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.