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I know it was you, Fredo

Fredo Corleone: I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!
Michael Corleone: That’s the way Pop wanted it.
Fredo Corleone: It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

—The Godfather: Part II

I’m sure John Brunner never saw himself as Fredo Corleone.

A Burning Question

Did you ever ask yourself why John Brunner would release a surreptitious recording of a phone call with an opponent? Especially one that lacks a smoking gun that would seriously wound the opponent?

Think about it: by releasing that tape to the media, John Brunner told the world, “I cannot be trusted.” He showed himself as the sort of cowardly, weak politician who tries to bait his opponents into secret traps. And he comes off as foolish enough, inept enough, to think people will forget that he uses Nixonian tactics.

“Is this being recorded?” will cross the minds of every person who talks to John Brunner for the rest of his life.

It Doesn’t Add Up

I ask again, why would Brunner willingly destroy his own reputation? It doesn’t make sense.

Mr. Brunner successfully operated his company’s business for years. He should know that executives—or executive candidates—don’t secretly record private conversations to gain a tactical advantage. Legal or not, releasing a secretly recorded phone conversation without the other party’s consent is sleazy, and no one seriously disputes that.

According to mafia legend, if you kill a don, you can’t become a don. Brunner’s complicity in the secret recording and leak means his political career peaked the day he announced his candidacy for governor. The man who tried to lecture a decorated Navy SEAL on manhood did so while violating the first rule of manliness.

As Jane Dueker said on the Reardon Round Table November 27:

That was weaselly. Your taping conversations—and I don’t believe the story that he felt threatened . . . no, no, no, no, I don’t like that. And just man-up. You did a weaselly thing, you need to own up to it.

With all that downside and no upside, why would Brunner release the recording?

Who Released the Tape?

We learned from his 2012 race for US Senate that Brunner is easily manipulated by Republican consultants. Those of us who wanted to support Brunner in 2012 for his ideological consistency had to walk away because of his weakness in debates and his failure to be his own man. Brunner ran as a caricature painted by John Hancock.

So someone must have convinced Brunner to record his calls with Eric Greitens. Or someone released the recording behind Bruner’s back.

I know, I know, “But, Bill, if John Brunner knew it was wrong, he shouldn’t have done it.” I get it, and I agree. But Brunner, as I say, is easily manipulated. And ambitious. He wants to win an election, and he trusts the people he’s hired to make that happen.

And trusting Republican players is the dumbest thing a person can do. It’s like when Fredo trusted Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II.

So I realize that Brunner knowingly and with malice recorded a private conversation with Eric Greitens. I am less sure that Brunner was involved in the recording’s release.

Brunner had everything to lose by that recording going public. He lost his reputation, his credibility, and trustworthiness. Why would Brunner out himself as a rat?

I’m not going to  speculate here about who did it, but I will explore why.

Eric Greitens Is a Threat to the Establishment

Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to Chris Koster in the GOP field.

The same Republican insiders agree that Eric Greitens is the biggest threat to the Republican establishment. And we know from our Center for Self-Governance training that the purpose of political parties is to maintain their power. Everything else is ancillary.

Party insiders will go to extraordinary lengths when their power comes under attack. As Richard Nixon demonstrated, no law or ethic will stand in the way of a political animal who feels threatened or cornered.

And Eric Greitens presents both parties with a huge threat to their power.

Some will say, “but Bill, John Brunner is an outsider, too.” True. He is. But Brunner has shown himself to turn to putty in the hands of establishment seducers. Plus, the insiders believe Koster would wipe the floor with Brunner in the general election.

Because he’s easily manipulated and because he’s a poor candidate, Republican insiders do not see Brunner as a serious threat. By the same token, because he’s not easily manipulated and because he could beat Chris Koster, Eric Greitens is a huge threat the GOP establishment.

The GOP’s Hyman Roth

When Hyman Roth wanted to consolidate his power by taking down the Corleone family, he manipulated Michael Corleone’s brother Fredo. Fredo set up Michael.

When the Missouri GOP establishment wanted to eliminate a potential threat to its power, one of its agents manipulated John Brunner to set up Eric Greitens. At least that’s what I’m thinking.

It’s a plot so diabolical and underhanded that the schemers deserve a certain amount of respect. Until you see the plot play out.

What’s most brilliant about the plot is that Brunner is spending his own money to try to whack Greitens politically, not realizing that the GOP’s Hyman Roth is using Brunner’s money to pay the contract on Brunner. As the establishment sees it, with Greitens and Brunner out of the way, either Kinder or Hanaway is a shoe-in for the nomination. And if one of those two loses to Koster? Well, as one Republican insider told me a couple years ago, “we can work with Koster.”

Politics Is More Corrupt Than It Knows

No one involved in this scheme would consider himself corrupt. The political elites want us to believe that bribery is the only form of political corruption. Anything short of bribery, to the political animal, is just hardball politics.

To you and me, corruption is broader. What’s more corrupt than manipulating a man like John Brunner?

Corrupting the morals of a man like Brunner—or turning Fredo Corleone against his brother—is corruption. And it’s a more serious corruption than mere bribery. The establishment has corrupted John Brunner’s soul and wrecked his good name. And ended his political career.

And the establishment is proud of its wicked work. Or it would be if the scheme had worked.

No Smoking Gun

For the GOP scheme to succeed, it needed a knock-out blow. But Eric Greitens gave them nothing. As I said on KMOX, Brunner’s secret recording was not Greitens’s fines moment, but for a man whose life is a long string of fine moments, this was nothing.

The bold scheme to take out Brunner and Greitens took out only Brunner, the dupe. Greitens was wounded but only slightly. When you take a shot at a Navy SEAL, you better kill him. The GOP’s bullet missed its mark.

Now, the GOP finds itself in an uncomfortable place. Its stooge has lost all credibility. Eric Greitens learned a hard lesson that will make him only tougher and more determined to pitch corrupt lobbyists and politicians down the steps of the capitol.

Greitens Is the Only Innocent

The GOP’s Hyman Roth wanted to help one of two established politicians in the race. Unless one of those candidates admits complicity, it will be hard to trust them. Though I don’t believe Brunner would voluntarily act as a foil to Greitens, by agreeing to secretly record a call, Brunner’s credibility is shot.

For voters who want an outsider with integrity, one who played no role in this episode of ugly election manipulation, Greitens is the only trustworthy Republican still standing.

So, nice try, establishment.

The Burning Question

Now that we have a plausible explanation for why John Brunner was manipulated to secretly record a private call with his opponent, one open question is: who dunnit?

Who told Brunner to make the recording? And who released it to the press?

When we know the answer to that question, we’ll know which remaining Republican gubernatorial candidate absolutely cannot be trusted. For the record, I think the story that Brunner felt threatened by Greitens is pure BS. And if Brunner is that easily intimidated, he shouldn’t be running for office.

The one man who can answer is the candidate whose reputation just got flushed down the toilet. Ironic, isn’t? Whoever turned Brunner into a rat put themselves in Brunner’s crosshairs. And John Brunner has nothing to lose by outing his corrupter.

Fredo tried to regain Michael’s favor by outing Hyman Roth. It didn’t work for Fredo, of course, but Fredo had to try.

At some point, Brunner will realize his best hope for redemption begins with exposing the person or persons who corrupted him.

So the burning question is: will John Brunner sing?

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I was an immigrant

Maybe I’m remembering this wrong. Maybe not.

I met my best high school friends at the lunch table. Scott Oppelt, John Clancy, Christian Saller, Tom Newport, and . . . and dude with curly blond hair who was in Scott Oppelt’s band. John. John Martin.

I met them early in my junior year. We had just one thing in common: we were all transferees. We were not native DuBourgers. We transferred. We were traitors to our former schools. We shouldn’t be trusted. And we shouldn’t mingle with the natives.

Again, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure we were “encouraged” to sit together with other transferees. We’d be more comfortable with our own kind.

Being Irish, I figured this was all for the best. The Irish seemed to do much better when we all lived in the Irish ghettos. Once we moved to the burbs and joined golf clubs, we sort of lost our Irishness and all the benefits and forgiveness that went with it.

I think I was a pretty good DuBourger, for a transplant. I spent some time on the board of education in 2004 and 2005. And I’ve done a couple of summer alumni plays to help the school. So I wasn’t like a complete traitor.

Even though I was “encouraged” to sit with my fellow transferees (traitors), DuBourg was good to me. I had to sit out a year of sports, but that gave me time to get into theatre, which earned a college scholarship. And a really awesome group of friends, including the best girlfriend any high school guy could hope for.

To this day, I am a DuBourger, and I always will be. I love the place.

But there’s still that “go sit with your kind” thing that sticks with me. I wasn’t totally welcomed at DuBourg. I was accepted. They got used to me. But I was never a native.

The conservative world is a lot like DuBourg High School. Some of us are thrilled to death that Eric Grietens and Ben Carson have crossed the Rubicon to join our side. They remind me of past converts like John Dos Passos, Whittikar Chambers, and James Burnham. And Ronald Wilson Reagan. (Reagan, by the way, never repudiated or apologized for his four votes for FDR.)

But a lot of Missouri conservatives seems irritated that we’re attracting converts. Matt Hay, Bev Ehlen, and Ike Skelton are people I admire and respect, but they seem angry that these men have declared themselves conservatives. And when the recent converts get something wrong, they make the fundamental attribution error, ascribing the converts’ missteps to unfixable character flaws and not to situations that change. Situations, but for God’s grace, we might all face. Worse, they want to punish Eric Greitens for statements he made eight years ago when he was a Democrat. Did they punish Reagan for his votes for FDR and Truman? Did they demand he repudiate his former positions?

As an immigrant, I can tell you immigrants make a lot of mistakes. We don’t know all the history and the nuances of the new culture. But we chose to be here. We chose this group. That should give the prior members pride, not frustration.

If the conservative movement has too many members, if we want no more conversion, someone please say so. And show me the 49-state wins as evidence.

Until then, let’s welcome the converts warmly and guide them in their conversion and formation. They need our guidance and wisdom, not our doubt and scorn.

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I Might Abandon the GOP in 2016

Why have conservatives and right-leaning libertarians made so little progress since 2009?

Consider that the GOP was written off for dead following the 2008 election. Republicans disappeared from the press. When a Republican popped up on a Sunday talk show, he was talking about compromise and getting along.

Then the Tea Party happened, and all of a sudden the GOP’s testes descended. But after two off-year wave elections that gave the GOP their largest majorities since Hoover, the GOP seems poised to double down on the crony capitalist, elitist policies and candidates that got them tossed out of Washington in 2006 and 2008.

If conservatives and right-leaning libertarians gave the GOP its spine, why isn’t the GOP using it?

Simple. Republican party leaders work to increase their own personal power. They want to take power from you and me and use it for their personal benefit.

I can’t say I blame. I mean, that’s precisely what we want to do, isn’t it? We want to wrestle power away from Washington and use it ourselves. We echo William F. Buckley who wrote in Up From Liberalism:

I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power as I see fit.

Our problem with the modern Republican Party is that its candidates pretend they’re on our side in the battle of personal power. But they’re not. They’re on their own side. This isn’t a two-way war between us and Washington; it’s a guerre a trois between us, Washington, and the GOP.

The reason we’re losing ground is our weak tactics. When the shooting starts every two years, we take bullets for the Republicans. When they win, they leave on the battlefield to bleed out.

The alternative is to make the game more interesting. Here’s how.

Even if all the principled conservatives and right-leaning libertarians banded together, we could not elect third party candidate. But we could deny Republicans the win.

The only way for that to work is to make a strong early commitment and stick to it. Which is what I am doing in this post. I am declaring that I will not cast a Republican vote in any race in 2016 if the GOP nominates Jeb Bush as it’s candidate for President.

Some will urge me to vote Republican for office like governor. Nope. None.

If the GOP nominates Bush, I’m pulling a Libertarian ballot in the primary and voting straight Libertarian or Constitution Party ballot in November.

The down-ticket candidates provide a lot of support and cover to the party’s up-ticket candidates. Jeb Bush would look a lot less tolerable to Tom Schweich and John Hancock if his nomination meant another Democrat governor and losses in the Missouri General Assembly.

If enough voters committed to voting third party (or staying home) were Bush nominated, state parties throughout the country would distance themselves from Bush.

Bush has all the money locked up.The only way to stop his nomination is to make that nomination a sure defeat for the GOP nationally and in the states. It’s a recognition that we’re in a three-way war for power. it’s telling the establishment that we’re crazy enough to point our weapons at the side most likely to surrender to us.

So there’s my plan. If the candidate’s Bush, I walk. And I’ll work against ever Republican on my ballot.

 

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How Missouri’s Legislature Can Increase Highway Funds

Now that Amendment 7 has gone down in flames, let’s look at highway funding in Missouri.House-res-45680001

Amendment 7 would have authorized a 3/4 cent sales tax increase in Missouri. The money was intended for transportation in the broadest sense of the word. Parks with dirt paths qualify, since people can walk on the paths. Even if the bill tightened down the definition of transportation, municipalities and counties would have merely shifted funds to other projects and replaced that money with Amendment 7 taxes. Politicians are masters at moving money around.

I’ve pointed out before that Missouri has great roads. Some of the best in the country. But let’s say Amendment 7’s supporters were right. Say we need more money for roads and bridges and butterfly museums. Now what?

My buddy Ben Evans of Heritage Action has a great idea. Let the Missouri Legislature pass resolutions advising our Congressional delegation of what to do and how to vote. 

The first resolution I’d propose involves highway funding. The legislature should tell our members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass the Transportation Empowerment Act. You can read all about the TEA here.

The Congressional delegation could just ignore the legislature’s recommendation, of course. The resolution could not bind them. But the act of formalizing instructions to members of Congress would make it far more difficult for Representatives and Senators to weasel their way out situations.

Could Roy Blunt really claim he understands Missourians’ best interest better than a state rep who lives and works with his constituents? Hardly.

If you like this idea, please let John Diehl know right away. Ask him to fast-track a resolution on TEA in the first weeks of the next general assembly in January. And thank @benevansstl for the great strategy idea.

Note: I’ve fixed the link to John Diehl. If it doesn’t work, here’s his address: John.Diehl@house.mo.gov

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We Are the RINOs

You, dear reader, you and I are the RINOs.Elephant Dung

We can now stop calling the crony capitalists and their legislative puppets RINO. They are the TRUE Republicans. It’s their party; a lobbyist bought it for them, not for us. They own it. We are the impostors, the fakes, the interlopers into an intimate mating dance between the masters of manipulation and the TBTF banks and corporate overlords.

Step back. Take a breath.

We Had It Backwards

I understand why you think the Roy Blunts and Thad Cochrans of the world are the impostors. I used to think so, too. I read the Republican platform. I listened to the Republican speeches. I read the Republican position papers. And mostly I agreed.

Then I watched the Big Republican Names–the Establishment–go out day after day and do the opposite. Or, more often, the Big Republicans would slither between the carefully crafted text of its documents to a position that felt comfy and consistent. To them, at least.

Do you know what “is” is?

When I saw their inconsistencies–what others less charitable than I might call “hypocrisies”–I said, “Wait a minute. That’s not the Republican way! We don’t grant favors to donors. We don’t take one person’s property and give it to someone with more clout. We play referee and let the players decide the outcome of the game.”

But when I railed against Republican inconsistencies, I was forgetting an important lesson–a lesson I learned from my mom and dad and the Dominican Sisters at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Grade School, God rest its soul. I forgot that words don’t matter. I forgot this most valuable lesson:

We are what we do consistently.

Yes, I believe in lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of praying [is] the law of believing. But it only works if we pray a lot and let the prayers work their magic. It doesn’t work if we pray with bad intent. We can stop the magic of prayer. And if we pray for two minutes a day and sin for 20 hours, we become the sin, not the prayer.

Identifying Marks of a Republican

So what do the Big Republicans do consistently? They grant favors for friends with power and money. Doing favors for powerful and rich friends is what it means to be Republican. It’s what they’ve become through consist behavior. A party exists to preserve and grow its own party, not to save the country.

That’s the whole issue in the Export-Import Bank case. Eric Cantor and his myrmidons in the House kept the Ex-Im alive to help their rich and powerful friends at Boeing and Caterpillar.

And it’s the issue with guys like Senator Cochran. Thad Cochran, every day, finds ways to take money from people in other states and give it to voters in Mississippi.

And then there’s the Missouri Republican legislators grant $800,000,000 in benefits to donors on the last day of the session.

True Republicans take from everybody and give to the rich and powerful. It’s not what they say; it’s what they do. (Tom Delay, anyone?)

We who work for the Tea Party and Campaign for Liberty and all the other groups who fight for level playing fields and the rule of law and Constitutional limits to power–we’re the weirdos. We’re deviants who violate the spirit of Republicanism.

Again, it’s an easy mistake to make. Many of us remember Reagan. Many of us studied Goldwater. We all read William F. Buckley. And we assume that Republicanism is what Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley stood for. But it wasn’t.

Like us, Reagan, Goldwater, and Buckley were political deviants. They violated the spirit of Republican Party law. They may have influenced the party’s platform, but the platform is only words. The Party is the sum of its deeds, not the sum of its glittering generalities.

How to Change the Party: Leverage

Can we change the party? Sure. But it takes a long time. And we need leverage. And the party has to want to change.

We’ve tried using primaries as a lever, but that’s like David playing Goliath’s game. Primaries are what Republicans and Democrats do best. They invented the system, for God’s sake; do you really think you’ll beat them at their game? Hell, no.

Tea Party Inc. (FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots) are good people and all, but they operate just like the Chamber of Commerce. They try to beat the Establishment at the Establishment’s game, and they get their asses kicked almost every time.

Maybe Reagan and Buckley could commandeer the party now and then, but Reagan and Buckley were kinds of geniuses. We’re not. At least, I’m sure as hell no genius.

We are Davids, and Davids fight a different game if they want to win. Davids don’t rush Goliath with a boastful yell. They find a new weapon, new tactics, new fields of battle. Or they repurpose old ones.

But There’s a New Dichotomy in Town

When I write about the new American political dichotomy, I’m writing about our slingshot. That slingshot is our lever.

Political party survival depends on having a large block of voters it can take for granted. People who vote for the party no matter what. People who lie say terrible things about the party and its leaders, then go out and vote for that party anyway.

For Democrats, it’s African-Americans. The Democrats can do or say anything and still get 90% of the black vote. Anything at all.

For Republicans, conservatives and conservitarians serve the role of sycophant. No matter how badly the GOP violates our principles, we’ll vote Republican because the Democrats are even worse.

A sycophant sucks up to someone in power to gain an advantage or favor. Conservatives, libertarians, and blacks have been sucking up to Republican and Democrat power for decades. Do we get favor? No. We get scraps, pats on the head, and kicks in the teeth.

But what if the sycophants de-sycophantify? What if the abused people of both parties say, “screw this?” What if the taken-for-granted plebeians wake up and realize that we have more in common with other plebeians than we have in common with either of the two Big Parties?

Then David fractures Goliath’s freakishly big skull with a rock, and Goliath collapses in a heap.

And then David better be prepared to run things well, because David will soon be king.

You can be a RINO or you can be David, but you can’t be a Republican. Not now, anyway. It’s a closed club.

Call me David.