Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 12, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Dave, on Shmuel Rosner:

The solution is federalism.

Look, everything simply CAN’T be made a matter of universal civil rights. We pick and choose our rights all the time, and we enforce some more highly than others. Even the obvious rights– like speech, press, assembly, guns, etc.– are adjudicated and modified at multiple levels of government.

The abortion debate, much like the gay marriage debate, suffers when it is included in the “end all, be all” civil rights debate of racial and sexual equality. When all behavior is examined through the prism of racial and sexual equality, then any newly-considered “rights” become not only necessary to establish, but *imperative* to do so.

After all, if a “woman’s right to choose” is a right like gun ownership, than it can be modified, restricted, and regulated at state and local levels. But if it’s a right like “blacks and women have the right to vote,” then it becomes not only a requirement to defend, it becomes a requirement to enforce on all jurisdictions everywhere.

For America may tolerate an Alabama that loves its guns but a New York City that doesn’t, but no one could brook black Americans being segregated in Alabama but free in New York City.

Yet, that’s what the far wings of the abortion crowd insist upon. As long as abortion is legal anywhere, the Religious Right will not rest, because it’s seen as a moral issue, not a governmental issue. Conversely, if even an Alabama were to ban abortions, the pro-abortion Left would raise hell– the law would not be just an affront to pro-choice Alabamans, but seen as Jim Crow, “separate but equal” reincarnated.

Still, Saletan is correct– it’s the same damn debate, election after election. No one will ever ban all abortions, and no one will ever allow abortions without any restrictions whatsoever (at least not when they have a choice). The fight is always at the margins, always waiting for this mythical day when the Supreme Court has enough votes to finally settle the issue for all time one way or the other.

The way the GOP moves beyond abortion– while still remaining a pro-life party– is by embracing federalism as the highest of principles. That’s the most just solution to *all* of our social problems. Change the culture of the electorate by changing our arguments: you want abortion to be legal? Fine, you can have it legal– if you vote for it in your state. You want gay marriage to be legal? Fine, you can have it legal– if you vote for it in your state.

If South Dakota votes to ban abortions, then tough– let Planned Parenthood buy plane tickets for South Dakotans who want to get abortions.

If Massachusetts votes to allow gay marriage, then tough– gay couples wanting to marry can move there, heterosexual people who don’t want to be around gay married couples can move.

The tragedy is in making *every* American suffer those in the minority.

By fighting for federalism, the GOP can kill *three* birds with one stone: enable the Religious Right to gain local victories they could never gain on a national level, attract new voters on the Left who can gain local victories they could never gain on a national level, and finally, support conservative, limited government values.

Bottom line: *federalism* is a human right.

Dave, on Shmuel Rosner:

The solution is federalism.

Look, everything simply CAN’T be made a matter of universal civil rights. We pick and choose our rights all the time, and we enforce some more highly than others. Even the obvious rights– like speech, press, assembly, guns, etc.– are adjudicated and modified at multiple levels of government.

The abortion debate, much like the gay marriage debate, suffers when it is included in the “end all, be all” civil rights debate of racial and sexual equality. When all behavior is examined through the prism of racial and sexual equality, then any newly-considered “rights” become not only necessary to establish, but *imperative* to do so.

After all, if a “woman’s right to choose” is a right like gun ownership, than it can be modified, restricted, and regulated at state and local levels. But if it’s a right like “blacks and women have the right to vote,” then it becomes not only a requirement to defend, it becomes a requirement to enforce on all jurisdictions everywhere.

For America may tolerate an Alabama that loves its guns but a New York City that doesn’t, but no one could brook black Americans being segregated in Alabama but free in New York City.

Yet, that’s what the far wings of the abortion crowd insist upon. As long as abortion is legal anywhere, the Religious Right will not rest, because it’s seen as a moral issue, not a governmental issue. Conversely, if even an Alabama were to ban abortions, the pro-abortion Left would raise hell– the law would not be just an affront to pro-choice Alabamans, but seen as Jim Crow, “separate but equal” reincarnated.

Still, Saletan is correct– it’s the same damn debate, election after election. No one will ever ban all abortions, and no one will ever allow abortions without any restrictions whatsoever (at least not when they have a choice). The fight is always at the margins, always waiting for this mythical day when the Supreme Court has enough votes to finally settle the issue for all time one way or the other.

The way the GOP moves beyond abortion– while still remaining a pro-life party– is by embracing federalism as the highest of principles. That’s the most just solution to *all* of our social problems. Change the culture of the electorate by changing our arguments: you want abortion to be legal? Fine, you can have it legal– if you vote for it in your state. You want gay marriage to be legal? Fine, you can have it legal– if you vote for it in your state.

If South Dakota votes to ban abortions, then tough– let Planned Parenthood buy plane tickets for South Dakotans who want to get abortions.

If Massachusetts votes to allow gay marriage, then tough– gay couples wanting to marry can move there, heterosexual people who don’t want to be around gay married couples can move.

The tragedy is in making *every* American suffer those in the minority.

By fighting for federalism, the GOP can kill *three* birds with one stone: enable the Religious Right to gain local victories they could never gain on a national level, attract new voters on the Left who can gain local victories they could never gain on a national level, and finally, support conservative, limited government values.

Bottom line: *federalism* is a human right.

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Re: Just What We Need

Mark Green wants to make up two new offices: “White House Office of Democracy (‘Democracy Czar’)” and “White House ‘National Energy Council.'”

Sure, the more the merrier.

Mark Green wants to make up two new offices: “White House Office of Democracy (‘Democracy Czar’)” and “White House ‘National Energy Council.'”

Sure, the more the merrier.

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The Big Saudi Swindle

What is Saudi Arabia up to? There are some unignorable indications that the royals are now leaning toward the West as never before.

According to a Pakistani diplomatic envoy, Riyadh is now playing an active intermediary role between the U.S. and Pakistan, shuttling aid packages and negotiating with Pakistani militants at Washington’s behest. With Islamabad more ambivalent than helpful in taking out militants who attack American forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. has turned to the Saudis, who seem to have reined in their own domestic terrorists over the past few years.

Since a 2003 al Qaeda attack on a residential compound in Riyadh, the Saudi government has instituted a multi-pronged approach to crack down on the threat from within. They’ve done things such as put up websites to counter pro-terrorism fatwas. They’ve also launched an unforgiving, punitive national security plan, without regard for due process or human rights. The results are undeniable. In October, the interior minister announced that almost 1000 people suspected of having ties to al Qaeda will soon be tried. There are almost 7000 suspected or convicted terrorists presently in Saudi jails. After a recent trip to the Kingdom, during which he visited a “rehabilitation center for extremists,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said,

The Saudis are committed to tackling the extremists who poison young people with their evil ideology of terror. I was glad I had the opportunity to witness how they are seeking to change the attitude of young people who would be vulnerable to falling back under the spell of extreme groups on being released.

Gordon Brown is not alone in his enthusiasm. Just yesterday, at a UN General Assembly meeting, Israeli President Shimon Perez described a Saudi peace initiative as “inspirational and promising — a serious opening for real progress.” He went on to praise Saudi King Abdullah thusly:

Your Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia, I was listening to your message I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people. It’s right, it’s needed, it’s promising.

Indeed, the occasion for the meeting is a Saudi-led UN interfaith conference on religious tolerance. And it is with that realization that the irony begins to give the game away. As Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, put it, Saudi Arabia “is the world headquarters of religious oppression and xenophobia.” There are, of course, no churches or synagogues on Saudi soil. In fact, the Sunni-dominant Kingdom systematically discriminates against its Shia Muslim minority in a brutal manner the West would never tolerate. So, why the UN conference?

As Donald H. Argue and Leonard A. Leo explain in a piece in the Christian Science Monitor:

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week’s special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of “respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols … therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred.”

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

As President Bush and other world leaders convene for the farce, King Abdullah’s plan will move steadily along and his image as peacemaker will be broadcast far and wide. He can back off of whatever lukewarm peace initiative he’s laid out once he’s made his case for global blasphemy.

As for the Saudi cooperation with the U.S., right now the Saudis are very uneasy about a near-nuclear Iran. They don’t need the oil-rich Shia-dominant Islamic Republic asserting regional hegemony. There is no reason for Riyadh not to cozy up to the U.S. for the time being, in hopes that any favors done in regard to Pakistan will be banked and remembered by Washington.

While Riyadh has doused jihadist threats to the Kingdom, radical Islam continues to flourish in Saudi Arabia and is endorsed and exported in violent form by the ruling family. Their Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice regularly carries out unspeakable punishments upon innocent Saudis who have run afoul of Wahhabist doctrine, prescribing gang-rapes and the like as penalties for female immodesty. And the Saudis still fund anti-Western, anti-semitic madrassas around the globe.

If Barack Obama is as obsessed with breaking precedent as he says, a new approach with Saudi Arabia would be a good place to start. What a welcome change it would be if our next president refuses to get swindled by the transparent overtures that are taking in the rest of the world, and instead calls the regime in Riyadh by its rightful name: enemy.

What is Saudi Arabia up to? There are some unignorable indications that the royals are now leaning toward the West as never before.

According to a Pakistani diplomatic envoy, Riyadh is now playing an active intermediary role between the U.S. and Pakistan, shuttling aid packages and negotiating with Pakistani militants at Washington’s behest. With Islamabad more ambivalent than helpful in taking out militants who attack American forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. has turned to the Saudis, who seem to have reined in their own domestic terrorists over the past few years.

Since a 2003 al Qaeda attack on a residential compound in Riyadh, the Saudi government has instituted a multi-pronged approach to crack down on the threat from within. They’ve done things such as put up websites to counter pro-terrorism fatwas. They’ve also launched an unforgiving, punitive national security plan, without regard for due process or human rights. The results are undeniable. In October, the interior minister announced that almost 1000 people suspected of having ties to al Qaeda will soon be tried. There are almost 7000 suspected or convicted terrorists presently in Saudi jails. After a recent trip to the Kingdom, during which he visited a “rehabilitation center for extremists,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said,

The Saudis are committed to tackling the extremists who poison young people with their evil ideology of terror. I was glad I had the opportunity to witness how they are seeking to change the attitude of young people who would be vulnerable to falling back under the spell of extreme groups on being released.

Gordon Brown is not alone in his enthusiasm. Just yesterday, at a UN General Assembly meeting, Israeli President Shimon Perez described a Saudi peace initiative as “inspirational and promising — a serious opening for real progress.” He went on to praise Saudi King Abdullah thusly:

Your Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia, I was listening to your message I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people. It’s right, it’s needed, it’s promising.

Indeed, the occasion for the meeting is a Saudi-led UN interfaith conference on religious tolerance. And it is with that realization that the irony begins to give the game away. As Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, put it, Saudi Arabia “is the world headquarters of religious oppression and xenophobia.” There are, of course, no churches or synagogues on Saudi soil. In fact, the Sunni-dominant Kingdom systematically discriminates against its Shia Muslim minority in a brutal manner the West would never tolerate. So, why the UN conference?

As Donald H. Argue and Leonard A. Leo explain in a piece in the Christian Science Monitor:

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week’s special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of “respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols … therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred.”

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

As President Bush and other world leaders convene for the farce, King Abdullah’s plan will move steadily along and his image as peacemaker will be broadcast far and wide. He can back off of whatever lukewarm peace initiative he’s laid out once he’s made his case for global blasphemy.

As for the Saudi cooperation with the U.S., right now the Saudis are very uneasy about a near-nuclear Iran. They don’t need the oil-rich Shia-dominant Islamic Republic asserting regional hegemony. There is no reason for Riyadh not to cozy up to the U.S. for the time being, in hopes that any favors done in regard to Pakistan will be banked and remembered by Washington.

While Riyadh has doused jihadist threats to the Kingdom, radical Islam continues to flourish in Saudi Arabia and is endorsed and exported in violent form by the ruling family. Their Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice regularly carries out unspeakable punishments upon innocent Saudis who have run afoul of Wahhabist doctrine, prescribing gang-rapes and the like as penalties for female immodesty. And the Saudis still fund anti-Western, anti-semitic madrassas around the globe.

If Barack Obama is as obsessed with breaking precedent as he says, a new approach with Saudi Arabia would be a good place to start. What a welcome change it would be if our next president refuses to get swindled by the transparent overtures that are taking in the rest of the world, and instead calls the regime in Riyadh by its rightful name: enemy.

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Bankrupt Energy Football

Having criticized politicians who ignore the option of letting failing industries go bankrupt, I was no happier to discover that Obama is willing to go to the opposite extreme: bankrupting businesses he finds harmful.  Although it only recently gained wide attention, back in January he said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that he would like to see certain coal-burning power plants go out of business.  Here’s the full context:

Let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal – I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach.

As Chief Justice John Marshall noted in 1819, the power to tax is the power to destroy.

Note how Obama repeatedly speaks not of existing power plants, but only those that are not yet built.  Presumably this is because he supports an emissions trading program with a grandfather clause—i.e., rights to pollute would be granted in proportion to historical emissions. Needless to say, such grandfathering enormously benefits existing power producers and puts potential competitors at a severe disadvantage.

Notice also that the alternative energy sources Obama mentions do not include nuclear power, even though it is unarguably the best alternative to coal, at least in the foreseeable future. (Even the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogue now extols the environmental benefits of nuclear power.) There are all sorts of reasons why Obama never advocates this option, but one that deserves to be stressed is the irrational fear of everything nuclear among Americans—a pathology Stephen Weart helpfully diagnoses in his book Nuclear Fear. (If you’re feeling mischievous, and want to cause undue worry, merely tell your friends that their granite kitchen counter tops are radioactive.) French people, by contrast, are barely perturbed by nuclear power, in part because it has been so successful for them: it provides 77% of their electricity and they have never had a Three Mile Island-like scare. By comparison, only 19% of American electricity is nuclear-generated.

Another important point that Obama’s political advisors are probably well aware of is that women disproportionately fear nuclear power.  While studies find that women fear technological, medical, and environmental hazards more than men do, the divergence is greatest for nuclear technology. The reasons for this are unclear, though men’s lesser general fearfulness might be due to the fear-inhibiting effects of testosterone. In any case, given that Obama was elected thanks to getting the majority of the female vote, he was probably wise not to trumpet the benefits of nuclear power, as McCain did.

Having criticized politicians who ignore the option of letting failing industries go bankrupt, I was no happier to discover that Obama is willing to go to the opposite extreme: bankrupting businesses he finds harmful.  Although it only recently gained wide attention, back in January he said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that he would like to see certain coal-burning power plants go out of business.  Here’s the full context:

Let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal – I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach.

As Chief Justice John Marshall noted in 1819, the power to tax is the power to destroy.

Note how Obama repeatedly speaks not of existing power plants, but only those that are not yet built.  Presumably this is because he supports an emissions trading program with a grandfather clause—i.e., rights to pollute would be granted in proportion to historical emissions. Needless to say, such grandfathering enormously benefits existing power producers and puts potential competitors at a severe disadvantage.

Notice also that the alternative energy sources Obama mentions do not include nuclear power, even though it is unarguably the best alternative to coal, at least in the foreseeable future. (Even the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogue now extols the environmental benefits of nuclear power.) There are all sorts of reasons why Obama never advocates this option, but one that deserves to be stressed is the irrational fear of everything nuclear among Americans—a pathology Stephen Weart helpfully diagnoses in his book Nuclear Fear. (If you’re feeling mischievous, and want to cause undue worry, merely tell your friends that their granite kitchen counter tops are radioactive.) French people, by contrast, are barely perturbed by nuclear power, in part because it has been so successful for them: it provides 77% of their electricity and they have never had a Three Mile Island-like scare. By comparison, only 19% of American electricity is nuclear-generated.

Another important point that Obama’s political advisors are probably well aware of is that women disproportionately fear nuclear power.  While studies find that women fear technological, medical, and environmental hazards more than men do, the divergence is greatest for nuclear technology. The reasons for this are unclear, though men’s lesser general fearfulness might be due to the fear-inhibiting effects of testosterone. In any case, given that Obama was elected thanks to getting the majority of the female vote, he was probably wise not to trumpet the benefits of nuclear power, as McCain did.

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Syria: We Put That Envelope Under That Garbage

I knew it would come to this. Syria, caught with its pants well below ankle-level and with the discovery of trace amounts of enriched uranium at the bombed site that the West claims was being built as a nuclear reactor, has now gone on record, claiming that the uranium was left there by Israeli bombs. Which reminds me of the moment in Arlo Guthrie’s classic song “Alice’s Restaurant,” when Officer Obie accuses him of dumping a large pile of garbage over a cliff, basing the accusation on having found his name at the bottom of the pile of garbage, and the singer replies, “Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage.”

I knew it would come to this. Syria, caught with its pants well below ankle-level and with the discovery of trace amounts of enriched uranium at the bombed site that the West claims was being built as a nuclear reactor, has now gone on record, claiming that the uranium was left there by Israeli bombs. Which reminds me of the moment in Arlo Guthrie’s classic song “Alice’s Restaurant,” when Officer Obie accuses him of dumping a large pile of garbage over a cliff, basing the accusation on having found his name at the bottom of the pile of garbage, and the singer replies, “Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage.”

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Abortion and the GOP’s Future

In the ongoing debate over the possibilities available for those wanting to reform the Republican Party, I found Max’s post from yesterday especially interesting. Abortion is an issue on which many so-called “moderate” conservatives find it difficult to adhere to Party rules, because anti-abortion sentiment is mostly identified with the more religious camp of the GOP base, and is also an issue on which the American public seems to be moving away from the party. Not that Americans want abortions – but they a) don’t want abortion to become illegal (and are mostly against the overturning of Roe v. Wade), and b) don’t want abortion to be central to the political battle between right and left.

Max is right: abortion prevents the Party from nominating otherwise worthy candidates like Joe Lieberman (for VP) and Rudy Giuliani. However, making the case against this purist anti-abortion position on this ground is somewhat problematic. Arguably, this limiting abortion litmus-test is not unique to the Republican Party, but rather shared by both parties. The Republicans will never nominate a worthy pro-choice candidate the same way Democrats can hardly nominate a worthy pro-lifer to be their presidential candidate. In both cases, the problem isn’t the “party,” but rather the “primaries” and their tendency to overemphasize the power of the more ideological groups within each party.

Data presented by the “Republican Majority for Choice” suggests that most Republican voters, unlike the subset of Republican primary voters, would vote for a pro-choice candidate if they believed him to be the right candidate on all other matters. In a 2007 poll, for example, the group found “that 72% of Republicans asserted that the government should not play a role in controlling choices for women, believing instead that the decision to have an abortion should lie with women, their doctors, and their families. Further, the majority of the Party, 53%, believes that the GOP has spent too much time focusing on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage.”

Just three months ago, the same group conducted a poll showing that “nearly 70 percent of Republican voters do not consider abortion as a litmus test for the party’s vice presidential nominee.” In a Gallup poll from May 2008, only 15% of pro-life voters polled said that their candidate “must” share their views on abortion in order for them to vote for him or her (for the pro-choice camp it was similar: only 11% saw their position as a “must” for their candidate). 53% of pro-lifers polled said it was “one of many” important issues, and for 31% it wasn’t even a “major issue.”

Thus, what both parties share as far as the abortion-litmus-test is concerned is the problem created by the laziness of the average voter. Going to the polls to vote for the president is fine, but going twice — first to select the nominee and second to elect the president – is just too much trouble. Suggesting that an anti-abortion stance should not be a defining quality of the Republican candidate is not as provocative as it might seem. The problem is more practical than it is moral or ideological: how does one neutralizes the power of the anti-abortion groups in the primary process?

Can such a goal be achieved? I don’t know. But a month ago, in an article by William Saletan — one of the leading experts on the politics of abortion and the author of Bearing Right: How conservatives won the abortion war - an alternative to reforming the primaries has been offered. Saletan’s argument sees the most critical role played by none other than Barack Obama:

We’re a pragmatic country. What disgusts most people about abortion as a political issue is that on that topic, unlike economics or foreign policy, nothing ever seems to be accomplished. It’s the same damned debate, election after election, with each side trying to scare you about the other. If only it were more like economics, where you can actually have growth-or maybe like energy, where you can develop a new source or a new technology. If Obama can make abortion more like those issues and couple it with a record of material progress in the form of fewer procedures, he’ll take much of the political heat out of it. He might even make it boring. Wouldn’t that be great?

For the Republican Party, it would definitely be great.

In the ongoing debate over the possibilities available for those wanting to reform the Republican Party, I found Max’s post from yesterday especially interesting. Abortion is an issue on which many so-called “moderate” conservatives find it difficult to adhere to Party rules, because anti-abortion sentiment is mostly identified with the more religious camp of the GOP base, and is also an issue on which the American public seems to be moving away from the party. Not that Americans want abortions – but they a) don’t want abortion to become illegal (and are mostly against the overturning of Roe v. Wade), and b) don’t want abortion to be central to the political battle between right and left.

Max is right: abortion prevents the Party from nominating otherwise worthy candidates like Joe Lieberman (for VP) and Rudy Giuliani. However, making the case against this purist anti-abortion position on this ground is somewhat problematic. Arguably, this limiting abortion litmus-test is not unique to the Republican Party, but rather shared by both parties. The Republicans will never nominate a worthy pro-choice candidate the same way Democrats can hardly nominate a worthy pro-lifer to be their presidential candidate. In both cases, the problem isn’t the “party,” but rather the “primaries” and their tendency to overemphasize the power of the more ideological groups within each party.

Data presented by the “Republican Majority for Choice” suggests that most Republican voters, unlike the subset of Republican primary voters, would vote for a pro-choice candidate if they believed him to be the right candidate on all other matters. In a 2007 poll, for example, the group found “that 72% of Republicans asserted that the government should not play a role in controlling choices for women, believing instead that the decision to have an abortion should lie with women, their doctors, and their families. Further, the majority of the Party, 53%, believes that the GOP has spent too much time focusing on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage.”

Just three months ago, the same group conducted a poll showing that “nearly 70 percent of Republican voters do not consider abortion as a litmus test for the party’s vice presidential nominee.” In a Gallup poll from May 2008, only 15% of pro-life voters polled said that their candidate “must” share their views on abortion in order for them to vote for him or her (for the pro-choice camp it was similar: only 11% saw their position as a “must” for their candidate). 53% of pro-lifers polled said it was “one of many” important issues, and for 31% it wasn’t even a “major issue.”

Thus, what both parties share as far as the abortion-litmus-test is concerned is the problem created by the laziness of the average voter. Going to the polls to vote for the president is fine, but going twice — first to select the nominee and second to elect the president – is just too much trouble. Suggesting that an anti-abortion stance should not be a defining quality of the Republican candidate is not as provocative as it might seem. The problem is more practical than it is moral or ideological: how does one neutralizes the power of the anti-abortion groups in the primary process?

Can such a goal be achieved? I don’t know. But a month ago, in an article by William Saletan — one of the leading experts on the politics of abortion and the author of Bearing Right: How conservatives won the abortion war - an alternative to reforming the primaries has been offered. Saletan’s argument sees the most critical role played by none other than Barack Obama:

We’re a pragmatic country. What disgusts most people about abortion as a political issue is that on that topic, unlike economics or foreign policy, nothing ever seems to be accomplished. It’s the same damned debate, election after election, with each side trying to scare you about the other. If only it were more like economics, where you can actually have growth-or maybe like energy, where you can develop a new source or a new technology. If Obama can make abortion more like those issues and couple it with a record of material progress in the form of fewer procedures, he’ll take much of the political heat out of it. He might even make it boring. Wouldn’t that be great?

For the Republican Party, it would definitely be great.

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An Interesting Take???

Peter Hitchens isn’t just factually wrong, he’s delusional.

[T]he US is just as segregated as it was before Martin Luther King – in schools, streets, neighbourhoods, holidays, even in its TV-watching habits and its choice of fast-food joint. The difference is that it is now done by unspoken agreement rather than by law.

If Mr Obama’s election had threatened any of that, his feel-good white supporters would have scuttled off and voted for John McCain, or practically anyone.

So, Americans voted for Obama to secure segregation?

Peter Hitchens isn’t just factually wrong, he’s delusional.

[T]he US is just as segregated as it was before Martin Luther King – in schools, streets, neighbourhoods, holidays, even in its TV-watching habits and its choice of fast-food joint. The difference is that it is now done by unspoken agreement rather than by law.

If Mr Obama’s election had threatened any of that, his feel-good white supporters would have scuttled off and voted for John McCain, or practically anyone.

So, Americans voted for Obama to secure segregation?

Read Less

Where Is Kadima Heading?

When Kadima, Israel’s ruling party, was established in 2005, it had two main selling points: Ariel Sharon and unilateral withdrawal. Sharon had bought into Haim Ramon’s “big bang” theory about Israeli politics – namely, that a major realignment of the electorate had taken place on the issues of war, peace, and security. The theory rested on the twin assumptions that both camps in the argument on peace, war and security got it right on some issues and wrong on other issues.

The Right was wrong to assume that it could hold on to Judea and Samaria forever, but it was right about the true intentions of Israel’s Palestinian “partners”: Their commitment to peace was predicated upon the so-called “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and the ultimate transformation of Israel into a second Palestinian state, only one with a large Jewish minority. The Left therefore was right about the need for territorial concessions, but plainly wrong about the viability of the “land-for-peace” equation. Israel might concede territory — even all territories conquered in 1967 — and that may serve some Israeli interests. But peace would not ensue.

The second Intifada had proven both camps wrong and forever defeated the ideologies of both Peace Now and Greater Israel. What came after was the idea of unilateralism – withdrawal for Israel’s own sake, but in the absence of peace.

What made Israelis buy into this notion? First, the relative quiet that had characterized the northern border with Lebanon since May 2000, when the first instance of Israeli unilateralism had been carried out. Second, the demographic argument that made relinquishing the Gaza Strip a logical conclusion. And third, the personality of Ariel Sharon, whom Israelis felt — after he had vanquished the Palestinian Second Intifadah — they could blindly trust on security.

Elections are now looming in Israel, and in 2009 Kadima will have to reinvent itself to win — after all, Sharon is no longer there and unilateralism is no longer attractive, after it begat thousands of Kassam rockets from Gaza and a full-fledged war in the North. So what will Kadima offer?

In a verbal contretemps between outgoing Prime minister, Ehud Olmert and his designated successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Livni has reportedly said, “You can’t just throw the key to the other side and hope for the best, especially not in Judea and Samaria.” Quite. But isn’t it exactly what Kadima did in Gaza in August 2005? Isn’t it exactly the founding idea of Kadima — that given who’s on the other side, there is no hope for peace and therefore Israel might as well “throw the key to the other side”? And if this means that Livni is de facto repudiating the bedrock of Kadima’s founding appeal, what’s left there that would motivate voters to support her?

When Kadima, Israel’s ruling party, was established in 2005, it had two main selling points: Ariel Sharon and unilateral withdrawal. Sharon had bought into Haim Ramon’s “big bang” theory about Israeli politics – namely, that a major realignment of the electorate had taken place on the issues of war, peace, and security. The theory rested on the twin assumptions that both camps in the argument on peace, war and security got it right on some issues and wrong on other issues.

The Right was wrong to assume that it could hold on to Judea and Samaria forever, but it was right about the true intentions of Israel’s Palestinian “partners”: Their commitment to peace was predicated upon the so-called “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and the ultimate transformation of Israel into a second Palestinian state, only one with a large Jewish minority. The Left therefore was right about the need for territorial concessions, but plainly wrong about the viability of the “land-for-peace” equation. Israel might concede territory — even all territories conquered in 1967 — and that may serve some Israeli interests. But peace would not ensue.

The second Intifada had proven both camps wrong and forever defeated the ideologies of both Peace Now and Greater Israel. What came after was the idea of unilateralism – withdrawal for Israel’s own sake, but in the absence of peace.

What made Israelis buy into this notion? First, the relative quiet that had characterized the northern border with Lebanon since May 2000, when the first instance of Israeli unilateralism had been carried out. Second, the demographic argument that made relinquishing the Gaza Strip a logical conclusion. And third, the personality of Ariel Sharon, whom Israelis felt — after he had vanquished the Palestinian Second Intifadah — they could blindly trust on security.

Elections are now looming in Israel, and in 2009 Kadima will have to reinvent itself to win — after all, Sharon is no longer there and unilateralism is no longer attractive, after it begat thousands of Kassam rockets from Gaza and a full-fledged war in the North. So what will Kadima offer?

In a verbal contretemps between outgoing Prime minister, Ehud Olmert and his designated successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Livni has reportedly said, “You can’t just throw the key to the other side and hope for the best, especially not in Judea and Samaria.” Quite. But isn’t it exactly what Kadima did in Gaza in August 2005? Isn’t it exactly the founding idea of Kadima — that given who’s on the other side, there is no hope for peace and therefore Israel might as well “throw the key to the other side”? And if this means that Livni is de facto repudiating the bedrock of Kadima’s founding appeal, what’s left there that would motivate voters to support her?

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Black Holes and Bailouts

Jennifer raises some serious doubts about the proposed bailout of the American auto-industry. Among other things, she notes that General Motors announced that bankruptcy is “not an option” for the company, when of course it always is. While GM can’t be blamed for looking to avoid bankruptcy, and while no one enjoys seeing workers get laid off, it is troubling to hear more and more politicians arguing that we must not allow important industries or companies to go bankrupt.

This reminds me of something I learned in college (and I hope I remember it right). David Sidorsky, my formidable professor of political philosophy, taught that one of the causes for the Soviet Union’s collapse was that Marxist economics does not possess a concept of bankruptcy. After all, a cornerstone of socialist economics is an exclusive concern for “production for use,” not production for profit. Since the Soviet government did not care about the profitability (or lack thereof) of various industries, grossly unprofitable factories, etc. were permitted to exist thanks to continued financial support from the state. These economic “black holes” sucked more and more resources away from other parts of the economy that would have otherwise been profitable, which led to a chain reaction that caused the entire economy to go down the tubes.

Obviously, there are many enormous differences between the Soviet Union and current conditions in the U.S., but it makes me nervous to see the option of bankruptcy increasingly being removed from the table—especially when those arguments are couched in terms of what is essentially “production for employment.”

Jennifer raises some serious doubts about the proposed bailout of the American auto-industry. Among other things, she notes that General Motors announced that bankruptcy is “not an option” for the company, when of course it always is. While GM can’t be blamed for looking to avoid bankruptcy, and while no one enjoys seeing workers get laid off, it is troubling to hear more and more politicians arguing that we must not allow important industries or companies to go bankrupt.

This reminds me of something I learned in college (and I hope I remember it right). David Sidorsky, my formidable professor of political philosophy, taught that one of the causes for the Soviet Union’s collapse was that Marxist economics does not possess a concept of bankruptcy. After all, a cornerstone of socialist economics is an exclusive concern for “production for use,” not production for profit. Since the Soviet government did not care about the profitability (or lack thereof) of various industries, grossly unprofitable factories, etc. were permitted to exist thanks to continued financial support from the state. These economic “black holes” sucked more and more resources away from other parts of the economy that would have otherwise been profitable, which led to a chain reaction that caused the entire economy to go down the tubes.

Obviously, there are many enormous differences between the Soviet Union and current conditions in the U.S., but it makes me nervous to see the option of bankruptcy increasingly being removed from the table—especially when those arguments are couched in terms of what is essentially “production for employment.”

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Just What We Need

Obama-Biden Transition Team co-chair Valerie Jarrett said on NPR that Barack Obama will move ahead with his plan to create an “Office of Urban Policy.”

So, what will this new office do that various government agencies don’t already do?

[T]ake all of those different agencies and have a comprehensive approach to our urban development, and so having someone in the White House who’s going to be an advocate for cities and who can take all the variety of different federal programs and help target them in a logical and systematic way I think is part of what president-elect Obama was trying to get at by this position.

At least Sarah Palin’s gibberish didn’t cost tax payers millions while simultaneously bloating government. Can’t all those agency heads just start a Facebook group and leave our money out of it?

As with Lyndon Johnson’s National Endowment for the Arts, or Jimmy Carter’s establishment of the dumb and dumber Department of Education and Department of Energy, we will be funding the folly of this new office forever.

What’s worse is that useless federal entities go to great lengths to hide their uselessness, and in so doing become worse than useless. Whoever is to occupy the Office of Urban Policy will have to justify a salary, a staff, a letterhead, and a workspace. In order to do that, he or she will begin tinkering with the most vibrant loci of America’s private sector: its cities. Instead of letting what Obama terms “chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” shape the future from the metropolis outward, the Office of Urban Policy will constrain the essential turbulence of American cities with the same wisdom the government has brought to bear in the areas of American art, education, and energy for the past several decades. Here are Obama’s own words, offered when speaking to a Conference of American Mayors this past June:

I’ve laid out an ambitious urban poverty plan that will help . . . create public-private business incubators to open up economic opportunity.

Public-private business incubators? No thanks. We already know what that hatches. The coming Obama years sound more and more like a mad socioeconomic experiment with each passing day. Spread the wealth, bail everyone out, and incubate a state-citizen hybrid. The funny thing about “Yes we can” is that Obama doesn’t seem to think Americans can do much of anything – at least not without his help.

Obama-Biden Transition Team co-chair Valerie Jarrett said on NPR that Barack Obama will move ahead with his plan to create an “Office of Urban Policy.”

So, what will this new office do that various government agencies don’t already do?

[T]ake all of those different agencies and have a comprehensive approach to our urban development, and so having someone in the White House who’s going to be an advocate for cities and who can take all the variety of different federal programs and help target them in a logical and systematic way I think is part of what president-elect Obama was trying to get at by this position.

At least Sarah Palin’s gibberish didn’t cost tax payers millions while simultaneously bloating government. Can’t all those agency heads just start a Facebook group and leave our money out of it?

As with Lyndon Johnson’s National Endowment for the Arts, or Jimmy Carter’s establishment of the dumb and dumber Department of Education and Department of Energy, we will be funding the folly of this new office forever.

What’s worse is that useless federal entities go to great lengths to hide their uselessness, and in so doing become worse than useless. Whoever is to occupy the Office of Urban Policy will have to justify a salary, a staff, a letterhead, and a workspace. In order to do that, he or she will begin tinkering with the most vibrant loci of America’s private sector: its cities. Instead of letting what Obama terms “chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” shape the future from the metropolis outward, the Office of Urban Policy will constrain the essential turbulence of American cities with the same wisdom the government has brought to bear in the areas of American art, education, and energy for the past several decades. Here are Obama’s own words, offered when speaking to a Conference of American Mayors this past June:

I’ve laid out an ambitious urban poverty plan that will help . . . create public-private business incubators to open up economic opportunity.

Public-private business incubators? No thanks. We already know what that hatches. The coming Obama years sound more and more like a mad socioeconomic experiment with each passing day. Spread the wealth, bail everyone out, and incubate a state-citizen hybrid. The funny thing about “Yes we can” is that Obama doesn’t seem to think Americans can do much of anything – at least not without his help.

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Sasha and Malia

The Obama daughters have been offered a gig on Hannah Montana, the Disney Channel show that is catnip for girls their age. I assume her parents will forego this dubious honor for their children, but this raises an interesting question about the next four years. There hasn’t been a pre-pubescent kid in the White House since Amy Carter, and the sense of respect for her privacy was total. It was also a different time, during which the balance of power between adults and children was firmly weighted toward the adults, such that when Carter tried to use Amy as a rhetorical tool in his 1980 debate with Ronald Reagan in discussing nuclear weapons, he was widely derided.

None of that applies now. Malia and Sasha Obama are part of the new world of childhood, a vastly more public world, with scores of television shows directed toward their age group, consumer goods specifically targeted at them, and the celebrity journalism sector completely without shame in exploiting performing children to keep itself in business. The question may not be what the adult Obamas will want, but what the junior Obamas will want. What if they decide, over the coming years, that they hunger for the company of Hannah Montana, that they would be thrilled to be on the cover of People?

More disturbing, perhaps: What if their school classmates decide to post cellphone videos of them on YouTube? What if rumors about their conduct hit shameless, willing-to-say-or-publish-anything sites like Gawker? One heard things, almost certainly invented, about the Clintons and their relationship with Chelsea from Washington people who claimed to know the truth because their kids went to school with Chelsea. But that was before the Internet really exploded.

Protecting Sasha and Malia from the mainstream media will be easy for the Obamas, because the mainstream media will go along. Protecting them from the world beyond it will be harder. And protecting them from the desires they may themselves feel when they know they can have or be anything they wish to be might be the hardest job of all.

The Obama daughters have been offered a gig on Hannah Montana, the Disney Channel show that is catnip for girls their age. I assume her parents will forego this dubious honor for their children, but this raises an interesting question about the next four years. There hasn’t been a pre-pubescent kid in the White House since Amy Carter, and the sense of respect for her privacy was total. It was also a different time, during which the balance of power between adults and children was firmly weighted toward the adults, such that when Carter tried to use Amy as a rhetorical tool in his 1980 debate with Ronald Reagan in discussing nuclear weapons, he was widely derided.

None of that applies now. Malia and Sasha Obama are part of the new world of childhood, a vastly more public world, with scores of television shows directed toward their age group, consumer goods specifically targeted at them, and the celebrity journalism sector completely without shame in exploiting performing children to keep itself in business. The question may not be what the adult Obamas will want, but what the junior Obamas will want. What if they decide, over the coming years, that they hunger for the company of Hannah Montana, that they would be thrilled to be on the cover of People?

More disturbing, perhaps: What if their school classmates decide to post cellphone videos of them on YouTube? What if rumors about their conduct hit shameless, willing-to-say-or-publish-anything sites like Gawker? One heard things, almost certainly invented, about the Clintons and their relationship with Chelsea from Washington people who claimed to know the truth because their kids went to school with Chelsea. But that was before the Internet really exploded.

Protecting Sasha and Malia from the mainstream media will be easy for the Obamas, because the mainstream media will go along. Protecting them from the world beyond it will be harder. And protecting them from the desires they may themselves feel when they know they can have or be anything they wish to be might be the hardest job of all.

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The Same Old Song

Well, the Bush administration has finally reconciled itself to the reality that there will be no lasting Mideast peace agreement on its watch — and I find myself relieved. Secretary of State Rice is making her final visit to the region before leaving office, meeting with various and sundry involved parties, but says there will be no deal by the end of the year — and, presumably, by the end of the Bush administration on January 20.

As I said, I find myself relieved.

I am not a scholar of the Mideast, but in the years I have been following developing matters in the region, I have noticed that there is a recurring pattern in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

  1. Some outside body pushes for a peace agreement.
  2. The body brings representatives together in some new place for intense talks.
  3. The talks go on for a while, drawing up a plan.
  4. The plan is announced with much fanfare, with a series of steps to be taken by each side building towards a lasting peace.
  5. Before the conciliatory steps are begun, Israel is called upon to make some sort of concessions as a “gesture of good faith.” (Note: This can occur before or concurrent with steps 3 and 4. Also, the Palestinians are never called upon to make similar gestures.)
  6. Israel, under great pressure, makes the demanded “gesture” — usually involving release of prisoners or evacuation of lands.
  7. Israel is praised by the global community for its “commitment to peace.”
  8. The agreement begins to be implemented, with Israel always having to begin to make the real concessions (this is in addition to the prior “gesture of goodwill.”)
  9. Israel makes the first of its concessions, and is praised once more for its “commitment to peace” by the global community.
  10. The Palestinians start making excuses for why they cannot comply with the agreements they made at the negotiating table.
  11. Israel is pressured to continue with its commitments and obligations unilaterally, with the warning that “they must not endanger the agreement.”
  12. Israel reluctantly continues to make its concessions, but demands that the Palestinians begin living up to their end of the bargain.
  13. The Palestinians continue to prevaricate and stall, and warn that “rogue elements” might strike out to “destroy the peace process.”
  14. Israel announces that it will not continue with its obligations until the Palestinians begin living up to theirs. (Note that at this point, Israel has already made several concessions.)
  15. The Palestinians accuse Israel of “sabotaging” the peace agreement and warn of “dire consequences.”
  16. A “rogue group” of Palestinians attack Israel.
  17. The Palestinians warn Israel that any retaliation for the attack will “destroy the fragile peace” and end the agreement.
  18. The rest of the global community also pressures Israel to “show restraint” and “not break the truce.”
  19. Another “rogue group” of Palestinians commits another attack.
  20. Israel strikes back against the terrorists.
  21. The Palestinians announce that Israel has “destroyed the peace” and formally withdraw from the agreement.
  22. A fresh wave of terrorist attacks and Israeli retaliations resume.
  23. Return to step 1.

Obviously, there are variations, but that is the basic outline.

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Well, the Bush administration has finally reconciled itself to the reality that there will be no lasting Mideast peace agreement on its watch — and I find myself relieved. Secretary of State Rice is making her final visit to the region before leaving office, meeting with various and sundry involved parties, but says there will be no deal by the end of the year — and, presumably, by the end of the Bush administration on January 20.

As I said, I find myself relieved.

I am not a scholar of the Mideast, but in the years I have been following developing matters in the region, I have noticed that there is a recurring pattern in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

  1. Some outside body pushes for a peace agreement.
  2. The body brings representatives together in some new place for intense talks.
  3. The talks go on for a while, drawing up a plan.
  4. The plan is announced with much fanfare, with a series of steps to be taken by each side building towards a lasting peace.
  5. Before the conciliatory steps are begun, Israel is called upon to make some sort of concessions as a “gesture of good faith.” (Note: This can occur before or concurrent with steps 3 and 4. Also, the Palestinians are never called upon to make similar gestures.)
  6. Israel, under great pressure, makes the demanded “gesture” — usually involving release of prisoners or evacuation of lands.
  7. Israel is praised by the global community for its “commitment to peace.”
  8. The agreement begins to be implemented, with Israel always having to begin to make the real concessions (this is in addition to the prior “gesture of goodwill.”)
  9. Israel makes the first of its concessions, and is praised once more for its “commitment to peace” by the global community.
  10. The Palestinians start making excuses for why they cannot comply with the agreements they made at the negotiating table.
  11. Israel is pressured to continue with its commitments and obligations unilaterally, with the warning that “they must not endanger the agreement.”
  12. Israel reluctantly continues to make its concessions, but demands that the Palestinians begin living up to their end of the bargain.
  13. The Palestinians continue to prevaricate and stall, and warn that “rogue elements” might strike out to “destroy the peace process.”
  14. Israel announces that it will not continue with its obligations until the Palestinians begin living up to theirs. (Note that at this point, Israel has already made several concessions.)
  15. The Palestinians accuse Israel of “sabotaging” the peace agreement and warn of “dire consequences.”
  16. A “rogue group” of Palestinians attack Israel.
  17. The Palestinians warn Israel that any retaliation for the attack will “destroy the fragile peace” and end the agreement.
  18. The rest of the global community also pressures Israel to “show restraint” and “not break the truce.”
  19. Another “rogue group” of Palestinians commits another attack.
  20. Israel strikes back against the terrorists.
  21. The Palestinians announce that Israel has “destroyed the peace” and formally withdraw from the agreement.
  22. A fresh wave of terrorist attacks and Israeli retaliations resume.
  23. Return to step 1.

Obviously, there are variations, but that is the basic outline.

There’s an old saying that defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” Obviously, this pattern has not worked in the half-dozen or so times it’s been tried, but the world keeps coming back to it. Why on earth do they?

The world community does, I think, because it lets them seem like they’re actually doing something, and most politicians understand that it’s in their best interests to be perceived as doing something, even if (and sometimes especially if) they aren’t actually achieving anything.

The Israelis do it because they are constantly pressured by the global community to do so, and threatened with the withholding of aid and support if they do not comply. Also, they are always hopeful that this time it just might work.

And the Palestinians do it because it is to their advantage to do so. Because, while the process always loops back to the starting point, the concessions they win from Israel are almost always left intact. For participating in this recursive loop, they get to keep whatever Israel gives up in the early stages of the process. The prisoners released remain free, the surrendered land remains theirs, and other concessions often remain intact.

In essence, the Palestinians end up getting a few concessions for virtually nothing. It’s a very slow path to victory, but it’s certainly steps in the right direction. It’s the “death of a thousand cuts” writ on a global scale.

I don’t particularly enjoy being a cynic, but I have found that when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s usually the wisest and safest approach.

For the next round of this grand game, I would suggest a change from the beginning. Call upon the Palestinians to make the “gestures of good will.” Require them to make the first concessions, and structure the agreement that Israel is required to keep up with them.

Naturally, I don’t expect this to work. But it will have the effect of shortening the entire process considerably.

And who knows? Perhaps after going through this new pattern a few times, with Israel getting to keep whatever the Palestinians might concede before aborting the process, there will be a sincere effort to finally achieve a lasting peace in the Mideast.

At least, it’ll be an improvement over the existing, seriously broken model.

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Does Your Paradigm Need Changing?

Valerie Jarrett, longtime confidante of Barack Obama and co-chair of his transition team, shares this:

It’s a mistake, she said, to talk about Obama in terms of the left or right. He plans to change the political paradigm. What does that mean? Jarrett said Obama is a realist, not just an idealist, as many of his critics claim. He won’t be a tool of liberals, or an easy target for conservatives. He’ll try to get done that which he thinks is “doable” and can “change the lives of the American people,” Jarrett said. Proof of this can be found in his approach to the daunting economic problems. Before holding his first post-election news conference last week to let the nation know he is focusing on this crisis as he prepares to assume the presidency in January, Obama pulled together a politically eclectic group of economic advisers that included the chief executive of Google, Michigan’s governor, Los Angeles’ mayor, two former Treasury secretaries and an ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve. Jarrett said Obama went into that meeting and others he had during his campaign with an open mind — and a willingness to listen to what people had to say before making a decision. She admits there occasionally were “great discussions with differences of opinion.” But there was no public backbiting or sniping leaks to the press — which Jarrett credits to Obama’s leadership.

Huh? If you have not the foggiest idea what she means or how this works in practice, you are not alone. Changing paradigms is always interesting, and debates among people with vast disagreements makes for a lively classroom discussion, but how is this all going to work?

Let’s get real. At some point it will be necessary to choose one side or the other or split the difference. That will result in decisions which define the new President, whether he likes the characterization or not, as liberal, conservative or moderate. I am not sure what the fettish is about avoiding spelling out his general framework and perspective. I know the temptation is great to have everyone like him and have everyone quite certain his version of Barack Obama is the real one. But pretty soon he’ll have to come right out and decide: bailout or not, tax hike or not, free trade or not, etc. Let’s hope that the gauze of vagueness disintegrates and we wind up with a decisive, firm and clear President. Otherwise we’re all in for a rocky four years.

Valerie Jarrett, longtime confidante of Barack Obama and co-chair of his transition team, shares this:

It’s a mistake, she said, to talk about Obama in terms of the left or right. He plans to change the political paradigm. What does that mean? Jarrett said Obama is a realist, not just an idealist, as many of his critics claim. He won’t be a tool of liberals, or an easy target for conservatives. He’ll try to get done that which he thinks is “doable” and can “change the lives of the American people,” Jarrett said. Proof of this can be found in his approach to the daunting economic problems. Before holding his first post-election news conference last week to let the nation know he is focusing on this crisis as he prepares to assume the presidency in January, Obama pulled together a politically eclectic group of economic advisers that included the chief executive of Google, Michigan’s governor, Los Angeles’ mayor, two former Treasury secretaries and an ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve. Jarrett said Obama went into that meeting and others he had during his campaign with an open mind — and a willingness to listen to what people had to say before making a decision. She admits there occasionally were “great discussions with differences of opinion.” But there was no public backbiting or sniping leaks to the press — which Jarrett credits to Obama’s leadership.

Huh? If you have not the foggiest idea what she means or how this works in practice, you are not alone. Changing paradigms is always interesting, and debates among people with vast disagreements makes for a lively classroom discussion, but how is this all going to work?

Let’s get real. At some point it will be necessary to choose one side or the other or split the difference. That will result in decisions which define the new President, whether he likes the characterization or not, as liberal, conservative or moderate. I am not sure what the fettish is about avoiding spelling out his general framework and perspective. I know the temptation is great to have everyone like him and have everyone quite certain his version of Barack Obama is the real one. But pretty soon he’ll have to come right out and decide: bailout or not, tax hike or not, free trade or not, etc. Let’s hope that the gauze of vagueness disintegrates and we wind up with a decisive, firm and clear President. Otherwise we’re all in for a rocky four years.

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The Olbermann Question, Answered

Now that Keith Olbermann of MSNBC — a brilliantly talented broadcaster who has surfed the tsunami of Bush hatred like a North Shore Big Wave rider — is going to continue peddling his wares at 8 pm every night, the question has arisen: How can he keep it up ? As Tom Bevan writes today on Real Clear Politics:

One has to wonder how Olbermann will maintain his ratings now that Bush is leaving office.  Being a slavish sychophant of the incoming Obama administration is bound to be far less entertaining than the indignant, spittle-flecked, and often deranged “Special Comments” that drove his popularity over the last few years.

This was my thought too, but now I’ve figured it out. Olbermann’s rage will simply be directed at the enemies of Obama, real and imagined; evil Republicans blocking his agenda on the Hill, evil pundits talking smack about him, and of course, Bill O’Reilly. It will not so much be a show expressing worship of The One as a show seeking to expose all those who do not believe The One is The One.

And it will work.

Now that Keith Olbermann of MSNBC — a brilliantly talented broadcaster who has surfed the tsunami of Bush hatred like a North Shore Big Wave rider — is going to continue peddling his wares at 8 pm every night, the question has arisen: How can he keep it up ? As Tom Bevan writes today on Real Clear Politics:

One has to wonder how Olbermann will maintain his ratings now that Bush is leaving office.  Being a slavish sychophant of the incoming Obama administration is bound to be far less entertaining than the indignant, spittle-flecked, and often deranged “Special Comments” that drove his popularity over the last few years.

This was my thought too, but now I’ve figured it out. Olbermann’s rage will simply be directed at the enemies of Obama, real and imagined; evil Republicans blocking his agenda on the Hill, evil pundits talking smack about him, and of course, Bill O’Reilly. It will not so much be a show expressing worship of The One as a show seeking to expose all those who do not believe The One is The One.

And it will work.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christopher Hitchens warns, “there are vicious enemies and rogue states in increasing positions of influence throughout the world (one of the episodes that most condemned the Republican campaign was its attempt to slander Sen. Joe Biden for his candid attempt to point this out), yet many Obama voters appear to believe that the mere charm and aspect of their new president will act as an emollient influence on these unwelcome facts and these hostile forces.” It’s not the voters I’m worried about –it’s that Obama might believe this.

I’m not sure a trade of an auto bailout for passage of free trade agreements is a smart move. The former is just bad policy, and the latter is something the new President will have to wrangle on his own if he wants to maintain his credibility with allies and not make the recession worse.

A very effective Matt Lauer interview with Sarah Palin — respectful but probing. And yes, Palin has certainly learned to give an effective interview.

Others are on to her media strategy — which doesn’t involve that mind-numbingly silly idea of the McCain camp (i.e. alternate screaming at and hiding from the MSM).

This odd take, that somehow the Palin sniping helps McCain, overlooks the conclusion that conservatives are drawing — it was either McCain’s fault to have chosen her or his fault to have allowed her to be mismanaged. In fact the only consensus about anything these days in GOP circles is what an awful staff McCain had. And that would be his fault as well.

Tony Blankley makes the case that Republicans need to make their case. Their success, and not one election result, is what will determine whether there is a permanent shift in the electorate.

Michael Steele may be onto something: “the concept of attracting Democrats, Republicans, and independents to solutions that unify most Americans.” Like a national party that could win elections? Hey, that might work.

So glad others have figured out the 2010 and 2012 elections already. And after all the prognosticators were so successful last time, there is every reason to hang on every word, right?

Not quite a Shermanesque declaration of disinterest by Mitt Romney.

No cabinet positions until Thanksgiving? Good thing we don’t have a financial crisis or a skidding stock market that might benefit from some certainty.

Booting Joe Lieberman from the Democratic caucus seems a perfectly splendid way for the Democrats to demonstrate that they are no better than the Republicans when it comes to petty squabbles and intra-party vendettas. Sure, Lieberman campaigned for John McCain but Lieberman is an Independent. And kicking him out would be kind of a funny way to pay him back for caucusing with the party that dumped him in the primary. But far be it from me to talk the Democrats out of this. Go for it fellas!

Good golly — a $500 Billion stimulus package? Well I supposed there won’t be much money left over for anything else — for decades. We do have to pay for this eventually, you know. This sort of nutty stuff, by the way, is another good reason to name a Secretary of Treasury sooner rather than later, who can speak with some sense of fiscal sobriety. We hope he will, at least.

A very impressive Bobby Jindal does not accept multiple entreaties to get into partisan sniping. David Shuster, quoting David Brooks, would like nothing more than to pick a fight, but Jindal seems stubbornly hung up on this notion that Republican governors are in a position to show voters they are competent and effective leaders. Well, that’s no fun — at least on MSNBC.

One benefit of a Democratic White House: the media becomes more sympathetic about the challenges and complexities of national security.

Matthew Franck writes the definitive “Enough with the birth certificate nonsense!” post. Actually, it should be kept as sort of a form letter for whatever loony conspiracy theories come down the pike.

Christopher Hitchens warns, “there are vicious enemies and rogue states in increasing positions of influence throughout the world (one of the episodes that most condemned the Republican campaign was its attempt to slander Sen. Joe Biden for his candid attempt to point this out), yet many Obama voters appear to believe that the mere charm and aspect of their new president will act as an emollient influence on these unwelcome facts and these hostile forces.” It’s not the voters I’m worried about –it’s that Obama might believe this.

I’m not sure a trade of an auto bailout for passage of free trade agreements is a smart move. The former is just bad policy, and the latter is something the new President will have to wrangle on his own if he wants to maintain his credibility with allies and not make the recession worse.

A very effective Matt Lauer interview with Sarah Palin — respectful but probing. And yes, Palin has certainly learned to give an effective interview.

Others are on to her media strategy — which doesn’t involve that mind-numbingly silly idea of the McCain camp (i.e. alternate screaming at and hiding from the MSM).

This odd take, that somehow the Palin sniping helps McCain, overlooks the conclusion that conservatives are drawing — it was either McCain’s fault to have chosen her or his fault to have allowed her to be mismanaged. In fact the only consensus about anything these days in GOP circles is what an awful staff McCain had. And that would be his fault as well.

Tony Blankley makes the case that Republicans need to make their case. Their success, and not one election result, is what will determine whether there is a permanent shift in the electorate.

Michael Steele may be onto something: “the concept of attracting Democrats, Republicans, and independents to solutions that unify most Americans.” Like a national party that could win elections? Hey, that might work.

So glad others have figured out the 2010 and 2012 elections already. And after all the prognosticators were so successful last time, there is every reason to hang on every word, right?

Not quite a Shermanesque declaration of disinterest by Mitt Romney.

No cabinet positions until Thanksgiving? Good thing we don’t have a financial crisis or a skidding stock market that might benefit from some certainty.

Booting Joe Lieberman from the Democratic caucus seems a perfectly splendid way for the Democrats to demonstrate that they are no better than the Republicans when it comes to petty squabbles and intra-party vendettas. Sure, Lieberman campaigned for John McCain but Lieberman is an Independent. And kicking him out would be kind of a funny way to pay him back for caucusing with the party that dumped him in the primary. But far be it from me to talk the Democrats out of this. Go for it fellas!

Good golly — a $500 Billion stimulus package? Well I supposed there won’t be much money left over for anything else — for decades. We do have to pay for this eventually, you know. This sort of nutty stuff, by the way, is another good reason to name a Secretary of Treasury sooner rather than later, who can speak with some sense of fiscal sobriety. We hope he will, at least.

A very impressive Bobby Jindal does not accept multiple entreaties to get into partisan sniping. David Shuster, quoting David Brooks, would like nothing more than to pick a fight, but Jindal seems stubbornly hung up on this notion that Republican governors are in a position to show voters they are competent and effective leaders. Well, that’s no fun — at least on MSNBC.

One benefit of a Democratic White House: the media becomes more sympathetic about the challenges and complexities of national security.

Matthew Franck writes the definitive “Enough with the birth certificate nonsense!” post. Actually, it should be kept as sort of a form letter for whatever loony conspiracy theories come down the pike.

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Camille Paglia Weighs In

Camille Paglia writes the definitive summation on the Sarah Palin 2012 story (after dissecting Bill Ayers and his fellow terrorist wife):

Given that Obama had served on a Chicago board with Ayers and approved funding of a leftist educational project sponsored by Ayers, one might think that the unrepentant Ayers-Dohrn couple might be of some interest to the national media. But no, reporters have been too busy playing mini-badminton with every random spitball about Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.

How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the State University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don’t know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology — contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

. . .

As for the Democrats who sneered and howled that Palin was unprepared to be a vice-presidential nominee — what navel-gazing hypocrisy! What protests were raised in the party or mainstream media when John Edwards, with vastly less political experience than Palin, got John Kerry’s nod for veep four years ago? And Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, for whom I lobbied to be Obama’s pick and who was on everyone’s short list for months, has a record indistinguishable from Palin’s. Whatever knowledge deficit Palin has about the federal bureaucracy or international affairs (outside the normal purview of governors) will hopefully be remedied during the next eight years of the Obama presidencies.

The fact that a week after the election the chattering class is still arguing, debating and mulling over Palin says something. I don’t dispute that the “something” includes an element of boredom — oh, how to fill the gap left by resolution of the political horserace! Some of the “something” is the never ending culture war and the media bias dilemma which rivets the attention of conservatives (perhaps unwisely, to the exclusion of more central issues). But ultimately it does boil down to personality and intrigue. Is she smart or dim, a flash in the pan or the next star, the last of the old guard or the first of the new?

We don’t know and those who claim to (without any first-hand interaction with her) clearly have an agenda. But love her or hate her, the Palin habit is a hard one to break. Eventually she will recede into the political landscape, especially once the new administration ramps up. But the entire episode is a reminder — as if any were really needed in the year of Obama — that with the appearance of a single individual, political fortunes can rise and fall. And you have to stay until the end to find out how it all comes out.

Camille Paglia writes the definitive summation on the Sarah Palin 2012 story (after dissecting Bill Ayers and his fellow terrorist wife):

Given that Obama had served on a Chicago board with Ayers and approved funding of a leftist educational project sponsored by Ayers, one might think that the unrepentant Ayers-Dohrn couple might be of some interest to the national media. But no, reporters have been too busy playing mini-badminton with every random spitball about Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.

How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the State University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don’t know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology — contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

. . .

As for the Democrats who sneered and howled that Palin was unprepared to be a vice-presidential nominee — what navel-gazing hypocrisy! What protests were raised in the party or mainstream media when John Edwards, with vastly less political experience than Palin, got John Kerry’s nod for veep four years ago? And Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, for whom I lobbied to be Obama’s pick and who was on everyone’s short list for months, has a record indistinguishable from Palin’s. Whatever knowledge deficit Palin has about the federal bureaucracy or international affairs (outside the normal purview of governors) will hopefully be remedied during the next eight years of the Obama presidencies.

The fact that a week after the election the chattering class is still arguing, debating and mulling over Palin says something. I don’t dispute that the “something” includes an element of boredom — oh, how to fill the gap left by resolution of the political horserace! Some of the “something” is the never ending culture war and the media bias dilemma which rivets the attention of conservatives (perhaps unwisely, to the exclusion of more central issues). But ultimately it does boil down to personality and intrigue. Is she smart or dim, a flash in the pan or the next star, the last of the old guard or the first of the new?

We don’t know and those who claim to (without any first-hand interaction with her) clearly have an agenda. But love her or hate her, the Palin habit is a hard one to break. Eventually she will recede into the political landscape, especially once the new administration ramps up. But the entire episode is a reminder — as if any were really needed in the year of Obama — that with the appearance of a single individual, political fortunes can rise and fall. And you have to stay until the end to find out how it all comes out.

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The Downfall of Gaydamak

In a few posts I’ve been following the political career of Arkady Gaydamak, the Russian financier who’s in deep trouble with the law in France for gun-running, and who has been trying to establish himself politically in Israel (possibly with an eye to legal immunity and protection from extradition if he can get into the Knesset, but why be so cynical?). Yesterday was a bad day for Gaydamak.

In his run for the mayoralty of Jerusalem, Gayamak received 3.5% of the vote. (The winner was the secular high-tech start-up guy Nir Barkat, who got 53%, and second place went to the ultra-Orthodox stalwart Meir Porush, with 42%.) Gaydamak poured a lot of money into this campaign, and invested heavily in courting the Arab vote, but as usual, the Arabs in Jerusalem basically boycotted the election, with fewer than one percent showing up to the polls.

Gaydamak’s problem, however, was not his strategy. In recent months his public image has plummetted, with increasing rumors of the collapse of his financial empire (a court slapped a lien on the soccer team he owns, Beitar Jerusalem, and a travel ban on him for fear he might skip out on his creditors). This, combined with his trial in France that opened on the day he declared his candidacy, has given everyone the sense that we’re not talking about a new type of politician, but a very old type.

In this sense, Jerusalem’s voters have given voice to a deep revulsion over what feels and smells like political corruption, (of which the case of Ehud Olmert is merely the tip of the iceberg.) My guess is that in the upcoming national election, many voters will be abandoning the old questions of peace and borders, and putting their votes where their gut tells them the parties are in terms of ideological vision. The downfall of Gaydamak just might signify a new beginning for Israeli politics.

In a few posts I’ve been following the political career of Arkady Gaydamak, the Russian financier who’s in deep trouble with the law in France for gun-running, and who has been trying to establish himself politically in Israel (possibly with an eye to legal immunity and protection from extradition if he can get into the Knesset, but why be so cynical?). Yesterday was a bad day for Gaydamak.

In his run for the mayoralty of Jerusalem, Gayamak received 3.5% of the vote. (The winner was the secular high-tech start-up guy Nir Barkat, who got 53%, and second place went to the ultra-Orthodox stalwart Meir Porush, with 42%.) Gaydamak poured a lot of money into this campaign, and invested heavily in courting the Arab vote, but as usual, the Arabs in Jerusalem basically boycotted the election, with fewer than one percent showing up to the polls.

Gaydamak’s problem, however, was not his strategy. In recent months his public image has plummetted, with increasing rumors of the collapse of his financial empire (a court slapped a lien on the soccer team he owns, Beitar Jerusalem, and a travel ban on him for fear he might skip out on his creditors). This, combined with his trial in France that opened on the day he declared his candidacy, has given everyone the sense that we’re not talking about a new type of politician, but a very old type.

In this sense, Jerusalem’s voters have given voice to a deep revulsion over what feels and smells like political corruption, (of which the case of Ehud Olmert is merely the tip of the iceberg.) My guess is that in the upcoming national election, many voters will be abandoning the old questions of peace and borders, and putting their votes where their gut tells them the parties are in terms of ideological vision. The downfall of Gaydamak just might signify a new beginning for Israeli politics.

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Time For Tough Love

Steven Pearlstein asks some questions on the auto-industry bailout that neither Congress nor the President Elect is inclined to answer:

[I]f the government provides money to automakers, should it require that the companies forswear any further layoffs, as some have suggested? Or should the government require that shareholders, creditors, pensioners and active workers make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that the money is repaid and these companies emerge as profitable, competitive and environmentally born-again?

And GM announcing that bankruptcy is “not an option”  should come as no surprise. (Sure it is. Just not one they would like.) The UAW then chirps up that there will be no concessions from them, because it is “management that got the companies into this situation.” Yes, the exorbitant wage, health, and pension demands, and the arcane work rules the UAW insisted upon for decades, are entirely beside the point.

And who is to tell all of them “No, the taxpayers aren’t going to shoulder this one”? There’s the rub. Pearlstein observes:

 There is little in Obama’s campaign platform, and his oft-stated promise to “restore the middle class,” to suggest how he will answer these questions or where he will draw the lines. But it won’t be long before he is forced to acknowledge that even the federal government, with its unmatched capacity to borrow and spend huge sums, cannot rescue every important industry, save or replace every job, prevent every foreclosure and restore every budget cut. The sooner he levels with us about those limits and the extent of shared sacrifice that will be necessary, the sooner the new president will be able to establish confidence in his leadership and restore faith in our economic future.

And this, more than the money, is what is at stake. If Obama continues to pursue the unsustainable fiction that taxpayers will pay for everyone’s errors with no cost to anyone, there will be no “bottom” to the recession. The slide will continue, with the continued expectation that all bets, good or bad, will be covered. The President Elect has the opportunity to put a halt to it by making clear he does not support a car bailout, at least not without substantial concessions by all parties (including labor).

In short, it is time for tough love. If not now, when?

Steven Pearlstein asks some questions on the auto-industry bailout that neither Congress nor the President Elect is inclined to answer:

[I]f the government provides money to automakers, should it require that the companies forswear any further layoffs, as some have suggested? Or should the government require that shareholders, creditors, pensioners and active workers make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that the money is repaid and these companies emerge as profitable, competitive and environmentally born-again?

And GM announcing that bankruptcy is “not an option”  should come as no surprise. (Sure it is. Just not one they would like.) The UAW then chirps up that there will be no concessions from them, because it is “management that got the companies into this situation.” Yes, the exorbitant wage, health, and pension demands, and the arcane work rules the UAW insisted upon for decades, are entirely beside the point.

And who is to tell all of them “No, the taxpayers aren’t going to shoulder this one”? There’s the rub. Pearlstein observes:

 There is little in Obama’s campaign platform, and his oft-stated promise to “restore the middle class,” to suggest how he will answer these questions or where he will draw the lines. But it won’t be long before he is forced to acknowledge that even the federal government, with its unmatched capacity to borrow and spend huge sums, cannot rescue every important industry, save or replace every job, prevent every foreclosure and restore every budget cut. The sooner he levels with us about those limits and the extent of shared sacrifice that will be necessary, the sooner the new president will be able to establish confidence in his leadership and restore faith in our economic future.

And this, more than the money, is what is at stake. If Obama continues to pursue the unsustainable fiction that taxpayers will pay for everyone’s errors with no cost to anyone, there will be no “bottom” to the recession. The slide will continue, with the continued expectation that all bets, good or bad, will be covered. The President Elect has the opportunity to put a halt to it by making clear he does not support a car bailout, at least not without substantial concessions by all parties (including labor).

In short, it is time for tough love. If not now, when?

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Who Is as Important as What

Jennifer Marscio of AEI writes:

Mr. Obama ran on “change,” repeatedly associating Mr. McCain with Mr. Bush. In an Oct. 27 speech, for example, Mr. Obama said, “the biggest gamble we can take is to embrace the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years.”

Even more to the point, the congressional election results also cast doubt on the thesis that this year’s election, or that of 1980, signals a political realignment. Republicans picked up 33 seats in the House and control of the Senate in 1980. But two years later, Democrats picked up 26 seats in the House and regained control of the Senate in 1986.

She notes that “only” 19 House seats were lost by the GOP this time, in contrast to 2006 (when 31 seats were lost), and concludes:

Mr. Obama won by portraying the Bush presidency as a series of mistakes that need to be avoided in the future — essentially encouraging voters to think about the short-term past, not the long-term future.
Put another way, Mr. Obama got about 40,000 fewer votes in Ohio than John Kerry got four years ago. Mr. Obama carried the state when Mr. Kerry did not because Republicans stayed home. Nationally, the anticipated record turnout didn’t materialize. About the same percentage of registered voters came out this year as in 2004. And was that a realignment year?
In the same way that 1980 did not yield a generation-long period of Republican dominance, those on the right can take heart that 2008 does not represent the beginning of an era of Democratic supremacy.

So: Republicans should stop all the worrying and relax, waiting for the tide of history to wash back their way?  I think not. Their demographic and geographic problems are acute. At the national level, they the are increasingly limited to a shrinking portion of the electorate (whites), and to one region (the South). So it is for good reason that Republicans are undergoing some soul searching.

That said, the Democrats–who looked pretty much on death’s door after 2000 and 2004–popped back in successive elections. They did so without reinventing their party. Instead, they ran arguably the most liberal candidate in a generation. They won by capitalizing on a hugely unpopular President and by finding a new charismatic leader.

It is unlikely that President Obama will provide as useful a foil to his opposition as his predecessor. But it would be a good idea for Republicans to keep an eye out for political talent. At the presidential level, it need not be someone already a household name, and it need not be someone with any national security experience. But it would be a good idea to have someone extremely adept at communicating, fluent on issues, likable, forward-looking, and capable of leading a first-class campaign organization. (Notice that John McCain, for all of his admirable qualities, was none of these things.) That’s the surest and most proven way for any party to recover the White House. And at the Congressional level, it is high time the Republicans follow the Rahm Emanuel gameplan — go find some very attractive candidates who are a good match for their districts.

None of this ensures a Republican recovery. But without decent personnel, it will be virtually impossible to do so.

Jennifer Marscio of AEI writes:

Mr. Obama ran on “change,” repeatedly associating Mr. McCain with Mr. Bush. In an Oct. 27 speech, for example, Mr. Obama said, “the biggest gamble we can take is to embrace the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years.”

Even more to the point, the congressional election results also cast doubt on the thesis that this year’s election, or that of 1980, signals a political realignment. Republicans picked up 33 seats in the House and control of the Senate in 1980. But two years later, Democrats picked up 26 seats in the House and regained control of the Senate in 1986.

She notes that “only” 19 House seats were lost by the GOP this time, in contrast to 2006 (when 31 seats were lost), and concludes:

Mr. Obama won by portraying the Bush presidency as a series of mistakes that need to be avoided in the future — essentially encouraging voters to think about the short-term past, not the long-term future.
Put another way, Mr. Obama got about 40,000 fewer votes in Ohio than John Kerry got four years ago. Mr. Obama carried the state when Mr. Kerry did not because Republicans stayed home. Nationally, the anticipated record turnout didn’t materialize. About the same percentage of registered voters came out this year as in 2004. And was that a realignment year?
In the same way that 1980 did not yield a generation-long period of Republican dominance, those on the right can take heart that 2008 does not represent the beginning of an era of Democratic supremacy.

So: Republicans should stop all the worrying and relax, waiting for the tide of history to wash back their way?  I think not. Their demographic and geographic problems are acute. At the national level, they the are increasingly limited to a shrinking portion of the electorate (whites), and to one region (the South). So it is for good reason that Republicans are undergoing some soul searching.

That said, the Democrats–who looked pretty much on death’s door after 2000 and 2004–popped back in successive elections. They did so without reinventing their party. Instead, they ran arguably the most liberal candidate in a generation. They won by capitalizing on a hugely unpopular President and by finding a new charismatic leader.

It is unlikely that President Obama will provide as useful a foil to his opposition as his predecessor. But it would be a good idea for Republicans to keep an eye out for political talent. At the presidential level, it need not be someone already a household name, and it need not be someone with any national security experience. But it would be a good idea to have someone extremely adept at communicating, fluent on issues, likable, forward-looking, and capable of leading a first-class campaign organization. (Notice that John McCain, for all of his admirable qualities, was none of these things.) That’s the surest and most proven way for any party to recover the White House. And at the Congressional level, it is high time the Republicans follow the Rahm Emanuel gameplan — go find some very attractive candidates who are a good match for their districts.

None of this ensures a Republican recovery. But without decent personnel, it will be virtually impossible to do so.

Read Less




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