The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Profiles in Hypocisy

It’s very difficult to determine whether the Democratic and Republican members of House who voted against the $700B bailout did it out of cowardice or ideology.

There is little doubt that many of the “no” votes were predicated on cowardice—members in close races (the vote is 35 days away) felt that a “yes” vote would antagonize “main street” and might cost them their house seat. Never mind that the people on "main street" do not seem to understand that unstable markets will affect them very harshly (e.g., inflation, a credit crunch, unemployment, business failures, escalating local government costs and therefore higher local taxes). Those Congressman who are poll driven (that’s just about all of them) were more afraid of the voters than they were of the laundry list of woes I just mentioned.

But ideology had a role to play as well. House members on the Right have seemingly just remembered after 6 years of amnesia that fiscal responsibility is a basic tenet of conservative thinking. All of a sudden, they balk at government expenditures? More than a few House members on the Left voted “no” because the expenditure wasn’t big enough—no money for corrupt “community organizations” like ACORN.

By the way, the bill did have assistance for mortgage holders, but it was buried in the fine print.

One thing is certain, there was plenty of hypocrisy to go around. Jonah Goldberg comments:
The bill failed on a bipartisan basis, but it was the Republicans who failed to deliver the votes they promised. Some complained that Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi drove some of them to switch their votes with her needlessly partisan floor speech on the subject. Of course Pelosi's needlessly partisan. This is news?

The Republican complaint is beyond childish. Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, a man saturated with guilt for this crisis, nonetheless was right to ridicule the GOP crybabies on Monday. "I'll make an offer," he added. "Give me [their] names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country."

Would that Frank had been imbued with such a spirit earlier. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has spent the last few years ridiculing Alan Greenspan, John McCain and others who sought more regulation for Fannie Mae's market-distorting schemes -- the fons et origo of this financial crisis. Now he says "the private sector got us into this mess." His partner in crime, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), a chief beneficiary of Fannie Mae lobbyists' largesse, claims this mess is the result of poor oversight -- without even hinting at the fact he is in charge of oversight of banks. They sound like pimps complaining about the prevalence of STDs among prostitutes.

And let us not forget that the Democrats, with a 31-seat majority, could not get 95 of their own to vote for the bailout, largely because it didn't provide enough taxpayer money to their left-wing special interests. Would that they thought about the country.

The one man who truly tried to treat this crisis like a crisis -- McCain -- was ridiculed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who implored him to come to Washington to help in the first place. And the news media, which now treat any Republican action that threatens a Barack Obama victory as inherently dishonorable, uncritically accepted the bald Democratic lie that McCain ruined a bipartisan bailout deal last Friday.

So, those of us who have acted responsibly watch the Washington elite provide us with a lesson in how NOT to lead. True profiles in cowardice, wrong headed ideology, and hypocrisy.

As the stock market yo-yos, you gotta begin wondering who’s right for the wrong reasons—the yeas or the nays. Maybe letting the blood run in the streets is just what we need. Everyone will suffer, but maybe, just maybe, we’ll come out a better economy on the other side.

Nah, playing chicken with the life savings and retirement assets of hundreds of millions of people is not a game I’m willing to play. Let’s hope that our "leaders" (I gag when using the term) will get a deal done—and soon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Main Street

A friend of mine is a heavy hitter in South Florida Democratic politics. He tells me that in conversations with our Democratic Congressman, email is running 100 to 1 against any bailout effort designed to address the credit markets debacle. It seems that taxpayers are infuriated that they are being asked to bailout the Wall Street Masters of the Universe.

I can understand the taxpayers’ frustration and anger, but what we’re really being asked to do isn’t a bailout of “Wall Street at the expense of Main Street”—a mime repeated by Barack Obama, the Congressional leadership, and many of the dim bulbs in Congress, who a few years ago resisted reforms that may have allowed us to avoid this crisis altogether. What we’re doing is bailing out irresponsible people—mortgage holders who knowingly got in over their heads, mortgage lenders who acted as predators entrapping unsophisticated borrowers, politicians who didn’t seem at all worried about “Main Street” just a few years back, and Wall Street execs whose greed and irresponsibility allowed the bomb to detonate.

And now, responsible people who borrow within their means, pay their taxes, and accept little, if any direct government assistance, are asked, as usual, to bail out those who were irresponsible. What else is new?

It also occurs to me that I’m a member of a relatively small and somewhat exclusive group. The group comprises 10 percent of all taxpayers in the United States and yet, we collectively pay 70 percent of the $1.1 trillion dollars in income taxes collected. We do this knowing that 40 percent of the population pays no income tax at all. We do it even after listening to class warriors suggest that the “rich” don’t pay their fair share. We do it year in and year out, griping a little maybe, but voluntarily writing the check on April 15th.

To put what we do in perspective, every year we pay just about the same amount as the entire financial institution bailout—about $700,000,000,000, with no expectation of a return and no real desire to get one. All we ask is that the President, congressional leadership, and members of Congress—the folks who write laws and instantiate legislation—protect us from the irresponsible people who can put our financial lives in jeopardy. It appears that’s too much to ask.

It’s likely that the $700B bailout will show a long term return and the taxpayers will be off the hook for a substantial percentage of that money. After all, beneath all of the bad paper and unpaid loans there sits actual real estate—houses, condos, apartment units and the like. In the long term the housing market will revive and those assets will be sold off—in many cases at a profit from the deeply discounted rates at which the bailout will purchase the loans. But if there is a liability, 10 percent of the taxpayers will be left holding 70 percent of the bag. I wonder if Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid think that's fair?

Saturday, September 27, 2008


In a unique style that is his, and his alone, Bill Whittle writes an intriguing essay recounting his recent experience passing a kidney stone, and somehow at the same time, tells us everything we need to know about the current financial crisis. He begins:
The only thing I remember about the drive to the hospital was that it was slow. I scratched my name on some forms, left my clothes on the bathroom floor after getting undressed, and didn’t give one sweet damn about any of that gown nonsense. I staggered out just holding the thing on. Because by now, my friends, my world was just a white-hot blinding light — all around me, the entire room was just bathed in that wall of pain and the only thing I cared about was getting that shot.

Whittle had let his health insurance lapse, but off to the hospital he went. His pain was excruciating and as is the case in most hospitals, he waited and waited to be seen…
But the fact is, after two hours of this I was screaming and cursing and calling out to God and Jesus and whoever else would listen. And all that second Demerol shot did was take that bright light down from filling the room to being a single, white-hot spot the size of my fist moving down and to the right at the speed of L.A. traffic. So after three hours of this, I was reduced to simply mewling, and at about 3:30 P.M., the doctor went away for 15 minutes and when he came back he gave me a shot of Dilaudid, which is the name I will give to my first child, male or female.

I’d been in serious pain only once before, about 20 years ago, when I cracked a molar that lit into the nerve that runs through your jaw. That put me on the floor, too — right quick. That was a toothache I felt in my hip. And the thing I remember about that time and on Friday too, was a sense that when you are in that universe of pain for three or four hours there simply is no other side to it. You can’t remember, and you can’t imagine, what it would feel like not to hurt.

So imagine my delight, ten minutes later, to see the hallway door melt away as room was filled with unicorns! Little cartoon unicorns, each with a silky mane of bright blue or green or pink . . . and when they giggled — which was continuously — they would lift up their little tails and rainbows would emerge. And in that one wonderful moment as my eyes rolled back and the white-hot light faded away and vanished — in that blissful instant I suddenly understood with perfect clarity the whole Hope and Change thing. I had gone from the horrible, nasty, mean Republican America to the other America. And it’s a much better place, it really is.

Whittle goes on to recount how his father suffered with the same condition many years ago, had painful surgeries and then …
I don’t want that experience. Just about any remedy, no matter how horrible, would be better than that. But I have re-negotiated my new job to include health insurance. Why today and not three years ago? Because I just came through a world of hurt. I don’t ever want to go through that again.

And this is my concern about the $700 billion kidney stone the economy is trying to pass. It seems to me that if we are going to change behaviors then the people who got us into this mess need to feel a little pain. If the hospital was handing out free Dilaudid every day my first question would be “what time do you guys open?” I’d pass 50 kidney stones a day if I could get to play with the unicorns instead of suffering for it.

Every decision we make is based on a risk/reward calculation. If we take away the consequences of risky behavior, we will see more of it. And if there’s a money-back guarantee for greedy and stupid decisions, we’re in real trouble, because there is only so much money in the bank but supplies of greed and stupidity are endless.

So how do we inflict some badly-needed pain on people who need to feel it, without hurting the rest of the good and honest folks who pay their bills responsibility? Well, there are three simple rules that we must follow. Unfortunately, no one knows what those three rules are. So here we are. I’m as flummoxed as the rest of you.

But there are a few simple rules that all of us should learn as we move forward.

Rule 1. Sometimes seemingly good ideas have unintended negative consequences. There are many reasons for this debacle and many villains, but it all began when politicians decided that every American, regardless of their financial position should have an opportunity to buy a home. A good idea on its face. Financing rules were relaxed, new mortgage products were created and loans were offered to people who had no real likelihood of paying them back. As long as housing prices rose, it all seemed good, but then, the bottom fell out. Now, it's true that taking out a loan you can't really afford is irresponsible, but that's human nature. What we needed and didn't get were political safeguards and ethical, responsible behavior within the financial community.

Rule 2. It seems that modern politicians, with very few exceptions care about only two things: (1) getting themselves reelected and (2) using partisan advantage to consolidate power so that reelection can be achieved. The actions of congressional leadership over the past few days have been shameful. It seemed that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were more interested in allocating blame and ducking for political cover than they were in developing a meaningful short-term fix for the problem. Congressman Barney Frank, the committee chairman who blocked any reform of FannyMae and FreddieMac in 2005, now had the audacity to criticize everyone but himself. Congressional Republicans were overcome with ideology and, it seemed, were perfectly willing the blow everything up to make a point. Disgraceful.

Rule 3. Wall Street can no longer be trusted to create financial instruments that have a net long-term benefit for the economy. As a consequence of greed and irresponsible, unethical behavior, the Masters of the Universe in lower Manhattan put our entire financial system in jeopardy. There needs to be bloodletting and the Masters of the Universe need to feel pain, real pain. How? How's this for a thought? Federal law currently holds boards of directors personally and financially liable for malfeasance in the manner in which they control a company. Why not modify federal law to hold the CEO and senior members of the staff of selected major financial institutions personally and financially liable for damages caused as a consequence of malfeasance in the creation and/or sale of exotic investment vehicles. If losses are in the tens of billions and are deemed to be the result of these vehicles and “malfeasance” has occurred in their creation or sale, entities who have lost monies have the right to sue. Just the threat of billion dollar law suits against individuals will, I think, cause many Masters of the Universe to think twice. In addition, how about tying executive bonuses not only to their firm's short-term performance but also to overall performance of the markets, the economy, and the dollar in the longer term. Bonues are delayed to see whether unintended consequences occur. Unfair? Hardly. In fact, it might cause some Masters of the Universe to think twice before designing derivatives that could have broad, deleterious affects over the long term.

As Bill Whittle says at the end of his piece:
My own irresponsibility got me looking at 50 years of age without health insurance. I’m going to owe that hospital about two grand for this adventure. If you think I won’t miss that two grand, then you have over-estimated the financial value of internet punditry. But it’s my obligation; it’s my debt. I owe it and I’ll pay it, and I’ll try to remain focused on the fact that it could have been much, much worse. It was only that pain that got me to change my ways. [He signed up for Health Insurance afterward.]

Is that too much to ask of this [financial] mess? That from whatever pain we have to endure, we can perhaps learn enough from it so that we don’t go through this again?

It’s not too much to ask, but if the past is prologue, politicians, Masters of the Universe and even the general public won’t learn much at all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Over the past few months, I've discussed the Barack Obama – William Ayers association with specific reference to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC)—a $50 million educational initiative chaired by Obama and to a large extent, conceived and controlled (at least in its early stages) by Ayers, an extreme Left radical whose group, the Weather Underground, bombed federal buildings during the late 60s and 70s. Stanley Kurtz provides background on the CAC:
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.

The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

After a minor confrontation (with unnamed pro-Obama forces) that finally resulted in the release of the CAC archival papers, Kurtz is now able to provide greater insight:
The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

It’s important to understand the import of this finding. Obama and Ayers played to oldest game in political corruption—funding friendly organizations (e.g., ACORN) regardless of their competence or merit—rather than funding the programs and people (e.g., teachers, specific schools) who might actually get something accomplished. So, the CAC papers indicate that Obama and his colleagues turned down programs to improve math and science education. but instead, felt it essential to fund "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC and controlled by Ayers), in which individual schools built around specific political themes that pushed at-risk students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence."

Ayers gets big bucks from Obama to propagandize students, Obama gets political backing that causes his star to rise, and the students, well, they get nothing that leads to better English, math or science scores.

Yeah, that’s a “new kind of politics” that we can all believe in. Corrupt, cynical, ideological, and self serving.

Wait … that’s not new at all. That’s Chicago politics and that’s where Barack Obama learned his craft.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The ongoing meme of the Obama campaign and its supporters is that Sarah Palin is a rube, completely inexperienced, and no match for Joe Biden on any front. How do you think they and the MSM would react if she said this in response to a question about the financial crisis:
"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"

The MSM (not to mention Obama’s people) would smile knowingly and suggest that Palin doesn’t know anything about technology or political history.

I can see it now …

Keith Oberman of MSNBC would exclaim, “Virtually no one in the United States owned a TV (they we experimental devices relegated to research labs at that time). Palin is an idiot!”

Wolf Blitzer of CNN would comment in a more measured manner. “It’s apparent," he might say, "that Sarah Palin has her facts wrong. FDR wasn’t the President at that time. It was Herbert Hoover.”

There’s only one problem. Palin never said it. Joe Biden did. To Katie Couric in an interview on CBS News.

Didn’t hear about it? Boy, that’s surprising.

No Credit

The credit market debacle that has played out over the past few weeks has many causes, but one overriding theme—irresponsibility. At the bottom, borrowers were irresponsible for agreeing to mortgages that they knew they couldn’t afford, irrationally hoping that housing prices would rise indefinitely. Mortgage lenders were irresponsible for offering loans that lured house buyers in with low initial payments and then ballooned into crushing debt payments in just a few years. Politicians on both sides of the aisle were irresponsible for allowing political correctness and racial politics to drive changes in regulations that lowered limits on the credit worthiness of borrowers. Wall street firms were irresponsible for packaging and reselling the debt without regard to risk should the housing market tank (as it did). Along came a housing market crash, and we had the perfect storm.

Top to bottom—irresponsibility, and who pays—those of us who are responsible, who pay our taxes and keep our debt low, that’s who.

David Brooks comments on the current drama:
Inspired in part by Paul Volcker, Nicholas Brady and Eugene Ludwig, and announced last week, the Paulson plan is a pure establishment play. It would assign nearly unlimited authority to a small coterie of policy makers. It does not rely on any system of checks and balances, but on the wisdom and public spiritedness of those in charge. It offers succor to the investment banks that contributed to this mess and will burn through large piles of taxpayer money. But in exchange, it promises to restore confidence. Somebody, amid all the turmoil, will occupy the commanding heights. Somebody will have the power to absorb debt and establish stability.

Liberals and conservatives generally dislike the plan. William Greider of The Nation writes: “If Wall Street gets away with this, it will represent an historic swindle of the American public — all sugar for the villains, lasting pain and damage for the victims.”

He approvingly quotes the conservative economist Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics: “The joyous reception from Congressional Democrats to Paulson’s latest massive bailout proposal smells an awful lot like yet another corporatist love fest between Washington’s one-party government and the Sell Side investment banks.”

Thanks to their criticism, the plan will be pinned back. Oversight will be put in place. But the plan will probably not be stopped. The markets would tank. There is a hunger for stability, which only the Treasury and the Fed can provide.

So we have arrived at one of those moments. The global financial turmoil has pulled nearly everybody out of their normal ideological categories. The pressure of reality has compelled new thinking about the relationship between government and the economy. And lo and behold, a new center and a new establishment is emerging.

It is, indeed, “one of those moments.” It is not a time for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in what appears to be a reflex reaction for her, to fall back on partisan politics. It is a time to allow adults (and that eliminates about half of congress including the its leadership) to manage (note I did not say solve) this problem expeditiously. After markets stabilize, we can have hearings, pass regulation and play the blame game that is Washington raison d'etre. But today, let’s move to get things under control. Country first.

It Makes No Cents

Looks like the penny has been redesigned. The Los Angeles Times comments:
In honor of the upcoming bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, the U.S. Mint is giving the 100-year-old Lincoln penny a new look. The front will continue to show his profile, but the Lincoln Memorial on the back will be replaced by images that are intended to evoke different aspects of his life, such as a log cabin and young Abe sitting on a log, reading. This is expected to create a big buzz in the coin-collecting world, but in truth, the only makeover the penny needs is a disappearing act.

The shiny copper veneer of pennies made after 1983 hides a heart of zinc, and even so, depending on the value of the metals involved, the cent sometimes costs more than a cent to make. Lincoln, a self-taught man born to poverty, knew the value of a penny back when it had real value, and most likely he would have found its continued existence wasteful and downright silly.

Except as a coin to rummage around for in your pocket or purse -- hoping to come up with the right change lest the cashier dump more pennies on you -- the cent has outlived its usefulness. Phasing it out would require simply that we round amounts off to the nearest nickel, which might sound frightening to those who watch their pennies. No doubt there were similar fears when the United States stopped coining the half-cent in 1857. Even back then, the copper was worth more than the coin itself.

On its face (no pun intended), the redesign of the penny is innocuous enough. But at a deeper level, it’s an important indicator of the utter inability of our government leaders to make rational decisions, of their slavish adherence to polling data, and of the undue influence of lobbyists in virtually every aspect of our lives.

The penny is obsolete. You can’t buy anything with it. It costs 1.2 - 1.4 cents to make a penny, meaning that the government loses money on every cent that is made. You constantly hear, “You can keep the pennies” at cash registers across America. Small stores leave bowls of pennies at the register to help make change—they wouldn’t do that with dimes or quarters. And yet, rather than phasing out the penny, the US Mint redesigns it.

Why? Our congressional “leaders” are either too lazy, too stupid, or too influenced by copper and zinc industry lobbyists to stop making this coin. Oh, and since 2/3 of Americans want to keep the coin (according to a metal industry lobbying group), Congress argues that it’s the right thing to do. Real leadership there.

And these are the guys we entrust with “oversight" of the current credit industry bailout. Incredible.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I noticed that tonight’s edition of CNN’s Larry King Show features comedian Joy Behar of The View. The topic of discussion: “Why Sarah Palin is dangerous for America.” It appears that there will be no counterpoint offered, but that’s not unusual for CNN.

I find it ironic that Behar, a Left-wing comedian and celebrity, would be selected as an expert in: (1) politics, (2) Sarah Palin, and (3) what’s dangerous for America. But that’s the current state of discourse on CNN as the presidential election approaches.

Undoubtedly, Behar will attack Palin because she does not exemplify the Left’s ideal woman. The fact that she was a mayor and a governor who challenged corruption in her own political party holds no sway in Behar’s world. Palin will be accused of “inexperience” even though she has significantly more executive experience than Behar’s candidate, Barack Obama. Palin will be accused of duplicity, even though she fought corruption in her local and state political system, while Obama embraced what is arguably the nation’s most corrupt political machine—Chicago politics.

Many in politics, the media, academia, and Hollywood have tried to characterize Palin as a buffoon. She, they claim, is an Alaskan yokel who they dismiss with either derisive laugher or deranged criticism. They refuse to recognize that every time they castigate Palin, they put Obama’s anorexic qualifications for the Presidency into play.

Victor Davis Hanson comments:
I am not calling for yokelism, or a proponent of false-populism. Rather, I wish to remind everyone that there are two fonts of wisdom: formal education, and the tragic world of physical challenge and ordeal. Both are necessary to be broadly educated. Familiarity with Proust or Kant is impressive, but not more impressive than the ability to wire your house or unclog the labyrinth of pipes beneath it.

In this regard, I think Palin can speak, and reason, and navigate with bureaucrats and lawyers as well as can Obama; but he surely cannot understand hunters, and mechanics and carpenters like she can. And a Putin or a Chavez or a Wall-Street speculator that runs a leverage brokerage house is more a hunter than a professor or community organizer. Harvard Law School is not as valuable a touchstone to human nature as raising five children in Alaska while going toe-to-toe with pretty tough, hard-nose Alaskan males.

The world is a hard place, populated not by contemplative academics but by “hunters” who will not view nuance as a virtue but rather as a weakness. “Hunters” will act without regard to the politically correct niceties of the Left. Our leaders will have to have the wisdom to make real-time decisions without complete information. They will have to truly understand human nature and act not from ideology, but experience. Hanson continues:
What is wisdom? Not necessarily degrees, glibness, poise, or factual recall, but the ability to understand human nature. And that requires two simple things: an inductive method of reasoning to look at the world empirically, and a body of knowledge and experience to draw on for guidance.

In terms of "degrees, glibness, poise, or factual recall," Obama wins hands down. Too bad that's not enough to handle the "hunters." It's the other stuff that really matters.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The 8000 lb Elephant

In a thoughtful piece in the NYT, David Brooks discusses “Why Experience Matters.” In the article Brooks contends that Sarah Palin’s populist experience is real, but that it doesn’t translate well for the role of Vice President.

Discussing those who defend her, Brooks writes:
There was a time when conservatives did not argue about this. Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said.

But, especially in America, there has always been a separate, populist, strain. For those in this school, book knowledge is suspect but practical knowledge is respected. The city is corrupting and the universities are kindergartens for overeducated fools.

The elitists favor sophistication, but the common-sense folk favor simplicity. The elitists favor deliberation, but the populists favor instinct.

This populist tendency produced the term-limits movement based on the belief that time in government destroys character but contact with grass-roots America gives one grounding in real life. And now it has produced Sarah Palin.

Palin is the ultimate small-town renegade rising from the frontier to do battle with the corrupt establishment. Her followers take pride in the way she has aroused fear, hatred and panic in the minds of the liberal elite. The feminists declare that she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t hew to their rigid categories. People who’ve never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany.

Look at the condescension and snobbery oozing from elite quarters, her backers say. Look at the endless string of vicious, one-sided attacks in the news media. This is what elites produce. This is why regular people need to take control.

But then Brooks argues that a reformers “experience” must also be coupled with the prudence to effectively govern. He writes:
What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

Is Palin the “best prepared?” Any honest observer would have to say that she is not. But there's a far bigger issue that Brooks fails to mention.

An invisible 8,000 lb. elephant sits precariously at the corner of every printed or electronic page that’s been written about Sarah Palin’s lack of experience. Every reader, every editor, and every columnist knows the elephant is there, but few who question Palin’s experience want to describe it. The elephant, of course, is Barack Obama’s profound lack of experience—not just experience required to be Vice President but experience that is required from day one as President of the United States.

And for those who think Obama has the requisite experience, I have only a single question. What exactly is this experience? Please enunciate it explicitly.

It can’t be “executive experience” because Obama has never been a mayor or a governor or a corporate manager, or a military leader. It can’t be “legislative experience,” because the Senator has never authored any legislation of consequence at either the state or federal level. It can’t be economic experience because the democratic nominee has never held a position (such a corporate manager, government official, or Chairman of a Senate committee) where he had responsibility for economic decision-making. It can’t be foreign policy experience because his background in this area is remarkably weak. It can’t be generic leadership experience because until his campaign, Obama has led exactly nothing except one failed educational $50 million effort in Chicago.

But it seems that only Palin’s lack of experience matters. And the elephant sits at the corner of every page and laughs.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Enemy

Over the past six months I have repeatedly expressed concern about Barack Obama’s lack of experience, his lack of any meaningful legislative accomplishments, his growing list of highly questionable associations, and his extreme Left ideology. But the most troubling aspect of the Democratic Presidential candidate is how little we know about him. The MSM has done more to “vet” Sarah Palin in three weeks than it has in the 18 months that Barack Obama has been running for President. Because the media is clearly avoiding any negative information about their Chosen One, the man remains a cipher for most of the electorate.

We are, therefore, left to fend for ourselves. The problem is that his past history is very hazy. Very few “acquaintances” have been interviewed to give us insight, there is little investigative history about his time in New York after his graduation from Columbia, his time at Harvard, and his time in Chicago and his association with Wright, Resko and Ayers.

It turns out that the most telling insights about Barack Obama are presented in his own words in the memoir, Dreams of My Father, that he wrote before he decided to run for the Senate or for President. In Chapter 7 (pp. 55-56) he writes about the years after he graduated from Columbia and before he moved to Chicago:
… And so, in the months leading up to graduation, I wrote to every civil rights organization I could think of, to any black elected official in the country with a progressive agenda, to neighborhood councils and tenant rights groups. When no one wrote back, I wasn’t discouraged. I decided to find more conventional work for a year, to pay off my student loans and maybe even save a little bit. I would need the money later, I told myself. Organizers didn’t make any money; their poverty was proof of their integrity.

Eventually a consulting house to multinational corporations agreed to hire me as a research assistant. Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across the globe. As far as I could tell I was the only black man in the company, a source of shame for me but a source of considerable pride for the company’s secretarial pool. They treated me like a son, those black ladies; they told me how they expected me to run the company one day…

I know that Obama was still a young man at that point, inexperienced and idealistic, but his use of the phrase “Like a spy behind enemy lines,” is illuminating.

Who, exactly was the “enemy?” It’s reasonable to conclude that the enemy was either wall street or corporate business or the world of finance. After I got my undergraduate degree, I looked at the world of business as many things—a mystery, a challenge, a complex system—but an enemy?

What a strange reference.

There is, of course, one ideology that does look at business as the “enemy.” It rails against the “big corporations,” condemns capitalism, uses “profit” as a dirty word, and suggests, as both Barack and Michele Obama have done, that there’s something not quite right about someone who chooses the world of business over service to the state. At its most benign, that ideology is socialist. At its most virulent, it’s Marxist.

Maybe when Barack Obama wrote pp. 55 – 56 he chose his words poorly, but I doubt that’s the case. He meant what he said. I can only wonder if deep down, the cipher still believes it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Economic Laboratory

Although the Obama campaign was perfectly willing to run with the Senator’s cult of personality while woman fainted at his campaign rallies and poll numbers gave him 10 percentage point leads, they now decry the obsessive media focus on Sarah Palin and (in a bit of a panic) suggest that it’s time to address the real issues that matter. Number one on their list is the economy.

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Phil Gramm and Mike Solon use an interesting approach for analyzing the candidates' economic plans. They contend that each of the states “exercise substantial freedom in pursuing their own economic fortune -- or misfortune. As a result, the states provide a laboratory for testing various policies.”

Using 16 policy variables developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), they examine a “competitive index” which indicates that "generally speaking, states that spend less, especially on income transfer programs, and states that tax less, particularly on productive activities such as working or investing, experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more."

For 10 years culminating in 2006, per-capita income growth and job creation were highest in Texas, Florida and Arizona—all states with low taxes, right to work laws that blunt the power of unions, relatively low minimum wages, and relatively modest wealth transfer programs (e.g., state welfare programs). One third of all new jobs in the US were created in these states.

States with the poorest per-capita income growth and job creation were Illinois, Ohio and Michigan—high tax states with strong laws providing advantages to labor unions, high minimum wages and aggressive wealth transfer programs.

Gramm and Solon comment:
What explains this relative performance over the last 10 years? The simple answer is that governance, taxes and regulatory policy matter. The playing field among the states was not flat. Business conditions were better in the successful states than in the lagging ones. Capital and labor gravitated to where the burdens were smaller and the opportunities greater.

It costs state taxpayers far less to succeed than to fail. In the three most successful states, state spending averaged $5,519 per capita. In the three least successful states, state spending averaged $6,484 per capita. Per capita taxes were $7,063 versus $8,342.

At first blush, fevered talk about “taxing the rich” and “making them pay their fair share” (the top 1 percent currently pays almost 30 percent of all income taxes collected, but apparently, that’s not fair enough for Barack Obama) has an appeal to the vast majority the electorate.

But as the states clearly demonstrate, high taxation, regulation, and government growth do little to improve our economic conditions. Gramm and Solon believe that the country as a whole will follow the lead of the states, at least as far as economic policy is concerned:
So what do the state laboratories tell us about the potential success of the economic programs presented by Barack Obama and John McCain?

Mr. McCain will lower taxes. Mr. Obama will raise them, especially on small businesses. To understand why, you need to know something about the "infamous" top 1% of income tax filers: In order to avoid high corporate tax rates and the double taxation of dividends, small business owners have increasingly filed as individuals rather than corporations. When Democrats talk about soaking the rich, it isn't the Rockefellers they're talking about; it's the companies where most Americans work. Three out of four individual income tax filers in the top 1% are, in fact, small businesses.

In the name of taxing the rich, Mr. Obama would raise the marginal tax rates to over 50% on millions of small businesses that provide 75% of all new jobs in America. Investors and corporations will also pay higher taxes under the Obama program, but, as the Michigan-Ohio-Illinois experience painfully demonstrates, workers ultimately pay for higher taxes in lower wages and fewer jobs.

Mr. Obama would spend all the savings from walking out of Iraq to expand the government. Mr. McCain would reserve all the savings from our success in Iraq to shrink the deficit, as part of a credible and internally consistent program to balance the budget by the end of his first term. Mr. Obama's program offers no hope, or even a promise, of ever achieving a balanced budget.

Mr. Obama would stimulate the economy by increasing federal spending. Mr. McCain would stimulate the economy by cutting the corporate tax rate. Mr. Obama would expand unionism by denying workers the right to a secret ballot on the decision to form a union, and would dramatically increase the minimum wage. Mr. Obama would also expand the role of government in the economy, and stop reforms in areas like tort abuse.

The states have already tested the McCain and Obama programs, and the results are clear. We now face a national choice to determine if everything that has failed the families of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois will be imposed on a grander scale across the nation. In an appropriate twist of fate, Michigan and Ohio, the two states that have suffered the most from the policies that Mr. Obama proposes, have it within their power not only to reverse their own misfortunes but to spare the nation from a similar fate.

The empirical data seem to indicate that although Senator Obama’s rhetoric suggests a “new politics,” his economic strategy is virtually identical to the thread-bare ideas of the past. If implemented, it would lead to even greater economic hardship.

If you don’t believe me, ask the people of Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Charlie, Charlie

Charles Gibson’s hard-hitting interview on ABC television with Sarah Palin exhibited the kind of questioning that all of us in the Center would like see much more often. Hard hitting, very aggressive, substantive, and focused are all adjectives that are fair to apply to his questions on foreign policy, religion, and global warming. With the exception of his "gotcha" question on the Bush Doctrine (I would bet that 98 percent of all senators, congressman and academics would have been unable to answer or understand it as it was presented), it was good journalism.

But there’s a problem … when Gibson conducted his first interview with Barack Obama in 2007, there were no hard-hitting questions, no aggressive follow-ups, no substantive exploration of Obama’s foreign policy knowledge, his association with his church, or his broad-based understanding of climate change. There were no gotcha questions either. And Obama was running for President.

Instead there were softball questions from Gibson like the following (from the interview transcript):
GIBSON: Your mom comes from the Pacific Northwest, migrates to Hawaii, goes to college there, right away, meets a dashing young Kenyan, gets pregnant and the result …

Obama smiles and answers with style.

GIBSON: How did you internalize that? [On his father deserting Obama’s family]

Obama looks very serious and responds.
GIBSON: For five years out of college, he worked to pay off student loans and was a community organizer in Chicago, which led him back to school, Harvard Law School, and on a summer job, met this young woman. (to Obama) Did you know right away?

Obama tells a romantic story. Note that his days as a community organizer were never explored. Too bad, there are some interesting and disturbing elements to that story. I suppose Charlie was in a better mood that night and wanted to hear about romance.

Finally after a softball introduction in which Gibson introduces Obama (none of that for Palin, it was all strictly business), Gibson asked the question he asked Palin out of the box:
GIBSON: So did you think to yourself, 'Barack, what kind of hubris is this that I am thinking about being President?"

But surely, there were other questions that had more substance, right? He must have following up that question by probing Obama's experience? He must have asked about the Senator's foreign policy background?

Nope. That was it.

So it appears that hard hitting, very aggressive, substantive, and focused questions are appropriate for an introductory interview of a VP candidate who the MSM has decided to despise, but wholly inappropriate for a candidate for President that they have chosen to promote.

Nah, there’s no media bias. Not a bit.

We Are the World

Sometimes, the best way to get a fresh look at the US presidential election is to examine how those outside of the US are reacting to the race. The MSM was eager to trumpet a worldwide poll indicating overwhelming support for Barack Obama in many countries. It’s reasonable to note. however, that each of those countries has zero electoral votes and that their interests do not always coincide with those of the United States.

As they learn that Barack Obama and John McCain are dead even in the polls, many Europeans are nonplussed. Gerard Baker of the Times of London online provides us with useful insight:
Travelling in Britain this week, I've been asked repeatedly by close followers of US politics if it can really be true that Barack Obama might not win. Thoughtful people cannot get their head around the idea that Mr Obama, exciting new pilot of change, supported by Joseph Biden, experienced navigator of the swamplands of Washington politics, could possibly be defeated.

They look upon John McCain and Sarah Palin and see something out of hag-ridden history: the wizened old warrior, obsessed with finding enemies in every corner of the globe, marching in lockstep with the crackpot, mooseburger-chomping mother from the wilds of Alaska, rifle in one hand, Bible in the other, smiting caribou and conventional science as she goes.

Two patronising explanations are adduced to explain why Americans are going wrong. The first is racism. I've dealt with this before and it has acquired no more merit. White supremacists haven't been big on Democratic candidates, whatever their colour, for a long time, and Mr Obama's race is as likely to generate enthusiasm among blacks and young voters as it is hostility among racists.

In a similarly condescending account, those foolish saps are being conned into voting for Mr McCain because they like his running-mate. Her hockey-mom charm and storybook career appeals to their worst instincts. The race is boiling down to a beauty contest in which a former beauty queen is stealing the show. Believe this if it helps you come to terms with the possibility of a Democratic defeat. But there really are better explanations.

Baker goes on the suggest that our election is really “a struggle between the followers of American exceptionalism and the supporters of global universalism.” The Democrats perceive the UN as an effective arbiter of worldwide conflict and Europe as an ideal society in which high taxes and tight business regulation are used to provide cradle to grave economic, medical, and social support for all citizens. They believe that Europe’s hesitancy (and often refusal) to enter into hard conflict is an evolved position. Republicans question the effectiveness of a corrupt UN and prefer a state that provides basic services but still insists that citizens take personal responsibility for their lives. They believe that hard power is often necessary and suggest that Euros have the luxury of conflict avoidance because the United States is there to cover their back.

I think Baker oversimplifies the situation, but he does correctly address major elements of the differences between the American right and left.

From the European point of view, Barack Obama is a natural choice. He is the epitome of what a European leader should be. It’s for that reason that they can’t understand why he isn’t leading McCain by 20 points in the polls.

Baker analyzes why many Americans are not as enamored of Obama as his compatriots in Europe:
The essential problem coming to light is a profound disconnect between the Barack Obama of the candidate's speeches, and the Barack Obama who has actually been in politics for the past decade or so.

Speechmaker Obama has built his campaign on the promise of reform, the need to change the culture of American political life, to take on the special interests that undermine government's effectiveness and erode trust in the system itself,

Politician Obama rose through a Chicago machine that is notoriously the most corrupt in the country … He [Obama] refused repeatedly to side with those lonely voices that sought to challenge the old corrupt ways of the ruling party.

Speechmaker Obama talks about an era of bipartisanship, He speaks powerfully about the destructive politics of red and blue states.

Politician Obama has toed his party's line more reliably than almost any other Democrat in US politics. He has a near-perfect record of voting with his side …

Even though the MSM has done everything in its power to blunt these inconsistencies, they are coming to light, and the public is beginning to ask hard questions. Obama now looks like any other politician, making his lack of experience, his non-existent legislative accomplishments, and his questionable associations all the more relevant.

Baker writes:
Here's the real problem with Mr Obama: the jarring gap between his promises of change and his status quo performance. There are just too many contradictions between the eloquent poetry of the man's stirring rhetoric and the dull, familiar prose of his political record.

In truth, Obama’s soaring rhetoric early in the campaign set impossibly high expectations for the man. As many questions about the man remain unanswered, he had come back down to earth. The question for his campaign is stark. Will he land smoothly and capture the presidency, or will he crash and burn. Time will tell.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Soft Power

Both Barack Obama and John McCain will visit the site of the World Trade Center on this seventh anniversary of 9/11. What’s most interesting isn’t what they say today, but rather what they’ve said about the attack and it’s causes over the past seven years.

Amir Teheri discusses the two candidates' divergent views:
McCain's answer is simple (or, as Obama might suggest, simplistic): The United States was attacked because a resurgent Islam has produced a radicalism that dreams of world conquest and sees America as the enemy.

In different shapes and sizes and under a range of labels, that radical streak of Islam has waged war on America since 1979, when Khomeinists seized the US embassy in Tehran and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days. [Jimmy Carter was President at the time.]

The killing of 241 Marines in Beirut in 1983, the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 and a host of other operations that claimed more American lives were episodes in a war - the reality of which the United States faced only after 9/11.

McCain doesn't hesitate to acknowledge that his country is engaged in a Global War on Terror. He doesn't believe that 9/11 might've been prompted by some wrong America did to others. To him, the nation was an innocent victim of "Islamic terrorism."

McCain asserts, "America faces a dedicated, focused and intelligent foe in the War on Terrorism. This enemy will probe to find America's weaknesses and strike against them. The United States cannot afford to be complacent about the threat, naive about terrorist intentions, unrealistic about their capabilities, or ignorant to our national vulnerabilities."

He'd pursue and fight these "enemies" wherever they are - including, especially, in Iraq. "If we run away," he says, "they are going to follow us home."

All of this seems to be a bit too straightforward for the nation’s “elite” thinkers in academia, the arts, and the media, just too facile an explanation of what we face and why we face it. Their view, like Obama’s, is a bit more nuanced:
OBAMA, by contrast, doesn't use terms such as "the Global War on Terror" or "Islamic terrorism." Nor does he claim that America was simply an innocent victim.

In one speech, he used the image of a US helicopter flying over the poor countries in Africa and Asia, where it's seen as a symbol of oppression. He says his objective is to turn that helicopter into a symbol of American aid to the downtrodden.

For Obama, the threat comes not from terrorists but from "extremists" and their "program of hate." He never uses such terms as "jihadist," judging them hurtful to Muslims. He speaks of "violent extremists who are a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims."

In one speech, he claimed that the Islamists aim only at "creating a repressive caliphate." He seemingly hasn't heard of jihadist movements whose declared aim is to destroy the United States in the name of Islam.

The threat of terrorism has faded over the past seven years, just as it faded after each of the many terrorist events that were precursors to 9/11. Because there have been no follow-on attacks, the public is focusing elsewhere. That’s understandable, but it can also be dangerous in the long term.

If we elect an administration that will not name the enemy and believes that Islamofascists act out of “oppression” rather than religious zealotry, our efforts against this existential threat will again fade, much like they did during the Clinton era. The result will be another 9/11-like event.

Barack Obama believes that “soft power” is the solution, that foreign aid, continuing dialog, negotiation and the like will obviate the need for “hard power”—an option that is anathema to Obama and his followers. Tehani describes his soft power approach:
He plans to double US foreign aid to $50 billion a year, allocate a further $20 billion to offering "alternatives to madrassa education" in Muslim countries, provide Afghanistan with another $1 billion a year in support and spend $5 billion on a "Shared Security Partnership Program" with foreign governments.

And he promises to "bolster our ability to speak different languages and understand different cultures" - as if America's unique cultural spectrum didn't already include large numbers of speakers of every living language, with millions of immigrants each year. Sorry: The nation was not attacked because Americans don't speak Arabic or don't understand Saudi or Egyptian cultures.

Obama also says he'll open "America Houses" in Muslim capitals. These would be community centers with libraries, Internet cafes and English-language classes. Has he considered the possibility that these might become prime targets for terrorists?

Plus, he'd set up an "America's Voice Corps," which would recruit and train thousands of young Americans to go to Muslim countries to explain "American values" and, in return, "listen to Islamic voices."

More important, perhaps, Obama promises to attend "a significant Islamic forum" (presumably, the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference) within his first 100 days in the White House. He believes that the magic of his eloquence might do what America's hard power has failed to achieve. In an early version of this idea, Obama wanted to invite all Muslim heads of state to a Washington summit. He doesn't realize that this would endorse the claim that Islam merits a special treatment even in international relations.

Idealism is a wonderful thing, but it can rapidly become problematic when it forgets the lessons of history and refuses to see the world as it really is.

All of us want to use software power, but many of us in the Center recognize that soft power works best when you’re dealing with “soft” adversaries—people who are driven by reason rather than fanaticism, people who are willing to compromise their beliefs in an effort to achieve agreement, people who truly want to live in peace and are willing to give something up to do. Islamists are none of those things. They are “hard” people and they will not respond to soft power unless they are forced to do so by hard power.

The harsh reality of all of human history is that hard power make "hard" people "soft." When it is applied properly, it makes hard people amenable to soft power. Obama and his followers may not like this reality, but the span of history confirms it.

Barack Obama appears to be constitutionally unable to recognize this fact, much like Jimmy Carter was unable to recognize it almost 30 years ago. Carter's “soft power” actions in 1979 precipitated a cascade of events that, it can be reasonably argued, resulting in the tragic event whose anniversary we recognize today. I can only wonder whether a President Barack Obama‘s decisions in 2009 might lead to some other sad anniversary 30 years hence.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Writing in Salon online, Professor Juan Cole, a professor who, I think it's fair to say, espouses a philosophy that is extreme Left, continues the current anti-Palin mime by criticizing the VP candidate in the following way:
Sept. 9, 2008 | John McCain announced that he was running for president to confront the "transcendent challenge" of the 21st century, "radical Islamic extremism," contrasting it with "stability, tolerance and democracy." But the values of his handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God's will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.

Lipstick? That's all, just Lipstick?

I agree that there is a certain irony when Christian-Right fundamentalists try impose their views on others … you might call what they do Taliban-lite.

It appears that all religious fanatics (regardless of religion) lack a sense of proportion and a sense of humor. Luckily, their efforts at imposing their views within the USA have been met with relatively limited success and almost no violence.

But to suggest that the only thing that distinguishes Palin from Hamas is “Lipstick” is so ridiculous that I’m almost embarrassed for Cole. He is either so consumed with post-modern moral equivalence that he can’t think clearly or so misinformed that he honestly thinks that Hamas, Saudi Arabia, and other islamist regimes are no more dangerous than the Governor of Alaska.

Robert Spencer comments:
Witless moral equivalence and hysteria from the estimable Juan Cole. Note, first, the sleight of hand that Cole tries to pull off by claiming that "on censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God's will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts." Palin disagrees with Cole on these issues, to be sure, but does she really oppose "democratic precepts" on them? Does she want to dismantle the American Republic and impose a totalitarian order, a la Sharia?

I doubt it. But of course that is not the only difference, besides lipstick, between Palin and Osama. It is strange to have to spell this out, like explaining how to boil water to a particularly slow-witted chef. Palin, you see, does not advocate, pace Cole, the replacement of U. S. Constitutional law with religious law. She does not advocate, and does not plot, the mass murder of workers in office buildings. She does not promise people that they will be rewarded with unlimited sex in Paradise if they murder unbelievers. She does not teach that those who steal should have their hands amputated, that those who commit adultery should be stoned to death, or that those who leave her religion should be murdered. She does not advocate the consignment of women to veils, burqas, and confinement to the inner chambers of the home.

Need I go on? Isn't this obvious?

It is obvious, unless your world view is so distorted that only one orthodoxy is permitted and anyone with opposing views must be considered evil (Oops, forgot, postmodernists never use that word. After all, there is no evil in their through-the-looking-glass world, only the oppressed and the oppressors.)

If Obama supporters continue with their deranged criticism of Palin, they will single-handedly give the election to their opponents. It’s interesting to watch.

Sliming Sarah

Whether you like Sarah Palin or not, it’s dishonest to promulgate the many outright lies that have been spread about her. Yet many have adopted these lies as “proof” that she’s a Christian right extremist who would, if given a chance, impose her views on those of us who disagree with her religious philosophy., a nonpartisan fact checking website, lays a few of the most egregious claims to rest:
We’ve been flooded for the past few days with queries about dubious Internet postings and mass e-mail messages making claims about McCain’s running mate, Gov. Palin. We find that many are completely false, or misleading.

* Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn’t cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years.

* She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated list were not even in print at the time. The librarian has said Palin asked a "What if?" question, but the librarian continued in her job through most of Palin's first term.

* She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She’s been registered as a Republican since May 1982.

* Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president. She once wore a Buchanan button as a "courtesy" when he visited Wasilla, but shortly afterward she was appointed to co-chair of the campaign of Steve Forbes in the state.

• Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools. She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

Like many Americans, I disagree with Palin’s personal views on a woman’s right to choose, on gay rights, and a variety of other issues. But it appears that her views are personal and that she has not made any attempt to impose them on others.

What’s troubling is that the MSM has not made any effort to report the facts and debunk the notion that the claims noted above are true. It’s almost as if they’re perfectly happy to allow people to believe what they believe. Contrast that with how the MSM flies into action to debunk any lie about Barack Obama.

I expect to see the MSM examine the demonstrable facts that might mitigate against Sarah Palin as a VP candidate. That's their job. But the MSM should also examine the facts that might mitigate against Barack Obama becoming the next President. Seems like they’re perfectly willing to address the former, but completely unwilling to approach the latter.

Friday, September 05, 2008


The pivotal Obama campaign talking point over the past few days is Sarah Palin’s “inexperience” coupled with the not-so-subtle implication that John McCain’s age makes her chances of becoming President non-trivial. They argue that Palin is "unqualified" and imply that McCain may die in office. On the other hand, they fervently believe (against all evidence to the contrary) that Barack Obama is experienced and qualified.

James Taranto makes a sardonic comment about McCain’s age and Palin’s “inexperience” when he writes:
If you're concerned about Sarah Palin's lack of experience, Politico's Alexander Burns has some numbers that ought to put your mind at ease:
For a man who has lived 72 years and 67 days (McCain's age on Election Day this year), there is between a 14.2 and 15.1 percent chance of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, according to the Social Security Administration's 2004 actuarial tables and the authoritative 2001 mortality statistics assembled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Going by the Social Security Administration's tables, that's nearly ten times the likelihood that a man aged 47 years and 92 days (Barack Obama's age on Election Day this year) will die before Jan. 20, 2013.

Let's take the average of the two figures and say that McCain has a 14.65% likelihood of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, while Obama's likelihood is 1.465%.

For the sake of argument, assume further that Joe Biden and John McCain are equally qualified to be president, and Sarah Palin is as unqualified as Barack Obama.

That means that if McCain is elected, there is better than an 85% chance that America will have a qualified president at the end of the term. If Obama is elected, the likelihood of having an unqualified president at term's end is higher than 98.5%.

Taranto is joking, of course, but it's still an interesting way to look at it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Trap

Whether they did it on purpose or it occurred as an unintended consequence of Sarah Palin's selection, the McCain campaign set a intricate trap for the Obama campaign and it’s legions of shills in the MSM. For the past week, McCain’s judgment was questioned by MSM pundits and reporters across the land. Vicious commentary and reporting was directed at Palin herself. It appeared that the Obama attack machine wanted to assassinate Sarah Palin verbally before she even had a chance to emerge as a vice presidential nominee.

But then – The Speech.

In less than 40 minutes she was able to use grace, humor, and hard-nosed politics to demolish her attackers, and at the same time, establish herself as a player to be reckoned with.

Prior to the speech, Maureen Dowd derisively referred to Palin as a “bantamweight cheerleader from the West.” The trap closed just a bit. Sally Quinn suggested that her nomination was an “insult to women, to the Republican Party, and to the country.” The trap got just a bit tighter. And dozens of reporters and talking heads in the MSM questioned her experience and fitness for the job. The trap clanged shut within the first 10 minutes of her speech.

The trap is simple in its intent. Every time Palin’s experience is questioned, listeners are reminded that Obama has even less. Every time her executive judgment is diminished, people are reminded that Obama has never been an executive, or a business person, or a leader in any meaningful sense. Every time her approach to bi-partisan politics in Alaska is mocked, people recognize that Obama was spawned in the corrupt politics of Chicago and did nothing to rectify corruption that was all around him (think: Tony Resko). Every time her “America first” mantra is dismissed as simplistic, people are reminded of Obama’s post-modern view of this country and his association with people like Bill Ayers who would, I think, put America last.

It’s interesting that the Democrats don’t see the trap and back off. Instead they attack, and attack, and attack and become even more ensnared.

Over time, they’ll likely realize what they’re doing to themselves and back out. But the bruises will be evident throughout the campaign.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


There is nothing more amusing than the sanctimonious outrage exhibited by MSM types when they are accused of political bias as they “report” on the presidential campaign, Here’s Newsweek’s Joe Klein complaining about the fact that the McCain-Palin campaign is a bit upset about the full-bore assault on Sarah Palin:
The second thing is more insidious: Steve Schmidt [McCain’s press aid] has decided, for tactical reasons, to slime the press. He wants the public to believe that there is an unfair--sexist (you gotta love it)--personal assault going on against Palin and her family. This is a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from the fact the very real and responsible vetting that is taking place in the media--about the substance of Palin's record as mayor and governor. Sure, there are a few outliers--and the tabloid press--who have fixed on baby stories. That was inevitable....the flip side of the personal stories that the McCain team thought would work to their advantage--Palin's moose-hunting and wolf-shooting, and her admirable decision to have a Down Syndrome baby. And yes, when we all fix on the same story, whether it's a hurricane or a little-known politician, a zoo ensues. But the media coverage of the Palin story has been well within the bounds of responsibility. Schmidt is trying to make it seem otherwise, a desperate tactic.

According the Klein, the Palin onslaught is a “very real and responsible vetting.” As I’ve mentioned in my last two posts, that’s wonderful. But where’s the MSM “vetting” of Barack Obama? Where’s the in-depth investigative reports on his chairmanship of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge or his political association with Tony Resko, or his connection to former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. For that matter, since Sarah Palin’s husband was fair game (DUI arrest, twenty years ago) where’s the “vetting” of Michele Obama—her political positions and writing from her earlier years? I suspect there’d be some interesting findings.

After all, it would seem only reasonable that a thorough vetting of a presidential candidate (and his wife, since spouses are now in play) would be at least as important as a vice presidential candidate. No?

Actually … no. Vetting appears to be a good idea only when it is applied to the party that is out of favor with major media outlets like CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, and the NYT, the LAT, Newsweek, and many other print news sources. “Journalists” like Klein no longer even try to hide their blatant bias. They complain that they are being “slimed.”

Yuval Levin comments about the MSM coverage from a different perspective:
I have always tended to think that conservative [or centrist?] complaints about the media are a little exaggerated. There are occasionally obvious instances of bias and clear examples of a double standard, but most reporters don’t want to fall into those and some conservatives are surely too sensitive to them. But this week has changed my view. I have never seen, and I admit that I could never have imagined, such shameful, out-of-control, frenzied, angry, condescending, and pathetic journalistic malpractice. The ignorant assault on Palin’s accomplishments and experience, the breathless careless airing of deranged rumors about her private life, the staggeringly indecent mistreatment of her teenage daughter in a difficult time, the ill-informed piling on about the vetting process, the self-intensifying circle of tisking nodding heads utterly detached from a straightforward political event, have been amazing and eye-opening.

"Eye-opening" only to those who don't have slime in their eyes.

Monday, September 01, 2008


I disagree with Sarah Palin on a variety of issues—from abortion rights to “family values” (a euphemism for a variety of anti-gay stances) to her hardcore, NRA-based opposition to any form of gun registration or control. But I’m impressed with her no-nonsense, by-partisan efforts to reform Alaska’s corrupt political system, and her resume that includes a number of real, non governmental positions (e.g., sports journalist, commercial fisherwoman, state oil and gas commissioner) implying an understanding of a world in which profit is not a dirty word. And despite the legions of detractors who question her “readiness” (the irony of their claims is delicious, given Barack Obama’s anorexic resume), I respect her governmental experience as a mayor and as Governor of Alaska—both positions where one cannot hide behind "present" votes.

Gerard Baker of the The Times of London comments:
Democrats, between sniggers of derision and snorts of disgust, contend that Sarah Palin, John McCain's vice-presidential pick is ridiculously unqualified to be president.

It's a reasonable objection on its face except for this small objection: it surely needs to be weighed against the Democrats' claim that their own candidate for president is self-evidently ready to assume the role of most powerful person on the planet.

At first blush, here's what we know about the relative experience of the two candidates. Both are in their mid-forties and have held statewide elective office for less than four years. Both have admitted to taking illegal drugs in their youth.

So much for the similarities. How about the differences?

Baker goes on to address a number of topics in a head to head comparison of the differences between Palin and Obama. Recall, please, that Palin is running for Vice President, a support position that is historically minor, and Obama is running for the most powerful political position in the world—an office from which the economic and human security of millions can hinge on his decision alone. Baker addresses:
Political experience

Obama: Worked his way to the top by cultivating, pandering to and stroking the most powerful interest groups in the all-pervasive Chicago political machine ensuring his views were aligned with the power brokers there.

Palin: Worked her way to the top by challenging, attacking and actively undermining the Republican party establishment in her native Alaska. She ran against incumbent Republicans as a candidate willing and able to clean the Augean Stables of her state's government.

Possibly, you think Baker’s characterization is unfair. If you do, spend a moment considering the Senator’s close and long time association with convicted felon Tony Resko, a political bagman who coerced money from hundreds of Illinois contractors, donating to politicians including Barack Obama. Or maybe it’s better to think about Bill Ayers, an admitted domestic terrorist and proto-Marxist, who “made” Obama on his way up and worked with him repeatedly on the only executive position of Obama’s career—the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC). The CAC was an education initiative that frittered away close to $100 million to friends and cronies of Obama’s and Ayers and according to it’s own final report, did not appreciably improve education in Chicago.

But you'll have to consider Obama's dealing without the help of the MSM. Again this afternoon, CNN, for example, spent segment after segment discussing the “scandal” of Palin's firing of a state trooper. Even if every allegation is 100 percent true, this event pales in comparison to Obama’s association with Resko and Ayers.

I’m still waiting for Wolfe Blitzer & Co. to discuss those “scandals. Not a word.

Senator Obama claims that he values bipartisan politics. Baker comments:
Record of bipartisan achievement

Obama: Speaks movingly of the bipartisanship needed to end the destructive politics of "Red America" and "Blue America", but votes in the Senate as a down-the-line Democrat, with one of the most liberal voting records in congress.

Palin: Ridiculed by liberals such as John Kerry as a crazed, barely human, Dick Cheney-type conservative but worked wit Democrats in the state legislature to secure landmark anti-corruption legislation.

Former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz - a Democrat - said. "Gov. Palin has made her name fighting corruption within her own party, and I was honored when she stepped across party lines and asked me to co-author her ethics white paper."

But not to worry. According to the Obama campaign, the Senator “fought” to pass the nuclear non-proliferation treaty—a bipartisan measure. Oops, the fact that Obama had nothing to do with the drafting of the measure and more importantly, the fact that there was no Republican objection to it (the bill passed by a vote of 97 to 3) does not demonstrate a profile in courage, unless you’re supporting a candidate whose achievements are so lean that you’ve got to grasp at straws.

Now with the announcement of Palin’s teenage daughter’s pregnancy, the Obama attack machine (yeah, there is an attack machine on the other side of the aisle as well) will try to ravage Palin. They may succeed, but they should be careful of echos of the Obama machine’s attacks on Hillary Clinton. Those echos just might resonate among at least some thoughtful women.