Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


What the Candidates are Reading

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. 

Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

The Siege of Tripoli

In a startling turnaround, the rebel forces in Libya have launched an offensive that has brought under their control most of the major resources of the nation and isolated Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. As the rebel army advanced on Zawiya, a strategic city about thirty miles from the ancient city, people began to flee from Gaddafi's capital. Over the past week, more and more of his allies have defected or fled. Surrounded by insurgents to the south, east, and west, and facing a NATO blockade to the north, the Mad Dog has been cut off. As of now, an unusual level of explosions are being heard throughout the capital city and a rebel leader has announced on Al Jazeera that the rebels are working with NATO forces to lay siege to Tripoli right now and finally undo the tyrant Gaddafi.

Though there are now rumors circulating that Gaddafi may have fled with his remaining sons, even if this were true it would not necessarily mean everyone in his government would give up without a fight. The rebel forces are prone to poor strategic mistakes and infighting, and would be unlikely to capture the fortified city without a long, bloody siege. Additionally, I fail to see how much NATO planes flying thousands of feet in the air will be able to help rebels fighting in a city as densely populated as Tripoli. Unless an airstrike gets lucky and kills off the tyrant and his inner circle, or unless he really has fled and his allies surrender, the hopes for rebel success in Tripoli are dim. If it is discovered that we ended up putting any boots on the ground during this siege, and if Congress just lets the president off with maybe a stern resolution for doing such a thing, I will have officially lost hope in our future as well.

In any event, Gaddafi's days are numbered and there will be a new Libya to reckon with. While reckoning with this crisis on the Mediterranean ought to have been a European problem, we have been dragged into it and thus have some sort of interest in what post-Gaddafi Libya looks like. When the strongman is gone, there are several troubling scenarios that could erupt-- a protracted civil war between the various tribes and/or the rise of Islamist groups chief among them. I think it is unlikely that the tribal factions will join together peacefully under a new government; at least not initially. When they are done fighting Gaddafi, they will begin fighting each other. The war has also ruined Libya's oil capabilities for at least the near future, meaning whatever comes up will be mostly bankrupt as well. In response to this, President Obama and other NATO nations will feel some need to get involved and begin yet another failed experiment in nation-building.

As said, this should be a European problem. It's France's mess; let France handle peacekeeping and humanitarian aid. But, with the Eurozone collapsing and the Europeans always being squeamish about these things, they will try get "NATO" (IE: the USA) to handle all the hard work. We cannot remain embroiled in the Libyan Civil War. We can hardly manage Iraq and Afghanistan as it is, have to keep an eye on growing problems posed by Iran, and are dealing with our own debt crisis that is likely going to include some cuts in defense spending. Leave this mess to the Europeans and the Libyans. Let the rebels handle the siege of Tripoli, and then let them try to sleep in the bed they've made. We ought not be as involved as we are now, and we simply cannot get more involved.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Apple Provides Perspective

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...?

Categories > Economy


Feeling Badly

Too amusing not to notice, from Jay Nordlinger.
Categories > Education


"We May Have Been Tricked"

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." ~Senator Barack Obama, Feb. 5, 2008 (following Super Tuesday).

I spent last night listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl with some friends and family, all hopelessly liberal. Conversation drifted towards politics, and frustration with politics, and annoyance with this Tea Party thing, fear of Congresswoman Bachman and Governor Perry, and disenchantment with Barack Obama. There was frustration at his foreign policy, his weakness in the debt debate, and many other domestic policies of his. One in the party said something I found to be very telling, and very important, when asked if the president might yet still improve. "I don't know. I don't think he really believes what he campaigned on. I think we may have been tricked." That is, even in Hollywood are former admirers of President Obama beginning to think that he may just be a normal politician more interested in reelection and legacy than anything else. Telling.

On a related note, I stumbled across an old JibJab video with a comic President Bush reviewing the year 2005. Among the problems that Bush sings about are terrorists, Kim Jong-Il throwing fits, pirates in Somalia, a nutjob in Iran, problems in the Gaza Strip, a rising deficit, low approval ratings in the United States, low approval ratings in Europe, high gas prices, scandals with allies in Congress, scandals in the White House, Gitmo, and economic woes. Last time, Barack Obama campaigned on change-- leaving the woes and actions of the Bush Administration. Though all signs indicate that he plans to still run as a Washington-outsider, man of the people, hope and change type, that is going to be a lot harder to do. That's the problem when you try to portray yourself as a radical harbinger of change in a wonderfully divided constitutional republic. Like McCain was to many conservatives in 2008, Obama will be to many liberals in 2012-- the least undesirable candidate. Having only won the popular vote by ten million votes in 2008, with all the hype surrounding him, this should worry the president-- whose victories in North Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania were narrow enough that a drop in enthusiasm among activists from "the change we've been waiting for" to "we may have been tricked" could dramatically alter the electoral map in 2012. This is the GOP's race to lose.

(Another interesting addendum-- in conversation of potential GOP candidates, there seemed to be some admiration of Chris Christie. While none would vote for him, they were drawn to his personality and how unlike a usual politician he is. This could be good.)
Categories > Elections


Has Obama Lost His Mojo?

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.

Categories > Elections

Literature, Poetry, and Books

The Devil's Music?

Did Robert Johnson, the most famous blues musician, sell His Soul to the Devil? Did he make a Faustian bargain?  Are these stories about the crossroads and the murder true?  Ted Gioia writes a good essay which refuses to sanitize the issue. It was a serious issue for Johnson and his contemporaries, listen to Me and the Devil Blues or ("one of the most powerful blues ever recorded", says Gioia) to "Hellhound on My Trail" for confirmation.  Gioia thinks it is time to give the Devil his due.  I like this quote from Eric Clapton: "Up until the time I was 25 if you didn't know who Robert Johnson was I wouldn't talk to you."


Obama's Secret Jobs Plan

Only 31 months into his presidency and Barack Obama is now set to unveil a plan to create jobs in the United States. While some sources say that the plan may include an attempt to curb the rising costs of healthcare (which the President has admitted his Healthcare law did not do), waste more tax dollars on stimulus spending (because it's obviously worked so well over the past few years), fix the debt problem (which was impossible for him to do back when his party controlled the entire federal government), or fight space aliens (oh wait, that's just Paul Krugman being insane), I have a different theory.

President Obama's plan to create jobs in the United States is to use the all-powerful Internet Kill Switch that Congress is contemplating giving him. Then, without the Internet and all the other wonders of technology, Americans will finally be able to have jobs, because obviously Price Line Negotiator and eBay are stealing jobs along with those pesky ATMs. Later phases of his job plan will include getting rid of motors so that horse trainers and carriage makers can get work, abolishing fast food restaurants in order to create more job opportunities for waiters, ordering that all clothing be hand-sewn and all toys be hand-carved, and having the federal government revert to communicating solely through written letters individually hand-delivered by personal secretaries and pages. Only then will we be able to live in a prosperous country. Sounds like a winner to me.
Categories > Economy

Political Philosophy

What Happened to Obama? Absolutely Nothing.

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.


Obama Losing on the Issues

While President Obama's dismal 39% approval rating made news this week, his newly released approval ratings on the issues are even more disastrous.

Obama Approval.gif

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.

Further, these numbers would be far, far worse except for the resiliency (some would say obliviousness) of Democrats.Obama Approval by Party.gif

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.

Categories > Elections


3 More Endorsements for Perry

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.

Categories > Elections


Churchill and Welfare

Over at the American Scholar, George Watson makes an attempt to take Winston Churchill and hold him up as a darling of the Left and the founder of the British welfare state. This "forgotten Churchill" ought to be remembered not just for his war leadership and stubborn defiance of Hitler and Nazism, argues Watson, but for his creation of the National Health Service and fighting sweatshops. While it is true that Churchill engaged in creating social insurances as a young politician, his reasons for doing so were far, far different than the Left's-- he wanted to prop up some welfare programs in order to stem the advance of socialism, which is why most socialists in the United Kingdom fought against his measures (as Watson rightfully points out). As Steven Hayward draws attention to at Power Line, Churchill did not support social engineering and never thought that government central planning could be smarter than the marketplace. He acknowledged the fact that higher taxes are not the road to prosperity, embraced a pre-Hayekian opposition to central economic planning, and thought that socialism and all its ilk was dangerous and immoral.

Churchill spent his entire life seeking to fight what he saw as a war for the very character and existence of all that is great in Western civilization, from Nazism to communism to their parent socialism. For that he will never, ever be forgotten. That supporters of an expansive welfare state would reach to take the memory of Winston Churchill and twist it to try support their purposes speaks both to the greatness of the man and their desperation to bulk up their increasingly unjustified positions. As Hayward says, "I'm glad Obama sent the Oval Office Churchill bust back to London. It would soil the memory of the great man if Obama kept it around."
Categories > History


Keep the Internet Free

In the wake of the riots in London, the rise of dangerous "flash mobs" around the United States and Europe, and protests from the San Francisco Bay to Green Bay, Western authorities are increasingly looking to follow in the footsteps of such upstanding people as Hosni Mubarak, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hu Jintao in targeting social media and mass communication as they grapple to restore order. This is a dangerous, unjust, and immoral vein of thought that is atypical of the dictators of the world who are so desperate to maintain power that they neglect that which is causing unrest. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron has told Parliament that he is considering banning people from sites like Facebook and Twitter while ordering news broadcasters to comply with police by surrendering unused footage of criminal activity to the authorities. This ignores the fact that the private owners of things like YouTube, Twitter, and Blackberry are usually more than willing to regulate themselves (YouTube is constantly taking down terrorist propaganda) and assist authorities with addressing criminal activities and handling emergencies (as Blackberry did during the recent riots in London).

Meanwhile the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco cut off cellphone usage in an attempt to stop planned protests against BART and police for the fatal shooting of a homeless man. In light of flash mobs--which are groups of mostly young people that organize usually on the Internet for a surprise mass action, sometimes for something humorous like a "spontaneous" dance but recently for actions of violence and thievery in places like Cleveland, Philadelphia, and the Wisconsin State Fair--some authorities are considering extending PATRIOT Act-like infringements on privacy to social networking and texting services or cutting people off from them (Philadelphia recently decided just to institute a curfew on young people and not attack the Internet). Citing the need to protect the nation from a serious cyber attack, Congress has been working to grant the President the extraordinary authority to use a "kill switch" to turn off the Internet in the event of an emergency (on that note, it is worth mentioning that President Obama has declared more disasters and emergencies than any of his predecessors).

While people do use social media and communications technology for dangerous, violent, and bad things, that does not merit the government attacking the entire system. Regulating or banning social media because a minority uses it for evil things would be akin to shutting off television because someone says something offensive or prohibiting protests because the Westboro Baptists are vile human beings who say cruel and hurtful things. Though cybersecurity is a serious issue that must be looked at and dealt with, it must be done so in a way that does not endanger people's rights to speech and privacy. Instead of clamping down on communications, BART and the UK and others should instead look at what is causing these acts and address those causations, not take away tools that are the right of all society to possess.
Categories > Technology



Having received an unexpected two week break from things in Washington, yesterday I hopped on a plane back to my native Los Angeles for some rest, relaxation, and visiting friends and family. Despite once more having to raise my hands over my head as if I were some criminal during the body-scanner, the trip through the TSA security checkpoint was far less annoying than it had been in recent trips of mine, thanks in part due to the few people traveling. I napped between Cleveland and Chicago, reread Bastiat's The Law between Chicago and Las Vegas, and tuned in to my iPod. In Vegas I did not switch planes; we just dumped off most of the rest of the passengers and took in a few more. Having chatted off-and-on with the crew during the flight and while waiting on the runway, they gave me a complimentary beer and some extra crackers. The plane was mostly empty when we pulled away from the gate, and I had the row to myself; a relief to these lanky legs of mine that constantly yearn for some stretching room. A woman and her two boys filled in the row behind me, and as we took off began to argue with each other over who would get to sit by the window. 

Once up in the air, I glanced over my should at the two of them gawking out the tiny window at the wide world below us, a look of wonder on their faces. I myself glanced outside my own window at the red desert, rocks, and mountains, flying between clear blue sky and some large white clouds. It was the first time in a few years that I had really been unable to draw my eyes away from this view, and reminded me of this wonderful invention of human flight. Here I was, sitting on a chair in the sky with a beer in hand and music in my ears, in apparent defiance of that earthly umbilical cord that is gravity, seeing as far away as untold billions in history have only been able to dream of seeing. When less than an hour later the plane landed on the runway at Burbank airport, I had traveled thousands of miles in just a few hours. What a wonderful and often-underappreciated thing is flying.
Categories > Leisure

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Robert Burns in the morning

We know that Lincoln loved Shakespeare and knew much of it by heart.  But he also loved Robert Burns, the affirmer of honest poverty, from a very early age.  Burns is wonderful aloud, which is the only way they would have read him then (so should we now).  Good earthy language of love and liberty and the common man; his language is often vulgar, often very funny narrative, short quips being his virtue.  Some of Lincoln's favorites were: Tam O'Shanter and Epistle to a Young Friend.  Here is one of Burns' fine love poems, this to his wife:

I love my Jean

Of a' the airts the wind can blaw
I dearly like the west,
For there the bonie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo'e best.
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between,
But day and night my fancy's flight
Is ever wi' my Jean.
I see her in the dewy flowers -
I see her sweet and fair.
I hear her in the tuneful birds -
I hear her charm the air.
There's not a bonie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green,
There's not a bonie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.


Paranoid Style, Alive and Well

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.

Categories > History


Art Parodying Life

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?

Categories > Presidency


The Republican Trinity

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.

Categories > Elections


Gas Tax Repeal

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.

Categories > Economy


Bush's Troubling Legacy?

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.

Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Morality: A Luxury Item?

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.

Categories > Pop Culture

Pop Culture

Western Civ Story?

Arthur Herman's post arguing that John Dollard is the real man behind the riots, reminds me that roughly the same idea was set to music a few years ago:

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,
We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good! 

Categories > Pop Culture


Obama's 39%

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.

Categories > Elections


The Day After

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.

Categories > Politics


Narrative Fail

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

Categories > Politics


Pawlenty Quits

Pawlenty-Bachmann 2012

- 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.

Categories > Elections


What's Wrong With Iowa?

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."

Categories > Elections