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The Fed Shouldn’t Raise Interest Rates Too Soon



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My latest column discusses the proper course of Fed policy now that the unemployment rate is below six percent. I argue that the Fed should continue to keep interest rates low due to the considerable slack that remains in the labor market.

We learned last Friday that in September the unemployment rate fell below 6 percent. This is, of course, good news. But “irrational exuberance” — to quote a former Federal Reserve chair — over the unemployment rate’s rapid decline may undermine the very recovery the Fed is trying to push forward. How so? By giving additional credence to the argument that the Fed should raise interest rates sooner and faster. It shouldn’t.

[...]

The fundamental logic of monetary policy is the same as it’s been for years now: Prices aren’t rising as rapidly as the Fed would like them to, and the labor market isn’t using workers to their fullest extent. The Fed is still missing on both sides of its “dual mandate.”

Prudence thus dictates a patient return to normal monetary policy. And the unemployment rate falling below 6 percent shouldn’t fundamentally change anything.

You can read the column here.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

Obama Does 56th Fundraiser of 2014



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President Obama is participating in his 56th fundraiser of 2014, Republicans note, as his fading popularity limits his ability to support Democratic candidates otherwise.

“Today Obama is doing three fundraisers to help Democrats running in the midterms, which brings his total to 56 this year,” Republican National Committee spokesman Raffi Williams points out. “This is interesting given that Senate Democrats are running from him and his policies every chance they get. With Obama’s toxic approval ratings it’s not surprising that vulnerable Democrats want to hide how indebted to Obama they are if they get reelected.”

The fundraisers “will take place in private, sparing the candidates on the ballot from a presidential photo op that could wind up in a Republican campaign ad,” according to the Associated Press.

The RNC list of Obama’s fundraisers shows that he has helped the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Governors’ Association. He has also raised money for Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s super PAC, the Senate Majority PAC. Reid’s group is “the biggest spending super PAC by far,” according to NPR.

It’s unsurprising that Obama is raising money for his party, but the Democrats’ dependence on a financial advantage this cycle puts candidates who are avoiding Obama in an awkward spot. They don’t want him around, but they need the money he raises.

“President Obama’s name is not on the ballot and on Election Day I won’t owe President Obama anything,” Representative Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) saidfor instance, during his first Senate debate with Republican opponent Joni Ernst.

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Campuses Keep Coming Up with More Reasons to Censor Christians



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The brazen intellectual bankruptcy of campus censorship never fails to impress. Yesterday, the Chronicle of Higher Education was the latest prestige publication to cover the California State University system’s mass-scale de-recognition of so-called “exclusionary” Christian groups.

And how, pray tell, are these groups exclusionary? They’re open to any and all students, but they merely require that the leaders of Christian groups be, well, Christian.

The unpseakable horror. How dare these organizations subject their delicate members to such exclusion and discrimination! The poor, fragile adults at Cal State are obviously completely unequipped to handle contact with private organizations exercising the same religious-liberty rights that are absolutely and unequivocally protected off campus. Doubt me? Try applying to pastor a church of a different faith and then sue when they don’t hire you. See how long your case lasts.

The policy is laughable enough on its own terms, but even more laughable are the university responses. In the New York Times, a Cal State lawyer comically declared, “Our mission is education, not exclusivity.”

Oh really?

Cal State itself discriminates on the basis of class, geography, intelligence, athletic ability, and gender. And that’s just in its admissions and athletic programs. Its fraternities and sororities discriminate on the basis of gender, class, intelligence, appearance, family status, and a host of less-tangible characteristics. Universities are shot-through with discrimination at every level, typically also adding race discrimination to the mix through its diversity programs (California theoretically bans such discrimination, but the ban is easily skirted through other forms of discrimination.)

So, please, spare us your crocodile tears over the “exclusivity” of Christian groups selecting Christian leaders.

In the Chronicle, a Cal State spokesman defends university policies by declaring that its policy of mandatory openness to non-Christian leaders fosters just the right kind of atmosphere of “debate and discussion” within religious groups. Yet since when is it a public university’s job to tell private religious organizations that they must transform themselves into, essentially, debating clubs? While there is considerable debate and discussion within any healthy campus religious group, that is typically not their primary purpose. Debate and discussion are part of a larger and more important process of discipleship and evangelization, purposes which are constitutionally protected and materially undermined by the university policy.

I’ve defended Christian campus groups from exactly these kinds of policies for more than 14 years (representing a number of groups, including some impacted by Cal State’s policies), and in that time I’ve heard just about every excuse imaginable for excluding Christian groups from campus. In reality, however, universities are motivated by malice. They hate the Christian message, often despise its messengers, and have literally been casting about for more than 30 years for the right legal argument to exclude the Christian voice from campus.

So now they’ve focused on discrimination and exclusion to allegedly protect students from discrimination and exclusion.

That’s not argument. It’s pretext, and it deserves no respect.

Web Briefing: October 14, 2014

The Synod on the Family and the Attainable Joy of the Gospel



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“Joy will need to come forth or people will rightly be disappointed,” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville said about the synod on the family that has opened this week in Rome at the request of Pope Francis.

Joy, of course, has been a theme of the pontificate of Pope Francis. (This along with mercy, encounter, going out to the peripheries, prayer, and weeping for brothers and sisters who suffer.) Kurtz cited Pope Francis’s Joy of the Gospel as having captivated people and noted the importance of the synod operating and communicating Gospel joy in practical ways.

In a video interview for the Catholic News Service, Kurtz emphasized that people need encouragement, which is “sorely lacking.” And that encouragement “obviously needs to be based on solid fact and solid teaching,” he added.

You can watch the video here: 


Kurtz cautioned against casting the synod in too narrow a light, saying that one of its objectives is to consider how to pastorally “welcome people.”

Welcome them to what? “To walk with Christ.”

Kurtz explained that the synod “is, in a sense . . . a movement toward conversion,” a walk everyone is invited to and one one which the Church needs to “ accompany” people.

He stressed that no family is perfect. This touches on another theme of the pope’s: We Christians are sinners — that is why we need a Savior! What this synod and the Church offers aren’t magic formulas for a successful family but the way of Christ and help in walking it.

About marriage, he said, people need to know that “indeed the gift of self-sacrificial love for one another, permanent love that is faithful and open to life, is attainable.”

Keep reading this post . . .

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Cuomo Seeks New Cash Cow



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As responsible people in Washington work to get rid of the corporate-welfare slush fund that is the U.S. Export-Import Bank, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to create one of his own, which would make New York the only state operating its own ex-im bank.

The Ex-Im Bank model is fundamentally corrupt, and the Cuomo administration is composed of people who managed to operate a corrupt corruption overseer. What could possibly go wrong? 

Prize GOP Recruit Artur Davis Returns to Politics



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Former Democratic U.S. representative Artur Davis of Alabama, a prize Republican recruit a few years ago, is moving ever-closer to a return to electoral politics, as right-of-center D.C.-area stalwarts David Frum, Reihan Salam, and Juleanna Glover host a fundraiser for him Thursday night (at Glover’s house) for his expected 2015 run to be mayor of Montgomery.

Before examining his upcoming race and its importance, here’s a bit of background for those unfamiliar with Davis. He had his biggest national exposure in 2008 when he gave the seconding speech for Barack Obama’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Davis had been two years behind Obama at Harvard Law, and admired Obama (and knew him slightly) as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, with a reputation for cross-philosophical friendships and working relationships. But long before that, Davis had shown evidence of independence from Democratic orthodoxy. He won election to Congress by ousting liberal Black Caucus stalwart Earl Hilliard, and he soon (and bravely) bucked the national party orthodoxy by endorsing the federal judicial nomination of solidly conservative then-attorney general Bill Pryor, even as Senator Ted Kennedy and company were using every trick in their book to try to slime Pryor’s reputation. And even as Davis seconded Obama’s nomination in Denver, he spied me in the concourse and made a point of talking up solutions across political and racial lines.

By 2009, he was the only prominent Democrat honestly acknowledging that he had been wrong in giving too much rope earlier in the decade to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and by 2010, while running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Alabama, he undermined his own nomination battle by voting against Obamacare. He lost the nomination to the state commissioner of agriculture, pronounced himself disgusted with politics, moved to Virginia — and then increasingly spoke out against racial gerrymandering, in favor of voter-ID laws, and against the leftist politicization of Eric Holder’s Justice Department. In 2012, he announced he was now a Republican — the honest, believable, and reasonable result of a natural re-assessment of his political philosophy, partly through some mild evolutions to the right and partly through the reality that, overall, much of his worldview had been right-of-center all along.

In recent years, Davis’s name has been floated for various races in Virginia, but he didn’t bite. He long has told me he has more interest in an executive position than in another legislative one, and he kept looking homeward to his native Montgomery, the state’s capital city of just over 200,000 people. (Davis, who turns 47 on the day of this week’s fundraiser, grew up in Montgomery and represented it in Congress; his wife attended college there; and his mother still lives there.) Davis told me last weekend that Montgomery voted more than 60 percent for Obama in 2012 and more than 55 percent even for the wildly overmatched Democrat, Ron Sparks, in the 2010 governor’s race. The city is about 58 percent black — but its municipal elections are non-partisan, and the current mayor, Todd Strange, is a Republican who won reelection in 2011 with 81 percent of the vote.

“I am very, very strongly leaning toward running,” he told me. He’s doing all the usual things of having preliminary discussions with grassroots organizations, community leaders, top businessmen, and local elected officials, and said that he would make his final decision by about New Year’s Day. He talks about an agenda that sounds typically non-partisan: reattracting population (the city has lost 6,000 residents already this decade), improving the job base, improving its education system, being aggressively reformist rather than complacent . . . and so on.

But, I asked him, why should national conservatives care about what he calls “solutions that . . . don’t fit into a liberal box or a conservative box or a Democratic box or a right-of-center Republican box”?

“Because I have right-of-center political ideas that I will translate into the practical realities of running a city,” he said. “How do we attract people to the city? You don’t attract them to the city by putting more taxes on them. . .

One of the challenges  for conservatives and for the Republican Party is showing that we actually know how to govern. We have to make the case ever day about why liberal policies don’t work, but also the case for why our policies do work. One of the few places in government you can still get things done in America these days is at the local level. Cities have to show that they can provide services that they can meet the needs of their people without resorting to the old answer of figuring out who we can tax or how we can take more taxes out of the same people. How do you grow? You get your schools to the point that they attract people. You make government be as lean as you possibly can; you figure out how you get the most of your services. You ask what are some job sources not in our economy right now: You find new ways of investing in the new energy economy, the new information-technology economy. The way you grow your tax base to to bring in more people, not to figure out to to raise every penny you have from current sources. . . . Plus, I do think it is always important for national conservatives to show that not all conservatives look the same, think the same, sound the same.

Even as a Democrat, Davis was a proverbial breath of fresh air on the political scene. As a thoughtful, center-right Republican trying to make inroads into Democratic territory, he’s a tremendous boon to the conservative cause. He may never be a “movement conservative,” but he’s a great ally in the cause of effective, ethical, limited government. In a national off-year for elections, the 2015 race for mayor of Montgomery might well be worth national conservative attention.

(Those in the D.C. area interested in the fund-raiser should contact Glover or Davis’ national fund-raising consultant, Neal Harrington of Harrington Forward Thinking in North Carolina.)

Monica Wehby’s Evolving Health-Care Plan



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A long time ago, Dr. Wehby — the Republican Senate candidate in Oregon — was being described by conservatives as a “policy wonk” who was particularly suited to making our case on health care. It has not turned out that way. She released a health-care plan that didn’t make any sense, perhaps because — it was later discovered — it was cut and pasted from a poll, and people like things that aren’t compatible with each other.

Now Wehby has another health-care plan. This time she has cut and pasted it from Jason Conger, the candidate she defeated in the primary, in part by arguing that she was more credible than him on health care.

The good news is that the Conger plan is much more sensible than the poll-based one she adopted earlier, and as far as I can see does not have elements that would cause the health-insurance system to self-destruct.

National Review SCOTUS Panel Splits on Whether Court Will Tackle Obamacare Next Term



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A panel of experienced Washington lawyers convened at National Review’s DC office on Monday to discuss the upcoming Supreme Court term, with the legal scholars splitting over whether the nine justices will take up three cases that could decide Obamacare’s fate.

James Burling, the litigation director of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which co-sponsored the event, broke down the cases waiting in the wings. Two involve the language of the Affordable Care Act, which specified that only “states,” and not the federal government, could set up insurance exchanges. That means the federal exchanges set up in 27 states are illegal under the law — at least according to the plaintiff’s argument. 

The other case deals with the “tax versus penalty” argument that the Court took up back in 2012. This time, plaintiffs are questioning at whether the “tax” — the term the Court gave the individual penalty for not purchasing insurance — was properly filed. 

“These cases are going to eventually wend their way back up to the Supreme Court,” Burling said. “So the Supreme Court will have a chance of fixing whatever it did the last time it ruled on healthcare — or not, as the case may be.”

Appellate law attorney Lisa Blatt felt differently. “The conventional wisdom is that the Court will take this healthcare case,” she said. “I’m definitely not of that view . . . I don’t necessarily see the Court as just dying to strike Obamacare . . . It’s not clear to me there’ll be a split.”

John Elwood, another appellate attorney, struck a balance. While claiming the Court may pick up the cases, he said it’s “not beyond the pale that they might want to stay out of it if the issue remains splitless.”

Watch the entire panel here, courtesy of C-Span.

Affleck vs. Maher



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Joe Biden Overstates Benefit of a Minimum-Wage Hike by Thirtyfold



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In a speech today, our colorful vice president casually overstated one likely effect of increasing the minimum wage by, literally, about 3,000 percent.

Moving away from his ostensible area of expertise, foreign affairs, Joe Biden talked up the president’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour today, but he twice made an absolutely ludicrous claim: that the higher minimum wage would move 28 million people out of poverty. For perspective, that would be 20 percent of all Americans who hold a job. The right number according to the Congressional Budget Office, as Roll Call’s Steven Dennis points out, is 900,000 — that’s the number of people who live in households where before-tax, cash incomes would rise above the poverty line if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour. The CBO also estimates that this would be the net effect, while 500,000 jobs were lost over the next few years.

Biden was likely thinking, Dennis points out, of the number of people that the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers estimates would see a raise if the minimum wage were bumped to the new level. As the CBO numbers indicate, very few of those people are living below the poverty line.

Estimates about the exact poverty effects of the minimum wage do vary: Some economists think it would have a nearly negligible effect on poverty levels, because it would slow job creation and cut working hours more than wages would rise, largely redistributing income among low-wage workers rather than from rich Americans to poor Americans. Some estimates, meanwhile, predict a much larger cut in poverty, on the order of as many as 4 million Americans lifted above the threshold, cutting the number of poor Americans by around 10 percent. What isn’t widely disputed: A much higher minimum wage would change a great deal of employment arrangements while affecting only a small share of the people in poverty. A more direct approach to reducing poverty: raising the earned-income tax credit.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Biden also boasted that a minimum-wage hike would boost the economy by raising consumer spending, like the payroll-tax cut that the Obama stimulus bill included. There are a couple problems with this: The CBO estimates that a higher minimum wage would boost real wages by $2 billion, but that is a tiny number in the context of the economy and compared with the size of the $100 billion-a-year payroll-tax cut. Moreover, it’s not clear the payroll-tax cut really did work: While it seemed like a good idea to keep as a stimulative measure, its expiration does not seem to have hit the economy particularly hard, and small boosts to workers’ paychecks do not appear to have been quickly spent, as the Obama administration’s behavioral economists hoped they would.

DHS Taking Donations for Ports of Entry Infrastructure



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Department of Homeland Security officials are raising money to upgrade facilities at American ports of entry.

“Through these donations CBP will ultimately be able to provide new and additional services at our ports of entry across the country,” said Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said of the program. “These donations allow us to better support the growing volumes of trade and travel that are vital to our economy.”

The Center for Immigration Studies noted that the upgrades are necessary. “Many of our land ports of entry are outmoded, deteriorating, and/or insecure; there are major environmental problems, like what do you do about all that carbon monoxide being generated by all those autos waiting to be inspected, particularly at the southern border,” David North wrote Tuesday. “So, the administration is right, there are ‘infrastructure needs.’ But isn’t that what tax funds are for?”

Mailbag, Police Division



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In the September 22 issue of NR, we published an article called “A Job Like No Other.” In it, I gave some thoughts on policing (spurred by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and the subsequent debate about policing). To read this article, go here.

I wish to publish two letters.

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

. . . I spent nearly 22 years in the U.S. Army as an officer in the JAG Corps (Army lawyers). As such I had many encounters with military policemen, as a defense counsel, prosecutor, and legal administrator. What I never experienced was that they were omniscient. It has become a mantra that a policeman shot an “unarmed” man. How, I wonder, can a policeman without X-ray vision determine in advance whether a person is armed? If someone is stupid enough to attack an armed policeman, he deserves whatever he gets. We had an expression in Army legal offices to the effect that a soldier was “too stupid to live.” . . .

And a second letter:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

. . . I was ready to stand up and applaud — but being supine in warm-water therapy for my pain made such an action unwise. . . .

I am a retired chief of police after a spinal disease, exacerbated by an on-the-job injury, overtook my ability to police. I have a brother who was a cop. My son-in-law is a corrections officer, and my son just retired at the age of 20 from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, coming home a wounded warrior after a bad training injury. He expects to find some type of work in law enforcement, and I imagine he will.

We bleed blue, I suppose — not Democrat blue but police blue — in my family. Even with my own injury and pain, I cannot imagine having done any other life’s work, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. . . .

Panetta: I Told White House ‘from the Very Beginning’ that Benghazi Was a Terrorist Attack



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Former defense secretary Leon Panetta continues to pile on criticism of his former Obama-administration colleagues, telling NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday that he immediately “sensed” that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and told administration officials as much.

“I didn’t have any specific information,” he said. “But the fact was, when you bring grenade launchers to a demonstration, there’s something else going on. And I just, from the very beginning, sensed that this was a terrorist attack on our compound. And I remember saying to [CIA director Petraeus], ‘Look, based on the weapons that I see, based on the nature of the attack, I think this was a terrorist attack.’”

Obama-administration officials insisted for weeks afterward that the September 11, 2012 attack was a demonstration that spiraled out of control — not, as it was later confirmed, a planned terrorist strike carried out by al-Qaeda-linked elements in Libya.

Panetta Hints He’d Take Hillary in a Match-Up Against Biden



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Leon Panetta worked closely with both Vice President Joe Biden and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as CIA director and then secretary of defense. So it’s not surprising he was diplomatic when asked about a possible presidential matchup between the two, but it was easy to tell whom the former secretary of defense favors. 

“Who would be a better commander-in-chief?” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Panetta on Tuesday.

“You know, it’s tough for me to kind of say that Joe Biden couldn’t do that job,” he said. “Because frankly Joe Biden has a lot of experience, particularly as vice president.”

“Hillary Clinton, I know could do the job,” he continued, “because she’s somebody who’s got experience, she’s got the toughness of mind and commitment to this country that I think is important.”

Panetta was former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, and it’s been suggested he’ll be angling for another White House post should Hillary win the White House in 2016. 

Rubio Impresses at Woody Johnson Fundraiser



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New York Jets owner Woody Johnson’s annual fundraiser has become something of a marquee event for Republican presidential hopefuls, who use it to make their pitches to some of the GOP’s top-dollar donors. 

Johnson is heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and during the 2012 presidential campaign led Mitt Romney’s fundraising operation in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut corridor. Donors use his annual fall event to size up the party’s potential presidential contenders. This year’s get-together took place last night in New York City; New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Florida senator Marco Rubio, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, Ohio governor John Kasich, New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte, and Romney himself were all in attendance. 

One source says it was Rubio, whose remarks focused on America’s role in the world, who most impressed attendees. The first-term senator, says the source, offered a “global vision” for America’s role in the world, and “the need to come back” and talk about it. “It was very uplifting and it was insightful and it was good,” says the source. That’s a bit of a departure from years past, when Rubio has emphasized his personal biography: his humble upbringing and all-American success story. 

Neither Rand Paul nor Chris Christie talked about foreign affairs, says the source. Instead, both emphasized the need for the GOP to reach new audiences. This is a familiar theme for Paul and one of his main selling points. He has spoken to several groups of non-traditional Republican voters during his time in the Senate, from students at the University of California, Berkeley, to the NAACP to the Latino Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and, in the Senate, sponsored a bill to do away with mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders. 

Christie has sounded some of the same notes, and did so last night, according to the source, by pushing to reform drug policy: He favors sending non-violent drug abusers to rehab rather than to prison, and made the case to donors last night that it costs less, too. 

Kasich is waltzing to victory in his reelection race in Ohio — thanks in large part to the implosion of his Democratic opponent — and the source described him as “intense” and “fast-talking.” It goes without saying that he “painted a rosy picture of what’s happening in Ohio.”

Current events have put foreign affairs at the center of political discussion, and the contrast between Rubio’s message and those of his potential 2016 rivals suggests he’s a little more comfortable talking about the world than are some of his competitors, who are at an earlier stage in studying up on those issues. (Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal gave a speech on defense at the American Enterprise Institute on Monday and delivers another on at the Citadel on Tuesday.) 

Re: Bill Clinton



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So if you run on what you’re against, instead of what you’re for, you’re just like, um, Clinton’s old boss William Fulbright? So does this mean Democrats will be dropping the “war on women” theme?

Nobody in L.A. Knows Who Joe Biden Is



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As Vice President Joe Biden’s visit snarls traffic in Los Angeles this week, comedian Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Angelenos to ask if they knew who was causing all the commotion in their city. The results — while neither surprising nor necessarily representative – were certainly hilarious.

In man-on-the-street interviews aired Monday night, not a single L.A. resident was able to say who Biden was. But they had some interesting ideas. 

“A terrorist?” one man postulated, with another asking if he was “a movie star” and another claiming he’s a “Republican who’s going to be president soon, I’m assuming.”

Shown a picture of Biden, the African-American man was asked if he thought the vice president was a friend of Obama. “No,” he said. “He looks like he’d probably oppose things Obama’s doing.”

“How come?” the interviewer asked. ”I’m basically going off skin color right now, to be honest with you,” the man replied. 

Bill Clinton: Casting a Protest Vote Against President Obama Is Like Anti-Civil Rights Hysteria



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On the campaign trail for fellow Arkansas Democrats, Bill Clinton worried that voters considering voting against Democratic candidates to register their disapproval of President Obama could be thinking like segregationist voters in the 1960s.

In his remarks at a stop at the University of Central Arkansas on Monday, Clinton tried to persuade attendees not to vote against Democratic candidates Senator Mark Pryor and gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross just to protest the president. The former president accused Republicans of drumming up frustration and anger against Democrats rather than touting their own candidates, comparing that tactic to politicians’ agitating against the civil-rights movement in his youth.

“Ever since I was a little boy, we had all that civil-rights trouble here, I’ve been sick and tired of people stirring people up, making them foam at the mouth, and vote for what they’re against instead of what they’re for,” he said. “How many times have we seen people do something they knew better than to do just because they were in a snit?”

Lowry: Obama ‘Went with the Politics’ on Iraq Withdrawal Rather than Listen to Military Professionals Like Panetta



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Greg Orman: A Man without a Party, but Perhaps Up for Rent



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A big reason that independent Greg Orman is leading GOP senator Pat Roberts by ten points in Kansas is that one out of five backers of Republican governor Sam Brownback (who is tied in the polls) are defecting to Orman.

Orman has pledged that he will caucus with and receive committee assignments with whichever party has the Senate majority this January. This has been of some comfort to those Republicans who are confident they will win a Senate majority. But it turns out Orman’s stance is more slippery and complicated than he originally let on.

In an interview this week with NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, Orman repeated his pledge that he would caucus with the Senate majority because “it’s in the best interests of the voters of Kansas that they have a senator in the majority.”

But then he added that that didn’t mean he would be averse to some party jumping.

“If four or five months goes by, and it’s clear they’re engaged in the same old partisan politics, we’ll be able to change our allegiances and work with the other side,” he said. “And I think that’s a really strong and important tool, to hold the Senate accountable for actually getting something done.”

Asked by O’Donnell if he can envision switching parties once he arrives in Washington, Orman responded that he “absolutely” can.

So it appears as if Greg Orman, who ran for office as a Democrat in 2008 as he backed Barack Obama and now says he voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, is more of an ideological black box than anything else. If the two parties are tied 50 to 50 after the November elections, he has effectively said he will be up for the best offer. But if he does join one caucus or the other it apparently will be no more than a short-term lease. 

Orman claims this all makes sense: “Ultimately, this is about solving problems. This is about the voters of Kansas saying — the status quo doesn’t work anymore.” Actually, it seems more like the situation is all about saying anything so he can cross the finish line as a winner. Kansas voters tend to like their senators bland but straight-shooters. The voluble Orman is anything but bland, and now it appears his political matrix is more complicated than a Rubik’s Cube. Look for this race to be close before Election Day. 

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