Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thoughts on Peter Hamby's Report on Twitter

This report was solid enough I felt motivated to dig up my old blog and post my personal thoughts on it. To read Peter Hamby (a political reporter at CNN)'s full report, read it here.

A synopsis:

This paper will examine the merits of being a reporter “on the bus” during a presidential
campaign, at a time when Twitter and other web-driven developments in the media
have broken down walls between the political press and the public. A political junkie
can follow a campaign minute-by-minute with Twitter, watch it via live-streamed
campaign events, or read about it on a growing number of niche news outlets devoted to
covering even the most incremental developments in politics.
But as some walls are crumbling, others are going up.
With Instagram and Twitter-primed iPhones, an ever more youthful press corps, and a journalistic reward structure in Washington that often prizes speed and scoops over context, campaigns are increasingly fearful of the reporters who cover them. Any perceived gaffe or stumble can become a full-blown narrative in a matter of hours, if not minutes, thanks to the velocity of the Twitter conversation that now informs national reporters, editors and television producers. In fact, this paper will argue Twitter is the central news source for the Washington-based political news establishment. This filter- free new ecosystem is having a profound impact on how campaign strategists are deciding to present their candidates to the media and to voters. The speed and shallow nature of today’s political journalism has rattled elected officials, candidates and their advisers in both parties, from the smallest city hall on up to the top levels of the White House.

Candidates and politicians are increasingly trying to present their messages on their
own terms, either through politically friendly news outlets or their own social media
channels. More and more, the mainstream political press is being cut out of the election
process, raising questions about the value of being a reporter on the bus, on the plane, or
“in the bubble” with a presidential candidate.
My thoughts:

1) Very well done and very thorough. Specifically about how Twitter and the 24 hour news cycle damaged the relationship between the news media's campaign embeds and the Romney operation, but also more broadly discusses changes in the field of political journalism with the rise of new media. In general, any 2016 campaign should be reading this to get an edge on their new media operation, and even certain 2014 campaigns could stand to benefit.

2) The suggestions are good, but Hamby is only looking at fixing campaign coverage, not policy coverage- which is significant in that, if we simply get to a better form of campaign coverage, we are still lacking what Cronkite et al lamented in the 70s (a lack of substance in political journalism in general).

3) The piece is not critical enough towards the Obama campaign. At times it starts to say these problems were not exclusive to Romney, but it is clear only a few Obama sources were consulted and the critical (but fair) look to the Romney campaign was not replicated for Obama- Obama sources are taken at face value even when Hamby laments the constraints placed on access to an incumbent president.

4) Hamby notes that a candidate in 2016 might be able to strongly benefit from an open, free-flowing relationship with their embeds in 2016. Mentions Rubio, Santorum and Hickenlooper, but I think Cruz might fit well here. Rand seems more personal for this type of relationship, and Christie may be too willing to sound off and get himself shot in the foot. Cruz is practiced at extemporaneous speaking though.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Audit the Fed: A Timeline

[Compiled for a class presentation, I felt like it was worth sharing online.]

1981: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduces his first legislation to abolish the Federal Reserve. The bill receives 44 cosponsors and never escapes committee.

March 12th, 2007: Paul officially enters the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. During the campaign, which lasted into June 2008, Paul would often discuss monetary policy and the role of the Federal Reserve in the nation’s economy.

February 26th, 2009: Paul introduces HR 1207, legislation to provide for and enlarge the scope of regular audits of the Federal Reserve. 11 congressmen co-sponsor the legislation.

February 27th, 2009: Paul promotes the bill before CPAC, the annual gathering of conservative activists in Washington DC.

March 16th, 2009: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduces S 604, the companion bill to HR 1207 in the Senate. The first cosponsor of the bill signs on in June: Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

June 11th, 2009: Rep. Dennis Kucinich becomes the 218th member of Congress to cosponsor HR 1207; with 218 cosponsors, the measure has enough support to pass with a majority vote in the House of Representatives.

June 26th, 2009
: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke opposes HR 1207 in committee testimony.

August 28th, 2009: After initial opposition, House Financial Services Chair Barney Frank (D-MA) reverses his position on Audit the Fed. A constituent questions Frank on HR 1207 at a town-hall meeting in his home district. “I have been working with Ron Paul, who’s the main sponsor of that bill,” Frank said. “That will be part of the other federal regulations we are adopting. The House will pass it probably in October.” As Chairman, Frank controls the committee agenda.

September 16th, 2009: Paul releases a new book entitled End the Fed.
October 20th, 2009: Rep. Mel Watts (D-NC) amends HR 1207 to strip provisions exempting the Federal Reserve from audits of its transactions with foreign central banks, monetary policy deliberations, transactions made under the FOMC, and communications between the Board of Governors, regional branches and staff.

November 18th, 2009: A number of liberal economists and labor leaders endorse HR 1207, including Dean Baker, James K Galbraith, Andrew Stern (President of SEIU), and Richard Trumka (President of AFL-CIO).

November 19th, 2009: HR 1207 is approved as an amendment to the larger Dodd-Frank financial reform package. Paul and a key ally, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), successfully push for Watts’ language to be replaced with the initial language introduced by Paul. Frank again opposes the Paul amendment after Watts’ language is stripped.

December 11th, 2009: The Dodd-Frank bill is passed by the full House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. HR 1207 is included in this package.

December 12th, 2009: A Rasmussen poll finds 79% of Americans support auditing the Federal Reserve. This poll will be incorporated into the talking points of supporters of Audit the Fed.

December 9th, 2010
: Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) announces that Rep. Paul will be named Chairman of the Monetary Policy Subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives.

April 30th, 2010: White House officials indicate they will fight to oppose S 604’s addition to the larger financial regulation bill.

May 6th, 2010: Senators Bernie Sanders and Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) strike a deal to ensure passage of Audit the Fed in the Senate, providing for a one-time audit of the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending during the economic crisis. The Obama administration throws its support behind Audit the Fed after the Sanders amendment passes.

May 11th, 2010: S 604 passes the Senate 96-0 as amended by Sanders. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduces an amendment to restore the Paul-Grayson language to the Senate version of the bill, but it fails 37-62.

May 20th, 2010: The Senate passes its version of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The bill is modified in conference committee, but no changes are made to the Audit the Fed provisions.

July 21st, 2010: President Obama signs the Dodd-Frank bill into law.

July 21st, 2011: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases its report on the audit mandated by the Dodd-Frank bill. The report reveals over $16 trillion was distributed during the economic crisis to foreign central banks and large financial institutions to prevent further economic instability.

April 27th, 2011:
The Federal Reserve holds its first-ever press conference.

May 13th, 2011: Paul announces his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He remains in the race, although former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the likely nominee.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Response To Mitch Berg From A Ron Paul Supporter in the MN-04

[Context: This is a response to two interesting posts (here and here) from Mitch Berg on his blog. His essential argument was that Paul supporters should stay engaged and cooperate with the GOP after the convention process wraps up, with a particular focus on the 4th congressional district of Minnesota. The following is an email I sent in reply.]

Hello Mr. Berg,

I read your two recent posts on your blog about Ron Paul supporters, and there were some kernels of truth in there. However, I also wanted to clarify some things I have observed that would seem to run counter to some of your claims.

2008 was definitely a training ground. Paul supporters were new and ideologically invigorated. You were once a Libertarian (I love that you get the distinction between big-L and small-l libertarians!), so you probably understand the early win it all or die for principle mentality many libertarians (or even those with entrenched ideological views of the world in general) have. So yes, it was definitely fault-worthy that many Paul supporters showed up and never came back.

One big problem: 2012 is not 2008. I get it. There is a lot of bad blood and bad stereotypes from 2008 on both sides. As an anecdote from Texas (where I am from), a couple of my family members went to a county convention in Texas in 2008 and, after a long convention fight, left late at night. They found out later the local party leadership simply outlasted the Paulites to keep their personal fiefdom intact, revoting on everything because the Paul folks were ignorant of Robert's Rules. I was not deterred (having only come of age to vote in 2010 and not going through that experience), and I managed to become a delegate to our state convention and actually work with Ron Paul's 2008 primary opponent to attempt to kill some bad platform language at the county level. While there I met other Paul supporters who were new to the process and getting involved; today, they are still active. They work for candidates, show up to conventions, and some work in the local party. The old chair, meanwhile, eventually left his post after it was revealed he was having an affair.

Now obviously Minnesota is not the same as Texas, but the comparison still counts. I have been told of Paul supporters who were elected to local party leadership who found some of the old guard to be uncooperative with them. That is not to say that many Paul folks did not drop out on their own accord- they did, as happens when political movements first take shape (and if you are familiar with libertarian politics, you know there has not been a libertarian movement like this since the 70s, if even then). Some were just frustrated, others impatient, still more just grew bored. Either way, politics requires growing a certain thickness of skin to make a difference.

One of the stories in Minnesota is that this is happening. Paul supporters are having to learn to work with their local parties, find common ground, run basic political campaigns, and win. I know Paul supporters here who have been active in the party organizations, in Young Republicans, in College Republicans (there is a substantial presence there),and more. The Paul campaign was actually professional in 2012, unlike 2008 when not even Paul expected to meet any kind of success. For my part, I am running for Vice-Chair Metro of the MNCRs [Editor's Note: I was elected to the position this weekend], managing the campaign of my friend running in 64A (yes, as a Republican), interning at the Capitol, and serving as Co-Chair of our CR chapter at Macalester. And no, I and my friends have not just worked for Ron Paul- just last weekend a few of us libertarians went down to Wisconsin to make calls for Scott Walker. Our libertarian contingent at Macalester volunteered to help set up our local precinct caucuses. We even campaigned in the uphill local races in Bloomington a few months back.

So yes, some of the old guard have not been as welcoming as they should. Similarly, some of the Paulites have been less of team-players than they should have been. We should not implicate one side and act like the other did not make mistakes. I don't hold grudges against the establishment- when a bunch of wide-eyed, untested political neophytes appear I would be skeptical of their ability to get the job done too! It is like when two adults with kids from earlier marriages get married- we've all just been learning how to live in the same house.

Obviously libertarians need the party. From the discussions I have had among those who are serious, we are here to stay in the GOP. Not take-over; there is nothing hostile about it. Parties are about winning elections for like-minded folks, and it is easy to find commonalities. There are some establishment folks who want nothing to do with Paulites, and there are some Paulites who want nothing to do with establishmentarians. Both groups I see as ignorant of the big picture- we need each other, institutional memory and fresh ideas. Luckily, I think that combination is taking shape now.

PS: The local Paul groups tended to support Tony Hernandez before he dropped out of the Senate race (and before Bills entered), and from what I have seen they still support him. For my part I'll be working on the 64A campaign to turn out our folks for the rest of the ticket.

PPS: I do also blog very regularly at Red Racing Horses, a site I co-founded over a year ago with Republicans from every faction of the party. It is a national site, but we have a sizable Minnesota commenting community. So there are Minnesota libertarian bloggers out there (even if this one is too busy to take on any more blogging responsibilities)!

Daniel Surman

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why I Support Ron Paul

Between covering electoral politics on several blogs, getting active in the Republican Party, and attending an extremely liberal and politically active college, one question appears often: who do you support for President?

That question came up again while I was watching the last presidential primary debate. I was surrounded by friends of numerous political varieties, and we went around a circle explaining our candidate of choice. I turned some eyebrows with my selection: Rep. Ron Paul.

Surely not Paul! After all, he made some pretty bold statements that night: he feared a border fence could possibly keep us in as much as keep illegal immigrants out and spoke of the ability to buy a gallon of gas for a dime (a silver one, not the current variety). Every debate Paul has something provocative to say, producing typically snarky articles like this one. He has speculated about legalizing drugs and prostitution, declined to rattle the saber at Iran, and likes to ramble on about monetary policy.

Let me be clear: (I apologize for channeling the language of President Obama) I don't agree with every single thing Dr. Paul has proposed. If someone were interested, I could go line by line through my quibbles with his platform. However, I am not focusing on these details. Instead, it is time to take a bigger view of the election.

So, why support Ron Paul?

#1) Electibility. What? From Ron Paul? Consider this: when Paul started running in 2007, nobody knew his name. He registered under 1% in polls. In 2008 he managed to pull a respectable 10% in Iowa and 8% in New Hampshire, not to mention break fundraising records and inspire thousands of grassroots activists to become active in politics. True, Paul had some major weaknesses; the money came in too late to organize a proper campaign. However, a spark was lit.

Now, the Ron Paul campaign is back like never before. Much has changed. For starters, his supporters are winning elections: from State Rep. Glen Bradley down in North Carolina to Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, Paul supporters are becoming active and winning elections nationwide. Of course, we all know his most famous supporter in office: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, his son. It was the election of this figure which professionalized the dedicated cadre of staff and volunteers who have hung around Dr. Paul for a decade. The Republican machine of Senator McConnell met the enthusiasm of Paul's supporters, and the result was potent. Today, Dr. Paul regularly polls in the double-digits in primaries throughout the nation, including the ever-important Iowa and New Hampshire. He is running professional ads in these critical states (no more "He's Catching On") and building a campaign organization on the ground to compete with the well-greased staff of the other candidates. If he is selected as the Republican nominee, Dr. Paul can carry this synthesis of party machine and grassroots activism to success in the general election (some polls agree). If there was ever a time for a libertarian-leaning politician like Ron Paul to take the national scene by storm, it is now.

2)The rest of the field. I want a choice, not an echo. Looking at the 'frontrunners', I just do not feel satisfied. Governor Romney's flip-flops are infamous, and Romneycare is a problem that is not going to go away. Meanwhile, Governor Perry has a record of secrecy from his tenure in Texas and his own flip-flops to account for. He supported Al Gore back in the day, endorsed Hillarycare in the 90s, and has tried to backpedal on his record of forced vaccinations in the Lonestar State. Like President Obama, neither has shown the consistency that makes Dr. Paul so appealing.

3) It's not the end of the world Consider a quote from this thought-provoking article by Conor Friesdorf at The Atlantic:

Every presidential candidate inspires voters to ask themselves, "If this person is elected, what's the worst that could plausibly happen?" Since we're risk averse, the imagined answers that take hold are huge factors in campaigns. In 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran, the worst case scenario in the minds of the electorate was that if he won, there would be nuclear war with the USSR. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton tried and failed to persuade voters that if Barack Obama was elected, the worst case scenario was a 3 a.m. phone call that he was too inexperienced to handle. Evaluating John McCain, a lot of voters, myself included, thought the worst case scenario was that he'd die, making Sarah Palin into the world's most powerful person.

So I got to thinking. What's the worst thing that could plausibly happen if Ron Paul wins?

Of course I had my own problems with this article; I do not have such a reflexive fear of Sarah Palin, for example. However, it is worth looking at the issue through this lens. Dr. Paul as President will have to work with a Congress still filled with either rank and file Republicans or liberal Democrats, not to mention a Supreme Court that is often at odds with his own vision of the Constitution. Either way, a President Paul is going to have to find common ground and, perhaps, compromise. That means we will probably not be back on the gold standard anytime soon, defund every entitlement and social welfare program, or dismantle every federal agency in existence. On the other hand, we would probably have the most restrained foreign policy since Grover Cleveland and encounter an unprecedented respect for civil liberties from the White House, not to mention a President who will drive a hard bargain on our soaring deficits and budgets. Which brings me to #4...

4) Liberty. Yes, it sounds so easy. I don't have to agree with everything my Representative (proud constituent from TX-14!) says to acknowledge that Dr. Paul recognizes the value of something that hardly anybody notices in Washington DC: liberty. With all of the massive spending, foreign wars, and increasing regulations emanating out of our capitol, it is easy to see the world of difference between Ron Paul and the rest of the Congress-critters we deal with on a day to day basis. Our country is facing myriad problems, but Dr. Paul offers a consistent and simple prescription: freedom. Do we have enough hope left to believe in it?

I hope you do. Please join me in voting for Congressman Ron Paul as the Republican nominee for President.

Daniel Surman is an editor of the electoral politics blog Red Racing Horses. He is a student at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he studies political science and is a Co-Chairman of the campus College Republican organization. The opinions contained within this piece are his own.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Donald Trump will never actually run for President. Happy April Fool's Day IPR!

[Note: You more than likely clicked a link from an article I wrote claiming Donald Trump would run for President.]

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shutting Down

For anybody who stops by here, it has been a great run. However, I am now shutting this blog down.

The reason is pretty simple: I have moved on to greener pastures. I had already started getting busy writing for Independent Political Report, which covers third parties and independents. Then I started writing for Red Racing Horses, which follows electoral politics from a Republican perspective.

So as I jump further into political journalism, I suggest checking out those two websites! Thanks everybody!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tea Party Kochheads?

[This article will also appear in the Macalester Review.]

The demagoguery of politics illustrates an interesting principle; it is easier to ‘otherize’, or alienate, your opponents than to understand them. Such is the case with the Koch brothers, a pair of libertarian corporate moguls who fund a variety of think tanks and activist outfits with their preponderant wealth.

Jane Meyer’s piece (“Covert Operations”) from The New Yorker fits this mold. Her essential thesis? Two men, Charles and David Koch, are employing limitless financial resources to attack the political establishment from all corners on a quest to fill their corporate pockets.

From the very beginning of the piece we see the process of otherization at work. The first photo in the article exhibits the most sinister portrayal of David Koch, a man slowly dying of prostate cancer, the world has ever seen. Continuing with this theme, she shifts to a ‘chilly’ hotel in Austin, Texas, where astro-turfing minions conspire.

I had to raise an eyebrow here. Has Meyer ever lived in Texas? After more summer vacations to Austin than I can count, I can forthrightly attest that the heat is sweltering. But I digress.

The author goes on to delineate the network of organizations the pair funds- the ‘Kochtopus’. Over the span of three decades they have funded and participated in the founding of the Americans for Prosperity, CATO Institute, Reason Foundation, Federalist Society, Institute for Humane Studies, and the Mercatus Center. All focus on different (but often over-lapping) aspects of libertarianism.

Jane Meyer is at her best when she sticks to facts. One of the strongest portions of her article deals with some of the less savory actions of Koch Industries. For example, she describes how one Senate committee accused Koch Oil of “a widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring” and launched an investigation the matter (after a flood of Koch Industries lobbyists descended upon the committee, no charges were filed).

Similarly, the company was forced to settle when accused of responsibility for three hundred oil spills and the release of the carcinogen benzene into the environment. She also accurately points out that, “their companies have benefitted from nearly a hundred million dollars in government contracts since 2000.”

All of these provide an excellent perspective to the mindset of the Koch brothers in the business world. Nevertheless, Meyer begins to err when she claims their libertarian views “dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.”

For example, in one instance she argues that the Mercatus Center’s advocacy for deregulation of all types was a clear example of the Koch brothers funneling money to an institution solely to advance its business interests. However, libertarians hold that regulation can act as monopolizing forces for companies like Koch Industries. Thomas O’Malley, a major player in the petroleum industry, asks “Why in the world would you fight clean fuels? ... The more stringent you make specifications, those become barriers to entry. ... Strong companies would have an advantage.”

Similarly, Meyer makes a fuss about the brothers’ admiration of Nobel laureate of FA Hayek. However, she fails to grasp what Hayek actually supported. For example, the 2005 energy bill that gave large companies like Koch Industries tax breaks and subsidies would be an example of government-encouraged monopoly; Hayek explicitly rejects this concept in several books. In addition, his work Law, Legislation and Liberty describes a certain role for general environmental rules set by the government in a libertarian society. In essence, Hayek would likely not endorse the business methods of his admirers.

In fact, many of the groups which the Koch brothers support would actually disapprove of their actions. The Reason Foundation, which vociferously attacked the Koch-supported President Bush, is a strident opponent of corporate welfare. In addition, the Institute for Humane Studies often hosts Timothy Carney, who generally discusses “the evils of corporate welfare and bailouts, and the destructive influence of the Big Business lobby in Washington,” at events the Koch brothers attend.

Furthermore, it seems that the brothers’ donations to political candidates seem to contradict their ideology. In New York, David Koch has donated large amounts to Democrat Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign. Similarly, Koch Industries funnels significant funding to Kansas Republicans Todd Tiahrt and Sam Brownback, two beacons of social conservatism. In fact, the company’s PAC donated the maximum sum to Trey Grayson in the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, despite the presence of libertarian standard-bearer Rand Paul in the race.

It seems that there are two political sides to the Koch brothers. One the one hand, they lobby Washington for special business privileges and environmental exemptions by donating to candidates who control the gears of power. On the other hand, the corporate executives donate millions of dollars to those institutions which can shift public discourse towards their ideal political system. Rather than viewing this as a symbiotic relationship, the two goals are almost mutually exclusive.

But is the corporate money itself immoral, regardless of intentions? In this regard, the critics of the Koch brothers have less ground to stand on. Let’s face it: smart people who publish academic studies cannot feed themselves without money. Even Meyer must acknowledge this point, as Tim Carney points out that she, “cites the blogs ThinkProgress and ClimateProgress, the Web site Media Matters and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy without ever mentioning they are funded by billionaire financier George Soros.” Soros, of course, is the liberal billionaire who donated over $100 million to in the hopes of ousting President George W Bush in 2004. Iconoclastic liberaltarian David Weigel explains, “The reality is that think tanks and public interest magazines are funded by rich people.” The same would apply to activist outfits like Americans for Prosperity, the much-maligned brainchild of David Koch.

One final point must be made. If the Koch clan really intends to monopolize and control the Tea Party movement, they have done a pretty shoddy job. Kenneth Vogel writes in Politico, “the handful of tea party groups that have raised substantial amounts … through pre-existing connections to wealthy donors, are viewed suspiciously within the movement.

Local groups have been left to literally pass hats seeking donations at their meetings or rely on their organizers’ bank accounts…”

As somebody who has attended Tea Party protests in the past, I can attest that the individual local rally has zero connection to some shadowy financier. The Koch brothers may, in a very indirect fashion, provide some activism training and organizations capacity to small pockets of an angry conservative electorate. However, the efforts of national groups at micro-managing or co-opting Tea Party supporters is like throwing a rock into a river and hoping it will stop flowing.

After bailouts and record deficits under President Bush and stimulus spending and healthcare reform under President Obama, the conservative electorate of the country is angry at some alien ‘establishment. This has generated surprising amounts of activism from those on the right. When I attended the Republican Party of Texas state convention this year, they announced that over half of those present were attending for the first time. The electorate is angry, but it is seeking a way to engage.

Nevertheless, it is inconvenient for those on the left to simply ascribe their electoral troubles to anti-establishment furor (a weapon first utilized in 2008 by President Obama). Conservatives otherized Barack Obama on talk radio, speculating on his faith and shady associates to alienate him from the majority. Now, we see the left undertaking a similar experiment- the otherization of the Tea Party. David and Charles Koch just happen to be the convenient others to lambaste.