The Politics of Division

One of the greatest tools in an immoral politician’s playbook is to divide people. By creating an “us and them”, a shrewd politician can play different groups against one another, and even claim to champion the rights of some section or sections of the population. Convincing a voter that they’re not voting for you so much as voting against a group of people that they dislike has been a powerful factor in getting people elected – just ask Barack Obama.

Obama is a skilled divider, and once he’s divided his voters up he claims to speak on behalf of some of the individual groups. Who could forget the famous “war on women”? Even though Obama’s own policies actively discriminate against women, this patronising play on gender inequality won him a larger percentage of women voters in 2008 and 2012. There shouldn’t be a “female vote”. Women make up 50% of the population, and the issues that matter to them are as varied as those that concern men. It’s incredibly sexist for Obama and the Democrats to target the “female vote” by playing up issues like abortion, as if women are simply an homogeneous group. Obama’s campaign did the same thing with Hispanic voters, black voters, less-wealthy voters, and so on and so on. By building up divisions, Obama was able to divide and conquer. Since being elected and re-elected, he uses the same principles to divide and rule – using class, race, gender, and anything else he can think of to distract people from his own failures.

I suspect Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond would take being compared to President Obama as a compliment. Well in this case, Mr Salmond, it isn’t. I cannot remember a time when the United Kingdom was more bitterly divided than it is today. But these aren’t class divisions, these aren’t divisions about wealth, race, or gender. Alex Salmond has worked incredibly hard over the past few months to divide Britain to its very core. His nationalist rhetoric pits Scotland against England. He speaks as though England and Scotland were enemies, as though Scotland were a conquered nation, subject to mere colony status. The fact is that Scotland actively benefits from being a part of the UK under something called the Barnett Formula. This is the mechanism by which the UK government allocates its money to the different parts of the UK. In short, England is essentially subsidising a proportion of public spending in Scotland.

This has never been more than a minor source of controversy in England. Within one country, albeit a federated one in the case of the UK, tax revenue is never shared equally across the board. There will always be areas which require more attention and more spending, due to individual local circumstances. The English taxpayers have largely accepted this. But with nationalism in Scotland growing, the Barnett Formula has come under increasing scrutiny south of the border. There’s an inherent question about fairness – especially when some public services in Scotland are seen as being better than in the rest of the country.

Alex Salmond’s bid to break Scotland away from the UK has divided not only the UK, but Scotland itself. Independence was once a minority ambition. As it was little more than a pipe dream, a majority of independence supporters did not actively push the issue, except perhaps voting consistently for the Scottish National Party. But the campaign, especially in recent days as the polls have narrowed, has had the effect of splitting Scotland right down the middle. And as we get closer to Thursday’s vote, emotions are running very high. Families are split, communities are divided, friends are falling out, all over what should be a non-issue. Scotland is categorically better off remaining part of the UK.

All three of the UK’s main political parties have now promised even more powers to a devolved Scottish parliament, as a last-minute incentive to voters to keep the UK together. Regardless of whether or not this ploy works, the ill-feeling that it has generated in the rest of the UK will not go away quickly. In England, there is a growing sense that Scotland is getting too many freebies. In Wales and Northern Ireland, where nationalist movements are also enjoying growing support, there is a feeling that Scotland’s devolved parliament has a far better deal than theirs.

The divisions in Scotland and in the rest of the UK, regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, will take a very long time to heal. A lot of ill will has been built up, and for that, Alex Salmond and those who pushed for this vote are largely to blame. Dividing people never works in the long run. Sooner or later they realise that they have more in common than they thought. And usually, what they have in common is an intense dislike of the politicians who tried to divide them. Hopefully Scotland will vote “no” on Thursday, and the slow reconciliation process can begin across the UK.

Scotland Decides

After a poll last weekend indicated that Scotland might actually say “aye” to independence in a referendum this coming Thursday, practically the entire British political establishment went into panic mode. The weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in Parliament was delegated to deputies as the Prime Minister and the other two main party leaders jetted up to Scotland to beg voters to keep the United Kingdom together. But they didn’t campaign together, and frankly, given the unpopularity of the “Westminster elite”, their collective visit to Scotland may have proven to be just as much of a boost for the “yes” campaign. The fact that the Prime Minister, his deputy, and the leader of the opposition all felt that they had to fly north, though, is a sign of just how close this vote is going to be. Scotland is a few short days away from taking a very important decision, one which is now too close to call.

For years, Scottish independence has been a minority ambition. The sporadic polls taken on the issue from the mid-2000s up until last year all put support for the notion somewhere around 30-35%. Support for the Scottish National Party had been similar. But after the 2008 financial crisis, MPs expenses scandal, and a growing dislike of Westminster politicians across the political spectrum, Scottish voters in 2011 backed the Scottish National Party to such an extent that they were able to form a majority in the devolved Scottish parliament – something unexpected and unprecedented. But SNP leader Alex Salmond took this as an endorsement of the idea of Scottish independence, when it was in fact little more than a protest vote. The Scottish parliament has limited powers, and backing the SNP was, for many voters, a way to send a message to political leaders outside of Scotland – we expect better. In a way, it’s not dissimilar to how voters backed anti-European Union parties in elections across Europe earlier this year, even though some of those parties are outside the mainstream. For many in Scotland, a vote for the SNP had nothing to do with support for independence.

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond.

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond.

However, the SNP’s central aim has always been independence, and having a mandate in the Scottish parliament, they pressed hard for a referendum on the issue, and an agreement was signed between Alex Salmond, now Scotland’s First Minister, and British Prime Minister David Cameron. The date was set – September 18th, 2014 – and the campaign began quietly. It was never a serious issue for Cameron, nor for anyone else in Westminster. Alex Salmond had a mountain to climb to win a referendum on an issue which had only ever had minority support. For a long time after the referendum had been agreed, the issue was not on the front pages. Until last week’s poll, that is.

So that’s the background to what’s happening this week, in case you missed it. Thursday’s referendum is incredibly important, and as one might expect at a time like this, there is a lot of rumour and misinformation flying around. I don’t pretend to be giving an unbiased opinion – how can I, when the future of the UK is at stake? I may not have lived there for some years now, but it’s still my home country. I grew up on the English side of the border, but close enough that Scotland was visible on a clear day across the Solway Firth. I have Scottish friends, and aside from a little friendly banter over who has the best football team (it’s England, by the way), Scotland and England have been perfect neighbours in the United Kingdom since the Acts of Union in 1707. Together, England and Scotland (and Wales and Ireland, too, I haven’t forgotten about them), built an Empire – the British Empire – the likes of which the world had never seen before and hasn’t seen since. Scottish pioneers settled the Appalachian Mountains and were among the first families to press west when America was not even a dream in George Washington’s mind. Scottish pioneers travelled north from the Cape and settled Rhodesia, and along with their English brothers and sisters built a flourishing country in the heart of Africa. Scottish highlanders formed one of the most feared regiments in the British Army, and backed by their bagpipers, routed Napoleon at Waterloo and saved Europe from conquest. In 1914 Scotland would do the same. And when France had been defeated by Hitler’s Germany in 1940, it was not England who stood alone in opposition to him. It was the United Kingdom who, together, held fast against Nazi tyranny. That is what the “no” campaign has tried to be all about – showing the people of Scotland that the United Kingdom is, in their words, Better Together. Sadly, they haven’t done a very good job at swelling patriotic spirits.

By contrast, Alex Salmond has tried to present Scotland as an oppressed colony trying to free itself from colonial rule. The “yes” campaign has played up the emotional arguments, and tried to deflect attention away from any inconvenient facts. “Bullying” has become Alex Salmond’s favourite word. Politicians from London are “bullying” when they set out a positive case for keeping the Union. Business leaders are “bullying” when they say that they would relocate out of Scotland in the event of a “yes” vote due to the massive economic uncertainty that it would bring. And the “No” campaign are “bullying” when they point out the massive flaws in his currency plan for an independent Scotland.

“Massive flaws”? Sounds a bit harsh when you put it like that, but that’s precisely how best to describe Salmond’s half-baked ideas about post-independence currency. Aside from a flag, national anthem, and football team, what makes a country a country? A currency of its own, that’s what. As the nations of Europe are finding out to their peril, a currency over which you have no control is not something you want. I would even go so far as to say that a lack of control over currency is a grave threat to the survival of a nation. But Alex Salmond, as evidenced in a recent television debate with “no” campaign leader Alistair Darling, is of the opinion that Scotland should be the – junior – partner in a currency union with the rest of the UK. In short, what he wants is independence for Scotland – underwritten by the rest of the UK in case anything goes wrong. The political parties in the UK – all of them – have ruled out this option, yet Salmond continues to champion it. It simply will not happen. What Prime Minister in London could turn to his electorate in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and tell them that he’s using their taxes to bail out Scotland? It would be political suicide, and all the main party leaders have said it will not happen. But there’s another option which would see Scotland keep the pound sterling. Using it without a currency union. In his debate with the hapless Alistair Darling, Salmond presented that option as if he had wrung a massive concession from the “no” camp – “A-ha!” he said, “they have said we can use the pound and nobody can stop us!” But it’s disingenuous. Of course nobody can stop an independent country from using the pound, or any other currency, for that matter. Zimbabwe uses the South African Rand and the US Dollar. Kosovo and Montenegro use the Euro. An independent Scotland could use the pound, the dollar, the Kenyan shilling, or any other currency in the world. But is Alex Salmond’s vision of an independent Scotland one that sees it akin to the economic ruin of Zimbabwe, or the insignificance of Montenegro?

This highlights where the “no” campaign completely fell down. Alistair Darling is one of the most plainly boring men north of the border. He has no energy, no passion, and he proved in that debate that he’s about as effective as a chocolate teapot when it comes to leading a massive campaign. Why the “no” campaign picked the man who served as chancellor to Gordon Brown – one of the least popular Prime Ministers of recent years – as their leader is incomprehensible. Even Brown himself would’ve been a better choice. The “no” campaign has been ineffective at best when it comes to stopping the haemorrhaging of voters over the past few weeks. If Scotland votes “yes”, Alistair Darling will rightly take a significant portion of the blame. The “yes” campaign has been energised, campaigning on the streets and from the grass roots, but for months a sense of arrogant complacency hung over the “no” camp. Salmond, to his credit, has run an incredible campaign, especially considering how the polls were even a few weeks ago. To get to a point where it’s neck-and-neck is in itself an incredible achievement. That it’s largely based on false pretences is not really relevant any more – after all, which politician wouldn’t tell a few half-truths over the course of a hard-fought campaign?

The badger-like leader of Better Together, former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling.

The badger-like leader of Better Together, former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling.

But here’s the problem – this isn’t your normal election. My friends in America know that, if they elect a congressman who isn’t very good, or who they don’t like, after a couple of years they can get rid of him. The President gets just shy of four years before he has to justify what he’s done and face the electorate. Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. found that out the hard way. In the UK, too, the same applies. Gordon Brown’s government was unceremoniously dumped by voters at the last election four years ago. But at this critical juncture, the decision that the people of Scotland take is not one that can be reversed. If they choose to leave the UK, there is no way back.

The argument in favour of independence has more to do with emotion than with reason. From a rational point of view, a self-interested Scot would walk away from the idea of independence. There are too many unknowns – questions about currency, business, the sustainability of social welfare programmes currently subsidised by the rest of the UK, tax rates, and so many more things that from an economic standpoint, make independence simply too big of a risk right now. Had the “yes” campaign found solutions to these problems, then perhaps independence could be taken seriously. Instead, we are treated to accusations of bullying hurled at anyone who dares question Scotland’s viability as an independent nation.

Logically, if some government programmes in Scotland, like free prescription drugs, free university tuition, and free social care for the elderly, are subsidised by the rest of the UK (where these services are not free) then any post-independence Scottish government will immediately be faced with a rather large hole in its budget. Even if Salmond gets his way in post-referendum negotiations on the details of independence – and there’s no guarantee that he will, with the Prime Minister and others negotiating hard on behalf of the remaining UK – there are still going to be serious financial problems. And Salmond has evaded the tough questions. That would be fine if this were FairyTale Land, but in the real world, the voters who are about to take what could arguably be the single biggest decision of their voting lives have a right to know what to expect in the event of a “yes” vote.

For example, all new members of the European Union are obliged to join the Euro. But Salmond says that an independent Scotland will keep the pound sterling in a currency union – one the rest of the UK political establishment has already said no to. So if Scotland were to join the EU, how would Salmond get around adopting the Euro? So far, no answer. If public services in Scotland – particularly in rural communities in the Highlands and Islands – are to continue at their current level, it’s a no-brainer to say that taxes are going to have to rise rather substantially. But there has been no information from the “yes” camp about that. It isn’t “bullying” to say that the voters need to have all of the facts available in order to make an informed decision.

Then there is the matter of international institutions. The EU already has one hurdle – membership of the Euro – but it gets worse than that for an independent Scotland. In order for a country to accede to the EU, all existing member-states must agree. It has taken years of wrangling to allow some nations in the east to join, and others, like Serbia and Turkey, are still waiting. There’s no guarantee that EU membership would continue, especially as some nations, like Spain, would fear the precedent set by a breakaway region being allowed EU membership. With the economic crisis having hit Spain so hard, the region of Catalonia is threatening to declare independence there, and the government in Madrid would be very keen to avoid setting a precedent that one of its own regions may follow. So EU membership itself might be a problem. Of course, that may not be such a bad thing in some ways – the EU is a bureaucratic nightmare after all – but the “yes” campaign’s entire economic policy for an independent Scotland is based on being a member of the EU. They simply cannot guarantee that this will be the case post-independence, and that throws everything else into question.

Contrary to Alex Salmond’s fantasies, the solution to all of these financial catastrophes which may well befall an independent Scotland simply cannot be “North Sea Oil”. There isn’t enough oil in the North Sea to sustain Scotland, and even if there were, there’s no guarantee that Scotland would be able to lay claim to it. Terms regarding things like oil drilling and exploration rights would be agreed jointly between the rest of the UK and Scotland as part of the independence negotiations post-referendum, and you can bet that the rest of the UK is going to be looking out for itself. And oil is a finite resource – what happens to the Scottish economy when it runs out? Smart oil nations like the UAE and Qatar are already diversifying their economies, surely with one eye on the end of their oil-dependency.

The way Alex Salmond puts it, independence sounds wonderful. The only problem is that, in reality, there’s simply no way he can deliver on everything he promises. The post-referendum negotiations will be incredibly tough. Scotland will be economically dependent on the rest of the UK regardless of whether a currency union is agreed or not. The UK government isn’t going to take Scotland into account when setting its economic policies if Scotland chooses to leave. And if there’s no currency union, things look even more bleak. From day one, an independent Scotland will have to deal with a black hole in its finances, and a proportionate share of the UK’s debt. Salmond and the rest of the Scottish politicians have no experience managing large amounts of money, nor in levying taxes, so Scotland’s credit rating will be low, meaning any attempts to borrow money will see high interest rates, and if he should be pig-headed enough to default on Scotland’s share of the UK debt – as he has threatened to do – then an independent Scotland will be doomed even before independence day.

The rest of the UK will not be inclined to take back Scotland in five or ten years time when, ruined by financial mismanagement and depression, it would be incredibly costly to do so. That’s why it’s so important in these final few days to be negative. The “no” campaign has shyed away from pointing all of this out, fearing being seen as too negative, but it’s exactly what they have to be. To those campaigning to keep the UK together, I say this: don’t be afraid to say no. It’s what you’re all about, and at the end of the day it’s what you’ve always been about. Independence has too many unanswered questions, too many problems, and too many things which can go wrong. There is a huge risk for a minimal reward. Remaining in the UK means Scotland will continue to prosper along with her neighbours. Scotland will always be its own country, even within the UK. There are four countries which make up the UK in what is becoming an increasingly federal framework. With devolution, Scotland has more autonomy than ever before. Her social welfare programmes are viewed with more than a little envy south of the border. Why jeopardise all of that? Why risk Scotland itself? This isn’t the time of William Wallace or Robert the Bruce. England and Scotland are more than just neighbours; the United Kingdom makes them family.

Scotland is not standing on the battlefield at Bannockburn. Scotland is instead about to launch the Darien Expedition. I sincerely hope, for Scotland’s sake, that the voters say “no” to independence on Thursday.

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it?

I’d like to apologise to my readers for having waited so long to write another post! Things got quite busy, and between working and everything else, I simply couldn’t find the time to write anything for here. Hopefully, though, I will be able to post a bit more often now. I have a piece coming up later on today about the referendum in Scotland, so stay tuned for that, and soon I hope to have a couple of pieces about the run-up to the mid-terms and the state of the 2016 race.

Quick Thought: Hillary Clinton and Electability

In May of 2012, four months before the Benghazi terrorist attack, Hillary Clinton was viewed favourably by 66% of the American public. That’s down to scarcely over 50% today, in large part due to Benghazi and her reaction to it. As the 2016 Presidential campaign heats up, she’s going to be taking fire from Democratic primary opponents as well as Republicans – and some commentators have pointed out that there have been some early attacks already. From pundits to politicians, everyone has been speculating about Mrs Clinton’s Presidential ambitions, but it seems that they’re taking for granted that she would be a serious contender. Favourability is just one part of overall electability, and lately I’ve been wondering: just how electable is Hillary Clinton?

As part of her somewhat lacklustre book launch, Mrs Clinton has been in the news a lot recently. Everywhere she goes, the question of Benghazi keeps cropping up, and it seems that it would be a major issue in the 2016 Presidential race. She’s trying to avoid the issue by saying she won’t take part in any “politicising” of the terrorist attack, but she and Obama were the ones who politicised it to begin with, with their fictitious “protest”. The Benghazi issue won’t go away as easily as she’d like, and it’s clearly dragging her down.

Benghazi is even more damaging than she realises, though. She allowed a terrorist attack to happen on her watch after being warned, and after seeing Britain and others pulling out of that very dangerous city. Worse, she lied about it by following Obama’s “protest” narrative for weeks afterward. And then there’s the famous “what difference, at this point, does it make” statement at the Senate hearings. There was no protest and she knew it. But she’s clever, so it will never be proven outright that she lied. But if she runs in 2016, her only executive experience is as Secretary of State. In her entire career, she’s held one position of power. And she couldn’t handle it. The re-set with Russia was a disaster, and the catastrophe in Benghazi speaks for itself. She achieved nothing of consequence in her time at State, and even she herself talks in these meaningless vague terms about “improving America’s image in the world” as if it were a tangible achievement. It isn’t, and by the way, America’s image in the world has seldom been worse. That’s her legacy – one of failure. Though perhaps John Kerry is trying to do her a favour by showing America that there actually is a worse Secretary of State?

A few weeks ago, Karl Rove struck a nerve when he questioned Mrs Clinton’s health. She will obviously have to disclose her medical records as part of any Presidential bid, but one suspects that if her health were failing in any way she would have ruled herself out of the race, if only for the sake of the Democratic Party whose leadership have all but awarded her the nomination already. Health aside, the issue of her age is also going to crop up. On polling day in 2016 she’ll be 69 years old, only a few months younger than Reagan was, and assuming she serves two terms, she would be 77 when she leaves office. In Reagan’s day things were different. During the Cold War, the United States had very clear allies and enemies, but since 9/11, things have changed. The Presidency today is not well suited to an older person in their 70’s, which is one major factor in why we have President Obama instead of President McCain. The Democrats made a big deal out of McCain’s age and health in 2008, suggesting he was close to death and using that to attack Sarah Palin, someone they found much easier to attack. Mrs Clinton won’t make it through the 2016 campaign without being able to clearly demonstrate that health- and age-related issues will not have a negative impact on her Presidency. But even that may not be good enough. After a quarter of a century in the public eye and advancing in age, voters may well decide to support a younger, more energetic candidate. Were the Republicans to run such a candidate, we could see a re-run of 2008: a “status quo” versus “hope and change” election. I’d favour the Republicans in such a scenario.

Falling favourability numbers for someone so well-known this far out from election day should be a serious concern for the Clinton campaign. It’s easy to boost those numbers when nobody really knows who you are or what you stand for, but she’s been around for so long that there’s nothing left for voters to find out, at least, nothing positive. There may be revelations from Trey Gowdy’s new Select Committee between now and polling day which have an even more serious impact. Her health will be a concern, more so because of her age, and there’s always the possibility that an as-yet unconsidered candidate might steal the nomination from her in another hard-fought primary. Those who are saying that Hillary Clinton is sure to be the next President of the United States might want to take another look. Is she really electable?

Watching Iraq Collapse in Real-Time

I remember the first days of “shock and awe” when the US, allied with Britain and others, went into Iraq in 2003. It didn’t take long for the Iraqi army to be routed, and with Saddam Hussein gone, President Bush gave a speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a banner which read “Mission Accomplished”. In retrospect, perhaps victory was declared a little too early.

President George W. Bush on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003.

President George W. Bush on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003.

Perhaps Barack Obama should’ve paid more attention to the history of the war before pulling all US troops out of Iraq before Iraq was ready. He missed two crucial lessons which now explain why cities across Iraq have fallen to al-Qaeda, and why the terrorist forces are within striking distance of the capital, Baghdad. Firstly, the Iraqi army in 2003 fell apart very quickly when presented with serious opposition, and in spite of training and equipment given to Iraq by the US, they simply were not ready to take full control of their own security while still facing a major threat from terrorists. Secondly, Obama was too quick to declare his own “mission accomplished”, and history will look back on the speeches he and Biden gave at the time of the pull-out in much the same way as they look back on Bush standing in front of that banner on the Abraham Lincoln.

Iraq is now close to total collapse, and over the past few days, we’ve seen it happen in real-time. City after city has fallen to concerted terrorist attacks. Almost 4,500 American servicemen lost their lives to liberate Iraq, but now it seems that their sacrifice will have been in vain. President Obama has seen to that. There are so many ways that Obama has failed America’s troops and veterans that one hardly knows where to begin. I’m keen to avoid labelling each new development as “the worst”, because I see many in the media doing that and it’s irritating and disingenuous. But the Iraq pull-out was clearly one of Obama’s biggest mistakes, one he is now compounding by refusing to provide air support even after the Iraqis begged him for it. The Iraqi government knows that if terrorist forces reach Baghdad they won’t survive. They need American intervention, and they have needed it for some time.

The Obama foreign policy is one of retreat, and is headed by an incompetent ideologue in John Kerry, the man who ran in 2004 on an anti-war platform. Obama was so desperate to get out of Iraq that he wilfully ignored the consequences of doing so. Only now, with Iraq about to fall, has he finally recognised that there’s a problem – but still he won’t do anything to help. Within a matter of hours, al-Qaeda will be in Baghdad. Iraq will have fallen, and all the American servicemen who died will have died in vain. All those who were wounded and maimed will have been so injured in vain. That is the President’s responsibility, and that will be his legacy. He wants to do the same thing now in Afghanistan, and pull all troops out before he leaves office. Events in Iraq should make him reverse that decision, but they won’t. Obama lacks the ability to understand where he went wrong, and Kerry’s no help. The exact same thing will happen in Afghanistan, it’s all but guaranteed. President Obama came into office promising to pull out of Iraq. Congratulations, Mr President. Mission accomplished.

Bush mission accomplished - Copy

Stunning Tea Party Upset in Virginia

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been defeated in his primary against Tea Party-backed challenger Dave Brat, according to reports. This is a big surprise in an election cycle which has seen very few incumbents lose out on either side (with some Democrats resorting to extraordinary measures to ensure their Congressman stays on the ballot). It’s certainly one of the Tea Party’s biggest ever political scalps, because Cantor is second only to Speaker John Boehner in the hierarchy of the House of Representatives.

Brat ran a fairly typical Tea Party campaign, attacking Cantor’s record as a conservative, and labelling him a Washington insider. At a time when Congress is seeing record-low approval ratings, it’s clearly a label which resonated with Virginians. Cantor’s defeat is all the more surprising because politicians in senior leadership positions seldom lose out in such fashion. Voters are often keen to keep a well-known or senior figure as their representative, in spite of the fact that often those in such senior positions have less time to dedicate to constituency matters. Perhaps this is one of the factors in Cantor’s loss.

But I’m in danger of taking the media line and spinning this as Cantor’s defeat, when in reality we should be celebrating Brat’s victory. After all, elections are more about the winners than the losers. So who is the man who’s going to carry the Republican banner for Virginia’s 7th District come November? His website has proven difficult to access tonight, no doubt because many journalists and interested people are trying to find out more about him too. He has a PhD in Economics, and is widely recognised in Virginia as an expert on budgetary matters. So far, so good, because if there’s one thing Washington needs it’s people who understand the major economic issues facing the country. His bio also says that he has “rural values” having grown up in the rural midwest, has two children and is a practising Catholic.

To un-seat a Republican heavyweight like Cantor is quite a feat. He looks set to be a difficult candidate to beat in November, and one hopes that the Republican establishment will rally behind him, no matter how disappointed some will surely be about Cantor. Party unity is important, and everyone must get behind the nominated candidates if the party is to do well in November. As I said in my piece on Senator McConnell, there may be unintended consequences when a senior party figure is defeated, but ultimately that choice remains with primary voters for a reason. Republicans in the 7th District clearly believed that Cantor was no longer effectively representing them in Washington, so they opted to let someone else have a go. If Brat’s values are more in line with theirs, it was the right decision. The Republican Party can get a new House Majority Leader, but the people of Virginia’s 7th District only get one chance every two years to get effective representation. One thing’s for sure, though: the Tea Party is alive and kicking!

John Kerry is a Moron

By now, regular readers will know how I feel about John Kerry. He’s not qualified to serve as Secretary of State, and the sooner his damaging and disastrous tenure comes to an end the better. In case more proof were needed that American voters made the right choice in 2004, Kerry said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that it was “baloney” that the release of five high-ranking Taliban commanders from Guantanamo would put American troops at risk. Really? Baloney?

Secretary of State John Kerry.

Secretary of State John Kerry.

Let’s think about this for just a moment. By Kerry and his boss’ admissions, the United States will continue to have a military presence in Afghanistan until at least 2016. Under the terms of their release, Qatar (hardly a nation with a stellar reputation – and prone to corruption and bribery) is obliged to monitor these people only until 2015. So that gives them more than a year to get back to Afghanistan before Obama’s disastrous pull-out can be completed. Hardened terrorists need only a fraction of that time to harm American and NATO soldiers.

Releasing inmates from Guantanamo, regardless of the intentions, is always going to put American soldiers and civilians at risk. Estimates are that at least 30% of inmates released to date have returned to the battlefield. So Kerry was once again wrong, once again ideologically blind to a simple reality. He has once again proven that he is not fit to serve as Secretary of State. When asked that question, the only answer he should’ve given would be to say that, yes, it’s possible that releasing these terrorists will put American troops at risk, but the President took the calculation that it was worth paying that price to get back America’s only PoW. That would at least have been honest. Or would it?

Some have argued that this release is the opening salvo in Obama and Kerry’s quest to close Guantanamo before they leave office. Obama made it an issue in 2008, and on his first day in office, signed an executive order to close the detention facility. But reality set in quickly, and it became apparent that closing Guantanamo was not an option then, and it remains not an option now. Until there is a viable alternative, the facility must remain open.

But Kerry and Obama are single-minded when it comes to Islamic extremism… or are we not supposed to call it that any more? A few weeks ago, Kerry compared the state of Israel to South Africa under apartheid, and by doing so elevated the Islamic extremists who have promised to wipe Israel off the map to anti-apartheid icons and Nobel Peace Prize winners like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. He’s simply not someone trustworthy on the issue of Islamic extremists.

John Kerry’s latest comments show that he’s not qualified to serve as Secretary of State. Whether it’s a bold-faced lie or liberal naïveté  makes no real difference any more. Obama’s foreign policy is in tatters, and the best way to fix it would be to appoint an effective Secretary of State, not another political appointee. Kerry simply cannot handle the job, and it’s past time for him to go. These latest comments were just another load of baloney from the worst Secretary of State since Hillary Clinton.