Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Palin's public call on Stevens to "do the right thing" may mean "publicly commit to resign if the trial judge upholds the jury's verdict"
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com hazards a guess as to what Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is saying privately to just-convicted U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. It involves a resignation letter.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I was amazed earlier this year, in trying to educate a friend about the record of Gov. Sarah Palin as a reformer who'd taken on her own party's most powerful politicians in Alaska, when he poked a finger in my chest and said, "Yeah, but what about Don Young and Ted Stevens?" He was referring to the remaining two senior and powerful members of the "Alaska GOP Troika" that had dominated Alaskan politics for many years before 2006. "They're still representing Alaska in Congress!"
I calmly pointed out to my friend that Gov. Palin had already defeated the third member of the Troika, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, and that she then went on to win the general election and take over the Governor's Mansion in Juneau. "She can only defeat them at the polls one at a time," I said, "because even as terrific and courageous a reformer as Sarah Palin is, they just won't let her run for Governor, Congressman, and both Senate seats all at once!"
Over a year ago, in September 2007 — long before he was indicted, or before she was on anyone's mind as a vice presidential nominee — Gov. Palin publicly called upon Sen. Stevens to come clean and explain for Alaskans in much more detail the series of transactions between him and an Alaska energy company, VECO, that had come into serious question. Relations between them have been cool and distant since then. And Gov. Palin has been very circumspect and scrupulously appropriate in declining comment on the charges against Stevens since his indictment.
In response to Sen. Stevens' conviction today on seven counts of making false statements on ethical disclosure forms, however, Gov. Palin has issued the following statement on the Alaska gubernatorial website:
October 27, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today released the following statement on the felony convictions of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens:
“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Senator Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. That control was part of the culture of corruption I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward regardless of party or seniority or even past service.
“As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska.”
Several points ought to be noted on this.
First, even though the jury has found Stevens guilty on all seven counts, that verdict has not yet been reflected in a formal judgment of conviction. (To answer the silly question posed by ABC News' Jake Tapper on his blog, that means that yes, Stevens can still vote for himself next week, but I don't think one vote is going to decide the election.) The trial has been anything but smooth, however, with prosecutors having to admit to repeated blunders throughout. So there are obvious and non-trivial grounds for Stevens' very capable legal team to urge in seeking a new trial rather than the entry of a judgment of conviction. (Please don't mis-read me here: I think it's more likely than not that the jury verdict will indeed be upheld, both by the trial judge and on appeal. And I'm personally unpersuaded by Stevens' defense and impressed by the evidence, at least as summarized by the press, which the prosecution presented. But I do believe in due process, and Stevens hasn't yet had all the legal process that's due to him under the Rule of Law.)
Second, keep in mind that these were convictions in federal court for violations of federal laws, but the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent Stevens from also being prosecuted for violations of Alaska state law based on the same or similar conduct. As such, it would still be inappropriate for Gov. Palin to be commenting in depth on the merits of Sen. Stevens' guilt or innocence under either state or federal laws: Doing so could jeopardize any future state prosecution of Sen. Stevens under Alaska state law.
Third, it's reasonable to assume that what Gov. Palin is saying to Sen. Stevens in private is more pointed than anything she's permitted to say for public consumption. And indeed, the last sentence in Gov. Palin's public press release today — "I'm confident that Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska" — is what we might call "pregnant with implication." Here's my guess as to what Gov. Palin saying privately, because it's what I would say to him if I were in her position:
"Ted, for now, I'm going to continue to be restrained and appropriate in what I say in public. But you owe it to your party, and to the people who've voted for you in years past, not to take everything down with you in flames.
"Accordingly, now — before Election Day — you need to hand to me, as the Governor of Alaska, a formal, irrevocable letter of resignation which is automatically effective as of the instant that your post-verdict (pre-appellate) motion for new trial in the federal district court is denied (even though you may still have appellate avenues open at that point to challenge that judgment).
"Having made that commitment and signed that binding letter, Ted, then you can again ask the voters of Alaska to give you their votes — and they, in turn, can vote for you secure in the knowledge that one of either two things will happen: (a) The jury's verdict will be overturned, your presumption of innocence will be restored, and you'll have another day in court. Or else: (b) As Governor of Alaska, either I or perhaps Sean Parnell (as my successor) will appoint a qualified, honest Republican who will carry forward the Republican Party's best policies and ideals in the U.S. Senate seat you have occupied for so long."
With due respect to my friends at RedState.com, the response of principled conservatives to corruption in our own party ought to be to work to replace the corrupt actors with honest Republicans — not to endorse Democrats! Character is critical, but party policies are too, and we ought not throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Or to use a different metaphor: There are more ways to skin this cat, which I agree needs skinning, and there are better ways for Sen. Stevens and the voters of Alaska to "do the right thing" without handing the Democrats a larger legislative majority in 2009.
Bill Ayers claims he and other former radicals are "good guys" who are being "demonized"
We all think we're "good guys," I suppose, but some of us — in particular, those among us who are unrepentant, unrehabilitated domestic terrorists and radical "educators" — are actually twisted dollops of evil scum. So I say in another guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
According to ABC News:
... Bill Ayers is staying mum, and working hard to duck reporters and the campaign spotlight in the final week before the election.
He told a journalism student attending a education justice symposium in New York Sunday he and other former radicals were being "demonized" by Fox News. "We're nice guys, right?"
Asked by the student, if he repudiated the actions of the Weather Underground, which carried out a series of 1960's robberies and bombings that killed at least six people, Ayers walked away without answering.
Good for the journalism student! He's already shown himself to be better suited for his profession than at least 90% of the so-called 'professional journalists" working for the mainstream media during most of this campaign year, who ought to have been pressing Ayers and his friend Barack Obama on their associations at least since the Democratic primaries.
As for Ayers' claim that he and "other former radicals" are "good guys" who are "being 'demonized,'" I will be precise: Ayers is indeed a demon, or as close to one as any human being has ever become. He's a twisted dollop of evil scum. He is, by his own boast, guilty as hell but free as a bird, and he ought to still be in prison. The notion that he's been "rehabilitated" is an utter joke; and the notion that respectable people can maintain their own honor or integrity while collaborating with him on his radical education projects is a travesty.
Former editor-in-chief of "Ms." magazine reports on her first-hand exposure to Sarah Palin
In a guest-post at HughHewitt.com this evening, I linked to a pro-Palin analysis from a surprising source.
[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I did not much expect to be linking to Tina Brown's new hybrid, The Daily Beast, in this election season. But then again, former Ms. magazine editor in chief Elaine Lafferty — a pro-choice Democrat — probably didn't anticipate that after spending time with Sarah Palin on the campaign trail, she'd be writing the post I'm linking to: Sarah Palin's a Brainiac.
An excerpt (emphasis by Ms. Lafferty):
Now by “smart,” I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.
Follow the link; it's short, and I assure you that it's worth your time to read the whole thing.
Bravo to Ms. Lafferty — bravo to her for having the intellectual flexibility and honesty to recognize that one can be simultaneously a feminist and pro-life, and bravo to her for speaking out on what she's perceived based on first-hand exposure (instead of merely repeating the tired, nasty, and fantasy-based ranting of closed-minded anti-Palin bigots on the left).
Conversations with Molly
My Monday afternoon guest-post at HughHewitt.com is about a conversation I had with my youngest daughter this afternoon regarding spreading the wealth.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
"Grades come out tomorrow," said my daughter Molly, an eighth grader, when I picked her up at school this afternoon.
"Great," I answered, "How d'ya think you're gonna do?"
"Pretty well," Molly said confidently.
"What will probably be your best grade?" I asked.
"Guitar," she said, "That will probably be a 97 or a 98."
"Cool," I said. "You really have been successful. But I think you should tell your Guitar teacher that you want to give six or seven of those points to some of your classmates who haven't practiced so hard or don't have the talent you have."
She looked up at me, startled. "What?"
"That class is easy for you, and you have lots more points than you need for an A. They need those points more than you do," I explained.
"Then they should have worked harder!" she protested. "Yeah, I'm sort of talented, but I worked hard to get those grades! I earned them!"
"So you're telling me that you think it's fair for you to get to keep all of those good grades, both the part that comes from your having worked harder than your classmates, and the part that comes from the musical talent you inherited from me and your mom. Is that what you're saying?"
"Show me your lunchbox," I said. She looked at me strangely again, but found it on the floorboard and held it up.
I pointed at the "Barack Obama" sticker on its side, which she got from my ex. "That guy," I said, "wants to use the tax laws to take away more of the money that wealthy people have, whether they got it by working harder or because their parents worked harder to be able to give it to them. He says other people need that money more. He thinks we need to spread the wealth around.
"What I was saying when you first got in the car," I continued, "is just that we should spread your grade wealth around. You disagreed. Good for you. I don't really think your Guitar teacher should do that anyway. But let me ask you another question."
"Okay," she said, listening thoughtfully.
"Let's say even though you object, your Guitar teacher decides to spread your grades around to the other students in your class. Do you think you'll work as hard to get top grades during the next nine weeks?"
"No way!" she said.
I just pointed at the sticker on her lunchbox again. We spent the rest of the short drive to her mom's house in contemplative silence.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Obama's 2001 appearance on a Chicago PBS radio program shows him focused on building a "coalition of power" to bring about redistribution of wealth which even the Warren Court couldn't achieve
I don't have any doubt that Barack Obama wants to redistribute America's wealth. Unfortunately, I can't agree with National Review's Katheryn Jean Lopez that this excerpt from a 2001 PBS radio broadcast proves that. Ultimately, the broadcast is still pretty scary, though, which is the distinction I try to maintain in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Since Sen. Barack Obama's comment in a rope-line interview with Joe the Plumber about his belief that it's good to "spread the wealth," Republicans have been looking for more examples of such comments.
At the beginning of the Bush-43 Administration, while John Ashcroft's nomination as Attorney General was a hot topic in the news and among legal pundits in particular, Gretchen Helfrich of Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ-FM, hosted an hour-long panel program on January 18, 2001, as part of her "Odyssey" series. The title of this particular program was The Court and Civil Rights, and the participants were law professors Susan Bandes from DePaul and Dennis Hutchinson from Chicago, along with senior instructor Barack Obama from Chicago.
Unfortunately, I think K-Lo has in some ways made more of this audio than can actually be supported. It is not the kind of clear and unambiguous slip-up that Obama made when talking to Joe the Plumber in the rope-line. Fairly considered in context, this radio program demonstrates Obama's recognition that the Warren Court failed to redistribute America's wealth. It should, however, be deeply troubling to conservatives on a more fundamental level: Even back in 2001, Barack Obama was already focused on building a "coalition of power" in the executive and legislative branches that could indeed bring about a national redistribution of wealth which even the most activist courts couldn't achieve on their own.
Here's my transcription of the edited excerpt that K-Lo linked, interspersed with my comments about the context: [# More #]
OBAMA: You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the courts, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples. So that I would now have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and, as long as I coud pay for it, I would be okay. But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, uh, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in the society.
And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, uh, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed, uh, uh, by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and [the] Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that — that generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. [It] says what the states can't do to you. It says what the federal government can't do to you.
But it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.
Uh, and that hasn't shifted, and one of the, uh, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and, and — activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And uh, in some ways we still suffer from that.
This discussion came up in the context of a comment by Prof. Hutchison to the effect that 1970s attempts to use federal due process rights to force face-to-face hearings before cutting off welfare benefits — instead of their intended effect of forcing the payment of more welfare benefits — had ended up forcing more money to be spent on face-to-face administrative hearings. Then state-senator and con-law lecturer Obama was agreeing with Prof. Hutchinson that the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause had largely failed as a potential instrument of wealth redistribution through federal court litigation.
But K-Lo is stretching too far to say that Obama was "also lament[ing] that the Warren Court was not liberal enough." He did say that it was not as liberal as some people have claimed, which is true. And his only explicit point —a correct one, I think — was simply that even during the Warren Court's most activist civil rights decisions, it was still generally refusing to get into the subject of redistribution of wealth. Nevertheless, he also seemed very sympathetic — as with the "we still suffer from that" remark — to the idea that redistribution of wealth is a fine goal, even if it wasn't one that the Warren Court itself had pursued. And there's no other way to read his statement that the failure of courts to achieve that goal during the days of blockbuster civil rights lawsuits was a "tragedy."
Continuing on with the audio excerpt:
HELFRICH: Let's talk with Karen. Good morning, Karen, you're on Chicago Public Radio.
KAREN: Hi, um, the gentleman made the point that the Warren Court wasn't, uh, terribly radical. My question is — um, with economic changes. My question is: Is it too late for that kind of reparative work economically and is that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place?
HELFRICH: You mean the Court?
KAREN: The courts, or would it be legislation at this point?
OBAMA: You know, maybe I'm showing my bias here as a legislator here as well as a law professor, but you know, I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change, uh, through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way.
You know, just, um, look-it, with very rare examples, during the desegregation era, the Court was willing, for example, to order, you know, changes that cost money to a local school district. And the Court was very uncomfortable with it. It was hard to manage. It was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, you know, in terms of the Court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and — and takes a lot of time.
Um, you know, the Court's just not very good at it. And politically, it's just, it's very hard to legitimize opinions from the, uh, the Court in that regard.
And so I think that, athough you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally, and I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts ....
My first concern, upon listening to the five-minute excerpt, was that it might have taken Obama's statements out of context. But I've listened to the entire hour. It's the sort of thing that probably bored 99% of even a PBS audience, including a large number of lawyers. But whoever edited down the excerpt didn't take anything directly out of context except, arguably, for the concluding sentence, which cuts off in the middle. The conclusion is:
... I think that as a practical matter our courts are just poorly equipped to do it.
There's one additional short passage, from earlier in the broadcast, that's arguably on the same topic:
OBAMA: There's one other interesting level in which the results of the civil rights movement have changed what's happened, at that is at the state level. I.e, you now have state supreme courts and state constitutions and state laws that in some ways have adopted the ethos of the Warren Court. So, uh, uh, uh, a classic example would be something like public education, where after Brown versus Board of Education, a major issue ends up being redistribution — how do we get more into the schools. And how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity. Well, the Court in a case called San Antonio Schools versus Rodriquez in the early seventies basically slaps those kind of claims down and says, You know what? We as a court basically have no power to reexamine issues of redistribution and wealth inequality with respect to schools. That's not a race issue, that's a wealth issue, and we can't get into this.
HUTCHINSON: The federal Constitution doesn't provide any warrant for intervention.
OBAMA: Exactly. So but what's interesting is that suddenly, a whole bunch of folks start bringing these claims in state courts, under state constitutions that call for equal educational opportunity. And you see state courts with mixed results, being more responsive to it. The reason I think that's relevant is not to say that I'm not worried about the lack of protections coming from the Supreme Court, but it is to say though that you've got a cultural transformation that changes how states think about the protection of individual rights in ways that didn't exist prior to the Warren Court, and that, I think, is an important legacy to keep in mind.
This, again, is an indisputably correct observation about trends in the law — a trend that one might infer Obama agrees with. But in fairness, that's an another inference rather than something he's stated in so many words.
So what, if anything, to make about all of this?
First: Obama is a bright and clever fellow, articulate and well-spoken, and familiar with both the broad outlines and a fair amount of detail on the subject of constitutional law. In this respect, he is a vastly more impressive legal scholar than, for example, Joe Biden, who in countless Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and most recently in the vice presidential debates has proved himself to be entirely worthy of his law school class rank (76th out of 85). That is not at all inconsistent, however, with Sen. Obama being a hard-core leftist: Among the smartest and most genial law professors I had was Mark Tushnet, then an avowed Marxist and still among the most radical members of America's legal academy.
Second: As with the examinations he wrote for his Chicago Law School classes, Obama usually displays a good educator's gift of flagging controversial issues for discussion without necessarily committing as to his own views on those issues. I wish that I could agree with K-Lo that in this program, Obama "unequivocally embraced 'redistribution' of wealth several times." But that's a bit too strong a statement. Indeed, in fairness, he clearly expressed skepticism — "as a legislator here as well as a law professor" — for the notion that it ought to be the courts which accomplish that redistribution of wealth. Still: Obama seemed very receptive to the notion that redistribution of America's wealth would be a good idea, and his use of the word "tragedy" is strong evidence that he supports that goal, even if it's not practical for it to be accomplished by the courts.
Third: That he does not see the federal courts as the preferred means of redistributing wealth does not at all mean that he's a judicial conservative or anything like that. To the contrary, the SCOTUS Justices who he's pointed to as models, in the mold of whom he'd choose additional federal judges, are those who are most activist, in the tradition of the Warren Court at its most politically and judicially liberal. The precise danger of appointing more federal judges and, particularly, Supreme Court Justices like Justice Ginsburg is that they'll take the huge issues on which there is the most fierce political debate among the electorate and in the legislative and executive branches — issues like abortion rights and gay marriage — and stake out positions there which (a) can't be undone without constitutional amendments or massive changes in the courts, and which (b) will then force the legislatures and state agencies to come in behind them and do the "administrative fill-in" to thoroughly implement those newly decreed "constitutional rights."
Fourth: This entire broadcast is entirely consistent with my worst fears about Obama. He understands precisely how to advance a hard-line liberal agenda in each brach of government. Redistribution of wealth is something best suited to a hard-left president and Congress to accomplish, working hand-in-glove. And for the giant leaps — the things which not even a left-of-center executive and legislature can accomplish — the president gets to appoint activist judges.
The reason for conservatives and moderates to be concerned about Barack Obama is not simply that he's a hard-left liberal — it's that he's an ambitious and talented hard-left liberal. He's seen where the Warren Court fell short. Barack Obama is now literally only days away from, in his words from this radio program, possibly "put[ting] together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change." Of that, we ought to all be duly terrified.
On this 41st anniversary of John McCain being shot down over Hanoi
My last guest-post of Sunday evening at HughHewitt.com marks the 41st anniversary of John McCain's last mission over Hanoi.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Today marks the 41st anniversary of the day John McCain was shot down over Hanoi. He'll be the first to tell you that he got shot down because he screwed up on that day — he committed the human mistake of losing situational awareness because he was so concentrating on his target — and then he had a long, uncomfortable time to reflect on and learn from that mistake.
During the Democratic primary season, Joe Biden's funniest line, a barb directed at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was to the effect that in every sentence then-candidate Guiliani delivered, you could be sure to find three things: a noun, a verb, and 9/11. Sen. John McCain's opponents have tried to use a variation of that line about him, but with "POW" in place of "9/11." And there was a time earlier this year when I thought that the McCain campaign was in danger of living up to that stereotype.
But both Sen. McCain and his campaign aids reined in that particular rhetoric. Did you notice that no direct reference whatsoever was made to Sen. McCain's time as a prisoner of war in either the first, second, or third presidential debates? Would you ever have predicted that in, say, June of this year or last year?
While being very much a 21st century politician, however, Gov. Sarah Palin is old-school when it comes to respecting our military and its heroes. It's with obvious reverence and appreciation that she has made one of her own campaign stump-speech lines, from the Republican National Convention onward, that "Of the four candidates on top of the two tickets, John McCain is the only one who has ever actually fought for you." This line has the elegance and power that comes from brutal, literal truth combined with simplicity. I'm glad she repeats it.
I too am old-school, and my inclination is to honor and glorify Sen. McCain on this anniversary for his bravery, his toughness, his steadfastness, and his selfless refusal to accept the early release offered because he was the son and grandson of admirals. Old-school or not, corn-ball or not, these demonstrated qualities are not unimportant factors, I would submit, in evaluating his character to become commander in chief.
But John McCain himself actually has a very different take on the significance of his time as a POW. And I'm reasonably sure that he'd rather that you or I note this anniversary, if we choose to note it at all, in a markedly different way than what first occurred to me. Consider what John McCain wrote in his memoir of his early life (including his time as a POW), "Faith of My Fathers":
In prison, I fell in love with my country. I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn't until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I had loved her.
I loved what I missed most from my life at home: my family and friends; the signs and sounds of my country; the hustle and purposefulness of Americans; their fervid independence; sports; music; information — all the attractive qualities of American life. But though I longed for things at home I cherished most, I still shared the ideals of America. And since those ideals were all that I possessed of my country, they became all the more important to me.
It was what freedom conferred on America that I loved the most — the distinction of being the last, best hope of humanity; the advocate for all who believed in the Rights of Man. Freedom is America's honor, and all honor comes with obligations. We have the obligation to use our freedom wisely, to select well from all the choices freedom offers. We can accept or reject the obligation, but if we are to preserve our freedom, our honor, we must choose well.
I was no longer the boy to whom liberty meant simply that I could do as I pleased, and who, in my vanity, used my freedom to polish my image as an I-don't-give-a-damn nonconformist. That's not to say that I had shed myself entirely of that attribute. I had not, and have not yet. But I no longer located my self-respect in that distinction. In prison, where my cherished independence was mocked and assaulted, I found my self-respect in a shared fidelity to my country. All honor comes with obligations. I and the men with whom I served had accepted ours, and we were grateful for the privilege.
McCain explains how what came to matter most to him was how his fellow prisoners measured his character. "My self-regard became indivisible," he writes, "from their regard for me. And it will remain so for the rest of my life." And the realization changed him:
This is the truth of war, of honor and courage, that my father and grandfather had passed on to me. But before my war, its meaning was obscure to me, hidden in the peculiar language of men who had gone to war and been changed forever by the experience. So, too, had the [Naval] Academy, with its inanimate and living memorials to fidelity and valor, tried to reveal this truth to me. But I had interpreted the lesson, as I had interpreted my father's lesson, within the limits of my vanity. I thought glory was the object of war, and that all glory was self-glory.
No more. For I have learned the truth: there are greater pursuits than self-seaking. Glory is not a conceit. It is not a decoration for valor. It is not a prize for being the most clever, the strongest, or the boldest. Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely, and who rely on you in return. No misfortune, no injury, no humiliation can destroy it.
This is the faith that my commanders affirmed, that my brothers-in-arms encouraged my allegiance to. It was the faith I had unknowingly embraced at the Naval Academy. It was my father's and grandfather's faith. A filthy, crippled, broken man, all I had left of my dignity was the faith of my fathers. It was enough.
Now, I don't doubt that Barack Obama loves America, nor that his own very different experiences and such challenges as he's faced have shaped his character. But gentle friends, I have also read Barack Obama's book, "Dreams from My Father." And in it, you will search in vain for any chapters containing feelings or epiphanies about America that are remotely comparable to what I've just quoted here.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Even the higher marginal tax rate that you don't pay directly can still push you, and everyone, into poverty
My lastest guest-post tonight at HughHewitt.com is about taxes and spreading the wealth. I argue that "those higher taxes cannot possibly be crafted so that they just affect rich old Peter over there — not by a smart Harvard economics professor, and not even by Barack Obama."
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Wealth grows out of work done at the margin. New jobs are created out of work done at the margin and the investment dollars that work generates.
Someone living paycheck to paycheck is contributing to the economy, but he or she isn't going to be the guy or gal who's actually helping to grow the economy in a significant way. But when you have someone who's making it okay — who's getting by — and he's considering whether to do the additional work needed to generate that marginal dollar, his decision whether to do the work or not is going to relate in a very big way to what happens to that dollar.
Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw looks carefully at how the candidates' respective tax plans will affect that marginal dollar, and his analysis is clear enough that I'll forgive him for speaking of himself in the third person (h/t InstaPundit):
Let's suppose Greg Mankiw takes on an incremental job today and earns a dollar. How much, as a result, will he leave his kids in T years?
The answer depends on four tax rates. First, I pay the combined income and payroll tax on the dollar earned. Second, I pay the corporate tax rate while the money is invested in a firm. Third, I pay the dividend and capital gains rate as I receive that return. And fourth, I pay the estate tax when I leave what has accumulated to my kids.
Mankiw makes a couple of reasonable assumptions about pre-tax return rates and the length of time for his investment before his kids get it, and then he runs the math, which returns these conclusions (emphasis mine):
If there were no taxes, so t1=t2=t3=t4=0, then $1 earned today would yield my kids $28. That is simply the miracle of compounding.
Under the McCain plan, t1=.35, t2=.25, t3=.15, and t4=.15. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $4.81. That is, even under the low-tax McCain plan, my incentive to work is cut by 83 percent compared to the situation without taxes.
Under the Obama plan, t1=.43, t2=.35, t3=.2, and t4=.45. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $1.85. That is, Obama's proposed tax hikes reduce my incentive to work by 62 percent compared to the McCain plan and by 93 percent compared to the no-tax scenario....
From this, Prof. Mankiw concludes that if Obama's tax plan becomes law, he's unlikely to do the extra work to earn that extra dollar. He'll spend the time trying to make good memories with his kids instead of trying to make money for them to inherit.
When you rob Peter to pay Paul, it's not some zero-sum game. Peter's been the guy working harder. When you systematically rob him to pay Paul — when you "redistribute the wealth" — then Peter figures it out, and he stops working harder. He stops creating more wealth at the margins. And eventually, you've guaranteed that Peter and Paul will both slip into destitution.
Democrats stare at me perplexedly. "Dyer!" they say, "You don't make a quarter million a year! The Obama tax increases won't hit you! And what kind of idiot are you, that you don't want the hand-out from Barack Obama's tax cuts and the give-aways from Obama's new social programs?"
I'm the kind of idiot who (a) would still like to make a quarter-million some day, who (b) doesn't think Peter should be penalized with a higher tax rate for his success, and who (c) wants his kids to have a chance to land the jobs where they can make that much or more in the businesses created by Peter after he decided to keep working a little harder to make the extra dollars to invest (i.e., risk) in starting those businesses. I won't take his damn bribes — even if I trusted Obama to deliver them, which I don't — because it hurts all our futures to have high taxes. Even when you're not taxing me directly with those higher rates, those higher taxes will still affect me. "Spreading the wealth" ultimately makes us all poorer. Those higher taxes cannot possibly be crafted so that they just affect rich old Peter over there — not by a smart Harvard economics professor, and not even by Barack Obama.
Most of us want to become Peter; most of us realize it's unfair to penalize Peter for being successful; but regardless, we all need Peter.
Actually, I am Bill too, but not THAT Bill
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com links a funny ha-ha piece from Iowahawk that's also funny-sad (when you drill down through the links). And yes, Bill Ayers is still a twisted dollop of evil scum.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
To counterbalance all of the "I am Joe" hoopla given to Joe the Plumber, Iowahawk has posted a stirring, link-filled defense of Bill Ayers that's not to be missed. (H/t DRJ at Patterico.NET, where Patterico.COM is still in exile.) Sample paragraph about the twisted dollop of evil scum:
I AM BILL. I grew up in a simple little gated community just like yours, with white picket fences and where all the aux pairs and gardeners know your name. When my dad came home from a hard day's work as a CEO, he was never too tired to help me with my homework or tousle my hair for winning the Lake Forest Academy essay contest on Hegelian Dialectics. Yes, he was a simpleminded bourgeois technocrat of the capitalist war machine, but he made sure I got the tuition and tutors and sailing lessons and allowance I needed to make it on my own. I wish he was still alive so I could tell him how much I really planned to kill him last.
Good stuff — wicked satire that's close to the bone.
The Rezko-Obama payoff reduced to one sentence
I just don't understand how anyone can't grasp this: Tony Rezko did a six-figure favor for Barack Obama in connection with Obama's house purchase. The only other explanation requires one to believe that Obama is a brilliant real estate pro and that Tony Rezko is stupid enough to pay full asking price at exactly the same time. But I go over this all again in a guest-post today at HughHewitt.com.
And now I'm caught up in my cross-posting.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But, until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.
— Don Vito Corleone to townsman Bonasera in The Godfather (1972)
I last wrote about this subject at length on June 4, 2008, when Tony Rezko was convicted on 16 counts of financial corruption, many of which had to do with buying off politicians via sham real estate transactions. But let me reduce the Rezko-Obama house transaction into a one-sentence question which ought to make it clear to you:
If not to bestow a six-figure financial payoff to Barack Obama — who was getting a $300k discount on the same day in June 2005 from the very same seller — why would Tony Rezko ever agree to pay the full asking price of $625k for the adjoining property, instead of insisting upon at least sharing proportionately in that $300k discount?
Ignore the later sale by Rezko of a strip of the property he purchased to the Obamas after they had some more book revenues coming in and were more flush with cash. We can argue until the cows come home about whether that was a delayed partial pay-back of the original favor to Obama or not. It's a red herring, and requires you to make judgments about property values.
Instead, put your trust in the much easier judgment you can make about who, as between Obama and Rezko, was a shark in the real estate market. No one can explain how real estate neophyte Obama supposedly managed to out-negotiate real estate "professional" Rezko — who's not so coincidentally also a professional politician buyer through fraudulent real estate deals, which is exactly what Rezko has since been convicted of — by fully $300k.
While admitting that this was a package deal that had to be closed on the same day, the seller denies any explicit agreement to link the two sale prices — i.e., to grant a bigger discount to Obama in exchange for Rezko paying the full asking price. The seller effectively has to say that, because to make any contrary admission might subject him to potential criminal liability as a co-conspirator, along with Rezko and his wife, to the making of false statements on the federally guaranteed loan application paperwork in which Rezko's wife had to deny the existence of any side deals. (That would be an excellent reason for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to be subpoenaing those loan documents, as the new Isakoff article linked below by Hugh reveals.)
Now, let me be perfectly clear: I'm certainly not accusing the seller of having actually violated any law, and neither do I have any specific reason to believe that the seller was necessarily a party to any discussions between Obama and Rezko about what Rezko expected in return for the favor he was doing Obama by facilitating the transaction by paying the full asking price. Indeed, even between Obama and Rezko there may not have been anything more than a wink and a nod. But surely the seller at least had to hold his nose and avert his eyes to keep from perceiving the strangeness of this transaction, and even his retrospection about the transaction ought to be circumscribed by his potential criminal liability, if he's been getting any decent legal advice.
You, gentle readers, need not be so willfully imperceptive. When something stinks, you can and should say: "That stinks!"
This was a political payoff, friends and neighbors, from Day 1, and it was in the age-old tradition of mobsters doing favors for rising but ethically challenged young politicians whose influence the mobsters may someday need. If you cannot see this, then you ought to climb back on the pumpkin truck, and please don't ever try to purchase real estate yourself.
Politico-sports metaphor for the day
Sarah Barracuda to Barack Obama, re basketball nets, in one of my guest-posts today at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
"Barack Obama and I both have spent quite some time on the basketball court," Palin told a raucous crowd of more than 5,000 at the convention center. "But where I come from, you have to win the game before you start cutting down the net."
GOP Veep nominee Sarah Palin, campaigning today in Tampa, Florida.
SNL opening skit on Biden & Murtha gaffes
Early this morning I guest-posted an embedded video clip of SNL's opening spoof last night on Rep. Jack Murtha's and Sen. Joe Biden's amazing accidental truth-tellings of the past week.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
As a comedy skit, I'd rate this about a four on a one to ten scale. As a long, painful reminder of the significance of Joe Biden's and Jack Murtha's recent, unguarded comments, I'd give it a nine, though.
Challenge for next administration will be to be worthy of our military's professionalism and dedication
On a guest-post yesterday at HughHewitt.com, I expressed my gratitude and admiration for our professional military forces, who are already on special alert as we approach the election and the transition to a new administration.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
During the last several years, probably the single most offensive and ridiculous and insulting meme of the Most Radical Left — the Bill Ayers types who still can't decide whether they're merely small-c communists or anarchists, joined by colossal morons like Michael Moore — has been the argument that the Bush-43 Administration has already effectively mounted a military coup to destroy civil liberties within the United States. Perhaps the most magnificent irony in the world is that those folks' right and practical opportunity to display such caustic stupidity is protected by the finest, most professional all-volunteer military force in the history of the world. Those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen feature prominently in my prayers every night.
(Always near the very top of my personal prayers list is a young nephew of mine who, like his grandfather did long ago, proudly wears the uniform of a junior officer in the U.S. Navy. As a military dentist, he's currently at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Base in California, and the odds of him deploying abroad with a Marines medical unit are high. Like everyone else in my family, I'm so proud of him, I could burst.)
The men and women in our military represent the full spectrum of America and all its politics, of course. I wouldn't care to guess at the relative percentages, but pollsters could probably find some number of current and recent American service personnel who might agree with leading Democratic Congressman Barney Frank that we need to cut our national military spending by 25% to finance the Democratic Party's spending and give-away programs. But even if that is (as I suspect) a fairly small minority among those serving in our armed forces, all Americans (except for the most crazed and rabid moonbats referenced above) can be confident that whoever succeeds George W. Bush as commander-in-chief will immediately benefit from the full measure of their professional dedication.
And indeed, as this article tucked away in the back pages of Sunday's WaPo recounts, senior military officials are already on special alert — recognizing that the risks of adventurism and reckless testing of America by its enemies increases as the election approaches, and that on either side of the next presidential inauguration we will be in extra peril:
The U.S. military, bracing for the first wartime presidential transition in 40 years, is preparing for potential crises during the vulnerable handover period, including possible attacks by al-Qaeda and destabilizing developments in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to senior military officials.
"I think the enemy could well take advantage" of the transfer of power in Washington, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, who launched preparations for the transition months ago, and who will brief the president-elect, the defense secretary nominee and other incoming officials on crisis management and how to run the military.
Officials are working "to make sure we are postured the right way around the world militarily, that our intelligence is focused on this issue, and in day-to-day operations the military is making sure it does not happen," Mullen said in an interview. "If it does happen, we need to be in a position to respond before and after the inauguration."
I have no doubt — none whatsoever — that our armed forces will comport themselves with dignity and honor in the performance of their duty regardless of whether John McCain or Barack Obama is the next president. For that we should all be grateful. My concern is that the new civilian leadership beginning in January 2009 be steadfast and wise in the performance of its duty. Other than wishful thinking on the part of people like Colin Powell (who ought to know to value record over rhetoric, but have chosen instead to load up their hopes on the latter), I see no basis to believe that an Obama-Biden Administration is likely to be remotely as competent as the magnificent military forces who will nevertheless execute their orders to the best of those forces' ability.
AP, mainstream media, use misleading headlines to falsely impute to Lieberman doubt about Palin's readiness
AP this year isn't "Associated Press," it's "Anti-Palin." One of the latest examples is detailed in a guest-post I made yesterday at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Here's Joe Lieberman — the Democratic Party's own vice presidential candidate in 2000 — as paraphrased and then directly quoted in an Associated Press story early Saturday:
Lieberman said he was confident that Palin, whose foreign policy background has been questioned by Democrats, could step in and handle the chief executive's job.
"If, God forbid, an accident occurs or something of that kind, she'll be ready," Lieberman said. "She's had executive experience. She's smart and she will have had on-the-job training."
Does Joe Lieberman want his good friend, John McCain, to drop dead on or before inauguration day? No, of course not:
Lieberman, I-Conn., who has helped prep the Alaska governor on foreign policy issues, said his pal and GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, is in good health.
"Thank God, she's not gonna have to be president from day one, because McCain's going to be alive and well," Lieberman said in a conference call with reporters.
So what is the logical headline for this story? The accurate one? The non-lying one? I would say something like, "Lieberman confident of both Palin's readiness and McCain's health."
What's the actual headline in the online version, as it appears not only in the AP's own online version via Google but also in the Washington Post, USA Today, ABC News, CNBC, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other old-media outlets that picked up the AP story?
"Lieberman skirts issue of Palin's readiness."
Bullcrap! Lieberman addressed Palin's readiness directly, without "skirting" anything! He said he was "confident" that she could "step in and handle the chief executive's job," or words to that direct effect, because that's exactly what the text of the story says. And unless the AP simply fabricated the quote, we know for sure that Sen. Lieberman said that if she needs to step into the job, quote, "she'll be ready," unquote.
This sort of headline, ladies and gentlemen, is another bald-faced lie brought to you by the Associated Press and by mainstream media editors across the country. They are so cynical that they're willing to completely prostitute their journalistic credibility — by using headlines to tell obvious lies contradicted by the very stories they accompany — because those headlines fit their pre-existing pro-Obama narrative. They're willing to live with the likelihood that most people will either just read the headlines or won't read the actual text closely enough to spot the lies.
A couple of media outlets appear to have at least skimmed the story, since they deviated from the AP's own headline. The Boston Globe's headline, for example — "Lieberman says Palin ready, but he hedges a bit" — is better, but still inaccurate in suggesting a lack of confidence nowhere implied by Lieberman's words.
And of course, the Huffington Post shamelessly picks out of context the one phrase best calculated to convey the exact opposite of what Lieberman actually said in context: "Lieberman On Palin: 'Thank God She's Not Gonna Have To Be President From Day One'" — thus turning a reassurance of McCain's good health into a condemnation of Palin's readiness. That, of course, is beyond sleazy and well into pond-scum territory.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
As I explained in a guest-post yesterday at HughHewitt.com, I'm still waiting for any honest Democrats to demand that the Obama campaign identify, fire, and help prosecute the people who decided to disable the anti-fraud controls from its online credit card donation program.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm a fierce and unapologetic critic of Barack Obama, but I've never argued — and I don't believe — that either party has a monopoly on honesty or truth. I know, and respect, and in some cases dearly love, a goodly number of liberal Democrats despite my disagreements with them. And for those folks, I'll not only stipulate their honesty and patriotic intentions, I'd actively defend them from anyone who argued otherwise.
But to my honest and patriotic Democratic friends, I must say this forthrightly, and I must say it now:
There is a criminal element that is infesting your Party to a degree unprecedented in American history, and they are trying to buy the White House for your candidate through overtly criminal means.
You, my friends, may well have contributed to the Obama-Biden campaign or causes associated with it, and knowing you as I do, I respect your choice to do so.
But no honest person of any political persuasion can ignore the fact that there are millions, even tens of millions, of dollars in illegal campaign contributions flowing into the same accounts as your legal ones. Fraud and dirty money have been involved in politics, of course, for generations — but never on a scale and with a brazenness remotely close to this year's fraud committed for the benefit of Obama-Biden.
If your man wins, he will therefore begin his administration more ethically tainted than any other president has finished one in the history of America. (If he loses, it will in part be in reaction to the ethical taint surrounding his massively overfunded campaign.)
Don't close your eyes, my honest friends who are Democrats. Don't pretend it's not happening. Don't compromise your own honesty by refusing to see the dishonesty that is swirling around your preferred candidate's campaign.
Speak out. Demand more. I know you know who to call, who to write, who to email: They've been asking you for your (legal) contributions for months and months, now, haven't they?
For a start, every honest Democrat should demand that everyone associated with the decision to disable the most basic anti-fraud mechanisms from the Obama-Biden campaign's credit-card donations systems be publicly identified and immediately fired. Every honest Democrat should demand the immediate and full cooperation from the campaign — pointedly beginning with Barack Obama — in seeing them prosecuted and convicted.
You may not stay silent, watching your funds commingled with those obtained through criminal means, and keep your own honesty. You may not close your eyes and keep your own honesty. And you may not deny that this fraud is happening, and yet keep your grasp on reality and your sanity.
I don't ask this of you as a ploy to influence the election. Whatever else changes between now and election day, your candidate has already bought all the TV time it could possibly want. Your candidate's campaign has all the money his campaign could possibly need, and that won't change.
Rather, I ask this of you because I value your integrity, as I know you always have in the past. Disappointing your conservative or Republican friends is far from the worst of what's at risk for you. Let Saint Mark's words in the title of this post be your guide.
UPDATE (Sat Oct 25 @ 5:50 p.m. CST): I'll add one thing to this post, for clarity: I never was so naive as to think that this post would prompt an epiphany among any of the hard-core leftie trolls who regularly comment on this blog — comments which inevitably attempt to change the subject from anything posted here, and that almost inevitably include personal attacks and insults directed toward me, Hugh, other commenters, and anyone and everyone who doesn't share their hate-filled view of the world. I don't know those folks except through their comments here, and I'm going to work even harder at ignoring them. By its terms, however, this post was directed to Democrats who still have a conscience, who still have a sense of morality, who still care about right and wrong, and who can still distinguish between legal and obviously illegal conduct. Disabling safeguards on campaign websites so as to permit rampant fund-raising fraud is immoral and wrong and illegal. Who among the Democrats will say so, and then act to remedy the problem and punish the guilty? I don't expect them to respond in the comments here. I hope there are some, however — not because it will affect this year's election, but because they're trying to be decent, honest people.
Obama, Frank, and the Dems plot course to repeat the debacle of Desert One with 25% cut in military funding
Obama brags that he'll cut spending with a scalpel, but of course Congress originates all federal spending, and powerful Democratic Rep. Barney Frank is planning on a meat axe that will cut military spending by 25%. This will guarantee us a return to 1980 and the days of Desert One, or so argues my guest-post from yesterday at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Most Americans old enough to remember the Jimmy Carter Administration would agree that the catastrophic and humiliating failure of Operation Eagle Claw on April 24-25, 1980, marked the 20th Century nadir both of America's self-confidence at home and the respect America inspired abroad. I was a third-year law student then, and I vividly remember watching and listening to President Carter's grim disclosure of the results:
Late yesterday, I canceled a carefully planned operation which was underway in Iran to position our rescue team for later withdrawal of American hostages, who have been held captive there since November 4[, 1979]. Equipment failure in the rescue helicopters made it necessary to end the mission.
As our team was withdrawing, after my order to do so, two of our American aircraft collided on the ground following a refueling operation in a remote desert location in Iran....
There was no fighting; there was no combat. But to my deep regret, eight of the crewmen of the two aircraft which collided were killed, and several other Americans were hurt in the accident.
This was by no means the result of a lack of courage and daring on the part of our military forces. But the heavily Democratic Congress — despite a rear-guard resistance fought by the Nixon and Ford Administrations — had cut military funding almost in half between 1970 and 1979 (as measured by percentage of GDP). During the Carter Administration, our military forces' international capacities suffered badly, and our forces were further demoralized both by widespread perceptions that we'd been defeated in Vietnam and by a corresponding lack of support among significant portions of the American public.
Thus, after the international diplomatic humiliation the Carter Administration had guaranteed by its ineffective non-military response to the Iranian Hostage Crisis for many months, the parallel decline of American military power and self-confidence seemed to be summed up by a heartbreaking picture of wreckage left behind in the Iranian desert at a site called simply "Desert One."
Thankfully, however, Ronald Reagan decisively reversed those trends, restoring our military's — and indeed, our entire nation's — capabilities and self-confidence.
Americans who've come of age since the mid-1980s have lived in a world in which America's military preeminence has been unquestionable, our all-volunteer forces' morale high, and our capabilities increasingly global, lethal, and lightning-fast. It's all too easy to take our military and the safety they guarantee for us for granted — at least until one contemplates the prospect of another young, untested, over-confident Democratic POTUS, one who's convinced (as was Jimmy Carter) that the brilliance and justice inherent in his righteous oratory can part the waters and cause the lion to lie down with the lamb.
Barack Obama mouths appropriate platitudes about keeping America strong and safe. So did Jimmy Carter. But to the extent Obama has offered any explanation for how he plans to pay for more than $4.3 trillion in promised additional spending over the course of his Administration, he's already pointing to (a) increased taxes and (b) decreased military spending. And Obama's allies and proxies in Congress aren't even bothering to conceal this:
After the November election, Democrats will push for a second economic stimulus package that includes money for the states' stalled infrastructure projects, along with help paying for healthcare expenses, food stamps and extended unemployment benefits, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said Thursday.
In a meeting with the editorial board of The Standard-Times, Rep. Frank, D-Mass., also called for a 25 percent cut in military spending, saying the Pentagon has to start choosing from its many weapons programs, and that upper-income taxpayers are going to see an increase in what they are asked to pay.
The military cuts also mean getting out of Iraq sooner, he said.
It requires willful ignorance of history to blind oneself to the fact that Obama, Frank, and their party are setting a course that will inevitably cause history to repeat itself — with vastly more dismaying results for the United States of America. They are sowing the bitter seeds today for the Desert One of tomorrow, and the only question is whether a sufficient number of Americans remember this history well enough to prevent them from repeating it by denying them their votes.
When it comes to polls and pollsters: Illegitimi non carborundum
Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics uses some fancy math to show how bizarre this year's polls are, and in particular how much they're contradicting each other, as compared to previous years' polls. Don't let any of 'em get you down, I argued in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com on Friday.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm once again going to deviate from my normal disinclination to discuss polls, but it's only to bring you what I think is a well-informed and clear-eyed warning about the current polls you're reading. From Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics, based on his careful and comprehensive analysis of a wide range of current political opinion polls:
So, we have made three observations: (a) relative to 2004, the standard deviation for Obama and McCain's polls are high, indicating more disagreement among pollsters at a similar point in this cycle; (b) the shape of the distribution of each candidate's poll position is not what we might expect; (c) multiple polls are separated from the RCP average by statistically significant differences.
Combined, these considerations suggest that this variation cannot be chalked up to typical statistical "noise." Instead, it is more likely that pollsters are disagreeing with each other in their sampling methodologies. In other words, different pollsters have different "visions" of what the electorate will look like on November 4th, and these visions are affecting their results.
Mr. Cost insists that he's "not making any claims about which pollster has the better sample of the electorate," and further insists that he "frankly [does] not know" whether the polls showing an Obama blowout or the polls showing a close race are more accurate. But somebody is going to be proved by the election results to have been horribly, horribly wrong in their late October polling.
I don't have Mr. Cost's expertise, nor his incentive to avoid labeling any particular pollsters as fools, but I do have some common sense. And my common sense suggests to me that the pollsters who may be having over-dramatic and unrealistic "'visons' of the electorate" are more likely to be those who also are philosophically inclined to want and believe in the election of the candidate of unproven hopey-changiness. (Never mind the skew that might result from the fact that if a pollster dares to report a poll that's encouraging to McCain-Palin, he'll promptly get death threats by email.)
My advice, then, for conservatives who are encountering feelings of dismay right now: Illegitimi non carborundum. Don't give up; don't quit; don't be dismayed.
Liberals: Go ahead and party like it's 1996!
Fred Thompson: Obama's agenda "based upon the belief that there are elites among us who know more and know better" how to use our money
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
He's not on the ballot, but I'm still a Fred-head, and his instincts and observations about the candidates who are on the ballot are spot-on. (The video version is embedded at Jim Garaghty's Campaign Spot, and runs a little over 12 minutes, but I highly recommend it too):
It’s time for those of us who are concerned about our nation’s future to focus on what is at stake in this year’s elections. This is a time of great challenge for our country. We know that somewhere in the world our worst enemies either have, or are trying to get their hands on, the most dangerous weapons known to man. Small rogue nations are developing nuclear weapons and threaten our allies. Large nations are engaged in massive military buildups.
At home we are girding for the possible onset of a recession. Very soon we will go to the polls and set a path that will determine how we respond to these challenges. It will be a decision that we will make not only for ourselves but very possibly for generations to come. The path we choose will depend upon our vision of America’s role in the world and most importantly our vision of our own people.
Senator Obama and his campaign see an historic opportunity — a political opportunity. They know that in times of fear and uncertainty the promise of a safe haven is well received. But there is no sanctuary in what they offer.
Their “haven” is the same old tired refuge of liberalism: the federal government. And the candidate — the least experienced, most liberal in two generations — represents a last gasp at imposing the failed 1960s radical, leftist agenda that could never succeed in normal times.
Let me make it as plain as I know how. If Senator Obama is elected President with a Democrat majority in the House and Senate, this country will make a dramatic shift to the left, such as we have never seen before.
Senator Obama and the Democratic Congress will be unrestrained and unrepentant in making our country as never before more divided and more dependent upon a dramatically larger and intrusive federal government.
[# More #] They have already promised $900 billion in new spending, and we will see additional stimulus packages, and so-called “investment” spending to fulfill their pent up wish lists. Entitlements, which are already destined to bankrupt the country unless reformed, will be expanded in the guise of “health care reform.”
We will see across the board tax increases on income, investments, dividends and upon the occurrence of death. Why? Because the voracious appetite of the federal government will demand it. Obama’s so-called “tax cuts” for people who don’t pay income taxes aren’t tax cuts at all, just additional spending in the form of governments checks, paid for by us … the American tax payers. Are we really expected to believe that the insatiable spending appetite of the most liberal government in American history, in control of all three branches, will be satisfied by only raising revenue on the top 5% of tax payers? We’ve seen this before … when Bill Clinton campaigned on a middle class tax cut and, when elected, imposed a middle class tax increase.
All of this is important, because how we respond to our economic challenge is more important than the crisis itself. For the last 25 years the United States, and indeed the world, has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. You wouldn’t know it from listening to Obama, but worldwide over 1 billion people have been able to lift themselves out of poverty. This is due to America’s influence, from our defense of freedom in World War II to the Cold War, to the ascendency of our free-market capitalism, the adoption of open trade policies, and globalization. Yet some say our current financial difficulties are evidence that we should turn our back on our founding, free market principles … that it’s time for big changes.
But in a world that is increasingly inter-connected by jobs, trade and global finance, how our economy is viewed by the rest of the world is extremely important to America’s economic well being. The worst thing in the world we could do is appear to be unfriendly to investment and trade with an economy constrained and made uncompetitive by layers upon layers of new regulations, and bogged down in the divisiveness of class warfare. Yet if you are to take them at their word this is precisely the direction that an Obama administration and a Democratic Congress would take us, turning a short term recession into a long term economic decline for the United States.
And while our regulatory regime needs to be examined and improved, we should be clear: capitalism is not the cause of our nation’s economic challenges. The subprime mortgage crisis was not rooted in lack of regulation, but in bad policies made by Democrats in Congress that forced banks to give mortgages to people who could not afford the houses they were buying. These are the same politicians who protected the excesses and fraudulent conduct of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They are the same ones who now want to control the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to solve the problem they helped create, and who tried to slip $200 billion into the first bailout bill for their political cronies in ACORN, the organization that is now systemically perpetrating voter registration fraud around the country. This record, Obama and the Democrats say, entitles them to total control of all of the levers of power in Washington.
Under an Obama-Reed-Pelosi scenario nothing will restrain them from making the secret ballot in union elections be a thing of the past. The so called “fairness doctrine” will likely be passed, restricting free speech on talk radio, possibly even the Internet.
Obama’s idea of “health care reform is moving more people away from private insurance into a Medicare-type government-run program. His education plan? Look no further than the federal bureaucracy that seems to work for the NEA, not the American people. But his plan to defend the sanctity of life? There would be none.
And if Obama and Congress somehow fail legislatively they will turn to the courts, because they will be able to nominate and confirm whomever they want to the federal judiciary. In all likelihood we would lose the Supreme Court to left-wing social, economic and even military policy-making for a generation.
Obama and the Democrats believe that Americans in a time of crisis will be willing to sacrifice their freedoms, abandon their founding principles and common sense and ease into the mediocrity of the warm embrace of the Washington papa bear who will take care of all of our problems for us.
These are not the ideals of the America that drew brave men and women from all over the world to our shores. In most cases, they were fleeing nations with the heavy hand of government, intolerance and class warfare. They risked everything to experience our Founding Fathers’ notion of a limited government with powers that were delineated, checked and balanced, in a land where they could live and prosper in a free, dynamic, upwardly mobile society – the kind that existed no where else in the world. But Obama and his liberal friends don’t see things that way.
The liberal agenda is based upon the belief that there are elites among us who know more and know better than the rest of us. And that with the application of their intellect and power … and our money … they can impose regulations and establish programs, bureaus and agencies that will solve all the problems of the masses’.
Senator Obama and his supporters essentially see society not as dynamic and changing or full of opportunity. They see one that is divided by economic classes into which every one of us is permanently assigned. In their worldview, those in a lesser economic class are presumably resentful and envious. So it’s the government’s job to level things out … or as Senator Obama would say “spread the wealth around.” It’s about dividing the pie among static classes, not trying to make the pie bigger for everyone or creating opportunity in an upwardly mobile society.
This is the reason why they do not understand Joe the Plumber. Because he doesn’t have a higher income today they assume that he never will and that he believes he never will. They expect him to resent anyone whose doing better than he is, instead of planning to do better himself. They don’t understand the Joes of the world. Never have. Never will.
This political philosophy has a long tradition. At best it can be labeled a benign welfare state. But history tells us that it can lead to tyranny or economic turmoil or both. And … most important … it has never found favor in the United States – not during the Great Depression, in times of war, or any other time.
It’s because in this country we have a different view. We know that people do better when given opportunity and responsibility. It has to do with our view of the nature of man. We believe that man is supposed to be kept, fed, and protected from the elements by a master. We believe that man was meant to be free — entitled to be free. It’s an inalienable right, endowed by our Creator. When free and inspired man can achieve great things — for his family, community and his nation. In fact this belief is what we built our nation on.
When times of stress occur as they inevitably do in the life every great nation just as in the lives of all of us, our policies may need to be revisited and perhaps changed but our principles do not change — because they are rooted in the very fabric of our nation, derived from God and have been paid for when the blood of millions of brave people. A temporary economic recession doesn’t change any of that.
Let there be no doubt that an Obama administration and a heavily Democratically controlled Congress would change the face of this nation. Only you can decide whether or not the ways in which they would change it would be a good thing.
I don’t believe it. And John McCain doesn’t. John McCain’s entire life has been devoted to defending those principles that made our country great. It has been one of duty, honor, dedication and sacrifice. He has been involved in every major domestic and foreign policy issue for three decades and has fought to reform and change Washington in ways that would change our country for the better.
Responsible change is the essence of conservatism. We must change in order to preserve what is best about our country. We have always been able to accommodate constructive change without turning our back on our first principles. We must do it again.
However, that does not include staking everything upon the eloquence and inexperience of one who has towed the extreme liberal and partisan line his entire political life, much as he tries to blur that fact now.
This is the choice that we have in this election. Let’s hope for our nation’s sake that we choose well.
Try as they might, ABC News reporters can't dilute power of Palin's use of Biden's words to critique Obama's unfitness
Early Friday morning, my guest-post at HughHewitt.com contrasted the power of Sarah Palin's quoted words to the misleading misdirection of the ABC News reporters trying to cover her.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On the campaign trail, Sarah Palin just nailed it on Thursday (link in original):
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin challenged Sen. Barack Obama's comments yesterday dismissing as "rhetorical flourishes" his running mate Sen. Joe Biden’s warning of an international crisis in their first six months in office, while charging that Obama is untested and not prepared to handle such crises if they do arise.
"And yesterday, we got a sample of how Barack Obama handles trouble when he hastily assembled the press to remind them after Biden’s quote, he said, ‘now Joe sometimes engages in some rhetorical flourishes,’" Palin told a crowd of thousands packed into an indoor area in Troy, Ohio today. "We’ll all concede that Barack Obama knows a thing or two about rhetorical flourishes. But I question dismissing Joe Biden's moment of truth-telling as nothing more than a social embarrassment."
Palin then charged that Biden’s comments at a Seattle fundraiser on Sunday predicting an international crisis during the first six months of an Obama administration were a warning that Obama would "invite dangerous international crisis because he is untested" and that he would not be "ready to deal with" such a crisis if it did occur.
"And here his own running mate has just warned America — and it’s not the first time — he warned us throughout the primaries that Barack was not ready to be president. He reminded them that the election of Barack Obama will invite dangerous international crisis because he is untested," Palin said. "Senator Obama's own running mate, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has informed us that a serious international crisis is certain if Obama is elected, and that he is not ready to deal with it."
"I want a president who is ready on day one," Palin continued. "I want a president with the experience and the judgment and the wisdom and the truthfulness to meet the next international crisis, or better yet, to avoid it."
The press being the press, ABC News reporters Imtiyaz Delawala and Lisa Chinn can't possibly report a powerful quote by Sarah Palin without quibbling over something, so we get this:
Biden had said at the Seattle fundraiser that Obama would be tested by a "generated crisis" but he did not say in his remarks that he thought Obama would not be ready for that test.
And that's technically correct. But Delawala and Chinn pointedly leave out both (a) that Palin was correct that Biden (and Hillary Clinton) had expressed doubts throughout the Democratic Primaries of Obama's "readiness," and (b) that last weekend, as part of this same accidental truth-telling episode, Biden warned Obama supporters that Obama's response to the test will leave an Obama-Biden administration in desperate need of their support because it's going to at least look to the world like Obama has screwed the pooch. From the same ABC News report from three days ago which they linked:
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said, including the Middle East and Russia as possibilities, "and he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
If Delawala and Chin were minimally ethical, they'd at least have noted that even after Biden had signed on to the second spot on the Democratic ticket behind Obama, Biden had continued to warn that it will at least appear that Obama has flunked the first test. That's not quite a repeat of his condemnation of Obama's readiness from the days of the Democratic primaries, but neither is it a ringing current endorsement of Obama's readiness, which is the (false) impression Delawala and Chin are trying to give.
By way of even a further attempt to dilute the power of Gov. Palin's critique, Delawala and Chin then discuss various other early-term challenges faced by Bush-43, Clinton, and Bush-41. Incredibly, however, they make no explanation for or reference to Biden's precise comparison of Obama not to those presidents, but to John F. Kennedy — who, in June 1961, precisely six months into his first term, flunked his major international test at the Vienna Summit with Kruschev (directly leading to the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and the Soviet adventurism in placing nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962).
Got that? Biden specifically compares Obama to the president who brought us closer than any other to the brink of mass thermonuclear war, but the press ignores that, and instead wants to talk about different presidents who survived their initial tests without much serious risk or consequence. Oh, no, says ABC News: Biden did not accidentally reveal the droids you were looking for. Move on.
Palin is just so sharp, so brutally and effectively on point, that even the pro-Obama misdirection and dishonesty of the mainstream media isn't very effective so long as they'll accurately quote her words. But that still doesn't excuse, or conceal, the fact that they're still unprincipled hacks — completely and obviously and unapologetically in the tank for Obama.
Don't be misled into thinking "early voting" reports necessarily, or even very closely, correspond to actual votes cast!
The mainstream media is trying to make you think it knows exactly how the early voting is going, but it's assuming that registrations equal actual voting decisions, which is very misleading (as I argued in a Thursday guest-post at HughHewitt.com).
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I was stunned to find a post on ABC News' Political Radar blog entitled Democrats Lead in Early Battleground Voting. I checked my calendar: Nope, it's still October. How, then, can ABC News report that "the early numbers in key battleground states show Democrats are outperforming Republicans"?
The answer is: This kind of report is grossly and dangerously misleading. And whether intended or not, it may have the practical effect of misleading people into thinking that their votes don't matter when in fact those votes may become crucial. This is dangerous misinformation that you should help combat, friends and neighbors.
What you're reading in these reports isn't based on political opinion polling — not even "exit polling." Instead, it's based on guesswork — specifically, a guess that in those states which record voter affiliation (typically either from votes cast in primaries or affirmative acts of registration by voters before the primaries), the top-of-the-ticket general election votes, as actually cast, will match up precisely with those registrations when the actual votes are counted (starting on November 4th after the polls close).
But in Texas, for instance, where early voting started this week, I am absolutely certain that many tens of thousands of dedicated Republicans crossed over in primary season — whether as part of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" or just out of sheer cussedness — to vote for Hillary Clinton and against Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary. They have absolutely no intention of voting for either in the general election. But if they vote early, then based on their having voted in the Democratic Primary, they'll be counted in "early voting" news reports like this one as "Democrats" and they'll be assumed — wrongly — to have voted for Barack Obama.
Besides such "strategic cross-over voters," this reporting also will misreport "PUMA" votes from real Democrats who nevertheless choose not to vote for Obama. And it will misreport genuinely undecided voters who nevertheless voted in the Democratic primary, perhaps because they wanted to have a voice in down-ballot races, and ended up breaking their indecision by the time of the general election in McCain-Palin's favor.
Some states have continuing registrations that persist until the voter takes some affirmative action to change it. But in no state does your voter registration prevent you from voting for the opposite party in the general election! Some folks may still be registered as Democrats even though they haven't voted for one since Jimmy Carter in 1980, and they may have actually cast their early vote this time for the GOP ticket again, but they'll show up in these reports as yet another Obama vote.
And some people do actually change their minds to vary their actual votes from their registration status at the last minute. With no incumbent running and one candidate in this race being such a comparatively unknown quantity, there are substantial reasons to suspect that may be even more true in this election season than in most.
Moreover, there are all sorts of well-demonstrated reasons why early and absentee voters' actual votes, when they're actually counted starting on November 4th, may vary substantially from the trends set by those who vote on Election Day itself. But these numbers are even more unreliable as a basis for projecting final-vote results than even an accurate count of the early votes would be, if somehow the actual votes could be counted before Election Day (which they can't be). So these reports of early voting have at least a two-fold inaccuracy built in.
And this isn't just a failure to get the totals right, it's an affirmative mis-mark, where one voter being wrongly presumed to have voted in conformity with his/her registration will show up in the totals both as one too many votes for one slate and one too few for the other. In what was assumed to have been a 100-to-100 tie, in other words, the actual count will turn out to be 101-to-99 (and a two-vote margin of victory) when the mistaken assumption is backed out and the actual vote is properly counted.
USA Today's comparable article at least contains this explanation, buried several paragraphs down:
Election records in many states show whether voters are affiliated with a political party or are independent. States that must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, such as Georgia and North Carolina, also show racial breakdowns. No votes will be counted until Nov. 4.
But many reports don't have even that explanation. And a casual reader might well be misled into thinking that these are hard numbers being reported, instead of guesswork.
Please, please — whatever your preferences in this election! — don't be misled into thinking that you're seeing anything but guesses yet when the press start quoting these numbers. Only one party (and its adoring press) is pushing the "it's over, don't bother" meme this year, but don't fall for that tripe regardless of your own voting intentions. If you make the mistaken assumption from these sorts of reports that your vote doesn't count, then you may regret that for the next four years — as voters of both parties in the Florida panhandle did when they dropped out of election lines in 2000 after the networks had prematurely, and wrongly, "called" Florida for Gore after the polls closed in the part of Florida in the Eastern time zone. Treat your vote as if it could decide the election.
Temporary bookmark for Patterico
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Gremlins are afflicting Patterico as his website's domain registrar gets its act together. If you can't reach him at his normal address, http://www.patterico.com, then try this temporary address: http://188.8.131.52 ....
The Purchase of the White House
My Thursday guest-post at HughHewitt.com decries the sheer volume of money being used to buy a term in the White House for Barack Obama.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The Democratic National Committee dropped roughly $150,000 on Obama's fake-Greek temple. The Republican National Committee dropped roughly the same amount of money for Gov. Palin's campaign wardrobe. I could not possibly care less about either of these factoids.
I do care very much, however, that in September alone, Barack Obama raised one thousand times either of those expenditures. By election day, he will have spent more money in an attempt to buy the White House than both Bush-43 and Kerry spent altogether in 2004.
And millions and millions of dollars of those funds are illegal donations made with phony names.
Contra John McCain, I don't believe it is practical or constitutional to limit campaign contributions. I do believe it is legal and an ethical imperative to acquire, and immediately and continuously disclose, accurate and complete information about the source of all political contributions.
Americans deserve to know precisely who's trying to buy the presidency, and then they can draw their own conclusions. But right now, my conclusion — and the only possible conclusion, given the massive sums of improperly reported cash that Obama is spending — is that criminals are trying to purchase Barack Obama's election.
This is a direct, inescapable consequence of Obama's breaking of his solemn vow regarding public campaign financing. It's of a piece with his letting convicted politician-briber Tony Rezko help him finance the purchase of his own house. When it comes to campaign financing, Obama cannot be trusted. He cannot be believed. And he has no shame — only money, and money, and more money.
The "clear signal to the world" is of Obama's profound unreadiness
My guest-post early Thursday morning at HughHewitt.com mocks the spin Team Obama is trying to put on Joe Biden's accidental truth-telling about how the world will test a new President Obama. The theme: "How can anyone in the world take them seriously, when Barack Obama and his lean, mean team of 500 foreign policy advisers can't even manage to achieve a diplomatic triumph over Joe Biden's mouth?"
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
My transcript from a video clip of Sen. Obama that's posted on Jake Tapper's ABC News blog:
You know, I think that Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes. Uh, but, I think that, uh, his core point was that the next administration is going to be tested regardless of who it is because of the fact that we have — uh, the next administration is going to be inheriting a whole host of really big problems. And uh, so, the president is going to be tested. And the question is, will the next president meet that test by moving America in a new direction by sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that we are no longer about bluster and unilateralism and ideology but we're about, uh, creating partnerships around the world to solve practical problems. That's going to be the best way to meet that test. And I have confidence that we will be able to do so.
"Pathetic" does not begin to describe this response.
In the first place, I can't feel pathos, nor any other emotion save contempt, for someone who's so badly twisting the truth: Joe Biden's comments weren't at all about a prospective McCain presidency, but explicitly and pointedly about the need for Obama supporters to rally behind Obama in an Obama presidency.
The world has seen John McCain's steadfast courage — whether from the cockpit of his A-4, the filthy bed of a North Vietnamese prison clinic, or the floor of the United States Senate. Barack Obama's toughest moments in his entire life, by contrast, have come when the likes of Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden ganged up on him in a Democratic primary debate to point out that he was making an international fool of himself, and prospectively of his country, by committing to immediate presidential level meetings without preconditions with the world's worst dictators.
In the second place, what is it but ridiculously counterproductive "bluster and unilateralism" to publicly threaten and then re-threaten military strikes on Pakistani soil over the disapproval of Pakistani authorities? In the Pakistani government, we already have something of a partnership, not an ideal one by any means, but a workable one. Is it Obama's notion that we improve our partnerships by destabilizing our partners?
The "clear signal to the world" is already being sent: Barack Obama is a naif, a child, sometimes a brat, but always an out-of-touch dreamer. He might as well be holding a sign that says "Kick me and steal my lunch money!"
How can anyone in the world take them seriously, when Barack Obama and his lean, mean team of 500 foreign policy advisers can't even manage to achieve a diplomatic triumph over Joe Biden's mouth?
There is quite literally no limit to the national catastrophes we can easily foresee for an Obama presidency.
Obama to Biden: Psst! Ixnay on the affegays, Joe!
My guest-post at HughHewitt.com on Wednesday noted that Obama is trying to cut down on his running-mate's "rhetorical flourishes," to the point that even CBS News notes how much more relatively accessible Gov. Palin now is to the press than Joe Biden.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
This — from CBS News, no less! — cracks me up:
While the once silent Palin has taken questions from reporters that travel with her three times in the last week, Biden has not offered the same type of access to reporters who cover his every move on the campaign trail in almost two months.
As for comments that Biden made last weekend in Seattle about Obama facing an "international, generated crisis" in his first six months, Biden has said nothing more on the matter.
Republicans jumped at the chance to attack Biden for his words, saying it showed Barack Obama had yet to be tested with a major crisis, and the McCain campaign in particular vowed to make “a big deal” out of the remarks, which made their way to the top of the conservative leaning Drudge Report for most of Monday and, among others, have been dissected by columnist Bill Kristol and leading conservative voices.
Biden spokesperson David Wade said on Tuesday that Biden had no plans to revisit those statements. Obama, when asked today about Biden’s statement, called them “rhetorical flourishes.”
The One speaks, and The Number Two gets very, very quiet. The One passes his hand over the troubled waters, and lo! The international crises become rhetorical flourishes! These are not the droids you were looking for.
New Yorker portrait of Obama foreign policy staff is NOT reassuring
Obama's foreign policy and national security inexperience is exceeded only by his smug and unjustified self-confidence in the field. A New Yorker profile intended to reassure us on his bona fides scared the hell out of me, as I explained in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com on Wednesday.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I get most of my news and commentary online these days, but there's one room in my house where I like to read but I don't have a computer. Things stack up, and so I'm just now getting through my print edition of the October 13th issue of the New Yorker. In it, I found an article by Nicholas Lemann (which also appears online) about the respective foreign policy advisers of the Obama-Biden campaign and the McCain-Palin campaign.
I'm sure this passage is intended to re-assure me and other readers about the foreign policy bona fides of Barack Obama and those he's gathered around him, but for me, it has exactly the opposite effect — and it's certainly more timely right now, after Joe Biden's guarantee that our enemies will contrive a controversy to test a young President Obama in his first six months, than it was when originally published earlier this month:
Obama’s advisers, for their part, thought of Clinton and her advisers as being mired in the past, and as having too many egos, too many power struggles, and too many unresolved psychological issues. In addition to everything else they are post-, the Obama team gives the feeling of being post-therapy: they know who they are, they’re not needy, they have it under control....
The network of experts set up by [Anthony] Lake and [Susan] Rice eventually grew to about three hundred, divided into teams by region and issue, with each group generating its own material and passing it up the line. (Now, after the official absorption of Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy apparatus, there may be as many as five hundred experts connected to the Obama campaign.) These people support a close group of about a half-dozen advisers .... The thoughts of the many experts — who generally respond by e-mail — are most often filtered through Rice, Lippert, and McDonough. Thus far, nobody leaks, nobody bickers in a way that can be discerned by outsiders, and there are not obvious camps. The general feel of the campaign, both in its spread-out virtual form and at its headquarters in a modern office tower in downtown Chicago, is a little like that of the Microsoft campus in the nineteen-nineties, or the Google campus today: everybody seems young, trim, competent, cool, and casual, but casual in a “you and I both know that we’re ferocious and brilliant and we’re going to crush the other team” way.
The tone comes from Obama himself — he’s a mixture of soulful outsider and competitive, hyper-organized meritocrat — and it has an ideological manifestation. The Obama people think of themselves as future-oriented strategic thinkers, not old-fashioned, gooey, Eleanor Roosevelt-style humanitarians — as people who get it, the “it” being the new realities of the twenty-first century. Although the candidates may be required to say that their foremost concern is how the economic crisis affects the middle class, they seem to get their inexhaustible drive from the belief that they might be able to run American foreign policy. Obama’s foreign-policy staff likes to think he reads their memos first. The most sustained signal we have about Obama’s personal views on foreign policy is the next-to-last chapter of his 2006 book “The Audacity of Hope,” which is called “The World Beyond Our Borders,” and which, by all accounts, he wrote himself, taking particular care with it...
The policy part of the chapter demonstrates a politician’s need to hedge: Obama says that he struggled with his decision to oppose the Iraq war, and he offers measured praise to President Reagan. But it does put forth fresh ideas. Obama wants to “build a new international consensus around the challenges of transnational threats.” Of great-power competition as the defining element in statecraft, he writes, “That world no longer exists.” Instead of Russia and China, we should be focussed mainly on “terrorist networks intent on repelling or disrupting the forces of globalization, potential pandemic disease like avian flu, or catastrophic changes in the earth’s climate,” and the way to make headway there is by bringing together multinational coalitions and adding new elements to the traditional foreign-policy tool kit. As Lake put it, when I spoke to him, traditional statesmen see international relations as a game of chess, and “post-realists” see it as more like the complicated multidirectional Japanese board game of Go — “but Obama knows you have to play both boards at the same time.” (In the Obama camp, all dichotomies are false dichotomies, which the candidate transcends.)
The most mystical believer in Obamaism whom I met was Scott Gration, the retired Air Force major-general — a burly, friendly, artifice-less guy who assured me that he had only recently begun to wear a tie regularly....
This frightens me on so many, many levels. To begin with, this monstrous staff — assembled by a mere candidate, who doesn't even yet have the vast hiring powers of an actual president — sounds a lot less like "the Microsoft campus in the nineteen-nineties, or the Google campus today" than it does the Microsoft of today, which famously brought us the Vista operating system. A retired Air Force major-general sounds good, but that's a pretty light rank for a presidential-level military adviser — and while I don't care much about his affinity or lack thereof for neckties, the fact that he's the "most mystical believer in Obamaism" is absolutely terrifying.
This sounds exactly like John F. Kennedy's "best and brightest" assembly. Obama thinks that's cool, because he doesn't understand that JFK was a foreign policy rookie who recklessly brought the world closer than it has ever been, before or since, to nuclear war. Indeed, this team sounds exactly like the Kennedy staffers that indulged their inexperienced boss when — to make up for having just been humiliated on an international scale when he got cold feet midway through the Bay of Pigs — he wanted to have a face-to-face summit with Kruschev in Vienna in June 1961, meeting "without preconditions." As a direct result, we got the construction of the Berlin Wall a matter of weeks later, and in just over another year, the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"All dichotomies are false dichotomies"? What happened to "good" and "evil"?
And great-power competition no longer existing? I cannot imagine a more reckless and dangerous notion. It does exist, it has existed since even before the time when the great powers were the Persians and the Greeks. In case Sen. Obama and his whiz kids haven't noticed it, a resurgent Russia is at this very minute playing games of chicken with the U.S. Navy off the Black Sea coastlines of Georgia and the Ukraine while quote-unquote "negotiating" with the Ukrainians for an extension of the old Soviet Navy strategic base at Sevastopol. The Chinese have just conducted their first space-walks and are building an aircraft carrier. And yes, the modern-day Persians — the mullahs of Iran — want back in the game, too, and they're doing everything in their power to leap-frog their way in with nuclear weapons.
Gentle readers, keep in mind that the passage I've quoted here is written by an Obama supporter. It's a "best-case spin" on the Obama team, intended to make them look wise and competent, the kind of people who will keep you and me and our children safe. But not even the prose-smiths of the New Yorker seem to realize that this team of snot-nosed elitists — "we’re ferocious and brilliant and we’re going to crush the other team" — is guaranteed to get the United States into a world of new troubles precisely because of that attitude.
This is no time for a president who is too naive to even begin to realize how naive he is. This is no time for a president who thinks if 300 advisers are great, 500 must be better. This is no time for a president who thinks being cool and "post-therapy" means you're equipped to deal with the world's most dangerous tyrants, some of whom already have the world's most dangerous weapons.
Latest AP poll says race is dead even
On Wednesday I wrote a guest-post at HughHewitt.com about polls intended not to argue that the one I was citing was especially persuasive, but to argue that it showed that all polls, including polls showing an Obama run-away, are suspect.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I'm so skeptical of political polls in general that I almost never post about them, but I'm going to make an exception here because I think that all by itself, this one adequately establishes that Republicans, conservatives, McCain supporters, Obama opponents, and all those who are still undecided ought not buy into the mainstream media meme that this election is a done deal for The One:
... Two weeks before the election, McCain and Barack Obama are essentially running even among likely voters.
The poll put Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent among those voters who are considered likely to vote on Nov. 4. The survey supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race has narrowed as Republicans drift home to their party. McCain's "Joe the plumber" analogy also seemed to strike a chord.
Folks, it's an election, not a coronation. We may be in the final act, but the fat lady hasn't even started warming up offstage yet. All those who think they know for sure how this is going to shake out are fooling themselves. Don't let them fool you.
End cinematico-politic discrimination now!
Political movies pretty much suck, including even the few that aren't thoroughly dominated by leftie perspectives. So I wrote in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com on Wednesday.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I wrote over the weekend that Josh Brolin's wooden appearance on Saturday Night Live was probably the worst advertisement possible for his new movie. And I'm okay with Kelsey Grammer in small to moderate-sized doses, and I try to be open to casting against type (even for a role so thoroughly defined as George C. Scott did it), but seroiusly — Dr. Frasier Crane as General George S. Patton, even in a comedy?
Screenwriter and PJM blogmeister Roger L. Simon writes that even if we shun Oliver Stone's W as both anti-Dubya dementia and an awful film on its own merits (or lack thereof), we ought not pretend that An American Carol is better than it is just because we're hungry for movies with conservative themes. I actually haven't seen either one yet, but Roger thinks both are pretty bad:
[D]welling on being “victims” of Hollywood by conservative filmmakers is a surefire prescription for continued failure, just as it is for other minority groups. To applaud this kind of filmmaking is to applaud affirmative action for conservatives. Not good.
I agree, but I'm still trying to figure out how to create an elegant paraphrase for Chief Justice Roberts' prescription from last year's Seattle School District case: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race" becomes ... what, exactly, in a cinematico-politic context? I can't quite figure it out, but I doubt I'm likely to get much help from entertainment lawyers on this.
"The way to stop Hollywood from making bad political movies on only liberal themes is to stop buying tickets for bad political movies"? Naw, that's not quite it. Does what I'm looking for have the compound word "box-office" in it, or is that a rabbit-trail?
Los Angeles Times lies through its teeth to maintain claim that McCain had "no recorded basis" for saying Obama's political career was "launched" at Ayers' house
My friend Patterico pushed the Los Angeles Times to the point that it either had to leave a bold-face lie uncorrected (for the benefit of Barack Obama) or make an embarrassing admission that it had already mangled the truth. The LAT chose to stick with the lie, as I wrote last Wednesday in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The editors of the Los Angeles Times are lying through their teeth to elect Barack Obama. The lie is brazen and unashamed. They are counting on the fact that those who know of their lie will be less well able to publicize it than the LAT itself was able to spread the lie to begin with, so that telling the lie will remain a net plus for the Obama campaign. Posting here is all I can do to upset that calculation, but you too can help by passing along this report.
[# More #] The Obama campaign has systematically minimized the nature, length, and extent of the contacts between him and unrepentant terrorist and modern education radical Bill Ayers, starting with Obama's description of Ayers during one of the Democratic primary debates as just "a guy from my neighborhood."
When, in the third presidential debate, John McCain described Obama has having "launched" his political career in Bill Ayers' living room, that created a direct controversy between the two presidential candidates about the nature of this political event.
The Los Angeles Times wrote that there is "no recorded basis" for McCain's claim. That's not saying that John McCain was incorrect, or had relied on reports that the Los Angeles Times believed were unreliable. That's saying that John McCain made his criticism up out of thin air.
Patrick Frey, who blogs as "Patterico," proved that there in fact was a "recorded basis" for McCain's claim, a blog post which had been put up in 2005 — long before the current campaign and before anyone had any motivation to spin the facts — by someone who had first-hand personal experience of the facts because she had attended the event at Ayers' home. She wrote that Ayers and his wife were "launching" Obama's political career.
The Obama campaign nevertheless insists that the event in Ayers' home can't properly be characterized as the "launch" of Obama's political career and that the event in Ayers' home was merely one of many contemporaneous events, others of which better deserve that description.
Okay, then. That means there are conflicting sources. But at least one such source — from someone with personal knowledge and no motivation to lie — supports McCain's claim. When the LAT itself first claimed that there was "no recorded basis" for this characterization (and implicitly but necessarily that John McCain had made this claim up out of thin air), the LAT was, at a minimum, wrong. Perhaps it was an innocent mistake in their reporting, although we should hold major media outlets to a very high standards when they're accusing a presidential candidate of making something up out of thin air three weeks before the election.
But now comes the proof which rules out the possibility, at least on an on-going basis, that the LAT was merely mistaken. Now comes the proof that the LAT is deliberately, knowingly refusing to correct its prior misrepresentation of fact. Now comes the proof that the LAT's editors will withhold even a back-page correction to protect the election prospects of Barack Obama, rather than admit their error. If it wasn't a deliberate lie before, it is now. And the proof of that is conclusive: an email from an LAT official acknowledging the existence and content of the blog post, but announcing the LAT's decision not to issue a correction and to instead continue standing on its statement that there was "no recorded basis" for McCain's claim.
According to Jamie Gold, the LA Times' "Reader Representative" (an Orwellian phrase that ought to be changed to "Obama Agitprop Mouthpiece"), the newspaper is entitled to make a secret decision about which of competing sources to believe, and then to deny that the source which disagrees with them — and supports McCain's claim — ever even existed:
Here’s what the editors say: News reports reconstructing Obama’s campaign that year suggest that the poster was incorrect in claiming that the coffee at Ayers’ home ‘launched’ Obama’s career. Accounts differ, but what editors find suggests that Obama held a number of informal coffees that fall, and that he had made clear his intention to run before his appearance at Ayers’ house.
As such, the comments by the poster may reflect that person’s impression — or misimpression — but they are not something on which the Times would base a correction.
If that's indeed what the editors have concluded, then the correction ought to have read something like this: "The LAT was completely and inexcusably wrong in writing that there was 'no recorded basis' for Sen. McCain's claim that the event in Ayers' living room 'launched' Obama's career. We ought to have reported instead that there is at least one description of the event as 'launching Obama' made in 2005 by a long-time Democrat and current Obama supporter who actually attended the event, and then there are other, conflicting reports by people who may or may not have been at that event, who may or may not have personal knowledge, but who have a different impression. We choose to believe those unnamed sources, and so the LAT continues to believe that McCain was wrong, even if there was indeed at least one recorded basis for his claim and we were badly mistaken to imply that McCain had made his claim up out of thin air. We apologize for the error."
It's theoretically possible, in other words, to disbelieve the blog report, and to therefore continue to believe McCain was wrong. But it's not possible — not without expanding the original lie by denying and concealing the existence of the blog report entirely — to continue to insist that there was "no recorded basis" for McCain's claim.
We say someone is "lying through his teeth" when the liar is so very conscious that what he's saying is a lie that he can't help clenching his jaw to try to control his face. Jamie Gold is lying through her teeth — apparently at the instruction of her editors — for the purpose of perpetuating an unfair smear of John McCain.
My contempt for the LAT knows no bounds. The likely effect of their lie is arguably smaller, but in terms of how deliberately and knowingly they've abandoned of any semblance of journalistic ethics in order to subvert an American election, what the the Los Angeles Times is doing is indistinguishable from what Dan Rather and CBS News tried to do during Rathergate with the Killian Forgeries in 2004.
Michaels on Palin's SNL appearance
Since the late 1970s, Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels has seen lots of comedic and political talent. As to the latter, he had admiring words to say of Sarah Palin, as my guest-post last Tuesday at HughHewitt.com noted.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
What do you think Palin gained from her appearance?
I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her.
She's a ratings magnet, too — do you think she can land a development deal if this VP thing doesn't work out?
She could pretty much do better than development. I think she could have her own show, yeah.
Mary Katherine Ham is right: SNL did Gov. Palin no favors in what it scripted for her. She pulled off that appearance on her own. But she was up to it.
CNN is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above
To his credit, CNN reporter Drew Griffin has since apologized for having brutally wrenched out of context a passage from a Byron York article in National Review in order to ambush Sarah Palin, but my guest-post at HughHewitt.com last Tuesday was a protest against that ambush.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
If a lawyer made this kind of misrepresentation to a court, he'd likely lose his license to practice law, and very deservedly so. Drew Griffin and his producer(s) should be fired and shunned by every other media employer for this outrageous piece of bad faith.
UPDATE (Tue Oct 21 @ 7:20 p.m. CST): Allahpundit points out that Griffin has recently done good reporting on Ayers and ACORN, which makes this all the more perplexing. But quick, full, and sincere apologies are still in order for this misstep.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 24 @ 5:50 p.m. CST): Griffin apologized yesterday. Good for him. Now if he'll only get back to investigative reporting on Ayers and ACORN, he can make amends.
Biden wasn't being especially astute in recognizing what our enemies surely already see, but now Obama-Biden can no longer pretend ignorance of these risks
Slow Joe Biden's accidental truth-telling wasn't an act of genius, as I wrote last Tuesday in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
In his newest post on the Weekly Standard blog, Bill Kristol makes very much the same point as Hugh did in his post from Monday evening. Hugh, pointing out that Biden has been receiving high-level intelligence briefings as a vice presidential candidate in addition to whatever he hears as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote:
The most obvious interpretation of [Biden's] ramble is that an Iran-Israel confrontation is coming, and that if Obama is president, America will sit it out with, at best, words that do nothing to support Israel or deter Iran....
... A President Obama will blink when Iran threatens Israel by approaching the nuclear tripwire. A President Obama will seek to force Israel to live with Iran as a nuclear power capable of either striking Israel or shipping to Hezbollah the means of threatening the very existence of the Jewish state, and the supporters of Israel in the U.S. will be stunned and then angry.
Bill Kristol writes, to similar effect (italics his):
... Biden is forecasting inaction by Obama in the face of testing by a dictator. I suspect he’s right in this forecast. McCain might want to clarify this point. It’s not just that Obama’s own running mate expects an international crisis early in his presidency. It’s not just that Obama has a weak foreign policy record. It’s that Biden himself expects what will appear to be a weak response from Obama to testing by a dictator.
As I contemplate this, I can't help recalling January 20, 1981, the date a new president who was very unlike Barack Obama was being inaugurated. Literally within hours of his becoming Commander in Chief, a 444-day American humiliation at the hands of the Iranian mullahs ended with the return of 52 U.S. hostages who'd been seized from the American embassy in Tehran. The Iranians had pushed around, taunted, ignored, and ridiculed an idealistic and untested young American president whom Barack Obama much resembles. But Ronald Reagan's inauguration put a swift end to our enemies' boldness. Confronted with an American leader whose spine and resolve they did not dare challenge, the bullying terrorists backed down.
Foreign intelligence agencies pay lots of attention to American elections. In Moscow and Tehran, among other places, decision-makers are well aware that John McCain won't hesitate in standing up for America's interests without regard for its potential impact on his own political future. McCain has a history of being able to negotiate candidly and in good faith even with his and America's historic enemies, as in the 1990s when he led America's normalization of diplomatic relations with the same Vietnamese government who'd imprisoned and tortured him. But he's also shown a willingness to buck "conventional wisdom" or public opinion polls, as he did in critiquing the Bush-43 Administration's handling of the Iraq reconstruction and then in his support for the Surge. And if our enemies are under the impression that he's sometimes a bit impulsive, that suits me fine too.
A couple of folks, in comments on recent posts, have chided me for focusing on Biden's remarks, insisting that I can't have it both ways — disparaging Biden's foreign policy wisdom while simultaneously pointing to this prediction as important and prescient. But there's no contradiction: What Biden pointed out isn't something subtle or hard to grasp, and it's something that I and other critics of Obama's lack of foreign policy seriousness have been pointing out for many months.
What's significant is not that Biden was being astute or especially intuitive in these comments, but rather that these remarks amounted to an unintentionally candid assessment from the number two guy on the Democratic ticket. When even Slow Joe Biden can predict with absolute confidence that our enemies will rush to test Barack Obama by "contriving" foreign policy crises, can anyone doubt that our enemies themselves will see how doing exactly that might serve their national interests and harm America's own?
Senator Quicksilver and the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008
Also last Tuesday was my guest-post at HughHewitt.com regarding Sen. Barack Obama's latest big legislative triumph (except it's actually pretty puny).
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On the morning before the third presidential debate, October 14th, I wrote here that I wished moderator Bob Schieffer would ask Sen. Barack Obama a serious question about his utter inability, during almost four years as a U.S. Senator, to see enacted into law any major piece of legislation that he had actually drafted and for which he had been the principal sponsor (as opposed to co-sponsoring bills that other senators had written and introduced). Of course, Schieffer didn't ask anything remotely close to this question, and nor will any of the other old-media reporters now covering Sen. Obama on a daily basis.
The absence of such an accomplishment on Sen. Obama's part, I wrote, is particularly stunning given that during the last two years, his own party has controlled both the House and Senate, and he's either been among his party's two most likely nominees for the presidency or its certain nominee. Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi haven't even bothered to much engage in the pretense that he's an effective legislator — precisely because they know better, and they instead expect him to compliantly sign whatever they send up Pennsylvania Avenue starting in January 2009.
I noted in my post, however, that in addition to managing the passage of a relatively minor 2006 bill to provide financial relief and promote stability in the Congo, Sen. Obama — after being tweaked on the subject before 30 million people by Gov. Palin in her nomination acceptance speech at the GOP convention — had finally managed to write and pass in late September another minor bill, originally known as the "Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2007," but now known as the "Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008."
Like almost everything else for which Sen. Obama has claimed credit since coming to the U.S. Senate, this bill too was passed without so much as a single dissenting vote in either chamber of Congress. And sure enough, on the very night of the debate, President Bush signed it into law, making it Public Law No. 110-414.
I'm not saying this was a bad bill, or a frivolous bill; to the contrary, it appears to be a modest but useful effort to address a particular environmental problem (although one wonders whether careless mercury buyers and users abroad won't just find alternate sources on the world market). Sen. Obama's Senate website has a nice press release, which notes that the bill was supported by "the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Council of the States, American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, and the Chlorine Institute," so it doesn't appear that Sen. Obama had to stand up to entrenched corporate interests to get this bill passed.
But you can draw your own conclusions as to just how cosmically insignificant Obama's legislative accomplishment is from the fact that — despite the mainstream media's infatuation with Obama and its desire to portray him as competent for the presidency — this new law has been virtually ignored. From the day it passed the Senate (September 26th), through the day it passed the House (September 29th), through the day President Bush signed it into law (October 14th), though today, according to my advanced search request on Google News using the term "mercury export ban," neither the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC/NBC News, nor even Reuters has bothered to mention it. A story from the Environmental News Service did manage to get picked up for republication by the local NBC affiliate in Chicago, and the Associated Press issued a report that was picked up by a small handful of newspapers, the most prominent among them the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Perhaps it's occurred to them that by reporting on this new law, they actually only highlight just how pathetic Sen. Obama's total legislative record is. (That certainly has occurred to me.)
Turning to plain old Google as an alternative means for judging the significance of this legislation at least indirectly, the phrase "Mercury Export Ban Act" (in quotation marks) returns, as of this moment, 2290 results. By comparison, however, "McCain-Feingold," to pick just one of Sen. McCain's major pieces of legislation, returns about 364,000 results.
While it's true that much of the legislation with Sen. McCain's name and fingerprints on it has been controversial — indeed, to the point of causing much gnashing of teeth amongst the members of his own party — no one can deny that John McCain has been a workhorse in the U.S. Senate, including during years when the GOP didn't control the Senate, House, and/or presidency. Sen. Obama, by contrast, is the very definition of a show-horse, when he's bothered to show up at all. (Both candidates have understandably missed many recent votes while campaigning for president, but in Sen. McCain's case, that doesn't amount to half of his total Senate career, as it does with Sen. Obama.)
I still think Sen. McCain scored an even more accurate hit with his Freudian slip in the third debate, when he called Sen. Obama "Senator Government."
But elemental mercury, of course, was known in classical times as "quicksilver." "Senator Quicksilver" has a nice ring to it too, and seems awfully apt for describing a candidate who's noted for his silver tongue but who's hard to pin down, and who, if elected, will very likely become toxic to the national economy.
Good wishes for Mrs. Madelyn Dunham's return to health
I'm way behind on my cross-posting here of my guest-posts from HughHewitt.com, starting with a simple post from last Tuesday with good wishes for the health of Barack Obama's grandmother.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Despite the title, the most appealing person portrayed in Barack Obama's first book, "Dreams from My Father," isn't his father, but his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Madelyn Dunham. Politico.com reports tonight that Sen. Obama will "will leave the campaign trail Thursday to travel to Hawaii to see his 85-year-old grandmother, who has fallen ill."
“The decision that Sen. Obama is making to go to Hawaii underscores the seriousness of the situation,” [Obama campaign spokesman Robert] Gibbs said.
Michelle Obama will hold events in place of her husband Friday in Akron, Ohio, and Columbus, Ohio, the campaign said in a statement.
Although Mrs. Dunham has come up many times in this campaign, it's most often been as a result of comments made in the first instance by Sen. Obama himself. I think his opponents in both the primary and general election campaigns have been appropriately respectful of Mrs. Dunham and her privacy, as has been, for the most part, the press. I'll have no trouble finding a place for her in my own prayers tonight.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Gen. Powell as a tree falling in the forest unvisited by the undecided
Mickey Kaus and I agree about Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Sen. Obama, as I explain in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Mickey Kaus writes: "My guess isn't that the Powell endorsement will fade quickly. My guess is it's already faded."
I think that's correct, but I'd add this: The Powell endorsement probably (a) disappointed more McCain-Palin supporters who also admire him (but who nevertheless won't change their votes) than it either (b) thrilled committed Obama supporters (many of whom still view Gen. Powell as "the enemy" for his role in the preliminaries to the Iraq War) or (c) influenced any still-undecideds. That last group is, almost by definition, composed mostly of people who don't watch "Meet the Press" every week or keep track of who's endorsed whom. To the extent they're tuning into the specifics of the race now, they're more likely to identify with Joe the Plumber than with Colin the Retired General. And to the extent there are still undecideds who are genuine political junkies, they'll know — as McCain has stressed — that McCain's already been endorsed by four former Secretaries of State and more than 200 retired generals and admirals.
Biden warns us to "mark [his] words: It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy."
Joe Biden — mere idiot, or idiot savant? I still incline toward the former view, but his dire warning from yesterday (at a fundraiser when he thought there were no recordings being made) is apt, and it's the subject of my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Hugh, below, and many others in the blogosphere (e.g., Tom Maguire and those he links), have thoughtful comments on Joe Biden's accidental truth-telling yesterday, when he dramatically predicted that America's enemies will quickly contrive crises to "test the mettle" of a young President Barack Obama.
I've only got two points to add, but they literally fill me with dread:
This grim prediction is Biden's own best-case scenario — that is, he thinks that Obama will make correct decisions in response to the crisis, but they will seem incorrect even to the Americans whose support Biden is now soliciting in advance. "[W]e're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right." Translation: Obama's decisions are likely to be supportable only on the basis of blind faith.
As Scott Johnson pointed out: "In Portland on May 18, [2008,] Obama cited John F. Kennedy's [June] 1961 summit with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna among the series of negotiations that led to America's triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War." Thus, despite his own Ivy League education and his having surrounded himself with supposed experts in foreign affairs, Obama has remained so ignorant of world history that he genuinely thought JFK's Vienna summit was a success. Instead, even Kennedy and his staff immediately realized that it had been a colossal failure. And history has shown that failed summit to have been a direct precursor and invitation to adventurous provocations which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, including the Communists' erection of the Berlin Wall beginning in August 1961 and the Soviets' emplacement of nuclear missiles in the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. (See also Matt Lewis' Townhall post today on this history.)
We all laugh, but we don't take it too seriously, when Obama mixes his metaphors to refer to himself as "green behind the ears." Sure, that's just a momentary bit of misspeaking, not much different from Biden declaring that "JOBS" is a three-letter word. Yet how can we hope along with Biden for a best-case scenario — when the would-be new president doesn't even know the most critical basic facts about the historical precedents for the challenges he is bound to face?
The many tentacles of the Ayers-Obama coverup: Candidate, media, leftie bloggers all willing to rewrite history to support each others' lies
Night and fog. That couple who lived on the corner, who you haven't seen since last week? They never lived there. Nacht und nebel. If you're smart, you'll stop asking about that couple who didn't ever live on the corner.
My latest guest-post on HughHewitt.com links my friend Patterico's tale of how liberal bloggers who were there at the launching of Barack Obama's political career in Bill Ayers' living room are air-brushing history to remove their own report of that event.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn spent years on the run from the law. They relied on friends to help cover their tracks.
Nothing changes, except that now another one of their friends, one they've acquired more recently, is leading in the polls as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate two weeks before the election. And now it's the tracks between him and Ayers that they desperately want to cover.
I respect Colin Powell, but as I listened very carefully to him explain his reasoning for endorsing Barack Obama on yesterday's Meet the Press, I was struck by his insistence that Bill Ayers and Barack Obama have a "very, very limited relationship." I thought to myself: "General, what sources are you relying upon for the information on which you're basing your endorsement?"
I am sure of two things about Bill Ayers.
First: There is an effort going on by some people in America to expose the full extent of Bill Ayers' and Barack Obama's relationship — an effort that is greatly hampered by the facts that (a) Barack Obama himself has never given a thorough and candid explanation for even those contacts that have been proved by independent witnesses and documentary evidence, and (b) the mainstream media reporters who have daily, even hourly access to Obama resolutely refuse to ask him any more probing questions about this subject.
Second: There is an effort going on by some people in America to conceal the full extent of Bill Ayers' and Barack Obama's relationship — an effort that is greatly assisted by (a) and (b) from the paragraph just above.
Here's the pattern: Obama, either himself or through campaign surrogates, lies about Obama's relationship with Ayers. The media lies to cover up those lies. Evidence exposing the lies of both appears. Then the evidence which proves that they were lying is made to disappear.
My friend Patrick Frey, who blogs under the nickname "Patterico," has long served as the self-appointed conscience for the Los Angeles times that its ownership has tried to surgically remove from its own staff. He caught them again last Thursday. The LA Times claimed that there is “no recorded basis” for John McCain’s statement that Obama "launched his political career in Bill Ayers’s living room." That same day, Patterico linked to both the LAT story which made that attack on McCain's truthfulness, and to a blog post which Patterico had tracked down from a quote and reference (without a hyperlink) in a Politico.com article from February 22, 2008, to a post on a blog called "Musings and Migraines" on January 27, 2005, by one Maria Warren. Ms. Warren, a political liberal, had personally attended the function in Ayers' home. The quote, as Patterico reprinted it to refute the LA Times (boldface his):
When I first met Barack Obama, he was giving a standard, innocuous little talk in the livingroom of those two legends-in-their-own-minds, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. They were launching him — introducing him to the Hyde Park community as the best thing since sliced bread.
Patterico is still waiting for a reply from the LA Times — he's publicly proved them wrong so many times that they no longer completely stonewall and ignore him, but they still drag their feet.
But lo and behold, by the oddest of coincidences, the blog post that had been "out there" on the internet for more than three years, and that had been only casually mentioned by the Politico.com story without even a link to it — long before the McCain statement that the Obama forces wanted to ridicule — has, as Patterico writes today, been miraculously been scrubbed from its original URL at Musings and Migraines. It's been sent down the "memory hole."
"Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Musings & Migraines does not exist," the internet tells us. But in a new post, someone writing on the blog admits that the post has been deliberately removed, even if the concealment effort won't work: "We know deleting doesn't erase it from memory. Like so much urine in a swimming pool, trace elements will remain." The reasoning: "[T]his blog is independently run, and reserves the right to pull material, specifically if that material hurts the blog at large." Only a fool could fail to read the phrase "material [which] hurts the blog" as really meaning "material which proves that Obama and the media have been concealing the true scope of Bill Ayers' and Obama's relationship."
Patterico anticipated that exactly this might happen, so he kept a screencap of the original post. And he's published it.
Nevertheless: Even smart and honorable people like Gen. Powell continue to believe, with only two weeks before the election, that Ayers and Obama only had a "very, very limited relationship" because those people have mistakenly placed their trust in the mainstream media without digging beneath their superficial and demonstrably inaccurate treatment.
But you're not such a person. If you've gotten to this point in this post, you've demonstrated that you aren't a prisoner of the mainstream media. You consider alternative sources — critically and even cynically, I hope — including this one. You click the hyperlinks to see if the sources relied upon actually support the arguments being made. And if so, you've seen how the media — in this particular instance, the Los Angeles Times — has attempted to deceive us all, and you've seen how someone has attempted to conceal the proof that the LAT is wrong.
There are people out there who you know, who trust you — perhaps even more than Gen. Powell trusts the mainstream media. Like him, they may be drawing some conclusions and refusing to draw others based on incomplete, faulty, and even false versions of evidence about Obama and Ayers. Will you leave them in ignorance? Or will you set them straight?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Obama leaks cabinet choices in time for Halloween scare
Sen. McCain meant, I think, to reassure Americans that they need not be "afraid" that Barack Obama is an "Arab" or a "terrorist" himself.
But Americans have ample cause to be afraid of other aspects of an Obama presidency, as my guest-post at HughHewitt.com emphasizes while discussing Obama's leaked names of likely Secretaries of Defense and State. No, it's not The Onion with a mock slate, it's the Times of London, and Obama is absolutely serious about Hagel at DoD and Kerry at State. It's actually hard to think of any choices that could be more stupid and dangerous for America.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Sen. Barack Obama has done America a great service by leaking some names of likely cabinet nominees to the Times of London.
For Secretary of Defense, The One is is looking to the Republican whose own bad judgment most closely duplicated Sen. Obama's own in fervently opposing the Surge and demanding that we surrender in Iraq on a strict timetable: Sen. Chuck Hagel. In January 2007, Sen. Hagel was quoted as saying that the surge would be "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out."
This is the Obama definition of "working with those across the aisle": Selecting the single most dim-witted GOP senator.
Bozo Sen. Hagel is almost certainly too stupid to realize that he would enter any Obama Administration with the words "Fall Guy" prominently tattooed across his forehead.
And for the National Leader of the International Mother-May-I Team — excuse me, Secretary of State — Sen. Obama's leaking the name of Sen. John F. "Global Test" Kerry. Sen. Kerry, you'll recall, has splendid foreign policy credentials, having left behind in a Massachusetts closet his uniform as an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1970 (and perhaps again in 1971) so that he could travel to Paris and meet secretly and in mufti with our Viet Cong and North Vietnamese enemies. John McCain and his fellows were still POWs when young Kerry returned to urge — yes, you've got it — an immediate American surrender and withdrawal without preconditions from South Vietnam, which by the oddest of coincidences was exactly the same "peace plan" being preached at that very moment by our enemies themselves.
The only potential glitch in this plan is that Kerry may be re-classified as a WMD — specifically, a wide-area narcoleptic weapon.
Shocking. Brazen. Insanely dangerous. The geopolitical decisions of a naive child, choosing deputies who are demonstrably more naive than I feared even Obama himself was. That's what we would see in an Obama administration. And we won't be able to say that we weren't duly warned. John McCain was correct that Americans need not be "scared" that Obama himself is a terrorist or the like. But Americans ought be afraid of spectacularly bad judgments like these and the catastrophic consequences they could cause for the entire world.
A searing and timely account ... of a state senator who glorified a domestic terrorist turned radical "educator"
Other than his unsigned Harvard Law Review note, is this the first published writing of Barack Obama — a glorification of Bill Ayers?
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com reprints this photo of the book review with a link back to its source and just a bit of commentary.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
From an authoritative and comprehensive post at zomblog (don't even think of suggesting that this is a photo-shopped fake, because you'll just make an utter fool of yourself if you do)(h/t Ace), here is a photograph of the short book review written by then Illinois state senator Barack Obama for Bill Ayers' then-new book, A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court, as published on page 5 of section 14 of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, December 21, 1997:
As it happens, our country is now in need of courageous individuals — voters who have the courage to use their common sense.
Common sense, after all, is all that is needed to realize that we can't risk the future of our country on a would-be president who has such poor judgment as to glorify the work of an unrehabilitated and unrepentant domestic terrorist turned radical "educator."
Common sense, after all, is all that it takes to realize that we can't risk the future of our country on a would-be president who is dishonest enough to try to conceal his relationship with that twisted dollop of evil scum by describing him as just "a guy from my neighborhood."
UPDATE (Sun Oct 19 @ 5:50 p.m. CST): The text of Ayers' book refers to "writer Barack Obama" in giving examples of Ayers' racially integrated neighborhood. Also mentioned: "minister Louis Farrakhan," said to add "a unique dimension to the idea of 'safe neighborhood watch': the Fruit of Islam, his security force, has an eye on things twenty-four hours a day." Yes, indeed, it's becoming increasingly and dismayingly clear what it means to be a "guy in [Barack Obama's] neighborhood"!
Caribou Barbie rocks on an otherwise dreadful episode of SNL
Alec Baldwin is still a vile idiot, but to his credit, he allowed himself to be parodied in Gov. Palin's very effective appearance on "Saturday Night Live." I still wouldn't let him in the same building with either of my daughters. More comments about Gov. Palin and the notion of "presence" in my guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Okay, I've only seen the intro, and I'm going to reserve judgment until I see the whole show, but:
Way to go, Gov. Palin, on the introduction in "Saturday Night Live"!
I'm proud to have predicted that you would embrace your inner Caribou Barbie!
UPDATE (Sun 12:20 a.m. CST): Mmm-kay, the rest of the show has been horrible, and I ought to have just fast-forwarded to the Weekend Update section. Gov. Palin looks great in it — confident, good rhythm — but she's obviously just going along with a lame "rap" skit to be a good sport, and it's not as funny as the opening was.
The rest of the show made me regret every time I shifted out of fast-forward. Still, Gov. Palin's stage presence and comic timing is lots better than that of the nominal guest host, Josh Brolin, who's basically a nice-looking block of wood. If anything, his appearance is likely to drive down the box-office for Oliver Stone's new movie, the reviews for which have been universally awful.
Gov. Palin has been the classiest part of the show, in my admittedly biased opinion. Good for her.
UPDATE (Sun 2:00 a.m. CST): Ann Althouse writes:
That was mildly amusing. Alec Baldwin got to stand next to Palin and insult her — by accident, thinking she was Tina — and then got to say something that's true: Sarah Palin is more attractive than Tina Fey. Did Fey deserve that? No. Palin seemed like a seasoned actor, which is nice ... but disturbing. If our politicians are great actors, we have a big problem.
But it's not acting. It's presence. And yeah, Reagan had it too, and Bubba could work himself into it on his best occasions (when he wasn't too deep into self-pity and wickedness, which was all too often). It can be a useful part of leadership.
I've been a fan of Tina Fey's impersonations — she's a gifted mimic and exaggerates to great comic effect. But Prof. Althouse is right: Gov. Palin was vastly more attractive than Tina Fey-as-Palin tonight, not only in terms of looks, but in terms of authenticity and presence. It will leave some people whose only previous impression of Gov. Palin was through Fey's caricatures surprised and, if they're Palin opponents, confused and dismayed.
Dazzling daylight between Webb & Obama on guns and other policies
The below-mentioned Matt Bai piece in the NYT Sunday Magazine also produced a couple of priceless quotes, reproduced in my guest-post at HughHewitt.com, that I hope are quoted and emailed to every gun-owner, conservative, and moderate in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
I couldn't resist taking the opportunity in a post earlier this evening to mock the beginning of Matt Bai's article in Sunday's NYT Magazine about Barack Obama's attempts to lure working-class voters because Sen. Obama's attempts to explain his "Bittergate" comments are just so ridiculous.
I'd think more of Obama if he just admitted to us all that he'd screwed up by telling those folks in San Francisco the truth about what he really thinks, rather than by continuing to insult our intelligence. Anyone who thinks — as Sen. Obama was trying to persuade Bai and Bai's readers — that Obama really had been trying to convert his listeners in San Francisco, so that they too would embrace (in between sips of wine) the bitter people of flyover country who cling to guns and religion, is a likely buyer for bridges (be it that Golden Gate one or the equally famous one in Brooklyn).
But Bai is a perceptive fellow, and his article is a good read by NYT standards, which is to say that he only bumps into the edge of the Obama tank about every third or fourth paragraph. In particular, I commend these paragraphs, unfortunately buried about three-fourths of the way down, to every voter in the Commonwealth of Virginia (bold-face mine):
A week after Obama visited Lebanon and Norfolk, [Virginia,] I went to see Jim Webb in his Capitol Hill office. Obama’s campaign considers Webb, a war hero and former Republican, to be one of its most critical validators all over Virginia, specifically because he appeals to white men who are skeptical of Democrats in general. In fact, Webb’s Scots-Irish family hails from coal country. Not long after he entered the Senate, he became embroiled in a mini-controversy when an aide accidentally carried one of Webb’s favorite guns onto the Capitol grounds.
I was surprised, then, when Webb told me that while he was enthusiastic about Obama and would campaign for him, he did not intend to vouch for him on social issues. “I believe that Barack Obama has the temperament and the intellect and the ideas to be president,” Webb said. “But I don’t talk about his positions, and I don’t defend his positions.” When I commented that Webb wasn’t where Obama was on gun rights (Obama favors what he calls some “common sense” restrictions), Webb cut me off. “No, he’s not where I am on guns,” he said pointedly. It occurred to me that this was probably the kind of validation Obama could do without. (Webb appears to have softened his stance. A few weeks later, he decided to tape an ad promising voters in southwestern Virginia that Obama would not, in fact, confiscate their guns.)
It seems that Sen. Webb also had an unguarded moment of truth-telling. Props to Bai for not subjecting it to the normal MSM nacht-und-nebel routine that they use on most statements and events that are unflattering to The One.
'Horns are for real
I sing the praises of Colt McCoy and the Longhorns, who were 57-31 victors over Mizzou on Satureday night, in yet another guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Tonight QB Colt McCoy of the #1-ranked Texas Longhorns, playing against the #11-ranked Missouri Tigers, completed 29 of 32 passes (91%) for 337 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for two more TDs. Final score (in a game nowhere near as close as the final score suggests): Texas 57, Mizzou 31.
Props to Missouri for a noble effort, but congrats to the 'Horns and young McCoy for another impressive win.
Now I know there are some die-hard UT-haters out there, but surely most folks can take some derivative pleasure this weekend in the grace and success of a talented young man named "Colt." I certainly have!
From the First Gospel of Obama (NYT revised translation)
The One actually was engaged in an evangelical crusade to convert the San Franciscans to the glories of guns and religion. That's why he tried to persuade the NYT's Matt Bai, who reprints a couple of long and incomprehensible paragraphs along those lines which inspired my latest whimsical guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
And so it came to pass, in the tenth month of the eighth year of the third millennium, and nigh upon the time of the next Great Census, that The One remained most grievously afflicted by the wound that He had caused Himself many weeks earlier in the City of the Golden Gated Bridge when, with His own quicksilvered tongue, He had verily shot Himself in the foot.
For the wound would not heal, and the disbelievers and nonbelievers alike continued to smell its fester while clinging bitterly to their guns and religion.
And to His aid then, aboard His great flying bird above the rainbows, swiftly came the emissary of the Grey Lady of the East from the bluest of the Blue States, Matthew of the Clan of Bai on the Isle of Manhattan in the Kingdom of York the Newer. To Matthew, The One did spew new words aplenty, the very first of which Matthew dutifully caught and sought to weave into a mighty bandage.
And The One — whilst clothed in a stiff smooth shirt of virgin white and a scarf of robin-egg blue which Matthew much envied — did bless the bandage with more sweet words and blessings of hopey-changitude, invoking with His words and His countenance such miracles as would change poop into honey, pus into butter, disdain into adoration, and night into day. Wrote Matthew, of the Words of The One:
[T]he moment Obama would most like to take back now, if he could, was the one last April when, speaking to a small gathering of Bay Area contributors, he said that small-town voters in Pennsylvania and other states had grown “bitter” over lost jobs, which caused them to “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” ...
“That was my biggest boneheaded move,” Obama told me recently. We were sitting across from each other on his plane, the one with the big red, white and blue “O” on the tail, flying some 35,000 feet above Nebraska. “How it was interpreted in the press was Obama talking to a bunch of wine-sipping San Francisco liberals with an anthropological view toward white working-class voters. And I was actually making the reverse point, clumsily, which is that these voters have a right to be frustrated because they’ve been ignored. And because Democrats haven’t met them halfway on cultural issues, we’ve not been able to communicate to them effectively an economic agenda that would help broaden our coalition.” ...
“I mean, part of what I was trying to say to that group in San Francisco was, ‘You guys need to stop thinking that issues like religion or guns are somehow wrong,’ ” he continued. “Because, in fact, if you’ve grown up and your dad went out and took you hunting, and that is part of your self-identity and provides you a sense of continuity and stability that is unavailable in your economic life, then that’s going to be pretty important, and rightfully so. And if you’re watching your community lose population and collapse but your church is still strong and the life of the community is centered around that, well then, you know, we’d better be paying attention to that.”
Thus by the magic and grace of The One would the bitter be transmuted to the sweet, and the clinging of the unwashed masses into the joyous light embrace of the enlightened. And Matthew of the Clan of Bai pressed the bandage upon The One's wounded foot, and cast the Words of The One out upon the wave of the InterWebs and into the swollen streams of the Ancient Media.
But the disbelievers were still not deceived, and even the nonbelievers still wrinkled their noses at the "honey" from The One, which they were asked to consume whilst handing to The One their purses for redistribution.
"Bah," quoth Beldar the Heretic, "It doth still reek of poop to me. Fetch me Joe the Plumber."
A sad reaction to Peggy Noonan's Palin meltdown
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
I have to work hard to avoid taking personal offense from Peggy Noonan's op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal, and I can't quite succeed entirely at that effort.
I've long been a fan of Ms. Noonan's work as a speechwriter and a pundit, and she's been uniformly gracious in the two or three times we've exchanged emails. Her op-ed doesn't mention me by name, of course. But I've voted twice for George W. Bush, and although I have not agreed with all of his decisions and he has sometimes disappointed me, I've never regretted those votes, given the alternatives that were available. I look at my four safe, healthy children as I drive them to school within range of oil refineries that would be prime terrorist targets, and I am grateful to him and everyone under his command who have kept us safe on American soil since 9/11/01. Indeed, my own fondness for Ms. Noonan has waned in step with her growing disdain for the president.
And now, from this op ed, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that Ms. Noonan thinks that I am, and that people like me are, "a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics," and that we're "no good, not for conservatism and not for the country." It's impossible to avoid drawing that conclusion because I'm a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of Gov. Sarah Palin, after all — and that's exactly what Ms. Noonan has written about her. It's as vicious an attack as I've ever read or heard her make, both unmoderated and immoderate.
When ridiculed, it's hard to resist replying with ridicule. That wouldn't be constructive here, and I'm trying my best to avoid snark: Even though I and those like me are, along with Gov. Palin, the objects of Ms. Noonan's disdain, I do not want her as an enemy.
But she clearly expects counterattacks: "[C]ome and get me, copper," is how she defiantly ends her essay. Still, I don't think she's talking to me or to very many other of the 62 million Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 (which might include you). Instead, she apparently is referring to the "conservative intelligentsia," by which I can only assume she means the folks who write for National Review and the like, which is to say, her peers in the old media.
And that actually is a comfort. When one inhabits a world in which calling children "kids" is insufferably vulgar, then one presumably can't grasp the existence of, for example, gansta rap. In some ways, then, I envy her the comfort of the cocoon in which she can apply that Nineteenth Century value system. But she seems to have lost the capacity to credit anyone less fussy than she is with basic decency. Maybe I shouldn't assume Ms. Noonan was referring to me or people like me. It's equally possible that she simply forgets that we exist. And if so, that's a reason to be sad, not angry.
Similarly, it's ironic, but sadly so, that Ms. Noonan, in an op-ed almost completely devoid of any discussion of Gov. Palin's actual achievements or statements, can write that Gov. Palin "doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things." This is an essay in which Ms. Noonan seems not to have thought much, but has instead just ... written things.
Here's an example, the closest to a substantive critique of Gov. Palin anywhere in the piece:
For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite — a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
I admit to holding Ms. Noonan to higher standards than I do myself in my own writing, simply because she's been one of my heroes as a wordsmith. But it genuinely pains me to see such an elegant writer produce a run-on sentence as awful as that one.
From the context, I think she means Bush-43 when she refers to "Bushian." If she's curious about Gov. Palin's views on spending (a subject that appears on only one side of the parallel construction), then she could look at Gov. Palin's record from several years as a city official and, now, governor. On that, there is ample and compelling evidence that she's been a far more disciplined fiscal conservative than Bush-43, Bush-41, or Ronald Reagan for that matter.
But most of this blast seems to be about foreign policy. Where in it is the recognition that state governors — including the state governor who used to be Ms. Noonan's boss, Ronald Reagan — don't have much occasion to do foreign diplomacy? Where is the recognition that vice presidential candidates — especially those running behind POTUS nominees whose own long suit is foreign policy and national defense — are ill advised to start promoting any policy positions contrary to or even slightly independent from their running mates'? We know that Gov. Palin seems entirely comfortable adopting Sen. McCain's positions on these matters as her own. Given that she's running for vice president, that's frankly enough for now.
Ms. Noonan writes often and well of grace. I'm sad that she has lost any appreciation for that quality when it comes to her appraisal of Gov. Palin and, inevitably, those who are enthused by her.
I do not urge that Ms. Noonan be condemned or shunned. And I don't care what the "conservative intelligentia" think or say or do in response. But I, for one, as a conservative new-media pundit from flyover country, reject her opinions on Gov. Palin as being unpersuasive because they're based entirely upon unfortunate (and, frankly, highly unflattering) emotional reactions.
Ms. Noonan's Palin meltdown is not apostasy. But it is an indication that Ms. Noonan needs a long vacation outside the corridors of the opinion elites — if she cares a whit about the tens of millions of American voters who consider ourselves non-vulgar conservatives and Republicans, regardless of her poor opinion of us. If not, I'm sad to be at the point at which I'm inclined to stop listening to or reading her opinions.
(A last point: I write here only for myself, and my views on this ought not be imputed to Hugh Hewitt.)
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Hang in there, Dean
Dean Barnett, who was a previous guest-poster at HughHewitt.com and a frequent guest-host for Hugh's radio show, is still in an ICU battling cystic fibrosis. As I've said in a short guest-post there, he's in my prayers this weekend.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
Ed Morrissey has a report on Dean Barnett's continuing battle against cystic fibrosis. I'm a huge fan of Dean and his work. He's in my prayers this weekend, and I'm sure in those of Hugh and many others as well.
Docs opining on McCains' prognosis divide into two groups: Those who know what they're talking about, and those who're guessing
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com distinguishes between those doctors who've actually examined and treated John McCain, who say his prognosis from his 2000 cancer surgery is quite good, and those who are just guessing, who want to scare people into thinking that it's not. This brings out my cross-examination lust, which unfortunately is likely to go unsated.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).
Like many courtroom lawyers, a large part of my professional life has involved questioning and cross-examining expert witnesses, and I've dealt more with physicians, by far, than with any other profession. During the first decade or so of my practice, anywhere from a third to a half of my cases involved either personal injuries or health insurance coverage matters (which typically involved cutting-edge medical procedures and/or drugs), and each such case typically had multiple physician witnesses. I'd guestimate that I've put questions to somewhere north of seventy-five different MDs at one time or another — ranging from country general practitioners to some of the world's finest research scientist/physicians. It's a challenge, one that takes both preparation and experience, and it can be a whole lot of fun.
Lawyers who regularly examine physicians have a couple of different terms of art to describe a certain kind of doctor. I'm referring specifically to the kind of doctor who hasn't actually ever examined the patient, and who sometimes hasn't even had personal access to all of the patient's medical records, test reports, and other data. Nevertheless, this kind of doctor will confidently stride into court, take a solemn oath, and then proceed to second-guess the patient's own highly qualified and well-credentialed doctors.
Typically these "experts" are testifying for money, so the rather obvious term of art courtroom lawyers use among themselves to describe such witnesses is a vulgar word meaning someone who sells him- or herself for money. (The word rhymes with "floor.")
But the doctors who are eager to spread alarm about John McCain's cancer prognosis, as quoted in Saturday's Washington Post, aren't giving their opinions for money, but instead out of other motivation. So for them, I'll use the second term of art that courtroom lawyers use to describe doctors who opine without having access to either patient or full records — a term which captures the joy we take in getting to cross-examine them:
[# More #] Jurors almost always immediately grasp that, when all other things are roughly equal, the doctor who hasn't actually examined the patient cannot be trusted, at least not in comparison to the doctor who has. When the non-treating but testifying physician hasn't even seen all the relevant records and data, then it becomes obvious even to the average ditch-digger that he's just making guesses, and not particularly well-educated guesses at that.
If you read the WaPo article carefully — and not just the headline ("Questions Linger About McCain's Prognosis After Skin Cancer," which of course is biased against McCain) — then even without the assistance of a cross-examining lawyer, you'll quickly come to a confident pair of conclusions yourself:
There are doctors who, in giving opinions about John McCain, actually have a basis to know what they're talking about, based on first-hand examinations of the patient and complete access to his medical records and tests and pathology slides and all the other relevant data. They all present a very favorable prognosis for McCain, especially given his long period without a recurrence of the skin cancer removed in 2000.
And then there are doctors who are guessing, based on assumptions stacked on second-hand reports, who haven't seen the patient or had access to all his records or the other data. Their conclusions are completely untrustworthy because they can be no better or more reliable than the quality of the input, which is what they've gotten second- or third-hand and at least partly through a media filter. And of course, they have no ethical duty to the actual patient, no responsibility to counterbalance their political or other biases. So they're free to imagine the worst, and then spread it across the internet and to any newspaper reporter who'll listen.
Pinatas. To steal a phrase from the SCTV "Farm Film Report" skits, they blow up REAL good!
In fact, I'd actually pay good money simply for the opportunity to cross-examine these particular
bozos esteemed physicians in front of a jury. There's nothing like the professional satisfaction of watching a supposed "expert" witness leave the courtroom with the jury actually laughing out loud at them.
Look, none of us know how many days we have left. We live in a state of uncertain and indefinite grace. McCain, at least, comes from hearty stock (look at his mother, Roberta McCain, making campaign appearances in her 90s), and he's proven himself to be, quite literally, a survivor already on many occasions. I'm amused by the line I've heard him quoted as giving to reporters who've been interviewing him in flight when they were suddenly disturbed by turbulence: "I'm just not destined to die in an air crash," he says with a laugh (having survived not only the crash of his A-4 attack plane after being shot down over Hanoi, but a couple more equipment-failure crashes and a horrible fire when his plane was hit by an accidentally fired missile on the deck of an aircraft carrier).
And as for McCain's cancer, I figure McCain's sort of like the house that Garp and his pregnant wife are inspecting in both the book and movie, The World According to Garp. As they're talking to the real estate agent, a small plane crashes into it. Immediately the very risk-averse Garp says "We'll take it!" His wife looks at him in disbelief, but he gushes, "The chances of another plane hitting this house are incredibly small!" I know that's not the way medical pronoses work, and it's just my guess. But then again, it's not much more unreasonable a guess than those being made by the doctors who are giving contrary opinions to those of McCain's own treating physicians, because those long-distance docs haven't even seen the first plane hit the house, so to speak.
A respectful nod to Paul Mirengoff
My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com is about Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine, with whom I disagreed (and, I think, still do) regarding Gov. Palin. Paul's at least open to recognizing inconsistencies in the opinions expressed by other Palin critics from the right, in particular from Peggy Noonan. As to Ms. Noonan's recent comments, however, I think I'll maintain a silence now rather than say something ungracious that I might regret later, except for this: She badly needs a long vacation somewhere away from either coast or Chicago.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
This post by PowerLine's Paul Mirengoff contains as thoughtful and gracious a set of observations as I've ever seen from a fellow conservative and lawyer-blogger with whom I've profoundly disagreed. On my own blog back in early September, I was among those who respectfully chided Paul for some of his initial skeptical reactions to Gov. Palin's nomination.
I don't mean to suggest that Paul has been converted to an unabashed Palin fan (which I readily acknowledge myself to be). But he's been open-minded. He's learned more of her record, and he's seen more of her as a campaigner. Now he's able to at least see the inconsistencies and emotional reactions of Palin critics like Peggy Noonan. Of himself, he now writes:
For a time, I was frustrated by my inability to make people see what was fairly apparent to me about Palin. But I have never resented robust expressions of disagreement, including the suggestion that I'm an "elitist." One should always be willing to entertain the possibility that one's perspective may be distorted. And I have certainly not confused robust expressions of disagreement with an attempt to silence me. They are, at worst, the manifestation of reader frustration with me for not seeing what is apparent to them.
That's fair enough, and courageous. There are many millions — and I think perhaps tens of millions — of voters who will cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket because of, and not despite, Gov. Palin's presence on it. That's worth some respect, even from those who don't count themselves among those voters.
(And yes, before the commenters on the left jump me: I don't deny that the tens of millions of voters who I believe to be drunk on Obama's hopey-changitude hoo-hah are entitled to respect too. I am, and have always been, a small-d democrat, and while I don't think the voting public is by any means infallible, I think its collective judgments over time deserve a degree of reverence. That doesn't stop me from trying to sober up the drunkards on their way to the polls, though.)
"How many plumbers do you know makin' a quarter million dollars a year?"
I can't not blog about Joe the Plumber, can I? He's the subject of my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com, the point of which I don't think is particularly profound, but it's apparently too subtle for The One to grasp.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The title to this post is the mocking, disdainful question that Barack Obama slung at "Joe the Plumber" from a campaign rally on Friday. He thereby proved the aptness of Sen. McCain's Freudian slip when he called Sen. Obama "Senator Government" in the third debate.
Joe Wurzelbacher has never claimed that he makes $250k now. But if Barack Obama thinks there aren't any plumbing business owners in America who do, then that shows how out of touch he is. Mr. Wurzelbacher said he hopes to become successful enough to be in that tax bracket; especially if he ends up growing his business and employing more plumbers to work with and for him, that's entirely plausible.
Why would Barack Obama think that someone running a successful small plumbing business might not be able to make as much as the $273k salary his wife made as an administrator for the University of Chicago Hospitals?
The question isn't what Joe the Plumber makes now, it's what he aspires to make. So he wants to know what incentives for success he'd have under the tax scheme imposed by an Obama Administration working hand-in-glove with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Will they justify the hard work, the increased risk? Or will he be looking at a return to the days of confiscatory marginal tax rates, in which every additional dollar he earns is taxed at a steeper and steeper rate, until finally each bit of extra income benefits the government and its welfare recipients more than the man or woman who earned it? Should he reach for his dreams, or should he just content himself to be a 21st Century wage slave, and genuflect toward Washington for the occasional extra government handout he gets in exchange for voting away his dreams?
How sadly ironic — that a candidate whose slogan is "Yes, We Can" and whose autobiography was called "Dreams from My Father" should embrace a tax policy whose slogan should be "Why Bother?" and whose effect could be titled "Dreams from Our Fathers That Government Must Crush."
The most productive people in this country are the ones who are still working toward their dreams. They're the ones who start and run successful businesses. They're the ones who take risks. They save. They invest. They don't redistribute wealth, they create wealth. And here's what modern-day Democrats have never understood, and why they've continually failed to capture their votes: Because they so value their dreams, these most ambitious Americans hate class warfare and wealth redistribution even while they're still notionally part of the "underclass" who will receive some of the spoils when the "rich" are robbed.
Call them by names like John Galt or Joe the Plumber. But don't belittle their dreams and don't mock them for dreaming, Sen. Obama.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Today's SCOTUS ruling does NOT mean there's no voting fraud problem in Ohio
Today's SCOTUS ruling on the Ohio voting case is almost impenetrable. But I'm convinced it's an important case on an important subject, even though I think its moral is deeply concealed. It's not a statement that there's no voter fraud going on in Ohio, nor even a statement that clears the Democratic Secretary of State in Ohio, Jennifer Brunner, of complicity in that fraud. Rather, my guest-post on the decision at HughHewitt.com argues that it's a implied call for further Congressional reform of the Help America Vote Act from 2002, which fails to specify when, how, and on whose behalf the federal courts may and may not intervene to prevent dilution of voting power or abuses connected with the attempted exercise of voting rights.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
As a guest writer here during election season, I've usually stuck to politics. On my own blog, though, I often write about legal topics, and sometimes the intersection of legal and political topics. My goal is to explain some things that I think the media may have not explained very well, and to add context and opinion that's based on my own background as a former appellate court clerk and a practicing courtroom and appellate lawyer for the last 28 years. Tonight, I'll try to help you make sense of a ruling today by the United States Supreme Court in Brunner v. Ohio Republican Party, a voting rights case from Ohio that I doubt many people yet have a handle on, and that I don't think the media have been able to figure out at all.
In three sentences: (1) Today's ruling turned on important but esoteric legal principles that don't have much to do with voting rights in general or the situation on the ground in Ohio in particular, and it ought not be interpreted as the Supreme Court either rejecting or accepting the proposition that there's wide-spread and systematic voting fraud being undertaken there or anywhere else. (2) It does, however, emphasize that the Supreme Court thinks this is an important topic. And most importantly, (3) Congress desperately needs to further reform the voter fraud and voter registration laws to specify who may sue under them, when, how, and for what relief.
The Ohio case involves the Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”), a federal law passed in 2002 in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election and the Supreme Court's landmark 7/2 decision in Bush v. Gore that the Florida Supreme Court's erratic manipulation of the Florida recount violated the U.S. Constitution. That election year also generated complaints from each side that the other had engaged in variety of types of voting fraud or misconduct. The new law was intended both to remedy complaints that it was too hard to register and cast an effective vote, and that it was too easy to engage in voting fraud.
Thus, here's how today's big-picture legal dispute was described earlier this week by the intermediate appellate court, speaking through a nine-judge majority the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (sitting "en banc," meaning with all fourteen of its active judges participating, rather than in a normal, randomly constituted panel of just three judges):
In one respect, [HAVA] makes it easier for individuals to cast ballots by establishing a vote-first-challenge-later approach to dealing with disputes about an individual’s eligibility to vote, the most obvious feature of which is the right to cast a provisional ballot when an election official questions an individual’s eligibility to vote. In another respect, the Act helps to ensure that those votes count, or to put it another way the Act helps to ensure that those votes are not diluted by guarding against voter fraud. The one goal complements the other: Enabling the casting of one vote does little good if another voter fraudulently cancels it out.
In an attempt to balance these interests, and to promote both without undercutting either, HAVA imposed certain federal requirements upon state government officials — and in Ohio, that meant the state's chief elections official (the Ohio Secretary of State) and its top official in charge of motor vehicle licensing (the head of Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (“BMV”)). Specifically, HAVA requires that those two state officials match up the information in their respective state databases to look for evidence of potential fraud in voter registrations.
To comply with HAVA, the Ohio Secretary of State developed a procedure, documented in a written manual, regarding how this matching up was to be performed, and what ought to happen in the event that there was a discrepancy. But that was a Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell. In January 2008, he was succeeded in office by a Democrat, Jennifer Brunner. And Ms. Brunner decided to "turn off" this portion of the manual, for reasons that haven't been thoroughly plumbed yet through this litigation or through any other means. As the en banc Sixth Circuit wrote:
The apparent “turn[ing] off” of this voter-registration-verification process, or at least the discovery that it had been turned off, prompted this dispute. For reasons that the record does not reveal and at a time the record does not reveal, the Secretary of State apparently chose to deactivate at least part of the process, if not all of the process, described in section 15.4 of her manual. In particular, she concedes that at some point she stopped communicating with the county boards about mismatches and stopped renewing validation requests with the BMV after obtaining a mismatch.
So the Ohio Republican Party and a Republican state representative sued Secretary Brunner in federal court, seeking a court order compelling her to comply with her obligations under HAVA by resuming the process of comparing the two data bases. The federal district judge who first heard their motion for an emergency order (called a "temporary restraining order" or "TRO") agreed that they were entitled to emergency relief and therefore entered a TRO on October 10, 2008. Secretary Brunner appealed, and a mere twelve hours or so later, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit disagreed with the district judge. But then on October 14, 2008, the full Sixth Circuit overturned the decision of that three-judge panel and re-instated the TRO issued by the district judge. And it was that decision from the en banc court which was the subject of today's SCOTUS rulling — meaning that this temporary order traversed the entire federal judicial system within a mere seven days after the district court's initial ruling.
If we were scoring this as a tennis match, it would be a fast and furious series of exchanges: a hard service by the GOP and the district judge, a firm return volley by the Dems and the Sixth Circuit panel, a cross-court smash after rushing the net by the GOP and the en banc Sixth Circuit — followed by today's improbable lob and point from the Dems and the SCOTUS. Temporary, emergency orders like this one generally can't be appealed at all. They're intended to maintain the status quo long enough for both sides to get their ducks in order and to have a evidentiary hearing, with witnesses who can testify and then be cross-examined under oath, at which point the TRO may or may not be replaced by a preliminary injunction that will run until a full-blown trial on the merits (typically months later). So the only way the Dems were able to get this into the federal appellate courts to begin with was to persuade them that because the time between now and the election is so short, even a TRO like this one will effectively decide the whole controversy — too much else will happen before even a preliminary injunction evidentiary hearing can be held, too many bells will ring that can't be unrung, and if the appellate courts don't agree to hear the matter now, there will be no way for the losing side from the district court (here, the Dems) ever to get effective appellate review.
But while it's rare that anyone can persuade an intermediate appellate court like the Sixth Circuit to hear an appeal of a TRO, it's vastly more rare for a three-judge appellate panel from such a circuit court to be overturned and re-reviewed by the full circuit court sitting en banc. In the year I clerked on the old Fifth Circuit (1980-1981), which was then the largest circuit court in the country (stretching from Texas to Florida), I don't think that happened a single time in a civil case. That's why I thought this case would end at that level.
For the United States Supreme Court to intervene, however, and agree to overturn a ruling by a circuit court of appeals on a TRO, is spectacularly rare. The biggest surprise about today's ruling is that the SCOTUS involved itself at all. And the temptation from that is to assume that today's ruling must itself be of some cosmic significance — if not on the level of Bush v. Gore, nevertheless something awfully important about whether there actually is any voter fraud going on in Ohio, and whether the Democrat who's the Ohio Secretary of State is facilitating it by refusing to do her job.
However, one who gives in to that temptation, however, and who draws that particularly inference, would clearly be wrong. Today's ruling has a dramatic and fairly well concealed point to it, but it's not on that subject.
The en banc Sixth Circuit agreed with the panel that this was indeed one of those rare cases in which a TRO may properly be appealed, but it differed from the panel on what it described as the key legal issue presented by the case: "whether 42 U.S.C. [section] 15483(a)(5)(B)(i), together with other provisions of HAVA, require the Secretary to provide local election officials with meaningful access to mismatches identified in the [Statewide Voter Registration Database]," instead of just the theoretical (and practically useless) access that Secretary Brunner was actually providing.
The en banc Sixth Circuit believed that the answer to that question is clearly yes — meaning that in all probability, after a full development of the evidence and an eventual trial on the merits, the GOP would win its case. In the meantime, the effects of the TRO were limited and entirely beneficial, according to the en banc court (citations omitted):
At most, the identification of a mismatch allows a county board to investigate whether the mismatch has a legitimate explanation (say, a recent change of address). Nothing about this case or the relief plaintiffs seek will allow them to prevent a single voter from casting a ballot in the November election. At most, the relief could prompt an inquiry into the bona fides of an individual’s registration, and at most it could require an individual to cast a provisional ballot. At that point, the validity of the voter’s registration will be determined and, with it, the validity of his or her vote. That is not only sensible but it is also fair — and it also furthers both objectives of HAVA rather than just one of them.
The en banc Sixth Circuit went on to compare the respective risks of harm to either side from the temporary order. It found an urgent and compelling need to furnish county boards with meaningful information on non-matching registrations before absentee voting began, because otherwise the ability to segregate those votes for investigation would be forever lost. By contrast, it found unpersuasive Secretary Brunner's claims that having to do that which her predecessor had done would impose an incredible hardship and burden. And finally, the en banc Sixth Circuit rejected Secretary Brunner's arguments that the GOP had been guilty of "laches" — an equitable doctrine which basically says that if you've been tardy in asserting your rights, you may have forfeited them. This was all triggered, according to the en banc Sixth Circuit, no earlier than August 2008, when Secretary Brunner had decided to "allow simultaneous registration and voting for six days in Ohio in late September and early October." As for the "turning off" of the county board's cross-checking abilities, the court said that "[t]o this day, it remains unclear when the Secretary told the public that she had changed the office’s prior policy on implementing [section] 15483(a)(5)(B)(i), when she told the public why she made these changes and whether she has made additional changes to the policy since."
To sum up, then, the en banc Sixth Circuit agreed with the Ohio GOP that Secretary of State Brunner appeared to be violating her responsibilities under HAVA in a way that would interfere with local election boards' ability to identify potential instances of voter fraud. Did the Supreme Court disagree?
Nope. The Supreme Court neither agreed nor disagreed with that conclusion, because instead the Supreme Court indicated that this sort of case can't be brought in these circumstances by these sorts of plaintiffs.
It's common-place for Congress to pass laws that create certain duties and responsibilities for other people and entities, including state government officials. One of Congress' annoying habits, however, is that it quite often doesn't bother to say, one way or the other, whether ordinary citizens can go to court to force the intended target of those statutes to comply with their responsibilities. And Congress didn't say that one way or another about the specific database-comparing responsibilities created by HAVA for state election officials like Secretary Brunner. This, unfortunately, leaves the federal courts in the position of literally having to guess what they think Congress would have said, if Congress had thought about the issue and bothered to decide it.
The Ohio GOP here was proceeding under a very old and powerful civil rights statute, 28 U.S.C. section 1983, which allows lawsuits in the federal courts to be brought by people to redress the violation of rights which are secured to them under the Constitution or laws of the United States. But does HAVA give citizens, or groups of them like the Ohio GOP, or the Republican state representative who also was a plaintiff in the case, the sort of statutory right which may be protected under section 1983?
In other cases, the Supreme Court has prescribed a three-part test for making that determination. I will spare you the details, because in my judgment they're horribly boring and so muddy and subjective as to be almost arbitrary. Basically, it boils down to the en banc Sixth Circuit guessing one way as to how this complicated multi-part test would work out for this specific statutory responsibility of Secretary Brunner, and the SCOTUS today saying, "Nope! You guessed wrong!"
The Supreme Court's written ruling itself is barely more than a single page, and it's per curiam — "by the Court" — meaning that all of the Justices joined in it, but no single Justice took credit for writing it, and no Justices dissented or wrote separate opinions of any sort. So even though it's unusual for them to have acted in this sort of case at all, there's no sweeping rhetoric, no highly charged arguments, no sniping from Justice Scalia at Justice Breyer or vice versa.
As to whether Secretary Brunner is or isn't bungling her reponsibilities under HAVA, that gets precisely one sentence: "We express no opinion on the question whether HAVA is being properly implemented." In that one sentence, the SCOTUS, on behalf of the entire federal court system, did a three-step drop-back and punted the whole question of voting fraud deep — somewhere well past whatever yard-line corresponds with November 4, 2008.
Instead, we get this: "Respondents, however, are not sufficiently likely to prevail on the question whether Congress has authorized the District Court to enforce [the disputed provision in HAVA] in an action brought by a private litigant to justify the issuance of a TRO." Translation: We think that if we thought about it longer and actually had a full trial on this case, we'd still probably think that this particular requirement of HAVA was not one of the sort that Congress intended private individuals to be able to sue state officials in order to enforce.
So: You're got a right to your vote. You have a right that your vote not be diluted. But you don't have a right to go to the federal courts to get them to stop the state officials who are deliberately screwing off on their job responsibilities (as defined by this particular section of this federal law) in ways likely (and likely intended) to dilute your vote through by voting fraud.
In law school, I was taught an ancient Latin phrase from the Roman civil law that has made its way to us through English common law: Ubi jus, ibi remedium. "For every right, there is a remedy." Today's short ruling from the SCOTUS turns that into: "For every right, there is a remedy (except for when they're messing with your vote in this particular way ... sucker!)." My Latin isn't nearly good enough to come up with a translation for that.
Political liberals are pointing out that many proponents of judicial conservatism — and I proudly count myself among that principled group — generally scorn courts who are too eager to find implied private rights of action that permit everyone and his dog (or polar bear) to race to federal court to "enforce" some "right." That's a very valid point, and I think it explains (a) why the SCOTUS agreed to rule on this temporary order at all, (b) why it ruled the way it did, and (c) why the order was so short, as well as unanimous and unsigned.
HAVA was the product of a great many political compromises, and especially given the incredible firestorm of controversy out of which it arose, it's remarkable that so many legislators were able to agree upon so much. Merely creating responsibilities for state officials, however, without providing a judicial mechanism for the oversight and enforcement of those responsibilities renders illusory the responsibilities themselves, and renders vulnerable the rights they're designed to protect. Voter registration and voter fraud are both incredibly important subjects, but they're subjects best addressed well before Election Day. And to obtain their political legitimacy with all participants regardless of their partisan affiliation, our society's rules on those subjects must be determined in the first instance legislatively — and those legislative determinations must include decisions on what role the courts should have in resolving these disputes, and when, and within what operating rules, the courts may act. Congress owes all of us — citizens and voters and partisans and courts alike — something better than to have to guess how multi-part tests under a super-broad and very vague civil rights law from 1871 ought to turn out in cases like this one.
Saying all that in so many words in the circumstances of this case, however, would have generated a fuss on the Court. The liberal block would have thought that constituted an implied agreement with the Sixth Circuit on the merits — i.e., that Secretary Brunner is deliberately screwing up by refusing to perform her HAVA job responsibilities. And the conservative block was content to leave that subject alone, and instead to make the implied point that "Yes, this stuff is important enough that we'll take it up even through an extremely rare appeal of a TRO, but we're not going to jump in with both feet until Congress has said we may and told us how."
Thus, even though I agree with the ruling, I'm unhappy with this result. Indeed, I'm unhappy with all the reports of voter fraud that I'm seeing every day. But we can't expect to fix these things on the brink of an election. Win or lose on November 4, further reforms of the laws regarding voter fraud have to be a top priority for the GOP on both a national and state basis.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 17 @ 11:10 p.m. CST): It's a mistake to assume that the views an advocate presents on behalf of a client exactly correspond to the advocate's own views. But it's still interesting — and arguably supportive of the political liberals' point mentioned above about judicial conservatives being hostile to implied private rights of action (or the enforceability of rights using section 1983, which is a close, but slightly different, inquiry) — to note that the key recent SCOTUS case relied upon by Secretary Brunner and the Dems and cited by the Court's per curiam opinion today, Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273 (2002), was argued and won by one John G. Roberts, Jr. As I pointed out in a comment below, Chief Justice Roberts, since he was in the majority (which we know even though the opinion is per curiam because there are no dissents), had the power to assign the drafting of today's order. It strikes me as not unlikely, then — since he certainly would be "up" on these issues — that he may have assigned the drafting to himself, and that he may have been as influential in the Court's internal discussions as he presumably was in the briefing and argument of the Gonzaga case in 2002.
UPDATE (Sat Oct 18 @ 12:05 a.m. CST):Although HAVA is silent on whether citizens or citizen groups like the Ohio GOP could sue under section 1983 (a general civil-rights law), section 401 of HAVA, 42 U.S.C. section 15511, itself provides that "[t]he Attorney General [of the United States] may bring a civil action against any State or jurisdiction in an appropriate United States District Court for such declaratory and injunctive relief (including a temporary restraining order, a permanent or temporary injunction, or other order) as may be necessary to carry out the uniform and nondiscriminatory election technology and administration requirements under sections 301, 302, and 303." Section 303 is the section of HAVA that Secretary Brunner is flouting. Thus, the U.S. Department of Justice could, if it chose, refile these same claims on Monday morning, and we can be almost certain that the resulting TRO would be affirmed on its merits up through at least the en banc Sixth Circuit. I hope Attorney General Mukasey is looking at that possibility this weekend. And it's entirely appropriate for private citizens who are concerned by the SCOTUS ruling today to contact the DoJ to encourage them to take up the case.
Law professors Jonathan Adler and Rick Hassen have more links and observations about Friday's ruling that are worth a look, too. With due and genuine respect, however (because he is a genuine and knowledgeable specialist in election law, albeit a left-leaning one), Prof. Hassen's badly wrong in characterizing this as a decision based on purported foot-dragging by the GOP (which might bar its claims under the doctrine of "laches"). That argument was considered and rejected by the Sixth Circuit en banc, and not mentioned at all by Friday's per curiam decision.
You might think Barack Obama would be the better stand-up comic as between him and John McCain, but you'd be wrong. The proof is in the embedded video in the report I've linked (in my latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com) from last night's Al Smith dinner, at which Sen. Obama seemed to be getting his own jokes a half-beat after he'd told them.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
Politics ain't beanbag. It's harsh, and when it's unrelenting, it can make you feel mean and nasty about the other side or maybe the whole world.
So relent for a moment. Read this account of Sen. McCain's and Sen. Obama's appearances last night at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York, "the white-tie charity roast that has long served as a light-hearted rest stop on the road to the White House." Watch the embedded video there.
When you've had a good chuckle or two, take a few cleansing breaths. Resolve that in your next political argument — at the water-cooler, or in the comments here — you'll be a bit less trenchant, a bit more respectful, if no less devoted.
WaPo's endorsement of Obama reveals editorialists as wishful thinkers, him as blank canvas
The WaPo's endorsement of Barack Obama this morning is almost self-fisking, but I couldn't resist having a go in a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
The Washington Post's editorial board chose today to publish their endorsement of Barack Obama. On its own, that's very much a dog bites man story, such that I wouldn't normally bother to much note or blog about it.
Just as if their decision mattered a great deal to a great many people, however, the editorialists do perform a very traditional gavotte, first bowing toward Obama, then toward McCain, fluttering coy eyelashes at both, pretending to favor one and then the other, before reaching a predictable and highly choreographed conclusion.
The reason I bother to link it here is this: Almost every favorable word the WaPo writes about Obama is based on their hopes and projections about what they think and hope he might do as president, not what he actually has done. (The rare exceptions — for example, "Mr. Obama, as anyone who reads his books can tell, also has a sophisticated understanding of the world and America's place in it" — vastly overstate his actual accomplishments. His second book was a collection of platitudes, and his first was about one person growing up with a confused and unusual racial heritage). "Mr. Obama's resume is undoubtedly thin," they concede near the end of their endorsement, and a vote for him is a "gamble." By contrast, however, in writing of McCain, the editorialists are able to point to a long history of actual accomplishments.
The editorialists are obviously aware of this themselves, as evidenced by the admission at the conclusion of their second paragraph (after they've first noted their respect for McCain "over the years"):
Yes, we have reservations and concerns, almost inevitably, given Mr. Obama's relatively brief experience in national politics. But we also have enormous hopes.
Yes, but do they have anything else besides hopes?
Well, if there are no good examples from his actual conduct and accomplishments, how about a healthy dose of self-deception? There's no other appropriate description for this sentence: "Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests." In fact, the best and essentially only "evidence" is that Barack Obama wanted to immediately and precipitously begin withdrawals of our troops from Iraq, and that he mocked and fought against the Surge. The best and essentially only "evidence" is that if he'd had his way, America would have already been defeated there. The best and essentially only "evidence" is that Obama's uninterested in victory, which pretty much guarantees that he'll be incapable of ever achieving it.
The WaPo admits all this, near the end the editorial, but then wishes away its significance: "[W]e can only hope and assume that Mr. Obama would recognize the strategic importance of success in Iraq and adjust his plans." That's it — "hope and assume" is supposed to outweigh "got it completely and spectacularly wrong on the most important foreign policy matter of his still-juvenile career as a politician."
Later, the editorialists repeat a variation on the same assertion: "[Obama], too, is committed to maintaining U.S. leadership and sticking up for democratic values, as his recent defense of tiny Georgia makes clear." Except that's also contrary to the facts: Obama's first reaction to the Russian aggression against an American ally was to blame both sides, and even that was in tepid and indecisive language. He only began to "stick up for democratic values" when McCain embarrassed him into doing so.
So how about international trade? Where's the historic evidence on that? "We also can only hope that the alarming anti-trade rhetoric we have heard from Mr. Obama during the campaign would give way to the understanding of the benefits of trade reflected in his writings." Let's see: Campaign promises made to anti-trade unions who've given him millions of dollars and votes, on the one hand, versus vague sentiments in his second book and the WaPo's "hopes," on the other hand. Which weighs more? Hopes!
The rest of the editorial is thin gruel of the same sort: Sen. Obama "understands" things. He has "plans." He "hopes to steer the country toward" things that the WaPo thinks would be neat.
There's never a "we know he would do this" because he "successfully championed legislation." There's never a "we know he's really committed to that" because "he risked his career by bucking his own party." Instead — as the WaPo again admits — "We had hoped, throughout this long campaign, to see more evidence that Mr. Obama might stand up to Democratic orthodoxy and end, as he said in his announcement speech, 'our chronic avoidance of tough decisions.'" Earth to WaPo: When you hope something, and it never comes true, that's called a "hoping in vain."
They're simply drunk with hopey-changitude. The final paragraph is a "catch me before I fall!" swoon directly into Obama's arms:
But Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.
To such rapture, I have a two-word response:
Actually, if you strip the WaPo's endorsement of everything they write about both candidates that's based on bare hope, and just leave behind just what they write about either that's based on actual accomplishment, then in fact it becomes a rather compelling endorsement — of John McCain. And that's actually what makes it worth reading.
UPDATE (Fri Oct 17 @ 5:38 pm. CST): This post prompted Patrick O'Hannigan to email me a link to a post he wrote on his own blog which I commend to you. It's also on the general subject of how Obama supporters rely on hopes rather than evidence of past accomplishment, and it's filled with eloquent examples of people who ought to know better who've nevertheless willingly suspended their disbelief. And it taught me a lovely, useful new word: irenic, meaning "promoting peace; conciliatory." My mnemonic: How ironic that in the heat of a political battle, I first learned the meaning of "irenic." Thank you, Patrick.
Reports of bloodthirsty McCain-Palin supporters are mostly exaggerated or simply false
"Tell him" was misheard by a Scranton newspaper reporter as "Kill him!" And then it was once again off to the races with nonsense about how murderous and bloodthirsty the crowds are after Gov. Palin incites them to violence. My guest-post at HughHewitt.com doesn't defend the guilty, but indicts the over-imaginative.
(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
On my post from this past Tuesday that was entitled Sarah Palin's campaigning is infused with contagious joy, a commenter cited a report that someone, referring to Sen. Barack Obama, had shouted "Kill him!" at the Palin rally in Scranton, PA, which was the subject of my post. That prompted me to write an update in which, besides rejecting the ridiculous notion that either Gov. Palin or I condoned such actions, I pointed out that the report itself was suspicious.
Now the Secret Service agents and other law enforcement personnel who attended the Scranton rally have all denied having heard anyone shout "Kill him!" there, according to a news report yesterday from the same local paper which had been cited by the commenter here (h/t to commenter Loren at my own blog):
The Scranton Times-Tribune first reported the alleged incident on its Web site Tuesday and then again in its print edition Wednesday. The first story, written by reporter David Singleton, appeared with allegations that while congressional candidate Chris Hackett was addressing the crowd and mentioned Obama’s name a man in the audience shouted “kill him."
News organizations including ABC, The Associated Press, The Washington Monthly and MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann reported the claim, with most attributing the allegations to the Times-Tribune story.
Agent Bill Slavoski said he was in the audience, along with an undisclosed number of additional secret service agents and other law enforcement officers and not one heard the comment.
“I was baffled,” he said after reading the report in Wednesday’s Times-Tribune.
He said the agency conducted an investigation Wednesday, after seeing the story, and could not find one person to corroborate the allegation other than Singleton.
Slavoski said more than 20 non-security agents were interviewed Wednesday, from news media to ordinary citizens in attendance at the rally for the Republican vice presidential candidate held at the Riverfront Sports Complex. He said Singleton was the only one to say he heard someone yell “kill him.”
So this was either a case of an over-eager pro-Obama imagination on the part of a single reporter, or a hearing disorder on his part, perhaps one related to Obama's own condition of being "green behind the ears."
Nevertheless, Sen. Obama played the "victim card" at last night's debate, attempting to hold John McCain responsible for mostly imaginary events that are outside Sen. McCain's or Gov. Palin's control even on the comparatively rare occasions when they have occurred. Does this guy expect to be able to pull that stuff on Putin too?
Another leftie who regularly comments here has been emailing me with accusations that my harsh words about unrepentant terrorist and currently still-dangerous education radical Bill Ayers are my attempts to "de-humanize" Ayers to set him up for violence. That, too, is troll nonsense. I would be delighted to see Ayers in prison, since by his own boastful admission, he is "free as a bird" despite being "guilty as hell" of crimes for which he's never been punished and never shown an ounce of remorse. I believe he should be shunned and held up as an example of the very worst of humanity. I have pointed him out to my own teen children as the sort of social cancer who continues to threaten their and their schoolmates' future, and the sort of unrehabilitated criminal they're unfortunately likely to find sheltered among the faculty when they attend college. But neither I nor, to my knowledge, any other critic of Sen. Obama for his long and close relationship with Ayers believes that either of them ought to be physically attacked. Making such frivolous verbal attacks on Obama or Ayers critics is nowhere close, on any proper scale of moral conduct, to Ayers' own crimes, but it does indicate a breathtaking degree of disingenuousness and/or cluelessness.