Despite the recent words of Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee, the GOP currently has little credibility when it comes to improving the lot of the poor and downtrodden. In the last election, Mitt Romney lost four to one among voters whose most important perceived candidate quality was who “cares about people like me.” This represented a fifth of the electorate, a share that may only increase as our economy limps through a tepid recovery. By transforming “limited government” from the means to an end to an end itself, Republicans lost the vocabulary of human flourishing—and what stale budget talk and appeals to principles remain won’t rebuild conservatives’ appeal to the economically anxious.
The recent debate over extending unemployment benefits is a case in point. Republicans mostly dropped the argument about the potential trade-offs between helping individuals and serving the long-term health of our economy—a welcome development given the depressing statistics economists like AEI scholar Michael Strain have compiled: of all unemployed workers, over a third have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, double the share we saw during the recession of the early 2000s. Today there are approximately three unemployed workers for every available job opening. No wonder more than 350,000 workers opted to leave the workforce, making today’s labor force participation rate the lowest since April of 1978.
Then the debate moved to the cost—$18 billion, or approximately one-half of one percent of overall federal spending in 2013, then to procedural objections and the perfidy of Harry Reid. Yet at no point has a substantial majority of Republicans rallied behind a set of policies that would address the plight of the long-term unemployed.
Admittedly, part of the problem is the inherent challenge for a party out of power to rally around a substantially new, coherent agenda. Ryan and company are helping to fill that vacuum with their own policy solutions, and one can imagine that with a Republican in the White House, a similar agenda could get passed.
But the experience of my home state of North Carolina should give one pause. With control of both houses in the General Assembly and the Governor’s Mansion, the GOP passed many far-reaching reforms ranging from the tax code to education, none of which grappled with the structural problems facing the state’s economy. Rhetorically, GOP leaders and their surrogates stuck to abstract financing issues and small government talk. They rarely defended policies by appealing to a vision of the good life for North Carolinians that resonated with anyone outside the conservative fold.
Their strategy hasn’t panned out. The unemployment benefits reform was already controversial, since state leaders could have continued the benefits for the current long-term unemployed even as they reaped the same fiscal benefits had they just been willing to seek a mere six-month delay and a waiver from the Department of Labor. The unemployment rate has decreased six months later, but the drop appears to stem more from marginally-attached workers leaving the workforce than from unemployed workers finding jobs. Voters aren’t pleased. Governor McCrory hasn’t recovered in the polls, and likely GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis is trailing Senator Kay Hagan even as President Obama’s unfavorability rating sits at a solid 55 percent.
Fiscal responsibility is important, but small government talk alone won’t cut it. Like it or not, the federal and state governments can target some of the root causes of poverty and economic hardship. Republicans need to start taking cues from Ryan, Rubio, and Lee to thoughtfully confront the challenges our society faces today: the decline of institutions like the family and local communities and the continuing struggles of segments of the workforce still grappling with our post-manufacturing age. Addressing the needs of the long-term unemployed would be a good place to start—lest some Congressional Republicans find themselves out of a job this November.
“I’ve got a pen,” said President Obama early this week. ”I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions … that move the ball forward.”
“When I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so,” the president added Wednesday at North Carolina State.
Thus did Obama signal that he will bypass Congress and use his executive powers to advance his agenda of national transformation.
This dismissal of Congress has gone almost unprotested. In an earlier age it might have evoked talk of impeachment. But not now.
For though Congress may be the first branch of government in the Constitution, with the longest list of enumerated powers in Article I, its eclipse has been extraordinary.
Congressional powers have eroded or been surrendered. The esteem in which Congress is now held calls to mind Emily Dickinson: “It dropped so low in my regard/I heard it hit the ground.”
Congress boasts a 13 percent approval, a surge from its all-time low of 9 percent last fall before the budget deal.
While ex-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed disappointment in Obama and Hillary Clinton in his book “Duty,” and was dismissive of Joe Biden, his view of Congress dripped with venom:
Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, often putting self (and reelection) before country—this was my view of the majority of the United States Congress.
At Congressional hearings, Gates says he was “exceptionally offended by the constant, adversarial, inquisition-like treatment,” and lines of inquiry that were “rude, insulting, belittling, bullying, and all too often personal.”
Admirers of Obama, Hillary, and Biden have all come forward to defend them. Where are the defenders of Congress from this searing indictment by Gates? Almost nowhere.
What happened to Congress? Not so long ago, school children were taught more about Sens. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster than many of the presidents of that pre-Civil War era.
High among the causes of Congress’ decline has surely been the loss or surrender of its constitutional powers—to presidents, the Supreme Court, and a federal bureaucracy Congress itself created.
Consider this. Under Article I, Congress is entrusted with the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations.”
With the exception of slavery, there was not a more divisive issue before the Civil War than the tariff question. In the Jacksonian era, South Carolina almost seceded over the tariff, and Andrew Jackson threatened an invasion.
Today, Congress first surrendered to the executive the authority to negotiate trade deals, and then passed fast track, denying itself the right to amend those treaties. Congress has restricted itself to a yes or no vote on what the executive negotiates.
The transnational corporations that finance campaigns are delighted.
But as a consequence of NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO, a third of U.S. manufacturing jobs and a huge slice of our manufacturing base have been shipped overseas, and we have run $10 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I.
The stunning industrial decline of the United States has been matched in two centuries only by the USSR.
Congress was granted the power to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof.” But in 1913, Congress transferred that power to the Federal Reserve.
With the Fed as its steward, the dollar’s purchasing power had fallen to that of a couple of pennies in 1913. And the Fed was responsible for the stock market bubble that bought on the Great Crash of 1929 and Great Depression, and the real estate and stock market bubbles that brought on our own Great Recession.
Yet, the Fed is untouchable.
Though Congress was granted exclusive power “to declare war,” our last declared war was in 1941.
Obama today draws “red lines” and tells nations not to cross them or we bomb, and announces to the world that, in dealing with Iran, “all options are on the table,” meaning war.
But when did Congress authorize Obama to wage war on Iran? Never.
Nor did Congress authorize Bill Clinton to bomb Serbia.
While Congress was granted the power in the Constitution to restrict the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, that court has been on an ideological tear, remaking America without a nod to Congress.
The court has created new rights for criminal suspects out of thin air. It ordered all states to integrate public schools, even if that meant forced busing by race across cities. It declared abortion and homosexual relations to be constitutionally protected rights.
Congress often complained, but almost always did nothing.
Congress has behaved more timidly than the Court, whose justices serve for life. And unlike the president, Congress cannot act decisively or speak with a single voice. It’s a cacophony.
Sundered by party and ideology, with 535 members, and rules and regulations that inhibit decisions and impede action, Congress appears a 19th-century anachronism at sea in a 21st-century world.
Who looks to Congress today as the bulwark of our liberties?
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?” Copyright 2013 Creators.com.
With the new year finally upon us, it is time to see what stories of the past will be continuing forward with new life.
When the shutdown showdown of this past October finally concluded with Ted Cruz’s demands left unmet, the Senate Conservatives Fund vowed to wage a campaign of retributive primaries against the the insubordinate members of Congress that refused to follow Mr. Cruz all the way off the cliff and down into the waters of default. Steve Stockman has announced a candidacy to oppose “liberal” John Cornyn, whose credentials as a Beltway conservative are thoroughly intact. In Kentucky, Matt Bevin has likewise challenged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for being a Washington figure through and through, drawing on the popularity of the junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, to pummel McConnell. The establishment is fighting back, however, as they target upstart constitutionalist Justin Amash in Michigan, pouring business money into a candidate more willing to toe the party line.
Can Obamacare Survive Takeoff?
With a disastrous October launch faltering through the end of the year, President Obama’s signature law is in much more serious danger of failing of its own accord than its bitterest opponents could have hoped. The administration has reported cautiously positive enrollment numbers through the infamous Healthcare.gov, but it is far from clear how many of those enrollments will actually pay for their coverage. Moreover, as the administration has continued to issue ad hoc exemptions and extensions, the insurance companies themselves are increasingly worried about their ability to enroll the magic mixture of young and healthy premium payers to pay for the old and sick. With the prospect of insurance “death spirals” looming over it, the Affordable Care Act’s implementation will in large measure set the political tone for the rest of the year.
Whither the Midterms?
To a certain extent, the 2014 midterm elections will be a product of the previous two stories. Should Obamacare resurrect itself and go off without too many more hitches, the Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate improve considerably. Likewise, if the law continues to falter or worse, vulnerable Democrats like Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Kay Hagan in North Carolina will be heavily investing in antacids. Pryor should already be purchasing in bulk, as he faces Weekly Standard darling Tom Cotton, a Harvard Law graduate who left a lucrative private practice to enlist in the Army in 2005. The first-term Congressman makes up for what he lacks in experience with resume and backing. Should he win the seat, Rand Paul would have regular dueling partner in the fight for the Republican foreign policy soul.
Six months after Edward Snowden’s first powerpoint slides went public, it’s official: all three branches of government have weighed in against the NSA’s surveillance overreach.
Yesterday, President Obama’s own hand-picked panel issued a 308-page report recommending a series of reforms to the National Security Agency and overall national surveillance structure. The five-member panel had previously been criticized for not being independent enough of the presidency, and included such members as Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s former “nudge” and regulatory czar who is also married to current UN Ambassador Samantha Power; Michael Morrell, the recently resigned deputy director of the CIA; and Peter Swire, a former Obama economic aide.
Nevertheless, the panel released 46 sweeping recommendations, highlighted by the recommendation to end the bulk phone record collection program that made up Snowden’s very first revelation. It urged congress to pass legislation ending the NSA’s ability to collect and maintain records of Americans’ phone metadata for years on the presumption that it may at some point be pertinent and subject to a legitimate search. Instead, the panel recommended that the NSA be barred from such pre-emptive collection, and instead need to obtain a specific Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order for each set of records. Instead of being preserved in government archives in perpetuity, the records would be subject to the company’s own data retention policies, so a court order served for two-year-old records at Cricket, which only retains records for six months, would come up blank. Verizon, the first company whose cooperation with the NSA was exposed, keeps records for one year, and AT&T, five years.
Earlier this week, a George W. Bush-appointed judge ruled the program likely unconstitutional and issued a (stayed pending appeal) injunction against it, writing “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.” The same program was the target of Justin Amash and John Conyers’ joint effort to defund NSA bulk collection this spring, and is banned under a proposed law by Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). President Obama is not bound by the recommendations of his panel, and the White House has said that it will announce which suggestions it will itself adopt in January.
What is particularly important, and special, about this case is the unison with parts of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are speaking in rebuking the NSA’s activities as unconstitutional. Often in our nation’s history, particularly post-Warren Court, we have acted as if the only legitimate judges of the Constitution sit on the Supreme Court. After last summer’s Obamacare ruling, for instance, Democrats and many in the media reported that the law was authoritatively stamped “constitutional” forever. That is an impoverished formalism, however, unworthy of our democratic system.
Instead, thanks to the wisdom of the Founders, we have three branches of government through which to pursue the political determination of constitutionality. The Constitution does not defend itself, nor does it belong to a single branch to define. Instead, our checking and balancing institutions of government compete in the political arena to give heightened voice to the public debate and uphold their sworn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So they are now engaged in a great civil discussion to determine what invasions of privacy the Constitution permits, and what invasions prudence counsels to be forbidden, even within its limits.
Perhaps Edward Snowden’s greatest achievement, beyond the pushback of the surveillance state, beyond the awakening of the public to any particular debate, is the awakening of our Constitutional order to demonstrate its continued potency in the face of new and unexpected challenges.
On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin made a funny about the GOP’s (relatively speaking) decent showing among voters right now: “Republicans have tried something new: they made a budget deal and they’re not shutting [down] the government.” After saying this, Holtz-Eakin initially kept a straight face. His bottom lip quivered. Laughter ensued.
Republicans made a budget deal and didn’t shut down the government.
The public craves, now as ever, two things: stability and widely shared prosperity. Promising the latter is fine; actually providing it is best. Denying the former is fatal.
Alas, there’s reason to believe the GOP’s recognition of the primacy of stability is merely temporary.
The party may simply be lying in wait until the next kulturkampf over Obamacare.
Dave Weigel reports at Slate:
One of the bullet points that convinced most House Republicans to back [the budget] bill was “hey, let’s shut up about everything except Obamacare.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
Later in 2014, with Republicans largely focused on winning Senate races, what will they want out of Congress? A chance to codify their problems with Obamacare, and exploit whatever delays to the law the president is making in his executive decisions. The overwhelming acceptance of this deal suggests that Republicans aren’t really obsessed with passing entitlement reform, but they are obsessed with dismantling Obamacare, and they think their biggest mistake in 2013 was using the wrong leverage (the CR) to achieve that.
If true, Republicans are grossly miscalculating.
The truth is, polling on Obamacare is not starkly different than it was two years ago. And recall that, in October, during the shutdown, the needle moved toward approval of Obamacare not because it was working well (obviously), but because Republicans shut down the government over it.
The numbers on Obamacare fell to earth again largely because of the “If you like your plan, you can keep it” imbroglio. In other words, Obamacare suffers most when people feel like it’s going to disrupt their lives. Hence the seeming paradox that’s not really a paradox: the law itself is unpopular, and so is the idea of repealing it.
Disruption is the common denominator.
A wise party would learn from this. A wise party would not be salivating over the next opportunity to destabilize the government, spook markets, and upset stability-craving voters. A wise party would seek to either constructively improve or offer a serious alternative to the law, or else take the public’s hint and simply keep its head down and do its job.
But wisdom is in short supply.
And we’re probably still looking at a clown show.
Last night the House of Representatives passed the Ryan-Murray budget compromise, 332-94, in a most unexpected act of bipartisan productivity in this fractious year. The bill is by all accounts modest: Yuval Levin remarked, “what stands out most as a general matter about this proposed agreement is how very small it is—for good and bad,” and Jim Antle noted, “It blows through the next two years’ budget caps, but the $45 billion spending increase is a drop in a $1.012 trillion bucket of federal discretionary spending.” It partially undoes the so-called “sequester,” an automatic across the board spending cut split between domestic and military spending over the next two years, mollifying many of the defense hawks who had decried a potential loss of military readiness. Perhaps most consequentially, the agreement would push back any future government shutdowns until after the 2014 elections.
Many conservatives are strongly opposed to the compromise, and are particularly leery of being railroaded into anything that could be considered tax hike-friendly. The new revenue in the deal comes in part from increased “user fees” on airline passengers, which Sean Davis over at The Federalist fairly persuasively describes as closer to an excise tax than the traditional understanding of a user fee. Paul Ryan strongly disagrees. For those determined to fight any new tax of any sort to the death, Ryan’s arguments probably won’t prevail, but Levin urges that they be understood in the context that “What the Democrats didn’t get is what they want and have insisted they would not do without: income tax increases.” In other words, divided government doesn’t pair well with absolutist positions, and a bare excise tax on plane tickets is a far cry from the trillions in new revenue from increased taxes that President Obama and Congressional Democrats were demanding back in the debt ceiling fight of 2011. Jonathan Strong reported a more troubling development to those conservatives, an obscure Senate procedural provision that may make it easier for Harry Reid to pass tax increases with a bare majority rather than the previously required 60-vote threshold.
Those eager to see military spending recede from its swollen post-9/11 levels will inevitably be disappointed, but they can take heart at how far their cause has come on the right from just a few years ago. Defense hawks have been demanding relief from full sequestration since it came into effect this spring, and Mitt Romney ran on a platform of increasing defense spending. Yet all they get is half off. As Kelley Vlahos detailed over Thanksgiving, the tightening of the spigots at the DoD has already started forcing turf battles and all the unseemly jostling that rises to the surface when appropriators take away the option to say “I’ll take two of everything.”
John P. Carlin is on track to become the Justice Department’s top national security lawyer, and assume responsibility for approving the thousands of domestic surveillance requests sent to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every year. If Attorney General Eric Holder had his way, Carlin never would have been nominated.
As Shane Harris reported at Foreign Policy yesterday, Holder “strenuously” objected to Carlin, who was instead the favored choice of White House officials “Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, and Lisa Monaco, the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.” Carlin had been Monaco’s chief of staff when she held the position, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, prior to moving to the White House, and he now holds the office in an Acting capacity. Holder reportedly had his own list of candidates, including his own former national security counsel, Amy Jeffress.
Carlin’s anonymous critics quoted in the FP piece level two primary charges against him. First, while he is nominally qualified for the position, “several career prosecutors who know and have worked with Carlin say he does not have a firm enough grasp of national security and surveillance law, which is particularly important when approving applications for surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases.” Second, and seemingly more to the core of the issue, “Former officials said they are concerned that Carlin … doesn’t speak as an independent voice for the department, but rather is aligning his positions first with the White House, and particularly with Monaco, thus undermining Holder’s authority.” Two went so far as to draw “comparisons to John Yoo, the controversial Justice Department attorney in the George W. Bush administration, who was known to have his own relationships with White House officials and was seen as operating outside channels meant to guard against political influence.” John Yoo was most famously the author of the Bush Administration “torture memos”.
At a time when more attention than ever before is being paid to the legal and extra-legal acrobatics the executive branch has performed to expand its surveillance powers, Carlin’s appointment should already be facing special scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Slate, “The government has an astonishing success rate before the FISA court. Between 2010 and 2012, the court approved all of the 5,180 applications for surveillance and physical searches except for one that the government unilaterally withdrew.” That near-automatic approval makes the independence of the Justice Department all the more important. As one anti-Carlin former official quoted by Harris says, “There should be some walls between the Justice Department and the White House. The White House should not have a direct feed.”
Much of the resistance to Carlin quoted in the Foreign Policy piece appears to be a turf war between Holder and other Obama Administration officials. But the position and its responsibilities are far too important to pass without severe scrutiny in the post-Snowden era.
By 1968, Walter Lippmann, the dean of liberal columnists, had concluded that liberalism had reached the end of its tether.
In that liberal epoch, the 1960s, the Democratic Party had marched us into an endless war that was tearing America apart.
Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society had produced four “long, hot summers” of racial riots and a national crime rate that had doubled in a decade. The young were alienated, the campuses aflame.
Lippmann endorsed Richard Nixon.
For forty years, no unabashed liberal would be elected president.
Jimmy Carter won one term by presenting himself as a born-again Christian from Georgia, a peanut farmer, Naval Academy graduate and nuclear engineer. Bill Clinton ran as a centrist.
So toxic had the term “liberal” become that liberals dropped it and had themselves rebaptized as “progressives.”
Barack Obama, however, ran unapologetically as a man of the left. An opponent of the Iraq war, he had compiled a voting record to the left of Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont.
And Obama proudly placed his signature achievement, Obamacare, right alongside, and in the tradition of, liberal giants FDR and LBJ.
This is the new progressivism of the 21st century, Obama was saying, and I the transformational figure who will usher in the post-Reagan era. Where Clinton failed, I will succeed.
But now that Obamacare is coming to be perceived as a political catastrophe, not only does it threaten Obama’s place in history, it could invalidate, indeed, eviscerate the defining idea of the Democratic Party itself.
In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) authored the Patriot Act in order to expand the government’s surveillance powers in an effort to protect against the threat of terrorism in the 21st century. Twelve years later, he is preparing a new bill, the USA Freedom Act, to reign those surveillance powers back in.
National Journal is reporting that Sensenbrenner plans to introduce the new legislation next week with around 60 co-sponsors, including several who had voted against the attempt by Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) to defund parts of the NSA’s activities earlier this spring. “‘Six members who voted no and two who didn’t vote on the Amash amendment are original cosponsors of the USA Freedom Act,’ Sensenbrenner spokesman Ben Miller told National Journal. ‘Had they voted for the amendment, it would have passed 213 to 211.’”
In a previous discussion about the bill, Sensenbrenner told the Washington Post‘s “The Fix” blog:
I can say that if Congress knew what the NSA had in mind in the future immediately after 9/11, the Patriot Act never would have passed, and I never would have supported it. We have to have a balance of security and civil liberties. What the NSA has done, with the concurrence of both the Bush and Obama administrations, is completely forgotten about the guarantees of civil liberties that those of us who helped write the Patriot Act in 2001 and the reauthorization in 2005 and 2006 had written the law to prevent from happening.
In that same conversation, Sensenbrenner described the outlines of the bill:
Andrea Peterson: What is the USA Freedom Act?
Sensenbrenner: It does several things. First of all, it stops the collection of metadata by the NSA and has some restrictions on section 215 of the Patriot Act — essentially, the suggestions made by Senator Leahy in the 2005/2006 reauthorization act which were rejected during the negotiations. It restricts section 215 to bring it back to the original intent, which was that the Justice Department would identify a non-U.S. person who is engaged in a terrorist organization, get a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order to be able to find out who that person was in contact with, and be able to try to spread that spiderweb to see who was involved in a plot that might target people either domestically or internationally.
And it also deals with reforming the FISA Court?
The two other things are that we are proposing reform of the FISA Court, where we recognize there are things that have got to be classified. But if the FISA Court changes policy or attempts to reinterpret the law, we require the publication of that so it is not a secret decision when basically the FISA Court allows the NSA to shift gears. The other thing we do is create an office of public advocate to represent the public and privacy interests in particular — and also give the public advocate authority to appeal a decision of the FISA court the advocate feels does not comport with the law or comport with policies.
National Journal also reported that
The Senate Intelligence Committee is also expected to vote Tuesday behind closed doors on legislation brought by committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., to appease surveillance critics by increasing transparency and accountability of FISA.
While a closed door vote on legislation authored by prominent defenders of the NSA could be the transparency critics are seeking, it seems more likely that the bill being prepared by the Patriot Act’s outraged author will be the most promising path to the first genuine surveillance reform in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations.
While the stories emerging from Snowden’s materials have veered further and further from exposing illegal and/or unconstitutional activities here at home over the past months, Sensenbrenner’s words are a reminder of just how vital his earlier leaks have been to restoring the rule of law and democratic accountability to our surveillance system.
Reasonably enough, the House committee with appropriate oversight responsibilities wanted to bring in an expert to “guide our oversight and review of” the Healthcare.gov debacle, even as the shutdown showdown was in full swing.
Per CNBC, they chose John McAfee. McAfee has many positive qualities as a website consultant, not least of which being his creation of the eponymous web security software that made him a tech giant. He also has been spending the past few years of his life living an increasingly paranoid and bizarre life in the Latin American country of Belize that included hiring gang members he thought were trying to kill him, and procuring a 17 year-old girlfriend.
Then last fall, he became a “person of interest” in the murder of his fellow American expat neighbor, and went on the run deep into the Latin American jungle. Unable to resist his own desire for attention, he allowed the rugged reporters of Vice to come down and interview him, reporters who then posted a photo from their iPhone that included the precise poolside coordinates of McAfee’s hideout, apparently in Guatemala. He was soon arrested and deported.
All this is to say, John McAfee shouldn’t be getting anywhere near the Capitol of the United States to advise members of Congress, and it’s more than a little concerning that he would be House Republicans’ go-to tech guru. For one thing, it casts doubt on the judgment of their staff. More broadly concerning, it might suggest that the GOP tech gap is even worse than suspected.
The Obama campaign has famously tight relations with the pick of the Silicon Valley litter, including close personal consultations with Google executive Eric Schmidt. Access to the best and brightest the tech industry has to offer is thought to have helped pad Obama’s comfortable margin of victory, and has been contrasted sharply with the Romney campaign’s ORCA get-out-the-vote software that crashed on, rather inconveniently, Election Day.
However, if the House GOP is reaching out to a paranoid eccentric with a questionable history with the truth for their consultation, one very well may wonder if they simply didn’t know anyone else. A source on the committee told CNBC that “In an effort to better understand the technology concerns, we reached out to a few of the experts who have been featured in media reports on the health care exchange ‘glitches.’”
In the Year of Our Lord 2013, website design and management is an enormous industry with countless companies across the country engaged in designing similar projects; there should be plenty right in Congress’s backyard that are familiar with building the projects within the arcane maze of federal contracting regulations. Moreover, this should be an industry anyone with oversight responsibility should be quite familiar enough with to rattle off half a dozen executives who would be able to provide reasoned, reliable insight.
That they went for a guy recently returned from a gun-packing jungle escape from Belize’s law enforcement just about says it all.