kondracke

CNN: Make the Next Debate About the Big Stuff

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CNN moderator Jake Tapper can’t avoid questioning the Republican presidential candidates about the subjects that have dominated the GOP race so far — immigration, Planned Parenthood and Donald Trump — but in Wednesday night's debate he ought to try to get answers on other issues that are much more important to American voters.  

At the top ought to be: What, exactly, are you going to do to restore the American dream of economic opportunity for current workers and future generations? It’s all well and good for Jeb Bush to explain how his new tax plan will raise the U.S. growth rate to 4 percent and Trump's slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is just that. As Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often says, U.S. workers face a different kind of economy than in the past because of technology and international competition. In fact, real wages have been stagnant for 20 years.  That’s a diagnosis, not a prescription or a cure.  

Who Will Republicans Come Around to in 2016?

Which one of these 10 men will be the GOP's 2016 nominee? (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

This is the quadrennial Republican silly season, when candidates without a prayer of election get their moments in the limelight, sometimes topping the polls before crashing.  

After adopting crazy enthusiasms — Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Pat Robertson, Michele Bachman, Herman Cain and the ever-present Mike Huckabee — the party almost always ends up nominating its most electable candidate. The process is often ruinous, of course, forcing the nominee to adopt positions in the primaries that render him unable to win the general. Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" position on immigration in 2012 is the best example.  

Will GOP Let Clinton Capture Latino Vote? | Pennsylvania Avenue

Immigration reform activists march and chant following President Barack Obama's speech on his executive action on immigration policies last November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A plan is circulating on Capitol Hill and among immigrant advocate groups to give Republicans in Congress the chance to get something constructive done this year on the fractious issue — and perhaps undercut Hillary Rodham Clinton’s shrewd (and cynical) effort to lock down the Hispanic vote in 2016.  

The plan is the work of Rick Swartz, founder of the National Immigration Forum and longstanding campaigner for left-right policy solutions on environmental, trade, tax and agricultural issues. He’s advocating — not for the first time — that Congress pass a “small bill” solving part of America’s immigration problem, recognizing that comprehensive reform has zero chance of enactment anytime soon.  

Great Questions | Pennsylvania Avenue

Ross Douthat wrote a brilliant column — as he often does — Sunday on The New York Times op-ed page raising the question: What will the next Republican president (if there is one) replace Barack Obama’s dangerously inept foreign policy with?  

As a matter of fact, the Times op-ed page was filled with good questions: Nicholas Kristof’s asked how American kids will ever compete in the world economy when they’re so far behind in math. And Maureen Dowd’s asked nothing less than what will become of the human race in the age of robotics.  

Return of the Reformicons | Pennsylvania Avenue

Rubio has identified with some of the Reformicons' proposals.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Last year, a group of mainly young conservative intellectuals made a splash with a document titled “Room to Grow,” attempting to outline policies that would address the problems, anxieties and worries of the middle class. The so-called Reform Conservative Movement — "Reformicons” for short—got favorable attention from The New York Times Magazine for its attempt to make the Republican Party “the party of ideas.”  

Unless you’re a reader of the lively journal National Affairs, edited by Reformicon leader Yuval Levin, you might have thought the movement had gone into hibernation, though a number of 2016 GOP presidential wannabes — notably Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — have identified with some of its proposals, especially making college more affordable and reforming K-12 education. “Room to Grow ”also contained proposals for family friendly tax reform, health care affordability, safety-net and regulatory reform, and infrastructure and energy policy. We’ve yet to see much uptake of those ideas either by the Republican Congress or the presidential field. The latter group, Bush excepted, seems preoccupied with pandering to the basest instincts of the GOP base. Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have reversed themselves on immigration reform. And there’s a mass rush, Bush again excepted, to denounce Common Core educational standards which were originally invented by the nation’s governors and are now seen by the Tea Party (in de facto collusion with the teachers unions) as an President Barack Obama/Bill Gates takeover of the minds of America’s children.  

The Opportunity Challenge | Pennsylvania Avenue

Scottsdale, Ariz. — Last October, a conspiracy got hatched in Beaver Creek, Colo., to change the future of America — for the better. Its goals got unveiled at an education innovation conference I attend here every year co-sponsored by Arizona State University and the high-tech investment banking firm GSV.  

The Beaver Creek gathering was attended by 140 educators, entrepreneurs, foundation executives and investors and moderated by “Good to Great” business strategy luminary Jim Collins. The group came up with the ambitious and idealistic goal insuring that every American child has an equal opportunity to participate in the future, regardless of income or ZIP code.  

Go 'Small' on Immigration | Kondracke

Next to achieving Middle East peace, the hardest thing in the world seems to be passing a law to repair what everyone agrees is a “broken” immigration system. But there’s a chance, if Republicans and Democrats think not big but small.  

The just-unveiled House Republican leadership document, “Standards for Immigration Reform ” has part of a good idea — don’t even consider a “comprehensive” bill like the Senate’s bipartisan monstrosity.  

Despite Obama's Rhetoric, the State of the Union Is Not Strong | Kondracke

Delivering his State of the Union address on Tuesday night , President Barack Obama was vigorous, earnest, positive, non-confrontational, occasionally funny and determined to get things done.  

But the word that kept popping into my head as I listened was: sugar-coating.