Nixon legacy tarnished at his own library?

Some controversy over the recently revised Watergate exhibit at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, California has provoked some questions over presidential libraries, their value, purpose for public consumption and their role in the remembrance of past presidents.

One docent at the Nixon library, my colleague at the Orange County Register  Will Alexander, opted to resign in protest of the new exhibit after 10 years of volunteer service. And friends and former colleagues of Richard Nixon have been critical of the museum’s new director, Timothy Naftali. Some critics  have even suggested that the Nixon library is becoming an anti-Nixon monument.

What is the purpose of a presidential library? Are presidential libraries meant to showcase the positive legacy of a president or provide an unfiltered historical – and perhaps, critical – view of a former U.S. commander in chief?

On March 31, the library opened a new exhibit on the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign the presidency in 1974. It replaced the original Watergate exhibit, which dated back 15 years and in which Nixon was involved in curating. The new exhibit offers a much harsher depiction of Watergate.

The visual imagery and titles reflect a strongly critical vibe, if not a completely anti-Nixon tone to the presentation. The start of the gallery features big, bold, red and black letters spelling out “Road to Resignation.” Other parts of the exhibit are labeled “Dirty Tricks and Political Espionage” and “The Cover-Up, Break-In and Evidence,” just to give a few examples. After walking through the gallery, one would be hard pressed to feel warm and fuzzy about the former president, who died in 1994 and is buried on the library grounds.

Also raising some eyebrows are some of the speakers featured in events at the library since Naftali officially took the reins in 2007, when the federal government took over the administration of the library. Former Democratic Sen. George McGovern who lost a bitter presidential race to Nixon in 1972, has spoken at the library, as have Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and former Nixon aide John Dean, the foremost whistleblower in the Watergate scandal.

Of course, there is no disputing the facts on display at the library but those close to Nixon and his admirers have been critical of the new approach, which they believe is skewed towards focusing on Nixon’s darkest moments.

Bruce Herschensohn, a former special assistant during the Nixon administration and personal friend to Nixon, told me he rarely goes to the Nixon library because of the way his former boss and friend is now portrayed. Herschensohn, who had once donated his personal papers to the library has taken them back and instead given them to Pepperdine University because, as he said, he does not “trust the government” to oversee them.

At the heart of the controversy is the belief among some – including Alexander and Herschensohn – that Naftali is attempting to disgrace the legacy of Nixon. “Every indication to me is that Tim Naftali is anti-President Nixon,” Herschensohn told me by phone. “From the kind of guests he invites, to the whole feeling of the library … he is trying to make it totally different from the kind of presidential library I’ve been to for other presidents.”

“I expect and want presidential libraries to be staffed by those people who have been ardently supportive of that president,” Herschensohn said. “I do not want to go to any presidential library that tells stories opposing those things a president did while in office. I do not want to go to President Clinton’s library and see Monica Lewinsky’s book for sale just like I do not want to see Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein or any of those people who oppose President Nixon selling their book at his library, especially on the grounds where President and Mrs. Nixon are buried.”

Naftali responded that presidential libraries are “portals into the history of our country.”

“If you only focus on positive legacy,” he told me, “you give visitors a skewed view of American history.” For Naftali, “the best public use” of presidential libraries is to show the good and bad of a president. “We are a stronger nation if our citizens understand the strengths and weaknesses of government,” he said.

Giving citizens a complete view of a president is a noble enough goal, but some have argued that the Nixon library has tilted too far in negatively depicting Nixon especially with the revised Watergate exhibit.

“We had to do it.” Naftali said. “I was concerned that the credibility of the archive would be questioned if the Watergate gallery was not thorough.”

Naftali says he was bound by law to explicitly highlight abuses of government power. He pointed me to the 1974 Presidential Recordings and Materials Act, which applies specifically to the Nixon presidency, “stipulates that those materials relevant to the understanding of abuse of governmental power and Watergate are to be processed and released to the public prior to the release of all other materials.”

It is unusual for a presidential library to depict abuses of power, Naftali notes “but this library is a product of Watergate.”

Some question why the National Archives, with a core responsibility of protecting and making accessible presidential papers, is involved in the library’s exhibits and guest lectures. Herschensohn said, “Why they should be in charge of exhibits or speakers? That has nothing to do with the duty of the archives. The speakers and the exhibits are not archival business.”

What complicates the management of presidential libraries is their structure; they are sort of absurd quasipublic-private partnerships where private foundations often build the structures but the National Archives manages and oversees the presidential papers.

Is there serious value in publicly funded shrines for American presidents?

In the case of Nixon, his presidential papers had been seized by the government, and to get them released to his library certain conditions had to be met, including bringing in the National Archives to administer the facility. “President Nixon is the only president who had his papers seized by the federal government,” Naftali told me. Until Nixon, presidential papers were considered private property, presidents would then deed them to the federal government and take a tax deduction for doing so.

“This library did not have to be public,” Naftali said. “The National Archives was not asking for it to change but with that change there were implications, and one of those was that the Watergate exhibit had to change.”

In this digital age though, it would seem less important to have the original presidential papers on site at a presidential museum, especially when the information could be searched on the Internet and duplicates could be made for presidential libraries. If that were the case, the National Archives could keep all original documents at its Maryland facility and leave the business of running libraries and museums to private entities, keeping taxpayer dollars out of it and giving more control to local constituencies perhaps more invested in the legacy of a particular president.

“I am not so sure if Nixon were alive today that he would be so adamant himself about having the original presidential papers at his library if he knew what it would bring,” Herschensohn said.

There’s a lesson here for presidents – and taxpayers – about government involvement in presidential libraries and the politicization that comes with it. Perhaps it would be more prudent to keep such libraries completely private and rely on digitized versions of the papers.

Dream Act is Wrong for Undocumented Immigrant Students and Taxpayers

Governor Brown has supposedly pledged to sign AB 131 (the Dream Act).  It would grant qualified undocumented immigrants access to public funding normally reserved for legal residents to pursue a college education in California.

Dream Act proponents maintain that enacting it would contribute to the overall betterment of our society at relatively little cost to taxpayers.  However, the Dream Act would put into operation a costly policy that, as things now stand, would ultimately not benefit the very students who it is intended to help or the taxpayers who are funding it.

The Dream Act is wrong headed because it is a well known but, in this case, ignored fact that an undocumented immigrant student who obtains a college degree is nevertheless unable to work anywhere in this country legally.  Thus, after devoting time and effort obtaining an expensive (and taxpayer subsidized) education, such a student faces a future of (illegal) underemployment – if not of unemployment.

A Dream Act participant can realize his or her economic potential only if he or she possesses both an education and an opportunity to maximize its value, i.e., legally work.  To achieve that end, we cannot rely on singular efforts like the Dream Act.  Instead, the solution lays in comprehensive immigration reform which results in a permanent legalized presence in the U.S. for these students.  Moreover, the solution need not lead to automatic citizenship or expulsion.

It is high time we recognize that each affected undocumented immigrant student has very likely lived in the U.S. for most of his or her life.  To that student, this is home, now and forever.

The Dream Act might feel good to some, but, contrary to its name, it will only instill false hopes of gainful employment and plant the seeds of disillusionment.


(John Cruz is an attorney and practices law in Orange County, He served as the Appointments Secretary for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2007 – 2010.)

Recall Jerry Brown

California Republicans need to get off defense and start playing offense. They need to throw the long bomb.

They need to imitate the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s under quarterback Ken “The Snake” Stabler, cornerback Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas, wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, offensive tackle Art Shell and Coach John Madden. Not the pathetic Raiders of the recent years of principal owner Al Davis’ meddling senescence.

The Classic Raiders were junkyard dogs who took chances and won. As linebacker Phil “Foo” Villapiano said, “When you play for the Raiders you play to win and you play tough.”

The first “long bomb” Republicans should throw is to start a recall of Gov. Jerry Brown. Now.

That would set him reeling on the defensive. Remember how Gov. Gray Davis, once the recall began against him in 2003, started stammering like Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) when he got nervous on the old “Honeymooners” TV show, “Hamamamamamahamama”? Davis’ administration shut down. What fun.

The whole 2003 recall was fun. It turned out badly when Gov. Arnold “Adulterinator” Schwarzenegger won the simultaneous replacement election and, after two so-so years, panicked like a wimp after he lost his 2005 reform election. Then the Austrian Oaf turned his governorship over to wife Maria and we got Kennedy Government for the next five years.

But so what? Arnold’s gone. His main celebrity project now is Divorce Court. He can’t ruin another recall.

It doesn’t even matter if Brown could be unseated. Just challenging him would take the air out of his governorship for four months or more. He would have to take a break from his tax-increase obsession

A recall costs about $2 million to circulate the petitions. That’s not chump change, especially in the depths of the Obama Depression. But there are enough Republican moneybags around to raise the cash.

Moreover, for wealthy Republicans considering a run for statewide office or U.S. Congress, ponying up some serious cash for a Recall Jerry Brown effort should be the opening ante of their campaigns. Put up or shut up, boys.

There are a lot of ways a Recall Jerry Brown campaign would be fun. For one thing, it would scramble the plans of Brown’s potential successors. Remember how Democratic candidates, such as then-Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi – now a U.S. Congressman – first started campaigning in the replacement election, then were told to quit or face reprisals? Garamendi, a fan of Cuba’s socialized medicine system, obeyed.

In the end, the only serious Democrat to stay in the repelacement election was Lt. Gov. Cruze Bustamante, campaigning on the hilarious theme, “No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante.” A couple of years later, Cruisin’ Cruz campaigned for insurance commissioner on a platform of his diet program. Perhaps, in a new recall, he could come out of his lucrative retirement as a lobbyist to run again on his slimming scheme.

And remember the entertaining candidates, 135 of them? Gary Coleman, alas, no longer is with us. Arianna Huffington probably would run again. New campaign theme: “This time, dummies, elect the right immigrant.”

After selling the Huffington Post to America Online for $315 million, she sits on a lot more dough than when she was just blowing her alimony from her ex-hubby, GOP ex-Rep. Michael Huffington.

This is a family publication. So decorum prevents me from mentioning the names of some of the indecent candidates who ran. But they did add to the recall’s circus atmosphere.

In a Brown Recall, we could see run:

* Meg Whitman. Hey, it’s been almost a year since she blew $183,000,000.00 on her previous losing campaign. Maybe she’s defrosted a little.

* Steve Poizner, who lost to Meg in the 2010 GOP primary. He’s had another year to move from his tax-increase past.

* Rep. Tom McClintock, who would have won in the 2003 recall if silly Republicans hadn’t backed Kennedy Klone Arnold.

* “Unable” Abel Maldonado, the former Light Gov. who was appointed to that pointless post by Arnold. It was a reward for Maldonado, as a state senator, selling out the taxpayers on Arnold’s record, $13 billion 2009 Kennedy Klone tax increase.

* Carly Simon – excuse me, that’s how I always think of her – Carly Fiorina, who lost last year’s U.S. Senate race to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Pyongyang).

* B-1 “Bob” Dornan, the former U.S. congressman and victim of logorrhea. He’s always amusing, even though he needs an “off” button we can push.

But Democrats also might run against a septuaginarian governor who, even in 2010, ran a campaign too far. In addition to the above-mentioned Cruzinator, these Donkey Party hopefuls might include:

* Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, currently in a duel with Brown over who can come up with the more pointless “jobs creation” program, when their own high-tax, sky-high regulation policies are to blame for Joblessfornia.

* Attorney General Kamala Harris, the California Vyshinsky. She’s so Left she makes Brown look like Reagan.

* Los Angeles Mayor Tony Villar (a/k/a Antonio Villaraigosa), who just took a pot shot at Brown by calling for gutting Proposition 13 and jacking up property taxes on businesses. Having cast the City of Angeles into the Inferno, he seeks to melt down the Golden State.

So, Elephants, what are you waiting for?

Recall Jerry Brown.


(John Seiler is managing editor of

Republican Candidates Should Push for Real Education Reform

In light of his presidential candidacy, several commentators have cast wary glances at Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s record on crony capitalism and its implications for how he and other Republican candidates will approach education policy. Jay Greene commented on Wall Street Journal article outlining the crony capitalism charge: “The real problem is the hubris of thinking that a handful of government leaders can identify the ‘right’ businesses to which capital should be allocated. … In short, crony capitalism is an example of the errors of central planning.”

The predilection for central planning has been a hallmark of both Democratic and Republican policy for many decades. The hated No Child Left Behind law serves as a prime example; yet in all the controversy now surrounding the president and his education secretary’s decision to waive the law for some states (Montana received the first last week), neither the complaining states nor congressional Republicans planning to reauthorize NCLB under a slightly less centrist strategy seem to have noticed this fatal flaw in federal education policy. NCLB rests on the premise that the federal government should centrally plan education policy.

One would think this a prime target for Republican presidential candidates, a wide-open opportunity to distance themselves from the president’s command-and-control style and to talk about how the failure to propagate an educated citizenry means we’ll never have a chance to “grow our way out” of our economic hole. But we’ve heard only the faintest peep on the subject.

Writer RiShawn Biddle notes Perry’s weak record on K-12 education reform and speculates on why Republican candidates seem to avoid the topic: Although it serves as both a symbol and instrument of federal overreach, NCLB’s accountability provisions have helped governors overcome special interests and expand school choice by exposing the public schools’ poor performance.

Biddle suggests Republican candidates should offer a less sweeping, more “centrist” vision for improving the nation’s schools, based at the federal level and using the same formula of sticks and carrots as in NCLB.

I have a better idea. The Republican candidates should consider that education, like health care, is one of the dominant sectors in the United States today and one of the few actually expanding parts of the U.S. economy. If the forces of government expansion in these areas continue unchecked, they will ultimately drown the nation in statism.

The solution is not a different federal role in central planning. It’s for the federal government to get out of central planning altogether. The Republican candidate who perceives this truth will have a real alternative to offer the nation and its voters.

(Joy Pullmann ( is an education research fellow and managing editor of School Reform News at The Heartland Institute.)


CA Ballot Prop Limits Union and Corporate Interests

There is a new ballot initiative being circulated for signatures, to place an important question before the voters of California at the June 2012 election.  Designed to prevent special interests from buying favors from our elected officials, the “Stop Special Money Interest Now” initiative would do four things:

1.       Ban corporations and labor unions from making direct contributions to candidates;

2.      Prohibit government contractors from contributing money to government officials who award them contracts;

3.      Prohibits corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds using the inherently coercive method of paycheck deductions; and

4.      Requires that employee contributions to the political funds of either corporations or labor unions be voluntary, via annual written consents.

This common-sense initiative is sorely needed if we are to get California back on the right track, because right now special interests own our government, bought and paid for.  In the 2010 election cycle, for example, $715 million was contributed to state-level campaigns and candidates, 79% of which came from groups outside the candidate’s district.  The top 15 special interest organizations have spent nearly $1 billion on political activities over the past decade.  In return for all this political cash, nearly 40% of all bills introduced in the legislature are sponsored by special interest organizations, and these bills are more than twice as likely to pass as those sponsored by the elected officials themselves.  If you think that $1 billion has been spent to advance the public good, you are naively mistaken.  Whether through sweetheart “no-bid” government contracts for multi-national corporations, or excessive pensions for public employee unions that those of us in the private sector cannot begin to fathom, the legislature has been generous in lining the pockets of their special interest benefactors.  They have nearly bankrupt the state in the process, squeezing out the legitimate needs of our communities, whether it be roads, or schools, or public safety.

Some have argued that the initiative amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on First Amendment speech rights.  Not so.  The Supreme Court has already upheld bans on direct contributions to candidates by corporations and labor unions because of the particularly corrupting effect such contributions can have on our political system.  The Court’s recent decision in Citizens United did not involve direct contribution bans; rather, it struck down limits on independent expenditures, and the Initiative leaves both corporations and unions free to make independent expenditures on their own.  It also leaves individuals free to make direct contributions to candidates themselves, whichever candidates they (rather than their corporate or union bosses) decide to support.

The Stop Special Interest Money Now initiative is designed to prevent the corrupting flow of money directly to elected officials, while leaving open the avenues for campaign speech by everyone—citizens, corporations, and unions alike—that the Constitution rightly requires.  This simple, fair initiative removes the current abuses in our campaign finance system that have made elected officials more beholden to their special interest paymasters than to the rights and concerns of ordinary voters.  It is time to return our government to the people of California rather than the special interests.  You can read more about the initiative at its website,  I hope you will agree to join me in supporting this important effort.


(John C. Eastman is a Constitutional Law Professor and former candidate for Attorney General)


In the Aftermath of Iowa

The race to nominate a Republican presidential candidate has heated up considerably since the Iowa straw poll.

Republicans, clamoring for someone to rally behind with prospects of defeating President Barack Obama in next year’s election, may have exhaled a sigh of relief Aug. 13 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry threw his cowboy hat into the race for the GOP presidential nod.

While Michele Bachmann celebrated her victory in the Iowa straw poll, Perry basked in a national spotlight when he announced his candidacy the same day. Perry’s momentum continued Tuesday as he all but assumed national frontrunner status when Rasmussen’s GOP primary poll results showed Perry leading both Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by double-digit margins: 29 percent of poll respondents favored Perry, versus 18 percent for Romney and 13 percent for Bachmann.

What makes Perry’s entrance into the race special is that he was almost drafted. It seemed for months that he did not intend to run, but with what many conservatives, Tea Partiers and Republicans viewed as a lackluster field, calls for a Perry candidacy began to build, especially as it has become more evident that jobs and the economy will be the biggest issues of next year’s election. Perry, arguably, has the best record of any of the Republicans running on job creation – in fact, Texas accounts for the creation of more jobs during the so-called economic recovery than all other states combined.

Perry’s announcement overshadowed the results of the Iowa straw poll, but the poll is little more than a gauge of candidates’ popularity. Mitt Romney won the straw poll in 2007, then lost the 2008 Iowa Caucuses to Mike Huckabee. And, of course, inevitably the Republican nominee was John McCain. In fact, since 1979, the Iowa straw poll has picked only two candidates who won the Republican nomination – and in one case it was a tie between Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. George W. Bush was the only candidate to win the poll, the Republican nomination and the presidency.

While Perry appears to be the quasi-frontrunner nationwide, in New Hampshire, an important early primary state, a recent poll conducted by the New Hampshire Journal shows Romney with a commanding lead, 36 percent to Perry’s 18 percent. But Romney has been on the campaign trail for some time.

In California, and Orange County, in particular, an important campaign fundraising stop for GOP presidential hopefuls, Romney has the strongest support according to a Probolsky Research poll released Thursday. Romney is preferred by California Republicans, 22 percent to Perry’s 15 percent, the poll shows.

The preference for Romney makes sense, though, given that during the 2008 campaign he established a stronghold in Southern California, bolstered by the support of the Orange County Republican Party chairman, Scott Baugh, and major political donors. This time, however, all signs point to Baugh throwing his weight behind the Perry campaign – especially after Monday’s Orange County GOP Central Committee meeting, where a straw poll taken by Baugh showed about 85 percent of members preferring Perry.

“My goal is to always support the most conservative candidate,” Baugh told me in a phone interview, “and Rick Perry has stepped to fill a void in the primary contest as a credible, national figure who doesn’t intend to manage our inefficient government; he intends to reform it and give more power back to the states.”

Major Orange County business leaders have signed on for the Perry campaign. Real estate developer Hadi Makarechian, who helped Romney raise about $2 million in the previous campaign, is backing Perry, as is Auto Club CEO Tom McKernan; Family Action PAC chairman Larry Smith; and former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, to name a few.

Romney still has some considerable backing in Orange County, including Dale Dykema, CEO of TD Service Co., and Glenn Stearns, CEO of Santa Ana-based Stearns Lending.

Romney also has what some may consider a decisive advantage because he is viewed as the heir apparent to the nomination, something not to be underestimated among Republicans. McCain benefited from such perceived status in 2008, as did Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Some believe it is Romney’s turn, that he is next in line.

What both Perry and Romney may find difficult, though, is engaging a new, powerful force in the GOP nomination process: the Tea Party. Many credit the Tea Party for propelling Texas Rep. Ron Paul to a close second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll. Romney is not a Tea Party favorite, and neither is Perry a natural fit for Tea Party support. Bachmann, however, has been soundly embraced by the movement.

There are several other wild cards in the mix, the two biggest potential spoilers being Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin.

Palin’s bus tour suggests she is testing the waters, but many Republicans would prefer she sit out the race, questioning her electability in a general election. As conservative columnist George Will has said about the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee, “There is no undecided vote in this country about Sarah Palin.”

As for Ryan, time grows short for him to make a serious run. He has the intellectual capacity and the credibility among conservatives, especially economic conservatives. He is being encouraged to jump into the race by some Republican heavyweights, including Reagan-era education secretary Bill Bennett, who, in a recent email to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, said, “There are many talented candidates in the race already, but there is always room for a man of Paul Ryan’s intellectual depth, temperament, talent and conviction.”

If Ryan were to enter the race he would make an already interesting GOP primary more competitive. But for now the race appears to be between Romney, the heir apparent, and the Texas job engine, and momentum looks to be on the side of Perry, at least for now.

(Originally published at the Orange County Register.)

Obama’s EPA is Killing Job Creation

Obama says he will get focused on the jobs problem just as soon as he returns from his August vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Like the more famous Hamptons, the Vineyard is a playground of the rich and famous out to find some summer enjoyment on the Atlantic shore. Just before leaving, Obama articulated his number one goal is to grow the economy.

But while Obama is playing jetsetter, back in Washington a crucial regulatory agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been captured by a group of extremists who actually believe the USA would be better off with a smaller economy.

In some of the economy’s most hopeful corners, these bureaucrats are wielding all of the levers of regulatory authority in their arsenal to kill growth. Just as the “green shoots” of recovery sprout, they come along with a can of herbicidal regulations and kill the sprout. As long as Obama leaves these extremists in charge of the agency, the economy is unlikely to recover and will suffer.

Having a reliable national electrical infrastructure is vital to new job creation.

Yet new EPA regulations will significantly reduce the amount of electricity generated from coal-fired energy flowing from our power grid. The EPA told the public that the agency was working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to determine the impact of its regulations on the reliability of the nation’s electricity capacity. This was to include a joint modeling effort.

However, responses from FERC Commissioners to an inquiry from Congress regarding the degree of agency coordination on the impact of the agency’s new rules clearly shows the EPA statements were not truthful. Correspondence from the FERC chairman and commissioners revealed the commission is not working on a formal assessment of the impact of the EPA regulations on the ability of our power grid to reliably deliver electricity to the nation’s homes and businesses.

“The EPA’s deception of the public is outrageous and it exposes the agency’s underlying zeal to regulate without regard to the consequences of its actions. EPA’s actions may very well put the reliability of our electricity supply in jeopardy,” said Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project.

These job killing EPA regulations are part of a wider program to “curb man made climate change” or global warming. But the science behind this believed threat to the planet’s existence keeps melting away under scrutiny.

The latest example is the Polar Bear’s supposed struggle against extinction.

[Read more…]

Obama Versus Job Creators

Captains of industry have begun, in uncustomary fashion, speaking up against President Barack Obama and his policies – and the chorus will likely grow louder going into next year’s presidential election, perhaps swaying independent voters. The president may dismiss the chorus as the rantings of greedy “corporate jet owners,” but he may soon see himself on a collision course with big job creators during his 2012 reelection campaign – a time when job creation and the economy well could be issues driving the electorate.

It is usually frowned upon – even looked upon as taboo – for CEOs of major U.S. companies, and especially multinational corporations, to openly criticize the president or show outright partisanship toward or against a political party. At least publicly. But recently – and, especially, within the past month – corporate leaders have begun to openly criticize administration policies as helping to depress the nation’s business climate.

In that time, three major business leaders spoke out against the Obama administration: Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot; Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (parent of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s); and casino tycoon Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts. They contend that President Obama has strangled the economy and hamstrung job growth in the country. As Puzder told me directly, businesses in the country “are being actually prevented” from creating jobs because of the administration.

CEOs are typically careful, measured and scripted when making political remarks, but that approach is changing, likely because of the Obama administration’s constant demonization of corporate America.

During a well-publicized company conference call last month, Wynn, a self-described Democrat and supporter of fellow Nevadan Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told listeners, “This administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime.” He added that businesses “are frightened to death about all the new regulations,” singling out Obamacare as a major challenge for companies. Fear of the administration, he said, “makes you slow down and not invest your money.”

“And those of us who have business opportunities, and the capital to do it, are going to sit in fear of the president,” Wynn said.

And Wynn predicts things will not get better unless Obama is booted from office: “I’m telling you that the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he’s gone, everybody’s going to be sitting on their thumbs.”

Bernie Marcus echoed the sentiments of Wynn and Puzder when he recently said “Home Depot would never have succeeded if we’d tried to start it today.” “[T]he impediments that the government imposes are impossible to deal with.” “Every day you see rules and regulations from a group of Washington bureaucrats who know nothing about running a business. And I mean every day. It’s become stifling.”

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Markets, who made national headlines when he publicly came out against Obamacare, recently made similar comments about the stifling business climate in the U.S. “It was a lot easier for me to start my business 30 years ago than it is for an entrepreneur starting out today to do the same thing,” Mackey said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Numerous other CEOs, especially in the medical industry, have warned, albeit more passively, that the president’s policies will hurt job growth and the broader economy, especially in the aftermath of the passage of Obamacare last year.

Even with mounting backlash from business community against Obama, one wonders if more business leaders will join in. Marcus believes it is essential for more CEOs to speak out but understands why they might not: “They are frightened to death – frightened that they will have the IRS or [Securities and Exchange Commission] on them,” he said. “In my 50 years in business, I have never seen executives of major companies who were more intimidated by an administration.”

To combat this, Marcus founded a new organization – based in Texas – called the Job Creators Alliance. It aims to increase the number of business leaders and job creators publicly criticizing jobs-squelching public policy. He believes doing so will help preserve the free-enterprise system. If he succeeds, we could see more outspoken CEOs just in time for the election year.

Given the moribund state of the U.S. economy, stubbornly high unemployment rates and the recent gyrations of the stock market, having an army of boisterous businesspeople chiding his administration darkens President Obama’s reelection hopes – perhaps especially if the GOP nominates a candidate with a track record of job creation to brag about, such as the governor of a state like Texas, whose economy is flourishing and business climate is welcoming.

(This piece originally appeared in the Orange County Register and was featured on Real Clear Politics.)

National Popular Vote is bad for California, bad for the nation

Liberals have long sought to erode the checks-and-balances that guard against centralized government.  But, the current push to scrap the Electoral College by enacting a National Popular Vote (NPV) could be their crowning achievement.

Critics warn that once the Electoral College is out of the way, the big government progressives could conceivably engineer election victory after victory, providing a continual stream of chief executives far left of Barack Obama.

Delaware Senator, President Pro Tempore, and former IBEW Business Manager Anthony DeLuca said as much when he declared that, once the NPV passes, Republicans will never again elect a President.

Why would he say that?  The answer is simple.

In Federalist 10, James Madison argues that a system of “electors” safeguards the citizenry against those factions that seek greater governmental control.  Confining the influence of factions to single states protects against greater impact on the national election.

Today, these factions often manifest themselves through pockets of organized urban-area voter fraud.  Just as Madison predicted, the Electoral College limits to a single state the impact of corrupt political activities, such as Chicago’s notorious fraudulent cemetery voters.

Throw off the system of electors and you’ll likely see epic turnouts in heavy urban areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago as Democrats pull out all the stops to nullify the power of smaller, rural states.  No longer would 50 states matter, but only huge urban regions would control the vote.  Chicago alone would bury the mid-west.

The fact is: the NPV movement was given new life when renegade billionaire Tom Golisano took over the fledgling campaign after the initial post Bush/Gore election drive faltered. Golisano is a seven figure donor to the Democratic Party, and he ran as an ‘independent’ not once, or twice, but three times against moderate Republican Governor George Pataki.  Golisano then moved to Florida and adopted NPV.

To promote the NPV, Golisano has hired an army of Republican lobbyists throughout the country, including the venerable Fred Thompson.  Golisano did not hire many Democrats, because they get the joke.  However, Golisano needed to mitigate potential Republican opposition, and so his army went to work.

Before the GOP was able to accurately assess the threat and produce a counter-effort, Golisano’s paid consultant army signed up scores of otherwise solid conservative Republican legislators, including some here in California.

But, in the last several months, conservatives have begun removing their names from the pro-NPV campaign.  And just last week the Republican National Committee overwhelmingly voted to oppose the National Popular Vote.

Our Nation continues to face unprecedented struggles posed by economic and debt woes. But, the NPV provides an even greater threat – one that could end the liberty and freedoms upon which our very system of government was founded.  We must remain vigilant to protect and preserve the American system of governance – one that has produced history’s most successful model of self-governance.


(Shawn Steel is a former Chairman of the California Republican Party, and currently serves as California’s Republican National Committeeman.  Learn more about Shawn Steel and Save Our Electoral College at

Budgetary Gimmicks Meet Economic Reality

Once again, California is already outside of its projected state budget, passed late last June.

How can Sacramento already be spending more than it expected to collect only two months since the budget was signed?

It is the economic assumptions that the state makes when planning the budget that are just as important as the application of rates of taxation and fee rates.  Is that boring?  Quite possibly.  But it speaks to the larger point that government is inefficient in determining future economic activity and, when possible, will make absurd assumptions when politically expedient.

And why is this important?

It is important because it allowed public officials to proclaim Californians will “live within our means” because the budget is now balanced – a refreshing headline!

But the “means” are the assumptions built into the budget.  In this year’s budget, Sacramento expected the economy to expand rapidly, despite a stubborn unemployment rate of 11.8% as of June and a willingness to drive away jobs. Thus, California is already ten percent below revenue projections, which amounts to a loss of revenue of nearly $539 million.

When sluggish economic reality meets the decree of Sacramento, automatic budget cuts are initiated, which insulates public officials from the criticism that comes with assembling a budget that truly reflects living within our means.

Regardless of nominal numbers, when a state spends more revenue than it takes in at an increasing rate, there will be a threshold where the state becomes insolvent.  Without quantitative easing or the ability to increase money in circulation, that state has no control over the currency it borrows and spends.  This makes every state a lot more susceptible to budgetary crises than sovereign nations.

Sacramento is in need of true budgetary solutions that reflect the state’s economic reality not rosy assumptions that politicians would like to see.  State government needs less economic delusion and more economic leadership. The first step is honest, household budgeting procedures.