Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Herman Cain's Waterloo?

On Sunday night Politico released a story that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, while he was president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, sexually harassed two women. According to the story Cain and the association he headed made payments to the women as part of severance. When approached about the subject Cain first said he didn’t recall any sexual harassment allegations against him. A few hours later he admitted that there was at least one woman who received payment but not two.

According to Cain, the damnable evidence was that he compared one woman’s height to his wife’s. As he relayed it to Greta Van Susteren,

“She was in my office one day, and I made a gesture saying - and I was standing close to her - and I made a gesture saying you are the same height as my wife. . . . And I brought my hand up to my chin saying: ‘My wife comes up to my chin.’ And that was put in (the complaint) as something that made her uncomfortable.”

Asked by columnist Charles Krauthammer on Fox News whether the attacks were racially motivated, Cain agreed.

Late Wednesday afternoon Drudge reported that a third woman was harassed by Cain but didn’t bring any formal accusations.

Lexicographer Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” In recent years some have contended that a racist is someone winning an argument with a liberal. In both cases, those are the labels people run to in desperate times. Reaching for the race card, Herman Cain may be realizing that the clock is about to strike midnight on his Cinderella campaign.

Conservatives have run to his defense. If Cain’s side of the story is true then it looks he himself was a victim of a bogus lawsuit in an age of bogus lawsuits, although if that was the case we might expect him to have remembered it.

But if there had been only one allegation that would be one thing. There were at least two accusations independent of each other and Cain did not even have the story straight about the one he has admitted. This is not a Clarence Thomas redux.

As Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator noticed,

“The allegations against Thomas came out of the blue only after he was nominated to the Supreme Court, and even then they came rather late in the process -- making them far more likely to have been spurred by pure politics. . . .

“There was no way they were politically motivated, because Cain had never been a candidate for anything. Furthermore, the allegations came not just from one disgruntled employee, but from two separate women.”

This isn’t ancient history. It isn’t even the first controversy of Cain’s campaign.

Among the notable gaffes of Cain’s campaign: claims there will be no Muslims in his administration, complete ignorance on the basics of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, contradictory statements about the extra-judicial killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, about prisoner exchanges, about abortion (in the same interview no less), and an inability to speak beyond the basics of his tax plan.

If the argument against a second term for Barack Obama is that he is an amateur completely overwhelmed by the office, why should Americans nominate and elect another who is perhaps even more amateurish?

The crux of the Cain matter is not the allegations of sexual harassment. Even if Cain is innocent and the payments were only to make the allegations go away it doesn't change the fact that Cain is a lousy candidate who can't take a consistent position and can't explain anything, even regarding factual events in which he was, in one way or another, an active participant.

Herman Cain may be a decent man who is competent at running businesses and who may also have been hit with spurious sexual harassment allegations over a decade ago. But if the missteps, misstatements, and changed stories of the Cain campaign as well as the candidate’s ignorance portend anything, a Cain administration would be nothing short of a fiasco.

Addendum: See Thomas Fleming's latest in the UK Daily Mail, "High Tech Lynchings."

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Changed Everything. And Nothing.

In the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks Americans have been drowned with reminders of that fateful day. For over a week leading up to the anniversary USA Today ran a series of front-page stories entitled “How 9/11 Changed America.”

Americans have been told that they cannot forget 9/11. The implication is that Americans should not forget about the ghastly images from that day or how they felt. But this is a silly statement.

No can forget 9/11 because no one is allowed to. 9/11 is a part of daily American life. Anyone who flies in a US airport is reminded of the terrorist attacks. Take off your shoes. No liquids. Assume the position.

China-made American flags are still ubiquitous. The obligatory singing of “God Bless America” is as much a part of baseball games as arguing with the umpire and American soldiers are given public spectacles of reverence that are perhaps only outdone in their vacuity by parades in communist countries. Who could possibly forget?

Among the more unreflective clich├ęs that emerged from the attacks was “9/11 Changed Everything.” This was government propaganda because terrorism was neither a new tactic of war nor was Islam a new religion. It reminds one of what Cicero said, "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child."

A friend recently told me that he had asked his wife if she knew why the terrorist attack happened. She said she didn’t know and had never really thought about it. My friend was surprised but I wasn’t. It’s not that his wife is an ignoramus but most Americans haven’t thought about it. Nor have they been encouraged to do so.

Not a few days after the attack did President Bush get out in front and declare this wasn’t “our” fault and that the terrorists only hate us for our freedoms. He admonished the American people not to dwell upon it. He said, Don’t worry. We who failed so spectacularly on 9/11 will take care of everything. As for you, go shopping. It was an explanation so simplistic and convenient that it shouldn’t have worked on third graders but the American people obeyed without question.

The eventual execution of Osama bin Laden crystallized the so-called post-9/11 world. When the news of bin Laden’s death came, people in the streets and in sports stadiums chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” But what were they celebrating? The war wasn’t over. Troops weren’t coming home any sooner than scheduled. The one behind the attacks was dead but everything remained exactly the same. What does it say when the death of Public Enemy #1 amounts to nothing?

When Navy SEAL Team 6 got bin Laden they took pictures which were not released and they buried the body quickly. In retrospect, it’s almost like the death never happened.

In May, I theorized that the burial happened that way so the national security state could continue as before with few questions asked. In what should have been an ideal time to consider dismantling at least parts of the national security bureaucracy, the speedy burial meant the resumption of “normalcy” regarding the post-9/11 world. No one asked, Why, if all it took was a unit of well-trained soldiers to track down bin Laden, were large armies stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq? Indeed, things would go on as before.

That is the legacy of September 11, 2001.

Everything changed and nothing changed.

When Osama bin Laden was found hiding in plain sight in Pakistan and there were zero consequences for Pakistan's duplicity, that should have exposed once and for all the sham of what Washington has done in the so-called post-9/11 world.

With apologies to country music singer Darryl Worley, no, we have not forgotten. If only we could.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The War on Facebook

My desk has lately seen a plethora of material relating to the nefariousness of social networks.

The current issues of my magazine subscriptions to The American Conservative, Chronicles, and Modern Reformation all have either cover stories or prominent articles about the downsides of social networking. My first blog entry for Young American for Liberty dealt with a new Missouri law that aims to police teacher-student communication on Facebook. After the fallout from the Anthony Weiner scandal, it looks like the new bogeyman is social networking.

It’s fashionable right now to blame the various social networks for current lapses in morality and any other social ills we might perceive. This isn’t too surprising. Whenever a new innovation is used to commit an ancient crime, the crime itself is overlooked and the new thing is what is scandalized. Mass murder is committed with an assault rifle and the gun controllers scream that assault rifles must be banned, ignoring the fact that it took a murderer to operate the weapon in the first place. Technology is only as dangerous as the people who use it.

Anthony Weiner’s problem wasn’t that Twitter tricked him into tweeting that lewd picture. The crime was the congressman’s actions, not the avenue through which he committed it. After all, is there a difference in the morality of it if Weiner had been a congressman twenty years ago and he snapped a Polaroid of his . . . you know, and sent it in the mail?

Some of the recent criticism of Facebook and Twitter is relevant and thoughtful. Ours is a narcissistic culture and Facebook has the ability to feed it. Stephen B. Tippens Jr.’s article for The American Conservative concedes that some social networking is good, and I agree, but our eternal narcissism is enslaving us to our computers and cellphones. As he puts it, “couples . . . date their cellphones instead of each other.” It’s only a little hyperbolic to say that everyone between the ages of thirteen and thirty is attached to their mobile device.

But Mark Zuckerberg is a convenient scapegoat.

The inventor of Facebook couldn’t have possibly expected that the little website he concocted in his Harvard dormitory would encompass over half a billion users and make him filthy rich. The irony is that a socially-awkward computer hacker created a website that would digitally bring the world together but also isolate us from one another. In other words, it’s made us more like Mark Zuckerberg.

We might have 500 “friends,” but do we actually know more than a handful of them? It’s true that heterosexual marriage is in the toilet and we don’t know our neighbors, but these were problems before anyone ever thought of Facebook.

In Chronicles (not online), Catharine Savage Brosman sees parallels to the Soviet Union in the erosion of privacy but that isn’t quite apples to apples. The totalitarian USSR robbed its people of their freedom and privacy.

Big Brother has certainly taken privacy away from us but with innovations like Facebook, we’re handing the rest of it over willingly. Through social media we show pictures of ourselves, we tell the world what we like, and we announce when we’ll be home, as if more than a handful of people who see it will actually care. American culture is dead and on Facebook we flaunt our vacuity.

But for the record, Facebook, or any other particular iteration, isn’t the problem. People are the problem: stupid, narcissistic people. Facebook and the other social media are just further examples that anything new and innovative can be enjoyed and serve a worthwhile purpose if people use it responsibly.

Much has been made about the role of social media in Iran’s so-called Green Revolution, the Arab Spring, and more recently, the riots in the UK. Undoubtedly there will be pushes made by the governing class of busybodies to begin policing Facebook in the name of security, of course.

When that happens, watch out. All the wonders of the social media revolution may have simply made the job of the surveillance state all that much easier.

Norway Feels Blowback and Conservatives Feel the Heat

*From the cutting room floor of The Humble Libertarian (originally composed July 28, 2011)

The July 22 Norway attacks perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik that killed nearly 100 children at a political summer camp and a government building has reawakened the paranoia of the thought controllers on the Left that may be igniting a new cultural war against conservatives.

On January 8 of this year, Jared Loughner killed six people in Tucson, Arizona and critically injured Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Almost before the bodies hit the ground, Paul Krugman of The New York Times sat as judge, jury, and executioner of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck as the depraved masterminds who inspired Loughner to go on a killing spree. Others joined the dog pile but as details about the young man’s “ideology” surfaced, the case against Palin et al was dropped.

Breivik’s impetus for murder, it appears, was a reaction to what he identified as the “Islamification” of Europe, multiculturalism, and open borders. His actions were undoubtedly a terroristic crime but the people Breivik shot are just as significant as the people he didn’t.

While Muslims certainly stuck in Breivik’s craw, and he apparently cited some of America’s professional anti-jihadists like Robert Spencer and Pam Geller in his infamous manifesto, he didn’t kill any Muslims as far as anyone has reported. His targets were children at a political summer camp held by Norway’s Labor Party and Norway’s three-time prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. His real aim was clearly directed at the governing class, not Muslims. His operation was blowback for Europe’s decades of enforced multiculturalism.

No one Left or Right condones the deed done by Breivik but liberals still leapt for joy that they got to dust off the Loughner playbook. Their objective in this aftermath was to silence any dissent in the Breivik narrative. Not only must the Norwegian’s actions be condemned but his grievances as well.

Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan wrote, “[a]wful as this atrocity was, native born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.

"That threat comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists. . . .

"As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.”

Naturally, Thought Police like ThinkProgress and Daily Kos were incensed and dragged out old bigotry cards and called for Buchanan’s head. Of course, what angered them is not that Buchanan defended the actions of a murderer, which he didn’t, but that he questioned some of the highest articles of the liberal faith. The belief that maybe Breivik had a reason to gripe does not excuse his actions. It only explains them and this is lost on liberals.

It might be offensive to say that Muslim communities in countries that are not traditionally Muslim have caused friction. But the people of Europe were also not consulted about these policies of open borders and multiculturalism so it shouldn’t be surprising that somebody would eventually have something to say about it.

The lion’s share of the attention has focused on the sympathy Breivik had with the likes of the aforementioned Pam Geller and Robert Spencer who do peddle in fear-mongering and paranoia. Not to be outdone, over at National Review Online, another professional anti-jihadist, Andrew McCarthy, used this tragedy as an excuse to not apologize for selling his own brand of Muslims Under The Bed. Those who should be chastened for their sensationalism have let us know that they are reflecting on nothing and are refusing to look beneath the surface.

Entirely dismissing Breivik’s motivations along with his actions does no more favors than entirely dismissing the grievances of the jihadists. In each instance it oversimplifies a complex problem.

Murdering children is certainly no way to protest despicable government policies. But post-Norway, will there be any discussion on the American Right that penetrates deeper than the talking points of FrontPageMag but indicates that the real culprit might just be the bankrupt welfare state?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Wealthier, Less Principled Mitt Romney

If there is one reason people are considering supporting former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for president, it's because he's considered "electable," meaning he has a fair shot to defeat President Obama in 2012.

If there was one thing that hampered Romney's 2008 campaign it was the perception that he was a flip-flopper, a role which earned him the nickname "Multiple Choice Mitt."

While trying to present himself as a conservative, and even winning the endorsement of National Review, Romney was dogged by a very recent and probably very politically calculated switch from pro-choice on abortion to pro-life. This from a man who minced no words in assuring Massachusetts voters during a 2002 gubernatorial debate that he would "preserve and protect a woman's right to choose."

A more pressing issue for the 2012 presidential primaries is the national health care scheme passed by the last Congress. The plan that served as the model for Obamacare infamously bears the signature of Governor Mitt Romney.

Knowing that the Republican nominee in 2012 will have to campaign against Obama's landmark achievement, the president must be licking his lips knowing that a likely opponent of his will have to contort himself in an attempt to effectively campaign against himself. Voters would be sure to be reminded of another Massachusetts presidential candidate who also voted for something before he voted against it.

As of this writing, there is speculation that real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump is running for president. Considering that a reality TV star may be a presidential contender should tell us that the line between reality and fantasy is already blurred.

Like Romney, Trump had always been pro-choice until he thought about running for president. Now "The Donald," a philandering, casino-running, beauty pageant-owning egomaniac has gotten religion. Doing an interview for the Christian Broadcasting Network, one that looks more like The Onion than anything else, Trump is now telling us how much he loves the Bible, how much he loves sending people Bibles, and how great it is going to church.

So now it appears that Trump is doing what Romney has done for years, trying to convince us that he is not what he has always been: an empty suit who will say anything to advance himself.

Last week, a few reports surfaced on the Drudge Report where Trump, on separate occasions, labeled both George W. Bush and Obama has "the worst president ever."

Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, Trump called Bush "evil" and even though he supported John McCain, he felt comfortable with President-elect Obama because he would govern by "consensus" and not rush off to war in a bull-headed manner like Bush. On the one hand, this may only mean that Trump was one among millions snookered by the smooth rhetoric of candidate Obama. But on the other hand, one has to wonder, if Trump believed Bush was bull-headed and rash in going to war, what had he ever seen in McCain's character and temperament that led him to believe the Arizona Republican would have been any different?

Even though Trump has traditionally supported Democrats and before he supported McCain, he preferred Hillary Clinton, which might give us a clue about how "The Donald" feels about government-run health care.

Like much of the current appeal of a Romney candidacy, the reason conservatives seem to be giving for supporting Trump is that he has a chance to beat Obama.

But if Republicans choose Trump, what does that say?

It means that after a lifetime of supporting Democrats and Democratic causes, all a celebrity like Trump has to do is start saying a few of the right things and he suddenly has conservative bona fides.

Are Republicans and conservatives so eager to make a Faustian Bargain to regain control of the White House that anyone, regardless of all the evidence against them, will do so long as they read the right lines?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Obama's War of Choice

So now Barack Obama has joined the presidential wars club.

By engaging militarily in Libya without even the veneer of congressional authorization, Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich suggested that the president's actions are "an impeachable offense." He's been derided by members of his own party, but Kucinich is right. If unconstitutionally sending the U.S. military to intervene in another nation's civil war is not an impeachable offense then nothing is.

While there have been no declarations of war since World War II, presidents have routinely circumvented the Constitution's clearly stated clause that only Congress can declare war by calling their decisions a "police action" or getting a watered-down resolution. There is some debate concerning whether the president may order military action in an immediate emergency and then call Congress once the emergency stage has passed. But what's happening in Libya in no way resembles an emergency that requires the president to act unilaterally and without constitutional authority. Instead, the former professor of constitutional law has allowed the UN Security Council resolution to serve as the supreme law of the land.

But the UN Security Council resolution only authorizes that there may be "all necessary measures" to "protect Libyan citizens." If the Authorization for Use of Military Force legislation of 2001 was a blank check for President Bush, then what is this? Just what does "all necessary measures" to "protect Libyan citizens" mean?

Now that Obama has plunged the United States into this civil war, what are our objectives in protecting Libyan citizens?

By intervening in the first place, Obama has assured that the only possible outcome of this conflict means Gaddafi is dethroned. By entering on the side of the rebels, Obama has staked his claim. To offer limited assistance and then pull away is to condemn the rebels to the mercy of Gaddafi.

Why intervene on the side of the rebels unless it is to see them to victory? And if we take them across the finish line, how then does the new government in a fragile, fractious country operate unless it is propped up? What of Gaddafi's fighters? As students of history should know, the losers in a civil war do not often lay down all their weapons and celebrate the peace when the war is declared "over."

So why intervene in the first place? Is it because the UN said it was okay? If so, Obama has done nothing less than cede American sovereignty.

What vital American national interests are involved in who rules a cobbled-together kingdom of the northern Sahara?

Consider this: Moammar Gaddafi seized power over 40 years ago. Why is it that only now he is such a menace to American national interests that he must be confronted? It's been over 22 years since Gaddafi's only successful aggression against the United States, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Although 190 Americans died that day there was no military action taken against the "Mad Dog of the Middle East." If no previous president from Reagan to George W. Bush felt the mass murder of American civilians was worth retaliating against Gaddafi, why does protecting the lives of Libyan citizens merit it now?

As the Arab League bails out it becomes increasingly clear that it will only be the United States policing this conflict. Great Britain and France may have led the initial charge to act but countries facing insolvency are not long for occupations.

To invoke General Petraeus in 2003, how does this end?

By involving the United States, Obama makes this his war, regardless of whether Hillary or Samantha Power bullied him into it. If he calls off the whole shebang, he will have made himself into a fool by first declaring "Gaddafi must go," doing nothing for two weeks before reluctantly inserting American firepower, and ultimately leaving Libya with Gaddafi still in power having outlasted the strongest military on the planet with his third-rate army.

So now President Obama has taken us to war. He has taken us to war in a country where no national interests are at stake and he did so without the slightest acknowledgement from Congress. His actions have left the door open for more naked acts of aggression in the future.

Now is as good a time as any for that neglected congress to grow a backbone, reclaim their constitutional authority to declare war and finally put a stop to these presidential wars.

It's time for Speaker Boehner to make a real stand and assert one of his chamber's remaining power: The power to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Serious Tea Party

Under discussion: The Tea Party Goes to Washington by Rand Paul with Jack Hunter, 272 pages, $21.99, Hardcover.
What is the Tea Party? Is it the refashioned conservative movement? Is it the reaction to a new liberal Democratic president? Or worst of all, is the Tea Party just a bunch of astroturfing-Fox News-watching-racist rednecks? In The Tea Party Goes to Washington, Kentucky senator Rand Paul begins to give us an answer.

The Tea Party, according to Senator Paul, is a reaction to the big spending of Washington and a desire to curtail the power of the federal government. The trouble, or virtue, of a movement without a central hierarchy is that there is no unified message or platform. There have been a few attempts to present an official Tea Party message but A Tea Party Manifesto and That’s No Angry Mob – That’s My Mom are mostly relegated to the bargain shelf at Borders.

If there is a difference between earlier attempts at a Tea Party synthesis and Rand Paul’s it's that the current volume is attached to the platform of a victorious candidate. Since winning, Marco Rubio has shunned the Tea Party label he rode to election, exposing himself as the Bush family agent that he always was, while Tea Party losers Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, and Sharron Angle are already largely forgotten. So without the competing versions, the Rand Paul incarnation of the Tea Party shines brighter. And considering the contents of The Tea Party Goes to Washington, it’s sure to ruffle the feathers of anyone who would like to see the Tea Party either go away or be co-opted by the Republican Party altogether.

A note is needed first on the aesthetics of the book. The cover art depicts the Capitol Dome being squeezed by a belt, indicative of the diet Washington needs. But what’s most intriguing about the cover is what’s not there: a picture of the author himself. Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich – all presidential contenders – all adorn the covers of their books.
Nor is this unique to politicians. Talk show hosts Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews all have their mugs defacing the covers of their books. This is no coincidence. Most of the people hawking books are not actually interested in ideas but only in advancing themselves. Will someone tell me what would be the primary difference between a Huckabee candidacy and a Romney one? What’s in Sean Hannity’s book that’s not in Mark Levin’s? The difference is only in personality and style. The fact that Senator Paul is absent from the front cover (although not the back where he is pictured with his smiling wife) indicates that the book is more about his ideas than about himself personally.

The book itself is charming because it is part autobiography and part agenda. Facing the first page of every chapter is a photo, including pictures from the senator’s childhood as Ron Paul’s son and several with his own family from the campaign trail. While these images and stories from the campaign and his life are affectionate and reinforce the already-present human side of Rand Paul, the most lasting impression in the book is how radical it is. Radical not in the sense that the senator should fear being dragged before Peter King’s inquisition, but radical in how there are real ideas in the book and not shallow talking points.

This radicalism is evident even before the first page of the text. Rand Paul’s selection of a co-author is Jack Hunter, a so-far obscure South Carolina columnist and radio commentator known to many by his alias, The Southern Avenger. This choice of co-author is remarkable because Hunter, a veteran of both the Ron Paul Revolution and the Buchanan Brigades, proto-Tea Party movements, had, like Rand Paul, also never written a book. It is not for nothing that Rand Paul’s collaborator was not an accomplished ghost writer but an authentic voice of the grassroots Right.

The fingerprints of the co-author are everywhere to be found. Chapter 3, “Equal Parts Chastisement, Republicans and Democrats” is vintage Jack Hunter, including a brief introduction to the neoconservatives and treatment of Fred Barnes’ sycophantic 2003 Wall Street Journal article “Big Government Conservatism” where the Weekly Standard veteran condoned and justified George W. Bush’s growth of government. Rand Paul sees the disconnect among Republicans who took this sort of blind eye to the Republican Bush’s growth but are enraged by the Democrat Obama’s growth. “Consider this – what kind of person would talk about how badly the neighbors’ kids behave while ignoring the bad behavior of their own children?” (62) is a phrase Mr. Hunter’s listeners have heard a time or two.

Not to be outdone, Rand Paul reminds Democrats that they are just as guilty of looking the other way when their man does the same crime:

“Contrary to his supporters’ belief, Obama’s agenda has not been a reversal of Bush’s agenda but an extension of it, only more ambitious in scope and even more reckless in spending. Amazingly, and perhaps ironically, even on the issues that once animated the Left against the Republicans – prolonged war, civil liberties infringements, the further empowerment of the executive branch – Obama has basically maintained the same policies as his predecessor, and in some cases has expanded them.” (59)

And this was before Obama reinstituted indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay. One wonders if waterboarding will be next.

But nowhere is the radicalism more evident than in Chapter 7, “A Conservative Foreign Policy,” and nowhere else is it more evident that Rand Paul is indeed his father’s son.

In this important chapter, the reader is treated to discussions of the neoconservative influence on foreign policy, the long-forgotten Senator Robert Taft, and a call to end nation-building.

Outside of the often insular conservative movement, there is scant attention or even acknowledgement of the existence of the neoconservatives and to find a discussion of this sect of interlopers in a U.S. senator’s book is more than just a breath of fresh air – it is a torrent, especially when there are phrases peppered in like “a Republican Party tainted by neoconservative ideology.”

The importance of the issues discussed in this chapter have been brought up before in Ron Paul’s books and more academic treatises, but the blessing in Rand Paul’s book is that he makes arguments that got his father booed without incurring the same wrath himself. In other words, Rand Paul takes foreign policy, an issue on which there was no allowable dissent during the Bush years, and presents it in a way that can be accepted by conservatives:

“The great irony is that conservatives preach individual responsibility and reliance domestically but practice policies abroad that create dependence on foreign aid and dependence on foreign soldiers. Where conservatives will ask the domestically unemployed to seek work and become independent of government welfare, abroad we let nations depend on our succor. We don’t demand the same self-reliance internationally that we do domestically.” (131-132)

If there are a couple of faults with The Tea Party Goes to Washington they have to do with the frequent references to his father. Littered throughout the text are phrases like “My father always says . . .” or “My dad believes . . .” but these are only slightly distracting. This is not necessarily Rand Paul’s fault – it just proves he came from a stable home and his father was obviously around enough to influence him – but this may expose the younger Paul to criticism among the uneducated that he is just a clone of his father.

There were also a couple of minor historical errors regarding years. On page 144, Gerald Ford is referred to as the moderate candidate for president in 1974, the year Ford ascended to the presidency, not the year he was a candidate for president, which was 1976. Then on page 154, Neville Chamberlain is said to have signed a peace treaty with Germany in 1939, the “appeasement” of Hitler. The author is probably thinking about the Munich Agreement which was in 1938.
The Tea Party Goes to Washington, with over four pages of recommended books and websites at the end, is undeniably a book about not just ideas, but fresh ideas. The Republican establishment did its best to wall Rand Paul out of the U.S. Senate during the 2010 primary, in much the same way they did to his father at the 2008 Republican National Convention, a sleight that does not go unnoticed by the son.
It's easy to see why.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

National Review stands beside History yelling "Go!"

While House Republicans’ repeal of Obamacare is laudable, the stark truth is that true repeal is still elusive. An alternative some have considered -- as opposed to waiting on the courts or a new government -- is to try nullification, the oft-maligned, seldom-employed tactic used by state governments where they refuse to enforce laws they deem unconstitutional.

Tom Woods of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has written not one but two recent books advocating nullification. In “Nullification” and “Rollback” Woods encourages the use of the tactic in a political landscape where choices between the two governing parties could hardly be worse.

No shortage of liberal writers have denounced Woods’ book or the idea of nullification. But when scholars in reputedly conservative journals join the dog-pile of their defense of the status quo, one has to wonder why these conservative intellectuals are so intent on letting unconstitutional legislation become more easily enshrined.

In the February 21, 2011 dead-tree issue of National Review (not online), Gettysburg College professor Allen C. Guelzo discards nullification and reaches a nearly identical conclusion as the liberal Princeton professor Sean Wilentz does in The New Republic.*

The subtitle of Guelzo’s “Nullification Temptation” is “Let’s stop Obamacare without blowing up the constitutional order.” In case Guelzo didn’t choose the title or subtitle himself, he immediate clarifies that there is no hyperbole when he refers to nullification as a “nuclear option” and declares “Its danger lies in how easily it could destroy not just Obamacare but the entire Constitution.”

Guelzo proceeds to list all the major events in the history of nullification: the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799, South Carolina’s attempt to nullify the 1832 “Tariff of Abominations,” and Wisconsin’s efforts to avoid enforcing the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Guelzo finishes this section by saying, “At no point, however, did nullification prevail.”

So if Professor Guelzo admits that nullification never prevailed against the comparatively miniscule federal government of the 19th Century, why is he saying that nullification today could “destroy . . . the entire Constitution” when Americans now live under a far more consolidated, bureaucratic, and intrusive state?

Does Guelzo expect his readers to believe that an America where cameras adorn nearly every intersection, IRS agents harass citizens for not relinquishing enough of their money to the state, and has a federal capitol employing more than 2 million, that even one state’s refusal to enforce Obamacare is enough to upend the whole edifice? A high school student wouldn’t get away with that sort of nonsense.

By opposing the very theory of nullification, liberal Wilentz and conservative Guelzo both endorse the criminalization of speech against the president (the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions contra the Alien and Sedition Acts) and that slaves, even if they escaped to a free state like Wisconsin, had to be returned to their masters.

So why does Guelzo go to the trouble to discredit nullification? It makes sense for a liberal like Wilentz to recoil at any idea of resistance to the Washington leviathan. But why does someone posing as a proponent of limited government accept such a broad interpretation of the Constitution that would justify any and every expansive big government scheme?

One might assume that Guelzo might like to see nullification employed to frustrate Democratic health care legislation but that position forces him to confront what he cannot bear: What if someday Republicans pass legislation Democratic state governments find constitutionally wanting? Republican nullification would set the precedent that state governments can slow down or halt Washington’s machinations. To ensure that Republican monstrosities can govern the land Guelzo has to let Democratic fiascos remain too.

It’s the same reason Democrats haven’t repealed the Patriot Act and Republicans have never taken a scalpel to the welfare state. Both sides scream at each other but they always end up preserving each others’ programs. When the minority party becomes the majority they realize they can use their adversaries’ initiatives for their own gain.

If this is the state of the conservative opposition leading up to 2012 it’s no wonder a state-run health care operative like Mitt Romney is considered a serious contender to unseat a state-run health care operative like President Barack Obama.

*The title of Wilentz’s blog is “States of Anarchy.” In Guelzo’s, he calls nullification “the spirit of anarchy.” When historians who are supposed to represent two different sides of the spectrum end up with arguments and rhetoric so similar that one could almost charge the other with plagiarism, it is hard to refute the claim that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the parties.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Know Nothing Party

How things have changed in two short years.*

In November 2008 we were told conservatism was dead and the Republican Party was on its way to Whig status. Ragin' Cajun James Carville boastfully predicted 40 years of Democratic governance.

Maybe not.

Now conservatism is in an ascendancy. The Republicans are back and have learned that the reason they were fired in the first place was because of all that spending. Now that Republicans are back in the House, they can get to work on repealing Obamacare, privatizing Social Security, and ending the welfare state.

Maybe not.

For all the chatter, there isn't anything even broadly revolutionary about this election. There might be a few upsets and a few unapproved candidates might survive running the gauntlet, but this Republican Congress will likely resemble the ones that disappointed from 1994-2006.

The mistake made by rose-spectacled Republicans comes in thinking that a change of majority parties makes much of a difference beyond the name plates and seating arrangements.

Time magazine just put "Party Crashers" Rand Paul, Christine O'Donnell, Marco Rubio, and Meg Whitman on its election issue cover. That Bush Republican Marco Rubio and former eBay CEO and billionaire Meg Whitman are somehow considered "a new breed of Republicans" tells us enough about what is considered "Tea Party" these days.

Too much buzzkill?

The first reason for skepticism is that there has not been a serious philosophical shift, nay even a debate within the GOP.

One might argue that support for the bank bailouts or President Obama's stimulus became a litmus test since it resulted in the scalp of Bob Bennett and the defection of Arlen Specter. But that anyone can support the promotion to Speaker of the House for bailout leader John Boehner suggests that the party leadership won't have to pay for their sins.

The one issue that got Republicans kicked out in the first place, foreign policy and the disastrous experiments in Middle Eastern nation-building, has been a non-issue in this election cycle.

Republicans have convinced themselves and probably convinced a lot of voters that the real reason they got booted was because they spent too much. The party's recent emphasis on economic issues would be a step in the right direction if it was rooted in anything besides partisanship. Like the kid who got spanked for sticking his hand in the cookie jar, these Republicans are only sorry they got caught.

Secondly, there is nothing in this election to suggest confidence in Republicans -- only that Democrats failed and voters had nowhere else to turn.

Republican victories this year are also consistent with historical precedent. In America's duopoly, the ruling party traditionally loses big in the first midterm. One party fails and the other one gets their chance to do . . . something.

In 1954, during Dwight Eisenhower's first term as president and the first such Republican in 20 years, the GOP lost 18 seats in the House. Reagan's Republicans got routed in 1982 while the economy was still sour. Bill Clinton had large majorities in Congress in 1994 before losing a whopping 54 seats. With the memory of 9/11 still fresh, George W. Bush's GOP temporarily broke the trend by adding 8 seats at midterm.

Since the Republicans have gone into exile, there has been no urgency to address issues. Republican identity for the past two years has been wrapped up in opposition to the Democratic president. It's not because he's black. It's because he's a Democrat.

The new Republican ascendance has nothing to do with a re-birth of conservatism or faith in the GOP and everything to do with a Democratic ruling majority that didn't delivery what it promised despite overwhelming majorities.

The Republicans' position as the majority party in Congress doesn't preclude them from relinquishing their title as the Party of No. They can still oppose President Obama at every turn for the next two years but that won't mean they stand for anything.

The Republican Party doesn't need to be restored to power. It needs some fresh ideas and new leaders.

And if Barack Obama can defy conventional wisdom and make a Clintonian move to the Center, who will he and the rest of us have to thank for providing no genuine alternative?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

That Rally

If there is any question about the status of the conservative movement, it could be found in Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally: it is as alive and kicking as Ronald Reagan himself.

Too soon?

Either way, despite estimates of hundreds of thousands attending Beck’s rally last Saturday, there was nothing on display to imply that American conservatism has any long-term usefulness.

More than anything, it showed the triumph of liberalism over everything in the country, even the purported conservative movement itself.

Heeding criticism that the rally could only be political in nature, the Mormon Beck made it about “god.” Only keynote speaker Sarah Palin, whose presence was derided as proof that the event would just be a Republican rally, treaded into the political muck.

The insufferable opening prayer, led by a supposed descendent of Mayflower passengers, alongside a rabbi and supposed descendents of the Indians er, Native Americans at Plymouth Rock, included a petition about Quaker William Penn and this beauty:

“And you, O God, called us to repentance when we did not live up to our creed, and we did not treat everyone as equal. But Lord, we found out that you are a God of forgiveness, you are a God of covenant, you are a God of restoration, you are a God of healing and you have healed us.”

I’m no professional theologian, but if I understand that correctly, Americans didn’t learn about the forgiveness of God by reading the Bible’s account of Christ’s sacrificial death but only after we had enslaved the blacks and broken our treaties with the Ind-. . . Native Americans. Was this conservative Christianity or the liberal gods of collective guilt and multiculturalism?

This display of multiculturalism isn’t new and it isn’t even unique for Beck. In May, the radio and TV host dedicated one of his “Founders Fridays” programs to the forgotten black founders, a pathetic display of unwatchable political correctness.

That so many conservatives lap up this god constructed in the image of America only proves that the liberals have won the race card war. Or as James Edwards says at Alternative Right:

“. . . a conservative movement as willingly impotent as the crowd that came to DC on Saturday can’t go on much longer. At some point it’s going to dawn on them that no matter how much they grovel to MLK and praise his holy name, or how many ‘conservative’ imams they pack their podium with, they still get called racists and Nazis, and their country just keeps slipping further down the tubes.”

So what was the point of this event? Did we restore honor? Did we worship the god of our imaginations? Has anyone bothered to ask how ironic was it that someone like Beck, who is calling for an end to big government, chose to have his event at the Lincoln Memorial, a monument to a man who knew a thing or two about centralization?

A better question, one that should have been asked, is what the Republicans will do after the November midterm elections, where they are poised to either retake the House or at least make inroads.

The clarion call of the Tea Party over the past year has been “Cut spending!” The right course to be sure, but Pat Buchanan asks what cutting spending really means:

“Where are the victorious tea party Republicans going to cut?

“According to USA Today, 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, and perhaps an equal number on Medicare and Social Security. Which of these three will tea party Republicans cut, when Republicans are already denying Democratic charges that they plan to raise the retirement age for Social Security? . . .

“Are Republicans going to go after other entitlements — veterans benefits, earned income tax credits, food stamps — which now go to 41 million Americans, or unemployment benefits that run for 99 weeks?

“The big remaining items in the budget are interest on the debt, which must be paid, and war and defense. But Republicans are more likely to be supportive of Obama’s rebuilding a military ravaged by war, and staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, than are Democrats.

“Obama’s budget commission will surely come in with tax increases on personal incomes, perhaps also for Social Security and Medicare. But the GOP cannot sign on to these and go home again.”

The Republicans only stand to benefit from an event like Beck’s “Restoring Honor,” an event celebrating America’s civil religion, one that obviously resounds with the Republican base.

The only question is how long it will take for conservatives and Tea Partiers to realize that to “restore honor” or restore the republic for that matter, will take more than a few hours of feel-good entertainment and self-indulgence.

It will require hard questions like those above as well as a healthy dose of willpower.

If not, “honor” will only be an afterthought.