Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charlie Gibson

Liberals, Pragmatists, and Taxes

A week ago, David Brooks revealed a “vision” that would vindicate his belief in Barack Obama as a “pragmatist”: a State of the Union address proposing comprehensive tax reform to “lower rates and make the tax code fair,” eliminating loopholes and special-interest provisions. Today the lead article in the New York Times reports that Obama is “considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues.” As Abe notes, Obama is learning economics in spite of himself.

It was not so long ago that Obama thought higher tax rates were essential for fairness — to help spread the wealth. In his 2008 colloquy with Charlie Gibson, Obama supported doubling tax rates on capital gains even if that generated less revenue — “for purposes of fairness.” A few days ago, Obama was angry about the inability to impose higher tax rates next year; he promised to try again in two years. If Brooks’s vision proves true, it will be one of the fastest transformations of a politician from doctrinaire liberal to pragmatic tax-cutter.

Two days ago, William Galston emphasized the pragmatism more directly in a New Republic post entitled “The Only Way Obama Can Win in 2012.” Galston urged Obama to move “comprehensive tax reform to the center of his agenda” with a State of the Union speech proposing a broadened tax base and reduced rates, making the system simpler and fairer. In his column today, Brooks has a new label for Obama: “network liberal” — a liberal willing to network with non-liberals to do things such as this week’s tax deal. Brooks urges Obama to bring a “networking style” to reforming the tax code.

There is a great networking opportunity right in front of Obama: Mike Pence’s flat tax proposal. It is a progressive tax with a large standard deduction and dependent exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers: after that, “the more money you make, the more you pay.” The tax would be “fair, simple and effective;” and you could tweet tax returns.

Perhaps a pragmatist is simply a liberal who has been shellacked by reality and wants to network. We’ll see.

A week ago, David Brooks revealed a “vision” that would vindicate his belief in Barack Obama as a “pragmatist”: a State of the Union address proposing comprehensive tax reform to “lower rates and make the tax code fair,” eliminating loopholes and special-interest provisions. Today the lead article in the New York Times reports that Obama is “considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues.” As Abe notes, Obama is learning economics in spite of himself.

It was not so long ago that Obama thought higher tax rates were essential for fairness — to help spread the wealth. In his 2008 colloquy with Charlie Gibson, Obama supported doubling tax rates on capital gains even if that generated less revenue — “for purposes of fairness.” A few days ago, Obama was angry about the inability to impose higher tax rates next year; he promised to try again in two years. If Brooks’s vision proves true, it will be one of the fastest transformations of a politician from doctrinaire liberal to pragmatic tax-cutter.

Two days ago, William Galston emphasized the pragmatism more directly in a New Republic post entitled “The Only Way Obama Can Win in 2012.” Galston urged Obama to move “comprehensive tax reform to the center of his agenda” with a State of the Union speech proposing a broadened tax base and reduced rates, making the system simpler and fairer. In his column today, Brooks has a new label for Obama: “network liberal” — a liberal willing to network with non-liberals to do things such as this week’s tax deal. Brooks urges Obama to bring a “networking style” to reforming the tax code.

There is a great networking opportunity right in front of Obama: Mike Pence’s flat tax proposal. It is a progressive tax with a large standard deduction and dependent exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers: after that, “the more money you make, the more you pay.” The tax would be “fair, simple and effective;” and you could tweet tax returns.

Perhaps a pragmatist is simply a liberal who has been shellacked by reality and wants to network. We’ll see.

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The Real “Age Issue”

I’ve finally figured out what’s been bothering me about the popular interpretation of one of Barack Obama’s recent slips. A few weeks ago, Obama was doing some handshake campaigning in a diner in Indiana when the establishment’s proprietor offered him a cup of coffee. When word got out that Obama declined and asked for some orange juice, the media took this as another sign of the candidate’s elitism or lack of common touch.

But that read doesn’t sit quite right. After all, Hillary looked preposterous when she tried to prove her working class credentials through choice of beverage. Yet there was something off about Obama’s response. Watching him sulk around this week, slightly traumatized by the betrayal of a father figure, I realized what the diner incident was: it was childish. The switch from juice to coffee is a rite of adulthood. It’s not that Obama seemed to hold himself above the coffee drinkers. It’s that he seemed to lag behind them. He’s still on fruit juice while the adults are sipping bitter and bracing coffee.

In the course of the past few months, Obama has gone from broadcasting a worrying arrogance to radiating a near-helplessness. The Wright affair has played out like a textbook teenage drama. Obama fell in with the wrong crowd, refused to stop seeing them, got into real trouble, and had to come to painful grips with the fact that his friends were just users. In this and several other respects, Obama seems, simply, young. The overconfidence, the need to be adored by everyone, the naiveté, and now the befuddlement.

Some months back, Obama said, “One of the things that I’ve known about myself for a long time is that, in difficult or stressful moments, I don’t get rattled And I don’t get rattled during campaigns. I don’t get rattled when things are up . . . and I don’t get too low when things are down.”

This was pure adolescent bravado. At that point, things had not yet been “down” for him, so he couldn’t accurately predict how he’d respond to crisis. Now, the evidence is in: Obama gets rattled.

In policy choices, he’s ordering straight off the kid’s menu. During the last debate, when Charlie Gibson asked Obama a very adult question about why he planned to raise the capital gains tax (as doing so would almost surely lower revenue), the candidate responded: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Fairness.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time around children is all too familiar with the argument from fairness: This isn’t fair; that’s not fair; nothing is fair. In the adult world, it’s not that fairness isn’t an admirable goal, but rather that when fairness is imposed by the government you end up with something much nastier than unfairness: a parental state. (Something, incidentally, which a grown child would presumably want.)

His national security policy isn’t about national security. It’s about getting America voted most popular. We’ll meet with enemies in the hope that they will like us. As if the U.S. is the alienated kid who desperately tries to befriend the class bully in order to elevate his status.

Never mind John McCain’s actual age. While he is a senior, there’s certainly nothing quiescent about his approach to crisis or politics in general. It’s Barack Obama’s arrested development which is troubling.

I’ve finally figured out what’s been bothering me about the popular interpretation of one of Barack Obama’s recent slips. A few weeks ago, Obama was doing some handshake campaigning in a diner in Indiana when the establishment’s proprietor offered him a cup of coffee. When word got out that Obama declined and asked for some orange juice, the media took this as another sign of the candidate’s elitism or lack of common touch.

But that read doesn’t sit quite right. After all, Hillary looked preposterous when she tried to prove her working class credentials through choice of beverage. Yet there was something off about Obama’s response. Watching him sulk around this week, slightly traumatized by the betrayal of a father figure, I realized what the diner incident was: it was childish. The switch from juice to coffee is a rite of adulthood. It’s not that Obama seemed to hold himself above the coffee drinkers. It’s that he seemed to lag behind them. He’s still on fruit juice while the adults are sipping bitter and bracing coffee.

In the course of the past few months, Obama has gone from broadcasting a worrying arrogance to radiating a near-helplessness. The Wright affair has played out like a textbook teenage drama. Obama fell in with the wrong crowd, refused to stop seeing them, got into real trouble, and had to come to painful grips with the fact that his friends were just users. In this and several other respects, Obama seems, simply, young. The overconfidence, the need to be adored by everyone, the naiveté, and now the befuddlement.

Some months back, Obama said, “One of the things that I’ve known about myself for a long time is that, in difficult or stressful moments, I don’t get rattled And I don’t get rattled during campaigns. I don’t get rattled when things are up . . . and I don’t get too low when things are down.”

This was pure adolescent bravado. At that point, things had not yet been “down” for him, so he couldn’t accurately predict how he’d respond to crisis. Now, the evidence is in: Obama gets rattled.

In policy choices, he’s ordering straight off the kid’s menu. During the last debate, when Charlie Gibson asked Obama a very adult question about why he planned to raise the capital gains tax (as doing so would almost surely lower revenue), the candidate responded: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Fairness.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time around children is all too familiar with the argument from fairness: This isn’t fair; that’s not fair; nothing is fair. In the adult world, it’s not that fairness isn’t an admirable goal, but rather that when fairness is imposed by the government you end up with something much nastier than unfairness: a parental state. (Something, incidentally, which a grown child would presumably want.)

His national security policy isn’t about national security. It’s about getting America voted most popular. We’ll meet with enemies in the hope that they will like us. As if the U.S. is the alienated kid who desperately tries to befriend the class bully in order to elevate his status.

Never mind John McCain’s actual age. While he is a senior, there’s certainly nothing quiescent about his approach to crisis or politics in general. It’s Barack Obama’s arrested development which is troubling.

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A Moment Of Clarity

Morton Kondracke stands apart from the media hysteria to explain Barack Obama’s fall to earth from Olympian heights:

He’s also now revealed as the most liberal Member of the U.S. Senate — and one who has never, ever departed from party orthodoxy to form the kind of bipartisan coalition he says — correctly — that it will take to solve America’s problems. It’s all about “vetting.” When somebody has been in national life for only three years and is running for the highest office in the land, it’s only natural that voters — and journalists — find out what the candidate is made of, what his character is. Which is why it was perfectly appropriate for ABC News interrogators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions about Obama’s remark that small-town Pennsylvanians “cling” to their guns and religion because they are “bitter,” about his refusal to wear a flag pin and about his association with radicals such as former Weatherman Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That seems all perfectly rational (Stuart Taylor has similar thoughts), but there is something more at work here. The promise that Obama would offer a post-racial and post-partisan vision of America has been revealed to be hokum. (Well, some of us from the start may have doubted that post-partisan anything is possible in a vigorous democracy.) It took a while, but now it is painfully obvious that Obama and his campaign don’t seem to believe their own “no division, no Red and Blue America” routine.

It’s getting harder and harder to recognize the Obama who said this after his victory in Iowa:

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that’s been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that’s how we’ll win in November, and that’s how we’ll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation. . . .That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Moving beyond the “bitterness” we surely have not done. Somewhere along the way we recognized the gap between a speech–a very uplifting one, but just a speech–and what Obama and his campaign operatives believe. That, I think, is why the Left blogosphere, in part, is so depressed: Obama, it turns out, is just like all the rest. (Only with less of a résumé.)

Morton Kondracke stands apart from the media hysteria to explain Barack Obama’s fall to earth from Olympian heights:

He’s also now revealed as the most liberal Member of the U.S. Senate — and one who has never, ever departed from party orthodoxy to form the kind of bipartisan coalition he says — correctly — that it will take to solve America’s problems. It’s all about “vetting.” When somebody has been in national life for only three years and is running for the highest office in the land, it’s only natural that voters — and journalists — find out what the candidate is made of, what his character is. Which is why it was perfectly appropriate for ABC News interrogators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions about Obama’s remark that small-town Pennsylvanians “cling” to their guns and religion because they are “bitter,” about his refusal to wear a flag pin and about his association with radicals such as former Weatherman Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That seems all perfectly rational (Stuart Taylor has similar thoughts), but there is something more at work here. The promise that Obama would offer a post-racial and post-partisan vision of America has been revealed to be hokum. (Well, some of us from the start may have doubted that post-partisan anything is possible in a vigorous democracy.) It took a while, but now it is painfully obvious that Obama and his campaign don’t seem to believe their own “no division, no Red and Blue America” routine.

It’s getting harder and harder to recognize the Obama who said this after his victory in Iowa:

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that’s been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that’s how we’ll win in November, and that’s how we’ll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation. . . .That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Moving beyond the “bitterness” we surely have not done. Somewhere along the way we recognized the gap between a speech–a very uplifting one, but just a speech–and what Obama and his campaign operatives believe. That, I think, is why the Left blogosphere, in part, is so depressed: Obama, it turns out, is just like all the rest. (Only with less of a résumé.)

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Prediction Confirmed!

Me, here, last night:

Watch Out, ABC:  Early pulse-taking from Obama-centric blogs and bloggers indicates that Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are in for a world of hurt over the next couple of days. Expect thumb-sucking pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post about whether the debate questions were “fair.”

Tom Shales in this morning’s Washington Post:

“When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.”

Despicable? 

Me, here, last night:

Watch Out, ABC:  Early pulse-taking from Obama-centric blogs and bloggers indicates that Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are in for a world of hurt over the next couple of days. Expect thumb-sucking pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post about whether the debate questions were “fair.”

Tom Shales in this morning’s Washington Post:

“When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.”

Despicable? 

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Handguns

Obama, the editor of the Harvard Law Review, doesn’t have an opinion on the D.C. handgun ban. He denies that he ever favored a handgun ban. When Charlie Gibson pressed him on a questionnaire he answered as a state senator, he answers, “My handwriting wasn’t on that form.” Well, if there is no evidence. . .

After badgering from George Steph., Hillary allows that an absolute ban might not be Constitutional. Neither will likely give John McCain a run for his money with Second Amendment advocates.

Obama, the editor of the Harvard Law Review, doesn’t have an opinion on the D.C. handgun ban. He denies that he ever favored a handgun ban. When Charlie Gibson pressed him on a questionnaire he answered as a state senator, he answers, “My handwriting wasn’t on that form.” Well, if there is no evidence. . .

After badgering from George Steph., Hillary allows that an absolute ban might not be Constitutional. Neither will likely give John McCain a run for his money with Second Amendment advocates.

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Good Lord. Charlie Gibson Turns Into Larry Kudlow.

ABC’s anchorman points out that Bill Clinton signed legislation lowering the capital-gains rate to 20 percent and  revenues went up.  As he spoke those words, the River Nile briefly changed direction, hell froze over, and the law of gravity was suspended.

ABC’s anchorman points out that Bill Clinton signed legislation lowering the capital-gains rate to 20 percent and  revenues went up.  As he spoke those words, the River Nile briefly changed direction, hell froze over, and the law of gravity was suspended.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: A Strangely Touching Moment

ABC’s Charlie Gibson, who is moderating these back-to-back debates, asked at the conclusion of the Republican contest for the Democratic candidates to come out and shake hands with the Republicans. They had a civil minute of joshing and smiling. I don’t want to sound sappy, but there was something lovely about it.

ABC’s Charlie Gibson, who is moderating these back-to-back debates, asked at the conclusion of the Republican contest for the Democratic candidates to come out and shake hands with the Republicans. They had a civil minute of joshing and smiling. I don’t want to sound sappy, but there was something lovely about it.

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