If You Insist, I’ll Pontificate on the Election Results

Press conference photo from NY Times

A friend and former co-worker (“hi Father Tom!”) teased me by phone today about being at my day job when I could be blogging about the election.  I told him I knew there would be no shortage of commentary today about the election, and I didn’t think my dozens of daily readers are parked on my blog and repeatedly clicking the refresh button.

But what if I’m wrong about that?  From what I know about how Google Analytics works, I’m pretty sure a hundred clicks on the refresh button would still get logged as only one visit.  So if you recognize yourself in this paragraph: 1) get a life; and 2) could you at least click on the ads once in a while?  (Note to Google AdSense snipers: that was a joke — I’m not really trying to generate artificial ad clicks.  I will take this opportunity to explain, however, as allowed by AdSense guidelines, that my Google AdSense “earnings” to date total $62.79, or an average of 12 cents a day since May 2009.  (Ka-CHING!) I put “earnings” in quotes because I won’t see any money until if and when the total reaches $100.)

Where was I?  The election — which would seem like an even bigger win for the Republicans if not for the fact that a few zealots predicted a Senate takeover.  I don’t have much in the way of original brilliant insights, but I’ll share some of the best commentary I’ve seen today.

Peter Wehner:

After watching President Obama’s press conference, Democrats who are still left standing must have been mortified. The depth of his self-delusion was stunning. To put things in perspective: the Democratic Party just suffered the worst repudiation any political party has since before the middle of the last century. …

If you listened to the president, though, the “shellacking” was because of process rather than substance. ObamaCare, he assured us, is a sparkling, wondrous law; the only downside to it was the horse-trading that went on to secure its passage. They would be “misreading the election,” the president helpfully informed Republicans, if they decide to “relitigate the arguments of the last two years.”…

After his victory in 2008, Obama’s message to Republicans was: “I won.” Today, after his party was throttled, Obama’s message is: “Come let us reason together.”

What we saw today was less a president than a dogmatist — a man who appears to have an extraordinary capacity to hermetically seal off events and evidence that call into question his governing philosophy, his policies, and his wisdom. The election yesterday was above all a referendum on the president’s policies, yet his big takeaway was not to relitigate his agenda. …

The author of one of the worst political debacles in American history seems to have learned almost nothing from it.

VDH:

President Obama came close, but he still just cannot admit that his radical policies and their effects on the economy are the cause of his devastating political rebuke. …

For most of the press conference, a humbled but deer-in-the-headlights Obama half-heartedly argued that the populist outrage against his own massive debt, huge wasteful government, and elitism was really outrage against the economy he inherited, an outrage that he shares. We don’t know it, the president hints, but we are still angry at the Bush years, and yesterday mistakenly took our wrath out on Obama’s methodical, albeit too slow, efforts at recovery. In short, there was little admission whatsoever that Obama’s message and the way he pushed it turned off millions — there was no repentant Clinton, circa autumn 1994, here; instead, a shocked Obama who seems hurt that we do not appreciate him.

I don’t think the American people — who just last week heard their president boast that Republicans had to sit in the back seat, and that Latinos should punish their Republican “enemies,” and who have now given him the greatest midterm putdown in over a half-century — suddenly will pay much attention to his calls for an end to the old divisiveness.

Jonah:

During his press conference this afternoon, President Obama insisted that the American public doesn’t want to “re-litigate the past.” Roughly four minutes later, he insisted that he inherited the deficit, which got worse because of a recession he inherited, as well. Somehow Obama forgot to mention that he increased spending 23 percent, tripling the deficit in the process.

No wonder he doesn’t want to re-litigate the past. …

For a year, as he relentlessly pushed a healthcare bill, against public opposition, his advisers kept telling the press that once he got his healthcare priority passed, he would “pivot” to focusing on jobs. So while the country bled jobs from its economic jugular, Obama crammed through an unpopular piece of legislation that wouldn’t fully kick into effect until 2014. He did not do so in secret. “A crisis,” his chief of staff explained numerous times, “is a terrible thing to waste.” But the point he wants people to take away is that all of the runaway spending on his watch—much of which was focused on “reforms” that, by design, will do nothing to deal with the recession for years, if ever—was all done for an emergency that he inherited.

Taranto:

Barack Obama’s election, The New Republic’s John Judis wrote two years ago, “is the culmination of a Democratic realignment that began in the 1990s, was delayed by September 11, and resumed with the 2006 election.” This was truer than Judis realized, for he seemed not quite to grasp that a culmination is the reaching of the highest point. He imagined new highs still to come…

In his victory speech, [Florida Senator-elect Marco] Rubio–quoted by blogger Jonathan Adler–issued a very pertinent warning to his party:

We make a great mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party. What they are is a second chance, a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.

Rubio is absolutely right. Pajamas Media’s Frank J. Fleming summed it up best when he observed last month that Republicans were going to “win huge” because they “kind of suck”–in contrast with the Democrats’ “Godzilla-smashing-through-a-city level of suck–but a really patronizing Godzilla who says you’re just too stupid and hateful to see all the buildings he’s saved or created as he smashes everything apart.”

If we assume that Republicans remain in general disrepute, one must conclude that John Judis got it exactly wrong two years ago. This was a thundering rejection of Obama-style liberalism.

I’ll close with a Facebook quote from a liberal friend who was sharing a HuffPo article about Mississippi Gov. and uber-Republican Haley Barbour:

“A short portly white conservative from a small town in the Deep South” vs. Obama in 2012 – the outcome of that would sure tell you something fundamental about this country, wouldn’t it?

Yes, it would tell you that conservatives outnumber liberals.

Rand Paul: Giving Libertarianism a Bad Name

Taranto aptly called it “a rookie mistake” when newly nominated Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul told an interviewer that he was troubled by the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which Paul otherwise supported —  crossed the line of regulating behavior by private businesses.  However intellectually coherent Paul’s position might be in a narrow, libertarian-absolutist, freshman-dorm-room kind of way, politically and realistically it’s nuts.

Or as Taranto says:

In this matter, Paul seems to us to be overly ideological and insufficiently mindful of the contingencies of history. Although we are in accord with his general view that government involvement in private business should be kept to a minimum, in our view the Civil Rights Act’s restrictions on private discrimination were necessary in order to break down a culture of inequality that was only partly a matter of oppressive state laws.

If he’s going to play in the big leagues, Paul needs to stop making rookie mistakes. In discussing the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Paul apparently felt a need to stick up for the spiller:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” said Paul who overwhelmingly won Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary in Kentucky and is a favorite of Tea Party activists. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticisms of businesses.”

“I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill,” Paul continued. “I think it’s part of this blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault, instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”

I’m a big fan of capitalism myself, but geez.  There will be other, better opportunities to criticize Obama and the Democrats for excessive corporate-bashing.  For now, Paul would be wise to simply refrain from joining the dogpile on top of the oil industry.

If I were to describe my political philosophy in one word, that word would be “libertarian.” My libertarian slogan of choice is “free people and free markets, under the rule of law.”  The “rule of law” part is a recognition that if you go too far down the spectrum toward small government, you wind up with anarchy.  To become a Senator, Rand Paul needs to stop following his father that far down the libertarian trail.

Hope (and Ammunition) for Opponents of Socialized Medicine

It seems clear after Saturday’s Senate vote that America will avoid the worst excesses of the various Democratic proposals to remake the health care system.  The Senate voted 60-39 to allow the debate to reach the Senate floor, but although the vote was a nominal victory for the Democrats, they had zero votes to spare as they (temporarily) averted a Republican filibuster.

In particular, while stalwart Independent ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman sided with the Democratic caucus on this procedural vote, he has made it clear he will join Republicans in blocking any bill that includes the single-payer stalking horse known as the “public option.”  A few Democrats have also signaled that the party cannot necessarily count on their votes on an actual bill, while I’ve seen no signs that any Republicans are likely to break ranks.

Thankfully, the public “option” appears to be dead.

But just in case it attempts to lurch zombie-like from the grave, I’m glad to see an increasing number of resources available making well-articulated arguments against the move toward socialized medicine.

The video at the top of this post is perhaps the best of four well-made films available at FreeMarketCure.com, a website “dedicated to correctly diagnosing the problems with the U.S. health care system and promoting solutions which preserve and extend individual liberty.”  Three of the films feature Canadians describing why America should not emulate Canada’s health care system, and the fourth examines the famous battle cry of  “45 million Americans without health care” and shows how it vastly overstates the problem.

The other health care system we’re told we should covet is the fully socialized European model.  Here, too, there is a helpful video, this time from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity,  titled “Don’t Copy Europe’s Mistakes: Less Government Is the Right Way to Fix Healthcare.”  (Hat tip: America on the Rocks.)

Another great resource, although a more cumbersome one, is James Taranto’s “Great Moments in Socialized Medicine” — a frequently recurring feature in his trenchant Best of the Web Today column on the Wall Street Journal‘s website.  These items cite news stories describing instances where the bureaucracy of the British health care system has impeded quality health care, and often are set up by Taranto’s trademark dry wit.  From an example last week:

If women are discouraged from getting mammograms, as a U.S. government panel recently advised, some will die, but at least others will be spared the discomfort of getting mammograms. There isn’t a similar upside to the following decision by Britain’s socialized medical system, described by London’s Daily Mail:

Liver cancer sufferers are being condemned to an early death by being denied a new drug on the Health Service, campaigners warn….

Each individual item could be dismissed as anecdotal evidence, but Taranto has posted dozens of such items, and the recurring drumbeat is quite effective.  It’s a pity that it’s so hard to find them.

Taranto is an important pioneer of the blogosphere — I’ve been reading his BotWT every weekday since before 9/11, and he continues to polish his craft.  Unfortunately, his site hasn’t kept up with innovations in blogging software.  His primitive format doesn’t even provide a way to link to individual items within his daily roundup, let alone make use of elementary organizational tools like tags, and the search function is highly unsatisfying.  But a jerry-rigged Google roundup of his columns that include “Great Moments” posts can be found here.

Rep. Artur Davis

Rep. Artur Davis

This is a bit of a tangent, but one last hopeful sign can be found in a particularly flagrant example of rhetorical over-reaching.  Jesse Jackson, who long ago squandered whatever moral authority he might once have had, last week said at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”  This was a reference to a vote against Pelosi-care by Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, who does call himself, and who from his photo appears to be, in fact, a black man.

If the increasingly desperate proponents of health care “reform” continue to serve up this type of poisonous rhetoric, it will only serve to stiffen the spines of Americans across the country who have been pressuring their representatives to tread carefully in remaking one-sixth of the economy.

“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.)

Don’t Blame Me For Rush Limbaugh, I Won’t Blame You For Michael Moore

no_contemptParts of the rightosphere are in high dudgeon about the fact that President Obama, at the annual White House Correspondents Association yuck-fest dinner, laughed at “jokes” told by “comedian” Wanda Sykes about wanting Rush Limbaugh to die of kidney failure.  (Here’s a 78-second video.)

There have been days of arguments at “the Id of Conservatism” —  the Corner, NRO’s group blog — about whether Limbaugh brought it on himself.  And about whether Limbaugh is good or bad for conservatism, about whether or not he’s popular (polls say no, ratings say yes), and about whether he’s ever changed anybody’s mind about anything.

At Best of the Web Today, James Taranto says:

In Obama’s wide grin as Sykes was telling her joke, we saw the smug look of a man who enjoys seeing his critics dehumanized. The president of the United States should be better than this.

The conservative whom other conservatives love to hate, Kathleen Parker, thinks the whole thing is overblown, and sarcastically suggests that we’re “on the verge of appointing a Special Commission on Acceptable Humor.” She says:

Lost in the frenzy is the more important matter of our thin-skinned intolerance and our reflexive lurch to take offense. We might remind ourselves that it’s always the fanatics who can’t take a joke.

I think she’s on to something.  I get awfully tired of having the discussion framed by flame-throwing provocateurs.  When Limbaugh famously was quoted as saying about Obama, “I hope he fails,” a liberal friend asked me how I felt about having Limbaugh speak for the Republican Party.  That’s when I spoke the words from the headline above.

What do Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore have in common?  Well, they’re both much richer and better known than I will ever be, because they’ve each attracted vast followings.  Negativity sells.  Personal attacks work.  Would that it were otherwise.

I can’t get too exercised over Obama laughing at the idea of Limbaugh’s death.  Who among us hasn’t laughed at inappropriate jokes? And Limbaugh, coiner of “feminazis” and other evocative slurs, is an enthusiastic practitioner of the “dehumanization” tactics that Taranto criticizes.

I wish I knew where I’m going with all of this.  The post started as a vehicle for its headline and graphic, but beyond that, I’m not sure what my point is.  Maybe something about the importance of the clash of ideas in a democracy?  Sometimes when I write a blog post, the key conclusion that ties everything together emerges gradually as I think and type.  And sometimes, the only way I can think of to end a post is to drive it off a cliff.

Global Warming and the Anthropogenic Financial Crisis

When listening to President Obama’s dire predictions of “catastrophe” if a stimulus bill is not passed now now now now now, is anyone else reminded of the global warming debate?

Even most skeptics about what Taranto calls “global warmism” would concede that there are valid reasons to want to reduce the use of fossil fuels and the resultant greenhouse gases. The debate arises over what measures should be taken, and how urgently. (Now now now now now!)

Similarly, there seems to be widespread consensus that the economy is in terrible shape, and that an increase in economic activity would help. The debate arises over how best to stimulate the economy, and how urgently.

In both cases, proponents of “doing something” now now now now now maintain that there is no time to worry about the possible side effects. But I firmly believe that when everyone around you is clamoring for immediate dramatic action, that’s exactly the right time to take a deep breath and think hard about the consequences. A few years from now the specifics of the stimulus package will be a lot more important than whether the bill was passed in February or March.

The one thing that seems clear to me is that if we are going to make a multi-hundred-billion-dollar effort to stimulate the economy, it should be done through a combination of a) tax cuts for lower-income people (pushing stimulus activity down to the individual level, among people who are likely to spend) and b) accelerating government spending that is destined to occur anyway.

That, of course, is not what the Democrats are planning. Here’s Krauthammer, on the “fierce urgency of pork” behind the “legislative abomination” that is the stimulus bill (emphasis added):

It’s not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It’s not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It’s the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus — and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress’s own budget office says won’t be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

Krauthammer was writing about the House version of the bill, but I’ve seen little reason to believe that the Senate compromise reached last night is any better.

Meanwhile, Harvard economist and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Greg Mankiw describes “My Preferred Fiscal Stimulus“:

I would institute an immediate and permanent reduction in the payroll tax, financed by a gradual, permanent, and substantial increase in the gasoline tax. I would make the two tax changes equal in present value, so while the package results in a short-run budget deficit, there is no long-term budget impact. Call it the create-jobs, save-the-environment, reduce-traffic-congestion, budget-neutral tax shift.

I recognize that some state governments are now struggling in light of the macroeconomic crisis. For the next two years, I would let each state governor have the authority to divert a portion of the payroll tax cut in his or her state and take the funds instead as state aid. This provision would essentially be giving governors the temporary authority to impose a payroll tax on his or her citizens, collected via the federal tax system. Those governors who think they have valuable infrastructure projects ready to go would take the money. When designing a fiscal stimulus, there is no compelling reason for one size fits all. Let each governor make a choice and answer to his or her state voters. It is called federalism.

Note that by allowing governors (and I think you’d have to include state legislators) to determine whether to substitute spending for tax cuts, Mankiw’s proposal would mean that any decision about whether to build schools in Milwaukee would be made in Milwaukee, or at least in Wisconsin. And by gradually increasing the gasoline tax to offset the immediate payroll tax cut, the proposal would even… wait for it… help counteract global warming.

The Perils of Blogging


Like many (most?) bloggers, I crave a bigger audience, and I thought I had found a gambit that might tempt James Taranto to link to me from his “Best of the Web Today.” Yesterday’s BotWT included one of his “Wannabe Pundit” items, quoting a journalist taking a pot shot at the Bush Administration in the context of a non-political article. Here’s the quote, which was from an article about buying Oriental rugs:

“Hizballah has re-armed, Israel could attack Lebanon again at any time, Iran is probably building nuclear weapons, the surge in Iraq is a mirage, and America is falling apart,” reports Time magazine’s Andrew Lee Butters.That’s the bad news. The good news is, you now know how to buy an Oriental rug.

Wait a minute — “the surge in Iraq is a mirage”? In September, even Candidate Obama was forced to admit that the “surge has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams”! My outrage gets my creative juices flowing — I’ll do a chart!! I’ll show how U.S. casualties have declined over the duration of the surge, and I’ll add famous surge quotations!!! It’ll graphically illustrate what a nonsensical statement Butter made!!!! How could he even write such a thing, more than two months after Obama said the surge succeeded?

Well, he didn’t. I discovered this when I was putting the finishing touches on my chart. I just needed the original date of the Butters quote… oops. It was in BotWT yesterday, but apparently the normally careful Taranto didn’t notice that the quote on Time’s website was dated April 18, 2008.

Anyway, there’s the chart. (What, I’m not gonna post it after I go to all that trouble?)

Update — I sent the item to James Taranto anyway, and here is his response:

Sorry about that. I don’t normally use such old items, and indeed I didn’t notice how old it was. However, since I wasn’t making fun of him specifically for the surge quote, I didn’t make an actual error and thus will not run a correction. Feel free to note on your blog that I acknowledge your point, however.

Fair enough — even if the statement were accurate or defensible, it would still qualify as a Wannabe Pundit on the basis of irrelevance to the rest of the article.

Link Love (Be Still My Heart)

Taranto likes me! He really likes me!

Moi is thanked today by James Taranto in the acknowledgements for today’s Best of the Web Today column. He spells my name right and everything. I (along with no doubt others) alerted him to the breaking news that Taranto’s least-favorite Republican, outgoing Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, is declining to endorse either candidate for president.

This kind of recognition is what makes blogging worthwhile. Well OK, I wasn’t actually blogging, I was commenting on Taranto’s blog. But I’m just saying.