Sunstein Appointment Receiving Praise From The Right

A couple of days ago I wrote favorably about Obama’s appointment of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This appointment is also helping with Obama’s efforts to attract possible support from the right with Instapundit noting the favorable response.

Glenn Reynolds writes in Forbes:

They told me if I voted for John McCain, we’d wind up with Chicago-school White House appointees who wonder if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is unconstitutional. And, sure enough, I voted for John McCain, and we’ve got a nominee for head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs who has taught at the University of Chicago and who recently wrote an article entitled “Is OSHA Unconstitutional?”

After recycling this old joke to make a point, Reynolds later writes:

Sunstein’s most recent book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness,co-written with Richard Thaler, explored ways in which regulation could be made less heavyhanded, encouraging people to behave in particular ways while allowing them to pursue a different path if they so chose. Sunstein characterizes this approach as “libertarian paternalism”–a term that raised some hackles among libertarians–but it’s clearly a departure from the dirigiste approaches of the past. This is not your father’s regulatory state.

How much impact Sunstein will have at OIRA is unclear: Reshaping the federal bureaucracy in even minor ways is often difficult, and certainly previous efforts at regulatory reform have had mixed impact. But his selection is a sign that Barack Obama’s approach, despite all the New Deal symbolism of late, isn’t likely to look much like that favored in the 1930s. Certainly if Obama were looking for a regulatory Commissar, Cass Sunstein wouldn’t have been the one to pick.

The Wall Street Journal calls Sunstein A Regulator with Promise–Really

We still don’t know much about how Barack Obama plans to overhaul our financial regulatory system, but his reported appointment of Cass Sunstein to an important post is a promising sign.

Mr. Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School, is no conservative — far from it. But his writings on regulation and the herd mentality deserve a voice in the incoming Administration. From his new post as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs inside the White House, he would have an opportunity to put into practice some of the ideas he has written about as an academic.

Eugene Volokh writes that “Sunstein is brilliant, thoughtful, and ideologically probably as good as libertarianish/conservativish people like me can hope for from the new administration.” (Libertarinaish/liberalish people such as myself are also happy with the pick). He also links to guest blog posts written by Sunstein.

Even Some Conservatives Realize Sarah Palin Lacks A Well-Informed Worldview

While many conservatives were excited about the addition of Sarah Palin to the 2008 ticket and support her for the 2012 nomination, other conservatives realize that this would deliver a serious blow to any hopes for a recovery by the Republican Party. In a post at National Review entitled She Doesn’t Have a Well-Informed Worldview, David Frum looks at Sarah  Palin’s interview for John Ziegler’s “How Obama Got Elected” project (video posted here). He gives some reasons why Palin’s interviews are a disaster, regardless of whether they come from legitimate journalists or from supporters:

However nastily and treacherously Palin’s media handlers may have behaved after the election, their only error during the election was to offer too much access to Palin, not too little. Those handlers faced a daunting problem: Their party’s nominee for vice president could not respond to questions without embarrassing herself. The handlers who kept Pain under wraps knew what they were doing. Had Palin refused all interviews during the campaign, there would have been some criticism, but it would have been forgotten by now – and the Gibson and Couric interviews would not be filling YouTube, ready to be rebroadcast in 2012.

Now Palin is hiring her own handlers, making her own decisions, speaking freely. And if anything, the results are even worse than they were in 2008.

Watch the Ziegler interview yourself, and you will see what I mean. Ziegler represented a new and subtle kind of danger for Palin, the overly friendly interview. Ziegler’s questions were all traps, no less dangerous for being set unwittingly. Palin stumbled into every one.

Again and again, Ziegler invited Palin to engage in self-pity and self-excuse – and again and again she accepted.

She tells us she was a victim of sexism. She tells us she was a victim of class prejudice. She complains about her media treatment – then insists she never watched any of it. She deplores the unpleasant personal comments directed against herself, while offering up some equally unpleasant personal comments of her own. She repeatedly shades the truth in order to escape blame for her own mistakes. (She won’t for example let go of our claim that there was some insult to Alaska embedded in Katie Couric’s simple question: “What do you read?”)

A smart politician rebuffs all invitations to speak about his or her own hurt feelings. It’s not just that such talk sounds whiny and weak, although it does. Much more seriously, such talk betrays a self-involvement that alienates voters almost more than any other personal quality. Through the 2008 election, Barack Obama repeatedly said “It’s not about me. It’s about you.” Exactly so! But Palin’s replies to Ziegler make clear that for her, the election was about her. The next election will be even more so, because she has collected so many more grievances along the way.

I appreciate that NRO numbers many die-hard Sarah fans among its readership. Perhaps you were charmed by the Ziegler interview, or anyway sympathetic. But remember: In the last polls before the election, 59% of Americans condemned Palin as unready for the presidency. In the course of the campaign, her support among white women plunged by 21 points. Among independent white women, her support declined even more sharply by 24 points. By the end, half of independent white women expressed a “strongly negative” view of Palin.

If Palin seeks the presidency, these are votes she’s going to need. On the evidence of the Ziegler interview, she has no better understanding of how to seek them than she did in August. Palin’s supporters insist that she can grow and learn. Maybe someday. But on the evidence of this latest interview the growth and the learning have not started yet. Don’t blame the handlers, then, for concealing Palin under wraps. Given their candidate’s flaws and limitations, concealment and evasion was the right media strategy. So it remains, and so it seems it always will.

Palin’s lack of an informed world view is one major reason why she should never be on a major party ticket. Republicans will have difficulties regardless of their candidate as long as they continue to promote ideas which are out of touch with the realities of the twenty-first century, but their problems would be worse if led by someone as uninformed as Sarah Palin.

Polls this far out have limited meaning, but it is notable that a recent poll shows Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin leading for the 2012 Republican nomination. This might not predict the ultimate result, but does show the dominance of social conservatism in the GOP at present. Huckabee does not make the mistakes by Palin which Frum describes.  While I would hate to see any candidates from the religious right dominate the Republican Party, if they must offer such a distasteful choice in 2012 I would prefer that it be Huckabee over Palin.

An intelligent social conservative is preferable over one with Palin’s uninformed world view, even if on paper the two agree on most issues. At least a more intelligent leader has the potential of changing course and possibly seeing some limitations in their world view. Huckabee has made many absurd comments in the past, but at least has moderated his views on some, such as on isolating people who are HIV positive. He has also shown an ability to question some of the ideas of the religious right, such as in arguing that prayer can be done in home as opposed to in the schools. He has also avoided some of the excesses of the right wing on immigration.

Hopefully it won’t come down to a choice between Huckabee and Palin. While the Republican Party is now essentially a party of religious conservatism based in the deep south, nominations are still won in contests in all fifty states. There is also still hope that there might be enough sensible people left in the GOP to attempt to change their direction to avoid going the way of the Whigs.