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."