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

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Within an hour of her selection as Vice Presidential candidate, CNN televised a full report on a Sarah Palin "scandal" involving the dismissal of a public safety director who refused to fire a state trooper who was involved in a nasty divorce with Palin's sister. Fair enough.

It is, however, interesting that in the full year since he announced his presidential bid, CNN has not fully addressed the "scandals" that connect Barack Obama to convicted felon Tony Resko or past domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers. One hour -- Palin. One year and counting -- Obama.

It's also amusing to read the hissy fit just written by Jonathan Alter in Newsweek (and echoed by many others including the DNC), in which he criticized Palin for her service as mayor of an Alaskan city of 9,000 people (without mentioning that she's now governor of the state). Apparently without appreciating the extreme irony in his comments, Alter suggests that she lacks foreign policy experience. Uh ... Jonathan, Barack Obama lacks foreign policy experience and he running for President not VP. What's even more amusing is that Sarah Palin has more governmental executive experience than both Senators Obama and Biden combined!

Does Sarah Palin have the experience to be President of the United States? No, she doesn't. But neither did Harry Truman when he was nominated. What Palin has (and Truman had) is the benefit of on the job training. That's part of the job description of the VP. Barack Obama on the other hand, does not have that luxury. Lacking experience, he suggests that his "judgment" is what matters. Hmmm. That would be the same judgement that got him involved in the "scandals" that CNN refuses to report?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Taking on Ayers – II

Pundits on both the Left and the Right agree that the intent of the Democratic National Convention is to “introduce” the American people to Barack Obama. Obviously, the Democrats will make every effort to praise their candidate, suggesting that Obama is a man of substantial integrity and judgment, even if his executive experience is a bit thin. Few in the Center have any problem with this. After all, DNC-2008 is a four-day commercial for Barack Obama. Enjoy!

But when the banners come down and the balloons are deflated, it might be a good idea for the MSM to take a hard look at Senator’s Obama’s integrity and judgment. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (e.g., here ), a good place to start is the Senator’s long-time association with his “neighbor” Bill Ayers.

YouTube has an informative video on the Obama-Ayers Connection that in 3 minutes and 38 seconds does what CBS’s 60 Minutes, CNN’s Anderson-Cooper 360 or ABC’s 20-20 should be doing, but avoid because it might sully The Chosen One. The American electorate deserves to understand how Barack Obama’s “integrity and judgment” somehow led to a close and long lasting association with a former domestic terrorist. As important, we really do need to know how much of Ayer’s current radical Left world view is in any way coincident with Obama’s.

If there’s nothing to this connection, the Obama campaign should present facts that will allow us to see why. Rather than doing that, the Associated Press reports that the Obama campaign is attempting legal action to suppress a TV spot that connects Obama and Ayers, suggesting that the alleged connection is “false, despicable and outrageous.” What’s false, despicable and outrageous is that a Presidential candidate’s connection to an admitted domestic terrorist has gone largely unexamined by a MSM that is supposed to inform the public, regardless of the outcome.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Challenges and VP Joe

Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, does a good job of summarizing the challenges that face the next President of the United States:
He [the President] will have to reshape policies on the widest imaginable range of challenges, domestic and international. He will need to rebuild productive working relationships with friends and allies. He must revitalize a flagging economy; tame a budget awash in red ink; reduce energy dependence and turn the corner on the truly existential issue of climate change; tackle the growing danger of nuclear proliferation; improve the defense of the homeland against global terrorists while putting more pressure on al Qaeda, especially in Pakistan; and, of course, manage two wars simultaneously.

To make progress on this daunting agenda, the president must master and control a sprawling, unwieldy federal bureaucracy that is always resistant to change and sometimes dysfunctional. He will also need to change the relationship between the executive and the legislative branches after years of partisan political battle; in almost all areas, congressional support is essential for success. So is public support, which will require that the next president, more effectively than his predecessor, enlist help from the private sector, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the citizenry as a whole.

The presidency of the United States is the most extraordinary job ever devised, and it has become an object of the hopes and dreams -- and, at times, the fears, frustration, and anger -- of people around the world. Expectations that the president can solve every problem are obviously unrealistic -- and yet such expectations are a reality that he will have to confront. A successful president must identify meaningful yet achievable goals, lay them out clearly before the nation and the world, and then achieve them through leadership skills that will be tested by pressures unimaginable to anyone who has not held the job. A reactive and passive presidency will not succeed, nor will one in which a president promises solutions but does not deliver -- or acts with consistent disregard for what the Declaration of Independence called "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

This week, we’ll hear speaker after speaker at the Democratic Convention suggest the Barack Obama, and his newly named VP candidate Joe Biden, can solve all of these problems through some amorphous concoction of “hope and change.” Well, maybe they can, but if you spend just a second to consider the backgrounds of both men, you’ll begin to question the glowing praise that you’ll hear from every speaker at the Convention.

Obama lacks the experience on the international and domestic fronts to fully and effectively address the challenges that Holbrooke defines. He has had no executive experience, making his ability to “master and control a sprawling, unwieldy federal bureaucracy that is always resistant to change and sometimes dysfunctional” highly questionable. He has been predictably partisan on virtually every important political matter during his painfully short career as a senator, suggesting that he’ll do nothing to mitigate the Democratic-Republican bottlenecks that cause real change to languish.

Joe Biden is a man with considerable foreign policy and legislative experience and a stark counterpoint to Obama. Unlike Obama, Biden does have a record, and some (but not all) of it may cause concern in the Center of the electorate. Amir Tehrani outlines some of his mistakes:
Biden has the experience of more than three decades in the US senate, at least two of them dealing with foreign affairs and defense. But experience is no guarantee of good judgment. And Biden has been wrong on almost every key issue.

  • In 1979, he shared Carter's starry-eyed belief that the fall of the shah in Iran and the advent of the ayatollahs represented progress for human rights. Throughout the hostage crisis, as US diplomats were daily paraded blindfolded in front of television cameras and threatened with execution, he opposed strong action against the terrorist mullahs and preached dialogue.

  • Throughout the 1980s. Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan's proactive policy against the Soviet Union. Biden was all for détente - which, in practice, meant Western subsidies that would have enabled the moribund USSR to cling to life and continue doing mischief.

  • In 1990, Biden found it difficult to support President George Bush's decision to use force to kick Saddam Hussein's army of occupation out of Kuwait.

  • A decade-plus later, the senator did vote for the liberation of Iraq from Saddamite tyranny. But as soon as terrorists started challenging the new democratic system in Iraq, he switched sides and became a critic of the whole war effort. He claimed that the Iraq war was lost and suggested that the US partition the newly liberated country into three or more mini-states.

In fairness. Biden is a seasoned, lifelong politician and he has also had his share of successes and accomplishments. The problem, I think, is that he has been wrong on important foreign policy issues and has, overall, exhibited the “reactive and passive” geopolitical approach (reminiscent of Jimmy Carter) that Obama will undoubtedly embrace and that Holbrooke warns against.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Taking on Ayers

As I mentioned in my last post, the Barack Obama-Bill Ayers connection is but one of a number of sketchy associations that plague the Senator’s background. But unlike Tony Resko, another associate of Obama’s who has participated in criminal activities, Ayers was an admitted domestic terrorist, and as such, should have never gotten within shouting distance of a person running for public office. He did, and the story of the connection will become a campaign issue.

Obama’s protectors in the MSM have already begun their defense. The New York Times writes:
WASHINGTON — The conservative group running advertisements that highlight Senator Barack Obama’s association with the 1960s radical William Ayers is being financed by a Texas billionaire who has raised money for Senator John McCain and who also helped finance the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry in 2004.

The billionaire, Harold Simmons, donated nearly $2.9 million on Aug. 12 to the American Issues Project, the group running the advertisements, papers it has filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

The NYT and other left-leaning MSM outlets never spent the time to investigate the 2004 charges leveled by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, instead using the newly formed verb “swiftboating” as a pejorative implying unsubstantiated and false accusations. It appears that they’re going to dismiss the Ayers story as a “swiftboating” incident. Problem is, there’s a growing body of evidence that may prove them wrong.

I’m reasonably convinced that the Center of the American electorate would look askance at a candidate for the presidency who shares a close association with a man who bombed federal buildings in his youth and remains unrepentant to this day. That’s why the Obama campaign is trying hard to distance their candidate from Ayers—“just neighbors.”

But the Annenberg Education Challenge has opened the door for a more detailed investigation of the Barack Obama-Bill Ayers relationship, not to mention Obama’s sole foray into executive leadership. Preliminary information is troubling on both fronts.

Thomas Lifson reports:
William Ayers, unrepentant terrorist and education professor, is once again being tied to Barack Obama in the public mind. Controversy builds over the withholding of the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an expensive failed school reform effort headed by Obama and effectively run by Ayers, held by the library of the University of Illinois Chicago. Researchers who have gained access to a few documents recording the history of the project have found strong evidence of a very important working relationship between the two men on the project, Obama's sole claim to executive experience.

Oddly enough, even though the project produced no measurable improvement in student performance according to its own final report, educators and administrators -- participants and grantees of the CAC -- were reported by outside monitors to be often "ebullient" about the activities. For insiders, it was an excellent adventure. For the pupils stuck in the failing public schools of Chicago, an ongoing, unrelieved disaster.

A simple way for the Obama campaign to put this issue to rest would be to have their candidate address it head on. Tell us about the Challenge, about the relationship between himself and Ayers, about the way over $50 million dollars was spent in a failed effort to improve schools with Obama at the helm. But they have, at least to this point, decided to stonewall on the subject. Past experience indicates that stonewalling rarely works, even if the MSM is complicit by not expending resources to investigate the issue.

But there are deeper questions that need to be addressed. Lifson continues:
Barack Obama joined the CAC [Annenberg Challenge] shortly after William Ayers and Anne C. Hallett received news that their letter of November 8, 1994 submitting a grant proposal to The Annenberg Challenge had been approved. They were to get as much as $49 million from Annenberg, plus tens of millions more dollars from other foundations. Obama's involvement predates by months the actual incorporation of the CAC and his appointment as founding chairman of the board. He came on board almost as soon as the proposal was approved.

How on earth did a relatively unknown associate at a politically-connected but small Chicago law firm come to be entrusted with the heady task of handing out tens of millions of dollars of other people's money?

Keep in mind that Obama was at this point in his career very undistinguished considering his pedigree. It would be a kind understatement to say he had underperformed his academic resume. Three years out of Harvard Law and the Law Review Presidency, here is a short list of some of the things Obama had not done:

Clerked for a US Supreme Court Justice (or any Federal Judge);

worked in an important legal position at any level of serious responsibility;

written a law review article or note or published anything of legal substance.

As of 1995 Obama may have had the most professionally empty resume of any President of the Harvard Law Review three years gone from "The Law School."

And yet Ayers gave him a gig that would enable him to hand out large amounts of money to many people in Chicago, who could be expected to be grateful, once Obama ran for office -- as he was to do later that very year, in an event held at the home of Ayers and Dohrn.

Quite clearly, Obama was already well-enough known and trusted by Ayers to be offered the sensitive, prestigious and highly visible post of chairman of this important new undertaking. So we must ask, when did Obama and Ayers actually first get to know one another? And how did they come to trust one another?

Interesting questions that need to be answered before anyone in the Center casts a vote for Barack Obama.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Four Core Problems

As Barack Obama poll numbers come down to earth and John McCain pulls close to even with him, something troubling is beginning to happen in many mainstream media outlets. Subtly, there’s an implication that if Obama loses (or for that matter, if his polling data falls below McCain’s numbers) the only reasonable explanation is latent racism within the electorate. After all, goes the mime, how else could everyone not embrace The Chosen One.

The intent of the latent racism mime is obvious—to discourage criticism of Obama by suggesting that anyone who criticizes the man is a closet racist. That is intellectually dishonest, and for those of us who have legitimate problems with the Senator’s resume, his political experience, his ideology, and his associates, it is enormously insulting. But no worries, it won’t work.

Obama’s decent from on high may be due to closer scrutiny of his four core problems—resume, experience, ideology, and associates. Consider his resume. Abraham Katsman and Kory Bardash discuss it:
It seems that Obama recognizes that while his résumé titles are impressive, his actual accomplishments are weak. It's as if he were jockeying to be the next company CEO with little to show for his prior high-profile management positions. So, he does what anyone else does who has spent years coasting on charisma without doing any heavy work: he pads his résumé--stretching the truth here, stealing credit there, and creating the illusion of achievement during his lackadaisical, undistinguished tenure in previous jobs.

A few examples? Take Obama's first general election ad. We are told that Obama "passed laws" that "extended healthcare for wounded troops who'd been neglected," with a citation at the bottom to only one Senate bill: The 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, which passed the Senate by a 91-3 vote. Six Senators did not vote-including Obama. Nor is there evidence that he contributed to its passage in any material way. So, his claim to have "passed laws" amounts to citing a bill that was largely unopposed, that he didn't vote for, and whose passage he didn't impact. Even his hometown Chicago Tribune caught this false claim. It's classic résumé-padding--falsely taking credit for the work of others.

I suppose you could argue that all pols do this but you’d think there’d be a piece of significant legislation that Obama actually did sponsor. There isn’t. Not one.

Or consider Obama’s bogus claim during his recent world tour:
Obama made yet another inflated boast last month during his visit to Israel. At his press conference in Hamas rocket-bombarded Sderot, Obama talked up "his" efforts to protect Israel from Iran:

"Just this past week, we passed out of the US Senate Banking Committee - which is my committee - a bill to call for divestment from Iran as way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon." (Emphasis added.)

Nice try. But as even CNN noted, Obama is not even on that committee. That is one peculiar "mistake" to simply have made by accident. Again, his claiming credit for the work of others just looks like clumsy, transparent résumé embellishment.

All of this, I suppose, is relatively minor. But when you also consider the Senator’s lack of achievement legislatively, his lack of experience internationally, and his sketchy associates domestically, there is plenty of room for criticism that has nothing, absolutely NOTHING, to do with the fact that Barack Obama is African American. To suggest otherwise is dishonest.

Update (8/23/08):

As if to emphasize my point, this morning’s Slate (a widely quoted Left-leaning e-Zine) features its regular “The Big Idea” column by Jacob Weisberg entitled “If Obama Loses -- Racism is the Only Reason McCain Might Beat Him.”

The only reason. His four problems— an anorexic resume, limited political experience, his left-leaning ideology, and his sketchy associates—have nothing to do with it? Really.

We’ll be seeing a growing crescendo of articles like Weisberg’s as we move closer to November. His approach is a form of intellectual and emotional coercion, and in its own way, it’s as despicable as the racists who Weisberg castigates.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In One Ear

When I was a young boy, I can recall my father warning me, “Be careful about who you pick for your friends.” He wanted me to understand that people are often judged not only by their own words and deeds, but also by the words and deeds of their friends and associates.

Of course, I was young, and abstract concepts weren’t my strong suit. In one ear, out the other.

But as the years passed, I learned that my father’s wise counsel was worth heeding. Whether you like it or not, friends and associates telegraph something about your character.

Over the past year, I’ve commented a number of times on Barack Obama’s friends and associates and suggested that they telegraph something about his character. In fact, if you’re willing to look hard, the character and ideology of the senator’s friends and associates can suggest quite a bit about his core beliefs, his underlying political philosophy, and his likely governing style. Since Obama is unwilling to share this information with the electorate with frank talk, it’s only reasonable to look to other sources to gain insight.

As I predicted many months ago, it’s very likely that you’ll be hearing about Bill Ayres in the months after the conventions. Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist, is according to Barack Obama, just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.” The truth is that Obama and Ayers have a relationship that is considerably more intimate than “neighbors.

Conservative writer Stanley Kurtz begins an in-depth report on the subject:
The problem of Barack Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers will not go away. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn were terrorists for the notorious Weather Underground during the turbulent 1960s, turning fugitive when a bomb — designed to kill army officers in New Jersey — accidentally exploded in a New York townhouse. Prior to that, Ayers and his cohorts succeeded in bombing the Pentagon. Ayers and Dohrn remain unrepentant for their terrorist past. Ayers was pictured in a 2001 article for Chicago magazine, stomping on an American flag, and told the New York Times just before 9/11 that the notion of the United States as a just and fair and decent place “makes me want to puke.” Although Obama actually launched his political career at an event at Ayers’s and Dohrn’s home, Obama has dismissed Ayers as just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.” For his part, Ayers refuses to discuss his relationship with Obama.

Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama’s account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama’s time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers’s own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago’s public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago’s education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers’s radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore “exchanging ideas on a regular basis”). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama’s dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.

Like his relationship with convicted felon Tony Resko, Obama’s connection to Ayers is complex and sometimes convoluted. But a strong connection does exist and it’s worthy of exploration.

In a scathing report on the Obama-Ayers relationship with specific emphasis on education reform, progressive writer Steve Diamond notes:
As my readers are aware I have pointed to the joint participation of Senator Obama and Professor Bill Ayers in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an education reform project, as evidence of an older and deeper relationship between Ayers and Obama than the Senator has acknowledged. Because the political views, as well as the past criminal behavior, of Professor Ayers represent, in my view, an authoritarian approach to education and society as a whole, I believe that it is important for the public to have as complete an understanding of the Ayers-Obama relationship as possible.

Of course, many well-intentioned supporters of the Obama campaign who, for example, share my opposition to the war in Iraq and perhaps share my views on many other issues, will argue that this kind of discussion can only help the McCain campaign. It may indeed be true that the McCain campaign will benefit because of the relationship between Obama and Ayers.

But if that is the case then I think the left has to take responsibility for attempting to build its opposition to the war in Iraq and other policies of the Bush Administration on the basis of the objectionable political tactics used by, and the political views of, those who lead the Democratic Party. Thus, my hope is that by confronting the truth about that Party we can build an independent progressive movement that is transparent and accountable to its members.

The Ayers-Obama connection is a complex collection of board memberships, political payoffs, and radical, left-wing politics with an emphasis on education reform. Education reform? What’s wrong with that?

Plenty, when Ayers and his compatriots enter the picture. Although Ayers has no direct connection to the Obama presidential campaign (but many, many close connections to Obama prior to the campaign), Diamond notes:
However, it must be pointed out that a notorious ally of Bill Ayers for many years, Mike Klonsky, is an open member of the Obama campaign. Klonsky runs a blog on the official Obama website here where he claims to be a "professor of education" (the website of the Small Schools Workshop that he directs says only that he teaches some graduate courses, though it appears he was a visiting professor for one year at Nova Southeastern University in Florida in 2006-07) and says he blogs for Obama on "education politics and teaching for social justice."

Who is Mike Klonsky? Well, on one level, he might just appear to be a protege of Bill Ayers in the education world. He received, as I detail below, a $175,000 grant from the Ayers/Obama-led Annenberg Challenge to run the Small Schools Workshop that he and Ayers started in Chicago to push their school reform agenda.

But that is only half the story. Klonsky was one of the most destructive hardline maoists in the SDS in the late 60's who emerged from SDS to form a pro-Chinese sect called the October League that later became the Beijing-recognized Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). As chairman of the party, Klonsky travelled to Beijing itself in 1977 and, literally, toasted the Chinese stalinist leadership who, in turn, "hailed the formation of the CP(ML) as 'reflecting the aspirations of the proletariat and working people,' effectively recognizing the group as the all-but-official US Maoist party." (Elbaum, Revolution in the Air, 228).

And what are the opinions of Ayres, Klonsky and other Obama advisors such as Stanford University Prof. Linda Darling-Hammond on education reform? All support “the idea of replacing the widely used concept of an ‘achievement gap’ between different groups of students with the idea of an ‘educational debt’ that has accumulated over centuries and that is responsible for poor academic outcomes for black and some other minority students.”

In the words of Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings, who first proposed the “repayment of centuries of educational debt” at an educational conference in 2000 and later in a book entitled, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks,
“What is it that we might owe to citizens who historically have been excluded from social benefits and opportunities? Randall Robinson (2000) states: ‘No nation can enslave a race of people for hundreds of years, set them free bedraggled and penniless, pit them, without assistance in a hostile environment, against privileged victimizers, and then reasonably expect the gap between the heirs of the two groups to narrow. Lines, begun parallel and left alone, can never touch. (p. 74)’” [from Diamond]

There’s no doubt that our long-term historical record of minority education has been poor. It’s also reasonable to state that our more recent history has resulted in the expenditure of hundreds of billions to try to right past wrongs. In fact, there are some who believe that money alone is not the answer, but that’s another matter. However, suggesting that an approach akin to reparations to correct “poor academic outcomes” precipitated by “privileged victimizers” is far outside the educational mainstream.

In fairness, Barack Obama has never publicly voiced agreement with the “repayment of centuries of educational debt.” However, why does he have current advisors who voice such extreme and angry views? And why has he had a close association with Ayers, a proponent of the "education debt" philosophy during his transformation from bomb maker to a champion of the educationally deprived?

I wonder if Barack Obama ever heard the words, “Be careful about who you pick for your friends.”

In one ear, out the other.

Update (8/21/08):

To its credit the Chicago Tribune , the media entity that understands “The Chicago Way” (corrupt, Democratic machine politics) better than any other media entity, is pursing the cover-up regarding the 132 boxes full of documents pertaining to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the relationship between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers.
The Tribune's City Hall reporter, Dan Mihalopoulos, asked Daley on Wednesday if the Richard J. Daley Library should release the documents. Shortshanks [Mayor Daley's nickname] didn't like that one. He kept insisting he would be "very frank," a phrase that makes the needles on a polygraph start jumping.

"Bill Ayers—I've said this—his father was a great friend of my father," the mayor said. "I'll be very frank. Vietnam divided families, divided people. It was a terrible time of our country. People didn't know one another. Since then, I'll be very frank, [Ayers] has been in the forefront of a lot of education issues and helping us in public schools and things like that."

The mayor expressed his frustrations with outside agitators like Kurtz.

"People keep trying to align himself with Barack Obama," Daley said. "It's really unfortunate. They're friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects back and he's been making a strong contribution to our community."

Mr. Kurtz finally got his answer. It should grace the cover of the National Review, with a cartoon of Shortshanks, dressed like a jolly Tudor monarch, holding a tiny Obama in his right paw, a tiny Ayers in his left:

They're friends. So what?

Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Kurtz.

“Friends,” huh? It would be interesting to see just how close they really are.

It looks like Obama and his political mentors want to make sure we’ll never know.

Update (8/26/08)

The Associated Press is reporting today that the University of Illinois has decided to make all Annenberg Challenge archives available for review and study and to do so immediately. It looks like the blogosphere and a few dedicated MSM reporters have pressured Obama and his political mentors to avoid the appearance of a cover-up. It will take some time for thousands of pages of material to be reviewed. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2008


Some of my Left-leaning friends argue that their primary concern about John McCain is “Supreme Court nominations.” Fair enough. But I try to explain that a McCain presidency would be highly constrained by a senate that has a wide Democratic majority. A strict constructionist, anti-Roe v. Wade candidate suggested by McCain would have no more chance of appointment than Osama bin Laden. That’s a reality.

Few people seem to worry about Barack Obama’s potential court appointments, but they should. In a recent forum, Obama was asked which SCOTUS justices he would not have nominated. He chose Clarence Thomas among others. That’s okay, but the way he did it tells us something about his character. The Wall Street Journal comments on the question and the response:
Mr. Obama took a lower road, replying first that "that's a good one," and then adding that "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he, I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution." The Democrat added that he also wouldn't have appointed Antonin Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, though he assured the audience that at least they were smart enough for the job.

So let's see. By the time he was nominated, Clarence Thomas had worked in the Missouri Attorney General's office, served as an Assistant Secretary of Education, run the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sat for a year on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's second most prominent court. Since his "elevation" to the High Court in 1991, he has also shown himself to be a principled and scholarly jurist.

Meanwhile, as he bids to be America's Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama isn't yet four years out of the Illinois state Senate, has never held a hearing of note of his U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had an unremarkable record as both a "community organizer" and law school lecturer. Justice Thomas's judicial credentials compare favorably to Mr. Obama's Presidential résumé by any measure. And when it comes to rising from difficult circumstances, Justice Thomas's rural Georgian upbringing makes Mr. Obama's story look like easy street.

Even more troubling is what the Illinois Democrat's answer betrays about his political habits of mind. Asked a question he didn't expect at a rare unscripted event, the rookie candidate didn't merely say he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Instead, he instinctively reverted to the leftwing cliché that the Court's black conservative isn't up to the job while his white conservative colleagues are.

Mr. Obama would be well-advised to temper his criticism of people who have CVs that are considerably more impressive than his own. Whether you like Clarence Thomas or not, the Supreme Court Justice’s background and experience make Barack Obama look like a third grader. In fact, there are hundreds of national figures (in government and out) who have more executive experience, more legislative experience, more international experience, more business experience, more political experience and more life experience than the senator. The one area where Senator Obama shines—eloquence—often betrays a troubling lack of humility.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Banal Transgressions

The New Republic is a sophisticated Left-of-Center magazine that covers politics and the arts from a decidedly Liberal perspective. It is a bit surprising, then, when its Editor-in-Chief, Martin Peretz, discusses Palestine and the Arab people, not from the typical vantage point of the Left (a stream of condemnation focusing on the fiction of Israel’s oppression, humiliation and other wrongs), but from a hard-nosed vantage point of recent history,

Paretz discusses recent genocides—Cambodia, Bosnia, Rewanda, and most recently Darfur—and suggests that the Left’s obsession with the perceived wrongs that Israel has visited on the Palestinians is, well, here’s what he says:
So let me say outright that what wrongs the Israelis may have done to the Palestinians are, in the contexts of history and of our time, actually ... let me not say "trivial." How about banal? Not that this makes them right. Still, in the grand setting of the past, as well as in the circumstances of Palestine in this century and last, the quarrels between Jew and Arab are minor. Minor, that is, if there were a wish to come to settlement on the part of Arabs. But, for them, every loss (an olive tree, an orchard, an uninhabited hill) is a challenge to the divine order of things. In that sense, the world of Muslim Arabs is unchangeable and untouchable.

But nothing is unchangeable and untouchable, including Palestine. The fact is, of course, that the other Arabs do not care a fig for Palestine, not a fig. Even with their lush surplus of petroleum cash, the oil Arabs do not pay their self-assessed tax for Palestine. The Emirates, perhaps the greatest employment agency for foreign labor anywhere, hire relatively few Palestinians, preferring Malaysian and Pakistanis and, if Arabs, Yemenis and Egyptians. The sultans are not dumb: They saw how the Palestinians behaved when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

To the extent that the Arab states have sustained these "refugees"--that's another matter, better left for another time--in place and through time deep into the fourth generation they perpetuate the wound that, unlike in the Philoctetes myth, never heals. Now, it is something of an accomplishment, a perverse one, to be sure, to have made Palestine the fixation of the United Nations and virtually every one of its agencies. But this has not brought relief to a single Palestinian.

How do I say this? The Palestine national movement is a fraud. Internecine killing has taken far more Arab lives than armed encounters with the Israelis. It is full of pomp but no ordinary circumstance. You can judge the reality of Palestine by the travels of its leaders. Arafat went everywhere. The Palestine Liberation Organization had embassies everywhere, more perhaps than did Israel. The Palestinian Authority is represented in God only knows how many capitals. And it is now Mahmoud Abbas who could collect frequent flyer miles if he didn't have the illusion of being president of a state.

Both the Left and the Right have their own hypocrisies, but there’s something particularly objectionable to the manner in which the Left never calls on the Moslem nation as a whole to put pressure on the Moslem thugs who are doing the killing in Darfur. Maybe it’s because they know it won’t work and it's easier and often feels better to blame the United States for its lack of action.

At the same time, the Left castigates Israel for “banal” transgressions that in any other context would not even make the radar screen of world events. My, oh, my—the Israelis put up roadblocks to stop suicide bombers, inconveniencing the Palestinians (gee, I wonder if a bomb going off in a Pizza Parlor or at a wedding is considered an “inconvenience”). My oh my—they conduct military exercises (and yes, kill people) to stop the launching of thousands of Hamas rockets that fall purposely on civilian targets. My oh my—they try over and over and over again to establish a peaceful settlement with a collection of thugs who abrogate within days whatever agreement is signed. And yet, it’s all on the Israelis, at least from the viewpoint of many on the Left.

Why do so many on the Left despise Israel and back a people who advocate their destruction? Why do they align themselves with a people (the Palestinians) who routinely exhibit an anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-peace, anti-free expression, anti-liberal agenda. It’s a puzzlement that Peretz doesn’t address.

Maybe he should ask Barack Obama to explain it.


Over the past week, I’ve followed the Russian invasion of Georgia and tried to figure out what or who precipitated this dangerous situation. There is little doubt that the Russians made their aggressive move because they felt threatened by Western moves in the region (e.g., the US missile defense system comes to mind), that Georgia’s approach to South Ossetia was unquestionably provocative, and that a changing economic dynamic (their oil, the EU’s need) gave them leverage that enabled their aggressive acts. But their invasion of a country that posed little direct threat to them was, as they say in the UN, "disproportionate" to the extreme.

In the US and the EU, the Left have, of course, taken their pat position on the matter—the US, in particular the Bush administration is at fault because of its invasion of Iraq. John McCain spoke too clearly (provocatively), thereby precipitating aggression and providing a harbinger of four more years of Bush. And on and on.

Gerard Baker comments in the Times of London:
What's more, the argument goes, the US and Europe had already laid the moral framework for Russia's invasion by our own acts of aggression in the past decade. Vladimir Putin was simply following the example of illegal intervention by the US and its allies in Kosovo and Iraq.

It ought not to be necessary to point out the differences between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Mr Saakashvili's Georgia, but for those blinded by moral relativism, here goes - Georgia did not invade its neighbours or use chemical weapons on their people. Georgia did not torture and murder hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Georgia did not defy international demands for a decade and ignore 18 UN Security Council resolutions to come clean about its weapons programmes.

And unlike Iraq under Saddam, Georgia is led by a democratically elected president who has pushed this once dank backwater of the Soviet Union, birthplace of Stalin and Beria, towards liberal democracy and international engagement.

But no matter. When viewing world events that are not easy to control, it’s always easiest and safest to blame yourself. Baker summarizes:
Once again, the Europeans, and their friends in the pusillanimous wing of the US Left, have demonstrated that, when it come to those postmodern Olympian sports of synchronized self-loathing, team hand-wringing and lightweight posturing, they know how to sweep gold, silver and bronze.

Barack Obama's early call for UN intervention did nothing but emphasize his inexperience and naivete. For such a smart guy, you'd think he'd recognize that Russia is a full member of the UN security council and has veto power over any meaningful resolution on the matter.

It's likely that we'll eventually arrive at a diplomatic settlement, but like most diplomatic settlements, the winner is always the country with the biggest guns and the heaviest leverage. In this case, that's Russia. Barack Obama ought to take note, just in case he gains his first position of executive responsibily.

An aside: On the far right, there are calls for US military intervention. These are equally foolish and unnecessarily provocative. True, Georgia is a representative democracy, but a military confrontation with Russia is in no one's best interest, including Georgia's.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Drp, Drip, Drip — II

A while back, I wrote a piece entitled Drip, Drip, Drip arguing that across the Western world, our basic freedoms are slowing being eroded by Islamic protestations of outrage over insults to their religion—either actual or imagined. In every media industry—publishing, television, the press, and motion pictures— self-censorship causes the legitimate efforts of authors, writers, and directors to be modified (or simply extinguished) to meet the demands of others. In government, business, education, and many other public domains, we are slowly bending to the unreasonable demands of one group, afraid of the false accusation of “Islamophobia.” Jihadist front groups, like CAIR, are succeeding in destroying our basic freedoms where their more violent bretheren have failed.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, another "drip, drip, drip" moment is reported:
Starting in 2002, Spokane, Wash., journalist Sherry Jones toiled weekends on a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Ms. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha's life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage. When Random House bought her novel last year in a $100,000, two-book deal, she was ecstatic. This past spring, she began plans for an eight-city book tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet's harem.

It's not going to happen: In May, Random House abruptly called off publication of the book. The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.

Random House feared the book would become a new "Satanic Verses," the Salman Rushdie novel of 1988 that led to death threats, riots and the murder of the book's Japanese translator, among other horrors. In an interview about Ms. Jones's novel, Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it "disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now." He said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

So much for freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Can you imagine the outrage in liberal media circles if the Christian Right had demanded that an edgy novel about Jesus not be published? Or if an Orthodox Jewish group demanded that a major newspaper, say The New York Times, spike an article that was unflattering to an eminent rabbi in their movement? But of course, those groups rarely if ever threaten violence, so the media elites can look tough. But the minute Islamists get huffy, Random House and dozens of others run for the exits. Pathetic.

By the way, with the exception of the WSJ, there’s been little, if any coverage of this story.

Drip, drip, drip.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Many of my Left-leaning friends are expressing concern that Barack Obama, after his triumphant European tour, has received no bump in the polls. In fact, his polling numbers have been slowly going down, and he is now virtually neck and neck with John McCain.

My friends attribute this to latent racism of people in “red states” and worry that that and that alone just might defeat Obama. They’re wrong overall, but just a little right on the fringes.

There’s no doubt that there will be a some voters who do not vote for Barack Obama because he is half African American, but the vast majority of people in the Center who oppose his candidacy, myself included, have other problems with the one-term Senator. One, I think, is that they sense his embrace of postmodern thinking.

I would guess that the vast majority of the electorate have no idea what the term “postmodern” means. Jonah Goldberg provides a reasonably concise definition and critique:
An explosive fad in the 1980s, postmodernism was and is an enormous intellectual hustle in which left-wing intellectuals take crowbars and pick axes to anything having to do with the civilizational Mount Rushmore of Dead White European Males.

"PoMos" hold that there is no such thing as capital-T "Truth." There are only lower-case "truths." Our traditional understandings of right and wrong, true and false, are really just ways for those Pernicious Pale Patriarchs to keep the Coalition of the Oppressed in their place. In the PoMo's telling, reality is "socially constructed." And so the PoMos seek to tear down everything that "privileges" the powerful over the powerless and to replace it with new truths more to their liking.

Hence the deep dishonesty of postmodernism. It claims to liberate society from fixed meanings and rigid categories, but it is invariably used to impose new ones, usually in the form of political correctness. We've all seen how adept the PC brigades are celebrating free speech, when it's for speech they like.

Barack Obama is an eloquent wordsmith in the postmodern sense. He defines words to mean what he wants them to mean and conveniently reinterprets his own words after the fact to mean something other that what they meant at the time. I believe the broad center of the electorate has begun to understand this and feels uncomfortable with it.

Goldberg addresses this when he states:
The Obama campaign has a postmodern feel to it because more than anything else, it seems to be about itself. Its relationship to reality is almost theoretical. Sure, the campaign has policy proposals, but they are props to advance the narrative of a grand movement existing in order to be a movement galvanized around the singular ideal of movement-ness. Obama's followers are, to borrow from David Hasselhoff — another American hugely popular in Germany — hooked on a feeling. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!" Well, of course you are.

In Berlin two weeks ago, Obama's speech was justified solely by the fact that he was giving it. He offered no policy and — not being a president — really had no reason to be there other than to tell people, essentially, "now is the moment." He informed the throbbing masses, bathing in his charisma the way hippies wallowed in the mud at Woodstock, that the greatest threat facing the world is the possibility we might allow "new walls to divide us from one another." Nuclear war? Feh. No, walls, walls are the danger. Of course, these new walls aren't real. Some might even say they're just words.

The question is whether the American people will elect Barack Obama based on words alone, because in terms of real legislative or executive accomplishments, his CV is very, very weak. Maybe that’s why the predicted bounce hasn’t yet happened, and just possibly, never will.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Save the Planet

Charles Krauthammer comments of the on-going travesty that is our Congress' lack of action on short term energy policy and longer term energy independence:
WASHINGTON—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes lifting the moratorium on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on the Outer Continental Shelf.

She won't even allow it to come to a vote. With $4 gas having massively shifted public opinion in favor of domestic production, she wants to protect her Democratic members from having to cast an anti-drilling election-year vote. Moreover, given the public mood, she might even lose. This cannot be permitted. Why?

Because as she explained to "I'm trying to save the planet. I'm trying to save the planet."

A lovely sentiment. But has Pelosi actually thought through the moratorium's actual effects on the planet?

It appears that in Pelosi’s infantile view of the world, all the US must do is “be an example” and every other oil producer will join us in lock step to “save the planet.” She conveniently forgets that unstable, corrupt regimes such as Nigeria are among the world largest oil exporters and among the most egregious polluters. Another oil producing country, Russia, will drill on the arctic circle and will not abide by 1/10th of our environmental rules.

Pelosi and many of her Democratic colleagues were among the champions of corn to ethanol production in the US. Krauthammer comments:
The other panacea, yesterday's rage, is biofuels: We can't drill our way out of the crisis, it seems, but we can greenly grow our way out. By now, however, it is blindingly obvious even to Democrats that biofuels are a devastating force for environmental degradation. It has led to the rape of "lungs of the world" rain forests in Indonesia and Brazil as huge tracts have been destroyed to make room for palm oil and sugar plantations.

Here in the U.S., one out of every three ears of corn is stuffed into a gas tank (by way of ethanol), causing not just food shortages abroad and high prices at home, but intensive increases in farming with all of the attendant environmental problems (soil erosion, insecticide pollution, water consumption, etc.).

This to prevent drilling on an area in the Arctic one-sixth the size of Dulles Airport that leaves untouched a refuge one-third the size of Britain.

It would seem that the democratic leadership (I use the term very loosely) might realize that they could negotiate drilling offshore and in ANWR in exchange for a comprehensive, long term set of government incentives for alternative energy production. The time is right, oil prices are stratospherically high, and the public mood is in favor. Instead of going home for the summer, the Democratic congress should work with the Republicans to craft a comprehensive energy bill – now!

Of course, that’s not happening.

But help is on the way. Barack Obama was against domestic drilling (he is in favor of inflating your tires, however) until three days ago (when his polling indicated that this position was untenable). Now, it appears that he’s flip-flopped on the subject. The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Barack Obama suggested on Friday that he could accept an expansion of offshore oil drilling as long as it was part of a broader package of measures that would free the logjam of energy bills in Congress.

"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in an interview with the Palm Beach Post. "If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage -- I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."

So. Why doesn’t the new leader of the Democractic party—Barack Obama— step in and demonstrate something he has yet to demonstrate in any context—leadership. Why doesn’t he publicly request that Nancy and Harry agree to a special session of Congress to address these critically important issues. After all, they're both his allies and members of his party.

But that would require action and leadership. It would require taking a concrete stand on a critically important issue. It would require goring some constiuency's ox and weathering the criticism that would surely follow. It would require the things that Presidents have to do.

Nah. Better to play politics with our nation’s energy future.


The Chicago Sun Times reports that the Obama campaign has a new ad that touts the Wind Fall Profits tax for Big Oil:
Obama's spot trumpets his proposal to revive a windfall profits tax on energy companies and asserts that McCain favors tax breaks for the oil industry.

''A windfall profits tax on big oil to give families a thousand-dollar rebate,'' an announcer in the ad says.

Obama has pushed for such a tax to fund $1,000 emergency rebate checks for consumers besieged by high energy costs.

I agree that Big Oil has been a net negative in this country's quest for energy independence, but taxing their profits for a hokey effort to buy votes via this ridiculous “rebate” will do nothing—absolutely NOTHING—to increase our supply of oil in the short term or lead us to energy independence in the longer term.

Wow, what leadership, what courage! Not exactly. More like a cynical political ploy that will not solve the problem.