Friends (yes!) in politics

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

friendsPolitics certainly creates strange bedfellows. Over the span of my career I have made very special friends – and, in an era of government shutdowns and hard feelings, I thought I’d share with you a few surprising people in Utah politics who I happen to like.

Few people agree 100 percent of the time, so I get bored quickly with those who introduce odd friendships by saying, “Now, I don’t always agree with him. …” But it seems obligatory to say, so here you go: I don’t always agree with these people but I do admire, respect or simply have a soft spot for them. I take their calls and I enjoy being with them. We don’t necessarily socialize but when I have time to grab a meal with them or work on a project with them, I do. I just like them.

I also should add that these people might not feel the same way about me! Just because I like them doesn’t necessarily mean they like me. So while I don’t want to speak for them, I do think it’s important for responsible citizens to know that people of all stripes can effectively work together.

One of my special friends is state Senator Luz Robles. She is many things I’m not – female, Hispanic, liberal and a Democrat. But, as fate would have it, I had the chance to work closely with her on state-based immigration reform. She is bright, charming and dedicated to her causes. Moreover, she is humble and has a great sense of humor.

On the Republican side, I like Governor Gary Herbert. Not only does he genuinely love Utah, he wakes up every morning wondering what new friends he’ll make that day. He has a core decency and goodness that is palpable. He has gut common sense that cuts through most nonsense. I’ve worked for politicians and, as a reformed Hill rat, I can tell you Governor Herbert is the kind of politician you’d want to work for.

It’s not surprising that many of the politicians for whom I have a soft spot aren’t always that easy to get to know.

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When spoiled children decide elections

Drawing_of_Children_FightingThe following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Only eight months ago we were talking about the threat of budget sequestration – a dramatic showdown between congressional Republicans and Democrats, including newly re-elected Barack Obama. I mentioned then how the sequestration battle reminded me of the confrontation in 1995 between the new Republican congressional majority, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and a weakened mid-term President Bill Clinton.

We know how that stalemate ended. Republicans lost and the “Gingrich revolution” died an ignominious death.

Today, House Republicans are insisting that Obamacare be defunded. They sent the Senate an appropriations bill funding everything except Obamacare. The Senate, with a determined President Obama in the wings, has refused to accept the House proposal. If the Obama presidency is about anything, it is about complete and unfettered socialized medicine. Come hell or high taxes, the Obama legacy will be a single-payer medical care system. He and his Democrat ideologues will never relinquish the great progressive cause of the new millennium.

We knew what would happen before it even started – House and Senate Republicans will fold like lawn chairs. Libya doesn’t matter. Syria doesn’t matter. The NSA doesn’t matter. Nothing will save the Republicans in this standoff.

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The motives behind Count My Vote

800px-University_at_Buffalo_voting_boothThe following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

One of the reasons I love working for Sutherland Institute is that I can say what I mean without fear of political reprisals. That’s refreshing in politics today. So many voices are beholden to some special interest – some business, some political party, some union, some candidate. All I’m beholden to is Sutherland Institute’s governing principles.

You might remember Sutherland’s position on immigration. It short-circuited a lot of people precisely because our opinion was independent, conservative and thoughtful. We listened, we taught, we argued and we took a stand. What I appreciate most about how Sutherland does business is that we’re transparent – you know where we stand and why and we’re willing to dialogue (or slug it out) with anyone. It’s one of the things we do best. We say what others cannot say because of their political conflicts and special interests. That makes Sutherland Institute special and, as I said, very refreshing.

All of that is to say this about the new Count My Vote effort: I just wish, just one time, that the folks behind this effort would be honest about their motives. Just say it – moderate Republicans are tired of being out of power in office and certain Utahns would like to assume that power.

I’d invite every Utahn to visit the website Visit its page titled “The Facts.” Study them. And then ask yourselves some obvious questions.

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New! Utah Local Elections Guide

Utah-Citizen-Network-logo-beta2Are you looking for information on the candidates in your city? We’ve compiled information for Utah’s largest cities and posted it on Utah Citizen Network.

Reid abandons impartiality on Swallow

REIDSCUtah State Senator Stuart Reid, showing his displeasure with Attorney General John Swallow’s lack of regard for public opinion during a recent press conference, sent a letter to many of his Senate colleagues with the subject: “My loss of impartiality.”

Senator Reid provided Sutherland with a copy of the letter:

Leaders and Colleagues,

Both the Senate and the House have already spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the best approach to recover public trust in the Attorney General’s office and in state government generally. It is apparent that we will spend even more time and possibly millions of dollars trying to restore public trust. This is and has been our primary focus, as it should be in this case, particularly while numerous other investigatory agencies are trying to discover if any of the accusations of criminality against General Swallow can be substantiated. In the face of our reasonable efforts to secure the faith of the people in our government and on the heals of the House’s decision not to impeach at this time, General Swallow declared to the press that he does not care about public opinion. That declaration was sandwiched between both a celebratory attitude and at moments flippant responses to the press.

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Swallow/Shurtleff A.G. alleged scandals and infographic

Click here or the image below for a large web version of the infographic.

spLast week, in my regular radio commentary aired throughout the state, I recommended that Utah Attorney General John Swallow resign his post as Attorney General. Sutherland Institute is in the world of politics but we try our mightiest not to be of that world – a standard hard to live up to. My recommendation seemed out of place for some people, but for me it was a natural conclusion born of Sutherland’s commitment to the integrity of Utah’s public institutions.

Everyone in politics has their own paradigm, or how they see the world of politics spinning around them. In the Swallow case, as we would expect, most people have jaded views – either Swallow is definitely guilty of something or Swallow is definitely the victim of some combination of opportunistic felons and Democratic Party operatives. Even those pundits who claim objectivity and a wait-and-see approach have somewhat confident opinions about the case of John Swallow.

I am no exception to this rule. I have an opinion, and that opinion is what led me to recommend that John Swallow resign. My only dog in this fight is Sutherland’s long-standing commitment to seek integrity in our public institutions. (I should add that I voted for John Swallow in the general election for attorney general and that I consider him a friend, even though he probably would not say the same thing about me right now – because, of course, seen through a political paradigm, friends either agree or they stay silent.  Read more

Swallow should put his office first and step down

darkcloudsThe following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

I have joined the growing ranks of people who think Utah Attorney General John Swallow should step down from office. I say this with some regret – I consider John to be a friend. I also consider him to be a competent attorney. And I know he’s human.

Every person in business and politics faces circumstances that question our integrity. The higher up you are, the more you face these circumstances. And the charges and accusations fly at you even when nothing is wrong.

But politics involves money, power and ego if it involves anything – and, sooner or later, even the best of us gets bedeviled by it all. Politics breeds cultures of corruption. Frankly, many aspects of the political process, to be effective, require levels of confidentiality. Unfortunately, the need for confidentiality can turn into a cloak of secrecy and scheming. A culture of corruption is nearly inevitable – which is why good government requires openness and transparency. Read more

The caucus devil we know

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Over the past two years I’ve taken part in a few private meetings regarding how Utah’s caucus and convention system could be changed to avoid having the “angry few” disproportionately influence the electoral process. Frankly, I was annoyed that a few extremists among Republican delegates would continue to spread misinformation and angst about Utah’s state-based immigration law, HB 116. I’m all for an honest dialogue but a few Republican delegates at the time were off the chain.

So I listened carefully to some folks describe how the trademark Utah caucus and convention system could be changed to buffer against extremism. After a few of those meetings, I begged out and I’ve watched curiously since then how this group has advanced its cause.

In a column for the Deseret News last Sunday, my friend, LaVarr Webb, wrote that some of these “passionate” delegates “have even stated in public meetings that they don’t want increased participation in the political process. They believe they are better informed, have the right answers, and they don’t want anyone but themselves selecting candidates or influencing public policy.”

Yes, I’m sure some delegates have stated that they don’t want increased participation in the political process. But, to be fair, most of those voices are more concerned about how blissfully ignorant most Utahns are about the world around them than those voices are about consuming political power. So, yes, these delegates do believe they are better informed and for good reason – most of them are! Not all of them have the right answers, for sure. But it’s a bit disingenuous of my friend to chastise any serious citizen for wanting her candidate to be elected or her policy to become law – for heaven’s sake, that’s exactly what everyone wants! Even my friend LaVarr Webb.

A few caucus and convention reforms were proposed at the recent Republican state convention and all of them were rejected – and I have to add that their rejection was due more to their blatant representation, in the likeness of Mr. Webb’s characterization of certain delegates, than it was due to any substantive disagreement. The fact is that Republican delegates are mostly reasonable people who, if given a chance to sustain reasonableness without being incited by opponents to unreasonableness, would choose serious and substantive debate. My guess is that those proposed reforms weren’t meant to pass at the convention but were meant only to justify reformers to push for the Count My Vote initiative.

So let me return and explain why I excused myself from discussions to pursue caucus and convention reforms. First and foremost, as a conservative, I prefer the devil I know to the devil I don’t know. Utah’s caucus and convention system has served this state well for generations. Yes, it has its moments. But the sign of a healthy system is that it corrects itself and Utah’s system does that consistently.

Second, my politics are not the politics of the reformers. I believe in limited government and most of these reformers don’t. Most of these reformers think “moderation” means more government spending. I don’t. I believe in moderation in style and substance, not in the principles of limited government.

If reformers want their candidates elected to office, they should make a case that appeals to the most responsible citizens who take time to engage in a democratic process that has served this state since its founding.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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The brutal politics of sequestration

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

In December 1995, just one year after the Gingrich Revolution when Republicans captured the House and Senate in the 1994 mid-term congressional elections, Newt Gingrich went toe-to-toe with Bill Clinton over budget sequestration.

In response to Gingrich’s insistence, President Clinton said fine, let’s shut down the federal government and he started by closing offices at the Social Security Administration, closing all national parks and monuments and any service having to do with veterans affairs. Clinton hinted that defense cuts would be next. Of course, we all know who won that fight – Bill Clinton – and threats of government shutdowns ever since have been idle threats at best.

So here we are again. Sequestration threatens our nation. For Utah, sequestration could have a major impact on our government and economy. Thirty percent of the Utah state budget comes from the federal government, and over a quarter of our economy is driven by federal dollars. Think about your own personal paycheck. If you made $4,000 a month, 30 percent would be $1,200. How difficult would be your family’s monthly budget decisions if that $1,200 disappeared over night? That’s what Utah is facing with sequestration. Read more

Are think tanks becoming over-politicized?

United States Capitol. (Photo: Kevin McCoy)

Tevi Troy, who has worked for American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and the American Action Forum, offers some intriguing thoughts for National Affairs on the evolution of think tanks over the years and where things seem to be headed today, and he questions whether that is a good thing:

One of the most peculiar, and least understood, features of the Washington policy process is the extraordinary dependence of policymakers on the work of think tanks. Most Americans — even most of those who follow politics closely — would probably struggle to name a think tank or to explain precisely what a think tank does. Yet over the past half-century, think tanks have come to play a central role in policy development — and even in the surrounding political combat.

Over that period, however, the balance between those two functions — policy development and political combat — has been steadily shifting. And with that shift, the work of Washington think tanks has undergone a transformation. Today, while most think tanks continue to serve as homes for some academic-style scholarship regarding public policy, many have also come to play more active (if informal) roles in politics. Some serve as governments-in-waiting for the party out of power, providing professional perches for former officials who hope to be back in office when their party next takes control of the White House or Congress. Some serve as training grounds for young activists. Some serve as unofficial public-relations and rapid-response teams for one of the political parties — providing instant critiques of the opposition’s ideas and public arguments in defense of favored policies.

Click here to read the rest of this article at National Affairs.