From the political notebook: • I’m not sure about this business of U.S. presidential candidates making foreign trips during the midst of the campaign.
I understand John McCain going to Iraq. It provides a backdrop to highlight one of his chief claims to the presidency: The success of the surge strategy he championed when everyone else, including Barack Obama, wanted to bail.
I can even understand McCain going to Canada, to highlight his staunch support for free trade after Obama started hammering NAFTA.
However, I don’t understand the point of the tour of the world Obama is undertaking.
Such a whirlwind excursion isn’t going to make up for the painfully sparse résumé he has on international issues. Instead, it accentuates the deficiency.
Going to Iraq and Afghanistan at least somewhat concedes McCain’s point that Obama’s failure to make such trips in the past means that his positions regarding them are ill-informed. And the trip to Iraq puts the spotlight on Obama’s belittling of the gains that have been made there.
Obama is likely to be very well received in Europe. Perhaps that will strengthen his claim to be the guy who can repair relations with the rest of the world that the Bush administration has supposedly trashed.
However, it’s also likely, among some quarters of the electorate, to trigger resentment over the notion that Europeans should have a say in who is the president of the United States.
• The transportation tycoons don’t like the Legislative Council telling voters just how much of a tax increase they are actually proposing in the ballot publicity pamphlet. So, they are asking judges to make it stop.
This will ultimately get to the state Supreme Court, for which it will represent a revealing test.
In 2000, the court became hyperactive in rewriting the ballot pamphlet’s analyses, ordering changes for three ballot propositions. It was not the court’s finest hour.
In one case, the court ordered a warning from the legislative budget staff that an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program might require general fund support struck from the publicity pamphlet. As it turned out, the budget staff was right.
In another, the court misstated then current practice regarding teaching English learners in striking down the Legislative Council’s description for a ballot proposition banning bilingual education.
State law requires that the Legislative Council’s description be “impartial.” The transportation tax advocates are claiming that the proposed analysis for its proposition isn’t impartial because it states not only what the increase in the sales tax would be, 1 percentage point, but also how much of an increase in the state sales tax that represents, nearly 18 percent.
Providing voters both pieces of information, the nominal increase and the percentage increase it represents, would certainly seem more impartial than just providing one or the other.
It would be hard to argue that also providing the percentage increase violates the statute, since it specifically says the description can include “the effect of the measure on existing law.”
There is only one justice remaining from the 2000 meddlesome court (Ruth McGregor). This will be a test of the new court’s inclination to substitute its judgment without obvious warrant.
• The most cynical budget move by the Democrats, enabled by state Senate President Tim Bee, was eliminating funding for the educational voucher programs for foster and disabled children.
This won’t save the state any money. The state remains obligated for the education of these children. In fact, precluding private school as an option will undoubtedly cost the state even more.
So, Democrats took advantage of the budget power Bee gave them to make an ideological point in the budget that actually increased costs while disrupting the lives of the families who were on the programs.
That said, House Speaker Jim Weiers’ proposal to fund them out of surplus funds in the House’s account was properly nixed by Attorney General Terry Goddard. Neither chamber of the Legislature has constitutional authority to unilaterally fund general programs.
E-mail Arizona Republic political columnist Robert Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org