Thursday, June 30, 2005
The recent poll results from Democracy Corps just show we need a third (or even fourth or fifth) party in America. Having only two is an abomination. Parties are what America is all about. Besides, having only two means there are never any parties on my block. If you let me form a party myself, that will soon change.
Furthermore, note that neither party is addressing the real concerns of America. I understand that both parties say they want a drug-free America, but like P.J. O'Rourke said, if that's the case then I want my free drugs now. And don't tell me I'm confusing two different kinds of parties. Have you ever seen a political convention or a candidate addressing his supporters on election night? Streamers, confetti, balloons, alcohol. Count me in. We need as much of that as possible.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
[...]As a guide either to governing or to politicking, conservatism is over, finished, kaput. [...]
The ``laundry-list'' technique that Bush used in that long first half was perfected by Clinton. And it is more than a rhetorical trick. The laundry-list speech, consisting of brief summaries of one program after another, is uniquely suited to a style of governing, and a philosophy of government, that Bush has happily embraced. [...]
Call it the omnicompetent state. Clinton didn't invent it, of course, but he was its pre-eminent salesman, even when he announced, as he did in his 1996 State of the Union address, that the ``era of big government is over.''
[Bush's] recent Medicare expansion alone, by some estimates, will cost $2 trillion over the next 20 years. And several speakers at this month's Republican convention -- including Education Secretary Rod Paige and retired General Tommy Franks -- boasted that for many programs (special education and veterans affairs among them) Bush had spent more in four years than Clinton had in eight. [...]
After opening his convention speech with a promise to ``restrain federal spending, reduce regulation'' and create a ``simpler, fairer'' tax code, Bush promised, in the next paragraph, to ``double the number of people served by our principal job-training program and increase funding for community colleges.''
In the paragraph after that, he said he would create ``opportunity zones'' by adding new provisions to the tax code.
Then he said he would ``offer a tax credit to encourage small business'' and ``provide direct help,'' also known as money, to low-income Americans to buy health insurance. [...]
Also, he'll build health centers in every community in America, and 7 million more homes in the next 10 years, and ``provide a record level of funding'' for education.
Don't forget Pell grants for the middle class, and early intervention programs for kids. And a new reform -- medical savings accounts -- that will further complicate the tax code.
Then he promised to simplify the tax code again.
At the end of his laundry list, Bush made an artful pivot. He attacked his opponent, John Kerry, for ``proposing more than $2 trillion in new federal spending.''
Those Democrats are such spendthrifts.
Like Clinton, Bush pretends all this frenetic governmental activism is revolutionary -- uniquely adapted to our unprecedented new era. (Every era thinks it is unprecedented.) There is much talk about ``expanding choice.'' Underlying it, however, is an idea that's not new at all: the citizen as client, a consumer who fulfills himself by coming to rely on the blandishments of government.
For reasons that aren't clear, Bush insists on calling his approach ``conservatism.'' Surely we can find a more accurate term. Has ``Clintonism'' already been taken?
Interestingly enough, Ferguson comes out with this article at the same time Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review is arguing that Bush's State of the Union speech contained a practical plan for crushing American liberalism and pissing on its corpse. Ferguson is wrong, Ponnuru is right. The expansion of Medicare was painful but you can bet it was going to happen anyway with over 70% of the public supporting it even when informed of the drawbacks. The choice for Republicans was either to make the best of it while they could or let the Democrats demagogue the issue and hand their butts to them in the future. Bush seized the moment and got us health savings accounts, which should do something about exploding health costs by lessening third-party payments.
Many of the other spending increases during the Bush administration have been unnecessary, but Bush has probably governed about as conservatively as he possibly could have, considering the divided electorate. Bush has gotten us fast-track trade authority and significant tax cuts, while working on reforming Social Security, cutting our bloated civil service down to size, and quite possibly completely overhauling the old income tax system (Stephen Moore points out that Bush's piecemeal and stealthy steps towards either a flat tax or a consumption tax have been brilliant).
Ferguson doesn't mention it here, but another frequent conservative complaint is that Bush supported steel tariffs. This is a chapter-and-verse example of how some conservatives are reluctant to engage in the dirty but necessary work of politics: Bush agreed to the tariffs as a bargaining ploy to receive fast-track trade authority, which conservatives have wanted for years. Bush received the authority, then used the looming prospect of a trade war as a convenient excuse to ditch the tariffs, thus cutting our losses. The strenuous criticism of Bush over an issue that no longer matters lends credence to the old stereotype of conservatives as the stupid party; truth be told, conservatives ought to give Bush a medal for pulling this off.
Bush's policy of making government more accountable to the people -- of subverting already-existing government policies to promote personal independence, of turning sheep into shepherds -- deserves at least a certain measure of awe. Modern liberalism cannot survive circumstances where people clearly perceive a link between their freedom to choose and their economic circumstances. Again and again, in both domestic and foreign policy, President Bush has lauded human freedom both for its power to liberate and for its power to serve. The Republic will be well-served by his re-election.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Go here, here, here, and here. We'll see if those mea culpas keep coming (scroll down all the way).
Harkin: Bush Lied To America
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin had a strong reaction to newly released records about President George W. Bush's service in the Texas National Guard.
On Wednesday, CBS' "60 Minutes" reported that records kept by Bush's former commanding officer show Col. Jerry Killian was pressured to give Bush positive evaluations.
Bush told reporters that he received no special treatment.
Harkin said these records show that the president hasn't been honest.
"The documentation shows that the president was not being truthful," Harkin said. "The president lied to the American people in the Oval Office when he spoke with Tim Russert. That's why this is news. It goes to the character of George W. Bush."
Tom Harkin doesn't trust our president. Who does he trust? Well, Daniel Ortega, for starters.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi thinks the GOP is deceiving the public:
Here at the Republican National Convention, you can tell with each passing day just how formidable, disciplined and unabashedly deceptive the Bush campaign will be as it wages political war with John Kerry. [my emphasis]
Trippi apparently wasn't at a certain political convention last month, where Le Partie Democratique -- most of whose partisans consistently rank national security near the bottom when asked to prioritize a list of national issues -- tried to sell the American people a cock-and-bull story about how tough they were on defense issues. Sorry, Joe -- those Republican clothes just don't fit.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Then consider two quotes:
"We will not quickly join those who march on Veterans' Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the "greater glory of the United States." We will not accept the rhetoric. We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars -- in fact, we will find it hard to join anything at all and when we do, we will demand relevancy such as other organizations have recently been unable to provide. We will not take solace from the creation of monuments or the naming of parks after a select few of the thousands of dead Americans and Vietnamese. We will not uphold traditions which decorously memorialize that which was base and grim."
-- John Kerry, from the epilogue to The New Soldier
"I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."
-- John Kerry, first line of presidential nomination acceptance speech, 2004 Democratic National Convention
Next, the Los Angeles Times has Bush pulling ahead in their latest poll. Whoever heard of a candidate getting a surge before his party's convention?
And finally, there is good reason to think that the Current Employment Statistics study (i.e. "the payroll study") by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been underestimating job growth for quite some time (even the BLS itself is starting to take notice of the problems with its survey). No matter how much the Democrats scream about The Worst Economy Since Herbert Hoover, their traction with the public is going to be severely limited if people see a good economy with their own eyes.
What else does this leave the Democrats? Caterwauling about the awful war that's been disappearing from the American radar screen ever since June 28th?
Bottom line: From here on out, it's Miller Time.
The Washington Times
When Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, along with jubilant Democrats, appeared at the Washington premier of Michael Moore's"documentary," "Fahrenheit 9/11," I began to realize that some of us in this divided nation are living in a different, surreal world. Mr. Moore, for example, has said of the terrorists in Iraq:
"They are not the enemy. They are the revolution, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?"
Even the news media are unthinkingly describing murderous bombers, beheaders and assassins as "the insurgency." Historically, that phrase often had an honorable connotation, especially in America. George Washington and Samuel Adams were insurgents. Why not just call the jihadists and their allies by their rightful names: homicidal terrorists?
Meanwhile, the growing chorus keening that this is a needless war includes not only Democratic strategists and acolytes, but also Ralph Nader. Fervently joining them are such selective antiwar groups as MoveOn.org and the International Action Center. Have any of such fierce organizational opponents of the Iraq war called for free elections in Cuba or Zimbabwe, as they, in effect, scorn the actual coming of free elections in Iraq? [...]
There are days when I wonder if I'm having a bad dream. "Fahrenheit 9/11," for example, is playing in Cuba to large audiences long conditioned to distorted propaganda.
And, on July 1 of this year, Albert Hunt, the resident liberal on the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, wrote: "For many Iraqis it's a more dangerous country than even (under) the brutal Saddam regime."
Does he include the families of those whose Saddam's regime murdered, who continue to sift through the mass graves hoping to find the identifiable shards of those bodies? [...]
When Saddam's prisons were briefly opened up while Saddam was still in power, there was disclosure in the American media of the gouging of eyes of his prisoners and the raping of women in front of their husbands for whom the torturers wanted to extract information.
But even now, when much more of Saddam's atrocities have been disclosed, a reporter from the New York Observer asked folks on the street if they could say anything positive about Saddam.
In the July 12 Observer, quite a few could. An editor of an arts magazine said of Saddam: "He's committed. Actually, he's not duplicitous. I think he's very much open about what he believes and what he will do with his power, which is actually unlike Bush, who is incredibly duplicitous and lies."
A pity this woman couldn't have voted for that murderously committed leader of his people while Saddam was -- unopposed -- on the ballot in prewar Iraq.
Note how a horrified Hentoff wonders if he's having "a bad dream" when he sees so many Americans protesting the liberation of Iraq. I occasionally read articles by other principled leftists who comically fail to understand why their fellow liberals have been so vehemently against a war of liberation. A conservative would correctly respond that the reigning passion among most war opponents is opposition to America, not freedom for other peoples.
As regards opponents of war, I've long thought the true indicator of their feelings comes from their consistent failure to protest nasty regimes whose behavior does not implicate America. This sort of things runs rampant in the "mainstream press": A few years ago, Time magazine ran an article comparing the pope to Fidel Castro, which caused George Will to remark that liberals appear constitutionally incapable of disapproving of a communist the way they disapprove of, say, Joe Camel.
After the Vietnam War ended, a leftist war opponent started a petition protesting the actions of the Communist governments in Southeast Asia and sent it around to her old buddies in the antiwar movement. As I recall, about 30% of them signed it. I would consider that figure to be roughly representative of the percentage of pacifists and leftists who truly care about human rights abuses regardless of the party committing them. Of course, those are the folks most likely to drift rightward over time. Hentoff is in good company.
The top-ten responses given by passersby to this New York City street canvasser working for the Democratic National Committee's "Beat Bush" fundraising campaign:
"I love Bush!"
"We love Bush!"
"Why don't you people get a clue already?!"
"I licked Bush this morning."
"Beat Bush? Got a stick?"
"Beat Bush? I'm going to shoot the motherfucker!"
"Kerry's a fag."
I was standing under an awning on 8th Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets in Manhattan, and having a tough go of "Beating Bush" with my canvasser's clipboard; most pedestrians scampered right on by with barely a glance in my direction. [...]
The crew was not happy to be out here, and I, as "team leader," shared their unhappiness. We had already lost the young Polish-American student who'd been assigned to the group. She claimed female troubles moments after we deployed, gave me her clipboard, and was never seen or heard from again (at least I never saw her again). I was left with two teenage boys, one wearing flip-flops (with nary a whiff of irony) and boasting an eyebrow piercing, who wore his red DNC shirt like a hat. He was just about the last person you'd give your money to, and hardly anybody did. Both kids were just out of high school (local fancy-pants schools) and were headed off to college in the fall. By 2:00pm they had raised between them something like 20 bucks and were trying to cajole me into an early bailout. They took long lunches; they recognized as I did that this was a wet and wearying fund-raising scenario compared with the big DNC blowout at Radio City Music Hall a few nights previous. [...]
At least as I experienced the Bush Beating youngsters, they generally were not jaded, world-weary, misanthropic or cynical. Skeptical, yes, and some seemed particularly out-front radical, even beyond the obligatory flesh-piercing and rampant multiculti joie de vivre. But some were so self-centered that I wanted to smack them. [...]
At the Whisky, the requisite slamming of tequila shots would commence, and the endless fillings and refillings of pitchers of beer, all guzzled lustily in the aftermath of another hot day pounding the pavement for elite Democrats. Summertime flings would be launched, canvassing war stories told and retold, there was dorm chat and chants of "Four More Beers!" There were always a couple of cherubic, Olsonish blonde girls wearing those fashionably tacky early-eighties-style skirts that seem to be everywhere this summer; there were earnest former Deaniacs fully committed now to the Anybody But Bush program; there was Abdul, who was going to Howard Law in the fall. I liked Abdul because I could joke with him about Howard's lousy affirmative action policies and he didn't report me to Al Sharpton.
Drinking and "saving democracy" go hand in hand, since, after all, canvassing is one of the most thankless job known to humankind, and it takes a certain kind of personality to be able to stand the work day in and day out without going postal. You must be deaf to verbal abuse and theatrical in some measure; I can do the latter but I'm lousy at the former. For this reason, I burned out after two weeks. They swore at me, I swore right back. They gave me the finger, I flipped the bird in their face. They'd say, "We looove George Bush." I'd offer my sarcastic condolences. This is very bad canvassing form though the tart-tongued Mrs. Heinz Kerry might have approved.
Furthermore, you've got to be able to deal with being totally ignored by the vast majority of passersby, and you must be ready to indulge and engage that angry and gullible old local lefty paranoid who's (hopefully) still got a few dollars' worth of grief to unload on George Bush. They love Nader and Dean and want to blab all afternoon about it, but you've got to wrap it up quick and make the grab for their wallets. These people are in no short supply in New York City, and also provided the worst liberal-bonehead response of all when asked if they wanted to help Beat Bush: "Oh, don't worry, we're going to beat him this time."
I wouldn't be so smug about that if I were you.
Mr. Gogola's account of his fellow volunteer snotnoses highlights a general problem that some liberal Democrats have: they'd like to act up as much as possible but rightly fear having the American public see their gooniness on full display.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Godless Americans Group Announces Endorsement of Kerry-Edwards
Godless Americans Political Action Committee
A newly formed group encouraging political action on behalf of “Godless Americans” has announced that it is endorsing the Sen. John Kerry for president and Sen. John Edwards for vice president in the 2004 national elections.
Ellen Johnson, Executive Director of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee, said that the Kerry-Edwards slate was “the clear choice over President Bush, who has spent the last four years eroding the separation of church and state, ‘packing the courts’ with judges who ignore the First Amendment, and imposing a de-facto Religion Tax through the federal faith-based initiative.”
Johnson said that the PAC grew out of the November, 2002 Godless Americans March on Washington that brought thousands of nonbelievers to the nation’s capitol for a rally on the mall.
“There are nearly 30 million Americans who describe themselves as having no religion,” said Johnson. “This includes Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, Rationalists and others who have little or no voice in our political process, and who are often ignored by the major political parties.”
“We intend to change that.” [...]
Johnson said that the Kerry-Edwards slate was “the best alternative to four more years of George Bush and Pat Robertson running the country.”
Fifty million people freed from theocratic tyranny must not be enough.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Edwards' Life Clashes With Campaign Message
Los Angeles Times
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina seems like a decent and likable man, the political equivalent of a handsome, slightly under-ripe bunch of bananas, just the thing if you are looking for bananas and can't find any ripe ones, or don't know the difference. But I can't believe the public is going to buy this act. Last week, I heard an admiring TV pundit explain, to general agreement from his fellows, that Edwards' "two Americas speech" is his No. 1 asset, followed closely by his self-made-man, up-from-the-working-class life story. The problem is, they cancel each other out.
That "two Americas" stuff suggests a country divided by a barricade, with the poor stuck on one side and the rich living it up on the other. [...]
Edwards' life story shows that his message is false. If your story is "poor boy makes good," your message can't possibly be "this is a two-part nation where poor boys are prevented from making good." [...]
Edwards' whole campaign shtick suggests he's a regular guy, just plain folks, a slob like us. So if he got over this barricade (or barrier or whatever it is), why can't anyone who really wants to? Answer: Anyone can, and everyone knows it. [...]
[H]ow exactly is this retired trial lawyer going to convince anyone or his dog that he has the answer to unemployment? That is rich. How many people have been thrown out of work because of exorbitant insurance rates forced by lawsuit terror — rates that close down businesses while obscenely rich trial lawyers get richer? [...]
Yet Edwards is on to something, in a way. Consider this proposition. "There is something out of whack about the connection between the U.S. economy and U.S. society. The wiring is fouled or the pipes are cracked or something, because the wrong activities (like trial lawyering) keep getting encouraged and rewarded. We need to think this problem through and solve it."
That I believe. What I can't believe is that Edwards will ever say it.
He is unlikely to say: "Ladies and gentlemen, why in God's name should I have made so unbelievably much money as a trial lawyer while gardeners, architects, policemen, civil engineers, physical therapists and Marine lieutenants make so (relatively) little? [...]
Nor is he likely to say: "Look at the Democratic presidential ticket, ladies and gentlemen; now look at the Republican ticket. Four rich candidates. Given that Democrats are the party of campaign finance reform, I'm hardly in a position to point out that our screwball campaign finance laws have turned every politician in the country into a money-grubbing beggar, unless he is too rich to have to bother; before long only multibillionaires will dare run for president.
"And speaking of money-grubbing: I'm hardly in a position to preach sacrifice — but isn't there any way to get more of our brightest young people to pass up law degrees or MBAs and become Talmudists, priests, physicists, archeologists?"
Two generations ago, nearly any married woman who felt like it could stay home and actually rear her own children. Today she's practically got to be married to a trial lawyer to afford it. Anyway, that's what people believe. Is this supposed to be progress? Why?
These are "liberal" questions. Too bad there are no liberal (or conservative) politicians with the cojones to ask them.
Here's a scary thought: How many Americans would become trial lawyers if they didn't have consciences?