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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

American Losers

The two sides arguing over the “Ground Zero” mosque could hardly be more hysterical if they were dreamt up by a comic book writer.

Political figures like Sarah Palin and New Gingrich, who would seem to have 2012 aspirations, have weighed in with their invectives on the issue of whether New York City Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf can build (or renovate) a multiple-purpose community center that happens to have a mosque in it as well as a plaque offering condolences for the victims of September 11.

But it's the intransigents on both sides in this argument have made this a no-win situation.

Just what exactly is to be gained by anybody regarding this mosque?

Will terrorism go away if they can’t build this mosque? Will we be unable to mourn those who died a few blocks away on 9/11 if a Muslim prays nearby? And since two New York City blocks from Ground Zero is an affront to the families of 9/11 victims, would three blocks be sufficient to remove the insensitivity of this undertaking? Four? Five? Twenty?

And if Osama bin Laden is able to recruit terrorists to his cause because Muslims around the world perceive the “Overseas Contingency Operations” as a war against their religion, then how does this mosque fiasco not serve his purposes perfectly?

Only in the broadest sense was this ever about religious freedom. There are already over one hundred mosques in New York City. Muslims certainly aren’t denied the freedom to worship.

The reason for the outrage over this “mosque” is obvious and understandable. Almost nine years ago, a few blocks away from the proposed site, mass murders were carried out by people devoted to a fanatical religious and political belief. That Japanese would want to erect a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor in 1950 is neither an unfounded nor a completely irrelevant comparison.

But Sufi Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is not the Wahhabi Osama bin Laden and the Cordoba House is not an affiliate of al-Qaeda. To conflate these actors is to certify that Americans, or at least American politicians, know nothing about the faith of over a billion people.

Among the people defending the building are New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Obama. The same Michael Bloomberg who discovered he had the authority to ban trans fats and serve a third term as mayor and the same President Obama, who thinks the Constitution grants health insurance to every American, come out of this debacle with the perception that they are the ones with a clearer understanding of the Constitution.

What’s worse is that these multiculturalists on the Left get to hide behind their supposed love for the First Amendment even as they prove themselves less interested in permitting the freedoms of the Second, Fifth, or Tenth Amendments. Why, who in the world would want to deny Muslims the right to worship anywhere they want unless they were Ra-a-a-a-acists! The Left gets to continue its indulgence that we can all just get along and they set up a trap to make the Right look mindlessly authoritarian, to which they eagerly complied.

Regardless of which “side” prevails in this charade one thing can be sure: the only losers are the American people.

Partisans of the Left and Right get to continue indulgence in their fantasies: All the Muslims are coming to kill us vs. We can’t allow somebody to not get whatever they want wherever they want it especially if they’re a minority.

Never mind that this was, at most, a state issue that had nothing to do with the First Amendment’s injunction that the federal government could not impose a state church on Americans. As a local property rights issue, this should not have animated the 99% of Americans who live outside Manhattan.

Never mind also that this one-act play was performed without any real discussion about states’ rights, what effect this “mosque” has in our relations with Muslims already living in our own country, or whether our foreign policy has anything to do with why some Muslims want to murder Americans in the first place.

Then again, isn't it much easier in our idiocracy to abide by the two choices given to us by our masters than to ponder any forbidden third option?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Racism and Us

What is racism? That’s a good question these days. It might be easier to define the meaning of life in one sentence.

Americans are already overwhelmed about race. Ethnic studies and diversity seminars are as much a part of contemporary university campuses as the football team. Every week our government and media masters inform the peasantry that we require a (new) Conversation on Race and someone the other day told me that we now have our first black president.

What we know about racism is like what George Orwell said about fascism, that it ‘has no meaning except in so far as it signifies something not desirable.’

We have been particularly bombarded with “evidence” of “racism” lately.

There is still smoke emanating from the Shirley Sherrod-firing-rehiring fiasco. New Black Panther Samir Shabazz’s clarion call to kill cracker babies still shocks anyone except those familiar with the New Black Panthers.

Everyday for awhile it seemed like another vulgar recording of Mel Gibson surfaced with Mel using another one of those words.

His rants were more painful than shocking, but they were also words in what was meant to be a private conversation.

This is bandied about by the tolerance-mongers as proof that Mel is a racist. Of course, the faster one denounces Mel and calls him a dirty racist, the more racially enlightened one is, or so the logic would seem.

Even Shirley Sherrod’s case is an exercise in silliness. Although she’s been exonerated, mostly by a liberal press embarrassed to have been snookered by some simple editing from Andrew Breitbart, the infamous video still catches her imputing racism to President Obama’s opponents. Even then, it’s hard to see how her own purported racism would affect her performance as a USDA state director of rural development, a bureaucratic post that should probably be eliminated anyway.

But there is certainly more than thought crimes going on.

A political appointee is about to be rewarded with a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land and it seems normal. Chris Dodd, one of the chief clowns who both perpetuated and benefited from the housing scam gets to write the “financial reform bill” with nary a peep. Meanwhile, July ends as the deadliest month in a nine year war. Like racism, the national interest in Afghanistan seems to have as protean a definition.

Of particular importance to Americans should be what this all says us.

The sad truth is that charges of racism are not likely to end anytime soon. Not only is it hopeless (and bloody) to attempt perfecting mankind, but because charging someone with racism is simply too valuable, convenient, and probably fun for any of its users to surrender.

The ruling class definitely has no intention of letting racism, real or imagined, fade into memory – to its own benefit.

The fastest way to silence opposition, the race racket gets outright encouragement from our overlords. We contaminate political discussion ourselves when we launch into self-righteous diatribes. Out go questions about constitutionality - in comes whether some minutiae in a speech pandering to Muslims means President Obama is secretly a Muslim.

Democrats, who were once the party of segregation, have been the masters of this but Republicans, and many of their partisans who have joined this highly-received but poorly-written farce, are catching up.

It’s not too surprising. There are few satisfactions greater than getting to assail someone else as a racist. It’s a not-so-thinly veiled pat-on-the-back.

But it is for all these reasons that our ruling class cherishes these squabbles. Instead of Nero fiddling while Rome burned it’s the citizenry.

Maybe Americans aren’t actually interested in citizenship and civic responsibility. Maybe politics and current events are just another form of entertainment and playing the racist game is just everyone’s favorite episode.

As a game, it’s just another way for a dreadfully narcissistic culture to fall further in love with itself and where a Republican or Democrat winning office is no more impactful than which Kardashian sister is dating which sports star.

Instead of issues like the Constitution, natural rights, and peace consuming our creative energies, perhaps this is the republic we actually want.

And get.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Peter Schiff's Parallel Universe and Ours

Under discussion: How An Economy Grows And Why It Crashes by Peter D. Schiff and Andrew J. Schiff, 233 pages, $19.95, Hardcover.

In that parallel universe Peter Schiff is probably winning his race for Senate.

But here in the United States of Criminals, Celebrities, and Corporations, he barely has ballot access in the Connecticut race to replace Chris Dodd where he trails such Republican heroes as WWE First Lady Linda McMahon and former congressman Rob Simmons before Simmons dropped out.

The groundswell for a Schiff candidacy emerged in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse which Schiff had predicted for years, explaining that the illusion of wealth created for the housing boom could not be sustained and that the inevitable bust would spread to other sectors of the economy. A mash-up video of his appearances on various financial TV shows in 2006 and 2007, where he was openly derided and actually laughed at, is titled “Peter Schiff was Right” and has been a Youtube sensation with over one million views.

So just how did Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital brokerage firm, know that the economy was going to crash when almost every pontificator on both sides of the aisle was promising that the good times would never end? Did he have a crystal ball? Was he imbued with special powers to see when those unpredictable financial catastrophes are barreling down the road?

Well, one thing Peter Schiff was blessed with was a father who discovered the Austrian school of economic thought after breaking out of the New Deal orbit sometime during the 1950’s.

Schiff’s father, Irwin, is well-known among anti-IRS crusaders and perpetual victim of the income tax tyranny. At 82, Irwin is currently in federal prison (not for the first time) after unsuccessfully challenging the tax code.

But when Irwin was much younger, he entertained his boys in long car rides with economic lessons disguised as stories. One such story was “The Fish Story” which Irwin turned into a book in 1979 entitled, How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn’t. In 2010 “The Fish Story” was modified and turned into How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes.

At first, How an Economy Grows almost seems an odd selection for a traditional review because it is so simple and straightforward. Since the inspiration for the book is a children’s story, it’s written on a level anyone can understand. And with many of the fictional characters (from Ben Barnacle to Tricky Dickson) based loosely on real people it is certainly entertaining for adults.

The narrative can really be split into two sections. The first half is about how a primitive society began on a remote island. From there the reader is introduced to basic Austrian economics through fish. Since fish is the abundant material on the island and holds real value for the islanders it is the obvious choice for currency. The fish had value everyone on the island could appreciate and understand. Someone wants a canoe? That’ll be nine fish. That might be a lot of fish, but a canoe was a luxury and cost a lot to construct.

Then as time progressed and people had more fish on hand they discovered they needed some form of fish repository – a bank!

With depositors fish could be loaned out to prospective entrepreneurs. If the would-be businessman had a good opportunity to repay the loan with interest then there was a better chance he could get the loan in the first place. The bank might have to turn people down for loans, but they had to because they were at risk themselves. What if the loan was issued to someone who couldn’t handle it and defaulted? Who would bail them out?

Here the reader learns about the basics of banking, lending, credit, and saving.

As the people of the island increased their numbers they realized they needed some form of government and so the second half of the story begins and the republic Usonia was born. Governed by 12 senators including an executive Senator in Chief, a constitution was written so that the senators would not overstep their authority.

But after a few generations, the Senate’s wise and prudential statesmen were replaced by more appealing “go-getters.” Schiff portrays the moment things changed when Senator in Chief hopeful Franky Deep came into power:

“He observed that people loved getting stuff for free. Similarly, they hated paying taxes. So, he devised a plan: if he could find a way to make it look like he was giving something to the islanders for free, then he could gain their unconditional support. Unfortunately, all the government had was what it raised in taxes. The Senate didn’t catch any fish. They could only give by taking. How could they give away more than they took?

“After a particularly bad monsoon, Franky sensed an opportunity (politicians never let a crisis go to waste).

“He preached, ‘My fellow islanders, the storm we have just been through has wrought untold hardship on our people. Many of our citizens are now hutless and fishless.

“’We cannot stand idly by and do nothing. If elected, I will institute a government reconstruction program for our neediest citizens to repair the damage.’ But he assured the citizens that the cost of the construction would be paid for by the economic activity the spending generated.

“His opponent, Grouper Cleveland, offered nothing, except wise stewardship of the island’s savings and a promise not to interfere with the liberties of the citizenry.

“Not surprisingly, Franky Deep sailed into office as Senator in Chief.” (104-105)

With the institution of paper money in the form of Fish Reserve Notes, redeemable pieces of paper backed by real fish in the vaults, the rest of the story is laid out:

“The new bank director . . . was not crazy about the new fish notes. He thought the ease in which the notes could be printed would create dangerous incentives for the senators. Yet, he could sleep soundly at night provided that the government maintained enough actual government fish in the bank to redeem all the notes.

“Not surprisingly, his confidence didn’t last long.

“Soon, Franky and his agents had handed over far more Fish Reserve Notes than the government’s account had fish to redeem.”

“’Franky, stop the presses! . . . I have only nine fish available for every 10 notes that you guys have handed out. If the savers figure out that there really aren’t enough fish to cover their deposits, there will be a run on the bank and I’ll be out of fish. . . .’” (107)

Slowly but surely all of his successors followed Franky’s lead. The newly-appointed bank chairmen, beginning with Ally Greenfin and later with Ben Barnacle, followed in giving the government what they wanted. After Franky Deep came Lindy B, promising to

“Furnish the canoe navy with bigger spears, but he would also help the sagging economy by 'providing emergency unemployment fish notes to all laid-off workers' prevailing over Buddy Goldfish who offered nothing but careful stewardship of the island’s savings and boring protection for the islander’s economic liberties. More importantly, Buddy argued that the island could not afford such an extravagant ‘spears and fish’ policy.

“Not surprisingly, Lindy won in a landslide.” (126)

And comparably broad parallels to modern America finish out the story.

Humorously illustrated, Schiff’s story is a pleasurable read. It demonstrates that basic knowledge of economics is simple and that the laws of economics apply the same to complex societies as they do for simple ones. In short, if more saving is necessary for people on a small island to recover from disaster then saving is what is necessary to rescue a large society.

Peter Schiff will certainly not win his election for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. But he has bequeathed a valuable chapter of economic education to his country.

Perhaps this time people will listen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Limiting the Republic

It would seem that term limits are getting a hearing in 2010.

Among the tenets of the 1994 Republican Revolution was support for term limits, many of the GOP challengers promising to serve no more than three terms and retire. Most Republicans didn’t keep the promise, although ironically it was one promise Mark Sanford could keep.

The theme might be picking up steam again as Rand Paul won his primary election on a platform of term limits and no earmarks.

The antithesis: Ninety-Two years old, the longest serving member of the Senate and reportedly the “King of Pork,” Robert Byrd’s death is a reminder about the soundness of term limits and how even in as anti-Establishment an atmosphere as 2010, any meaningful change in Washington D.C. is little more than an exercise in futility unless something deeply penetrates the American soul.

Accompanying the obligatorily fawning obituaries of Robert Byrd, longest serving senator, reformed Klansman, constitutional scholar, has been the mention of his most enduring accomplishment: pork to West Virginia.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd secured the lion’s share of federal money for his state. Dubbed the “King of Pork” as an insult, Byrd embraced the epithet as a badge of honor. It’s tempting to chuckle about how Byrd turned the charge on its head, but it also highlights the problem of enacting term limits.

The most obvious problem is that term limits are dependent on the willingness of the authorities to voluntarily relinquish power. If there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program then what is more permanent than the bureaucrat who never retires?

But this problem cuts two ways.

A career politician becomes such not just because he won’t retire from office. Voters have to keep electing them. William Murchison of Chronicles magazine answers an important question:

“Nearly everyone has heard Lord Acton’s axiom about power: It ‘tends to corrupt.’ Corrupt whom, though? The power-wielders alone? Just as corrupted can be the beneficiaries of the exercise of power.”

If we’re supposed to believe that West Virginians weren’t grateful for the federal money Byrd sent their way for decades then how else might we explain how one the reddest states awarded the old Democrat nine terms in the Senate? Can West Virginians, or any American, name any piece of legislation Byrd ever authored?

On the issue of earmarks and appropriation, Americans can be a little fickle.

We are aghast when we realize how much money is wasted on a certain congressman or senator’s pet project back in their home state but we aren’t as appalled when our local farmers get subsidies or the community gets a new public park, even if the sign at the entrance has to be defaced with a politician’s name.

In short, we like the pork when we’re the ones getting it.

As such, Americans cannot possibly be serious about cutting spending or reducing the size of government unless we are willing to deny ourselves some of the luxuries we’ve become accustomed to receiving from the federal government. Part of this includes the luxury of having elected representatives dedicated to getting us the goodies.

Professor and columnist Walter Williams likes to tell a story about the late Senator Jesse Helms.

On principle, both Williams and Helms were opponents of subsidies, but Helms got them for his state anyway. Why?

Helms believed the voters of North Carolina would have sent him packing in favor of someone who would give them their God-given subsidies. Considering Helms was not a legislator known for buckling to the pressures of popular opinion, his story delivers a sad message about the mentality and entitlement of American voters.

Therefore, the solution is bound up in more than just an election or a few elections. It requires a change of heart. Demanding others give up their goodies requires giving up our own.

It also means Americans must stop asking themselves, “What can government do for me?” because when the government does something for me it has to do something for everyone else. In a nation of over 300 million, a $13 trillion deficit is just the start.

Was Benjamin Franklin right when he said that republics end when the people discover they can vote themselves money from the treasury?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Race Card Hypocrisy

There has been no shortage of race cards since Barack Obama’s presidency began.

Most are obvious, of course.

The race card has been standard fare for the Democrats since LBJ. The election of a black president and the emergence of a populist movement on the Right only accelerated the claims.

It’s hard to forget Janeane Garofalo’s sanctimonious monologue with Keith Olbermann, “This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up.”

Conservatives and Tea Partiers were understandably furious.

The Tea Party movement may have conspicuously risen during the early days of the Obama administration, but to leap to the conclusion that the only possible reason grassroots Republicans could oppose the new Democratic president’s agenda was the occupant’s skin color, required an extraordinary sense of moral superiority.

During the Obama reign, conservatives have been adamant that their opposition to the Obama agenda has nothing to do with his skin color but all about the philosophy.

This would seem true.

There may have been no Tea Party movement during the 1990’s, but the hysteria about a popular, iconic Democratic president drummed up on the Right was similar during the Clinton administration. But admitting that a sizeable number of today’s protesters are simply GOP partisans doesn’t win many points with key Democratic constituencies and it doesn’t make for great TV ratings either.

Conservatives have also been quick to remind the Democrats that they don’t exactly have a pure history of multicultural kumbayah-ocity. Nor do we go very long before someone reminds us that Vice President Biden once said, “You cannot go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts without a slight Indian accent.”

But the point today is not to show how Democrats are hypocrites when it comes to race.

We know that it is not racist to oppose a black man’s agenda. If conservatives really believe in a limited, constitutional government, then there is little in the Obama administration that is worthy of praise. We know that the racist charges are meant to silence dissent.

With that in mind, why are conservatives playing the race card in the aftermath of the Israeli flotilla incident?

Despite claims from the White House that there will be “no daylight between the U.S. and Israel,” and despite accepting a non-binding U.N. resolution that does not actively condemn Israel’s actions, why are conservatives insisting that the Obama administration is “anti-Israel”?

Would we tolerate this sort of hyperbole if this was any nation besides Israel?

Take this recent video from conservative filmmaker Andrew Klavan.

In it, Klavan uses the sound of a honking horn to illustrate when anti-Semitism is being said, to show how it rings out loudly when uttered by a bigot.

This stunt is funny, although in an unintentional way, because it was always my observation that self-righteously condemning someone’s unauthorized opinion was the exclusive domain of liberals.

Here, Klavan demonstrates that conservatives have a chance to club liberals for not being enlightened enough on race (and by taking a quote from Pat Buchanan out of context, Klavan proves that even the mention of Hitler’s name without immediate condemnation equals anti-Semitism).


“We said never again would we stand by and watch such an atrocity [the Holocaust] to occur. And now that the Jews are once again in danger of destruction, we’re not standing by, we’re actually pitching in to help.”

This may have been satire, but it captures the bootlicking required to avoid the anti-Semite epitaph.

After all, did we not just see Rand Paul risk excommunication because the Thought Police assailed him for holding a single philosophical dispute with one point of the Civil Rights Act? Is this any different?

Is it possible to have a difference with policies of the Israeli government without being anti-Semitic?

Is it possible to think the Palestinians should have their own state without being anti-Semitic?

Is it possible to think Israel should be in charge of its own self-defense without being anti-Semitic?

Is it possible to think that the actions of the Israeli government might not be infallible without being anti-Semitic?

Is it possible to disagree with President Obama without being a white supremacist?

Conservatives should know better.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We Have an Israel Problem

This Memorial Day weekend, while most Americans were preparing for backyard barbecues and mattress sales, and even a few remembering our war dead, a now-worldwide incident unfolded where the Israeli Defense Force boarded a humanitarian flotilla destined for a blockaded Gaza, captured the crew and killed perhaps sixteen people in the process.

The international reaction to this incident has indeed been one of furor.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called the killing of civilians “a grave act.” The German government issued a statement saying that Israel must consider “proportionality” regarding its own self-defense while the Norwegian Prime Minister called for an end to the blockade of Gaza. (Source: Yahoo News)

Over here, commentators on both sides of the aisle are tripping over themselves in an ugly farce trying to justify Israel’s actions.

Marty Peretz at the reliably liberal New Republic tries to convince us that “The Facts are on Israel’s Side.”

On David Horowitz’s Newsreal blog, which never misses an opportunity to confuse Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States, the proprietor shamelessly called the people on the flotilla “armed jihadists” without a single reputable attribution to support his loaded claim and despite video footage showing that the passengers, at best, had makeshift weapons with which to defend themselves against armed Israeli soldiers boarding their ship. Apparently neoconservatives like Horowitz believe Turks armed with metal rods are a genuine threat to professionally-trained soldiers with automatic weapons.

Over at National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson imitated an Israeli press secretary thusly,

“The fallout from Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, the distortions around the 2002 terrorist storming of the Church of Nativity, the 2006 Lebanon war — over time, these incidents do their part, in weird fashion, to incur hatred for a liberal democracy while creating sympathy for a theocratic thugocracy like Hamas.”

A simpler way to look at it is if Larry King, who is currently going through his seventh divorce, defiantly exclaimed on television, “Cheat on half a dozen wives and suddenly you get a reputation as an adulterer.”

So what does all this mean?

The very fact that this incident is such an issue in the United States demonstrates that we have an Israel problem.

Can anyone identify the vital U.S. national interest in the eastern Mediterranean?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is all over American television defending the IDF’s actions calling it “self-defense.” That is to be expected.

But why are Americans like Victor Davis Hanson exercising every benefit of the doubt for a foreign government? The Obama White House, which has sycophantically stated that there will be no “daylight between the U.S. and Israel,” is probably wondering how to get that sort of treatment.

The problem is not whether Israel is right or wrong in disputes like these but that we defend and subsidize Israel in disputes that are none of our business in the first place.

And just what can the world expect in response?

Even if Hamas had nothing to do with this flotilla, does any rational thinker believe they will let this incident pass and not use it to increase their pressure on the Jewish state? Even new British Prime Minister David Cameron notes how the blockade and attack on this flotilla only strengthens Hamas’ grip on the besieged Palestinians.

Ardent Israel defenders in this country should set aside their hysteria to consider just one fact: Israel may have numerous enemies, but she is not weak.

Even if every exaggerated nightmare about Israel’s plight was true, their actions over the weekend, in their 2006 war in Lebanon, and the 2008 war in Gaza have demonstrated to the world that they are capable of defending themselves with relative ease.

Nor has this incident provided any real discomfort or danger for any American (except perhaps one American who is suspected to have been on the flotilla).

Moreover, Israel brings so much of this on herself.

For a country constantly claiming to be struggling in an anti-Semitic world, someone ought to ask why Israel insists on behaving in such a way that creates more resentment than security. Is this not making Israel’s enemies our enemies?

Perhaps it is time for some brave soul in Washington to ask, “What are we getting out of this relationship?”

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Smear Bund Reloads

“I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners - I abhor racism, I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant - but at the same time I do believe in private ownership but I think there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding.”

- Rand Paul, May 20, 2010

Fresh off a resounding primary win, Rand Paul didn’t leave himself much time for a “honeymoon” this week when he inadvertently uttered one of the Things You’re Not Allowed To Say.

Just what did he say? Did he espouse the merits of racism? Did he lament that the country did not elect Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats in 1948? Did our good and benevolent media handlers, who cannot possibly have an agenda of their own, catch Rand changing out of his surgical scrubs and into his Klan hood?

Rather, Rand Paul made a statement intolerable to our political and cultural elites when he suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not infallible.

In fact, there was nothing in the above quote that was even inconsistent with his philosophy.

Rand Paul’s entire campaign thus far has been about keeping government out of the lives of private citizens. Do the liberals (and a conservative establishment altogether unhappy with this marriage) want us to believe that Rand’s whole campaign, nay, whole life dedicated to preserving the privacy and rights of the individual was just part of a grand scheme to reinstitute segregated lunch counters?

It wasn’t enough to say that racism is wrong. It wasn’t enough to point out the economic stupidity inherent to discrimination practiced by business owners. Rand Paul’s detractors, both Left and Right, show us that the only acceptable way to be absolved or recused of racism is to faithfully recite the court history.

Always tenuous in his relationship with the Republican Party, whose full support he needs, a chastened Dr. Paul, with all the passion of a church heretic choosing expediency over burning at the steak, has backpedaled by saying that he would have undoubtedly supported the Civil Rights Act, a position he implied in the first place. Perhaps now that he says he believes all the articles of the government catechism, the Inquisition of Acceptable Opinion will pull back on the reins.

But this is unlikely to end as this is only the second act of a play we’ve already seen.

The Democrats have naturally lacerated Rand. They are loathe to ever pass up an opportunity to project their bloated sense of moral superiority at anyone who disagrees with them by labeling them a racist or bigot. Perhaps even less surprising is how the GOP has turned its back and tepidly cheered on the Left’s hysterics.

The Republicans, who are none too happy that Rand pummeled their candidate of choice, finally have a reason to throw him to the wolves. For a candidate whom they have no passionate attachment, cutting the rope comes naturally and easily. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the party who left Jim Bunning to twist in the wind has given the same treatment to his potential successor.

While there is a fair amount of criticism about Rand Paul’s campaign, particularly among libertarians, that he is so reviled by his party’s establishment, both before and after a landslide primary victory, shows that his enemies still see him as a legitimate threat to cut against the grain of his party. And that is what cannot be tolerated.

Despite all of this, it’s still doubtful this will sink the 25-point lead Rand currently holds over his opponent. Try as they might, the Democrats cannot put “macaca” in his mouth.

But Rand Paul has been here before.

Last December, a prominent staffer resigned when racist content was found on his myspace.com page. Although the staffer, Chris Hightower, did not author the substance, he did leave it alone, an indication that he values a person’s right to the freedom of speech, even when it’s detestable.

Likewise, Rand Paul never condoned racism or discrimination but only nodded that property rights are sacred in the western tradition, even when the holders themselves are repulsive.

But the point is that Rand Paul has survived this sort of controversy before. He kept on his message of rejecting government interference and balancing the budget, even when his primary opponent tried to use this incident as a club in evidence of Rand’s “strange ideas.”

Yet, Rand Paul is still naturally strong in this race. He’s the indisputably conservative candidate in an indisputably conservative state.

“Gotcha” questions like these will come up again. The successful distraction caused by this kerfuffle only proves that it will come up again because the more time we spend talking about 46-year-old legislation that is not about to be repealed means there will be less time to talk about dangerously inflated budgets that are sinking the economy.

Rand Paul needs to get together with his team to prepare for every possible contingency because the next irrelevant question is already being cooked up.

Otherwise, damage control will have to be added to his list of talking points.


Here are a few other takes on this situation that are worth a read:

Tom Woods: Rand Paul and the Zombies
Jack Hunter: Rand Paul's Practical Philosophy
Daniel McCarthy: Rand Paul and the Paleos
Daniel Larison: Can Rand Paul Revive Conservative Foreign Policy?
Jacob Hornberger: Rand Paul, Civil Rights, and More Liberal Hypocrisy on Race
Michael Scheuer: Maddow and the Obamas: Killers of Hope, Spurs of Rebellion
Wes Messamore: A Question for Rachel Maddow
Chris W: Progressive Hypocrisy and Rand Paul


This essay is also now up at The Humble Libertarian.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Message to Voters: Vote for more of the same!

Lebanon Junction, Kentucky

Less than a week before Kentucky Republicans go to the polls to choose their U.S. Senate candidate, the Bluegrass State looks poised to host a political upset that would impress Harry Truman. Sensing this, every GOP hack and lackey is coming to save Trey Grayson from a truly humiliating defeat.

Practically hand-selected by Senate minority leader and unofficial dean of Kentucky’s Republican Party, Trey Grayson was supposed to waltz to the nomination as the candidate who was sure to beat the Democrats in November. It was over a year ago that an anonymous GOP operative told Politico, when Grayson formed his exploratory committee, that “For the first time, we now know who the Republican nominee will be next November and that’s Trey Grayson.”

But we’ve been through a lot since April 2009.

Before he published God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley’s intended pilot volume had been tentatively titled Revolt Against the Masses. If this senate race was translated into a book it would surely be called Revolt Against the Establishment.

After all, ignoring Rand Paul did not work. The attack ads have not worked. Bragging about endorsements from 27 current Kentucky office-holders has not worked. Even trying to turn Rand Paul over to the IRS did not work.

Now we have come full circle.

The original appeal of Grayson is the card he and his handlers are playing now: He is the candidate who is electable.

He’s moderate. He’s safe. He has a good chance to beat the Democrats.

But the “electability” argument is the Carpathia to Trey Grayson’s Titanic.

If the polls (and elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) have been any indication, it’s that Republican primary voters are tired of Republicans’ abandonment of principles and the back-room deals that personified the Bush administration.

In Tuesday’s Louisville Courier-Journal, lawyer and Mitch McConnell’s court historian John David Dyche used his op-ed to try to get the Republicans to rally around Trey so the party can choose pragmatism over principle and hope that repeating the same mistakes of the past will not yield the same results.

In fact, Rand Paul ought to be thanking John David Dyche. Unknowingly, the Louisville lawyer’s act of sycophancy perfectly articulated the strengths of Dr. Paul’s outsider campaign:

"Dr. Rand Paul says he will not vote for any budget that is not balanced. Secretary of State Trey Grayson rightly responded that Paul's position 'is not practical' and explained why. Now Paul is airing an ad attacking Grayson as if Grayson is altogether opposed to balancing the budget."

Translation: Trey Grayson is in favor of balancing the budget when it’s convenient.

"The idealistic Paul's passion is appealing. He is unlikely to lapse into business-as-usual in Washington. But his rigid ideological positions could render him vulnerable to Democratic defeat this fall and largely irrelevant on Capitol Hill even if he wins. . . .

"Grayson's pragmatism would make him a team player in the clubby Senate. Yet many Republicans see unprincipled deal-making as precisely the problem that got the GOP, and America, into the current mess."

Translation: Please vote for unprincipled deal-making.

Many Republicans rue America's well-intentioned but ill-founded invasion of Iraq. They hear scary echoes of that misadventure in Grayson's tough talk about Iran.

Translation: Please support Grayson so there can be an invasion of Iran that Americans don’t want.

"Over in the pandering party, Democratic candidates contentedly bicker about petty things like housing stipends and stock portfolios. After all, their D.C. destiny would be that of acolyte at the altar of Obama's radical liberal agenda, which polling shows Kentuckians strongly oppose."

Translation: Please ignore polls showing that Rand Paul, who strongly opposes Obama's agenda, is just as strong against the Democrats as Trey Grayson.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fighting Them Over There So We Can Fight Them . . . Over Here?

Fortunately for New Yorkers, Faisal Shahzad’s plan went up in smoke.

It’s been less than a week since Shahzad entered the national scene with his smoking car in Times Square, but there remain unanswered questions, including one no one wants to ask.

Why would he do this? What were his connections to the Pakistani Taliban? And if this had happened two years ago would Dick Cheney view this attempted terrorist attack by a native Pakistani as justification for invading Iran?

There remains plenty of ambiguity in this case, but one of the certainties is that Shahzad did not fit into our government’s tidy box of terrorist classification.

In the midst of a contentious immigration debate taking place in this country, Shahzad fits the positive stereotype the elites like to project on us for why there should be unrestricted immigration.

Shahzad never hurt anybody. He seemed to have gone about the immigration process in the prescribed way and was awarded citizenship 13 months ago. He went to American universities where he did not cause any trouble. He had his Muslim faith but he must have appeared moderate since nobody was startled by it.

He earned a job as a financial consultant for a marketing firm in Connecticut. He bought a house that was foreclosed a year ago, making his loss in the housing collapse the only probable reason that his economic situation would have given him cause to lash out at his adopted country.

But does anyone believe that Faisal Shahzad, a thirty-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, who earned degrees from American universities in 2000 and 2005, and was a junior financial analyst until one year ago, would have tried to ignite his Nissan Pathfinder were the United States not bombing his native land, an act of undeclared war that was escalated during the past year by President Obama?

All the available evidence in this case points in that direction.

Fighting the terrorists “over there” certainly did not stop Shahzad from trying to fight us over here. The U.S. has been engaged in Afghanistan for nearly nine years and in Iraq for over seven now. He had plenty of opportunity to volunteer for jihad because of those wars while he was enjoying freedom and becoming naturalized. Once drone strikes in Pakistan became more pronounced, this native-born Pakistani decided to take a trip to the old country where, it is assumed at this point, he volunteered himself for the Pakistani Taliban late in 2009.

If this scenario is true, that Shahzad was trying to exact revenge for what was happening to his old country, then wouldn’t extrication from the region remove the incentive for these continual, albeit amateurish bomb plots?

What the U.S. government has to realize is that terrorism is also a home-grown problem. While the Bush administration was trying to hypnotize the country into believing that terrorists are motivated by an inexplicable hatred of freedom, traditionalist conservatives and libertarians pointed out that Americans suffer terrorism over here because we have been over there.

As long as we insist that we have to be “over there,” terrorists will come over here. As Shahzad shows, some of them are already here.

If we see that it is “necessary” to remain “over there,” the price of our presence will be more car bombs like the one set by Faisal Shahzad.

And if some of those are successful, will it occur to anyone in seats of power that fighting them “over there” did not stop them from coming over here?


Editorial note: Wes Messamore of The Humble Libertarian has brought me on as a new regular contributor where this essay also appears. Please feel free to read and comment there as well.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pro-Life Phonies

They weren’t all standing on the stage together but the group of recent endorsers of Trey Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign would at first glance seem like an entertaining group photo.

In addition to Dick Cheney, Trey Grayson has recently wrangled the endorsements of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Santorum and Dobson are famously pro-life and Giuliani is infamously pro-choice in a party that, he learned, doesn’t nominate pro-choicers for its presidential candidates.

As a senator, Santorum was a poster boy for the pro-life cause. A handsome man with a large family, the Roman Catholic urged the teaching of Intelligent Design be inluded in No Child Left Behind and wrote “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and Common Sense,” a rebuttal to Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village.”

In his endorsement of Trey Grayson, Santorum said,

"Trey Grayson is the only 100% pro-life candidate in this race. I’ve looked at the records and past statements of both candidates on the issue of protecting life, and I’m impressed with Grayson’s conviction and sincerity.”

This might seem like a strong statement, but the former senator hasn’t always used this measuring stick.

In 2004, with then-Republican and always-pro-choice Arlen Specter in a brutal primary fight against then-Congressman Pat Toomey, Santorum and President George W. Bush came to the Keystone State to pull Specter’s chestnuts out of the fire. Now that Specter has prodigally returned to the Democrats, Santorum has endorsed Toomey. Santorum has since apologized for endorsing Specter in 2004, but the only thing the former proved is that even if you yourself are pro-life, you can always support someone who is pro-choice as long as they are a Republican.

In his endorsement, James Dobson said,

“Trey Grayson is the only candidate with the conviction to lead on the issues that matter to Kentucky families. His unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life and the family resonates with me. I know that he will be a leader on these issues, not just another Senator who checks the box.”

While his organization has done some good work, James Dobson is the one "who checks the box."

Dobson brayed in 2007 that he would support a “minor party candidate” if Giuliani, who was then seen as the frontrunner, won the presidential nomination. When the nominally pro-life John McCain, who voted to confirm Bill Clinton’s abortion-rights defenders to the Supreme Court, won the nomination, Dobson predictably returned to the fold, spurning the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin, whose pro-life views are as bulletproof as the ones Dobson claims to demand of Republicans.

Now back to the image of these three people, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Santorum, and James Dobson all supporting the same candidate, Trey Grayson. The question is this: What brings together people with disagreements on something as vital as whether the taking of an unborn life is murder or not and whether it deserves protection?

Obviously any candidate needs a wide coalition to get elected and that may mean having supporters with varying views on abortion, as bombastic and as intransigent as defenders on both sides of this issue tend to be.

But that still hasn’t answered the question of why Trey Grayson is the one who gets support from alleged pro-life leaders as Rick Santorum and James Dobson as well as pro-choice Republicans like Rudy Giuliani. After all, Grayson’s opponent, Rand Paul is also pro-life. Both candidates have endorsements from pro-life groups. What makes Grayson more pro-life than Rand Paul?

Perhaps the answer is the bazooka-toting elephant in the room.

Seeing that some of these pro-life stalwarts don’t quite live up to their principles, a simpler way to decipher the meanings of these recent endorsements might be found in this list:

1. Rand Paul is pro-life.
2. Trey Grayson is pro-life.
3. Rick Santorum is pro-life.
4. James Dobson is pro-life.
5. Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice.
6. Rand Paul is against the mainstream Republican foreign policy.
7. Trey Grayson is pro-war.
8. Rick Santorum is pro-war.
9. James Dobson is pro-war.
10. Rudy Giuliani is pro-war.
11. Pro-life Rick Santorum, pro-life James Dobson, and pro-choice Rudy Giuliani all endorse pro-life Trey Grayson.
12. Fealty to the status quo GOP foreign policy outranks the pro-life plank.

Update 5/3/2010: According to Politico, James Dobson has reneged his endorsement of Grayson in favor of Rand Paul. It is encouraging to see Dobson change his mind, but take note of his explanation for his initial endorsement of Grayson. Dobson may have inadvertantly revealed Grayson's whole campaign strategy by saying that it wasn't so much an endorsement for Trey Grayson as much as it was an endorsement against Rand Paul.

From Politico:

"Christian conservative leader James Dobson withdrew his endorsement of Kentucky Senate candidate Trey Grayson Monday, switching his support to Rand Paul’s campaign and accusing 'senior members of the GOP' of misleading him about Paul’s record on abortion. . . .

“ 'I was given misleading information about the candidacy of Dr. Rand Paul, who is running in the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate. Senior members of the GOP told me Dr. Paul is pro-choice and that he opposes many conservative perspectives, so I endorsed his opponent,' Dobson explained."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No Shame: The Case Against Mitt Romney

Under discussion: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney, 323 pages, $26.95.

It’s hard to imagine a worse presidential contender than Mitt Romney. Yet, he nearly won the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and whether conservatives will admit it or not, Romney is the most likely member of the party to win the nomination in 2012.

The flip-flopping, status quo defending, conventional wisdom-spouting pol is certainly viewed as “safe” and “electable” by the Republican establishment and as a “tolerable Republican” by the Democrats. 1964 excepted, this is the course Republicans always take. Despite the grassroots’ anger over Romneycare becoming Obamacare, Republicans should get comfortable with a Romney candidacy.

Editors Rich Lowry and Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review, the so-called mast of so-called conservatism, are still behind him. A Rasmussen poll shows that Romney, three years out, is the strongest Republican opponent to Obama -- a 45-45 statistical dead heat. The same poll says Obama would beat Sarah Palin 48-42. Mike Huckabee’s political star is fading and the party still refuses to acknowledge the existence of Ron Paul who will be 76 during the primary season.

Make no mistake, Mitt Romney is running for president. Nobody writes a book like No Apology unless they’re running for something. And Mitt Romney is always running for something. With entire chapters dedicated to topics such as health care, education, energy, and four chapters wailing about foreign policy, Mitt Romney intends to be president.

But if Romney thinks he will be able to effectively challenge President Obama in 2012, he does have some convincing left to do – and not just the Democrats he spent his pre-2008 political career trying to schmooze.

While he should face little resistance to his atrocious foreign policy, the GOP base is sure to have huge question marks about Romney’s unfolding positions on abortion, gay marriage, and the bank bailouts.

The American Conservative columnist Daniel Larison has quipped that Romney should just not talk about foreign policy because he seems hopelessly confused, conflating differing sects of Islam with each other, exposing inexcusable ignorance of the millennia-old rivalries between Sunni and Shiite. But as George W. Bush proved, simple regional and religious ignorance may be just part of the job qualifications.

The self-stated purpose of No Apology is that American greatness is inherent and there is no reason for America to feel sorry about anything ever, the meme used by statists in both party to indicate that there is no difference a government and its people.

Through this, it is implied that No Apology is the antithesis to the supposed “Apology Tour” of President Obama. In practice, the purpose seems to be that Mitt Romney believes he can take both sides of an argument at the same time and think that that makes him smart. Also, it becomes evident that in addition to offering no “I’m sorry”’s, Mitt Romney offers no justifiable defense, or apology, for past Republican failures he fully intends to repeat.

An example of this shows up in Chapter 2 when Romney gives a great deal of attention to why great nations fall i.e., when they isolate themselves and refuse to accept the changes of modernity:

“While Europe embarked on the early stages of manufacturing, the Ottomans did not; . . . The Ottomans’ growing isolation from the dynamic world of manufacture and trade was reinforced by the conviction that their holy scriptures provided all the knowledge that was necessary; foreign technology was infidel technology. The empire banned the printing press for half a century.” (37)

And about China:

“For the Ottomans, the Qur’an contained everything that life required; for the Chinese, it was their ancient culture . . . But rather than viewing learning and innovation as paths to prosperity, [Mao Zedong] saw them as threats.” (39)

Remarkably, the author of No Apology wrote the following statements in Chapter 3:

“. . . Mao never really took to modernity and technology, and his military continued to reflect that prejudice, maintaining a massive four-million-soldier army as only a weak compensation for the nation’s obsolete or non-existent weapons systems and logistical support. It wasn’t until approximately twenty years ago that China decided to build a modern world-class military. . .”

“Rather than embracing discovery, the Islamic fundamentalists condemn it. For them, the Qur’an contains all information and learning that is needed, and everything that should be known. In this view, modernity itself is evil – contemporary law, business practices, social mores, tolerance, rationalism, and scientific inquiry are heresy. And as the world’s epicenter of innovation and intellectual discovery, America is emblematic of the world’s sinful pursuit of everything forbidden by Allah.” (64-65, 66)

It’s difficult to concisely summarize Romney’s cognitive dissonance. On the one hand he seems to argue that great and powerful nations fall when they refuse to adapt to change and embrace technology and modern innovations. He uses the dissolution of the grandest Islamic empire as evidence of that. But on the other hand, bands of terrorists who do not accept modernity and represent a backward worldview, are inexplicably more dangerous than the Ottomans themselves or Mao’s pre-modern military.

But this is also symptomatic of the fundamental phoniness of Mitt Romney.

He draws some comparisons from history and hopes the reader will accept Romney’s façade of intellectualism at face value. How can Romney honestly think, six inches beneath his mound of hair gel, that 4 percent of GDP is required to battle an enemy that he has already explained has sown the seeds of their own futility by refusing to accept modern innovations?

Even on a subject on which Romney is generally accepted as having unique knowledge, the economy, he again shows himself riding both sides:

“It doesn’t make sense to bail out individual companies or banks or financial institutions that get in trouble. As we’ve seen, creative destruction is part of a growing, productive economy. Bailing out sick enterprises . . . merely prolong the final act.

“But Secretary Paulson’s proposal was not aimed at saving sick Wall Street banks or even at preserving jobs on Wall Street. . . . It did in fact keep our economy from total meltdown. (127-128)

Here Romney uncritically repeats the conventional wisdom used by both corporate parties to justify the largest redistribution of wealth in history. What’s worse is that he essentially repeats Bush’s lie that he had to abandon his free-market principles to save the free market.

This time, it’s Romney who is fine with abandoning the concept of “creative destruction,” the way the market rewards good businesses and eliminates poor ones, for a titanic propping-up of the banks, as if their industry should have been immune from the laws of economics.

Apparently it has never occurred to ol’ Mitt that much of the American economy was already propped up by an illusion of wealth created by the Federal Reserve and that rescuing the banks only prolongs a tragic final act that is yet to come.

But perhaps Romney’s most brazen attempt at obfuscation is the most predictable one: Massachusetts health care.

It isn’t difficult to see why. Just as Romney’s amorphous position on abortion (one dependant on which office he’s seeking), might have been enough to derail his 2008 presidential bid, his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts is what is temporarily angering conservatives in 2010.

He addresses the situation in Chapter 7, “Healing Health Care”:

“In 2009, the national health-care policy supported by President Barack Obama was often and erroneously reported as being based upon the plan we had enacted in Massachusetts. There were some very big differences – in particular, our plan did not include a public insurance option.” (176)

On this much Romney is right. At the time of the book’s writing, the so-called Massachusetts Model, which mandated that all citizens purchase health insurance, was not the same as the public option plan that was eventually discarded.

However, since No Apology went to press, the new health care law, which mandates health insurance for all Americans, does more closely resemble the Massachusetts Model, casting the proverbial aspersions on Romney’s claim that his model is different and likely putting a smile on Obama’s face when he sees Romney’s blabbering doubletalk on TV.

Republicans salivating at the prospect of an inevitable Obama defeat in 2012 should exercise caution when assuming that any suit or skirt will win. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act might be ancient history by then and Mitt Romney is just unprincipled enough to play John Kerry to Barack Obama’s George W. Bush.

And there would be no apology big enough for that.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Message from Trey Grayson

For those of you who might not know me, my name is Trey Grayson. I am Kentucky’s Secretary of State and a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

I am writing to you from Uncouth Ruminations, a blog of politics, history, and faith. The forlorn editor of this blog, Carl Wicklander, showed up on a blotter in Dick Cheney’s cave when it was discovered that Mr. Wicklander held some patently un-American views. Mr. Wicklander has since begun “Patriot Training,” a rigorous program where disloyal and thinking Republicans are “Hannitized” and reacquainted with timeless conservative texts such as “If Democrats had any Brains, They’d Be Republican” and “Going Rogue.”

But enough about that. I am writing to you in this forum so I can tell you why I want to be the next senator from Kentucky.

It’s easy in a race such as ours to run a negative campaign where the candidates engage in ad hominem attacks and don’t talk about the issues. But this is Kentucky and we’re above that.

The reason I want to be the next senator from Kentucky is simple: Rand Paul is SCARRRRY!!!

Maybe that’s not quite accurate. Rand Paul isn’t scary. He’s scary and kooky!

You don’t have to take my word for it. Learn about Rand Paul for yourself. I recommend a couple of scholarly, highly insightful, and impartial websites: randpaulstrangeideas.com and tookookyforkentucky.com. They’re the veritable snopes.com for Rand Paul!

First of all, Rand Paul is not even a Kentuckian. I am a Kentuckian. A fifth generation Kentuckian for that matter. Rand Paul was born in Texas. Why, if birthplace and genealogy don’t get you anywhere, then why did we even fight the American Revolution?

Here’s another troubling fact about Rand Paul: He is the son of Ron Paul. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.

Pretty scary, huh?

The depth of Rand Paul’s love and devotion to his father is utterly despicable. This is the sort of character who did not support George H. W. Bush for president in 1988 because his father was running as the Libertarian Party’s candidate. Kentucky doesn’t need a senator who is more loyal to his own father than to Poppy Bush and the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

Do you want to know what’s even scarier? Rand Paul is funded by evil Big Libertarian money.

Just who is part of this Big Libertarian political machine that is funding this not-enough-of-a-Kentuckian?

College kids, young adults, and blue collar workers across the country who are giving sums of $5, $10, and $25. Those are exactly the sort of people we don’t need in the Republican Party.

Kentuckians deserve a senator who will stand up for them. Rand Paul is more than happy to accept small donations from libertarians all across America. I, on the other hand, reluctantly accept money from your friendly neighborhood bailed-out corporations at fundraisers that charge $500 per plate. I don't think I need to tell you which one of us in this race has Kentuckians interests at heart.

As scary as all this has been, I regret to inform you all that there is something about Rand Paul that is even scarier. Yes, scarier than not being born in Kentucky, scarier than being the son of Ron Paul, and scarier than getting small donations.

Rand Paul is opposed to the war in Iraq.

That’s right. Rand Paul is opposed to an invasion of an innocent country that did not threaten the United States and that a majority of Americans now oppose. Foresight like this does not deserve to be rewarded. Rand Paul also had the audacity to suggest that we should exclusively pursue the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Does this man’s arrogance know no bounds?

I know this was a lot, but I hope this has been helpful for anyone considering voting in this year’s senate election in Kentucky. I hope that by looking at my opponent, Kentuckians will realize that I am the right man for the job.

And finally, during this Holy Week, I think it would be appropriate to take some time to meditate and say thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for showing us the way. May we never question you. Thank you, Mitch McConnell.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Americans Learn to Love Government

Democrats hail this as a major breakthrough in their goal of finally getting every American insured. Republicans are denouncing the action as unprecedented big government tyranny that they will continue to fight, sure to draw cheers from the base.

But Republicans like John “Bailout” Boehner can jeer all they want about how Congress failed to listen to the will of the people, how this was shoved down the throats of the American people and how Democrats like Bart Stupak will pay at the ballot box in November.

The GOP, certain to make gains this November, will undoubtedly bludgeon the Democrats this fall with their health care bill, which was achieved through any number of shady means, although any significant resistance will likely end there.

One of the biggest reasons is that there are two Republican Parties. There is the party that is out of power and/or campaigning for reelection which purports to adhere to the Constitution and restraining government. This is the party that excites the Tea Partiers. The other party is the one that returns to power, retains the apparatuses Democrats instituted and introduces some of their own. This is the party that deserves to be run out of town and the one that brings the Democrats and this vicious cycle back.

But the screaming masses on the Right need to know one thing: Republicans have had numerous opportunities to roll back the welfare state. The Social Security Act of 1935 passed with bipartisan support. The New Deal remained firmly in place after eight years of Eisenhower.

Republicans have won seven of the eleven presidential elections since Medicare passed, yet Republicans not only preserved that single-payer program but expanded it in 2003 under a Republican president and a Republican congress. This means that Republicans are either

A). Fine with keeping the welfare state in place so they too can control Americans’ lives, or

B). They are too weak-willed to address the politically suicidal task of cutting entitlements. (Hint: Either answer is acceptable)

Even if there is no public option right now, universal health care is still in our future. Since the time of FDR, America has never taken a step away from government health care, only steps towards it.

And if there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program, what can we say about something as transformational as this legislation?

The other big reason there won’t likely be any longstanding resistance is that Americans have already gotten comfortable with the idea of government health care.

Though often hesitant at first, Americans have shown that they do grow to love their entitlements.

Social Security and Medicare were measures that were denounced at the time as socialist but Americans have largely accepted these entitlements as American birthrights on a par with freedom of religion.

In today’s debate over the Democrats’ plan, Republicans demonstrated this by wailing about the cuts to Medicare as a way to fund the new program, not whether Medicare is constitutional in the first place.

The debate over private vs. public health care was lost long before Sunday’s vote.

Over seventy years ago, journalist Peter Edward “Garet” Garrett wrote about the New Deal in "The Revolution Was":

"There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom. . . .


“A government that has been supported by the people and so controlled by the people became one that supported the people and so controlled them. Much of it is irreversible. That is true because habits of dependence are much easier to form than to break.”

Those dependencies Americans have acquired, Social Security and Medicare, are running a hole in the budget. The biggest parts of the federal budget are the entitlements and all defense spending. The debt is currently $13 trillion. The Democrats propose that they can insure all Americans by just cutting from Medicare. At best, this is a solution that simply rearranges the debt. Republicans seem to be proposing that they can keep entitlement spending where it is, military spending where it is, cut taxes, and everything will be fine.

Cuts in the entitlement programs just won’t happen. Republicans won’t touch them because Democrats already campaign that Republicans will take away Social Security from seniors. Democrats won’t take a butter knife to the defense budget because Republicans already assail them for being weak. And nobody will raise taxes during a recession or during an election season.

The American government has weaned the American people into dependency. Everybody wants to cut something but nobody wants to give up their own share of the federal goodies.

In 2003 regarding the Iraq war, General David Petraeus said, “Tell me how this ends.”

We should be asking ourselves that same question today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lessons Not Learned

The following letter appeared in the Thursday, March 11, 2010 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It is in response to an editorial last week which can be read here.

Lessons Not Learned

Friday’s editorial “Election and end game” (March 5) perfectly mimicked the navel-gazing that passes for modern political discourse by declaring, “Nearly seven years after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq still won’t have peaceful, free and fair elections. That’s not our fault, but theirs – and perhaps history’s.”

Nearly seven years ago our government chose to invade a country with no apparent knowledge of their religion, customs, or complex ethnic history and then the editors seemingly blame the Iraqis themselves for our ruling class’s ignorance.

Historian Thomas Fleming of Chronicles magazine compares this sort of uncritical thinking to a practical joker who tells his victim that he just won the lottery. Who is at fault if the victim suffers a heart attack or carelessly spends money he ultimately doesn’t have? Is it the victim who wasted money he thought he had or is it the joker who needlessly intervened in the victim’s life?

Do we blame the Iraqis for predictably behaving according to their history or do we blame the U.S. government for unleashing that behavior by intervening in a place where it was neither necessary nor wise?

And will this same lackadaisical thinking apply again to the more heavily populated and more ethnically diverse Iran?

Carl Wicklander
Nashville, IL

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dangerous Marco Rubio

And he may just be the next senator from Florida.

There’s a lot of buzz around Marco Rubio these days. Justifiably so. He is running against the Establishment’s candidate Charlie Crist. He delivers stirring speeches and holds the support of the so-called Tea Parties. He’s charismatic and as a Cuban-American, he is a diverse face the Republican Party desperately needs.

He waxes about individual liberty and free enterprise. These topics gave him cheers at CPAC. But there is more to Rubio than this. What so many of his admirers may or may not realize is that Marco Rubio is exactly what the Republicans want in order for them to put a different face on their big government machinations.

He is Hispanic, which is a plus, and even though he is not (yet) the Establishment’s candidate, he does not represent any meaningful change from the status quo from early 21st century Republican politics, only more passionate delivery.

Last October, I first highlighted some troubles with Rubio in “Compassionate Conservatism Revisited?” where Rubio expressed support for a Republican version of a nanny state:

“I thought that of all the candidates, [Mike Huckabee] did the best job of connecting how the people’s social and moral well-being cannot be separated from their economic well-being.”

I also noted that one of Rubio’s political mentors was two-term governor Jeb Bush, who is portrayed in Robert Crew's recent monograph, “Aggressive Conservatism,” as a strong-willed and secretive executive who did not hesitate to stretch the authority of his office to achieve his goals. Sound familiar?

After Rubio delivered his speech at CPAC last weekend, he should give true conservatives and libertarians more reason to worry. Not only does he toe the Bush-Huckabee line of compassionate conservatism, he also makes clear that he follows their foreign policy as well:

“Americans are also looking for clear alternatives on the issues of national defense. . . . there is no greater risk to this country than the risk posed by radical Islamic terrorists. Let me be clear about something. These terrorists aren't trying to kill us because we offended them. They attack us because they want to impose their view of the world on as many people as they can, and America is standing in their way. We need to make it unmistakably clear that we will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

“We will punish -- we will punish their allies, like Iran -- and we will stand with our allies, like Israel. We will target and we will destroy terrorist cells and the leaders of those cells. The ones that survive, we will capture them.”

This is a startling part of the speech. But let’s break it down.

Let me be clear about something. These terrorists aren't trying to kill us because we offended them

This is a repackaging of the unreflective cliché, “They hate us because we’re free.”

By saying “Let me be clear,” Rubio wants to assure us that there is no alternative explanation to why terrorists hate us. We did not offend them. It would be preposterous to think they could be offended that the U.S. supports Israel unconditionally against the Palestinians, props up corrupt regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, militarily occupies lands that Muslims consider holy, and whose foreign policy results in thousands of dead Muslims.

They attack us because they want to impose their view of the world on as many people as they can, and America is standing in their way.

Okay, they attack us because they want to impose their view of the world on us. There is a case to be made for that, but aren’t we currently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan because we want to impose our view of the world, democratic republicanism, on the Muslim world? We obviously don’t like the idea of living under an imposed Islamic caliphate, so why should we believe that traditional Islamic societies would want to live like secular Westerners especially if it was forced on them?

We need to make it unmistakably clear that we will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

This comes directly from the playbook of the Israel Lobby: bait Iran, stand with Israel, and stay in the region for hundreds of years if necessary against vaguely defined "radical Islamic terrorism."

Meet Marco Rubio: Bush Republican.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

War Party and Tea

With the surprise retirement of Evan Bayh, widely assumed to be a shoo-in for reelection, Republicans can lick their chops some more about the electoral gains they are sure to make this fall.

Perhaps the Tea Party pressure is paying off. Maybe enough of those evil Democrats are getting the picture that their big government machinations are history and a renewed, revitalized, and reformed Republican Party is poised to set the ship aright by following the Constitution and restoring the republic to the one bequeathed to us by the founding fathers.

Probably not.

Like Obama, the Republicans are misreading the early election returns.

In 2006 and 2008, Americans sick of the Republicans, their ill-conceived wars, and a miserable economy, threw the GOP and their “permanent majority” out. 2008 was a year where the Republicans were so despised that Democrats could have literally nominated a yellow dog and still won the presidency. Not sensing this, Obama and the Democrats introduced to America an agenda that envisioned a health care plan that would inevitably lead to a government take-over of the industry.

Republicans have responded by defeating Democrats in Virginia, New Jersey, and of all places, Massachusetts.

So how are they misreading the election results?

They are taking these early Democratic defeats to mean that, even though the Republicans have offered no agenda of change, the American people must want back the good old days of the early 2000s of the ambiguous “War on Terror” and endless deficit spending.

No sooner had Scott Brown embarrassed his daughters on national television did National Review’s Andrew McCarthy assure us that it was the War on Terror that really motivated people to get out there by praising how:

“Scott Brown went out and made the case for enhanced interrogation, for denying terrorists the rights of criminal defendants, for detaining them without trial, and for trying them by military commission. It worked. It will work for other candidates willing to get out of their Beltway bubbles . . . .

“He said the United States needs to stop apologizing for defending itself. And he won going away, in the bluest of blue states.”

What McCarthy means by “defending itself,” is keeping the same Bush foreign policy that Americans have already repudiated.

This also shows how, despite all the good rhetoric about the Constitution, limited government, and reduced spending at home, all of that takes a back seat to the ubiquitous “War on Terror” and makes the so-called Tea Parties a farce.

Just look at the reception given to Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul.

Paul, who has consistently led in Kentucky polls for at least four months, is continually vilified by his party and their media henchmen for a variety of bizarre reasons. He’s kooky. He’s pro-abortion (untrue). He’s a marijuana advocate (a dramatic distortion). But the most telling criticism is that Rand Paul is somehow weak on military matters and wants to surrender the “War on Terror.”

To make that argument ignores the fact that Paul’s first campaign commercial declared that he will “stop travel visas from terrorist nations” and “keep prisoners off U.S. soil,” as well as supporting military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. On his website, he has expressed his support for a declaration of war on Afghanistan. He also wrangled the endorsement of war empress Sarah Palin. To the chagrin of all the little Churchills with laptops, Rand Paul is not Neville Chamberlain.

But it was Jeanette Pryor of Newsrealblog that summed up the supremacy of war when she said this regarding Sarah Palin’s endorsement:

"The logical conclusion of this endorsement is that Palin considers America’s global defense of freedom, national defense, the War on Terror, the defeat of Radical Islam, and the support of Israel and our allies, to be less important than 'some' domestic policy issues."

Pryor says plainly that not only are the wars more important than our domestics, but Israel is too. Are we for America first or are we not? Or as The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison noted about the reaction to Palin’s endorsement, she “has erred because she forgot that national security is the one area where conservatives cannot meaningfully disagree and still be accepted.”

During the Bush administration, everything took a backseat to the wars. Spending skyrocketed. The Roe v. Wade atrocity remained firmly in place. Border security was abandoned. The federal government sunk its claws deeper into American education. Executive power increased. But the wars, well, that’s what really mattered.

These GOP sycophants have already demonstrated that once the Republicans are back in power, the latter aim to do everything exactly the same once again. And the former aim to continue their bidding.

From the party that has had no ideas for fixing the problems they helped cause this should be no surprise.