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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reform Conservatism, New Ideas, and Neocons

At The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren writes that Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is working to be the GOP's new new-ideas guy:
Lee knows he isn’t the presidential candidate conservatives are looking for, but he’s got his eyes on that “positive, innovative, and unapologetically conservative agenda.” He’s not shy about the role he’d like to play. “I do want to influence that debate,” Lee says. His slate of policy proposals isn’t light fare. Since 2013, Lee has introduced bills to make the tax code more family friendly, take on cronyism in Washington, reform the college accreditation system, and change the way the federal government funds transportation infrastructure. But what Lee really wants is to change the way conservatives think about domestic policy, reorienting the Republican party toward a family-focused, constitutional populism to help the GOP win back the White House. If Lee succeeds, it will make him one of the most consequential conservatives of his generation.
Lee’s touchstone is Ronald Reagan, but not in the rote way you might think. “It’s important for us to remember that by the time 2016 rolls around, we will be about as far away from Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 as Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 was from D-Day, and it’s important for us to update our agenda to make sure that it fits the times,” says Lee. “We need to stop simply talking about Reagan and start acting like him.” That doesn’t mean slashing the marginal tax rate or getting rid of the Department of Education. Lee says acting like Reagan means applying principles of limited government, constitutionalism, and a healthy civil society to the issues of the day—namely, the rising cost of living and economic insecurity of the American middle class.
If the Republican party needs another Reagan, Lee wants to fill the role of Jack Kemp, who as a junior congressman took the lead in formulating the tax cuts that were central to Reagan’s agenda once he took office. Like Kemp, Lee has made tax reform his signature issue, despite not having a seat on the tax-writing Finance Committee. The target of Lee’s tax proposal is what he calls the “parent tax penalty.” Parents, like everyone else, pay some combination of income and payroll taxes. The “penalty,” Lee says, is that parents also bear the costs of raising children who will grow up to become taxpayers themselves. The current child tax credit isn’t enough to offset these additional costs. Lee’s plan looks a lot like other Republican tax reform ideas—simplifying the brackets, lowering rates, removing costly deductions—while adding an extra $2,500-per-child tax credit that can apply to any parent’s combined tax liability. It’s money that could pay for child-care costs or cover expensive dental work or even help one parent stay home to raise the kids.
Arit John writes at Bloomberg:
Ahead of his foreign policy speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Jeb Bush released a list of 21 familiar foreign policy advisers joining his staff. Nineteen of the names would have been familiar to foreign policy wonks (they’d served under one of more of the last Republican presidents) but only one brought back memories of the neoconservative movement that led the U.S. into Iraq: Paul Wolfowitz.
As several people, especially liberals, have pointed out, by including Wolfowitz—whose brief, scandal-plagued tenure as president of the World Bank is overshadowed by his key role in America’s unpopular invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush—the former Florida governor did little to distinguish himself from his brother’s foreign policy.

But while Jeb Bush is adding neoconservative Iraq War baggage to his 2016 presidential campaign, expected Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has spent years dealing with her own. One of Clinton’s biggest weaknesses with the Democratic base has been her perceived hawkishness—Barack Obama used her vote for the Iraq War against her in 2008, andDemocrats criticized her critique of President Obama’s foreign policy in the Atlantic last year, when she argued that the U.S. should have armed moderate Syrian rebels to prevent the rise of groups like the Islamic State.
In July of last year, the New York Times ran two pieces tying Clinton to the neoconservative movement. In “The Next Act of the Neocons,” Jacob Heilbrunn argued that neocons like historian Robert Kagan are putting their lot in with Clinton in an effort to stay relevant while the GOP shies away from its past interventionism and embraces politicians like Senator Rand Paul...