Eastern Europe...ya, They Like Freedom Too

There isn’t really a single pollster for whom I listen more closely to than Frank Luntz. When liberals talk about the vast right-wing conspiracy, and say the Republican Party is on the same page, in many ways they are correct – they mean the pages of just about anything Frank writes.

Like many, I’ve been watching as the husband of a former Reagan aide has gone through all the drama of being elected the new Ukrainian President. Today, in the LA Times, Frank Luntz – along with Demo pollster Doug Schoen – break down the electorate of the Ukraine.

Uncovering Ukraine's True Colors
The orange and the blue largely agree on where the nation should go.
By Douglas E. Schoen and Frank I. Luntz

December 28, 2004

In Ukraine, two colors took on a new significance over the last few months. Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko — now the all-but-official president-elect — donned orange as the symbol of their pro- democracy campaign. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and his team sported blue to signal their support for continuing on the path set by pro-Russia President Leonid Kuchma.

This has led to inevitable comparisons to the United States' own red and blue, Republican and Democratic, divide. Given that political differences in Ukraine run along regional lines, observers see the danger of Ukraine dividing into two or more countries.

Our consulting firms, representing a bipartisan partnership of Democratic and Republican pollsters, conducted a national exit poll during the rerun of the presidential runoff election on Sunday. On behalf of the Kiev-based television station ICTV, we interviewed more than 10,000 Ukrainians as they left polling stations across the country, and by 8 p.m. Kiev time, just as the polls closed, we knew that Yushchenko, the man in orange, had won definitively. Although the results aren't official, the votes that have been counted show a victory margin of nearly 10 points and — despite posturing on the part of Yanukovich — Ukraine appears to have succeeded in electing a new president and in running a fair election.

But what about the mix of orange and blue, the divide between Ukraine's western and eastern halves? The polling confirmed that some areas voted almost entirely for one candidate. In Donetsk, an eastern industrial province, more than 90% of voters cast their ballot for Yanukovich. Such results indicate that regional division remains a threat, but there is also reason for optimism.

In addition to our 10,000 exit interviews, we also interviewed 1,200 voters from Ukraine's four major provinces, representing the main regions of the country The provinces demonstrate the country's polarization. Just as Donetsk in the east voted 90% for Yanukovich, the western provinces of Kiev and Lviv voted approximately 90% for Yushchenko; Odessa in the south voted approximately 60% for Yanukovich. Even with nearly half of our sample for these interviews constituting blue voters, 81% overall said all sides should work together for consensus and cooperation to strengthen Ukraine after the vote.

In addition, 67% said they supported Ukraine working to integrate itself into the European Union and into Europe in general. This was one of the key differences between the candidates, with Yushchenko calling for stronger relations with Europe; this result shows there is less division in the country than the conventional wisdom would suggest.

In terms of the economy, there is virtually no disagreement: About 84% said they wanted a market-based economy. And perhaps most important, 93% said Ukraine should chart its own course and pursue its own interests in the world — not Russian or Western interests, but its own interests.

None of this is to say that uniting the country will be easy. Some blue voters clearly are not ready to lower their colors yet: About 53% of voters in Donetsk said they would support a referendum on secession from Ukraine (only 19% overall wanted such a referendum). These voters fear that their Russian language, their culture and their industrial economy will be put at risk in a new Ukraine.

Yushchenko, who over the last few weeks emphasized a "One Ukraine" theme, will have his work cut out for him in the east. Still, the same data that showed him to be the winner points the way to making "One Ukraine" a reality: Ukrainians are united in their weariness over divisive politics, generally eager for consensus and looking forward to a time when their country is integrated with Europe economically, but independent of both East and West politically. The presidential vote, this time around, sends a clear message: A united and democratic Ukraine is well within Yushchenko's grasp.


Ok, yayaya, I’ve been gone for a while. Well, after the elections ended, the last thing I wanted to think about was the day-to-day, hustle-bustle of politics. But fear not, being the addict I am, things are back to system-normal, and while it might take me a little while to sort out some of the arguments floating around in my head, I’ll be doing so in the very near future...

First up though is Bush’ economic team. The second term seems set to be filled with the sort of things that make me salivate in anticipation – tort reform, social security reform, tax simplification. But, to use a football analogy, as the administration readies to employ the Run ‘n’ Shoot offense, they lack a quarterback with the arm strength to make all the throws.

If Bush is serious about making these free-market reforms, I’m sorry but John Snow isn’t the best guy to send to the Sunday morning talk shows and sell the administration policies. The Bush team woefully lacks anyone who can get the Wall Street-ers, let alone the American people behind these kind of ambitious policies.

However, the power brokers of the supply-side world have been coalescing around Larry Kudlow to take point on this mission. Larry obviously is known as a unabashed free-marketer, having cut his teeth in the Reagan White House, working with the likes of Dr. Art Laffer. Laffer, as a matter of fact, was on TV touting Larry for either the post of Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, or to replace Greenspan in 2006.

I’m impatient, I’d like to see Bush give his nod Larry’s direction and get the ball rolling.

While lots of “I wish” ideas permanently stay in that arena of “if wishing made it so,” this one seems like it could possibly have legs. The latest issue of National Review has an editorial promoting Mr. Kudlow. Additionally, Steve Moore of the Club for Growth penned this piece for NRO...I think it makes the case very effectively...

President Bush has had a series of supremely talented economists advising him over the past four years, including Larry Lindsey and Glenn Hubbard, but he has never had a gifted communicator of the White House economic message. That deficiency caused Bush severe heartburn in both marketing his first-term domestic legislative priorities and in educating American voters about how those policies are working.

In the year before the November elections, for example, the economy soared — with low interest rates, low inflation, respectable job growth, increasing worker productivity, and a rapid rate of growth for the gross domestic product. Bush’s policies were working swimmingly, particularly the 2003 tax cut. Yet, the media portrayed economic conditions as if we were in a mini-depression with many voters buying into this pessimistic viewpoint. The chasm between economic reality and perception almost cost Bush the election.

All of this is to say that what George W. Bush needs an economic communicator — someone who is telegenic, charismatic, and credible. Of course, it goes without saying that this person must also be a gold-plated supply-sider who has an unshakable conviction that the Bush second-term agenda is right for the country. After all, the Bush administration has an incredibly audacious economic game plan: a tax overhaul, Social Security reform, expansion of free-trade agreements, tort reform, and budget control. If Bush can accomplish even half these priorities, he will leave behind a scintillating legacy of achievement.

For all these reasons, the open position of director of the National Economic Council should be filled by NR’s own financial wizard, Larry Kudlow. I recently joined up with a growing band of conservative leaders to try to make this appointment a reality.

This choice makes so much common sense, it’s amazing the White House hasn’t already pounced on it. Kudlow’s credentials to be the president’s chief economic spokesman and adviser are impeccable:

-Kudlow is regarded on Wall Street as one of the nation’s premier financial economists.

-He is TV savvy (obviously, given that he has his own show on CNBC).

-He is right in line with the Bush administration’s thinking on tax cuts, entitlement reform, trade, and monetary policy.

-He has advised President Bush and Vice President Cheney on economics over the years.

-He has a unique power of persuasion that can convert people in the media, in Congress, and on Main Street of the rightness of his and Bush’s positions.

-He has a national (even an international) following.

-He is highly regarded among Republicans and many Democrats in Congress.

Larry Kudlow has a pure Reaganite pedigree. He worked for the Gipper between 1981 and 1984 as the chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget. He has worked as senior economic strategist for some of the most prominent investment-banking firms on Wall Street, including two stints with Bear Stearns. He has had the fine sense to write a brilliant bi-weekly column for NRO and also writes frequently for National Review magazine.

It is well known that a number of years ago Kudlow had a near career-ending substance-abuse problem. It is also well known that he has had a blessed and remarkable recovery in his personal/spiritual life as well as his professional life. His only remaining vice is tobacco. (If the White House is a no-smoking zone, that, alas, may be a deal-killer.) Should his past problems be a disqualification? In this age of redemption, the answer surely is no. After all, President Bush, earlier in his life, struggled with his own substance-abuse demons, and he fully conquered them in admirable fashion.

My White House contacts tell me that for four years President Bush has been trying in vain to find for his administration a “Robert Rubin of the right.” Good news: He exists, and his name is Larry Kudlow. Appointing him would be a masterstroke by the White House and would win universal applause — particularly from his conservative friends. This would be President Bush’s most daring and exhilarating Cabinet selection.

What is he waiting for?


Why we need a new Supreme Court...

A lot’s been said recently about judges, and how Bush is going to get to appoint a whole bunch of them...Before anyone really starts to question why – take a look at this exchange...

Randy Barnett was arguing before the Supreme Court in the Medical Marijuana case, and Justice Stevens was quizzing him about pricing...C’mon Stevens, I know you’re old, but if you lose even this basic a grasp of economics, perhaps it’s time to step down...Just stunning how stupid and arrogant this man could be...

Stevens: If you reduce demand, then you will reduce prices? Wouldn’t it increase prices?

Barnett: No, if you reduce demand, you reduce price.

Stevens: Are you sure?

Barnett: Yes.

WOW...is all I can say...WOW!