matter and should not be enforced?

Indeed, this act by President Obama seems to sum his administration up.  They act politically, without thinking of the precedents that they set and the things that can happen as a result of their acts down the road.  Before you think that we are just picking on President Obama, we have been and remain critics of things Bush pushed, like the Patriot Act and the laws telling us what kind of light bulbs we can use.

Both Presidents Bush and Obama show what is wrong with American politics and why so many feel so angry and disconnected on the right and the left. Our leaders do what is in their immediate interests, what lobbyists  paid for with money or political clout now, and have no regard for how it could change the future.  It is all about them and now.

There is an old saying in the law about a slippery slope in that once you take that first step, you slide down.  Old farmers talk about opening the gate and then all sorts of things go through it.  Pick your homily or old saying, but it is dangerous for any President, whatever his motivation, to pick and choose what laws he will have his administration enforce.  There is a long list in history of dictators who did just that.

Indeed, if any President of the United States believes that a law is unjust, then he should work with Congress to repeal it.  Frankly, that is what a real leader does.  He does not dance around with political tricks and present himself as above the law.  He works to change the law.  Further, if a President does not have the courage to do that, then those who support him most have to doubt his commitment to them, if they have any sense.  The rest of us have to doubt his commitment to the rule of law and to the oath he took.

However you look at it, support gay marriage or oppose it, you have to take pause at President Obama picking and choosing the laws he will enforce.  We are not some South American country.  We are the United States of America, and here, our constitution and our laws work out the balance between liberty and freedom.  No President should decide that alone. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

The old code of political aides is dead

Much ado is being made nationally about a former Sarah Palin aide writing a book about Palin.  On the South Carolina front, South Carolina politicos are awaiting the book by political consultant and blogger Will Folks about Governor Nikki Haley and others.  Such things are the death of the old political code.

The old political code was that if you worked close with some politician, it was like lawyer-client privilege.  The personal and ugly things you saw you kept to yourself.  Personally, I worked, from 1992 until 2006,on campaigns of conservative candidates for office at all levels.  While there are times I might share with close friends or family this or that interesting or funny moment with a politician I worked with, never have I considered writing about the details of such folks in a book or on this blog. Indeed, there are some things I saw and I know that I will take with me to my grave without sharing them with one single soul.  I am not a perfect man by any means, but I got enough honor in me to do that.  I have adhered to the old code, even though I need the money not to.  The pride and sense of honor of adhering to that old code is something money cannot buy.

And, the current situation does come down to money.  There was a time when politicians were fiercely loyal to the folks around them who were loyal to them.  Now, politicians are loyal to money and leave the folks that work side by side with them hanging in the wind.  So, it so no wonder that political operatives now seek out money to tell their stories. Years ago, Senator Thurmond would do favors for the little guy who put out signs for him, now that guy is ignored because he did not write a big check.    The situation is easy to understand.  A political operative who saw the good and bad of the politician they worked for has no incentive to remain loyal when that politician forgets them over money.  So, it is no shock that such operatives go out and write about what they know for money.

Former President George H.W. Bush treasured loyalty.  He thought it meant more than money.  But, that is not today’s politics.  Today’s politics is money.  Loyalty does not even come on the political radar.  Money makes the loyalty now.  So, people who had confidential relationships with politicians just naturally join their employers to seek money to tell all.  The old code is dead.  It is the world we live in.  And, as such it joins the list of things wrong with politics in America and South Carolina today. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why is ex-Governor Sanford's 2006 campaign account still open?

Former Governor Mark Sanford left office in January, off to be with his girlfriend in Argentina or whatever other endeavors life deals him.  Fair enough.  But, after reviewing some campaign disclosures listed on the South Carolina Election Commission website, we were surprised to find that the former Governor still has an open campaign fund for his 2006 re-election bid.

VUI wrote earlier about this fund and how it was being used for political spending and fund raising that had nothing to do with Mark Sanford running for Governor.  Sanford defenders cried out that the fund was needed and pointed to how the President had a political fund as well.  Two wrongs do not make a right, so to speak, and the fact the campaign fund remains open on the public records is something to be concerned with.

As of the January 10th, 2011 report filed, the former Governor had $1,160,666.18 on hand in his 2006 re-election account.  In the reporting period, around $1100 was spent for “beverages.”  Now, much as been made ado about current Lt. Governor Ard’s campaign account for 2010 spending money at a dress shop.  Yet, nothing is said about the former Governor’s 2006 account still being open and spending such money on “beverages.”

Indeed, since the former Governor was re-elected in 2006, a great deal of money has been raised and spent through his 2006 campaign account, including tens of thousands of dollars on legal and consulting fees.  Again, over a million dollars remains “own hand” for it. Who knows what will be done with that money and how it could influence politics in South Carolina.

It might be legal, but there is something just flat wrong with an ex Governor having that kind of cash sitting around in an account that was created for his reelection over four years ago.  It is certainly not in sync with the conservative and open government message of former Governor Sanford or Governor Haley.  It smacks of ultimate good ole boy politics.  Whatever the legal loophole found, it just seems sleazy.

Think on it. Is it too much to ask from politicians that they have an account for their elections, and when their elections are paid for, they close those accounts, say within six months of the election?  How can we South Carolinians pretend to be for ethics and accountability when we allow a former Governor to keep raising and spending money from a campaign account meant for an election over four years ago?  And, while the media folks at places like The State were quick to jump on Lt. Governor Ard, where are they on this issue?  Where is Governor Haley?  Where are members of the General Assembly who cry out about how they are for openness and ethics?

Ideally, VUI would have former Governor Sanford give the money in the account to some non political charity, such as the American Cancer Society or the like, and close the account.  But, we won’t hold our breath. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

President's Day: Honoring President Polk

In honor of President's Day, I offer a look at the Presidency of one of our lessor known Presidents who had a profound mark upon the direction of the United States.

The name James K. Polk is not on the tip of every history teacher's tongue as Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and Reagan, but Jame K. Polk helped to define America.

Polk was an experienced politician who had served as a Congressman from Tennessee and a Governor of Tennessee when he won the nomination of the Democratic Party in a brokered convention in 1844. Polk won primarily on the idea that we would push for expansion of the territory of the United States. He won the Presidency on the same issue.

As President, Polk went to work quickly to carry out his campaign promise of expansion. President Polk contended for the acquisition of California, Oregon and New Mexico. Such a push was not easy. Northern and Southern factions in the Congress disputed the policy based upon the dreaded slavery issue. President Polk also faced the then very real possiblity of war with both Great Britain and Mexico.

Negotiations over Oregon with the British worked out. However, the California situation would prove to be more problematic. It resulted in the Mexican-American War. The war was successful for the United States, and as a result of the war, the United States gained California and New Mexico for a lower price than it offered Mexico at first.

The war, however, took its toll on the political and personal health of President Polk. President Polk was censured by the House of Representatives and that political act, combined with his failing health led him to not seek re-election in 1848. President Polk also contended he did what he said he would and thus he was done in office and it was time to go home.

President Polk's time at home would be short. in June of 1849, barely three months after he left the Presidency on March 4th, 1849, James K. Polk died at the plantation home he bought to enjoy retirement upon.

History teachers around the nation will not mention President Polk in their lesson plans today. However, his will to make the United States go from coast to coast was instrumental in created the nation we live in today. Polk endured the pressures of the times to forge a nation what ruled from coast to coast, thus preventing the United States from becoming like the fractured republics of South America.

Polk's actions also gave the United States the territorial resources needed to survive the Civil War that would occur less than twenty years later.

Perhaps no one term President of the United States had the long term impact on the future of the nation as James K. Polk did. President Polk ought to be remembered and honored more. He was a master statesman, winning through both negotiation and war the bedrock of the future of he United States. So here's to you James K. Polk.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I miss Dale Earnhardt

It has been ten years since those fateful words from NASCAR's President Mike Helton.  In February of 2001, Helton, shaking, told the nation, "We have lost Dale Earnhardt."

It is a moment seared in my mind.  On that fateful day ten years ago, Dale Earnhardt lost his life at the track at the Daytona 500 on the third turn of the last lap.  The wreck did not seem all that bad to us veteran race fans.  But, we knew something was wrong as the Fox broadcast went off the air.  NASCAR had lost its greatest driver.  I had lost my hero and favorite driver.  

I had always liked the way Dale Earnhardt raced with spirit and determination, a style that earned him the nickname of "The Intimidator"  People dreaded that black car with the number three one it in their rear view mirror.  The man would fight for a win and find a way to win. I loved that.  Here I am, Earnhardt would say,ready to kick your ass.  You gotta love that mentality.  Dale Earnhardt was my favorite driver in NASCAR, my Atlanta Braves or Pittsburgh Steelers in the sport. The man seemed indestructible. 

Then came that fateful day ten years ago. In a crash that seemed routine by most standards, the legend was gone.  The nation mourned.  I mourned.  I lost my hero.  

Why was Dale Earnhardt my hero?  It was simple.  He had worked in the mills like I did. He was a working class guy who found a way to excel and make something of himself. Pulling for Earnhardt in the black number three car was not just rooting for the guy who took chances, it was pulling for the guy who took chances to make something of himself out of nothing.  Dale Earnhardt was the American Dream to so many of us race fans.  Earnhardt was the everyman, the guy who would take a chance to win for his dreams to come true.

Then, on that fateful day ten years ago, he died living his dream.  When Dale Earnhardt died living that dream, something was lost with all of us who were fans and who saw him as hero.  We lost the last John Wayne character in a pissant world.  Dale Earnhardt gave all of us folks who had worked in mills, or cutting grass or hauling hay, something to believe in.  He showed us how to be more.  When we lost him, something broke inside for a lot of folks.  

Call me a redneck if you will, but I will always miss Dale Earnhardt.  He was the man. He showed us how to fight for our dreams and how to grow above what folks expect of rednecks like us.  He died ten years ago living his dream till the last moment.  Frankly, it is way any of us with any gumption would want to to go.  

I miss you Dale Earnhardt and thank you, wherever you are, for being such an example for rednecks like me to follow their dreams and go for it. When Daytona falls silent on lap three for you, Dale, I will think about how you always fought for the chance to be in the mix.  Thank you, Dale Earnhardt, for the example.  We at VUI sure do miss you.  

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Huntsman for President?

Some folks will ask who in the Hell is Jon Huntsman?  Well, you might want to take a moment to get to know him.  Because we at VUI think is going to run for President of the United States.  Huntsman was, until yesterday, the Ambassador of the United States to China.  He resigned that position, and with his resume and background, watch out.

Jon Huntsman is the son of a billionaire who formed the Huntsman Corporation, a business that has holdings, business dealings, and charitable ties that reach throughout the country.  Huntsman himself is a more traditional Republican, with ties to business and international experience.

Huntsman worked in the Reagan White House at a young age, then in his early thirties, was made Ambassador to Singapore by President Bush the Elder. Bush the Younger made Huntsman an assistant United States Trade Representative.  Huntsman left that office to be elected Governor of Utah in 2004 and was overwhelmingly re-elected to that post in 2008, having various groups cite him as one of the most effective Governors in the United States.

Huntsman resigned as Governor of Utah in 2009 to take the call of President Obama to be the United States Ambassador to China.  On that job, Huntsman has also received praise from various sources.  Huntsman’s resignation from that post sets about speculation that he is running for the Republican nomination for President.

With his resume and big money ties, he would be a lot more formidable than people think.  The man has charisma as well.  Huntsman is no “Tea Party” guy and could challenge Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty very hard for the establishment, mainstream Republican primary vote.  Further, as President Obama appointed him to be Ambassador to China, if Huntsman somehow got the nomination, the President and his people would be very limited in how they could attack him.  Huntsman’s Morman faith could be an issue, but Romney faces the same.

Indeed, if Huntsman runs, it could set up a showdown for the control of the Republican Party.  Will the party primary voters back a man like him, with money, a resume, and a knowledge of how the real world works in international matters, or will they go for someone like Sarah Palin or another like her, who is mad as Hell and whose inexperience is something that they run on?  Who knows?  One thing is for sure, all those interested in the 2012 Presidential elections ought to keep an eye on Jon Huntsman.  Before you think VUI is crazy, remember back in the summer of 2008, we said watch a then little known Alaska Governor named Palin.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Freedom does not come from religious intolerance

As unrest remains and grows in nation states such as Egypt and Tunisia, and nation states such as Yemen brew with such possible unrest, a great misconception is out there.  That misconception is that those in the streets, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are for freedom.  Frankly, they are not for the brand of freedom that Western ideals understand.

While it is true that for far too many years the governments in places like Tunisia and Egypt have enforced police powers against freedom of political expression, what stands in line to replace them is not in the name of freedom.  If you look at the goals of the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, they want a religious state, ran by Islamic law.  They want to run nation states that are intolerant of Christians and other religious sects, and downright hate Jews.

That is not freedom.  Not for one moment should the government of the United States pretend that it is.  While people inside a nation state are to be free to choose their own style of government, the United States should not give once penny in aid or trade towards any government that oppresses women,  children and minority religions.

We in America take our idea of freedom for granted.  We think when we see protests for free speech, it means our idea of such.  Well, it does not.  There are people in this world who will use our ideas of freedom of speech and assembly against us to create despotic regimes that are filled with hate.

If you doubt that, just look at the agenda of some of the groups who claim they are for freedom.  They would destroy rights for women and oppress religious minorities.  Indeed, they think that our ideals of voting for our leaders and letting people be free are downright evil.  They see it as an evil to fight a war against.  That is what inspired the attacks of 2001 and inspire all of those who try to find a way to kill any American near them.

It might be easy to be lost in the recession we face.  God knows I an my own business suffer.  But, we are up against something bigger than that.  Islamic fundamentalists and their dedication to violence to promote nonsense doctrine are a great threat the ideals of freedom we hold dear.  Think about it, draw a picture of Muhammad and death squads start to search you down.  But in America, a jerk puts a portrait of Jesus Christ in a jar of urine, and we fight for his right to do so. Muslim countries will not even let our fighting men and women have a bud in the hot desert while they are fighting to defend them.  We bend over backwards to tolerate things like veils for drivers licenses.   That is the big difference.  The so called fighters for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt want to kill us for our face book, our blue jeans, our blogs, our women who go to school and work and make a difference.  They are not freedom fighters.  And, we should not treat them as such.