Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Find the Zebra


[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

Today I am going to write a little bit of a “fringe” blog because of the continued political machinations of the Establishment (including Cruz and Kasich). Right now the entire political arena on the Republican side of the house is being run by the Establishment as the same old same old. Consider this: “The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. The availability heuristic operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled. Subsequently, under the availability heuristic, people tend to heavily weigh their judgments toward more recent information, making new opinions biased toward that latest news.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_heuristic It just seems that everybody has come to believe the Establishment that they know best and everybody should step aside and let the coronation of their candidate occur. So let’s look at some of the problems with this.

 

For one thing there is a vast majority of the electorate that feel disenfranchised; it’s almost as if they should not have even bothered to vote. Second, the entire Establishment is looking for ways to sabotage Trump – even if he wins the number of delegates necessary to be nominated in the first round. Third, if all else fails, let’s talk about changes to the rules, candidate substitution – including some people who may not have even run for the office this election cycle – whatever. Maybe the Establishment is talking about these things is to make Trump voters give up voting for him because they feel their votes won't count anyway (frustration, intimidation).

 

Another thing: there have been a number of lawsuits filed against Cruz because of his citizenship: http://excessofdemocracy.com/blog/2016/2/status-of-pending-natural-born-citizen-challenges-and-litigation-in-2016-presidential-election The question seems to turn on what it means to be a “natural born citizen.” So let’s look at what the Qualifications for the Office of President are: “Age and Citizenship requirements - US Constitution, Article II, Section 1:  No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States. http://www.presidentsusa.net/qualifications.html

 

The thing that I find curious – and I’m not a constitutional scholar – is that The Constitution never defines who is eligible to run for the office of president – only who “shall be eligible to the office of President!” If you look at of the lawsuits that have been filed, most have failed procedurally. It seems to me this will only be decided after the election – assuming Cruz wins – and whether he is eligible to assume the office – if he wins it!.

 

My conclusion: There is something very wrong with the way we select and fund our candidates. I think the 2016 primary experience should cause us to question the process: I think if nothing else Trump has exposed the political arena and all of its corruptness. Americans should be disgusted that their voting is irrelevant; the wealthy and powerful will decide who the candidate is – regardless of our voting preference. This has become especially clear since the Citizens United lawsuit opened the way for unlimited campaign contributions to Establishment candidates.

 

I have a couple of suggestions for what Mr. Trump needs to do. First, he has got to get ahead of everything and lead – he is leading from behind right now and reacting to the Establishment and Main Street stimuli. He should adapt his delivery. In direct marketing there is a rule called the 40/40/20 Rule: 40% audience, 40% offer, 20% Creative. Others have suggested modifications by splitting the percentage and adding Action. Another proposal was divided across four categories:

“We propose what we'll call the "4-Way Split Rule:" 25 percent audience, 25 percent offer, 25 percent creative, 25 percent technology.” http://www.imediaconnection.com/articles/ported-articles/red-dot-articles/2000/oct/rewriting-dm-rules-for-the-web/ He must repackage his presentation and make Cruz and Kasich irrelevant because he has got the winning message – not only for the electorate, but also for the electors at the Republican Convention. He has got to get out the vote – have a superior ground game. I believe that this election cycle will produce more votes cast than any previous election – both in number and in percentage of registered voters.

 

Finally, medical professionals are taught as students that when presented with symptoms, it’s best to pursue the most likely cause of those symptoms; that is what made the TV series “House” very popular: they would always go look for the bizarre! In medical terminology this is called a zebra: “Zebra is the American medical slang for arriving at an exotic medical diagnosis when a more commonplace explanation is more likely. It is shorthand for the aphorism coined in the late 1940s by Dr. Theodore Woodward, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who instructed his medical interns: ‘When you hear hoof beats, think of horses not zebras.’” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_%28medicine%29 I think that right now Trump and his team are thinking horses (Establishment) and not zebras (outside of the box solutions)!

 

For example, I would propose that Trump begin floating names for the Office of Vice President. Talk about something that might cause Establishment people to jump out of a window – well, this might do it! Maybe he could open the door to selecting Cruz or Kasich. Probably very impractical, but it would perhaps demonstrate a feeling of forgiveness and open-mindedness. Also, I would drop names (and I’m sure his team has already begun developing his A-List) of somebody who might be female (maybe a Latino like Susana Martinez (NM)). Once again, this is designed to allow him to get ahead of the game – redirect the media thinking and the Establishment – these people would not necessarily be his candidates.

 

There should be two rules which govern his end game on the way to the convention: “…when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Finally, keep it simple: “Occam's (or Ockham's) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham….The most useful statement of the principle for scientists is "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better."  http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/occam.html I hope that he finds the zebra!

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Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Why Trump Is the Right Man for the Job


[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

I read an interesting article the other day about “Why the #NeverTrump Will Never Work.”

The author states: “But here’s the problem for Bush and Romney and the whole #NeverTrump thing generally: You don’t win campaigns solely by running against somebody else. You have to give voters something — or someone — that they can be for….Instead of shoring up a candidate they could enthusiastically be for, they continued to define themselves by the campaigns they were against, offering support only when it was already clear which way the voters were going….Trump has gotten to where he is by savaging the Republican establishment as expedient and craven — politicians willing to sacrifice any principle to preserve their own power. It’s amazing that Republican leaders seem so hell-bent on proving him right.” https://www.yahoo.com/politics/why-nevertrump-will-never-work-1392133276262454.html

 

In addition to the above article’s conclusion, the larger outcome is giving the White House to the Democrats – because you cannot resolve the intraparty fighting. If Trump isn’t the nominee and if he enters the convention with a plurality of delegates and leaves without the nomination, then my guess is that Trump either becomes a third party candidate or spends an exorbitant amount of time and money urging his supporters to never vote Republican again. Any of the outcomes are bad for the Republican Party – to the point a permanent schism could result which would take probably a decade to resolve.

 

Nate Silver, an articulate and accurate psephologist, predicts that the race will be very close for Trump to secure the necessary 1,237 delegates in the first round of voting. His actual prediction is 1,208; but he may be able to go over the top by securing the vote of the unbound and currently uncommitted delegates. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/will-donald-trump-clinch-the-republican-nomination-before-the-convention/

 

Another great psephologist, Larry Sabato, thinks that Trump will (barely) reach the magic number of 1,237 (at 1,239): “If Trump finishes, say, less than 100 delegates short, but he is still comfortably leading national polls of Republicans and wins statewide victories in places like California and New Jersey on the final day of voting (June 7), it’s hard to see how, practically, he wouldn’t be the nominee. Trump would have far more delegates than his rivals, and he would also be heading into the pre-convention period with major statewide victories. Only if Trump finishes 100 or more delegates short does the contested convention become a more prominent possibility. As we’ve previously stressed, there are a small number of unpledged delegates as well as delegates from other candidates that Trump may or may not able to win over in the interim from June 7 through the opening of the convention on July 18.” http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/

 

“A new poll indicated 63 percent of Republicans think front-runner Donald Trump should get the party’s nomination if he wins the delegate race but falls short of the majority needed to clinch it outright….More than six in 10 voters opted for the plurality candidate over a brokered convention….” http://www.gopusa.com/?p=7690?omhide=true

 

Besides the electorate’s complete disgust with the establishment, there is a sense of restlessness in the air; it’s like the people know that there’s something different going on – but they can’t quite put their finger on it or articulate it: it’s Zeitgeist! There is a need to fill a vacuum that shouldn’t be there. So, with this discussion as a backdrop, let’s discuss why Trump is the right man for the job this election cycle.

 

To understand this I need to present some financial musings. I believe that the number one problem facing America today is the national debt. Currently at approximately $19 trillion (still rising and will be perhaps $23 trillion by 2021), the US government has unfunded liabilities in excess of $123 trillion ($210 trillion by some estimates and still rising). The national debt per person is over $59,000; the unfunded liabilities per person are over $381,000. http://usadebtclock.com/

 

“What's the word for our fiscal situation? Stunning? Shocking? Desperate? In recent testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, Boston University Economics Professor Laurence Kotlikoff, in effect, told the Committee that all of these terms are pathetically inadequate to describe our true fiscal situation. In compelling testimony, Kotlikoff argues that the federal fiscal situation is much worse than the CBO estimates let on. The reason is that CBO's debt estimates do not take into account the full financial obligations the government is committed to honor, especially for future payments of Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the debt. He asserts that the federal government should help the public understand the nation's true fiscal situation by using what economists call "the infinite-horizon fiscal gap," defined as the value of all projected future expenditures minus the value of all projected future receipts using a reasonable discount rate.

 

“What difference does the fiscal gap approach make in our understanding of the true federal debt? CBO tells us that the national debt was a little less than $13 trillion in 2014. But the fiscal gap in that year as calculated by Kotlikoff was $210 trillion, more than 16 times larger than the debt estimated by CBO and already judged, by CBO and many others, to be unsustainable. If a $13 billion gap is unsustainable, what term should we apply to a $210 trillion gap? Kotlikoff also calculates that the fiscal gap is equal to about 58 percent of the combined value of all future revenue. Thus, we would need to reduce spending or increase taxes by enough to fill that 58 percent gap if we wanted to put the federal budget on a path to solvency that balances the interests of those now receiving benefits and those who hope to receive benefits in the future.”


 

Consider this horrifying point: mandatory versus discriminatory spending. “Sometime between 2030 and 2040 mandatory spending will exceed government revenues.” https://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_of_the_United_States#/media/File:GAO_Slide.png. Another startling statistic is that the total debt as a percentage of GDP is 105%.


 

Baby boomers are now retiring in large numbers. That means they will be exiting the workforce; so what? Instead of paying money to the government, they will be receiving money from the government. Instead of spending money, they will probably be saving money. The official unemployment rate is about 5%; the actual number of unemployed people (including long-term, discouraged workers) is about 23%.  http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts


I believe that we are at a nexus in history. This election will probably be one of the most important for at least the next two decades. The most obvious reason is because of the number of Supreme Court appointees; they will influence the judicial process and outcome for at least the next 2 to 3 decades. Another major issue is terrorism and why Americans do not feel safe. Political correctness – need I say more about how it is destroying our society and productivity? Immigration and its impact on not only the workforce but our economic status – pathetic. These and all of the other issues can be handled by Mr. Trump by the appointment of many of his learned associates. The reason Mr. Trump is the right man for the job is because the greatest task at hand is the financial survival of the USA. He possesses the mind – and has demonstrated time and time again – that he understands world markets, productivity, financing, leveraging – all things financial. I don’t understand how a socialist or progressive is even contending in this election – except the electorate doesn’t understand that there is no such thing as Mr. Sanders’ money tree or an inexhaustible supply of billionaires standing in line to pay taxes. Please: Excuse Mr. Trump’s foibles and support somebody who has the leadership skills and ability to bring America back to greatness!

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Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Let’s End the Identity Crisis


[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, made these pathetic, opening remarks at the last Republican debate: “I want to get something completely clear, because there’s been a lot of talk about this. This party is going to support the nominee — whoever that is — 100 percent. There’s no question about that.” Why would he even say that? Is it a lame attempt to try to unify the party and ask the candidates to play nice? What these politicians still don't seem to understand is that the people are having a political revolution. I wrote about this August 2, 2015 when I explained The Birth of the Electoral Paradigm Shift. “The message that Mr. Trump brings to the game is resonating with the electorate. Perhaps they see in him somebody who is not a professional politician!” I think that this article about “Why I support Trump – and resent the elites trying to destroy him” is a must read analysis by John C. Kluge. Think about this:

 

“Our country is going broke, half its working-age population isn’t even looking for work, faces the real threat of massive Islamic terrorist attack and has a government incapable of doing even basic functions. Meanwhile, conservatives act like cutting Planned Parenthood funding or stopping gays from getting marriage licenses are the great issues of the day and then have the gumption to call Donald Trump a clown. It would be downright funny if it wasn’t so sad and the situation so serious.

 

“It is not that I think Donald Trump is some savior or an ideal candidate. I don’t. It is that I cannot for the life of me — given the sorry nature of our current political class — understand why conservatives are losing their minds over him and are willing to destroy the Republican Party and put Hillary Clinton into office to stop him. All of your objections to him either apply to many other candidates you have backed or are absurd.”


Continuing with this line of thinking, the following was reported in the news:

“Billionaires, tech CEOs and top members of the Republican establishment flew to a private island resort off the coast of Georgia this weekend for the American Enterprise Institute's annual World Forum, according to sources familiar with the secretive gathering.

“The main topic at the closed-to-the-press confab? How to stop Republican front-runner Donald Trump. (The meeting was not planned to be a strategy session on how to stop the GOP front-runner, but rather evolved into one, as a subsequently obtained agenda makes clear.)…

 

"The key task now, to once again paraphrase Karl Marx, is less to understand Trump than to stop him," Kristol wrote. "In general, there's a little too much hand-wringing, brow-furrowing, and fatalism out there and not quite enough resolving to save the party from nominating or the country electing someone who simply shouldn't be president." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/aei-world-forum-donald-trump_us_56ddbd38e4b0ffe6f8ea125d

 

It’s a pretty sad day in our democracy when a cabal of the elite considers doing something to keep the establishment in power. “A highlight of the gathering was a presentation by Rove about focus group findings on Trump. The business mogul's greatest weakness, according to Rove, was that voters have a very hard time envisioning him as "presidential" and as somebody their children should look up to.” This, of course, coming from the same person who went ballistic on election night 2012 saying that Romney was going to win. ."  Even worse, “…Bozell told Bloomberg News [,] If I had 1/100th of Karl Rove's money, I would have been more productive than he was. Republican advisor Rick Tyler attacked Rove in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They lost every race. It was a colossal failure," he said. "They went out with their power points and convinced people to give money, but it was as pathetic a performance as I've ever seen...Clearly, Rove has too much control over the purse strings." http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/11/11854/biggest-loser-2012-election-karl-rove

 

It is a sad day when you have people who are as rich and powerful as these people who are trying to subvert the democratic process of allowing the choice of the nominee by we, the people. It is difficult to imagine how all of the voters in all of these primaries would feel if their choice of the candidate is suddenly thrown out at the last minute by the establishment. So much more could be done if all of these resources were allocated in a positive way.

 

“Instead, Mr. Trump’s challengers are staking their hopes on a set of guerrilla tactics and long-shot possibilities, racing to line up mainstream voters and interest groups against his increasingly formidable campaign. Donors and elected leaders have begun to rouse themselves for the fight, but perhaps too late….Two of Mr. Trump’s opponents have openly acknowledged that they may have to wrest the Republican nomination from him in a deadlocked convention.” http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/politics/donald-trump-republican-party.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=3&referer

“GOP leaders are grasping for a last-ditch idea stop Trump from claiming the nomination, from talking about a contested convention to discussing whether to rally around a yet-to-be-determined third-party candidate. All are long shots at best and would likely have the effect of ripping the Republican Party apart in irreparable ways.” http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/03/rubio_kasich_ponder_whether_th.html

“With a few days before major Republican primaries in states such as Florida and Ohio, the Republican establishment has turned their attention to creative ways to defeat conservative businessman Donald J. Trump, who appears to be unstoppable.

 

“Now, it’s been confirmed that a major group of Republican donors and insiders are working hard to convince former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (a Republican) to run for President!

 

“Apparently, the plan is to have her run as an independent.” http://www.thepoliticalinsider.com/bombshell-new-republican-candidate-enter-presidential-race/

There are a lot of citations in this article; there is a reason for that. You just can’t make this stuff up! I didn’t want any of my readers to think that I was in a room somewhere dreaming of alternatives; what I have presented is the reality of what the Republican establishment is trying to do. In the process they are showing the citizens of the USA what a fractionated, arrogant, self-serving bunch of people they are and that they have no identity – all the while worrying about Trump destroying the “branding” of the party! The establishment must decide which is more important: electing Donald Trump President or losing the White House to the Democrats? A Republican third-party candidate, besides ruining the Republican Party’s chances of winning the election, would destroy the party. I have one last scenario to present:

“If Trump sweeps Florida and Ohio, he could clinch the nomination by winning just more than half of the remaining bound delegates that are in play on Tuesday and afterward, according to scenarios developed by Josh Putnam, a political science lecturer at the University of Georgia and blogger at Frontloading HQ….But Trump remains basically the only candidate who appears likely to get the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the Republican National Convention. Under all four possible Florida-Ohio scenarios, Cruz would need at least 77 percent of remaining delegates to clinch the nomination -- a feat that seems unlikely at this time.”


 

Regardless, as Mr. Kluge says in his previously cited article: “Perhaps none of this means anything to you, and the movement has left me behind. If it has, I think conservatives should understand that it is leaving a lot of people like me behind. I can’t see how that is a good thing.”

 

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Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Monday, February 8, 2016

What About Electability?


 [Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

I am going to direct the majority of this blog to the question of electability. It seems as if all of the current articles address the issue of whether or not the next President will be capable of running the country. This is obviously a very important issue during any election cycle, but it seems as if the commentators and political pundits are more interested in destroying Trump than in critically analyzing his capabilities and what type of a President he really would be. For example, I have not read any articles suggesting who Trump might select as his Vice President and how that might reshape the debate. And an even bigger issue is the formation of his Cabinet; can there be any doubt that Trump would put together nothing less than a stellar Cabinet of the best qualified people from all parties, from all people, in all disciplines? He is more concerned about the country than the politics.

 

Dr. Charles Krauthammer in one of his latest articles states: Trump winning the nomination would convulse the Republican Party, fracture the conservative movement and undermine the GOP's identity and role as the country's conservative party. The problem is his, shall we say, eclectic populism. I was stunned when I read this article. It is evident that he does not like Trump and will write misleading articles like this to discredit him. For him to say that people perceive him as being uninformed, but popular and charismatic is ridiculous. Even if it is true, Krauthammer is missing the main point that the majority of the people like Trump because he is anti-establishment, says it like it is, and cannot be bought off or intimidated. However, the numbers do suggest that Trump must improve both in delivering his identified supporters and in swaying undecided voters. This includes attracting new voters. After Iowa, new questions arose about Trump's ground game and his ability to turn his front-running poll numbers into actual votes. More will be known after the New Hampshire primary.

 

And what about the National Review who published anti-Trump essays from over 20 conservative thinkers? Where were these so-called conservatives when the Establishment ran the national debt to $21 trillion? Or trying to cut deals on illegal immigration? America is fed up with business as usual and most have had enough. These conservatives are part of the same hypocrisy of the Establishment that Trump is challenging – and they don’t like it! The Establishment just doesn’t get the fact that people are fed up with being lied to, hearing promises that’ll never be kept, and seeing the influence of lobbyists and Wall Street on the legislative process. Interestingly enough, the Democratic Party has the same sort of problem with Clinton (especially when Biden decided not to run); now they have Sanders who is doing more than threatening to finish a strong second!

 

A rather substantial barrier may exist, however, for Trump (or the Republican nominee): the so-called Blue Wall. The Blue Wall is defined as follows:

 

Blue wall” is a term used by some political analysts and pundits referring to the theory that in Presidential elections in the United States, the Democratic Party has, in the past few cycles, established such an advantage in many states that the electoral map makes a Republican victory an uphill battle from the start. Behind this “blue wall” lie states, many carrying a high number of electoral votes, which appear to be solidly behind the Democratic Party, at least on the national level, and which a Republican candidate would likely have to write off, seeking a total of 270 votes from other regions. States behind this wall lie generally in the northeast, and west coast, and include some of the Great Lakes states. In each of the past 6 election cycles, the Democratic Party has won 18 of these states (as well as the District of Columbia), totaling 242 of the necessary 270 votes need to win.


 

A very good analysis was made by Michael Barone in an article dated February 15, 2015: Do Republicans have a realistic chance to win the next presidential election? Some analysts suggest the answer is no. They argue that there is a 240-electoral-vote “blue wall” of 18 states and D.C. that have gone Democratic in the last six presidential elections.

 

A Democratic nominee needs only 30 more electoral votes to win the presidency, they note accurately. A Republican nominee, they suggest, has little chance of breaking through the blue wall. He (or she) would have to win 270 of the 298 other electoral votes.

 

He continues: Democrats do have an advantage in the electoral vote, because heavily Democratic clusters clinch about 170 electoral votes for them, while Republicans have a lock on only about 105. But the blue wall theory, like all political rules of thumb, is true only till it's not. And this one could easily prove inoperative in a competitive 2016 race. I would strongly recommend that you read the entire article: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/02/17/democrats_blue_wall_not_impregnable_to_republicans_--_if_theyre_smart_125631.html.

 

Another good article on the Blue Wall was written by Darrell Delamaide on November 26, 2014. His conclusion: In short, a Republican candidate can win only by capturing all nine swing states and flipping a dyed-in-the-wool blue state, which Ladd considers virtually impossible.
(See: http://mwamericanpolitics.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-blue-wall.html)

 

Of course, the past may not be prologue, and it is possible for the “Blue Wall” to be broken. Nate Silver, a brilliant psephologist, in a May 12, 2015 article presents an incredibly detailed analysis of this phenomenon that concludes:

 

But for now? The Electoral College just isn’t worth worrying about much. If you see analysts talking about the “blue wall,” all they’re really saying is that Democrats have won a bunch of presidential elections lately — an obvious fact that probably doesn’t have much predictive power for what will happen this time around.

 

I’m not saying Clinton is doomed. Rather, I think the “fundamentals” point toward her chances being about 50-50, and I wouldn’t argue vigorously if you claimed the chances were more like 60-40 in one or the other direction. But Clinton is no sort of lock, and if she loses the popular vote by even a few percentage points, the “blue wall” will seem as archaic as talk of a permanent Republican majority. This article is also a “must read”: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/there-is-no-blue-wall/

 

I wrote this to primarily keep this whole process in focus. As we go through the primaries, please keep in mind that there is this pesky thing called the Electoral College. The popular vote on a state-by-state basis will probably yield some nail biting moments!

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Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PEOPLE EQUAL POLICY



 

Americans across the political spectrum are clamoring for real change in Washington.  It is going to take real leadership – vision, strength, and a deep skepticism of the Washington elite – to turn rhetoric into reality.

 

How will the next President actually change the Federal Government?  The answer lies in who they know.

 

An incoming President finds they have a wonderful view from the “pilot house” of the “ship of state”.  They quickly realize there are no control connections to the ship and the engine room is still under the control of those loyal to the previous Administration.

 

The process of establishing control over the “ship of state” makes or breaks a Presidency.  It also determines the potential for actually changing the system versus simply managing the status quo.

 

A new President gets to hire 8,045 new people.  These positions are listed in the “Plum Book” published in November after each Presidential Election.  These positions are the Cabinet and Agency heads, their teams, White House staff, Ambassadors, and term appointments for federal regulatory boards.  An array of part time advisory board slots round out the “plums”.

 

In 1980, I served as Director of Personnel for the Reagan-Bush Campaign.  This led to helping plan, and administer, the Presidential Transition, ultimately heading clearances for Presidential Personnel in the Reagan White House.  This was a unique opportunity to participate in every phase of how a campaign becomes an Administration.

 

Reagan was the first to lead the modern conservative movement into power.  It was not an easy process.  Remnants of the defeated campaigns became part of the Reagan-Bush team for the general election.  This meant Reagan loyalists had to work with Bush, Connolly, and Dole staffers.  Jockeying for power occurred from day one.  While the original Reagan team prevailed, Ford and Rockefeller alumni (turned Bush loyalists), positioned themselves for the Administration to come.

 

After the Reagan landslide came an epic behind the scenes battle for the soul of the Reagan Administration.  Bush loyalists, led by James Baker, allied with the Presidential Personnel team headed by Penn James. James had run Nixon’s transition and was assailed by conservatives in 1969 for his shutting out ideological loyalists in favor of technocrats.  This battle was renewed as James and his team, which included Democrats and nonpolitical corporate head hunters, declared that experience trumped ideology.  Hundreds of Ford alumni poured into the transition and dominated appointment short lists.  Reagan loyalists derisively labeled them “retreads”.

 

It took the entry of Reagan’s Kitchen Cabinet, allied with Reagan’s Regional Political Directors and Washington-based conservatives to turn the tide.  In early December 1980, conservative icon Stan Evans convened the coalition under the code name “Inchon”.  Inchon was aptly named as staffing the Reagan era was truly a game changing invasion behind enemy lines.  The combined knowledge and access of the thirty core Inchon members toppled James’ team and opened the door for real Reaganites to staff the Reagan Administration.

 

Who among the Republican Presidential contenders have similar stalwarts?  In 2012, I participated in the early transition planning for Romney.  His team was awash in Bush alumni.  Washington “retreads” have the connections, and the credentials, to insinuate themselves into a new power circle.  They have the presence to intimidate and dazzle weary campaign staffers with a cacophony of “if you knew what we knew” to dilute ideological zeal with a status quo mindset. 

 

Those who truly want Washington to change must look beyond the rhetoric to the Rolodex.  Political personnel decisions are defined by BOGSAT – Bunch of Guys Sitting Around a Table. Which Republican candidate will block retreads?  Which Republican candidate will refuse calls from Congress to find jobs for defeated candidates?  Which Republican candidate will ignore calls from the Republican National Committee to reward donors and lobbyists?  Which Republican candidate will place their change agenda ahead of demographic tokens who generate superficial accolades among mainstream media?  Which Republican candidate will avoid “false affinities” (ties to home state, college alumni, clubs) to make sure their team is up to the task?

 

Another challenge for the new President is expanding power beyond their 8,045 appointments.  How do you drive your agenda into each Department, agency, and program?

 

Except for the White House and agency support staffers (hired under “Schedule C” authority), the Plum Book positions directly supervise career federal employees.  This means the President’s team can hire, fire, transfer, promote, reward, and punish approximately 50,000+ within the career service.  The Reagan Transition developed initial lists of these careerists known as “Super Plum”.

 

Which Presidential contender has people who understand how to wield this power and direct real change?  The Reagan transition included a team whose sole mission was to identify the critical power paths within each Department and major Agency.  What twelve positions actually ran the Department of Commerce?  This team identified them and made recommendations for who would be the first wave of occupation. 

 

Another team ran the “welcome wagon”.  This team met with every Secretary-Designate, Agency Head-Designate, and their inner circles, to walk them through “Super Plum”.  They helped develop strategies for establishing full control of their organization and prioritized what Carter regulations and initiatives could immediately be stopped and reversed. 

 

The Reagan Revolution happened by design not by chance.  It happened because legions of loyalists came to Washington to make a difference.  Who among the current Republican Presidential field can deliver real results beyond Election Day?

 

[Scot Faulkner was Director of Personnel for Reagan-Bush 1980, served in the Office of the President-Elect, and on the White House Staff.  Later, he served as the first Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.]

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Electorate: Knock! Knock! Establishment: Who’s there?


[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

I would have to say that the title of this blog is what this election cycle is all about. It seems that, “we the people” want to have a voice in who the Republican nominee is; but the Establishment does not want to hear what we have to say. As much as I hate to say it, it appears that the Establishment might win anyway. Regardless of who wins the caucus and primaries, the Establishment candidate’s name may be announced at the convention – even though Republicans may lose the election to the Democratic candidate.

 

After reviewing the statistics on Mr. Trump’s town hall meeting versus the network coverage of the latest debate, I would have to question how much support he may have in a general election. After all, I do not believe that he has been endorsed by any member of Congress yet (this may be a good thing!). Another point concerns just how large the Republican Party is relative to the entire electorate: about one third. The Democratic base is slightly larger, perhaps at 40%. Even if these numbers are not totally correct, you can get the point that a large number of independent voters who are Millennial, Hispanics and other minorities – are not exactly big fans of the Republican Party. Right now, Mr. Trump has a sizable lead over his next closest competitors, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio (Real Clear Politics). When is the light bulb going to go on?

 

The fact of the matter is that the Party and other candidates besides Mr. Trump do not seem to be very well-liked. Because of the large number of candidates now, it does not appear that the Party is directly supporting anyone – except, of course, in a destructive way, Mr. Trump. That seems to be the primary goal: destroy Trump, and then we’ll name an heir apparent. Of course there is always the hope that if Trump wins a few of these primaries, the Republican career politicians (who care more about their careers than the country) will come running to his side to endorse him. One could only hope. But even if that happens, it may be too late for the Republicans to convince a majority of the electorate – which will include conservatives and other members of the Republican base who have been insulted throughout this election cycle – to even give the Democratic candidate a real challenge. There are those who believe that Mr. Trump will destroy the image of the Republican Party; what image? It’s hard to believe that the image could get worse; but if all of the candidates and the Establishment keep talking trash and shredding each other, who could blame the voters for not selecting anybody within the Republican Party?

 

The voters want someone to change the way Republicans and Democrats do business in Washington, DC. The Republicans said that they needed the House to stop Obama. When that didn’t work, they said they needed the Senate – and they got it. Finally, now that they have both the House and Senate, they are crying to the public that they need to control the White House, also. But in the meantime, they have exhibited no leadership and have broken most of their promises. They have squandered their opportunities and created their own political morass. Part of Mr. Trump’s success stems from the fact that he has ignored the Establishment, the main street media – practically everybody – while addressing some of the main factors that are causing frustration and angst in the electorate: immigration, terrorism, corruption and cronyism, a weak foreign policy, shredding the Constitution of the U. S., and so forth.

 

It is very interesting to look at the polls in Real Clear Politics. Right now, Trump and Clinton are barely even within the margin of error. Clinton versus Cruz is pretty even, also within the margin. Overall, Rubio is possibly ahead of Clinton – also within the margin of error. So, as I have said before, I believe the White House belongs to the Republicans – as long as they don’t completely bungle the operation – which it appears they are in the process of doing. Sanders, the Democratic candidate, actually edges Cruz and Trump – but Rubio actually beats Sanders! So at first blush it looks as if Rubio would be the best Republican nominee. So the question is: how does Rubio poll best nationally while losing (potentially) some of the primaries? How do you discount the data that Trump may win the primaries, but that he may lose nationally to both Democratic frontrunners?

 

The Republican Establishment has severely disappointed their supporters; they just don’t get it. It is this Establishment that has created the distrust, anger, feelings of abandonment – and actually has created Donald Trump. The more the Establishment complains about and plots the destruction of Trump (whom the Republican electorate supports), the stronger he gets. If they would only recognize the opportunity they have to capture the White House, coalesce behind him, and support him, the greater the chances are that the entire electorate would select him as the next President. (For example, an availability heuristic could be used to flood the electorate with strong, positive communication about the Republican candidate – including Trump.) 

 

Let me close with a fanciful scenario to this unpredictable election season. Remember, this is just something to “noodle” on while the primaries sort themselves out. What if Hillary Clinton is prosecuted – or faces legal hurdles that are so insurmountable that it cripples her run for the Presidency? In other words Bernie Sanders becomes front runner. Then, let’s assume that Trump prevails in the primaries, and the Republican Establishment resigns itself to that result. Or, the Republican Establishment decides to torpedo Mr. Trump (somehow, maybe brokered convention?), and selects Rubio as the nominee – after all, right now he has the best chance of beating either Democratic candidate. And then, just for the fun of it, let’s say that the Democratic Party convinces Joe Biden to enter the race because they perceive a loss of the White House. Trump or Rubio vs. Clinton or Sanders? And along comes Joe. Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

____________________________________
Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Fantasy Election


[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

This is a fascinating election! The people, the electorate, have basically forced the Establishment element of both parties to actually consider their input during this nomination process. I say that tongue-in-cheek because the people are clamoring, but the Establishment is not listening – and it is beginning to become more evident in both parties that this is true. It is a tragedy that big money has more influence over the process than the entire population of the United States of America.

It is amazing to read the myriad of articles disparaging Donald Trump. People calling him a carnival barker, a performer, hateful, loud mouthed, bigoted – the list goes on and on. The truth of the matter is that the electorate is ready to throw the nonperforming, nonresponsive, professional politicians out of office – and the Establishment is scared and crying like a bunch of babies. The main street media bears a lot of responsibility in this perception. A large majority of the population is having an adverse reaction to the continuous bias of the media who are ignoring journalism and writing opinions masquerading as journalism – and creating an atmosphere of entertainment rather than presenting real-world problems and asking for intelligent solutions. The pre-election season resembles more of a contest than an attempt to cull the nominees by setting criteria and selecting the most qualified candidate.

Poll after poll are presented in an attempt to sway people’s opinions to their candidate. People want to vote for a winner – not a loser. It makes sense except that the polls are so skewed and biased, that it is difficult – if not impossible – to really determine who’s ahead. Take this poll for example: “The study posited that voters, when interviewed by pollsters via telephone, are reluctant to admit their support for a controversial candidate whose critics have painted him as racist. In self-administered online interviews, on the other hand, they will be more likely to admit their support. And that will more likely reflect their eventual decision in the privacy of a voting booth…. Overall, the study found that Trump performs about six percentage points better in online surveys compared with those conducted by phone. In a sample of nearly 3,000 Republican voters, the Morning Consult study found that Trump garnered 38% support with online respondents, 36% with respondents who were robo-called, and 32% among live-interviewed voters.” http://finance.yahoo.com/news/theory-going-around-donald-trump-001457776.html  And this was not even an attempt to intentionally misrepresent a poll!

I labeled this article the Fantasy Election for a reason. I’m going to advance a scenario – just for the fun of it! The idea occurred to me when I read this article: “Donald Trump may have eased some Republican fears Tuesday night when he declared his intention to stay inside the party. But if their angst has been temporarily eased at the prospect of what he would do if he loses, they still face a far more troubling, and increasingly plausible, question. What happens to the party if he wins?This is not the usual rhetoric of intraparty battles, the kind of thing that gets resolved in handshakes under the convention banners. These are stake-in-the-ground positions, strongly suggesting that a Trump nomination would create a fissure within the party as deep and indivisible as any in American political history, driven both by ideology and by questions of personal character. Indeed, it would be a fissure so deep that, if the operatives I talked with are right, Trump running as a Republican could well face a third-party run—from the Republicans themselves.” http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/donald-trump-2016-third-party-bid-213449  Can you fathom the arrogance of this action after all of the hoopla surrounding making Trump give a promise that he would not run as a third-party candidate? Unbelievable.

Now, let’s look at the Democratic side of the aisle. What was first thought to be a runaway nomination for Hillary Clinton now looks as if Bernie may not only catch her, but he might beat her! For example: “Did you know that there’s a Democratic presidential primary too? Sure, Hillary Clinton maintains a big lead in national polls and has all the endorsements. Sure, she’s almost certainly going to win the nomination. But if I were running the Clinton campaign, I’d still be a little nervous. Clinton’s lead in Iowa isn’t safe; Bernie Sanders could win the caucuses. And with expectations for her as high as they are, a Clinton loss in Iowa (or even an underwhelming win) would cause her campaign a lot of heartache.” http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bernie-sanders-can-still-catch-hillary-clinton-in-iowa/

All of the aforementioned was a very small fingernail sketch so that I could present my main theme. What if, on November 8, 2016, the ballot looked like this: Republican Party: Donald Trump; Republican Party, third party candidate: Marco Rubio; Democratic Party: Hillary Clinton; Democratic Party, third-party candidate: Bernie Sanders. Assuming all of the normal constitutional processes have been met, all candidates are registered in every state, etc., what if this became the selection for the American people and what would it mean?

Almost assuredly it would go to the U. S. House of Representatives: “The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation….Most states have a ‘winner-take-all’ system that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate….After the presidential election, your governor prepares a ‘Certificate of Ascertainment’ listing all of the candidates who ran for President in your state along with the names of their respective electors. The Certificate of Ascertainment also declares the winning presidential candidate in your state and shows which electors will represent your state at the meeting of the electors in December of the election year.” http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html
Now the big question: “What happens if no presidential candidate gets 270 Electoral votes? If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most Electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.” http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/faq.html#no270

I have called this a Fantasy Election because Bernie Sanders will probably not run as a third-party candidate. What a shame – this could have been a very interesting race! (p.s., I won’t even discuss the possibility of a split-ticket for the vice president!)

Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.