Steel: Conservatives Win with Kevin McCarthy as Speaker

October 07, 2015

No sooner had John Boehner announced his decision to resign as speaker than conservatives were lamenting the heir apparent.

California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who has a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 89 percent, is under fire for not being conservative enough. The opportunistic Constitutional Rights PAC has even mounted a “Fire McCarthy” fundraising campaign.

These attacks on California’s favorite son are dead wrong. Speaker Kevin McCarthy will not only advance the conservative cause, he could be the most consequential speaker since Newt Gingrich inspired the country with his Contract with America.

I say this with confidence because I’ve made the same mistake of doubting McCarthy’s conservative credentials. When I served as chairman of the California Republican Party, I was one of many conservatives apprehensive of McCarthy’s election to the State Assembly.

In the 2002 primary, McCarthy was the lone moderate to survive a nasty round of “conservative vs. liberal Republican family fights.” He had a reputation from his Young Republican days of outmaneuvering conservatives in internal party battles, and even worse, was seen by many as on the fast track to leadership.

It took McCarthy less than a year to be elected Republican leader–unanimously.p;

“Kevin McCarthy’s election as the new leader-to-be of the Republicans in the Assembly occurred so smoothly and quietly that many people didn’t notice how unusual it was,” Vic Pollard, a longtime political reporter for the Bakersfield Californian wrote in November 2003. “He was elected unanimously, by all accounts, in a caucus so notoriously fractious that few leaders in recent years have been able to collect majorities of more than one or two votes.”

How’d McCarthy assuage conservatives’ fears?

He gave them control of caucus policy. McCarthy tapped future Congressman and then-Assemblyman John Campbell to serve as the GOP lead on budget issues. Conservative stalwart Ray Haynes was tapped as “the point man on policy debates for the caucus.” Conservative lawmakers Tony Strickland and Rick Keene were both given top leadership posts.

And McCarthy? He made it his mission to raise money for his caucus and elect more Republican members to the State Assembly. In the 2004 election cycle, McCarthy contributed more than $800,000 from his own campaign account to support his colleagues, a figure that doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars raised through party committees. McCarthy’s fundraising and campaign operations expanded the field of play and put Democrats on the defensive in a high turnout presidential election year.

In 2004, California Journal gave McCarthy its “Rookie of the Year” honors over Democrat Assemblyman Fabian Nunez, who’d managed to become Speaker of the Assembly as a freshman. California political observers noted McCarthy’s “quick grasp of issues and politics” and ability to score “quick victories on ideological grounds.”

“McCarthy has been the better leader, noting that he had united and re-invigorated his caucus and had become, in a short time, the quickest study in the Assembly,” California Journal wrote in its annual awards issue.

During McCarthy’s tenure as Assembly Republican leader, he maintained a united caucus that refused to bend on tax increases. His unwillingness to compromise with legislative Democrats and ability to keep his troops in line “immensely strengthened the governor’s negotiating hand,” the conservative California Political Review observed.

In fact, McCarthy’s time in Sacramento working in the minority will make him a stronger speaker.

“When you’re in the minority, knowing the rules gives you greater strength,” he told California Journal. “One thing I’ve learned from the Democrats, having such a large majority, they don’t always learn all the rules because they don’t have to.”

Those years in the minority have already been put into practice. McCarthy proved his value by recruiting, advising many of the winners in the momentous House elections of 2010, the Tea Party Election. He will get elected Speaker primarily because of the many conservatives whose careers emerged because of McCarthy’s political strategic thinking.

If Republicans want to win the White House in 2016, it starts with electing McCarthy as Speaker in 2015.

Up-close look at Obama’s foreign policy failures and the al Sisi alternative

May 07, 2015

Six years after his much-ballyhooed Cairo speech, it’s now clear what President Obama meant by “a new beginning” in American foreign policy.

We’ve abandoned our closest ally in Israel, embraced a nuclear agreement with Iran, ignored the ongoing human rights abuses in Cuba, and disregarded the territorial expansion of a Russian despot. And that’s only a recap of the last six months.

“Our allies struggle to understand why the Iranian regime – the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism – can extract so many concessions from the world’s superpower,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, wrote after a recent trip to the Middle East. “This is part of a strange pattern with the Obama administration – stridently anti-American regimes in Iran and Cuba are persistently courted, while relations with close allies like the Kurds, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt are diminished.”

American foreign policy hasn’t been this careless since Jimmy Carter, and as if to prove how bad things are, even he criticized Obama’s foreign policy last year. Obama’s failures have opened the door for members of Congress, in particular Orange County’s representatives, to take a leadership role in foreign affairs. Contrary to popular belief, Congress has an important role to play in foreign policy — with the power to adopt policy statements, provide informal advice, and oversee the $50 billion in foreign aid requested in next year’s budget.

“The ideal is not total cooperation between the two branches,” former Congressman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said of foreign policy, “but a creative tension out of which should come policies that better serve the American national interest and better reflect the values of the American people.”

Congressional involvement isn’t limited to staying at home. Every year, the U.S. State Department facilitates hundreds of congressional trips, known as “codels.” A vital and often-overlooked component of American foreign policy, congressional delegation avoid the logistical and security obstacles that come with presidential travel.

Earlier this year, I joined – at my own expense – a congressional delegation to the Middle East, chaired by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach. From that trip, it became abundantly clear that Obama’s foreign policy has failed to be a force for good in the world, reassure our friends and allies of America’s unwavering commitment to their security, or act as a backstop against brutality and aggression.

At our first stop in Doha, Qatar, you could see how American foreign policy no longer acts with moral authority around the globe. There’s no question that Qatar, home to U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Center, remains a strategic ally in the Middle East. However, we’ve embraced a plutocracy that offers wealth for a few and freedom for none.

The country’s 278,000 citizens, who enjoy the highest per-capita income in the world, escape the stifling heat in large air-conditioned shopping malls, while nearly 2 million foreign workers – many from the India, Nepal and the Philippines – toil away under “kafala,” the country’s legal form of indentured servitude. You can only get a sense of the injustice from witnessing it firsthand.

We’ve strayed from the policy under Democrat and Republican presidents to use American influence to advance democratic principles around the world— even among our allies.

“The American people believe in human rights and oppose tyranny in whatever form, whether of the left or the right,” President Ronald Reagan said in a 1986 address to Congress. “We use our influence to encourage democratic change, in careful ways that respect other countries’ traditions and political realities as well as the security threats that many of them face from external or internal forces of totalitarianism.”

That commitment to fight totalitarianism led us to defend Kuwait during the First Gulf War. A frightening advance by the Islamic State, known in the region as Daesh, has Kuwait on edge yet again. Unlike much of the region, Kuwaitis are happy with Americans, so much that they’ll stop you in cafes or on the street.

Rep. Rohrabacher insisted on a visit to Ali Al Salem, a key military airbase just 23 miles from the Iraqi border, where U.S. drone pilots quietly operate missions against Islamic State. In the center of the base sits a large rock monument with an Excalibur sword planted in the middle. Two decades after Saddam Hussein’s unprovoked attack on Kuwait, the monument’s symbolism resonates in the new campaign against the Islamic State.

At the request of Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, our final stop was at the Egyptian Economic Development Conference, held in the Sinai resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh. Global leaders, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, discussed investment opportunities in the world’s largest Arab country.

The summit’s highlight was an impassioned speech by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose robust vision for Egypt begins with military and economic security. Al-Sisi made clear his deep appreciation for the ideological war against Islamic State. He views the struggles as not only a battle for Egypt’s survival but for the future of Islam.

Perhaps more so than President Obama, President al-Sisi understands that economic stability with a market-based economy will help prevent the contributing factors that aid radical propaganda. It seems to be working, as Egypt attracted $12 billion in investment pledges from the conference.



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