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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Social conservatives

Robert Gates warns: 'We are now in uncharted waters' with our dysfunctional politics

Robert Gates speaks at the National constitution Center 9-22-11

Yes, we are a few days late getting through an accumulated pile of reading. But better late than never in this case.

These are the worthy remarks of Robert Gates, the newly-former secretary of Defense and former numerous other things in government and the intelligence community.

They are not very long, as Washington remarks go. But then Gates didn't give them in Washington. He spoke in Philadelphia on Sept. 22 at the National Constitution Center upon receiving its Liberty Medal.

You should read them because of the man's intelligence, thoughtfulness and long experience in our troubled national capitol. Freed from the team loyalty obligations of serving one administration or another, he speaks more candidly than we've seen him on the Sunday talk shows.

Gates, an Eagle Scout from Kansas who just turned 68, has some pointed observations to make about why Washington has become so dysfunctional. (You can skip over the divisive media part; he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

Liberty Medal Acceptance Speech by Robert Gates, as provided by the National Constitution Center

First of all, I am deeply honored. Thank you, Captain Odierno and Sergeant Graham.

Captain, I’ve had some interaction with your father over time; you follow in a great tradition. And I thank you for both of your service to your country and for the outstanding work of the organizations you represent.

First of all, I would say that this evening is a reminder that astrology exists to give....

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Ponzi schmonzi: Republicans not really bothered by Rick Perry's Social Security phrasing

Republican Texas governor Rick Perry at a virginia speech 9-14-11

Despite all the feigned handwringing by his GOP presidential opponents, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's favorite descriptive phrase for the troubled Social Security system as a "Ponzi scheme" isn't really bothering fellow Republicans at all.

A Ponzi scheme is an eventually doomed plan where people pay money in and then get it out with dividends. But all the money paid out is coming, not from any actual investments, but simply from more gullible people putting their money in. The scheme is eventually doomed, of course, because inevitably the latest Charles Ponzi runs out of gullible newcomers with money.

Sounds a lot like Social Security to many non-Democrats, including Perry, who's 61. Let's see, Social Security involves a dwindling number of younger Americans paying some of every paycheck into government's Social Security as a growing number of healthier Baby Boom seniors draw the money out while declining to die in time to keep the system's fiscal merry-go-round going around.

The eminent Charles Krauthammer says, in fact, the only difference between the two schemes is that Social Security is mandatory.Social Security Logo

Mitt Romney, who seems to have enough money to run his own private Social Security system, says Perry's Ponzi scheme phrase is "over the top" of something.

And Romney worries that his stubborn Texas opponent (Did you know he might be a career politician?) could be scaring seniors sufficiently to spill their Ensure over carefully clipped grocery coupons.

But there's a problem with that convenient concern: "Ponzi scheme" is a political wash. A new Gallup Poll out this morning documents this lack of concern; outside the media it's a major non-issue among those folks who'll be picking the Republican to watch the inaugural parade on Jan. 20, 2013.

Nineteen percent of Republicans say the Ponzi hoo-hah makes them less likely to support Perry and 19% of Republicans say it makes them more likely to support the guy in boots. Nearly a quarter (24%) say it matters not. And 38% are too dumb or uninterested to have an opinion.

Now, if Perry makes it through the next 11 months of rhetorical jousting and money-raising and comes out as the party's nominee and hasn't already convinced people that Social Security is a swell thing that can be fixed, then he might have a problem.

Right now, 32% of those crucial independents say the Ponzi business makes them less likely to like Perry; 12% support his talk. And nearly a quarter (21%) say No Difference. (Another 36% are dummies.)

But, there's so much to happen in the next four months, let alone 11. And look! Even so, Perry remains the sudden GOP frontrunner talking Texas-straight. For him to trim his Ponzi sails now is like those other Texans, the  Dallas Cowboys, fretting over their Thanksgiving game scheduled for next year.


New numbers augur a Perry-Romney race

Perry's debate debut gives MSNBC top ratings so far

The Reagan Library debate: The most awkward, unexpected and weirdest moments

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Steve Helber / Associated Press (Perry speaks in Virginia, Sept. 14).

Does Joe the Congressman sound better than Joe the Plumber?

Of course, you remember Joe the Plumber.

He's that T-shirt-clad Everyman who lives on an Ohio cul-de-sac and forthrightly confronted a campaigning Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential contest about the Democrat's crippling small business tax policies. (See video above.)

Joe the Plumber Samuel Wurzelbacher, fileDuring the course of their taped street discussion, Joe's questions prompted Obama to utter the accidentally revealing words "spread the wealth," which set off socialist alarm bells that can still be heard in conservative quarters.

Republican candidate John McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" several times in an ensuing debate in New York and turned Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher into a passing political icon that changed the course of the worker's life.

Since then, Joe has been a globe-trotting correspondent for conservative publications, a celebrity speaker and "tea party" worker.

And now -- guess what? -- Toledo Republicans are touting him as the 2012 challenger to Democrat Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in Congress (14 terms).

Joe says, yup, he's thinking about it. 

The chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, Jon Stainbrook, cites “high-level interest in the national Republican Party” in a Wurzelbacher campaign.

With Joe's broad tea party ties, it could become one of those symbolic races that draws donors from across the country.

Of course, what really matters is voter interest in Ohio's Ninth.

Such a challenge would surely be suicidal in Kaptur's heavily Democratic district that hasn't seen a GOP representative since Ronald Reagan was fighting Jimmy Carter's recession.

Oh, but wait!

Ohio is losing a pair of House seats following last year's census. And Buckeye voters were so happy with Obama's first two years that they not only replaced Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland with former House member John Kasich, they turned the Legislature over to the GOP too.

As it turns out, those are the folks drawing the new districts. Maybe they'll help Joe out. And help Kaptur to join Lucas County's 10.5% unemployment lines.


The national debt is growing $3 million every single minute

Obama's bus tour theme: Washington (not him) really screwed up

Final debate's transcript: McCain vs Obama, Long Island, Oct. 15, 2008

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher. Credit: Madalyn Ruggiero / Associated Press

Marco Rubio at Reagan Library: 'Conservatism is about empowering people to catch up'

If you're hale, hearty and running for president on the Republican ticket, you might be out of luck adding Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to your team. More on that in a bit.

At the personal invitation of former first lady Nancy Reagan, the first-term U.S. senator spoke Tuesday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Scroll down for Rubio's full text and click here for a video version.

It was something of a West Coast political coming-out party for the Floridian, who's been more focused on things Florida and Washington is his early months in office.

The 40-year-old former state legislator told the overflow audience about his Cuban-immigrant roots, his family, his experience coming of age during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, his belief in the American free enterprise system and his conviction that America can be both a prosperous and compassionate nation.

But some of the most interesting parts of the evening came before and after the formal remarks.

Rubio entered to the cheers of the crowd with former first lady Nancy Reagan on his arm. She'd written to Nancy-Reagan-stumbles-Marco-Rubio invite him to speak.

Before Rubio took the podium, there was an incident the Ticket described earlier today, when the 90-year-old presidential widow started to fall.

After the speech, there were written questions submitted earlier by attendees and some from the audience.

The first was, "If your mother asks you to accept the V.P. spot, what would you say?"

There was much whooping and cheering at that, including someone who yelled out what sounded like, "Stop Obama!"

Rubio cracked, "Am I getting heckled at the Ronald Reagan center? Is there another question there?"

He continued, "I'm just going to say this -- it's a great honor to be thought of in that way. As I

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Gov. Rick Perry text: 'We cannot afford 4 more years of this'

Texas Republican governor Rick Perry takes the stage to announce his presidential candidacy RedState Gathering Charleston SC Andrew Malcolm  8-13-11

Gov. Rick Perry's candidacy statement at RedState Gathering, as provided by

Howdy. Thank you, Erick [Erickson, editor of RedState]. It is great to be at RedState. And I’ll
tell you what, it’s even better to be governor of the largest red state in America.

It’s sure good to be back in the Palmetto State, in South Carolina. I enjoy coming to places where
people elect folks like Nikki Haley, true conservatives. And also where they love the greatest
fighting force on the face of the earth…the United States Military.

And I want to take a moment and ask you to just take a silence, think about those young Navy
SEALs and the other special operators who gave it all in the service of their country. Just take a
moment to say 'Thank you, Lord, that we have those kind of selfless, sacrificial men and women.
Their sacrifice was immeasurable, their dedication profound, and we will never, ever forget

I stand before you today as the governor of Texas. But I also stand before you as the son of two tenant farmers, Ray Perry, who came home after 35 bombing missions over Europe to work his little corner of land out there, and Amelia who made sure my sister Milla and I had everything that we needed, including hand-sewing my clothes until I went off to college.

(The RedState Gathering scene story at the Perry announcement in Charleston, S.C.)

I am also the product of a place called Paint Creek. Doesn’t have a zip code. It’s too....

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Sarah Palin takes her bus to Iowa; Oh look, it's the Ames Straw Poll weekend

Sarah Palin in New Hampshire 6-11 on an earlier leg of her One Nation bus tour

Sarah Palin.

At least the Iowa bus business looks good in this sour nationwide economy.

Michele Bachmann is moving around her birth state in one. Next week, President Obama will pass through Iowa briefly (and Illinois and Minnesota) on his next talking-at-Americans-about-jobs outing before his next vacation.

Now comes word that Sarah Palin will bring her famous, extremely patriotic "One Nation" bus tour to the Heartland this week, allegedly for a visit to the Iowa State Fair, possibly Friday. The fair opens Thursday with a Mitt Romney speech competing with the annual carved cow in butter. Don't fail to miss that.

If you don't need to sweat within immense crowds amid the smells of livestock and anything you can imagine being fried, C-SPAN will broadcast the state fair's entire list of political speakers from Romney at the open to Bachmann at the close Friday. They're even letting one Democrat speak.

Janet Jackson will be there too, on Aug. 21, presumably with a functioning wardrobe.

Palin's not scheduled to speak at the fair. Palin doesn't need no schtinking fair to speak. She's got her Facebook page with nearly 3.25 million fans listening. And her podium over at Fox.

And the political celebrity can pretty much set up wherever she wants to park her political bus, and the crowd and media will flock over, even though she has yet to declare her intentions about a presidential candidacy.

The latest leg of Palin's bus journey just happens to coincide with the arrival of a gazillion media people and a bunch of GOP presidential candidates for the Ames Straw Poll, just to the north of Des Moines up I-35. Thursday night there's a nationally-televised Republican debate on the Fox News Channel.

Saturday, of course, is the infamous Ames Straw Poll, actually a state party political fundraiser that attracts attention as if it really means something. (Again, C-SPAN will have live coverage beginning at 9 a.m. Pacific.) Romney and Jon Huntsman are not participating.

Neither is Rick Perry, the conservative Texas governor who's been publicly flirting with the idea of running for the GOP nomination. One can only guess why Perry has chosen the Ames weekend to sort-of-maybe disclose his intentions. But he'll do it in an afternoon speech to conservative writers at the annual RedState Gathering in Charleston, S.C.

As for Palin, she'll be back to Iowa again, headlining a "tea party" gathering over Labor Day weekend.


Palin grades Obama on the downgrade as 'disgraceful'

Obama decides taxpayers should fund his Midwest bus tour

Obama's penchant for speeches is sounding hollower by the word

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters (Palin on an earlier leg of her 'One Nation' bus tour).

More bad poll news for Obama as debt deal brings smiles to Capitol Hill

a happy Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell signals a debt deal 7-31-11

Lots of smiles and happy news from Capitol Hill late Sunday as legislators on both sides optimistically announced a debt limit-spending deal to avert a threatened government shutdown Tuesday.

Even Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who loves making deals, was glowering a little less.Democrat senate leader harry Reid almost smiles 7-31-11

The initial details of the bipartisan deal leaking out indicate that in return for driving his own job approval rating down to its lowest point ever, President Obama didn't get much out of the professed compromise.

He wanted new taxes; sorry, enhanced revenues. You know, those rich corporate jet owners, et al.

All he got basically, it seems, was an agreement to put off the next spending fight until after the 2012 presidential election. Republican legislators, who said they wanted to debate the debt limit again next winter, gave that up. Which helps them as much as the former legislator now in the White House.

Obama will, no doubt, have more to say about the deal today. See if he throws in more sour grapes as he did after the GOP won its Bush tax cut extensions in last December's talks. Back then, Obama, who promised to bring both sides together if elected in 2008, called his fellow deal-makers "hostage-takers."

We'll hear more too today from legislators on both sides; each caucus will be....

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The Obama-Boehner debt talks: Where common sense ain't so common

John Boehner Obama and Harry Reid happily meet in Deficit Talks 7-23-11

In a local government cabinet meeting some years ago, the elected official asked his veteran budget expert what the public revenue and expense forecasts were for the next quarter.

The budget expert began rummaging in his notes and inquired, "What do you want them to be?"

There was dead silence around the shiny table until the savvy budget guy smiled. He'd captured the essence of many government numbers.

We're reminded of that revealing episode in recent days by the Howdy Doody Show playing out in our nation's capitol over the phony debt ceiling and the sham cuts and numerical maneuverings, as if they were the issues at hand instead of the genuine struggle for dominant political position come Nov. 6, 2012.

An American spectator these days need not be a tea sipper to conclude that most of....

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Michele Bachmann: While you weren't looking, she's taken over the GOP lead in Iowa


While much of the nation's political community focuses on the deficit stalemate in Washington and President Obama's scheduled news conference to control the news cycle this morning, a new poll reveals Rep. Michele Bachmann has surged to the lead among likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa.

Bachmann, an Iowa native who now represents a district in Minnesota, has built a lead over former Gov. Mitt Romney, who is focusing more on New Hampshire after a bitter and costly defeat in Iowa in 2008. Romney holds a huge lead in Granite state polls, although Bachmann has surged there too.

According to the new poll, Bachmann has built a four point lead over Romney, 25-21. Former Gov. Tim Michele Bachmann campaigns in New HampshirePawlenty and Herman Cain are effectively tied for third with about 9% each, with Ron Paul at 6%, Newt Gingrich at 4%, Rick Santorum at 2% and Jon Huntsman at 1%.

An upcoming major measure of the Republican field's standing in Iowa comes at the Ames Straw Poll on Aug. 13, two days after a nationally-televised debate from Iowa on the Fox News Channel.

The straw poll, actually a state party fundraiser, was until 2008 a fairly reliable predictor of the caucus winner five months later. Romney won the poll that year, but lost to Mike Huckabee in the caucuses. It was the height of the Huckabee campaign and a stinging defeat for Romney.

Romney, who spent more than $1 million on his last Ames effort, is not competing this time. Pawlenty has signed up several former key Huckabee aides this time.

A Bachmann win there, even at a meaningless summer weekend straw poll, would give her heightened media visibility and increased credibility among donors. A strong showing by Pawlenty, the former governor from next-door Minnesota, would also help his pizzaz-free campaign.

Bachmann's four-point poll margin is just within the marin of error. Perhaps more importantly, her unfavorable rating is 14 points beneath Romney's while her favorable rating is 10 points higher. That gives her a margin of 65. The poll reports: "Bachmann has found a very effective way to appeal to caucus goers."

Next behind that pair is Pawlenty with a favorable margin of 48. Perhaps as a result of his early statewide media advertising campaign, Pawlenty has improved his standing from 6% in the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll to 8.8% now, a statistical tie with Cain at 8.6%.

The poll found Bachmann running well in virtually every state media market and especially well in the Davenport area, where she has not campaigned much and which was a Romney stronghold last time.


Bachmann, Romney lead in first Iowa poll

GOP guys gasp for media oxygen as Michele Bachmann dominates early

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty says Obama is 'like a manure spreader in a windstorm'

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Alex Brandon / Associated Press (Bachmann poses for a photo with a young fan); Adam Hunger / Reuters (Bachmann campaigns in New Hampshire).

Rush Limbaugh rallies Joplin with praise -- and tea

Well, controversial conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is at it again -- talking about American pride and helping each other, American exceptionalism and other ways of independent thinking in a political era that's made them sometimes seem outmoded.

Unbelievable malarkey.

Limbaugh showed up in Joplin, Mo., which suffered severe damage and more than 100 deaths during a May tornado. He was having a contest to find the American city with the most pride. No, Limbaugh did not pick hometown Cape Girardeau, MoRush Limbaugh, file.

Limbaugh, as you know, is always going on about government interference and only attracting some 14 million loyal radio listeners in doing so.

Apparently, Limbaugh was impressed that Joplin isn't waiting for handouts and outside help and pointing fingers of blame at federal officials for not fixing the damage, like maybe perhaps officials did a few years ago after another major storm somewhere.

Joplin residents have already undertaken a massive rebuilding effort. American neighbors helping themselves and each other, if you can believe such a thing in 2011. For some weird reason this all impressed Limbaugh. (Scroll down for video of his complete remarks.)

So the famous talker showed up there to speak and hand out nearly 4,000 cases of his new tea product, Tea for Two or 2 Teas for You Too or Two If By Sea. Anyway, the bottled drink label has a photo of Limbaugh in a tri-cornered hat riding to warn Massachusetts that Michele Bachmann is coming or something.

Limbaugh, who seems comfortable behind a microphone, told Joplin:

You understand the principle of hard work and self-reliance. You understand the difference between self-interest and selfishness. You are not selfish. You all are going to be working your own self-interest. You’re going to rebuild your lives, and in the process, everybody else’s lives will be rebuilt right along with yours.

American exceptionalism is simply the result of our founding fathers understanding that our government is not to determine the quality of outcomes in life because we’re not all the same. Our country was determined to present equality of opportunity, and what you do with it is your business.

We’re 235 years old. We’re here on Independence Day. We are celebrating the biggest miracle in the history of human civilization. And as I grow older — I just turned 60 — I become more in awe, more appreciative of this country every day.

Have you ever heard anything so silly?


No recession for 454 Obama aides: $37 million in pay this year

Patriotic celebrations create more Republicans, Harvard study warns

Hackers announce a fake Obama assassination on a Fox News Politics website


-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Gary He / Associated Press (Limbaugh, file).


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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