Friday, November 29, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is It "Obamacare, Stupid!" Or "Time For A Woman President" in 2016?

As the 2012 presidential campaign began to form seriously
in 2011, some conservatives suggested that the by-then
commonplace slogan “It’s the economy, stupid!” would be
replaced by a new slogan “It’s Obamacare, stupid!” as the
emblematic theme of the Republican attempt to replace
the president, then in his first term, the next year.

It was based, quite understandably, on the performance of
the 2010 mid-term elections when the Republicans  regained
control of the U.S. house with a pick-up of 60-plus seats,
and a significant pick-up of U.S senate seats, primarily due
to negative voter reaction to the just-passed medical care
reform law known as Obamacare. Republicans, it should be
remembered, became increasingly confident that they could
win the 2012 presidential election, and they nominated
someone who, because of his support of a comparable program
when he was governor of a northeastern state, was going to
have a difficult time making Obamacare a dispositive issue.
Mitt Romney had other political problems, to be sure, and
the election was close, but the GOP slogan did not materialize
as the difference.

Going into the 2014 mid-term elections, Obamacare is once
again driving voters away from Democratic candidates. In
fact, it is potentially more serious than in 2010 because the
legislation is now being implemented --- with disastrous early

I am suggesting that a focus on Obamacare by Republicans
beyond 2014 is a very bad strategy. The reasons are simple.
If voter dissatisfaction with the legislation does resonate in
the 2014 elections, it will be repealed or dramatically altered
whether or not President Obama agrees to it. Members of
Congress of his own party, having seen the writing on the
electoral wall of 2014, will vote to override any veto. It will be
a matter of political survival, and Mr. Obama will be a very
lame duck. If, somehow, Obamacare miraculously succeeds
suddenly in 2014, including getting by its inaugural technical
glitches, and its implementation is not put off until 2015,
there will obviously no issue. In either case, Obamacare will
cease to confront voters after 2015.

At the same time, Democrats are developing, as their prime
slogan for 2016, “It’s time for a woman president!” This, of
course, presupposes that the current Democratic frontrunner,
Hillary Clinton, is their nominee. There are two problems
with this slogan-as-strategy. First, in spite of her huge lead in
current polls, the election is almost three years away. Mrs.
Clinton enjoyed a similar “insurmountable” lead in 2005, and
three years later, she came up short when Mr. Obama won
the party nod. Second, and perhaps more important, relying
on an abstraction, albeit a sympathetic one, is a very risky
strategy, and not ultimately complimentary to Mrs. Clinton’s

I happen to believe it IS time for a woman (from either party)
to be elected president, but I certainly would not want to vote
for a woman primarily because of her sex. The nation leads
outstanding leadership, now more than ever, and the only true
major consideration should be a vote for the best person, either
liberal or conservative, to serve in the nation’s highest office. It
was theoretically time for a Catholic to be president in 1928
when Al Smith was the Democratic nominee, but it did not
happen until 1960 when John Kennedy was elected. It was time
to have a Jew on the national ticket in 2000 when Joe Lieberman
was the Democratic vice presidential nominee, but he did not
win. Jesse Jackson ran twice for president, and many said that
Republican Colin Powell could have won if he ran, but it was
Barack Obama who was the first black president.

Today, notably more women already vote Democratic, and
notably more men vote Republican. It is illusory to think that
primarily just because she is a woman, Mrs. Clinton will win
in 2016.  Nor will her “resume” alone give her victory. 
American voters historically don’t vote for “resumes,”
including most recently in 2008. If she is her party’s nominee,
Mrs. Clinton will have to give voters very good reasons to vote
for her, especially after two terms of a president of her own
party, the inevitable Obama-fatigue that will exist in 2016, and
despite her own many controversies, personal and political.

It is, of course, a long time until 2016. In addition to the 2014
elections, many events, most of them unanticipated, will occur.
Hillary Clinton could indeed be elected president in 2016, but
I suspect the main reason will not be simply that she is a
woman. (What if, for example, the GOP nominee chooses the
talented New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez as his running
mate?) A Republican might indeed be elected president in 2016,
but I suspect the reason will not be only voter dissatisfaction with

Slogans, or other short rationales, do not often win national
elections. Long before it was verbalized by the Bill Clinton
campaign, the “economy” was almost always was the major
factor in a presidential election.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Future Potpourri

The new year approaches, and the usual (brief) quiet news
time has arrived. The world, however, seethes with activity,
change and uncertainty. Here is a potpourri of news stories
gestating to the new year ahead:

Having declared a flying zone over disputed
territories with Japan, the U.S. air force has ignored
a “requirement” that the planes of other nations
register with Chinese authorities. Japan has likewise
said it will ignore the “declaration.” A Ukrainian
ship refashioned into a primitive “aircraft carrier” for
the Chinese navy is also cruising around the Pacific,
presumably for self-congratulatory public relations
on TV back in China. At the same time, when the huge
typhoon disaster hit the Philippines, China only sent a
tiny donation for relief while many other nations
poured in food, other supplies, medicine and
personnel. The new Chinese leadership apparently
has not formulated a lucid foreign policy.


A six-month arrangement intended to slow down
Iranian development of nuclear weaponry capability
has been signed over the protest of Israel, Saudi Arabia
and other Middle East nations not allied with Tehran.
Ignoring its long-time Israeli ally, the U.S., led by President
Obama, is apparently rearranging relationships in the
region. Very few observers expect Iran to keep its end of
the “deal” in which it has received some relief of the
economic blockade from which it has been reeling. By
executive order, Mr. Obama also released about $8 billion
in Iranian assets seized previously by the U.S. Some
unintended consequences, however, are bringing Israel into
potential cooperation with “enemy” Saudi Arabia, as already
exists between the Jewish state and the new military regime
in Egypt (another former ally of the U.S. apparently being
abandoned by the Obama administration). Turkish ambitions
combined with the ongoing Syrian civil war,  as well as
emerging Kurdish assertions, should make the Middle East
region quite eventful in 2014.

Website and computer sign-up “roll-outs” were, and continue
to be, a public relations disaster. Assuming that these technical
problems will be “fixed” by early next year, the program itself
faces inherent economic contradictions as reactions from
insurees, drug companies, hospitals, physicians and other 
institutions could threaten the sustainability of the legislation.
Beyond that, the political aftermath already is signaling a
negative election “wave” against the national Democratic
Party which pushed the legislation through. Their plan has
not ever enjoyed  public popularity. Almost overnight, and
following a government shutdown forced by the Republicans
(which caused GOP prospects in 2014 to fade), incumbent
Democratic senators thought to be “safe” for re-election are
seen as suddenly vulnerable in polls. Initial conservative
hopes that its party could pick up 6-7 senate seats, were
subsequently scaled back to 2-3, but now that the focus in on
Obamacare, the number of pick-ups could reach 10-12 seats.
(Recent polls in Colorado [Udall] and Virginia [Warner] are
signaling the dimensions of the potential disaster for the
Democrats at the polls in 2014.)


The impact of this likely will alter the American previous
dependency on Middle Eastern, Venezuelan and Mexican
supplies, the geopolitical consequences of which could be

Nanotechnology, graphene development, genome research,
and numerous other areas of innovation are about to
“change the world” once again, and at a much faster
velocity than earlier patterns of change. How this change
can be absorbed and integrated in so short a time might be
the greatest challenge. At the same time, precipitated by
earlier innovation, new dangers and threats have arisen,
including most seriously, the so-called “post-antibiotic”
era in which the ability of antibiotic medicines are no longer
able to control or cure disease. As humans develop
resistance to virtually all the antibiotic medicines of the
past, the possibility of serious outbreaks of hitherto
curable diseases and plagues become problematic. The
question to be answered: Will the developed world, with its
immense scientific resources, be able to develop and
distribute “post-antibiotic” medications in time?

In the year coming, and beyond, there is ALWAYS the
unexpected.”  Sunspots? Comets heading our way?
Earthquakes, volcanos, typhoons, hurricanes, tidal waves,
even the shocking possibility of global cooling (in place of
its now ballyhooed opposite), national revolutions in unlikely
places--- there are always surprises which our little planet and its
inhabitants manage to spring on us.

All we can do, then, is be thankful for the many blessings we
now have and enjoy. Hope and resolve are the best antidotes
to fear of the future.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Dictators" And Demagogues Ahead?

For whatever else he is, Democratic U.S. Senate Majority
Leader Harry  Reid is not stupid. So when he set into motion
the “nuclear option” of removing the more than 150- year-old
tradition of the filibuster from the senate rules, he had to have
a very good political reason to do so.

I think the Daily Caller’s Mickey Kaus said it best when he
pointed out that the partial elimination of the filibuster was
in large part designed to get through President Obama’s
appointees to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals,
the powerful court that decides issues of federal regulation,
and is second only in its impact to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kaus points out that bureaucratic regulation is now the largest
employer in DC, surpassing lobbyists and congressional staff.
Mr. Obama’s appointees have been blocked so far the
conservative majority on this Court, but when his appointees
are confirmed, the liberal members will have the majority.
This will ensure for some time that the current “progressive”
regulation mania perpetrated by the Obama administration
will likely be upheld, and that the thousands of regulation
lawyers now working in DC and environs will be at their posts
long after Mr Obama and his cohorts leave office.

Although Mr. Kaus mentions it, I want to stress the insight that
Mr. Reid has inevitably come to the conclusion that the future
is not bright for his party and his philosophy past the 2014
elections, and that time was running out to have the president’s
appointees confirmed and at work on the Court.

The political truth is, and Mr. Reid knows it, there is now no
short term recourse to having a “progressive” majority on the
DC Court of Appeals. For the time being, the filibuster is still
operative for Supreme Court nominations, but as many have
pointed out, should a vacancy occur between now and 2016,
Mr. Reid and his “progressive” comrades will be tempted to
change that, too (if they still have a majority), especially if it
is becoming clear that a Republican will likely be elected
president in 2016.

Federal court appointees are “life” appointments, and this
circumstance works to the advantage of whichever party
controls the White House. When a Republican is president,
he or she will also work to put his or her choices on the various
federal courts, low and high.

This brings us to the central point that elections matter VERY
much (in spite of the complaint by many on the right and left
that their vote doesn’t really count). It is also a rebuke to those
in both parties who want to vote only for candidates who agree
more or less completely with them, and in so insisting, cause
their party’s candidates to lose otherwise winnable elections.

There are “right wingers” and “left wingers” in both parties
today who are intent on sabotaging their own real interests by
defeating incumbents and candidates who are not “pure,”
who (Heaven Forbid!) seek to legislate and lead by compromise,
negotiation, and conciliation with the support and interests of
the nation’s always largest constituency, the political center.

Elections count. Winning elections counts. Harry Reid has been
the “dictator” of the senate of the past few years, but now as his
power begins to recede, he is trying to add tools to his power. If
the political center, both right and left, does not reassert itself
next year and in 2016, “dictators” and demagogues will continue
and increase their domination of the national political
conversation at a time when, in this observer’s opinion, we will
need primarily critical problem solvers in the nation’s capital.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Ten Amazing Facts You Probably Didn't Know About

      ON JANUARY 30, 1945.
      The Wilhelm Gustloff, built as a Nazi passenger
      cruise ship (and named for a Swiss Nazi demogogue)
      in 1937, had been stranded in the East Prussian port
      of Gotenhofen on the Baltic Sea since the outset of
      World War II. As Soviet troops overtook East Prussia
      in early 1945, over a million ethnic Germans, whose
      families had lived in East Prussia for centuries,
      attempted to flee to the German mainland a few
      hundred miles away via the Baltic sea route to avoid
      the pillaging and raping by the Russian soldiers as
      they reconquered the area. The Wilhelm Gustloff,
      built to accommodate 1500 passengers and 500 crew,
      was overloaded with about 11,000 men, women and
      children (some of whom were German soldiers), and 
      began a 200-plus mile sea trip in a storm. (The trip
      was no longer possible by rail or truck.) A Soviet
      submarine spotted the ship, and sent four torpedoes
      at it, sinking the ship in a brief time. Approximately
      9400 persons died in the sinking, making it it the
      largest loss of life from one ship disaster in history.
      [Further reading: Death in the Baltic by Cathryn J. Prince.]

      Although his name is a household word in the United
      States and in much of the rest of the world for his
      role as president of the United States during the nation’s
      Civil War (1861-65) and his assassination, it is much
      less known that Abrham Lincoln is considered by
      some today as the father of the modern American
      English language. This role is usually assigned to
      a major literary figure (e.g., Shakespeare in British
      English, Dante in Italian, Cervantes in Spanish,
      Pushkin in Russian, et al). The only American writer
      who even comes close to Lincoln, and came after
      him, was Samuel Clemens (“Mark Twain”).
      Lincoln’s major speeches are still considered today
      as the finest examples of their kind by an American,
      and his collected speeches and letters form a unique
      body of the English language spoken and written in
      the U.S. as it was being transformed from its British
      origins. Lincoln’s language, almost alone among his
      19th century contemporaries (including Hawthorne,
      Emerson, Melville, Longfellow, et al) remains fresh
      today without the “dated” quality of almost
      everyone else in his era. Amazingly, Lincoln was
      entirely self-taught, and did not ever attend a school
      in his childhood.
      [Further reading: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
      Rutgers University Press]

      Japanese noblewoman know as “Lady Murasaki” (but
      whose real name is unknown). A lady-in-waiting to the
      Empress Shoshi of the Heian period  of 11th century
      Japan, she wrote her extraordinary fictional account of
      life, manners and personalities of the contemporary 
      Japanese court in an unprecedented work entitled The
      Tale of Genji. It is also described today as the first
      psychological work of fiction. The novel form did
      not truly emerge until more than 500 years later in
      the West. Remarkably, The Tale of Genji is even 
      today a highly readable, fascinating masterpiece.
      [Further reading: Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki (trans.)]

      was the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 which
      inundated most of the mid-Mississippi River Valley
      following an unprecedented period of rain beginning
      in August, 1926. At its peak, months later, the flood
      covered 27 thousand square miles and dislocated
      millions of persons. More than 240 persons are known
      to have died (although the total death toll is not known).
      Cities such as Nashville and Memphis were under water.
      Damage estimates at the time were approximately half
      a billion dollars (in today's dollars, many hundreds of
      billions). The Flood changed the nation in many ways.
      Large numbers of black residents, many of them
      descendants of slaves, were put in concentration camps,
      and subsequently emigrated to large cities in the North.
      President Coolidge did not visit the area, but put his
      secretary of commerce, Herbert Hoover, in charge.
      (When Coolidge decided not to run for re-election in
      1928, Hoover, as a result of the publicity he received
      overseeing flood relief, was elected president.) Contending
      that the individual states could not adequately deal with
      the disaster caused by the Mississippi River which ran through
      them, the federal government assumed overriding powers
      through the Army of Engineers, and this marked the
      beginning of the rise of federal bureaucratic power in the
      U.S. The whole story of this disaster, now largely forgotten,
      is filled with colorful and extraordinary figures, many of
      whom became major national figures in the years that
      [Further reading: Rising Tide by John M. Barry]

      Known as the Uraic family of languages,
      Magyar, Finnish and Estonian have no roots in the
      much larger Indo-European family of languages
      which are spoken in most of the nations near them.
      Although their exact origins are not yet fully known,
      philologists, in fact, trace these languages partially
      back to Siberian Asian (Chuvash) roots and to those
      who came to the region more than two thousand
      years ago. Magyar, the official language of Hungary,
      is the largest non-Indo-European language spoken
      in Europe.
      [Further reading: The Story of Hungarian by Geza Balasz]

      The Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer suffered a
      stroke in 1990, and has since been unable to speak
      or write. Nevertheless, he received the Nobel Prize
      for literature in 2011, and is considered by many
      to be the greatest living poet in any language.
      His short and austere poems, critics say, create
      stunning images and spaces. Before his stroke,
      he worked professionally as a psychologist in a
      prison while at the same time writing poems and
      publishing several books of Swedish poetry. He has
      since been translated into many languages.
      [Further reading: Twenty Poems by Tomas Transtromer, 
      and Windows & Stones by Tomas Transtromer; (both 

      The 18th century Brazilian sculptor Antonio Lisboa
      was the son of a Portuguese carpenter and a slave
      mother. While relatively young, he developed either
      leprosy or sclerodoma, and lost all the fingers of his
      hands as well as his feet. He became known as “O
      Aleijadinho” (or “The Little Cripple”). Most of his
      scupture in the Brazilian province of Minas
      Gerais were created after he was disfigured, and
      through truly remarkable efforts, he created many
      masterpieces, most of which survive today.
      [Further reading: O Aleijadinho by D.G. Ferreira (in 

      Until 1924,the Arabian peninsula had no fixed
      national boundaries, no formal nation states, and      
      was inhabited primarily by nomadic Bedouin tribes
      that went back thousands of years. It technically was
      part of the Ottoman empire under its sultan who then
      ruled the Islamic world. Ibn Saud, a young leader
      of the Wahhabi tribe and 6 foot 4 inch warrior prince
      who grew up living in tents and moving about the
      southern Asir region of Arabia with his family,
      began his unification of the various tribes in 1902
      by seizing the ancient Wahhabi capital of Riyadh,
      and then by systematically eliminating in battle the
      usually more powerful rival sheikhs in the region
      over the next two decades. After the sultan was
      deposed and the Ottoman empire dissolved
      following World War I, Ibn Saud was declared king
      of the new Saudi Arabia. Short of cash, he made
      deals with the British, and then the Americans, to
      allow exploration for oil and gas in the peninsula
      which led to major discoveries in 1937. Because of
      breakout of war in Europe and Africa in 1939-40,
      the huge profits from the oil fields did not appear
      until after World War II, when Saudi Arabia became
      the world’s largest producer and seller of oil.
     [Further reading: Ibn Saud by M. Darlow & B. Bray]

      Morris “Moe” Berg played for American League
      teams for most of his 15-year baseball career, and 
      was called “the brainiest man ever to play baseball.”
      Casey Stengel, of all persons, even once called him
      “the strangest man ever to play baseball.” An
      impoverished son of European Jewish immigrants,
      he received degrees from Princeton and Columbia
      law school, and became famous early for his highly
      successful appearances on the national radio quiz
      show “Information Please.” He spoke seven
      languages, and when war broke out, he became a      
      U.S. spy sent to Italy and Central Europe to assess
      the Nazi atomic bomb program. After World War II,
      he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. In
      spite of his extraordinary and colorful career and 
      life, he died in obscurity in 1972.
      [Further reading: Heisenberg’s War by Thomas Powers]

        The (shortened) name of this country is officially
        Sovrane Militare Ordine di Malta or S.M.O.M.
        It is an important worldwide Catholic philanthropic
        entity known traditionally as the Knights of Malta,
        and it once ruled the island nation of Malta, and was
        a major European naval power. Today, its size has been
        reduced to two villas in the city of Rome and some land
        in the outskirts of the Italian capital. It has an official
        population of three persons.  Only the upper floors
        of one of the villas is considered the sovereign territory
        of S.M.O.M. It is therefore the only nation on earth which
        can only be entered by elevator.
        [Further reading: Report From Practically Nowhere by
        John Sack]
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 18, 2013


There are certain ironclad corollaries in U.S. political lore
that are reinforced again and again in the saga of American
politics. One of the most enduring is that notion that timing
often trumps most everything else.

Two months ago, the nation was caught up in a government
shutdown brought on by some Republican members of the
U.S. house and senate seeking to express themselves about
the impending implementation of the new healthcare reform
legislation known as Obamacare. President Obama and
Democratic leaders in the Congress welcomed this exercise
in futility from the opposition because they knew that the
public would blame their opposition for the shutdown, and
turn attention away from the disaster of their “progressive”
handiwork on healthcare reform, the poorly formulated new

The shutdown came and passed. Polls showed that indeed the
public blamed the conservatives for the shutdown.

Then came Obamacare, the reality not the hype and promises.
It is an unmitigated economic, political and public relations
disaster. That we already know. But what are the consequences?

I have said for some time that the big prize for the conservative
party in 2014 was control of the U.S. senate. Control of the the
U.S. house, barring the unforeseen, was not likely at stake because
of the redistricting advantage of the GOP across the country.

Impatience from some conservatives forced the shutdown, hurt
the Republican Party generally, and specifically reversed a
promising trend for the GOP to take back control of the U.S.
senate. But it was not only the shutdown action by some factions
of the conservative party; it was also visible in efforts in various
senate races where incumbent Republicans were up for re-election.
These incumbents, headed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (Kentucky), but also including Senators Lamar
Alexander (Tennessee), Mike Enzi (Wyoming), Susan Collins
(Maine), Lindsay Graham (South Carolina), and potentially a few

As 2010 and 2012 demonstrated clearly, defeating your own
incumbents, especially with ill-prepared ideologues, is an
invitation, even in so-called “safe” races, for defeat. But, as if
nothing had happened in those cycles, some extreme factions of
the Republican Party continue their “crusade” to purify their
senate caucus. During and immediately after the shutdown, it
appeared that these factions might have some success not only
against GOP incumbents, but also by placing inferior nominees
in races against vulnerable Democrats. This virtually guaranteed
that the GOP would not take control of the senate in 2014.

End shutdown. Begin Obamacare. Suddenly, races that seemed
out of reach for the GOP, in North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska,
Michigan, Iowa and New Hampshire are back in play. Montana,
South Dakota, and West Virginia continue to look like GOP
pick-ups. Other “safe” Democratic seats could become
competitive as the consequences of Obamacare continue to

Nothing of this sort and magnitude exists in a vacuum, however.
Democrats, like everyone else, want to survive politically, and in
the case of the senate, to maintain their control. Current
conditions of incessant bad news about Obamacare will not
likely be allowed to continue without some actions by the liberal

What might the Democrats do? What can they do?

They could make the problem go away by agreeing to repeal
Obamacare, but the prospects for that are close to zero.
They could attempt to “repair” Obamacare, but that would
require the cooperation of the Republican majority in the
U.S. house. Very unlikely. They could also attempt to delay
implementation, now underway, until after the 2014 elections.
Again, they would need GOP cooperation. But President Obama
has been trying to do some of this via executive order (which is
probably illegal, and which is certain to be challenged in court).
Any unilateral effort by the president to “fix” Obamacare
almost certainly would make matters worse for his party.

With Democratic senate candidates, including incumbents,
challengers and those running for open seats, in virtual panic,
the “progressive” leadership may not be able to control the
senate on this issue. After all, we are speaking about basic

Of course, certain Republicans might want to have another
confrontation over the debt ceiling (coming up in January)
that could lead to another shutdown. That would be an
enormous gift to the Democrats for 2014. Again, this is not
very likely, considering the hard evidence of what happened
only recently when this occurred.

After several years of docility under Pelosi and Reid, there
still are many center-left Democrats in Congress who do
not seem to share the full philosophy of the far left Obama
administration, including Joe Manchin (West Virginia),
Mark Warner (Virginia), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota),
Tom Carper (Delaware), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Mark Pryor
(Arkansas), Mark Begich (Alaska), Angus King (Maine
independent who votes with the Democrats), Bob Casey, Jr.
(Pennsylvania) and others. Facing elimination by the voters,
however, and a lame-duck incumbent president, watch for
many of them begin to speak out not only in opposition to
Obamacare, but also on a variety of energy, education and
foreign policy issues. (Their first real impact might come
in the run-up to the 2016 election.)

There are also those Democrats who still strongly favor
Obamacare, and want to “tough it out” on the issue,
believing voters will come to love the healthcare reform.
President Obama is showing no signs of ay willingness to
abandon this “legacy” of his terms of office. Mrs. Pelosi
and Mr. Reid are saying to their members, in effect, “we
will go down with the ship, and you will go with us.”

The Democrats have been much more self-disciplined
recently on their issues in the Congress than their GOP
opposition have been. Yet there are unmistakeable signs
of this coalition collapsing during the next ten months as
the GOP moves in to surround the wagons of those who do
not give up.

The upcoming battles will take place in the “Old” New
West, as well as in the Midwest, South and East. It is almost
certainly going to be quite a spectacle.

Get your tubs of popcorn now (before they ban them.)

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Since before and after the passage of Obamacare, I and
many others have warned it was an unworkable concept, a
bad law, and sure to implode if it were passed. It was
not ever popular, in spite of some attractive and seductive
aspects, because ordinary Americans knew intuitively
that’s not the way the United States does its business.

In 2010, voters clearly and unmistakably signaled their
disapproval of Obamacare, turning the U.S. house back to
the Republicans, and giving the opposition party notable
gains the U.S. senate. But with the healthcare legislation
still not implemented, the G.O.P. frankly not well-prepared
for the 2012 election, and not having sent up the best
candidates to the voters, the message of 2010 was lost
to a superb Democratic campaign that deflected the
nation’s critical economic issues of unemployment,
federal deficits, rising taxes, and a moribund fiscal

In the past year, the Democrats, either knowing full well
that the imminent implementation of Obamacare was
a disaster-to-be or self-deceiving themselves that it could,
defying gravity, somehow succeed, willingly played a shell
game  with the Republicans over repealing Obamacare
(which the GOP did not have the votes to pass) and
increasing the national debt limit (which to prevent the
GOP would have to close down the government, an always
unpopular strategy).

GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner seems to have
seen this political environment clearly, but a young and
restless group of his caucus forced him into a corner,
and new and ambitious members of the U.S. senate,
employing the filibuster, made the conservative party
seem to be disruptive instead of what they intended.
A shutdown followed, and the American public’s attention
was averted from the imminent reality of Obamacare.

Finally, the short shutdown was halted, the debt limit was
raised temporarily, and Obamacare was allowed to begin
to be seen in full and clear view.

There are no surprises here. When you pass major
legislation that intends to transform a large part of the
economy without full legislative hearings, no opposition
on the floor of the Congress, and it requires 2500 pages
which the sponsoring legislators admit they have not read
its details, much less its fine print, you are going against
the American grain. When you complicate that with fiscal
assumptions that simply do not add up, and you set out to
turn one of the nation’s largest industries upside down in
a very short period, you have zero chance of success.

I repeat: there are no surprises here. At the very beginning,
the transition and enrollment process was a fiasco. This
was blamed by its promoters on mere technical deficiencies,
i.e., website problems and so forth and so forth. Now it is
becoming clearer and clearer that computer glitches are not
the problem. The whole Obamacare program was sold with
false promises and assumptions. Even if the websites worked
perfectly, Obamcare would be a failure.

Meanwhile, hitherto docile Democratic legislators in the
house and senate, knowing they will have to face VERY angry
voters in less than a year in the 2014 midterm elections, and
remembering the historic political debacle of 2010, seem
suddenly awake to the unfolding catastrophe (millions of
voters losing their insurance, even more millions having to
pay higher rates with less coverage, and insurance companies
simply pulling out of a market now in turmoil).

The U.S. house has taken a first vote to alleviate the problem.
All Republican members voted for it, and 39 Democrats joined
them. This is only the beginning. The Harry Reid “dictatorship”
in the U.S. senate might hold for a while more, but with about
8-10 vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election next
year, an insurrection is inevitable.

I don’t know what will happen next, the legislative
circumstances of Obamacare are unprecedented, but I
do know that Americans don’t like and don’t want
this radical transformation of their healthcare system.
No one can reasonably deny that the previous system needed
reform, but President Obama, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi
and Majority Leader Harry Reid went much too far in their
radical ideas of a solution.

They did pass their legislation. President Obama signed it.
Its implementation is currently an ongoing debacle. Now it’s
the voters’ turn to speak.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Newt Gingrich is one of the amazing and enduring phenomena
of the past three decades in American politics and public policy.
Most well-known for his time as a congressman from Georgia
that culminated in his tumultuous years as speaker of the house
(1995-99), and for a remarkable, if unsuccessful, run for the
Republican nomination for president (2011-12), Gingrich, a
former professor of history, a PhD in his field, and one of the
most idea-oriented elected officials in American history, has
under a somewhat lower profile, written and co-written a whole
library of speculative historical novels, public policy books,
biographies, and futurist volumes. I count almost 30 books since

The acme of Gingrich’s political career was his leading an
insurrection in 1994 that brought his party back in control of
the U.S. house of representatives. Following this upset triumph,
Gingrich was elected speaker of the house, the third highest
office in the nation. He became an often effective leader of the
opposition during the two terms of Democratic President Bill
Clinton in the White House, forcing the centrist chief executive
to adopt many conservative economic policies that, in many
ways, completed the earlier Reagan “revolution” which had
first occurred more than a decade before Gingrich came to
power in the U.S. house. (Many of Gingrich’s and his GOP
colleagues’ ideas were not only adopted by Clinton, but in his
inimitable fashion, he also took credit for them!)

Gingrich, if the truth be told, was however an erratic,
temperamental  and controversial manager of the house, and
eventually he retired rather than face defeat by his own colleagues.

Almost instantly slated for oblivion by the media, his opponents,
and even many of his friends, Gingrich soon demonstrated a
political resilience that is rare in American politics. Employing
a seeming endless capacity for spotting new public policy ideas,
he regrouped with several non-profit organizations/think tanks,
and quickened the pace of his political writing which had been
sporadic when he served in the Congress.

In 2011, with the incumbent Democratic president facing
increasing national economic problems, Gingrich entered the
contest for his party’s presidential nomination. The field that
cycle was initially relatively large, but not so distinguished that
Gingrich’s entry was not significant. Nonetheless, few thought he
could win, much less be a major factor in the primaries the
following year. It turned out to be a curious nomination contest,
with almost every major candidate winning a primary or caucus,
and (however briefly) topping the national polls. Gingrich won
only two primaries, but one victory, in South Carolina, for a few
days made him a very serious candidate. In the next primary,
Florida, Gingrich’s campaign organization, by now whittled down
to bare bones, was unable to keep up his momentum, and his
moment passed. (A unique aspect of the 2012 GOP primary season
was the number of debates that were held, and Gingrich established
himself as the best political debater in the nation, coming up short
only in the debate before the critical Florida primary.)

Facing a large campaign debt after 2012, Gingrich regrouped by
closing down several of his organizations, and settling into
becoming the elder idea statesman of his party and national

This brings me to Newt Gingrich’s new book (written with Ross
Worthington), just released, entitled BREAKOUT: Pioneers of 
the Future, Prisoner Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle 
That Will Decide America’s Fate.

In many ways, this is the apotheosis of all of Gingrich’s public
policy books that began in the 1980s. It is also the most
futuristic and optimistic, something perhaps unexpected in the
current national and international political mood which is filled
with anxiety and a lack of political imagination. Breakout is like
a world’s fair in print, with samples of future inventions,
technologies, trends and other innovations on display.

The book, in less than 250 pages, covers education, health,
energy, transportation, space travel, overcoming poverty, and
combating excessive government bureaucracy and intrusion.
What makes the book such an interesting read is that it does
not dull its topics with dry theories, data, and rhetoric, but
tells numerous anecdotes and inspiring personal stories of
those already innovating and changing America. These stories
about “breakouts” in finding new cures and drugs for healing,
emerging online education, 3-D printing, driverless cars, new
energy sources, citizen action and public transparency and a
panoply of American characters who are thinking and acting
“outside the box.”are the heart of this book.

The best tradition of American politics, practiced by its best
politicians of its major political parties, are the themes of
optimism, renewal, pragmatic idealism and basic hope for
the future. These were, in various forms, the themes of George
Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James
Madison of the founding “fathers,” and continued by Abraham
Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald
Reagan. It is also the tradition of many who did not become
president, but who have had so much impact on our American
republic, including Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Ralph
Waldo Emerson, John Dewey, Milton Friedman, and Peter
Drucker among many others.

This is the tradition in which Newt Gingrich wrote Breakout, a
tradition that goes beyond ideology and partisanship (one of his
heroes of the future is a young liberal Democrat), and seeks
to understand the great forces of technology, science and human
aspiration which endlessly form and re-form how we live in a
society of democratic capitalism with its essential components
of liberty,  justice, equality before the law, free markets, open
competition and compassion.

Most of us lead lives primarily concerned with the past, the
present or the future. Newt Gingrich, historian, futurist and major
political figure of his time, somehow has managed to lead a life
of all three.

I have known Newt for almost three decades, and on occasion
have disagreed with him  (and said so), but I know no one more
capable of publicly renewing himself, nor anyone who so
continually can put his finger on what is so unique about America.

This book is a classic the day it was published. But it is not a
book just to buy, only to be put on a shelf unread.

It’s a book to enjoy being read.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Off-Year Election Clues

The results are now in for most of the races in the 2013
off-year elections, including contests for two governorships,
one senate seat, a congressional seat, numerous mayors,
and assorted other offices and referenda.

What clues, if any, do these results portend for the 2014 national
mid-term elections and beyond to 2016 when a new president
will be elected?

One result was unmistakeable, that is, the re-election of
Chris Christie as the governor of New Jersey. Christie, already
a charismatic and significant figure in the national Republican
Party, won so overwhelmingly in a traditional Democratic state,
and with such a broad base of voters, that his role as one of the
frontrunners for the GOP nomination for president in 2016 is
assured until further notice. He is, of course, far from having
that nomination secured, but only two or three other GOP
figures now can try to match him in appeal. He clearly now
controls the center of his party, and the center-right of the
American electorate. (But three years lie ahead of any quest
for residence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, and
many issues, challenges, and circumstances stand in his way.)

In Virginia, a much-flawed and controversial Democrat, Terry
McAuliffe, narrowly won the governorship, a race he was
predicted to win by a much larger margin. His opponent, a
much-flawed and controversial Republican, was outspent eleven
to one, and could not match the “star” power of President Obama,
Vice President Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, all appearing
for his opponent. It was a pyhrric victory for the Democrats.
McAuliffe’s prospects, based on his past record, indicate a likely
controversial term of office ahead. The consequence of that
might likely help Virginia Republicans in 2014 and 2016. To be
fair, defeated gubernatorial candidate Cuccinelli would have
likely been as controversial and unpopular a governor as
McAuliffe might now well be, but the bottom line is that the
Democrat will occupy the office.

The question is: How did Cuccinelli, so controversial and
flawed get so close in a race where he was outspent eleven to
one, had little support from his own national party, and had
the biggest names in the Democratic Party appearing against
him. The answer is quite simple, and was verified by exit polls.
Cuccinelli finally figured out the one issue that might salvage
his campaign, and that issue was the huge unpopularity of the
Democratic Obamacare legislation now beginning to be
implemented. That is the indelible clue from the 2013 off-year
elections for 2014, i.e., voters are powerfully angry about
Obamacare, and will, as they did in 2010, be motivated to go
to the polls to say so.

Although few Democrats will admit it publicly just now, any
shrewd candidate, incumbent or challenger, of that party in
2014 is extremely nervous about this issue, especially so since
its perhaps worst news (higher healthcare rates for most
Americans, cancellations of current policies, enrollment
confusion, etc.) is ahead, and will unfold during the first ten
months of 2014, the worst possible time.

The third clue, and strike two against the Republican Party, is
the consequence of nominating extremist, far right or
unqualified candidates for office. Mr. Cuccinelli was chosen
by the Virginia GOP state convention, and not in a primary.
Most observers contend that, had there been a statewide
GOP primary, a much more electable candidate would have
won.  An even more weird GOP nominee for lt. governor had
been chosen in that convention, and he was crushed on election
day by his Democratic opponent. The GOP nominee for attorney
general, a mainstream conservative, holds a small lead before a
recount, in his race. (As they say, case closed.)

Strike three for the Republican Party nationally would occur if
it allows candidates like Mr. Cuccinelli and his lt. governor
running mate to either defeat Republican senatorial and
congressional incumbents, or otherwise become GOP nominees
in the 2014 midterm election competitive races, particularly in
the U.S. senate races where the conservative party could regain
control in advance of the 2016 election. Most recently, in 2010 and
2012, Republicans indulged themselves with extremist, obviously
unprepared, and otherwise inappropriate senate nominees who
subsequently lost races the Republicans should have easily won.
A political party, like a baseball batter, I suggest, is out after
three strikes.

There were other results in 2013 that might be noted, including
a referendum in Colorado in which the voters of that state clearly
refused to raise their taxes to pay for government programs.
Democrats joined Republicans in that state which leans to the
liberal side. Common sense, I am glad to report, can be bipartisan.

With the ill-fated government shutdown imposed by Republican
U.S. house legislators behind them, and continual bad news
likely ahead about the implementation of Obamacare, the worst
bad news ahead for the conservative party would be if it indulged
itself in more “can’t win” unpopular acts of self-important
ideological symbolism (like defeating their own party incumbents
in primaries) to gratify the “feel good” emotions of a party base
that cannot deliver victory at the polls.

Mark my words.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.