Thank You, Mr. President, For Your Message to Kids

obama schoolCan we now please have an end to the silliest non-controversy of the young Obama administration?

I caught the tail end of the President’s speech on CNN’s live stream, and I’ve read the prepared text.  The kids just saw a highly accomplished black man, who lives with his wife and plays an active role in raising their delightful young children, tell students of all races that it’s important to stay in school and do their best.

Any excuse for staging such an event is a good enough excuse for me.  Given that the black man in question is our President, it would be a huge opportunity lost for him not to provide a back-to-school message.

Here’s the beginning of the part I caught, from the prepared text:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

Hear, hear. Fellow conservatives would be well-advised to save their criticism for more consequential debates.

Hitler Comparisons are Odious, Whether About Obama or Bush

bushitler2You may have seen and applauded the YouTube video of Barney Frank’s verbal smackdown of a twit who accused him at a town hall of backing Obama’s “Nazi” healthcare plan.  I agree that Frank’s righteous put-down was well-executed, but I have to protest the notion that anti-Obama rhetoric represents a recent coarsening of the public discourse.

Bush=Hitler comparisons were common throughout Bush’s tenure.  They got little exposure in the mainstream media — journalists recognized that the Bushitler loonies undermined more serious criticisms of Bush.  But Zombietime spent years collecting photos — the two here are chosen from hundreds on his site.

Interestingly, the young moron in Barney Frank’s audience turns out to be a member of the LaRouche cult.

bushitler4Lyndon LaRouche doesn’t operate on the same political spectrum as most Americans, but he is a seven-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, and LaRouchians say ObamaCare is a “Nazi” policy because it does not include complete socialization of healthcare through a single-payer structure.

In other words, the video shows Barney Frank taking fire from his left.

My point here is not to say “the Left brought this on themselves” with eight years of Bush Derangement Syndrome.  My point is that the flamethrowers on both sides of the aisle do a disservice to their own cause by distracting from more worthy arguments. Also: comparisons with Hitler should be reserved for people with eight-figure death tolls.

At least when the extremist is a protester, it’s relatively easy to shrug it off.  It’s a little bit harder when the inflamed rhetoric comes from the Senate Majority Leader.

Update: GayPatriotWest, who is not a Barney Frank fan, has some parallel thoughts.

“Porkulus” Was a Travesty, but “Cash for Clunkers” is Kosher

CashForClunkersI wasn’t aware of the “Cash for Clunkers” program until today, when they started talking about ending it prematurely because it was running out of money.  I’m not in a position to take advantage of the program  personally, but I’m glad that it looks like Congress will add more money to it.  I think the concept is brilliant — if the rest of the bloated and dishonest “stimulus” legislation had been more like this, I’d stop calling it the Porkulus bill.

Many conservatives argue that there should not have been a stimulus bill at all.  I tend to agree, and I certainly respect the principles on which that argument is made.  However, the simple political reality is that there was zero chance that the government would refrain from using stimulus spending in an attempt to revitalize the economy.

But while I think any stimulus spending may have been misguided, I’d be done talking about it if the legislation had been a pure stimulus package.  The thing I find infuriating is the uncontestable fact that much of the money will not be spent until 2011 or later.  It is fundamentally dishonest to pretend that the purpose of such spending is to stimulate the economy now.

That’s why I love the Cash for Clunkers program.  People commit to spending money right now, then they wait for the rebate.  It gives a boost to the auto industry (and remember, you and I now OWN a significant chunk of that industry).  It gets older, less efficient vehicles off the road in favor of more fuel-efficient models.  Perhaps best of all, it lets individual citizens decide whether they personally want to participate in the program. Win, win, win, win.

Of course, some conservatives see it differently.  On Planet Gore, National Review Online’s anti-environmentalist blog, Henry Payne weighs in:

Worse, Democratic demands that the guzzlers be permanently shredded means that already hurting used-car and -parts businesses will suffer. By insisting that the cars not only be crushed — but also that their engines be disabled — Congress’s decree will penalize the industry at time when a dozen U.S. parts suppliers have filed for bankruptcy this year. […]

The victims will be lower-income Americans who typically buy only used parts and vehicles. “Now you’re removing cars people could afford, and they’re not available anymore,” says Norm Wright, a Denver recycler. “There will be fewer cars to pull from, so the price of parts will go up.

Pish and tosh.  This strikes me as Obama Derangement Syndrome, or maybe Government Derangement Syndrome — the idea that any initiative by one’s political “enemies” must be not just opposed, but also attacked and belittled.  Once it becomes inevitable that there is going to be an attempt to stimulate through government spending, Cash for Clunkers is about as good as it gets.

The original program included  “only” $1 billion for rebates.  Now the House has voted to add $2 billion.  Those amounts alone have no meaningful stimulative effect.  But surely other sensible stimulative initiatives could have been devised.

At the risk of sounding like a Republican,  the most effective way to stimulate the economy would have been… wait for it… a tax cut.  No, not a “tax cut for the rich” — a tax cut aimed directly at middle-class and lower-middle-class wage earners and business owners.  I’m talking about cutting Social Security taxes — the most regressive form of taxation there is.

I don’t recall where I first heard this idea — probably one of the political podcasts I listen to on the treadmill.  But the more I think through the implications, the more I like the concept.  The Social Security portion of FICA — currently 6.2% on the first $106,800 of annual wages earned — is more regressive even than the sales tax, because there’s no cap on the sales tax.

slow_d16It’s too late now — the Democrats already rammed through their Christmas-tree porkulus package, and the president put the lie to the idea that it had to be passed now now now now now by waiting days to sign it.  But if the main point is to pump money into the economy, why not temporarily reduce that tax by, say, 1 point?  Sure that creates a greater Social Security deficit in the future… but Porkulus increases a different deficit, and it’s not as efficient in creating short-term spending.

A Social Security tax cut could have become effective as quickly as employers could adjust their payroll calculations.  Because of the very nature of the tax, it benefits lower-income people more than it benefits the “rich.”  If the only way to get Democratic support to pass such a bill were to make sure none of the filthy, immoral, $106,801-earning Plutocrats got a single dime of benefit, you could even phase out the temporary tax cut at higher income levels.  Of course, you could also couple such a tax cut with a much smaller, better designed spending program.

Would some people undermine the stimulation by saving the extra bucks rather than spending them?  Sure.  But a LOT of the money would get spent… and the part that is “wasted” by being saved would at least be going into the savings accounts of individuals, who could make their own eventual decisions on how to spend it.

I’m not recommending this now — I’m opposed with every fiber of my being to any additional “stimulus” effort before what we’ve already done has a chance to filter through the economy.

But am I missing something?  Why would this not have been a better idea?

(Illustration by the Web Goddess)

“Obama Derangement Syndrome” May be Mutating; Taranto Gets a Sniffle

taranto-wsj-small1I’ve blogged before about Obama Derangement Syndrome, and its more prevalent predecessor, Bush Derangement Syndrome.  But the ODS virus now shows signs of mutating into a subtler strain.

Let’s call it Obama-Euphoria Debunking Syndrome (OEDS).

James Taranto, whose Best of the Web Today is the one blog I make certain to read every day, has always scrupulously resisted lapsing into ODS.  Today, for example, he offers this observation:

Actually, although we oppose many of the administration’s initiatives, we think reflexive opposition is irresponsible and stupid. And, because we love America, it pleases us when the administration does something we think is right.

Well put.  As another prominent blogger put it, “conservatives should support Obama when he gets something right.”

But while Taranto has avoided ODS, today’s column shows troubling symptoms of OEDS, as Taranto takes a swing at one of his favorite punching bags, Reuters.

Some background: Taranto’s scorn toward Reuters dates back at least to September 24, 2001. On that day, with the ruins still smoldering in lower Manhattan, he quoted a Reuters executive who forbade his reporters from describing the recent unpleasantness as “terrorism” because “we all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

Ever since, Taranto has been on the alert for signs of hypocrisy in what the news service reports.  (Or as he likes to put it, in what the “news” service “reports.”)  In January, for example, in an item about torture allegations, he noted: “Reuters, which is careful not to use the word terrorism outside scare quotes, has no objection to using torture as if it were a regular, unloaded word.”

At other times he has referred to “the wire service’s odious anti-American bias,” “Reuterian anti-Americanism,” etc.  After an unidentified Reuters editor rewrote a Deanna Wrenn article to turn it into an America-bashing screed, he challenged a different Reuters article by saying “The piece is bylined “Joseph Logan,” but who knows if someone by that name actually wrote it; as Deanna Wrenn found out, Reuters isn’t above fraudulently affixing someone’s byline to its anti-American boilerplate.”

Like other conservative bloggers, Taranto has repeatedly commented about the sharp contrast between the news media’s treatment of Obama and Bush.  A January column was an opportunity for a two-fer: “Reuters’ pro-Obama bias seems to be tempering its usual anti-American bias,” he wrote.

Have I mentioned that Taranto doesn’t like Reuters?

I thought about coining the term “Reuters Derangement Syndrome” for this post, but Taranto is not deranged and Reuters is not that important.  Obama Euphoria-Debunking Syndrome (I’m not sure where the hyphen belongs) is a much less toxic malady.  Here’s the post today that makes me think Taranto may have an OEDS sniffle (emphasis added):

From Reuters:

U.S. homebuilder sentiment jumped to its highest level in eight months in May, a private survey showed on Monday, supporting views that the three-year housing slump might be close to an end.

Now wait a second. Another way of describing this is that homebuilder sentiment remains lower today than it was eight months ago, which was well into the three-year slump. How can this possibly support the view that the slump is close to an end?

Wait, it just occurred to us that something has changed since September that may be affecting Reuters’ evaluation of the housing market.

The change he refers to, of course, is the transition from Bush to Obama. But Taranto, who may be seeing what he is predisposed to see, overstates his case.  The Reuters report seems appropriately hedged, and at worst represents wishful thinking.  To answer Taranto’s boldfaced question: Sentiment generally has been declining for three years.  Sentiment apparently is improving now, and if it continues to improve, the slump will end. The term “slump” doesn’t appear to have a specific definition in this context, but if it’s analogous to a recession, the slump can be said to have ended at the point the sentiment changed direction.

(Pointillist drawing of Taranto is probably originally from the WSJ and may be copyrighted; I found it here.)

VDH Describes Our Topsy-Turvy Times

vdh1Victor Davis Hanson is one of my favorite political writers.  He brilliantly weaves together seemingly unrelated news events to describe patterns that others cannot yet see.  I wish I had been aware of him on September 11, 2001, because he went into overdrive, producing 38 outstanding essays before the end of the year about the new world we had entered and the enemies we faced.

The essays, for National Review Online and other outlets, are collected in his book An Autumn of War. They  hold up remarkably well — if I had read the essays at the time, I would have had a tremendous head start toward realizations and understandings that took me years to reach.

I’ve been a bit disappointed by him in more recent months — his antipathy to Barack Obama sometimes veers toward Obama Derangement Syndrome.  But his essay today on National Review Online has him in fine form, and not sparing the Republicans. An excerpt:

Nonsense is passed off as wisdom. Those who caused the financial meltdown walked away with millions in bonuses while taxpayers covered the debts they ran up. The big-spending government claims it may cut our annual $1.7 trillion deficit in half by 2012 — but only after piling up trillions more in national debt.

In our Orwellian world, borrowing to spend what we don’t have has been renamed “stimulus.” Those who pay no federal income taxes — almost half of Americans — can somehow be promised an income tax “cut.” In the new borrowing of trillions of dollars here and trillions there, billions of dollars now sounds like pocket change. …

Abroad, we thought piracy ended with the age of sail — only to learn that the world’s 21st-century navies either will not or cannot sink a few brigands in speedboats. Meanwhile, a U.N. conference against racism showcased Iranian president — and Holocaust-denier — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spouting anti-Semitic hatred.

The old “bad” unilateral war in Iraq is now quiet; the once “good” multilateral effort in Afghanistan is not. We are warned that we must be careful not to explicitly associate the radical Islam that fueled the September 11 attacks with terrorism; yet, we are advised that we should worry about returning American veterans as potential terrorists.

You should, as the saying goes, read the whole thing.  But since you probably won’t, here’s the ominous punchline:

There have been a few crazy years like 2009 in American history — 1860, 1929, 1941, and 1968. And given what followed all of them, it might be wise to prepare for even crazier times for us ahead.

Conservatives Should Support Obama When He Gets Something Right

Limbaugh offers snark and bile

Limbaugh offers snark and bile

Parts of the right-o-sphere are all aflutter, debating whether President Obama deserves any credit for the rescue of a maritime hero held by pirates.

It’s a reminder that Obama Derangement Syndrome is no more appropriate than its more wide-spread predecessor, Bush Derangement Syndrome.

In The Corner, Jonah Goldberg piped up promptly and congratulated the President for authorizing the mission.  Later he took incoming fire from his right, as it turned out the President may not have specifically authorized the mission, he may just have refrained from interfering.  Jonah stood firm:

But you know what? Congratulations anyway. It’s good news the captain was rescued; Obama is the commander-in-chief and this happened on his watch; if he were thoroughly Carteresque he would have ordered that the pirates not be harmed, and you can be sure some of the snark-and-bilers would be blaming Obama if this ended badly (and I might have been one of them).

Look, I think my credentials as a critic of Obama are pretty solid. But I find the idea that I have to be critical no matter what Obama does to be exhaustingly unappealing.

Hear, hear.  But Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the side of snark-and-bile, saying sarcastically, “I would like to not only jump on the bandwagon of praising President Obama for a brilliant rescue, not only a plan but its execution, I don’t think the Navy had that much to do with it.”  He went on to fantasize at great length about who would play Obama in the movie, settling on Will Smith as both the President AND the Navy SEALs commander who took the crucial shot.  He later speculated  that if this had happened in the previous administration, the headlines would have been along the lines of Bush Assassinates Three Black Teenagers.  Exhaustively unappealing, indeed.

Just before the inauguration, Limbaugh famously said “I hope Obama fails.”  He clarified:

I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half.  I know what his politics are.  I know what his plans are, as he has stated them.  I don’t want them to succeed.

But of course he knew what the sound bite would be.  I often tell my liberal friends, don’t blame me for Rush Limbaugh and I won’t blame you for Michael Moore.

Most conservative commentators I saw came down closer to Goldberg’s opinion.  Abe Greenwald at Commentary didn’t single out the President by name, but said:

Fantastic news all around. The U.S. did not dither with negotiations or treat this as a criminal matter. It acted unilaterally and with force to free a brave man.

National Review’s Andy McCarthy notes that conservatives might well have expected a different outcome, based on the President’s past rhetoric:

Obama’s posturing put the pieces in place for a disaster. When an American-flagged ship was besieged, the president might have been paralyzed by his solicitude for the Islamic world and his commitment against unilateral action. He might have subordinated the safety of Americans to the bridge-building he has dubiously claimed to be central to our security. As commander-in-chief, he could have handcuffed the Navy. But he didn’t. Whatever his predilections, Obama unleashed John Wayne when that’s what was needed. For that we should be pleased and acknowledge a job well done.

Even Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs offered unambiguous approval (some of his lizardoid commenters were predictably less gracious):

The US Navy did us proud today. And yes, I know we’re supposed to detest and mock everything President Obama does, on pain of excommunication, but as Commander in Chief he deserves congratulations for handling this one just right.

I cast my vote in the comments of my previous post on the topic — ” I don’t think he did anything heroic, but I think he handled it fine.”  I’ll stand by that, although I might phrase it a little more graciously.  It wasn’t on the scale of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the Commander in Chief did well in his first live-action military test.

It’s not over, of course.  Somali pirates hijacked more ships today — it’s a business model that works for them.  It will be interesting to see if they try to grab any more American ships.

"Vets for Freedom" Offers a Template for the Loyal Opposition

Captain Pete Hegseth of the Minnesota National Guard was deployed in Iraq in 2005-06. After returning he helped found Vets for Freedom, whose mission is “to educate the American public about the importance of achieving success in these conflicts” in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group is officially non-partisan, but based on their mission, it’s not too hard to guess which Presidential candidate they preferred.

As Hegseth writes this week in National Review Online (which for some reason still lists him as a lieutenant):

Our group, Vets for Freedom, ran millions of dollars’ worth of television and radio advertising this year that directly challenged Obama’s policies toward Iraq and the surge. We aggressively instigated his return trip to Iraq and called on him to tell the truth about the success of the surge. We believed his stated policy prescriptions for Iraq were outdated and pressured him to reconsider his rigid timeline for withdrawal.

Then Obama won. Now what?

But on Inauguration Day, our approach will change—as a candidate becomes our commander-in-chief. We will not do to President Obama what others did to President Bush. Our brothers are still in harm’s way, and Obama is their commander-in-chief, just as he is ours.

We will support President Obama whenever possible, persuade him at decisive and deliberative moments, and constructively oppose him when he pursues policies we deem detrimental to battlefield success. Success on the battlefield—as well as the health of our military—must be our lodestar, as we seek to help our new president defend our nation.

Thank you for your wise counsel, Captain Hegseth, and for your service to our country.

A Centrist Obama May Help Moderate the Democratic Party

Today’s edition of Obama Silver Lining Watch (hereafter OSLW) starts with a trip down memory lane.

In my very first substantive post on this blog, way back in July 2008, I discussed how Obama was, inevitably, moderating his stance on multiple issues after finally knocking Hillary Clinton out of the race:

But it turns out Obama is a politician. After winning the Democratic nomination by appealing to the young, the idealists, the activists and the pacifists, he’s swerved right so fast that many of his supporters have whiplash.

Now that he’s won the general election, I’ve blogged several times about my relief at the extent to which Obama has not swerved back to the left. But the very signals that I find encouraging are causing consternation in other quarters.

In an essay titled “The Coming Rift,” Abe Greenwald argues at that Obama and the Democratic leadership are much more in tune with the Republicans than they are with the liberal Democratic base. Noting the recent support for Israel’s current Gaza offensive from Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, Greenwald says:

On matters of foreign policy, social policy, and economics, Democratic leadership is largely indistinguishable from the Republican variety. And Democratic voters have noticed.

The best part of the essay is where Greenwald analyzes the role of Bush Derangement Syndrome (he doesn’t use that term) in creating a disconnect for Democrats:

The runaway train of preposterous (and liberal) expectations that delivered Barack Obama into the White House first gained speed as a runaway train full of preposterous accusations against George W. Bush. With their cartoonish demonization of every Bush policy and associate, groups like the Daily Kos and made it impossible for any liberal with a web browser to give a single conservative policy a fair shake. Barack Obama’s exploitation and mobilization of this online hysteria made for an unstoppable campaign, but also for an illusory state of political affairs. Democratic politicians, President-elect Obama included, always knew better than the frenzied multitude that voted in “change.” But the netroots were duped as a result of their own momentum.

It’s too early to know how the betrayed will repay their leaders in the next Congressional or Presidential elections, but if Democratic fragmentation is to be avoided down the line, perhaps the introspection about re-branding, redefining, and reaching out needs to happen on the Left.

Democratic activists can be vindictive. In 2000, Joe Lieberman was the party’s VP candidate. Just six years later he was denied his own party’s nomination for re-election to the Senate, and two years after that he became an absolute pariah for daring to campaign for McCain on the basis of support for the Iraq War. The analogy is inexact — Obama clearly is a darling of the liberal Democratic base in a way that Lieberman never was. But that could make the left’s sense of betrayal sting all the more in the context of some future hard decision by President Obama.

Left-wing anger could damage Obama’s effectiveness, but I see happier possibilities for Obama and for our country.

Obama’s election victory was the product of two powerful forces: Obama’s own undeniable charisma, combined with Bush’s liabilities. In turn, Bush’s problems also had two parts: frenzied hatred from the left and dissatisfaction from many across the rest of the political spectrum.

Starting two short weeks from now, Bush will become largely irrelevant. President Obama will be the leader of what Newsweek controversially (but correctly, I think) called a center-right nation. If, as I expect, Obama makes grown-up decisions that infuriate the extreme left, he’ll still have a broad base of support from the center and from some on the right. In the process, Obama — like Clinton before him — may help move the center of gravity of the Democratic party away from the leftist fringe.

(Photo Credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images. Note that Obama is leaning to his right.)

Gaza, and Obama Derangement Syndrome

Photo: Associated Press via Yahoo! News

Caption: Muslim protesters wearing masks of, from left, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, take part in a rally against Israeli air strikes on Gaza, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.

I didn’t vote for Obama, but I wish him well, because there’s a lot at stake. Sixteen days from now he’ll be America’s president, and my president.

So I don’t want to slip into the kind of partisan glee some conservative bloggers have been showing at the growing evidence that the man behind (I bet they retire that domain before 2012) will face some limitations in his ability to change the world.

There’s little doubt that Obama will be treated with considerably more respect throughout his term by the American news media than Bush ever was. That’s likely to be true around the world as well, at least initially. But America has real enemies, and Obama will quickly become the face of the Great Satan for jihadists everywhere. The process is under way.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I am more confident than I was two months ago that Obama will protect America with a muscular foreign policy. It will be interesting to see how the longtime purveyors of Bush Derangement Syndrome will react when it’s their man making the tough decisions.

Obama Silver Lining Watch (Gitmo Edition)

“The single best thing about the election of Obama may be that we now have a chance to view the terror threat without the distorting lens of Bush hatred.”

So says Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush Administration, as quoted in a William McGurn column in today’s WSJ. The topic of the column is Guantanamo, and McGurn describes reports that Obama may tread cautiously despite his campaign promise to close the prison camp and move the remaining 250 detainees.

During the campaign, of course, both John McCain and Barack Obama vowed to close Gitmo down. But a President Obama will likely find it easier to do the prudent thing. As a Republican hawk charged by his opponent with representing a third Bush term, Mr. McCain would have been under immense pressure to prove that he wasn’t George W. Bush. And a hasty closing of Guantanamo would have been a high-profile way to do it.

Fortunately, Mr. Obama is under no such pressure. …

Yes, it’s a double standard. But it could turn out to be a good thing for the nation. What the American people need today is a sensible policy that recognizes three facts: that terrorists present a unique challenge to our rules of war; that capturing and holding terrorists is different from capturing and holding criminals or prisoners of war; and that the men and women who set up Guantanamo did so not because they were out to shred the Constitution but because, faced with some very imperfect choices, this was thought to be the best way to protect the American people.

Six weeks from today, Barack Obama becomes commander-in-chief of the global war against Islamic fascism, as well as the active combat theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama won the Democratic nomination on a platform of surrender in the Iraqi theater, but events overtook him — it’s now too late to surrender there, as the war in Iraq has largely been won.

By retaining the Secretary of Defense who oversaw the turnaround in Iraq, Obama has signaled that he will take seriously his duty to protect American interests. Caution on Guantanamo is a similar signal. Sometime in 2009, I fully expect Obama to begin explaining why America’s best interests are served by a stable democracy in Iraq — rather than chaos in the wake of a too-hasty withdrawal. And because the explanation will no longer be coming from the hated Bush, both of America’s major political parties will begin to have a stake in the success of the war effort.

That’s why this McCain voter sees yet another silver lining in Obama’s electoral victory. (Wait a minute… silver lining? Are you calling Obama a “dark raincloud”? Don’t even go there.)