Monday, March 31, 2008

Obama's Truth Problems

Hillary Clinton has taken a great deal of fire from all sides due to her lies about her experiences, or lack of thereof, of sniper fire in Bosnia. The Washington Post described her story as a “whopper.” The television pundits were unanimous in declaring that Hillary lied. Christopher Hitchens spoke for most observers when he called Hillary’s statements “flagrant, hysterical, repetitive, pathological [lies]”.

Hillary deserves all the criticism she gets. But the media’s (both liberal and conservative) treatment of Hillary is a little unfair. Hillary is not the only Democrat Presidential candidate to repeatedly and obviously lie.

The Jeremiah Wright controversy is the worst thing that has yet happened to Barack Obama. Obama clearly had to do some significant damage control. Unfortunately, Obama’s damage control consisted, in large part, of lies.

In an interview with Fox News the day after the Wright story broke, Obama explained that he had never heard any controversial statements from Wright, either in his sermon or in private conversation. Three days later, Obama rhetorically asked if he had ever heard “statements that could be considered controversial” from Wright. In those three days, the answer had changed from “never” to “yes”.

Obama famously declared that he “could no more disown Reverend Wright then [he] could disown the black community.” Three days later, he appeared on The View, and where he declared that he would have left the church had Jeremiah Wright not been on the verge of retirement.

It appears he wasn’t serious about the whole “disown the black community” thing. Now, the reason he didn’t leave Wright’s church was because he wanted to spare the departing Wright’s feelings.

That is at least two obvious lies. First, that Obama was unaware of Wright’s statements, and second, that Wright could not be disowned any more than the black community as a whole could be.

Obama’s falsehoods do not extend only to the Wright controversy. Obama can’t, by his own words, “disown the black community.” That line would work better if Obama’s claim to fame was not his 2004 insistence that “there is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

So what of the “black community”? Obama clearly said that no such thing existed. He tried to retcon his 2004 statement by claiming that his speech was aspirational, that his speech was not a reference to what things are, but what they could be.

It would have been nice if Obama could have told us about this aspect of his speech. Most liberals seemed to think he was talking about the here and now. In fact, that was a major factor in his success—the idea that he was a truly post-racial candidate.

Of course, Obama couldn’t tell us about the “aspirational” facets of his 2004 speech, because there weren’t any. Obama said: “Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Note the “now even as we speak” part, and the “[t]here is not” part. That is the present tense, not the aspirational tense. Obama clearly lied here, and incredibly obvious.

Everybody knows Hillary Clinton is a liar. (Deep down, many of her supporters probably realize this). Fortunately, for her, Obama shares her problems with honesty under pressure. His triangulations in the wake of the Wright scandal have been Clinton-like in their falsity, audacity, and effectiveness. Obama has been often compared to Bill Clinton—he shares Clinton’s qualities of being handsome, articulate, and popular. He obviously shares one more Clinton attribute—he is an accomplished liar.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More From the Religion of Peace

I was vaguely aware that Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, was making a short film about the Koran and its influence on violent Muslims. I can’t say that I was desperate to see it, but thought it a welcome and rare example of the West resisting radical Islam. Wilders deserves credit.

The film was released on LiveLeak today. It was also taken off of LiveLeak today. Apparently, members of the Religion of Peace have been making death threats, and LiveLeak felt that it could not compromise the safety of its employees.

That was probably the right decision. LiveLead doesn’t have the right to jeopardize its employees without their unanimous consent.

However, everyone should have the opportunity to see this film. So here it is (via YouTube). Part 1 Part 2. (The video has been flagged as inappropriate by angry Muslims, so you will need a YouTube account) You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to watch it. You should have the right to see it, and threats by radical Muslims should not be able to prevent it from being shown.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hillary as Queeg

During this election season, Barack Obama has reminded many liberals of Danny Saunders from Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. He is supposed to represent a new generation of Democrats, who combine the best of the old liberals with the new ideas represented by Democrat grassroots. He is supposed to be the One (Ophrah’s word) who transcends race and party and politics and will never let Americans return to their former cynism (Michelle Obama’s phrase).

If Obama is The Chosen, who is Hillary Clinton’s literary parallel? Perhaps Captian Queeg, from Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny. It would be a stretch to call Hillary truly insane, but neither (spoiler alert) was Queeg. He just acted like it. So, often, does Hillary.

Her story of her Bosnia landing is delusional. At first, her plane just went into a corkscrew landing to guard against sniper fire, which easily could have happened. The next version of the story had the reception taking place indoors because of possible snipers. Finally, Hillary claimed that she and her entourage sprinted for cover with heads down to prevent the snipers from getting a bead on them.

No person with any sense of honesty would have tried to sell this story. CBS had reporters on the scene, Chelsea was there (so it couldn’t have been too dangerous), and comedian Sinbad rapidly debunked her story. David Geffen has said that the Clintons lie with troubling ease. It seems that Hillary lies easily and instinctively, with no thought as to whether the lie is actually plausible.

Hillary’s defense of the Bosnia fiasco is embarrassing. She explained that if she misspoke, it was a misstatement, and that she says a lot of things anyway—millions of words a day. Millions? When explaining away a lie, it is probably the best policy to stick as close to truth as possible.

Captain Queeg wasn’t crazy—but he wasn’t very well adjusted, either. Hillary is sane—but she does appear to be a congenital liar. Her instinctive response when faced with any difficulty is to lie—not as a defense, not simply as a habit. She can’t help herself.

Captain Queeg wasn’t much of a minesweeper captain. But if faced with the choice of Captain Queeg or President Clinton, I think I would take Queeg.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fox News and Media Bias

Liberals have a passionate hatred for Fox News. They see it not only as a mouthpiece of the Republican establishment, but as a hateful perversion of what the media should be. They believe that its coverage is not only unfair, but wrong. Limbaugh, Coulter, and Rove are despised on the left. Fox News is hated with a passion.

Fox News does try to attract a conservative audience. That is undeniable, and those conservatives who attempt to refute this end up trying to pass off Alan Colmes and Greta Van Susteren (who covers entertainment figures almost exclusively) as mainstays of the network. Of course, they aren’t—the real stars are Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and they run the show. A typical O’Reilly Factor segment usually features two obscure pundits, one conservative, and the other liberal, who yap at each other for a while before O’Reilly shouts his position, which he loudly declares the correct one. A Hannity and Colmes segment usually features Hannity and a well-known conservative against the squirrel-like Colmes and a completely obscure liberal. On Fox News, conservatives always win.

Fox’s opinion shows are solidly conservative. Their news division is much less ideological, although it does lean to the right. Fox News’ liberal analysts seem fairly conservative. For example, Juan Williams is hardly a typical member of the Democrat Party. (He wrote a book which told blacks to be self-reliant, which is taboo in most liberal circles). Fox News does deliver the news fairly accurately, and probably more impartially than most of the other networks. However, it would a stretch to claim that it has no ideological bias.

What liberals do not understand, however, is that Fox News obviously fills some niche that the rest of the media does not. Conservatives watch Fox News almost exclusively. Why? Because liberals control the rest of the cable news networks. Liberals scoff at this charge, but conservatives don’t; they tune in to Fox News.

Fox News is mildly partisan, but they do at least pay lip service to the notion that they are fair and balanced. MSNBC doesn’t even try to do that. Their line-up is Hardball with Chris Matthews, David Gregory, Matthews again, Countdown with Keith Olbermann (this is their big show—sometimes, it gets over a million viewers. That’s almost as many as Brit Hume!), Verdict with Dan Abrams, Countdown again, then a prison documentary (I have no idea who watches those). Matthews worked in the Carter White House, Gregory built a very liberal as part of the White House press corps, and Dan Abrams is enough of a liberal to gloat about Rush Limbaugh possibly being arrested for election fraud.

Keith Olbermann is their big star—the guy who gets the ratings, and has the influence around the network. Recently (March 20, 2008), Olbermann felt the need to investigate fully the implications behind the revelations that State Department employees illegally accessed Barack Obama’s records. MSNBC gave him an entire advertisement free hour. He is everywhere on MSNBC—in addition to his nightly show, he also anchors election coverage.

Olbermann is incredibly liberal. He has called for President Bush to resign numerous times, compared Bill O’Reilly to Hitler, and has accused the U.S. of invading Iraq for oil. However, while liberals see creeping fascism in the fact that Bill O’Reilly is given a nightly forum, they see Keith Olbermann as the second coming of Edward R. Murrow. They do not see anything wrong with Olbermann or the rest of MSNBC’s exclusively liberal line-up.

Okay, MSNBC has liberal commentators, but so does Fox News. What about their news division? MSNBC does not even make a pretense of objectivity. Their election night coverage has Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors. Newsweek magazine supplies the analysts. (They have something is common with the MSNBC people: neither of them has an audience). MSNBC clearly caters exclusively to a liberal audience.

Liberals, of course, have no problem with this blatant bias. In their world, bias is something found only in the conservative media. They cannot conceive of finding partiality in their network of choice.

This double standard is infuriating, but there is a silver lining. Fox News has the top five rated cable news shows—and MSNBC’s shows have the lowest ratings. Hypocrisy and liberalism do not pay.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Antiwar Violence

Recently, Skye over at Midnight Blue reported that an antiwar protestor at a pro war rally slapped her. (Maries Two Cents has pretty good coverage of the whole incident) The perpetuator was arrested, and Skye is considering legal action. I’ve been to Midnight Blue before, and I have always enjoyed that blog, and I hope that Skye is okay.

Unfortunately, what happened to Skye is not uncommon. Antiwar protestors frequently employ violence. There are many examples—for example, a group of antiwar people splashed stage blood on churchgoers during the sermon at Easter Mass at Holy Name Church in Chicago. Somebody recently exploded a bomb in front of a Times Square recruitment center. Berkley protesters vandalized a recruiting station. There are multitudes of examples of this kind of thing happening.

Most antiwar people claim to be devoted to “nonviolence.” The only problem is, “nonviolence” seems to be defined as “guns are not involved.” Anything else goes.

And antiwar violence is more or less accepted on the left. Mainstream liberals rarely condemn these actions—on the contrary, they either maintain a stance of moral neutrality (striking pro-war people is wrong, but so is the war) or outright support.

One can expect a certain amount of hypocrisy from the left about antiwar protesters—after all, most leftists are sympathetic to the their cause. What is inexcusable is the difference in the treatment given to protesters on the right.

Leftists regularly label pro-life protestors as extremists and radicals. Whenever a pro-life advocate goes too far and performs some inexcusable act (such as blowing up an abortion clinic), the media categorizes all pro-lifers as terrorists. Liberal prosecutors often attempt to thwart pro-lifers by any means possible, such as prosecuting protesters for violating racketeering laws.

Compare the opposition to pro-life protesters with the acceptance even the most extreme antiwar groups receive. They are rarely prosecuted for their indisputable crimes. The people who vandalized the Berkley recruiting center were not given the slightest bit of legal trouble. No prominent antiwar people are forced condemn the illegal actions of antiwar people—on the contrary, some, such as Michael Moore, encourage illegal behavior. Virtually all pro-lifers condemn violence in the strongest possible terms, yet they are still considered violent and dangerous by the mainstream media.

There is no justification for violent protests, whether the protesters are on the right or on the left. The difference between the two ideologies is that the right understands this, while the left does not.

My Top Blogs

John Hawkins has ranked his 40 favorite blogs of the first quarter of 2008. I don't read 40 blogs regularly, but here are my top ten:

10) Michelle Malkin
9) Hot Air
8) Right Wing News
7) Iowahawk
6) Radio Equalizer
5) Instapundit
4) Campaign Spot
3) Ace of Spades HQ
1) The Corner

Monday, March 24, 2008

Clarence Thomas: Hero

I recently finished reading Clarence Thomas’ autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son. Clarence Thomas is one of the most controversial political figures, and certainly the most controversial Supreme Court justice. His book is an interesting look at this often reclusive justice.

Thomas’ book came out some time ago, but it is relevant both because the lives of fascinating people like Thomas are always worth reading, and also because the Obama campaign’s troubles with the race issue make Thomas’ views on the subject worthy of note.

The most striking thing about Thomas’ life is the sheer improbability that someone like Clarence Thomas would ever make it to the Supreme Court. Thomas grew up in poverty in the segregated South. His education was difficult—he always went to good schools because of the sacrifices his grandfather made, but was always affected by racism. He left the seminary because of racial slurs by other students, and believes that his degrees by Holy Cross and Yale Law School were tainted because of affirmative action. (He had a great deal of trouble finding a job when he left law school; he believes that that employers simply assumed that he had a degree solely because of affirmative action).

Eventually, he found success in the Reagan administration as chairman of US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After eight successful years there, Thomas was appointed a federal judge, and was nominated to the Supreme Court a little more than a year later.

Of course, Thomas’ nomination was opposed by many liberal Democrats, their opposition based on the flimsiest charges imaginable. That is not surprising—that was the time when Democrats were at their most aggressive, succesfully torpedoing the Robert Bork nomination and unsessfully attempting to tarnish the Reagan administration with the Iran-Contra scandal. True, the attack employed—“you can’t trust blacks around women”—was espcially despicable, but that sort of thing was often done by Democrats at the time. (They still try to do that sort of thing sometimes, but their success is limited by talk radio and the blogosphere).

What is truly incredible is that most mainstream leftists still believe these charges, and still attempt to smear Thomas. It is an article of faith among far left liberals that Clarence Thomas is a) absolutely stupid, and b) a self-loathing race traitor. It is, of course, assumed that all of Anita Hill’s charges were true.

Thomas rarely asks questions from the bench. What does that mean? If you are a liberal, it means that he must be unintelligent, because his silence might come from a lack of confidence, and a lack of confidence clearly implies a weak mind. I’m pretty sure that is missing a few logical links, but that it the left’s story, and they are definitely sticking to it. (For the record, Thomas believes that the extensive briefs filed in Supreme Court cases make most questions superfluous).

Liberals believe that only smart white leftists can determine the best course for black Americans. A black man like Clarence Thomas, who thinks he knows better, is unthinkable. Thomas is not the only black who is conservative—but he is by far the most visible. If Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, or any of the other prominent black conservatives suddenly disappeared from the scene, conservatives would mourn, but the general population wouldn’t notice for long. (Of course, this is the case with most white conservatives as well). Thomas is one of the most powerful and visible men in the country. His word is, literally, law. Liberals must discredit him to ensure that their racial orthodoxy is the only one available.

As they attempt to do so, however, the latent racism in modern liberalism becomes obvious. Democrat policies towards blacks is based on the “soft bigotry of low expectations”. It is obvious that liberals don’t believe that blacks can compete with whites; hence, vast amounts of welfare spending and affirmative action, also, the distain for Clarence Thomas.

Fortunately, Thomas has overcome those who hate him, and that what he stands for. He is now one of the right’s most revered figures, and with good reason. His story of overcoming racism and hate, first from redneck Southerners, then from white liberals, is inspiring. Clarence Thomas is truly a man of courage.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Benefiting from Global Warming

Billionaire Richard Branson is on mission to save the planet—and he is not alone. He has asked some of his billionaire friends, such as Larry Page of Google, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, and Tony Blair (who is one of the few people in this effort who is not incredibly rich) whether the “planet is on fire”, and they all seem to agree that it either is, or might as well be. His group of associates are now, according to Richard Stromback (another billionaire), plotting to save the planet.

Some of their efforts are a little impractical. Larry Page proudly jet-pools in from Silicon Valley, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t save all that much carbon dioxide in the long run. They don’t seem to have things together just yet, which is evidenced by Tony Blair’s statement that “we have an agreement that there should be an agreement. But there's no agreement on what that agreement should be.”

The plan is, these people will invest in “green” technologies. Some of these individuals, such as Stromback and billionaire (another one) venture capitalist Vinod Khosla have already dumped millions of dollars into green technologies. Others have projects in the works. If these billionaires make a significant investment in green technology, the industry will get a tremendous boost.

The idea of a bunch of billionaires partying in the Caribbean congratulating themselves on their ability and intent to save the earth is silly. But what they are doing is important and beneficial.

Global warming may or may not exist. If it does, it may or may not be caused by humans. If it is, we really cannot do anything about it. The sheer of amount of carbon dioxide produced by humans makes any attempt to limit it in a meaningful way hopeless. Even Al Gore’s more improbable plans (such as the idea that the U.S. accept the Kyoto Protocols) would do literally nothing to stop any global warming. Branson’s efforts to stop global warming are a little bit like investing money in a program to stop giant asteroids from hitting earth—it’s a nice thought, but the threat is remote and there isn’t anything we can do anyway.

Branson and Company won’t save the earth. However, they will do some good. Alternate energy really is a good idea. (I believe that if the solar energy people advertised their product as a source of practically free energy, instead of touting environmental benefits, solar energy would be a practical reality today). Oil won’t last much longer—we are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Oil prices are now over $100 a barrel, and could easily go up.

Coal is a good source of energy, and is plentiful, but it does ruin the environment and is dangerous to those who mine it. Nuclear energy is plentiful, safe, and clean. However, even if the Left would allow the construction of nuclear power plants, it would not be the answer to all of earth’s energy problems. For example, it wouldn’t do much to power automobiles, and couldn’t be used in Third World countries (unless you want to stick a nuclear plant in, say, Sudan).

Alternate technologies have a great deal of promise. If they get funding from entrepreneurs who are looking to make money, as opposed to simply trying to make a gesture, they could become incredibly useful. Branson, Stromback, and the rest may be environmentalists—but they are also incredibly successful businessmen. There has never been as good a time to develop alternate technologies—and if these billionaires are successful, they will finally free us from expensive Middle Eastern oil, and they will also make incredible amounts of money. And if they can do the former, they deserve the latter.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Wright Controversy: What We Learned

It seems that the Jeremiah Wright controversy has played itself out, that there (probably) will be no new startling revelations. We know that Barack Obama attended Wright’s church for decades, that he did hear some of Wright’s controversial sermons, and that he rejects them. We know everything to know about the Wright controversy. So what does it tell us about Barack Obama?

First, it tells us that Obama is untruthful. A key component of his immediate spin after the story broke was that he was unaware of the content of Wright’s sermons. Apparently, he realized that this sounded pretty thin, and by the time Tuesday rolled around, he was aware of everything that went on. That is, of course, a blatant contradiction. Obama lied, and given that his two stories completely contradicted each other, must have lied knowingly and cold-bloodedly.

Second, that Obama will not distance himself in any meaningful way from Jeremiah Wright. He condemned the comments, but not the man. He said that the comments were “wrong” and “divisive” (which is a little bit like saying that the Civil War was a divisive time. It was, but it’s quite an understatement), but refused to disown Jeremiah Wright. He was quite clear on that point.

Some on the left (and few on the right, like Andrew Sullivan*), think that Obama was right to refuse to disown Wright, that his support of Wright was an impressive act of political courage. I’m not quite sure why, and most of Obama’s defenders simply repeat how brave it was of Obama not to reject Wright, but I gather that the reasoning involves Obama’s grace and hope, and his “honest” treatment of race.

This is absolute nonsense. Wright probably has done a great deal of good. So have many people who were nonetheless despicable. George Wallace had some good small government ideals. Malcolm X spoke out against very real racial injustice. Joe McCarthy was correct to warn the nation of Communists.

That doesn’t change the fact that these people were a racist, a racist, and a liar (sorry, McCarthy was liar), respectively. Any good they may have done was irretrievably tarnished by their bad.

It is obvious that Wright’s hateful comments were not made because he maybe got a little carried away. When he claimed that the U.S. government made HIV, that the U.S. government would plant WMD’s in Iraq, and when he declared that 9/11 was the result of “chickens coming home to roost”, he obviously believed his statements. These are not just harmless eccentricities—if one believes that America had 9/11 coming, it would tend to influence one’s entire worldview.

Finally, Obama’s speech should remove any idea that Obama is a post-racial candidate. He grouped the entire black community with Jeremiah Wright. (“I can no more disown him [Wright] than I can disown the black community”). Apart from implying that all black people are crazy racists, Obama’s comments showed that he believes that blacks are one distinct segment of the population segregated from the population at large. If Wright’s church represents to black community (and I really hope it doesn’t), then black and white societies are separate, and can never be integrated together.

This concept is horribly offensive. In fact, it isn’t much more enlightened than George Wallace’s stand on integration. The idea that blacks must remain, for the foreseeable future, voluntarily apart from white society is dreadful. It would ensure bitterness and poverty. If this nation is to achieve racial harmony, the black community must join the white community, and the white community must join the black community, to create a single, joint culture. The idea that blacks and whites can form two distinct communities (which Obama evidently supports), would lead only to disaster.

*I know some conservatives consider Sullivan a crazy liberal. While he has some liberal tendencies, he is really more of a crazy conservative, the kind who supports Ron Paul.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Race Speech

Barack Obama gave his “race in America” speech today. I think it is analogous to Mitt Romney’s Mormon speech—those who don’t have a problem with Wright anyway will like it, while those who were shocked and horrified at Wright’s comments won’t be impressed.

One section that jumped out at me:

The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America. And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community...

Right. According to Barack Obama, the black community is racist, conspiracy theorist, and hateful. I’m really not sure if that is the message Obama wants to send, but comparing the black community to Jeremiah Wright has to lead one to that conclusion. Blacks might have “fierce intelligence”, but their “shocking ignorance” leads them to pretty bizarre conclusions, huh?

Anyway, I’m really not sure that one man can represent the whole black community. I’m pretty sure that blacks aren’t a homogenous mass, but rather hold a diverse array of opinions.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company…

I’m not sure what Barack is saying here, but it sounds like he is saying that whites “resenting” blacks might not be right, but it’s, y’know, understandable. Many whites do have issues with some of things he mentions here, but I'm pretty sure their resentment is directed at the (mostly white) politicians who implement such things, not at the blacks who benefit from them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Republican Win?

If the election were held today, the Republicans would probably win the election. But the Republicans really don’t deserve to win.

While in power, the Republicans have done a poor job. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America looked good on paper, but had as much relation to reality as a Barack Obama speech. Clinton humiliated Gingrich and the rest of the GOP leadership, easily won the government shutdown battle, and made a fool of the GOP Congress during the Lewinsky scandal.

Since the Clinton years, the GOP has looked even worse. Clinton managed a surplus, under Bush and company, we went back to massive deficits. Corruption reigned in Washington, and a humiliatingly high number of Republican Congressmen were indicted. (Granted, some, like Tom DeLay, may not have deserved it—but many more did). The Republican Congress has fought for the massively shady system of earmarks we enjoy today. Congress has let spending skyrocket out of control—the federal debt today is 9 trillion, an eighty percent increase over what the debt was when Bush took over.

President Bush has been very good on some aspects of the war. He has been steadfast in his pursuit of Islamic terrorists. He has refused even to contemplate withdrawing from Iraq before our task is finished, sometimes under considerable political pressure. His wiretap programs, for the most part, have been instrumental in making America safer.

It is a grim fact, however, that on other aspects of the war Bush has been a disaster. People can disagree over the wisdom of invading Iraq. Nobody can disagree that the manner in which the war was run in the years after was awful. Bush terribly mismanaged the war. Inexplicably, we stuck to the same strategy years after it was apparent it was not working. To his credit, Bush has adopted the surge strategy, and under the leadership of General David Petraeus, Iraq may be returning to stability. But one wonders how many lives and how much money were squandered in the years in which Bush did nothing.

On spending and certain aspects of the war, and many other issues, the Republican party has failed the country. It would seem to be a given that the Democrats would take the White House in November. Incredibly, they probably won’t.

How is this possible? A primary reason is that the Democrats will nominate a candidate with huge weaknesses. Hillary Clinton always had immense negative ratings—in the fifty percent range. Bill Clinton was likeable and could get away the odd bit of perjury or corruption charge. Hillary isn’t, and can’t. Hillary’s shrill voice, unpleasant demeanor, and general untrustworthiness will probably cost her the nomination. She can’t even unite the Democrat Party. Her chances in the general election would be incalculably low.

Barack Obama seemed to be everything Hillary is not. He is likable, pleasant, and even has a nice change message, even if he overuses it. He seems to have it all, and his gifts will probably win the Democrat Party nomination. Yet he probably won’t win the Presidency.

Obama’s involvement with Jeremiah Wright, an unhinged minister who preaches an odd doctrine of racial strife and division, will probably be fatal in the general election. Obama has run on his status as a post-racial candidate, a man who can overcome the divisions that divide us. The fact that he attends where racist and un-American sermons are apparently delivered regularly tarnishes his wonderful image.

But even if Wright had never come up, Obama would probably still lose. He based his image on the idea that he transcends politics, that he is a man (or if you talk to Obama supporters, a demi-god) who seeks the Presidency only for the good of the country. He is supposed to be above race and class, to be incorruptible, and to be absolutely moral.

He’s not. He may be better than most politicians—but nobody is as flawless as Obama seemed to be. If it hadn’t been Wright, it would have been something else. (Tony Rezko, maybe). Most politicians could probably ride it through—but not Obama. Even the slightest scandal would have been evidence that he is imperfect; and without his perceived perfection, there isn’t much else to Obama.

Given the fact that both Democrat candidates are tottering, it appears likely at this point that John McCain will win the Presidency. Granted, this is March, and any number of things could happen between now and the election. McCain could implode, Obama could get a boost, or Hillary could make an incredible comeback. But were the election held today, John McCain would probably win.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Saddam Hussein's Terror Links

Over the past five years, the left has made much of the fact that there seem to be no ties linking Saddam Hussein to terrorist organizations, and no evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. They used these facts as evidence that the whole Iraq enterprise was part of an elaborate scheme of George Bush to subjugate the Middle East and seize the rich oil fields of Iraq. Whenever the topic turns to Iraq, liberals use this information as a reason that we should never have gone there. Without these two key points, the liberal case collapses.

One portion of this accusation is partly true. Saddam Hussein was probably not a significant threat to develop weapons of mass destruction. Saddam probably could have built his weapons program up had he wanted to. There is really no compelling evidence, however, that suggests that he had any immediate intention of doing so. Most weapons experts believe that Saddam wanted to get U.N. sanctions lifted, and then get back into the WMD business.

Had we lifted the sanctions, Saddam probably would have been a threat. He had about two tons of enriched uranium that could have been used for a nuclear bomb, and his dormant WMD program possessed the knowledge necessary to rebuild his nuclear program.

This seems to imply that both Bush and his critics were both partly right. On the one hand, Bush was right to be suspicious of Saddam. One the other hand, the left was correct to believe that Saddam Hussein did not have the capacity to build any significant weapons of mass destruction. Although Bush was right on some things, I think it accurate to say that those who were against the war were right on this issue.

However, Bush was unquestionably right to accuse Hussein of ties to terrorism. A recent Pentagon review of captured Iraqi documents proves this. From Eli Lake’s New York Sun article:

The Iraqi Intelligence Service in a 1993 memo to Saddam agreed on a plan to train commandos from Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Anwar Sadat and was founded by Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the same year, Saddam ordered his intelligence service to "form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil; especially Somalia." At the time, Al Qaeda was working with warlords against American forces there.

• Saddam's intelligence services maintained extensive support networks for a wide range of Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations, including but not limited to Hamas.
Among the other Palestinian groups Saddam supported at the time was Force 17, the private army loyal to Yasser Arafat.

• Beginning in 1999, Iraq's intelligence service began providing "financial and moral support" for a small radical Islamist Kurdish sect the report does not name. A Kurdish Islamist group called Ansar al Islam in 2002 would try to assassinate the regional prime minister in the eastern Kurdish region, Barham Salih.

• In 2001, Saddam's intelligence service drafted a manual titled "Lessons in Secret Organization and Jihad Work—How to Organize and Overthrow the Saudi Royal Family." In the same year, his intelligence service submitted names of 10 volunteer "martyrs" for operations inside the Kingdom.

• In 2000, Iraq sent a suicide bomber through Northern Iraq who intended to travel to London to assassinate Ahmad Chalabi, at the time an Iraqi opposition leader who would later go on to be an Iraqi deputy prime minister. The mission was aborted after the bomber could not obtain a visa to enter the United Kingdom…

The report concludes that Saddam until the final months of his regime was willing to attack America. Its conclusion asks "Is there anything in the captured archives to indicate that Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against the
United States?" It goes on, "Judging from Saddam's statements before the 1991 Gulf War with the United States, the answer is yes." As for after the Gulf War, the report states, "The rise of Islamist fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' tool box." It goes on, "Evidence that was uncovered and analyzed attests to the existence of a terrorist capability and a willingness to use it until the day Saddam was forced to flee Baghdad by Coalition forces." The report does note that it is unclear whether Saddam would have authorized terrorism against American targets in the final months of his regime before Operation Iraqi Freedom five years ago. "The answer to the question of Saddam's will in the final months in power remains elusive," it says.

Now, this report does not necessarily justify the Iraq invasion. Saddam’s connections with terrorism were probably not as extensive as those of Iran or Syria. Furthermore, Iraq really didn’t have an active WMD program, which Iran has. This report does not prove Bush was right about Iraq.

Its does prove two things. One, that Bush did not lie about Saddam’s connections with terrorism. By taking out Saddam, we almost certainly prevented at least some, and perhaps many, terrorist attacks.

But perhaps more importantly, it means that those Democrats who voted for the war cannot say that they were entirely misled by bad intelligence. The WMD evidence is admittedly lacking, but the evidence linking Saddam to terror is not. Hillary Clinton and the rest of the pro-war Democrats knew what they were getting into. They cannot excuse their war votes (as Hillary has) by claiming that the intelligence was flawed. They are accountable.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama's Pastor Trouble

I have been aware for some time that Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, was eccentric, inflammatory, and preached at an exclusively black church. This looks odd, but I have tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are and were pretty controversial, and few conservatives criticized them much. (An exception was John McCain). As for the all-black thing, yes, it’s odd, but not unheard of. Many Catholic churches were originally built for single ethnicities (although the practice has died out as America has become more racially integrated), and mostly black churches are not exactly unheard of. I felt uncomfortable attacking someone’s church.

No more. Jeremiah Wright is crazy and a racist. I simply do not see how anyone could possibly go to this man’s church more than once. It is inconceivable that anyone of any intelligence could have Wright as a spiritual advisor, as Barack Obama does.

Take a look at this video. Really, take a look at it, as it is well worth viewing. Ignore the crazy rhetoric, for the moment, and savor the ridiculousness of Wright’s melodramatic, overdone delivery. He sounds like Jesse Jackson doing a really bad imitation of Cotton Mather.

And the content, of course, is stupid. I really doubt that Jesus looked black (he probably looked like Middle Eastern Jew), and if He did I really doubt that He identified Himself as a black man. I don’t think that race entered the equation much. And even if he did, the whole scenario is stupid anyway. I don’t think it’s really accurate to say that Obama is a Jesus figure, while Hillary represents the Romans. While it may be gratifying to Obama’s ego to hear that kind of thing, it is pretty offensive to others.

It is not only offensive, it also may be illegal. The Trinity United Church of Christ is a nonprofit organization, and nonprofits are not allowed to endorse political candidates. Jeremiah Wright, in his customary unhinged manner, is clearly endorsing Barack Obama.

Barack Obama’s participation in this church is troubling. Wright clearly dislikes white people as a group, and I fall into that group. I really don’t care what some pastor in Chicago has to say about my ethnicity. I do care that someone who wants to be my President is willing to stand by and let this man slander my race.

Were the situations reversed, and John McCain a habitual attendee of a church where blacks were routinely slurred, I would withdraw my support for his candidacy. I believe that Obama should live up to the same standard.

Wright’s comments here are not an isolated incident. After 9/11, he suggested that white America had it coming, and that “white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just “disappeared” as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns” He also told his congregation that blacks should sing “God damn America”! Obama may well have been in attendance at the time, and he certainly was an active member in the church. He did not have the fortitude to speak out against his unhinged pastor. He did nothing

Obama’s excuse for his pastor’s crazy views is that Wright is like your crazy uncle who sometimes embarrasses you, but means well. That is not a nice to say about your pastor, and that is not acceptable. One can’t choose one’s relatives, but can choose one’s pastor. Jeremiah Wright is scary.

Recently, the Hillary Clinton campaign came under fire from Obama’s supporters for indirectly suggesting that Obama was a Muslim. Obama quickly denied it. But now that America can see what goes on in his actual church, he may want to revive the old Muslim rumor. It’s a lot less embarrassing than the truth.

Instapundit has some good coverage of this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reading Coulter Out

In 1957, Whittaker Chambers published a scathing review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Many people believe that the review read Rand out of the conservative movement.

I have not read Atlas Shrugged (though I do intend to do so), so I cannot declare Chambers right or wrong to write Rand out of mainstream conservatism. However, someone really should do a Chambers on Ann Coulter. She may have been useful at one time, but she has clearly jumped the shark. She is doing more damage to the conservative movement than Ayn Rand could ever have, even in Whittaker Chambers’ worst nightmares.

I confess that I enjoyed Slander, which was a valuable exposé of the leftwing media. Treason was interesting—she presented some interesting facts, and did some good work on the Whittaker Chambers case. Unfortunately, she bought into the bewildering conservative myth that Joe McCarthy was something other than an eccentric, self-destructive idiot. (If you disagree, consider how many Communists he actually found. I believe that the answer is: one).

Furthermore, Coulter, in her choice of title, falls prey to the common fallacy is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence. For example, since we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists. (And if it sounds like that is something that William F. Buckley would have written, it is because it is indeed something Buckley wrote). Coulter thinks that if liberal policies produce bad results, then one can conclude that those results were intentional, hence the “treason” accusations. Hopefully, you can see the glaring flaws in this argument.

Still, Treason had some points of merit, and so was not altogether worthless. Godless, although it contained an absurd chapter that attacked the well-established theory of evolution, was extremely funny. But recently, Coulter has transformed herself into a conservative version of Howard Stern.

She has had her share of controversial actions over the years. She was fired from National Review after her rather silly “invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity” comment, and has engaged in a one-way feud with the magazine ever since. She often refers to Muslims as “ragheads,” called John Edwards a “faggot,” seemingly only to cause controversy, and published a bizarre book (If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans) that is simply a collection of sophomoric insults.

Any of those may be forgiven individually, but collectively, they start to make Ann Coulter seem a little deranged. And her hysterical attacks on John McCain seem to support that conclusion.
I can sympathize with those conservatives who would not vote for McCain. Most of these people make reasonable, irrefutable criticisms of the Arizona Senator. Coulter’s attacks, however, are ridiculous. It is as if she cannot calm down and make an unruffled, logical attack on someone. Instead, she has to scatter dozens of crazy charges. (I would say McCarthyite charges, but Coulter would probably take it as a compliment).

Coulter has claimed that she would vote for Hillary before she would vote for McCain. She has further declared that Hillary is the most conservative candidate in the race. It is literally impossible to reply to that—it is like arguing with one who believes that 9/11 is an inside job. She is impervious to logic.

Coulter seems addicted to shocking people. Her books have displayed a steady decline in judgment—she has gone from her excellent Slander, to her absurdly titled Treason, to her humorous but empty Godless, to her latest screed, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans. Her performances during the course of the 2008 campaign seem designed only to scandalize.

Doug Adams speculates that Coulter shocks in order to sell books and get lucrative speaking engagements. Certainly, her antics serve to drive sales, and her speaking engagements are always sold out. I cannot judge Coulter’s motivations, and perhaps she simply enjoys the outraged reaction she gets from the left. But it is clear that to Ann Coulter, the good of conservatism now takes second place.

If I am lucky, maybe ten people will read this post. I don’t have anywhere near the influence necessary to read Coulter out of the conservative movement. But somebody should. She is becoming an embarrassment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Global Warming Pointlessness

Global warming is a much publicized issue. Al Gore recently held a worldwide series of concerts to draw attention to the “crisis”. Hollywood is making it an issue—stars now ostentatiously drive hybrids to award ceremonies. Congress recently passed a law proclaiming incandescent light bulbs illegal by 2012. Others propose a planet wide carbon tax.

A big part of the environmentalist message is the fact that you, the average person, can make a Difference. You can help by choosing paper bags over plastic (or maybe it’s plastic over paper; I can never remember), turning off lights when not in use, carpooling, or buying carbon credits.

Global warming hasn’t caught on as a hot-button political issue, however. Why? Given the attention is has been given by so many elites, it would be expected that global warming would be a significant issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. On the contrary, it is so insignificant that Rasmussen Reports does not even include it in its list of significant issues. Rasmussen surveys voters about level of concern on the issues of the economy, national security and the War on Terror, the war in Iraq, immigration, government ethics and corruption, Taxes, health care, social security, education, and abortion. The state of the climate doesn’t make the list.

Why don’t voters take voters take global warming seriously? Because the people who push the idea of climate change don’t take it seriously either. Instead, they treat it like they treat homelessness or poverty in Africa—an Important Issue, one that the government should Do Something About, but not anything that’s urgent or anything. To them, it is just another feel-good issue.

Take, for example, Al Gore’s palatial domicile. It is mammoth—it uses more carbon dioxide in a month than most homes do in a year. Granted, Gore works from his home, and has extensive security measures, which raise carbon dioxide production, but that is still ridiculous. How many people will be willing to make environment al sacrifices if they perceive that Al Gore would not to do the same?

And Gore’s excuse for his wastefulness—that he buys “carbon credits,” which somehow offset his consumption—is pathetic. Apart from the fact that buying “carbon credits” is analogous to buying “calorie credits,” Gore rarely mentions that his carbon credits go to a company called Generation Investment Management. Who founded the company? Al Gore. And the chairman of the board? Al Gore. The company invests in “green friendly technologies.” So when Gore buys “carbon credits”, he simply buys stocks from his own company.

If you want to buy yourself some carbon credits, think again. The firm is only willing to manage the assets of “select high net worth individuals”. Unless you have a few million to sink into green friendly investments, you will have to do your part for the planet by recycling and using cold water.

Al Gore is running a massive con. (Either that, or he is an incredibly poor environmentalist. Take your pick). Are other global warming advocates more serious? No. For example, a focus of the global warming movement is hybrid cars, which run on electricity as well as gasoline. Buying a hybrid is an article of faith for many environmentalists—after all, if it doesn’t burn gasoline, it can’t produce carbon dioxide, can it?

Duh. Of course it can. A Prius (or any other kind of hybrid) has to get its power from somewhere. The battery that drives a Prius requires a great deal of work, and that work requires in turn a great deal of carbon dioxide emissions. The process of producing a nickel battery for a hybrid uses large amounts of carbon dioxide, and the battery must travel all over the world to be completed, trailing carbon dioxide all the way. As George Will says, it is more environmentally responsible to buy a Hummer and squash a Prius with it.

A final example of the pointlessness of the global warming crusade is the odd insistence that the United States sign the Kyoto Protocols. Almost every other nation on earth has signed the Protocols. And almost every other nation on earth has then ignored the Protocols. And even if they didn’t, it would take twenty-five Kyoto Protocols to make a difference. The Kyoto Protocols are completely pointless.

If environmentalists treated their cause the same way that pro-lifers, for example, treat theirs, they would probably gain a great many converts. But since they cannot take even the slightest amount of inconvenience for their cause, they are not taken seriously by most people.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Conservative McCain?

Most conservatives feel that the nomination of McCain is a sign that the Republican party has moved away from conservatism, and embraced a philosophy that is, if not quite liberal, unabashedly moderate. McCain doesn’t do much to dispel that impression—he once compared Rush Limbaugh to a circus clown, and has made little effort to soften his more liberal views. It is little wonder that conservatives feel that the Republican Party rejected its conservative constituency.

However, they are incorrect. Modern conservatism began as a political force with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964. And John McCain, with the exception of Ronald Reagan, is the most conservative person nominated by the Republicans since Goldwater.

It seems inconceivable, but is true. No other nominee (with the exception, of course, of Reagan) has been as conservative as McCain, and many have been considerably more liberal. McCain would be seen as the second coming of Ronald Reagan if he would only take the trouble to pander to the right wing of the party.

The Republicans nominated since 1964 have been: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush. Nixon was one of the most liberal Presidents of the century (Michael Moore called him our last liberal president. While a typical ridiculous exaggeration, Moore was right about the liberal part). He instituted wage and price controls, indexed Social Security for inflation, was the first President to implement affirmative action, and created Supplemental Security Income. In addition, Nixon started the process called détente, which eased U.S. pressure on the Soviet Union. This, of course, gave the Soviet Union time to build up its forces with impunity.

Guess who proposed the first universal health care program? Nixon. Plus, there was the little episode involving Watergate, of which you may have heard something. This led to the Presidency (and later Presidential nomination) of Gerald Ford.

It’s hard to write much about Ford, as he didn’t do much as President, and seemed content to be Richard Nixon Lite. He continued détente, supported abortion, nominated John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court, and vocally supported the Equal Rights Amendment. He was every bit as liberal as Nixon, but more forgettable.

After the dreadful Carter years, the Republican Party nominated a true ideological conservative. After eight years of conservative governing, stagflation had ended, the economy was booming, and the Soviet Union was reeling. So of course the Republicans nominated…George H.W. Bush. Bush told voters to “read my lips, no new taxes”, and then raised taxes two years later. He lost to Bill Clinton.

Bush lost because he raised taxes. So who better for the Republicans to nominate than the man Newt Gingrich once called “the tax collector for the welfare state”, Bob Dole? Dole, of course, voted for Bush’s tax hike. Dole did a special general election flip-flop on taxes, and briefly became a fervent anti-tax crusader. But the voters didn’t buy it, and Dole went home.

The next Republican nominated was our current President, George W. Bush. He ran as a “compassionate conservative”, which is a euphemism for “tax collector for the welfare state”.

Bush cut taxes, but not spending. He cooked up a massive array of federal programs, including No Child Left Behind, a prescription drug coverage bill, massive increases in entitlement spending, and huge increases in earmarks. All of these programs worked about as well as most federal programs work. Now, our national debt is almost double what it was when Bush took office. It is now over $9 trillion [!] dollars, and it is anybody’s guess as to how we will ever pay that back. In addition, Bush (with McCain’s support), introduced the infamous illegal aliens amnesty bill.

Compared to these people, John McCain is Ann Coulter. On the issue of taxes, the biggest criticism of McCain is that he didn’t vote for the Bush tax cuts. Bob Dole voted for tax increases. McCain supports amnesty for illegal immigrants? So does Bush. (And so did Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Rudy Giuliani, until they noticed the polls). McCain’s conservative apostasies are regrettable—but nothing that we haven’t seen before from Republican Presidential nominees.

Conservatives may not decide to support McCain merely because he is better than what the GOP usually offers—they may want a candidate who is unabashedly conservative. But they should know that by rejecting McCain, they are rejecting the most conservative candidate (with one exception) since Barry Goldwater.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is Civil Disobedience Acceptable?

Recently, some idiot blew up a bomb in front of a Times Square recruiting office. Apparently, it was intended as a form of protest of the Iraq War, and the people responsible have proudly sent a letter to several Congressmen taking credit for the bombing.

If this attack was intended as a violent start to the revolution, it was a miserable failure, as no one (thankfully) was injured. If it was intended as a nonviolent statement, then it was a stunning error of judgment—I have never personally been to Times Square, but I doubt that there is ever a time that Times Square is not crowded. Someone could very easily have been hurt, and that is one thing that should be avoided in an anti-war protest.

This sort of event is becoming more common. In Berkley, a group of slightly more law-abiding protesters, led by Code Pink, are attempting to pass an ordinance banning a Marine recruiting station. The reasoning, which is somewhat complicated, is that Code Pink supports the military, but not the war, so they are attempting to stop the military from recruiting in the Berkley area. Except that not all Marines are in Iraq (we have over 75,000 soldiers in Germany), and keeping the Marines from recruiting in Berkley will just overextend the military.

When they are not trying to blow up or shut down recruiting centers, many anti-war protesters engage in mass civil disobedience. These folks typically form a crowd and cause mass disruption. For example, a pair of protesters who evidently didn’t get the memo about Code Pink’s attempted shutdown of the Berkley Marine recruiting center handcuffed themselves to the building.

This kind of thing is quite common, although it is not always so spectacular. Usually, the protesters just march around and block streets or public areas, while doing their best to upset any bystanders. In one case, a group of Daily Kos netroots planned a protest inside a bookstore featuring a book signing by Mark Levin. The plan was for the Daily Kos group to wear Nazi regalia to show Levin’s fascism (talk about the pot calling the kettle black), and to chant slogans and disrupt the event. The book signing was cancelled. (Levin’s book, by the way, was about dogs, not politics). This type of protest is frequent—certainly not everyday events, but are certainly not isolated incidents.

What is disturbing is not so much the frequency of these actions (really, what do you expect from the Daily Kos?), but the way people accept these protests as justifiable. The media rarely paints these protesters in anything but a positive light. This is unfortunate, because most “non-violent” protesters do not deserve the respect the media gives them.

Think about it. If a group feels strongly about the war in Iraq, do they have the right to disrupt the lives of other people? When an anti-war group employs mass civil disobedience, by what right do they release themselves from the laws that govern us? Are their causes so worthy that we are free from the rules governing everyone else?

Some people would respond in the affirmative, that a truly important cause can be grounds for civil disobedience. Fine, but imagine a thought experiment. If a group of segregationists planned a mass non-violent sit-in, for example, causing massive inconvenience to other people, could anyone argue that that is perfectly tolerable? Probably not, yet that is exactly what many anti-war protesters do. The only difference is that their cause contains many more sympathizers.

Is mass civil disobedience ever justified? In my mind, it is sometimes justifiable, but only very, very rarely. The law broken must be unjust, and act of disobedience should not harm others. Virtually all of the “non-violent” resistance does not fulfill these criteria—the act of disobedience either harms others (for example, the Mark Levin episode, which lost Levin a significant amount of money), or breaks a perfectly just law (as seen in the Berkley handcuff episode). Those who engage in civil disobedience do not deserve respect. On the contrary, they deserve (with rare exceptions) the contempt of all law-abiding people.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Barack Obama--Messiah?

Many liberals consider Barack Obama a sort of Messiah, a man divinely appointed to lead America to the Promised Land. They consider him a perfect fusion of Jimmy Carter’s liberal policies (and yes, many liberals consider the Carter Presidency a success) and Bill Clinton’s electoral charm. In addition, Obama is supposed to be a man above politics, someone more akin to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi than Franklin D. Roosevelt. For example, liberal blogger Ezra Klein writes that “[Obama] is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I've heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves…”

Klein seems to regard Obama with a kind of quasi-religious adulation, and he is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of supporters seem caught up in the Movement. Take the reports of young women fainting at Obama rallies—these people are either faking it to emphasize Obama’s support among the young, which is more than a little disturbing, or actually fainting, which is worse. I mean, Obama might be an inspirational speaker, but I’m not sure that “Yes We Can!!!” is that inspirational.

Your average person may be susceptible to the Obama cult of personality, but even your most enthusiastic ordinary person is uninterested compared to the adoration Obama gets from celebrities. This video, produced by Obama supporter, is one of the creepier videos out there. (If you don’t watch it, it features a sappy song about changing the world with chants of “Obama! Obama!” in the background). Oprah Winfrey declared Obama “the One we have been waiting for”, which displays an odd measure of cultlike devotion to Obama on Oprah’s part.

Obama seems to believe in his “Oneness” (to paraphrase Oprah) as well. Michelle Obama told the nation that “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism…Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Noble sentiments, I suppose, but definitely a little unrealistic, and indeed a bit fascistic. The idea that Obama’s mere presence in the White House will somehow change America’s national character is absurd.

It is probably no use to point out to Obama’s more passionate supporters that Obama is definitely not a Messiah, or anything but a fairly able politician. The only legislative accomplishment as a Senator that Obama bothers to recognize on his campaign site is an ethics bill that Obama and Tom Coburn passed. Apart from that law, Obama has no other significant lawmaking achievements.

Some Republicans consider Obama a Democrat Messiah as well, but in a different way. They see him as an unstoppable juggernaut, a Democrat dream candidate whom no Republican can stand up against; a sort of combination of Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Many conservatives see an Obama candidacy as death knell for the Republican Party in 2008.

Barack Obama is not Franklin Roosevelt. He is not John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton. He isn’t even Mike Huckabee. He is no more than a moderately successful politician and above average speaker.

His opponent for his Illinois Senate seat was Alan Keyes, who was called upon to run after the initial choice of the Republicans, Jack Ryan, was forced to drop out after an embarrassing report of a sex scandal. Alan Keyes’ perceived carpetbagger status (he lived in Maryland before running for an Illinois Senate seat) and personal unpredictability gave Obama a landslide (70% to 27%) victory.

Granted, it takes some doing to win a Senate seat, but circumstances were unusually favorable for Obama. He certainly did not display any unusually good political skills.

Many have pointed at his campaign against Hillary Clinton as evidence of those alleged superior political skills. Certainly, he has run a good campaign—but certainly not a great one. He has had at least two chances to knock Hillary out of the race—once before the New Hampshire primary, once before last Tuesday’s primary. Had Obama won New Hampshire, Hillary’s campaign probably would have been over. Had he won either Ohio or Texas, her campaign would have been so weakened that the nomination almost certainly would have been Obama’s. But he couldn’t deal the knockout blow either time.

Obama is a good politician, but not a world class one. His political skills are not in the same league with those of Kennedy, Reagan, or Bill Clinton. In fact, they may not be superior to those of John McCain. McCain, when he had the chance for a knockout blow against Mitt Romney in Florida, took the opportunity to seal his status as frontrunner. Obama, when given the same situation, could not. Given Hillary’s unattractiveness, her low position in the polls, and Obama’s almost uniformly favorable media coverage, Obama’s failure to eliminate her from the race is incredible.

Obama’s rhetorical skills are not as incredible as are commonly believed, either. He can get a crowd excited, but his speeches display a resemblance that is unusual in someone who is considered so superlatively gifted. You would expect something in his speeches beyond “Yes We Can!”. And his secondary catchphrase, “We are the people we have been waiting for” is as fatuous a phrase as can be imagined.

Obama is a good politician, a gifted speaker, and in all probability a good person—but no more than that. He is no Messiah, no automatic election-winner for the Democrats. He is destined for a successful career in politics, but not in salvation.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bill Clinton, Republican Benefactor?

I voted for Hillary Clinton today. The reasoning was that Hillary is a weaker candidate than Obama, and the longer the Democrat race runs, the better the chance McCain has of winning. Impeccable logic, at least from my perspective, but when I was forced to declare myself a Democrat, I almost changed my mind and asked for a useless Republican ballot. It appears that Hillary will not be forced to drop out tonight. She has won Rhode Island, and has a shot at winning Texas and Ohio. Her campaign hopes are still alive, although not very strong.

Bill Clinton did the Republican Party an incalculable amount of harm in the Nineties. He outsmarted the Republican controlled Congress after Newt Gingrich forced a federal government shutdown, making the GOP appear cold and unresponsive to the needs of Americans. The Republicans expended a great deal of effort in building up a case against Clinton regarding his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton wriggled out of it with amazingly little damage to himself. Newt Gingrich, Clinton’s primary opponent, lost his job as Speaker of the House. Throughout the Nineties, Bill Clinton severely damaged the Republican Party with seeming ease.

In 2000, the nation came within 300 Florida votes, or one Supreme Court vote, of getting President Al Gore. Gore’s success in the polls was due, in large part, to Bill Clinton’s legacy.

Now, however, the Clinton pendulum may be swinging towards the Republicans. Bill Clinton’s years of smashing GOP hopes may be coming to an end, and the Clintons actually further the chances of the Republican Party of winning the Presidency. It is virtually impossible for either Clinton or Obama to win the Democrat nomination by getting a sufficient number of pledged delegates. The nomination will come down to the candidate who can get a larger proportion of superdelegates.

Whoever wins the superdelegate primary, this scenario is wonderful for Republicans. If the Democrat nominating process is extended through the summer, it will give John McCain valuable time to rally his base and set the tone of the campaign. If Obama wins, Hillary’s attacks will have no doubt tarnished enough of his messianic image that John McCain will face Barack Obama, Democrat in the general election, as opposed to Barack Obama, Messiah.

If Hillary somehow manages to get the nomination, then John McCain will face an opponent with a bad image and sky-high negatives. In addition, her attacks on Obama have made many liberals angry, which would serve to alienate much of her base. Hillary Clinton’s continued presence in the race is a gift to John McCain.

Monday, March 3, 2008

McCain and Healthcare

Healthcare is one the major issues of this presidential campaign. Most people believe that health insurance is a problem—and they are right. According to Consumer Affairs magazine, America has the most expensive health care in the world. Some people (mostly conservatives) claim that America has the best healthcare in the world. Sadly, they are deluding themselves. The United States spends $5,300 per person on health care. In contrast, Canada spends around $2000 per person, Switzerland $3500 person, and Japan around $2000 per person. Even if we assume that America’s healthcare service is better than that of other countries, the amount of money spent is ridiculous.

Granted, conservatives aren’t the only ones deluding themselves about health care. Liberals do as well. They relentlessly repeat the statistic that “47 million Americans are without health insurance”. They don’t mention that many of those Americans can afford health insurance, but they simply don’t buy it because they do not believe that costs equal the benefits.

Another myth perpetuated by liberals is the idea that a lack of health insurance equals a lack of health care. Certainly, there are cases where Americans die due to a lack of health care. Just not very many. The cases Democrats use as examples of our desperate need for universal health insurance aren’t exactly cases of desperate need. Take, for example, John Edwards’ oft-repeated tale of a man with a cleft palate who couldn’t talk until he got an operation at age fifty. A sad story, certainly, and I do feel sorry for that individual. But it is not a life threatening illness. We are not turning dreadfully ill people away from hospitals en masse. Health insurance is a financial crisis for many. Health care is not. Most people, regardless of their financial position, receive some measure of health care when ill.

So both liberals and conservatives have erroneous views of our healthcare system. Which presidential candidate has the best grasp of health care?

Barack Obama supports the standard liberal solution of government provided universal healthcare. He will implement a national health plan that features guaranteed eligibility, affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles, and quality and efficiency.

He does not say how he will pay for all of this, but it is obvious that he will do say through tax hikes on the rich and on the middle class. His plan will also give the government massive control of our health care system. It will require employers who do not contribute to the healthcare of their workers to contribute a percentage of their payroll towards the national plan, would require that children have insurance coverage, and would control insurance price increases. Obama’s healthcare plan is European-style socialized medicine.

(On a slightly unrelated note, some of the claims made on Obama’s website seem a little suspect. Do 133 million Americans really suffer from a chronic disease? And does mental illness affect one in five American families? Those claims, in particular, sound unrealistic.)

On the Republican side, the “conservative” candidate, Mitt Romney, proposed a health care plan similar to the one he implemented in Massachutsets. He pushed employers to provide healthcare, expanded the ranks of Medicaid, and some subsities. (He figured out the need for subsities through an “econometric model” of the population, which sounds very much like a phrase Romney would use). Perhaps these innovations were not particularly conservative, but they were not completely intolerable either.

However, health insurance mandates, which Romney also proposed, are completely intolerable. The state should not have the right to force people to buy health insurance. One’s health should be a private matter, and one that the state should not micromanage. This idea is totally contrary to conservative principles.

John McCain’s healthcare plan is fairly good, which is surprising, given his rather liberal record. He focuses on promoting competition in the healthcare system by permitting providers to practice nationwide across state lines, and by letting people purchase health insurance through any organization they choose, whether it be through employers, individual purchases, churches, or any other organization. He would provide everyone with a $2,500 tax credit for insurance coverage to eliminate the bias towards employer coverage. He would also attempt to limit frivolous lawsuits and outrageous jury awards. There are, thankfully, no individual mandates in McCain’s plan.

McCain’s plan is far from perfect—it does expand the role of the federal government beyond what most libertarians consider proper. However, it is incalculably better than Barack Obama’s plan. It is also sounder than Mitt Romney’s (considered by Ann Coulter, among others, to be “manifestly the best candidate”) proposal. John McCain is weak on many issues—but healthcare is not one of them.