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Posts For: February 10, 2012

The Fundamental Fraudulence of Obama

A couple of nights ago on CNN’s AC360, Anderson Cooper conducted an interview with Bill Burton, a former White House press secretary for President Obama, and Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President Bush and a CNN contributor. The topic was Mr. Obama’s flip flop on the matter of Super PACs. Not long ago the president was calling them a “threat to democracy;” now he’s now encouraging big donors to write checks in support of them.

Mr. Burton has a weak case to defend, and he defends it quite weakly. Ari Fleischer, on the other hand, has a strong case to prosecute it and he does so exceedingly well. Here’s what Fleischer said:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Super PACS. That’s called free speech and everybody is entitled to it. Here’s the problem, though, with what Barack Obama has done. This is part of a pattern of behavior with Barack Obama that goes back to 2008. If you recall back then, he said he would accept public financing for the campaign, just as John McCain did. Then as soon as he figured out he could actually raise more money than public financing would get him, he flip-flopped on that issue and took unlimited money to fund his campaign. He also, because he wants to act as if he’s changing Washington as a reformer, said he wouldn’t allow any lobbyists at the White House, then he gave wavers for lobbyists. He said his staff wouldn’t be allowed to meet with lobbyists in the White House. So what did they do? They walked out the front door of the White House, across the park, and to the Caribou Coffee House where they met with lobbyists. And now this flip-flop on the Super PAC idea itself. This is a super flip-flop. But worse than that, it’s a president who has to act as if he is smarter, better, more moralistic than all his opponents, everybody else, while his pattern of behavior is to have words that are wind, but his actions are just like everybody’s else’s in Washington. There’s nothing reformist, nothing change-oriented about Barack Obama when you get to the heart of it.

 

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A couple of nights ago on CNN’s AC360, Anderson Cooper conducted an interview with Bill Burton, a former White House press secretary for President Obama, and Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President Bush and a CNN contributor. The topic was Mr. Obama’s flip flop on the matter of Super PACs. Not long ago the president was calling them a “threat to democracy;” now he’s now encouraging big donors to write checks in support of them.

Mr. Burton has a weak case to defend, and he defends it quite weakly. Ari Fleischer, on the other hand, has a strong case to prosecute it and he does so exceedingly well. Here’s what Fleischer said:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Super PACS. That’s called free speech and everybody is entitled to it. Here’s the problem, though, with what Barack Obama has done. This is part of a pattern of behavior with Barack Obama that goes back to 2008. If you recall back then, he said he would accept public financing for the campaign, just as John McCain did. Then as soon as he figured out he could actually raise more money than public financing would get him, he flip-flopped on that issue and took unlimited money to fund his campaign. He also, because he wants to act as if he’s changing Washington as a reformer, said he wouldn’t allow any lobbyists at the White House, then he gave wavers for lobbyists. He said his staff wouldn’t be allowed to meet with lobbyists in the White House. So what did they do? They walked out the front door of the White House, across the park, and to the Caribou Coffee House where they met with lobbyists. And now this flip-flop on the Super PAC idea itself. This is a super flip-flop. But worse than that, it’s a president who has to act as if he is smarter, better, more moralistic than all his opponents, everybody else, while his pattern of behavior is to have words that are wind, but his actions are just like everybody’s else’s in Washington. There’s nothing reformist, nothing change-oriented about Barack Obama when you get to the heart of it.

 

Fleischer added:

Barack Obama has a similar flip flop problem. It’s not only on those issues. When he was a senator, he said that we shouldn’t raise the debt limit and then of course he voted against it. And then when he became president, he said we have to raise the debt limit. It’s a regular pattern with Barack Obama. Here is where thing gets even worse when you look at the president and the standard he sets for himself. He said in 2007 about John Edwards’s Super PAC, “You can’t just talk the talk … The easiest thing in the world is to talk about change during election time. Everybody talks about change at election time. You’ve got to look at how they do and how they act when it’s not convenient, when it’s harder.” That’s what he said, and that’s my problem with Barack Obama. He constantly tries to act as if he is somebody special and different when he really isn’t. And then to make it connect to policy, this is also why there’s such a sense of frustration when dealing with Barack Obama on the most important issue of the day, how to reform debt and spending and reduce debt… again, words are wind, making promises, saying things and his actions go 180 degrees against it. His entire presidency, it seems, is about maneuvering and tactical positions to protect and preserve his brand, not to follow through on reform.

Mr. Fleischer’s comprehensive case (which can be seen here) exposes the fundamental fraudulence at the core of the Obama presidency. It isn’t the most important thing to voters, but it matters. Hypocrisy on this scale always does.

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Adelson Pulls the Plug on Gingrich

A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.

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A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.

The GOP race has changed so many times in the last few months that it is hard to argue that it will not flip again, but right now it appears that Rick Santorum has passed Gingrich in the battle to be the leading “not Romney” in the race. Gingrich desperately needs a boost from somewhere but Adelson, who is an ardent supporter of Israel and fears the consequences of a second term for Obama, will not fund a campaign that at this point may be more about an attempt to cripple the man who is still the most likely to be the Republican nominee than anything else.

Since Gingrich spent most of 2011 running without much money in the bank, it can be argued that this setback won’t be enough to force him out of the race. But Gingrich is a man who struggled a long time to achieve the wealth that his consulting/lobbying business gave him in the last decade. With his campaign debts mounting every day, he has to be worried about being forced to spend years trying to repay this money. This means that unless Gingrich finds a new sugar daddy, his days as a viable or active candidate may be numbered.

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Romney Plays Defense at CPAC

Mitt Romney was met with an enthusiastic audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference today. As if to make sure the press and conference-goers noted it, he marveled “what a great reception!” before beginning his speech.

The address was a good one, and illustrated how much Romney’s speaking has improved over the past few years. But there was a tinge of self-consciousness in it that belied his confident tone. “We conservatives aren’t just proud to cling to our guns and to our religion,” said Romney. “As conservatives, we are united by a set of core commitments.” The speech said, without actually saying it: “I promise I’m a conservative just like all of you!” The two standing ovations from the audience seemed to indicate that they were convinced, or at the very least, doing a very good job of politely pretending.

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Mitt Romney was met with an enthusiastic audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference today. As if to make sure the press and conference-goers noted it, he marveled “what a great reception!” before beginning his speech.

The address was a good one, and illustrated how much Romney’s speaking has improved over the past few years. But there was a tinge of self-consciousness in it that belied his confident tone. “We conservatives aren’t just proud to cling to our guns and to our religion,” said Romney. “As conservatives, we are united by a set of core commitments.” The speech said, without actually saying it: “I promise I’m a conservative just like all of you!” The two standing ovations from the audience seemed to indicate that they were convinced, or at the very least, doing a very good job of politely pretending.

The address was heavier on values vote issues than typical Romney speeches, indicating that social conservatism has successfully pushed its way to the forefront of the race for the first time this season. On gay marriage, Romney promised a national defense of marriage act. On abortion, he reiterated his opposition. On religious freedom, he promised to repeal any regulations Obama put into place. The audience cheered him on, but if social issues remain a prominent part of the primary, it’s hard to see how Romney can win this battle against Santorum.

“I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” Romney offered at one point. It was a success – the audience didn’t laugh. As much as the media talks about Romney’s problem connecting with the conservative base, the conservative base seems to have made its peace with his potential nomination. True, he doesn’t rally them the way a more red-blooded conservative might. But they like him, respect him, and if he becomes the Republican nominee they’ll line up behind him.

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Calls for Action on Syria Grow

The news from Syria is unrelievedly grim. The Assad forces are continuing their murderous assault on Homs but the opposition continues to strike back–now, apparently, with two car bombs in Aleppo, a major city that until now had been largely free of violence. President Obama has gone to the UN Security Council and failed to get a resolution. Is this to be an excuse for continued inaction or will Obama summon as much courage as Bill Clinton did in 1999 when he authorized action in combination with NATO in Kosovo despite the lack of a UN mandate? A growing number of voices are suggesting it is time to act.

No one, to be sure, suggests the use of U.S. ground troops but there is much that can be done short of that. In a typically cogent Wall Street Journal article the great Arabist Fouad Ajami writes: “We could, with some moral clarity, recognize the Syrian National Council as the country’s legitimate government, impose a no-fly zone in the many besieged areas, help train and equip the Free Syrian Army, prompt Turkey to give greater support to defectors from Syrian units, and rally the wealthy Arab states to finance the effort.”
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The news from Syria is unrelievedly grim. The Assad forces are continuing their murderous assault on Homs but the opposition continues to strike back–now, apparently, with two car bombs in Aleppo, a major city that until now had been largely free of violence. President Obama has gone to the UN Security Council and failed to get a resolution. Is this to be an excuse for continued inaction or will Obama summon as much courage as Bill Clinton did in 1999 when he authorized action in combination with NATO in Kosovo despite the lack of a UN mandate? A growing number of voices are suggesting it is time to act.

No one, to be sure, suggests the use of U.S. ground troops but there is much that can be done short of that. In a typically cogent Wall Street Journal article the great Arabist Fouad Ajami writes: “We could, with some moral clarity, recognize the Syrian National Council as the country’s legitimate government, impose a no-fly zone in the many besieged areas, help train and equip the Free Syrian Army, prompt Turkey to give greater support to defectors from Syrian units, and rally the wealthy Arab states to finance the effort.”

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post further develops the case for arming the Free Syrian Army in this article in which he points out why we should not be paralyzed by memories of how some of the mujahideen we had armed in Afghanistan in the 1980s later turned against us: “That’s a misreading of history,” he argues. “In fact, arming the Afghan opposition in the 1980s succeeded in its aim of driving out the Soviet Union. U.S. responsibility for the subsequent chaos lay in its abandonment of the country after 1989, not the arms it gave the mujahadeen.” Michael Weiss of the Henry Jackson Society in London provides additional details of what could be done here.

Let us hope the administration is paying attention because the death toll is growing every day.

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At CPAC, Santorum a Threat to Romney

Watching Rick Santorum’s reception at the Conservative Political Action Conference today, it’s hard to believe he was polling in the single digits just a few months ago. He’s clearly the base favorite at the moment; hundreds waited in line to see him speak this morning. I’ve seen few CPAC attendees wearing pro-Newt stickers, and none wearing pro-Romney ones. But pro-Santorum buttons and stickers are everywhere.

The difference between Santorum and the previous flavor-of-the-week candidates is that Santorum has the substance to make it to the nomination: he’s serious and knowledgeable (check out his articles on Iran, which Foreign Policy summarized here), he’s consistent, and he’s disciplined. Sure, he’s made his fair share of controversial comments, especially on gay marriage. But when he says something controversial, it’s always something he strongly believes in. It’s never said for the sake of bomb-throwing or pandering or out of ignorance.

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Watching Rick Santorum’s reception at the Conservative Political Action Conference today, it’s hard to believe he was polling in the single digits just a few months ago. He’s clearly the base favorite at the moment; hundreds waited in line to see him speak this morning. I’ve seen few CPAC attendees wearing pro-Newt stickers, and none wearing pro-Romney ones. But pro-Santorum buttons and stickers are everywhere.

The difference between Santorum and the previous flavor-of-the-week candidates is that Santorum has the substance to make it to the nomination: he’s serious and knowledgeable (check out his articles on Iran, which Foreign Policy summarized here), he’s consistent, and he’s disciplined. Sure, he’s made his fair share of controversial comments, especially on gay marriage. But when he says something controversial, it’s always something he strongly believes in. It’s never said for the sake of bomb-throwing or pandering or out of ignorance.

Santorum’s CPAC speech should chill Romney to the core in a way that Newt Gingrich’s candidacy never could. Unlike Newt, Santorum is a real threat. Whereas Romney can’t relate to the base, Santorum is the base — as he told CPAC, “we’ve worked together in the vineyards.” And he has the stained hands to prove it.

Framing issues in terms of morals, values and “vision,” Santorum presented a clear contrast with Romney today. He vowed to provide opportunities to the “very poor” (an unmistakable swipe at Romney’s recent gaffe about not caring for the poor), blasted Obamacare, and declared that the election is about “really big things, more than just the economy.” In other words, he broke the unofficial code of silence over social issues that has largely marked the Republican primary so far.

Romney will have a hard time responding to these challenges. He’s not a movement conservative, and he’s not exceptionally charismatic. He also has a difficult time explaining and defending conservative values. While he’s almost certainly more electable than Santorum in a general election — the social issues would be a real problem for Santorum with independent voters — Romney will find it difficult to compete with the former Pennsylvania senator among conservative voters. And unlike Gingrich, Santorum is far less likely to shoot himself in the foot. After watching Santorum at CPAC, you can bet the Romney campaign is already starting to get nostalgic for Newt.

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Mortgage Settlement is Bank Robbery

It is notorious that politicians only care about two things, tomorrow’s headline and the next election. If you want a good example of what that leads to consider the bank “settlement” announced yesterday by President Obama and a bunch of state attorneys general.

The headline is great, the noble politicians forcing the big bad bankers to cough up $26 billion to help the downtrodden. It probably won’t hurt on November 6th either. Of course the money doesn’t come from the big, bad bankers. It comes from their shareholders, for the most part perfectly ordinary citizens saving for their retirement. In other words, it’s an income transfer from the disfavored to the favored for the benefit of politicians claiming to act for the benefit of the people.

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It is notorious that politicians only care about two things, tomorrow’s headline and the next election. If you want a good example of what that leads to consider the bank “settlement” announced yesterday by President Obama and a bunch of state attorneys general.

The headline is great, the noble politicians forcing the big bad bankers to cough up $26 billion to help the downtrodden. It probably won’t hurt on November 6th either. Of course the money doesn’t come from the big, bad bankers. It comes from their shareholders, for the most part perfectly ordinary citizens saving for their retirement. In other words, it’s an income transfer from the disfavored to the favored for the benefit of politicians claiming to act for the benefit of the people.

To be sure, there were mistakes made and sloppy procedures allowed when the banks were faced with an unprecedented avalanche of defaulting mortgages. And these lapses were dealt with in the usual—and proper—way. Bank regulators moved in, audited the books, required the banks to change their procedures, and fined the banks a total of $394 million.

This settlement is wholly a political, not a regulatory act. Corporations are largely defenseless against such a move, as the mainstream media can be counted on to be pro-government and anti-bank. When Ohio Attorney  General Richard Cordray said that the banks were “a business model based on fraud,” the media reported it straight. All too often, the media’s idea of being fair and balanced is to offer the banks an opportunity to prove that they did not commit fraud—in 30 words or less, please. But how many banks have been indicted for fraud over the mortgage mess? Exactly none.

Of the $26 billion, only $1.5 billion will go to homeowners who actually lost their homes through improper foreclosure procedures. That money will be shared by about 750,000 families, each receiving a less-than-princely $1500 to $2000. Most of the rest will go to people who will have their total mortgage debt reduced or have their mortgages refinanced at lower interest rates. Even the New York Times reporters covering the story, were not much impressed: “Economists do not expect a big boost for the economy, in part because the banks have three years to distribute the aid. Some experts questioned whether the accord would do much to stabilize the housing market and its glut of millions of foreclosed homes.”

And Fannie and Freddie, whose business models were at the heart of the mortgage crisis? Well, they’re now back in the hands of the government. Sticking it to them would cost not stockholders but the government money. So while they hold about half the total number of mortgages outstanding, they get a pass. If your mortgage is held by Citibank, you might get a windfall. If it’s held by Fannie Mae, tough luck.

In short, welcome to a glimpse of the wonderful world President Obama would like to see the United States transformed into. It will be a world where the few will act as self-appointed and largely unaccountable fiduciaries for the many.

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All “Best” Lists Are Now “Personal Inventories”

Yesterday Terry Teachout conducted a “purely personal inventory” of the ten American novels he “most wished” he had written, and this morning Patrick Kurp countered with his own list of ten. If you removed the alien and seditious titles from my own three-year-old list of the fifty best English-language novels published since the Victorians — a list originally compiled for students who kept pestering me for recommended readings — you’d be left with this roster of ten:

( 1) Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
( 2) Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
( 3) Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
( 4) F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
( 5) Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918)
( 6) Philip Roth, American Pastoral (1997)
( 7) Saul Bellow, Mr Sammler’s Planet (1970)
( 8) Janet Lewis, The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941)
( 9) William Faulkner, Light in August (1932)
(10) Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)

As one of Kurp’s commentators said, this is a “nifty parlor game.” But it also, I think, points to something serious.

“There are some works of literature that every civilized American should be familiar with,” Hugh Kenner wrote years ago. But no one believes that any more. It’s telling, don’t you think, that Teachout, Kurp, and I agree on just one writer — Cather — without even agreeing on which of her novels ought to be first read. I have tried to update Kenner’s apothegm (“There are some works of literature that every civilized American should be familiar with, although no one will ever agree on what they are”), but even this innocuous paradox is enough, in today’s English departments, to get me housed with the reactionaries, the racists, or worse.

All that’s left are parlor games, offered (as Teachout says he offered his) “apropos of absolutely nothing.” If literature is no longer a part of every civilized American’s cultural inheritance, you can thank your English teachers, who gladly coughed up their authority over it.

Yesterday Terry Teachout conducted a “purely personal inventory” of the ten American novels he “most wished” he had written, and this morning Patrick Kurp countered with his own list of ten. If you removed the alien and seditious titles from my own three-year-old list of the fifty best English-language novels published since the Victorians — a list originally compiled for students who kept pestering me for recommended readings — you’d be left with this roster of ten:

( 1) Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
( 2) Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
( 3) Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
( 4) F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
( 5) Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918)
( 6) Philip Roth, American Pastoral (1997)
( 7) Saul Bellow, Mr Sammler’s Planet (1970)
( 8) Janet Lewis, The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941)
( 9) William Faulkner, Light in August (1932)
(10) Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)

As one of Kurp’s commentators said, this is a “nifty parlor game.” But it also, I think, points to something serious.

“There are some works of literature that every civilized American should be familiar with,” Hugh Kenner wrote years ago. But no one believes that any more. It’s telling, don’t you think, that Teachout, Kurp, and I agree on just one writer — Cather — without even agreeing on which of her novels ought to be first read. I have tried to update Kenner’s apothegm (“There are some works of literature that every civilized American should be familiar with, although no one will ever agree on what they are”), but even this innocuous paradox is enough, in today’s English departments, to get me housed with the reactionaries, the racists, or worse.

All that’s left are parlor games, offered (as Teachout says he offered his) “apropos of absolutely nothing.” If literature is no longer a part of every civilized American’s cultural inheritance, you can thank your English teachers, who gladly coughed up their authority over it.

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The Moral Arrogance of the Enlightened Set

Every once in a while liberal writers do us the favor of revealing, in unvarnished ways, their true views. Such is the case with John Cassidy of The New Yorker, who wrote this in the aftermath of Rick Santorum’s sweep earlier this week:

Aaghh! Santorum! Not Santorum!! Surely not Santorum!!!

From Cambridge to Brooklyn, from Georgetown to Hyde Park, from West L.A. to pretty much the entire Bay Area, you could almost hear the howls of anguish this morning. They even reached across the Pacific. “SANTORUM? Oh, America, how you disappoint me,” Jeremy Tian, a writer and actor from Singapore, tweeted in response to my earlier post.

 Cassidy then goes on to say this:

To educated liberals of almost any description, Santorum is an abomination. It’s not just that he’s a pro-life, anti-gay, anti-contraception Roman Catholic of the most retrogressive and diehard Opus Dei variety. It’s his entire persona. With his seven kids, his Jaycee fashion code, his 1970s colonial MacMansion in northern Virginia, his irony bypass, he seems to delight in outraging self-styled urban sophisticates: the sort of folks who buy organic milk, watch “The Daily Show,” and read the New York Times (and The New Yorker, of course).

Pause for a moment on the paragraph I just cited. Let’s be generous and grant that what Cassidy wrote is supposed to be clever, funny, and even self-effacing. It still reveals a bit too much.

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Every once in a while liberal writers do us the favor of revealing, in unvarnished ways, their true views. Such is the case with John Cassidy of The New Yorker, who wrote this in the aftermath of Rick Santorum’s sweep earlier this week:

Aaghh! Santorum! Not Santorum!! Surely not Santorum!!!

From Cambridge to Brooklyn, from Georgetown to Hyde Park, from West L.A. to pretty much the entire Bay Area, you could almost hear the howls of anguish this morning. They even reached across the Pacific. “SANTORUM? Oh, America, how you disappoint me,” Jeremy Tian, a writer and actor from Singapore, tweeted in response to my earlier post.

 Cassidy then goes on to say this:

To educated liberals of almost any description, Santorum is an abomination. It’s not just that he’s a pro-life, anti-gay, anti-contraception Roman Catholic of the most retrogressive and diehard Opus Dei variety. It’s his entire persona. With his seven kids, his Jaycee fashion code, his 1970s colonial MacMansion in northern Virginia, his irony bypass, he seems to delight in outraging self-styled urban sophisticates: the sort of folks who buy organic milk, watch “The Daily Show,” and read the New York Times (and The New Yorker, of course).

Pause for a moment on the paragraph I just cited. Let’s be generous and grant that what Cassidy wrote is supposed to be clever, funny, and even self-effacing. It still reveals a bit too much.

Educated liberals of almost any description actually do consider Santorum to be an abomination because of what they consider to be his retrograde Opus Dei persona, including his seven children. How de classe. For people of  Cassidy’s advanced attitudes, the truth is it would be better, and certainly more sophisticated, if Rick and Karen Santorum had two children. (I’ll leave it to you to figure out what Brooklyn/Hyde Park/West L.A./Cambridge/Georgetown liberals think should have been done with the other five, including one of whom is a special needs child.)

There is a brand of liberalism – typified by Cassidy and some of his colleagues – that is sneering, morally arrogant, and condescending toward, among others, people of faith. (You know such people; in economic downturns they cling to their Bibles and guns.) What is coursing through the veins of people like Cassidy, when they aren’t lamenting the decline of civil public discourse in America, is unalloyed hatred toward those with whom they disagree, most especially for those who are traditionalists in their moral views.

Honorable liberals (and non-liberals) can disagree with Santorum on issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage and gays in the military to women in combat. My own views on some of these matters aren’t what they were a decade or so ago. But for Santorum’s seven children, his fashion code, and his house to inspire genuine loathing tells you much of what you need to know about Cassidy and his kind.

What he wrote isn’t pretty. It isn’t even clever. But it is revealing.

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The Damage From Obama’s Attack on the Church Can’t Be Walked Back

As expected, the news has filtered out that the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception for their employees despite the teachings of the church is about to be rescinded in a “compromise” which the White House hopes will allow it to save face. After a political firestorm that threatened to engulf his re-election efforts, President Obama seems to have bowed to the inevitable and retreated. The growing consensus across the country that his policy was both an attack on religious freedom and an indication of the messy complications that will ensue from the implementation of Obamacare dictated no other course but retreat.

This will disappoint a liberal base that was delighted at the Democrats’ decision to try to force the church to its knees on a principle where the Vatican’s stand runs counter to the opinions of most people, not to mention the practices of most Catholics. But though it is the height of wisdom to give up on a course that was as foolhardy as this, the president shouldn’t think he will not suffer the consequences of having put forward this ill-considered plan. Even after the initiative is withdrawn or watered down, the damage from this episode cannot be undone. He has not only offended Catholics but in attempting to ram this measure down the throat of the church, he has also reminded the country that his signature health care legislation involves a tyrannical expansion of government power.

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As expected, the news has filtered out that the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception for their employees despite the teachings of the church is about to be rescinded in a “compromise” which the White House hopes will allow it to save face. After a political firestorm that threatened to engulf his re-election efforts, President Obama seems to have bowed to the inevitable and retreated. The growing consensus across the country that his policy was both an attack on religious freedom and an indication of the messy complications that will ensue from the implementation of Obamacare dictated no other course but retreat.

This will disappoint a liberal base that was delighted at the Democrats’ decision to try to force the church to its knees on a principle where the Vatican’s stand runs counter to the opinions of most people, not to mention the practices of most Catholics. But though it is the height of wisdom to give up on a course that was as foolhardy as this, the president shouldn’t think he will not suffer the consequences of having put forward this ill-considered plan. Even after the initiative is withdrawn or watered down, the damage from this episode cannot be undone. He has not only offended Catholics but in attempting to ram this measure down the throat of the church, he has also reminded the country that his signature health care legislation involves a tyrannical expansion of government power.

The president may have thought this was just a matter of pleasing the left on an issue where few agreed with the church. Indeed, the ban on contraception is one on which the Vatican has few supporters even among the Catholic faithful. But most Americans instinctively understood that no matter what they thought of the merits of contraception bans, government ought not to demand that religious institutions subsidize practices they oppose as a matter of conscience. Government interference in internal church matters in this way is unacceptable, and Obama soon learned his attack on Catholics isolated him just as much as the Pope’s stand on birth control.

But far worse than that is the fact that the whole business is a function of government health care mandates. In a single stroke Obama managed to highlight the least popular measure of his administration and did so in a manner that reinforced all the criticisms that had been made of it. And by giving up so quickly, the president has also confirmed his base’s worst fears about his weak leadership style.

Though he may retract the contraception dictat today, by opening up this can of worms, he has done his administration and his hopes for re-election great harm. His assault on religious freedom has energized social conservatives and Republicans. But it has also given wavering Democrats and independents one more reason to be wary about handing Obama a second term.

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