Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Parties

Michelle Bachmann

George Will's portrait of Rep. Michelle Bachmann reminds me that some very good politicians come about their virtues naturally, while others spend their time constructing them.  Here is the New York Times portrait of her from a few weeks ago.  Surprise, it's not as favorable.

Categories > Political Parties


"He's Got a Bullhorn in his Hand Everyday . . ."

. . . but he doesn't seem to understand that he owns the rubble.  Recalling the moment when it became clear that President George W. Bush owned his presidency--September 14, 2001 when he stood amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center with bullhorn in hand telling the terrorists that they'd soon hear from us--Peggy Noonan today argues that Obama's problem is that he won't take on the rubble and he won't put down the bullhorn. 

The tell, she suggests, is in his defensive posture amidst the rubble of crumbling poll numbers and waning support from independents who--she notes--now look more like Republicans than Democrats in their stated political concerns.  But Obama is a man used to playing the long game (something I'd suggest too many Republicans seem to forget about him).  Further, he is a man who, "seems in general to stick to a course once he's chosen it, though arguably especially when he's wrong."  As with most striking aspects of a man's character, Obama's virtue can be his vice.  He claims to represent the vanguard of the political scene . . . to be the man with "vision" and the courage to take us to broad sunlit uplands of hope with the change necessary to get there.  But does he really "see" or does he merely hope?  Is he really a man gifted with "vision" or does he simply cling to "dreams" (whether they are his or his fathers?) in the way that he might suggest a Pennsylvania farmer clings to his God and his guns?  Shifting tactics with a single-minded purpose is one thing.  Intransigent disregard for the will of the people is quite another.

Noonan seems to think that the truth is that Obama is a poor reader of the political landscape--and, more particularly, of his fellow Americans.  (Her line on his "g" dropping is spot on.)  Obama is trying to force a template to fit the current political atmosphere in a way that just doesn't apply.  Key graph:

The problem isn't his personality, it's his policies. His problem isn't what George W. Bush left but what he himself has done. It is a problem of political judgment, of putting forward bills that were deeply flawed or off-point. Bailouts, the stimulus package, cap-and-trade; turning to health care at the exact moment in history when his countrymen were turning their concerns to the economy, joblessness, debt and deficits--all of these reflect a misreading of the political terrain. They are matters of political judgment, not personality. (Republicans would best heed this as they gear up for 2010: Don't hit him, hit his policies. That's where the break with the people is occurring.)

Very well said, indeed.

Categories > Presidency


Fox in the Chickencoop?

As I rarely parse an Obama speech and I never watch Fox news (not getting it and other cable news in my basic cable package, so I have no idea who Glen Beck is), maybe I can offer some unprejudiced insight into the recent contretemps.  Krauthammer attempts a principled objection--though he misses the point about Madisonian factions:  Factions are not "legitimate"; they are by definition unjust groups, who misuse the fundamental commitment to liberty.  So the real objection to Obama's shunning of Fox (he spent a couple hours before a group of leftist journalists dismissing it as "talk radio") is his assault on liberty--his misunderstanding of the freedom of the press.

For all their leftist inclinations, a significant number of journalists don't want to be known as anyone's stooge.  The Fox infection will spread quicker than the swine flu.

As evidence see the NY Times on Fox's effect on the MSM:

White House officials said [...] they noticed a column by Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The Times, in which [leftist Clarence Thomas hater] Jill Abramson, one of the paper's two managing editors, described her newsroom's "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." The Washington Post's executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, had already expressed similar concerns about his newsroom....

"This is a discussion that probably had to be had about their approach to things," [Obama political strategist David] Axelrod said. "Our concern is other media not follow their lead."

In fact, perhaps the most effective media purveyor of conservatism (next to Rush and Fox) is C-Span radio and news.  (Have I let the cat out of the bag?)  For without its coverage of otherwise obscure think-tank speakers and panels, many eminent conservative voices would get no significant hearing at all.  And their book programs may be the best thing on tv (save the excellent baseball playoffs this year).

Categories > Journalism


Virginia Lost for Dems?

Just in case anyone is in doubt about the outcome of the Virginia governor's race, note this article from the Washington Post.  It begins: "Sensing that victory in the race for Virginia governor is slipping away, Democrats at the national level are laying the groundwork to blame a loss in a key swing state on a weak candidate who ran a poor campaign that failed to fully embrace President Obama until days before the election."
Perhaps even more significant, note that in this poll 31% of blacks support the Republican McDonnell.

Categories > Elections


Are There Any "Right" Lights in the Big Cities?

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis have a smart and compelling conversation with Michael Anton, former speechwriter to many Republican politicians (for these purposes, most notably including former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani), about what it might take to see viable Republican candidates in coastal big city politics.  Anton's answer, in short, is to be careful what you wish for.  Things would have to be very bad indeed, for Republicans to fare well in most coastal urban settings.  His long answer, however, is both more satisfying and more illuminating.  He spans a broad spectrum of issues from the nature and purpose of the Republican party and the direction in which it is now heading to the more practical questions of how Republican politicians might gain both rhetorical and strategic headway in an atmosphere that seems so intransigently stacked against them; a useful thing to contemplate, I'd suggest, for the broader national political scene as well.  In it, I think, there may be something to learn for purposes of contrast and comparison between . . . oh, I don't know . . . a Sarah Palin type of candidate  v. a Liz Cheney figure?  Not that either of them could ever win a race for dog catcher in NYC . . . but there are broader principles offered up for your consideration in this discussion that might certainly apply.

Then, too, there's a bonus bit offered at the end for those of you contemplating the nation's declining sartorial situation.   Could the election of Obama really mean the end of the tie?  Previous recessions have at least had the benefit of suggesting to people the notion of taking greater care in their attire.  But despite the current recession, the tie seems to be losing ground.  Anton, means to do what he can (which, despite the publication of this fine work, appears not to be much) to stand athwart the tailor's table shouting, "NO!"
Categories > Politics


Please Don't Stimulate Me!

This table shows that since passing the stimulus package--which, you will remember, was promised and supposed to "save or create" millions of jobs--49 out of 50 states have actually LOST jobs.  Some states have lost quite a number of them.  
Categories > Economy


Schools of Education

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is criticizing schools of education, although it's not perfectly clear why.
Categories > Education


Bob McDonnell as "conservative pragmatist"

Rich Lowry thinks well of Bob McDonnell (if polls hold up, the next governor of Virginia) and he explains why.  He compares him to Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, and thinks the two should be watched; they could re-invigorate a kind of Republicanism much needed by the GOP and the country.  I agree, but don't much like the label.
Categories > Elections


Georgetown Student Seeks Personal Assistant

Fellow students are giving the Georgetown sophomore grief for advertising a $10 an hour job to drive him around, schedule him, wash and fold his laundry, etc.:  He's "just full of himself."  But isn't this the logical conclusion of what David Brooks wrote eight years ago, in his "Organization Kid"--that undergraduate students schedule virtually everything and as a result devote no time for many of the most important things a bright student should be doing?   A sample from Brooks:

There are a lot of things these future leaders no longer have time for. I was on [the Princeton] campus at the height of the election season, and I saw not even one Bush or Gore poster. I asked around about this and was told that most students have no time to read newspapers, follow national politics, or get involved in crusades:

As silly as the Georgetown kid may appear, he appears to be following out student logic. 

Categories > Education

Pop Culture

Broadway Comes to Washington

And Washington sends the National Endowment for the Arts Chairman, a former Broadway producer, on a six-months listening tour--exiled to watching theater in Idaho, etc. He'll make sure his $50 million in stimulus money is well-spent.  "It is very important for us to get out of Washington and hear what people are thinking,"  Watch his mouth--he won't watch his.
Categories > Pop Culture

Foreign Affairs

Biological Terrorism

USA Today reports: "The Obama administration is working hard to curb nuclear threats but failing to address the more urgent and immediate threat of biological terrorism, a bipartisan commission created by Congress is reporting today.

The report obtained by USA TODAY cites failures on biosecurity policy by the White House  which the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction says has left the country vulnerable. The commission, created last year to address concerns raised by post-9/11 investigations, warns that anthrax spores released by a crop-duster could "kill more Americans than died in World War II" and the economic impact could exceed $1.8 trillion in cleanup and other costs."

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Health Care

Polls Showing Support for the "Public Option" Questioned

Ed Morrissey finds something fishy in recent polls suggesting overwhelming public support for the so-called "public option" in health care.
Categories > Health Care


Tough Broads

Noemie Emery writes an interesting column today considering the vitriol on the left for Liz Cheney and her project, Keep America Safe.  With a notable twist of an irony coated blade, Emery advises the purveyors of hate on the left to "get over" their fear of strong women--particularly when the objects of their fear are attractive, young, center-right mothers of more children than the priests on the left believe it to be rational to birth in these ecologically-challenged times.  But Emery also argues that for all her similarities to Sarah Palin, Cheney is capable of drawing out a special and a harder sort of hatred from the left than Palin ever could.  Why?  Precisely because Cheney, while sharing most of Sarah Palin's substantive ideas and an equal share of ambition, is not vulnerable on the superficial grounds where lefties drew blood from Palin.  "Saturday Night Live would have a hard time getting her number," Emery says. Further, "Moms from McLean could be her constituents."  And therein, lies the root of the problem for lefties. 

Their friends and neighbors--if they aren't already committed lefties--would be hard-pressed to discover something vicious or dangerous in Liz Cheney; in part because they could not even begin with an assumption that there is anything particularly weird or different about her.   She is the citified answer to the Western/Midwestern voter's love affair with Sarah Palin.  You cannot attribute Cheney's politics to the culture of moose-hunting or dog-sledding.  She shows that it is possible to arrive at these views via routes more familiar to the typical urban/suburban voter. 

As to the question of possible misogyny . . . I wouldn't lose any sleep about it if I were Liz Cheney (or Sarah Palin, for that matter).  No doubt there is a certain element of it here (just as there undoubtedly is with Mrs. Clinton coming from our side) but it only serves to show the amusing and uncomfortable way that the shoe fits when on the other foot.  I would suggest that this episode demonstrates--beyond question--that if there is an instinct to be inclined to dislike strong and powerful women, it is very much a part of the human condition and not anything particular to the left or to the right in politics.  And, I'd also add, that it is nothing that need be addressed by those who imagine they can even the great scales of sexual justice in the sky.  Tough broads in politics (like Cheney, Palin, and Clinton--to say nothing of Thatcher and her generation) have always demonstrated that they can handle the slings and arrows of political fortune and misfortune without the intervention of the gender crusaders.  As for their more timid sisters . . . well, this is no more the game for them than it is for the men who most fear these tough women.      
Categories > Politics


Franck Stones Obama Pot Policy

Matt Franck takes a whack not only at Obama's decriminalization policy but at some conservative defenders of it who see a respect for federalism: 

By announcing the non-prosecution of marijuana cases only in those 14 states that legalize some use of the drug for medical purposes, the administration has effectively proclaimed that federal law means one thing in those 14 states, and something else in the other 36.  That could readily give rise to equal protection claims in the 36 states where the federal government still considers itself free to prosecute.

Moreover:  "Worse, by conditioning the prospect of prosecution on the presence or absence of state laws that contradict a nationwide federal prohibition, the Justice Department has effectively subjected the validity of federal law to the will of state legislators."  As a prelude to relaxing drug prosecution generally, "This way evinces Professor Obama's usual respect for the Constitution: he rolls his own."

Categories > Presidency


Art, Capitalism, the AP and the Obama "Brand"

I notice today this story regarding the rumpus between the artist now famous for his "iconic" (as people are pleased to call it) portrait of Barack Obama striped in red, white and blue and the Associated Press.  It seems that this artist is now forced to admit that he used a photo copyrighted by the AP in the production of the thing and that he did, in fact, derive some personal profit from his work.  Naturally, there are some legal ramifications because "Obama" is as much a brand as he is anything else.

As to the information contained in the story that the artist in question profited, primarily, as a result of his line of clothing with Obama's image and that this line is dubbed, "Obey"--I will not comment beyond the obvious point of noting that it is an interesting name, indeed . . . and to say that artists are known, sometimes, to make unconscious but brilliant observations.
Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

Character and Cross-situational Stability

I amused myself this morning by spending a couple of hours with Aristotle's Ethics (and Politics), partly out of duty to my freshman class but also because my imperfect soul needed a bit more purpose than that revealed in my recent reading of Plato.  A good few hours.  Then I glanced at the morning news (on my Kindle, of course) and came across two op-eds talking essentially about the soul, character, and purpose, one about "Where the Wild Things Are" and the other an HBO movie about about Barack Obama.  Richard Cohen considers whether Obama is his own worst enemy, as in the perfection being the enemy of the good, while David Brooks, using "Wild Things", considers what he calls the psychologists view that "people don't have one permanent thing called character. We each have a multiplicity of tendencies inside, which are activated by this or that context."  I'll leave it to you whether or not the word character has chnaged it's meaning, as Brooks implies.  Back to Aristotle.


Higher Ed Stuff

At a college meeting a couple of days ago the "diversity" made an appearance and my colleagues started clicking their heels and saluting, just-like the old days.  Some wag asked what was meant by diversity, and no one really was perfectly sure, but they were sure that they were in favor of the thing.  I was a bit surprised by this, haven't seen it in while, thought we had passed through all this stuff; I guess not just yet.  Then today I noticed the U.S. News reporting this:

"A recent study of the applicants to seven elite colleges in 1997 found that Asian students were much more likely to be rejected than seemingly similar students of other races. Also, athletes and students from top high schools had admissions edges, as did low-income African-Americans and Hispanics."

"Translating the advantages into SAT scores, study author Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist, calculated that African-Americans who achieved 1150 scores on the two original SAT tests had the same chances of getting accepted to top private colleges in 1997 as whites who scored 1460s and Asians who scored perfect 1600s."

I also noticed that in the current issue of Newsweek, devoted to higher education, Sen. Lamar Alexander argues that colleges should adopt something like a year-around schedule, and students take their degree within three years, and thereby save 25% in tuition.
Categories > Education

The Founding

Re-Founding America: Natural Rights as Natural Choice

David Bobb has a sound and perceptive commentary on President Obama's refounding of the nation's political principles.  Whether it be health care or eroticism for autos, Obama's refrain has been for a "new foundation."  Bobb, Director of Hillsdale College's Washington, DC Kirby Center, documents this reckless audacity and commends the real founding and the discipline it demands and the freedom it protects.

Do we recognize the threat and have the resources and spirit to resist it?  Do we know what we will have lost?

Categories > The Founding

Foreign Affairs

Keep America Safe

I just came across this site, Keep America Safe, put out by Liz Cheney, Debra Burlingame, and Bill Kristol.  Have a look at it, it seems good and useful.  I especially liked the links to be found (under six different categories) in "Resources."

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Russian Weather Man

Barack Obama may have some competition for reversing the rise of the oceans . . . then again, perhaps this guy will make his job even harder.
Categories > Environment