Commentary Magazine


Topic: George McGovern

McGovern’s Futile Warning on Unions

The extent to which George McGovern, who died in late October, was identified with American liberalism itself can be seen in headlines of his various obituaries. CNN’s headline called him an “unabashed liberal voice”; PBS went with “Liberal Icon”; the New York Times chose “Prairie Liberal” (though the online edition dropped the word “prairie”); and the Nation called him a “Touchstone of Liberalism.” The Nation obit, written by John Nichols, proclaimed McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, “the most progressive nominee ever selected by the Democratic Party.”

McGovern, then, possessed unimpeachable liberal credentials. Yet four years before McGovern passed, the liberal blog site Firedoglake was ready to send him packing, and used the occasion to call McGovern perhaps the nastiest insult in the liberal lexicon: “Wal-Mart Lover.” What could have prompted such spite? McGovern, though a committed liberal through and through, was concerned about the growing and coercive power of unions. He felt the need to speak out against the Democrats’ proposed anti-choice legislation, card-check. McGovern chastised his party for its extremism in the Wall Street Journal:

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The extent to which George McGovern, who died in late October, was identified with American liberalism itself can be seen in headlines of his various obituaries. CNN’s headline called him an “unabashed liberal voice”; PBS went with “Liberal Icon”; the New York Times chose “Prairie Liberal” (though the online edition dropped the word “prairie”); and the Nation called him a “Touchstone of Liberalism.” The Nation obit, written by John Nichols, proclaimed McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, “the most progressive nominee ever selected by the Democratic Party.”

McGovern, then, possessed unimpeachable liberal credentials. Yet four years before McGovern passed, the liberal blog site Firedoglake was ready to send him packing, and used the occasion to call McGovern perhaps the nastiest insult in the liberal lexicon: “Wal-Mart Lover.” What could have prompted such spite? McGovern, though a committed liberal through and through, was concerned about the growing and coercive power of unions. He felt the need to speak out against the Democrats’ proposed anti-choice legislation, card-check. McGovern chastised his party for its extremism in the Wall Street Journal:

The key provision of EFCA is a change in the mechanism by which unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than 50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known as “card-check.” There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.

Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.

Anyone who doubts that such “reprisals” were and are a serious danger might have been convinced by what they saw yesterday in Michigan, where Governor Rick Snyder signed right-to-work legislation, which allows people to work without forced unionization as a condition of their employment, into law. Earlier in the day, the Democratic contingent in the state legislature promised violence if the bill went through. The bill did, and Democratic violence and death threats from unions and their Democratic allies emerged immediately. Union leader Jimmy Hoffa then went on CNN and promised more “war.”

It is a testament to the disappearance of moderate Democrats that George McGovern was concerned enough about the party’s growing anti-Democratic extremism to speak out. That aforementioned blog post at Firedoglake made it explicitly clear that “McGovern is the one who is out of step.” Union coercion, according to the left, is mainstream; moderation was long gone.

This has long been a challenge for modern liberalism: how to keep the violence that is always brimming just below the surface of leftist protest movements from getting out of control. But in order to do that successfully, the Democratic Party must have leaders who, like McGovern, are willing to take a stand against it. You’ll search in vain for such leaders today; the White House wouldn’t condemn either the threats of violence or the actual violence yesterday. Perhaps they didn’t want to draw attention to President Obama’s appearance at a pro-union rally the day before.

Democratic leaders might want to admit–even if just to themselves–that McGovern was right. McGovern might have recognized recent events as the natural outgrowth of the unchecked extremism of a Democratic Party too liberal for its “liberal icon.”

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The Sorry Legacy of McGovern Democrats

The death of George McGovern has set off an avalanche of praise for the former senator and presidential candidate. As someone whose time on the political stage is long past and whose memory is unclouded by personal scandal, this treatment is entirely appropriate. McGovern was a distinguished war veteran and, by all accounts, conducted his long political career in an honest and honorable manner. Though such persons are by no means unknown in contemporary politics, for one reason or another they seem rare enough for a lot of people to think we would be better off if we had more McGoverns in Washington.

But however much respect the individual deserves, we also ought to acknowledge how McGovern helped transform the Democratic Party from the institution that effectively defended the West against Communism in the aftermath of World War II into one that stood for appeasement of the Soviet empire. Though the fall of the Berlin Wall has allowed many who opposed the policies that helped bring about that outcome to pretend as if there was always a wall-to-wall national coalition opposing the advance of Communism, McGovern’s passing is a reminder of how that that consensus was destroyed.

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The death of George McGovern has set off an avalanche of praise for the former senator and presidential candidate. As someone whose time on the political stage is long past and whose memory is unclouded by personal scandal, this treatment is entirely appropriate. McGovern was a distinguished war veteran and, by all accounts, conducted his long political career in an honest and honorable manner. Though such persons are by no means unknown in contemporary politics, for one reason or another they seem rare enough for a lot of people to think we would be better off if we had more McGoverns in Washington.

But however much respect the individual deserves, we also ought to acknowledge how McGovern helped transform the Democratic Party from the institution that effectively defended the West against Communism in the aftermath of World War II into one that stood for appeasement of the Soviet empire. Though the fall of the Berlin Wall has allowed many who opposed the policies that helped bring about that outcome to pretend as if there was always a wall-to-wall national coalition opposing the advance of Communism, McGovern’s passing is a reminder of how that that consensus was destroyed.

The decisions by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to make Vietnam an American war may have been ill-advised, but the animating spirit of the anti-war left that McGovern led was not so much about the wisdom of that commitment as it was agnostic about the need to stop the Communists. Vietnam is now buried so deep in our political history that one might as well talk about the Spanish-American War as that conflict. But one unfortunate aspect of the way America moved on after the fall of Saigon is the way the political left avoided responsibility for the tragedy that America’s defeat created. American disgust with the waste and loss of life in Vietnam was understandable, but the war helped turn the Democrats from a bulwark of the Cold War coalition to its critics. This led not only to the abandonment of South Vietnam to the tender mercies of North Vietnamese commissars and “re-education” camps, but also helped set the stage for a decade of Soviet adventurism that was only halted during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

The McGovern Democrats didn’t just hijack their party. They led it to a historic defeat at the hands of one of the least popular incumbent presidents. Richard Nixon’s lies and follies have allowed his opponents to portray themselves as being before their time. But it was the radicalism of McGovern’s followers that scared the nation into giving Nixon a landslide re-election.

In the years that followed, Democrats would be careful not to put on another left-wing freak show like the 1972 convention that nominated McGovern, but the South Dakotan’s followers would nevertheless have their way in terms of setting the agenda for the party. In the decades that followed, the bulk of Democrats would become reflexive opponents of restraining the Soviet Union as well as embracing the welfare state in a way that earlier generations of Democrats would have found troubling.

Despite the nostalgia for the anti-war movement and the ongoing dislike of Nixon, history’s verdict will not be kind to the McGovern Democrats. They helped defend the excesses of modern liberalism that wreaked havoc on the poor and built the infrastructure for our out-of-control government debt. If the Soviet empire fell, it was in spite of the efforts of the McGovern Democrats to prop it up and to oppose anti-Communist measures. While today’s Democratic Party is a very different animal than the one he led in 1972, we can hear echoes of his influence in its equivocal stance towards American global power and its addiction to big government.

We should honor George McGovern the man, but we should remember that the political influence of his movement did the country and the world great harm.

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The Estate Tax

The tax bill that passed the House last night and headed to the president’s desk (he’ll sign it this afternoon, apparently) raises the estate tax to 35 percent on estates over $5 million ($10 million for couples), from zero percent this year. Had nothing been done, however, it would have reverted to what it had been in 2000: 55 percent on estates over $1 million.

The estate tax goes all the way back to 1797, when Congress passed a stamp tax on wills to help finance the new American Navy. It was repealed in 1801. The Civil War and Spanish American War also saw estate taxes that were soon repealed when the wars were over. But the modern estate tax was not enacted as a revenue-raising measure so much as a social engineering one. Theodore Roosevelt was the first major politician to call for an estate tax to prevent the accumulation of great fortunes from one generation to the next. In 1906, he wrote:

As a matter of personal conviction, and without pretending to discuss the details or formulate the system, I feel that we shall ultimately have to consider the adoption of some such scheme as that of a progressive tax on all fortunes, beyond a certain amount, either given in life or devised or bequeathed upon death to any individual — a tax so framed as to put it out of the power of the owner of one of these enormous fortunes to hand on more than a certain amount to any one individual; the tax of course, to be imposed by the national and not the state government.

The colossal fortunes created by the industrialization of the country in the post–Civil War era caused many to worry about the development of a plutocracy, a few families with so much money, and thus power, that they could dictate policy. In 1916, the modern estate tax was passed. It called for a 1 percent tax on estates over $50,000 and going up to 10 percent on estates over $5 million (a very large fortune indeed in 1916). The tax was raised the next year, lowered but not eliminated in the 1920s, and then raised sky-high by Franklin Roosevelt, peaking at 71 percent for estates over $50 million in 1941. FDR made no bones about his reasons: “The transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance or gift is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the American people.” FDR, it turns out, was wrong. Read More

The tax bill that passed the House last night and headed to the president’s desk (he’ll sign it this afternoon, apparently) raises the estate tax to 35 percent on estates over $5 million ($10 million for couples), from zero percent this year. Had nothing been done, however, it would have reverted to what it had been in 2000: 55 percent on estates over $1 million.

The estate tax goes all the way back to 1797, when Congress passed a stamp tax on wills to help finance the new American Navy. It was repealed in 1801. The Civil War and Spanish American War also saw estate taxes that were soon repealed when the wars were over. But the modern estate tax was not enacted as a revenue-raising measure so much as a social engineering one. Theodore Roosevelt was the first major politician to call for an estate tax to prevent the accumulation of great fortunes from one generation to the next. In 1906, he wrote:

As a matter of personal conviction, and without pretending to discuss the details or formulate the system, I feel that we shall ultimately have to consider the adoption of some such scheme as that of a progressive tax on all fortunes, beyond a certain amount, either given in life or devised or bequeathed upon death to any individual — a tax so framed as to put it out of the power of the owner of one of these enormous fortunes to hand on more than a certain amount to any one individual; the tax of course, to be imposed by the national and not the state government.

The colossal fortunes created by the industrialization of the country in the post–Civil War era caused many to worry about the development of a plutocracy, a few families with so much money, and thus power, that they could dictate policy. In 1916, the modern estate tax was passed. It called for a 1 percent tax on estates over $50,000 and going up to 10 percent on estates over $5 million (a very large fortune indeed in 1916). The tax was raised the next year, lowered but not eliminated in the 1920s, and then raised sky-high by Franklin Roosevelt, peaking at 71 percent for estates over $50 million in 1941. FDR made no bones about his reasons: “The transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance or gift is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the American people.” FDR, it turns out, was wrong.

In the post–World War II era, the estate tax had little to do with revenues, never providing more than 2 percent of total federal income. Nor was it about plutocracy prevention. As I pointed out in a recent article in Philanthropy magazine, unlike European fortunes, American ones just don’t last, thanks to the tradition of dividing them among many heirs, new and larger fortunes being created in each generation, and the grand American tradition of the American rich making massive eleemosynary bequests. Of all names associated with the great fortunes of the Gilded Age, only Rockefeller, Mellon, and Hearst are to be found on the Forbes 400 list today. A considerable majority of the current list created their own fortunes.

Today only the liberal elite still subscribes to the idea of estate taxes. As William McGurn pointed out in the Wall Street Journal the other day, the American dream of getting rich and passing that wealth on to one’s children is very much alive and well. In the 1972 campaign, George McGovern called for a tax of 100 percent on estates over $500,000. The socialist Michael Harrington said to a friend who had been campaigning for McGovern in New York’s garment district that he must have had an easy time selling the idea to the poorly paid workers there:

The friend informed Harrington how wrong he was: “Those underpaid women … were outraged that the government would confiscate the money they would hand down to their children if they made a million dollars.” No matter how he tried to tell these garment workers how unlikely they ever were to see a million dollars in their lifetimes, they couldn’t get past the idea that the government would take it from them if they did.

The liberal elite has been agonizing over the zero-percent estate tax rate this year, as most recently manifested in Bernie Sanders’s socialist cri de coeur in the Senate. But while the estate tax was zero in 2010 (Good timing, George Steinbrenner and John Kluge!), the capital-gains tax applied. Most great fortunes consist of unrealized capital gains, but after the estate tax is paid, the heirs’ cost basis for the stock they inherit is bumped up to the date of death. Not in 2010, when it remained at the decedent’s cost basis, which is often virtually zero. That strikes me as the only estate tax we should have in a country where even the poorest can dream of one day being rich.

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Britain’s Dwindling Defense Budget

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

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RE: Obama, Bush, and War

Rick, you are in good company. Ambassador (and maybe presidential contender) John C. Bolton had this to say about the “turn the page” rhetoric:

That may satisfy the left wing of the Democratic party, but it’s impossible to turn the page on Iraq given the continuing strategic interest we have there. I think it’s indicative of the isolationism that forms a big part of his philosophy. It reminded me of George McGovern’s 1972 Convention speech when he kept saying “Come home America.”

As many of us have commented today, what particularly concerns him is the Afghanistan remarks. “I think this is a decision driven by his domestic political consideration and I think we’re going to pay for it down the line. I still see him as having no strategic vision, no real understanding what the implications of these steps are, but continuing to play the playbook that he’s been following since his campaign.”

And no, he really didn’t think much of the Bush references either. (“It just shows how far we’ve come that saying a nice thing about the troops cheers people up. Even George McGovern had the wit to do that.”)

Well, that is what makes Bolton such an effective, and amusing, spokesman for a robust U.S. foreign policy. And a final note on the budget numbers:  this chart is compelling. You do wonder whether the president misunderstands the facts or simply thinks he can slip by the American public very large fibs (e.g., ObamaCare will save money, the stimulus created jobs).

If Obama really is to step up to the plate and shed his campaign persona, he would do well to be honest and accurate. He’s not going to listen to Bolton’s advice, but he can and should at least operate from the same set of facts.

Rick, you are in good company. Ambassador (and maybe presidential contender) John C. Bolton had this to say about the “turn the page” rhetoric:

That may satisfy the left wing of the Democratic party, but it’s impossible to turn the page on Iraq given the continuing strategic interest we have there. I think it’s indicative of the isolationism that forms a big part of his philosophy. It reminded me of George McGovern’s 1972 Convention speech when he kept saying “Come home America.”

As many of us have commented today, what particularly concerns him is the Afghanistan remarks. “I think this is a decision driven by his domestic political consideration and I think we’re going to pay for it down the line. I still see him as having no strategic vision, no real understanding what the implications of these steps are, but continuing to play the playbook that he’s been following since his campaign.”

And no, he really didn’t think much of the Bush references either. (“It just shows how far we’ve come that saying a nice thing about the troops cheers people up. Even George McGovern had the wit to do that.”)

Well, that is what makes Bolton such an effective, and amusing, spokesman for a robust U.S. foreign policy. And a final note on the budget numbers:  this chart is compelling. You do wonder whether the president misunderstands the facts or simply thinks he can slip by the American public very large fibs (e.g., ObamaCare will save money, the stimulus created jobs).

If Obama really is to step up to the plate and shed his campaign persona, he would do well to be honest and accurate. He’s not going to listen to Bolton’s advice, but he can and should at least operate from the same set of facts.

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Everyone Is Mad

Tina Brown confesses that “whenever Obama makes an important policy speech these days he leaves everyone totally confused.” She wonders if this is “a strategy so that whatever bill trickles out of Congress or however many soldiers linger in Afghanistan, he can claim that the outcome is what he meant it all along.” Or maybe these guys aren’t good at governing (“for all the administration’s vaunted mastery of multiplatform communication, Rahm and Gibbs and company are actually amateurs at crafting a clear political message and launching it on the dazed American public”). Well, both alternatives are possible.

Brown settles on the explanation that the speechifying is so muddled because Obama doesn’t believe what he is saying. He knows, she thinks, there is no deficit-neutral health care that extends coverage to tens of millions of more people, and she thinks he doesn’t believe in the mission in Afghanistan. What she is really saying is that the president is a liar. And that’s a rather strong accusation, but not unlike what many liberals are grumbling about these days. Convinced that Obama’s heart and political soul is firmly on the Left, they surmise that anything short of undiluted Leftism is a “lie” or a fakery that doesn’t embody the “real” Obama.

Obama, at a most inopportune time, with a new war-strategy rollout and the health-care debate at a critical juncture, is managing to turn off each segment of the electorate. The Tina Brown liberal sophisticates are convinced he’s faking it. The moderates and independents think they are victims of a bait and switch. And conservatives are crowing that they were right all along about Obama — he’s the worst of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. It is, from a political perspective, a mess.

But it is, after all, what is naturally expected to flow from a candidate who let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for. It is what comes from delegating major decisions and legislative draftsmanship to others. Rather than filling in the blanks with their own positive images of Obama, diverse voters are now filling in the blanks with their gripes and disappointments. It’s only the first year of his presidency, but if this keeps up, Obama will have managed to alienate friends and persuadable voters in the middle, as well as energize the opposition. No easy feat.

Tina Brown confesses that “whenever Obama makes an important policy speech these days he leaves everyone totally confused.” She wonders if this is “a strategy so that whatever bill trickles out of Congress or however many soldiers linger in Afghanistan, he can claim that the outcome is what he meant it all along.” Or maybe these guys aren’t good at governing (“for all the administration’s vaunted mastery of multiplatform communication, Rahm and Gibbs and company are actually amateurs at crafting a clear political message and launching it on the dazed American public”). Well, both alternatives are possible.

Brown settles on the explanation that the speechifying is so muddled because Obama doesn’t believe what he is saying. He knows, she thinks, there is no deficit-neutral health care that extends coverage to tens of millions of more people, and she thinks he doesn’t believe in the mission in Afghanistan. What she is really saying is that the president is a liar. And that’s a rather strong accusation, but not unlike what many liberals are grumbling about these days. Convinced that Obama’s heart and political soul is firmly on the Left, they surmise that anything short of undiluted Leftism is a “lie” or a fakery that doesn’t embody the “real” Obama.

Obama, at a most inopportune time, with a new war-strategy rollout and the health-care debate at a critical juncture, is managing to turn off each segment of the electorate. The Tina Brown liberal sophisticates are convinced he’s faking it. The moderates and independents think they are victims of a bait and switch. And conservatives are crowing that they were right all along about Obama — he’s the worst of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. It is, from a political perspective, a mess.

But it is, after all, what is naturally expected to flow from a candidate who let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for. It is what comes from delegating major decisions and legislative draftsmanship to others. Rather than filling in the blanks with their own positive images of Obama, diverse voters are now filling in the blanks with their gripes and disappointments. It’s only the first year of his presidency, but if this keeps up, Obama will have managed to alienate friends and persuadable voters in the middle, as well as energize the opposition. No easy feat.

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The Task Ahead

Between them, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have generated more than 30 million primary votes. To say there has never been anything like this is to understate the case. In 2000, when George W. Bush and John McCain were fighting it out for the Republican nomination, a total of 20 million votes was cast. The Democrats in 2008 have bested that by 50 percent. What this means is that, even if a third of Hillary’s voters absolutely refuse to vote for Obama in November, that will leave him with a probable 30 million votes in the bank. In May. Six months before the November election.

Now, surely those 30 million votes would have turned out for Obama in November anyway, even if Hillary had dropped out of the race in Iowa. But that is not the significance of this number. It means something because Obama will not have to spend a nickel to get their vote. Instead, he will only have to spend money to get another 30 million or so votes, and he will have more money than anyone else has ever had before to do so.

It is important for conservatives and Republicans, who have comforted themselves with the thought that Obama cannot possibly win because no one as far to the Left as he is can win the presidency in the United States, to understand the nature of the challenge he poses. Think of it this way. In 1972, George McGovern, on Election Day, received 29 million votes — fewer than Obama’s and Hillary’s combined vote totals in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Think of it this way as well, if you want to delude yourself that a left-liberal can’t win. In 2004, John Kerry, the most liberal member of the Senate and nobody’s idea of a good candidate, received 59 million votes. He bettered Al Gore’s 2000 vote total by 17 percent. He only lost because George Bush generated 62 million votes, the greatest number in American history. Who received the second greatest number of votes in American history? John Kerry.

A left-liberal can win, and will win, unless he is defeated by his rival. Barack Obama will not defeat himself. He’s already too strong a candidate for that to be a possibility.

Between them, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have generated more than 30 million primary votes. To say there has never been anything like this is to understate the case. In 2000, when George W. Bush and John McCain were fighting it out for the Republican nomination, a total of 20 million votes was cast. The Democrats in 2008 have bested that by 50 percent. What this means is that, even if a third of Hillary’s voters absolutely refuse to vote for Obama in November, that will leave him with a probable 30 million votes in the bank. In May. Six months before the November election.

Now, surely those 30 million votes would have turned out for Obama in November anyway, even if Hillary had dropped out of the race in Iowa. But that is not the significance of this number. It means something because Obama will not have to spend a nickel to get their vote. Instead, he will only have to spend money to get another 30 million or so votes, and he will have more money than anyone else has ever had before to do so.

It is important for conservatives and Republicans, who have comforted themselves with the thought that Obama cannot possibly win because no one as far to the Left as he is can win the presidency in the United States, to understand the nature of the challenge he poses. Think of it this way. In 1972, George McGovern, on Election Day, received 29 million votes — fewer than Obama’s and Hillary’s combined vote totals in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Think of it this way as well, if you want to delude yourself that a left-liberal can’t win. In 2004, John Kerry, the most liberal member of the Senate and nobody’s idea of a good candidate, received 59 million votes. He bettered Al Gore’s 2000 vote total by 17 percent. He only lost because George Bush generated 62 million votes, the greatest number in American history. Who received the second greatest number of votes in American history? John Kerry.

A left-liberal can win, and will win, unless he is defeated by his rival. Barack Obama will not defeat himself. He’s already too strong a candidate for that to be a possibility.

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Here Are A Couple of Differences

In a primary race where the differences between the two candidates are sometimes hard to discern, there were two vivid ones on display Sunday morning as Barack Obama did Meet the Press and Hillary Clinton did This Week in a town hall setting in Indiana. The first is temperamental. As she was with Bill O’Reilly, Clinton was funny, cracking jokes (this time about Rush Limbaugh), and looking and sounding like she is having fun. Barack Obama, as John points out, was dour, humorless, and emotionally remote. She was supposedly the one with the harsh and cold personality when this campaign started. Somewhere along the way things changed.

Second, their foreign policy perspectives are markedly different. From his point of view, threatening Iran is “George Bush foreign policy.” From hers, it’s making clear to our most menacing adversary that we mean business. Yes, they have merged views on Iraq (if you take them at their word), but the similarity ends there. She’s not exactly Scoop Jackson. But he is George McGovern (he 1970’s McGovern, not the more conservative one we have now). And this is a classic Democratic dilemma: McGovernites tend to prevail in primaries and Jacksonians in general elections.

In a primary race where the differences between the two candidates are sometimes hard to discern, there were two vivid ones on display Sunday morning as Barack Obama did Meet the Press and Hillary Clinton did This Week in a town hall setting in Indiana. The first is temperamental. As she was with Bill O’Reilly, Clinton was funny, cracking jokes (this time about Rush Limbaugh), and looking and sounding like she is having fun. Barack Obama, as John points out, was dour, humorless, and emotionally remote. She was supposedly the one with the harsh and cold personality when this campaign started. Somewhere along the way things changed.

Second, their foreign policy perspectives are markedly different. From his point of view, threatening Iran is “George Bush foreign policy.” From hers, it’s making clear to our most menacing adversary that we mean business. Yes, they have merged views on Iraq (if you take them at their word), but the similarity ends there. She’s not exactly Scoop Jackson. But he is George McGovern (he 1970’s McGovern, not the more conservative one we have now). And this is a classic Democratic dilemma: McGovernites tend to prevail in primaries and Jacksonians in general elections.

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George McGovern, Free Marketeer?

Who would have thought that George McGovern would write an eminently sane column on the dangers of government paternalism? It has gems like this:

Buying health insurance on the Internet and across state lines, where less expensive plans may be available, is prohibited by many state insurance commissions. Despite being able to buy car or home insurance with a mouse click, some state governments require their approved plans for purchase or none at all. It’s as if states dictated that you had to buy a Mercedes or no car at all.

He even looks at the unintended consequences of bans on “payday lending,” long a bogey-man of liberals, and finds the cure is worse than the disease. He concludes:

Since leaving office I’ve written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society. Why do we think we are helping adult consumers by taking away their options? We don’t take away cars because we don’t like some people speeding. We allow state lotteries despite knowing some people are betting their grocery money. Everyone is exposed to economic risks of some kind. But we don’t operate mindlessly in trying to smooth out every theoretical wrinkle in life. The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else.

No, honest: George McGovern wrote that. Perhaps he could talk to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama about their notions for solving the home mortgage crisis. I am sure he would advise Clinton of the unintended consequences of freezing rates on sub-prime loans, or warn Obama about the costs to taxpayers and consumers at large of a bail-out fund for affected homeowners.

All this raises a question: has McGovern become wiser as the years have passed or has his party has become dimmer? Perhaps both . . .

Who would have thought that George McGovern would write an eminently sane column on the dangers of government paternalism? It has gems like this:

Buying health insurance on the Internet and across state lines, where less expensive plans may be available, is prohibited by many state insurance commissions. Despite being able to buy car or home insurance with a mouse click, some state governments require their approved plans for purchase or none at all. It’s as if states dictated that you had to buy a Mercedes or no car at all.

He even looks at the unintended consequences of bans on “payday lending,” long a bogey-man of liberals, and finds the cure is worse than the disease. He concludes:

Since leaving office I’ve written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society. Why do we think we are helping adult consumers by taking away their options? We don’t take away cars because we don’t like some people speeding. We allow state lotteries despite knowing some people are betting their grocery money. Everyone is exposed to economic risks of some kind. But we don’t operate mindlessly in trying to smooth out every theoretical wrinkle in life. The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else.

No, honest: George McGovern wrote that. Perhaps he could talk to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama about their notions for solving the home mortgage crisis. I am sure he would advise Clinton of the unintended consequences of freezing rates on sub-prime loans, or warn Obama about the costs to taxpayers and consumers at large of a bail-out fund for affected homeowners.

All this raises a question: has McGovern become wiser as the years have passed or has his party has become dimmer? Perhaps both . . .

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What Sovereignty?

Literary entrepreneur Dave Eggers laments that his home state of California voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the Super Tuesday Democratic primary.

Eggers opines:

With Mr. Obama’s newness comes a certain element of chance, and Mr. McCain, though he leans ever more doctrinaire, is still erratic enough that on the Internet he can be found singing — to a classic Beach Boys tune, mind you — about bombing yet another sovereign nation.

Eggers’s defense of Iraqi or Iranian “sovereignty” is made in passing, but it is one of the more obnoxious ticks of the Left. It is part of a Democratic Party tradition that goes back at least as far to Henry Wallace, up through George McGovern and to the supporters of Barack Obama today. This is the “Hands Off [fill in the rogue state]” crowd, which always sees America as the root of international instability and promises that if only we “engage” our enemies and “restrain” our warlike impulses, the world will be a more peaceful place. It is this world-view that places such stock in the wondrous “sovereignty” of a theocratic, terror-state like the Islamic Republic.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did not have sovereignty for the international community to violate. He had committed genocide, repeatedly, against his own people. He stood in defiance of 17 Security Council Resolutions regarding his weapons of mass destruction programs. He had illegally invaded his neighbors on two occasions and provided assistance to terrorists around the world. All of these actions warranted intervention according to the very international legal mandates that liberal internationalists so revere and that the supposedly reckless neo-cons denigrate at every turn.

Iran has a similar rap sheet. Neither Hussein-era Iraq nor present-day Iran — authoritarian states that do not rule by popular consent and flout international law as a matter of routine — is “yet another sovereign nation” alongside Canada, Hungary, or Botswana. To presume otherwise represents a grave and a deeply pernicious mode of thinking, yet it is one shared now amongst the Democratic base and its presumed nominee.

Literary entrepreneur Dave Eggers laments that his home state of California voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the Super Tuesday Democratic primary.

Eggers opines:

With Mr. Obama’s newness comes a certain element of chance, and Mr. McCain, though he leans ever more doctrinaire, is still erratic enough that on the Internet he can be found singing — to a classic Beach Boys tune, mind you — about bombing yet another sovereign nation.

Eggers’s defense of Iraqi or Iranian “sovereignty” is made in passing, but it is one of the more obnoxious ticks of the Left. It is part of a Democratic Party tradition that goes back at least as far to Henry Wallace, up through George McGovern and to the supporters of Barack Obama today. This is the “Hands Off [fill in the rogue state]” crowd, which always sees America as the root of international instability and promises that if only we “engage” our enemies and “restrain” our warlike impulses, the world will be a more peaceful place. It is this world-view that places such stock in the wondrous “sovereignty” of a theocratic, terror-state like the Islamic Republic.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did not have sovereignty for the international community to violate. He had committed genocide, repeatedly, against his own people. He stood in defiance of 17 Security Council Resolutions regarding his weapons of mass destruction programs. He had illegally invaded his neighbors on two occasions and provided assistance to terrorists around the world. All of these actions warranted intervention according to the very international legal mandates that liberal internationalists so revere and that the supposedly reckless neo-cons denigrate at every turn.

Iran has a similar rap sheet. Neither Hussein-era Iraq nor present-day Iran — authoritarian states that do not rule by popular consent and flout international law as a matter of routine — is “yet another sovereign nation” alongside Canada, Hungary, or Botswana. To presume otherwise represents a grave and a deeply pernicious mode of thinking, yet it is one shared now amongst the Democratic base and its presumed nominee.

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I’ll Take Disingenuous Sophists for $1,000, Alex

Mark Krikorian calls me a “pedantic bore” on National Review’s The Corner for having had the temerity to point out that a “winking headline” he put on a blog post the other day was an exact echo of George McGovern’s isolationist slogan “Come Home, America.” The word “winking” in his wondrously suggestive riposte is clearly a delightfully ironic witticism far too imaginative for a pedantic bore like me to understand. But let me analyze it, pedantically and in a very boring manner, for a just a split second. In essence, by calling his headling “winking,” Krikorian is acknowledging that his desire to see all American troops removed from Europe is, in fact, firmly and precisely in the isolationist tradition of McGovern. He’s only “winking” because he knows full well that as a poster on a conservative website of a magazine that is notably internationalist in its outlook, he is introducing a note of purely isolationist cutesiness.

How un-pedantic of Krikorian! Regrettably, however, there are some pedantic bores out there whose eye for the obvious are unable to appreciate his magnificent subtlety and can see only the disingenuous sophistry at his core. As for complaining that I did not make an argument in opposition to his, let me just offer this: His original post contained nothing resembling an argument, merely a populist sneer at the notion that it might be prudent to keep a rather small contingent of American forces in a state of forward deployment in Europe. But then, there is little point in arguing anything with Krikorian, whose career is dedicated to gussying up noxious views in terms that sound calmly reasoned. (Perhaps, Mark, you should consider adding that last sentence to the book blurb you intend to make of my statement that you are “the leading immigration restrictionist in America.”)

Mark Krikorian calls me a “pedantic bore” on National Review’s The Corner for having had the temerity to point out that a “winking headline” he put on a blog post the other day was an exact echo of George McGovern’s isolationist slogan “Come Home, America.” The word “winking” in his wondrously suggestive riposte is clearly a delightfully ironic witticism far too imaginative for a pedantic bore like me to understand. But let me analyze it, pedantically and in a very boring manner, for a just a split second. In essence, by calling his headling “winking,” Krikorian is acknowledging that his desire to see all American troops removed from Europe is, in fact, firmly and precisely in the isolationist tradition of McGovern. He’s only “winking” because he knows full well that as a poster on a conservative website of a magazine that is notably internationalist in its outlook, he is introducing a note of purely isolationist cutesiness.

How un-pedantic of Krikorian! Regrettably, however, there are some pedantic bores out there whose eye for the obvious are unable to appreciate his magnificent subtlety and can see only the disingenuous sophistry at his core. As for complaining that I did not make an argument in opposition to his, let me just offer this: His original post contained nothing resembling an argument, merely a populist sneer at the notion that it might be prudent to keep a rather small contingent of American forces in a state of forward deployment in Europe. But then, there is little point in arguing anything with Krikorian, whose career is dedicated to gussying up noxious views in terms that sound calmly reasoned. (Perhaps, Mark, you should consider adding that last sentence to the book blurb you intend to make of my statement that you are “the leading immigration restrictionist in America.”)

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The Anti-Immigration-Isolationism Connection

Mark Krikorian, the leading theorist of immigration restriction in America, offers a surprising, but honest, implicit ackowledgement of how much his own vision of a walled-off America primarily under threat from border-crossing immigrants comports with the isolationist foreign policy of George McGovern in the headline of this item attacking our own Max Boot on National Review’s The Corner.

“Come Home, America,” is Krikorian’s headline.

“Come Home, America” was McGovern’s campaign slogan in 1972.

Mark Krikorian, the leading theorist of immigration restriction in America, offers a surprising, but honest, implicit ackowledgement of how much his own vision of a walled-off America primarily under threat from border-crossing immigrants comports with the isolationist foreign policy of George McGovern in the headline of this item attacking our own Max Boot on National Review’s The Corner.

“Come Home, America,” is Krikorian’s headline.

“Come Home, America” was McGovern’s campaign slogan in 1972.

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November Surprise

In spite of what the polls supposedly tell us, I strongly suspect that the Democrats may already have blown the 2008 election. Unlike the late Senator Aiken of Vermont, who proposed that we declare victory and get out of Vietnam, the Democrats want us to declare defeat and get out of Iraq. This, they imagine, is what the American people were demanding in the congressional election of 2006.

But it seems far more likely that the message of that election was not “Get out,” but rather “Win, or get out.” In any case, the position the Democrats are now taking can only have the effect of revivifying and reinforcing the sense of them as weak on national security. And this was the very factor that led to the ignominious defeat of their presidential candidate, George McGovern, in 1972, when they also misread the public temper by paying too much attention to the left wing of their party.

Furthermore, reading the first volume of Bill Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope, I am reminded that the American distrust of defeatist political parties goes back beyond 1972—all the way back, in fact, to the War of 1812. Like Iraq, it was an unpopular war that its Federalist-party opponents called “Mr. Madison’s war,” just as the Democrats today call Iraq “Bush’s war.” In addition, just as the Democrats today keep threatening to cut off funds for Iraq, a number of state governments controlled by the Federalists “refused to supply militia troops for the war effort.” The end result, says Bennett, was that the Federalists would “never again seriously contend for the presidency.”

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In spite of what the polls supposedly tell us, I strongly suspect that the Democrats may already have blown the 2008 election. Unlike the late Senator Aiken of Vermont, who proposed that we declare victory and get out of Vietnam, the Democrats want us to declare defeat and get out of Iraq. This, they imagine, is what the American people were demanding in the congressional election of 2006.

But it seems far more likely that the message of that election was not “Get out,” but rather “Win, or get out.” In any case, the position the Democrats are now taking can only have the effect of revivifying and reinforcing the sense of them as weak on national security. And this was the very factor that led to the ignominious defeat of their presidential candidate, George McGovern, in 1972, when they also misread the public temper by paying too much attention to the left wing of their party.

Furthermore, reading the first volume of Bill Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope, I am reminded that the American distrust of defeatist political parties goes back beyond 1972—all the way back, in fact, to the War of 1812. Like Iraq, it was an unpopular war that its Federalist-party opponents called “Mr. Madison’s war,” just as the Democrats today call Iraq “Bush’s war.” In addition, just as the Democrats today keep threatening to cut off funds for Iraq, a number of state governments controlled by the Federalists “refused to supply militia troops for the war effort.” The end result, says Bennett, was that the Federalists would “never again seriously contend for the presidency.”

Then, too, there was the Mexican war, into which a Democratic President (the “mendacious Polk,” as he was described by his Whig opponents) led the country in 1846. The Whigs, Bennett writes, were mindful of the damage done to the Federalists by their position on the War of 1812, and therefore they “made sure to vote to supply the troops.” Even so, the Whigs did themselves no political good by acting as though it was Polk’s war and not the nation’s. Although this was not the only or even the main reason they eventually followed the Federalists onto the ash heap of American political history, it surely played a part.

I am not predicting that the Democrats of today will suffer the same fate as the Federalists and the Whigs did. But I do think that they are in the process of ensuring their defeat in the next presidential election. In many respects, of course, the people of this country are very different from their forebears of 1812 and 1846. But I suspect that most of us are not all that different from them in how we view politicians who conspicuously fail to root for American troops fighting in the field, and who seem to think that they can get away with it by sticking the responsibility for the war on the sitting president of the other party. In 1972, this deeply ingrained American attitude still had enough life in it to give Richard Nixon, unpopular though he was, an overwhelming victory against George McGovern. Unless the American leopard has changed his spots since then, the Democrats are in for a very big surprise in November 2008.

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