We are having a weird fracas about the President's request to give a prime time address to a joint session of Congress on his economic plans. I wonder to what extent Boehner is reacting to the hyperpartisanship and cynicism (and empty posturing) of Obama's response to the Ryan budget. The House Republicans are not obligated to provide Obama with a propaganda platform at his convenience. Rather than asking him to move the speech a day, they might think to tell him that if he has serious legislative proposals he should send them to the clerk of the House and the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and analyzed by budget experts who are not interested in his rhetorical flourishes. If he wants to give campaign speeches he should do on his own time and in a venue paid for by his campaign rather than the taxpayers. They might remind him that he is welcome to deliver the traditional State of the Union speech next year.
The research interests of Obama's pick to chair his Council of Economic Advisers (with highlights):
[Princeton economist Alan] Krueger has done leading research on why a minimum wage does not increase joblessness and why job growth can lag during otherwise prosperous economic time. [uncertainty?] He served as chief economist in the Treasury Department from March 2009 until November 2010 ....
During his time at Treasury, Krueger advocates a number of key administration measures designed to stimulate the economy, including a tax cut for businesses that hire new workers, the "cash for clunkers" auto trade-in program, and "Build America Bonds" that allowed states and localities to raise funds for building roads and other construction projects.
BTW, I don't know why the Senate has to confirm the President's advisers. But the hearings could be amusing.
The annual meeting of America's political scientists takes place over the following several days, for the first time in Seattle, Washington. It is fitting that they gather in this progressive city. In fact, most of the political scientists might rally around this infamous statue. A few others, such as those who prefer the Claremont Institute panels, might honor this one.
Have a great time in that beautiful city--see you next year where we laissez les bon temps roulez. No Lenin statutes there, though they do have one to Calhoun.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
But the wicked shall receive a punishment to match their thoughts, since they neglected righteousness and forsook the Lord. For those who despise wisdom and instruction are doomed. Vain is their hope, fruitless their labors, and worthless their works. For the fruit of noble struggles is a glorious one; and unfailing is the root of understanding. For should [the wicked] attain long life, they will be held in no esteem, and dishonored will their old age be in the end; Should they die abruptly, they will have no hope nor comfort in the day of scrutiny; for dire is the end of the wicked generation.
I don't tend to advertise for much on NLT, but this smartphone app is too good. Obama Clock "is a countdown to either Barack Obama's second inauguration or his final days as President of the United States." The app constantly updates the following "voter metrics":
Gasoline Cost Per Gallon
Housing Price Index
Here's an interesting self-test. Noting that all of these metrics are simply factual statistics, did you have the feeling that this app was created by someone who was pro- or anti- Obama? The answer, I think, reveals how you think the President is objectively doing when measured against reality.
Bill Keller drags the New York Times to ever-new lows by submitting a series of mocking questions on religion (he follows up here) to the Republican presidential candidates. I can't begin to convey the hypocrisy of Keller's insistence that Republicans answer his derogatory questions, whereas Obama's radical faith was of no concern to these same news organs of the Democratic party.
Stanley Kurtz responds beautifully at NRO with a series of unanswered questions on faith for Obama. They are just as timely and relevant now as they were when Kurtz first asked them in 2008. Scott Johnson jumps on the bandwagon with a list of questions for his long-time whipping-boy, "Louis Farrakhan's first congressman" Keith Ellison. John Hinderaker notes that Keller's obsession with outing Michele Bachmann as a "dominionist" is akin to the media's previous breathless pandering to leftist prejudice in their biased and unwarranted coverage of the rapture.
While I object to the condescending tone of Keller's questions - his article is obviously a hit piece, intended to smear religious conservatives by indirectly identifying them as out-of-the-mainstream extremists - I don't see anything amiss about questioning candidates on their faith. Religion is the most important factor in many - if not most - American's lives. Voters have an interest in knowing their leaders' opinions on the matters that are most important to them.
But the New York Times isn't attempting to answer voters' lingering questions. They are an outlet of hypocrisy and bigotry. If they showed the same determination to educate the public on candidates' religious views, Obama might not be the president today.
Today is the feast day of my christened namesake, St. Augustine of Hippo. The Church's latter-day Prodigal Son, Augustine's life and philosophy should be well-known by all who would call themselves learned. His was a conversion story fit for legend. During his youth he lamented:
Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"
Though he confronted many of the great heresies of the Church during his time and rose to such heights of philosophy that his mind has found few peers in human history, on the wall of his home he kept a simple commandment:
Here we do not speak evil of anyone.
As a means of venerating the great Doctor of the Church, may I suggest that any devout pilgrims reading this post remain mindful that St. Augustine is the patron of ... brewers.
Libertarian Richard Epstein asks in the Hoover Institution's Defining Ideas Journal, How is Warren Buffet Like the Pope? Epstein answers, "they are both dead wrong on economic policy," and spends much of the article criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for his supposed socialist sympathies.
Epstein begins well enough:
A successful and sustainable political order requires stable legal and economic policies that reward innovation, spur growth, and maximize the ability of rich and poor alike to enter into voluntary arrangements. Limited government, low rates of taxation, and strong property rights are the guiding principles.
But Epstein quickly derails, lambasting the Pope for criticizing those who put "profits before people." The Pope's sentiment seems not only reasonable but mundane. Yet Epstein hysterically calls this worldview "a wickedly deformed foundation for social policy." The article continues as a tirade against socialism as Epstein foolishly identifies the Pope's position as hoping for "a world without profits." This straw-man routine wickedly deforms Catholic social teaching.
The offensive language which causes Epstein such palpitations was the Pope's response to a question while en route to Madrid for World Youth Day:
Q: Europe and the Western world are going through a profound economic crisis, which also shows signs of a great social and moral crisis, of great uncertainty for the future, particularly painful for young people. What messages can the Church offer to give hope and encouragement to the young people of the world?
Benedict XVI: [We see] confirmed in the present economic crisis what has already been seen in the great preceding crisis: that an ethical dimension is not something exterior to economic problems, but an interior and fundamental dimension. The economy does not function with mercantile self-regulation alone, but it has need of an ethical reason to function for man. This can be seen in what was already said in John Paul II's first social encyclical: Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured according to greatest profit, but according to the good of all.
The full text is worth reading and quickly reveals that only a distorted reading, reducing the Pope's comments to a pre-determined absurdity, can interpret his remarks as proposing that the common good includes neither consideration of individual man nor the practical effects of poverty. Catholic hospitals and missions care for the sick and poor of the world who suffer privation due to poverty - not Epstein's colleagues at NYU Law or the annual libertarian association conference.
While the Church teaches that "blessed are the poor" and elevates many virtues and goals above the perils of wealth, it is most certainly not adverse to profitable national economic systems. In fact, the Church has consistently - since the present Pope was a schoolboy in Germany - condemned exactly the sort of socialist ideology which Epstein falsely claims as its own. These conclusions are obvious from Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, and Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the 100 year anniversary of the former letter, Centessimus Annus.
Leftists and libertarians alike have long felt wronged that the Holy See's refuses to adopt their economic dogma, but Church doctrine clearly repudiates economic socialism. Yet it also cautions that free-markets should always serve the common good - a common good well-understood, which Epstein willfully fails to appreciate.
Epstein's multi-front attack on Buffett and the Pope is simply a desperate plea for libertarianism. Buffett's recent statements on the economy have been heavily criticized by the right over the past few days, and the left never grows weary of slandering the Pope, so Epstein saw an opportunity to employ a tired refrain of libertarian politics: left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican - they're all the same; only libertarians are truly special.
Of course, the inability to recognize differences between these comparables is either the result of woeful ignorance or political extremism. Anarchist - to whom libertarians are often compared - see everyone else as a clone from their perch so far off the accepted political spectrum. So it is with libertarians - they just wear better suits.
Epstein's amoral and dehumanized libertarianism is the only "wickedly deformed foundation for social policy" revealed in his article.
In college, I wrote a paper on King Arthur as the final exam for a class on Winston Churchill. (My professor was a wise man who justly rewarded my insights - and charitably resisted the likely instinct to fail me.) The exact historicity of the ancient king pales in importance to his legend and legacy as the quintessential British ruler.
However, any hint that the legends are true is a welcome revelation. The London Telegram reports "King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland."
Archaeologists searching for King Arthur's round table have found a "circular feature" beneath the historic King's Knot in Stirling.
Ultimately true or not, any reason to reflect upon a more noble and disciplined Britain - particularly in these days of looters and hooligans - is a good thing..
Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond....
That's right. Reuters reports that scientists have discovered a new planet that is "far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon."
Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.
And Obama just cancelled America's space program. That decision, coupled with this discovery, could very well loss him the entire female vote! Perhaps Obama's encyclopedia entry will mirror Jimmy Carter's, commencing with the excuse, "Barack Obama was an unlucky president...."
Michael New writes at NRO:
pro-lifers were given a lot to think about by last Sunday's New York Times Magazine article about women who, after simultaneously conceiving multiple children, chose to have all but one of their children aborted.
Will Saletan's Slate article on the same subject tackles the
puzzling unease among abortion-rights supporters [who are] uncomfortable with the notion that in a single pregnancy, one twin is wanted and another with an identical genome can be discarded.
New suspects a more self-interested and pragmatic rationale.
Supporters of legal abortion typically do not argue that they want abortion to be common or widespread. They make the case that it should be a legal option for women facing unique or difficult circumstances.
Child-reduction abortions would not be good for the PR campaign.
Consider a related issue. "Humane" methods of administering the death penalty were a bittersweet victory for those who oppose capital punishment, since more acceptable methods have the effect of softening public opposition to the act itself. Inversely, the more barbaric forms of abortion, such as partial-birth and sibling-reduction, tend to aid the pro-life movement's greater goal by souring public opinion toward abortion in general. One hopes that examples of abortion's moral pollution have the effect of further awakening public sentiment to this peculiar institution - that good can ultimately come from evil.
Reading the tea leaves, I suspect that the Tea Party Republican transformation I observe in the post below in Wisconsin and Washington will eventually shift the entire culture and balance of political power in America. I mention a single example today in my home-away-from-home at Intellectual Conservative.
Noting that "the U.S. Postal Service is a barometer of big-government, socialized policies," I find it unsurprising that it is "a failed business." What is surprising is the Postmaster General's strong stance against the congressional regulations and labor unions which are crippling the USPS's ability to compete in the free market (despite monopolistic advantages awarded by Congress).
the postmaster general threatened on Friday to break labor contracts in order to lay off 120,000 workers and to revoke employee health and retirement plans in favor of cheaper alternatives. These measures are "threatened" because they do not represent the postmaster general's hopes, but rather his Tea Party inspired strategy to coerce Congress into loosen its strangling regulations and labor unions into reasonable compromise.
Apparently, the postmaster general took notice of the Tea Party's debt-ceiling strategy and concluded that the only way to get Congress to act on a crisis is to propose an even worse ultimatum. . . .
The Postal Service is also taking a cue from the Tea Party's influence in Wisconsin by staking out an opposition stance to public sector unions. Breaking union contracts would have been unthinkable in the pre-Tea era.
As they say, please RTWT.
Refine & Enlarge
Will compares Wisconsin's liberals to Woodstock hippies, but I'd suggest they are only a few steps from the London rioters. They show a frightening propensity to resort to "revolution" and anarchy. The gang assembled outside (and inside) the Capital threatened violence, destroyed property and attempted to bring down the democratically elected government (with trespassing mobs disrupting legislative sessions and politicians abandoning their duties by fleeing in the night to another state). All because liberals The Democrats should still be apologizing in shameful contrition for the behavior of their thugs in Madison.
Nevertheless, Will explains that union attempts to extract vengeance through extravagantly expensive, yet unsuccessful, recall elections have actually fiscally crippled their power even further. Unions just seem unable to appreciate that money is a limited commodity and that there are limits to what money can buy.
Leaving unions aside (as Americans seem to be doing with increasing frequency), Will turns to Walker's broader success:
Walker has refuted the left's sustaining conviction that a leftward-clicking ratchet guarantees that liberalism's advances are irreversible.
Peter Schramm made a similar observation in reference to John Boehner's success in shifting the national conversation to "fundamental constitutional questions."
Boehner and his Republican troops have disproved an assumption held by progressives and liberals since the New Deal: that government will always grow in size and scope, that all spending increases are permanent.
From the victory in Wisconsin against liberal unions to success in Washington curbing liberal tax-and-spend policies, Republicans seem to be riding the Tea Party wave to political transformation. This is a profoundly important lesson for the next Republican presidential candidate to keep in mind.
On this one occasion, a Left Turn is permitted on NLT. Tim Groseclose is the author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Scott Johnson contends that "it may be the book of the year."
Professor Groseclose measures media bias with social-scientific methods and concludes that: (i) all mainstream media outlets have a liberal bias, and (ii) while some supposedly conservative outlets--such as the Washington Times or Fox News Special Report--do lean right, their conservative bias is less than the liberal bias of most mainstream outlets.
None of this is new, of course, but Groseclose provides fresh evidence and methodology to support the obvious conclusion. Peter Robinson interviews the author here.
What caused the quake?
A. Global Warming
D. George W. Bush
There isn't much that is more more crazy and self-destructive than the Republicans supporting tax cuts for high earners while at the same time demanding tax increases for those workers whose incomes cluster just below the median. It is just as bad to advocate tax cuts for the high earners while publicly bemoaning the light tax liabilities of those whose earnings put them in the second quartile (and usually failing to mention that these workers pay the regressive Social Security payroll tax.)
Do you remember when making the Republicans look like the party of interest group politics for high earners used to be the job of the Democrats?
Pope Benedict XVI announced Saturday that he will name Saint John of Avila as the 34th Doctor of the Church. I try not to hold it against John that he gave up the career in law to study philosophy and theology with the Dominicans. He was preparing for a mission to the Americas when the Archbishop of Seville prevailed upon him to remain in Andalusia in order to preach to a Spanish population newly liberated from Islamic occupation.
The Doctors of the Church are ecclesiastical authors by whose doctrinal writings the whole Church derives great advantage. They are distinguished by great learning, great sanctity and proclamation by the Church. Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome and Pope Gregory I are the original Great Doctors of the Western Church. To this list, names have been added very sparingly - until today, only 33 in two milenia. The Apostle of Andalusia is now counted among a litany of the most profound thinkers in history.
I'm not readily conversant in the works of John of Avila, but it will be interesting to learn whether a particular aspect or theme of his writings commended his inclusion to Pope Benedict. The announcement was fittingly made in Spain during World Youth Day. The last saint to be honored with the title of Doctor was St. Theresa of Lisieux, also on World Youth Day, in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
This Sunday the Martin Luther King memorial officially opens, though beginning yesterday the grounds were open to the public. I am skeptical--it seems too grandiose--but I withhold judgment on the 30-foot sculpture until I get a chance to view it:
The design gave form to a line from Dr. King's "Dream" speech -- "With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope," said Mr. Jackson. In the memorial, he noted, Dr. King is seen emerging from the stone of hope. The two towering mounds set slightly behind him, forming a sort of passageway to the statue, are mountains of despair.
Some visitors said they did not like the fact that Dr. King was facing the Jefferson Memorial, not the Lincoln Memorial, but Mr. McNeil said he did not mind.
That Dr. King looks at Jefferson raises a few questions: Is he acknowledging Jefferson's good start? Is he reproaching him for the incompleteness of his achievement? Is he recognizing the thralldom of blacks to FDR's memorial and the Democratic party?
There is another angle on Dr. King that demands reflection:
A bizarre paradox in the new secular order is the celebration of Dr. King's birthday, a national holiday acclaimed as the heartbeat of articulated idealism in race relations, conscientiously observed in our schools, with, however, scant thought given to Dr. King's own faith.
Peter Schramm brings good things into my life. The first time I met him, as a college freshman who had already figured out all there was to know in the world, he threw Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice my way (literally - I had to duck). He later introduced me to "Madison and the boys" (as he comradely calls them), the political science of horsemanship and the art of reading poetry aloud. So when he off-handedly throws something my way, I still duck - but also give whatever it is its due attention.
Peter has recently passed along a couple sites relating to European happenings which I thought might be of interest to RONLT (Readers of NLT). The first is Open Europe, a think-tank proposing EU reforms from a pro-business perspective, including "economic liberalisation, a looser and more flexible structure, and greater transparency and accountability." Also of note is Eurozine, a "network of European cultural journals" which provides "a Europe-wide overview of current themes and discussions." These are just a couple gems which might fly just below the casual reader's radar.
Obama is having a hard enough as it is, so one must ask if Biden has ever been anything but a liability? Did he deliver any votes in 2008, was he a boon as the debt-reduction czar and are his public statements a net positive for the administration? I think not, on every count.
Biden is now in China, where Obama was previously chided like a schoolboy and shamefully equated China's human rights record with that of Arizona. One might hope the administration would send Biden with stronger sentiments, in the wake of our previous posture of timidity. But that would be a silly hope in the Age of Hope and Change.
Biden not only failed to speak sternly to China's human rights abuses, but deliberately stated his indifference while responding to a question from the audience.
Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family.
It's difficult to express the moral depravity of Biden's expression of moral relativism. Does the Vice-President of the United States "fully understand," without "second guessing," the forced abortion, infanticide, sterilization and gendercide that is China's horrific one-child policy? Is it possible that an American - any American, let alone our second highest-ranking political leader - lacks the moral clarity or personal character to recognize and denounce the most blatant human rights violations in the modern world?
But Biden's cowardice didn't end there. China's state-controlled Xinhua news agency reports:
Biden also said the United States will firmly stand by the one-China policy and will not support 'Taiwan independence,' adding that the U.S. fully acknowledges that Tibet is an inalienable part of China.
The U.S. has tried to back-track this report, saying that Biden didn't use the precise language quoted later in Xinhua's article. But there has been no statement on the part of the U.S. that Biden opposes China's oppression of would-be pro-Western nations. In truth, Biden didn't speak at all about Taiwan or Tibet in his prepared remarks. His conciliatory remarks must have been made in the sort of negotiations best left to principled statesmen.
As Biden represents a president who voted in favor of infanticide and has shown shockingly little concern over the massacres of pro-democracy advocates around the world, one is forced to entertain the unimaginable when it comes to progressive morality and principles. This is the reason Obama rarely speaks without a teleprompter, and cringes when Biden goes off-script. During a quick-fire Q&A session, someone might accidentally say what Obama and his ilk actually believe.
"And as far as I'm concerned, the tea party can go straight to hell."
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D - CA), August 20, 2011
Just pile it on to the growing list of slurs, such as "terrorist" and "hostage-takers," aimed at the Tea Party by Democrats in the New Age of Civility.
Do you think Ms. Waters has any clue that the Tea Party is synonymous with mainstream America, that the Tea Party's fiscal policy is the overwhelming preference of American economists and that her vulgar disparagement is actually an insult to the majority of American citizens? Even California isn't so insular an echo chamber that Waters is incapable of recognizing that her views, not those of the Tea Party, are "outside the mainstream." That's why Democrats like Waters use coded language when explaining their ideas: tax hikes = revenue; spending = infrastructure; redistribution = equality; abortion = choice; censorship = fairness. If Democrats had the courage of their convictions - or really believed the American people shared their views - they would speak as clearly and honestly as the Tea Party.
Not to sound like a Haywardian troglodyte, but Steve is on his game today. 10 paragraphs to make you wiser on the last three years of American politics. Read it and tell me if I'm lying....
Only yesterday I premised that an obvious distinction between the London looters and Madrid missionaries was traditional, religious education and rearing. NLT's ever-faithful Cowgirl brought to my attention Walter Russell Mead's excellent article on the dwindling religiosity of the poor and uneducated (which would aptly describe the lot in London) and the comparative rise in faithfulness among the rich (many of whom undoubtedly flew into Madrid for their celebration with the Holy Father). I believe that I wrote on this same theme some time ago, but these trends - and the dire consequences - seem obvious to a casual observer of moderate intellect and powers of perception.
Enter the liberal discontents and their airs of smug superiority, lacking both knowledge and prudence. They have discovered the true devil beneath the shallow culprits fingered by "dumb moralisers" such as myself.
Margaret Thatcher is the reason for London's riots.
Pankaj Mishra writes: "London's rioters are Thatcher's grandchildren." Polly Toynbee's Guardian article ridicules that "small-staters blame the collapse of moral values, school indiscipline and feral beasts without fathers or consciences." She sees beneath the veil: "Grab what you can, winner takes all, no wealth is ever too much, this neoliberal amoral creed has reigned unquestioned since Margaret Thatcher."
What exactly do they mean? "Neoliberalism," explains Brendan O'Neill.
This claim, the outrage-heavy but evidence-lite argument that the rioting is a product of the unleashing of market forces into every area of life, captures what the term 'neoliberalism' represents in modern public debate: not a serious attempt to analyse or describe events, but an expression of political exasperation, a borderline childish belief that a bogeyman, in a Thatcher mask, is responsible for every terrible thing that happens. The screech of 'neoliberalism!' is meant to sound assertive, radical even, but really it speaks to an extraordinary intellectual passivity and unwillingness to face up to the true forces laying waste to British communities.
So the same liberal social engineers who cringe at the sound of words like "moral," "good," "evil," "religion," "God" and the like - preferring "diversity," "multi-cultural," "faith-tradition," "values," "relativism" and so on - are now claiming that the decay in public virtue is not the result of having banished virtues from the public, but rather the economic policies of free-markets advanced by Hayek and Friedman in response to the failures of Keynes' quaint socialism.
Politics is full of absurdities like this. Sometimes just making the claim that your opponent is responsible for your own most egregious fault is an effective tactic. The truth is so obvious to rationale observers that it seems ludicrous to mount a defense. But these attacks aren't aimed at the rationale - they target the ignorant and gullible.
During John Kerry's run for the presidency, Democrats identified themselves as the "Catholic party" and insisted that their platform was the most consistent with Catholic social teaching. Partial-birth abortion advocates accuse pro-life prayer groups of condoning violence. Obama repeatedly promised that Obamacare and stimulus spending would reduce the deficit - whereas the Republicans secretly wanted deficit spending. And, of course, liberals call conservatives "terrorists" while admonishing them as the party of heated rhetoric.
The use of such elusive academic-sounding terminology as "neoliberalism" is also purposeful. Few people would go along with the claim that a lack of government interference in private business is the reason young people do drugs and commit violent crimes - and even fewer would agree that Eastern European / Latin American socialism is the solution to this generational decay. So, capitalism becomes the unintelligible "neoliberalism" and socialism becomes "social democracy."
This is a common trend among liberals - who themselves have now evolved out of their "liberal" cocoons and emerged as "progressives." For the party of "No Labels," liberals seem to have no shortage of appellatives to cast about. Christians have pretty much been calling themselves the same thing since Rome and the Middle Ages - there's a valuable lesson in conservation there.
Leftists who liken themselves "academics" will never admit the banal truth observable by the unwashed masses. Truth, in the minds of these modern-day Gnostics, is their enlightened reserve. And like Tertullian, they believe it because it is absurd - only their object is not unfathomable divinity, but their own self-righteous conceit.
A beautiful letter from George S. Patton to his son, June 6, 1944:
At 0700 this morning the BBC announced that the German Radio had just come out with an announcement of the landing of Allied Paratroops and of large numbers of assault craft near shore. So that is it.
This group of unconquerable heroes whom I command are not in yet but we will be soon--I wish I was there now as it is a lovely sunny day for a battle and I am fed up with just sitting.
I have no immediate idea of being killed but one can never tell and none of us can live forever, so if I should go don't worry but set yourself to do better than I have.
All men are timid on entering any fight; whether it is the first fight or the last fight all of us are timid. Cowards are those who let their timidity get the better of their manhood. You will never do that because of your blood lines on both sides. I think I have told you the story of Marshall Touraine who fought under Louis XIV. On the morning of one of his last battles--he had been fighting for forty years--he was mounting his horse when a young ADC [aide-de-camp] who had just come from the court and had never missed a meal or heard a hostile shot said: "M. de Touraine it amazes me that a man of your supposed courage should permit his knees to tremble as he walks out to mount." Touraine replied "My lord duke I admit that my knees do tremble but should they know where I shall this day take them they would shake even more." That is it. Your knees may shake but they will always take you towards the enemy. . . .
And much more. Read the whole thing.
Pundits have gotten a case of the vapors over Sarah Palin's latest youtube video. Take a look below. It does seem to be a campaign video - but then again, if it's just Palin's way of staying relevant and in the news, it's working. As long as people are talking about whether she'll run, she has a platform from which to speak. I hope Palin is just staying in the spotlight. Her candidacy would be problematic (to say the least), but her message is a good one.
In the apparent absence of any worthwhile scandals to report, the Grey Lady is running one substanceless hit piece after another on Perry. Today's paper leads:
Over three terms in office, Gov. Rick Perry has doled out state aid to his most generous supporters and their businesses.
In the wake of Obama's unprecedented stimulus spending - which did nothing for the economy, but lined the pockets of union bosses and other liberal interest groups - as well as Obamacare waivers for generous liberal donors, it seems ridiculous that the Times would have the audacity to accuse Obama's opposition of political favoritism. And yet, New York Times, shamelessness be thy name.
The Times sneers at Perry for "enacting policies that have benefited allies and contributors," as well as,
helped Mr. Perry raise more money than any politician in Texas history, donations that have periodically raised eyebrows but, thanks to loose campaign finance laws and a business-friendly political culture dominated in recent years by Republicans, have only fueled Mr. Perry's ascent.
Again, the implication that raising record campaign funds is somehow wrong, coming from the same paper which praises Obama for the same acheivement, is absurd. The Times simply states that Perry has done nothing wrong, but asks the reader to conclude malfeasance on the part of the governor and Republicans nonetheless. It likely never occurs to the Times that Perry's "allies and contributors" may be business-minded individuals who recognize that Perry shares their interests: growth, job creation and wealth.
The article goes on ad nauseum listing people who have benefited from Perry in some manner, and then revealing their political donations to him as a form of scandal. One will wait in vain for a similar roll call article on union donors to Obama's campaign.
This sort of hit job relies on low-hanging fruit. Politicians surround themselves with like minded-people, and people contribute to like-minded politicians. It is a symbiotic relationship typical to every politician in America. There is no scandal unless donors receive illegal or unethical favors - such as waivers from general laws, as unions commonly receive.
The Times' desperate attacks on Perry imply that he is a strong candidate, and the shallowness of their attacks imply that he hasn't given them much ammunition. Both are fine indicators that Perry is a serious candidate for the Republican nomination.
One should not miss the comparison over the last week of youth descending on the cities of two European nations. In England, hundreds of young thugs spent the week rioting with aimless violence and general impunity in cities across the nation. Meanwhile, in Spain, over a million young pilgrims arrived in Madrid to celebrate the Catholic Church's World Youth Day. Two more stark profiles of today's youth would be difficult to produce. I would just as readily entrust our future prosperity to the latter group as I would commit the former to prison sentences excluding them from any participation whatsoever in the future of planet Earth.
A social scientist somewhere should observe a representative share of both communities over the next several decades and report on their respective contributions to civil society. A subsequent report on the comparative methods of rearing employed during the tender years of these sample populations, including values instilled and disciple-enforcement, would provide a interesting - though predictable - social commentary.
The way to avoid scenes like those in London is rather simple. Madrid is presently full of one million examples. When the parenting methods which produce this latter sort are rejected, it's no great mystery why they turn out as little more than prison fodder. Simply because a publisher will print the latest breakthrough in child developmental theory, it does not follow that human nature will respond favorably to such progressive nonsense.
On this day in 1968, the Soviet Union led a Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring. In January of the same year, Slovak reformer Alexander Dubček had begun a decentralization program in Czechoslovakia, focusing on the economy and democracy. He liberalized regulations on personal freedoms and orchestrated the country's peaceful division into the Czech and Slovak Republics. Russia would not accept these reforms and used military force to restore soviet order. Czechoslovakia would remain under Russian control until the 1989 collapse of East Germany spread across central and eastern Europe in the following year.
Gorbachev credited the Prague Spring for inspiring glasnost and perestroika. The only difference between the Prague Spring and Gorbachev's reform movement has been described as "nineteen years." While not ultimately as successful as the Polish Solidarity Movement, the Prague Spring was a watershed moment for political freedom - and its defeat by Russian militarism was a critical blow to Communism's moral and intellectual standing.
The Washington Times reports that "consumer advocate" Elizabeth Warren has filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee for a possible challenge to Mass. Sen. Scott Brown in 2012. If you don't recognize her name, Warren was the architect and first czar (since Republicans opposed for appointment as director) of Obama's latest bureaucratic boondoggle, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is the latest attempt to massively expand the federal government's (and, particularly, the executive branch's) regulatory power over everything, since the agency's authority is very broadly defined and it operates largely beyond the reach of Congress.
The CFPB provides an insight into Warren's political philosophy as a czar, shall we say, of big-government liberalism. However, she - like all liberals - has attempted to masquerade as a moderate conservative (the prevalence of liberals pretending to be conservative, and dearth of examples in the opposite direction, is an interesting topic for another time). In a Weekly Standard article, "Elizabeth Warren, Closet Conservative: The Most Misunderstood Woman in Washington," Christopher Caldwell praises Warren's 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap.
Todd Zywicki, blogging for The Volokh Conspiracy, chides Caldwell for falling for Warren's ruse. Zywicki observes that Warren intentionally hides the impact of higher taxes on middle-class families by using a different calculation with regard to taxes than other expenses.
What this means is that once taxes are converted to an apples-to-apples comparison-percentage change in dollars instead of percentage change in percentage-household spending on taxes actually increased 140%, not 25% [as Warren misleads].
Conservatives often note that the MSM never seems to make a mistake which disadvantages liberals or Democrats - "mistakes" are reserved for conservatives and Republicans. Is it mere coincidence that Warren's "mistake" conceals the disastrous role of taxation as the central culprit in her thesis problem?
Warren has now resumed her post as a Harvard Law professor, where here views are very likely regarded as conservative. And in Massachusetts, it may be likewise. But in the nation as a whole, she seems to be a liberal wolf in sheep's clothing. Scott Brown's senate seat is a boon for the GOP which cannot be surrendered lightly.
It would be a full time job monitoring all of the partisan bias and factual-errors peddled by the New York Times. Consider yesterday's story, "Climate-change science makes for hot politics," in which the Times plays scientist and concludes:
Human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is pumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and warming the planet.
As I write this, CNN's international broadcast is running a pre-Durbin UN climate change conference, shame-on-America special about global attempts to reduce carbon in order to fight climate change - and the science of man-made global warming, don't you know, is settled.
The Times can be excused for its ignorance of the immense damage done to global warming alarmists by both skeptics and their own revealed dishonesty and politicalization, since the Times rarely bothers to cover news harmful to one of their golden-calf platforms. The same is true for CNN and the whole lot of the derisively-labeled MSM.
At least, the Times reminds readers that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and the on-again (since he lost the presidential election) media doll John McCain have toed the liberal line and accepted the media narrative on global warming. The Times delights in reporting that Huntsman actually ridicules conservatives on the issue of global warming, having recently branded the GOP as "the anti-science party" and "a bunch of cranks," as well as tweeting, "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." John Hinderaker at Power Line rights ponders why in the world this guy is running for president as a Republican.
Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann continue to strongly pronounce the science of global warming as bunk. While the Times' story is ostensibly about the GOP's political division on the issue, it doesn't even actually bother to quote Perry - but it does provides a link on the side of the webpage to "Rick Perry's made-up 'facts' about climate change." So the story continues the Times' proud tradition of fair and balanced news coverage.
This is just one of many issues which will separate Perry and Bachman from Romney in conservative circles. While climate change will not emerge as a hot topic in this election, it is a useful litmus test for conservative credentials and isn't an issue upon which conservatives should retreat.
The Republicans' reading lists (as compiled by Tevi Troy) confirm one's prejudices about them--though in the case of Michele Bachmann, one is pleasantly surprised: She attributes her conversion from the Democrats to having read Gore Vidal's Burr--a "snotty little novel" that "mocked our Founding Fathers."
Obama's summer reading list is literary, as one might expect of the author of Dreams From My Father. Among his reading is The Warmth of Other Suns, an account of the Great Migration of blacks from the South to, among other places, Chicago. Its author includes a mention of having met Barack Obama and then voting for him.
Having toiled in the Washington bureaucracy, I most emphatically endorse non-policy wonk reading for our politicians (provided they have some clue about public policy). And I like the idea of the political class reading sophisticated fiction to give them moral and intellectual depth, plus some imagination--though one would like to see less contemporary work and more classics on those lists.
BTW, I do not begrudge Obama his vacation. He should tend to his family's well-being and his own re-energizing. But what of the manner and mode of his form of vacationing? My own view is that he treats his presidency with the same ironic mockery that he displayed in his autobiography. From the first page of chapter 7, p. 133:
In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer.
There wasn't much detail to the idea; I didn't know anyone making a livng that way. when classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn't answer them directly. Instead, I'd pronounce on the need for change....
That's what I'll do, I'll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.
What Obama's friends and most of his critics don't see is that this sardonic cynicism has carried over into the White House. When I read his book the summer before his election, I thought that the insouciant attitudes it betrayed alone disqualified him from being President. Now we can add his deeds to the word. Politically, this means he doesn't care. He's having the time of his life, and he gets to golf and party too.
No leftist who read Obama's autobiography can possibly feel snookered, and no conservative who read it could be more outraged.
The Reuters headline says it all: Apple is worth as much as all euro zone banks.
One U.S. Company. All EU banks combined. That's a hint of the power of America's private industry, which someone on the right who would like to be president might think of trumpeting as a clue to our economic recovery.
William F. Buckley famously quipped:
I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.
I'm not an advocate of corpocracy, but does anyone seriously doubt that Steve Jobs and a handful of folks from Apple Inc. could create more jobs and grow the U.S. economy faster than Barack Obama and the Democrats? Apple and its CEO are far more faithful to promises made to shareholders than is our government and President to promises made to citizens.
Perhaps the authority to regulate interstate commerce should have been omitted from the powers vested in Congress. America's Second Estate, private industry, might have proved a more trustworthy custodian.
Given the present state of affairs, however, is there any way to convince Apple to begin operating banks in Europe...?
Since Steven Hayward is now blogging at Power Line, it's necessary for us to occasionally bring him back to NLT:
So let's see where we stand this week: the stock market tanked another 419 points today, the housing market continues to slide, the European banks are on the brink, and Obama decides to . . . take a bus tour. Followed by vacation in Martha's Vineyard. And announce that he'll have a plan next month. Perhaps a new federal Department of Jobs. Yeah, that's the ticket; that'll surely work just as well as Jimmy Carter's remedy for the energy problems of the late 1970s--the Department of Energy. (Just how many BTUs of energy does DoE produce? [Crickets laughing.]) Why not just skip the nonsense and just go straight to a Ministry of Silly Walks?
Either Obama's handlers are negligently failing him, or his vanity is persuading him that he needn't heed their advice. Try to imagine the media frenzy if Bush had taken a luxury golfing vacation in the months following 9-11 (promising to get back to us with an Iraq plan in a month or so) and the slight criticism now befalling Obama should seem blessedly mild. The mind boggles attempting to decipher the strategy behind blatantly campaigning and vacationing during unmitigated national suffering. The only message seems to be one of disconnect, callousness and frivolity.
My purpose is not to simply denigrate Obama for his poor leadership and perception decisions, but rather to note that these political missteps are being made by a politician lauded for his political savvy. During the 2008 campaign, it was easy for conservatives to find fault in Obama's tune, but he routinely managed to hit the notes on key. One wonders if two-and-a-half years in office have corrupted his instincts and robbed him of his all-important cadence. It will be interesting to see if Obama can replicate the prowess of his former campaign. I think, despite the greatest efforts of the media to the contrary, Obama will prove unequal to his former glory - and nothing rewards so unkindly in politics as disappointed expectations.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president.
So asks and answers Norman Podhoretz, who has must-read material in the WSJ. I'd missed it until today, but his views are spot on. It seems to be an obvious thesis to those who saw Obama as Obama (rather than "Jesus Christ Superstar") from the start, but those who were led astray are just now coming around to the truth. It's the sort of article that reads like the inside of a hard-back dust-jacket, a teaser for a book full of delicious tidbits and insights, which leaves you longing to read more.
Just a sample:
I disagree with those of my fellow conservatives who maintain that Mr. Obama is indifferent to "the best interests of the United States" (Thomas Sowell) and is "purposely" out to harm America (Rush Limbaugh). In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.
But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president's attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it. That is why my own answer to the question, "What Happened to Obama?" is that nothing happened to him. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.
While President Obama's dismal 39% approval rating made news this week, his newly released approval ratings on the issues are even more disastrous.
Since May, Obama's approval rating on every issue has plummeted. Overall approval declined at -11, terrorists -10, foreign affairs -9, education - 13 (since February, no data in May), Afghanistan -20 (the SEALs effect having apparently worn off), economy - 11 and the federal budget deficit -8.
Can it really be that 60% of Democrats approve of Obama's job creation record? Do they actually approve of record unemployment and share Obama's seeming acceptance of America's increasingly Euro-style social democracy (with it's high unemployment and robust welfare bureaucracy)? One hopes these partisans are simply lying to pollsters in order to artificially prop up their candidate. Thankfully, less than a quarter of independents [Though who are those 24%?] share the Democrats' view.
RONLT know that I generally downplay the importance of polls until about 48 hours prior to an election. However, these numbers show two important factors for the present. First, Obama's rapidly decreasing popularity could allow a Republican challenger to gain a foothold among voters just out of the gate. Simply being "the other guy" could suffice to propel a challenger into a comfortable lead.
Secondly, Democrats and Republicans couldn't be further apart. And the reasons for this divide can only be explained, as Steven Hayward and others have been intimating, by a deep ideological gap on first principles. The Republican failure to acknowledge this philosophic dissonance led to the Tea Party revolution. The next GOP candidate would do well to mind this underlying division, acknowledge the Tea Party's charge on this front and present the contrasting ideologies with crystal clarity to the rest of the nation.
Greg Pollowitz, at NRO's Media blog, notes three reactions from MSNBC on Rick Perry:
Perry's been in the race for a few days now and we have Maddow lying about the governor wanting to lynch Ben Bernanke, we have Ed Schultz calling him a racist and we have Chris Matthews calling him "Bull Connor" with a smile. What a trio of sad-sack lying hacks MSNBC has chosen for their political coverage.
If three MSNBC "sad-sacks" such as these are salivating to denounce Perry ... well, he can't be all that bad. The more screeching, cliched and ridiculous are the slurs from the usual suspects, the more I am persuaded that Perry has something worthwhile to contribute to the nation's politics.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
In his Empire of Liberty, Gordon Wood claims that:
Educated and reflective observers found it increasingly difficult to hold to the eighteenth-century conspiratorial notion that particular individuals were directly responsible for all that happened.... [W]ith the spread of scientific thinking about society many of these sorts of conspiratorial interpretations began to seem increasingly primitive and quaint.
But as Noemie Emery notes, such "conspiratorial notions" are alive and well, among our credentialed elites no less than anyone else, for "Some think their beliefs are so true and self-evident that principled and/or informed opposition to them is simply impossible, and that their opponents must be fools and/or villains. They also feel themselves under permanent siege, from the press, from the establishment, and most of all from the centrists in their parties."
Human nature 1, historicism 0.
As pleasant as Wolf Trap Barns' performance of The Tales of Hoffmann was, it left me with a feeling of disquiet--maybe it was the resemblance between the Republican presidential field and Hoffmann's different lovers: the first a mechanical creation ("physics" her inventor boasts), the second a tragic imitation of her dead mother, and the last a seductress that leads him to give up his soul and murder his rival. That's all fancy of course. Hoffmann discovers that his true love was there all the time, and that the omnipresent devil can be defeated. Is there any such girl next door for the GOP?
Pawlenty's departure, Perry's entrance and stagnation among Gingrich, Santorum, Huntsman and the other hard-to-remember GOP candidates seem to indicate that the Republican nominee will emerge from a battle between Perry, Romney and Bachmann.
Marc Thiessen has a solid case for Perry in today's WaPo. Much will be decided for Perry in the next few weeks. If he flounders and disappoints expectations, voters will quickly look elsewhere. But he has the potential to rally a base divided between a lackluster resignation toward Romney and hesitant uncertainty toward Bachmann. Perry needs to thread the needle and poach supporters from both candidates - all the while representing himself as the GOP moderate between Romney's unreliable conservatism and Bachmann's uncompromising conservatism.
Romney and Bachmann are still in the fight because they emerged as leaders of the pack - Romney as the party's crown-prince and Bachmann as the hero of the people. Perry needs to define himself as something superior to both - and soon - if his star is going to rise as far as the nomination.
What's the craziest thing Obama could suggest in the present Tea Party-dominated moment of economic hardship?
How about a tax hike at the pump to make gas even more expensive?
That's the suggestion offered to Obama by the New York Times, which is desperate to preserve (and actually increase) the federal gas tax set to expire next month. One has to hand it to the Grey Lady - she's standing up for principle against the obvious will of the people. This is likely the impetus for the editorial - the Times hopes to prepare the battlefield by firing the first salvo, before Republicans raise their voices in opposition to extending the tax.
And that is exactly what Republicans should do. Republicans should ensure that the "gas tax repeal" is the next headline-capturing battle in Washington. Republicans would be on record seeking to lower gas prices (in light of Obama's refusal to do anything on that front - since gas is a form of energy, and skyrocketing costs are just part of the plan). And they would have an opportunity not only to oppose tax increases, but to actually cut existing taxes. Since the taxes expire in the absence of congressional action, the tax cut is immune to a presidential veto and is possible to acheive with only one house of Congress.
If Obama comes out against the GOP, he is on record in favor of higher gas prices. More prudent would be a capitulation by Obama, allowing the tax to expire. This would be viewed as a Tea Party victory, but Obama would share in the victory and have a bi-partisan talking-point. Further, lower gas prices can only help his re-election chances.
Either way, the GOP have a win-win situation. The public will support their position, so Obama either alienates the public and further proves himself addicted to taxes, or the GOP score a victory for the middle-class by lowering taxes.
The only way the GOP lose is if they do nothing. If Democrats preserve the gas tax without a peep of protest from the Republicans, they quietly maintain the tax and gas-price status quo with no repercussions - and the Republicans lose yet another opportunity to stand on their convictions.
A few days ago Peter Wehner said that he is worried about what he calls The GOP's Philosophical Straitjacket, namely the belief that tax hikes are always bad. In particular, he highlights an incident in the most recent GOP debate:
"I'm going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage," Baier said. "Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases.... Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you'd walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?"
All eight candidates raised their hand
And he comments, "Now on one level I understand this response. Republicans should not negotiate with themselves, and a willingness to reveal one's demands in advance can weaken one's position down the road," be he continues:
Are Republicans in 2011 saying that a deal that would be far better than one Reagan expected and agreed to is simply beyond the pale?
If so -- if taxes cannot be raised under any circumstance -- then we have veered from economic policy to religious catechism.
It is interesting that Wehner has moved from something "philosophical" to a "catechism" in a few paragraphs. And today, in response to Charles Murray's claim that the position is reasonable because "there is no such thing as a real spending cuts deal," Wehner notes that the question was a hypothetical one, in which there were real cuts. Fair enough.
But I would like to consider how this became a GOP catechism. It seems to me that much of the blame might go to George W. Bush. President Bush, perhaps because of his philosophical views (that federal policy ought to show "compassion"), and perhaps because the GOP had such small majorities (when they had majorities in Congress), that tax cuts were the only policy upon which there was GOP consensus, (and the small majorities made porkbarrelling more important) made tax cuts more of a fixed idea than they had been before his presidency. To be sure, when his father broke his "no new taxes" pledge, it was a big deal. Perhaps my reading of history is wrong, but the importance of not raising taxes as a fixed point seems to have taken on increasing importance in the last decade.
President Bush, who gave us the prescription drug benefit, "No Child Left Behind" (the latter written by Ted Kennedy's staff, if memory serves), and legions of porkbarrelling, (let's not forget that Porkbusters began ni 2005), not to mention, a great deal of expesive regulation, could appeal to small government types only by promoting tax cuts.
Historically speaking, the conservative Republican coalition had three legs: foreign policy, economic policy, and social policy. By giving such short shrift to the libertarian/ classical wing, Bush may have reduced the "conservative" position to tax cuts, and nothing but tax cuts.
It might be that if we can make genuine cuts in the size and scope of government, there will be more room for a discussion of whether certain tax hikes might be a worthy price to pay for such a deal. It might also be that only such a deal would justify GOP support for tax increases. The trouble is, having learned to equate tax cuts with limited government, we must relearn that a tax cuts are but one means to a larger end.
How our would-be elites see it:
It was startling to hear what local broadcaster Steve Adubato, who has done informative programming, had to say with regard to the news that young women are hooking up with older men to exchange sex for payment of their college loans. He thought it perfectly fine. When asked if he would like to see his daughter do that, he said that she would not have to because of her higher socioeconomic status, but that for women of lower means, he thought it was fine. Pressed by his co-commentators to show more democratic spirit, he added that if his daughter were at a reduced socioeconomic status, unlikely to happen, it would be fine then too. It was really cringe-making to see a man reveal such an absence of values so absolute.
I am reminded of Irving Kristol's famous quip:
The liberal paradigm of regulation and license has led to a society where an 18-year-old girl has the right to public fornication in a pornographic movie--but only if she is paid the minimum wage. Now, you don't have to be the father of a daughter to think that there is something crazy about this situation.
The class dimension, however, might be new, or at least more explicit.
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks! . . .
Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;
We never had the love that ev'ry child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents,
Deep down inside us there is good!
Obama is resilient. Despite economic catastrophe, hyper-partisanship and a growing list of deeply unpopular decisions, Obama has consistently polled above Congress, general sentiments about the state of America under his watch and even his own policies. He is striving to become the next Teflon president.
The single most significant factor in Obama's resiliency is undoubtedly the support he enjoys from the mainstream media. Rick Perry's presidential campaign has already endured more stinging attacks by the media than Obama has faced during his entire presidency. John Hinderaker noted today that Michele Bachmann's appearance on several Sunday morning talk shows included a barrage of persistent questions about ... gay marriage. The reason, of course, is not that anyone is talking about gay marriage, but rather a partisan drive on the media's part to portray Bachmann as a socially conservative "extremist" who holds "out-of-the-mainstream" views (nevermind that Obama ostensibly shares the same views). The liberal media has kept Obama afloat by simply ignoring scandals, explaining away failures and stubbornly enforcing a double standard toward conservatives.
As a result, Obama has been able to remain above 40% in opinion polls until now. But a bit of dust is being raised over Obama's dip below 40% for the first time on Sunday. Continuous pounding by the GOP (who have snatched the spotlight) in the wake of a bruising debt-ceiling confrontation have driven Obama's approval rating to 39%-54%.
While 39% is dismal, it is neither unprecedented nor apocalyptic. It surely stings liberals that George W. Bush was at 60% at this point in his first term, but George Bush Sr. was at 70% and failed to gain re-election. Clinton and Reagan both had comparable approval ratings in the mid-to-low 40's and easily won second terms. And Carter had already sunk into the 20's by this point.
So Obama's numbers are bad, but not dispositive of his 2012 fortunes. Carter nearly doubled his approval rating in just over two months, though to no avail. Voters have short memories and polls are event-driven. Indeed, the single most important variable - the identity of his GOP rival - is utterly uncertain. So predictions at this early stage are useless. All that is certain is that Obama is entering the presidential race with the political winds blowing against him, and he is trending southward.
Saw Bachmann on a couple of the Sunday morning interview shows. Dr. Schramm pointed out to me her interview with David Gregory on NBC. She was terrific (and I say this as someone who is not a supporter.) Gregory thought he was dealing with a crude dummy and she made him look like a liberal and partisan, out of touch elitist. She couldn't have asked for a better foil. She knows exactly what to say to obscure the consequences of not increasing the debt ceiling and having to balance the budget in one year with no tax increases (and cutting taxes on top of that!), without cutting Social Security spending or funding for Afghanistan. That is good for her but bad for the country. She was also good (though not quite as good) on the tougher and smarter FOX Sunday morning program.
Pawlenty didn't fail because "Unfortunately for Pawlenty, the GOP zeitgeist doesn't seem to support nice guys, when niceness is their most salient attribute." It would be better to say that Pawlenty failed because he treated Republican primary and caucus voters like yokels. Do we really have to go back over the time when he called on conservatives to take inspiration from an act of alleged domestic violence? Is that nice? Was it "nice" to try to weasel out of having to give an answer on waterboarding? Was it nice to coin Obamneycare when Romney wasn't around and then weasel when asked to defend the term to Romney's face?
Pawlenty's economic record as governor and his stands on social issues made him a good fit to run for President. Pawlenty didn't run as that guy. He ran as a guy who seemed to "learn" everything he thought he knew about conservatives from reading hostile accounts in liberal-leaning media outlets. For all her flaws, at least Bachmann understood that filing a bill to repeal Obamacare was closer to the desires of right-leaning voters than talking a bunch of nonsense about taking a nine iron to Obama's agenda.
There is more than one reason why Bachmann showed greater appeal among conservatives than did Pawlenty. One of those reasons was that Bachmann showed them respect, while Pawlenty showed them condescending obsequiousness.
- Justin Paulette, May 25, 2011
Quite simply, the Iowa straw poll "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
- Justin Paulette, Earlier Today
If you're going to be wrong, you might as well be really wrong. I stand corrected. Tim Pawlenty is out of the presidential race and Iowa apparently matters quite a bit. Speaking of the Iowa straw poll, Pawlenty stated:
We needed to get some lift to continue on and have a pathway forward. That didn't happen, so I'm announcing this morning on your show that I'm going to be ending my campaign for president
Many of us thought that Pawlenty's experience as governor of a blue state, record of successfully negotiating with a hostile legislature and "generic" character would prove a potent foil to Obama's shrill partisanship, failed policies and empty rhetoric of hope and change. Perhaps it would have proved so. But Pawlenty apparently didn't believe that he'd ever make it out of the primaries in order to test the theory.
I think the withdrawal is premature. Other candidates haven't had sufficient time to implode, which is a distinct possibility. Further, some candidates' stars are still on the rise, but may soon crest and descend with equal alacrity. Bachmann has the potential for both of these perils and her demise would have opened up the conservative field for Pawlenty. Pawlenty has called it quits at the same time that Rick Perry is just announcing his candidacy (Perry will likely lead the rush to pick up Pawlenty's donors and political aides).
Nevertheless, with Pawlenty out, Perry in and Bachmann rising, the GOP field proves fluid, diverse and energized.
There's fly-over country, and then there's Iowa. Basically a patch of corn somewhere in mid-western America which no one could point to on a map without the little dotted lines marking state borders, Iowa assumes untoward influence during each presidential election cycle for no other reason than someone has to go first in the primaries. And Iowa makes the most of its privileged position - yesterday they had a pre-primary test primary, just to get warmed up. And in the absence of any other electoral news 15 months out from the actual election, this is just the sort of breaking news which is irresistible to Washington-centric journalists.
The fact that Ron Paul consistently ranks among the forerunners in these straw polls (he ranked second this time) ought to indicate their absurdity. Mitt Romney, the obvious GOP frontrunner, didn't make the top three. So Bachmann's first-place result should neither console her followers nor distress her adversaries. Quite simply, the Iowa straw poll "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
There has been a lot of comment about the fact that, at the last debate, none of the Republican presidential candidates raised their hands when asked if they would take a deficit reduction deal that was 10 to 1 spending cuts to tax increases. I think that the best, the very best, budget deal that conservatives can get through our political process is some favorable combination of the Simpson-Bowles Plan on taxes and discretionary spending and the Rivlin-Domenici Plan on health care policy. This will mean, even in a transformed entitlement system, that we will be paying more for Medicare than is budgeted in the revenue neutral Ryan Path to Prosperity. That means the government will need more money. That can be gotten with a tax code that is more pro-growth than the one we have.
There is a strong case to be made that conservatives should emphasize that entitlement reform and public sector consolidation should be looked at before tax increases, but holding out for not even one more penny of tax money is a good way to make sure that the budget ends up looking more like how Nancy Pelosi wants it than how Paul Ryan wants it. That doesn't mean I want the Republican presidential candidates to come out for tax increases, but there is something unreal about our discussions of crafting a sustainable budget. It is of course even worse with President Obama, who has not come close to proposing a plan that would produce a sustainable budget.. There might even be some upside to leveling with the public.
The best commentary I've yet heard on Perry - and his best endorsement yet - comes from Kevin Williams in NRO:
The guy that NPR executives and the New York Times and your average Subaru-driving Whole Foods shopper were afraid George W. Bush was? Rick Perry is that guy.
Perry's the new kid on the block and has the national microphone for the next few days - let's see what he can do with it.
When you go after Bachmann, you shouldn't just go after her failure to influence policy during her time in Congress. You should go after how she turned her failure into self-promotion even as policy got worse. This works best if you first set up a vivid narrative of doing the things Bachmann only talks about. For instance:
"When the Democrats and some Republicans in the state legislature sent me big spending bills, I vetoed then. And those vetoes stuck. And spending went down. When the Democrats shut down the government to get me to agree to higher taxes, I said no. The government got back to work and taxes stayed the same. When the transit union struck for higher benefits, we didn't give in. We won one for the taxpayers of Minnesota. That was real money. Those were real wins for the taxpayers. That was real limited government.
"So let's look at what Representative Bachmann did in Washington. She has a press conference. TARP passes. She gives some speeches. The Obama stimulus passes. She sends out some fundraising letters. Obamacare passes. She announces she is running for President and sends out some more fundraising letters. The debt ceiling raises. This is a disastrous record for the American people. Representative Bachmann has gotten herself a lot of television time, but we've added trillions to the deficit. This is a choice between real limited government where spending goes down, and employment goes up, and show biz limited government where we get big talk as we hurtle towards more and more spending and eventual bankruptcy."
Yeah, I know it isn't really fair, but it is more connected to reality than Pawlenty's economic growth targets.
h/t Ramesh Ponnuru, who made the Pawlenty case better than Pawlenty ever has.
Refine & Enlarge
Blogging on Peter Schramm from the pages of NLT is somewhat akin to voicing an opinion on Lee Iacoca from the floor of a Chrysler plant in the mid-80's. Nevertheless, the man with his fingerprint on our masthead opined this week in the Columbus Dispatch, and his words deserve contemplation.
Ever the contrarian, bating onlookers to defy his logic, Schramm celebrates the messy congressional convulsions most Americans have recently condemned. Bipartisanship is overrated:
The truth is that our Constitution builds in division.... Divisions are built into the Constitution so that the natural divisions that arise in a free regime might become, over time, less willful and more rational.
If the Framers had wanted a democracy, they wouldn't have formed a constitutional republic of separated powers, limited government and onerous checks on the will of the majority. (Steven Hayward makes a similar point on the implausibility and undesirability of compromise between 1789-minded conservatives and 1960's-minded liberals here.)
Schramm is a macro political scientist. eschewing the "details" and "logistics" of the debt-ceiling debate, he notes John Boehner's monumental achievement in shifting national attention to "fundamental constitutional questions."
Boehner and his Republican troops have disproved an assumption held by progressives and liberals since the New Deal: that government will always grow in size and scope, that all spending increases are permanent.
Schramm regards the shift in Washington rhetoric "away from the favors government might bestow and to its proper role" as the "most radical change in my lifetime." It's difficult to notice the turning of the Earth at any given moment - though in any 12 hour period, it's as obvious as night and day - but one hopes Schramm's prediction proves astute, and the Boehner compromise heralds a new dawn for self-government.
Kevin Williamson makes Rick Perry sound like an attractive candidate, at least to conservatives. Best line: "The guy that NPR executives and the New York Times and your average Subaru-driving Whole Foods shopper were afraid George W. Bush was? Rick Perry is that guy."
I'm sure there's more to the story. And there's nothing on foreign policy here.
Bonus question: in politically correct America, can the GOP ticket be two white guys?
This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives
So reads the majority opinion of a U.S. appeals court decision in Atlanta today, siding with 26 states by ruling unconstitutional Obamacare's individual mandate clause. Interestingly, the court did not overturn Obamacare as a whole, but held the individual mandate severable. This seems contrary to the wording (or omissions) of the law. Nonetheless, the ruling sets up a split on the federal circuit and almost ensures Supreme Court review.
The next Supreme Court term runs from October 2011 - June 2012. Obamacare is thus poised as a key issue for the 2012 election.
I'm having lunch at the Mad Boar in Wallace, North Carolina. Not bad. Large, Irish-pub-like atmosphere, attractive and competent waitresses serving me a cool glass of Pinor Gris, with a pork stew soup, followed by a whiskey river trout. Second glass of wine, and I'm reading, slower now, reactions to last night's GOP debate. The best is by Scott Johnson at Power Line. Crisp and to the point, even witty when the subject allows it. I agree with his thoughts too bad they have to be cruel.
1. It was a mostly enjoyable debate (if you like that sort of thing - and I do.) There were some heated exchanges on issues like foreign policy and especially constitutional and policy federalism.
2. The debate featured almost nothing in the way of talk of entitlement reform or positive health care policy (rather than the grounds and intensity of opposition to Obama's health care policy.) They also weren't asked questions about it. There is no sustainable budget without enormous tax increases absent reforms to those partly overlapping sectors and we heard very little about it.
3. If the Republican nomination race were simply a demagoguery contest, Bachmann would win every state, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Her answers on the debt ceiling were perfectly crafted to hide the consequences of refusing to raise the debt ceiling and thereby having to balance the budget in one year without tax increases. Santorum mentioned the likely consequences one time. The panelists let her off the hook.
4. Pawlenty's attacks were feeble. He still doesn't have a vivid, fact-based narrative of how he brought spending down in Minnesota. People know that Bachmann fought against this, that and the other thing. People have, at best, only the vaguest sense of what Pawlenty did in Minnesota and there is no emotional resonance there. Thanks to Bachmann, people also know (or think they know) that he supported an individual health insurance purchase mandate and implemented cap and trade. His main argument against Bachmann is that he is a winner and she is a loser. From what people have been able to see in the debates, the reverse appears to be true.
5. As far as I can tell, Bachmann's political skills are limited to those that can appeal to a subgroup of previously committed conservatives, but those skill are impressive within those limits. I strongly doubt that she can win the nomination, or, if she gets the nomination, the presidency. I can just barely imagine a scenario where Bachmann gets elected President. First she wins Iowa and Romney wins New Hampshire. Perry fades and all the other candidates are marginalized. Then it comes out that Romney uses puppies for batting practice and Bachmann wins by default. Then we have a second banking crisis. Credit is frozen even worse than in 2008, GDP collapses and the unemployment rate starts going up at the rate of 1% a month. She might still lose to Obama even under those circumstances.
6. No one laid a glove on Romney.
7. Gingrich got back some of his old mojo. Part of it was he was able to effectively revert to victim politics by positioning himself against the hated gotcha liberal Fox News media that had the temerity to ask him about the management and fundraising problems of his campaign. Part of was that he actually has a record of getting good policy out of divided government (and then being bounced from power by his own party.) If he hadn't revealed himself to be a fraud with his cynical attack on the Ryan PTP (and it was the transparent cynicism rather than the attack itself that did him in) people would be talking about him as almost a real contender to get the nomination.
1.Ramesh Ponnuru points out that Obama's job approval ratings have been remarkably resilient given the circumstances and that they have moved within a very narrow range (from the mid 40s to the low 50s) for almost two years now. Up until now, Obama's Real Clear Politics job approval floor has been 44%. This week his job approval average has dipped below 44% for several days. Pretty much every voter who isn't powerfully tied to the Democratic Party (and some who are) are not approving of Obama's job performance. I haven't seen crosstabs on the most recent polls (including the ones putting his job approval at 41%), but I suspect that his job approval numbers among whites are spectacularly low. Ponnuru is still right that Republicans should assume that they will need more than just a warm, non-scary body to win in 2012.
2. Dear People Who Schedule Republican Presidential Debates,
Could you please stop scheduling these debates up against new episodes of World's Dumbest?
The riots in Britain are a case study in democracy run amok. Consider this post form the Standard:
The issues raised by these riots are generational and cannot be resolved, necessarily, by the government. Traditional structures of authority in the UK have been eroded. Parents have no ability to control their children and instill basic levels of morality and respect. The police--powerless to stop young rioters destroying businesses and private property--have been utterly emasculated. As one officer said, "We can't cope. We have passed breaking point." . . ., The British home secretary, Theresa May, recently announced, before having to backtrack, that the British way was not to enforce the laws. "The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon...the way we police in Britain is through consent of communities," May reportedly said.
Now consider Plato's account of democracy, as reported by John Adams in his Defence of the Constitutions (which I quote because I happen to be reading it lately, and I know exactly where to find it online):
Magistrates who resemble subjects, and subjects who resemble magistrates, are commended and honored, both in public and private; in such a city they of necessity soon go to the highest pitch of liberty, and this inbred anarchy descends into private families. The father resembles the child, and is afraid of his sons. The sons accustom themselves to resemble the father, and neither revere nor stand in awe of their parents. Strangers are equalled with citizens. The teacher fears and flatters the scholars, and the scholars despise their teachers and tutors. The youth resemble the more advanced in years, and rival them in words and deeds. The old men, sitting down with the young, are full of merriment and pleasantry, mimicking the youth, that they may not appear to be morose and despotic. The slaves are no less free than those who purchase them; and wives have a perfect equality and liberty with their husbands, and husbands with their wives. The sum of all these things, collected together, makes the souls of the citizens so delicate, that if any one bring near to them any thing of slavery, they are filled with indignation, and cannot endure it; and at length they regard not the laws, written or unwritten, that no one whatever, by any manner of means, may become their master.
The rioting in Britain reminded me of a certain passage in one of Hugo Young's biographies of Thatcher. I'm not linking for reasons that I hope will become apparent. This is Young's description and analysis of Thatcher's reaction to a cycle of rioting and looting that occurred during Thatcher's first term.
"'Oh those poor shopkeepers!' she cried, on seeing the first pictures of riot and looting in Toxteth
"A lot of Margaret Thatcher's character is expressed in that single phrase. It was a perfectly intelligible reaction. It just wasn't the first response that most people might have made when they saw rioters and police in pitched battle, and watched the disintegration of a run-down city. Later, seeing looters walking away with armfuls of merchandise, they might [!] have felt for the shopkeepers too. It was interesting that this should be the first and overriding reaction expressed by the Prime Minister, speaking eloquently for the priorities rooted in the Grantham grocer's shop and the party which, for the first time, had one of nature's shopkeepers at its head."
Quote of the Day
In light of the barbarism in England, a couple of choice quotes from John Adams might be in order, reminding us of how Anglo-American law used to understand the rights of men:
"We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defence, we cut up the foundation of both."
Adams also noted that "If a robber meets me in the street, and commands me to surrender my purse, I have a right to kill him without asking questions."
If only Jack Benny had been carrying . . .
Still living in Asian hotels, world news is sporadic - but it seems U.S. economic news has been overtaken by news of British riots. My interest was particularly piqued by mention that the riots had spread to Ealing, my home for a time during grad school. Hardly a hoodlum hang-out, the Ealing Broadway gate serviced the highest concentration of affluent Arab youngsters outside of the Middle East. Discovering whether this demographic was perpetrator or victim of the mob violence would answer several pertinent questions of causality.
Britain's lack of response to domestic terror and urban riots has been as dismaying as it has been expected. Enthrallment to diversity and white-guilt apparently extends as far as thuggery and gangs - who apparently feel their social entitlements extend as far as robbery and looting.
But David Cameron's increasingly militant speeches over the past two days have been refreshing. He refers to the scenes of violence as "despicable," "sickening," "appalling," "criminality, pure and simple," which must be "confronted and defeated." Police forces have been nearly trebled and afforded long-overdue tactical liberties, such as the use of rubber bullets and, potentially, water cannons. Cameron's hesitancy to roll out non-lethal water cannons as Englishmen are being killed is still baffling, but this is, at least, motion in the right direction.
It was heartening to hear Cameron's outright dismissal of "phony concerns about human rights" which liberals are sure to raise when these murderous thugs are arrested and prosecuted. I've long noticed that CCTV only truly offends those who expect to be on the receiving end of a prosecution charge at some point in their life, whereas law-abiding folk recognize that it is an indispensible law-enforcement tool.
Also encouraging is Cameron's rhetoric and frank assessment of the reasons for the riots.
There has been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these thugs. There are pockets of our society that are frankly not just broken but also sick.
Cameron claimed the problem was "as much a moral problem as a political problem," repeatedly citing the looters' "irresponsibility," and leveled blame at the undisciplined British school system and a broken welfare system.
The sight of those young people running down streets, looting, laughing as they go, is a complete lack of responsibility - a lack of proper parenting, proper upbringing, proper ethics, proper morals - that is what we need to change.
Strong words for an increasingly thin-skinned electorate which, as Cameron identifies, prefers to blame society for their own irresponsibility. Most reports identify the rioters as belonging to immigrant communities, poignantly illustrating Cameron's previous assertion that British multiculturalism has failed.
It has widely been conceded that European nations have devolved into nanny states, producing dependants rather than citizens. Britain should now fully appreciate that a bit of Old Testament paternal virtue is sorely needed. These youngsters desperately need to be taken out to the woodshed for a lesson in civility.
In light of the London violence, Kevin Kosar (a frequent Weekly Standard contributor) reminds us of the late political scientist Edward Banfield's sly--and revealing--comment on urban riots. It's not a lack of government spending, discrimination, poverty, etc. Often young men riot because it's fun to do:
Often, though, people riot "mainly for fun and profit," as Banfield put it in The Unheavenly City. Riots, as he reminded us, have been around as long as there have been cities. "In Pittsburgh in 1809 an editor proposed satirically that the city establish a 'conflagration fund' from which to buy twelve houses, one to be burned each month in civil celebration."
Kosar concludes, "[O]ne sure accelerant to riots present and future, Banfield explained, is the widespread belief that one can get away with it." RTWT for clear thinking and illuminating links. Kosar's website, covering higher education, reviews, Banfieldiana, and whiskey, can be found here.
Walter Russell Mead, who seems to have become a blogging superstar lately, has a long, interesting reflection on the phenomenon of "flash mobs" and not of the amusing kind. He connects the problem with other social trends, and concludes that it is yet another way that the Progressive consensus is failing. He notes the:
Growing public perception that sixties liberalism doesn't work undermines the consensus for sixties racial as well as immigration and economic policy.
The trouble is that the Progressive branch of liberalism cannot function without the myth that there is a consensus about what comes next. Without agreement that things must move in a particular direction, a living constitution cannot function.
Not long ago, Secretary of State Clinton described piracy as a "17th century problem." Mrs. Clinton noted that we still have piracy today, and was pointing to what she regarded as an anomaly. Aristotle, of course, said that piracy is one of the five natural ways by which men put bread on their table. By that, I take him to be saying that there always will be pirates among us. The idea that certain ideas, habits, customs, ways of life, moral beliefs, etc. belong to certain ages is not natural. It is a particular idea. That idea might be under stress, too. As Mead notes in another recent post:
For two generations markets have mostly thought of risk in terms of tame risk: the risk that an asset might lose some of its value, the risk that a particular counterparty might not fulfill its side of a transaction. But now we are back to the world of real risk or wild risk: the risk that a currency might disappear, the risk that a major government (as opposed to the occasional banana republic) might default on its debts, the risk that a financial crisis could erupt and that no government, no central bank could limit its scope or temper its impact.
After the Berlin Wall fell Jesus Jones sang that we were "watching the world wake up from history." Perhaps we're seeing the end of History in Hegel's sense, and the return of history, in the classic sense. Perhaps the change is not so dramatic. Ever since Adams and Jefferson began their argument, the American mind (if there be such) has been torn on this question. Ending the debate might have serious consequences.
The diversity racket in action:
For those unfamiliar with TV staffing, the networks have initiatives that require most shows to set aside one staff position for a writer of diverse descent. The diversity hire is often the only writer on staff whose salary does not come out of the show's budget, but is paid by the network . . .
Here is what mostly happened: My agent pitched me on the phone as a diversity candidate, but once at the meetings my appearance confused people.
"Your father must be very light-skinned," one executive said.
When I told another that my paternal grandparents were interracially married in the 1940s, having met as founding members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), she said, "So really, you are only a quarter black. You have more white blood than black blood."
Good to see that Hollywood rejects the one drop rule.
Michele Bachmann has called on the President to propose enough cuts to balance the budget for this year. Okay. Representative Bachmann voted for the Ryan budget, which cut 111 billion from the 2012 federal budget. The 2012 Ryan budget resolution Bachmann voted for still had a 995 billion dollar deficit. I would love to see the 995 billion dollars of cuts Bachmann wants in order to balance next year's Ryan budget without any tax increases. Here are some of the Ryan budget's numbers to play with (in billions and please forgive the formatting):
Global War on Terror 118
Social Security 760
Other Mandatory 408
Net Interest 256
Bachmann is on record as wanting to "stay the course" in Afghanistan (and good for her), so there isn't much chance for savings in the 118 billion dollar GWOT category. To be fair, Bachmann didn't call on herself to propose enough cuts to balance the budget in one year without any tax increases. So it isn't like she is a hypocrite.
Tax hikes conservatives can support, according to Glenn Reynolds:
One of the things that's been floating around the Web over the past week is a video clip from 1953. . . . seeking the end of a 20 percent excise tax on movie theaters' gross revenues that had been imposed at the end of World War II as a deficit-cutting measure. (Yes, gross, not net).
In the film, figures ranging from industry big shots to humble ticket collectors talk about how the tax is hurting their industry and killing jobs, and ask Congress to repeal the tax. [Which Congress did] . . .
Were I a Republican senator or representative, I would be agitating to repeal the "Eisenhower tax cut" on the movie industry and restore the excise tax. . . .
I'd also look at the tax and accounting treatment of these industries to see if they were taking advantage of any special "loopholes" that could be closed as a means of reducing "tax expenditures." (Answer: Yes, they are.)
Professor Reynolds also notes that government employees often get a big salary bump when they go to work for the very industries they have been busy regulating, (or writing regulations for):
Because much of their value to their employers comes from their prior government service, I think that the taxpayers deserve a share of the return, say in the form of a 50 percent surtax on any earnings by political appointees in excess of their prior government salaries for the first five years after they leave office.
If memory serves, he has elsewhere suggested a windfall profits tax on lawyers in class action settlemnts.
I'm sure we can come up with some other taxes that conservaties might support.
I would second Ken's praise of the sage Sage especially in this one respect: there is very little chance that the forthcoming super committee will produce a deal that will be the framework for a long-term left/right compromise in crafting a sustainable budget If the differences between the two parties were the differences between Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell on the Republican side and Erskine Bowles and Alice Rivlin on the Democratic side, then a long-term and fairly stable compromise would probably be in sight. The problem is that Rivlin and Bowles don't anchor the Democratic side of the debate at the national level. The Democratic side is best understood by looking at the policy implications of President Obama's speech in response to the Ryan budget. The implications of Obama's approach are broadly higher taxes (unarticulated, but implicit in his domestic discretionary spending and Social Security policy postures) and centralized bureaucratically administered Medicare cuts. I see no reason to believe that President Obama is, on these matters, to the left of his party's House or Senate leadership
This means that any deal that comes out of the super committee is going to be some kind of short-term tactical maneuvering or else be rejected by one or both sides. The Democrats will come around to a deal that conservatives can somewhat stomach under two scenarios. First, if the political environment is such that agreeing to some slightly watered down version of the Republican policy agenda is their best chance for political survival (which is to say that Republicans have won the argument on spending levels and the restructuring of entitlements.) There is no reason for the Democrats to believe that the Republicans have won the argument on those issues. Second, Obama and the Democrats get blamed for some national and/or international calamity that allows the Republicans to back into control of the presidency and working control of both houses of Congress thereby allowing them to unilaterally enact the Ryan agenda. This is a possible outcome, but one that is deeply irresponsible to bet on.
It also happens that there isn't a lot of time for the Good Luck Fairy to come to the rescue of the Republicans. Douglas Holtz-Eakin is explaining to anyone who will listen that we are headed for a fiscal crisis within the decade. If we wait until the crisis is upon us, then the choices are going to be brutal. It is easier to quickly raise taxes than to responsibly reduce entitlement programs aimed at the elderly. It is easier to quickly get bureaucrats to deny services than to introduce market-oriented innovation into Medicare. And we are running out of time. The closer we get to the crisis, the harder it will be to avoid Bernie Sanders(ish) policies of taxation and entitlement reform. A reelected President Obama, having no hope or fear of facing the voters again, would not be someone the congressional Republican leaders should want to deal with in case of a fiscal crisis in late 2013.
That means that the Sage is right on the most important thing. We have to beat'em. That means a different President. It is only prudent that Republicans assume that they will only win if they earn it. That being the case, it also means that the Republican candidate would ideally be one who can explain right-leaning reforms that would lead to a sustainable budget while reassuring the voters that they are competent and responsible enough to see those reforms through in a humane way.
I kind of like the goats, especially those on the Sage of Mt. Airy's farm, where I blog from today. The Sage dissects Dr. Charles Krauthammer (a former Hubert Humphrey speechwriter, btw) on the debt deal.
To begin, removing "loopholes" has only lately, and conveniently, become a demand of the American Left. The fact is, various loopholes, alongside a progressive income tax scheme with multiple and increasing marginal rates have historically been the bedrock of liberal tax policy....
With all due respect to Dr. Krauthammer, the only sure solution to the debt crisis is the very real prospect of electoral defeat by the Democrats, not contracting clever deals with them.
RTWT. And scroll down to read the Sage beating up on many conservatives who caved to liberals and shunned the Tea Party on the debt negotiations.
"The Obama administration is after your Lucky Charms, or at least your children's":
Put forward by an interagency working group, the guidelines will establish nutritional standards that most cereals flunk--and not just those of the "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs" variety. Corn Flakes will not be advertisable to children, along with Raisin Bran, Special K, Rice Krispies, and Wheaties. Plain Cheerios squeak by the proposed 2016 rules but fall foul of the "ultimate goal" for sodium effective in 2021.
While cereals are the most obvious targets of the guidelines, all foods marketed to children will have to meet the proposed nutritional standards. Many don't. Peanut butter (both smooth and crunchy) has too much saturated fat. Jelly has too much sugar. Forget about apple-cinnamon instant oatmeal and Mott's apple sauce.
My sense is that we're getting close to a tipping point with these kinds of regulations. One of the things that energizes the tea party, Bill notes below, is that Americans are getting tired of being told what to do in all kinds of small ways. Speaking of hope and change . . .
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Coolidge style, Charles Johnson notes:
Like the current administration, the Harding-Coolidge administration faced a tough recession from 1919-1921. But unlike the current administration, the Harding-Coolidge and Coolidge-Dawes administrations cut taxes, balanced budgets and slashed government spending, reducing federal debt by over a third in a decade.
The economy grew, averaging just over 7% from 1924 to 1929, the years of his presidency. So did Coolidge's popularity. He was so popular that even during the Great Depression's height song-writer Cole Porter compared his lover to the "Coolidge dollar."
Coolidge also saw how government efforts to help often did nothing of the sort:
For Coolidge, then, fiscal matters were a moral question that tested the founding-era premise that free people can govern themselves. He encouraged Americans to "begin to work and save," in good and bad times. Only "our productive capacity," he told Depression-era readers in his autobiography, published in 1929, "is sufficient to maintain us all in a state of prosperity if we give sufficient attention to thrift and industry."
That productive capacity, Coolidge knew, was sapped by the spendthrift--he called it "socialistic"--notions of government that sought to be all things to all people. Coolidge, making note of federal farm subsidies and flood insurance, criticized the thinking of "expect[ing] the government in some miraculous way to save us from the consequences of our own acts."
So I was watching some of the 3:00 PM MSNBC show. The host summed up the over-the top Maureen Dowd column where she compared Tea Party supporters to cannibals, vampires, zombies, and he chest bursters from Alien. There was actually something that was worth talking about in the column. It was the part where Dowd quotes Jason Zinoman as saying "The monster has traditionally been a stand-in for some anxiety, political, social, or cultural." That is a pretty good jumping off point for talking about how liberal attempts to demonize and dehumanize Tea Party supporters (terrorists, vampires etc.) says a lot about how many on the left-of-center hate and fear the thought of a determined, democratic opposition that uses peaceful, constitutional means.
So the MSNBC host brought on a guest and they proceeded to describe Tea Party supporters as delusional and psychotic and compared them to addicts and the Norway mass murdering terrorist. All in the name of rationality of course.
Remember the Spotted Owl? Apparently, not only are our efforts to save it failing miserably, . . . (subscriber link only):
The truth is that no one fully understands why the spotted owl continues to decline. The rise of the barred owl poses an unexpected, but not surprising, complication. If the natural world would just remain static, species preservation and ecological management would be far simpler. But Mother Nature relishes competition, and the barred owl is a fierce competitor. Are we really prepared to send armed federal agents into Northwest forests in search of barred owls?
But also, those failed effofts also cost many many jobs?
In the 1980s, before the owl was listed as threatened, nearly 200 sawmills dotted the state of Oregon, churning out eight billion board feet of federal timber a year. Today fewer than 80 mills process only 600 million board feet of federal timber. In Douglas County, for example, several mills dependent on federal timber have closed. Real unemployment in many Oregon counties exceeds 20%, double the national average.
Your tax dollars hard at work.
More evidence that a regulatory holiday would be a good way to get the economy moving.
After Vice President Biden compard the Tea Party to "terrorists," and various members of the Left has used similarly strong language. In light of Lefty calls for "civility" in our discourse, many conservatives are having fun pointing out the hypocrisy of the Left. Pete Wehner, for example, has a little fun:
I don't know about you, but it's not quite clear to me how accusing one's (law-abiding) fellow citizens of being terrorists and part of the "Hezbollah faction of the GOP" helps us to heal and sharpens our instincts for empathy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say those words are meant to wound. You might even conclude from what liberals are saying the Tea Party Movement is comprised of people who aren't simply wrong but who don't love their country.
Moe Lane suggests that "liberals are in deep, deep denial about their own incivility issues," pointing, in particular to a New York Times column complaining about the recent debt deal:
"Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them." He adds: "Much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people." These "intransigent" spending cutters were indifferent to "blowing up the country" in pursuit of their goals.
I would suggest that what we really have here is a teachable moment. Liberals may be in denial, but that's nothing new. The Left is in deep denial about human nature. Contention, in most cases, is not a problem; it is a sign of a healty polity. When we are arguing about serious things, we inevitably will use heated language. A friend of mine likes to joke that Americans don't need sensitivity training. On the contrary, he says, we need "insensitivity training." We need to accept that life can be difficult, that tempers can flare, and that sometimes we use heated rhetoric.
Civility has its place, but so do polemics. The issue isn't Lefty hypocrisy; it is Lefty utopianism.
Divine comedy from Paul Simms in The New Yorker.
UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I've come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I've done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.
"No Left Turns," in Hangul (Korean).
I'm taking a driving test tomorrow. My cultural pain is your educational gain. NLT is a global force!
My esteemed colleague Pete, on the debt fracas, below: "the whole controversy was ugly and at most minimally productive." To the contrary, I think this was the most important constitutional debate in memory (other than Obamacare, though I admit I am getting old and forgetful). I wonder whether the Tea Party critics have ever purchased a car. Do they pay the sticker price? They used the power they had to educate the people on our disastrous situation. Would the public be more aware of the crisis had a routine raise been voted through?
My high esteem for Senator Coburn has increased. He exposed Grover Norquist's odd accounting on what constitutes a tax increase: Cutting a subsidy (ethanol) would be a tax increase, in Norquist's view. If that's the case, then reform without a tax increase is impossible. To be fair, a cut in the subsidy would hurt the industry being subsidized and cost jobs, etc. The press coverage of the new law emphasizes the temporary harm to the economy, caused by a cut in public spending, though the reforms will have a good long-term effect.
As with Obamacare, the debt ceiling bill exposed Washington's ways. What shocks us about Washington procedure is in fact routine. Congress passes laws that no one reads through and that grant the real law-making power to bureaucracies. That is the problem. That is what the Tea Party, for whatever naievete it exhibits, has exposed: Our routines are rotten.
Lawyers for Romney include Judge Bork, Mary Ann Glendon, Lee Casey, David Rivkin, Gary McDowell (actually not a J.D. lawyer), Wendy Long, Jeffrey Rosen--huh, Jeff Rosen!?--and many other legal luminaries beloved of Beltway conservatives.
I'm glad there was a debt ceiling deal and that the federal government didn't face a funding crisis, but the whole controversy was ugly and at most minimally productive. Watching the fury and wailing on MSNBC made me feel better for a moment, but...
All that political friction, intra-Republican fighting, going to the edge of disaster, and we got one trillion dollars of back loaded cuts to discretionary spending and some cuts to be named later. And we still haven't come close to dealing with the real health care and entitlement-related drivers of our unsustainable budget deficits. It reminds me of the nominally center-right Karamanlis government in Greece. It was in power from 2004-2009. The Karamanlis government would announce a policy to incrementally liberalize some tiny corner of the labor market or to privatize this or that. There would be protests and carrying on. Sometimes the Karamanlis government would back down and sometimes it wouldn't. The Greek state and economy continued heading for the rocks at the same speed. The fights the Greek center-right took on were the best sign that neither the politicians, nor the public were willing to tackle real issues.
Comparisons shouldn't be pressed too far. Most conservative Republicans are much more serious about producing a sustainable level of government spending and a competitive economy than was the last center-right Greek government. But they are making a similar strategic mistake. The long-term structure of government spending is almost as important as the level of spending. Winning public opinion battles now and implementing incremental changes in the next several years is more important than the size of spending cuts enacted for this year or next.
How we cut is just as important (politically even more important) that how much we cut. The potential across-the-board Medicare provider cuts in the new agreement are stupid as policy and unsustainable as politics. As Reihan Salam points out, " winning deep cuts in FY 2012, which really could be destimulative, isn't nearly as important as getting buy-in on some version of premium support from grassroots conservatives, moderates, and elected Democrats" I would extend the point to include changes to the health care sector in general rather than just Medicare.
But how to do that? First, let's start from where we are. The structure of the provider cuts in the debt ceiling agreement, along with the Medicare cuts in Obamacare, along with IPAB should be on the lips of everybody on the center-right. This is what Medicare in an Obama second term will look like. It will be some combination of meat cleaver program cuts drawn up by politicians in midnight meetings and denials of care managed by unaccountable bureaucrats. And as Obamacare unravels the private insurance market, we can expect most Democrats to try to move Americans into a Medicare-like system for everybody. That is a Mediscare I can get behind.
We also need a plan of our own. Salam likes Domenici-Rivlin. I like Capretta-Miller. The Ryan Plan in the PTP isn't quite good enough as either policy or politics. It probably doesn't budget enough money for Medicare, and outright ending the FFS program for future retirees is both too scary for marginal voters and might not even be ideal policy in some circumstances (like rural areas.)
We also need to incrementally move the ball on health care for the under-65 crowd. One way to do so would be to form alliances with state and municipal-level elected officials to let them enroll their employees in Indiana-style HSA/catastrophic health care plans. This could save state and local governments (and taxpayers) money while increasing the take home pay of their workers and increasing the constituency form market-oriented health care reform. That kind of regulatory change would be worth twice as much as this week's debt ceiling deal.
Conservatives are right to be unhappy with the debt ceiling deal, but the problem isn't that it didn't cut enough. The problem isn't that the House Republicans weren't willing to jump into a government funding crisis in order to insist on a balanced budget amendment that wasn't going to happen. The problem was that we weren't even arguing about the kinds of programmatic changes that we need and that there is no consensus for those kinds of change in either the Congress (what with Democratic control of the Senate), the White House or the country. Getting that consensus is the political challenge of our time.
"What has been really striking has been the eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe but from the party's leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was "Armageddon." The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee's chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on "the firing line." And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.
All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh things to say about former President George W. Bush -- but you'll search in vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party officials." Paul Krugman
"They have acted like terrorists." Joe Biden
Yes, I remember hearing that somewhere. And it seems to be the theme of foreign critics, who can only bring themselves to admit America's greatness when they want something from us (which they lack the greatness to do themselves). Foreign nations have been sharply critical of the U.S. for putting their delicate nerves in a flutter with our down-to-the-wire debate over the debt-ceiling. That cuddly Russian dictator Vladimir Putin went so far as to call Americans "parasites" on the global economy "living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy."
It seldom occurs to foreigners that we have great power precisely because we don't act as they act. Europeans have plenty of fiscal beams in their own eyes to divert them from the speck in ours. And yet, uncomfortable as it is for me to agree with a Russian, Putin is partially correct. America has been living beyond its means and, as a result, has been a drag on the global economy.
But Putin misses the fundamental point that it was precisely a battle to reject ruinous, European-style, beyond-our-means spending which just occurred in the American Congress - and, for the most part, the fiscally-responsible Republicans were victorious. While foreigners are relieved that Republicans will not cause America to default on its fiscal obligations, they fail to appreciate the broader and more important point that Republicans just forced the nation to take a small, first-step toward avoiding the bankruptcy and default endemic to Europe.
Long ago, Europeans lost the stomach for conflict - militarily, socially and politically. America has just concluded an important battle in a larger war of political philosophy. It was ugly and uncertain, but worth fighting. We recognized the potential consequences of a prolonged conflict and so sued for peace before the sun had fully set. That is, we waged war while observing responsible rules of engagement.
As the powerful American economy controls the temperament of the global economy, Europeans may be expected to protest when American strife sweeps the economic seas into a tempest and causes them fright. But they fail to understand that it is precisely this continuing civil conflict which has sustained our great power and preserved us from becoming like them.
Quote of the Day
Everyone is noting that Vice President Biden called the Tea Party "terrorists," but I think Representative Doyle's comment is more illuminating:
"We have negotiated with terrorists," an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. "This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money."
That says wonders about how Congressional Democrats see their job.
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