Friday, December 28, 2007

The Top Ten Idiot Statements of 2007

Most years see a plenty of dumb statements made by public figures. However, 2007 seemed to have a great profusion of these comments than usual. Here are my top ten dumb statements of 2007.
10. Harry Reid slams Rush Limbaugh for his "phony soldiers" comment.
I'm not sure that it is ever wise to publicly criticize anyone with an audience of twenty million, but if you do, it is smart to at least get the facts straight. Rush ended up auctioning off Harry Reid's letter to Clear Channel's CEO for 2.1 million, the largest amount ever auctioned off for charity vie eBay. He made Reid look like an idiot-not that that is hard to do.
9. Trent Lott says "talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."
Anyone who spouts as many inanities as Trent Lott probably shouldn't criticize one of the few media outlets where he can get some support. Unfortunately for Lott, he never got to deal with the "problem", as he is resigning from the Senate in order to become a lobbyist, where thankfully he will not be able to do as much damage.
8. Ed Rollins (Mike Huckabee's campaign manager) blasts Rush
As noted above, it is unwise to criticize someone with a twenty million strong audience. Especially if his support is key in order to win the nomination. Especially if such comments provoke Rush to spend most of the first hour of his program bashing Huck.
7. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims there are no homosexuals in Iran.
Of course not. He kills them all.
6. Kentucky Fried Hillary.
"Ah don't feel no ways tarred. Ah cum to fah frum where started frum...A could have listened all day luung". When Hillary Clinton tries to pander to southern votes by employing a soutern drawl, it's not pretty.
5. Hillary on immigration.
So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum. I believe
we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no
matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action
on immigration reform...Clinton: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is
to have three different licenses, one that provides identification for actually
going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is
another ordinary driver's license, and then a special card that identifies the
people who would be on the road, so... You know, Tim, this is where everybody
plays "gotcha." It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He
is dealing with a serious problems. We have failed. And George Bush has failed.
Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who's in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He's making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.

It's pretty much anyone's guess what Hillary is trying to say here (I edited it for length, the full transcript-which doesn't help much- is here). This answer wasn't so bad in itself-in the next debate, Barack Obama got the same question, and delivered much the same answer. What hurt Hillary was her lame attempt spin her answer by accusing Tim Russert of bias. Most people recognized that it isn't biased to ask a simple question, and to except a straight answer.
4. George Bush on the amnesty bill-"I'm see you at the bill signing."
When the whole country is furious at your amnesty proposal, employing a cocky attitude isn't wise. At that point, George Bush seemed intent on seeing how low his approval ratings could go, which may explain his arrogant demeanour.
3. Trent Lott on a border fence.
If the answer is ‘build a fence’ I’ve got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There
ain’t no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those
goats in that fence.” “Now people are at least as smart as goats,” Lott
continued. “Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence.
Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once
they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it.”
“I’m not proposing an electrified goat fence,” Lott added quickly, “I’m just trying,
there’s an analogy there.”


This must be the most confused analogy ever. To begin with, don't at least some fences work with goats? They kept goats before electricity was discovered, and they must have contained them somehow. And what's the connection between a virtual fence and an electric one?

It is hard to paint amnesty opponents as xenophobic rednecks when one of the foremost proponents of amnesty suggests that illegals are "at least" as smart as goats. You think? And Trent, since we are at least as smart as goats, I'm pretty sure most people realized that was an analogy. I don't know how the Senate will get along without Lott.
2. "Don't tase me, bro. Don't tase me."
I don't think the "bro" part helped. Andrew Meyer deserved to get tasered. Apart from the fact that he was using his big chance to talk to a Senator in order to spout stupid conspiracy theories, he also exceeded his allotted time, cut the people waiting in line, and was resisting arrest. The idiot deserved it. If you disagree, watch the part where the audience applauds when security starts to escort Meyer away.
1. "The war is lost"- Harry Reid.
Not quite, Harry. Of course, it's not for want of trying on your part.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Conservative's Vindicated

Going into 2007, it seemed that the credibility of conservative movement was at low ebb. Republicans had gotten (in President Bush’s words) “thumped” in the midterm elections, losing both the House and the Senate. Congressional Republicans had approval ratings lower than any other Congress in history. The incoming Democrats, on the other hand, seemed to present a clear vision promising an end to the Iraq War, ethics reform, and an end to corruption in government.

Conservatives seemed to be losing on ideas as well. Immigration (seriously) was seen as a Republican weakness. Conservative opposition to embryonic stem cell research was also widely unpopular, as it seemed to show that conservatives were cold and unfeeling towards those with incurable diseases.

But chief among conservative weak points was the Iraq War. In January 2007, the war had been going on for over four years, with little progress being made. In fact, things were getting worse. President Bush’s “surge” strategy reminded many of Vietnam. With casualties climbing, the prospects in Iraq were looking worse and worse.

In fact, at the onset of the surge, a Rasmussen poll showed that 50% of Americans trusted the Democrats on Iraq more than the Republicans. 38% preferred the GOP on the issue.

Given the high level of opposition, it seemed inevitable that the ultra-liberal Democratic Congress would have their way with the hapless Republicans. However, the opposite happened. Conservative, not liberal, ideology was adopted in 2007, and it worked.

The first major conflict between the liberalism and conservatism came when President Bush came up with a bipartisan plan that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. The bill had overwhelming support—Democrats liked it, Republicans liked it, the mainstream media liked, even Fox News supported it. It was only the die-hard conservatives who stood in opposition.

And the conservatives won resoundingly. Congress was so shocked by the opposition that it has not offered any other immigration “reform” bills since. (Although given that back in June, it was supposedly imperative that we get immigration reform immediately, it makes Congress look even more hypocritical and dishonest than they already do). John McCain’s support for amnesty sunk his presidential campaign. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Rudy Giuliani, who had all expressed support for the bill, immediately, started up their best Tom Tancredo impersonations. There has been literally no talk of amnesty since. Chalk up one victory for conservatives principles.

Stem cells, an issue that hurt Republican candidates a great deal, was another resounding victory. For years, liberals successfully spun the issue as one of sickness vs. health, life vs. death, hope vs. despair. Conservatives could only offer a weak sounding rationalization that stem cell research was unnecessary and immoral. This explanation won few P.R. points, as liberals offered glowing predictions of stem cell therapies offering cures for virtually all diseases. They made Ponce de Leon (the Spanish explorer who searched for the Fountain of Youth) look like a hard-bitten cynic.
But conservatives were right on this issue as well. Recent scientific advances have made embryonic stem cell research virtually obsolete. The new method does not require the creation and destruction of human life.

This development clearly demonstrated the dishonesty liberals displayed on this issue. For years, liberals wrote disparagingly of conservatisms “war on science”. They were presented in the mainstream media as heartless religious extremists cheerfully denying medical care to sufferers. The stem cell debate was supposed to be over.

But liberals were dead wrong. Conservatives were right, and we will almost certainly see a host of cures from the new stem cell treatment. Embryonic stem cells, however, will go down in history having never cured even one person.

However, conservatives were most thoroughly vindicated on the issue of Iraq. The Democrats were swept to power by campaigning, in large part, on this issue. While some of their claims of a “mandate” by the American people to bring the troops home were overstated, it is hard to deny that many Americans did turn to the Democrats for a new direction in Iraq. They promised to turn things in Iraq around.

And failed. Bush’s surge, while initially unpopular, did the job. Violence in Iraq has shot downward. The once out of control Anbar Province is at least somewhat pacified. Violence in Baghdad is down. Sectarian violence across the country has plummeted. The surge worked.

This was evident when General David Petraeus gave his now famous report on conditions in Iraq. He clearly showed the country that the surge worked—and sealed the Democrats doom on the issue.

There have been many other, smaller conservative victories this year—the MoveOn.org “General Betray-Us” ad, Harry Reid’s attempted slapdown of Rush Limbaugh, the rejection of the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax, not the little machine you get money out of), and many others. Conservatives have had a difficult time of it in recent years, with out of control government spending, corruption, incompetence on the Iraq issue, and low Republican approval ratings. However, the year 2007 has thoroughly vindicated many conservative principles.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I just want to wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brad Pitt's Good (and Useless) Deed

UPDATE: After reading the comments, and looking into Brad Pitt's relief efforts a little more, I think I was unfair to Pitt. 10 million for 150 homes comes to about $65,000 a home, which is a reasonable cost. It will be a drop in a bucket, but every drop helps. Considering the federal governments incompetence in the matter of rebuilding New Orleans, the city will need generous people like Pitt.

Brad Pitt has started a campaign to replace some of the houses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He has pledged to donate five million dollars to the effort, and expects to build 150 homes. Film producer Steve Bing has pledged another five million. As the hard-hit Ninth Ward of New Orleans has still not been rebuilt, his efforts will be appreciated.

Brad Pitt is a pretty notorious liberal, but his humanitarian efforts in New Orleans are genuinely inspiring. Five million dollars is a lot for anyone, even if they happen to be rich movie stars. Pitt, in this case, is walking the walk.

But even when Pitt walks the walk, his liberalism is evident. Pitt's New Orleans plan is typical of liberalism-- it is good-hearted, overpriced (10 million dollars for 150 homes?), and ineffective (over 9,000 homes were destroyed by hurricane Katrina). Likewise, the Left's emphasis on compassion is born out of the most pure motives; liberals want to help the disadvantaged, the poor, and the sick. Unfortunately, the high-budget initiatives that are employed to alleviate these problems never work. Instead, they cost huge amounts of money, and produce almost no results.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Huckabee's Support

Conservatives have reason to beware of Mike Huckabee. Huckabee, as nearly everyone must know, is more or less a liberal on taxes, immigration, and crime. Many conservatives, and justifiably so, are condemning him for these positions. Without much success, evidently, since he is the national frontrunner.

But this isn't the first time in this campaign that we had an obvious liberal as the GOP frontrunner. Rudy Giuliani has consistently led in the polls for the majority of the race. While he led, many conservatives simply shrugged and commented on the fact that it was remarkable that a pro-abortion candidate could possibly get the nomination. "He may be liberal on some issues, but maybe he can beat Hillary." Very few prominent conservatives really got into the whole Giuliani-bashing business. Most treated him as a well-qualified candidate.

When the social liberal Giuliani was teh frontrunner, conservative pundits said nothing. When fiscal liberal Huckabee was the frontrunner, the same conservative pundits said "HUCKACIDE.!!! It's the end of the Republican Party!".

When social liberals are welcomed as the frontrunner, while fiscal liberals are anathema, is it any wonder that so many embittered social conservatives embrace one of their own, even at the expense of the well-being of the Republican party?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Immigration Letdown

It is not surprising to learn that Congress has broken another of its promises, as it has on the topic of the border fence. It promised us a double fence extending along seven hundred miles of the U.S.-Mexico border—not perfect, given that the border is around three thousand miles long, but better than nothing. The bill for this fence was passed last September. And the progress to date? Five miles.

This rate of a little over a half mile a month is absurd, and shows that Congress never had any real desire to complete the fence. It was simply a pre-election gesture of good-will by Congressional Republicans. (A futile one, as it turned out, since the GOP was resoundingly defeated in the midterm elections).

However, ineffective good-will gestures by Republicans are better than nothing, which is what we are now getting. The appropriations omnibus bill passed by Congress contains provisions virtually gutting the border fence, making it into a single tier fence, which is less effective at keeping illegal aliens out. According to many who have studied the illegal immigration problem extensively, a single tier fence is nearly useless.

Of course, the Senator who has led the charge to get the Secure Fence Act is Senator Kay Hutchinson, who a) comes from a border state, and b) is a Republican. That’s right, a Republican is leading the charge against a bill that virtually all conservatives believe is necessary. Of course, 10 million dollars in emergency funding for lawyers for illegals is apparently fine by Hutchinson, as that provision is included in the omnibus bill.

It is obvious that it is fruitless to look to Congress for any assistance on the illegal immigration problem. Apart from a few members of the House of Representatives, and maybe a couple of Senators, no member of Congress will take a stand on this issue. The Republicans as bad as the Democrats are on this issue. The only chance we have of getting an acceptable outcome of this problem is to elect a competent President who will take on the issue.

To my mind, Fred Thompson is the only candidate who will lead on this issue. All of the rest of the Big Four supported amnesty—till its unpopularity became clear. Then Giuliani, Romney, and Huckabee fled the position, leaving McCain to take the fall. However, all the candidates, with the exception of Thompson, have expressed support for amnesty at one time or another.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Presidential Pick

Many influential conservatives, such as Kathleen Parker, Ann Coulter, and of course Sean Hannity, say that the Republican Presidential field one the best in recent years. They point out that our choices include two distinguished Senators, an extremely successful businessman, the best major of a major city in recent memory, and perhaps the most articulate politician in either party. (I am, of course, referring to Mike Huckabee, and if you doubt his charm, take a look at this video). While many Republicans are unenthusiastic about any of these options, many pundits are of the opinion that Republicans should be happy with the candidates they have. They say the current crop of candidates is the best we have had for several election cycles.

That, of course, isn't all that hard. In 2000, it was John McCain against George W. Bush. Neither of these candidates was all that good, especially going on what we knew at the time. (George Bush's inspirational leadership after 9/11 was something of a pleasant surprise for many). In 1996, we had such choices as Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, and Phil Gram, who didn't exactly inspire anyone. And in 1992, are choices were George H.W. Bush, Ross Perot (an Independent, but popular among conservatives), and Pat Buchanan. Nobody to get excited about there.

With Republican precedents like these, it's not really that hard to find a field better than these groups. But even with the campaigns of Republican past as the standard, our present field of candidates is terrible. Some frontrunners are far too liberal, others are unelectable, and others are running decidedly second-rate campaigns. These categories overlap-- some candidates are all three.

Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney are all too liberal (in my estimation), to be acceptable nominees. Rudy Giuliani is effective on the issues of crime, fiscal responsibility, and the War on Terror, but is liberal on abortion, global warming, gay rights, gun control, and immigration. In addition, there is little chance he will get the Republican nomination, especially since his drop in Florida polls. Huckabee is good on social issues, but is weak on global warming, foreign policy, taxes, and immigration. Neither of these candidates is a Reagan conservative.

Mitt Romney is seen as a conservative alternative, but a hard look at his record shows him to be a moderate at best. Some say that he has flip-flopped on gun control. He hasn't. He has been a consistent liberal on the issue. He supports the assault weapons ban, as well the Brady Bill.

On immigration, he is equally weak. He supported the Bush-McCain-Reid amnesty bill, calling it reasonable. McCain's support for this proposal sank his campaign. Romney, conversely, managed to keep his support for it under cover until it was brought up by Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Romney is every bit as bad as McCain on illegal immigration.

John McCain is, of course, liberal, but his primary problem is his moribund campaign. The lingering ill will conservatives have felt for him since his 2000 run, plus his support for the shamnesty bill, make his odds of getting the nomination impossibly long.

The only true conservative candidate in the race is Fred Thompson. Unfortunately, his campaign is in worse shape than McCain's. He was masterful as a non-candidate, and did a good job of playing hard to get over the summer. Now, however, he is running a toothless and miserable campaign. He has been reduced from a national frontrunner to one desperately driving across Iowa searching for votes.

The candidate I support is Fred D. Thompson. He is the only candidate out there who fully supports my conservative principles. However, I live in Ohio, so I will vote on March 4. The race at that point will almost certainly consist of two, perhaps three, viable candidates. Given Thompson's recent performance in polls, he will probably not be a viable candidate. Neither will John McCain, my second choice. My options will probably be limited to some combination of Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney. The options are a candidate weak on social issues, one weak on fiscal issues, or one weak on immigration and gun control. (Though better on both than Giuliani). Abortion is the most important issue for me. Mike Huckabee will probably get my vote, and will probably also get the nomination. (He leads in Iowa, South Carolina, Michigan, Florida, and nationally). That is depressing.

The only bright spot is the fact that Huckabee may have the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Likeability is important in politics, and the candidate the average person would rather go to the ballgame with usually wins. (Bush was more accessible than Kerry or Gore, and Clinton more so than either of his opponents. The last President who would not have easily won the ballgame question was Nixon). The only politician of either party who can even compare with Huckabee's sheer magnetism is Barack Obama. So while Huckabee may not be a conservative, any Republican is better than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. If Huckabee wins, he would at least keep Hillary out.

(As you read this, keep in mind that the Republican race is very votile, and in two weeks everything could change).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Liberalism or Conservatism?

In the upcoming election, the line between left and right is more sharply drawn than ever. Many wish there was an easy way to test which political theory, conservatism or liberalism, works best in practice.

There isn't any indisputable, authoritative test. However, consider that, for all its flaws, the United States of America is probably the most conservative country in the world. We have some of the lowest taxes, most vocal social conservatives (in Europe, there are almost no pro-life activists), a very limited welfare state, and the strongest foreign policy.

In contrast, the countries of Western Europe (particularly Scandinavia), are examples of the quintessential liberal government. Socialized medicine is not debated-- the only question is which services should the government provide. High taxes, a limited defense policy, completed legal (and more importantly, completely accepted) abortion-- Western Europe is a liberals paradise.

Which country would you rather live in-- the United States, or, say, Sweden? Which country would you rather live in twenty years from now, if you had only the information available today? I believe the answer is obvious, and that is one of the best arguments for conservative principles-- if they didn't work, people wouldn't be fighting to dwell here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Michael Savage of the Fifties

Ann Coulter has just published a column praised Joe McCarthy. Coulter has now written two consecutive column heaping praise on McCarthy. She has said that McCarthy deserved monuments in every city, written that: "everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis." Some conservatives have followed her lead in this matter.

Would it kill conservatives not to adulate this idiot? (McCarthy, not Coulter, though it applies either way). McCarthy was a nut. Communist infiltration was a problem-- but Joe McCarthy was not the ideal man to fight it.

An analogy for our time would be Michael Savage. Savage has some good ideas-- he is absolutely right about illegal immigration. But like McCarthy, he a) overstates the problem, and b) offers up insane smears and conspiracy theories. There is a difference between saying "illegal immigration is a problem, and saying "THESE ACLU PERVERTS ARE UNDERMINING AMERICA BY LETTING IN ILLEGALS AND TURNING OUR YOUNG MEN INTO HOMOSEXUALS!!!", which is basically Savage's typical rant. (When not ranting, Savage offers his inane moral philosophies or offers boring anecdotes about his life). Savage is a poor spokesman for conservatism-- and so was McCarthy.

Disagree? Remember that Joe McCarthy once assaulted a journalist (seriously), which should cast serious doubts on his judgement. He accused George Marshall of treason. While many of the people he outed were actually Communists, or Communist sympathizers, it is equally indisputable that many were not.

The case of Irving Peress is an example of McCarthy's incompetence and stupidity. Peress, who may have been a Communist sympathizer, was a drafted dentist who rose to the rank of major through the Doctor Draft Law. Peress was to be discharged, but McCarthy subpeoned him anyway. General Ralph W. Zwicker immediately discharged Peress, so McCarthy subpoenaed him as well. McCarthy's vicious insults of a war hero didn't go over well.

The famous Army-McCarthy hearings finally sunk McCarthy. They were televised, and McCarthy's appeal apparently didn't apply to television. (Neither, incidentally, did Savage's). His public support plummeted, and he was censured by the Senate, protesting that it was all a Communist conspiracy all the way.

Ann Coulter and her ilk agree with this assessment. They believe that McCarthy's unpopularity all stemmed from leftist opposition of anti-Communists. That is one possibility. The other is that opposition to McCarthy was due to the fact that while he pursued worthy goals, he was an unpleasant loon.

If you believe that Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall, Whittaker Chambers (who actually did bring down Communists), and Robert Taft were all amazingly and inexplicably misguided regarding McCarthy, then Coulter's premise makes sense. You have to ignore the fact that McCarthy was prone to making wild accusations, spent a ridiculous amount of time chasing a "pink dentist", and never actually caught an actual Communist infiltrator, I suppose that this hypothesis just barely works. I prefer reality.

Joe McCarthy had the right goals, but was hopelessly incompetent as to achieving them. Whittakers once observed that McCarthy was "a slugger and a rabble-rouser" who "simply knows that somebody threw a tomato and the general direction from which it came." This succinct passage perfectly sums up the McCarthy era.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fred's Last Chance

Rudy Giuliani's campaign is not looking well. He has been damaged by allegations of improprieties regarding the use of government funds on jaunts with his mistress (and the fact he had the affair in the first place). He has lost his position as frontrunner to Mike Huckabee. He hasn't had a really good news cycle in several weeks now.

Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee seem to be engaged in destroying one another's candidacy. Huckabee is trying for the evangelical vote, which he obviously is getting. However, he has virtually no funds, no organization, and no support from conservative commentators. His Arkansas years are filled with allegations of improper gifts, amazingly misguided pardons, and tax hikes. Given that even neutral commentators like Rush Limbaugh heavily criticize him, and that the somewhat more opinionated Laura Ingraham is actively opposed to him, his status as frontrunner is almost certainly shortlived.

Mitt Romney will probably take him down, but Huckabee's counter-attacks may damage his candidacy. It seems likely to be a murder-suicide sort of thing-- Romney will take down Huckabee, but Huckabee's attacks will ruin Romney's chances.

With bad news for Rudy, Mitt, and Huck, there is a narrow opening in the Republican party. This spring, there was another such opening, and Fred Thompson sprang through it. It is possible that he will do the same here. It is not a certainty, perhaps not even a probability, but it would be unwise to count Fred Thompson out.

Huckaboom

Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign is building momentum. He is leading by double digits in Iowa, and place either first or second in nationwide polls. Considering that he is doing all this with next to no money and little organization outside of Iowa, his poll success is truly impressive.

However, Huckabee’s success is drawing considerable scrutiny from conservatives—with good reason. While his pro-life credentials are impeccable, his tax plan (the FairTax) is poorly thought out and impractical, he has a disturbing record of raising taxes as governor of Arkansas, and he is shaky on illegal immigration. These issues are enough to raise red flags for conservatives.

However, Mike Huckabee has been subject to vicious attacks by conservatives that have no basis in reality, and seem to made with the sole purpose of smearing him. While Huckabee is a poor candidate, there is no excuse for employing utterly unwarranted assaults against his candidacy.

Chief among those guilty is Matt Drudge. It is obvious that Drudge sometimes displays bias—pictures of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards found on his news site rarely portray these presidential candidates in their best light. Drudge has passed on more than his fair share of Hillary Clinton rumors; evidenced by the time he highlighted a completely unsubstantiated report that Hillary was a lesbian. Drudge’s attacks against Huckabee, however, are starting to look ridiculous. Yesterday, his top headline was a reminder that Huckabee once said “We need to take this nation back for Christ.” Today, his top headline was an unsubstantiated report of a DNC strategy to lay off of Huckabee, as the DNC perceives him as the GOP’s weakest candidate.

While most acknowledge that Drudge is biased, he has the responsibility to be fair to those individuals he covers. Two straight days of Huckabashing is not news coverage, it is a hit job.

Another incredibly groundless is Charles Krauthammer’s accusation that Huckabee is purposing employing anti-Mormon bigotry in his Iowa strategy. This line of thinking reasons that since Huckabee bills himself as a Christian leader in his campaign ads, and since the Mormon Mitt Romney is (according to some) not a Christian, Huckabee’s “Christian” reference is a veiled sideswipe at Romney.

If Huckabee is employing the anti-Mormon strategy, it isn’t working. His Iowa support is coming from Romney supporters looking for a Christian to support, it is coming from undecideds. Romney has been stuck at around 25% support for several months. Now, even though Huckabee has passed him, his support is still around 25%. Mike Huckabee’s support is not coming from ex-Mitt Romney voters.

But it is obvious that, effective or not, Huckabee is not using an anti-Mormon plan. His “Christian leader” tag is basically all he has to run on. The FairTax has a significant number of supporters, but not enough to fuel a presidential campaign. No one is enthused about his foreign policy ideas. (They aren’t bad, they just aren’t particularly good). His border strategy is not exciting anyone (except the head of the Minutemen; he endorsed Huckabee today). The one thing Huckabee has run on has been his faith. It is inevitable that it would be mentioned in his ads.

Most conservative bloggers oppose Huckabee since he is no conservative. National Review Online is a good example of this tendency—in it’s The Corner blog, everyone constantly bashed Huckabee. Most of their attacks are fair. However, they are undermined a bit as many of the people making them are Rudy Giuliani supporters. If Huckabee is a liberal, then the pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-gay rights, pro-sanctuary cities Rudy Giuliani is one too. These people should be consistent.

The final charge leveled at Huckabee is the Wayne Dumond case. There can be on doubt that Huckabee displayed atrocious judgment in this case, which involved the parole of a convicted rapist who then raped and killed again. There is little doubt that had it been up to Huckabee, Wayne Dumond would have been set free. However, Huckabee did not make that decision. The parole board did, perhaps under pressure from Huckabee. While Huckabee was for the release, he did not actually bear responsibility for setting Dumond free.

While that may seem to be a distinction without a difference, news coverage of this event blurs this distinction. One would be pardoned for assuming that Huckabee bore sole responsibility for Dumond’s release. He did not. Huckabee displayed poor judgment, but he is no Michael Dukakis.
Even though there have been dozens of attack against him, legitimate or otherwise, Huckabee continues to do well in the polls. The reason for his surge? Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani is no conservative on social issues, and “values voters” make up a core constituency of the Republican Party. These values voters were given the choice of supporting a candidate with sound ideas on fiscal and foreign policy issues, or one who was good on social issues. Is it any surprise they chose the social conservative? Republican leaders who supported Giuliani ignored the social conservative vote, and it cost them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Speech

In Canada, Mark Steyn has been sued by a Muslim group for human rights violations. His crime is "hate speech" regarding Muslims. His accusers, a group of four Muslim law students, claim that his articles promote hatred and fear of Muslims. At least two Canadian Human Rights Commissions have agreed to at hear the case.

The accusations against Steyn are pretty flimsy. The main criticism seems to be that he equates all Muslims with the more radical Muslims, and that he criticizes absurd charges of "discrimination" and "Islamophobia" leveled by Muslims looking for special treatment. The charges accuse Steyn of condemning "politicians, law enforcement, and media for any kind of sensitivity and outreach to Muslim communities." (The full text of the complaint is here)

It is debatable whether Mark Steyn is guilty of unfair characterizations of Muslims. It is indisputable that any legal system that supports freedom of speech would defend his right to "condemn outreach to Muslim communities." The suppression of free speech evident in the court's decision to hear this case is amazingly wrong.

And this kind of censorship is common in Canada. For example, Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman has single-handedly launched 15 complaints with the Human Rights Commission. His targets, it must be said, are a lot more unsavory than Mark Steyn. Warman goes after neo-Nazis. To date, he has never lost a case of this nature. Nine White Supremacist websites have been shut down thanks to his efforts.

In fairness, there is something commendable in Warman's attempt to combat hate-- he has spent over $30,000 (Canadian) trying to stop Internet hate. Unfortunately, his modus operandi is basically opposed to every essential of human rights.

Nobody supports Nazi websites. The one time I went to notorious White Supremist site Stormfront.org, to see if they indeed supported Ron Paul (they do), I was filled with both outrage at the hate presented there, as well as a sense of relief that the average IQ on display seemed to be under 75. As far as I (and most people) am concerned, the fewer such sites on the Internet, the better.

But it is not the government's role to remove them. Any government that claims to support freedom of expression has the duty to permit them to stay in operation.

The most obvious line of reasoning for this thesis is the self-evident fact that if government is given the right to judge what speech is and what speech is not permitted, then that government owns a monopoly on what the population may hear. This is already the case in Canada, where conservative clerics are often convicted of hate crimes for condemnations of homosexuality.

It is not difficult on imagine a government putting similar restrictions on opponents of abortion, or the Iraq War, or any controversial issue. (In fact, some on both the left and right already support such measures). By the same token, during the Sixties, such revered figures as Martin Luther King, Jr, could have been cited for "hate speech".

In addition, it is important to consider that even if we had some divine guarantee that all hate speech laws would be only directed at those who commit indisputable hate speech, these laws would still be unjust. The right to free speech is for everyone. There is no guarantee that this right will always be used well. The proper exercise of this right is for the individual, not government, to decide.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Incivility in Congress

It seems that the political debate is more angry, hate filled, and poisonous now than any other time in recent memory. Examples of repugnant statements are easy to find; whether it be Pete Stark accusing George Bush of enjoying the deaths of U.S. troops or Harry Reid accusing the forty-nine Republican Senators of being "puppets", it often feels like our elected officials have descended to new lows in civility. The Presidential race, too, is filled with lies, distortions, and absurd accusations. (Hillary Clinton's charge of Barack Obama's ambition, based on a third grade book report, springs to mind). Have our politicians lost whatever decorum and civility they once possessed?

Well, actually, no. Politicians, and especially Congress, have been just as bad in the past. In 1991, Congressional Democrats unsuccessfully employed a despicable smear campaign against Republican Clarence Thomas. Newt Gingrich was capable of some pretty baseless accusations- he suggested that he shut down the federal government in part because he felt "snubbed" when Bill Clinton sat him in the back or Air Force One. (Clinton, for once, was innocent of the charge against him). So our present Congress is no less civilized than others we have had in recent memory.

However, it certainly is the least effective. While most Congresses lob verbal grenades while trying to block the other sides attempt to steer the country, the people in charge now seem content to merely snipe at each other while hardly even attempting to get any important issues resolved.

Many Democrats complain that really, you can't blame them for not doing anything since Bush will just veto all their legislation. It makes you wonder what exactly they thought would happen when they took power- did they think that Bush would simply go along with them? When they promised to reform Washington and end the war, did they think that George Bush would be right there with them? If they truly want to be a force for change, they must find a way to work with George Bush. If they cannot (and bear in mind, Bush is not opposed to bipartisanship. He tried very hard (and successfully) to get both parties on board for the Iraq War) they are truly amazingly incompetent.

Congress should, to borrow a cliché, put up or shut up. I believe that most people could endure a mean-spirited Congress that nonetheless got things done (for example, Newt Gingrich's Congress). They could even live with a do-nothing Congress that abided by some rules of decorum. But it seems unlikely that voters can long support a Congress that is incapable of putting forth any solutions, but only increasingly nasty and absurd insults.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Speech

Today was easily the most important, pivotal day of Mitt Romney presidential campaign, and possibly the most important day of his life. He made The Speech today, the long awaited speech in which he directly addressed the Mormon issue.

He had to make this speech, given that Mike Huckabee is coming up fast in Iowa, and the nation as a whole. The "Mormon issue" has overshadowed his campaign. Everyone thinks of him as the "Mormon candidate". Significant media attention has gone to the question of whether or not he can win the nomination of a largely evangelical Christan Republican Party.

Really, the whole debate is unnecessary. It is not always inappropriate to look at a candidates faith. For example, were a Muslim to run for President, many would be very hesitant to support him. It would certainly be important to ascertain his stance regarding the more radical forms of Islam. Others religions also spring to mind, a serious Scientologist , a Jack Chick fundamentalist, or an especially radical atheist.

But a Mormon? It is very difficult to think of any situation where his Mormonism would be an issue. The birth of the Mormon religion was bizarre, what with the polygamy and all, but the religion has evolved to the point where its most distinguishing feature is enthusiastic evagelization . Mormons as a group are very conservative, more so than Catholics or Protestants. (Mormon Utah went 75% for Bush in 2004).

And precedent does not help those who feel that it is inappropriate for a Mormon to reside in the White House. Orrin Hatch is a Mormon. So is Harry Reid. Glenn Beck is too. None of these individuals seems to be a puppet of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Furthermore, another Mormon ran for office in the late Sixties. How did the intolerant people of the time react to this? They didn't. Nobody cared that George Romney was a Mormon.

All that being said, Mitt Romney still had to give the speech. The media attention focusing on his Mormonism distracted from his policy positions. Polls indicated (and still indicate) that around one third of Americans would never vote for a Mormon. Romney had to at least try to assuage these concerns.

And he succeeded. In fact, he could hardly fail to succeed. It is my view that much of the controversy surrounding his religion has been generated by the media. Many people figured that with all of the media attention surrounding the religion issue, there must be something there. No smoke without fire. Since he has made the speech that so many were waiting for, it is my belief that many will assume that he has nothing to hide, that perhaps Mormonism is not such an insidious threat to our most beloved institutions.

The fact that he gave a very good, rallying speech also helped. It apparently blew the influential Rush Limbaugh away, as he gave it very high marks. Romney definitely sounded decisive, thoughtful-- and Presidential. When he bluntly proclaimed that "some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it", he sounded, for perhaps the first time in this campaign season, assured and forceful.

That Romney's speech went over so well is truly disastrous news for Rudy Giuliani. In little more than a week, he has managed to get both involved in an ethics scandal because of his regrettable habit of conducting affairs on the taxpayers dime and lose the Republican lead to Mike Huckabee (in the Rasmussen poll). He has made little news in the week since the last debate, now, he will lose another news cycle as pundits dissect Romney's speech.

By giving The Speech, Mitt Romney has attracted a huge amount of attention to his campaign, at least partially solved the Mormon problem, got accolades from Rush, and has put himself at the top of the news cycle going into the holidays and the Iowa caucuses. Romney's campaign depended on his ability to pull off The Speech--and he did.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An Analysis of the FairTax

There is significant grassroots movement calling for implementation of the FairTax. FairTax supporters are numerous and enthusiastic, especially on the Internet. In contrast to many Internet-based grassroots movements, FairTax fans are generally polite and well mannered- no trolling chat rooms or spamming polls. Their points are usually thought out, and their goals (such as the abolition of the IRS) are appopiate. However, it is doubtful that the FairTax is actually a viable or practical tax solution.

The FairTax would repeal all federal taxes and replace it with one giant sales tax. FairTax supporters claim that the FairTax would abolish the IRS, simplify the tax code, and close the loopholes in our present plan. These are worthy goals to conservatives. Unfortunately, the FairTax is no way to achieve them. The FairTax almost certainly would not work.

Firstly, the usually tax rate given by FairTax supporters is incorrect. They claim it is 23%. The actual rate 30%. The FairTaxers arrive at this number by calculating the percentage of the sales tax in the total purchase, not the percent added on. For example, a coat that is $100 dollars now will will cost $130 dollars if the FairTax is implemented. 30 dollars, which is 23 percent of $130, would be added, therefore, say the FairTaxer's, the tax rate is 23%.

This is actually correct if the FairTax is compared to an income tax. But the FairTax usually bills itself as a sales tax, and claims that the tax rate is 23% on every dollar. This is inaccurate, and intentionally or not, is misleading. (Ramesh Ponnuru explains this at NRO).

Also, the claim that the FairTax would abolish the IRS is wrong. The FairTax would include a monthly "prebate", a government check that would cover the FairTaxes on essential goods and services. Now apart from the fact that it gives government the power to decide what is "essential", it would necessitate some Washington service to handle the monthly checks. The responsibility of this service would be revenue, particularly internal revenue. Sound familiar? The Internal Revenue Service would probably have a different name, but it would be the same old bureaucracy.

Fans of the FairTax may also want to consider the possibility of a black market arising in order to avoid taxes. After all, if all sales are taxed through the roof, many may opt for "unofficial" sales that would avoid taxes. In addition, it is inevitable that Congress would exempt at least some unnecessary things (perhaps charitable giving) from the sales tax. This would lead, assuredly, to many more exemptions. Special interest groups would get involved, and we would soon have our present corruption-riddled system back with us.

Of course, before we could even start to implement the FairTax, a Constitutional Amendment would be in order. The 16th amendment allows for an income tax. Since no one wants both an income tax and a FairTax (except maybe Hillary, who takes all positions on every issue just out of habit), the 16th amendment would have to be repealed. A Constitutional Amendment must pass both Houses of Congress by a two thirds majority, then be approved by the states with a three fourths majority vote. Considering that our two major political parties can't agree on even the most basic things, does anyone think that any proposal of this magnitude could get that sort of support?

What with "prebates", black markets, and Constitutional Amendments, the FairTax's complexity would make our present tax code look childishly simple by comparison. The FairTax is fatally flawed in many areas, making it fortunate that it is essentially impossible to implement.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

More Religion Stuff

A few more thoughts about religion.

One, Richard Dawkins shows why his hardcore brand of atheism isn't getting many followers. In a column for the Washington Post, he explains not only that adultery is morally permissible, he also explains that the cheated on spouse should not be angry or even disapproving.
In one of the most disgusting stories to hit the British newspapers last
year, the wife of a well-known television personality, Chris Tarrant, hired a
private detective to spy on him. The detective reported evidence of adultery and
Tarrant's wife divorced him, in unusually vicious style. But what shocked me was
the way public opinion sided with Tarrant's horrible wife. Far from despising,
as I do, anybody who would stoop so low as to hire a detective for such a
purpose, large numbers of people, including even Mr. Tarrant himself, seemed to
think she was fully justified. Far from concluding, as I would, that he was well
rid of her, he was covered with contrition and his unfortunate mistress was
ejected, covered with odium.

He also goes on to explain that Mitt Romney's faith should be taken into account when deciding whom to vote for, God knows why. Or, as Dawkins might say, god knows why. (Some atheists have taken to writing "God" in all lowercase letters. That will show Him). richard dawins and christopher hitchens will have a difficult time attracting followers if they continue to write stuff like that.

Cardinal Roger Mahony apparently was attacked by a man angry at the fact that Mahony covered up cases of clerical sexual abuse. Perhaps out of habit, Mahony did not report the crime to police. Perhaps it is uncharitable, but I have a hard time feeling too sorry for the Cardinal. His cover-up, in my opinion, was very nearly as bad as the original crime.

Christopher Hitchens succeeds in his goal of having a worse holiday spirit than Scrooge (his piece is entitled "Bah, Hanukkah"). Hitchens is a the quintessential contrarian, but this is a bit far even for him.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Liberal Intolerance

When talking about religious matters, liberals like to claim the moral high ground of "tolerance". Liberalism, they claim, is a big tent where all religions are tolerated, while the Republican party consists entirely of nutso fundamentalists. But in reality, the opposite is true. Liberalism is intolerant of Christianity.

Perhaps it is not fair to say that liberals dislike all Christianity. There is one variety they embrace-- a lukewarm, Laodicean version of Christianity without absolutes and no message beyond "Be Nice." Most, perhaps all, leftist religious thinkers subscribe to this concept of religion. In this view, all religious belief, no matter how absurd, is equally valid. The only religion that is exempted from this viewpoint is atheism (look it up, atheism is arguably a religion). But they display a great deal of intolerance to any Christian who dares to say that his moral beliefs are superior to those of anyone else.

"Intolerant", is a term that means whatever the person using it wants it to mean (much like "offensive" or "hate speech"), so a definition of this term is in order. "Intolerant", according to dictionary.com, means: "not tolerating or respecting beliefs different from one's own."

It is importance not to confuse "intolerance" with honest disagreement. For example, if a Catholic and Protestant disagree on a passage from Luke, that is simply normal discourse. If, however, either side engages in generalized ad hominen attacks or misrepresentations against the other, that (to my mind) represents intolerance.

Now that we have finished that semantics digression, let's look at a few examples of liberal religious intolerance. It is obvious that most liberals hate (and I don't think that is too strong a word) fundamentalist and evangelical churches. It is difficult to find any liberal article or blog post discussing these groups that does not describe their positions as "hateful" or some such strongly negative adjective.

It seems contrary to their stated position of "tolerance", or even basic respect, to condemn someone's honestly held moral beliefs as hateful, unless supporting evidence is given to back this claim up. Given that most liberals claim to believe in the Bible, and given that the Bible's position on many ethical issues is one that most liberals would just as soon ignore, it rarely is.

But it is not just fundamentalism which falls afoul of prominent liberals. The Catholic Church comes in for some bashing as well. It should be noted that one of the most common leftist criticisms of the Church, which is that it is responsible for African poverty and hunger because of its stand on birth control, is completely intolerant and enormously unfair. If you really think that the Church relaxing its birth control ban would somehow improve conditions in Africa, then you are obviously completely ignorant of the most basic facts about the situation. 15% of Africans are Catholic, leaving 85% free to use birth control, condoms, or whatever the UN decides is best. Is there a significant difference in the AIDS rate, or the poverty rate, among the two populations? No. This is an example of the tendency, so common among liberals, to blame religion for everything undesirable.

Pope Benedict XVI stands firm in advocating traditional morality. The left responds with vicious and baseless attacks. For example, the powerful and influential Daily Kos features an encyclopedia (there is a special Kos encyclopedia, modelled along Wikipedia) entry on Benedict XVI. It features three paragraphs (I guess nobody reads or edits dKosopedia). One of them accuses Benedict XVI of being a member of Hitler's Youth, the other takes a shot at the Church's teachings on celibacy. While this entry was probably written by some moronic Kos reader who was convinced that his parents warped his intellectual development because they attended church when he was kid and made him go even though he told them he was a freethinker and he still hasn't recovered, the Daily Kos is still responsible for the content of their site. If they permit that sort of thing on their encyclopedia, they are responsible for it.

If that example isn't convincing enough, the slightly more sane Huffington Post isn't above the odd shot at Pope Benedict. Blogger Paul Krassner, in his @$$-holes of the Week column (liberal blogs are so family friendly) referred to Pope Benedict as a "bigoted nut." Another HuffPo blogger, Angela Bonavoglia, wrote a post titled Catholic Bishops Agree -- Reluctantly, Reluctantly! -- to Treat Rape Victims. The post equates a belief in the immorality of abortion with a refusal to care for rape victims.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, another liberal blog post, this one from the Daily Kos, further reveals the anti-Catholicism of the left. This post suggests that Hitler was a Catholic in good standing who was never excommunicated until his death. This is relies on the myth that the Church stood silent while Hitler committed his evil deeds. While fully refuting this myth is beyond the scope of this post, it should suffice to say that after Pius XII died, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was the first world leader to send condolences to Vatican, thanking him for his efforts to help the Jewish community.

I did not even bother to include vicious, hateful, ignorant, anti-relious statments by the likes of Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, or Sam Harris, who are not unanimously embraced by all liberals. (I really couldn't put Christopher Hitchens on that list since he is probably revered more by the Right than the Left, his virulent anti-theism notwithstanding. This is all stuff written by mainstream commenters on blogs enthusiastically embraced by all members of the Democratic party. Often, leading Democratic politicians post on these blogs.

The Left's hatred and intolerance for conservative Christianity should not ignored. Whether it is accusations of "hate", lies, or slanders against religious figures, liberalism cannot claim to be tolerant of all religious and moral beliefs.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Oprah and Obama- The Impact

There have many people wondering about the impact Oprah's endorsement will have on the Obama campaign. My view is that it will make relatively little difference. Oprah has a large audience of 8.9 million, 75 percent of whom are women. (Are there really over two million males who watch Oprah? However, Oprah's topics are usually feel-good stuff, as opposed to political topics. Oprah's acolytes may follow her bookbuying recommendations, but I doubt that a significant number will be influenced by her political ideas.

The only way that Oprah could be truly campaign-changing for Obama (and bear in mind, these are just my predictions, and they could very easily be wrong) is if she becomes basically a full-fledged campaign promoter, in the way that Chuck Norris is with Mike Huckabee. That would entail joint interviews with Obama, TV spots, and other time consuming tasks. Oprah may be committed to Obama, but she probably doesn't want to burn any bridges with the Hillary camp by endorsing him too much.