Notes & Asides

Posted by By at 18 April, at 12 : 31 PM Print

Notes and asides for April 18, 2011. Only 362 days until your next round of taxes are due. Wanna wager on the state of the US Economy at that time?

Let’s hear it for the bonny blue flag that bears a single star! Last Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the Civil War. When South Carolina seceded in December and fired on Fort Sumter four months later the die was cast; we would be forced to face the final questions avoided at the founding yet so obviously implicated in the glaring contradictions within our trumpeted principles and inexcusable practices.

In celebration, I watched all of my favorite Hollywood civil war movies – Glory (best one ever), the Red Badge of Courage, Gettysburg, God’s and Generals, etc. My viewing raised several questions that persist and to which I have no good answers. Among them are:

- Was it the war of Northern Aggression? The Declaration of Independence states, “whenever any form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it…” The South through its duly elected state legislatures determined that further Union with the rest of the United States was destructive to the ends its people sought. They chose to abolish the Union and form a new one based on “such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” In a certain light, we took the South’s right to self-determination away in 1865.

However, I am a Union man and agree with Lincoln that the loss of the Presidency through election is not grounds for separation. In fact, the same document that supported the South’s right to secede exposes that they acted too rashly: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” No wonder the debate is still joined 8 generations later.

- Did Lincoln assert that the “right to bear arms” is a collective right housed within Federal government and thus free to be regulated like other issues? There is a case to be made that he did. The phrasing and the form of the 2nd amendment have long perplexed scholars – does the State’s insistence that the term “People” be capitalized imply a collective “people” or an individual? Is a well-regulated militia a national guard or my cousins and I at the farm doing drills? Is the State one of 50 or 50 into one? – and left these and other questions largely unanswered.

Lincoln’s actions may have answered some of them. In many respects, the Southern army was a state based “well regulated militia” – and the Northern Army took away their arms after defeating them in the field. By imposing a federal will on a state militia, the question of whether the 2nd Amendment allowed for regulating firearms seems to have been answered – even if Lincoln, myself, and others would disavow the result. In practical terms, however, precedent may have superseded us.

- Had Lee been killed the first day at Gettysburg, would the South have won the war? It’s a fair question. Lee was undoubtedly the most beloved General on either side – maybe ever in American history after George Washington. He inspired men to do unthinkable things – go stand at the starting point for Pickett’s charge and then see how long and how hard it is to make the climb; then imagine cannons and rifles on the ridgeline – out of love for him. And Lee was as well equipped to lead an army like the Union Army as any man this country has ever produced – he just might not have been the right guy for the Confederate army in 1863 and after.

I make that distinction because of his tactics. Lee was aggressive and was rewarded often for his “audacity,” as he would have termed it. But ultimately he was fighting the same war that Washington fought in 1776 – he needed to keep an army in the field, and make the cost of war too high for the North. Lee wanted the decisive fight when he needed the long slog.

Longstreet understood this – he wanted to pull back and make Meade attack him on ground of his choosing. Longstreet knew the pressures on the Union Generals from Lincoln and others, he knew that the war was trending his way, and he wanted nothing to do with throwing away all of their advantages in a stand up fight against a fortified position with greater numbers and better supplies. Lee thought audacity would carry the day – Longstreet knew it would lose the war.

Anyway – we are in for 4 years of re-enactments, PBS specials, and History Channel treatments. Lets hope that we study these moments to learn from them, not preach to them.

I am sure that James Baker had something to do with it…Let the conspiracy theories abound – the Wisconsin Supreme Court race was finally decided in favor of conservative Justice Prosser. The left and the Unions viewed the sitting Justice’s re-election contest as a referendum on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to reign in out of control government Union labor costs. In spite of huge amounts of money and tons of “same day” voters registering, Prosser won – but not without intrigue.

A batch of votes (netting a gain of 7500 votes for Prosser) found late in the canvassing process where determined to not have been counted in the official tally. These votes were reported unofficially election night as sources confirm, but their discovery at a time when the challenger was holding a slim lead has led many to ignore that fact for political gain.

Regardless, the bottom line is the courts are NOT supposed to be a place to create law or impose Collective Bargaining – it is there to arbitrate existing laws passed by the legislature. And while the unscrupulous amongst the left will cry foul, the rest of us can be pleased that the system counted every legally cast vote and rejected judicial activism – in the cradle of progressive thought. Might be hope for us yet…

Elementary, my dear Watson. This past week Gov. Corbett visited some elementary schools to talk budget and politics.  The questions I saw are certainly the best of the best as reported by WITF, but even still I was impressed with the quality and depth of the questions.

The answers from the Governor solve at least one riddle – why this Governor avoids Q & A. The fact is the unscripted Press Conference has never been the Governor’s strong suit – such events during the campaign led to more cringes than cheers and produced some of the best attacks on his candidacy.  This past week was no exception, and one has to assume that the reigns will be pulled in even farther.

In response to some simple questions the Governor noted that, in order to get elected, you need “a lot of contributions from people with money who want to help you.” This is candidly true – but certainly impolitic to say, especially when you have cabinet picks being shredded for just this point. He also responded that the measure of his successes will come in 2014:

“We will have a reelection, and then the people will say that they either like me and like what I did, or don’t like me.”  This is largely true, but success is a matter of perception.Put another way those successes, those policies, have to be “sold” to the public in a way that they understand what is happening and why.  So far – from poorly announced Shale and DCED policies to a budget that needed a road show to explain the sea change – this administration has struggled to get message to match mission.

Which begs this question:  why hasn’t the Governor made better use of outside media professionals to help manage and build around any communications weakness in order to still get message out?  Here is hoping that or someone gets the Governor comfortable selling the features of his plans publicly – otherwise the communications void will continue to be capably filled (in a way the Governor will not like) by his adversaries.

Trumped. To the horror of those of us serious about replacing our current President, Donald Trump assumed the pole position in the latest GOP field polling. The horror is not out of any fear that the Donald will be the nominee – that is as unlikely as George W. Bush being appoint Secretary General of the UN – but what his numbers imply; namely, that there is NO consensus or excitement for ANY of the “serious” candidates.

The fact that there isn’t a consensus candidate is not a shock; it’s that the plurality has – even briefly – coalesced around someone so obviously unelectable. The fear such a result fosters – with a President who’s popularity ratings are underwater and falling, with a weak economy, and gas headed north of $4 a gallon – is that the GOP can’t seem to find a credible standard bearer. In the end, Chicago Barry may win on no more that “the Devil you know…”

We are running out of time, my fellow Elephants…

Phone home. Sometimes I wonder if the President gets that he is taped 100% of the time in public and that every word is captured; then I read a statement like this and realize he can’t possibly remember it:

(In) the Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff.  I’m like, c’mon guys, I’m the president of the United States.  Where’s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up? It doesn’t happen.”

He made the statement at a fundraiser and in truth its innocent enough – except that, like all the vacations and the golf, it makes it appear as though the trappings of the office are more important than the work itself. This of course isn’t true – but such flip and silly answers can have a way of haunting candidates when they make them appear detached from the people. Think GHWB and the price of milk – not only did he not know the price, the scanner surprised him. Such gaffes, like calling Pennsylvania full of bitter gun wielding religious nut bags, can cost you the margins that determine elections.

More importantly, why don’t you just get an iPhone or an iPad – they both do exactly what you want, cost pennies on the billion dollars to create than some federally funded communications program, and are now available on Verizon! Bonus – Al Gore is on the board at Apple so I bet you can get “free upgrades” for Michelle and the kids – just ask for the Buddhist Monk Special.

Finally: Some quick hits…for the first time ever, mandatory spending will exceed all federal revenue, meaning even if we cut all of our discretionary spending and the entire Department of Defense we would still have to borrow money. Wake up people – we either cut entitlements or fail…the passage of the Ryan Budget (more on that later this week) might as well have been the first gauntlet in the 2012 campaign – any GOP nominee will have to live with it…the idea that natural gas is more damaging than coal for the environment does not pass the smell test; not claiming its clean, but let’s not make outlandish claims based on narrow research – you know, like the now discredited hockey stick graph for Global Warming…if you want to know why Sarah Palin might just run for President, go look at the trend lines of her PAC contributions; then look at Michelle Bachman’s fundraising.

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This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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