The Divider-in-Chief

Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen, who self-identify as “traditional liberal Democrats,” are calling out the President for fomenting “the politics of polarization, resentment and division.”  They accuse him of Nixonian levels of compromising the majesty of the Presidency.

The news peg is Obama’s recent statement, “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”  They also cite his contempt for the American people (“reacting just to fear”) and for his Democratic base (“sitting on their hands complaining”).

They also discuss the rank hypocrisy of Obama — who broke his explicit promise to accept the Nixon-inspired strictures of public campaign financing — complaining about the source of Republican campaign funds.

As Election Day approaches, the president and others in the Democratic leadership have focused on campaign finance by moneyed interests – an ancillary issue serving neither party nor country. They have intensified attacks on business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and individual political operatives such as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie – insisting that organizations are fronting for foreign campaign money and large secret donations and campaign expenditures. Even the New York Times has noted that “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence” that these organizations have engaged in activities that are “improper or even unusual.”

It astounds us to hear such charges from the president given that his presidential campaign in 2008 refused to disclose the names of all of its donors, and in past election cycles many liberal groups, such as the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress, refused to disclose their contributors.

To be clear, we favor disclosure of every dollar spent and closing the disclosure loophole that exists as a result of the Citizens United ruling. But it is disingenuous for a president – particularly one whose campaign effectively dynamited the lone beachhead of public financing in American politics – to scream about money pouring in against his political interests.

The President campaigned as a uniter and a pragmatist, but he has consistently governed as a partisan leftist.  On Tuesday his party will be punished, and his efforts to salvage his own re-election will begin in earnest.

Most prognosticators expect the House to change hands, but foresee only a diminished majority in the Senate.  But I remember that in the 1994 Republican tidal wave, the smart money said the Democrats would lose the Senate but hold the House — and they lost both.  This election has the same feel to me, and I’m predicting a Republican Senate.  I’ll remind you of this on Wednesday if I’m correct.


Victor Davis Hanson Offers a Useful Cliff Notes Guide to the Obama Presidency

Victor Davis Hanson is one of my favorite authors — so much so that I was surprised just now to discover that I never made a VDH “tag” for my blog posts.  (I just made one now… maybe someday I’ll go through the annoyingly tedious process of assigning the tag to past blog posts.  It involves paging through nearly 400 blog posts, 20 at a time.  #$&*@ WordPress.)

Where was I?  VDH.  I started following him at NRO in the wake of 9/11, and now he writes at Pajamas Media as well.  His writing from late 2001 still holds up quite well for the most part.  38 of his essays are collected in An Autumn of War: What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism — and you can buy it via my Amazon widget at the right!  (Theoretically I would get a tiny commission on the sale, but you can’t prove it by me.)

Hanson soured more quickly and more thoroughly on Obama than I did, and I started to notice something.  Whenever he wrote at length about Obama, he almost invariably tied aspects of his immediate topic back to earlier episodes, missteps or gaffes from the Obama campaign and presidency.  All polemicists do this, of course, but VDH is a master at teasing out links that are not immediately obvious.

I found myself thinking, “he must be keeping a cheat sheet — nobody can remember so much detail.”  Turns out he was keeping a cheat sheet, and yesterday he published it, at Pajamas Media:

So why are people angry? I’ll end with a brief list of twenty-one months of examples in no particular order. Each incident in itself was perhaps explicable by Obama supporters given the exigencies of the time or perhaps could be contextualized by the liberal media and political establishment. But in the aggregate they confirm an overwhelmingly damning pattern of ideological extremism, polarization, and basic incompetence – to such a degree that dozens of politicians are not running on the very Obama agenda that they once voted for.

Here We Go…

A vast new health care monstrosity that will send private insurance rates through the ceiling. The Machiavellian way in which it was slammed through. Failed stimulus. Wasteful pork-barrel spending of hundreds of billions in borrowed money. Persistent near 10% unemployment. Three trillion dollars in new debt in just two years. Record levels of federal spending. The vast increase in the size of government and its share of GDP. Eight years of projected $1 trillion annual budget deficits. Record high foreclosures. Record high usage of food stamps. The Keynesian zeal of Romer/Summers/Orzag followed by their sudden resignations in the wake of failure. Constant talk of higher taxes on “them”— the promised new health care surcharge taxes, the promised return to the Clinton income tax rates, talk of a VAT, talk of lifting the caps on income subject to FICA taxes, new capital gains taxes, new inheritance taxes on the horizon.

The use of extra-cabinet czars to avoid confirmation and audit. The neglect of the law, from reversing the order of Chrysler creditors to announcing a BP $20 billion shakedown and punishments for health insurers who don’t toe the line. The ascendance of ACORN and SEIU. The months-long shutdown of Gulf drilling. The failure to encourage coal, nuclear, and oil and gas new production. The Black Panther voting intimidation mess. The bowing abroad. The apologies. The outreach to enemies, and the snubbing of allies. The unnecessary humiliation of Great Britain and Israel. The Iran serial “deadline” charade. The unnecessary announcement of Afghan troop withdrawal deadlines. “Overseas contingency operations” and “man-made disasters.” The proposed civilian trial of KSM. The Ground Zero mosque mess. The beer summit mess. NASA’s new main mission of Muslim outreach. Stopping the border fence. Suing Arizona and demonizing the state. The apologies to the Chinese over the Arizona law, which was trashed from the White House lawn by the president of Mexico, and sued by foreign governments to the apparent approval of the administration.

The constant “Bush did it” refrain. The gratuitous slurs against limb-lopping doctors. The thrashing of the “rich” going to the Super Bowl and Las Vegas. The artificial divide of them/us based on $250,000 of annual income. The racial divisiveness from a sad cast of characters that gave us “cowards,” “stupidly,” “wise Latina,” and whites polluting the ghetto. Unhinged appointees like Van Jones and Anita Dunn. The occasional unguarded admissions like “never waste a crisis” and “at some point I do think you’ve made enough money.” The wacky behavior from the whining of “like a dog” to the sudden junketing to Copenhagen to lobby for the Chicago Olympics. The Orwellian cheap damning of the Bush anti-terrorism protocols only to accept or expand tribunals, renditions, Guantanamo, Predators, Iraq, and intercepts and wiretaps. The golf obsession and Costa del Sol while trashing the indulgent rich.

I’ll stop there since we have another 27 months to go.

Again, to invoke any one or two of these can be written off as partisan nit-picking; in toto they paint a picture of ideological zealotry determined to remake the U.S. abroad into a UN neutral and at home into something like Belgium or Sweden.

I would urge everyone to vote next week…

Some of the emphasis is in the original, some I added. (If you care which is which, check the original.) I just want to point out one subtlety.  Obama caught a lot of grief over the BP oil disaster, although I and others consistently argued that he was getting a bum rap.  VDH could easily have tossed in a line above about Obama being too slow to respond — but he didn’t.  He limits his Gulf-related criticism to the drilling moratorium and the BP shakedown, both points based on clear conservative principles.

It’s Long Past Time to End Public Funding for Broadcasters

This is a roundup of some of the best commentary I’ve seen on the bizarre dismissal of Juan Williams.  Cliff May sets the scene:

Juan Williams

So much for National Public Radio’s commitment to freedom of speech. As just about everyone now knows, NPR fired commentator Juan Williams for expressing not an opinion but a fear — one that millions of Americans almost certainly share.

“When I get on a plane,” Williams told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “I’ve got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

This reminded me: A few years ago, I was traveling with a government official from the Middle East. His name clearly identified him as a Muslim. We were screened at two airports, and I noticed he was not searched thoroughly. He told me that was not unusual — and he was not pleased by it. Why not? Because, he said, “If they’re not scrutinizing me, who else are they not looking at? I don’t want to get killed in a terrorist attack any more than you do.”

To express that fear in public cannot be a firing offense.

Dr. K cites an unexpected authority to emphasize a similar point:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I want to start by having people look at this quote from Jesse Jackson about 18 years ago in which he says, I hope we can put it up on the screen, that when he walks down the street, hears footsteps, and he starts thinking about robbery, he looks around and when he sees someone who is white, he feels relieved.  Jesse Jackson is saying this. In other words, if the people he looked at were black, he would feel anxiety or fear.

Now, this — there is nobody in his right mind that is going to say that Jesse Jackson is a racist, anti-black racist. He’s not.

From the left flank, here’s Tim Wise (h/t Tigerhawk):

Yet what had Williams done, exactly? He acknowledged his own biases, and then explained the fallacy embedded therein. He was being honest, and in so doing, demonstrating an important fact that the nice white liberals who predominate at NPR try to deny, especially for themselves. Namely, that even the best of us can be taken in by racism, by religious bias, by ethnic chauvinism, by prejudice. No matter our liberal bona fides, the bottom line is this: advertising works, whether for selling toothpaste, tennis shoes, or stereotypes….

The only difference between Juan Williams and the people who fired him is this: Williams is honest enough to admit his own damage. And importantly, what the research on this subject tells us is that it is precisely those persons who are able to see and acknowledge their biases who are the most likely to challenge themselves, and try valiantly not to act on them. In other words, it is the Juan Williams’s of the world whose self-awareness in this regard will minimize the likelihood of discriminatory behavior. Meanwhile, it’s the liberals who deny to their dying breath that they have a “racist bone in their bodies,” or who swear they “never see color,” or insist that they are open-minded, forward thinking and free of prejudice, who are often unable to see how their internalized biases effect them, and move them around the chessboard of life without them even realizing it. Frankly, those are the ones from whom racial and religious “others” probably need the most protection.

Seth Lipsky in the Wall Street Journal describes the forces aligning against government-subsidized broadcasting:

At least one good thing has come out of National Public Radio’s firing of Juan Williams. NPR’s vice president had barely hung up the phone after informing Mr. Williams that he was being terminated—and refusing to meet with him, a long-time colleague, to discuss the matter—when the calls began for Congress to cut off funding for NPR entirely.

Bill O’Reilly… called for “the immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar going into NPR.” Sarah Palin issued a Facebook posting called “Juan Williams: Going Rogue,” in which she wrote: “If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for ‘National Public Radio’ to become ‘National Private Radio.'”

Then South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint issued a statement saying that he would introduce a bill to end federal funding of public broadcasting. Most significantly, the man who may be the next House Speaker, John Boehner, told National Review Online: “We need to face facts—our government is broke. Washington is borrowing 37 cents of every dollar it spends from our kids and grandkids. Given that, I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network—and in the wake of Juan Williams’ firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is.”

Jennifer Rubin:

With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

In Any Language, the Ground Zero Mosque is a Bad Idea

Yasser Arafat, the Father of Modern Terrorism, whose 1994 receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize tarnished that award for all time, pioneered the art of condemning violence in English while encouraging it in Arabic.  He largely got away with it, because of a shortage of Arabic-language speakers in America and Europe.

Enter MEMRI, the indispensable Middle East Media Research Institute, founded in 1998.  MEMRI has played a role in virtually every news article you’ve ever seen about radical Muslims preaching death and destruction in Arabic, not to mention Farsi, Urdu, Pashtu, Dari, Hindi, and Turkish.

(Hm… the premise of this post was that it’s refreshing to see MEMRI with a translation of a Muslim with a moderate message.  So I get a couple of nice setup paragraphs written… and I realize the article in question was actually written in English.  Whatever.  Onward!)

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a former Commodore in the Saudi Arabian Navy, who spent several years in the U.S. as a liaison officer at the Pensacola Naval Air Station (where my favorite sailor did his A School training last year), after spending several years in the late 1970s studying at the State University of New York’s Maritime College.  While in New York he visited the “breathtaking” World Trade Center more times than he could count.

During his years in the U.S. … well, let him tell it:

I drove on every highway and used every airport you can think of. During all that time I never had any problem praying and practicing Islam. As a matter of fact, the American people are the most admired for their respect of the Islamic religion. We prayed everywhere – in the classroom, the office, airports and in any highway exit. So Islam can be practiced anywhere without any fanfare or prestigious mosque. The U.S. is the most tolerant country regarding building an Islamic center. But why [did] Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf choose Ground Zero?”…

When I watched the collapse of the World Trade Center and the rescue efforts done by the people of New York, I knew for sure that someone I know was a victim or a rescue member. Two weeks later I received an e-mail from the Maritime College Alumni Association announcing the death of two of the school graduates. One is from the class of 1963 and the other from the class of 1986 (I will not mention their names). Another very close friend of mine and from the same class (1979) left one of the burning towers 15 minutes before it collapsed. Now I am emotionally more hurt than before. …

This is why I think that we Muslims have to carefully consider the place where the mosque will be built. There are a lot of mosques in Manhattan and having the mosque near Ground Zero may bring more harm to the Muslims than good. There is freedom of religion, but there is a common sense too.

Well said, Commodore Al-Mulhim.

Did Governor Awesome Get Cold Feet?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced yesterday that he was halting work on an $8.7 billion rail tunnel under the Hudson.  Here’s why:

The federal government and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ultimately each pledged $3 billion. But New Jersey, which had committed $2.7 billion to the tunnel, was responsible for anything over that.

And “anything over that” was ballooning before the digging even began.  Christie was faced with estimates of final costs ranging from $11 billion to $14 billion, implying the state’s $2.7 billion share could double or triple, and Governor Awesome made an adult decision.

Yes, it would be rilly rilly rilly nice to double the rail capacity between New Jersey and Manhattan.  Yes, the construction jobs would would be good for the economy and the increased rail capacity would boost housing values.  But the construction money has to come from somewhere, the state already is in a deep financial hole, and I was pleased but not surprised that Christie pulled the plug.

Then I was surprised but not pleased to hear, one day later, that the governor was waffling on the decision, after a meeting with federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“The fact that the ARC [Access to the Region’s Core] project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged,” Christie said in a statement Friday. “However, this afternoon Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project. At the secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have executive director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks.”

However this turns out, the waffling reflects badly on the Republican governor.  I generally have little use for Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, but I can’t argue with his statement today:

“Why we couldn’t have talked five weeks ago, or six weeks ago, I don’t understand.”

(The “we” is a nice touch — as near as I can tell, the Senator wasn’t actually in the meeting, he just went running to find a camera afterward.)

I don’t understand why Governor Christie would jeopardize his hard-won reputation for standing firm in the face of intense pressure. Presumably we’ll know more about what happened within a couple of weeks.