the Electoral Wonderland that is Florida

Florida elections are always colorful. Charlie Crist went from the nation’s most popular governor, and on some short lists for Vice President in 2008, to being run out of the Republican Party. Even his Arlen-Specter-act of running under a borrowed flag didn’t go nominally. When a candidate changes political parties, his highest approval ratings are usually just before the announced switch. In Mr Crist’s case, he gained 10 points (from 28% to 38%) after declaring his Independence, while Marco Rubio – his Republican nemesis – gained six. Both, it seems, were bleeding off support from the Democrat, Kendrick Meek, who lost 14 points. By May, however, things had returned to Earth with Mr Rubio polling at 39%, Mr Crist at 31% (closer to where he was when he announced his Independence) and Mr Meek at 18%. Twelve percent (12%) were still undecided[1].

The prolonged nature of the Gulf Spill has tightened things up, with Governor Crist marshalling a special session of the legislature to consider a constitutional amendment to ban drilling in Floridian waters (never mind that it is already against Florida law[2]) and Rubio favoring offshore drilling as part of an overall energy policy. Mr Meek continues to be irrelevant, never polling above 18%. As of July 11, the Real Clear Politics average shows Mr Crist leading Mr Rubio by 4.6% and Mr Meek by 20%. Rasmussen shows the race tightening as well, but shows Mr Rubio ahead by 2, 36% to 34%, with Mr Meek getting 15%.

Charlie Crist’s personal popularity is adding an interesting dynamic to the race. He has drawn into a standoff with Marco Rubio largely at the expense of marginalizing Mr Meek (or presumably any Democrat who wins the August 24 primary). Add to that, a plurality of Florida likely voters say they are more likely to vote for an independent candidate this election than they have been in the past, and in a three-way race, a plurality is all you need. A further breakdown shows that 47% of Florida Democrats say they are more likely to vote for an independent candidate, compared to 44% of unaffiliateds and 33% of Republicans[3]. This pretty much nails the coffin on Democrat hopes of capturing Florida’s Senate seat.

Working for Mr Rubio is the nature of Florida’s voters: 46% of the state’s likely voters consider themselves at least somewhat conservative. Twenty-seven percent say they’re moderate, and 26% are at least somewhat liberal. Mr Crist is viewed as politically moderate by 59% of Florida voters, liberal by 24% and conservative by 10%. Mr Rubio, is seen by 56% of those same voters as conservative, 15% as moderate and 11% as liberal[4].

This will be a real test of the Tea Party’s ability to wield practical sway, as their choice of Mr Rubio got him the nomination – not a huge leap, but nonetheless – now they must see if they can overcome the popularity of Mr Crist on issues, and the proclivity of Florida voters to vote independent of party affiliation. The governor is there for the picking, the question is: can they do it?

I’m still listing Florida as a Toss-Up.


[1] See Florida Senate, in Rasmussen Reports, May 18 2010.

[2] The special session met for a couple of hours and voted to go home.

[3] See Florida Senate, in Rasmussen Reports, July 22 2010.

[4] Ibid.

AstroTurf or Prairie Fire?

There have been several asides in these pages regarding the Tea Party movement, and I have tried to clarify what I think the Tea Party is all about and who they are. My ruminations have been culled from memory, and I decided to research the movement so that I could answer questions more confidently. What ensued is a 12-page distillation of multiple sources on the origins, philosophy and makeup of the modern Tea Party movement. I will attempt to faithfully summarize those findings here.

Like most spontaneously arising movements, there are several claimants to being the originator/inspiration of the Tea Party movement. Success has many fathers. The Tea Parties were a series of protests across America beginning in early 2009, and were part of a nascent, larger anti-tax political movement called the Tea Party movement, which focuses on smaller government, fiscal responsibility, individual freedoms and upholding the Constitution. Commentators promoted Tax Day events on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, while FOX News regularly featured televised programming leading into and promoting various protest activities[1].

The theme of the iconic Boston Tea Party has long been used by anti-tax protesters with libertarian and conservative viewpoints. It was part of Tax Day protests held throughout the 1990s and earlier[2]. The libertarian theme of the “tea party” protest was previously used by Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) and his supporters as a fundraising event during the primaries of the 2008 presidential campaign to emphasize Paul’s fiscal conservatism, which they later claimed laid the groundwork for the modern-day Tea Party movement[3]. As home mortgage foreclosures increased, and details of the 2009 stimulus bill became known, organized protests began to emerge[4]. The character of the Tea Parties has since diverged significantly from Paul’s anti-war and libertarian focus, and Representative Paul has stated that “neocons” who do not accept his policies have become more prevalent in the protests[5]. The Tea Party movement, as it stands today, is conservative rather than libertarian; and conservative rather than Republican.

On January 19 2009, Graham Makohoniuk, a part-time trader and a member of Ticker Forum, posted a casual invitation on the market-ticker.org forums to “Mail a tea bag to congress and to senate[6]”. The idea quickly caught on with others on the forum, some of whom reported being attracted to the inexpensive, easy way to reach “everyone that voted for the bailout[7].” Forum moderator, Stephanie Jasky[8] helped organize the group and worked to “get it to go viral.” The group had previously held DC protests in 2008. On January 19 2009, Jasky had posted a formal invitation “to a commemorative tea party[9].” She suggested they all send tea bags on the same day (February 1 2009) in a coordinated effort. By February 1, the idea had spread among conservative and libertarian-oriented blogs, forums, websites and through a viral eMail campaign. Over 5,000 tea bags were received by the Congressional mail service.

The dominant theme seen at some of the earliest anti-stimulus protests was “pork” rather than tea. The term “porkulus” was coined by radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh on his January 27 2009 broadcast[10], in reference to both the 2009 “stimulus” bill, which was just introduced to the House of Representatives the day before, as well as to pork barrel spending and earmarks[11]. This proved very popular with conservative politicians and commentators, who began to unify in opposition against stimulus spending after the 2008 General Election.

Though it was not the first protest of the Obama administration or of the stimulus, New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, reports that some within the Tea Party credit Seattle blogger and conservative activist Keli Carender with organizing the first Tea Party on February 16 2009. Ms Carendar organized what she called A “Porkulus Protest” on President’s Day, before, as she says, “Rick Santelli’s rant!”, referring to the CNBC reporter who called for protests after the announcement of the AIG executive bonuses in the face of increasing home mortgage foreclosures. Ms Carender contacted conservative author and FOX News contributor, Michelle Malkin in order to gain her support and publicize her event. Ms Malkin promoted the protest in several posts on her blog, saying that “There should be one of these in every town in America,” and that she would be supplying the crowd with a meal of pulled pork. The protest was held in Seattle on Presidents Day, February 16, the day before President Obama signed the stimulus bill into law[12]. Malkin encouraged her readers to stage similar events in Denver on February 17 where President Obama planned to sign the stimulus bill into law.

On February 19 2009[13], in a broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CNBC Business News Network editor Rick Santelli loudly criticized the government plan to refinance mortgages, which had just been announced the day before, as “promoting bad behavior” by “subsidizing losers’ mortgages” and raised the possibility of putting together a “Chicago Tea Party in July[14]”. A number of the traders and brokers around him cheered on his proposal, to the apparent amusement of the hosts in the studio. It was called “the rant heard round the world”. According to The New Yorker writer Ben McGrath[15] and New York Times reporter Kate Zernike[16], this is where the movement was first inspired to coalesce under the collective banner of “Tea Party.” By the next day, guests on FOX News had already begun to mention this new “Tea Party.”

The rest, as they say, is history. My contention that the movement got its momentum from the August town hall meetings is wrong – the movement was gaining steam by the time the town halls got going, and no doubt energized some of the participants in those meetings. What exploded in the wake of the disastrous town halls was media coverage of the Tea Party movement – mostly dismissive and derisive.

Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about just who these “Tea Partiers” are. Well, CBS News and the New York Times conducted a poll on this very subject, and the results are enlightening[17]. This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,580 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone April 5-12 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The sampling error is ±3 percentage points. An oversample of people who describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement were interviewed, for a total of 881 interviews. The results were then weighted in proportion to the adult population. The margin of error for the sample of Tea Party supporters is ±3 points. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

18% of Americans (that’s 40,418,730 people[18]) identify as Tea Party supporters. Over three in four Tea Party supporters (78%) have never attended a rally or donated to a group; most have also not visited a Tea Party website. For the purposes of the poll, those who have attended a rally or donated to a group have been deemed Tea Party “activists.” 4% of Americans fall into this category (8,981,940 people). Unusually populated by small business owners, they tend to skew older: three in four are 45 years old or older, including 29% who are 65 plus. They are also more likely to be men (59%) than women (41%). More than one in three (36%) hails from the South, far more than any other region. 25% come from the West, 22% from the Midwest, and 18% from the Northeast. They tend to be better educated than most Americans: 37% are college graduates, compared to 25% of Americans overall. They also have a higher-than-average household income, with 56% making more than $50,000 per year. The vast majority of them – 89% – are white. Just 1% is black.

Based on recent votes, Tea Partiers identify themselves as: Usually Republican 48%; Equally Republican and Democrat (i.e., Independent) 25%; Always Republican 18%; Usually/Always Democrat 5%; Other/Don’t Know 4%. Given that these protests are being levied against what is perceived as a leftist agenda, the only surprise is the number of Democrats involved. Nearly three in four describe themselves as conservative, and 39% call themselves very conservative. Forty percent say the US needs a third party, while 52% say it does not.

Fifty-three percent of Tea Party supporters describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in Washington, compared to 19% of Americans overall who say they are angry. Asked what they are most angry about, the top four answers among Tea Party supporters who identify as angry were the healthcare reform bill (16%), the government not representing the people (14%), government spending (11%) and unemployment and the economy (8%).

Ten percent more Tea Partiers (30% to 20%) believe Mr Obama was born in another country, despite ample evidence to the contrary, than Americans overall. These so-called “birthers”, while more prevalent in Tea Parties, are by no means confined there. Seventy-three percent say Blacks and Whites have equal opportunity, compared to 60% of Americans overall.

Asked about the main goals of the Tea Party, respondents broke down this way: Reduce Role of Federal Government 45%; All of these categories 18%; Creating Jobs 9%; Electing Own Candidates 7%; Other 7%; Lowering Taxes 6%; Cutting Budget 6%.

Sorry this consumed so much space, but I thought the results might be of interest. There are, of course, many more poll results in my 12-page paper, and many more still in the final report of the CBS/New York Times poll, both of which I have.

Notice that this poll was generated by a statistically derived method of obtaining random phone numbers, not a statistically stable sample of likely (or even registered) voters. There is no way to weight this kind of sample to more accurately reflect the views of probable November voters, though these results (for non-Tea Party supporters[19]) are probably close enough for these purposes.


[1] Michael Calderone, Fox teas up a tempest, in Politico, April 15 2009.

[2] Boston Tea Party is protest template, UPI, April 20 2008, available at:

http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2008/04/20/Boston-Tea-Party-is-protest-template/UPI-96411208726823/

[3] Ron Paul’s tea party for dollars – 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog – Political Intelligence, in Boston Globe; Statement on Ron Paul and “Tax Day Tea Parties”, Businesswire.com. April 15 2009; Ron Paul raises millions in today’s Boston Tea Party event, in The Boston Globe, December 16 2007; Associated Press, Paul supporters hold Tea Party re-enactment in Boston, in Boston Herald, December 17 2007.

[4] Jeannine Aversa, Washington offers no relief for savers, Associated Press, July 20 2009.

[5] Stephen C Webster, Ron Paul: “Neocon influence” is infiltrating tea parties, in The Raw Story, February 9 2010.

[6] Mail a Tea Bag to Congress & to Senate!, on MarketTicker Forums, January 19 2009.

[7] Single Post Display – MarketTicker Forums, Tickerforum.org, January 28 2009.

[8] Founder and director, FedUpUSA – a fiscally conservative, non-partisan activist group whose members describe themselves as “a group of investors” who sprung out of the market-ticker.org forums. See FedUpUSA, About Us, FedUpUSA, April 11 2008, available at::

About Us

[9] Pre-Bailout – History, Fedupusa.org.

[10] Tom Kuntz, Idea of the Day: “Porkulus”, in The New York Times, February 8 2009.

[11] Ronald D Utt, Is Pork Barrel Spending Ready to Explode? The Anatomy of an Earmark, The Heritage Foundation, November 10 2004, available at:

http://www.heritage.org/research/budget/wm608.cfm

[12] Michelle Malkin, “Yes, we care!” Porkulus protesters holler back Updated, on Michelle Malkin, February 17 2009, available at:

"Yes, we care!" Porkulus protesters holler back Updated

[13] Ben McGrath, The Movement – The Rise of Tea Party Activism, in The New Yorker, February 1 2010, available at:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/02/01/100201fa_fact_mcgrath?currentPage=2

[14] Rick Santelli: I Want to Set the Record Straight, CNBC, March 2 2009; Rick Santelli goes off, in Chicago Tribune, February 23 2009, available at:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-santelli-cnbc-video,0,4962596.htmlstory

[15] Ben McGrath, “Just Ordinary Americans”: Don’t Underestimate the Tea Party Movement, in New Yorker, February 3 2010.

[16] Kate Zernike, Unlikely Activist Who Got to the Tea Party Early, February 27 2010, available at:

www.nytimes.com

[17] CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto, Tea Party Supporters: Who They Are and What They Believe, CBS News/New York Times, April 5-12 2010.

[18] 18% of 224,548,500 Americans 18-years-old and over = 40,418,730 self-identified Tea Party supporters.

[19] I am assuming that a self-identified Tea Party supporter is more likely to vote than someone who answers a randomly dialed phone.

the Quiet Intrigue that is Colorado

According to Gerald Seib, there are two big questions hovering over this year’s congressional elections: how radical is the mood out there, and do Republicans have a real chance of taking back control of the US Senate? He holds that a way to track both trends is to watch the races in Colorado, Florida, Kentucky and Nevada. In those four states, candidates with Tea Party inclinations and support have either won the Republican nomination or, in Colorado and Florida, are making serious runs for it. A couple of those candidates are people who would have been given little chance six months ago of winning a nomination, much less a general election[1]. I will take them in alphabetical order.

Both of Colorado’s primaries, slated for August 10, are of greater interest than the scant coverage they have received on the national stage. Ken Buck, a Republican Weld County District Attorney, has Tea Party support, while former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton is considered the establishment candidate. On the Democratic side, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, was recently endorsed by former President Clinton, is battling Michael Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate last year when Ken Salazar was named Interior Secretary, and has received the administration’s support. The Real Clear Politics average has Mr Buck leading by 7, and Mr Bennet by nearly 13.

A July 8 Rasmussen survey of 500 likely voters shows Mr Buck beating Mr Bennet 48-39, with 5% preferring some other candidate and 8% undecided[2]. Although this ties Mr Buck’s high and nearly matches Mr Bennet’s low point, these poll numbers have remained fairly stable. The past results are, March 2: Mr Buck by 44-38, April 5: Mr Buck by 44-40, May 3: Mr Buck by 48-41, and June 7: Mr Buck by 46-41. Mr Bennet, the former Superintendent of the Denver schools, is viewed Very Favorably by 18% and Very Unfavorably by 30%. For Mr Buck, Very Favorables total 11% and Very Unfavorables 14%. The July results show that if the margin of error goes entirely to Mr Bennet and the undecideds evenly split, the race is a tie. Those assumptions don’t bode well for Mr Bennet, but there’s a lot of time between now and November. Importantly, however, is the fact that Independents are split more closely in Colorado than in most states. If they start to line up behind one candidate or the other, that will decide the election.

Two national issues have sway in Colorado – healthcare reform and Arizona’s illegal trespassing law.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Colorado’s likely voters favor repeal of the national healthcare bill, which Bennet supported as a member of the Senate, while 35% oppose repeal. This is much higher support for repeal than is found nationally and includes 54% who Strongly Favor repeal and 30% who Strongly Oppose it. Mr Buck earns ~70% of the vote from the larger group who Strongly Favor repeal, while the Mr Bennet gets ~85% support from those who are Strongly Opposed to repeal. Thirty-one percent (31%) of likely voters agree with DoJ’s decision to challenge Arizona’s law in federal court. Sixty-one percent (61%) disagree with that challenge, five points higher than opposition nationally. More than 80% of voters who agree with the Justice’s challenge support Bennet, while Buck carries ~70% of the vote of those who disagree with the challenge. Both of these issues will be aired in the general campaign, and both favor Independents leaning toward the Republican candidate.

Barack Obama carried Colorado with 54% of the vote in the 2008 elections, but just 41% now approve of the job he is doing as president. Fifty-nine percent (59%) disapprove, and that’s a higher disapproval rating than Obama earns nationally.

If after the primaries these numbers hold, I will probably move Colorado from Toss-Up to Leans GOP, and that could represent a fifth seat captured from the Democrats (in addition to Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana and North Dakota, all currently in my Solid GOP column).


[1] See Gerald F Seib, Tea Party and the Path to Power, in Wall Street Journal, July 13 2010, p. A2.

[2] This survey has a margin of error of ±4.5%, and a 95% degree of certainty.

US Senate: First Look

After North Carolina’s Democratic primary, state Secretary of State Elaine Marshall received a big bounce, catapulting her into a 43% to 44% race against Republican Senator Richard Burr[1], throwing North Carolina into the toss-up category. New polling moves that state’s Senate race from a toss-up back to solid GOP. Senator Richard Burr is back over the 50% mark as his opponent’s primary bounce has faded. A July 6 poll of 500 likely voters now gives Senator Burr 52% to Secretary Marshall’s 37%, with 7% undecided and 4% wishing for some other candidate.

That moves my gross estimate for the outcome of the 2010s to 49 Democrat seats to the Republicans’ 42, with nine seats still in toss-up races. Of those nine toss-ups, three are currently held by Republicans (Florida, Missouri and Ohio), and six by Democrats (Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin). The potential split, therefore, is anywhere between 58 Democrat/42 Republican and 49 Democrat/51 Republican, if the toss-up states “hold serve”, the outcome will yield a split of 55 Democrat/45 Republican. For these purposes, I consider the Independent Joe Lieberman as a Democrat (after all, he caucuses with them).

Among the six Democratic toss-ups, three are open seat races (Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania), and the Republicans have a slight edge in the most recent polling for each of those seats. As for Democratic incumbent toss-ups, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada finds himself trailing in the latest polling; Patty Murray of Washington is tied, and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin holds a very slight edge over a little-known opponent. If trends hold, that would lead to a Senate of 50 Democrat/46 Republican/4 unknown. The Republican toss-ups are found in Florida, Missouri and Ohio. Florida is tied and Republican candidates have slight leads in the other two states. That would give us 50 Democrat/48 Republican/2 unknown. Assuming the two ties split, if the elections were held today, I would predict a final result of 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans.

At this writing, there are seven Senate seats that are pretty solidly Democratic: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, New York’s special election to replace Hillary Clinton, Oregon and Vermont. All are currently or last held by Democrats. There are eighteen seats that seem firmly in Republican hands: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. Four of those – Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana and North Dakota – are or last were in Democrat hands. Democratically-controlled California is still leaning toward a Democrat victory, while Republican-held Kentucky and New Hampshire are leaning toward Republican repeats.

Republicans, who were in disarray after the 2006 and 2008 elections, have been energized and, to a large degree, united by President Obama’s, Speaker Pelosi’s and Leader Reid’s ambitious push to increase the role of government in the everyday lives of Americans. Poll after poll shows that the public discussions on bailouts, takeovers, healthcare, and so far immigration, have been won by Republicans, and have brought Independents along. There are two ever-present hazards for the Loyal Opposition between now and November: self-discipline of candidates; and self-discipline of the Tea Party movement.

A video of Steele speaking to a small fundraiser in Connecticut on June 28 went viral the next morning, leading to harsh criticism from the right and the left and prompting calls for his resignation from several of the Republican Party’s leading voices.

“The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical,” Steele said. “I think it’s a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders has with this administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan. Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the US had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.

“But it was the President who was trying to be cute by half by building a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should in Afghanistan,” he continued. “Well, if he is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed, and there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan[2].” This comes on top of Rand Paul’s (R-KY) attempt to explain a philosophical rejection of affirmative action to a press that is incapable of philosophical ruminations.

Mr Steele (or whoever is in that post) needs to remember that his job is fund raising and support for state campaigns, not to formulate foreign (or any other) policy. That’s for the candidates to explain. Mr Paul needs to be reminded that Sun Tzu admonished his generals to “know your enemy”, and for Republican candidates in 2010, that includes the national press. Democrats are in the process of self-destructing, and the classical advice for when your adversary is self-destructing is to get out of their way – don’t offer-up distractions.

The biggest political moment since the inauguration, the one that carried the deepest implications, came exactly one year ago, in July and August of 2009, in the town hall rebellion. Looking back, that was a turning point in both parties’ fortunes. That is when the first resistance to Washington’s plans on healthcare became manifest, and it’s when a more generalized resistance rose and spread.

The conservative movement and Republican Party had been left fractured and broken by the end of the Bush years. Now, suddenly, they had something to fight against together. Social conservatives hated the social provisions, liberty-minded conservatives the state control, economic conservatives the spending. Healthcare brought them together. The center, which had gone for Mr Obama in 2008, joined them.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats saw it coming. But it was a seminal moment, and whatever is coming in November, it started there[3]. These infamous town halls were invariably recorded by participants and went viral. Within days of Senator Specter’s disastrous confrontation with his constituents, hundreds and then thousands of these “home” videos were available on YouTube. Not one of the Members defending ObamaCare had even bothered to read the bill – which many of the angry constituents had. Not one of the Members defending ObamaCare could muster a reasoned response to the complaints aired by their constituents. The Members came off as being aloof, out-of-touch, elitist and uncaring. This angered participants, and from those confrontations the Tea Party movement was born.

Disregarded by Democrats and the national press as “Astroturf” – insinuating that it was made up of fake rallies organized by Republicans and/or FOX News – they never bothered to actually investigate. This further angered Tea Partiers.

The discussions that should be taking part in Tea Party chapters right now should be aimed at the 2012s. There is almost nothing Democrats can do to salvage the 2010s – they are going to lose one-party rule next January, and only the Republicans can stop that from happening. The question facing the Tea Parties is structural. To organize into a national movement to formulate and promote national policy is to lose their grassroots legitimacy. To remain a grassroots movement of local autonomy is to forfeit the opportunity to become a coordinated national force. I counsel the latter, but it is a decision for the movement itself to make, and it should make it and then go about implementing whichever path they choose.


[1] Rasmussen survey of 500 Likely Voters in North Carolina was conducted on June 23 2010, yielding a margin of sampling error of ±3% and a 95% level of confidence.

[2] See Andy Barr, Steele faces new resignation calls, in Politico, July 2 2010.

[3] See Peggy Noonan, The Town Hall Revolt, One Year Later, in Wall Street Journal, July 10 2010, p. A13.

the Trivialization of NASA

We should have seen it coming.

Seemingly unaware that he has an agency dedicated to the monitoring and study of the engines of climate (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency), on January 26, President Obama decided that NASA should turn its gaze inward. According to the Orlando Sentinel: “The White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects – principally, researching and monitoring climate change.” Apparently NOAA will now begin work on a return to the Moon.

Now, it seems, NASA is to attend to the Muslim world’s perceived lack of self esteem. Major General Charles F Bolden Jr [USMC], NASA Administrator, told Al Jezeera that “ … before I became the NASA administrator, [President Obama] charged me with three things. [ H ]e wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.” Apparently the State Department will now begin work on a Mars mission.

General Bolden also mentioned that “we can’t get beyond LEO (Low Earth Orbit) without the help of others.” Michael Griffen, NASA Administrator under GW Bush, doesn’t agree with either assertion. “NASA … represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity,” he says, “To the extent that we wish to go to Mars, we can go to Mars.”

This administration just doesn’t understand the instruments of national government. Their worldview is simplistic to the point of being sophomoric. Their sense of cause-and-effect is stripped of all nuance and subtlety – and therefore, any awareness of unintended consequences. We’ve given the keys to the car to an ADD kid on a sugar high, and shouldn’t be surprised that he’s driving through the yard.

… Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness …

It is those three utterances that are at the core of what we celebrate this weekend. Our Founders sought to establish a government that drew its “just powers from consent of the governed” – a Platonic society in which the rights and responsibilities of government were enumerated, leaving the people to move freely. Though presented with a population as educationally and culturally diverse as today’s, its fundamental difference can be summed by the tale of an Englishman stopping an American farmer along a road and asking innocently (in his own vernacular), “where might I find your master?” “Don’t rightly know,” the farmer said, spitting off to the side, “sombitch ain’t been born yet.” Today, people would avert their gaze and point to Washington.

“The people”, to our Founders, were unquestionably the product of Judeo-Christian Greco-Romanism, and that farmer, the product of a Protestant work ethic. He had no master because our government was formed to free him of “rulers”. We had formed a meritocracy where each was master of his own fate. That is the time-tested definition of “fairness”.

To be an American isn’t as much a question of birth as a state of mind. You either believe in limited government and individual liberty, or you don’t. Read our founding documents. There is absolutely no ambiguity – no “living” interpretation – as to what they created: a federal government that was to preside over sovereign states that were to arbitrate among internal jurisdictia, each of which was to oversee a free people. The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the Northwest Ordinance weren’t telling us how to govern, rather how, precisely, government is to be limited.

The American Exceptionalism that President Obama so disdains is very real. This is history’s only nation founded on a creed – a promise from the government to the people – rather than a pedigree. We have no Royal Houses, no ruling castes nor hopeless serfs. That arrangement has produced the world’s most prosperous and generous society.

I’m not sure why we are so hell-bent to throw it all away.