Surface thinking, deep thinking

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How people responded to yesterday’s post, Maybe he’s not a conservative, varied. But there were two dominant types.

Surface thinkers ignored most of the content. I warned you about this early on. I decided against a deep examination of conservatism because people don’t care. Instead, I wrote a rather tongue-in-cheek story about why definitions of conservatism don’t matter.

Deep thinkers got the tongue-in-cheek shtick. Maybe they rolled their eyes at my cheap attempt at being clever. Maybe they said, “yeah, well I still won’t vote for Greitens.” Or maybe they just said, “Hennessy does this all the time. Big deal.” A few kind souls laughed out loud and rewarded my effort with a tweet. Any of those responses show that you actually read and thought about the story.

Surface thinkers gave a different response. Some took my opening paragraphs as proof that I’ve turned against Greitens. Others argued that they don’t consider Greitens a conservative. Some complained that Greitens doesn’t talk about things they’d like to talk about. All legitimate conversations, but they have nothing to do with my story.

Here’s what’s crazy: it’s impossible for surface thinkers to see beyond their reaction. And it’s just as hard for deep thinkers to understand how surface thinkers missed the point. Deep thinkers who read some of the surface thinker responses assume the surface thinkers were being sly. They weren’t. They were being sincere. They just didn’t get the story.

My experiment is like the picture that might be an old hag or might be a beautiful young woman. Say you can see both women. If someone sees only one of the two possibilities, you can’t make them see the other one. And you can’t understand why they can’t see both. You might even think there’s something wrong with them.

And I’m not making any assumption about the intelligence of either group. There’s no reason to believe deep thinkers are smarter than shallow thinkers. They just think in different ways.

Also, when I say “deep thinkers,” I don’t mean people pondered my brilliance for hours. There was no brilliance there to uncover. Sure, I intended the post to create one of two reactions, but it’s not a deep, profound post. It’s just a test.

Want to know which group you’re in?

If your gut reaction was to try to prove Greitens is or is not a conservative, you’re surface thinking. If your reaction was anything else (even “who cares?” you’re deep thinking. At least in relation to that post.

BONUS MENTAL GAME: This is for deep thinkers only. Try to rewrite my original post to prove Greitens fits the definition of conservative.

Maybe he’s not a conservative

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As far as I can tell, the number one reason a few conservatives give for hating Eric Greitens is that he might not be a conservative. He’s probably not. But that shouldn’t make any difference.

Figuring out whether Greitens is a conservative or not requires a lot of thinking, a lot of writing, and a lot of clear analysis from readers. I won’t waste time on the first two because I won’t get the last no matter what. The handful of conservatives who hate Greitens have made a big public investment in their hatred. That investment is too big an investment to abandon it now. At least, I think it is. I’d be impressed if they changed their minds. But I’m afraid that  no amount of reason or logic or even persuasive psychological witchery will separate the Greitens-bashers from their conspiracy theories and angst.

Instead, I’ll just say two things about Greitens’s conservatism.

First, according to the dictionary definition, Greitens is probably not a conservative. Via Google Dictionary:

conservative: noun: a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.

Greitens fails the test here. Greitens is not averse to change in Missouri politics. In fact, that’s the whole reason he’s running. He wants to change, not only politics, but the people involved in politics. He’s running to clean house in Jefferson City. He wants to scrub the capital of the human detritus that commissions slander videos like the one that attacked him last Thursday. Greitens wants to return state government to something that helps Missouri grow. He’s tired of his home state lagging behind the nation in almost every area of growth. Greitens holds a claim on traditional values, but that doesn’t rescue him according to this definition. There’s an “and” between “averse to change” and “holds traditional values.” To be a conservative, one must have both. And Greitens is not averse to change. He’s all for beneficial changes for Missouri.

Second, it doesn’t matter whether Greitens is a conservative. It doesn’t. A few years ago, I listened to about 30 Republican candidates stand up and say, “I am a Constitutional Conservative.” They sounded like robots programmed to begin every sentence with those words. I wrote about it at the time. Many of those “Constitutional Conservatives” went to Jefferson City to do whatever their masters at the chamber of commerce tell them to do. These are good people who hold traditional values. And they’re true conservatives because they thwart change. They keep the revolving door between government and special interests spinning like a gyroscope. They became the grease that lubricates the business-as-usual machine in Jefferson City.

Eric Greitens won’t go to Jefferson City and grease the skids for the corrupt insiders. He will actually cause change. In order, his goals as governor are:

  • End corruption
  • Make government excellent
  • Fight for the middle class
  • Cut spending
  • Protect life
  • Support police and firefighters
  • Protect faith
  • Preserve the 2nd Amendment
  • Improve education
  • Reform welfare
  • Support veterans
  • Simplify the tax code
  • Restore the American dream

Again, many of these reforms fly in the face of change aversion. But I think we need all the changes Greitens wants to make. I also think we need a governor who is an actual leader, not someone who’s been waiting his turn to occupy the seat. Greitens never waits his turn when positive action can get things done. He lives Patton’s general order: “when in doubt, attack.” His Navy records show that Greitens accomplishes his missions and moves onto the next. There is no waiting.

So I don’t care if Greitens fits Google’s definition of a conservative. Or yours. I care about making Missouri a place I can recommend to my kids and their kids. Right now, I can’t. There’s just not enough opportunity in Missouri. And it’s not the kids’ jobs to fix that–it’s ours.

Eric Greitens earned my support because Missouri needs change, not the status quo. If that’s not conservative, too damn bad.

Know When To Fight Your Own

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I can be pretty hard on Republicans. Not hard enough for some. Too hard for others.

But I, at least, try to time my battles for ideological consistency. As a general rule, odd-numbered years are for cleaning up the GOP. Even-numbered years are for cleaning out Democrats.

This is an odd-numbered year. Right up to the votes on the continuing resolution, my primary targets were Republicans, especially Roy Blunt.

Once the House exercised its Constitutional power of the purse strings, sending a popular continuing resolution to the Senate, the battle lines shifted. Obama declared war on reason and Republicans.

Once that happened, we had a choice. We could help Obama by attacking the House Republicans’ right flank.

Or we can fight Obama by riding to the aid of our closest ideological allies in Congress.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m riding with the Boehner, Ann Wagner, Jason Smith, Billy Long, and the other resilient House Republicans. After we put down the tyrannical King Barack, there’ll be plenty of time to squabble with Boehner.

How to Avoid Collateral Damage When Hunting for RINOs

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Lowell Weicker was a RINO. So was Lincoln Chaffe for a while. And John Linsday, the mayor who tried to destroy New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

RINO stands for “Republican In Name Only.” Rhinos and Elephants are both pachyderms, so it’s a pretty clever name for people who join the Republican Party but prefer the Democrat platform.

The problem is, some people take the concept to extremes. They make themselves look foolish and reactionary. They label someone a RINO over any disagreement on any issue.

Saturday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pay federal workers retroactively for time lost due to Obama’s partial government shutdown.

That prompted at least one St. Louis man to declare every Republican in the House a RINO.

 

 

According to this gentleman’s standards, if you see your name here, you’re a RINO:

Seriously? All these people are well above the Heritage Action Scorecard Republican average. And the Heritage Action Scorecard is the best index of Congressional conservatism in the world.

If every member of the US House is either a Democrat or a RINO, then our cause is lost. There’s no point in continuing.

Republicans in the House, and a handful of brave Senators, fight every day for the things we believe in: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the rule of law.

Maybe you believe Ann Wagner’s heart isn’t in this fight. So what?  On the CR, she’s voting right. And I have no qualms with challenging Ann Wagner.  Support her before someone else does. If you called or tweeted or visited her office asking her defund Obamacare, thank her for doing as you asked. Please. We want her to know that we’ll defend her when she sticks her neck out.

And if you really think Steve King and Steve Stockman are RINOs, you better find another party. Or bigger hat, because your dunce cap is showing.

But if you disagree with one insignificant vote, disagree with that one insignificant vote. Don’t go calling for heads to roll.

To avoid collateral damage during your RINO hunt, check the Heritage Action Scorecard. If your target is above the Republican average, you might be shooting someone’s pet.

 

Here’s the Most Encouraging Thing John Boehner Ever Said

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Today on ABC’s This Week, Speaker of the House John Boehner spoke very powerful words about himself. They reveal his motivation. And it’s very encouraging.

“I’m a reasonable guy. But I didn’t come to Washington to be a congressman. I came to do something for my country.”

Write that down. That statement echos.

Research shows that people motivated by doing, by getting better, by learning, will work harder and stay truer to their principles than people motivated by demonstrating how good they are–being something.

When you are focused on getting better, rather than on being good, you benefit in two very important ways. First, when things get tough— when you are faced with complexity, time pressure, obstacles, or unexpected challenges— you don’t get so discouraged. You’re more likely to believe you can still do well if you just keep trying. Second, when you do start to have doubts about how well you are doing, you are more likely to stay motivated anyway. Because even if you think succeeding will be difficult for you, you can still learn. Improvement is still possible. You can still get better. So when a task is difficult, and persistence is the key to higher achievement, get-better mastery goals have the clear advantage.

From Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson
I was surprised that Boehner stuck to his guns last week. I expected him to fold.

If I’d know that his motivation is “to do something for my country” instead of “be a congressman,” I wouldn’t have been surprised by his remarkable steadfastness.

As we head into another election year, pay attention to candidates’ motivation for running.

Ask “why are you running?”

If they say, “I want to be” something, walk away.

If they say, “I want to do” something, keep talking.

 

4 Reasons Why House Republicans Should Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now *UPDATE*

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Yeah, I know. Obama’s childish, petulant, and tyrannical tantrums over the continuing resolution makes me want to fight like an angry cat, too.

But I don’t actually want to fight. Fighting isn’t in our interest. As Sun Tzu said:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

I want to succeed in repealing Obamacare and forcing government into its constitutionally limited box.

Republicans face limited options. They control one-third of the legislative process. Squishes like Pete King of New York threaten their unity. A national press that’s 98.4% opposes anything they do, even restoring funding to help kids dying of cancer. And they’re dealing with a public that, by and large, can’t point out DC on an annotated map of the District of Columbia.

So what can they do?

House Republicans can pass a clean debt ceiling bill and send it to the Senate.

Here are four reasons why that’s their best choice right now.

1. Never Let Your Position Overcome Your Interests.

Positional bargaining focuses on specific goals, like “repeal Obamacare.” It focuses on “what” you want. Interest bargaining focuses on “why” you want it. King Solomon gave us the perfect example. Two women each claimed a child was her son. Each held the same position: “I want the child.” But their interests were different. Solomon resolved the dispute by ordering the child cut in half, with woman getting an equal portion.

At that point, the child’s true mother dropped her position and focused on her interest: the best possible outcome for her child. The mother told the king, “let her have him.” Solomon, of course, restored the child to its true mother.

Our interest is broader than “repeal Obamacare.” For example, what if Obamacare were replaced with a single-payer system and all healthcare workers became draftees into a government-run national healthcare horror show? Yes, we’d have achieved our position but at the sacrifice of our personal and national interest.

Passing a clean debt ceiling bill now lets us focus on our interest of restoring self-governance and constitutionally limited government.

2. Take Away Obama’s Best Strategy: Confusing Low Information Voters

There are two government financial issues at play now: the federal budget and the debt ceiling. The House took its stand against Obamacare over the a resolution to extend the last federal budget. That’s the continuing resolution. The other issue is the debt ceiling.

The consequences of a government shutdown are mild, short, and familiar. We know this because there’ve been 17 shutdowns since 1974, mostly because Democrat Speaker Tip O’Neill figured out how to extort money for his friends through shutdowns in the 1970s and 1980s.

The consequences of the world’s largest economy defaulting, however, is a different story. It’s never happened before, and no one knows what the consequences would be. Anyone who tells you they do know what would happen as a result of a US default is either lying or foolish. No one knows with any degree of precision or accuracy. Smart economists say so.

Some possible consequences include:

  • Hyper-inflation
  • Deflation
  • Total collapse of the US dollar
  • Total freezing of world financial flows
  • Global depression

Other possibilities include:

  • Nothing really happens at all

I don’t know. But neither do you, Jack Lew, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, or Warren Buffet. When it comes to a US debt default, you’re just as smart as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Obama and the press use expert uncertainty combined with public ignorance to treat the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling as one. That’s wrong, and they know it. But they do it because polling shows the vast majority of Americans don’t understand either.

By passing a clean debt ceiling bill that lets government borrow through April 2015, Obama can no longer conflate the two issues for PR leverage. That lets us focus on Obamacare and the continuing resolution, which advances our interests at the expense of a position. And smart people always put their interests ahead of their positions.

3.  Strategic Thinking Says Don’t Take Unknown Risks If You Don’t Have To

When I was 17, I wanted desperately to go out with the cutest girl at Bishop DuBourg High School. I won’t embarrass her by telling you her name. It took forever, but I finally asked her out. She said yes.

That was a known risk. I could reasonably calculate the consequences. She could say yes, no, or maybe. If she said “yes,” I win. If she said “no,” I’d meet somebody else, though I’d be in pain for a long time. If she said, “maybe,” I’d take that as a yes and continue pursuing a stronger yes.

Every possible outcome was knowable, and I could live with any of them. I could plan a strategy for dealing with any of them.

An unknown risk, on the other hand, has at least one possible path that is completely unknowable. Or it has so many possibilities and combinations that no one can reasonably determine where the chain of events will lead. That’s an unknown risk, and it’s very dangerous.

As I stated above, the House has taken a known risk by passing a continuing resolution that Obama doesn’t like. We know what’s likely to happen, and we’re willing to chance it.

The debt ceiling is an unknown risk. Taking that risk when there’s an alternative would be silly and dangerous. By passing a clean debt ceiling increase now, only Obama and the Democrats could force a US debt default. They would get the blame in that case.

Plus, by fear-mongering about the debt ceiling, Obama has put himself in a position where he’d have to sign the bill. That would screw up his PR strategy, as we’ll see next.

4.  Obama’s Losing the Continuing Resolution PR Battle But Winning the Debt Ceiling Debate

On Friday, Obama held a press conference. His sole purpose was to trigger a stock market crash and a financial panic. He spoke under the guise of the continuing resolution debate, but spoke only of the consequences of a debt default. He urged investors to panic-sell all their stock to trigger a market crash. Very calculated, very cold, and very irresponsible. Completely unworthy of a US President.

As the Detroit News put it:

Stocks finished the government shutdown week mostly down, but not nearly as much as they could have fallen, given President Barack Obama’s efforts to panic investors. When Wall Street gave a ho-hum response to the shutdown, Obama went on TV to question why the markets weren’t more concerned by the standoff in Washington, and warned the U.S. could default on its debt.

They were highly reckless remarks by a president whose job it is to cultivate calm and confidence, not fear.

Why would a president want to trigger bank runs, market crashes, and financial disasters?

Because the president is losing the battle on Obamacare and the continuing resolution.

The White House’s shutdown strategy was to inflict maximum pain on the largest number of people. So Obama ordered the WWII Memorial closed. And the Vietnam Wall. He tried to shut down private businesses around the country. He threatened to arrest Catholic priests who crossed his picket line to say mass for Catholic troops in the armed forces. He even tried to close the Atlantic Ocean.

All of his attempts at punishing people failed, because we know he’s little more than the Wizard of Oz’s evil twin. And Obama’s approval rating has plummeted to 41 percent–just 2 points above the “point of no return.”

Clearly, the world hasn’t ended because of a partial government shutdown, and everyone knows it. So Obama’s conflating the shutdown with the debt ceiling.

By passing a clean debt ceiling bill, Obama will be forced to deal solely with his failed government shutdown. That will force him to negotiate. Something he’s sworn repeatedly is beneath him.

Pass a Clean Debt Ceiling Bill Now

Ask @RepAnnWagner and @RoyBlunt to push their leadership to pass a clean debt ceiling bill this week. Base it on the deficit of the last three months. Raise the debt limit to allow the government to borrow through April of the next Congress, so the next Congress can re-evaluate and adjust. Even Erick Erickson agrees:

 

If we take away Obama’s ability to confuse low-information voters while we demonstrate reasonableness in facing unknown risks, Obama will have to negotiate to re-open the government.

Because Obama’s position is “no negotiations, period,” forcing negotiations will destroy his position. He will be exposed as a liar and a fraud whose power is based on mythical fear not respect or Constitutional authority.

Taking a debt default off the table will damage Obama’s domestic credibility as thoroughly as Syria wrecked his international esteem.

UPDATE: Erick Erickson of Redstate.com expanded on his tweet.

So what should we do? I think somebody like Steve Scalise, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, needs to propose a short-term debt limit for a few weeks and attach to it the Full Faith and Credit Act that ensures the Treasury Department prioritizes interest payments in the event the debt limit is ever not increased. This would buy us some time to finish the fight to defund Obamacare and set us up well to fight the next long-term debt limit increase to the death by removing some of the President’s scare tactics. How do Republican Leaders not adopt and push such a proposal? How does Obama not accept it without looking completely unreasonable?

Bingo, Erick.