|June 12, 2012||Democracy in action||no comments|
|May 21, 2012||The Wright Conundrum||no comments|
|March 12, 2012||ObamaCare vs. RomneyCare||no comments|
|March 05, 2012||Newt: The Great Debater||no comments|
|March 02, 2012||Santorum the Sanctimonious||1 comments|
|February 28, 2012||The New Isolationists||1 comments|
|February 24, 2012||Ron Paul: Political Pied Piper||2 comments|
|February 20, 2012||Political Leadership: Tim Geithner Style||1 comments|
|February 16, 2012||Barack Obama: Mathematically Challenged||2 comments|
|February 13, 2012||The Flavor of the Month: Rick Santorum||no comments|
Years ago, when I grew up in New York City, the general attitude toward politics was “you can’t fight city all.” The mayor and the city council were far away, and besides they never listened to ordinary people anyway.
When, however, I moved to a suburb outside Rochester, New York, the attitude was different. Now one of my buddies ran for the board of education and won. He had no particular political connections; just a desire to make sure his children were well-educated.
As for me, I found that when my town planned to rezone a property adjacent to mine, the zoning board not only listened to my complaint; they changed their minds. This was an eye-opener and forever altered my attitude toward politics.
Having since moved into the suburbs of Atlanta, my political education has continued. As a professor whose original department at Kennesaw State University consisted of both sociologists and political scientists, I learned a great deal from my colleagues.
One unexpected lesson came from a friend who decided to run for Congress. I knew her and knew she was for real. I also knew that Newt Gingrich had been successful in a similar effort just a few years before. She might have won—she didn’t—but she put up a good fight.
Since then several people have consulted me about their political strategies. Apparently having been impressed by some of my ideas as expressed in the Marietta Daily Journal, they hoped that I might be of assistance.
One of these people has been JoEllen Smith. She is currently seeking a first term in the Georgia State House. While I am not prepared to endorse her officially (because I do not know her opponent first hand), I am prepared to share the fact that she has impressed me.
The first thing I noticed when we talked is how intelligent she is. As an educator, something like that immediately grabs my attention. The next thing I realized was how passionate she is about educational issues. Once again, as an educator, this matters to me.
More recently, I have been impressed by the campaign she is running. Actively seeking to meet her constituents, she has also made brilliant use of the Internet. Her insightful analyses of the issues at hand have been pithy and to the point.
All of this leaves me very pleased with our democratic institutions. When a concerned citizen, on her own hook, can decide to enter the fray—and can have a decent chance to win, that tells me that our representative conventions are working. Ordinary people really do have a chance to be heard.
So good luck JoEllen! And if you win, I hope your voice—and your vote—will make a difference in bringing our state to a new level.
New information has come out about the relationship between president Barack Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. There is credible evidence (produced by Ed Klein in his book Amateur) the Obama indirectly attempted to bribe Wright to refrain from saying anything negative about Barack during the last presidential campaign.
A Republican Super-PAC subsequently decided that this material would make good fodder for a television advertisement, but Mitt Romney shot it down. On the grounds that he wanted to engage in a campaign based on the issues rather than one dependent on mudslinging, he asked that this strategy be scraped.
The situation is reminiscent of the one that occurred four years ago. Then candidate John McCain insisted that Obama’s connection with Wright not be exploited for political ends. McCain deemed painting Obama in the same colors as a man who thundered “God damn America” from the pulpit to be too sleazy.
Today Romney may be making a similar calculation. He apparently decided that portraying the president as a slimy manipulator would backfire. Because Obama is well liked, the public might come to his defense—on the assumption that no president should be treated disrespectfully.
There is also the race issue. Because Obama is perceived as black, saying something insulting might be perceived as racist. This same likelihood makes it injudicious to raise the question of Barack’s use of hard drugs when very young or his flirtation with socialists and Marxists when in college.
This is very much a double standard, but one Romney has to be aware of. Others in the media, such as Sean Hannity, can pick up the cudgels and demand that Obama be vetted as rigorously as his opponent, but Mitt cannot. He must at least appear to stay above the fray.
How then should the public react? Ed Klein’s book is well titled. Barack Obama remains an amateur even after nearly four years in the White House. He is probably the least prepared person to enter the presidency in the twentieth century. Perhaps he is rivaled by Warren Harding and Harry Truman, but Truman actually served several terms as a senator.
What this comes down to is that we would do well to understand why Obama knows so little about governing. We would also do well to realize why his is infatuated by leftist political solutions and why he has so little appreciation of how economics works.
Nor would it hurt if we grasped the degree to which our president has long been a deceptive manipulator. Many years before he entered the corrupt precincts of Chicago politics, he was a disingenuous schemer. Indeed, he thrived in the partisan arena that he deliberately sought out precisely because of the skills he brought to the endeavor.
Sadly, Romney is handicapped in his political aspirations because he has more honor than the man he is seeking to unseat. He too is plainly capable of playing hardball, but he seems to have limits Obama does not.
If this is true then let us hope that honor counts for something when the time comes for voters to select our nation’s next chief executive.
This, however, is far from true. The way to figure out what will probably happen is to look at the scenario from the other side. Instead of what might make Mitt feel uncomfortable, the issue is what is liable to throw Obama off stride.
Remember, Barack has been avoiding the topic of healthcare like the plague. Although ObamaCare was his signature piece of legislation, he never alludes to it. He does not brag about this accomplishment because he knows that it remains anathema for many voters. He realizes that they believe it was forced down their throats and hence will regurgitate it if they can.
Given this situation, all Romney has to do is throw ObamaCare in Barack’s face. He must remind voters of how much more it will require them to pay and how much less they will receive in exchange. He must also take them back to the dark days of backroom deals and sleazy payoffs, and ask if they want more of the same.
Those who believe that Obama will respond by attacking RomneyCare are wrong. To do so would put him at a further disadvantage. Many conservatives do not like Romney’s individual mandate, but Obama’s mandate was far worse. How then can he disparage Mitt without putting his own creation in an even more unflattering light?
There are, however, additional considerations. What if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate? Can Obama defend its return? And can he support the rest of the program, assuming that the Court does not rule it invalid?
If Romney cheers a court ruling against ObamaCare and then advocates striking down the entirety of Obama’s legislation, he will win points with a majority of voters. Or if the ruling goes the other way, he can ride a wave of resentment to support legislative elimination of a much hated program. In other words, whatever happens in the court, it will redound to Romney’s benefit if he plays his cards right.
Nevertheless, many voters worry that Romney will not seek a repeal of ObamaCare. They fret that because he once supported something similar, he will fail to keep his word. They fear that once in office he will have no incentive to eliminate what he pledged to terminate.
But first, Obama cannot exploit this fear. To begin with, people know that he will not repeal a law to which he is deeply committed. Obama also knows that he has backtracked on many promises. To suggest that Romney might do the same would expose him to a withering counter-punch.
Second, Romney cannot afford to break his promise. To do so would put his administration on life support before it began. Hence why would anyone seeking the presidency so egregiously cripple himself? How would he benefit from such perfidy?
Nor do I think he wants to. Even if he is a flip-flopper (a characterization I find overdrawn), hasn’t he flipped in order to gain favor? So why would he flop in order to lose it?
Finally, I suspect Obama understands all of this. Whatever else he is, he is not a dummy. He must, therefore, recognize that fabricating charges he cannot substantiate would make him more vulnerable. Consequently, any attempt to intimate that he might do so would be no more than a bluff.
Fortunately, it is one Romney can call.
This conceit, however, is fatuous. First, Barack is not a moron. He will not agree to more debates than he thinks he can handle. Moreover, he will learn from the Republican debates, hence he will go into them with a good idea of what to expect.
Add to this the fact that Obama is both bright and articulate, and also that he is president, and Newt will have to be respectful. The playing field will therefore tilt toward the incumbent. There is no way Gingrich will be able to lecture him the way he has journalistic moderators.
Nor is Gingrich the fantastic debater he now pretends. Remember what happened when Romney caught him flat-footed regarding his investments in Fannie-Mae? Gingrich did not have a facile answer and so he stood there with egg on his face. So tongue-tied did he become that by general agreement he was the big loser.
Consider as well that Obama has legions of expert researchers at his disposal. It is almost inconceivable that these folks will not be able to dig up something else that is embarrassing to Newt. What will happen then?
Besides, all of this is a sideshow. We are electing a president, not a debater-in-chief. If Gingrich cannot cure our current economic and budgetary woes, then it does not matter how articulate he is. The time will surely come when he will be unable to explain his failures to an impatient public.
Indeed, our current president is as skilled in speechifying as it is possible for a politician to be. He is so eloquent that he can rationalize his way out of virtually any debacle. As long as people have the will to believe, he can find the words to fool them into thinking that the sky is green or that the oceans are subsiding.
If all that Gingrich can provide is a me-too glibness, then he is no improvement over the status quo. Furthermore, to judge from his recent performances, the best he seems to be able to offer are lame metaphors. Thus, he says he is going to save the poor by giving them a trampoline. Really?
Finally, Gingrich is mean. He is also vindictive. Describing himself as “cheerful,” as he did in the last debate, was a bad joke. When he gets to arguing one-on-one with someone who can give him a run for his money, his nasty side is bound to emerge. And if it does, forget about any debating points he might score.
Or, heaven forbid, if he gets to be president, imagine all of the people he will offend. Nowadays he brags about not being a team player. Is this supposed to signify that he is going to be a one-man band when he gets to the White House? How do you think that work out?
Oh, I forgot, he also says that he will be on the side of the American people. It is presumably we, his fellow Americans, who will constitute his new teammates. Yet isn’t this just another pathetic metaphor? Isn’t this just another case of Newt always knows best?
It was an amazing spectacle. Here was a Republican aspirant for his party’s presidential nomination urging Democrats to vote for him rather than his rival. Had this request come from a Democrat, it would have been regarded as a dirty trick. To cross over and vote for an opponent who cannot win the general election so as to deny victory to one who might, was surely not how the founders believed elections should be run.
But this is what Rick Santorum wanted. What is more, he was utterly unapologetic when caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He presented some lame excuse about how the folks who nearly gave him a win were really Reagan Democrats. The only one’s who believed this, of course, were his rabid partisans.
So why did Santorum assume he could get away with this ploy? The answer is that he is convinced of his own moral credentials. He is—to put the matter bluntly—dangerously self-righteous. In his heart, he knows that he is a better person than almost everyone else.
Santorum is confident that he is on solid ground when he behaves in ways that would be immoral for others because he believes he always does things for honorable reasons. So far as he is concerned, his ends are so superior that his means can be flexible.
We also see this attitude in an anti-Romney ad produced by his people. From start to finish, it portrays Mitt as a malicious, gun-toting campaigner. Nevertheless, when I saw it, I nearly laughed out loud. Here was a mean spirited negative ad complaining about negative ads.
Apparently the only reason Santorum hasn’t taken the low road before is because he did not have the financing to do so. Now, with the dollars pouring in, he can be as scurrilous as he desires. Evidently, with his opponents always more evil than himself, they deserve whatever he can heap upon them.
This may sound like an overblown criticism, but on several occasions Rick has stated that it is more important to do what is right than what is legal. Needless to say, he will be the one to determine what is right. Much as with Barack Obama, he confers upon himself the role of final arbiter. Others may perceive this as arbitrary, but for him it reflects the triumph of his impeccable virtue.
If Santorum ever gets off his soapbox, he may realize that moral fanaticism is perilous. Indeed, moral zealots have perpetrated many of history’s worst tragedies. They do not see the harm they perpetrate because they are dazzled by their own radiant aspirations. Be they a Hitler, a Napoleon, or a Pol Pot, they always assume they know best.
As for the rest of us, these folks should make us uneasy. They want to be our leaders, but when we allow them to do so, all too often they direct us over a cliff.
Rick Santorum needs to pull back so that he notices that in undermining our political institutions, he is weakening the political infrastructure that might allow him to do good if he were elected.
He has also revealed his true colors—and they are not flattering.
Once upon a time Republicans were isolationists and Democrats were internationalists. Then, after Eisenhower became president, the parties began swapping roles. Recently, with the advent of the Gulf and Afghanistan Wars, the Democrats have emphasized their distrust of foreign adventures.
Now we see the Libertarians joining this discussion. They are clearly intent on re-establishing an America-First mentality among conservatives. Ron Paul has been the most vocal in this endeavor. Yet he is far from alone. Many of those who claim that freedom is their over-riding concern also wish to free us from overseas adventures.
Paul insists that we should not be spending our dollars abroad. He further argues that countries, such as Iran, should be able to set their political agendas without interference from us. As he as put it, if we would not appreciate external pressures, why should we inflict these on others?
John Stossel too has advocated a new isolationism. He has encouraged our government to get out of Afghanistan on the grounds that we have been there long enough. Besides, our efforts at nation building have clearly failed; hence we should learn our lessons and come home.
At a recent gathering on young libertarians, Stossel quizzed John Bolton about these matters, and when Bolton argued for finishing the job we started, the audience erupted in agonized booing. These young ideologues felt compelled to express their disdain for international military actions as forcefully as they could.
When Bolton was then asked when he would withdraw from Afghanistan, he replied, “When the job is done.” To this Stossel responded that we had already provided the ungrateful Afghans with enough blood and treasure. Why not let them settle their own problems by themselves?
But that was not—and is not the issue. We did not go to Afghanistan in order to help the Afghans. We went in order to protect ourselves from further terrorist attacks. The question regarding when we should leave therefore comes down to when we can be sure we are safe.
Setting a date at which we should leave is not about the cost, in lives or dollars, but about conditions on the ground. If we leave prematurely, what happens if there is another 9/11? Worse still, what if Afghanistan provides a staging area for an atomic attack on New York, Washington—or Atlanta?
What will the nouveau-isolationists say then? The young do not remember the price paid for refusing to stop Hitler before the wehrmacht began rolling. Nor do they recall that we did not stop fighting the Nazis until they were decisively defeated.
When you are attacked—and we were attacked—you do not stop defending yourself until the enemy desists. The radical Islamists are not trying to kill us because we interfered with their self-government. To the contrary, we are seeking to dismantle their infrastructures because they are trying to kill us.
Only ideologues—or those with a death wish—refuse to recognize who started what. Only they insist that we set time limits on self-defense.
If the rest of us listen to them, the time will come when we will not have to spend money on military activities—because we will have been defeated.
That a man Paul’s age can have such a simplistic view of the universe surely disqualifies him from being president. That he has the audacity to boast of having learned almost nothing in his many decades on this planet is breathtaking. It clearly tells us that he does not have the flexibility to deal with chief executive level uncertainties.
Nonetheless Paul may not really want to be president. As others have suggested, his real goal may be to spark a social movement. He may be satisfied if he can make libertarianism more respectable. If so, he may serve an important political purpose.
Libertarianism is much too simple-minded for my tastes. It purports to explain most of the problems confronting us with a few timeless propositions. Whatever the difficulty, it deduces the answers from a limited set of axioms.
Mind you, I agree with the libertarians about the pivotal importance of freedom and the need to defend the integrity of the marketplace and the constitution. I, however, believe in learning from experience—which sometimes indicates that theory must be modified by reality.
This said, I am beginning to understand that Paul’s crusade may have long-term benefits. His adolescent posturing turns off most people my age, but adolescents, and those only shortly removed from adolescence, are inspired by it. For them, he is a pied piper who is playing an irresistible tune.
Obviously, the young have little experience with the real world. Perhaps, less obviously, most experience a reasonable anxiety when they contemplate their futures. If one does not know why many things happen as they do, an uncertainty regarding what constitutes the best choices is sensible.
As a result, the young are attracted to answers they can get their minds around. Simplified ideologies of the sort Paul peddles provide this kind of certitude. They are easily understood and purport to explain everything one might want to know. This is dangerous for those who must make responsible decisions, but it is a useful starting point for those who have the time to learn.
If this is true, then Paul’s campaign may prove a valuable entry point to a conservative perspective. Young people are idealistic. They crave a sense of being able to reform the world. Fervent ideologies give them a feeling of doing good. Libertarianism may be over-blown, but it provides the passion the young desire.
Fortunately, life furnishes the lessons needed to become more realistic. Most of us become disillusioned as our ideals collide with the hard facts of everyday living. For some this leads to bitterness, whereas for others it is a portal to more competent decision-making.
Therefore, under the best of circumstances, many of today’s young may become tomorrow’s well-grounded conservatives. If so, Paul, in increasing the number of the young who experiment with libertarianism, may be recruiting the core of those who eventually protect our democratic institutions from destruction.
In other words, let’s hope Paul energizes enough right wing idealists to counteract Obama’s left wing idealists.
According to Geithner, the deficit would not be growing as a proportion of the gross domestic product and hence was sustainable. To this Ryan responded with a chart that showed federal expenses would, in fact, grow astronomically during the out years.
Amazingly, Geithner agreed with this assessment. He admitted that, as the population aged, the numbers of people dependent upon social security and Medicare would swell to such proportions that the government did not have the resources to meet its pledges.
So why, Ryan asked, wasn’t Geithner doing something about this? To this, the secretary answered by admitting that he was only concerned with the next four years. What happens beyond this did not matter to him because he and the president found the Republican suggestions for fixing this problem unacceptable.
Now let’s replay that again slowly. The Obama administration’s point man on the economy said that whatever disasters impend after the Democrats leave office are not his affair. He and his president were not going to make any proposals about how to prevent a disaster that they too see coming.
What Geithner was saying is that it is up to Republicans to fix what is broken. He is Secretary of the Treasury and Barack is President, but they cannot be expected to provide leadership when a catastrophe impends.
Let us for the moment agree that the deficit will not get worse in proportional terms under Democratic stewardship. This assumption is grounded in a rosy economic scenario and a truckload of fiscal gimmicks—but no matter. Let us cinfine ourselves to dealing with the demographic calamity that looms just over the horizon.
If there really is such a problem, why aren’t Geithner and his associates doing anything about it? The answer is obvious, and it is the same one that explains why the Democratic Senate has not produced a budget in over three years. Geithner and his friends simply do not want to propose anything that might be politically unpopular.
The current administration intends to force the Republicans to be the bad guys. Whatever proposal their opponents make will be demagogued. Geithner knows this. Obama knows this. But they do not care. Their number one priority is re-election—and the nation be damned.
Charles Krauthammer has called this a scandal. And he is absolutely right. Krauthammer has argued that Obama is not avoiding leadership because he misunderstands the problem. To the contrary, he too recognizes what is at stake, but the welfare of the nation does not enter his calculations.
Geithner’s congressional testimony confirms this. He too knows what is at stake, but blithely dismisses it as not his business. Rather it is that of people who, as of this moment, do not have the power to do anything about it.
The question is now: How will the American public respond? My guess is that most people will not even notice. Even though they are the one’s being thrown under the bus, a majority will not perceive their approaching injuries until they are in the hospital.
The evidence is conclusive. Our president never acquired anything more than the barest rudiments of elementary mathematics. As his latest budget clearly demonstrates, although he learned to add, he never learned to subtract.
Our nation faces a budgetary crisis of epic proportions and yet Barack Obama continues to add to our problems. Despite solemn promises to cut our deficit, he does not seem to know how. Our national debt is already climbing toward sixteen trillion and now he proposes to increase this by another eleven trillion.
Never mind that we already owe more that our gross domestic product, Obama cannot figure out how to spend fewer dollars. Once more he intends to introduce a massive stimulus. Once more additional monies—we do not have—are to be lavished on shovel-ready construction projects.
Barack even intends to buy high-speed trains that few people will ever ride. Like a child at Christmastime, he insists on having his toy train set irrespective of what his parent’s pocketbook can afford.
And how about those phantom subtractions that supposedly come from not expending money onAfghanistan. This was money that was never expected to be spent. Obama’s critics have castigated this is no more than smoke and mirrors, but he and his partisans continue to pretend it is real money.
No, wait! Barack does know how to subtract. The trouble is he intends to subtract this from others—most notably the rich. His idea of fairness seems to be that his enemies must give to him whatever he wants so that he can continue to be generous with his friends.
Come to think of it, Obama may not even have gotten the hang of addition. He has decreed that insurance companies must provide the employees of Catholic institutions with birth control services—for free. Since these are not his funds, they evidently do not count as real expenditures.
Apparently the only thing our president knows how to do is multiply. As he has once more proved, every time he is up for election his promises proliferate exponentially. So, unfortunately, will our troubles; that is, when his bills eventually come due.
Thomas Sowell has recently reminded us that Theodore Roosevelt boasted of not having studied economics. Nonetheless, Teddy proudly justified his incursions into the marketplace on the grounds that he was serving moral ends.
Apparently Barack Obama subscribes to the same school of economics. He too seems to believe that his calculations are moral, and hence not economic. He, therefore, feels free to move numbers around any way he pleases.
Yet how moral is it for a politician to impoverish his nation? Ronald Reagan apologized to the navy for comparing profligate congressional spenders to drunken sailors. Perhaps Barack Obama is also drunk on his own good intentions. Perhaps that is the reason his budgetary figures never come into focus.
It had to happen! It was Rick Santorum’s turn to rise to the top of the Republican heap. This political season the Republican electorate has been as fickle as the proverbial teenage schoolgirl, so why should it not have turned to kiss yet another frog. (My apologies to my female readers for being so sexist.)
The anybody-but-Romney crowd has had this insatiable need to test out every candidate as a substitute for the putative front-runner. The only potential nominee who has not had his turn is Ron Paul, but that too may be coming.
As for Santorum, he is a decent sort. Sincere and moral, he is clearly a better choice than Newt Gingrich. And yet, I doubt that he is presidential material. Terminally sanctimonious, and lacking in gravitas, he is well suited to being the class valedictorian, not leader of the free world.
My guess is that the electorate is about to discover this. Until now Santorum has been at the far end of the stage—well out of the line of fire. Indeed, not long ago he was complaining that he did not get enough questions during the debates. But this was because few in the audience cared what he thought.
Yet times change, and people will be listening more closely. And when they do, they will find a strident moralist who is too hidebound for the position of chief executive. Rick has been demanding absolute conformity to the current conservative orthodoxy in order to burnish his own conservative credentials, but is this what voters really want?
Many conservatives do, in fact, seem to be seeking the perfect conservative archetype, but they should realize that even Santorum falls short of this ideal. After all, he was big on earmarks and taking care of the labor unions when he was in congress.
It pains me to say this, but a great many of my fellow conservatives are demonstrating a childish idealism of the sort that I have associated with liberals. They say they want a candidate who can get elected, while they keep demanding that whomever they back be the equivalent of politically correct (i.e., with respect to the right side of the political spectrum).
Well, let’s leave political correctness for the folks who invented it. We do not need a rigid nominee who can match Barack Obama in ideological purity. What we require is someone who can solve our governmentally created problems.
That is what voters should be seeking. That is the standard by which they ought to be measuring the various contenders.