Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 23, 2008

Swimming Upstream

As only he can, Charles Krauthammer declares that he is “bucking the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama before they’re left out in the cold without a single state dinner for the next four years.” After dismantling the obviously spurious rationales for voting for Obama concocted to soothe conservatives’ guilty consciences, he gets to the heart of the matter:

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who’s been cramming on these issues for the last year, who’s never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world?

A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of “a world that stands as one”), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as “the tragedy of 9/11,” a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

The voters really will have no excuse this time if an Obama Administration turns out to bear an uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Carter’s. Obama and his loose-lipped running mate have made perfectly clear their disdain for hard power and their delusion that Obama’s mere presence will melt the hearts of rogue state dictators. Unlike a financial crisis during a campaign season, stoic reserve and inaction do not bode well for national security leadership for a sitting President. As President, one must actually do something — often quickly.

As for Krauthammer’s refusal to join the stampede of careerist to the Obama camp, there is something refreshing and self-aware. After all, the Johnny-come-lately’s to the Obama camp won’t be first or tenth or even hundredth in line for those state dinners, let alone the jobs. In short, Krauthammer gives us a dose of St. Crispin’s while so many are preferring Monty Python. Whatever your political preference, it’s a refreshing respite from the craven careerism we have seen on display of late.

As only he can, Charles Krauthammer declares that he is “bucking the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama before they’re left out in the cold without a single state dinner for the next four years.” After dismantling the obviously spurious rationales for voting for Obama concocted to soothe conservatives’ guilty consciences, he gets to the heart of the matter:

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who’s been cramming on these issues for the last year, who’s never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world?

A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of “a world that stands as one”), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as “the tragedy of 9/11,” a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

The voters really will have no excuse this time if an Obama Administration turns out to bear an uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Carter’s. Obama and his loose-lipped running mate have made perfectly clear their disdain for hard power and their delusion that Obama’s mere presence will melt the hearts of rogue state dictators. Unlike a financial crisis during a campaign season, stoic reserve and inaction do not bode well for national security leadership for a sitting President. As President, one must actually do something — often quickly.

As for Krauthammer’s refusal to join the stampede of careerist to the Obama camp, there is something refreshing and self-aware. After all, the Johnny-come-lately’s to the Obama camp won’t be first or tenth or even hundredth in line for those state dinners, let alone the jobs. In short, Krauthammer gives us a dose of St. Crispin’s while so many are preferring Monty Python. Whatever your political preference, it’s a refreshing respite from the craven careerism we have seen on display of late.

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What?

I am not a conspiracy theorist by any means. But something is desperately and frighteningly wrong with this story:

A record 7.47 million Michiganians are registered to vote in the Nov. 4 general election, state officials announced Wednesday, including sharp increases in Democratic bastion Wayne County and several college areas where Barack Obama’s campaign has been especially active.

That’s a 4.6 percent jump from January and represents a whopping 98 percent of the state’s voting age population, reported Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

It’s also a 4.3 percent increase from the 2004 presidential election, even though the state’s population has dropped off by 30,000 in the past year alone. Since July, 230,000 new voters have registered.

It is, quite simply, impossible that 98 percent of the voting age population of any state has actually registered to vote. This is fraud on a colossal scale.

I am not a conspiracy theorist by any means. But something is desperately and frighteningly wrong with this story:

A record 7.47 million Michiganians are registered to vote in the Nov. 4 general election, state officials announced Wednesday, including sharp increases in Democratic bastion Wayne County and several college areas where Barack Obama’s campaign has been especially active.

That’s a 4.6 percent jump from January and represents a whopping 98 percent of the state’s voting age population, reported Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

It’s also a 4.3 percent increase from the 2004 presidential election, even though the state’s population has dropped off by 30,000 in the past year alone. Since July, 230,000 new voters have registered.

It is, quite simply, impossible that 98 percent of the voting age population of any state has actually registered to vote. This is fraud on a colossal scale.

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Jews and Obama, Again

This was bound to happen: American Jews coming around to support Barack Obama in numbers greater than seen in earlier polls. A new Gallup poll gives the Democratic candidate a 74-22 lead – similar to the advantage his Democratic predecessors have enjoyed:

The current proportion of U.S. Jews backing Obama is identical to the level of support the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards received in the 2004 presidential election (74%). It is only slightly lower than what Al Gore and Joe Lieberman received in 2000 (80%) — when the first Jewish American appeared on the presidential ticket of a major party.

Another poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, has similar results among Jewish voters in Florida. While this can’t be an indication for the tendencies of Jews around the country, Florida was the state in which the battle for Jewish voters was the fiercest. For McCain, losing the Jewish vote in Florida with such certainty is yet another indication for the trouble he has in securing a major state that was considered to be McCain territory not long ago:

Looking at all Florida likely voters, men split with 46 percent for Obama and 45 percent for McCain. Women back Obama 51 – 42 percent. The Republican leads 52 – 41 percent among white voters, 71 – 23 percent among evangelical Christians and 51 – 40 percent among Catholics. Obama leads 49 – 39 percent among Hispanics and 77 – 20 percent among Jews.

I’ve already started to explain why Jews vote for Obama, but I think these new polls shed some more light on the trend at hand. How can the new numbers be explained?

A.   More people say they’d vote for Obama, and Jews are also people. There’s no reason for them not to accommodate national trends.

B.   The bandwagon effect is even more forceful when it comes to Jewish voters to whom voting the Democratic ticket is a habit.

C.   In the last days of every campaign we see voters go back to their natural political position – for Jews this means voting for Obama.

D.   Sarah Palin was not well received in the Jewish community. If McCain was the unthreatening candidate, Palin reminded Jewish voters that Evangelicals still have power in the Republican Party, and Jews, it seems, don’t like to be reminded of that.

E.   Obama himself deserves a lot of credit: by and large he did a good job of neutralizing the Israel question by making statements and giving speeches making it clear that he will be a friend to Israel. This is what many Jewish voters needed to hear. When Obama made clear he was a friend, all McCain could do is point to policy differences and try to explain that Obama’s prospective policies–not his bad intentions–will be problematic for Israel. But since most voters aren’t policy wonks, and since that’s a much more nuanced argument, winning it is harder.

This was bound to happen: American Jews coming around to support Barack Obama in numbers greater than seen in earlier polls. A new Gallup poll gives the Democratic candidate a 74-22 lead – similar to the advantage his Democratic predecessors have enjoyed:

The current proportion of U.S. Jews backing Obama is identical to the level of support the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards received in the 2004 presidential election (74%). It is only slightly lower than what Al Gore and Joe Lieberman received in 2000 (80%) — when the first Jewish American appeared on the presidential ticket of a major party.

Another poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, has similar results among Jewish voters in Florida. While this can’t be an indication for the tendencies of Jews around the country, Florida was the state in which the battle for Jewish voters was the fiercest. For McCain, losing the Jewish vote in Florida with such certainty is yet another indication for the trouble he has in securing a major state that was considered to be McCain territory not long ago:

Looking at all Florida likely voters, men split with 46 percent for Obama and 45 percent for McCain. Women back Obama 51 – 42 percent. The Republican leads 52 – 41 percent among white voters, 71 – 23 percent among evangelical Christians and 51 – 40 percent among Catholics. Obama leads 49 – 39 percent among Hispanics and 77 – 20 percent among Jews.

I’ve already started to explain why Jews vote for Obama, but I think these new polls shed some more light on the trend at hand. How can the new numbers be explained?

A.   More people say they’d vote for Obama, and Jews are also people. There’s no reason for them not to accommodate national trends.

B.   The bandwagon effect is even more forceful when it comes to Jewish voters to whom voting the Democratic ticket is a habit.

C.   In the last days of every campaign we see voters go back to their natural political position – for Jews this means voting for Obama.

D.   Sarah Palin was not well received in the Jewish community. If McCain was the unthreatening candidate, Palin reminded Jewish voters that Evangelicals still have power in the Republican Party, and Jews, it seems, don’t like to be reminded of that.

E.   Obama himself deserves a lot of credit: by and large he did a good job of neutralizing the Israel question by making statements and giving speeches making it clear that he will be a friend to Israel. This is what many Jewish voters needed to hear. When Obama made clear he was a friend, all McCain could do is point to policy differences and try to explain that Obama’s prospective policies–not his bad intentions–will be problematic for Israel. But since most voters aren’t policy wonks, and since that’s a much more nuanced argument, winning it is harder.

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William Ayers Is No David Ifshin

It’s difficult to say which member of the mainstream media has shamed him- or herself most in terms of pure self-abasement at the feet of the idol of Obama. We are, after all, talking about a cast of name-brand reporters, analysts and opinion columnists (are such distinctions even relevant anymore?) probably numbering in the hundreds.

But it would be a real feat to top Time magazine’s Joe Klein, whose political meltdown has been duly noted here at CONTENTIONS and elsewhere. As he proved with Bill Clinton in 1992, when Klein falls in love with a politician he falls really, really hard. But if he was merely besotted with Clinton, he appears lovestruck by Obama, given to lashing out in unseemly rage at anyone who fails to understand the attraction.

Such infatuation is guaranteed to cloud one’s judgment and inspire the kind of column Klein produced this past weekend for Time‘s “Swampland” blog in which, following the lead of Marc Cooper at The Huffington Post and a slew of other left-of-center bloggers, he attempted to make an analogy between Obama’s relationship with William Ayers and John McCain’s relationship with the late David Ifshin, who as an antiwar activist in the Vietnam era had gone to Hanoi and denounced American pilots as war criminals but who later moved to the political center and worked for Walter Mondale and AIPAC.

Ifshin and McCain became unlikely friends in the 1980s, and when Ifshin tragically died of cancer at age 47 in 1996, McCain gave a eulogy that brought many to tears. Klein, who on several occasions had written admiringly of the McCain-Ifshin friendship, is now using it as an illustration of how McCain has allegedly betrayed his old ideals by hypocritically criticizing Obama over his association (predictably, Klein characterizes it as “passing”) with Ayers.

“If you want to know why I — like so many others — held John McCain in such high regard for so long,” Klein writes, “it had a lot to do with David Ifshin. And if you want to know why my opinion of him has plummeted, it has something to do with William Ayers.”

But just how much of a similarity is there between Ifshin — who, it should be noted, never belonged to a group that planted bombs — and Ayers? Here’s how McCain himself spoke about Ifshin two years ago at Columbia University:

He had come once to the capital of the country that held me prisoner, that deprived me and my dearest friends of our most basic rights, and that murdered some of us. He came to that place to denounce our country’s involvement in the war that had led us there. His speech was broadcast into our cells. I thought it a grievous wrong and I still do.

A few years later, he had moved temporarily to a kibbutz in Israel. He was there during the Yom Kippur War, when he witnessed the support America provided our beleaguered ally. He saw the huge cargo planes bearing the insignia of the United States Air Force rushing emergency supplies into that country. And he had an epiphany. He had believed America had made a tragic mistake and done a terrible injustice by going to Vietnam, and he still did. But he realized he had let his criticism temporarily blind him to his country’s generosity and the goodness that most Americans possess, and he regretted his failing deeply.

There’s why Klein, in addition to defaming the memory of David Ifshin, is so ludicrously off the mark with his sad comparison. Can anyone — even a hopelessly compromised Obama groupie — say of Ayers that he “realized he had let his criticism temporarily blind him to his country’s generosity and the goodness that most Americans possess, and he regretted his failing deeply”?

In a 1988 column, William F. Buckley quoted Ifshin as saying, “I have agonized every day of my life” about his conduct in Vietnam. Ayers, to be sure, has also agonized over his past, famously telling The New York Times in an interview that ran on Sept. 11, 2001, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

It’s difficult to say which member of the mainstream media has shamed him- or herself most in terms of pure self-abasement at the feet of the idol of Obama. We are, after all, talking about a cast of name-brand reporters, analysts and opinion columnists (are such distinctions even relevant anymore?) probably numbering in the hundreds.

But it would be a real feat to top Time magazine’s Joe Klein, whose political meltdown has been duly noted here at CONTENTIONS and elsewhere. As he proved with Bill Clinton in 1992, when Klein falls in love with a politician he falls really, really hard. But if he was merely besotted with Clinton, he appears lovestruck by Obama, given to lashing out in unseemly rage at anyone who fails to understand the attraction.

Such infatuation is guaranteed to cloud one’s judgment and inspire the kind of column Klein produced this past weekend for Time‘s “Swampland” blog in which, following the lead of Marc Cooper at The Huffington Post and a slew of other left-of-center bloggers, he attempted to make an analogy between Obama’s relationship with William Ayers and John McCain’s relationship with the late David Ifshin, who as an antiwar activist in the Vietnam era had gone to Hanoi and denounced American pilots as war criminals but who later moved to the political center and worked for Walter Mondale and AIPAC.

Ifshin and McCain became unlikely friends in the 1980s, and when Ifshin tragically died of cancer at age 47 in 1996, McCain gave a eulogy that brought many to tears. Klein, who on several occasions had written admiringly of the McCain-Ifshin friendship, is now using it as an illustration of how McCain has allegedly betrayed his old ideals by hypocritically criticizing Obama over his association (predictably, Klein characterizes it as “passing”) with Ayers.

“If you want to know why I — like so many others — held John McCain in such high regard for so long,” Klein writes, “it had a lot to do with David Ifshin. And if you want to know why my opinion of him has plummeted, it has something to do with William Ayers.”

But just how much of a similarity is there between Ifshin — who, it should be noted, never belonged to a group that planted bombs — and Ayers? Here’s how McCain himself spoke about Ifshin two years ago at Columbia University:

He had come once to the capital of the country that held me prisoner, that deprived me and my dearest friends of our most basic rights, and that murdered some of us. He came to that place to denounce our country’s involvement in the war that had led us there. His speech was broadcast into our cells. I thought it a grievous wrong and I still do.

A few years later, he had moved temporarily to a kibbutz in Israel. He was there during the Yom Kippur War, when he witnessed the support America provided our beleaguered ally. He saw the huge cargo planes bearing the insignia of the United States Air Force rushing emergency supplies into that country. And he had an epiphany. He had believed America had made a tragic mistake and done a terrible injustice by going to Vietnam, and he still did. But he realized he had let his criticism temporarily blind him to his country’s generosity and the goodness that most Americans possess, and he regretted his failing deeply.

There’s why Klein, in addition to defaming the memory of David Ifshin, is so ludicrously off the mark with his sad comparison. Can anyone — even a hopelessly compromised Obama groupie — say of Ayers that he “realized he had let his criticism temporarily blind him to his country’s generosity and the goodness that most Americans possess, and he regretted his failing deeply”?

In a 1988 column, William F. Buckley quoted Ifshin as saying, “I have agonized every day of my life” about his conduct in Vietnam. Ayers, to be sure, has also agonized over his past, famously telling The New York Times in an interview that ran on Sept. 11, 2001, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

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Commentary of the Day

Stuart Koehl, on Max Boot:

Max boot writes, “In the immediate post-World War II era, the CIA did an effective job of backing conservative parties in Italy, Japan, and other places in order to resist the takeover of pro-communist parties.”

Yeah, well those were the days, Max. Those who think the CIA lacks the competence to pull off an operation like this are probably correct. Those running the Agency know it, too, and being the timid, risk-averse bureaucrats that they are, they will find any excuse not even to try. I think, as Michael Ledeen and others have noted, the CIA has passed its “sell by” date, and has actually become a hindrance to U.S. national policy. The time has come not for a reform of the Agency, but for its abolition and replacement with an entirely new, highly streamlined organization-or perhaps two organizations, one for the collection of human intelligence and the conduct of covert operations, a second for the analysis of the human intelligence collected. Certainly, an organization whose raison d’etre is HUMINT and clandestine operations ought to be capable of doing something as simple as bribing foreign politicians without getting caught (heck, half the people in Iraq are already bribing their own politicians and not getting caught; how hard can it be?). That we don’t have this capability in hand indicates the extent to which our hands have been tied by proponents of lawfare over warfare.

Stuart Koehl, on Max Boot:

Max boot writes, “In the immediate post-World War II era, the CIA did an effective job of backing conservative parties in Italy, Japan, and other places in order to resist the takeover of pro-communist parties.”

Yeah, well those were the days, Max. Those who think the CIA lacks the competence to pull off an operation like this are probably correct. Those running the Agency know it, too, and being the timid, risk-averse bureaucrats that they are, they will find any excuse not even to try. I think, as Michael Ledeen and others have noted, the CIA has passed its “sell by” date, and has actually become a hindrance to U.S. national policy. The time has come not for a reform of the Agency, but for its abolition and replacement with an entirely new, highly streamlined organization-or perhaps two organizations, one for the collection of human intelligence and the conduct of covert operations, a second for the analysis of the human intelligence collected. Certainly, an organization whose raison d’etre is HUMINT and clandestine operations ought to be capable of doing something as simple as bribing foreign politicians without getting caught (heck, half the people in Iraq are already bribing their own politicians and not getting caught; how hard can it be?). That we don’t have this capability in hand indicates the extent to which our hands have been tied by proponents of lawfare over warfare.

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Thinking Ahead

Marc Ambinder suspects that Sarah Palin may be playing the base off against John McCain by raising issues he hasn’t embraced. I see it a bit differently: she’s doing the leg work and raising enthusiasm in a way he can’t. But I agree with Ambinder on this:

And if she wants the job, she’s easily the frontrunner to become THE voice of the angry Right in the Wilderness. She is a favorite of talk radio and Fox News conservatives, and speaks their language as only a true member of the club can. (Her recent Limbaugh interview was full of dog whistles that any Dittohead would recognize. Including her actual use of the word ditto.)

Palin will have plenty of time to become fluent on national issues. She will easily benefit from the low expectations threshhold, and will probably even garner positive reviews from the MSM types who disparage her today.

Palin will be judged to be “ready” in four years. George Will and David Brooks and Peggy Noonan will all swoon over her once more. Ok, maybe not George Will.

Palin is an enormously talented politician. When she knows what she’s talking about, or even when she knows enough to fake it, she is very, very appealing, and very good at redirecting questions to whatever her message is.

. . .

The Republicans are going to want someone willing to really go for Obama’s throat, and be able to do it with a smile. Depending on the outcome of the GOP’s War of the Roses, the evangelical community might be a stronger force in 2012 than it was in 2008, at least when it comes to dominating the GOP nominating process. They are a solid bloc of voters and footsoldiers amidst a rapidly splintering coalition.

Much can happen in four years, and there’s no telling how Palin will wear over time. But I suspect the more the MSM vilifies her — whether on wardrobe or anything else — the more she smiles. She’s building her reservoir of support and goodwill among conservatives who will populate the caucuses and primaries in 2012. And if she does make a run I imagine she won’t be taking the “advisors” who botched her rollout and who aren’t doing much to shove back on the wardrobe slams.

Marc Ambinder suspects that Sarah Palin may be playing the base off against John McCain by raising issues he hasn’t embraced. I see it a bit differently: she’s doing the leg work and raising enthusiasm in a way he can’t. But I agree with Ambinder on this:

And if she wants the job, she’s easily the frontrunner to become THE voice of the angry Right in the Wilderness. She is a favorite of talk radio and Fox News conservatives, and speaks their language as only a true member of the club can. (Her recent Limbaugh interview was full of dog whistles that any Dittohead would recognize. Including her actual use of the word ditto.)

Palin will have plenty of time to become fluent on national issues. She will easily benefit from the low expectations threshhold, and will probably even garner positive reviews from the MSM types who disparage her today.

Palin will be judged to be “ready” in four years. George Will and David Brooks and Peggy Noonan will all swoon over her once more. Ok, maybe not George Will.

Palin is an enormously talented politician. When she knows what she’s talking about, or even when she knows enough to fake it, she is very, very appealing, and very good at redirecting questions to whatever her message is.

. . .

The Republicans are going to want someone willing to really go for Obama’s throat, and be able to do it with a smile. Depending on the outcome of the GOP’s War of the Roses, the evangelical community might be a stronger force in 2012 than it was in 2008, at least when it comes to dominating the GOP nominating process. They are a solid bloc of voters and footsoldiers amidst a rapidly splintering coalition.

Much can happen in four years, and there’s no telling how Palin will wear over time. But I suspect the more the MSM vilifies her — whether on wardrobe or anything else — the more she smiles. She’s building her reservoir of support and goodwill among conservatives who will populate the caucuses and primaries in 2012. And if she does make a run I imagine she won’t be taking the “advisors” who botched her rollout and who aren’t doing much to shove back on the wardrobe slams.

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What Obama Has Shown Us

In his Time column on Barack Obama, Joe Klein opens with this episode:

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for “maximum flexibility” going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action – especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. “You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument,” he began. “Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security.” Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military

…. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting – which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing – ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama’s perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge.

This exchange impresses Joe to no end. But what ought to stand out to Klein — if he were not once again enraptured by a charming Democratic candidate (as he was, for a time, with Bill “The Natural” Clinton) – is that Senator Obama spoke as if success in Iraq was separable from our overall national security; as if what General Petraeus has achieved in Iraq must be set against, rather than be seen as a huge advancement of, our national security interests. It highlights the fundamental flaw in Obama’s thinking on Iraq over the years; namely, his belief that losing in Iraq would somehow help us win in Afghanistan and in the larger war against jihadism.

This outlook is silly and enormously dangerous, and we can only hope that if Obama becomes commander-in-chief, he is able to “be flexible” and make the rather elementary connection between America’s success in Iraq and America’s success in the war against al Qaeda and jihadists all over the world.

Another episode Klein recounts from his interview with Obama has to do with his race speech in Philadelphia.

[Obama] said the first really big [gut decision] was how to react when incendiary videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s black-nationalist sermons surfaced last spring. “The decision to make it big as opposed to make it small,” Obama said of the landmark speech on race relations he delivered in Philadelphia. “My gut was telling me that this was a teachable moment and that if I tried to do the usual political damage control instead of talking to the American people like … they were adults and could understand the complexities of race, I would be not only doing damage to the campaign but missing an important opportunity for leadership.”

To this I have two reactions. The first is that the Philadelphia speech is the one in which Obama declared

I can no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

That statement came five weeks before Obama said this about Wright’s National Press Club comments, echoing what Wright had said many times before:

Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people.

So Wright went from being a person Obama could not disown– a man who was “part of [Obama]” and part of America–to a person he threw, with alacrity, under the campaign bus. A teachable moment, indeed.

My second reaction is that Senator Obama faced another teachable moment and opportunity for real leadership not all that long ago. It had to do with General Petraeus’s Congressional testimony in September 2007, when several of Obama’s Senate colleagues accused Petraeus of cooking the books. Even before the Petraeus-Crocker testimony, Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, warned Americans that “by carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working.” After the hearing, Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts said the general’s testimony was “just a façade to hide from view the continuing failure of the Bush administration’s strategy.” And according to Representative Rahm Emanuel, the general’s written report deserved to win “the Nobel Prize for creative statistics or the Pulitzer for fiction.” At that very teachable moment, however, when Senator Obama could have stood up for Petraeus and against his colleagues, Obama was silent.

And more. The day Petraeus testified, MoveOn.org, the left-wing political-action committee, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times proposing, in giant type, a new name for General Petraeus: “General Betray Us.”

As the New York Post helpfully reminds us, many of Obama’s Senate colleagues expressed their anger over the ad at the time, when they voted to “strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of” Petraeus. Senator Obama skipped the vote (“The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements,” Obama said.)

But Obama eventually did get around to condemning the MoveOn.org ad–ten months later, in a patriotism speech in Independence, Missouri, at a time when Petraeus was becoming a national hero.

This, too, was a teachable moment. It taught us something about the public character of Senator Obama, his operating style, and, perhaps, the political courage we can expect from him if he is elected President.

In his Time column on Barack Obama, Joe Klein opens with this episode:

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for “maximum flexibility” going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action – especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. “You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument,” he began. “Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security.” Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military

…. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting – which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing – ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama’s perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge.

This exchange impresses Joe to no end. But what ought to stand out to Klein — if he were not once again enraptured by a charming Democratic candidate (as he was, for a time, with Bill “The Natural” Clinton) – is that Senator Obama spoke as if success in Iraq was separable from our overall national security; as if what General Petraeus has achieved in Iraq must be set against, rather than be seen as a huge advancement of, our national security interests. It highlights the fundamental flaw in Obama’s thinking on Iraq over the years; namely, his belief that losing in Iraq would somehow help us win in Afghanistan and in the larger war against jihadism.

This outlook is silly and enormously dangerous, and we can only hope that if Obama becomes commander-in-chief, he is able to “be flexible” and make the rather elementary connection between America’s success in Iraq and America’s success in the war against al Qaeda and jihadists all over the world.

Another episode Klein recounts from his interview with Obama has to do with his race speech in Philadelphia.

[Obama] said the first really big [gut decision] was how to react when incendiary videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s black-nationalist sermons surfaced last spring. “The decision to make it big as opposed to make it small,” Obama said of the landmark speech on race relations he delivered in Philadelphia. “My gut was telling me that this was a teachable moment and that if I tried to do the usual political damage control instead of talking to the American people like … they were adults and could understand the complexities of race, I would be not only doing damage to the campaign but missing an important opportunity for leadership.”

To this I have two reactions. The first is that the Philadelphia speech is the one in which Obama declared

I can no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

That statement came five weeks before Obama said this about Wright’s National Press Club comments, echoing what Wright had said many times before:

Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people.

So Wright went from being a person Obama could not disown– a man who was “part of [Obama]” and part of America–to a person he threw, with alacrity, under the campaign bus. A teachable moment, indeed.

My second reaction is that Senator Obama faced another teachable moment and opportunity for real leadership not all that long ago. It had to do with General Petraeus’s Congressional testimony in September 2007, when several of Obama’s Senate colleagues accused Petraeus of cooking the books. Even before the Petraeus-Crocker testimony, Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, warned Americans that “by carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working.” After the hearing, Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts said the general’s testimony was “just a façade to hide from view the continuing failure of the Bush administration’s strategy.” And according to Representative Rahm Emanuel, the general’s written report deserved to win “the Nobel Prize for creative statistics or the Pulitzer for fiction.” At that very teachable moment, however, when Senator Obama could have stood up for Petraeus and against his colleagues, Obama was silent.

And more. The day Petraeus testified, MoveOn.org, the left-wing political-action committee, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times proposing, in giant type, a new name for General Petraeus: “General Betray Us.”

As the New York Post helpfully reminds us, many of Obama’s Senate colleagues expressed their anger over the ad at the time, when they voted to “strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of” Petraeus. Senator Obama skipped the vote (“The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements,” Obama said.)

But Obama eventually did get around to condemning the MoveOn.org ad–ten months later, in a patriotism speech in Independence, Missouri, at a time when Petraeus was becoming a national hero.

This, too, was a teachable moment. It taught us something about the public character of Senator Obama, his operating style, and, perhaps, the political courage we can expect from him if he is elected President.

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A Poll To Make McCain Smile

A new poll shows that John McCain is on to something:

ATI-News/Zogby asked likely voters: “John McCain and other critics say Barack Obama is heavily influenced by people and organizations which seek social justice through redistribution of wealth in America. Do you agree or disagree with efforts to bring social justice by the redistribution of wealth?”

By a more than two-to-one margin, undecided voters disagree with such efforts to redistribute wealth. In total, 57 percent of undecided voters said they disagreed, while only 24 percent said they agreed (19 percent are not sure).

If McCain is to have any hope of making up ground in the remaining days of the campaign, it seems clear that he must hammer home the message that Obama wants to take the economy and the country in a direction which most Americans oppose.

Could he have done it earlier? And could he do a better job even now explaining why his own plan offers plenty of tax relief (and healthcare as well) to middle class voters? Yes. But he has a week and a half to make his case–and he finally found an effective one on the issue (the economy) voters care about more than any other.

A new poll shows that John McCain is on to something:

ATI-News/Zogby asked likely voters: “John McCain and other critics say Barack Obama is heavily influenced by people and organizations which seek social justice through redistribution of wealth in America. Do you agree or disagree with efforts to bring social justice by the redistribution of wealth?”

By a more than two-to-one margin, undecided voters disagree with such efforts to redistribute wealth. In total, 57 percent of undecided voters said they disagreed, while only 24 percent said they agreed (19 percent are not sure).

If McCain is to have any hope of making up ground in the remaining days of the campaign, it seems clear that he must hammer home the message that Obama wants to take the economy and the country in a direction which most Americans oppose.

Could he have done it earlier? And could he do a better job even now explaining why his own plan offers plenty of tax relief (and healthcare as well) to middle class voters? Yes. But he has a week and a half to make his case–and he finally found an effective one on the issue (the economy) voters care about more than any other.

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LittleScaredPlanet

The West can longer complain about the lack of moderate Muslims who voice their opposition to radical Islam. For when moderates do step up, we silence them in deference to extremists.

When, Sony, the manufacturers of the videogame LittleBigPlanet found out that the game’s background music contained two phrases from the Qur’an, they immediately delayed the product’s release, so as not to upset radical Muslims who take offense at the words of their holy book being set to music. A new version, with the “offensive” song removed, is set to go on sale on November 3 in the UK, and October 29 in the U.S.

In itself, this is nothing more than another incrementally catastrophic creeping sharia story. Like the ban on Piglet ornamentation or the redesign of a Burger King sundae cup whose squiggles resembled the Arabic for “Allah,” the LittleBigPlanet recall is one more instance of the West’s permitting radical Muslims to govern every aspect of the non-Muslim world in accordance with Qur’anic law. Out of all the possible cultural reactions to 9/11, we’ve settled on political correctness enforced by death. That much we know.

But it turns out this story is significantly more sickening. It so happens that the composer and performer of the LittleBigPlanet tune in question is a Malian Muslim named Toumani Diabate. Unlike the al Qaeda set, Diabate finds no blasphemy in mixing his religion with song, and says that goes for most of Mali. “In my family there are only two things we know – the Koran and the kora [West African harp]. . . I’m really sad and I’m disappointed.”

Can you blame him? In his native country he can sing the Qur’an to his heart’s content, but we don’t allow such things in the enlightened West. No — instead we silence this Muslim artist and support the scriptural interpretations offered by jihadists. At the same time we prattle on about how most Muslims are peace-loving, moderate minded-people, and we’re only at war with a few fascists who seek to distort a beautiful faith. Why, then, are we complying with the distortion?

Sony is guilty of corporate fifth-columnism by cowardice, but they’re hardly alone. Whether through the private sector or the government, the West is by-and-large in agreement: we’ll praise one kind of Muslim while obeying another, and pray that guns, tanks, and missiles get us through.

The West can longer complain about the lack of moderate Muslims who voice their opposition to radical Islam. For when moderates do step up, we silence them in deference to extremists.

When, Sony, the manufacturers of the videogame LittleBigPlanet found out that the game’s background music contained two phrases from the Qur’an, they immediately delayed the product’s release, so as not to upset radical Muslims who take offense at the words of their holy book being set to music. A new version, with the “offensive” song removed, is set to go on sale on November 3 in the UK, and October 29 in the U.S.

In itself, this is nothing more than another incrementally catastrophic creeping sharia story. Like the ban on Piglet ornamentation or the redesign of a Burger King sundae cup whose squiggles resembled the Arabic for “Allah,” the LittleBigPlanet recall is one more instance of the West’s permitting radical Muslims to govern every aspect of the non-Muslim world in accordance with Qur’anic law. Out of all the possible cultural reactions to 9/11, we’ve settled on political correctness enforced by death. That much we know.

But it turns out this story is significantly more sickening. It so happens that the composer and performer of the LittleBigPlanet tune in question is a Malian Muslim named Toumani Diabate. Unlike the al Qaeda set, Diabate finds no blasphemy in mixing his religion with song, and says that goes for most of Mali. “In my family there are only two things we know – the Koran and the kora [West African harp]. . . I’m really sad and I’m disappointed.”

Can you blame him? In his native country he can sing the Qur’an to his heart’s content, but we don’t allow such things in the enlightened West. No — instead we silence this Muslim artist and support the scriptural interpretations offered by jihadists. At the same time we prattle on about how most Muslims are peace-loving, moderate minded-people, and we’re only at war with a few fascists who seek to distort a beautiful faith. Why, then, are we complying with the distortion?

Sony is guilty of corporate fifth-columnism by cowardice, but they’re hardly alone. Whether through the private sector or the government, the West is by-and-large in agreement: we’ll praise one kind of Muslim while obeying another, and pray that guns, tanks, and missiles get us through.

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Colin Powell Should Speak Up

The longer Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama is kept alive in the media, the more self-serving and dishonest it feels. Today, two Reuters stories on Muslims and the election cite Powell’s following comments:

Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion ‘He (Obama) is a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

How right he is. In America, we shouldn’t be protecting bigots and paranoids in high places. If Colin Powell is aware of such sentiments lurking in the halls of power, he owes it to the country that this be exposed. Instead, he names no one, casts general aspersions on the GOP, and punishes a man he readily admits “is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know.”

The knock against Powell on the Left is that, during the build-up to the Iraq War, he went against his better judgment and left out details he knew would poke holes in the WMD case against Saddam. And as Bret Stephens recently pointed out, during the Valerie Plame affair, Powell “knew all along that the original leaker was his own deputy, Richard Armitage, a fact the two of them didn’t publicly reveal for years.” Now, he’s withholding the names of dishonest or malicious politicians in whom the public has placed their trust, while, once again, going along with popular sentiment. Three makes a trend.

If Colin Powell is really interested in cleaning up the nastiness in his own party, it’s not too late for him to name names. But if he’s merely looking to disown an unpopular war, he’ll stick with his self-righteous silence.

The longer Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama is kept alive in the media, the more self-serving and dishonest it feels. Today, two Reuters stories on Muslims and the election cite Powell’s following comments:

Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion ‘He (Obama) is a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

How right he is. In America, we shouldn’t be protecting bigots and paranoids in high places. If Colin Powell is aware of such sentiments lurking in the halls of power, he owes it to the country that this be exposed. Instead, he names no one, casts general aspersions on the GOP, and punishes a man he readily admits “is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know.”

The knock against Powell on the Left is that, during the build-up to the Iraq War, he went against his better judgment and left out details he knew would poke holes in the WMD case against Saddam. And as Bret Stephens recently pointed out, during the Valerie Plame affair, Powell “knew all along that the original leaker was his own deputy, Richard Armitage, a fact the two of them didn’t publicly reveal for years.” Now, he’s withholding the names of dishonest or malicious politicians in whom the public has placed their trust, while, once again, going along with popular sentiment. Three makes a trend.

If Colin Powell is really interested in cleaning up the nastiness in his own party, it’s not too late for him to name names. But if he’s merely looking to disown an unpopular war, he’ll stick with his self-righteous silence.

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The Wardrobe Wars

Aside from math problems, Sarah Palin wardrobe critics (who happen to be exactly the same people who have despised her from day one) seem to have a perspective problem. Barack Obama has raised over $600M — which has been spent on all sorts of ludicrous things. There were ads accusing his opponent of being anti-Hispanic. There were the fake Greek temples. And let’s not forget the gathering in Berlin. My guess is that’s $1M or more right there.

Other than mean-spirited sexism, I see no reason to isolate on Palin’s wardrobe, which is, after all, to be given to charity. At least she is spreading the wealth (i.e., her outfits) around.

Aside from math problems, Sarah Palin wardrobe critics (who happen to be exactly the same people who have despised her from day one) seem to have a perspective problem. Barack Obama has raised over $600M — which has been spent on all sorts of ludicrous things. There were ads accusing his opponent of being anti-Hispanic. There were the fake Greek temples. And let’s not forget the gathering in Berlin. My guess is that’s $1M or more right there.

Other than mean-spirited sexism, I see no reason to isolate on Palin’s wardrobe, which is, after all, to be given to charity. At least she is spreading the wealth (i.e., her outfits) around.

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Let’s Get Crafty

In his column yesterday, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius made an important point:

Iran is waging an aggressive covert-action campaign to derail the agreement, U.S. officials say. The new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, highlighted Tehran’s push last week when he said Iranian operatives had been seeking to bribe Iraqi members of parliament to reject the pact when it comes up for a vote.

This public allegation of Iranian meddling drew a rebuke from Maliki, but U.S. officials say they have recently intercepted Iranian couriers carrying suitcases of money to pay bribes and political subsidies to pro-Iranian parties. It isn’t clear whether the United States is mounting a covert effort of its own to counter the Iranian campaign.

I too don’t know if the U.S. is “mounting a covert effort of its own to counter the Iranian campaign.” But I very much doubt it. My understanding is that senior administration officials have nixed such proposals in the past for fear of the embarrassment that would result if they were uncovered. They have worried, I am told, that the CIA didn’t have the competence to carry out such a campaign quietly behind the scenes. A muffed effort no doubt would result in nasty headlines about the U.S. supposedly violating Iraqi sovereignty and making a mockery of Iraqi democracy.

Those are legitimate concerns. But I am just as concerned that we have handcuffed ourselves with an untenable standard of conduct while our enemies show no such restraint. In the immediate post-World War II era, the CIA did an effective job of backing conservative parties in Italy, Japan, and other places in order to resist the takeover of pro-communist parties. Did that violate the sanctity of those countries’ political processes? That wasn’t how it was viewed at the time. The prevalent view was that we had to do whatever it took to counter communist influence. That mindset produced some excesses but it also helped us win the Cold War. I hope that we can show a similar dedication in the Global War on Terror, or whatever it’s being called this week. And if that means spreading some money around to counter Iranian money, so be it.

In his column yesterday, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius made an important point:

Iran is waging an aggressive covert-action campaign to derail the agreement, U.S. officials say. The new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, highlighted Tehran’s push last week when he said Iranian operatives had been seeking to bribe Iraqi members of parliament to reject the pact when it comes up for a vote.

This public allegation of Iranian meddling drew a rebuke from Maliki, but U.S. officials say they have recently intercepted Iranian couriers carrying suitcases of money to pay bribes and political subsidies to pro-Iranian parties. It isn’t clear whether the United States is mounting a covert effort of its own to counter the Iranian campaign.

I too don’t know if the U.S. is “mounting a covert effort of its own to counter the Iranian campaign.” But I very much doubt it. My understanding is that senior administration officials have nixed such proposals in the past for fear of the embarrassment that would result if they were uncovered. They have worried, I am told, that the CIA didn’t have the competence to carry out such a campaign quietly behind the scenes. A muffed effort no doubt would result in nasty headlines about the U.S. supposedly violating Iraqi sovereignty and making a mockery of Iraqi democracy.

Those are legitimate concerns. But I am just as concerned that we have handcuffed ourselves with an untenable standard of conduct while our enemies show no such restraint. In the immediate post-World War II era, the CIA did an effective job of backing conservative parties in Italy, Japan, and other places in order to resist the takeover of pro-communist parties. Did that violate the sanctity of those countries’ political processes? That wasn’t how it was viewed at the time. The prevalent view was that we had to do whatever it took to counter communist influence. That mindset produced some excesses but it also helped us win the Cold War. I hope that we can show a similar dedication in the Global War on Terror, or whatever it’s being called this week. And if that means spreading some money around to counter Iranian money, so be it.

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The Obama Brand

From Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed on Obama:

The other day I had a conversation with a Beijing friend and I mentioned that Barack Obama was leading in the presidential race:

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!

That’s some interesting company Kristof keeps. It’s probably best he break the whole drinking fountain-lunch counter thing to her in person–maybe with some Valium on hand. And he must have searched all Beijing to find her, considering the Chinese media has been captivated by Obama’s run ever since he beat Hillary, and that a full 75 percent of Chinese citizens polled support Obama’s presidency.

Kristof writes:

We’re beginning to get a sense of how Barack Obama’s political success could change global perceptions of the United States, redefining the American “brand” to be less about Guantánamo and more about equality.

That’s it? Those are our choices? What happens to the “brand” if John McCain wins? He’s been in favor of closing Guantánamo, but I guess he’s stuck with it, since equality is off the table.

Kristof goes on:

Europe is particularly intoxicated by the possibility of restoring amity with America in an Obama presidency. As The Economist put it: “Across the Continent, Bush hatred has been replaced by Obama-mania.”

Which one of those pathologies is supposed to fix Europe’s demographic death spiral, creeping sharia reality, and welfare nightmare?

Then there’s the Muslim world:

Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which conducted the BBC poll, said that at a recent international conference he attended in Malaysia, many Muslims voiced astonishment at Mr. Obama’s rise because it was so much at odds with their assumptions about the United States. Remember that the one thing countless millions of people around the world “know” about the United States is that it is controlled by a cabal of white bankers and Jews who use police with fire hoses to repress blacks. To them, Mr. Obama’s rise triggers severe cognitive dissonance.

Since when is cognitive dissonance a curative for anti-Americanism? America has long been despised for its incuriosity and nosiness, Puritanism and decadence, racism and inclusiveness. As for anti-Semitism–what better way to alleviate that cognitive dissonance than to label any contrary evidence a Jewish plot? Arab newspapers are already running cartoons showing Obama as a dog being walked by various Israeli politicians.

Here’s Kristof on Africa:

As for Africa, Mr. Obama’s Kenyan father was of the Luo tribe, a minority that has long suffered brutal discrimination in both Kenya and in Uganda (where it is known as the Acholi). The bitter joke in East Africa is that a Luo has more of a chance of becoming president in the United States than in Kenya.

No, the joke (and it’s not a bitter one) is that George W. Bush saved so many African lives with his unprecedented aid initiatives that there’s little room for the next president to make improvements.

As Kristof winds down, he offers the obligatory–

Look, Mr. Obama’s skin color is a bad reason to vote for him or against him. Substance should always trump symbolism.

–after making a case for the very opposite.

From Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed on Obama:

The other day I had a conversation with a Beijing friend and I mentioned that Barack Obama was leading in the presidential race:

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!

That’s some interesting company Kristof keeps. It’s probably best he break the whole drinking fountain-lunch counter thing to her in person–maybe with some Valium on hand. And he must have searched all Beijing to find her, considering the Chinese media has been captivated by Obama’s run ever since he beat Hillary, and that a full 75 percent of Chinese citizens polled support Obama’s presidency.

Kristof writes:

We’re beginning to get a sense of how Barack Obama’s political success could change global perceptions of the United States, redefining the American “brand” to be less about Guantánamo and more about equality.

That’s it? Those are our choices? What happens to the “brand” if John McCain wins? He’s been in favor of closing Guantánamo, but I guess he’s stuck with it, since equality is off the table.

Kristof goes on:

Europe is particularly intoxicated by the possibility of restoring amity with America in an Obama presidency. As The Economist put it: “Across the Continent, Bush hatred has been replaced by Obama-mania.”

Which one of those pathologies is supposed to fix Europe’s demographic death spiral, creeping sharia reality, and welfare nightmare?

Then there’s the Muslim world:

Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which conducted the BBC poll, said that at a recent international conference he attended in Malaysia, many Muslims voiced astonishment at Mr. Obama’s rise because it was so much at odds with their assumptions about the United States. Remember that the one thing countless millions of people around the world “know” about the United States is that it is controlled by a cabal of white bankers and Jews who use police with fire hoses to repress blacks. To them, Mr. Obama’s rise triggers severe cognitive dissonance.

Since when is cognitive dissonance a curative for anti-Americanism? America has long been despised for its incuriosity and nosiness, Puritanism and decadence, racism and inclusiveness. As for anti-Semitism–what better way to alleviate that cognitive dissonance than to label any contrary evidence a Jewish plot? Arab newspapers are already running cartoons showing Obama as a dog being walked by various Israeli politicians.

Here’s Kristof on Africa:

As for Africa, Mr. Obama’s Kenyan father was of the Luo tribe, a minority that has long suffered brutal discrimination in both Kenya and in Uganda (where it is known as the Acholi). The bitter joke in East Africa is that a Luo has more of a chance of becoming president in the United States than in Kenya.

No, the joke (and it’s not a bitter one) is that George W. Bush saved so many African lives with his unprecedented aid initiatives that there’s little room for the next president to make improvements.

As Kristof winds down, he offers the obligatory–

Look, Mr. Obama’s skin color is a bad reason to vote for him or against him. Substance should always trump symbolism.

–after making a case for the very opposite.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A sample of what we have to look forward to at news conferences and Congressional hearings if Barack Obama is elected president. Question The One’s budget? You are an anti-Muslim, a racist. Really. That’s what they’re saying even before the election.

Rep. John Murtha leads his challenger by only four points. Remarkable that his constituents don’t like being called racists. Hmm, maybe Obama’s cheerleaders in the MSM who are so quick to make the same charge about voters nationally should pay heed. If you think voters are a bunch of redneck dolts –keep it to your self. But they just never can.

Sarah Palin has learned to manage the media pack. That said, should they get the idea in this or some future election that she has a shot at winning, they’ll be going for the jugular again.

And if you have missed an explanation as to what Palin actually did in office and why McCain chose her, Byron York fills in the blanks — actually the enormous void in MSM reporting.

Perhaps MSNBC should register as a 527. Will Bill Ayers be doing election night coverage?

And as for Hardball – whatever Republican goes on there deserves what she gets. Why they go on remains a mystery, since they aren’t treated with a modicum of respect.

Meanwhile, over at the grown-up network, Brian Williams conducts a respectful interview — and gets a robust rebuttal to the Colin Powell endorsement and plenty on the Biden gaffe.

At least someone else can use Palin’s clothes after the election — who’s going use a pre-owned Styrofoam Greek temple?

Meanwhile, she’s learned to give a heck of a stump speech.

When you see a headline like this (“Study: McCain coverage mostly negative”), you wonder how bad the recession is if someone has money for a study like that.

April the Construction Company Owner tells Neil Cavuto that she and Joe the Plumber aren’t fat cats.  April, Joe, and Tito provide some reassurance that years of indoctrination by the MSM and nonstop guilt-tripping by the Democratic Party have failed to stamp out widespread belief in capitalism and the work ethic.

How to eliminate the MSM? Step 1: Stop watching the MSM. Step 2: Convince others to do the same. And until they vanish you’ll feel better at Step 1.

It’s not like they are fooling anyone. From Pew: “By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4.”

Bobby Jindal makes an ad for an embattled Republican Senate candidate. It’s the sort of thing a prospective presidential candidate would do — and if he actually helps the GOP capture a Senate seat in this political environment everyone will want him to make ads.

One take on why Biden’s gaffes aren’t huge news is here (“anyone with an R behind their name is dumb. So, if they say something dumb, they must be dumb. A Democrat, like Biden, can make wildly inaccurate or outrageous comments and they are ignored because the TV and press insiders feel they ‘know who he really is.’”). Even that gives the MSM too much credit. The real answer: they are on the cusp of victory and don’t want to mess it up. In other words, it’s not subconscious bias, it is quite overt and shameless.

A sample of what we have to look forward to at news conferences and Congressional hearings if Barack Obama is elected president. Question The One’s budget? You are an anti-Muslim, a racist. Really. That’s what they’re saying even before the election.

Rep. John Murtha leads his challenger by only four points. Remarkable that his constituents don’t like being called racists. Hmm, maybe Obama’s cheerleaders in the MSM who are so quick to make the same charge about voters nationally should pay heed. If you think voters are a bunch of redneck dolts –keep it to your self. But they just never can.

Sarah Palin has learned to manage the media pack. That said, should they get the idea in this or some future election that she has a shot at winning, they’ll be going for the jugular again.

And if you have missed an explanation as to what Palin actually did in office and why McCain chose her, Byron York fills in the blanks — actually the enormous void in MSM reporting.

Perhaps MSNBC should register as a 527. Will Bill Ayers be doing election night coverage?

And as for Hardball – whatever Republican goes on there deserves what she gets. Why they go on remains a mystery, since they aren’t treated with a modicum of respect.

Meanwhile, over at the grown-up network, Brian Williams conducts a respectful interview — and gets a robust rebuttal to the Colin Powell endorsement and plenty on the Biden gaffe.

At least someone else can use Palin’s clothes after the election — who’s going use a pre-owned Styrofoam Greek temple?

Meanwhile, she’s learned to give a heck of a stump speech.

When you see a headline like this (“Study: McCain coverage mostly negative”), you wonder how bad the recession is if someone has money for a study like that.

April the Construction Company Owner tells Neil Cavuto that she and Joe the Plumber aren’t fat cats.  April, Joe, and Tito provide some reassurance that years of indoctrination by the MSM and nonstop guilt-tripping by the Democratic Party have failed to stamp out widespread belief in capitalism and the work ethic.

How to eliminate the MSM? Step 1: Stop watching the MSM. Step 2: Convince others to do the same. And until they vanish you’ll feel better at Step 1.

It’s not like they are fooling anyone. From Pew: “By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4.”

Bobby Jindal makes an ad for an embattled Republican Senate candidate. It’s the sort of thing a prospective presidential candidate would do — and if he actually helps the GOP capture a Senate seat in this political environment everyone will want him to make ads.

One take on why Biden’s gaffes aren’t huge news is here (“anyone with an R behind their name is dumb. So, if they say something dumb, they must be dumb. A Democrat, like Biden, can make wildly inaccurate or outrageous comments and they are ignored because the TV and press insiders feel they ‘know who he really is.’”). Even that gives the MSM too much credit. The real answer: they are on the cusp of victory and don’t want to mess it up. In other words, it’s not subconscious bias, it is quite overt and shameless.

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The Israel Card

Both Obama and McCain have been playing the Israel card, to better or worse effect, for some time now, with their supporters trying to show, as Shmuel noted below, that leading Israelis support one candidate or another. The assumption has been that what Israelis think has an effect on American Jewish voters, which can be a significant factor in the election.

Yet there is another Israel factor. According to today’s Jerusalem Post, there are no fewer than 42,000 registered American voters living in Israel right now–making the Jewish state the third-largest home for voting Americans living abroad, behind only Britain and Canada. More importantly, fully half of them are registered in swing states like Florida and Ohio. In a close election, these votes (like any other small group) could influence the outcome. And their influence is increased by the fact that they are voting early, with an exit poll to be released next week.

One may argue about the propriety of voting in an election for the leadership of a country in which you no longer live. But in so deeply contested an election, with so much at stake for Israel, many of these Americans will be voting. So maybe the candidates knew what they were doing with their highly publicized visits to the Jewish state. And the jokes about Israel as the 51st state are not quite as funny any more.

Both Obama and McCain have been playing the Israel card, to better or worse effect, for some time now, with their supporters trying to show, as Shmuel noted below, that leading Israelis support one candidate or another. The assumption has been that what Israelis think has an effect on American Jewish voters, which can be a significant factor in the election.

Yet there is another Israel factor. According to today’s Jerusalem Post, there are no fewer than 42,000 registered American voters living in Israel right now–making the Jewish state the third-largest home for voting Americans living abroad, behind only Britain and Canada. More importantly, fully half of them are registered in swing states like Florida and Ohio. In a close election, these votes (like any other small group) could influence the outcome. And their influence is increased by the fact that they are voting early, with an exit poll to be released next week.

One may argue about the propriety of voting in an election for the leadership of a country in which you no longer live. But in so deeply contested an election, with so much at stake for Israel, many of these Americans will be voting. So maybe the candidates knew what they were doing with their highly publicized visits to the Jewish state. And the jokes about Israel as the 51st state are not quite as funny any more.

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Cutting Out The Middle Men

Daniel Henninger examines the endless presidential campaign process and the Sarah Palin hate-fest and lets it rip:

Out of this process has fallen a Democratic nominee who entered the U.S. Senate in 2005 fresh off a stint in the Illinois state legislature, with next to no record of political accomplishment. He may be elected mainly because, in Colin Powell’s word, he is thought to be “transformational.” One may hope so.

By not bothering to look very deeply at the details beneath either candidate’s governing proposals, the media have created a lot of downtime to take free kicks at Gov. Palin. My former colleague, Tunku Varadarajan, has compiled a glossary of Palin invective, and I’ve added a few: “Republican blow-up doll,” “idiot,” “Christian Stepford wife,” “Jesus freak,” “Caribou Barbie,” “a dope,” “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party,” “liar,” “a national disgrace” and “her pretense that she is a woman.”

. .  .

Here’s an opinion poll question: If as Joe Biden suggests the U.S. is likely to be tested by a foreign enemy next year, who of the following would you rather have dealing with it in the Oval Office: Nancy (of Damascus) Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Edwards, Joe (the U.S. drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon) Biden, Mike Huckabee, Geraldine Ferraro, Tom DeLay, Jimmy Carter or Sarah Palin?

My pick? Gov. Palin, surely the most grounded, common-sense person on that list of prime-time politicians.

And that’s really the rub of the Palin antagonism: it really isn’t the “experience” (unless experience is nothing more than campaigning a year longer than she) nor is it verbal sobriety (unless the pundits are ready to demand that Biden be banished), it is that Palin is everything the snooty pundit class is not –overtly religious and conservative, grounded in common sense, not schooled in Washington-speak, and popular with ordinary voters. It is the ultimate culture clash.

As Tony Blankley put it,  many in the chattering class –including some conservatives in the DC-NY corridor – recoil at the sight of Palin because:

Sarah Palin (and others like her) who will be among the leaders of the about-to-be-reborn conservative movement. I suspect that the conservative movement we start rebuilding on the ashes of Nov. 4 (even if McCain wins) will have little use for overwritten, over-delicate commentary. The new movement will be plain-spoken and socially networked up from the Interneted streets, suburbs and small towns of America. It certainly will not listen very attentively to those conservatives who idolatrize Obama and collaborate in heralding his arrival. They may call their commentary “honesty.” I would call it — at the minimum — blindness.

When the next presidential election season rolls around I suspect the conservative base won’t be taking their cues from the pundits. Whoever captures the hearts and minds of the conservative electorate will do sot directly, by going right over the heads of the punditocracy, to articulate a conservative vision and a personal connection with voters who feel perpetually insulted and overlooked by elite opinionmakers. And they probably will be looking for someone who has demonstrated a successful  record of governance that isn’t just Democrat-lite.

That may be Palin, one of the failed 2008 contenders or someone we haven’t gotten to know yet. But if Palin has shown anything it is that successful conservatives can cut out the middle men — the pundits. No wonder they loathe her.

Daniel Henninger examines the endless presidential campaign process and the Sarah Palin hate-fest and lets it rip:

Out of this process has fallen a Democratic nominee who entered the U.S. Senate in 2005 fresh off a stint in the Illinois state legislature, with next to no record of political accomplishment. He may be elected mainly because, in Colin Powell’s word, he is thought to be “transformational.” One may hope so.

By not bothering to look very deeply at the details beneath either candidate’s governing proposals, the media have created a lot of downtime to take free kicks at Gov. Palin. My former colleague, Tunku Varadarajan, has compiled a glossary of Palin invective, and I’ve added a few: “Republican blow-up doll,” “idiot,” “Christian Stepford wife,” “Jesus freak,” “Caribou Barbie,” “a dope,” “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party,” “liar,” “a national disgrace” and “her pretense that she is a woman.”

. .  .

Here’s an opinion poll question: If as Joe Biden suggests the U.S. is likely to be tested by a foreign enemy next year, who of the following would you rather have dealing with it in the Oval Office: Nancy (of Damascus) Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Edwards, Joe (the U.S. drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon) Biden, Mike Huckabee, Geraldine Ferraro, Tom DeLay, Jimmy Carter or Sarah Palin?

My pick? Gov. Palin, surely the most grounded, common-sense person on that list of prime-time politicians.

And that’s really the rub of the Palin antagonism: it really isn’t the “experience” (unless experience is nothing more than campaigning a year longer than she) nor is it verbal sobriety (unless the pundits are ready to demand that Biden be banished), it is that Palin is everything the snooty pundit class is not –overtly religious and conservative, grounded in common sense, not schooled in Washington-speak, and popular with ordinary voters. It is the ultimate culture clash.

As Tony Blankley put it,  many in the chattering class –including some conservatives in the DC-NY corridor – recoil at the sight of Palin because:

Sarah Palin (and others like her) who will be among the leaders of the about-to-be-reborn conservative movement. I suspect that the conservative movement we start rebuilding on the ashes of Nov. 4 (even if McCain wins) will have little use for overwritten, over-delicate commentary. The new movement will be plain-spoken and socially networked up from the Interneted streets, suburbs and small towns of America. It certainly will not listen very attentively to those conservatives who idolatrize Obama and collaborate in heralding his arrival. They may call their commentary “honesty.” I would call it — at the minimum — blindness.

When the next presidential election season rolls around I suspect the conservative base won’t be taking their cues from the pundits. Whoever captures the hearts and minds of the conservative electorate will do sot directly, by going right over the heads of the punditocracy, to articulate a conservative vision and a personal connection with voters who feel perpetually insulted and overlooked by elite opinionmakers. And they probably will be looking for someone who has demonstrated a successful  record of governance that isn’t just Democrat-lite.

That may be Palin, one of the failed 2008 contenders or someone we haven’t gotten to know yet. But if Palin has shown anything it is that successful conservatives can cut out the middle men — the pundits. No wonder they loathe her.

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Not Just About Abortion

George Weigel takes issue with pro-life Catholics who have convinced themselves that Barack Obama is the “preferred pro-life option.” He argues that this is self-delusion of the worst kind:

Because the public record amply demonstrates that Senator Obama is not the abortion moderate of our professors’ imagination, but a genuine abortion radical. In the third presidential debate, Obama described Roev. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that obliterated the abortion law of all fifty states, as “rightly decided”—a judgment with which Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec have all disagreed in the past. Moreover, Senator Obama’s defense of Roe extends far beyond anyone’s “elegant theorizing.” Support for Roe was Obama’s stated reason for opposing Illinois bills aimed at providing legal protection for children who survived an abortion. Support for Roe buttressed Obama’s criticism of a Supreme Court decision upholding state partial-birth abortion laws. The full implementation of the most radical interpretation of Roe would seem to be the goal of Obama’s support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA], which, by stripping Catholic doctors of “conscience clause” protections currently in state laws, would put thousands of Catholic physicians in jeopardy.

The issue of abortion hasn’t been much talked about in the campaign, understandably perhaps when we are in a midst of a financial crisis and there are enough national security issues to keep the aide in charge of Joe Biden “clarifications” working 24/7. But the issue is important for two reasons beyond the merits of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. And it should concern even voters for whom this may not be the top issue.

First, it goes to the notion of who Obama “really is.” If you’d like to believe he is a moderate post-partisan. you’ll be impressed by his patronizing words of praise for those who hold pro-life views. But if you want to know what he does when the chips are down and he must act, not just talk, his record on abortion is revealing because it is so clear — and so extreme. Over and over again he took the position that was the most radical and the most absolutist. It is not just a “woman’s right to choose,” but a knee-jerk defense of every item and every whim of a very vocal constituency in the Democratic Party. He never said, “Hey, I’m with you on abortion rights but this is medical care for a child already born.” He never (as his VP did) evidenced support for a ban on the most extreme and gruesome procedure (partial birth abortion). Rather, he excoriated the Supreme Court for upholding the legislative judgment of Congress. Is there any doubt that if given his way he would support full public funding for abortion? Certainly not if his record is any guide.

Second, because his record is so clear, he has had to dodge (“above my pay grade”) and flat-out lie about his record. Does he believe his own re-invention? Has he surpassed Bill Clinton in the ability to lie — and feign ourtrage at those who would point out the lies? It is hard to tell, in part, because he hasn’t been subjected to sustained questioning in the way other candidates are presented with the glaring conflict between words and deeds.

For some voters, abortion remains a determining issue. But it would be a mistake to think of it in isolation. Obama’s voting record and defense of that record provide what much of the political coverage does not — a window into his political outlook and public character. It’s not a pretty picture.

George Weigel takes issue with pro-life Catholics who have convinced themselves that Barack Obama is the “preferred pro-life option.” He argues that this is self-delusion of the worst kind:

Because the public record amply demonstrates that Senator Obama is not the abortion moderate of our professors’ imagination, but a genuine abortion radical. In the third presidential debate, Obama described Roev. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that obliterated the abortion law of all fifty states, as “rightly decided”—a judgment with which Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec have all disagreed in the past. Moreover, Senator Obama’s defense of Roe extends far beyond anyone’s “elegant theorizing.” Support for Roe was Obama’s stated reason for opposing Illinois bills aimed at providing legal protection for children who survived an abortion. Support for Roe buttressed Obama’s criticism of a Supreme Court decision upholding state partial-birth abortion laws. The full implementation of the most radical interpretation of Roe would seem to be the goal of Obama’s support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA], which, by stripping Catholic doctors of “conscience clause” protections currently in state laws, would put thousands of Catholic physicians in jeopardy.

The issue of abortion hasn’t been much talked about in the campaign, understandably perhaps when we are in a midst of a financial crisis and there are enough national security issues to keep the aide in charge of Joe Biden “clarifications” working 24/7. But the issue is important for two reasons beyond the merits of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. And it should concern even voters for whom this may not be the top issue.

First, it goes to the notion of who Obama “really is.” If you’d like to believe he is a moderate post-partisan. you’ll be impressed by his patronizing words of praise for those who hold pro-life views. But if you want to know what he does when the chips are down and he must act, not just talk, his record on abortion is revealing because it is so clear — and so extreme. Over and over again he took the position that was the most radical and the most absolutist. It is not just a “woman’s right to choose,” but a knee-jerk defense of every item and every whim of a very vocal constituency in the Democratic Party. He never said, “Hey, I’m with you on abortion rights but this is medical care for a child already born.” He never (as his VP did) evidenced support for a ban on the most extreme and gruesome procedure (partial birth abortion). Rather, he excoriated the Supreme Court for upholding the legislative judgment of Congress. Is there any doubt that if given his way he would support full public funding for abortion? Certainly not if his record is any guide.

Second, because his record is so clear, he has had to dodge (“above my pay grade”) and flat-out lie about his record. Does he believe his own re-invention? Has he surpassed Bill Clinton in the ability to lie — and feign ourtrage at those who would point out the lies? It is hard to tell, in part, because he hasn’t been subjected to sustained questioning in the way other candidates are presented with the glaring conflict between words and deeds.

For some voters, abortion remains a determining issue. But it would be a mistake to think of it in isolation. Obama’s voting record and defense of that record provide what much of the political coverage does not — a window into his political outlook and public character. It’s not a pretty picture.

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Let’s See How It Works In Practice

James Antle, in his review of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, gets to the nub of the problem with the authors’ effort to employ big government means to achieve conservative goals (a topic that is certain to be at the heart of the post-election conservative debate):

The trouble with dismissing limited government as unpopular or politically impractical is that it becomes easy to forget why conservatives championed the idea in the first place. It wasn’t out of cheapness, cruelty, or obsession with some abstract anti-government ideology. It is extremely difficult — much more difficult than the authors seem to imagine — to instill self-reliance through the welfare state, promote economic dynamism while minimizing risk, and, most importantly, carve out a space for family and community life while giving decision-making power and vast amounts of money to centralized government bureaucracies. In short, big-government conservatism usually fails not because Brownie didn’t do a heck of a job but because big government is poorly suited for conserving much beyond its own power.

But the debate over just how adventurous government should be and over Antle’s admonition won’t take place in a vaccum. We’re going to get a taste of it as we work our way through the government’s newly enhanced role as shareholder and super-bank and financial regulator in the recession. (Yes, we’ve had financial regulation before but nothing quite like this.)

And, assuming we have an Obama administration, we will see just how ambitious and expensive the federal government can become. In other words, we’ll get to watch the “experts” in big government (the Democrats). We will also get a reminder of the Law of Unintended Consequences and the corruption which flows not just from small earmark projects but from huge new ventures shaped largely by special interest groups. There is nothing so bracing as to watch the full power and might of the federal government unleashed on the landscape. (If you’d like a peek, check out the experience of universal healthcare plans in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.)

Sometimes it’s hard to remember why Ronald Reagan’s declaration that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” rang so true. It seems quaint now, but I suspect we may have a chance to re-learn that lesson.

James Antle, in his review of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, gets to the nub of the problem with the authors’ effort to employ big government means to achieve conservative goals (a topic that is certain to be at the heart of the post-election conservative debate):

The trouble with dismissing limited government as unpopular or politically impractical is that it becomes easy to forget why conservatives championed the idea in the first place. It wasn’t out of cheapness, cruelty, or obsession with some abstract anti-government ideology. It is extremely difficult — much more difficult than the authors seem to imagine — to instill self-reliance through the welfare state, promote economic dynamism while minimizing risk, and, most importantly, carve out a space for family and community life while giving decision-making power and vast amounts of money to centralized government bureaucracies. In short, big-government conservatism usually fails not because Brownie didn’t do a heck of a job but because big government is poorly suited for conserving much beyond its own power.

But the debate over just how adventurous government should be and over Antle’s admonition won’t take place in a vaccum. We’re going to get a taste of it as we work our way through the government’s newly enhanced role as shareholder and super-bank and financial regulator in the recession. (Yes, we’ve had financial regulation before but nothing quite like this.)

And, assuming we have an Obama administration, we will see just how ambitious and expensive the federal government can become. In other words, we’ll get to watch the “experts” in big government (the Democrats). We will also get a reminder of the Law of Unintended Consequences and the corruption which flows not just from small earmark projects but from huge new ventures shaped largely by special interest groups. There is nothing so bracing as to watch the full power and might of the federal government unleashed on the landscape. (If you’d like a peek, check out the experience of universal healthcare plans in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.)

Sometimes it’s hard to remember why Ronald Reagan’s declaration that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” rang so true. It seems quaint now, but I suspect we may have a chance to re-learn that lesson.

Read Less




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