GOP Needs to Focus on Winning

Photo courtesy of truthout.org

Photo courtesy of truthout.org

Will Republicans ever learn?

Will they get their own house in order in time to take control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016?

Will they stop fighting with one another in public over internal family matters and focus the GOP’s collective eye on those crucial political prizes before it’s too late to save the country?

It sure doesn’t look like it.

Republicans proved once again they’ve learned nothing from their past mistakes during the recent squabbling over the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget deal.

The GOP managed to do two things, both of them bad for the battered Republican brand.

The party again showed the public how dysfunctional it is. And it proved how little its leaders and internal wings and factions have learned in 2013.

Last week House leader John Boehner made headlines by blasting the fiscal hardliners at Heritage Action, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks for denouncing the Ryan-Murray deal before they even saw it.

Then Boehner accused the tea-party wing of the GOP of “misleading their followers” and destroying their credibility.

It’s hard to fault Boehner’s outburst. For the entire year the GOP has been more interested in shooting down its own rising stars than breaking the Democrats’ chokehold on Washington.

Conservative principles are great. But to little-tent conservatives who’d rather win Republican primaries in May than win general elections in November, it’s still all about ideological purity in the short run and not about winning the war in the long run.

To the GOP’s tea-party minority, Paul Ryan has gone from GOP poster boy to sell-out. Ditto Marco Rubio for his impure thoughts on immigration reform.

Ditto Chris Christie, first for embracing the president and second for not being sufficiently conservative while racking up a big win in the blue state of New Jersey.

One of these days the Republican Party is going to find out that it is not the Conservative Party.

There are liberals, moderates and conservatives in the GOP — and conservatives are going to have to understand that they are in fact the minority.

Meanwhile, here’s a radical idea for my good tea-party friends and soulmates.

If you want to see a federal budget you can abide, or if you want to have a smaller, kinder, gentler federal government that runs the way you want, I suggest you do what the Democrats do — win.

Winning isn’t easy. When Republicans only have the House, and not the Senate or the White House or the courts or the media, we’re starting from ground zero.

We can’t afford to throw rocks at each other in public or nit-pick at each other’s ideological purity.

Winning back the Senate and the White House has to be the GOP’s master plan, and it can’t be sabotaged by things like intramural budget fights.

Budget fights? In the real world, the federal budget is never going to be 100 percent of what anyone wants.

Is a budget fight to the death by hardliners really worth another government shutdown that causes future Ken Cuccinellis of the world to lose and makes the GOP look like the party of dumb bad guys?

I don’t think so.

Once Republicans win back the White House and the Senate, conservatives can make all the budget changes they want.

Until then, if Republicans in Washington are going to attack each other, they should learn to do it behind closed doors.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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GOP Has to Reach Out to Hispanics and Other to Survive

Photo courtesy of Donkey Hotey / Flickr

Forget Republican comebacks in 2014 or 2016.

Unless it gets its head and its heart straight, the party might never win the popular vote or the White House again.

The GOP today is not my father’s party.

And until the hierarchy of the GOP stops talking about how great Ronald Reagan was and starts embracing what he really stood for, the party of conservatism is destined for the ash heap of history.

Ronald Reagan was somebody who believed in inclusion, not exclusion. He found a way to reach out to all voting groups, which is why he was the last Republican presidential candidate to win the Hispanic vote.

The GOP in 2012 reminds me of the state of disarray it was in during the mid-1960s.

It was so bad for Republicans in California then that they held a special convention and invited the state’s Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Jesse Unruh, to come and tell them what was wrong with them.

Unruh came and was blunt: The GOP had no vision and no message for voters, because they didn’t know who they were or what they stood for.

Those pre-Ronald Reagan Republicans got the message. They left that convention, turned their fortunes around, and ended up with Ronald Reagan in the governor’s chair.

Today’s national GOP needs the same kind of turnaround, and the process starts with fixing the party’s inclusion problem with Hispanic, black and Asian voters.

Last week I spoke to a room of 400 conservatives. The only blacks in the room were serving us breakfast. There were only a couple Hispanics — in Florida.

That’s not inclusive. Republicans have got to find a way to reach out to these communities.

I told those conservatives in Florida a story about a young man who as a child came to the United States illegally with his parents in the early 1980s.

He became an American citizen in 1986 when my father signed into law the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which granted amnesty to 3 million illegal residents and made them citizens.

When he turned 18, to thank the United Stares for allowing him to become a citizen, he joined the Navy to serve his new country.

When the USS Ronald Reagan was home porting in San Diego, he volunteered to serve on the ship named after the president who allowed him to become a citizen. Now he mentors 275 sailors on that aircraft carrier and is working on his master’s degree.

There are a thousand stories like that that nobody wants to tell when Republicans talk about immigration.

The GOP has got to find a message of inclusion instead of “Get the hell out of my country.” That’s what Hispanics and other immigrants hear from the Republican Party — “Get out.”

We have to attract immigrants to the GOP, not repel them. We have to do it with more than words every two or four years. And we can’t do what Mitt Romney did.

He came to California, held a fundraiser, grabbed his money and left. He did nothing to get out the vote or reach out to the Hispanic community.

Romney wasn’t going to carry California. But we lost three good incumbents in close congressional races in the state on Nov. 6 — Mary Bono Mack, Dan Lundgren and Brian Bilbray.

Why did we lose those seats? Because only 29 percent of registered voters in California are Republican. And why is that? Because the GOP lacks a vision. Because it lacks a message.

If the GOP is to survive and get this country back on track, it has to regain its Reaganesque vision and make its message more caring and welcoming to immigrants.

The Republican Party has to reach out to the Hispanic, black, Asian and other communities and become involved with them — and do it every day from now on.

Until that happens, the GOP is going to have lots more Thanksgivings with less and less to give thanks for.

Photo courtesy of the gifted and talented Donkey Hotey.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Why Aren’t You Mad as Hell Yet, America?

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

What will it take?

At home, unemployment is stuck above 8 percent. Twenty-three million are out of work. Millions of others have given up looking for jobs.

One American in six is on food stamps. Small businesses are terrified of Obamacare.

The economy ran out of gas four years ago and the president still thinks the only way to get it going again is to fill up the tank with trillions of dollars of debt and make successful people pay for the tow truck.

Overseas, we have a dead ambassador and three other dead Americans in Libya. Dozens of our embassies are being threatened by mobs.

Iran is building a nuke. Syria is mired in a bloody civil war. Egypt’s new democracy is turning against us. And our Middle East policy — if that’s what it can be called — is based on apologies and weakness.

Meanwhile, what does President “Eye Candy” do this week? He goes before the United Nations and can’t bring himself to even mention the words “Islamic extremists.” He’s still blaming the attack on our Libyan embassy on a stupid film.

As the Middle East burns, Obama says he didn’t have time to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or other world leaders in New York City. Yet he had plenty of time to do the Letterman show and drop in to see Whoopi and the gals at “The View.”

How much worse does it have to get before a majority of the American people wake up, throw open their windows and scream, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this crap anymore?”

In the movie “Network,” news anchor Howard Beale said people first had to get mad before things would change.

So let’s get mad, America, and change presidents. There are fewer than 1,000 hours between now and the election that can save us from four more years of Obamamisery.

Mitt Romney is the change we need — and the only chance we have. But in their perverse way of thinking, the Obama Gang wants the American people to believe Romney is a bad guy for creating wealth and being a successful businessman.

Americans are supposed to be angry with Romney for paying “only” 14 percent in taxes or reducing his federal tax bite by giving $4 million to charity in 2011.

But there’s no reason for the American people to be mad at Mitt. He’s a good guy, a great American, and he’s eminently qualified to repair the damage Obama has done to the country.

But if Mitt’s going to win, he’s got to have a Ronald Reagan moment.

My father turned his fortunes around in the 1980 New Hampshire primary after the moderator of a scheduled debate in Nashua ordered his microphone to be turned off.

My father’s angry response — “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green” — became a symbolic act that established his image, showed his strong character and led to a landslide win that knocked George H.W. Bush out of the presidential race.

Mitt Romney needs to have his own “Nashua Moment” — and have it soon. A perfect time for it to happen would be next week (Wednesday, Oct. 3) in front of 50 or 60 million people during the first presidential debate.

Mitt needs to show us how angry he is at what Obama has done to America. He needs to show us he’s as “mad as hell” and can’t take it for another four years.

Come on, Mitt — get as mad as the rest of us.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Let’s Agree to Win

We can win in November with ease.

All Mitt Romney and Republicans need to do is follow the GOP‘s script from the historic midterm elections of 2010.

In case you’ve forgotten, 2010 wasn’t just a Republican wave. It was a tsunami. The GOP gained 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate, plus they picked up five governorships and a record 680 seats in state legislatures.

Republicans won in every corner of America for one important reason — the election was about the economy, not social issues.

Independents and Democrats swung to the GOP because they had lost their jobs, lost their houses and had already lost hope in President Obama’s ability to fix anything bigger than a parking ticket in Chicago.

The tea party deserves most of the credit for the conservative counterrevolution of 2010. It was their principles, passion and energy that rejuvenated the Republican Party, dethroned so many Democrats and scared the liberal media.

But it may surprise you that it was the tea party’s use of Reaganesque campaign tactics that made so many Republican wins possible.

Despite its reputation, the tea party is not as ideologically stubborn or politically suicidal as the mainstream media like to think and pray it is. It knows that what unites Americans is the economy and what divides us are issues such as abortion.

Two years ago, the tea party realized that stressing economic issues was the key to uniting Republicans and attracting independent voters.

It also knew it was important for Republicans to downplay divisive social issues like abortion, gay marriage and contraception. (Everyone knows where the party stands on those issues. It’s time to win the General Election the primaries are over.)

For example, I give a lot of speeches around the country on behalf of the tea party. One of the unwritten directives from the tea party’s bosses to me and other speakers is this line: “Please don’t talk about social issues.”

That’s smart politics. We were speaking to fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, libertarian conservatives. When we spoke, we spoke only about things that brought everyone in the room together — and that was the economy.

That’s the way my father Ronald Reagan thought. He always looked for areas of agreement. He’d ask, “Where do we agree? How can I bring people together in that agreement and move the ball forward? Let’s not try to find the areas where we disagree.”

We can’t risk getting ourselves tied up in debates over social issues. Look at what happened when one obscure congressman from Missouri said something insensitive and stupid about rape or pregnancy.

The Democrats and their soul mates in the liberal media feasted on it and the Romney campaign had to spend a week denouncing Todd Akin instead of Obama’s failed economic policies. That’s exactly what Democrats and Obama want Republicans to talk about — social issues.

I am pro-life. But when the GOP insists on putting a hard-line position on abortion into its party platform, all it does is force Republicans to spend time in the media defending the platform instead of debating the economy.

If we wanted to be truly Reaganesque this year, we should have used the wording that prefaced the abortion plank in 1980. It recognized that the Republican Party was a big tent, saying that “we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general — and in our own party.”

The 2012 platform’s abortion plank brooks no dissent and leaves no room in the tent for pro-choice Republicans like Condoleezza Rice. It takes the position that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

We should let the Catholic Church debate the social issues while Republicans concentrate on debating the economy and jobs. Because that’s where we all agree — and that’s where we win.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Paul Ryan : A Bold Smart Choice

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Choosing Paul Ryan is a game-changer.

Ask the Chicago Gang and its publicists in the mainstream media. They’re terrified.

They know that when Mitt Romney chose Ryan for his vice president, it re-defined the Romney campaign overnight.

It proved Mitt was not as boring, cautious and moderate as conservative Republicans feared and the Obama Left hoped.

In one bold, smart move, Romney’s VP choice makes it clear that this election is about one thing — the economy.

And there is no better person on the planet to discuss that issue than Ryan, the young, articulate, spirited, openly Reaganesque conservative who heads up the House Budget Committee and is the leading Republican deficit hawk in Congress.

With Ryan as his VP choice, Romney also took a huge step in redefining what the Republican Party is and reminding everyone what it’s supposed to stand for.

For decades Reagan conservatives have been wondering what has happened to the GOP my father loved. He worked hard to shape it into a party that clearly and proudly stood for smaller government, more freedom, free enterprise and a strong military.

But for two decades Republican politicians have been trying to out-Democrat the Democrats. The GOP my father left behind lost its way, lost its nerve and chose to betray many of its core principles to win elections.

By choosing Ryan, Romney has ended the era of Republicrat fuzziness overnight. It makes me think Mitt and his advisers have decided that the way to defeat Obama was to heed the advice my father gave to the GOP in 1975 at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Republicans, disheartened by the post-Watergate thrashing they got at the polls in 1974, were being urged by moderates to water down (i.e., liberal-up) their party’s principles to broaden its appeal to voters.

My father told them not to further “blur” the distinctions between the two parties but to “revitalize” the GOP by reasserting its conservative principles and raising them “to full view.”

He challenged Republicans to raise “a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear” that their party believed in “a free market as the greatest provider for the people,” not socialism.

The conservative conventioneers took my father’s wise message to heart, but the nation’s voters didn’t. Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976 and the country got four years of economic malaise and folly in the Middle East that did not end until my father was elected in 1980 — as an unabashed conservative.

America today is truly at a crossroads. This election is going to decide the direction we take for the next 50 years. For the first time in a while, the American people will have a clear choice.

Do you want the USA to go down the Obama Expressway to Greece or, God forbid, California? Or do you want to go down the Romney-Ryan-Reagan Freeway to freedom, growth and prosperity for all people?

It’s up to the American people to decide where they want to go. It’s up to Romney and Ryan — R & R, two letters that look pretty good together, I’d say — to sell their message of conservatism.

Americans can’t afford to wait for someone to come along four years from now and fix the damage Obama has already done.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Want Hope? Make A Change

Photo courtesy of John M

President Obama was supposed to be all about hope and change.

But after almost four years he’s squeezed the hope out of most of us.

A new Rasmussen poll is the latest proof that the only hope of getting out of our economic ditch is to fire the hopeless guy in the White House who keeps digging it deeper.

Since early 2009 Rasmussen has been asking two questions that serve as a good barometer of what people think about both our present and our future.

The first question is: “Will today’s children be better off than their parents?”

The answers from late July are as depressing as the latest GDP numbers. Only 14 percent of adults told Rasmussen they expect today’s children to be better off than their parents. Meanwhile, 65 percent said they think our children will be worse off.

In 2009 those numbers already were nothing to brag about — 27 percent and 47 percent. But the trend under Obama is clear and grim. The only bright spot is that the poll numbers are so bad they can’t get much worse.

The other question Rasmussen asked is: “Is it still possible for just about anyone in America to work hard and get rich?”

Amazingly, given the Obama administration’s relentless propaganda assault on the rich and successful, 28 percent of Americans told Rasmussen they still believe it can be done.

Working hard and creating wealth by providing things or services people want or need is as American as Steve Jobs, Bruce Springsteen and Mitt Romney.

Millions have done it. It’s part of the American Dream. It’s something the president should be publicly encouraging and cheering, not punishing and scolding or demeaning.

Unlike Barack Obama, my father knew this. Speaking to the 1984 Republican National Convention, Ronald Reagan said that what had made America the greatest country in the world was still true:

“The poet called Miss Liberty’s torch the ‘lamp beside the golden door.’ Well, that was the entrance to America, and it still is. And now you really know why we’re here tonight.

“The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise, every opportunity is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.

“Her heart is full; her door is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people. She will carry on in the ’80s unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed.

“In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America’s is.”

My father did his best to make sure that America’s lamp of hope and promise burned brightly. He knew America’s strength was in its founding principles and its people, not its government.

He knew if he kept taxes low, regulations rare and America strong, the future would be even brighter for future generations.

Four years ago no one expected Barack Obama — a community organizer with no understanding or appreciation of what it takes to succeed in the private sector — to think or act like Ronald Reagan.

But it’s too bad for the country that Mr. Obama didn’t behave more like one of his favorite rich men, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy, for all his faults, knew that the best way to assure a better future for our children was by lowering taxes, making the country strong and believing in the greatness and goodness of America.

Hope and change had little to do with it.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Don’t Eat Campaign Dirt


Photo illustration courtesy of the very talented DonkeyHotey

Dirty political campaigns are as old as the Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are said to have thrown the first mud at each other in the presidential election of 1800.

Jefferson accused his old pal — who was then president — of being a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal and a tyrant.

Adams returned fire, calling his vice president and challenger Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

I don’t know what the average citizen of 1800 thought about those lies and name-calling, which have been an ugly fixture of our politics ever since.

But I do remember how California voters and the media reacted to a dirty TV ad that Pat Brown ran against my father in 1966, when Brown was running for an unprecedented third term as governor.

I don’t recall the exact words, but the ad featured Gov. Brown talking to a black child in his early teens. Brown tells the kid he’s running for governor and the kid asks whom he’s running against.

“I’m glad you asked,” Gov. Jerry Brown‘s father replied, “I’m running against an actor. And did you know it was an actor that shot Abraham Lincoln?”

Few people actually saw the ad, because it only ran for a brief time on a small station in Northern California. But the news media got hold of it and, though it’s hard to believe today, they were appalled that Gov. Brown would stoop so low in a campaign ad.

The voting public was equally appalled, which is equally hard to believe today. Within 72 hours Ronald Reagan went from being behind in the polls to being ahead. He won 57 percent of the vote and the rest is world history.

The scary thing is, President Obama or Mitt Romney or one of their political action committees could run a sleazy ad like Pat Brown’s today and the media wouldn’t criticize it, they would defend it.

“Well, it’s true he was an actor,” the media would rationalize. “John Wilkes Booth was an actor, too. What are you bitching about?” Voters would accept the ad, too.

That’s how much we’ve changed in less than 50 years. The slime-ball politics that used to appall everyone in the 1960s is the norm today.

We accept the negative ads, name-calling and lies as part of the way the political game is played, then we sit back and gripe about how our politics have gone into the dumpster.

But we can’t have it both ways. It’s like going to the Indianapolis 500 hoping to see the accidents — and then complaining about the accidents. It’s like going to a cage fight — and complaining about the violence.

Today we no longer have political ads that tell the truth about a candidate or the issues. We have negative ads that spin, distort and take words out of context.

We can complain about the news media. But Fox News, MSNBC, what’s left of CNN and the others feast on dirty politics. They don’t want their banquet to end.

It’s up to us the public to clean things up. But first we have to change. The politicians are giving us exactly what we want.

If we really want more truth in politics, if we really want less negativity and fewer lies, we have to make it clear to the politicians that we no longer want to watch their grubby cage fight.

Until we do, we’ll be fed the same old dirt.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Where Will Washington Stop?

Photo courtesy of Scott RObinson

When Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare, he didn’t just betray conservatives.

His twisted legal logic also betrayed the American people by opening the door to the largest expansion of federal power since Social Security was enacted.

Roberts and his new liberal soul-mates decided it’s OK for the federal government to tax us if we don’t do what Washington’s bullies and nannies want us to do — or think is good for us.

Lord knows, the feds have already taxed us to death — and after death, too — on everything from capital gains to booze. If they can “penalize” us for not buying health care insurance, what’s next?

Tax us if we don’t buy a smaller house? If we don’t buy an electric car? How about if we don’t buy exercise equipment? Or eat broccoli? Or wear Earth Shoes or condoms? There’ll be no end to it.

The principle of limited government — now there’s a quaint 18th-century idea — in Washington has been passé since Calvin Coolidge left town. But as my libertarian friend, Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News said this week, the Obamacare decision has created a new opportunity for unlimited government.

You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar like the judge to know that the Supreme Court has set a horrible precedent. But that judicial train wreck has left Union Station. It’s time to stop whining and get to work.

The only way we can derail Obamacare and the Even Bigger Government Express is by firing the engineer in chief and electing a Congress that will legislatively undo the damage the Supreme Court has done to individual liberty.

It won’t be easy. But the Fourth of July holiday is the perfect time for voters to start another revolution to win back the freedoms our Founding Fathers fought for 236 years ago.

They risked their lives and fortunes to secure liberty for the individual and put government in its place. They knew the only way people can be free is when their government is kept small, weak and fragmented. And when it takes orders from the people instead of the other way around.

We hear precious little praise for the principle of limited government in 2012 America. I’m sorry to say that the last president who had a deep understanding of the proper relationship between government and a free people was my father, Ronald Reagan.

He knew the spirit of freedom had to be kept alive by the people. In a 1961, when his earliest political speeches were arguing against the legislation that eventually created Medicare, he warned us that freedom is not in the DNA of Americans, it is in our hearts and minds.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

On this Independence Day we need to get fired up about freedom and start fighting for it — at home. Every single American who’s outraged by the Obamacare decision should be energized to show up and vote this fall. And the next dozen falls. If we don’t starting fighting for our freedom now, we deserve to lose it.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Rubio’s Time Will Come

“Rubio, Rubio, Rubio.”

You hear the chants all across the country. On talk shows, on cable TV, on blogs and in op-ed columns, everyone with a conservative bone in his body is urging presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney to choose the smart and dashing Marco Rubio as his vice president.

The conservative crowd’s clamor for Rubio is beginning to worry me. It could backfire. For one thing, it’s setting up Romney for a disaster.

If he doesn’t choose Rubio — and I would agree with that decision — it’s going to disappoint a lot of Republican voters who think Rubio is the key to de-electing President Obama. And when voters are disappointed, they don’t show up to vote.

Don’t get me wrong. Rubio is great, maybe the best young talent in the Republican draft pool. The first-term Florida senator is already a superstar and ready for the big leagues — and that’s the biggest problem I have with picking him.

When you’re trying to get elected president, you don’t pick a superstar for your running mate. You pick someone boring, someone who is not going to eclipse you the way Sarah Palin outshined John McCain just four years ago.

I admit it wasn’t hard to outshine McCain. But if he hadn’t been so desperate to put some life into his lackluster campaign, he would have done the wiser thing and chosen someone even more boring than himself.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

It was Reagan and Bush I. Bush I and Quayle. Clinton and Gore. Gore and ????? Whoever it was, he or she was so boring I can’t remember their name. Was it Kerry? Biden?

Just joking, but you get the point. In 2000, the Bush II-Cheney ticket turned out to be a mini-mistake. Dick Cheney was so experienced and such a strong personality that he acted like a co-president for eight years, which only caused trouble for George W. Bush.

There’s only room for one star on the ticket. Romney doesn’t need Rubio or Chris Christie or Condi Rice, or even Paul Ryan. He needs a Tim Pawlenty, a Rob Portman or a Bob McDonnell — a non-star.

He needs someone who’s a virtual unknown to the voting masses, but nonetheless experienced in governing and ready to do the VP’s thankless jobs of attending funerals and waiting for the chance to break a tie vote in the Senate.

Nobody ever votes for a president because they like the VP. Romney has to be the only star. Period. He has to be the focus of the Republican ticket.

Unlike McCain, who had to appear with Palin most of the time just to draw a crowd, Romney needs to have a VP who can campaign for him elsewhere without attracting all the media attention or showing him up.

That might be hard. Mitt is not exactly known for his star power. But he doesn’t need to be exciting to win the White House. He needs to show voters that he has the ideas and the governing skills to pull the economy out of the deep ditch Mr. Obama’s got us stuck in.

Rubio will have his day. So will future Republican all-stars like Christie, Ryan and Bobby Jindal. The GOP has a deep bench.

But Mitt’s the GOP’s QB now. He’s got to ignore the crowd of conservatives who want him to throw the long bomb to Rubio. He’s got to call his own play for VP — and make it good but boring.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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This Isn’t Mere Duplication; It’s Unbridled Idiocy

Uncle Sam is spending a lot of your tax dollars on programs that do the exact same thing as other federal programs, and you are paying the tab, a shocking new report shows.

According to a report by the watchdog Government Accounting Office (GAO), Uncle Sam hosts 47 job-training programs, 44 of which do the same things. The federal government also runs 80 programs for what it calls the “transportation disadvantaged.” Count ‘em: 80 — paid for by your tax dollars.

The report cites a total of 82 other programs spread across 10 separate agencies that are supposed to improve what it calls “teacher quality” — something of concern to local school districts and not Uncle Sam. It’s a classic example of the left hand not being aware of what the right hand is doing, and it’s costing us, the taxpayers, untold billions of our tax dollars.

I agree with penny-wise Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who was outraged by the scandals uncovered in the report and has vowed “to get our fiscal house in order’ saying “Now again, we have said enough is enough ….”

An equally outraged Oklahoma GOP senator, Tom Coburn, said the report “confirms what most Americans assume about their government. We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing. The executive branch doesn’t know. The congressional branch doesn’t know. Nobody knows.”

The GAO report was mandated by Congress the last time it raised the debt limit in January 2010. Coburn said the report makes lawmakers look like “jackasses.”

“We don’t know what we’re doing,” Coburn said.

It’s about time they knew. This is the money we earned by the sweat of our brow and they’re squandering it as if it were their money, not yours and mine.

Think about it. How long would we survive if we spent our money over and over again on the same things at the same time? We’d be in the poor house — which is where Uncle Sam lives these days while acting as if he is living in a huge mansion and waited upon by his servants, the taxpayers.

This scandal is the result of an inexcusable inattention by the Congress, which in recent years has acted as if it had the power to spend money the U.S. doesn’t have, much of it on worthless programs, and passing the bill on to future generations.

Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 Congressional elections by pledging to trim the government’s sails, seeking out wasteful programs and eliminating them. Republicans plan to cut a whopping $61 billion from the current fiscal year’s budget.

That should be just the beginning. The GAO report pinpoints the areas where some of the cutting can and should be done. The report shows Congress where a lot of the waste can be found, advising: “Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars.

The duplication is staggering, with some 33 areas loaded down with what it calls “overlap and fragmentation” in the federal government, including 56 programs across 20 agencies that deal with something called “financial literacy,” whatever that is. There are more than 2,100 data centers — from only 432 a little more than a decade ago — among 24 federal agencies. The GAO says Uncle Sam could save up to $200 billion over the next 10 years simply through consolidation.

There are 20 programs among seven agencies that deal with homelessness. The GAO found $2.9 billion spent on the programs in 2009. “Congress is often to blame” for fragmentation, GAO wrote, explaining that potential participants often have access problems as a result of the duplication.

Moreover, there are 82 “distinct” teacher-quality programs in 10 different agencies, many having “duplicate sub-goals.” Nine of them address teacher quality in math, science and related areas. There are 15 agencies in charge of 30 food-related laws. “Some of the oversight doesn’t make any sense,” according to the report.

“…Doesn’t make any sense.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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