Saturday, September 13, 2008

Analysis Of The ABC Interview Of Gov. Palin Part II – Reform, Earmarks, Abortion, Guns,

Comments -

The second part of the ABC interview is an improvement over Part I. Gov. Palin is more at ease with questions and she comes across as conservative, reasonable and sincere. Again the questions were fair but, as in segment I, there were flaws. Charlie Gibson questioning could have been much clearer on his questions regarding earmarks.

Gibson's opening question was what sets Gov. Palin apart from the Bush regime in terms of "change" and "reform." Her list of what she would change are lower taxes, fiscal restraint, and improved oversight of federal and quasi-government agencies. Fiscal restrain is the big part. I wish she had talked about the need to reform entitlement programs as that is, as Gibson intimates, the major hurdle in restraining spending.

On the economy, the big question in this segment concerned earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Gov. Palin is attempting to make more out her final killing of the Bridge to Nowhere than is justified – probably because it makes for a good sound byte. Yes, she did redirect the funding from the Bridge project. But she did not reject the funding or otherwise return it to the federal government. Pushing this too far will hurt her.

At the same time, Charlie Gibson was making far less out of Gov. Palin’s record for reducing earmark requests in her state. No, she has not killed all of them, but she has reduced request for them significantly and she is clearly on record as intending to reduce such requests for her state in the future. Further, Chalie Gibson’s question on earmarks shows a fundamental confusion on the issue. Gov. Palin’s answer indicates she fully understands it.

There are two different categories of earmarks, and though both are problematic, one is far more problematic than the other. The lesser of two evils is when individual legislators request spending for a specific project within their state or for a special interest that is then debated and voted upon by Congress. But there is another category of earmark abuse that is the preponderance of the problem. The vast majority of earmarks do not go through the process just described. They are never debated and voted upon by Congress. They do not see the light of day in effect. This from the Weekly Standard describes the problem:

President Bush seems to grasp the issue. A year ago he publicly complained that "over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate. They are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law."

To make the matter worse, these in the latter category are far too often vaguely worded, open ended funding requests. The latter category absolutely must be killed if we are ever to have a hope of getting control on spending and reducing corruption. The former category needs to severely restricted, though there needs to be a lot of thought given to how to do this without unduly restricting reasonable requests for funding. That is a systemic problem that needs to be debated and reformed at the highest level of government. That said, given the abuses of the system at this point, we need to ere for the foreseeable future on the restricting such requests to the minimum possible.

Over at the Next Right, they have a superb example of how the corrupt version of earmarking works. Their example is Dem. Senator Carl Levin who literally is refusing any debate in a matter that will allow $5.9 billion in earmarks pass into law in the Defense Appropriations Bill without every being debated or voted upon in Congress.

Gov. Palin gets this one. I hope the audience watching does also. The fact is Palin and McCain will, I fully expect, make a very good faith effort to impose fiscal restraint, reduce pork and clean up the earmark process. And while all three of those are related, they are also separate - something Gibson seems to muddle in his questioning.

On "social issues," I think Palin hit all the questions out of the ball park. She came across as conservative but reasonable and willing to be flexible. In that regard, she made an important point - she distinguished between her personal views and what she believed would be reasonable policy in light of those who disagree with her.

Gibson's first question concerned abortion. Palin's answer was music to my ears. As she said, she would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion made a state issue. She does not want abortion made illegal, but she wants to see a greater "culture of life."

Hers is hardly an extremist position on either count (though her personal opinion that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape and incest puts her is not centrist by any means.) Indeed, the position that she articulates on Roe was one shared by now Justice Ginsburgh, a staunch advocate of abortion rights, who also believed that Roe was wrongly decided. Abortion appears nowhere in the Constitution. It is a social issue that the federal government should have no role in authorizing or limiting. Given my own personal opinion that nothing has done more damage to our Supreme Court jurisprudence than Roe v. Wade, it is a position I believe fundamental to putting our nation back on track. Roe opened up the flood gates for judicial activism - and it is a floodgate that has not been stemmed for nearly half a century. You can find much more on the issue in a seperate post that I did - The Supreme Court, Originalism, Activism & America's Future.

On homosexuality, her answer ought to give the gay rights community a warm fuzzy feeling. She simply said that she will not judge people's lifestyle. Although she did not mention it, I recall that she also supported gay friendly legislation in Alaska. Gibson did not ask her about her stance on gay marriage.

On guns, Gibson prefaced his question by stating that 70% of Americans support a ban on assault rifles. I would love to know where he got that number - that sounds like pure bull. Nonetheless, Palin's answer here was I thought very strong. They cut some of her answer to this line of questioning that I have seen in another video where she makes the very valid point that gun laws take guns out of the hands of the law abiding, not the criminals.

And the PUMA's ought to appreciate Gibson raising the fact that Palin spoke so highly of Hillary long before she was on the radar for the VP slot. That certainly makes her praise of Hillary on the campaign trail seem genuine and not cynical. And you have to love her dig at Obama - that he should have chosen Hillary as his VP pick.

Overall, I would grade Gov. Palin’s performance a solid B in the economic segment, an A in the social segment. I wish she would have expounded more upon the Obama tax plan and I wish Charlie Gibson’s questioning on ear marks and pork had been much clearer.

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