Category ►►► Politics 101
July 2, 2012
Conservatism 101: Big vs. Big
My father and law were having a discussion the other day over some pretty good scotch, which naturally led to the subject of politics and the private sector. It seems that whenever lefttist politicians are seeking to "do something" about whatever the scare du jour happens to be, they inevitably invoke some corporate boogeyman to create an us-versus-them dynamic perfect for whipping up outrage and hysteria.
It doesn't really matter what the industry is -- Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Insurance -- any one of them will make a suitable scapegoat. After all, all these greeeedy corporations want to do is rip off Joe Citizen and bank their obscene profits at the expense of The PeopleTM. The implicit message is that Big Government is looking out for you, while Big Business only wants to screw you.
History, however, tells a different story.
To wit: How many people has Big Business killed over the centuries? Sure, you've got your various and sundry accidents and fits of sheer incompetence that have caused deaths (anybody remember the Ford Pinto?) -- but I'm talking about incidents when a company has actually gone out and killed somebody on purpose. Outside of a John Le Carre novel, I'd be hard pressed to think of many.
Now ask yourself how many people governments have killed. Communism alone is estimated to be responsible for over 100 million deaths. Throw in the crimes of the Nazi regime, just to name one other, and the numbers go even higher.
This is not to say that corporations are run by angels, because they're not. They are flawed institutions populated with flawed human beings -- but by and large, they exist to serve consumer needs and are responsive to the desires of their customers. Governments, on the other hand, too often exist to serve the needs of those who rule. It's why our Founding Fathers sought to limit the powers that government has, and made the liberty of the individual paramount.
So the next time some lefty tries to convince you that government can be trusted more than business, see if you can set him straight -- after you stop laughing, of course.
October 15, 2011
Nein, Nein, Nein!
So why do I so adamantly oppose Herman Cain's "9, 9, 9" tax plan -- 9% income tax, 9% corporate tax, 9% national sales tax -- even though I like him personally as a candidate?
Several reasons, each of them as simple and non-technical as the plan itself.
First of all, I shudder at the thought of any kind of national sales tax (NST) at all. I have long opposed the tendentiously named "Fair Tax" pushed by so many so-called conservatives; if you want a glimpse of tax hell, look what's happened to all the nasty NSTs and VATs throughout Europe and in Japan: They start low but almost immediately begin quietly creeping upward.
(A value-added tax, VAT, is a sales tax on every incremental step of creating a product; it's even more insidious than an NST, because you can't even tell how much you're being taxed... it's a little bit here, a little bit there, so opaque that even the feds often have no clue.)
If an out-of-control government raises your income or property taxes, you feel it good and hard the next time you write a whopping big check to the government. You can even compare today's tax bill to yesteryear's. But when the feds slyly raise the NST, you can't immediately tell: You only know prices are higher; you can't distinguish the effects of the NST from inflation. Therefore, raising taxes is infinitely easier when tax victims aren't sending a check to the feds every year.
Second, if we ever instituted an NST, I believe that all those states that have sales taxes would begin raising them, secure in the knowledge that shellshocked taxpayers wouldn't be able to distinguish how much of the increased sales tax on a purchase was due to the federal sales tax and how much due to the state sales tax: When voters start screaming, each side can point a finger at the other; in the confusion, voters never know whom to punish.
Third, Cain's 9, 9, 9 proposal shoots at the wrong target. We do have a minor tax problem; income and corporate taxes should be lower, simpler, and less riddled with social engineering loopholes. But the real problem we face, the existential problem, is not taxing but spending: under both Democratic and Republican Congresses, we are spending ourselves into oblivion. (Worse under the Left, of course, but unconscionable even from the GOP.)
Cain has said virtually nothing about how he would reduce spending; he seems to believe that shifting the revenue source -- he himself says that 9, 9, 9 would be "revenue neutral," meaning we get no tax reduction at all -- will automatically make Congress more fiscally responsible.
But why? What would cause politicians to stop spending money we don't have? We have a transcendental deficit right now; that means that congressmen and senators (and presidents) care nothing that we spend multiples of all revenues collected. What about 9, 9, 9 would change that fundamentally unbalanced equation?
And even if it did, we're right back to problem number one: With so much pressure to "balance the budget," what could be easier than turning 9, 9, 9 into 9, 9, 11, then 9, 9, 15, then eventually 9, 9, 22?
Then with all that bright, shiny new tax money, isn't the most likely congressional response to be... more spending? As "Che" sings in Evita:
When the money keeps rolling in, you don't ask how
Think of all the people guaranteed a good time now!
Herman Cain's biggest problem is that, so far at least, he's a one-note pony; and that single note, his 9, 9, 9 plan, crumbles to dust under scrutiny.
His other problem is that he has no experience running any kind of a government bureaucracy, none, nada. Government agencies simply do not function like corporations, even very large corporations. I'm sure we'd be better off if they did; but it's a mug's game trying to transmogrify the former into the latter. (Cain's only quasi-governmental experience was serving on and chairing the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of Omaha and of Kansas City, which are not government agencies.)
With not one day spent running such a beast, he'll be punked by the permanent administrative state, guaranteed. Kind of like what happened to Merv Griffin when he got involved in a big hotel real-estate deal with Donald Trump: the Donald drank Merv's milkshake and ate him alive.
Herman Cain is a great guy, so far as I can tell; and he can do a great service by focusing debate on what really matters right now: the existential threat posed to the United States by Barack H. Obama and the demented Democrats. He might make a good vice president; one hopes he can learn to handle a bureaucracy in time to run for the big chair again in eight years. But right now, his only trick -- 9, 9, 9 -- is just a catchy and clever red herring.
December 30, 2010
Progressivism and Populism... Separated at Birth, or Steel-Cage Death Match?
At a recent gathering, I made remarks to the effect that I didn't really see much difference in practice between Progressivism and Populism, provoking first astonished gasps, then loud denunciations and a proclamation that "only an idiot" could say such a thing. It was as if I had said of the French Revolutionary government under Maximilien Robespierre that at least he made the jet airliners fly on time.
Since then, I've been reading more about populists and progressivists... and quite frankly, the more I read, the less of a difference I can see between them:
- Both exalt "the people" to the point of idolatry -- and both rail against "the elites" to the point of hysteria.
- Both profess a devotion to
mob ruledirect democracy, while complaining in the footnotes that voters just aren't up to the job and must be overruled by the experts (who speak in the name of the People, not the Powerful, of course).
- Both are appalled by the limitations imposed upon "direct democracy" (i.e., rule by elite decree, see point above) by constitutions and common law, and believe those documents should be abolished as obsolete and reactionary.
- Both passionately reject the defense of "freedom of speech" for those who engage in sedition, which they appear to define to include any argument refudiating their own ideology.
- Both are generally beards for demagoguery by those who wish to become absolute despots.
Can somebody who has actually studied political taxonomy please enlighten me as to the big-picture difference between these two ideologies? Something that I, a math guy who never had to take any Poli-Sci at university, can understand and use to distinguish between one and the other.
Note, I don't mean some historical or nomenclatural difference: "Woodrow Wilson was a Progressivist, while Huey Long was a Populist, so you can see how completely different they are!" Please explain in what way they are different; don't assume I already know, because if I did, I wouldn't be writing this post.
Then I can either correct my thinking or defend my heresy, whichever seems most appropriate.
November 13, 2010
A Modest Proposal for Minnesota...
I understand that the gubernatorial election in Minnesota between Republican State Rep. Tom Emmer and Democrat lunatic Mark Dayton is too close to call, and that an automatic hand-recount will ensue, followed by a nearly automatic election contest in the courts.
Current Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's term is scheduled to expire on January 3rd; but it appears the Minnesota constitution may cause that to be extended, if the election contest still is not settled by then:
A lawsuit could delay seating of a new governor. A candidate or any registered voter has seven days after a recount to file an election contest, and a trial wouldn't commence for 20 days after that. The schedule for resolving a challenge could push the race far into January, with fresh GOP majorities set to take over the Legislature.
Under the Minnesota Constitution, the term of a governor runs "four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified." Many, including Pawlenty, read the clause to mean Pawlenty would stay on longer.
I have a suggestion for the Gopher State: When the new Republican legislature is seated, but before the election contest is decided, Minnesota could well have a Republican legislature and a Republican governor. That period would be a dandy time to enact a fair and equitable redistricting bill, which is the most important long-term, structural legislation for 2011, in my modest opinion.
The deadline for redistricting is sometime in September, I believe; but I don't see anything in the rules that prevents the legislature from getting an early start; early January sounds nicely proactive to me. (Perhaps some Minnesota-based lawyers with an interest in politics and an extremely popular blog can check it out and see if it's legally allowed; I name no names, hint, hint.)
According to this seemingly official Minnesota website, it appears that the Minnesota legislature draws the congressional and legislative districts, which must then be approved by the governor; Minnesota does not use a redistricting commission, so far as I can tell from 1,500 miles away.
After the contest is settled, if Tom Emmer ends up governor, all will be well; it won't matter if the redistricting was done early, because Emmer would have signed off on the same plan that Pawlenty will already have accepted. But if Mark Dayton (who currently leads in the initial count by 8,755 votes) prevails, then he will almost certainly veto any redistricting bill that doesn't create a huge, built-in advantage for Democratic candidates. Therefore, the "butter zone" is that narrow window between the seating of the new legislature and the final decision on the new governor.
Time to get on the hump, Minnesotans -- tick tock, tick tock! As a great sage once said, never let a crisis go to waste.
March 10, 2010
Politico reports that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) is losing her grip.
Not her grip on reality (not to mention sanity), however tenuous that may appear; she knows what she's doing. What lefty Independent Jonathan Allen meant is that the Speaker is losing her iron grip on the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives:
Over the past two weeks, Pelosi has faced a series of subtle but significant challenges to her authority -- revolts from Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Blue Dog Coalition and politically vulnerable first- and second-term members.
The dynamic stems from an “every man for himself” attitude developing in the Democratic Caucus rather than a loss of respect for Pelosi, according to a senior Democratic aide. But it’s making Pelosi’s life -- and efforts to maintain Democratic unity -- harder.
Allen offers several explanations why, like Darth Vader, star systems are slipping through Pelosi's fingers: a "tough election cycle," Democratic congressmen eager to take "revenge" on the Senate for not being partisan enough, and her go-lite chastisement of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, 100%) and other revolting Democrats. But he misses the most obvious explanation: Nancy Pelosi is leading her caucus to certain doom in the mid-term elections.
She asks them to take suicidal votes on wildly unpopular bills, from ObamaCare, to Cap and Tax, to stimulus packages so numerous they must be numbered... and now, in an election year! She demands that Democrats, even those just starting their careers, immolate themselves upon a cross of bogus bailouts and carbon credits.
Oddly, they're somewhat reluctant to fall upon their swords just so that Pelosi will look good.
I suspect that if she were to suggest that it would be best all around if the House were to scrap the current thoroughly discredited ObamaCare bill and start all over again... well, she might find that the easiest way to "lead" is to find a parade already heading down the street -- and dart out in front, pumping your baton.
But then, of course, she wouldn't have the nearly orgasmic joy of digging deep to sacrifice myriad others for her own cause. And really, in the grand scheme of things, what could possibly be more important than Nancy Pelosi's near-petite mort?
November 2, 2009
NY-23: New York Race - Chicago Rules, and What Dede Learned From David
As the Permanent Presidential Campaign rolls along, the most recent victims are the Republicans of New York's 23rd district... who awoke today to discover something truly remarkable about erstwhile congressional candidate Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava -- that "lifelong Republican" who swore she would never leave the GOP -- and her seemingly inexplicable endorsement of the Democrat remaining in the race, Bill Owens, rather than the conservative Republican, Doug Hoffman.
They learned (if they read the news ) that -- drum roll, please: The betraying endorsement was engineered by the Barack H. Obama White House.
Politico reports that the administration and Friends of Barack lured Scozzafava to the dark side by playing on her senses of grievance and entitlement:
The story of how it went down began in Washington, where the White House and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quarterbacked the effort to secure Scozzafava’s endorsement.
According to several senior Democratic officials, Rep. Steve Israel, a Long Island Democrat and DCCC official, was dispatched to meet face to face with Scozzafava in her upstate New York district, within hours of her departure from the race, to make the case on behalf of the national party. He carried the proxy of the White House and congressional Democrats.
Scozzafava, according to one account, was receptive to the entreaties after becoming a target of intense conservative opposition over the past month. The nomination of the moderate to liberal assemblywoman who was backed by the national GOP establishment had become a rallying point for conservative grass-roots activists, who argued that she was far too liberal for them to support.
“She’s devastated that these outside interests are trying to hijack her moderate wing of the party," said one New York Democrat who had spoken to Scozzafava.
Hijack? Those forces (outside or in) were trying to push the moderates aside and support the conservative wing... just as the moderates did the exact opposite when eleven GOP party bosses anointed DIABLO Scozzafava to succeed RINO John McHugh, who jumped at the chance to join the Obama administration. (For those of you who have lived in Plato's cave for some months now, RINO is of course "Republican in name only," while DIABLO, coined by Mark Steyn, stands for "Democrat in all but label only.")
Of course, by "outside interests," the unnamed "New York Democrat" meant only conservatives across the country who rallied to Hoffman's cause, and possibly Hoffman himself, who resides in a nearby district. For some reason, the specter of a far-left president and his top aides, most from Chicago, don't count as "outsiders;" and neither do other New York Democrats who reside all over the state.
What they're really saying seems clear to me: Dede Scozzafava thought the fix was in, and she was gobsmacked by the speed of the unraveling.
She was selected by the Republican nomenklatura to succeed John McHugh; sure, she was trailing Bill Owens in the polls, but that was all just for show. When election time rolled around, Scozzafava was sure the conservatives, having made their displeasure known, would hold their noses and vote for her. After all, they had nowhere else to go.
(The same dynamic had already happened with the national GOP and several big names in the party; having nowhere else to light, they smiled and nodded and gave Scozzafava their blessings.)
She would be elected, and her life would be set: She would serve several terms then be appointed a federal judge; or perhaps she would receive a succession of appointments at la Casa Blanca, culminating in a minor cabinet position... perhaps Secretary of Health and Human Services or Director of the EPA under President Biden.
Sure, this is rank speculation on my part; but her reaction to conservatives in her own district rallying to Doug Hoffman, the collapse of her own support, her whiny departure, and her immediate embrace of the Democrat tells me that she herself feels "betrayed" by her own party... and she's lashing out in angry revenge. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.
In fact, Dede Scozzafava reminds me a lot of David Brock. Brock is a former Republican investigative writer who flipped to the Democratic side, reportedly because he was furious over being snubbed by a few conservatives at cocktail parties. (He could only name one such snubbery, by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. of the American Spectator, Brock's former employer.)
Short detour: Brock was the toast of Washington after his first and still best book, the Real Anita Hill. In that book, he took apart the self-serving portrait of Clarence Thomas' wannabe political character assassin, Nina Totenberg of NPR, exposing her as an ultra liberal, Democratic Party hatchet-girl. Brock argued (with good evidence) that Totenberg and her fellows in the anti-Thomas brigade of the "shadow government" suborned perjury by Anita Hill.
They worked hand in sock puppet with top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to attempt to destroy Thomas -- for the crime of being a conservative black man. Or as Emerge, a black magazine, so graciously put it -- "Uncle Thomas, Lawn Jockey for the Far Right."
Brock did yeoman work exposing this dark undercurrent of Democratic racism and dirty tricks. He rightly noted that if Republicans had tried the same vile tactic to defeat a black liberal Democratic Supreme-Court nominee -- accusing him of uncontrollable sexuality, a traditional racist attack on black men -- the screams of rage from Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the usual ranks fo the perpetually aggrieved would have rolled three times 'round the world. David Brock was feted and petted, courted and bedded.
But after his second book, the Seduction of Hillary Rodham -- in which he was perceived as having cuddled a bit too close to his subject -- he drifted off everybody's A-list.
Gone were the invites to cocktail parties starring top congressional Republicans, the talk-show circuits, the frequent appearances as guest commentator on TV ("the Republican," given twenty seconds to counter the six Democrats who had yammered on for twenty minutes about whatever issue burned that day).
Brock reportedly flew into a Rumplestiltskin-like rage at his maltreatment, especially at parties; he flipped completely, turning not only Democrat but attack-dog Democrat. He published Blinded by the Right, an unreadable screed against everyone he had formerly worked with; and he accused Republicans of rejecting him because he was openly gay.
Of course, he was openly gay when he published the Real Anita Hill, and that didn't seem to bother Republicans. Logic is not the long suit of avatars of self pity.
I have no idea whether Scozzafava ever met David Brock; the latter quickly dropped off the radar, after the sensation of his complete betrayal and subsequent toadying up to the far left lost its novelty. But she is following the same pattern as he, and I strongly suspect for the same reason: Thwarted entitlement.
Just as Brock believed his future was set (he was going to be the next conservative icon, a literary Rush Limbaugh, and incidentally a multimillionaire best seller), so Scozzafava -- judging by her campaign, her collapse, and her subsequent openness to complete betrayal of her former party -- saw the actual vote as mere formal flummery. She had already won the seat when the boys in the back room anointed her. They promised!
It turns out, Politico notes, that Scozzafava was promised power, prestige, and support if she flipped -- especially if she formally turned her coat. Such promises are invariably part of the wooing process... and almost always disingenuously so:
Also critical was [New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver’s assurance, in a phone conversation with Scozzafava, that the state Assembly Democratic caucus would embrace her if she chose to switch parties, now viewed as a real possibility after her endorsement Sunday of Owens.
Yep. I'm sure that next year, New York state Democrats will be eager to shove aside some life-long Democrat in favor of a humiliated and crushed erstwhile Republican, hated by a huge number of voters in the district, who just lost an election that was expected to be a shoe-in. Lots of luck, Dede.
I make a further prediction: After tomorrow, when Hoffman wins the race -- or even if Democrat Bill Owens squeaks out a narrow victory -- the Chicago Left will toss Scozzafava aside like a used Kleenex.
She may think she will be showered with gratitude from the president; she may fantasize that she'll have an honored place in the pantheon of New York liberals; but the reality is that nobody ever trusts a traitor again, especially not the beneficiaries of her partisan treason. Instead, Scozzafava will be utterly marginalized and shunted aside, abandoned, and embittered... just as was David Brock. (Anybody hear from him recently? Perhaps, continuing our Rumplestiltskin comparison, Brock stamped his foot so hard, he opened a crack and fell through the Earth.)
Such is the fruit of betrayal. I can't work up much sympathy, either for the party bosses who called themselves "the moderate wing" of the Republican Party or for Dede Scozzafava herself; I'm repelled by those who see the democratic process as nothing but a necessary and annoying evil, the klunky mechanism for their own career ambitions -- and to hell with what their constituents want.
But I do feel some pity for those honest moderate GOP voters: It's bad enough to lose what amounts to a post-hoc primary against the conservatives, without having to be humiliated by the thoughtless and insulting antics of their erstwhile standard bearer. Gracious and fairminded Democrats must have felt the same sinking horror in 2000, as they watched Al Gore try to sue his way into the White House.
Perhaps moderate New York Republicans should likewise think a second time before picking the next champion of their cause.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
September 1, 2009
Leonard Burman, writing in the Washington Times, warns Republicans that they cannot petulantly shoot down health reform and offer nothing in its place.
Well, that's true... but which Republican jackass is doing that? All the Republicans I've seen are pushing various reforms of their own, "to get universal access to health insurance that harnesses market forces to slow the growth of health care costs" -- exactly the attempt at bipartisanship that Burman hectors them for rejecting.
He's pointing his finger at the wrong miscreant.
Burman's thesis appears to be that the Democrats are aching for real, honest compromise with the GOP; but in fact, it's the Democratic supermajority that smirks it can go it alone; that refuses to allow Republican alternatives even to be presented for a vote in Congress; and it's the Democratic president's own very "progressive" Chief of Staff who said -- in a moment of candor he surely regrets -- that "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."
So why is Burman directing his ire at the Right instead of the Left? Probably because he realizes at some deeper level of beingness that it is the Left that rejects any collaboration... including the sort urged by Mr. Burman. So why bother talking to people who announce in advance they won't listen?
Instead, Burman turns to the one side that might listen to him, might even take his suggestions seriously; he gives the Democrats a pass for their bullying and swagger, and shouts at the only side that won't just laugh at him... which happens to be the side that is innocent of the charges he hurls. Thus, just like the Palestinians, absolute intransigence is rewarded, while no good deed goes unpunished.
I completely disagree that this is the time for Republicans to become beggars at the banquet, bowing and scraping before their liberal masters, hoping to be noticed, maybe even patted on the head and thrown a Scooby Snack. That was never the approach of Ronald Reagan, whom Burman cites quite indirectly.
Reagan used an entirely different strategy: He crafted a great alternative to the "default liberal" position, one that resolved the problem without accepting any more lashings of socialism... and then he took his case directly to the people.
Let the Left squirm for a change. Let Democrats rush to jump on the caboose as the train chugs out of the station. It worked for Reagan (again and again), and there is no reason to suppose it won't work for today's GOP, if it has but the huevos to give it a try.
Instead of Republicans trying to wheedle their way to a booster seat at the big kids' table -- offering token amendments to ObamaCare so they can get their grimy "fingerprints" (as Burman puts it) onto a bill that the American people despise -- why not caucus by themselves, agree upon an alternative bill that will get nearly unanimous Republican support in both chambers of Congress, and then take that bill to the American voters as the new Health Reform Contract with America?
They could barnstorm the country with stacks of detailed (but readable) 4-page pamphlets, with a few charts and graphs, but mostly just describing the plan in bold, primary colors. Take them to townhall meetings. Mail them to anyone who asks. Put them up on the web. Deputize twenty or fifty Republican pols who can actually hold an audience when they speak and send them on speaking tours across America. Constantly refer to it as the "Health Reform Contract with America" -- and always contrast it to "ObamaCare," to drive home the point that it's Barack H. Obama vs. America.
Compromise is a great strategy when negotiating the price of a new car, but it makes lousy politics; usually nobody likes the result, and all the collaborators end up running for cover. Far better to compete instead of collaborate... to put our own vision of health reform out there, then let the people decide.
I mean, this is a democratic republic, is it not? And Republicans do trust the innate good sense of people... don't they? Or have they learned nothing from two successive spankings?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 9, 2009
What's In a Name? Well, Everything!
Shakespeare notwithstanding, a rose by any other name would not, in fact, smell as sweet; "seeing is believing" is a much less accurate saying than "believing is seeing" -- especially in politics, the art of the image. "What a fool believes, he sees."
The winner of the race to define one's opponent typically wins the election as well. And in this race, the Democrats and the Left in general left the starting blocks a century ago, while we're still standing around, waiting for the starting gun.
The other day, I was very rudely awakened by my clock radio, which is set to a local classical music station. The station was in between pieces, and Mr. Announcer was saying something very like the following: "When this next charming dance music debuted, it was denounced by conservatives -- as they generally denounced any fun music of the era." Annoyed, I turned it off before even hearing the charming dance... and I'm not even a conservative!
I am, however, a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of contemporary liberalism and leftism of any era, making me "one of us," in that sense. I never voted for a Republican from my first vote in 1978 through 1986, five elections; since 1988, I have never voted for anybody but a Republican.
To me, that was the year (Michael Dukakis) that the mainstream of the Democratic Party crossed the Rubicon, transmogrifying from being a sincerely loyal opposition, though frequently misguided -- to being actual enemies of America who had to be stopped, crushed, and forced to rebuild themselves in the mold of Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey.
The latter was a New Deal Democrat, but always an anti-Communist -- unlike FDR himself -- and one who truly loved our country. He was foolish in some areas, such as massive government spending to "solve" social problems; but he was also willing to reconsider when confronted with real evidence. Gosh, what a breath of fresh air that would be, after decades of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Algore, JFK -- and now a nation under the iron thumb of B.O.
Later that day, Sachi and I went to see the wonderful chick-flick Julie & Julia. In the course of the otherwise thoroughly enjoyable movie, we were gobsmacked by three or four gratuitous slams against conservatives and Republicans. All but one took place in the "Julia Child" sections and were at least defensible, if still unnecessary: The worst was a scene depicting Paul Child, Julia Child's husband, being investigated (interrogated) by "the committee" -- though the movie never says which one, the House Committee on Un-American Activities or the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations. We are told that he was investigated because he was stationed in China during World War II.
I have no idea whether this really happened -- I cannot find any documentary evidence of such an investigation outside the movie. It's not even mentioned in his New York Times obituary; and if anybody would tout such an incident, you'd think it would be the Times.
But even if he really was investigated, I'm quite skeptical that the only reason was his official posting in China, ordered by the Office of Strategic Services. To my mind, it's much more plausible that the pair of them, liberal intellectuals both, could easily have flirted with Marxism -- as did so many of their contemporaries.
But two points were glossed over that were just as important as the investigation itself... shifting the movie scenes from merely recounting "the truth" to broadcasting leftist propaganda:
- According to the movie, Paul Child was investigated and cleared. (But wait! I thought that never happened... weren't these investigations "witch hunts" that only smeared innocent people, never exonerated them?) Yet the movie only mentions that en passant, without any acknowledgement that perhaps the investigators were both sincere and honest.
- Despite the movie's reference on several occasions to "the Republicans," in reality, the House and Senate committees included both Republicans and Democrats; in fact, during the period under discussion (say 1945 through 1955), Democrats controlled both Senate and House -- therefore the corresponding committees -- for six years, while Republicans controlled the chambers for only four.
One other slam against Republicans is in the "Julie Powell" section, and this one is entirely uncalled for: After she plays hooky from work for a day, her boss says that if he were a Republican, he would have fired her. As she is a sympathetic character, that smear of course just makes Republicans look bad. (Left unsaid is that, sympathetic or not, she is depicted as a pretty bad employee who probably deserved firing. But the movie never connects these two points.)
It would be impossible, of course, to enumerate every movie and television episode that makes unnecessary and absurdist attacks on the Right; a well-researched list would probably include more than 50% of them. But each and every one is an example of the Left "defining" the Republicans and conservatives in popular art, so that the default position of American culture is that the Right is a bad joke.
Then let us include "serious" news and political analysis shows, which typically refer to every oppressor around the world as a "conservative" -- even when he's a jihadi, a revolutionary, or a Marxist. Even the mullahs in Iran are routinely referred to as "conservatives."
What does conservative mean in this context? They certainly are not traditionalists; Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution was radical, breaking not only with established political tradition -- Iran had been ruled by shahs since the 1500s -- but established religious tradition: Twelver Shia clerics had by and large shunned direct political rule since before Iran arose as a distinct Persian Islamic country.
Nor do the mullahs believe in judicial modesty, rule by law, a firm constitution above control of the ruling party, Capitalism and the free market, or even the ethical monotheism that underpins American conservativism. They are not conservative by any rational definition.
Much the same can be said for the fascists and Marxists in Latin America, Africa, and Asia -- often dubbed "hard-right strongmen." And even Adolf Hitler -- a raging socialist and utopian internationalist, who railed against Capitalism as often as at Communism, and thought he could "perfect" the human race by culling the "defectives" and breeding "supermen" -- is invariably referred to as a "right winger," rather than head of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
In a brilliant exercise of "argument by tendentious redefinition," the Left has successfully transformed the word "conservative" into a synonym for tyranny, oppression, and dictatorship... even for radical movements that not only did not "conserve" the institutions and values of their native cultures but overturned them in the most violent way. And lefties (including Lucky Lefty himself) still beaver away at that same tree today, albeit in a rather ham-fisted manner.
It's an astonishing feat of political legerdemain that can transform Marxists, Stalinists, and a radical Islamic and quasi-socialist theocracy into an indistinguishable batch of conservative hardliners. But the more infuriating point is, the Right let them get away with it.
Liberals and Democrats are supposed to try to make monkeys out of conservatives and Republicans; that's their job. But the latter are supposed to fight back, establishing their own identities and reinventing the Left... rather than quietly rolling over and accepting what fate deals out in true fatalist style. The most embarassing part is that our putative "leaders" in Congress and in the previous administration have hopped aboard the caboose... leaving it up to ordinary folks to drive the train.
William F. Buckley, jr. made conservatism respectable; Ronald Reagan made it popular. But we haven't had a Reagan since 1989, and there isn't one on the horizon that I can see; no, not Sarah Palin, not Mitt Romney, not Eric Cantor (R-VA, 92%)... at least not yet.
Ronald Reagan was already considered a great conservative Republican leader when he first ran for the governorship of California in 1966; he was famous, among other things, for breaking the back of the Communist cadre in the Screen Actors Guild (then an actual union) and for fighting Soviet propaganda in Hollywood. By the time he finally won the nomination for president in 1980, he was also a very successful two-term governor of the largest state in the United States, giving him experience and gravitas.
In that year, Reagan was universally recognized, by friend and foe alike, as the leader of the conservative movement in America. The primary was barely even a contest, with Reagan taking 44 primary or caucus delegations, and his only real rival, George H.W. Bush, taking only seven (Iowa, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Michigan)... and six fairly well-known wannabes getting bupkis.
It was a complete blowout; Reagan was the undisputed heavyweight champeen of the conservative movement. "Now the king is gone but he'll not be forgotten, nor his like will we ever see."
Newt Gingrich was a spectacularly successful "revolutionary;" he was perhaps the only person who could have snatched the House right out from under Tom Foley's nose (with the help of the House banking scandal); but Gingrich proved a fairly inept Speaker of the House. He is a wonderful idea-man, spitting out original and popular policy proposals like an M61 Vulcan spits incendiary shells... but as the chief executive of the nation, he would be a disaster: He hasn't the patience, the attention span, nor the charisma.
There is no Republican in view today who has even as much charisma as Gingrich, and charisma is vital for generating hegemony (per Marxian theorist and revolutionary Antonio Gramsci, perceived fitness to rule). Any such authority would come only from the office -- not from the person, as it did with previous leaders: the good (Lincoln, Reagan), the bad (Wilson, TR), and the ugly (FDR).
Fortunately, the only charismatic Democrat on the scene today is the terribly compromised Barack H. Obama, whose power curve is dropping faster than the glidepath of a dead-stick Shuttle. We don't need a Ronald Reagan to regain power (which is good, because we don't -- and won't -- have one). But once there, we are going to need moral discipline such as Republicans have not held since the first heady days of the Gingrich revolution.
An excellent start would be to take the propaganda war within this country seriously for once... and actually fight back against the liberal-left, anti-Republican disinformation campaign. I see a nascent effort; but not until I start seeing a real and serious pushback by our guys -- unified, forceful, unapologetic, and not just by the grass roots (who by definition aren't running for office), will I say we actually have a legitimate shot at the "conservative realignment" that Fred Barnes talked about before 2006 and 2008.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
May 17, 2009
What's a Republican Anyway?
I often note that while I'm a Republican, I'm not a conservative -- generally to hoots of disbelief from liberals, who see everyone to the right of Lincoln Chafee as a "hard-right extremist proto-domestic terrorist." But readers of this blog surely ken that there are many types of Republican within RR's big tent. Some are just barely Republican... RINOs like Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Arlen Specter Michael Bloomberg. (The former because to be a Democrat in California is to be a Socialist; the latter purely for expediency -- Bloomberg didn't think he could win the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City.)
But there exist other "non-conservatives" who will remain honest and loyal members of the GOP, so long as the party itself stays true to its principles. So what are those principles, and how do they differ from the principles of conservatives, whether Republican or Democratic? We'll have to answer this question ourselves.
Let's try to identify the core principles that underpin the Republican Party; later we'll find the core principles of conservatism, then compare the two.
Here we go:
Fiscal conservatism: Low taxes, balanced budgets, low interest rates to encourage entrepeneurship, strong support for Capitalism
If you don't believe in Capitalism and all that it requires, including rule of law, less regulation, and government taking no more of our money than is absolutely necessary, then what would you want to be a Republican for anyway? Such people have only underhanded reasons to join our party... and we should have the bouncers bounce them out of the tent.
If a person cannot at least say that Capitalism serves America better than Oogo-Chavez style nationalist Socialism, then he can find some other party, and good riddance to bad rubbish.
A strong national defense: Defending the nation using any means necessary, short of betraying America's own principles
For a counter-example, I could never support "defending America" by enslaving people -- American Moslems, for example -- and forcing them to build tanks at gunpoint, as the Soviets did with political dissidents and the Nazis did with the Jews. An America that did that would not be an America worth defending.
But leaving adolescent hypotheticals behind, any Republican should, I believe, support such policies as missile defense; harsh interrogation of unlawful enemy combatants that does not amount to torture (room for diversity of opinion on what does constitute torture); and taking the fight to the enemy. Anyone who believes in "fortress America" -- that we should simply bring all of our soldiers home, ring our borders with them, and otherwise refuse to sally forth to other countries to fight the Iran/al-Qaeda axis there -- is an isolationist; and while isolationism (typically born of xenophobia) was a respectable position prior to World War II, I believe there is no room for it in the post-Holocaust GOP. (This doesn't mean I think isolationists are evil; but they differ so fundamentally with the mainstream of the Republican Party that I think they should join another or start their own.)
Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life
Note that this does not mean an absolute pro-life position; we're still talking about the principles of Republicanism, not yet the stricter principles of conservatism.
But even non-conservative Republicans should oppose such flagrantly anti-life positions as late-term abortions for no necessary medical reason; involuntary euthanasia of "defectives;" policies that trap innocent souls in degrading, subhuman lives (no Republican should support policies that lead to beaten, abused, or starving children, for example); involuntary servitude except upon conviction of an actual crime (not the "crime" of being born the wrong color); and denial of basic liberties, including freedom of speech, worship, and the vote.
Treating each person as an individual, not as the representative of some group defined by characteristics beyond his or her control
This is not only fundamental, it should be obvious. For the most obvious example, Republicans should never support putative "affirmative action" by the State unless it's administered individually, rather than collectively. I applaud the EEOC helping some particular individual who can show that he, personally has been discriminated against; but it's morally corrupt for the State to favor Jesse Jackson's children over those of a middle-income white family, just because Jackson is black.
(I personally think it's even morally corrupt for the government to favor the poor over the rich; but that's one of my personal principles, not one I think the GOP must assume. Note that wealth is not a characteristic "beyond the individual's control.")
A foreign and domestic policy consistent with the principles above; that is, Republicans must believe that our principles are not simply things we say when engaged in moral preening; our principles are actual core elements of our government's ideology and policy
This may be the most controversial element of my GOP creed: I reject as a true Republican anybody who believes in a ban or even a moratorium on all immigration, or on immigration by certain types of people determined not by individual action but by inherent characteristic (e.g., a ban on all immigrants from Venezuela). This is simply another and uglier aspect of isolationism, combined with tribalism.
But I don't feel as strongly about, for instance, a ban on all immigrants who have been members of any group on the list of terrorist organizations, even if he insists that he has since changed his mind (I think such a blanket policy is foolish but not unRepublican).
I also think that those who in general reject treaties, including free-trade agreements (FTAs), with other countries are unRepublican and should join some other party; but of course, there may be good reasons to reject some particular FTA, if it's not good for the United States.
And proper Republicans cannot support excessive regulation of the market (I understand that "excessive" is a weasel-word), onerous government intrusion into citizens' lives, or attacks on certain religions or religion in general -- and yes, that includes Islam; it's urgent to attack the type of Islam that poses a direct threat to the nation... but not to attack Islam in general or, e.g., put all Moslems under surveillance.
All religions must obey the law; but the law should not discriminate against any religion, against religion in general, or against irreligion. So no government-mandated prayer in schools and no government ban on wearing a cross, a yarmulke, or praying towards Mecca (excepting regulations obviously crafted just to avoid conflict, of course).
So to boil it down, here are what I consider to be the core elements of the Republican Party; anyone who opposes one or more is being unRepublican and should seriously reevaluate whether the GOP is the right home for him:
- Fiscal conservatism;
- Strong national defense;
- Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life;
- Treating each person as an individual;
- And a foreign and domestic policy consistent with the other four principles;
Next we'll tackle conservatism and see how its principles intersect with those of the Republican Party.
May 8, 2009
Heh, So Much for Federalism!
According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration of President Barack H. "Lucky Leftie" Obama -- in particular, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius -- has in effect vetoed California's budget deal, worked out between the Democrat dominated state legislature and RINO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: He has ordered the state to restore the wage cut it made to home healthcare workers who are members of either the Service Employees International Union or the United Domestic Workers union.
(Do we detect a pattern here? Once again, as with the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, we see the president personally intervening to tip the scales in favor of unions and against creditors, shareholders, and now, the entire citizenry of the largest state in the United States.)
But evidently, the president had no legal grounds to issue such an order to the state. How do we know this? Because he did not issue an executive order, nor did he ask Solicitor General Elena Kagan to file for an injunction in federal court. He didn't even ask Sebelius to issue an administrative ruling.
Nope; Obama has chosen a method more suited to his powers as Capo di Tutti Capi... extortion: He has threatened to take back California's $6.9 billion in "stimulus" money unless the California legislature restore the wage cut:
The Obama administration is threatening to rescind billions of dollars in federal stimulus money if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers do not restore wage cuts to unionized home healthcare workers approved in February as part of the budget....
The cut was highly contentious during last winter's budget talks. Republican lawmakers insisted that the rapidly growing, multibillion-dollar state program, In Home Supportive Services, be scaled back significantly.
Democrats fought major reductions in the program, which they say is a cost-effective alternative to nursing-home care, but ultimately compromised.
So in addition to the president's other crimes against the Constitution, we can add "overturning the last remnants of federalism" to the list.
However, he may or may not win this time; to reverse that element of the budget deal, the legislature must vote by a 2/3rds majority. That would require a minimum of two Republicans in the state Senate and three Republicans in the Assembly voting to do so -- assuming (as we should) that the entire Democratic caucus in the legislature will roll over and pay protection money to the goodfellas of Barack Obama. If the GOP holds together ("heh" again), they can block it... and see if the president is really willing to piss off two Democratic United States senators (Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, 100%, and Barbara Boxer, D-CA, 100%) and 34 (!) Democratic United States representatives in the House... votes even Lucky Lefty cannot do without in many cases.
Of course, given how spineless the Republican conference in the legislature has been since, oh, about 1970, if I were betting at one of the president's bookie joints, I would put my money on the Capo -- and federalism be damned: He'll get his way, as usual, and another debtor state will meekly pay the squeeze and say, "thank you, Don Obama; may I kiss your -- ring, now?"
July 29, 2008
DoJ Report: Argument from Selective Outrage
The scandal siren was in full scream yesterday, as an AP story reported, "DOJ: Former aide broke law in hiring scandal." The New York Times was a bit more subdued and circumspect in the header: "Report Faults Aides in Hiring at Justice Dept;" but the lede graf (that's newspaper newspeak for "the first paragraph in the story") was fully as damning as the AP headline:
Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions, picking less-qualified applicants for important nonpolitical positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department’s credibility, an internal report concluded on Monday.
According to the Associated Press, Democrats were outraged. They were in a froth, a frenzy!
Democrats said the report affirms their charges of White House meddling in the hiring and firing of Justice Department employees.
"The cost to our nation of these apparent crimes was severe, as qualified individuals were rejected for key positions in the fight against terrorism and other critical department jobs for no reason other than political whim," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.
"The report also indicates that Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, and Alberto Gonzales may have lied to the Congress about these matters," Conyers added. "I have directed my staff to closely review this matter and to consider whether a criminal referral for perjury is needed."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said "it is crystal clear that the law was broken" by the political hiring process.
"But since it is unlikely that Monica Goodling acted on her own," Schumer added, "the question is, how many others were involved."
(Alert aides to Sen. Schumer, D-NY, 95%, tackled and muffled him before he could spit out what he really wanted to demand: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of an organization devoted to the overthrow of the United States government -- such as the Republican Party?")
I come to bury Monica Goodling, not to praise her. I hope I don't disappoint. But if it makes you feel any better, the only fault I find in her is her clumsiness, not her purpose... for she is an honorable woman; so are they all, all honorable men and women.
At least they tried, for God's sake.
I am quite certain that the report is factually correct that Goodling and Kyle Sampson and the other condemned Justice aides used "political considerations" in deciding who to hire or retain for career positions; and I suspect many conservatives will simply stop right there, ever eager to throw them to the wolves (or to "throw the Jew down the well," to dip into fairly current pop culture).
These are the same Republicans who rushed to demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales be ousted the moment he was accused of the crime of politics -- and to demand the forced resignation of Michael Brown from FEMA following Hurricane Katrina the moment Democrats targeted him, the sacking of Donald Rumsfeld the instant Democrats accused him of being a serial torturer, the defenestration of Douglas Feith for "lying" about WMD, and even the slander of our own Marines anent the putative (now largely debunked) Haditha "massacre."
Republicans in general (and social conservatives in particular) have an unhealthy obsession with the appearance of impropriety: The moment an accusation is leveled, even by the enemies of everything the GOP stands for, these self-flagellators rush to agree with the accusers so as not to be seen as "part of the problem." These roundheels fall over backwards to confess the unique corruption and perfidy of Republicans... while failing to do the one thing that is most vital in such an ideological war: Defending our own guys from politically motivated and ultimately unfair accusations from the Left.
Democrats routinely engage in the most frustrating of all rhetorical tricks: the Argument from Selective Outrage. In this case, they experienced no discomfort whatsoever at the hysterical politicization of the career employees at the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, or any other government bureaucracy; Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 100%) only shrugged when career employees engaged in rampant insubordination -- completely ignoring legal orders and mandates from both the White House and Congress; these "nonpartisan, nonpolitical" staffers even went so far as to leak highly classified documents to the press, blowing legal intelligence-gathering programs, simply because the career staffers disagreed with the policy.
But those same Democrats explode in indignation when political leaders in the White House attempt to weed out these ultra-political career activists -- using political tests.
The obvious analogy is the Democrat who seethes with rage at the violent tactics used by the late President of Chile Augusto Pinochet against Communist terrorists and revolutionaries -- whom the Democrat dubs "political opponents" -- but merely yawns at the horrific violence committed by those same Stalinist "opponents" to which Pinochet was responding in the first place: He condemns the response but shrugs off the provocation.
Where was the outrage when career staffers at the NSA leaked the al-Qaeda telephone-intercept program to the New York Times, or when some career government official leaked to the Times and the Washington Post details of the SWIFT surveillance program -- which even the elite media admitted was not even of questionable legality, but was clearly completely legal? Where was the Democratic indignation about the relentless stream of leaked CIA attacks on the White House, the president, and the policies of the Republican members of Congress?
Suddenly the Democrats are upset by the introduction of politics to hiterto apolitical bodies. As Pontius Pilate demands in the rock opera Jesus Christ Super Star (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice), "What is this new respect for Caesar? Till now this has been noticibly lacking!"
It is clear to me, even if has escaped the notice of Republican roundheels, that any "politicization" of the Justice Department by Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, Susan Richmond, Jan Williams, and even Alberto Gonzales himself was in direct response to rampant politicization of the department by lefties in the "permanent government," who passionately supported the Clintonian policy of fighting terrorism with indictments and briefs, not invasions and bombs. And the GOP politicization pales by comparison.
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
Croupier: [Hands Renault a pile of money] Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
There is still plenty of time left for Republicans to turn the 2008 election cycle around, win the presidency, and even to do well (better than expected) in the congressional races. But this will only happen when the GOP starts fighting for what it claims it believes. Politicizing the career staff of federal bureaucracies is bad; but it's not nearly so bad as allowing recklessly blatant insubordination and criminal insurgency in those same departments, by those same career employees -- who thereby subvert the very core of American democracy: governance by the consent of the governed.
That is, voters have the right under our system of government to demand that policy be made by the officials they elect -- not by unaccountable bureaucrats in the "permanent government" who simply say "nyet," and continue marching lockstep towards the status quo ante.
Republicans could have avoided the debacle of 2006 by standing up and fighting for the very principles they were elected to embody: an aggressive, pre-emptive war against those who want to pull down all of Western civilization and institute a Dark-Ages theocracy instead; privatization of Social Security and Medicare; a permanent end to confiscatory taxation; the protection and veneration of core American values; elimination the legalized corruption of pork-barrel spending, earmarks, and hidden spending inserted during reconciliation-committee meetings.
Instead, they surrendered to the Left -- or in the case of corruption, succumbed to the temptation, which is many times worse -- on virtually every issue:
They retreated from the real reasons for war against Iraq -- the ongoing threat that Saddam Hussein posed to America and our allies -- and fell into the behavior pattern of apologizing for each and every minor misjudgment... especially those contained within a larger accurate and courageous judgment, which they consequently refused to defend as well.
E.g., they scourged themselves over the unfulfilled expectation that we would find "stockpiles of WMD," and thereby missed defending the correct prediction that we would find rampant WMD programs; they fell on their faces and abased themselves over the abuses at Abu Ghraib -- and thus refused to offer a principled defence of the treatment of the vast majority of captured terrorists and insurgents at all the other military and CIA prisons throughout Iraq; and so forth.
- Republicans and social conservatives repudiated President Bush's attempt to set up a limited privatization of Social Security, abandoning the president and those fiscal conservatives who sought to finally set up a system that would actually work (as it does in numerous other countries), the moment Democrats began their demagogy of the issue. The about-face was so sudden, it gave me vertigo.
During the 2006 elections, they refused to make an issue of the Democrats' desire to kill off the Bush tax cuts, institute same-sex marriage, criminalize "offensive" speech and reinstate the anti-liberty "fairness doctrine," kow-tow to terrorists and their apologists in America (such as CAIR), create "freedom from religion" as a new constitutional right, give Big Labor the power to enforce collectivization on workers willy nilly, whether they want it or not, sue American business to death -- and to do all of the above via judicial fiat, so the people would never even get a chance to vote on it.
Instead, Republicans devoted all their energies to pummeling Republican Rep. Mark Foley from Florida, accusing him of "child molestation," when he was actually only guilty of boorish behavior and crass stupidity. I'm sure Republicans thought they could innoculate themselves from blowback by being even more self-righteous than the Democrats; but you cannot win that game, and the obsession with self-flagellation doubtless worsened their electoral loss.
- Finally, rather than cleaning up the endemic corruption of the Democrats, top GOP officials themselves eagerly dove into the swimming pool of offal, lunging for hundred-dollar bills with hands, feet, dentures, and any other grabbing muscle they possessed. Those few who resisted this act of political suicide -- John McCain and Tom Coburn (R-OK, 100%), for example -- were scorned and shunned.
Gen. David Petraeus has decisively proven two major strategic doctrines in Iraq: First, you can't win if you don't fight; and second, more than half the victory is simply refusing to accept defeat. But consistently, over and over, Republicans embrace defeat the moment the Democrats offer it... and they subsequently refuse to fight, rolling over and playing dead instead.
(We see the same pattern today, as Republicans begin virtually every electoral comment with, "Of course we're going to be shellacked in the congressional elections -- hopefully just shy of a veto-proof Democratic majority -- but we might possibly be able to squeak out a razor-thin victory in the presidential election. If we're incredibly lucky.")
Oddly enough, that allows Democrats to win. By default, when they never could win by honest ideological struggle.
To date, I have not seen even one, single Republican, conservative, or loyal foot-soldier for America step forward and say, in response to this DoJ report, something like this:
Instead, I hear only crickets chirping, as the GOP runs for cover... leaving the field to such unbiased, nonpartisan voices of reason as Chuck Schumer and John Conyers.
How many times do we have to shoot ourselves in the head with a baseball bat before we figure out that self-scourging doesn't shield us from future Democratic political assault?
March 30, 2008
I believe Ayn Rand was correct in her constant admonition that one should always define ones' terms. I have used the phrase "liberal fascism" several times on this blog, so it's high time I told you what I mean by it. The purpose of this post is to provoke discussion, so feel free to chime in on the comments; I am of course open to rewriting and modifying this definition based upon input from our insightful readers.
In this case, "liberal" means doing something to help people "for their own good," as opposed to doing it for direct personal power and aggrandizement. I believe that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sincerely believe that their leadership -- not their policies, as they really have none beyond collectivism and pragmatism; everything else is spur of the moment and temporary until they think of the next policy -- their leadership will bring about world peace, brotherhood, and a loving village (à la "the Prisoner") in which no one will ever hurt again.
(By contrast, I doubt the Nazis gave a rip who got hurt, brutalized, maimed, or slain out of hand in implementing their demonic vision of utopia.)
The tough word, however, is fascism. Thanks to the Left, the word has come to mean "anything I intensely dislike, especially if it comes from my right." But I'd like a more precise definition than that.
As I use the term, fascism is defined as a political system whose...
- Aim is utopian;
- Creed derives from Sorelian mythology and social militarism;
- Metaphysics is secular (or pagan) and materialistic;
- Epistemology is the movement;
- Ethics is pragmatism;
- Methods are authoritarian and totalitarian;
- Leadership is Führerism (the Great Man);
- Orientation is socialist;
- Politics is populist/Progressive;
- Economics is corporatism;
- Scope is nationalist;
- Organization is collectivist.
The aim is to create a brave, new world that is paradise on earth by first burning away the old and then building the new Fascist Man. Methods may range from the nagging nanny state, hectoring us into evolving into homo novus -- to the Nazis, who simply killed all "defectives" and "degenerates" and enslaved the "inferior races" to the master race of Aryans.
Fascists want to imminitize the eschaton -- bring about the Millennium right here and now.
Mythology and militarism
Fascism creates a new social mythology to replace the old (monarchism, democracy, religion, rugged individualism, Marxism, Capitalism); the new mythology extols and exemplifies the fascist philosophy or attacks and villifies the old mythology. Think of Horst Wessel, Joe Hill, Joseph McCarthy, Kent State, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, John Kennedy... not the historical personages or events but the way they have been mythologized by various fascist and quasi-fascist groups.
Think of how the Left pushed the My Lai massacre until it was the controlling myth that defined the entire Vietnam war -- or the way their contemporary brethren do the same with Abu Ghraib. On the positive side, the assassination of Che Guevara turned him into a leftist martyr who exemplifies all that is holy about the State religion of Socialism. He has become the most iconic t-shirt figure in human history.
We live in a secular, material world, and there is nothing beyond the grave. Thus, everything must come in this life, not the next, because there isn't one. "Imagine there's no heaven; it's easy if you try; no hell below us; above us only sky."
This quickly metamorphoses into cultural narcissism, greed, and crassness -- which is then gleefully projected onto fascism's enemies, such as democracy and Capitalism.
The fascist movement defines truth, right, and good: That which furthers the movement is true, while that which runs counter to the movement is false.
Thus, among the elite media, that which reaffirms "the vision of the anointed" is true, while that which calls it into question is a lie that must be suppressed, or if it gets out, denounced as villainy.
Fascists care nothing for fixed ideology or policy; what matters is getting things done. Action, action, action! If you're not moving forward, you're slipping back. What is "ethical" is whatever works, and the great end justifies any means necessary.
Authoritarianism, statism, and totalitarianism
Democracy is an abomination, because individuals are weak and corrupt. There are two kinds of people: Those who lead and those who are driven. The masses need to be properly led and told what to do; then we can all pull together, rather than having to fight against dissident opinions.
"Everything inside the State. Nothing outside the State. Nothing against the State."
"The personal is political;" the government regulates every facet of life to ensure fairness and equality -- a "level playing field," which means privileging the underprivileged and deprivileging the overprivileged (in the opinion of the State, of course), mandating equality of outcomes. Everything not compulsory is forbidden, everything not forbidden is compulsory.
Homework: Read "Harrison Bergeron," by Kurt Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House.
The Great Man (or Woman)
The religion of the State needs a maximum leader who can rally the people, serve as the focus for all of society, and become the nation's divine.
Socialism (aristos vs. proletarians vs. bourgeoisie)
All of history can be reduced to the class struggle; the workers will control the means of production -- through their agent, the State. The aristos must be removed from power by transferring their authority to the State. The bourgeoisie must be eliminated, either by overwhelming and total reeducation -- or liquidation, their choice.
The scream of the mob is the vox populi; reform is our goal, reform of every institution and of Man himself... prohibition, vegetarianism, anti-smoking, anti-obesity, moral purity, eugenics, and most important, futurism: The past is hereby abolished. The old paradigm is shattered. We begin with the Year 1. All that matters is the future.
Capitalism is wasteful competition; choice is upsetting to the people. We need nothing but cooperation, organized along the business model. Wherever possible, all businesses will be monopolies; and without exception, all business will be controlled by the State. Individuals may profit, but profits will be set by the State at a reasonable level.
Business is the private arm of the public-private partnership that is fascism. It is no more independent of the State than the fleshly arm is independent of the brain.
The primary myth shall be that of the nation: The nation is the People, the People (as a single entity) is the nation. The nation is expansionist and will eventually encompass the whole globe.
The nation may be defined by race, language, religion, or culture... but however defined, it separates the world into Us and the Auslanders. The latter are dangerous and unpredictable, which is why the nation must expand to fill all available space (including territory already occupied by other countries).
The symbol of the nation is the fasces:
Fasces (L), dime with fasces (R)
Each individual stick is weak, but the bundle is unbreakable. The bundle is bound to an axe to symbolize the force and power of the people acting in concert to cut down the dissident, the disrupter, the slacker, the individualist, the iconoclast.
"Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer." "Solidarity forever." "The people united shall never be divided."
The fascist infestation
Every nation is fascist to some degree. The United States is one of the least fascist nations on the planet; but even here, elements of fascism have burrowed deep into the neuronal tissue of the American psyche. Just look supra and think how many laws, regulations, presidential directives, and policies we have -- emanating from both Left and Right -- that further several of the elements of fascism above -- though generally not the ones pointed at by hysterical leftists, who constantly want to "define fascism rightwards."
But consider abortion absolutism, state-run schools, heavy regulation of business practices, OSHA, gun-control laws, mandatory health-insurance proposals, hate-speech codes and hate-crime laws, racial preferences, de facto national speed limits, zoning laws that prescribe specific paint schemes for "private" houses, the ADA, "economic rights" legislation, judicial activism, class-action suits to ban cigarettes, guns, and trans-fats, the EPA, the Endangered Species Act, global-warming legislation, and so forth.
Within each nation, there are fascists and anti-fascists; the latter includes internationalist totalitarians (e.g., Marxists) -- rivals of fascism, in other words -- but also those who espouse freedom, individualism, Capitalism, democracy, continuity with the past, the essential imperfection of people, and a power higher than humanity.
Modern-day American conservativism is the political philosophy most associated with the latter camp of anti-fascists; this is also called classical liberalism, libertarian Republicanism, and Americanism. (Definitely not to be confused with Woodrow Wilson's "100% Amnericanism.")
Agree or disagree, I hope this at least gives us a basis for discussion. In future, when I use the word, picture what I have limned above.
January 9, 2008
Sneak and Peek
[After a scant two and a half years of persuasion (the strappado was found most efficacious), we have finally prevailed upon our older half to begin contributing to Big Lizards. What follows is the first lizardly blogpost by Brad Linaweaver, famous in three counties (and wanted in four) for his efforts to shine a light on Der Krapp of low-budget movies; for his bootless quest to convince us that our nights are lit by a Moon of Ice; for his unrelenting attacks on the hated neocons in Post-Nationalism; for a tetralogy of Doomed books he co-wrote with some other jerk; and for putting the "tine" back in "libertarian." Without further vamping...]
Although I started out supporting the Iraq war and turned against it in 2006, I have never turned against the thin red line of heroes without whom America is doomed. As Dafydd knows, my criticisms of the Iraq policy are based on Old Right libertarian analysis. But that doesn't prevent me from honoring the achievement of General Petraeus in what came to be known as the surge. The General was given a specific military task to perform which he did splendidly. When Moveon.org decided to make fun of this officer with childish attacks on his name and an inability to separate short term military success from long term political hopes, the dumbass American Left hurt their own anti-war effort. Incredible!
This foolish attitude permeates the current films on Iraq. Talk radio and Fox News fail to understand the real problem. These films are not so much anti-Bush or pro-terrorist as they are actually anti-soldier. We are discussing the absolute worst heritage of the American New Left.
Today's Right does not fight this problem to my satisfaction, because they are too busy defending the President or criticizing the enemy. Our culture is in deep nonsense if we condemn those who volunteer to do military service in this dangerous world, or any other dangerous world we might inhabit. We will not have to live under Bush forever. The current enemy is not eternal, believe it or not. But soldiers will always be needed in any conceivable real world.
I'm not going to be a regular contributor to Big Lizards, but I've been reading it all these years, and I'd like to be an irregular contributor; so let me start off 2008 by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and honoring Sachi in her current service to our country.
[Nota bene: Brad is well aware of this; but just in case some readers are not, I hasten to point out that Sachi is a civilian employee of the United States Navy; she is often found asea -- I mean that literally, not psychologically! -- testing freedom's most advanced weaponry. -- the Mgt.]
December 21, 2007
I've spent a few posts blasting Mike Huckabee for various infelicities and absurdities that have bubbled forth from his campaign; it's only fair that I go after Mitt Romney as well for his increasingly irritating (verging towards disturbing) tendency to take a kernal of truth and stretch it like taffy to make a political point -- a process I'm dubbing Mitthausen's Syndrome.
- He called himself an avid hunter, while later having to concede he had only hunted twice;
- While explaining the above, he said he frequently shot rodents in the woods with a pistol, clearly implying that he owned guns when he did not;
- He recently claimed that during his 2002 gubernatorial election, he had been "endorsed" by the NRA -- when what he meant was that an NRA phone back supported his campaign, but he never received any formal endorsement.
The exaggerations are all minor; and the points they support are themselves reasonably accurate; but they open the candidate to distracting accusations and force him on the defensive.
The most recent example, of course, is that during his excellent "religion speech" earlier this month, he said (it seemed) that he had personally watched as his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr.:
"These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...'
The Romney campaign subsequently clarified that, while Mitt Romney may never have personally witnesses such a march -- if it happened, it would have occurred while he was in class in high school -- that George Romney did, in fact, march with King through Grosse Pointe, a suburb of Detroit, in 1963.
However, an ultra-liberal (and likely very anti-Romney) newspaper, the Boston Phoenix, claims that King never marched through Grosse Pointe:
Asked about the specifics of George Romney’s march with MLK, Mitt Romney’s campaign told the Phoenix that it took place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. That jibes with the description proffered by David S. Broder in a Washington Post column written days after Mitt’s College Station speech.
Broder, in that column, references a 1967 book he co-authored on the Republican Party, which included a chapter on George Romney. It includes a one-line statement that the senior Romney “has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit.”
But that account is incorrect. King never marched in Grosse Pointe, according to the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, and had not appeared in the town at all at the time the Broder book was published. “I’m quite certain of that,” says Suzy Berschback, curator of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society. (Border was not immediately available for comment.)
Berschback also believes that George Romney never appeared at a protest, march, or rally in Grosse Pointe. “We’re a small town,” she says. “Governors don’t come here very often, except for fundraisers.”
In fact, King’s only appearance in Grosse Pointe, according to Berschback, took place after Broder’s book was published.
That was for a March 14 speech he delivered at Grosse Pointe High School, just three weeks before King was assassinated. But there was no march, and George Romney was not there.
Contrariwise, Mike Allen at the Politico quotes a couple of witnesses, both residents of Grosse Pointe in 1963, who insist they clearly remember King marching there -- and Gov. George Romney "joining him in shirtsleeves":
Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights -- right past the window.
With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade.
“They were hand in hand,” recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. “They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else’s....”
The campaign posted citations quoting one author as writing that “George Romney made a surprise appearance in his shirt sleeves and joined the parade leaders....”
Another witness, Ashby Richardson, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account.
“I’m just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn’t happen,” Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. “The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.”
At this point, pending further data, I have to conclude that the argument is inconclusive: I seriously mistrust such recollections of "my brush with greatness," but I also seriously mistrust the Boston Phoenix to do a fair job of researching a King march in Detroit that might have included an impromptu swing through Grosse Pointe.
However, Romney does now admit he did not literally witness his father marching with King, whether or not such a march actually occurred.
Now, this is not a "lie" in the ordinary sense of the word; even the Phoenix admits that George Romney had a strong pro-civil-rights record, leading his own 10,000-person civil-rights march through Detroit; it's virtually certain that George Romney would frequently have praised King in Mitt's presence. This, plus George's status as governor Michigan at the time, could easily give rise to a false memory of actually witnessing the two marching together... especially if they did so march, and if young Mitt heard all about it that night over the dinner table.
Still, it was unquestionably an exaggeration -- an instance of Mitthausen's Syndrome -- for Mitt Romney to say he saw his father march with King; he should have done some research first to make sure his memory wasn't playing him false.
Now, it is possible to read Romney's words somewhat more charitably -- that he "saw," as in knew that, his father marched, rather than that he personally stood there and witnessed it with his own eyes. Romney himself offered that explanation... which we all know, in PR terms, sucks rocks as a defense against the charge of being a serial exaggerater.
The basic point Romney was getting at in his speech was to refute the paralogical claim that, since the Romneys were devout Mormons, and since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had a racist policy at the time not to ordain blacks, that therefore the Romneys themselves must also have been racists; and indeed, George Romney's record (as well as Mitt's own) clearly refute that liberal canard.
Still, having worked so long on that speech, he should certainly have "bullet-proofed" a claim that he used as a central argument against the vile and false racism charge. As we all know -- including Mitt Romney, I must presume -- those on the Right simply cannot get away with exaggerations, evasions, circumlocutions, or fibs, no matter how trivial, the way those on the Left can.
Because of animus from the left-leaning press, we anti-liberals must scrutinize every word before we speak or write... because the nattering nabobs of negativism will certainly do so afterwards. Romney could simply have said "My father marched with Martin Luther King" or "my father led a march for civil rights" and left out the confusing bit about personally observing him.
Mitthausen's Syndrome is not an ethical failing, as was Bill Clinton's penchant for literally lying -- saying the opposite of what really happened, shifting blame from himself to innocent others, and bearing false witness against honest accusers; but it is a communications failure. This bothers me because the inability to communicate is the biggest failing of the Bush administration, starting during the campaign with Bush's failure to disclose his DUI arrest
I demand a president who can talk to the American people and persuade them to stick to the high road, the difficult road, the necessary road -- in economics (privatization of "entitlement" programs), immigration policy (reforming legal immigration to make it rational, just, and predictable), and especially in matters pertaining to the war against global hirabah.
My biggest objection to Mike Huckabee's strange ramblings is that they demonstrate disordered thought processes. Romney isn't that bad, but his serial exaggerations do demonstrate too great a willingness to "put a head" on a good story to make it just a little better. That is a quality highly prized in a raconteur -- but which can come back to bite a presidential candidate in the end.
September 27, 2007
This term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case turning on whether it's constitutional to demand that voters present a picture ID card before voting:
With the 2008 presidential and Congressional elections on the horizon, the Supreme Court agreed today to consider whether voter-identification laws unfairly keep poor people and members of minority groups from going to the polls.
The justices will hear arguments from an Indiana case, in which a federal district judge and a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in January upheld a state law requiring, with certain exceptions, that someone wanting to vote in person in a primary or general election present a government-issued photo identification. Presumably, the court would rule on the case by June.
Before the law was enacted in 2005, an Indiana voter was required only to sign a book at the polling place, where a photocopy of the voter’s signature was kept on file.
This issue fascinates me because it touches on a critical philosophical difference: Is it unconstitutional to require voters to undertake a series of steps before they can exercise the franchise, merely because the people most likely to be too lazy to undertake them also tend to vote for one major party more than the other? For that is the real issue here:
Writing for the majority, Judge [Richard A.] Posner acknowledged that the Indiana law favors one party. “No doubt most people who don’t have photo ID are low on the economic ladder and thus, if they do vote, are more likely to vote for Democratic than Republican candidates,” he wrote.
But the purpose of the law is to reduce voting fraud, “and voting fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters to vote by diluting their votes — dilution being recognized to be an impairment of the right to vote,” Judge Posner said. And assertions that many people will be disenfranchised, or that there is no significant voter-fraud problem in Indiana, are based on unreliable data and “may reflect nothing more than the vagaries of journalists’ and other investigators’ choice of scandals to investigate,” the judge held.
In dissent, Judge Evans wrote that the Indiana law imposed an unconstitutional burden on some eligible voters. “Let’s not beat around the bush,” he wrote. “The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.”
Of course, we already require such steps: Registering, for example -- though many activists now demand that this requirement too be done away with, allowing into the ballot booth anyone who shows up with the ability to sign his name (or someone's). But it's hard to believe that the Court would strike down an election law that includes the mere requirement that you pre-register. But that means they (and most people) accept in theory the strategy of requiring a certain degree of hoop-jumping before voting; we're only arguing about how many hoops and how high they can be mounted.
The judges on the 7th Circus split (surprise!) along partisan fault lines: Posner and Diane S. Sykes, in the majority, were appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively; while the dissenter, Terence T. Evans, was a Bill Clinton appointee. And as the New York Times hastens to point out...
In general, Republicans argue that identification laws reduce voter fraud, while Democrats oppose them on grounds that they lower the turnout among people who tend to vote Democratic.
Yes: convicts, illegal aliens, folks from neighboring states, and people who already voted six times that day. The mainstay of the Democratic electorate, without whom they would be a minority party today.
I confess I have little sympathy -- well, none, actually -- for the Democratic argument: If your party is going to derive at least some of its support by pandering to the scum of the earth, then you've no right to kick and scream when the scum fails to climb out of the gutter and vote.
The Times piece seems to be fairly even-handed, so let's turn to the real issue. Democrats argue that anything that makes it more difficult to vote will necessarily reduce voter turnout; in addition, it will reduce it more among the "poor," who tend to vote more Democratic; therefore (Democrats conclude) the law is unconstitutional.
But this argument is disingenuous, because it quietly assumes that the reason fewer poor people vote is that their grinding poverty physically prevents them from doing so: They cannot get to the polls because they have no cars, or because their Simon Legree-like bosses won't allow them to leave, or because the Gaza-like hellholes where they live contain death squads that will shoot them if they try to vote.
But this is nonsense on stilts. Nothing stops the poor from voting; most live within walking distance of their polling places; they can vote in the evening; we have no poll taxes anymore; and I have never heard of gang-bangers in the Bronx or East L.A. warning residents not to vote on penalty of a drive-by.
In fact, I am utterly convinced that older, married poor people have a significantly better voting turnout than teenaged and early-twenties middle- and upper-middle-income unmarried kids, simply because the latter group has an appalling record of not voting, no matter what their income. (Which I think is actually good, because the fewer people who vote, the better: I prefer that only those who really care about the issues vote, which disincludes that lot.)
"The poor" is an inadequate term, because there are really two classes of poor: A minority of the poor worked hard all their lives; but through a series of misfortunes or nasty government policies, they lost much of what they earned and now fall under the poverty line -- widows and orphans, workers whose employer went bankrupt, taking their entire pension with them, and so forth. These used to be called the "deserving poor," meaning they deserved to be helped by the more fortunate.
But then we have the large majority, who are poor precisely because they are lazy slobs, drug addicts, psychotic, or any combination of these. This group is the "undeserving poor."
It is the undeserving poor who skew the voting statistics for "the poor" as a lump: Fewer undeserving poor vote because the same sort of person who is too drunk, crazy, or lazy to work is equally uninterested in voting. In polls, if you ask them, they would certainly be far more Democratic and liberal (even Socialist) than the average population; but it's a canard to say they support the Democratic candidate, because they never remember to get to the polls, or else they think about it but decide to drink another bottle of Thunderbird instead.
If Indiana requires a picture ID to vote, the deserving poor will happily get one, if they don't have one already (which I suspect virtually all of them do). The undeserving poor -- who may very well not have drivers licenses, since that requires taking classes and passing a test -- will use the requirement as another excuse for not voting... and good riddance. That the Democrats want to cater to this group of ne'er-do-wells, brigands, scoundrels, bounders, pimps and ho's, drunks and the wasted, is a contemptible national disgrace.
The alternative view (of, e.g., Judge Evans) is that it's always better when more people vote, no matter whence you dredge up those extra warm bodies. I suspect they would prefer a law that sent poll workers into Skid Row (or as Friend Lee puts it, "Bums R Us") and had them shake awake the passed-out hobos and ask who they want for president. But do we really want people voting who literally don't even know that presidents are elected, let alone who is running and what their platforms say?
I surely hope that the Court takes this golden opportunity to reaffirm that voting is a right -- but one that entails a duty to show at least enough commitment to get some picture ID, so we're sure it's not one of those "mainstays" above whose maxim is "vote early, vote often," or who is voting while on weekend furlough from the Indiana State Prison.
But with Justice Anthony Kennedy, you never know; it could turn into a disaster if he sides with the Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter quadrumvirate.
September 24, 2007
Cindy Sheehan's Day of Out-of-Tunement Manifesto
I rarely do this, as you know: I rarely link to some piece and say simply "read this." (I'm too in love with the sound of my own fingers typing on a keyboard.)
But here's an exception. Read Cindy Sheehan's Yom Kippur "sermon," delivered at Michael Lerner's Beyt Tikkun "synogogue;" you will be -- if not exactly glad, then at least agape. (Rabbi Lerner is Hillary Clinton's mentor, author of the Politics of Meaning and other works of Socialist agit-prop masquerading as theology.)
My response (I love this) is entirely contained in the list of categories I had to attach to this post.
(Well, one more thing. It has always been my understanding that Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a day for each person to atone for what he, personally, has done wrong -- not "atone" for his enemies failing to live up to his own lofty standards, apologize for all the times America hasn't followed his lead, or wallow in self-righteous indignation that nobody listens to him. 'Nuff said; read the list of categories above.)
August 22, 2007
Unprecedented Assault on Executive Privilege Underway
In an astonishing power-grab that has received little notice and virtually no condemnation from constitutionalists, the United States Congress is attempting to seize information from the Bush White House that no Congress has ever before demanded from any president... and a number of Republican congressmen are eagerly joining the wild hunt.
The demands are truly breathtaking:
First, Congress -- in the person of Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%) and his Senate Judiciary Committee -- demands essentially every document, no matter how heavily classified, relating to what is now called the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP), the program of intercepting telephone communications between known or suspected al-Qaeda agents and others, where at least one node of the conversation is outside the United States.
It is not clear how many members of the Senate J-Com actually have sufficient clearance to view the top-secret/codeword documents they demand (certainly Patrick "Leaky" Leahy does not), nor who else might view them, were they handed over: other senators, members of the House, congressional aides, or even members of the elite media and Democratic activists -- which means "the world."
Second, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%) of the House Oversight Committee -- in concert with Leahy at the Senate J-Com -- is demanding hundreds of thousands of e-mails exchanged between White House staffers because they didn't use the normal White House e-mail system but e-mail addresses supplied by the Republican National Committee instead.
In some cases, the law required that they not use the official addresses, since the communications were non-official business; in other cases, they simply didn't have access to White House e-mail addresses, due to miserly administrators who did not hand out enough official Blackberrys. In no case, however, have Democrats raised a substantial charge of skulduggery... they're just fishing, hoping to catch someone doing something disreputable.
- Both Judiciary committees have subpoenaed top aides to President George W. Bush, including White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and a raft of lower-tier advisors to other advisors -- little fish whom the committees may think easier to "turn," because they might be less certain of protection from spurious contempt citations -- regarding the president's decision not to renew the appointment of eight U.S. Attorneys (or nine or seven, nobody seems to agree). The committees demand to know exactly why each and every USA was not reappointed, who complained, and what the connection was between the complainant and the president -- did he get along with Bush? Was he a Republican?
It is important to note that in neither case has Congress formally alleged any violation of law; no criminal indictments have forthcome; and nothing else has been presented to override the normal presumption of Executive privilege for the work product of the president and other administration officers not subject to Senate confirmation, as heads of agencies are. The Democrats demand the materials solely because they want to better be able to politically oppose Republicans and Republican policies.
The bombast is also unprecedented: As various aides leave for other employment -- which is standard operating procedure in the waning years of a two-term presidency -- Leahy announces that each is trying to flee justice, to cut and run, to avoid scrutiny of his wicked deeds... thus slandering each honest public servant as a criminal, tried and convicted in the Court of Leahy Opinion:
Rove’s departure at the end of August "does not legally change one thing" in the pursuit of Rove and the information he might hold, said a Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee aide. And in a statement Monday, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) vowed to press on.
“The list of senior White House and Justice Department officials who have resigned during the course of these congressional investigations continues to grow, and today, Mr. Rove added his name to that list,’’ Mr. Leahy said. “There is a cloud over this White House, and a gathering storm. A similar cloud envelopes Mr. Rove, even as he leaves the White House.”
What a surprise -- public officials who have spent six years in the administration decide they want to leave to make some money for a change. White House Spokesman Tony Snow is another who plans to leave soon; will Leahy quickly gin up a subpoena, so he can accuse Snow, too, of leaving under a "gathering storm?"
It is, of course, obvious why it's important for the White House to restrict access to highly classified documents discussing intelligence-gathering methods, personnel, and results... even from Congress. But it's equally important that the president, no matter who, be able to receive confidential political and public-policy advice from his aides and advisors without either side worrying that it will all appear in an open Senate subcommittee hearing tomorrow, and in the Washington Post that night.
The president needs:
- To hold frank and unfettered discussions, to kick around ideas and scenarios that may be quite extreme, frightening, or unpalatable, such as discussions about possible war;
- To have personnel discussions in which private information about administration employees comes up and must be considered;
- To receive honest assessments of the chances of certain policies being enacted by Congress -- which may include specific discussions of pressure that can be brought to bear on specific members;
- And yes, the president, his cabinet, and his advisors need to be able to discuss election matters: whether the president will get a second term -- and whether he'll have a friendly or unfriendly Congress -- certainly affects what initiatives he will undertake and what reforms various agencies might have time to implement.
The strangest theme of this drama is the utter futility of the Democrats' actions, at least in actual policy terms: Nearly all these questions were already answered by the Supreme Court in June 2004, in the case Cheney v. U.S. District Court, 03-475, about the vice president's energy task force. The Court held -- by a very strong 7-2 -- that meetings and communications conducted entirely among members of the administration could be kept secret under the separation of powers doctrine, whether or not the administration formally invoked Executive privilege.
The particular case was remanded back to the D.C. Circus for consideration of whether private CEOs of energy companies who offered advice and opinions thereby became members of the task force themselves; had the task force thus included both public and private members, it could not be shielded.
But the circuit court unanimously concluded that they were not members. Therefore, they held that Cheney did not have to reveal any of his papers or testify about the task force membership or work product. They sent the case, which had been jointly filed by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club, back to district court for dismissal. (I believe the Supreme Court recently denied certiorari, but I'm not 100% certain.)
In other words, this question has already been answered, emphatically so, by the Supreme Court; bear in mind, that 7-2 ruling occurred before either Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Alito joined the Court. Presidential administrations can keep their confidential advice confidential.
The case usually cited that limits this secrecy is United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), where the Court forced President Richard Nixon to hand over the surreptitiously recorded White House tapes; but that case hinged on an actual criminal trial underway: then-Attorney General John Mitchell and six other administration officials were indicted and put on criminal trial (and most were subsequently convicted); Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski subpoenaed the tapes as evidence in that criminal trial.
Needless to say, there is no criminal trial in any of the current cases... no indictments, no court case, no criminal evidence, not even a formal accusation of criminal activity. The Democrats demand the information for entirely political purposes: They believe they can use it to embarass Republicans and help them in the 2008 election.
I wonder what Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 95%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) -- each of whom plans to be president starting in 2009 -- think about this congressional power snatching?
I can understand Democrats putting party and electoral politics ahead of country and principle; but more disturbing is that several Republicans in the Senate are jumping aboard the bandwagon, presumably because multi-term members of Congress prefer to see their own branch of government supreme over the other two -- but particularly over the Executive. When Sen. Leahy's Committee on the Judiciary issued subpoenas for classified information on the TSP, the ten Democrats on the committee were joined by three Republicans, half the Republican contingent who actually voted (three did not): Orrin Hatch (UT, 84%), Chuck Grassley (IA, 88%), and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (PA, 43%). Other Republican senators, including Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), Lindsay Graham (SC, 83%), and the two Mainers, Olympia Snowe (36%) and Susan Collins (48%) -- plus a few who now must find honest work -- have called for investigations, subpoenas, or contempt citations.
Republicans in the House have been more disciplined; when the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law was considering a contempt citation for Bolten, they voted to declare his Executive privilege claim "invalid;" no Republicans joined the seven Democrats voting against the claim. Likewise, when the full committee actually voted to issue contempt citations to Bolten and Miers, again, no Republican voted for it. The vote was 22 to 17 in favor; the seventeen Nay votes were the seventeen GOP members of the committee.
But too many Republican senators appear unconcerned about the attempt by Democrats to diminish the office of the presidency and make it merely an adjunct to Congress -- the president as simple custodian who rubber-stamps whatever policy Congress decides.
A strong, independent Executive is, in fact, the most significant difference between the United States and the lion's share of other democracies, all of which are parliamentary in nature: In most cases, the head of government, the prime minister, is the boss of the ruling party, as in England, Spain, Canada, Germany, Japan, and so forth. (Some parliamentary democracies do have a reasonably strong and separate Executive, such as France and the Republic of Korea; others have a president who is largely ceremonial or non-policy-making, as in Israel and Italy.)
To shrink the presidency to a subordinate position is to Europeanize the United States of America. Since when has a significant number of Republican senators had an agenda to make America more like Europe?
June 18, 2007
The Omnipotence Illusion
Not a lot happening today in the news -- at least nothing that begs for elucidation; so I've returned to a musing of mine from several weeks ago: Why have Americans turned against the Iraq war? Why do they see America heading in the "wrong direction" by such a wide margin? Why did they throw out the GOP? Why do they now seem to be rejecting the Democrats?
What are they looking for that they evidently cannot find in any mortal leader? Specifically about the war, though, since that is the most important foreign-policy right now.
Senate Majority Larder Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) would of course say, "Because we've lost! It's hopeless. We're doomed, doomed... we've learned a difficult lesson, we must simply accept it and humble ourselves." But as you have probably guessed, I consider that to be a cowardly and unAmerican cop-out that doesn't really "explain" anything. Why does Reid think we've lost?
For I note that he never actually tells us what he considers the "victory conditions" to be. Does he even have any, or does he proclaim defeat for no reason at all? Are his conditions realistic? If they include both a requirement of perfection and a short timeline -- for example, "Osama bin Laden himself must come and prostrate himself before us; and this must happen before the American voters get bored" -- then under those requirements, any war worth fighting is unwinnable.
However, under a more realistic set of victory conditions, we're actually doing pretty well:
- We overthrew Saddam Hussein and the Baathists;
- We killed his demented offspring;
- We drove Iraqis to vote for a constitution;
- We got them to elect a parliament -- twice!
- We built up the most powerful Arab army in the region and have worked with the Iraqis to professionalize the army and the national police;
- We rebuilt a huge amount of the infrastructure in Iraq, replacing the crumbling antiquities left behind by a couple years of war and decades of rule by Hussein;
- We helped turn the Sunni tribesmen away from al-Qaeda, and now they are actually at war with the jihadis;
- We have pretty effectively stifled the Mahdi Militia and the Badr Organization (the two main Shiite extremist paramilitary groups), such that neither actually runs the government (as many expected they would);
- We have pretty much pacified 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces, and we are now bringing a counterinsurgency campaign to bear on the last three: Anbar, Diyala, and Baghdad;
- And we did this all for a cost of about 3,500 American soldiers over four years. While every loss of a soldier or Marine is a personal tragedy, it's still an extraordinarily low number by warfare standards -- especially considering what we have accomplished.
So how could the American people look at that record and think we're losing?
I believe we're running smack into what I call the Omnipotence Illusion: The delusional idea that America is so powerful that we are literally omnipotent... thus, any result less than perfection, over a timeframe longer than the length of a typical plot arc on CSI or the Sopranos, is rejected as lame and unworthy... and we must find who is to blame for America failing to be as effective as God.
The purest version of the Omnipotence Illusion occurred during and after Hurricane Katrina: The total loss of life in New Orleans was about 1,000 souls -- out of a city whose population then was about 1.5 million in the metropolitan area, a death rate of a scant 0.07%! The federal government responded forcefully and rapidly (in fact, before the hurricane even made landfall); and even the mistakes were understandable in the confusion.
Consider the magnitude of a fairly powerful hurricane, followed by a burst levee and massive flooding: With all that, the government response must have been extraordinarily good to save 99.93% of the population.
Yet instead, the Katrina response is seen by most Americans as a complete failure... because, measured against a television standard of absolute perfection (no deaths, no destroyed homes, nobody displaced) -- 1,000 deaths, many destroyed homes, and tens of thousands of displaced people seems like "no response at all."
And the same appears to be happening in Iraq. Reid can get away with saying "we've already lost" and that Gens. Peter Pace and David Petraeus are "incompetent" because he and his fellow Democrats have successfully convinced the American people that only swift perfection in Iraq can be counted as success: If Iraqi democracy is at all messy; if there is any violence at all in Iraq (or indeed, anywhere else in the Middle East), or if it all takes longer than Harry Reid's attention span, then that must be counted a complete and miserable failure.
I don't know whether our country can break itself out of the Omnipotence Illusion death spiral; the terrorists and their enablers in the Democratic Party rely on the supposition that we cannot; therefore, if they can only make future fights ugly, bloody, and make them last longer than a few months, then America will inevitably retreat and surrender. Democrats believe that if only the voters can be made to feel ashamed to be American, they will come live in the surrender house with the Democrats.
But those who support the WAGJ rely instead upon the idea that the Omnipotence Illusion is a temporary aberration of the American people; that the Americans who beat the Nazis and then beat the Soviets can also hang tough long enough to beat the jihadis.
This is the house of traditional Americans, from Bunker Hill to the Cold war; we believe that our soldiers -- who are hanging tough and are not in despair -- are more representative of the American people than are Harry Reid and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%).
I do not know which house will prove more prophetic in the end; but I do know that those who live in the first house have already surrendered their courage, their will, and their honor, living in a perpetual twilight of unseized opportunity. And that is a horrible enough way to live that I would far rather stake all on the second house prevailing.
March 19, 2007
Gonzales Must Stay
Once again, the Politico is quoting a raft of anonymous "mentioners," as Reagan used to put it -- "party sources," "administration officials," and "a well-connected Republican Senate aide" -- to flog the line that President Bush is about to precipitate a Saturday-night massacre at the Department of Justice, where the top two officials, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, will resign or be fired.
Why? In order to placate the "conservatives," who are supposedly lining up with the Democrats to demand the scalps of Gonzales and McNulty. Of course, I haven't heard any conservatives saying so; but perhaps they're "mentioning" it in private -- to the elite media. (Or in this case, to the not-quite-so-elite upstart Politico.)
Chief Political Writer Mike Allen -- formerly of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time Magazine -- paints a bleak picture of the complete collapse of the Bush administration's Department of Justice, followed by the imminent implosion of the administration itself:
Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales....
In a sign of Republican despair, GOP political strategists on Capitol Hill said that it is too late for Gonzales' departure to head off a full-scale Democratic investigation into the motives and timing behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
"Democrats smell blood in the water, and (Gonzales') resignation won't stop them," said a well-connected Republican Senate aide. "And on our side, no one's going to defend him. All we can do is warn Democrats against overreaching."
A main reason Gonzales is finding few friends even among Republicans is that he has long been regarded with suspicion by conservatives who have questioned his ideological purity.
Forgive me if I think Mr. Allen should try breathing into a paper sack for a while until he stops hyperventilating. It's hard to imagine a stupider response to the fired-attorneys non-scandal than to sack Gonzales, sack McNulty -- and then to nominate a new AG and DAG who would be "movement conservatives."
Let's engage in a little Politics 101, a new category I just added. What would actually happen in real life if Bush took the Democrats' advice?
- He fires Gonzales and McNulty;
- Regardless of whether they depart arm in arm, or if McNulty sneakily waits a few minutes before leaving, the net effect is the same: There would be two slots to fill at Justice, each requiring Senate confirmation;
- Bush nominates a "movement conservative" to replace Gonzales;
- Senate Democrats reject his nominee in committee;
- Bush nominates another, who is also rejected;
At this point, the path bifurcates, as the president has two possible options; and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%), Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, have an obvious response to each choice.
I. Assume President Bush responds to the rejections by nominating a "moderate" (that is, liberal) Republican, someone in the mold of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:
- Leahy and Reid congratulate the president on truly "uniting the country" with his nomination. The nominee sails through committee and is strongly confirmed in the Senate by a "bipartisan" vote -- getting far more Democratic than Republican votes.
- In fact, a solid majority of Republican senators votes to reject, but they're overwhelmed by the Democrats plus the liberal to moderate Republicans. This cripples Bush in the Senate and shatters the recent Republican solidarity that has blocked various Democrat surrender bills.
- The new attorney general becomes as anti-administration as the State Department under Colin Powell or the CIA from January 20th, 2001;
- Bush spends the next two years in utter misery and isolation. Everything he has done to fight terrorism, on both the foreign and domestic sides, from the Patriot Act to immigration prosecutions, is undone. He leaves office as the most unsuccessful president since Jimmy Carter.
- Worse, Bush leaves a weaker America that has been defeated, humiliated, and humbled. Global jihadism is triumphant. Al Gore or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpet Bag, 95%) is elected president, and things go from worse to worst. It's the end of the world as we know it, and the Democrats feel fine.
II. Assume instead that Bush refuses to nominate a "uniter" (that is, a RINO); he stands firm, nominating movement conservatives over and over:
- Every nominee is rejected in committee;
- The Republicans, who hoped that the American people would punish the Democrats for "overreaching," instead turn against the president, blaming him for nominating "ideologues" and for being stubborn;
- This perception is encouraged by the Democrats' propaganda efforts, which earn a grade of B-... in contrast to the administration's propaganda machine, which gets a D+. Bush loses the spin cycle (surprise, surprise);
- Because there is no political appointee in either of the top two slots at Justice, the department ends up being run by the career bureaucrats -- who are uniformly liberal. In fact, they're more liberal than any imaginable Republican Bush might nominate;
- See numbers 8 to 10 in the previous scenario.
Note that the complete, catastrophic concatenation of calamities begins with number 1: Bush firing Gonzales and McNulty. In fact, it doesn't even depend much upon firing McNulty, except insofar as there would be someone reasonably conservative running Justice during the confirmation comedy.
However, McNulty, being only the "acting comandante," would not have the power over the bureaucracy of the actual Attorney General; and the nomenklatura would eat him alive. We would more or less be back to bifurcation II.
Therefore, if Bush wants to retain any possibility of achievement in his last two years -- or even of staving off the slavering hordes of Democrats who desperately want to undo the last six years -- then he must not fire Alberto Gonzales in the first place.
Nothing good can come of it. We won't get another John Ashcroft; we'll get another Janet Reno. Or worse -- we might get another Ramsey Clark.
Gonzales is far from perfect; I consider him a thoroughly mediocre pick, though probably the most conservative AG Bush could have gotten confirmed following Ashcroft's resignation. But please understand: If Gonzales goes, any conceivable future scenario for de jure or de facto head of the Justice Department is much, much worse.
There is no upside to firing Gonzales. I do not believe that the president is so politically inept as to do so, nor that Congressional Republicans are so suicidal as to push it. But even if I'm wrong about Bush's fortitude on this issue, I'm afraid I won't be much wrong about the dreadful consequences.
For the sake of the nation, the party, and for Bush himself, Alberto Gonzales must stay.
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