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Needham ’04 Leads Coup at Heritage Foundation

From The Atlantic:

The drama over the removal of the president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint, is partly classic Washington power politics. But it also reflects tensions over the organization’s relationship with the Trump administration and with Trumpist ideology.

DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who has led the conservative institution since 2013, was ousted on Tuesday after a meeting of Heritage’s board, which voted unanimously to remove him. News of DeMint’s likely imminent departure was first reported by Politico last week.

Needham_Mike_TDS_loThe driving force behind DeMint’s ouster, according to multiple sources close to the organization, was Mike Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America, the organization’s political arm. Needham, these sources say, made a power play to push DeMint out, and is appealing to both pro- and anti-Trump elements to accomplish it.

“Needham has been laying the groundwork for this for two years,” said a source close to Heritage. “He’s been badmouthing DeMint to board members for a long time. He’s got his sights set on taking over the whole thing eventually.” According to a senior Republican congressional aide, Needham has been “trashing” DeMint to board members and saying that people in the White House and Congress prefer to deal with him rather than DeMint.

Multiple people close to the situation called DeMint’s ouster a “coup,” and said the driving force behind it was not philosophical but old-fashioned ambition and power politics. “This is an old-as-time story,” said one source.

Several people familiar with Needham’s jockeying said he has successfully exploited the growing philosophical tensions on the American right—and, specifically, on the board of Heritage—to get his way.

To the Trump-averse elements on the board, Needham has pointed to DeMint’s growing coziness with the new administration as evidence that the think tank, a beacon of movement conservatism, needs a new steward. At the same time, Needham has been telling pro-Trump board members like Rebekah Mercer that Heritage needs a leader who will follow the president’s lead—even going so far as to float White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, a key Mercer ally, as a potential future president, according to one source.

As always, we wish Ephs success in their chosen fields. Needham, obviously, seeks to increase his stature/power in Washington politics. Do our readers have any advice? My guess is that Needham is positioning himself as a future White House chief of staff. Other options?

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#AmericanLivesMatter

Mike Needham ’04 on the rise of Trump:

So I think for the electorate right now, there are issues that they think about in their lives, and there’s issues that politicians in Washington actually govern on. People at home are worried about: Will I have a job in a couple of years? Why are my wages stagnant? How am I going to afford to pay my mortgage? Why has the price of ground beef gone from $2 a pound to $4 a pound? And people in Washington, D.C., move legislation to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, every year to go through and kind of do a Kabuki theater over tax extenders. We currently are in the midst of a fight as to whether or not you can call catfish that comes from Vietnam “catfish.” So there’s a disconnect between what people care about and what Washington, D.C., moves on, and that makes people upset. So that’s a problem that Washington, D.C., has with its voters and the Republican Party has with its voters.

I think you then have a mind-set problem where people feel like we are losing our country.

Exactly right. How might Trump (or Clinton?) capture that demographic, reach out to them in a way that might (might!) help to undo some of the destruction of the last few months/years? EphBlog recommends a new slogan/hashtag:

#AmericanLivesMatter

This is, obviously, a take off of #blacklivesmatter. Regardless of your views on the righteousness (or not) of the BLM argument, at least 75% of Americans would like to move beyond it, after the BLM-inspired tragedies of Dallas and Baton Rouge. The easiest way to do that is not with the neo-reactionary #whitelivesmatter or the traditional #bluelivesmatter but, instead, with a slogan that unites all of these while, at the same time, proving the (sadly) necessary other for people to unify against. The most natural such grouping, in the context of a US Presidential election, is Americans. Hence: #AmericanLivesMatter.

Although Trump is the most natural proponent of such a slogan, Hillary Clinton is due for a Sister Souljah moment and could (easily?) pivot to ALM from BLM at the Democratic Convention. Perhaps presidential speech writer Jon Lovett ’04 knows someone in the Hillary campaign?

Or perhaps #AmericansMatter would be better. Or #AmericaMatters. These shift the focus away from an implicit repudiation of the BLM movement while still using the key word americans/america. Readers should feel free to chime in! What slogan/hashtag is most likely to win the presidential election for the candidate who first embraces it?

Needham continues:

The Muslim ban is a kind of race-to-the-bottom solution to a real problem that it is insane to suggest letting in thousands of un-vetted Syrian refugees at this time, and that there’s a lack of a statesman-like policy proposal that either brings people together or, at the very least, makes sure every part of the party feels like it’s occasionally getting its due. And that creates anger, and I think Trump has found those policy issues that allow him to challenge.

Mostly right. The real issue is that 75% (?) of the American people think that the US should not allow further immigration from countries like Syria/Afghanistan/Somalia/etc. Call them crazy! Unfortunately, no Democratic candidate and no non-Trump Republican candidate supported that view. And that led us, sadly, to Trump. Why? Because #AmericanLivesMatter.

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Needham ’04 Religious Liberty

Great article from Mike Needham ’04:

It is worth recalling that, back in 1997, Andrew Sullivan insisted that, “whatever your assumptions about liberal judges, the right to marry and the right to adopt are logically, politically, and legally separate issues.” Even if he sincerely believed that almost twenty years ago, he nevertheless has proved to be quite wrong. The underlying false principles on which the judicial redefinition of marriage depends—that objections to redefinition are irrational unless rooted in animus—dictate what occurred in the first state to legalize same-sex marriage: the expulsion of the Catholic Church from the adoption business in Massachusetts.

This battle is coming soon to communities all across America. Churchgoers are asking themselves if their wedding halls will be forced by the government to host same-sex weddings and receptions. School administrators are re-evaluating curricula out of concern for their tax-exempt status. Purveyors of wedding services who see their businesses as extensions of their church communities are now questioning their choice of vocation. This is not the America our founders passed down to us. Who can fail to notice the irony that to lose this struggle is to spite the spirits of those who crossed the ocean to found this society, and whose lived beliefs infused it with the virtues that have allowed America to become, on balance, both good and great?

Social conservatives knew years ago that the redefinition of marriage would be the first of several dominoes to fall. But they must not now concede total defeat because they have lost on one question before the Supreme Court. The nation remains divided on marriage, and the Left seeks to force on all the views held by some. It is still within the power of social conservatives to repair our pluralistic fabric by embracing a true diversity of opinion on this important issue and protecting those whose views have fallen out of favor in elite circles. That can happen, however, only if political leaders are willing to take on this debate. Evidently, we the people nowadays must force this task on them.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

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Real Reform Mandate

Mike Needham ’04 writes about the past and future of the Republican Party.

From the perspective of the conservative grassroots and affiliated organizations, however, the friction of the last several years has been anything but pointless. It is a result of deep and irreconcilable disagreements between activist reformers and the Washington establishment over both the means conservatives should employ and the ends they should pursue. At its core, it is a dispute over how much the center-right should aim to disrupt the political status quo. Those eager to shake up the stale agenda of the Republican Party do their cause no service by standing on the sidelines or opposing the Tea Party’s efforts; in this fight, reformers of all stripes must hope the Tea Party wins.

EphBlog agrees! Read the whole thing.

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Terrorizing Republicans

From the Washington Post:

Before Donald Trump began terrorizing the Republican establishment, there was Michael Needham.

The 35-year-old conservative prodigy has spent six years instilling panic in Washington Republicans as head of Heritage Action for America. But instead of pitching himself as the solution to D.C.’s problems, Needham conducts his own slash-and-burn campaign to rid Congress of policies and players he sees as insufficiently conservative — many of them fellow Republicans.

Read the whole thing! Longtime readers will recall that Mike, besides being editor-in-chief of the Record, as an early EphBlogger. Do you want to appear in the Washington Post in 15 years? Join EphBlog today!

Needham, a native New Yorker who has never worked on Capitol Hill, is unapologetic about leading one of Washington’s most feared advocacy groups.

“The anger [from voters] comes from a place that is profoundly right,” Needham said in an interview, referring to Trump’s political success. “I think we [Heritage Action] have landed exactly where the mood of the electorate is. I think that is why politicians are channeling our message. A Trump election or nomination is a complete vindication that Washington needs to change.”

Washington Republicans might panic at the thought of a Trump presidency, but Needham says he does not. He believes that underneath the bluster, the businessman is malleable on specifics — specifics that Needham and his team could provide.

Could Needham end up as Chief of Staff in a Trump Administration? We can only hope so!

Retired Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), chairman and CEO of the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, called the group’s tactics “destructive.”

“They lost me when they began shooting inside the tent,” said LaTourette, another friend of Boehner’s. “Their targets stopped being liberals and people who were trying to take the country to the left, and their fire was aimed at people who they judged as not conservative enough.”

LaTourette added: “Those ‘key votes’ make people nervous, because when you make a conscious decision to go against them, you guarantee yourself a primary election.”

Heritage Action was born with fangs out.

Just like EphBlog!

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Needham ’04 on Boehner

Mike Needham ’04 is glad that Speaker Boehner is stepping down.

Those within Speaker Boehner’s tight-knit circle will point to the “accomplishments” of the past nine months as reasons why he’ll be missed. But take a look what the House has done this year and it’s not hard to understand conservatives’ frustrations with the Speaker’s leadership: a permanent “doc fix” that increases Medicare spending over the next two decades by $500 billion and took crucial leverage for Medicare reform off the table forever; a House-passed reauthorization of No Child Left Behind despite the objections of conservatives advocating reforms to eliminate Department of Education mandates. Not a single Republican ran on these priorities in 2014, yet aside from small-ball bills addressing business community concerns like authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, they’ve been the central pillars of the Republican agenda.

But it could have been worse. Despite his best efforts, the Speaker wasn’t able to roll conservatives on some of his biggest priorities. For years, he hoped to cut a “grand bargain,” trading spending cuts for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases. Conservatives would not let him, and pressure from the grassroots forced the House instead to work toward the 2011 Budget Control Act, a package of cuts-only reforms that the Speaker has only tried to undermine ever since. And on comprehensive immigration reform—code-talk for amnesty—the Speaker never hid his views: “I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground.” As recently as last September, Speaker Boehner told Hugh Hewitt that he was trying to “create an environment where you could do immigration reform in a responsible way next year.” It’s taken years of dedicated opposition by conservatives to prevent the Speaker’s push for amnesty from coming to fruition.

If you want to increase the income of the bottom 20% of current US citizens, the most important public policy is a decrease in unskilled immigration, both legal and illegal.

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Reform Agenda

Speaking of former Record editors-in-chief, here is Mike Needham ’04 with a reform agenda for Congress.

But the failure of the president’s agenda is a consequence of progressives’ intellectual bankruptcy, not evidence we cannot solve our problems. Republicans can tackle these challenges head-on this Congress, and in so doing unite both their party and the country.

There’s no lack of ideas in the House Republican conference for leaders to pick from to address the concerns of the Americans left behind by the Obama recovery. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), for example, has introduced the RAISE Act, which would raise the wage ceiling union contracts have imposed on 8 million Americans. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has an exciting agenda for housing and financial services reform. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has proposed the HERO Act, which would go a long way toward driving higher education innovation while curbing costs to students. And the congressional reconciliation process provides Congress with the opportunity to repeal Obamacare, then work in an orderly fashion to replace it with a patient-centered alternative.

Who doesn’t think “exciting agenda” when they read “housing and financial services reform?”

I kid, I kid.

If Needham is one of the most energetic Eph voices on the right, who is an Eph counterpart on the left?

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Currently browsing posts filed under "Mike Needham ’04"

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