"Do not rejoice over what has not yet happened.""The tyrant is only the slave turned inside-out."
"Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion."
Here is to hoping that the Egyptians can remain mindful of both the snakes and the scorpions in these turbulent times.
Now I don't trust Anthony Kennedy to get anything right, never mind vote to strike down Obamacare (personally I doubt he will), but the Florida decision seems to have put the fear of the Constitution in Ezra Klein's heart. Klein argues that if Obamacare is struck down, liberals will then try to destroy the private health insurance industry and establish single-payer and boy, conservatives will then be sorry for making liberals mad. Oh no! Liberals politicians running in marginal constituencies will have to be more honest about their radical policy goals! Listen tough guy. We know what you are up to and it works to our advantage rather than yours to have the general public be aware what you are up to. That doesn't mean you won't win anyway, but the more honest you have to be, the better the odds for our side. I know you are frustrated and nervous.
Ramesh Ponnuru lays out an agenda on tax reform and Social Security reform that he hopes Obama and congressional Republicans can unite behind. I can maybe see a deal along the lines Ponnuru lays out for tax reform, but I don't see the Democrats getting behind Ponnuru's idea of creating a more progressive, but (in absolute terms) smaller and more sustainable Social Security program at the current level of taxation. I don't think that the vast majority of Democrats (very much including the President) are going to give the Republicans anything in return for the Republicans giving up on the idea of private accounts within Social Security. The President told us in the State of the Union what he wants for Social Security (though he told us by a process of elimination.) He wants to finance the current system through higher taxes - though he won't come out for the tax increases until after he is safely reelected.
The thing is I don't think that the Democrats will come out for a Social Security deal like the one Ponnuru outlines unless they think that's the best deal they can get long-term. I think that the current leaders of the Democratic Party in Washington (Obama, Pelosi, Reid) think they can get a better deal just by hanging tough, stalling, and demonizing any Republican plans for reform. Like I've said, I think the Democrats think that if it comes to a fiscal crisis, they'll be in a strong position to bargain for a deal composed primarily of tax increases and greater government control over the health care sector. The Democrats will be more ready to deal after they feel like they've been defeated on domestic economic issues. They don't feel like they've been beaten. They feel like they were the victims of temporary bad timing. That means the most you are likely to get from them on Social Security is a plan to deal with the funding shortfall with some kind of consumption tax rather than higher marginal taxes on earnings. No deal.
That doesn't mean that Ponnuru's ideas aren't worth talking about. I think they could be an important part of a Republican reform agenda. A Social Security program that is a better deal for lower earners and offers higher earners lower taxes during their working lives in return for (somewhat) lower Social Security benefits is a plausible program (especially when contrasted with a Democratic program of higher taxes and government control of health care.) But I doubt such a program will be the basis for a compromise on Social Security in the next five years, unless Harry Reid is the Senate Minority Leader and there is a Republican President. The Washington Democratic leadership will only compromise social democracy away after they are sure they can't have it.
But nothing lost in trying for that compromise.
It comes as no surprise that Charlie Rangel is blaming everyone but the devil himself for his recent censure. While admitting that the House veteran is full of rage toward his assailers, the WaPo also paints Rangel as genuinely hurt and saddened by the ordeal. But it is far from clear that any of this grief is related to his own misconduct - rather than arising solely from his antipathy toward those who aired his dirty laundry.
The Florida case of 26 states vs. Obamacare has just been decided ... against Obamacare.
The judge ruled the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance invalid and, according to the decision, "because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."
UPDATE: The judge stayed his ruling pending SCOTUS review, so Obamacare is still in effect. Obamacare is thus 2-2 in the federal courts, having been found constitutional by two courts and unconstitutional by two (though the ruling delivered today responded to complaints by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business).
This ruling is a symbolic victory for Republicans at the moment, as it will take many months for the case to arrive in the Supreme Court (though it is now sure to rise to the high court). However, in that time, the spector of judicial repeal will loom large over the Democrats while Republicans can focus on the need to have a replacement bill prepared for the inevitable overthrow of Obama's unconstitutional power-grab.
This time, it's in the "least dangerous branch." According to the WaPo, the Supreme Court has delivered a "dressing down" to the infamously liberal and dangerously rogue 9th Circuit.
In the past two weeks, [the Supreme Court] has been in scold mode.... In five straight cases, the court has rejected the work of the San Francisco-based court without a single affirmative vote from a justice.
But some of the recent reversals have been delivered with a lash that those who closely watch the courts say reflects more than just a disagreement of law. ... [J]ustices said 9th Circuit judges were inserting themselves into cases where they had no business.
The 9th Circuit was let off its leash during Carter's liberal court-packing fiasco in the 1970's. Since then, it has been the poster boy of (liberal) judicial activism, routinely being overturned by the Supreme Court. In the private sector, an inferior division which required such consistent reversals by a superior would quickly find itself the target of massive reform or "downsizing." But liberal judges are performing the will of their appointers when they flout the rule of law in preference of progressive ideology.
In an attempt to curb this tendency in the law (and expand the shellacking of the executive office), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) issued his first oversight letter to the Justice Department. Referencing the Black Panther's voter-intimidation case, Smith writes: "Allegations that the Civil Rights Division has engaged in a practice of race-biased enforcement of voting rights law must be investigated by the Committee." Jennifer Rubin concludes:
The letter is noteworthy on a number of levels. First, administration flacks and liberal bloggers have insisted that the New Black Panther Party case is much to do about nothing. But as Smith has correctly discerned, the issue of enforcement or non-enforcement of civil rights laws based on a non-colorblind view of those laws is serious and a potentially explosive issue for this administration. Second, Holder's strategy of stonewalling during the first two years of Obama's term may have backfired. Had he been forthcoming while Democrats were in the majority, he might have been able to soften the blows; Smith is not about to pull his punches. And finally, Smith is demonstrating the sort of restraint and big-picture focus that is essential for the Republicans if they are to remain credible and demonstrate their capacity for governance.
Every fall, new education theories arrive, born like orchids in the hothouses of big-time university education departments. Urban teachers are always first in line for each new bloom. We've been retrofitted as teachers a dozen times over. This year's innovation is the Data Wall, a strategy in which teachers must test endlessly in order to produce data about students' progress. The Obama administration has spent lavishly to ensure that professional consultants monitor its implementation.
Every year, the national statistics summon a fresh chorus of outrage at the failure of urban public schools. Next year, I fear, will be little different.
RTWT, if you can stomach it. Thanks to Kate for pointing me to this story.
Gary Schmitt and Peter Skerry note the indifference of Muslim American groups to vicious acts committed in the name of Islam.
While Muslim-American leaders are constantly reminding their followers to exercise their rights as Americans, they also embrace the view that Muslims here are part of the worldwide community of fellow believers-the ummah. As such, these organizations are riven by numberless fissures that run along linguistic, ethnic, racial, and doctrinal lines. Their leaders are preoccupied with not saying or doing anything that would cause such fissures to develop into major ruptures.
Immigrants are obliged to acknowledge the truths of the Declaration of Independence. Many could already teach the native-born such lessons by their example. All need to keep in mind that being American is about duties to each other as well as rights.
Ross Douthat has an excellent piece in the New York Times on the crisis in Egypt. It is clear and short in its explanation of what the chaos in Egypt means to the United States and of the difficulties of international politics in general. As Douthat explains:
The long-term consequences of a more populist and nationalistic Egypt might be better for the United States than the stasis of the Mubarak era, and the terrorism that it helped inspire. But then again they might be worse. There are devils behind every door.
Americans don't like to admit this. We take refuge in foreign policy systems: liberal internationalism or realpolitik, neoconservatism or noninterventionism. We have theories, and expect the facts to fall into line behind them. Support democracy, and stability will take care of itself. Don't meddle, and nobody will meddle with you. International institutions will keep the peace. No, balance-of-power politics will do it.
But history makes fools of us all.
Quote of the Day
Egypt's ruling class is circling the drain. President Mubarak has shut down the internet and cell phones and ordered the military to crack down on democratic reform protestors. Just a few minutes ago, Mubarak asked his government to resign and promised to appoint a new government within a few hours. Perhaps one of the fundamental problems with Mubarak is his ability to dissolve and reassemble governments at a whim.
Egypt joins Tunisia in facing public revolt over corruption at the highest levels. Is it coincidence that these nations are considered the most pro-American in the region, whereas anti-American countries such as Iran have thus far entirely failed to achieve political reform?
Obama's distance on this matter is understandable - Mubarak has been friendly toward the U.S., but his democratic credentials are suspect, at least. On the other hand, the democratic reformers could easily be usurped by the military or Islamic radicals if control of the government is up for grabs. Any formal endorsement of a specific outcome would embroil America far too deeply into Egyptians affairs.
UPDATE: While cautioning demonstrators to avoid violence, Obama has pretty clearly taken their side in the reform movement - without, however, advocating their greatest demand: the resignation of Mubarak. This speech was a pretty hardy and commendable pro-democracy speech for Obama.
Drudge is having fun again with the ongoing quest in Hawaii to find the President's birth certificate.
The irony is that the only reason there are "birthers" is that our Courts created the idea of "birthright citizenship." But soil ought not to determine citizenship, and the Constitution, as amended, ought not to be read to require it--as the dissenters in Won Kim Ark noted. English law made soil fundamental, they noted: "The tie which bound the child to the Crown was indissoluble. The nationality of his parents had no bearing on his nationality. Though born during a temporary stay of a few days, the child was irretrievably a British subject."
In the American revolution, they add, "Manifestly, when the sovereignty of the Crown was thrown off and an independent government established, every rule of the common law and every statute of England obtaining in the Colonies in derogation of the principles on which the new government was founded was abrogated."
According to Justices Fuller and Harlan (Harlan signed onto Fuller's dissent. Not coincidentally, it was two years after Plessy. The decision turns on the same principles. The same idea of equality that made segregation problematic, also made compact the basic of American government and, the foundation for our ideas of citizenship.") As they noted, those elements of the common law that could not be reconciled with the "principles on which the new government was founded" were abroated.
According to the principles of the compact, once someone becomes a citizen, any child born to him is also a citizen. The dissenters noted, "it seems to me that the rule partus sequitur patrem has always applied to children of our citizens born abroad." That maxim could be reas narrowly, suggesting the citizenship follows the father. But since we no longer discriminate on the basis of sex, t is reasonable to say that the child of any American parent is a citizen. In short, it is only the deeply problematic argument that soil is the foundation of citizenship that lets Druge and others amuse themselves with the question of Obama's birth certificate.
Some thoughts on the State of the Union Speech,
1. Let's get something straight about where there is controversy and where there isn't. There is little controversy (within the mainstream of the two parties) on some government role in funding basic scientific research on subjects like energy production. There is controversy on whether the government should subsidize energy producers that would otherwise be uncompetitive under the guise of producing jobs. Since Obama likes to use the internet as an example, let's try to explain it in internet terms. The government should have funded the basic research that made the internet possible. The government was right not to offer open ended subsidies to Pets.com. Obama was right when he said he doesn't know which companies and industries will succeed. What he said was right, but he didn't believe what he said.
2. Dave Weigel described Obama's approach in the SOTU as "He used conservative language to sell liberalism with few limits." That is fair enough. It seemed like every third word was investment, innovation, private, companies or competition. It could have been Steve Forbes on his Saturday morning FOXNEWS show. You had to listen closely to hear that he was making an argument for the government direction of capital through various kinds of subsidies. Ross Douthat described Obama's speech as "a reasonably eloquent case for center-left technocracy and industrial policy, punctuated by a few bipartisan flourishes" That is also fair enough but the relationship between the speech yesterday and Obama's agenda is similar to the relationship between the ice above the waterline and the iceberg (probably not an original formulation.) The biggest and most damaging part of the Obama agenda is just to keep us on the present course. The course involves Obamacare strangling the functioning private options for health care (except for the wealthy) and letting the entitlement funding crisis come ever closer until sudden and terrible choices necessitate far higher taxes and far greater government allocation of goods. Obama might sometimes sound like a left-of-center technocrat (and he does have bit of that in him on issues like primary and secondary education) but on the whole, he is ideologically much closer to Nancy Pelosi than Mark Warner.
3. Conservatives who are panning the speech as boring and uninspiring are right but are missing the point. Obama's goal wasn't to inspire. It was to make him seem like an unradical, unthreatening, pro-business kind of guy. I think he probably came across that way to the uncommitted who don't otherwise pay all that much attention to politics. It is a much easier trick to pull off when you aren't trying to get Congress to pass an enormous expansion in federal government spending or an enormous expansion of government power over the health care sector. He was able to pull off the nonideological act in 2008 because he wasn't really responsible for anything and he could promise everything to everybody - including a net budget cut. The combination of the ideological aggressiveness of his own program and the lousy labor market prevented him from playing the nonideological pragmatist role in 2009 and 2010. But even then his Real Clear Politics job approval rating hovered in the not-so-bad 44-46% range. He will be much tougher on the defensive ("hey I'm for a spending freeze and let's fix some of the problems with my health care reform - like the Medicare cuts!") and even tougher if the labor market improves - however slowly. He is clever, determined, principled, and has a rock solid political base. Absent a further economic slump (which is not to be hoped for), he is a damn tough political opponent.
4. The Republican response by Paul Ryan was very good. I would have leaned a little harder on the argument that if politicians don't make prudent cuts now that allow us to transition to a more sustainable system, then those same politicians are going to end up making sharp and sudden cuts that people (especially the elderly) will have a very tough time adjusting to. Prudent cuts aren't austerity. Austerity (and huge tax increases and "death panels") is what is at the other end of all these budget deficits. I've seen Ryan make this argument before, but I think it should have more prominence
5. Ryan isn't Reagan and he shouldn't try to be Reagan. Ryan has his own (all too rare) set of virtues that combine limited government principles with hunger for policy detail. That doesn't mean that Ryan and Ryan enthusiasts don't have something to learn from Reagan. Reagan was usually able to punctuate his arguments with the telling detail, the eye popping statistic or the example drawn from everyday life. Reagan worked really hard to make his arguments relatable to his audience. This isn't a criticism of Ryan's response per se. He managed to say a lot in ten minutes, but more Reagan-style argument crafting combined with Ryan-style detail work might be the ticket.
6. Oh by the way, the projected federal budget deficit for this is year is 1.5 trillion dollars.
"And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we've begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's standing has been restored."Of course, "freedom and justice and dignity" (like "big") can mean a lot of things in this context; none of which need have anything to do with liberty properly understood.
Ken Thomas notes the president's invocation of Eisenhower in last night's SOTU address. It's worth mentioning Ike's Farewell Address in this context as well. Last year I wrote a very short piece for the newsletter of our Masters in American History and Government program regarding how everyone remembers Ike's warning about the power of the "military-industrial complex," but ignores what he said about the danger posed by a "scentific-technological elite." I'm pleased to see that Pat Deneen has addressed this, in far more depth and detail, in the current issue of the paleocon journal The American Conservative. He writes:
No section of Eisenhower's address gives more compelling witness to this fear than his warning that the military-industrial-scientific complex's demands would require the transformation of the university. His prophecy--which has become history--not only portended the death knell of "free ideas," but the demise of the university's historic role in providing reflective cautions about the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. Instead, the academy has given itself over to forms of inquiry with the ultimate aim of overcoming human nature.
Read the whole thing, keeping in mind Heather Wilson's recent lament regarding the narrowness and superficiality of even today's best and brightest college students.
John Moser directed us below to Heather Wilson's article in the Washington Post, but I wanted to add my two cents on the subject as well. Wilson writes about how "superficial" Rhodes Scholar applicants have become. The problem is not that the candidates are frivolous or unintelligent: just the opposite--they are ambitious and serious and know a lot about their very specialized area of study.
But, Wilson says, "our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student. They are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study. This narrowing has resulted in a curiously unprepared and superficial pre-professionalism." For example, "[a]n outstanding biochemistry major wants to be a doctor and supports the president's health-care bill but doesn't really know why. A student who started a chapter of Global Zero at his university hasn't really thought about whether a world in which great powers have divested themselves of nuclear weapons would be more stable or less so, or whether nuclear deterrence can ever be moral."
The students are, in short, not being asked to dig into the big, permanent questions of human life and society. They don't get anything like a liberal education--one designed to cultivate free human beings who can think for themselves about the great questions. They are what David Brooks once called "The Organization Kid".
Here at Ashland we're trying to do things differently with the Ashbrook Scholars. It starts the day they arrive as freshman, when they have a seminar with Peter on a great text from a statesman (Churchill's My Early Life this year). They talk about big questions like "What is education?" "What is justice?". It continues through their education in US history, Western Civilization, ancient and modern political thought, and American political thought. And it culminates in their senior year, when they write a thesis on some important question that really matters to them as a person and a citizen.
Wilson says that the Rhodes Scholarship is "looking for students who wonder, students who are reading widely, students of passion who are driven to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the broader world through enlightened and effective leadership." Whatever others do, we at least are trying to cultivate just that kind of student.
From the President's SOTU:
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.
The GOP House should use the Ike standard (Obama wants to be FDR's Ike, preserving his neo-New Deal) to eliminate all federal agencies since the Ike years that merely provide pass-through money to typically leftish groups (sorry, NEH). That would gut Labor, Education, and Transportation (among others), end HUD, and shrink the federal government.
Paul Ryan gave an effective response (though I am in principle opposed to partisan responses to what should be the President's non-partisan speech). For a brief statement he expressed the principles of constitutionalism well:
We believe, as our founders did, that "the pursuit of happiness" depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.
Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well. It's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.
I wonder whether rule of law, constitutional government, or self-government aren't better terms than "limited government." His point after all is that big, bureaucratic government is ineffective and in fact weak in vital areas (e.g., national security). Big government violates the rule of law because it doesn't protect the individual rights that are the basis of any legitimacy it might have.
The models for effective speeches explaining crises are FDR's map speech and his fireside chats, especially his speech on banking. These go to the most elementary level. (I like the Map Speech, because it makes demands on his audience--"Look at your map," he orders.)
I was home with a sick baby today and I caught a little bit of Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on FOXNEWS. I get the feeling that she is quite bright, but she seems to have taken upon herself the role of popular narrative builder and issue framer for social democracy. I've seen her do this same act several times now. She goes out with the most audacious left-of-center focus group-tested lines and repeats them relentlessly and with no interest in their inherent truth. She is better at it than most.
Today she was talking about the Republican Study Group's plans to cut domestic discretionary spending. Wasserman Shultz argued that the spending cuts represented a " white flag" (I remember those words pretty clearly) in competition with China. Now depending on how the RSG's cuts are structured (and it probably won't get that far because no way is this proposal clearing both houses of Congress), this proposal could have multiple negative consequences, but it is tough to see how eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and cutting subsidies to Joe Biden for his post-Vice Presidential Amtrak rides will prevent us from competing with China. I know those only represent a tiny fraction of the proposed cuts, but that is the point. Wasserman Shultz doesn't tell us which cuts to which programs will inevitably lead to nightfall in America and why. Wasserman Shultz's purpose was to trade on what she (and I suspect much of our political class) perceives to be the pervasive public fears of decline, defeat and humiliation at the hands of China. Her entire argument was based on the premise that people would react mindlessly whenever those fears are inflamed. Therefore expect to hear a lot about how government "investment" (including investments to make sure that there is an Amtrak stop near Joe Biden's house) will make America competitive.
Republicans need a (hopefully more rational) counter narrative. This narrative will have to include an explanation of how government debt at all levels is creating a burden that will both crush the economy under enormous new taxes and lead to sudden, sharp and stupid cuts to government services if we don't start making some prudent spending decisions right now. Nobody is better than Paul Ryan at making that argument but Republicans need more. Republicans need a populist growth agenda and could do a lot worse than a pro-family, pro-growth tax reform that increases the take home pay of most working parents and frees up money for investment through the market rather than having members of Congress and unelected bureaucrats choosing winners and losers based on a combination of ideology, cronyism, and political horse trading. Republicans also shouldn't talk too little about what the government should be doing. As Henry Olsen has pointed out, the voters expect the government to deliver some important public goods. That means that Republicans will have to be credible on issues like education (which doesn't necessarily mean more federal money), transportation and health care policy. Republicans need to be able to point to examples where Republican policies have maintained (or even improved) core government services while balancing the books. The best examples of such a responsible pro-solvency, pro-effective but limited government agenda would be governors like Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal and Bob McDonnell.
Since this blog is associated with a center which is associated with a college, I'll beg your forgiveness for offering this companion exercise for today's state of the union address: The State of the Union Drinking Game.
Of course, I only recommend reading the instructions for the humor of the "Every time he says...." list.
Regular NLT commenter Art Deco brings some perspective to the subject of American violence and the attempt of certain people to pin the recent Arizona attack on their political opponents.
"Clearly, the nation's founders serving in the 5th Congress, and there were many of them, believed that mandated health insurance coverage was permitted within the limits established by our Constitution. The moral to the story is that the political right-wing has to stop pretending they have the blessings of the Founding Fathers as their excuse to oppose whatever this president has to offer. History makes it abundantly clear that they do not."
Well, what do you think?
Former congresswoman and Rhodes Scholar Heather Wilson has for the past twenty years served on selection committees for Rhodes Scholarships, so she's come into contact with some of the nation's best and brightest students. What she says about the one's she's encountered in recent years will surprise few who frequent this blog. "Even from America's great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago." One wants to fight for the recent health care legislation, another for eliminating nuclear weapons, another to serve his country abroad, but cannot offer an adequate response when asked why. And consider this:
When asked what are the important things for a leader to be able to do, one young applicant described some techniques and personal characteristics to manage a group and get a job done. Nowhere in her answer did she give any hint of understanding that leaders decide what job should be done. Leaders set agendas.
In other words, the nation's elite colleges and universities are producing graduates with vast technical knowledge, but no appreciable wisdom. In a way this has been the dilemma of the entire modern age, but it grows steadily worse.
The historical premise of Dolen Perkins-Valdez's novel Wench: "The land for Ohio's Wilberforce University, the nation's oldest private historically black college, where [W.E.B.] DuBois had once taught, at one time had been part of a resort - a place called Tawawa House, where wealthy Southern slaveholders would take their slave mistresses for open-air 'vacations.'"
Former attorney general Michael Mukasey's views on his successor, Attorney General Eric Holder, are laid bare in a Weekly Standard interview with Jennifer Rubin. Murkasey "candidly asserts that Holder's conduct in several key respects has been 'amazing.' That's not meant as a compliment."
The imagined abuses of the Bush era DOJ were relentlessly pursued by the media (to little credible effect), whereas brazen violations of ethical boundaries in Obama's DOJ have garnered scandalously little attention. Witch-hunts for conservatives, negligence in the war on terror, reverse discrimination and political interference in individual cases have marked this administration's Justice Department. There is shame in such abuses, as well as insight into the character of the abuser.
Ramesh Ponnuru lists some of the ways that Obama has moved to the center since the midterm election. Obama isn't really moving to the center. He is moving into a consolidationist phase. Obama talked about how he admired Reagan because the Gipper "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it." Well Obama has changed the trajectory of the US, and unless the trajectory changes, the center-left is in a good position to control the terms of debate.
The knowledge that he has already won the biggest fights and that he has put in place a set of political institutions and incentives that will tend to strengthen his side even after he has concluded a second term gives Obama a lot of room to move. It isn't that tough to sound and look moderate if you aren't actively trying to get Congress to pass bills that will shift the policy environment to the left. So you hire the Daley fellow as your White House Chief of Staff and you get some nice words from the Chamber of Commerce. You agree to extend the 35% top marginal income tax rate for a couple of years and you refuse to blame the opposing party for a madman's shooting rampage. You get some good headlines and you haven't given up anything important (and Obama has a much better sense of what is important in advancing left-of-center politics than many of his allies.) Obama is building fortifications around his biggest policy accomplishments.
Refine & Enlarge
From today's WaPo:
The new Republican leaders in the House have received millions of dollars in contributions from banks, health insurers and other major business interests, which are pressing for broad reversals of Democratic policies that affect corporations....
The impetus behind such largess is simple: Many companies and industry groups hope ... Republicans will succeed in rolling back Democratic policies they find objectionable, including environmental
GOP lawmakers took their first step in that direction Wednesday by voting to repeal President Obama's health-care overhaul law.
The media has attempted to make a case for Obama's recent "outreach" to the business community, but actions speak louder than words. Obama's economic regulations over the past two years have been ideologically-driven policies of social engineering - and productive businesses and industries are the enemies in his progressive vision of the future.
Keith Olbermann, among the most hateful and vicious liberals polluting the air waves, has parted ways with NBC, effective immediately. Speculation swirls as to the reason for the parting (Olbermann had two years remaining on his contract). One thing you can be sure of is NBC did not suddenly adopt character, ethics or taste - and they have no intention of toning down the rhetoric. Olbermann long ago rounded the bend on left-wing lunacy, and is being replaced by the equally odious Lawrence O'Donnell (the latter being replaced by Ed Schultz). Rachel Maddow also continues her thoughtlessly partisan NBC broadcast.
Here's a better idea on the motivation for canning Olbermann:
THURS. JAN. 20, 2011
FOXNEWS O'REILLY 2,918,000
FOXNEWS HANNITY 2,079,000
FOXNEWS BAIER 1,940,000
FOXNEWS SHEP 1,786,000
FOXNEWS BECK 1,780,000
FOXNEWS GRETA 1,460,000
MSNBC OLBERMANN 1,106,000
CNN PIERS 1,025,000
MSNBC MADDOW 976,000
MSNBC O'DONNELL 855,000
MSNBC SCHULTZ 760,000
CNN COOPER 740,000
MSNBC HARDBALL 700,000
I quote Francis Preston Blair: "From the bottom of our hearts we are disposed to exclaim 'Good riddance to bad rubbish!'"
Peter Orszag has an op-ed at the Financial Times predicting "turbulence" during "the hard slog of recovering from the financial crisis." Wondering "whether a home-grown fiscal crisis could derail this year's rebound," Orszag posits that the "severity of fiscal risk varies considerably depending on which level of government is under discussion."
The bottom line is that there may well be US public debt tremors this year, both during federal debate over raising the debt ceiling and with at least a limited number of crises in local and city governments. The bigger problem, though, lies beyond 2011, as the unsustainability of the federal government's fiscal trajectory becomes increasingly clear. I hope it does not ultimately require a crisis to restore fiscal sustainability at the federal level, but I fear it will.
Riding the wave of public opinion expressed in November, Republicans presently have the momentum on economic issues. Voters are waiting to see GOP initiative on spending cuts and debt reduction (as well as job creation and health care repeal and reform). Voters have rejected the know-nothing era of economic recklessness - it's time for adult solutions to real problems. This GOP let a similar opportunity escape them in the years leading up to 2008. This is again the GOP's moment - and voters are watching.
Walter Russell Mead begins his new "Black and Blue" blog by noting the effects of cuts on government for the black middle class. He proceeds to give a sober assessment of black America today and will "highlight issues that affect Black Americans and look at ways to ensure that the transition increases Black opportunity in this country." Mead gave a thoughtful assessment of Obama via a book review last year; this promises to be an important blogsite in our post-election efforts to "refine and enlarge" our political views.
Treppenwitz (in response to comments):
Conservatives in the private and non-profit sectors need to act prudently on our obligations here. Example: Must affirmative action preferences necessarily lower performance standards of minorities? In my experience not necessarily, not if you know where to look for talented black students, and that is in inner city Catholic schools. Conservatives need to becomes more imaginative about the way they think about opportunity issues; they must not become as stagnant as liberals.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I've been remiss in my Herman Cain blogging. The GOP presidential hopeful has been the subject of several friendly profiles by George Weigel in Slate, Joshua Green in the Atlantic and Bryan Curtis for the Daily Beast. It is a nice to see a socially conservative and free market-oriented Republican get positive attention from usually liberal-leaning news outlets, but if Cain gets anywhere near the White House (something I doubt will happen, but we'll see), the environment will turn very hostile very fast. I suspect there are three things driving the fairly positive coverage of Cain. First, Cain was the first and so far only credible Republican to announce an exploratory committee. Second, Cain seems to be giving reporters access and that access is being rewarded with the reporters letting him get some of his story out. Third, Cain is a curiosity rather than a threat. I think the last one is the most important for how the mainstream media will treat Cain. Actually I think Weigel and Green will try (emphasize try) to be fair to Cain come-what-may, but if Cain gets the Republican nomination he can expect something like the Sarah Palin treatment from other outlets.
I was reading some blog comments the other day (sorry, can't remember which one), and one comment stuck out. The commenter wrote something to the effect that it was Palin's personality and actions rather than her politics or social background that drove liberals nuts. The commenter rightly pointed out that Mike Huckabee is about as rural and just as (I would say more) socially conservative than Palin, but Huckabee doesn't generate nearly as much liberal hostility. That is true, but Mike Huckabee also never got to be the Republican VP candidate. Huckabee never became a real threat to Obama becoming President.
One thing to keep in mind about Palin is that she has alienated different social groups at different moments. According to the most recent poll, Palin has a high disapproval rating, but that is a result of a lot of things happening - some her responsibility, some not. The thing is, the liberal hatred and loathing of Palin predated the events (like flubbing the interviews and quitting being governor partway through her term in order to become a professional celebrity) that reduced Palin's favorability among persuadable constituencies.
Many liberals hated her upon learning that she was chosen to be the GOP VP candidate and before she had a chance to say or do anything interesting on the national stage. One day she is a mostly unknown governor. McCain picks her and she gives a couple of completely uninteresting generic "mavericky" speeches (this is before her convention speech.) Then you have the despicable US Weekly cover, the first of many of Andrew Sullivan's Palin-related psychotic episodes, and the New York Times showing a kind of prompt, sloppy and hostile interest in Palin's past political associations that it never showed in Obama's.
If Huckabee or Cain really threaten to become the Republican presidential nominee, then we should expect a similar outpouring of venom and irrationality. We can expect to hear that electing Huckabee or Cain will turn American into some combination of The Republic of Gilead, Deliverance and the Third Reich. That isn't a reason not to nominate a Cain or a Huckabee or a Palin. The irrationality, malice and cultural bigotry of much of the media against social conservatives is more of a weakness than a strength. But the present good (or even decent) coverage will not last and they should be ready when the change happens.
Correction: The writer for Slate who profiled Cain was of course Dave Weigel and not George Weigel (thanks to commenter Art Deco for bringing the error to my attention.)
The book is really an anthology. The author does not present herself as controlling or magisterial; she gives her authorities space and then she gets out of the way. Her performance mimes the book's lesson: rather than acting as a central authority, she lets individual voices speak for themselves. Humility is not something Palin is usually credited with, but here she enacts it by yielding the stage as others proclaims the truths she wants us to carry away.
Fish appreciates how Palin uses Jefferson Smith and Martin Luther King to illuminate the principles of the Tea Party.
Treppenwitz: Ross Douthat, don't let Fish swim to your right!
Marc Thiessen believes "the GOP will win the debt-limit fight," which will prove to be "the Republicans' first major test since the November elections" and "the best chance they will get to force major spending concessions from Obama."
Marc concludes with the question we are all asking: "Do they have the nerve?"
There's something more than a little ironic to see Chris Matthews, given his neck-bulging, vein-popping anger displayed every night on MSNBC, in today's Washington Post looking back with nostalgia on the wonderful comity between Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. There's something to this, of course; Reagan could get along with anyone if they gave him a chance. Just ask Gorbachev; first he smiled at Reagan, and before you knew it, his country went poof.
Matthews seems to forget or gloss over the fact that the "tone" of public discourse in the 1980s was just as bad as today. For example, here's a public comment from O'Neill about Reagan that seems not to be in Matthews's archive:
"The evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He's cold. He's mean. He's got ice water for blood."
That's just a warm up. Democratic Congressman William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was "trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf." Who can forget the desperate Jimmy Carter charging that Reagan was engaging in "stirrings of hate" in the 1980s campaign. Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (nowadays a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the "good Germans" in "Hitler's Germany." In The Nation, Alan Wolfe wrote: "[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era."
As Reagan's 100th birthday approaches next month, don't be taken in by all the liberals who now say what a wonderful guy he was or how much more civil things were then compared to that dreadful woman from the northern territories today. Funny how liberals always seem to discern the virtues of conservatives only after they're dead and gone.
Refine & Enlarge
As research for a pending work, I just re-read Churchill's 1946 "The Sinews of Peace" speech in Fulton, Missouri. His lessons of political accountability are timeless, his prophesies of communist oppression are frighteningly accurate and his hopes for the United Nations are lamentable in their having come to despair.
The speech applies to every age and every confrontation involving the American democracy, and is another indispensible lesson in American political science.
Quote of the Day
Ann Althouse reminds us of what The New Republic had to say about civility when Obama became President:
Obama should save the civility shtick for Republicans he'll have to work with. As for the guy retiring to Texas, the new administration should ensure he remains the useful foil he was during the 2008 campaign. That starts with letting nothing--not public amnesia, not nostalgia, and certainly not a statesmanlike gesture from the White House--lift him from the PR cellar. When the new crew opens up the books on Bush's government, they ought to let every embarrassing detail out....Democrats ran against Herbert Hoover for decades; Republicans kicked around Jimmy Carter for a dozen years. If Bush's successors play their cards right, Democrats could use his legacy as a thumb on their side of the scale for a generation....
Even as Reuters posits bipartisan support for the premise that "Congress must allow the country to borrow more to avoid a debt default that would wreak havoc on financial markets and imperil the U.S. economy," Pawlenty has struck a rogue position:
WALLACE: But you would say to the Republicans up in that building behind me do not raise the debt limit?
PAWLENTY: That's right. And, in fact, to avoid the default, I would take it one step further, send the president a piece of legislation that authorizes the federal government to sequence the pain of its bills so that we don't default on the debt obligation and then have the debate about how we reduce the other spending.
Republicans have indicated that their strategy is to bluff, threatening not to raise the debt ceiling in order to pry concessions on spending from Democrats. Considering the absurdity of planning a bluff after showing their cards, the GOP seems unlikely to achieve anything significant from this compromise. If Pawlenty's tactic is viable, it would be the first major test of Tea Party principles in Congress - a firm, but realistic, stance on fiscal reform.
Men and Women
I spent the weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, visiting several sites of historic significance to the civil rights movement. Most notable, of course, was the 16th Street Baptist Church. After the 1963 fire-bombing which killed four children (original Washington Post story here), the church became the moral epicenter of Martin Luther King's work.
Birmingham is also the locale of King's imprisonment in 1963, which inspired the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." King's powerful reliance on Augustinian and Thomistic thought, as well as the natural law foundation of America's promise to all people, makes the "Letter" required reading for students of American history and political thought. It also exposes the revisionism of liberals in academia who have replaced Rev. MLK with a substitute Dr. MLK. King's civil rights movement was not an academic exercise in human rights, but a religious testimony of God's law. The secularization of MLK is one of the greatest crimes of modern historians.
Two of my favorite political writers are having a disagreement. Ramesh Ponnuru argues that congressional Republicans should focus on repealing Obamacare, cutting discretionary spending and block granting Medicaid to the states. Ponnuru thinks that the Republicans should not try to pass laws that cut Social Security benefits to high earners or cut Medicare and convert it into a subsidy for private insurance. Ponnuru would prefer that the case for entitlement reform be made primarily by the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. Yuval Levin argues that any budget that does not reform the two big entitlement programs just doesn't make any sense. Levin wants reform of Social Security and Medicare reform in the budget resolution as a way to advance the argument.
I'm mostly in Ponnuru's corner on tactics. The Republicans, as a group, didn't run as Medicare cutters. They ran on restoring Obamacare's cuts to Medicare. I know that f you really look at what Republicans said you can find weasel language that would allow for Medicare cuts for some purposes, but the public heard what they heard. This is an indictment of the campaign that most Republicans ran in 2010, but here we are. Ponnuru is right that you shouldn't just spring Medicare cuts on people. You also shouldn't just spring transforming Medicare into a whole different kind of program. Voting in 2011 to convert Medicare into a defined contribution program will be doing something you never promised in order to impose a policy most people have never heard of (never mind support) and whose benefits would be invisible to most people. And all of these changes to a popular (though insolvent) program with a vast and dependent constituency.
Having said that, Levin is right that time is not on our side. As the programs stay unreformed, we will eventually get to the point that the most obvious way to change the programs would be some combination of huge tax increases and the centralized rationing of medical care (and probably not just for the elderly.) We shouldn't waste time and we shouldn't wait for Mitch Daniels or whoever. Congressional Republicans also shouldn't have a high profile fight with Obama in 2011 on cutting Social Security and converting Medicare into a defined contribution program. The policies in question (especially on the Medicare reforms) have never been heard of by the public. Even the vast majority of self-described conservatives probably could not give a coherent answer explaining why a defined contribution Medicare program would be better for the elderly than centrally administered death panels. I suspect that your average Republican member of Congress would do no better. You just can't win the argument on such a high stakes, high salience issue when your spokesmen are incompetent and the public uncomprehending. The first step to winning is increasing public understanding.
Congressional Republicans could do something to advance the cause of Social Security and Medicare reform. They could lock themselves in a room with Yuval Levin, James Capretta, Thomas Miller, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Paul Ryan. They could try to learn, in as much detail as possible, why a combination of phased in Social Security benefit cuts for high earners and a slightly higher retirement age are preferable to sharp tax increases. They could try to learn why a defined contribution version of Medicare would (along with other health care policy reforms)improve the quality of care for seniors while preventing the government from going bankrupt and then explain why the Democratic plan for Medicare would decrease the choice and quality of care available to seniors. Then congressional Republicans should try to translate what they learn into concise and plain English.
Congressional Republicans could increase public knowledge of and support for these policies a little at a time. A few hundred thousand people on a regional conservative radio talk show. A million or so on the Hannity show. Maybe a booking on NPR will make some converts. Paul Ryan can't be everywhere at once. The more people have heard of these policy ideas and their benefits in a nonthreatening format, the more open they will be to the adoption of these policies. It doesn't sound like much, but ten or fifteen members of Congress working all the media that will have them could vastly increase public knowledge and (maybe) public support for conservative entitlement reforms (though from a very low base when it comes to Medicare.) Ponnuru is right that the real debate over entitlement reform will have to be between Obama and his 2012 Republican opponent (this is of course assuming a certain amount of principle and competence in the Republican presidential nominee.) Levin is right that time is running out. Congressional Republicans (and other institutions of the right too) should be doing all they can to educate the public on the comparative benefits of conservative entitlement reform. That is why Republican members of Congress should not wait until the Spring budget fight. They should start that education process right now and they should start with themselves.
There was Frederick Douglass. Drawing on his significant book, Peter Myers succinctly describes Douglass's greatness here, on the Heritage Foundation's website. Douglass's evolution from a despiser of the Constitution to a defender of it, even without an anti-slavery amendment, poses a model for Americans today who seek a return to the Constitution. Douglass is required reading for the Tea Party.
Also before King was Jackie Robinson, the Dodger star who integrated the All-American game. Like sprinter Jesse Owens in the "Hitler Olympics," he showed excellence in his talent and in that way made the case for equality. In their own way they made, like King, natural law arguments for equality.
UPDATE: The Sage of Mt. Airy reflects on his own white, Southern tergiversations regarding the appropriateness of the King Holiday. Unlike Douglass, King apparently declined in his esteem for the document.
Men and Women
Christina Green, the 9-year old girl who was born on 9-11-2001 and died in the Arizona massacre, turns out to have been an organ donor and has saved the life of "a little girl in Boston."
Asked if he'd like to meet the girl who received the transplant, Christina's father replied, "Oh yes, and I'd give her a big hug."
Sometimes the world is a beautiful place.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ... won't seek re-election to a fourth full term next year, marking the first retirement of the 2012 election cycle and leaving an open seat Democrats say they'll force Republicans to defend.
Democrats are attempting a bridge too far, but the Tea Party will likely score another victory by replacing "the Olympia Snow of the South" with a more conservative Texan.
Over the past years, the Czech Republic has invested heavily in renewable energy, such as solar power. Unsurprisingly, the Czech government is now quietly admitting that energy prices are going to rise, in part, due to these subsidies and the resulting higher energy costs which the public must now purchase.
Powerline suggests that this same looming consequence in America will be "the next Obama disaster." In light of rising oil costs, energy is an issue waiting in the wings for its cue to take center stage in the public debate. Having opposed off-shore drilling and committed America to renewable energy, Obama will not endure such a debate unscathed.
Is Hillary Clinton abandoning the Obama doctrine abroad in favor of ... the Bush doctrine? From the WSJ:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adopting a tone reminiscent of the Bush administration, blasted Arab governments for stalled political change, warning that extremists were exploiting a lack of democracy to promote radical agendas across the Middle East.
. . .
The secretary of state's speech marks a contrast with the tone of the Obama administration so far. President Barack Obama has been criticized by democracy activists for not more aggressively pushing leaders in the Arab and Muslim world to pursue political openness.
Fittingly, Clinton was speaking at "Forum for the Future," the annual summit established by the Bush following Sept. 11. Whereas Bush "made democracy promotion the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East, rattling many of the region's strongmen," Obama has "broached the issue of democracy tentatively, saying 'no system of government can or should be imposed on one nation by any other.'"
We'll see if this seeming course shift augurs a holistic change of policy or a momentary burst of realism which will soon fade into more tempered diplomacy.
From today's NewYork Times:
Operations at Israel's Dimona complex are among the strongest clues that the Stuxnet computer worm was an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program.
I just can't help myself. I described the people that I disagree with as collectively believing that "taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That's what lies behind the modern right's fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty." and that "There's no middle ground" between the views of those people and the views I hold. When I wrote this column, I was, on some level, aware of your Roadmap and the Ryan-Rivlin Plan. I have been able to take a step back from my work and can now see that your plans include a substantial welfare state funded at approximately the same level of federal taxation that has prevailed in recent decades. When looking at what I wrote and what you have proposed, I can see the hysteria and dishonesty of what I have written.
That doesn't mean I don't have honest criticisms of your proposals. I'm not sure the taxes in the Roadmap will bring in as much revenue as you project. I think that the tax system in the Roadmap is too regressive and in any case I would prefer a state that takes in more revenue and redistributes more to recipients. I think that your proposals for Medicare reform are such that the "death panels" I favor would be both more efficient and fairer. I use the term death panels with bitter irony since we both know (as does Mitch Daniels) that there is no conceivable reform of health care for the elderly that does not leave some families with terrible choices.
But those were not the differences I described. I suppose I could try to weasel out by saying that I was only talking about some more extreme members of your political coalition but I would be kidding no one. I explicitly set up my side as those who believe in "the modern welfare state -- a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society's winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net." That means I excluded the nontrivial socialist fringe of my coalition and we both know that Rand Paul is no more going to undo the welfare state than Bernie Sanders is going to undo the corporation. Real policy is going to be made by people with something like my views on my side (maybe a little more statist on things like trade and top marginal tax rates) and people like you on your side (maybe a little less likely to reduce entitlement spending.) And the eventual policy outcomes are going to be somewhere in the middle ground that I pretended does not exist.
In my column I wrote that "political leaders" need to "declare that both violence and any language hinting at the acceptability of violence are out of bounds." I agree with that but I'm rethinking the implications. My own newspaper published an article by former Democratic congressmen Paul Kanjorski in which Mr. Kanjorski wrote that "it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation." Then it came out that Mr. Kanjorski had called for the murder of Florida's Republican candidate for governor. I don't think he meant it but that is the kind of thing that should stop.
I also need to rethink my use of the term "eliminationist" as a description of political rhetoric. I originally used the term as a sly way to paint my democratic political opponents as proto-Nazis who were preparing their followers for a genocidal campaign against people who hold my views. I more specifically used it to stigmatize a kind of heated rhetoric that grotesquely elevates the political stakes so high, and so demonizes the opposition that political violence becomes reasonable. With that standard in mind, I am taking a second look at my own rhetoric. I can see where I implied that if your policy preferences prevailed that the elderly and the poor would be left utterly helpless. I can see where I described my opponents as collectively violent as well as heartless and that there is "no middle ground" between us and them. I can see where someone terrified and indignant at the thought of the abandonment of the elderly and the poor at the hands of a bunch of terrorists and terrorist-enablers might contemplate violence despite my pro forma declarations against violence (after all, even Sarah Palin is officially against political violence.)
Is my rhetoric eliminationist? I don't think so, but I don't know. I never intended for that standard to be applied to me or Alan Grayson or anyone else on my side. I have no confidence in my ability to craft a standard of rhetoric that isn't a contradictory and self-serving mess. I shouldn't be trying to tell other people how to talk. I should be making the strenuous efforts it will evidently take for me to learn to write about my opponents with some modicum of honesty and civility. So, Rep. Ryan, let us talk about our significant differences over the best way to craft a sustainable, just and humane welfare state. Let us even see if we can find a middle ground.
I've an article at The American Spectator asking: "What if Loughner wasn't a tin-foil-hat lunatic, but a card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, a disciple of Sarah Palin and full-throated, tea-dumping critic of Obama's taxation-nation? What difference would it make?"
I humbly recommend that you RTWT.
1. A large (but too long effort) to call forth the better angels of his countrymen.
2. The audience reaction was very weird, but the people cheering and hooting really, really wanted to like him and they thought that the cheering was what he wanted. They were trying to help. It is a reminder of the (sometimes latent) strength of Obama's bond with millions of Americans.
3. The speech contained implied criticism of the Paul Krugman's and Andrew Sullivans of the world. This was very smart, but also very politically convenient. Obama is especially strong when he can position himself as an arbiter above left/right debates. He knows that being seen as a bitter and disingenuous left sectarian would get in the way of implementing his agenda and conducting the other responsibilities of governing. He has greater self-control and depth of vision that Professor Krugman. Obama is also tougher than the big mouthed Krugmans, Sullivans and Clyburns of the world - though they no doubt have their uses for Obama. He is focused on winning rather than lashing out petulantly
I am sorry. When I heard that a moderate Democratic member of Congress had been shot by a white male, I had all kinds of suspicions. It is not clear to me, even now, to what extent those suspicions were reasonable and to what extent they were fueled by a set of personally-held cultural bigotries that I am only now beginning to recognize. In any case, I should have kept those suspicions to myself until facts came out substantiating any link (whether personal or ideological) between the shooter and yourself and a broad movement of citizen activists. I am embarrassed at my confidence at the "odds" that the shooting was "political." By "political" I meant that the shooter was directly inspired by your rhetoric and ideology rather than the shooter having a combination of personal and political (though deranged) motives that I could not have guessed at given my perfect ignorance of his personal situation. I now recognize that my confidence was really a manifestation of my desire to wound my enemies at every opportunity.
I am especially sorry that, as the facts came out, I did not admit that I had been wrong in my assumptions and that I instead retreated into a politicized pseudo-meteorology about the "national climate" in order to continue my campaign of linking you and other organizations and people I disagree with to the Arizona attack. I still don't know to what degree I was motivated by pride, hatefulness, a desire to see my policy preferences prevail or some combination of the above.
There has been much talk of a need to increase the amount of civility in public discourse. I have come to agree with that sentiment. I will start with myself.
Leftists have shifted their goal in manipulating the Arizona shooting to their political advantage. At first, they tried to tie the tragedy to the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, talk-radio and conservatives in general. Revelations that the murdering madman was a left-of-center lunatic, as well as a general public backlash against such brazen politicking in the wake of a national crisis, ended the "blame conservatives" campaign. So, the left is now trying to use the shootings to bolster their campaign against guns.
That's fair. Reasonable people can disagree about gun ownership. Just following a diatribe about inappropriate rhetoric and the need to restore reasoned debate to politics, liberals may risk seeming a bit disingenuous by capitalizing on the emotions roused by a tragic murder to push an agenda. Nevertheless, the incident deserves a debate. Conservatives successfully defended themselves against accusations of culpability for the crime due to alleged overheated rhetoric - now they need to defend their gun policies by the same rational method.
It is commendable that conservatives have not attempted to use revelations of the killer's apparent liberal ideology as an indictment of the left. Conservatives have thus far conducted themselves well and will not be seen at the conclusion of this sad episode as the breathless, hysterical faction of American politics.
"If Jared Loughner is crazy, then so are we."
- Richard Cohen, The Washington Post, 11 January 2011
I don't know about the rest of you, but whenever some significant event occurs in our political culture I find myself asking, "I wonder what Michael Moore has to say about this?"
Naturally, we didn't have to wait long before he chimed in on the Tucson murders. He tweeted (and I'm not going to reward his website with hits by linking to it): "If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web with cross-hairs on twenty politicians, and then one of them got shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking."
A fair question, Michael, and I think I'll take a stab at answering it. First of all, I think we'd want to know something more about your hypothetical shooter. Is there any evidence that he was motivated by Islamic extremism? Is he even Muslim? Is there any evidence that he ever even saw the web page with the cross-hairs? Did the cross-hairs stand alone, or were they accompanied by an explicit call for someone to kill said politicians (after all, if Muslim extremists want you dead, they don't tend to pussyfoot around)?
If the answers to these questions are, "Yes," then I imagine that, at the very least, our "Detroit Muslim" would be declared a "person of interest" by the authorities. If not, not.
Now, if I might pose a counter-question to Michael Moore: if your "Detroit Muslim" were arrested for complicity in this hypothetical shooting of a politician, what would you be doing right now? The answer, I suspect, is "loudly demanding that he be released, and denouncing the authorities for violating his freedom of speech."
After dropping anchor at Mount Arafat, Noah promptly disembarked the ark and set himself to cultivating a vineyard so as to celebrate his arrival on dry land by properly wetting his whistle with fruit of the vine and work of human hands. Archaeologists have now uncovered an advanced winemaking operation - including a wine press, vat, grape seeds, and plant pigments - dating back 6,000 years in a cave near Mount Ararat. It's the oldest known vinoteca by well over 1,000 years.
We never cease to learn from the example of the ancients.
I previously noted the recent atrocities committed by Egyptian Muslims against Coptic Christians. Some Egyptian Mulsims have now taken a stand for their Christian brethren. Muslim intellectuals and activists have called upon Egyptian Muslims across the nation to attend Coptic Christmas Eve masses as a show of solidarity with the Coptic minority and to serve as "human shields" against an attack by Islamist militants.
Many Egyptians have nobly and courageously spoken out against the Islamic murders - but most express their regret with a tragic sense of hopelessness. Murderous militantism is deeply embedded in Islam - or, murderous militants are deeply invested in employing Islam as their vehicle of propaganda and terror - and Islamic political parties are often in a race to the bottom to appease highly organized Islamic extremists.
Moderate Muslims and all those living under the tyranny of Islamic extremism have a hard road ahead.
So you think American political rhetoric is too extreme?
"Witches will head to the Danube to put a hex on the [Romanian] government and hurl mandrake into the river 'so evil will befall them'" following the government's decision to levy a tax on witchcraft. Fortune-tellers will also be taxed, but, as the paper notes, they "should have seen it coming."
Do you suppose the witches are from the Christine O'Donnell wing of the international Tea Party?
(H/t Wheat and Weeds)
"Basque armed-separatist group ETA declared Monday that it will lay down arms for good." The cease-fire would end 42-years of violence intended to create an independent Basque state.
I expect there's little hope for the ceasefire, as ETA is likely only positioning for political leverage - their political arm has been banned by the Spanish government and their goal of an independent state is presently hopeless. Like terror outfits in Palestine, Northern Ireland and elsewhere, the promise of peace is their only bargaining chip. If they were to lay it on the table honestly, they'd soon be out of the game - so expect them to renege on any promises.
In case anyone was curious as to the likely composition of a future Basque state, the ceasefire statement ended with the chant: "Hail an independent Basque country! Hail a socialist Basque country! Onwards with socialist independence, until the end!"
You didn't expect terrorists to adopt free markets, did you?
That's what passes for news among the left-wing, anti-American news-agencies in Europe. They make the New York Times proud. The UK's liberal Guardian splashed the sensational front page headline across yesterday's paper, leaving little room for doubt that the tragedy is to be blamed on Sarah Palin (who the paper says is "well-known for her intemperate language and actions"). The Tea Party and conservatives in general are also incriminated, though the Guardian does allow that "conservative bloggers accused liberals of seeking to exploit the attack." Allow me to confirm that those "liberals" are not confined to this side of the pond.
There was one ray of sunlight, however. The most "recommended" comment under the story was by PaulinNI:
Even in Europe, the people are nowhere near as liberal and unprincipled as the media which daily force feeds their distorted agenda.
As we speak about the Constitution, political rhetoric and the proper functions of government, it bears noting that a new nation is about to appear in Africa. Southern Sudan votes for independence today. A majority vote and 60% turnout are required for the referendum to be valid, but it seems that the southerners will meet those hurdles.
Southern Sudan - or whatever it will be called tomorrow - will initially become one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world. It will require great assistance from the U.S. and, hopefully, African neighbors, and security will continue to be a serious problem. But it will provide a lesson for the world to witness the comparative evolution from this point of an Islamic north Sudan under dictatorial sharia law and an anomalous Christian south Sudan which, one hopes, will adopt a moderate form of western democracy.
Alongside praying for the victims of the evil act in Arizona, it might make sense to dust off this book by James Pierson. I don't agree with every word he writes, but Pierson is great at explaining how center-left writers desperately try to identify their small-d democratic political opponents with political violence even if the attacker did not share their ideology. Liberals in this instance resort to guilt by nonassociation through stuff about climates of hate or violent rhetoric despite the lack of evidence that the attacker was influenced by any of this stuff. As Pierson points out, liberals will try to identify their democratic opponents with a violent attack even when the attacker self-identifies with the left. Several thought to keep in mind.
1. Decency, and honesty have nothing to with the Paul Krugmans and Bill Presses of the world (no shock there to some.)
2. They don't deserve politeness or any assumption of good faith. They are trying to exploit the unburied dead to attempt to silence criticism of powerful political figures and relevant policies. They owe everybody an apology and should be treated with the coldest and most persistent contempt until they alter their behavior.
Refine & Enlarge
The New York Times is not to be outdone. No doubts mortified that the Washington Post beat them to the punch in laying the Arizona disaster at the feet of conservatives, the Times now features a column to the same effect by the reliably far-left Paul Krugman.
Krugman blames Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and "the whole Tea Party" as he conjures images of the Oklahoma City bombing and warns that "violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate." In case you're wondering who he's talking about, Krugman lectures, "it's long past time for the GOP's leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers." It will no doubt always elude Krugman that he is the creature he so despises.
Verum Serum graciously responds to Krugman (so the rest of us needn't do so). I'd simply add two observations: First, the gunman in Arizona has been described as a liberal by a friend, which, coupled with his obvious insanity, should quiet speculation that the tragedy is part of a vast right wing conspiracy. Second, readers should remember the trove of hateful malice spewed by the left toward President Bush - to pretend that the left has not potentially incited violence through aggressive language against Bush, Republicans, conservatives, Tea Partiers, etc. and that the right has a monopoly on invective is beyond silly, it is intentionally deceitful.
Men and Women
Political leaders in Washington have offered universal condolences and shown true human decency in the wake of Arizona's tragedy.
Obama: "Such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society."
Boehner: "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve."
Rep. Eric Cantor also announced, "All legislation currently scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives next week is being postponed so that we can take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today's tragedy."
I expect our statesmen will continue to conduct themselves appropriately throughout the course of this crisis. It is important to remember that Rep. Giffords was only one of a dozen people injured or killed during this tragedy - one victim was a federal judge appointed by George H.W. Bush, another was a small girl.
But the most rank partisan outlets, such as the Washington Post (blaming handgun laws) and CNN (blaming Sarah Palin), have already begun to indict conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, etc. And this is the administration of Rahm Emmanuel: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Extremists will no doubt attempt to capitalize on this killing - decent people should remember that such shameless indictments reflect the indecency of the accuser rather than the accused.
Folks of good will on both sides of the aisle have suppressed the urge to politicize the assassination attempt on Rep Giffords - this despite evidence in youtube videos that the gunman held radical views which could be exploited by either the left or right.
Leave it to the Washington Post to break the silence and launch the first political salvo. Here's the WaPo's most recent headline:
Breaking News: Gunman who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords purchased gun legally
I haven't words to describe the shallow, despicable, groveling character exhibited by the Post in attempting to capitalize on an attempted murder mere hours after the fact in order to push a liberal anti-gun message. Is this the most important detail of the crime? Is this more relevant than his anti-establishment rants and invocations of Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto? If the paper were looking to inform, there are far juicier bits of info out there than his owning a gun (a given, since he is called a "gunman"). But, of course, the intended message is that legal gun sales cause assassinations - not crazy, commie-NAZI-sympathizers.
As is customary, the Washington Post exceeds expectations for liberal extremism and ethical bankruptcy.
Powerline has posted their annual birthday tribute to Elvis, which recalls the King's meeting with President Nixon. It's refreshing to read of patriotism and good will in a popular entertainer - virtues in equally short supply among celebrities both in Elvis' times and our own. Compare Elvis' "activism" with that of, say, John Lennon - it's like comparing Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga.
God bless all the recent talk on the Constitution. I agree with the GOP decision to read the Constitution as it now applies to Congress (rather than also reading repealed sections), as this stresses the purpose of the reading (as practical to their day-job rather than merely historic or academic). Others disagree. So be it - to hear conservatives in intellectual debate, and liberals in squirming discomfort, puts me in good cheer.
I recently criticized the NY Times for its ridiculous attempt to slander the GOP's focus on the Constitution. Others have now trounced the Grey Lady for its equally absurd "annotated guide" to the Constitution. As always, the NY Times serves (only) as a window into the mind of the far left.
P.S. David Cole has a seriously un-funny and witless attempt at sarcasm in the Washington Post: "The Conservative Constitution of the United States." Again, a window into the mind of the left - which is apparently as incapable of grasping conservatism as humor.
The city health department has released statistics that nearly 40% of pregnancies in New York City are terminated in abortion. If James Taranto's "Roe effect" is true, NYC is a prime example of the self-inflicted genocide among liberal (particularly black) populations. NYC nearly doubles the national abortion rate of 23%.
I previously lamented the world-wide "gendercide" effect of abortion on women. The lack of concern to this trend by women's groups is beyond condemnation. And with over 50% of pregnancies among blacks ending in abortion, the present black population of the U.S. would be 1/3 higher without abortion. Slavery was less lethal to the black population than abortion.
And it bears mention that Obama and most of the Democratic party support "post-birth abortion," having opposed laws requiring physicians to provide medical care to infants born alive during an attempted abortion. These are not leaders likely to reduce abortions among the ranks of their supporters.
So the word is that Mitch Daniels is getting more serious about running for President. I think that is a good thing, but I'm not optimistic about his chances of actually getting the Republican nomination - this apart from the suspicion has earned among social conservatives. There is a reason why the House Republican Pledge was so weak on health care policy and did not offer a serious and specific plan to bring the budget deficit under control. The House Republicans were giving the people what they thought the people wanted. Hearing about the kinds of long-term economic changes we need will be complicated, shocking and boring to much of the electorate. Candidates who try talking in detail about a serious reform agenda will find it some combination of difficult and dangerous. If you were a hack political consultant advising a presidential campaign, which message on health care would you advise a prospective presidential candidate to articulate?
1. Talk about repealing Obamacare. Especially talk about restoring the cuts to Medicare. Then talk about how you are for tort reform and against socialized medicine.
2. Talk about repealing Obamacare but also talk about how you are for policies that will cause most of the viewers to lose their employer-provided health insurance and transition them to buying policies on the individual market, but that those policies will leave them with more take home pay and better health care security. Also explain about how you plan to cut projected spending on Medicare and convert Medicare into a voucher to buy private insurance, and that while this plan is tough, it will give the elderly better care and more choices than the death panels that will come from centrally rationed care.
The first path is far easier on many levels. It pushes familiar buttons. It is reassuring. The only people who seem to risk losing anything are trial lawyers (you know like John Edwards.) The second approach is more responsible on policy but much more difficult politically. Most people like their employer-provided health insurance (except for the premium increases.) From what they know, buying comparable health insurance on the individual market is much more expensive. Cutting Medicare and then giving old people some money to buy health insurance just sounds crazy. There are explanations of how our system of comprehensive health care prepayment (which we call "insurance") makes health care more expensive. There are explanations for how kinds of health insurance with lower premiums where you pay for routine costs will leave you with more money and at least equal health care security. There are explanations for how a defined contribution version of Medicare will give the elderly better care and better (though never perfect) options than the death panels that are the outcome of government-run medicine. You have two minutes to make the explanations and please stop talking when you see the light turn red. The majority of the audience comes in having no idea what you are talking about. They know Republican are for tort reform and interstate purchase and restoring the cuts to Medicare. Now you say you want to uproot what they have always heard was the greatest health care system in the world.
McCain actually had a pretty good health care plan in 2008 but he only mentioned in passing and only barely tried to defend it from attacks. Explaining or defending his health care plan would have taken too much time away from taking cheap shots at Romney's decision to go into private business, complaining about earmarks, and pretending that he hadn't been for amnesty before he was against it. Anyway, it was complicated, couldn't be condensed to a slogan like "drill baby drill" and maybe McCain just didn't give a damn.
Daniels seems a lot more serious about domestic economic policy and he has more going for him than just seriousness. A lot of the ideas behind market-driven health care reform seem counterintuitive given the experiences of most Americans. Daniels has already instituted at least one health care policy that saved the government money while increasing the take home pay and maintaining the health care security of recipients. Being able to point to real world outcomes is at least as good as the best explanation.
But even with a record of success, increasing public understanding of the health care and entitlement reforms we need will include an enormous upfront investment in expanding public understanding. It would be enormously helpful if a high profile presidential candidate didn't take the easy way out and instead worked at expanding public understanding of reformist health care and entitlement policies. Such an approach would have costs in the short-term and those costs might mean reducing one's chances of being nominated in 2012. But not taking the easy way out will make it easier for public figures in the future to talk about and advance similar policies. The more people who connect HSAs with more money in their pockets the better. The more people who connect a conservative version of Medicare with better care and more choices and no death panels the better. It would be great if every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination emphasized responsible plans for dealing with the scope of our economic problems. To have even one candidate do such a thing would be an improvement over 2008.
Run Mitch Run.
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Those two extraordinary constitutional scholars Matt Franck and Matt Spalding rightly take the Republicans to task for reading a redacted Constitution. Adherence to constitutionalism is no easy task! See Peter Schramm's articulation below for what is at stake.
We will never transcend the crisis of slavery, nor the constitutional crisis that faces us, until those in leadership can explain the Constitution. Next lesson: The Declaration.
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Pretty good New York Times article on Mitch Daniels. I fear that Daniels is sounding so honest and sensible because he is not running for President or that he is just too honest and sensible to be elected President.
Justice Scalia has accepted an invitation by Tea Party heroine Michele Bachmann to speak before incoming House members about the Constitution and separation of powers. The idea of a Supreme Court Justice speaking to a bipartisan assemblage of new members of Congress seems not only inoffensive, but highly commendable. As a matter of education, a Justice may provide insight both into the Constitution and the inter-relation of the diverse branches of government. And as to fraternity, a Justice welcomed to Congress presents a desirable example of the cordiality and respect due among peers.
Yet the left is in an uproar. A law professor at GW called it "exceedingly poor judgment" on Scalia's part. One must wonder, if the Supreme Court is the only interpreter of the Constitution (as the left contends), why is it offensive for Justices to explain the methods of their arbitration to legislators? Should Congress not only eschew constitutional interpretation, but also constitutional familiarity? Is ignorance a new congressional virtue?
Of course, the left is simply miserable with all the recent talk of the Constitution - and they have responded accordingly to Scalia's indication that he intends not merely to keep reading the over-100-years-old document, but to actually teach its meaning to others (in government, no less). Nothing is so dangerous to modern liberalism as education.
Republicans should have been better prepared. While it might have made sense to read the Constitution as currently amended (thus omitting the 3/5 clause, etc.), this would also be a good time to play offense on these clauses. Rush today distorted the issue by calling the anti-3/5 clausers "abolitionists"--the liberals of the time. But maybe I missed his irony.
Republicans (or the portion of them that believes in the fundamental documents) should read from as well the Declaration, the Federalist (the whole thing, perhaps on the anniversaries of their original publication), and the great speeches of Washington and Lincoln. The ridicule from the Democrats, the NY Times, and E.J. Dionne would be sufficient to make conservatives' point, but it gives conservatives on the Hill, in the think-tanks, and on blogsites such as this a chance to expand the public debate and understanding about our fundamental legal and political documents.
Conservatives have exposed and could disarm the liberal progressives, because of course the left originated in Woodrow Wilson's denunciation of the Declaration's natural rights and the Constitution based on them. This 18th century understanding should be brought up to date, Wilson contended, by 20th century evolutionary biology, thus leaving our rights in perpetual flux. And, as FDR declared, Wilson was the Democrats' "commander-in-chief." And so he remains.
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If the New York Times' editorial page is the voce of liberal America, its reaction to the incoming House GOP's focus on the Constitution is telling. The editors' cannot find words to express their contempt for the GOP's intent to open the new session by reading aloud the Constitution and requiring that every bill cite its constitutional authority. These proposals are called a "theatrical production of unusual pomposity," a "Beltway insider ritual of self-glorification," "empty gestures," "presumptuous and self-righteous," "simply eyewash" and "vacuous fundamentalism."
First, the editors mockingly ask if Republicans are "suggest[ing] that they care more deeply about the Constitution than anyone else and will follow it more closely?" Well, the Democrats haven't set the bar very high.
Second, the editors mock Republicans for "suggesting that they alone understand the true meaning of a text that the founders wisely left open to generations of reinterpretation." Ironically, this revisionist ode to the "living Constitution" expresses exquisitely that Republicans do indeed understand the text better than the NY Times and their leftist allies. The Founders established a formidable amendment process for future generations - not a license for casual reinterpretation. The editors invoke the three-fifths clause as proof of their assertions (and Republican racism, of course), even though, ironically again, the example proves exactly the opposite - the three-fifths clause was corrected by the 13th and 14th Amendments - not "reinterpretation."
Finally, the editors chide House Republicans for forgetting that "it is the judiciary that ultimately decides when a law is unconstitutional, not the transitory occupant of the speaker's chair." Of course, this is entirely untrue. It is the transitory strategy of the left to rely upon courts to impose a liberal agenda whenever America rejects such policy in Congress. Let the courts shift to the right and see how long the NY Times maintains this view of the courts. Congress has an absolute duty to ensure it acts within the scope of the powers vested therein by the Constitution.
Whether born of ignorance or hostility, the left's partisan view of the Constitution and its role in American politics is surely at odds with the Founders' view, the Republican view and, I expect, the view of the American people.
P.S. Powerline takes a similar view.
CNN is reporting that a study purporting to connect autism to vaccinations was an "elaborate fraud":
The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80 percent by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.
I wonder what Jim Carrey and the rest of the anti-vaccination fanatics think about this revelation?
Rumor has it that the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, is up for a job at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.
Jonah Goldberg suggests that since, constitutionally speaking, the House of Representatives and the Senate constitute "Congress," "we should call them all congressmen," giving the same title to the members of both houses.
I say we call them all "Ma'am."
Quote of the Day
From Alan Abelson's column in the latest Barron's:
The annual tab for homeowners' insurance is up some 108% since the turn of the century. During this period, yearly taxes on real estate have climbed 77%. A gallon of heating oil costs a whopping 150% more. The average electricity bill is 50% higher. And filling up your rig at the friendly neighborhood service station is more that twice as much per gallon. Monthly Medicare Part B premiums have climbed 143%. A humble potato goes for 67% more than it did 10 years ago, an equally humble egg 93% more, and the price of a loaf of plain old white bread is up a decidedly unappetizing 50%.
How long will it be before some countries try to put the latest in brain science to evil use? Consider this study:
The story of SM, a 44-year-old woman whose rare genetic condition has selectively destroyed the brain's twinned set of amygdala, shows the clear downside of a life without fear. . . .
This fearlessness may be fine in the safety of one's living room, but it turns out that SM makes her own horror films in real life. She walks through bad neighborhoods alone at night, approaches shady strangers without guile, and has been repeatedly threatened with death.
Much of the discussion of the abuse of biology has to do with destroying or modifying embryos' genetic code. As we learn more about the brain, surgery might become another option. Would a nation try to create an army full of men who literally are incapable of fear?
The coming year will mark the 150th anniversary of the onset of the conflict,
which is usually dated to April 12, 1861...." So far so good, but Ken Masugi explains, in effect, how Dionne and others can have their facts straight, but come to the wrong conclusion.
Many Muslim countries have "blasphemy laws" on the books which criminalize (usually with death) any speech or deed which offends the religious sensibilities of a Muslim. Western apologists usually rebut that very few people are actually put to death - but their defense usually fails to provide the all-important context: most people (non-Muslims) accused of blasphemy are quickly murdered by rioters or other Islamic jihadists.
Today, however, it seems one needn't speak blasphemy, but merely speak about blasphemy, in order to be summarily killed by jihadists. Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab and a leading politician in Pakistan's ruling party, was assassinated this morning after calling for moderation in blasphemy laws.
Naturally, these same laws are promulgated in the UN, where Islamic countries have successfully codified resolutions against the "defamation of religion," with the blessings of the world's leftist progressives. The latter have the dual enjoyment of favoring themselves noble for supporting religious tolerance while secretly knowing that they will be exempt from the oppression and abuse awaiting their Western religious opponents. International blasphemy laws ultimately suppress minority rights of worship and thought in Muslim countries - and those who escape murder will be, legally, imprisoned for the crime of being non-Muslim. (During one of the many Islamic terror attacks - Iraq, Nigeria, Egypt - over Christmas, witnesses walked on the dead while singing jihadi chants. These are the people entrusted to decide what Christian conduct offends Islam?)
American liberals reacted to today's news by equating blasphemy laws with the Smithsonian's decision to remove offensive artwork after Christians objected. This is what passes for insight and wit on the left. Perhaps a better comparison would have been the Democrat's adored "hate crimes," which criminalizes thoughts (say, religious) which others (say, progressive atheists) find offensive. There is a reason gay-rights advocates in politics so dearly love the idea of criminalizing thought - vengeance.
Oppression and vengeance are the only goals of laws which punish religious expression.
Big Journalism lists "The 10 Most Underreported Stories for 2010," a collection of damning stories which should have caused heads to roll - except that they uniformly looked bad for liberal Democrats and were thus suppressed by the MSM.
You won't see the stories below in the pages of the NYT or on the screens of NBC. You won't hear them discussed at the water cooler. They're the stories that show without any doubt the cards held by those who wish to enslave the masses to the god of government. A theocracy, to be sure, but one that holds up the state above all else.
Powerline suggests an 11th story: "the exposure of the 'Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressmen' story as a vicious con job." Powerline chronicled the cover-up in an 18-part series entitled, "Don't leave it to Cleaver".
I would add several matters of Obama's foreign policy to the list: the Cairo-speech and subsequent apology tour of the Mid-East, the decline of Obama's popularity abroad following his betrayals of Poland, Czech, Israel, etc., the alignment of the U.S. with regional dictators in an attempted coup of Honduras and the abdication of U.S. support for democratic reform in places such as Iran and Lebanon.
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Literature, Poetry, and Books
Some schmuck is putting out a new edition of Huckleberry Finn that replaces the word "nigger" with "slave."
"This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind," said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he's spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. "Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."
So there is a little post-Christmas gift with the new issue of National Affairs. Lots of good stuff, and Henry Olsen continues his project of trying to think through the problem of forming a majority around a conservative policy agenda. I basically agree with most of it, but I would add that in the medium term, Republicans cannot rely on winning just by maximizing their votes among the white working-class. Republicans won 60 percent of the House vote among whites but that is historically abnormal and at least some of the margin among whites is attributable to the combination of the lousy labor market, sluggish growth, and the undivided Democratic control of the elected branches. Republicans need to find ways to win over larger shares of nonwhite voters and do so under conditions less favorable than those we had in 2010. The thing is that many of Olsen's policy suggestions for winning over persuadable working-class whites also make sense for winning over working-class and middle-class nonwhites. Some takeaways:
1. Opinion polls understate the number of ideological liberals. A significant fraction of the public thinks that moderation is that portion of the ideological terrain between Joe Lieberman and Howard Zinn.
2. If they want to really influence policy, conservatives will have to present themselves as the best stewards of the safety net. That means they will have to articulate a vision of the safety net that is sustainable without imposing a crushing tax burden and that the safety net (along with the tax code) will be pro-work and pro-family. Support for some kind of safety net shouldn't seem grudging. The key persuadable voters aren't going to trust you with reforming the safety net if you seem to think it is unconstitutional and you are just going along with its existence until you can abolish Unemployment Insurance, Social Security etc. They also won't trust you if they think that your support for the safety net is some kind of election year hustle. Check out Sharron Angle first talking about "privatizing" Social Security, then talking some confusing nonsense about lockboxes. She came across as both radical and dishonest. The shame is that there was some reasonable policy in there somewhere, but Angle first sounds like she just wants to get rid of Social Security, then there is all the bluster about saving Social Security. The general public might trust conservatives to reform the welfare state, but only if the public trusts that conservatives' real goal isn't to eventually leave people on their own. That means conservatives need to be very careful in their public rhetoric and in having well thought out policy proposals. Check out Marco Rubio for one possible approach. Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan are also pretty good (though Ryan's and Rubio's Social Security proposals differ in important ways - there doesn't have to be one right answer.)
I intended to comment on today's NY Times' article, "Europe's Young Grow Agitated Over Future Prospects," but the Powerline boys got to it first in "Europe's Doomed Generation."
In short, despite bundles of university diplomas (paid for by the state) and continuously lessening competition (due to plummeting birth rates), Europe's youth (particularly in the south) cannot find work. Unemployment in Italy is 23%, Spain has reached 40% and "underemployment" - taking part-time or non/low-paying jobs - is ubiquitous among the young.
A basic cause of the economic crisis, as the Times eventually notes, is
labor union leaders ... and the left-wing parties with which they have been historically close.... They are seen as exacerbating a two-tier labor market by protecting a caste of tenured older workers rather than helping younger workers enter the market. ... Yet in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, any change in national contracts involves complex negotiations among governments, labor unions and businesses -- a delicate dance in which each faction fights furiously for its interests. Because older workers tend to be voters, labor reform remains a third rail to most politicians.
Powerline sums up:
That is what happens when government inserts itself into every employment decision and when labor unions are given quasi-official powers and status. The result is economic disaster, a disaster first suffered by the young. What has happened in Europe, especially Southern Europe, is a flashing red alert, warning the United States not to follow the same path of government interventionism and union empowerment. Yet that is exactly the direction in which the Obama administration is trying to take us. It is deeply ironic that Obama came to office in part because of support from young voters who are too ill-informed to see the effects that his policies, if implemented, would have on them
Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI lamented "the great challenges facing humankind in our time," particularly noting threats to "religious freedom." Benedict also acknowledged the "two opposite trends, both negative extremes," which bring about religious persecution:
on one side secularism, which often in hidden ways marginalizes religion to confine it to the private sphere; on the other side fundamentalism, which in turn would like to impose itself on all by force.
While the Pope didn't specifically mention persecution against Christians, this reality is particularly egregious in atheist (secular) and Islamic (fundamentalist) nations during the Christmas season. The treatment of minorities continues to be a tell-tale sign of the difference between moderate, Western democracies in the Christian parts of the world and those nations on the extremes mentioned above. The veracity of the Pope's linking of secularism and fundamentalism is well-reflected in the striking similarity and compatibility of communism and militant Islam.
The Pope is performing a global mission similar to that of southern evangelicals in America who raised an alarm about the plight of Christians in Sudan about 10 years ago. Christian persecution goes unmentioned in the American media and among many liberal organizations ostensibly devoted to all human rights violations - political correctness apparently demands that they turn the Christian's other cheek, even when the Christian would prefer otherwise.
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Several big-gun conservative organizations, including Family Research Council, have vowed to boycott this year's Conservative Political Action Conference due to the admission as a "participating organization" of GOProud, a conservative gay group.
Contrary to the left's summation of this infighting as an expression of conservative bigotry, there's an interesting struggle to define and identify the meaning of "conservative." GOProud's website opens with a joint statement with Club for Growth, and their mission states:
GOProud represents gay conservatives and their allies. GOProud is committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy. GOProud promotes our traditional conservative agenda by influencing politics and policy at the federal level.
Not a lot of focus on gay-themed issues. And GOProud Chairman Chris Barron did conservatism well in a recent appearance on MSNBC with the despicable Cenk Uyger.
FRC and the other protestors rebut that conservatism requires all three of Reagan's legs: economic, foreign (national defense) and social. 2 out of 3 is bad. Could a pro-choice group qualify as conservative by opposing Obama-care and higher taxes?
Surely there must be room for diversity within the big tent, while some principles must remain non-negotiable. Do DADT, gay-marriage and the like qualify as contradicting core foundations of the movement?
As an aside, Democrats certainly love this conflict, as they'd like to ensure that all minorities - sexual, gender, racial, economic, etc. - de facto identify with and default to the Democratic party. It would be a mistake to allow this strategy to flourish, and the GOP should forcefully unveil this tactic as mere rabble-rousing - the sowing of dissention and proselytization of victimization.