David Rodeback's Blog

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Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Saturday, June 19, 2010
RAQ: Other Stuff (Mostly Not the Election)

Recently Asked Questions about a general, presidential succession, the federal budget, yachting and golfing, the institutional of marriage, carbonated beverages, etc.

Here we have more Recently (not necessarily Frequently) Asked Questions and my attempts to offer and/or evade an answer. The topics vary; what they have in common is that they didn't show up in last Monday's RAQ, and they may be a useful diversion while we all wait for election returns -- a diversion for me, at least. Electoral politics might intrude at a point or two, but not too much, I hope.

General McChrystal Gathers No Moss, and Other Beltway Themes

Q. What do you think will happen to General McChrystal, now that he's been summoned to the White House to answer for a forthcoming Rolling Stone article in which he and his staff allegedly are critical of some folks at the White House, including National Command Authority?

A. Generals are hard to reprogram, so I expect he'll be fired. Admittedly, much of the brewing scandal is about things his staff, not he, allegedly said, but I'm sure the current heir to Harry Truman will have his own idea about where the buck stops in this case. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, a general could not have reached the position he now occupies without some sense of discipline and some good political skills and instincts. He must be pretty good at not saying what he thinks to command authority. So I'm more inclined to think this little problem may not be an accident, and if it isn't, to wonder why he did it. Was it part of a last-ditch effort to serve his country, that is, to advance our military mission and to protect his troops? We'll see, maybe.

Q. Did you really say that Vice President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi are as good a reason as there could be to pray for President Obama's health?

A. Yup. Fortunately, it wasn't published in Rolling Stone, and I am not in the military chain of command.

Q. How 'bout that federal budget Congress passed?

A. They didn't, even if the law required it by May 15 -- not that past Congresses have always been on time. But this one's refusing to offer, let alone try to pass, a budget until after the November election, because they don't want to put numbers on the deficit they'll create. Don't worry, though, they're said to be working on a "functional equivalent," just without numbers. A budget without numbers? What a concept. As some have recently said, "If you can't budget, you can't govern."

Q. Does it bother you that the CEO of British Petroleum went yachting Sunday, or that President Obama played golf?

A. No and no. Does anyone really expect either of them to don deep-water diving suits and try to plug the hole themselves? Besides, the BP guy spent the week being abused by the United States Congress, and then he was relieved of his responsibility to oversee the spill response and cleanup. He probably needed to relax. I'm surprised he didn't have to go shoot something. As for the President, he needs to relax now and then, and especially rest his voice and his bowing muscles. The only bothersome thing here to me is the White House criticizing one and defending the other. Such blatant hypocrisy can't be good politics, can it?

The Institution of Marriage

Q. What do you think of all the angst over the current and future state of marriage, in view of the Gore divorce? And did you read what Sally Quinn said in the Washington Post?

A. People who are suddenly worried about the state of marriage in the modern world are coming a little late to the party, and they're jumping instantly from too little to too much concern for the institution. But maybe we should simply celebrate the fact that they've shown up at all. As to Sally Quinn, yes, I read that she wrote,

"Til death do us part" is a vestige of a time when life expectancy was much lower. Given the normal span of our lives these days, such a vow is totally unrealistic.

Q. So what do you think?

A. Baloney. People focusing on "till death do us part" are setting their sights too low, not too high.

Q. You're not about to go all religious on us, are you?

A. Yep. Let's change the subject.


Q. Are you actively involved in any political campaigns, apart from your blogging?

A. I've advised a couple of candidates on a few matters, and I spent Saturday evening and the first hour after dawn Monday morning delivering flyers to likely Republican primary voters in my precinct.

Q. Do you enjoy that?

A. Less than writing, actually. But I did have a long, enjoyable conversation at my last stop Saturday evening, with a former mayor of American Fork.

Q. What about?

A. American Fork, Utah County, and school district politics; our mutual love of books; that sort of thing.


Q. Shall we take a break from the question/answer format?

A. Sure. Here's a collection of interesting thoughts, not questions, I've encountered lately. They're not necessarily new, but they may be noteworthy. I fully agree with two of them, but I'm still pondering the other one. I'll let you try to figure out which is which.

  • Government fee increases can actually be the opposite of tax increases -- that is, they may be desirable and beneficial to the taxpayer. If fees for a given existing service are currently set below the cost to the government of providing that service, then tax revenues are subsidizing that service. If government raises the fees to cover the full cost of the service, it can reduce the general taxpayer's burden for that thing. American Forkers in particular may want to bear this in mind in weeks to come.
  • It was true in 1987 when I worked at the US Senate, and it's true now: There just isn't enough "waste, fraud, and abuse" to allow us to balance the federal budget by cutting that alone. There's a lot of all three, I'm sure, just not nearly enough. Eliminating all discretionary non-defense spending wouldn't get us close, either; not even cutting the entire defense budget would be enough. We have to cut entitlements, and we have to grow the economy significantly for an extended period at the same time.
  • Someone said to me, in the context of a Utah race for US Senate, "Government is not a business. It can't be a business. It shouldn't try to run like a business."


Q. Lakers or Celtics?

A. Celtics, in the absence of the Jazz.

Q. Y or U?

A. Y, except for medical care.

Q. Coke or Pepsi?

A. Vernor's Ginger Ale or A&W Root Beer.

Q. Chevy or Ford?

A. Formerly Chevy. Now Honda.

Last and Probably Least

Q. Last question: Do you want to say anything about immigration reform?

A. Oh, boy, do I! But not today.

Q. Thanks for joining us.

A. Always a pleasure.

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