Since everyone else is weighing in on the issue of DACA, I figure I might as well, too.
First, although I am opposed to illegal immigration in general, I think this particular class (children raised in the US, although not born here or granted legal immigration status) merits special consideration. For the most part, these are people who didn’t choose to come to the United States. That decision was made for them while they were minors. When we’re talking about DACA, we’re talking about people who have been raised here and are American in every sense of the word – except legally. Moreover, there are at least 800,000 of them. There could be as many as 1.7 million.
Some have become high achievers in their chosen fields, some have served in the military with distinction, others are just ordinary folk, trying to find their way in this world. Yes, some are bad apples – as you can find in every demographic group. But it is a small minority, and they can be dealt with as any nation deals with crappy immigrants.
All that being said, I applaud President Trump’s decision to terminate the existing DACA program, and for one reason: our Constitution says immigration decisions are the responsibility of Congress, not the Executive. Before President Obama created the DACA program, he acknowledged (often) that any such executive action was unconstitutional. When he issued that executive order in June 2012, it was not his intention to make it a permanent fixture. The EO included a sunset period, since renewed twice. Obama had dual intentions; first, he wanted to try to force Congress to tackle immigration reform. Secondly (and cravenly), was his intent to shore up his support in the Latino community prior to the 2012 election. He failed on the first count, but succeeded on the second.
President Trump is, in large measure, copying the Obama administration’s playbook. By announcing that he is ending the program, but delaying enforcement for six months, he is attempting to force Congress to act and giving them a window of opportunity. At the same time, he is trying to reinforce his standing among his base by at least appearing tough on immigration.
So, are Trump’s chances of getting Congress to act any better than Obama’s were? First, there is the House leadership, which so far has demonstrated that it is extremely consistent in running from their own shadows. If they can be forced to address the issue, the chances of something happening are pretty good.
In fact, something could conceivably pass this week. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) has had HR 496 pending for nearly 8 months, and it specifically addresses the DACA situation. Had the leadership scheduled it for a vote in the Spring or Summer, this issue would already be behind us. But, again, leadership is afraid of doing anything that might possibly bring about a challenge from the right, even if they personally support it. (Where I come from, we call that cowardice – but whatever). However, Coffman has about had it with the cowards in his party and is filing a discharge petition to force a floor vote. He might just get it, too. As of this writing, he was only 3 votes shy of forcing Speaker Paul Ryan’s hand.
That would be half of the equation, because as we all learned on Schoolhouse Rock, a bill has to pass both houses of Congress before it can be sent to the President’s desk. There is a companion bill pending in the Senate, S128. Unfortunately, the Senate leadership is as afraid of their shadows as their House counterparts (see: Obamacare repeal). So how could the bill make it’s way to the floor if Mitch McConnell decides to go into a corner and cower? Believe it or not, this is where the filibuster can be useful. Any senator who supports passage can tie the Senate in knots until S128 is voted on. This is the perfect time to engage in such tactics, too. In case you’ve missed it, virtually every fiscal matter facing the country needs to be addressed over the next 3 1/2 weeks. Even losing a day to a filibuster would seriously crimp on Mitch’s ability to get out and fundraise.
So yes, there is a better than 50/50 chance something finally gets done. In fact, if Congress wanted put the President on the spot, they could pass the BRIDGE Act, as is, ignoring the White House’s request to include border wall funding. But again, I doubt that happens. Congressional leadership is too cowardly to even consider it..
Perhaps the most convincing argument coming from those who’ve decided to back up the truck to Donald Trump’s candidacy is the one regarding appointments to the Supreme Court. Even the most politically clueless individual realizes that Hillary Clinton will never nominate anyone with a conservative viewpoint. Hillary probably doesn’t even know any lawyers or professors who aren’t decidedly liberal. With one court vacancy already and the majority of the sitting Justices eligible for Social Security benefits, odds are the next President will have a once in a century opportunity to shape the Court. Certainly, nobody who cares about the Constitution can reasonably argue that a Clinton Presidency wouldn’t greatly imperil our system of government.
So the argument becomes we know what Hillary will do as regards SCOTUS, and that’s pack it with as many anti-gun, pro-abort, big government types as she can get past the Senate. Trump has at least made noises about nominating conservative justices. Who knows? He might actually keep his word on at least this subject and select people from the list he published a couple of weeks ago.
I’ll admit, that’s almost a compelling argument. Nobody of sound mind wants to see the Supreme Court packed with people who make Lenin look like James Madison. Of course, it relies on assuming that Trump will hold true to his word on this topic. And we know the old saying about assumptions… The question becomes, can we trust Trump to nominate, as he claims, a justice worthy of Antonin Scalia’s seat?
Well, no. In fact, I’m here to show that not only won’t he nominate a Scalia type to the court, but that his nominees would be every but as dangerous to the long-term health of the republic as Hillary’s. And I have two reasons I can say this with absolute, complete and total certainty.
First, one only need look at that list a little more closely. It’s a list of potential jurists that any high school junior could have put together in about 15 minutes by doing a Google search (and that’s assuming they were slow at copying and pasting). Of the eleven potential nominees, nine are politicians first, jurists second. None are considered an actual legal scholar, much less in the intellectual vein of Justice Scalia. Only three have taught law (one in an adjunct capacity only) and none taught the Constitution. Besides being intellectual lightweights, they all share two other things. The first is a trail of opinions justifying judicial activism. Their other common trait (one that frankly I applaud) is that all have struck down restrictions on the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately, reading through their legal reasoning in doing so is at best, bewildering. Judge Sykes, for instance, is most famous for striking down Chicago’s attempt to outlaw gun ranges. (Well, in legal circles, anyway. She’s also famous for another reason). But in her opinion, she gave credence to the idea that prior restrictions on gun possession and ownership could and should be considered when adjudicating 2nd Amendment cases. In other words, had a prior legislature outlawed firing ranges and another court upheld that ban, she would have gone along with it. Or to put it more bluntly: she would place legal precedent ahead of the Constitution. That is about as far from Justice Scalia as one can get and not end up with someone named Ginsburg.
Perusing through the other nominees’ legal opinions reveals the same sort of bent. These are not legal conservatives. They may be social conservatives, but are willing to tear the Constitution to shreds in the name of their “conservatism.” Of course, that isn’t conservative at all. That’s the flip side of the same judicial coin that social liberals have been flipping for 70 years. It’s also the sort of person Trump has consistently been throughout his life. Which is to say, one with little regard for the law – and if the law gets in your way, either ignore it or change it. A politician willing to change the law willy-nilly is dangerous enough. A Supreme Court justice willing to ignore the Constitution in furtherance of a goal is inherently dangerous. In fact, we have one such “conservative” justice now occupying the Chief Justice’s seat, and it was his pursuit of maintaining the court’s “integrity” over the Consitutional principles it is supposed to be upholding that gave us Obamacare.
In this light, it isn’t surprising that actual Scalia-type legal scholars, who also happen to be social conservatives, are nowhere to be found in Trump’s thinking. Not one of Janice Rogers-Brown, Brett Kavanaugh or Paul Clement seems to even have been considered. I’m not even going to mention Mike Lee or Ted Cruz. We all know how Trump feels about Cruz, and putting Thomas Lee on the list seems like a sop towards Mike (they’re brothers). The point is, those are people who firmly believe in the Constitution’s delineation of powers, including restrictions on executive authority. If there’s one thing the Donald hates, it’s anyone telling him what he cannot do, especially a legal authority.
Which brings me to the second proof that Trump will not nominate a Scalia-type conservative. As you are probably aware, he is facing several lawsuits for his involvement with Trump University, about as scammy an operation as has ever operated in these United States. The one that is closest to being heard is in California, being presided over by US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Late last week, Trump launched into one of the most hateful diatribes against a sitting federal judge in US history. It was certainly a first for a presidential candidate. In terms of political assassination of a court, the only comparable thing that comes to mind was President Obama’s singling out the Supreme Court for not bending to his will during his 2010 State of the Union.
Stop to let that sink in for a moment: Donald Trump and Barack Obama have the same regard for courts that don’t do as they want.
Of course, Trump did his best to poison the well further. He decried Judge Curiel as Mexican (he’s actually from Indiana) in his inimitable “I’m-not-a-racist-but-I-am” wink & nod cattle call. Indeed, he pushed right up to the edge of facing contempt of court charges. That he hasn’t is an example of judicial restraint, a concept foreign to Judge Trump (as is restraint in anything). But more instructively, Trump’s willingness to harangue a sitting federal judge tells us what he expects from the judicial branch of the federal government: total compliance with Trump. Comply, or face my Brownshirts. In Curiel, however, Trump’s threats probably don’t have much currency. After all, he’s faced down Mexican drug cartels in his courtroom.
Besides sending a shudder up the spine of anyone who happens to think the separation of powers provided by the Constitution is a good idea that’s worked really well, this type of behavior also lays low one of the other arguments I’ve heard. Namely, that Trump would be constrained by the both the Constitution and the grinding bureaucracy of the federal system. Trump has already subverted the second half of that argument; watching the likes of Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio licking his boots proves that. Seeing what Trump expects of a justice, and the lengths he will go to exact compliance, makes the first invalid, as well.
Presidents give prime-time, televised speeches for one of two reasons: to reassure the nation during times of crisis, or to lay out major shifts in policy. After two major terror attacks in less than three weeks laid bare the futility of his foreign and military policy, Barack Obama needed to do both last night.
He failed miserably.
First, let me give praise where praise is due: the President finally admitted that the Ft. Hood shootings were an act of terrorism. It only took him 5 years to get around to admitting that. At that rate, he’ll admit that ISIS, Al-Qeada, Boko Haram, etc., are offshoots (at the very least) of Islam somewhere around 2025. Who knows? Perhaps one day he’ll even identify Wahibism and the Saudi government as the biggest sponsor of terrorism and religious warfare in history.
as mentioned, this was a prime-time speech, and the White House pulled out all the stops. Think of the Oval Office addresses you’ve heard in your lifetime. Think of Ronald Reagan, after the Challenger accident. Think George H. Bush, announcing the war to liberate Kuwait. Now compare that to last night’s performance.
First, there were the strange optics. I can’t fathom what message Obama was trying to visually convey. (Nobody else can, either). A podium, in front of the Resolute desk in the Oval Office? I know the Oval Office is actually a rather small workspace, but this is the first time I’ve seen it presented in a way that made it seem smaller than it actually is. And why one earth were the curtains open in the background?
The speech itself was incredibly tone deaf. The only way the President could have possibly reassured the nation was to announce a chnage in policy, a new strategy, for dealing with Islamic terrorism. Instead, we got a lecture: my policies are working, dummies. Maybe he thinks we haven’t been paying attention and didn’t already know that 70% of the airstrikes launched return without firing a shot. Maybe he didn’t understand that we see ISIS beheading unarmed civilians on YouTube daily. It could be that he thought we forgot about the “hashtag war” against Boko Haram. It might even be that he forgot he told us Al-Qeada is “on the run” again – right before they took over a hotel in Mali. After all, he also assured us that “ISIS is contained” (day before the Paris nightmare) and that “ISIS cannot strike in the US” (2 days before San Bernadino).
No, he told us his weak coalition, leading from behind, and being kind to Muslims is the key to winning. He doubled down on admitting refugees (albeit, recognizing that maybe his vetting process isn’t exactly vetting anything). And he once again demanded more gun control – although this time with a twist. Rather than just outright banning the Second Amendment, he suggests using a the no-fly list (universally recognized as a flawed program, rife with errors) to abridge those individuals Fifth Amendment rights and thereby nullify their Second Amendment rights. He actually had the nerve to ask “what possible objection” anyone could have to that suggestion. Talk about ideology over national interest – there was a perfect example, if ever he gave one.
Last night was much more than a confusing, flawed speech from a failed President. It might as well have been Obama’s farewell address. Barack Obama, the man who built a Presidency on rhetoric and pageantry more than any in recent memory – perhaps in American history – found the rhetoric leaving him when he needed it most, found the pageantry reduced to a confusing scene when he most needed to seem in charge. The saddest part of it is that we still have him in the White House for another 14 months. That’s 14 months the world will be left to deal with the Jihadists as best we can.
God help us.
Within 16 hours of my writing this, it seems certain the Grand Exalted Emperor of North America, Barack Hussein Obama, will have used his pen-and-phone strategy to effectively legalize some 5 million illegal immigrants. The hand wringing in the countryside is palpable. What do we do with this guy?
I propose the answer is actually simple. Ignore him. Much like the adolescent throwing temper tantrums because he doesn’t get his way, what we’re witnessing today from the Great One is a spoiled brat getting his comeuppance. And as any parent will you, the most effective way to deal with a brat is to ignore him. Don’t punish him. Don’t spank him. Just…ignore him. It is the absolute thing a self-centered, pompous ass cannot stand.
As to ignoring him, that’s far easier than one might think. His party has been relegated to a bunch of political back benchers, unable to advance an agenda and much less devote energy to defending a President many dislike. When he takes to the bully pulpit, his speeches are already met with a cross of derision and disbelief. The rest of the world looks upon Team Obama with, at best, patronizing disregard.
Obama isn’t completely toothless, of course. He can convince the Iranians to go ahead and build nukes, plunging what’s left of Mideast stability down the toilet. He can sic the machinery of government on his domestic enemies – something he’s already done with seeming glee. Worst of all, he can rely on his sycophants in the MSM to provide him with more face time than he deserves.
But still, when even the pols in your party are doing their best to already ignore you in the quest to coronate Hillary, you’re already borderline irrelevant. Oh, and checking back to the beginning: go ahead and announce you won’t deport those 5 million illegals. We already know the reality was you were never going to deport them anyway. The only person you’ve fooled is the guy starting back at you in the mirror.
Followers of this blog are certainly aware that I am neither a fan of the President nor his policies. But I’ve never joined the club of people who think Barack Obama is actively trying to undermine the United States. At least, not in the sense that he fully anticipates the policies he pursues will actually cause the downfall of American society, and that this is his reason for being. I had always assumed he was a just another overeducated liberal without enough common sense to know what the hell he was doing.
No longer. I am saying it as loud, as long and as often as I possibly can. Barack Hussein Obama-Soetero is UNAMERICAN and is actively seeking to DESTROY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
It isn’t any single Obama action that has led me to this conclusion. Rather, it is the totality of those actions – they way they inextricably link back to one result, a diminishing of the United States as an economic, military and diplomatic power. Over 5+ years in office, every single policy and action undertaken by the Obama administration has succeeded in one thing only, and that’s turning us into a shell of what we were just a few years ago.
He promised to unite us, yet he has driven a politics a of division – along class, racial, income, wealth, age, religious and regional lines, ensuring he leaves office with a nation more divided than any time since Reconstruction. And not unlike that time, it will take a generation or more to patch the chasms he’s torn in the fabric of American spirit.
He swore an oath to defend the Constitution, yet decries that very document’s limitations on his power while announcing his intention to undermine and usurp it whenever he can.
He swore an oath to defend the American people, yet has repeatedly tossed American lives aside as callously as you or I might discard a chewing gum wrapper. From Fast and Furious to Benghazi to veteran’s care, Americans continue to needlessly die on his watch. Often, he undertakes actions that ensure some of us will die – and often, those of us who’ve sworn their lives to protect their nation. He holds those persons – the military, law enforcement, etc – with personal disdain.
His diplomatic actions have left the Middle East in the thrall of the very extremists we are at war with. Whether Al-Queada in Libya, Iraq and Syria, Hamas in Israel, the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or the Mullahs in Iran, the promise lit by the spark of the Green Revolution was used by Obama to set that region aflame. Hhis other diplomatic “efforts” have resulted in a resurgent Russia threatening the 70 years of European peace and directly led to a new Sino-Russo entente, undoing the efforts of 40 years of American diplomacy. He accomplished this while working to isolate the USA from our traditional allies, while deferring (and on more than one occasion, embracing) to our enemies.
His economic policies have devastated the what was once the world’s preeminent economy, turning us into a basket case of runaway debt, devalued currency, over taxation, over regulation and negative growth. By the end of this year, China will supplant the US as the world’s largest economy, ending a 93 year run.
And just as the US was about to achieve energy independence, a goal of every President of every political stripe since the Nixon administration, this usurper comes along and unilaterally institutes new policies that will simultaneously accelerate our dependence on foreign energy, sap the economy further and aggravate our most important trading partner. If it weren’t aimed squarely at the American people, I would be envious of such a master stroke.
I once thought Obama simply a misguided fool, whose incompetence came shining through when competence is needed most. But no longer. Anyone who can be elected to the Presidency twice is neither fool nor idiot. Rather, they have to be shrewd, cunning and exceptionally intelligent.
Those are also the exact same traits required to pull off a level of treason this extreme.
I do not know why Obama hates the country of his birth to this degree. Perhaps it was upbringing in Indonesia. Maybe some of his parents’ extreme ideology is carried in his DNA. Maybe he spent too many hours listening to the anti-American screeds from Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Whatever the roots, it doesn’t really matter. He is doing his utmost to unravel everything our parents and grandparents created. And with the help of radical friends in the media and the democratic party, he is succeeding.
After 18 months of foot dragging, hemming, hawing and general evasiveness, the Obama administration finds itself being dogged by the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and 4 security personnel in Benghazi, Libya.
After years of foot dragging, hemming, hawing and general evasiveness, the Obama administration finds itself being dogged by the avoidable deaths hundreds, perhaps thousands, of veterans at the hands of the Veteran’s Administration.
Two terrible scandals resulting from the tragic and untimely deaths of people who dedicated their lives to protecting the American people and advancing American principles worldwide. Two examples of a presidential administration shamefully allowing American heroes to needlessly die. Two crimes that have at their heart, one singular thought process.
The scandal in both instances is not the cover-up. These crimes are heinous in their own right. These crimes are nothing short of murder, and directly attributable to inaction when direct action would have prevented those deaths. The cover-ups began shortly afterwards, when the President and his underlings realized they screwed up. Covering up a crime is bad, but understandable in these cases. Either instance would certainly be an impeachable offense. Either instance would result in multiple life sentences in a federal penitentiary for everyone involved. The cover-our-asses mentality spawning the cover-ups is almost justifiable. Anyone thinking the attempts at covering up is the real scandal needs a reality check.
The real scandal is that real people died simply because the President didn’t want to dedicate the resources needed to prevent those deaths. In the case of Benghazi, the President had made a major policy speech just weeks before – a speech in which he announced to the world that al-Queada was “on the run.” Having to send in a real security team because we knew al-Queada planned to assault our consulate, in celebration of the September 11, 2001 attacks, would have blown the lid off that lie. Ordering a rescue mission would have likewise told the truth to the lie. It was politically expedient to let a few diplomats and a retired SEAL or two die than risk re-election. In the case of the VA, we now know team Obama was told of the delays in receiving care before they even assumed office. After 5 years, the wait times haven’t improved. The backlog of cases awaiting determination hasn’t decreased. Both have grown exponentially, while VA administrators dummied records to try and make it look like they were doing their jobs. This, despite hundreds of VA activists (including yours truly) pointing out the VA’s systemic failures over the years.
Most damning, though, is the attitude that this administration has demonstrated throughout. It as an attitude that permeates the liberal mind, never really acknowledged but evident for decades. That attitude is one of general callousness towards those Americans whose preference is to serve their nation, to risk their lives and their futures so that the country’s civilian population might prosper and grow at home. Whether towards the military or the diplomatic corps, the attitude is, “Why?” It is the same attitude that led the Flower Children to spit on returning veterans of Vietnam and their children to protest military funerals a generation later. It is the same attitude that led John Kerry to toss away his medals in a pique of fit. It is evident in Hillary Clinton’s virulent attacks on the men who fought in Vietnam. Perhaps most obviously, it is exemplified by Barack Obama’s snide remarks about people “bitterly clinging to guns and religion.” and announcing that the era of “American Exceptionalism” is over – the last comment leaving unsaid, but understood, that he never thought Americanism was an exceptional ideal to begin with.
In that context, the callous disregard for the lives of the men and women who believe in their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution is understandable. Reprehensible, but understandable – in much the same way we strive to understand how the great mass killers of history justified their murders. The narcissistic, me first at all costs attitudes that allow people of above average intellect to justify the deaths of others as merely inconvenient casualties of a great political game goes far beyond high crimes and misdemeanors, though. It should lead to hundreds of counts of first degree murder, and for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eric Shinseki, Eric Holder et al to be charged with anything less would be the greatest of all travesties.
Due us a favor, Mr. Obama and resign now. If you have any faith to your office and this nation (and not Indonesia, or Kenya, or some other God-foresaken rat hole), you’ll understand your inactions are tantamount to treason. As bad as Richard Nixon was, even he understood it was time to go.
It’s time to GO!
I recently got into a bit of a Facebook kerfluffle. The reason is, I re-posted the following statement from a fellow veteran:
“This is how I feel when a civilian thanks me for my service and protecting our “freedom”. I do my best not to go high and right as I kindly explain to them “You’re welcome, however no one in the military is protecting your freedom. If they were, they would have cleaned out Washington DC years ago. How many “terrorists” have limited, restricted or taken away your Constitutional rights? The military may at times temporarily provide for your safety and security, but they don’t do shit to protect your freedom… Get my point”
I realize this POV is probably more than a little unsettling to most of you, so allow me to explain why there are quite a few of vets who feel this way.
Let me start at the very beginning. Every person who enlists in any military service is required to take the following oath:
“I,<state your name>, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
The bit about defending the Constitution, and bearing true faith and allegiance to it, would certainly make it seem like the enlistee was fired up about defending our liberties and freedoms. And most are. Yes, during my tour of duty I met plenty of people who initially enlisted for a variety of reasons, and those weren’t always the most altruistic. But it becomes nearly impossible to survive basic training without believing you’re putting yourself through hell for a damned good cause.
But you’ll also notice that the enlistee also swears to take orders from the President and the officers the President appoints over the enlistee. That makes virtually every military order also a political order. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s worked out well for most of our history. After all, there are plenty of republics that devolved into military dictatorship precisely because the military was not under control of the political institutions, or became factionalized under different political elements. The Founders were well aware of the dangers a politically isolated military would pose to a republic, and ensuring the military remained subservient to the political machinery was another genius stroke they had.
But the downside to this arrangement is what we’ve experienced over the past 15 years or so. The military has always been used by US Presidents as a foreign policy political tool (what exactly do you think Teddy Roosevelt was referring to as the “Big Stick”?). Throughout our history, though, most Presidents have used military action to either (a) defend or evacuate American citizens abroad or (b) prosecute actions against declared enemies of the US, which would also make them enemies of the US Constitution. But beginning with the Presidency of George W. Bush, America’s military was tasked with a new role: prosecuting military actions against…well, they still aren’t sure, really.
The ambiguity came after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Prior to that date, terrorists were considered criminals, regardless of where they hailed from. Even those sponsored by foreign governments, such as the group that went around bombing German discos in the mid-80’s. The response was unerring, and consistent: hunt and prosecute the terrorists legally while holding the foreign government militarily responsible. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush made a tenuous argument that the government of Iraq was responsible and invaded. But rather than hunt down the remaining members of Al-Qaeda for legal prosecution, we also invaded Afghanistan, also on the tenuous precept that their lack of a stable government allowed the terrorists to establish a de facto government.
At the same, a series of civil liberty circumventing statutes were passed and signed into law: everything from the Patriot Act and “enhanced interrogations” to warrantless wiretapping and travel restrictions were enacted. These were political decisions, which have not had political consequences for the enactors. Indeed, President Obama has actually curtailed civil liberties even further and set the table for his successor to all but abolish the Bill of Rights, should he choose.
The military, being under the control of the body politic, has had virtually no choice but to snap to and salute as these abuses take place. Their only alternatives are to either raise concerns about the political situation or mutiny. The first option, historically, has never been met by the public with much sympathy. Not that there haven’t been quite a few courageous officers who’ve tried to question under what authority the President and Congress are deriving their extra-constitutional powers, but these men and women were quietly shown the door. These people understand the military is no longer defending the Constitution, but instead defending the political process that is allowing the Constitution to be shredded bit by bit.
As for a mutiny, that remains highly unlikely. The idea of armed soldiers marching on Capitol Hill and the White House remains unfathomable to not only most Americans but most of the Americans in uniform. Again, it would be bucking nearly 240 years of history and tradition. Of course, the Romans couldn’t imagine a military leader crossing the Rubicon with an armed legion – until they clamored for Julius Caesar to do just that.
I wonder: how close are we to an armored division crossing the Potomac?
There’s been much talking about how “unequal” things are for “ordinary” people. The President, and the President’s political party, started the kerfluffle during the 2012 elections. But recently, as the Affordable Care Act continues to prove it’s about anything but either affordability or health care and Mr. Obama’s foreign policy initiatives crater; as congressional democrats find themselves unable to find a positive message to coalesce around and as the economy continues it’s non-recovery recovery, the talk of “inequality” from both leftist politicians and the media has reached a new crescendo.
The left went agog with the election of Bill deBlasio in New York City, who campaigned on a theme of ending economic inequality in the nation’s largest city. Leftists, and their allies in the democrat party, believe that by highlighting the basic reality of capitalism they have a permanent winning issue. But other than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), no democrat has attempted to lend any sort of intellectual credence to the argument that rich people want the rest of us to be poor. Not even the leading leftist economists, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich included, have been able to demonstrate how that works, exactly. As for Mrs. Warren, the reality is that once you dive into her work, you soon discover that she is perhaps the most crass political animal to come out of her party since Bill Clinton. While she mouths the platitudes, she actually doesn’t have a single policy idea to “make capitalism fairer for the typical American.”
Anyway, we already know that Mrs. Warren is more a symptom than an exemplar of her party’s cynical politics. While they’ve all seemingly abandoned the DLC positions embraced by the Clinton administration, the reality is most haven’t . That includes Mrs Warren, Mr. Krugman and Mr. Reich. But there is a very large, core group of true believers who unabashedly embrace the culture of class warfare. If you’re one of those, feel free to stop trolling now. Nothing I’m about to write will change your closed minds; feel free to re-read Das Kapital and ignore such trivial matters as world history and human nature. But if you are one of those people who gets queasy about the type of all-out class warfare that the President and his minions, in seeking electoral glory are pushing us towards, I recommend you read on.
This is not the first time in either modern or ancient history that the “ordinary” people (which is to say, those without extravagant wealth) have felt that the current political and economic system failed to adequately represent their interests. The watchword over all of these movements is typically “equality.” Translated into today’s political parlance, “equality” as applied by the left means that each of us should have no more, nor no less, than anyone else: either in terms of net financial worth, political influence or social standing. This has been the aim of those hard-core leftists for well over a century. A very succinct statement of their goal is found in John Lennon’s Imagine:
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
The simple beauty of the position is, quite frankly, you need to be a heartless bastard to be against the idea of ending hunger, homelessness, hopelessness, and all the other downsides to the human existence.
This is the trap that libertarians and conservatives alike have fallen into: by allowing liberals and progressives to dictate that they (and their discredited systems) are for ending those inequities, we’ve become the faction that cheers them. Ironic, really – we’re the group that decries repression, yet in popular mythology we’re responsible for oppression. This isn’t our generation’s fault – the shift in public attitudes began late in the 19th century – but it is up to those of us alive now to begin the return to understanding the difference between equality and inequity.
The time has never been more critical than now for those who know the difference to remind the world that there is no way to guarantee equal outcomes without destroying society. The world imagined by Orwell in 1984, Huxley in Brave New World or Rand in The Fountainhead is closer than we realize. We understand that such an outcome will mean the beginning of a new Dark Age – similar to the one that encroached the Western world after the fall of the Roman Empire and lasted for a millenium. A new Dark Age might not last for untold centuries. Although science and technology would stagnate, the weapons left behind by our civilization have nearly unimaginable destructive power. Unchecked by a societal desire to learn and advance, those weapons will be left under the control of despots – leaders who will have both the will and the means to use them.
These are serious matters and engaging the public in a way that leads them to understand that liberty does not necessarily mean personal gain is the lynchpin to preventing the general collapse of society. The modern liberal probably does not realize the grave danger they, and their political and economic philosophy, pose to civilization. Most sincerely believe that not only are all men created equal, but that must necessarily also mean all men are entitled equally. I won’t go into the reasons we know this is a fallacious argument: that while we may be born with equal rights, we aren’t all born with the same drive, determination, talents and skills. Or that success is defined in different ways by different people (which, on its very face would make defining equality impossible).
Rather, let’s focus on how we win back the conversation. To do so, we need to understand why there is a sort of magnetic pull for the liberal argument of a guaranteed outcome. Why claptrap like Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and former SCOTUS Justice Stevens’ Six Amendments are heralded as the intellectual tomes of our age. And why Marx’s Das Kapital is still revered on campuses.
The answer lies in the fundamental fact that libertarians were not forceful enough in the days after September 11, 2001 – and the conservatives, always the stronger political force on the right acquiesced too readily to the neo-conservative ideology. It began what has become a nearly two decade long descent into the twin hells of restricted liberty at home and hopeless intervention overseas. And still today, there is strong pull on the right that insists on doubling down on those failed policies – the entire failed concept of government it represents. It is not truly conservative in nature; it is a belief that government can hold the solutions to our problems, if only properly applied. The philosophy espoused by these devotees gave us the bloated federal government and 12+ years of continuous warfare we live with today. The drain on the treasury, the reapplication of resources away from private investment and the crush of new regulations directly led to the financial collapse of 2008 and the lessening of American influence. In the six years since, the application of liberal political theory by the current administration has had the exact effect anyone with a quarter-brain predicted: continued economic decline and lack of economic security for most of countrymen.
This is where we need to make our case to restore the American Dream. To many of our fellows, the American Dream is dead. Many of our youth do not see an America where they an achieve based on skills or merit, but only one where the determining factors to economic or professional success are cronyism and discrimination. It is in this environment that otherwise insane arguments such as punitive taxation and retributory discernment gain credence. Equally concerning is that the same social powers now see the entire notion of personal responsibility as a quaint relic of past centuries. After all, they tell us, your failures aren’t your failures – they are the result of a system that’s rigged against you.
I read and hear politicians and scribes on both sides of the political aisle lamenting the pessimistic attitude that permeates our civil life. Yet they fail to understand that the reason for that attitude lies not with the ineffectiveness of their treasured government programs, but rather with the very existence of those programs. You can’t tell a man that he’s deserving of everything that everyone else has, regardless of his means to pay for those things, maintain those things or even comprehend the value of those things without being able to deliver on the promise. That’s where every redistributive model falls flat: it is impossible to give everyone everything. That is the great inequity of the liberal equality argument – it leads people to believe in something that is non-existent. It holds the ultimate societal good, as that which is unattainable.
The results of this drivel can already be seen and felt in our political discourse, in the palpable anger being stoked by the leftists. As our President and his party continue to pit the factions (rich vs. poor, black vs. white, welfare recipient vs. working) against one another, the nation becomes further fractured.
The conservative movement forged by the likes of Buckley and Goldwater reached its zenith with the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency in 1980. Do not believe the liberal rewrite of history that is taking place now. Reagan did not win by dividing the nation into rival factions, by demonizing certain groups or by scaring the pajamas off the American people (that happens to be the “progressive” playbook, as written by Lenin, fine-tuned by Alinsky and run to perfection by Obama). Reagan, rather, was an affirmative candidate and President. “Morning in America” wasn’t just a campaign theme, it was the way he governed and the way he presented the idea of America, not only to Americans but to the world. He could do that, because the conservative movement he led was not led by the neo-cons who later come to dominate the right, but one founded on the idea that in order for a man to succeed (however he might define success), in order for him to have the best chance at utilizing his God-given equality of opportunity, was the same idea that founded the nation in the beginning. The idea that not only Christian Conservatives but Libertarians could unite behind.
That is the same message that conservatives and libertarians need to unite behind now, if we are to save our country and the principles it was founded upon. That a man cannot be equal to another without opportunity, and that opportunity does not come from government. Opportunity comes from freedom, from liberty and from our Creator. We need to forcefully, continuously and repeatedly deliver that message. We must remind the American people and the world that men are not slaves to their government, the government is their slave. Many of us remember the famous line from Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural Address, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But perhaps more important to our present circumstance is this passage from the same speech:
“America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
Many of the same problems we faced at the dawn of the 1980’s we now face 35 years later, and for many of the same reasons. Let us dedicate ourselves now, my friends, as the conservatives a generation ago did. Let us be the shining beacon the the hill for both our Nation and the World.
Earlier today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that President Obama will implement the North American Repatriation Now Yield Act “as quickly as humanly, and humanely, possible.” Pressed for greater detail, Carney admitted that the administration wasn’t sure exactly what “details” might be involved, but assured the American people that the roll-out would be “at least as smooth as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”
The North American Repatriation Now Yield Act (or NARNYA) provides for the return of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah and Nevada to Mexico, Alaska to Russia, and the Mississippi Watershed to France. A further provision requires the US armed forces to reopen hostilities with Spain, in order to permanently settle the long-standing dispute regarding Florida and Puerto Rico.
In a brief statement before boarding Marine One, President Obama reiterated that one of his primary goals is international cooperation on border disputes. “One of my administration’s crowning achievements has been in aiding oppressed peoples around the world reclaim territory wrongfully taken over the centuries,” a beaming President said. “Whether it’s the Bedouin in North Africa, the Russians in Crimea and Georgia, the Palestinians on the West Bank or the Mexicans in Denver, all native people have the right to self-determination, not American determination. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m running a bit late for my tee time at Doral.”
Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who will lose his seat once Nevada is repatriated, expressed relief at the President’s swift reaction. “I have been a tireless advocate of ending forced deportation. This move means that Mexican nationals living in the affected territories will no longer have to fear that knock on the door at 3am.” Likewise, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) thinks “this is a tremendous step, a step of great vision, from a truly remarkable President.”
As expected, Republicans were blindsided by the move. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could not be found for comment, although he was seen in the hall shaking hands with the Rev. Al Sharpton shortly before the announcement. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opined, “NARNYA? I don’t recall voting on children’s closet story. Does it mean John McCain has to come out of the closet now?” To which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi replied, “Perhaps you should have read it before you voted on it.”
Perhaps because I’ve never believed our nation is a bunch of redistributive idiots at heart, I’ve watched as the country plunged headfirst towards Obamacare with fascination. Maybe because nearly all my adult life is partly defined by my battle with Crohn’s Disease, I pay an inordinate amount of of attention to the Battle for Health Care Reform. Could be because I am even now lying in a hospital bed in the latest go-round with Crohn’s, I’m amazed at the dizzying pace of lies pouring forth from the administration of President Barack Obama over the past four weeks.
What is most sad is that a sizable chunk of the American people are just sitting back and taking it. Despite the evidence of their own eyes from the past four years, they continue to loll about and let the administration get away with the greatest government take-over of American life in history. I’m stupified by the willingness of the American citizenry to just play ostrich when they should at least get to strutting like Foghorn Leghorn.
Then it hit me.
With all the force of a Superstorm, it hit me square in the face. After 40 years of war, debt, moral erosion and political scandal, the American people are tired of dealing with it all – and longing for something they never experienced. The Founding Fathers left us a political and economic system that only works if everyone (or nearly everyone) participates. Most people don’t participate unless they have either a very personal interest in a particular program or they’re corrupt enough to look upon governement service as a way to create individual wealth.
More later. As mentioned, I’m typing this from a hospital bed. In the meantime, am I on the right track? Is the reason most Americans just don’t care because we’ve spent four generations being battered into submission?
If you spend any time on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve undoubtedly come across the “#Defund” hashtag. If you follow the news even cursorily (and odds are you follow it more closely than that, if you’re reading this) then you also know the House of Representatives voted yesterday to continue funding government operations until December. Everything, that is, except the Affordable Care Act – more popularly known as “Obamacare.”
The President’s reaction? He’s taking the CR personally, certain that the motivation behind it cannot be ideological in nature. “They’re not focused on you. They’re focused on politics. They’re focused on trying to mess with me. They’re not focused on you” he stated during yet another campaign speech yesterday. (As an aside, why is he campaigning? I thought the election was last November.) While my personal dislike for the the man in the Oval Office has grown considerably over the last five years, my disdain for Obamacare hearkens all the way back to its inception. Trust me on this one, Mr. President. My opposition is nothing personal – and neither is it for the people with whom I’ve conversed with on the subject.
I support the defund movement, because it is our last, best hope of getting rid of the “train wreck” (Max Baucus, the guy who helped write the ACA, called it that) and replacing it with something that actually addresses the rising costs and failed delivery of health care in the United States. I support the defund movement, because the economic impact of even a temporary federal shutdown would be far less than realized from your weapon of Mass Economic Destruction. Finally, I support the defund movement because the American people have had about all they can take of Obamacare.
Let’s start with that last point first. That you’ve always a had somewhat regal view of the Presidency is certain. Since early on, you’ve complained that you aren’t a dictator, or king, or emperor, or president of China. The actual concerns of the average American were hardly the thing that kept you awake at night; why else the dozens of “pivots to the economy” over your 5+ years in office? Over the past year, overwhelming evidence was exhumed that you consider yourself above the American people. From the failure in Benghazi, to the IRS crackdown on conservative and libertarian groups, through the revelation that the NSA is spying on everyone, to your recent attempt to force the nation into an ill-conceived war in Syria, said evidence is damning. You really did think for a while there that you are a de facto dictator.
Obamacare was our precursor. Yes, the American people wanted something done about health care. But what we wanted and what we eventually got are two very different things. Instead of reform that lowered costs and made delivery easier, we simply got told we had to go buy health insurance – or else. No matter, we were assured countless times since: once the law rolls out, you’ll love it! Why, didn’t Nancy Pelosi tell us that in order to find out all about the wonderful goodies in the ACA, Congress had to pass it first? The sycophant press quickly dubbed the new law “Obamacare” and you ‘begrudgingly’ accepted the name. FDR had the New Deal, LBJ had the Great Society, BHO had Obamacare.
Never mind that your signature piece of legislation has never been popular with the very people it is supposed to help. Polls show what support existed at passage has slowly slipped away. It’s your signature piece of legislation, by golly! So of course you’re right to be mad at Congress for attempting to undo the damage done, for seeing it as a personal attack and a personal affront. Never mind that the CR defunding Obamacare is actually more popular than the law and never mind that it enjoys popular support (and not just among the Tea Party). Never mind that it’s very passage is regarded is the single most important reason your party lost control of Congress in the 2010 mid-terms. If you refuse to sign that CR, then it’s the Republicans’ fault that the government runs out of operating cash on October 1. Not your own pigheadedness, not your own wanting to be a dictator – or failing that, being seen as the most “transformational” President since FDR.
About that threatened federal shutdown. We’ve been down that path a few times and quite frankly, they aren’t that scary to most Americans. There will be an inconveniences, of course. For instance, I won’t be able to track a flight on the NTSB’s website. I won’t be able to call the IRS with a question about my taxes (which, by the way, I’d probably sit on hold for 20 minutes and then be told to ask my tax professional). But we already know from past experience that essential government functions will continue: the Army won’t be disbanded, the FBI will keep hunting bank robbers, grandma will still get her social security check. Even progressive economists admit the actual economic impact would be minimal, resulting in a reduction of less than 1% of GDP.
But the economic impact of Obamacare is already being felt across the economy. Nobody has a full accounting thus far, but in the past week alone nearly 500,000 people have had their hours cut to 28 or fewer and their existing health coverage terminated. Another 35,000 have lost their jobs completely. Although you love to tout the million jobs created in 2013, you have yet to acknowledge the fact that 1.2 million of those jobs are part-time, without health coverage. Those are real economic impacts directly attributable to your signature legislation. Here’s another impact you may not want to acknowledge: those workers are not only facing a drop in income from reduced pay, they are now going to be hit with a new expense: mandated health coverage. Sure, there’s a subsidy headed their way (provided Obamacare is fully funded) – but those subsidies won’t cover the full cost for health insurance. A government shutdown might reduce GDP by 1%. But Obamacare is easily dropping GDP farther than that and will cause it to crash even further. All this was avoidable, but neither you nor your progressive friends apparently live in the real world, the one in which businesses aren’t going to spend a dime more than necessary. You were warned by everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to (gulp) Donald Trump, but still you refused to listen. The economic mess your signature legislation created is wholly owned by you, as well as the Senators and Congressmen you bought off.
Finally, there is the train wreck. I could list everything that has gone wrong so far with getting this mess in place, but I did that a while back. To that list I add three more fiascos: the doctor shortage, the uninsured and one I’ll keep you guessing about until the end.
The doctor shortage was known and supposedly addressed in the ACA. Simply put, there aren’t enough primary care doctors available to cover everyone. Getting an appointment to see your doctor is already hard enough (and let’s not forget the wait times once you’re in the waiting room). The AMA now anticipates that wait times are going up by about 6% – and nobody anticipates getting an appointment will get easier. Will we see British-type difficulties in getting an appointment, with waits as long as a month? Will they be more like typical waits in the VA system, where it can take up to 6 months to get an appointment? Nobody knows, but the alarm bells should be sounding: in the New York metro area, a recent study found that time to appointment was now ranging from 6 to 61 days, with an average of 24.
The uninsured? When Obamacare was trotted out to the public, we were told that all but a few, perhaps 3 million, of those without insurance wouldn’t be covered. In March, CBO blew that apart with a new estimate: 7.5 million. Last week, that get shattered again, when DHS announced that because of the rollbacks, waivers and deferments, that as many as 30 million people still would be uninsured come January 1, 2015. That would mean we went through all these gyrations over the last 36 months to insure an additional 2 million. Call me what you will, but that amounts to the second biggest load of crap ever handed the American people from Washington DC.
The biggest load of crap ever? Well, here’s the caboose of the Obamacare train wreck. Mr. President, you have promised us that “If you like your health plan, you can keep it.” You’ve pummeled the American people with that line for over four years, even though as far back as June, 2009 you admitted yourself that the statement WAS A LIE. Now millions of Americans are finding out what a monstrous pile of horse manure that line really is. Insurance companies, because of the regulatory morass that this demon child legislation created, are gutting health plans and informing their customers that come January 1, 2014 their current insurance will no longer be available.
In short, I’m supporting the #DEFUND movement because really, what other choice does our country have?
“The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts. What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.” ― John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
Recent events in my own life have forced me to re-examine some of my most deeply held convictions. During the time I’ve been absent from this blog (wait – you didn’t notice???), four events in particular gave rise to self-reflection:
- Crohn’s Disease, with which I’ve done battle for 22 years, once again reared up and forced me to the sidelines
- My eldest son, who was born with a developmental disability, is now caught up in the nightmare that is the state mental health system
- I’ve rented a room to a family that is emblematic of all that is wrong with the way government abuses good people
- Another of my tenants passed away during the night
You’re probably wondering why I would spend the time to ponder what one prominent politician describes as “esoteric debates” when life brings such immediacy. You’re probably wondering further why I would take the time to write about that internal debate. The answer is that such internal debates are neither esoteric nor a thriftlessness exercise. It is by determining if our views are malleable to the events in our lives that we discover if our core values are the result of dogma or the sound exercise of judgement.
The overarching theme of President Obama’s tenure is that of “fairness.” Only, in Mr. Obama’s world, the fairness is defined by outcome; one in which those aggrieved receive what they deem to be their just share. This doctrine is exemplified in the policy objectives of his administration. Be it the underlying argument for Obamacare (that the only fair medical system is one in which everyone has health insurance), economic policy, the tacit embrace of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the management of foreign policy (attempting the equal embrace of islamist and democratic ideologies abroad) or dozens of other initiatives pursued, Mr. Obama is clear in how he defines “fair.” Further, his actions (including his insistence on defending the possibly unconstitutional and certainly intrusive domestic spying program) demonstrate a certainty that governmental institutions are the best method of obtaining this measure of fairness while denigrating the roles of other, traditional venues.
Unlike many of the President’s critics, I do not think he is an uncaring ogre bent on instituting a draconian new way of life on the American people. Although we disagree on most issues, I certainly applaud his efforts to afford all people equal protections under the law. I think it is indicative of his nature, in that he actually cares about the quality of life afforded ordinary Americans. I think most of my fellow countrymen have that same feeling and that underlying belief in his nature is the ultimate reason he won re-election – even though most of us remain opposed to his specific action plan.
I also think that more than a difference in political philosophy, we have divergent views on reality and possibility that slice to the core of our differences. The President is what might best be termed a government interventionist. Government Interventionism infects both the modern liberal and conservative movements. It is characterized by a belief that not only can the government positively effect outcomes, but that it should. While conservatives and liberals often have different goals in mind, they agree with the principle of a results-based system. As anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter is well aware, I have never subscribed to this view of governance.
My introspection of the past weeks has called me to wonder if, perhaps, this approach is best. One of the criticisms of Libertarians is that we are a callous bunch, uncaring about how life’s travails affect our fellow men. Those who know me personally know this isn’t the case. Of the root causes for my self-reflective journey, two involved people that I know cursorily. Yet, they are people who strike me as somehow getting less from life than their character would indicate they deserve.
Allow me to begin with the woman who died in her room last Wednesday. Although I knew her only a few months, what I did know belied her situation. She worked full-time (a rarity in today’s economy) and was well-respected by both her coworkers and employer, she had a large and close-knit family and she was outgoing, gregarious even. Yet, she died alone in rented room, the victim of a long battle with a chronic illness; in her case, diabetes. From what I could see, it was not a pleasant or painless death. She must have known she was in desperate trouble – I found her collapsed at the foot of her bed, in a position indicating she struggled to get to her door, with her phone fallen from her outstretched hand and smashed into bits. If we live in a results based society, why did she die in this manner? What could society have done differently that would have ensured that at the very least, one of her family would have been with her in her time of greatest need? At her funeral on Saturday, meeting her family and friends and seeing the outpouring of grief that overcame them all, I wondered why a woman so beloved by so many, who had done all society asked of her, should have been subjected to such a terrible death?
The week prior to her passing, I rented a room to a family of four. One room, four people, sharing a kitchen and bath with three other tenants. These are decent people, again doing all society says they should do. Both parents work and the mother attends nursing school; the children are incredibly well behaved (I wish mine had been so well behaved!). But they are victims of governmental bureaucracy as much as anything. The father openly admits to making mistakes when he was younger, which resulted in a felony conviction two decades ago. Since then, he’s done the things we tell him he should do: work to support his family, avoid the drama of street life, return to school and complete his GED. He would like to continue his education, but supports his wife as she works towards getting her degree. This is a family, in short, that is playing by all the rules our society dictates – yet they are reduced to living four to a single room, because it is all they can afford. The welfare system, the one that liberals tell us prevents this type of thing from happening and conservatives insist is too generous, is unavailable to them unless the father abandons his family. It is his decades old prior conviction that denies them access to it. Somehow, this result doesn’t seem fair to me.
Along the same lines, my personal struggle with chronic illness – in particular, a 22 year battle with Crohn’s Disease – has become much more difficult over the past two years. Over that time, I’ve had to shutter a business, spent nearly 8 months (cumulative) hospitalized and watched my family’s wealth get drained until we were destitute. I’ve rebounded some financially, but am in no way near the same fiscal position I was in 2011. Most of those around me think it unfair that my life has taken such a drastic turn, or that my reality is I’m likely wheelchair bound within the next two years and probably blind in less time than that. Certainly I wish there were a better prognosis.
Finally, there is my oldest son, Dennis. Some of my long-time readers are aware that he is what society euphemistically calls “developmentally disabled.” His reality is that he will never comprehend things the way you or I do. His IQ is 54; intellectually his development is equivalent to a second grader, emotionally he is at roughly the same stage as most 13- or 14-year olds. So while physically he’s a strapping 25 year old young man, his mind has yet to catch up to his body. Odds are that the two will never be in sync. This is the crux of his current problem. Because of his condition, he finds it difficult to express his feelings, except to occasionally blow up the way most 14 year old boys will. About 6 weeks ago, he found himself in a situation where he was being teased (not an uncommon situation, unfortunately) and lost his temper. The police were called; they followed protocol and brought him to the emergency room for observation. Which is where the nightmare began. Rather than checking his medical records, the hospital diagnosed Dennis as a violent schizophrenic and packed him off to the closest mental hospital. The doctor (I use the term in deference to his degree, not his competence) there confirmed the diagnosis, again ignoring his medical condition. A competency hearing was held, in which the doctor amplified his diagnosis to include the term “homicidal.” And so my son sits in a mental hospital, not understanding what’s happening or why as we fight to have him moved to another facility and have a new diagnosis issued that accounts for his disability. I’m not sure who would consider this outcome “fair.” If the President thought the justice system was ultimately unfair to the family of Trayvon Martin, I can’t see how he could consider this fair.
In reflecting on these incidents, each with an outcome which seems disproportionate in outcome to circumstance, I wondered if the results would be different were the fairness doctrine imposed by society replaced by libertarian values. Chances are that in three cases, the results would be the same but the perception would be different.
- In a Libertarian society, we would acknowledge that the young lady who died chose to live her final days alone. While there still would be sadness accompanying her death, it wouldn’t be considered unfair that she had neither friends nor family with her in her final hours.
- For the family renting the single room, society wouldn’t consider it unfair that a hard working mother and father would resort to housing their family in these conditions. In a Libertarian society, they would be celebrated as examples of how to face adversity.
- As for my health, nobody would consider it unfair that I’m sick and fated to becoming sicker. Unfortunate? Unlucky? Sure, those sentiments would be common. But the choices my family made in previous years were our own and left us in the financial position we find ourselves. I knew my health was precarious before launching my last business; it was our choice to take that route as opposed to my taking a job in what is a poor economy. Using Libertarian values, we took a calculated risk that proved unwise. But in the interventionist society we live in, we demonstrated incredible recklessness and need to be saved from ourselves.
Libertarians believe that fairness in opportunity is far more important than fairness of outcome. After all, if everyone is free to pursue their life’s goals – if they are truly at liberty – then the outcomes are inherently fair. Differences in outcome will have more to do with natural ability and desire than anything a government can do. While the odds are that the above situations would not be dramatically different than in a Libertarian society, there is one important way in which one of those situations would be better. The people above would be less constrained by a restrictive society. The family in one room may well be much better off, since Libertarians tend to look at most drug laws as counter-productive – meaning no felony record for the father. He would certainly have better employment opportunities without that black mark.
As for my son, a Libertarian society would probably mean all the difference in the world for him right now. Without the modern police state in which presumed innocence is nothing more than a tired cliche, it’s doubtful he would be where he is now.
So, yes, I’ve reflected and pondered. You’ve read my conclusions. You may not agree with them, but I end this period of introspection confident in my core belief that the equitable outcomes can only be guaranteed by the one truly fair system ever known to humankind. That is, that by believing in the individual and providing them with the liberty to achieve to their individual potential, a government does its best service to the governed.
Mr. Obama seems to dislike Catholicism and Protestantism. Yet he calls himself a Christian?
John Lennon sang about this approach to peace in “Imagine”:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
It’s a beautiful song, but anyone with a half-brain understands that this approach only works in a communist’s version of utopia. Why? Think about things we need to give up in order to attain the peace Lennon advocates: religion, wealth, nationality. Then take a look at what the Communist Manifesto advocates.
John Lennon wasn’t a closet communist. He was an excellent songwriter and an artist who wore his political leanings proudly. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is very much a closet communist and lacks any discernible talent other than the ability to hoodwink so many of this nation’s citizens. In that regard, he is less John Lennon and more Bernie Madoff.
The lies that this government tells regarding the unconstitutional NSA surveillance programs are never ending. Just this past weekend we learned that contrary to administration and congressional assurances, analysts at the NSA routinely listen in on phone calls and read private emails without any warrant whatsoever. At this point, I’m not sure how anyone with a pulse can actually believe the drivel coming out of the DC establishment. (The Chief Liar, when the revelations about the scope of the NSA wiretapping were first being divulged: “Some of the hype we’ve been hearing over the past day or so — nobody has listened to the content of people’s phone calls.”)
The one thing that we’re constantly told by those same DC establishment types is that these programs are justified, Fourth Amendment be damned, because they’ve stopped “dozens” of terrorist attacks. The Nitwit-in-Chief said,
“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.“
This was his justification for abandoning his oath to uphold the Constitution, suggesting that in order to keep the nation safe we were going to have to “choose” to ignore pesky Constitutional limitations on executive authority. It’s a common theme from Herr Obama, who also raised the specter of doing away with the Second Amendment in the name of “public safety.”
In the name of fairness, I’ll play along with the little game the DC spinmeisters created. We’ve been told by all kinds of politicians that “dozens” of attacks have been stopped by their illegal spying on Americans, but to date they’ve only told us of two, including an attempted bombing of the NYC subway. Yet, a little digging on my part has turned up 28 terrorist attacks since the program began, including 7 on US soil since Obama was sworn in:
- June 1, 2009: Abdulhakim Muhammed shoots two soldiers at a Little Rock, AK recruiting station. Muhammed freely admits to being an Al-Qeada operative.
- Novermber 5, 2009: Maj. Nidal Hassan shoots up a dispensary at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding more than 30. The investigation discovers that he has been espousing a Jihadist philosophy in emails and message board postings. Last week, a military judge refused to allow Hassan to use his preferred defense – that he was defending Al-Qeada from American aggression.
- December 25, 2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempts to explode a bomb concealed in his underwear while his international flight is on final approach into Detroit. The flight is spared only when the underwear bomber’s bomb fails to detonate and other passengers subdue the Al-Qeada agent.
- May 1, 2010: Faisal Shahzad plants a car bomb in NYC’s Times Square. Disaster is averted only when Shazad’s bomb fizzles instead of detonates. A broken wire in the detonator is later found to be the cause for the bomb’s failure.
- May 10, 2010: A pipe bomb detonates at a Jacksonville, FL mosque, wounding 60. Nobody has ever claimed responsibility and no arrests have ever been made
- January 17, 2011: A bomb is discovered along a parade route to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Again, no one claims responsibility and the case remains open.
- April 15, 2013: Two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, explode a pair of backpack bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line. 3 are killed and over 170 wounded. In the resulting manhunt, it’s discovered that the elder brother “disappeared” in Chechnya for six months and that both brothers have “radicalized” in recent years.
I have 7 examples of terrorists that slipped through the warrantless dragnet first unleashed by Bush and expanded by Obama. There are 21 more where the terrorists either successfully killed their American targets overseas, or were only stopped by their incompetence. Quite frankly, the entire program looks absolutely ineffective.
Unless, of course, the intent of the program is simply to give the administration surveillance powers not even the Gestapo or NKVD dreamed of. In that case, it is the most successful program of it’s type in history.
“Trust me government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs–in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship, between the people and their elected leaders, is a special kind of compact. Three hundred and sixty years ago, in 1620, a group of families dared to cross a mighty ocean to build a future for themselves in a new world. When they arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, they formed what they called a “compact”; an agreement among themselves to build a community and abide by its laws. The single act–the voluntary binding together of free people to live under the law–set the pattern for what was to come. A century and a half later, the descendants of those people pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to found this nation. Some forfeited their fortunes and their lives; none sacrificed honor. Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln called upon the people of all America to renew their dedication and their commitment to a government of, for and by the people. Isn’t it once again time to renew our compact of freedom; to pledge to each other all that is best in our lives; all that gives meaning to them–for the sake of this, our beloved and blessed land?”
The words above were spoken by Ronald Reagan, during his acceptance of the Republican nomination for President in 1980. He was not prescient regarding today’s headlines – he was very much speaking about how the triple whammy of Vietnam, Watergate and Carter had ruined American trust in government.
You have to wonder what he would say about events 9 years after his death.
The scandals rolling out of the White House over the past month seem to cascade, gaining in severity as each new revelation makes the headlines. First there was the attempted cover-up over what happened at the Benghazi consulate on September 11, 2012. That quickly was pushed aside by the revelations that the Department of Justice was wiretapping reporters, going so far as to name one a criminal co-conspirator, and using the secret FISA courts to obtain the warrants. A few days after that came news the IRS was targeting conservative, religious and civil libertarian groups – which despite repeated administration attempts to at turns sweep the investigations away or stonewall them, continue to amaze in their revelations of government run amok. Then last week, we learned that the National Security Agency (perhaps better called the National Paranoia Agency) is actively spying on, well, on EVERYONE.
Of course, to hear the usual suspects, the spying is neither intrusive (hey, it’s only every piece of communication you’ve taken part in over the past 6 years) nor targeted at people who’ve done nothing wrong. But for that argument to have any merit, you need to believe that the government can be trusted. And since late April, the only thing the government has successfully demonstrated is that it cannot be trusted to make a ham sandwich, much less not abuse power.
As I wrote about earlier, there is a common thread that binds all of these revealed actions together: the belief that government knows best. While I welcome that traditional liberals have joined with conservatives in decrying over all of this (you can read some excellent opinion articles here, here and here), the fact is that those traditional liberals are primarily responsible for the way this administration continues to circumvent the Constitution. They have spent 70 years pushing an agenda that calls for greater and farther reaching government “solutions.” It is the progressive tradition that claims the Constitution is an outdated document. It is their current tribune and the man currently occupying the Oval Office, who has publicly lamented that the supreme law of the land fails to define what the “government can do for you” and that he is “constrained by the system the Founders put in place.”
The abuses of power we’re now witness to, are the direct results of that philosophy. After all, were the government limited in authority and power as originally planned by the Founding Fathers, then such things could not have come to pass. Hopefully, America is starting to awaken to this reality. If Barack Obama is the last President to wield such immense power, if this is the last Congress to pass sweeping laws that (at best) skirt Constitutional limitations, then this period of our history will serve to have forever discredited liberalism as a political theory.
We can only hope.
In a remarkable speech earlier today, President Barack “Don’t call me Barry” Obama announced that his administration has new guidelines for using remotely piloted serial vehicles, or “drones.”
“I am pleased to announce that we will simplify the operational use of these robot planes by means of a streamlined plan so simple even an IRS agent can follow it,” said Obama in describing the plan. To summarize, the new operational plan limits targets to two categories: politically motivated opponents and critical reporters. Politically motivated opponents can include terrorists, conservative bloggers and Rush Limbaugh, while critical reporters include pretty much anyone who asks follow up questions of Jay Carney.
Additionally, the plan includes improved operational protocols. Under the new guidelines, only the President, Vice President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Secretaries of Homeland Security, Treasury, Defense and Agriculture, the Directors of the FBI and CIA, the Attorney General, the First Lady and any member of the Gambino crime syndicate can unilaterally issue a strike authorization.
In something of a surprise move, the President introduced Lois Lerner as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Drone Policy. “Lois did a wonderful job for me, for us, in her prior role at the IRS,” intoned Barry. “I’m certain she’ll be up to the challenge of implementing this new policy and overseeing it’s implementation as a new program that’s as critical as any other in our continuing war on terrorism, including the type of domestic terror we’ve seen exhibited on Twitter and Facebook.”
Ms. Lerner said that she fully anticipated having the new program completely operational in time for the 2014 campaign season.
One constant with the Obama administration has been the taint of scandal. Of course, the news media has been particularly exercised over the past ten days or so. Beginning with Benghazi, continuing through the IRS mess and right into the Justice Department’s spying on the AP, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have been deluged by the media feeding frenzy. But the reality is this: Team Obama has faced a seemingly endless run of scandals throughout this Presidency. There was the lack of “shovel-ready” jobs, the “green energy” debacles of Solyndra and Fiskar, the notoriously inept “Fast and Furious” gun running operation, the “recess appointments” of NRLB directors, the Corporation for National and Community Center misuse of funds. This is also the administration that sees no problem with killing Americans overseas, has pushed for expanding the Patriot Act to allow warrantless spying on virtually anyone (the root of the AP scandal), pushed hard for the authority to indefinitely detain anyone, appointed committed communist Van Jones to a federal post, created the “czar” positions and has overseen the overwhelming ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security. There are plenty more, of course, but you get the idea – this is an administration that kicks up dirt with every step.
The current narrative is that all of this proves that the Obama administration has a bunch of rotten eggs, some who are outwardly corrupt and that the lack of managerial skill in the White House is the primary culprit for all this nonsense. Well, yes – but don’t get sucked into that storyline. The real scandal is not malfeasance by government officials, nor is it the nature of Washington politics. It is not the politicization of every detail (sorry, Mrs. Pelosi) or Republican complicity with a dastardly administration (sorry, Mr. Limbaugh).
The real scandal is that everything that has happened was going to happen under this President, regardless of Congressional oversight or public outcry. No matter how many times the administration stubs its big toe, it will continue on the path they set upon in January, 2009. This is not because the President or his chief lieutenants are corrupt by nature. Instead, it is because of the overriding belief that government can solve all problems, tackle every issue and bring peace and harmony throughout the land.
On its face, this isn’t a terrible idea. It would be wonderful if there were an entity that could wave a magic wand and make every problem disappear. It is the basic thought behind every liberal policy position. But it is scandalous, if only because it is an idea that has been tried many times before and never with any success. In some cases, the result of attempts at government interventions are humorous (such as the toilet paper shortage in Venezuela). But far more often, the results are disastrous. If you’re at a loss for why this is, all you need to do is look at the people around you.
The preamble to our Constitution established a “Government of the People, by the People and for the People.” What the Founding Fathers failed to verbalize is that as with all governments, it would also be a government OF people. That is to say, at all levels of government, there are people making decisions daily; decisions which affect their fellow citizens’ daily lives. What liberals (or progressives) fail, time and again to recognize is that people are not infallible. Quite the contrary, people make mistakes. And a person who believes in the infallibility of government is going to be far less vigilant in looking for the fallibilities in government employees than one who knows better. The Founders understood that bureaucrats generally lack common sense, which is why they spent more time writing into the Constitution the things government is not allowed to do than conferring powers to the bureaucracy. Not so sure on this point? Stop to ask yourself how many of those people around you would you trust with intimate details of your life. Then realize that one out of every ten Americans is currently receiving a paycheck from your taxes – and you’ll begin to understand why government is not the beneficent giant liberals want you to believe in.
This is not to say government is inherently evil. However, when the people employed by the government are in charge of the government, bad things tend to happen. It isn’t a lesson that Barack Obama seems to have learned – and it’s why he is not fit (and never was) to be the Chief Executive of the United States.
So, despite an economy that’s in the toilet and a solid 40% of the nation never buying your policies, you’ve managed to ride your personal popularity to a slight lead in the polls. Just to make matters more scintillating, the opposition seems intent on NOT winning the upcoming election. After all, how else do you explain their choice for nominee, a man who epitomizes many of the things most Americans personally despise? On top of that, the nominee has all the personality of flat white paint and switches positions so often even he doesn’t know which side of the fence to sit on.
If you didn’t know better, though, you would swear that Barack Obama has looked aver these gifts and decided he just doesn’t want to be President next year. It’s the only thing that makes any sense at this point. Otherwise, why would he be doing his best Jimmy Carter routine with less than six weeks until election day?
I’ve been traveling quite a bit over the past 48 hours. In a way, it’s probably a good thing – otherwise this blog would’ve blown up form all the posts. But to recap the events (in case you were hiding under a rock)
- On the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, mobs attacked the US Embassy in Cairo and the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As it turns out, the attacks now look like the work of al-Quaeda (what a surprise) and it also looks like the CIA and Homeland Security tried to alert the administration and the State Department of the threat 48 hours in advance. The response? The administration ordered the Marine guards in Cairo disarmed and State relied on local security forces in Benghazi. The Embassy in Cairo was stormed and the American flag burned. In Benghazi, the US ambassador and three of his employees were murdered.
- It’s also come to light that President Obama hasn’t sat in on any of his security briefings since September 5th. I guess between campaigning, raising money, golfing and shooting hoops, he doesn’t have any time left for mundane things like, oh – doing his job?
- Yesterday, the Federal Reserve announced that the economy is booming along so well that it’s now launching QE3. Unlike QE1 and 2, this time it’s open ended. The Federal Reserve will print upwards of $85 billion a month (that’s roughly 6% of the total economy) until unemployment reaches some magical number, now assumed to be 7.5%. Of course, Ben Bernanke could change his mind and decide on some different number later. Regardless of how you feel about this latest round of quantitative easing (I’ll probably write more on it later), it’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the President’s fiscal policies.
- Yesterday, before the ink was even dry on the court opinion that the NDAA is unconstitutional, the Justice Department had already filed an appeal. Apparently, although holding foreign nationals and countries accountable for their actions isn’t part of this administrations repertoire, detaining American citizens indefinitely without a writ of habeus corpus is perfectly acceptable.
- Since the original attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, US Embassies in Yemen, Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Pakistan and even London have been scenes of mob violence, while riot police and demonstrators have had a running battle in Cairo.
- And today, the President’s spokesman said (I kid you not), “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States.”
That last bit was the final straw. The Obama administration is obviously intent on throwing in the towel (and to Hell if he throws in the American people along with it). The question is, is Mitt Romney enough of a candidate to pick it up and run with it? I’m still not convinced he is. Until then, I’ll continue to support the only candidate on the ballot I see supporting American principles, values and commitments: Gary Johnson
You may not have seen this (it certainly isn’t getting any play in mass media), but apparently the President thinks issuing an executive order will fix what ails the Veteran’s Administration’s approach to mental health issues. Or maybe it’s a cheap ploy for votes…nah, no politician would stoop that low, would they? The funny thing is, the 24 hour standard he’s ordering is actually worse than existing VA guidelines – and which the IG notes the VA meets less than 50% of the time.
You may be familiar with Mike Rowe from his show on the Discovery Channel, Dirty Jobs. Even if you’ve never seen the show (in which case I suggest you catch an episode), you’ve probably seen him shilling cars and trucks for Ford or paper towels for Viva. And if you watch ABC’s World News then you hear his voice every night – he’s the announcer during the opening and commercial breaks.
What you may not realize is that he is also a serious advocate for vocational training. His foundation, mikeroweWORKS, is dedicated to making education in skilled trades something other than a remedial course of study. He understands a point I made several weeks back, that a four-year degree is not the best path for every student. Or for our nation’s future.
Before you say that of course our nation still values the skilled trades as highly as a college education, ask yourself how you would react if your son or daughter announced their intention of becoming a truck driver after high school. Or a plumber, electrician, farmer, or welder. Even thought they are among both the highest paying and most consistently sought after trades by employers, I doubt it would be greeted with the same enthusiasm as an announcement they wanted to become an astrophysicist or surgeon.
Therein lies a major problem, both for the current economy and the economy of the future. Already the news is full of accounts of college graduates queuing up for job applications in the unskilled trades (think retail worker), simply because there isn’t demand for their skill set. At the same time, there is a desperate need for mechanics, welders, riggers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs – all you need to do is pick up the help wanted section of any metro newspaper.
Mr. Rowe understands this problem is a problem. To that end, he’s written an open letter to Mitt Romney. He wrote a similar one to Barack Obama during the least election cycle, but based on the President’s education initiatives it fell on deaf ears. You can read the full letter here, but I wanted to lift one line that I thought exemplified the problem:
“I always thought there something ill-fated about the promise of three million “shovel ready jobs” made to a society that no longer encourages people to pick up a shovel.“
In a nutshell, THAT is the biggest problem with getting our nation back to work today. Many of my conservative friends are adamant about making welfare and unemployment recipients work for their benefit checks. I don’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment. But in a nation that no longer values physical or skilled labor, how likely is a program akin to Roosevelt’s CCC or WPA to succeed?
I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has experienced a bad hangover after a night of too much partying. You wake up with an oversized cotton ball in your mouth, your head is ringing like a fire bell, you have strange cravings for McDonald’s French fries and you can’t seem to move faster than a poorly fed snail. You want to kick yourself. Yeah, the party was awesome (and you still can’t find that missing lamp shade), but man, the hangover is more price than you wanted to pay.
I get the feeling many on the left are feeling something like that today. First, after the euphoria of Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night, they had to deal with a less than impressive performance from Barack Obama last night. Either Obama’s speechwriting team needs a shake-up or the President is out of ideas; most of what we heard last night is best summed up as “Hey, I want a do-over!” Most media outlets, including admittedly left-leaning publications like the NY Times and Politico, panned the speech as not one of his best efforts.
Then, along came this morning’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No wonder the president wants a do-over.
By now, you probably read all of the doom-and-gloom reporting about it. Make no mistake, this was a pretty lousy report. But worse than the numbers themselves is what it all means when you actually dig into them a little.
First, the headline numbers: the economy only created 96,000 new positions in August, but the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1%. This should be good news for the President, right? The unemployment rate is dropping (if somewhat unsteadily) and may actually get under the magic 8% mark most pundits think is needed if Mr. Obama is to have a real shot at reelection. And 96,000 new positions is better than no new positions, right?
Well, yes, sort of. For a better picture of why the jobs report is foreshadowing a major problem, see figure 1. This is the raw BLS data for the past year. Before your eyes begin to glaze over, there are three numbers to pay particularly close attention to.
The first number is the increase in the working age population over the past year. The second is the number positions created in the past year. That last one? That’s the number of working age Americans who simply gave up looking for a job in the past year. To put it another way, more of your friends, relatives and neighbors gave up the hope of even finding a job than actually found one. Nearly a million more, in fact. That’s one million American’s who are now dependent on some outside source just for survival, be it a friend, relative or the handout machine that’s become the US government.
Most economists say we need between 110,000 and 175,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth. But when you look at the actual increase in working age population, the average number actually needed is around 330,000. This is very bad news for team Obama, otherwise he could point to the average of 150,000 jobs created over the past year and claim that his policies are working, albeit slowly. But the reality is that his policies are, at best, creating jobs at only half the rate needed to bring the US back to full employment.
This is particularly troubling, given that every other indicator says we should have been creating jobs at a much faster pace over the past 24 months. If you look at hourly wages, those increased by an average of 3 cents per month between March 2010 and June 2012. Although not at the level of increase seen during the Reagan, Clinton or Bush recoveries, it is still stronger than historic wage growth. Worker productivity across all sectors is also nearing an all-time high and produced solid gains during the same period. Taken together, high wage growth and productivity gains always produced significant jumps in employment before – but not now. What could possibly be holding back the “jobs engine”?
The BLS publishes an “Employee Cost Index” on a quarterly basis, and a large part of the answer can be found there. While wages and productivity show considerable growth, the ECI is also growing – in fact, it’s grown by nearly 11% since March 2010. Of that, change only 18% is represented by increased wages and a 12% drop in non-cash benefits (things like health coverage and gym memberships) counterbalances that number. So, where is the additional 10.3% in employee cost coming from? The answer is a combination of regulatory costs and taxes, the results of 3 years of this administration’s ceaseless efforts to tie nearly every industry into a Gordian knot of inefficiency. New regulations and business taxes now exceed the productivity gains made by our nation’s workforce by a 4:1 ratio, effectively wiping out the need to hire. Indeed, those costs are probably now the single biggest impediment to real employment growth our nation faces. After all, if you owned a business, you would need to be looking at explosive growth potential, not just modest growth, before bringing that much excess on board.
Many of my friends on the left insist that breakneck pace of regulations passed by the Obama administration are not having a negative effect on the economy. I submit they’re not only negatively impacting the economy, but giving business owners throughout all 57 50 states a hangover of our own.
Last night, the GOP brought the curtain down on their quadrennial convention. It certainly was a spectacle, from Clint Eastwood’s oddly mesmerizing “interview” through Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech. Although nobody would have ever bet that the stiff from Boston would outperform the Hollywood legend, he certainly seemed smoother, more polished and saner. Then again, Clint could have been allowing Romney to simply look more natural and less robotic – in which case he’s getting the last laugh.
The Republicans entered the week with seven principle goals in mind for this convention. By and large, they accomplished them all, a feat that is as unusual in political events as their candidate actually seeming likable. Those seven goals were:
- Make Mitt Romney more relatable
- Turn Barack Obama’s personal popularity into a liability
- Emphasize the fact that the economy sucks and has sucked throughout Obama’s first term
- Tell a story of how and why things improve under a Romney administration (and not coincidentally, a GOP led Congress)
- Dispel the idea that Republicans have no room in the Big Tent for women and minorities
- Demonstrate that conservative ideas are more about an optimistic future than a pessimistic past
- Create party unity behind the Romney/Ryan ticket and party platform
That they accomplished all this, despite having to deal with Hurricane Isaac’s interference with both schedule and coverage, is testament to Republican determination for a clean sweep in the Fall elections. It’s also quite a testament to the organizing ability of the party’s leadership, from Reince Priebus right through Mr. Romney, himself. That there was coordination between speechwriters, speakers, candidates and party elders is not unusual. That the coordination was as tight as it was is definitely not indicative of the fractured party that many in the liberal press were hoping to present to the world. From Chris Christie’s keynote address and Condoleeza Rice’s extolling Republican virtue in international affairs, through both the Presidential and Vice-Presidential acceptance speeches, the GOP continued to hammer away on those same seven themes. The speeches could be summed up this way:
“Barack Obama is a likable guy. But he is in over his head and rather than lead us into prosperity, he gives us the same arguments and cliches from 4 years ago. Instead of fixing what’s broken, he’s paying back his liberal cronies, be they businesses, unions or foreign powers. Instead of earning his Nobel Prize, he allows dangerous elements throughout the world to stockpile weapons that actually pose a threat to the US and our allies. Instead of providing us with hope, he dallies in the backroom brawl of divisive politics.
“Mitt Romney may not be as likable, but at least he is an honest, dependable guy like millions of you. And he has a plan; a solid plan based on 40+ years of business experience to get the economy moving again, get Americans working again and get the fiscal mess in order.
“In other words, Barack Obama is yesterday’s flavor-of-the-month. Face it, America – we’ve tried it and while it was exciting at first, we’ve come to realize the excitement has led to heartburn. It’s time to ditch the heartburn and get back to plain vanilla. Vanilla may never be the flavor-of-the-month, but it will also never let you down.”
It can be a powerful message. Powerful precisely because it is reassuring, not flashy. Can it be torn assunder? So far, the President’s team hasn’t been able to rip apart the individual components, each of which has been brought individually over the 8 weeks or so leading up to the convention. They get their biggest chance next week, during their own convention in Charlotte.
Regardless of how the Democrats perform, they better realize one thing if they hope to get their candidate reelected in 68 days. If they thought Team Romney was a featherweight to their heavyweight boxer, then they need to get their champ into the gym – quick. Or else, like the theme music playing at the end of Mr. Romney’s speech, they may just find their guy got knocked out by the better fighter.
Regardless your personal feelings about Paul Ryan (R-WI), two things clearly came to the fore with his speech last night:
First, the man is a much more polished politician than his naysayers would have you believe.
Second, mainstream media analysts be damned, he’s perfectly comfortable being Mitt Romney’s pit bull.
The traditional roles for the Vice Presidential nominee are simple. They should deliver his home state’s electoral votes to the party’s nominee. And they should be able to attack the other party’s nominee, without seeming impossibly mean-spirited. Four years ago, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin got the nod in what was one of the most curious choices ever made by a Presidential candidate. Alaska is a solid Republican state, so Mrs. Palin wasn’t going to deliver an additional 3 electoral votes that John McCain likely didn’t already have. While she proved a willing attacker of all things Democrat (and that includes, to this day, Barack Obama), she always seemed…snarky is probably the best way to describe it.
Ryan, on the other hand, may prove to a much more capable VP pick. Even before his speech last night, his selection helped turn what has been a traditional bastion of Democrat electors into a battleground state. (Both CBS/NYT and PPP latest polling in Wisconsin has the Presidential race as statistical tie, where once the President had a commanding 11 point lead). But what may prove even more dire for Mr. Obama’s re-election chances is the way Mr. Ryan demonstrated that you can attack even a likable candidate on pure policy issues, and do so in a way that makes the target still seem likable – but hopelessly inept.
Time and again in his speech, Mr. Ryan pointed out the failures of the current administration in terms of policy: a ragged economy, a sense of hope lost and a looming fiscal crisis that has been worsened by profligate spending and partisanship. Yet at the same time, Mr. Ryan did not attack the President as person. Indeed, he praised Mr. Obama’s rhetoric and ability to connect with voters. In a line certain to get considerable airplay in a commercial near you, he said:
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
That one statement provides a stark contrast between Senator Barack Obama in 2008 and President Barack Obama in 2012. In 2008, those millions of college freshmen turned out in droves to vote for the senator. In 2012, they are now recent graduates – unable to put their degrees to work, living back home with their parents and thoroughly disillusioned with their former champion.
There were other great soundbites as well (imagine a political speech without a soundbite!). My personal favorite was this, just a few moments later in talking about his beginnings:
“When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.”
For me, that statement IS what the subcontext of this election is about. What is the “American Dream?” Is it, as Mr. Ryan describes, the pursuit of one’s individual goals and the freedom to make them a reality? Or is it, as described by Mr. Obama, the assurance of an equal experience for all Americans, regardless of innate abilities, talents and desires?
If the Republicans succeed in framing the 2012 election in this context – and not Mr. Obama’s preferred context of blame the other guy, rich vs. poor – then I believe they will also win this election. In Mr. Ryan, they found a capable point man, one the Democrats should fear over the next 70 days.