Friday, October 26, 2012
Speculations on the Benghazi terrorist attack's impact on the election
Most American presidential elections turn on domestic policy and issues, not foreign policy or war. Rare exceptions have included 1864, 1916, 1940 & 1944, arguably 1968, and 2004.
I do not believe that the Obama Administration's bizarre and sorry handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks that killed Amb. Chris Stevens and three other fine Americans will overshadow domestic issues in the upcoming election. This election is still going to be mostly about the economy for most people, and it should be.
But short of that, I think the Benghazi story is still having a serious impact on the election. I know a lot of good Americans who voted joyously for Obama in 2008, and whose second thoughts and sober reappraisals since have diluted a lot of their zeal. Some of them still have open minds enough to have realized — especially during the three presidential debates — that the synchronized media and Obama-Biden portrayals of Mitt Romney as some sort of scary boogeyman were always detached from reality. Obama basically decided to campaign against Mild Mitt as Lyndon Johnson campaigned against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Jimmy Carter campaigned against Ronald Reagan in 1980. But when the other 80% of America who only pays attention during the last six weeks before Election Day opened their eyes, they suddenly realized why hard-core movement conservatives have never mistaken Mitt Romney for Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan!
Yet many of those voters still held onto considerable residual fondness for President Obama. They sympathized with him. They felt like they could share and appreciate his own frustration with just how hard his job turned out to be. Many of them were disappointed by what they perceived as his sell-outs — Gitmo's still open, we've still got troops in combat overseas, Drones R Us, etc. But they could mostly forgive Obama for that, and they still believed he was basically a good and honest and competent man who'd never put his political ambition ahead of what's noble and good.
It's just damned hard for anyone to square that with this slow-motion horror show. Just about every corner of the Administration's preferred narrative has completely unraveled; nothing's been repaired; on this entire subject, the Obama Administration is entirely in confused and reeling tatters.
I think it could cost President Obama a fair number of votes outright, but I think it's going to have a much more serious impact on Democratic turn-out.
Even those who still love him can't miss the fact that he's getting smaller every day. Even if they still like him, they just can't continue to pretend that he's earned their vote for a second term. They might very well not be able to bring themselves to vote for Romney. But they are already reconciling themselves to the possibility of staying home, or procrastinating until the polls are closed, or whatever else they need to do to preempt any last guilty sentiments.
I could be completely wrong about this. It's just my hunch. I'm even reckless enough to try a medical analogy, which any lawyer should know better than: This Libya business seems to me like an occult ruptured spleen, one that doesn't present with the usual signs and symptoms that would signal the docs that the patient needs urgent surgery, one that may come on seemingly spontaneously many hours or even days after the original trauma. One minute the patient looks pretty normal and alert, maybe just a bit pale; and the next, they've bled out internally and they're dead.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Does Obama-Biden have an edge in the GOTV ground game?
I would like all of my friends who are Democrats to read this very optimistic assessment of the relative quality of the two parties' get-out-the-vote "ground games" by a staff writer for the reliably left-leaning The Atlantic. (Hat-tip Avik Roy at The Corner.)
Seriously, I'd especially like for all my Dem friends in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Iowa to read this very optimistic assessment. Treat it as authoritative. Consider its devastating logic and credibility as you cope with the many demands on your time in the next couple of weeks. Any good progressive can and should rely on The Atlantic, so you can be absolutely certain that with or without your vote, Obama's got this in the bag. Oh, sure, you could schlep down to the polls and engage in a bit of symbolic ritual, but really, what's going to more directly affect your real-world quality of life and the lives of those you love — some symbolism, or a really good, long, guilt-free nap?
My main question after reading this is: If the Obama campaign is actually this smart and effective, why is unemployment still above 8% and the deficit above $16T?
Also, if the Romney campaign is as clueless as it appears to be from this article, how did he ever manage to pull off that Olympics thing or make all that money?
These questions ought not trouble my Democratic friends, though. Yes, those are the droids you were looking for.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Say no to Trump
Donald Trump is a manufactured celebrity, a publicity whore unfit to shine the shoes of thousands of genuine business people I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with in my 30-plus years as a lawyer. I will not contribute to his cause by linking any of the various sources that are popping up regarding rumors of some "revelation" that Trump may or may not be planning on making now, on the brink of the election.
I will repeat, however, something I've said here and elsewhere repeatedly: Michelle Obama and I probably would never be close friends, but not a single one of my arguments as to why Barack Obama should lose this election has anything to do with her. When it comes to finding grounds to find fault with her husband, we are in a target-rich environment, friends and neighbors. But:
There is simply no net political upside for anyone who opposes Barack Obama's reelection in doing anything that will be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as an attack on the First Lady, or an intrusion into the Obamas' marriage and family that has no close relationship to anything Pres. Obama has done or might do as President.
There is, by vivid contrast, an obvious and enormous potential for blowback and backlash. So anyone who does that — including Donald the Ridiculous — is acting entirely on his own behalf, not on behalf of Mitt Romney or the GOP or conservatives (even the most traditional social conservatives).
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Beldar on the second Obama-Romney debate
I intend to mix metaphors with enthusiasm in this post, but that's the only enthusiasm you'll find in it if you're a fellow conservative.
Nobody made a Ford/Poland-size gaffe last night. There are those who argue that in the biggest picture, against an incumbent President, a challenger "wins" merely by holding his own, fighting to an approximate draw, because burnishing his "potentially presidential" image is more important than who made better arguments. I'm not entirely convinced of that, but in any event it begs the question of who got the better of whom in any particular debate. In my judgment, last night President Obama got the better of Gov. Romney by a nontrivial margin.
Of course the moderating was pathetically biased. Conservatives continue to find this surprising in exactly the same fashion that Charlie Brown continues to be surprised when Lucy snatches the football away just before he can kick it, causing him to flip over and land on his head. I stopped laughing when Charlie Brown does this sometime back in the 1970s. Lucy will keep yanking the ball away, though, until Charlie Brown withdraws his cooperation from the exercise, and so too the Democrats and the Debates Commission will keep foisting these mainstream media moderators onto us and the American public until we withdraw ours.
Single most important result:
President Obama generally succeeded in reversing the impression of disengagement and lassitude he'd generated in even his own partisans during his first appearance against Romney. And he did so without, for the most part, going nearly so over the top in his disrespect or smirking as Biden had. This was not a particularly high bar — the silver lining to what was perceived as Obama's disastrous first performance was that it certainly lowered expectations for his subsequent ones! — but he cauterized the wounds in the Democratic base's self-confidence that Biden had merely bandaged. Had Obama failed to clear this low bar, the race would have ended last night because the wounds from the first debate on the Dems' GOTV/turn-out efforts would have turned out to be definitively mortal. They may still turn out to be; but for now, the patient has been stabilized.
Like every news-following conservative who watched the debate, I am thoroughly mystified, and more than just a little disappointed, by Gov. Romney's unpreparedness on the subject of Ambassador Chris Stevens' assassination. For the last several days, the President's proxies have been pointing to the "no acts of terror" phrase in his Rose Garden remarks on the day after the attack. They've used that phrase as their exclusive justification for the claim that the Administration was not completely and unequivocally devoted to the dishonest "it was all about the YouTube video" excuse that was otherwise the entire focus of Obama's remarks that day, and that the Administration shamefully and dishonestly continued to peddle through U.N. Ambassador Rice and others for more than a week thereafter. Was Romney genuinely surprised when Obama used that phrase to defend himself in the debate? I think he was feigning surprise as part of an effort to set and spring a trap. But his effort was so bungled that he ended up looking merely badly informed himself — and thus the trap effectively closed on Romney instead of on Obama. An adequately skillful set-up would have anticipated that Obama would have nothing but that phrase to rely upon, and would therefore have acknowledged that single phrase, but gone on — before Obama had a chance to use it again — to explain why it's not a credible excuse.
Even TIME's Mark Thompson calls Team Obama's reliance on that single "no acts of terror" phrase a "[p]retty weak reed," and says of Obama's word games (italics his) that "in Tuesday night's second presidential debate, we also learned that President Obama isn’t beyond twisting what he said then [in his Rose Garden remarks] to make him sound better now." Weak or even twisted reed that it may have been, however, Romney permitted Obama (with an assist from the moderator) to thrash him about the head and shoulders with it on national television. In basketball terms, just as Romney was about to shoot, he bobbled the ball into Obama's hands, and then Obama got away with traveling on a fast-break and scored an uncontested three-pointer after the ref set a pick for him. But it still goes into the record books as an unforced error by Romney that destroyed a scoring opportunity and gave up a score to his opponent.
I also thought Gov. Romney missed another opportunity in his closing. Obama hadn't yet hit him hard on the "47 percent" gaffe. But both Romney and Obama knew that Obama would get to speak last. So Romney absolutely, positively knew when he gave his closing two minutes that an attack based on this gaffe would be coming, and that he (Romney) wouldn't have any further chance last night to rebut it. Romney did try to indirectly anticipate Obama's attack by insisting that he "cares about 100 percent of the American people," and that he wants "100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future." But this had become the ideal opportunity to make his most public and most specific disavowal of, and apology for, the gaffe. And had he done so, he might have effectively "pulled the teeth" from the gaffe himself before Obama could use them to bite Romney.
Since Romney didn't specifically and preemptively disavow the gaffe, however, when it came Obama's turn to close, then sure enough, instead of having had his planned sound-bite disrupted by a Romney spoiling attack, Obama was able to land the exact lines he'd pre-planned — and he still got good mileage from them.
So as far as the debates considered in isolation go, I score the series at two games to one, with one left to play. Certainly both candidates must avoid any Ford/Poland-magnitude gaffes at the last one. I still think unlikely any scenario in which the debates are going to turn out in a way that helps the Obama-Biden ticket overall on a net basis. And the Obama partisans' original fantasy — that Obama would dominate Romney as thoroughly in these debates as he had John McCain — isn't going to be resurrected, so at this point I think they'd be quite happy to salvage a two-to-two overall tie.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Beldar on the Ryan-Biden Veep debate
I'll give you even odds on whether the doctor who last adjusted Slow Joe's meds will be thrown under the Obama bus by Monday.
I started seriously touting Paul Ryan as the best potential GOP presidential nominee back on May 17, 2011; toward that end, I created a "Draft Paul Ryan" sidebar graphic on May 26, 2011. Every significant event since then, culminating in tonight's debate, has left me more convinced that he would be the best available person to undertake the world's most difficult job. But I will now settle with reasonable contentment for Ryan being the proverbial heartbeat away, and will cast my vote accordingly.
Strategically, big picture:
Biden over-reached, undoubtedly under prompting by Axelrod and the Chicago gang. He was not much more incoherent than normal, which is to say that when the Democratic talking heads who can still speak in sentences and paragraphs re-interpret and translate his remarks, they'll be able to pretend there's at least a kernel of reality associated with most of Biden's vocal shrapnel. I don't think he made the kind of gaffe that he's famous for; but he was never famous for making gaffes at debates. But instead, his bizarre behavior opened (or reopened) the most basic questions about his own temperament and competence. And it's much harder to spin bizarre behavior than sloppy factual assertions. There's nothing any talking head can ever say or write that could transform Joe Biden's performance tonight into anything remotely "presidential."
Biden put his own fitness as a potential presidential successor into issue. Ryan ended any remaining doubts about his. Therefore: GOP leads the series two to zero with two yet to play.
I think it's still a very close question whether the American electorate prefers the Obama-Biden ticket to the Romney-Ryan ticket. But only the most blind and stubborn of partisans — and I concede there are many such — can still pretend that anyone in America is anything but terrified of the words "President Biden."
UPDATE (Thu Oct 11 @ 10:45pm): By way of concluding postscript, from memory and without benefit of replay or transcript:
Ryan mentioned John F. Kennedy's tax cuts in 1961 and the resulting economic growth. Biden interrupted with what seemed to me to be a half-formed taunt along the lines of, "So now you're claiming to be Jack Kennedy?" I say "half-formed," because it was an allusion to, but without an explicit naming of, Lloyd Bentsen's devastating "Jack Kennedy was my friend, Senator, and you're no Jack Kennedy" put-down of Dan Quayle in their 1992 debate.
Ryan caught the reference and smiled, but tried to continue with his answer rather than responding to the taunt or following up on the allusion. And modesty forbade Ryan from doing the latter, I think.
But my immediate reaction was that Biden's instincts had caught him this once, and saved him from a possible disaster: He was wise to bite back the full taunt.
You see, unlike Lloyd Bentsen, Biden did not know Jack Kennedy personally or serve with him in the U.S. Navy. But if Biden had tried to say, out loud and in so many words, "Congressman, you're no Jack Kennedy," then I think that most of those Americans who can actually remember Jack Kennedy — those who can remember how articulate and poised and self-confident and self-deprecating Kennedy was at his best, and who can remember, more than anything else, his youthful vigor (or "VIG-gah" as they said at Hyannisport) — would have said to themselves, "Well, actually, Paul Ryan does remind me of Jack Kennedy!" It was best for Biden for his allusion to go unremarked and uncompleted, in other words, because it would have blown up in his face.
(As did Biden's first attempt to throw Romney's "47% gaffe" in Ryan's face. Ryan was obviously prepared, and his responsive sound-bite will be one of the most quoted and replayed lines from the debate. To all those who thought Obama was foolish not to have confronted Romney on that particular point during the first debate, I've always thought: Do you think Romney didn't have a super-polished focus-grouped response prepared for that? Do you think anything could please Romney more than having a chance to re-deliver and improve upon, during the debate itself, the walk-back he'd already been trying to get the press to cover? That was a deliberate choice on Obama's part, and in fact a wise one in context.)
I think, and certainly hope, that we saw the effective end of one long political career tonight, and the full unveiling of another whose potential is deep and vasty.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Why was almost nothing the Obama Administration initially said about the Libyan tragedy accurate?
I recommend to you Stephen F. Hayes' timely essay entitled "Permanent Spin." Key bit:
So we are left with this: Four Americans were killed in a premeditated terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, and for more than a week the Obama administration misled the country about what happened.
This isn’t just a problem. It’s a scandal.
By all means, read the whole thing.
At least it wasn't Jimmy Carter's administration who made up the fiction that the terrorists who stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage — a terrorist group whose members included the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — were "merely students." Carter just republished that fiction — and indeed, he relied upon it to pretend that Iran hadn't committed what would have been immediately recognized throughout human history as an unequivocal declaration of war through an armed attack. (And should have been so recognized then.)
We can argue about whether this Administration's misinformation was merely incompetent or actively deceptive (i.e., disinformation). Hayes makes, in my judgment, a strong case for the latter, whereas I'd argue it's a combination of both.
But no one can argue that the early information released by the Obama Administration about the Libyan tragedy has been accurate or trustworthy.
I hope that during the foreign policy debate, Gov. Romney spotlights this particularly ugly performance by the Obama Adminstration. That will probably be his best chance to cut through the mainstream media's too-willing fog on these issues.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Beldar on Patterico on Crawford (updated)
My excellent blogospheric friend Patterico has posted an articulate defense of CBS News reporter Jan Crawford, who's being accused of having been caught on tape coordinating with other mainstream media reporters their questions for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney about the current Middle East turmoil. He fairly summarizes the particulars of the accusations, so I won't repeat them here.
Like Patterico, I'm a long-time fan of Ms. Crawford's — see, for example, my 2007 review of her book on the Supreme Court and its Justices — although I don't have the personal acquaintance with her that he has. In the interest of further disclosure, I should also perhaps mention again that I briefly represented Ms. Crawford's current employer, CBS News, in a Fifth Circuit defamation appeal back in the mid-1980s, although I'm no longer at the same law firm which CBS hired then, and certainly since my participation in Rathergate I have had no expectations that they'd ever hire me again.
Patterico and I agree entirely, I think, that Ms. Crawford's body of work over time has earned her a great deal of credibility — far too much to discount it all to zero over one incident.
But his defense goes far beyond that, and you really should read the whole thing there on his blog.
In general I share our host’s good opinion of Ms. Crawford. This episode doesn’t outweigh everything else she’s done which I admire. But I emphatically do not admire this episode, at least in its murky outlines.
That those outlines are still murky is her fault. She needs to explain if she wants to salvage the good reputation she earned. That people are critical is no excuse whatsoever for her failure to do so — unless one thinks cowardice is a virtue.
And I think the vehemence of the reaction is in large part due to the fact that we expected better of her than this, and we’re concerned that this unguarded glimpse actually represents the common reality instead of an exception.
I also don’t at all share Patterico’s view that the campaign press pool’s “coordinating questions” is okay in the abstract. It’s emphatically not okay in the abstract or in the concrete, it’s collusion designed to script and therefore limit and channel the American political dialog. It’s a very, very fundamental breach of journalistic ethics, and if abstracted and universalized would make a mockery of the entire concept of the “Fourth Estate” as a watchdog of our liberties.
It’s no accident that we metaphorically speak of the “marketplace of ideas.” The members of the press corps who are allowed continual access to our major-party candidates are repositories of our collective trust, but they aren’t supposed to act collectively themselves. Instead, we rely upon them, and their questions to the candidates, to reflect, in broad terms, the interests of the electorate in all its diversity and peculiarity.
If the candidate takes ten questions of ten different reporters, presumably each of those ten reporters will have considered what’s previously been asked before asking his own, to avoid wasteful duplication. Among them, they should manage to fairly inquire about not just the “consensus” issues, but some of the outliers too.
What Crawford appears to be caught on tape doing is the journalistic equivalent of price-fixing. That’s hard to prove in the marketplace of commerce or the marketplace of ideas, but occasionally there’s the proverbial “smoking gun”: the memorandum agreeing that next quarter’s steel output will be limited and prices fixed, the revelation that there’s a JournoList, or here, an open-mike snatch of conversation which dispels all pretense of journalistic independence of thought or action.
If the question is genuine, and genuinely important, there should never be any more need to coordinate its asking than there is for manufacturers to coordinate the price of steel.
UPDATE (Sat Sep 15 @ 2:20am): Patterico has a follow-up post. He argues persuasively, with links and quotes, to establish that after the Cairo embassy's statement, the sequence was:
So: a) Crawford attacks the embassy’s statement; b) Romney issues a similar statement; and c) Crawford does a fair report that portrays Romney in a positive light.
I've no quarrel with any of that. He continues:
Now, I can understand people arguing that any discussion among colleagues about what they are going to ask a candidate is somehow illegitimate. I disagree, but that argument is not outside the realm of reasonableness.
But portraying Crawford as some nasty member of a liberal cabal, while it might feel satisfying, is, in the end, an unnecessary attack on one of the good ones.
I agree completely with the second paragraph of that, and that's by far the more important paragraph.
I'd quibble with the first. I don't think anyone contends that "any discussion among colleagues about what they are going to ask a candidate is somehow illegitimate." I think that misstates the issue rather badly. The issue is instead, I believe, whether it's ethical and appropriate for journalists to negotiate and mutually agree that they should construct or conform their questions in a particular manner. These reporters are supposedly competitors of one another; all should be trying to ask unique and brilliant questions so that they and their employers will be relatively more successful in the marketplace of ideas and, therefore, in the marketplace of commerce. Instead, they're engaged in a secret plan, quite literally a conspiracy, to ensure that Mitt Romney will look bad so that Obama will be reelected.
Patterico argues, again — and again with merit — that it sounds from the tape as if Crawford was trying to exercise a moderating influence on the rest of the press corps' reflexive hostility to Mitt Romney. Again, I agree entirely with that.
But her job isn't to be a moderating influence as a participant in a fundamentally corrupt and fraudulent exercise. After this private discussion, she went on with business as usual, when an ethical journalist would, I contend, have made the story of the day: "Press corps conspires to coordinate hostile questions to Romney."
Is it entirely possible that CBS would have promptly fired Crawford if she'd made that the story of the day? Yes, I think so. But Crawford presumably knew their history when she took the job; perhaps she's made a Faustian bargain, blinkering herself to her colleagues' unethical behavior as the necessary cost of admission to the club.
Patterico's conclusion is one I can also cheerfully endorse, and do:
Again: the so-called “coordination of questions” issue is fair game for reasonable minds to differ. I don’t see it as a huge deal, but I can respect someone who argues to the contrary. I’d like to see Jan address that issue, frankly.
But I think it’s unfair to write off this reporter as part of a liberal conspiracy to undermine Romney, when she seemingly agreed with his position, and portrayed it fairly and in a positive light. I hope this post makes people rethink such a position. Because Jan Crawford is not the enemy. She just isn’t.
Yes, I'd like to see her address this, too. But I'd rather she blew the whistle on this kind of stuff.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Press assumes nothing BUT Obamacare can possibly be caring
It is very hard for even well-informed members of the general public to stay focused during detailed discussions of health care reform, Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid. I have become very appreciative, therefore, of the consistently clear and powerful writing on these topics from Yuval Levin. He gives me detail at a level I can still absorb, and he gives us all links. And he always orients everything he says so that it can be understood as part of the biggest picture and broadest perspective: He explains and organizes so that things can be seen to fit together coherently.
His recent post on NRO's The Corner entitled "Pre-Existing Ignorance" is bracing. And its clarity dispels a lot of confusion and mental cobwebs.
Levin faults the reporters covering the political fights on these health-care reform issues for not even making an effort to inform themselves about the two nominees' respective positions on the subject matter, and he says they've completely "fallen for the Democratic line about Obamacare":
That line involves, first of all, the notion that Obamacare is simply the definition of health-care reform, and that to oppose it means to not want to solve the problems with our system. Reporters are therefore surprised anytime a Republican expresses the desire to solve those problems, and they assume that means he must want to keep Obamacare....
They're not journalists. They're acolytes.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Slow Joe seems secure
My blogospheric friend Dafydd ab Hugh asked earlier this week if I would be just a little bit disappointed if U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did indeed turn up in Timor-Leste and Brunei today, as scheduled, instead of in Charlotte, NC, to replace Slow Joe Biden as President Obama's running mate for the 2012 presidential election. As I answered him then,
I will be relieved if my prediction is false, not disappointed. I want Obama to lose, and I think replacing Biden with Hillary could and would help him win.
I'd like to be able to say "I told you so" if Hillary shows up on stage in Charlotte on Thursday night, but not remotely enough to wish, even a little, for something that would improve Obama's reelection chances.
I will concede only that if Obama does win, I would very much prefer for Joe Biden no longer to be first in the line of presidential succession....
Multiple news organizations are reporting that the SecState is indeed on schedule, and the AP photo at right purports to show Mrs. Clinton as she "enjoys a cup of coffee as she tours the Timor Coffee Cooperative in Dili, East Timor, Sept. 6, 2012." That is indeed enough to overcome my residual conspiracy-theory paranoia. Short of the Air Force strapping Mrs. Clinton into an SR-71 Blackbird, I don't think she could be in Charlotte in time to accept the Dems' nomination. That doesn't, of course, rule out a last-minute switch to someone else as a Biden replacement, but anyone else would be harder for the Democratic voting public to embrace spontaneously.
There is still a very, very, very remote chance that Obama could replace Biden before election day, but they're very close to ballot-printing deadlines across the country. If he had wanted to pull off a surprise comparable to the bin Ladin raid, the convention would have been the time for Obama to do it. So I think Slow Joe can breathe easy.
And as I predicted to Dafydd, I am indeed relieved, and I am very happy to contemplate, with chortles and chuckles, the prospect of the current Vice President debating he whom I believe should be the next one, Paul Ryan, in due course. Obama keeping Biden guarantees the maximum contrast in competency, and that Romney will get the most possible benefit from his Veep pick.
I think political wonks will someday mark this missed opportunity as the moment when Obama's political savvy finally finished turning from stainless steel to rust. The Dems will surely lick their wounds and re-write their convention rules and primary schedule and delegate selection procedures for 2016 — presumably to Clintonista specifications — during 2013-2014, when they take steps to prevent another accidental presidency by someone who's still coasting on fumes from one really good speech or exploiting one really appealing new angle. And some of them will wonder what might have been if only Obama had been slightly more adventurous, slightly more honest with himself about the risks of keeping Slow Joe, back in September 2012. As when the Dems recovered from the disastrous McGovern candidacy in 1972, as a party they'll surely tack more toward the center to return to competitiveness. That will probably be a good thing overall for the two-party system and for the country, and I support both.
"Bold and brittle talk, Beldar," you may say, "from one just proved so wrong." That may be, and this isn't the first time one of my predictions has come a cropper. But why should I lament the failure of my political opponents to exploit an opportunity that I saw, but that they, apparently, chose not to follow?
Just in case, though: I really, really do hope that President Obama has finally really given up smoking.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Sputtering Puffington Host gives Beldar a morning grin
I opened my browser today to the Puffington Host for the specific purpose of seeing how badly "on tilt" the Lefties are after Paul Ryan's speech. Here was my answer:
Immediately I thought back to Datechguy's rallying cry, upon close observation of Team Obama and its partisans: "Ride right through 'em, they're demoralized as hell!"
I confess that I did not read the Puffington Host post linked from that dramatic headline. Perhaps in the Puffington Host's alternate universe, the Democratic whom Obama appointed to co-chair the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, Erskine Bowles, never gushed about fellow commission member Paul Ryan thusly:
Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was okay at arithmetic, this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget, and it cut the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.
The president came out with his own plan. And, the president as you remember, came out with a budget. And I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-to-nothing.
Perhaps in the Puffington Host's alternate universe, that GM plant is actually still open, and America's credit rating was never downgraded. Perhaps there, water flows uphill, Obamacare didn't raid Medicare, and one of the most reflexively liberal political blogs at the Washington Post never ran this headline and story:
But regarding those voters who are firmly tethered to this universe, I think Paul Ryan had a very good night, and the hysterical confabulation of this Puffington Host front-page makes me even more confident of that than I was last night.
Beldar reviews Wednesday night's GOP convention speakers
Tonight I recorded, and just now finished watching, the GOP convention speeches given by Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), former Secretary of State Condi Rice, and, of course, the newly official GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). I watched C-Span's coverage because I'm hard-core enough in my politics that I will even sacrifice HD just to avoid interruptions by insipid talking heads and toilet bowl cleaner commercials.
Susana Martinez opened a lot of eyes tonight. I know the Dems will inevitably label as "tokens," "sell-outs," or worse essentially every woman, and certainly every non-white person, who speaks at the GOP convention. But if you're actually listening to these speakers, I can't imagine how you could continue to insist that these non-WASP Republicans are just eye candy and time-fillers. My reaction to Gov. Martinez is like my reaction to U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz: "Stronger'n train smoke!" They are no one's clones, every one of them has a compelling personal story, and they radiate both authenticity and competency. The GOP has developed a deep and talented bench, folks, and it's been on display last night and tonight for anyone who cared to invest the time to look.
I have long been, and remain, among Condi Rice's fans. She is a prodigiously gifted writer and wordsmith, and she is commanding in one-on-ones and small groups, but she is not a career politician, nor a naturally confident public speaker in large venues. When I thought I heard an occasional nervous quiver in her voice tonight, I loved her for it all the more, because it simply highlighted the willpower and determination that have characterized her remarkable life story: she couldn't eliminate her jitters, but she relentlessly mastered them with every line of her speech.
Secretary Rice's critique of the Obama Administration's foreign policy was measured and substantive, if not very deep on details — which is to say, it was appropriately pitched for the audience and purpose at this nominating convention. But what was most noticeable and surprising to me — and this may have been something which came through better on C-Span, I don't know — was how very warmly the convention audience responded to her.
The Bush Presidents, with whom Rice is closely associated, and their spouses appeared only briefly tonight, and that in a brief, pre-recorded, and mostly sentimental video tribute. It was probably focus-grouped within an inch of its life to ensure its complete inoffensiveness. And everyone in the GOP — including the Bush family and all their allies and supporters — understands the decision Gov. Romney made long ago, back during the earliest pre-primary campaigning, to begin writing a new chapter of his own. There was no downside to de-emphasizing either Bush-41 or Bush-43, and no likely net benefit from highlighting them.
But the people in that convention hall are, for the most part, the GOP faithful. Thus, when Condi urged the audience to recall and appreciate "the will to make difficult decisions, heart-wrenching choices in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time," the audience responded powerfully, with authentic affection that I believe was intended not just for her, but also for He Who For Purposes of Political Expediency Must Barely Be Named, the President in whose cabinet she most recently served. Even still, that applause was dwarfed by the approving roar she got from these lines (punctuation mine):
And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America. Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant. But they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she can be President of the United States. And she becomes the Secretary of State!
That applause all belonged to Condi — because, as she went on to say, "America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable." Many other people and circumstances made her career possible, but she is who actually made it happen. She built that career, one might say. And the audience just adored her, not just because they agreed with what she was saying, but because they approved of the fine and fierce example she has set.
Not a single word in Paul Ryan's acceptance speech surprised me, but that's because I've been listening closely to his public speaking for a couple of years now. I was, for example, utterly unsurprised that he did not back away a millimeter from his dogged commitment to make this election a debate over spending, the debt crisis, and the on-rushing collapse of our national safety net under the Democrats. But there were a few particularly well-crafted lines in this speech that I hadn't previously heard. My personal favorite among them was this:
None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers — a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.
For tonight, I am content.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Best line of Tuesday evening's GOP convention speeches
There are several good contenders, but for my money, it was this one, from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote speech:
You see, Mr. President — real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls.
Christie's remarkable and transformative success in blue New Jersey gives him the credibility to say that. It is a combined diagnosis and prescription that, alas, can be fairly directed not only at President Obama, but also at many other politicians on both sides of the aisle.
But no one has ever accused Paul Ryan of tailoring his politics to anyone's public opinion polling — and as Prof. Reynolds frequently and aptly notes, picking Ryan was Mitt Romney's first presidential-level decision. Picking Joe Biden was Obama's, and that contrast gives me hope for success in November.
My read on the subtext of Tuesday night's proceedings: Every speech had clearly been prescreened and edited to minimize any kind of negative campaigning directly against Obama. Romney-Ryan is obviously confident that the GOP is unified behind it, so it will focus essentially all of its own campaigning, including everything in this convention, on influencing independent and swing voters in battleground states. Those states quite literally contain the polls — the electoral kind, not the public-opinion kind — where the GOP strategists believe the election will be won or lost, and therefore those are the polls the results of which (per Gov. Christie's prescription) Romney-Ryan must change through a show of leadership. The Romney-Ryan campaign will rely on surrogates and outside groups to rally the base from now on; they're serving little to no red meat at this convention, but it will be served up, in more targeted campaigning, by others to those who want it or can be influenced by it.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Red books vs. blue books, and Obama's book(s) vs. Romney's book
Instapundit Glenn Reynolds links Amazon's Election Heat Map 2012, which contains Amazon.com's ongoing analysis of its sales of political books, which it divides into "neutral" books, "red" books, and "blue" books. A book's color, for this purpose, has nothing to do with its cover; instead, Amazon says it classifies political books as red or blue (rather than neutral) "if they have a political leaning made evident in book promotion material and/or customer classification, such as tags."
According to Amazon's current analysis, in the last 30 days, "red" books have outsold "blue" books by 56% to 44% nationally, and "red" books have outsold "blue" books in all states except New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. Texas, colored cherry-red on Amazon's map, buys two "red" books for every "blue" book, but "red" books only hold a tenuous 2% lead in California.
Prof. Reynolds notes Amazon's sidebar, though, which tracks the sales of Barack Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream," against Romney's "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" — with Obama's book substantially outselling Romney's.
I haven't yet read Romney's book, but I read Obama's first quote-unquote "autobiography" — "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," quite closely before the 2008 election. Indeed, I compared Obama's "Dreams" to John McCain's "Faith of My Fathers" in a long post then — McCain versus Obama: 'placelessness,' faith, and dreams — which I think holds up pretty well today. (My two key conclusions: (1) "Barack Obama's young life, and the people around him then, were filled with unconnected randomness. John McCain's young life, and the people around him then, were filled with deeply shared purpose"; and (2) "McCain got a rock-solid and abiding 'faith' from his grandfather and father — faith in them, in himself, in the U.S. Navy and the other U.S. military forces, and most importantly, in all of America — while at best, Obama got only 'dreams' from his.")
I also tried to read "The Audacity of Hope" in 2008, but I frankly found it dull, nearly impenetrable, and entirely forgettable: It's not really another autobiography, and it has no plot or story. Rather, it's more or less a repackaged bundle of early Obama campaign speeches and position papers. It's a typical politician's book — which is to say, it's a book that exists to be bought (so it will generate a nicely laundered royalty), and to be displayed on supporters' bookshelves, not a book to actually be read by anyone other than a zombied sycophant whose brains have already been scooped out and consumed.
Of course, both of Obama's books are still selling — and providing him with a handsome continuing royalty stream — and if we counted both Obama books against Romney's one, the sales gap would surely be even larger. And indeed, when I noticed that Amazon had only pitted one of Obama's two books against Romney's single book, I thought perhaps that Amazon was guilty of an oversight.
But then I had a small epiphany, and I suddenly understood why "Dreams From My Father" wasn't included in Amazon.com's sale comparison:
It simply wouldn't be fair to compare fiction to nonfiction.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Obama-Biden[?] 2012 dares not relinquish the spotlight for the GOP convention
In 2008, after promising that he would accept federal campaign financing and therefore abide by its spending limits for the general election, Barack Obama brazenly broke that promise. I was therefore somewhat surprised, and mildly gratified, that Obama-Biden 2008 nevertheless honored a long-standing and bipartisan tradition by self-limiting its own campaigning during the 2008 GOP convention. McCain-Palin, of course, also honored that tradition during the Democratic convention. (And it also took federal financing, as a result of which McCain-Palin was vastly outspent.)
There was a practical and mutual benefit to the tradition: Everyone on both sides of the political aisle recognized that every presidential campaign could benefit from a three- or four-day breather, a chance to recharge and reorganize and quietly fund-raise, a chance to gather resources and determination for the sustained push to Election Day. And by honoring the tradition, both parties' campaigns also showed class and self-confidence — an affirmation by each campaign that it was not afraid to give the other campaign a brief monopoly on publicity. The tradition demanded that each side be willing to say, in effect: "Give it your very best shot for a half-week during your convention, only let us have a comparable half-week during our convention in return, and we'll both have better served the American public."
But apparently, desperate times at 1600 Pennsylvania call for desperate measures. Obama-Biden[?] 2012 has announced multiple campaign appearances for Vice President Biden, the First Lady, and President Obama himself during the GOP convention (which will officially run from August 27-30, 2012).
So what's next? At the presidential debates, when it's Mitt's turn to talk, is Obama going to put his fingers in his ears and chant "Na-na-na-na I can't hear you na-na-na-na!" to drown out the sound of Romney's voice?
But the GOP convention comes first this year. And the more Obama-Biden[?] 2012 tries to distract from it, the more justification Romney-Ryan will have to return the favor when the Dems hold their convention on September 3-6, 2012. So why would Obama-Biden[?] 2012 break a tradition when it's certain that the GOP can and will retaliate, and when the sequencing favors the GOP?
The only explanation I can think of is that Obama-Biden[?] 2012 is totally fixated on continuing to divert the public's attention from the exact issues which Paul Ryan's selection has brought to the fore. With the Congressional Budget Office warning that "the economy will enter a recession next year if the country goes over the so-called fiscal cliff" at year-end 2012 — with "the economy contracting by 2.9 percent in the first half" of 2013, and even the artificially understated unemployment rate reaching 9.1 percent — Obama-Biden[?] obviously feels it has to keep up a steady, indeed, an increasing hue and cry about any and all possible distractions. So expect Obama to use these swing-state campaign appearances to continue talking about Romney's tax returns from 2003 or his dog's vacation travels in the 1980s, whatever will get even an iota of traction. So determined are they to distract from the Romney-Ryan message that they're willing to have their own convention undercut.
Of course, since they have no plan other than more taxing, spending, debt, and graft, which they'd rather not talk about, they're not damaged as much by chaos. And besides, when and if Romney-Ryan campaigns during the Democratic National Committee, Obama-Biden[?] 2012 can always employ its universal fall-back:
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Assault into the Mediscare ambush
Fight fear with facts. And when appropriate, bring your mother.
Medicare and Social Security can be saved. They can even be improved upon, without diminishing their reliability. But you can't do it by pretending that they can go on forever, or even more than a small handful of years, without major structural changes.
We need to have this debate. We're glad to have this debate. And we will win it, not just because we have the better debaters — and now, we finally do — but because we have the truth.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
You see, what the Vice President really meant to say was ...
The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper passes along along news "that aides to Vice President Joe Biden have taken the unusual step of wrangling the press for edits to pool reports." Quoting a source I don't choose to link, this post explains that "attempting to intervene in the drafting of accounts that reporters share with one another is all but unheard of," not just regular spin. The quoted source goes on to say that this "reflects the deep concern Biden’s team has about offering any fodder to the opposition."
In other words, the political pros are trading favors and using all their influence to get friendly reporters (i.e., virtually all of them) to take it easy on Slow Joe. They are literally telling the reporters how to do their jobs in a way that will benefit the Obama-Biden[?] campaign.
("Obama-Biden[?] campaign," with that question mark in brackets, is exactly how I'm going to refer to the prospective Democratic ticket for the next three weeks or so. Feel free to do likewise, or not. I'm not in the business of telling my readers how to do their jobs.)
It's hard to imagine a more dispiriting job than being one of Joe Biden's handlers. I'm sure they tell themselves that they're star performers at the circus. In their dreams, they're high-wire performers, or perhaps trapeze artists, always skillfully recovering from desperate peril at the very last moment. But everyone else can see that they're the guys with push-brooms and wheeled trash cans who follow the circus parade to deal with the poop it's left in the streets.
The notion that Obama might replace Biden is spreading, and in addition to Hillary, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is also being floated as a possible replacement. Cuomo is indeed a rising star of the Democratic Party, but he's still a very young man. He is not yet widely known outside New York, and has never run in any sort of national campaign before; we might predict that he'd do well when rolled out, as Paul Ryan has, but Cuomo has only a tiny fraction of Hillary's current name recognition and approval nationally. Cuomo also has many future presidential election cycles in which he might plausibly compete; he's surely ambitious, but the calendar isn't his enemy like it is Hillary's. If (and I don't assume that at all) Cuomo thinks Obama is going to lose this year regardless of whether Biden's replaced, Cuomo might well think it in his best long-term interests to pass on a chance to be the Veep nominee this year. But that's a luxury I don't think Hillary has, as I've previously explained — no more than LBJ could resist JFK's offer in 1960.
UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 10:08am): Meanwhile, it turns out that my whimsical title on yesterday's post has been proved prophetic: Even as I write this update, Obama, Biden, and Clinton are huddled together in the Oval Office. Doubtless the POTUS and SecState are merely drawing upon the VPOTUS' vast foreign policy experience — in which case we should expect an announcement this afternoon that Iraq is being partitioned into three parts.
Or maybe they're having a conversation that includes the phrases "take one for the team" and "good sport."
Is anyone monitoring the lockdown status of Wikipedia's entries on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton?
Whatever other consequences might flow from Obama picking a different Veep nominee to run with him in 2012, and whatever someone like Hillary might bring to the ticket that Biden cannot, the one thing that Obama can be reasonably certain of is this: Dropping Joe Biden won't cost Obama a single electoral vote. Biden has no constituency; so long as Biden exits with reasonable grace, even the voters of Delaware — probably including Biden's close friends and family — will still vote for Obama-Whoever in at least the same numbers as they would if Biden remained on the ticket.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Romney picks Ryan
On my recent post entitled Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism, reader Greg Q commented today: "So, why aren't you gloating yet about Romney picking Ryan?" And my dear friend DRJ, recalling my support for Sarah Palin in June 2008 and my support for a possible Paul Ryan presidential campaign earlier in this election cycle, inquired today in the comments on that same post: "Has any other blogger picked two VPs in a row? Well done, Beldar."
DRJ gives me too much credit: Although I'm happy to see this selection, and I certainly favored and tried to promote both Palin and Ryan as potential Veep nominees months before either was selected, I didn't go on record with a prediction as to whom Gov. Romney would pick this time. And in fact, I'm mildly surprised that he did choose Paul Ryan, although I'm obviously delighted by the choice.
On a superficial level, Ryan is more widely known throughout America now than Sarah Palin was in 2008. As Stephen Hayes wrote in the Weekly Standard on July 23, since John McCain's defeat in November 2008, Paul Ryan has become the intellectual leader of the Republican Party. Speaker John Boehner wields more raw power in the House, but he has relied heavily on Ryan. Boehner deliberately (and commendably) has placed Ryan at the forefront of the House Republicans' opposition to Obama, especially since the GOP recaptured the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. The Dems had already started their slurs campaign against Ryan just based on the threat he posed to Obama from his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee, and when I read Ryan Lizza's grudgingly admiring but fundamentally dishonest profile of Ryan in a recent issue of the New Yorker (which I'm not going to link), I knew the Dems were taking him seriously as a potential GOP Veep nominee.
Nevertheless, to all but perhaps the 10% of American voters who closely follow politics even outside election season, the depth and substance of Paul Ryan and his political philosophy are still largely unknown. Between now and the conventions, the Romney-Ryan campaign will seek to remedy that, and the Obama-Whoever campaign will do what it always does, which is to tell lies designed to frighten and confuse people.
I will go on record with a Veep prediction now, though — not about Ryan, but about his counterpart in the race: If Romney had chosen Rob Portman or Tim Palenty or Marco Rubio instead of Ryan, then Slow Joe Biden and his boss could both have breathed easier. In my view, however, Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession.
To answer Greg Q's question, though: The enthusiasm with which I might otherwise be greeting this pick is not diminished, but is nevertheless deeply tempered, by my conviction that things in America are today much worse than they were at this same time in 2008 — or even, for that matter, than they were in September 2008 during the financial system's near meltdown. We no longer have to speculate how badly a generic Democrat would do as Dubya's successor. We know exactly how abysmally the actual Democrat who succeeded him has performed, and there is absolutely not a reason in the universe to think he will be a whit better or less disastrous if he's permitted four more years to continue dismantling the American Dream.
Romney's choice of Ryan gives me grim satisfaction, then, rather than elation or surprise. It does give me new hope insofar as it demonstrates Gov. Romney's willingness to take on the biggest issues and to move this campaign cycle beyond the ridiculous trivialities that Obama counts upon to distract Americans from his own conspicuous incompetency, his own insufficiency for the office.
But the Dems can't compete with Ryan's principles, which are, very fundamentally, America's principles too. So to keep the conversation on other topics, as they are desperate to do, the Dems will have to pull out all the stops.
Barack Obama's reelection campaign is already the most shamefully dishonest in my memory, which dates back to LBJ vs. Goldwater in 1964. It is about to get much, much worse.
Fortunately, and may God continue to bless him in this regard, one of Paul Ryan's most defining characteristics is his unflappability. Many call Ryan's style "Reaganesque," and it is indeed cheerful and passionate and hope-filled — but Reagan never had Paul Ryan's handle on details.
Those who think the Ryan selection is risky essentially base their projections upon a very poor opinion of the American public's intelligence. But I believe, as did Ronald Reagan, that almost all Americans understand that we can't live forever in a world of magic unicorns and "free" stuff from the government. The magic dust that Obama sprinkled over Americans in 2008 — the magic that he told them could make them fly if only they thought happy thoughts and held Obama's hand — has now all worn off. The entire audience can see the wires, and that most of them are broken. The gap between the Lightworker character as written in Democratic fiction and the tired political hack now playing that part has become more obvious than Mary Martin's bosom. I believe that enough Americans know that it's time to exit the theater as grownups, and to get back to work in the real world.
Batten down the hatches, then, folks. The deluge is here, and the Obama campaign is going to make sure we're all at least waist deep in fecal matter before the voters send that campaign back to the sewers where such nastiness belongs.
UPDATE (Sun Aug 12 @ wee-smalls): I asserted that Ryan's selection improves the odds that Obama will dump Biden for Hillary, but I didn't explain why. The short version is: Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.
Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.
The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Unicorns and hypothetical close relatives of Harry Reid who may have been unsure whether he is or isn't a pederast until they consulted the interwebs
On Friday, Prof. Glenn Reynolds was kind enough to link my recent post about the Harry Reid pederasty rumors, opining that "firmness is justified when responding to slurs from a man widely rumored to be guilty of pederasty." Today he directs us to a thoughtful essay by ethicist and lawyer Jack Marshall in which Mr. Marshall opines that the recent blogospheric attention to the precise nature of the Senate Majority Leader's interest in young boys is "not fair but deserved."
Mr. Marshall urges us to re-take the high road, and that "when dealing with an individual as loathsome as Harry Reid," we should content ourselves with "denigrat[ing] him with the truth":
Reid himself deserves little sympathy, for the collective smear on his name was prompted by his own scurrilous rumor-mongering on the floor of the U.S. Senate, where he asserted that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes for a decade based on no evidence whatsoever. Nonetheless, while giving someone a “taste of his own medicine” is no doubt satisfying and perhaps even instructive, wrong is wrong, and spreading intentional lies, even about a public figure as devoid of decency and scruples as the Senate Majority Leader, is unethical. No conduct, no matter how nauseating, by its target can justify this. Stooping to Reid’s level can only further degrade civility and dignity in American public discourse, which is the objective of political sewer-dwellers like Reid, not anyone with the best interests of the nation in mind.
This is well put and high-minded. Less persuasive is this bit, though:
The meme is doing its work: Sen. Reid is on the way to being “santorumed.”* Google his name, and Google’s suggested searches put “Harry Reid pederast” third. By next week, it could be first. Will some unsuspecting, innocent and trusting citizens come across this completely fanciful libel of Reid and believe it? Perhaps even a young nephew or niece of the Senate Majority Leader? Oh, we can be sure of that.
I'm not at all sure of that. In fact, I think that's extremely unlikely. Here is the comment I left (which at this moment still awaits moderation; emphasis added):
Mr. Marshall, you argue well and eloquently. But I do not think YOUR fantasy — that some innocent, virginal young relative of Harry Reid will see his name associated with pederasty on the internet AND WILL BELIEVE IT — is a realistic one. Were Harry Reid not a public figure, your fantasy might be plausible. But there are equally bad, and worse, accusations leveled at controversial public figures on the internet every minute of every hour of every day, and this is not a new phenomenon. You’re more likely to persuade me that Harry Reid has sex with real unicorns than that he has anyone close to him whose opinion will be affected by this. Indeed, because they are close to him, they can judge him for themselves. [The people, I meant — not the unicorns, who are famously nonjudgmental.] That’s how real life works.
So: Plaudits for the moral stand. Brickbats for silly and counterfactual arguments to justify it. This is parody, and it has a point other than meanness.
Of course, so do Reid’s lies: HIS point is to actually deceive people.
That, by the way, is a common feature of pederasts.
Mitt Romney has hypothetical nieces and nephews too, you know. From their penthouses in the Grand Caymans, they probably have Google alerts set up to help them keep track of what they ought to think of Uncle Mitt, and I know that they value Harry Reid's opinion above all others.
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Marshall as to whether the fanciful risk of someone becoming persuaded by this meme that Harry Reid really is a pederast — and I'm not the one saying he is, nor am I the one whose political spokesman allegedly charactered the suggestion of Reid's potential pederasty, on the record, as "cute" — is sufficiently real to make it anything other than a theoretical problem. And I disagree with Mr. Marshall's characterization of these posts as being "the intentional spreading of lies." It's actually somewhat insulting to suggest that anyone in the extended Reid family, or for that matter, anyone anywhere, is as spectacularly gullible as Mr. Marshall's characterization would require. But I'll grant Mr. Marshall that Reid's own assertions about Gov. Romney are similarly insulting to the intelligence of the American public, and yet Reid clearly expects political gain from making them anyway.
In my own view, any arguable ethical breach is implicit in, and necessary to, the parody, which I believe to be fully justified; and any ethical shortfall is also mitigated at least to the point of adequate excuse by Reid's own deliberate and malicious lies about Mitt Romney. Were I to extend Mr. Marshall's rationale to its natural conclusion, I'd have to watch what I said about such non-pederastic monsters as Adolf Hitler or Ghengis Khan. Still, come to think of it, has anyone ever seen either of them and Harry Reid in the same room at the same time? Ever? The coincidences just keep adding up. And one thing is indisputable: No one with subpoena power has yet looked into any of these allegations. Sen. Reid's stonewall, in other words, seems to be working — for now.
Nevertheless: To the hypothetical adolescent niece or nephew of Creepy Friendly Old Uncle Harry who happens upon this post and is pondering it:
First, you're probably in big trouble if your parents catch you reading a conservative website. Remember to scrub your browser history, temp files, and cache.
Second, I confess that I know of no evidence to suggest that Harry Reid has sex with real unicorns either. I draw no adverse inference from his failure to deny it, because most people who have sex with real unicorns are understandably shy and reluctant to discuss it. (The unicorns are very private too, and it's easy to understand why no unicorn has yet come forward to admit to a sexual relationship with the powerful Senate Majority Leader.) Certainly you shouldn't think about any of these troubling internet rumors the next time you sit in his lap, because that would be wrong and unfair.
Just remember that your Uncle Harry could put a stop to this in the proverbial New York minute. He could admit that he was lying about Romney and resign from the Senate. Short of that, he could deny the rumors of his pederasty and, like I said earlier, release his personal porn collection.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
Harry Reid: Pederast?
We simply can't know that all the rumors about Harry Reid's pederasty are false until he releases his personal porn collection. Of course, if he denies having a porn collection, we will know he's a liar.
(There are also rumors that Reid and Mitt Romney are both Mormons. I know, that's hard to believe, but I hope someone looks into that. I'm sure someone from Team Obama will get around to it between now and November.)
An email from a law school friend prompted me to remember this post from 2004, in which I revealed the real dirt on John Kerry, too.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Cruz' big win foreshadows watershed election in November
My prediction had the right result, but the final totals were not nearly as close as the five-point difference I'd predicted: As of this moment, with 100 percent of precincts reported, it's Cruz 56.8% versus Dewhurst 43.19% in a blow-out.
David Dewhurst may want to reconsider even running for reelection to his current spot as lieutenant governor. He and Rick Perry both look like yesterday's news.
This gives me all kinds of warm-and-fuzzies for the November presidential election, friends and neighbors. Texas isn't in play, nor is it a mirror for all of America. And the total GOP turnout was quite high for a primary runoff, but still represented only 8.6% of the state's total population of 13 million registered voters.
But for perspective on that: The Dem run-off for this U.S. Senate seat drew a truly pathetic 1.8% of the registered voter total, a mere 235,708 voters compared to 1,106,224 voters in the GOP runoff. The Dems' run-off winner, in other words, should simply be listed as "Who Cares?"
And here's the genuinely amazing statistic: Ted Cruz drew only 480,558 votes out of 1,406,648 total voters (34.16%) in the May 29th initial GOP primary. In this run-off, he drew 628,336 votes out of 1,106,224 total voters (56.8%). Almost as many Texas Republicans voted in the run-off as in the primary, but Cruz' relative performance among them simply skyrocketed. Cruz' net improvement (147,778 votes) was nearly two-thirds of the total Democratic runoff turnout!
This result bespeaks a well-informed populace among whom highly motivated constitutional/movement conservatives are getting incredible traction. This result sings one word to me: "Watershed." It makes me, again, wish that the national GOP had Paul Ryan at the top of its ticket, because he and Ted Cruz are both emblematic of the party's new generation, the "Young Guns" who, ironically, will return America to sustainable principles and limited government. And I think the hunger for that extends far beyond Texas' borders.
Perhaps Gov. Romney will take the hint.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Paul Ryan: "America Deserves a Better Path"
In my view, the GOP should nominate for President the single currently most consequential Republican leader, the one who's most doing the most, and proving the most effective right now, on the most urgent issues threatening our country — not someone who merely has served in a single state, or whose service was mostly or entirely back in the 1990s. With due respect to Speaker Boehner (who actually I'm pretty sure would agree with me on this), the currently most consequential Republican leader is not him. And again, with due (but sincerely calibrated) respect to them, it's certainly not any of the current candidates.
It's Paul Ryan.
As the tag-line suggests, this video is intended as a preview of what Chairman Ryan plans to do with his House committee, and with this year's revised version of the Path to Prosperity, between now and Election Day. Make no mistake, this is targeted at Barack Obama and his Democratic cohorts.
But I agree with the Weekly Standard's Mark Hemmingway when he titles this "the best political campaign ad of 2012." Hemmingway's wistful subtitle: "Unfortunately, he's not running."
The only thing entirely certain about the GOP convention is that it has to produce a nominee for President and Vice President. In some parallel universe in which candidates could put aside their personal ambition — even the kind of driving, compulsive, relentless personal ambition necessary to campaign for President of the United States — in favor of the good of the Nation (and, therefore, the good of the Grand Old Party), I would hope for a brokered convention at which, on the 10th round of deadlock, some combination of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrinch, and Ron Paul would implore all of their original delegates to cast their next ballot for the chairman of the House Budget Committee. But in this universe, I've still not been persuaded to change my sidebar by anything any of those candidates have done since ... well, since ever.
Ryan, by the way, hasn't endorsed anyone, and has promised not to (he says it would be a conflict with his party fundraising position). Wisconsin is a purplish state that's in play. And his pre-Election Day work for the Budget Committee will necessarily be complete or nearly so by the time of the GOP National Convention in Tampa, after which he's going to be campaigning anyway, if (probably) only (sigh) for his current House seat.
Monday, February 06, 2012
George Romney never had a little tip jar
Of the controversy surrounding Mitt Romney's profession that he isn't "concerned about the very poor," Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard artfully explains a rather subtle but important reason why "movement conservatives" were dismayed.
They understand, of course, Romney's full intentions and the entire context of the remarks. And like Romney himself, movement conservatives contemplating Romney as the potential GOP nominee wish he could better repress these self-inflicted rhetorical wounds; his considerable communication skills are offset heavily by something of a tin ear.
Yet even leaving these issues to one side altogether, movement conservatives reacted to Romney's in-context argument with disappointment, according to Hayes, because Romney
seemed utterly unaware of a long strain of conservative thought on the morality of capitalism. He seemed oblivious to the argument — central to the conservative movement — that free markets allow the poor to transcend their position, that poverty is not destiny....
This was, in other words, an opportunity that Romney missed, one in which he could have made a compelling pitch for why even the poor ought prefer Obama's defeat. Hayes continues:
But [Romney] received some help from Marco Rubio, who had shared his own story in the Republican response to the president’s radio address a week earlier.
“My father was a bartender,” Rubio said. “And I thank God every night that there was someone willing to risk their money to build a hotel on Miami Beach and later in Las Vegas where he could work. I thank God that there was enough prosperity in America so people could go on vacation to Miami or Las Vegas. Where people felt prosperous enough to have weddings or Bar Mitzvahs and, by the way, could leave tips in my Dad’s little tip jar. Because with that money he raised us. And he gave me the opportunity to do things he never had a chance to do.”
I think Hayes gets it about right when he concludes:
If Romney wants to return to Tampa to accept the GOP nomination, he would do well to spend more time before then with Rubio. And maybe, in a more formal way, afterwards.
That much seems a realistic hope, I think. It's sad, but probably true, that a key reason why Romney is so obviously uncomfortable about his own wealth and success in particular — and perhaps so uncomfortable in his own skin more generally — is that he hasn't internalized and committed to this morality of capitalism. I'm sure Romney understands the theory; on other occasions I've heard him articulate it well (if perhaps too dispassionately for my tastes). But to curtail these sorts of awkward gaffes and turn them into something which could help him win November if he's the GOP nominee, Romney would need to claim, own, and release his own embarrassment over, his own successful striving to achieve the American Dream.
That is probably not a realistic hope, however; and thus the potential importance to Romney, as it was to McCain, of a Veep nominee who can help him mend fences, rally the faithful — and yes, preach the morality of capitalism.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Can Romney's commitment to expediency be a substitute for reliable conservative instincts?
I was intrigued by Fred Barnes' essay in the online Weekly Standard entitled "More Conservative Than You Think: The New Mitt Romney." Barnes marshals solid evidence to support the premise that — based upon Gov. Romney's current positions —
[Romney is] at least as conservative as his GOP rivals on jettisoning Obamacare and more conservative than some on entitlements, national security, and immigration. He’s no match for Gingrich on taxes, but that’s about it. Overall, he’s to the right of Gingrich.
Nevertheless, Barnes immediately notes, "Romney wasn’t always there" — and then Barnes proceeds to acknowledge some of the landmarks from Gov. Romney's political record which may indeed have reflected the preferences of Gov. Romney's constituency in Massachusetts, but which are considerably to the left of the national GOP mainstream.
Barnes' concluding lines are especially apt, but they don't necessarily support the essay's title thesis and, indeed, they may undercut it:
[Romney]’s neither a movement conservative nor an ideological conservative. He’s a pragmatist for whom conservatism makes the most sense. That it helps him politically no doubt makes sense, too.
And therein lies the best comfort for American conservatives who are wondering whether they can generate enthusiastic support for Gov. Romney if he becomes the nominee: If you think he values expediency over principle, then take comfort that the choices a President Romney will find expedient will indeed be conservative ones — if he wants to be re-nominated by the GOP in 2016! Besides, the Tea Party-influenced conservative "Young Guns" who've been driving the national policy debate from the House GOP since January 2011 — and yes, I'm referring specifically to the guy who my sidebar still urges we draft in lieu of anyone now running, but not only to him — would drag any GOP president in mostly the correct direction if the GOP can also recapture a working majority in the Senate.
The reason Romney has continued to hover in the mid-20% range in the GOP national polls, of course, is not because GOP voters disagree with the substance of the policies he's endorsing now. Their concern is that, like George H.W. Bush when he went back on his "Read My Lips" pledge, Romney will get talked out of his current positions — that he'll get suckered by the Dems the way Bush-41 did.
My own concern, however, is actually a variation of that.
Gov. Romney's main credential is as an "executive," in multiple senses of that word: as a business executive and turn-around specialist at Bain Capital; as the executive who took charge over the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (another turn-around job); and as chief executive of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He demonstrated genuinely impressive management skills in each of those jobs. Certainly we need a well-managed turn-around from the disastrous path the current White House has put the country on.
What I fear, though, is that in addition to bringing well-honed management skills, Gov. Romney may also bring the East Coast/Ivy League confidence in technocracy. I specifically fear that Mitt Romney shares with Barack Obama an over-confidence in his own — and indeed, in anyone's — ability to use the federal government to solve problems.
I don't want a clever president who just does different things than Obama's been doing. I want a president who's wise enough to know that what's most important now is for the federal government to do less: to spend less; to tax no more; to meddle and nag and intrude less; to quote-unquote "protect" me from myself less (e.g., "protecting" me from making disfavored decisions on what kind of light bulb to buy); to stop trying to transfer wealth; to quit trying to pick losers and winners, and enforce those picks despite (and sometimes contrary to) the Rule of Law; and to quit trying to "manage" the economy, but to simply be predictable and get the hell out of its way.
Put another way: I fear that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have more in common with each other than either has in common with Calvin Coolidge. And we need the discipline of Calvin Coolidge. We need fewer 49-point programs and more zero-point (as in, "we're getting the federal government out of this") programs.
Simply undoing all the bad that Obama has done is a huge management challenge. That's a lot of what needs doing. But it's not the hardest part of what, unfortunately, must be done: Without fundamental entitlements reform, our government will absolutely, positively be bankrupt before this decade is out. The reforms must be in the direction of replacing government top-down controls and Washington management with free-market competition and individual liberty; no other reforms can lead to anything but shared scarcity and progressive impoverishment of the entire nation. Managing those reforms will require as much competency and energy as Romney or anyone else could muster.
There are at least a half dozen conservative leaders whom I'd rather see as the nominee than Mitt Romney precisely because I'm confident they "get" all this. I am confident, based on their performance in office, that they understand the limited role of government in general and the federal government in particular. But none of them are presently running for president.
Of those who are running, Perry gets this (in its broadest outlines) but can't win. Nor Laup gets it but is crazy, mean, and isolationist, and can't win. Santorum claims to get it, but we have to take his word for that (just like Romney's) because when Santorum was in office, he was a big-government Republican too. And Gingrich gets it, but only three days a week. (Then Newt's on the Beltway couch with Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry for three more days, and then on one of the moons of Jupiter for each seventh day.)
I'm not hoping for a stand-off through the primaries and for a floor-fight leading to a brokered convention. But on the other hand:
Most delegates awarded through the primaries are only pledged for a limited number of ballots and/or days, and many of them aren't pledged beyond the very first ballot. We just saw Rick Santorum come from months of single-digit polling to tied-for-first in a matter of days — and do we count him as the fourth "not-Romney" to become the flavor-of-the-week, or is he the fifth? I've lost count. If Romney can't nail down a first-ballot nomination before the convention, could the final flavor-of-the-week end up being someone not currently running? Someone who wasn't in the primaries at all?
Probably not. But I'm not quite ready yet to take down my sidebar.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Shocking pix prove that at Bain Capital, Romney and friends had access to at least $100 in cash
I'm shocked — shocked! — to learn that while working at a company with a two-word name, the second word of which is a synonym for "money," a young Mitt Romney had the bad taste to allow himself to be photographed touching some actual cash currency. As republished and described in the Boston Globe:
Despite the pressures at Bain Capital, Mitt Romney kept the atmosphere loose. One year, after posing for a photo for a firm brochure, the partners did another take, the second time holding $10 and $20 bills. From left, Fraser Bullock, Eric A. Kriss, Joshua Bekenstein, Mitt Romney, Coleman Andrews, Geoffrey S. Rehnert, and Robert F. White. (Provided by Bain Capital)
Actually, if any of Bain Capital's deals ever were transacted using $10 and $20 bills, I really would be shocked.
But seriously, the Romney campaign should put this photo up on their website. If Obama wants to continue to run his 2012 reelection campaign on the notion that Obama is pro-job but anti-business despite double-digit real unemployment, that will be interesting to watch.
(Hat-tip: Karl @ Patterico's, in an interesting post about prospective Obama campaign strategies.)