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Belmont Club

The Logic of the Alamo

September 27th, 2013 - 12:33 am

Nothing is certain about the future, though some things are highly probable. It is virtually certain, for instance, that Obamacare will be a dog in its initial years, if not indefinitely: the software supporting it is bug-ridden; none of its tested parameters have shown any sign of coming close to the promised spec; the premiums are costing more than predicted; and just complying with its rules has proved “unexpectedly” crippling.

Obamacare is no different from any other federal project that is beset with overruns, underspec performance, and scandal. As in those cases, it is a question of showing the buyers the carefully choreographed graphics while leaving the bad news for the last, after the customer has signed on the dotted line.

A virtual certitude — according to GOP establishment types, per Andy McCarthy – is that you are doomed to buy this lemon whether you like it not, whether you oppose it or not, come what may. Obamacare is legislatively unstoppable, its defects notwithstanding:

In mounting their case against Senators Ted Cruz, House conservatives, and the grass-roots campaign to defund Obamacare, the Republican establishment and its like-minded scribes pound an oft-repeated talking point into conventional wisdom: Cruz cannot win.

In this telling, the senator has recklessly embarked on a populist campaign that taps into public anger over Obamacare but has no winning endgame. The Beltway clerisy elaborates that Cruz and his defunding partner, Senator Mike Lee, have failed to account for the Democratic majority and procedural rules that control the Senate.

There’s just too much money to be skimmed from it to stop now, or so the thinking goes. Taken together, these two probabilities imply that the single degree of freedom open to political actors is whom to blame for what is almost certainly a train wreck. As Obama himself argued, it all comes to down to who takes credit and who gets blame.

He said in a speech that “once it’s working really well, I guarantee you they will not call it Obamacare.” He forgot to say that by the same token, once it collapses in a pile of ruin he will refer to it “as the perfect future health program that Ted Cruz smashed.”

Since the argument is all about the future, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal advises Republicans to concede the present and trust in Providence. Give way before the Democratic juggernaut now, the better to counterattack later when Obamacare collapses under its own weight:

Republicans and conservatives, instead of tilting at the defunding windmill, should be working now to present the American people with the policy ideas that will emerge inevitably when Obamacare’s declines. The system of private insurance exchanges being adopted by the likes of Walgreens suggests a parallel alternative to ObamaCare may be happening already.

But Obama has already thought of that, which is why he wants the Republicans to compromise now so he can share the blame with them when the wheels fall off. Can’t you just hear the words now: “We sought bipartisan consensus … even John McCain stood with me on this podium”?  You will, in due time. So it may be of little good to the Republicans to sell out their principles now in the hopes of upholding their principles later. Certainly producing Henninger’s article to justify the strategem of  ”retreating in order to later attack” seems unlikely to work.

The fight over Obamacare is a classic case of where the future position matters more than the present one; about how the billiard balls lie after the current stroke. The relevant questions are about how the board will look when the pieces have netted out. These are the calculations that should be running through the GOP’s head. Instead, their thinking is probably governed by a vague conventional wisdom, like don’t repeat the mistake of the 1995 shutdown.

In truth, beyond the facts that Obamacare is almost certainly going to be disastrous and the GOP can’t stop it, almost nothing else is certain.

Of course, the date has changed to Obama’s disadvantage. Bill Clinton won in part because his vision of expansive government was far more marketable in the years of prosperity and recent defeat of the Soviet Union. If there was ever a time to close the government-funded health deal, it should have been while America was in the spending mood.

Indeed, Hillary tried it in 1993. In the light of her performance at the State Department, it is easy to understand why she failed. If anybody could bungle a “reset button,” she could.

Despite the president’s weakness, the prospect of politically going all-out against the president must be a daunting one for a GOP party grown habituated to the sure thing. Challenging the Left — even after six years of miserable failure — is something the Republican leadership would prefer to avoid.

However, the truth is that all roads are now fraught with peril for the GOP. Circumstances have combined to do two things: put Obamacare at the center of the national stage where they cannot ignore it, and openly divide the Republican Party’s public response to it.

The GOP is a troop of two cavalry platoons which have rushed off in a direction 90 degrees from the remaining base platoon, and in the presence of the enemy. Should their captain maintain his majestic but solitary advance, or go haring after the rest of the men? They must unite to be a viable force. If the GOP apparatchiks do not crush Cruz completely, they must bring him and his followers enthusiastically back into the fold. Nothing less will do, otherwise they will reach the 2014 battlefield split.

Not following Cruz’s lead now is arguably just as dangerous as following him. Which of these two perils to accept — since risk is now unavoidable — is the problem to be solved. How they will do it is anybody’s guess.

The GOP may never make a decision over whether to stand or fly before Obamacare. Decisions often occur by default. It seems appropriate (since Cruz is a Texan) to recall that the decision to defend the Alamo occurred mostly by accident. Nobody planned it. Sam Houston actually wanted to evacuate the Alamo and to redeploy the artillery and forces there elsewhere. A series of misunderstandings between commanders left the garrison there until Santa Ana’s army appeared, and then it became a question of fight or run. Conscious strategy had little to do with it.

The unplanned battle became the fulcrum of events. Yet it did not do so in and of itself. What ultimately made the Alamo a victory was the existence of the “afterwards” in the form of forces and rearrangements that nobody, not Travis nor Bowie nor Crockett, could predict. It could have turned out to be completely different. We remember the Alamo today because the cards played out in such a way as to give it imperishable meaning. But without San Jacinto or Santa Ana’s incompetence, the Alamo would probably not be remembered much, if at all, today.

That is pretty much the problem with history: you never know how things will work out ahead of time, an inconvenient but unavoidable fact. GK Chesterton once called the future a society constructed by “the democracy of the dead,” a circumstance in which lies are perhaps our last cause for hope, since posterity is probably the only thing we can espouse without personal interest in which there is no moral hazard. What we do for the future, if we do at all, we do for love.

Nothing else makes sense.


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Top Rated Comments   
The institutional Republicans are using Lakoffian framing to hide their true intent. They have done so for nearly forty years now.

For their own selfish purposes hey have allowed the left to define the point of compromise and in doing so have misrepresented the true area of debate. Why is there still an NEA, or an EPA? The left defines the debates regarding these agencies as to whether they get a 10% annual increase in budgeting forever, or whether they get a 9.5% increase, and if they have to go down to that lower number, bray about how they "compromised". They howl if the Republicans ask to increase the funding by 7% per annum instead and they get their toadies in the press to hype up said lower increase as the end of the world. And like Charlie Brown letting Lucy pull away the football the institutional Republicans fold once again.

But the environement is basically as cleaned up as it can be without bankrupting the country with fines and regulations to get the remaining 1 or 2% of pollution. And federal intervention in education is empirically proven to be a failure. The debate should be over whether or not these agencies should even exist, or not. Not the amount of funding. What exactky do the institutional Republicans not understand about that? Or is it as simple as the fact that they and their campaign donors are benefiting in some way from this system and to end these things will end their own personal gravy trains?

In my entire adult life, "compromise" has been defined, Lakoffian style, as Democrats giving up 5% towards Republicans and Republicans coming 95% towards the position of Democrats - defined that way by Democrats, educators, the mainstream media, and unfortunately by institutional Republicans. There have been literally only three cases which were exceptions: Clinton signing a Republican NAFTA bill, Clinton signing Republican welfare reform, and Clinton signing Republican budgets which approached being balanced. Even when Reagan was in office he compromised mightily with pork barrel stuff for leftists like the Big Dig in Boston to get the military we needed to buy the Soviets out of the cold war.

Cruz has done what every intelligent adult who looks at this mess and who can do basic math and accounting would do. The point of the debate needs to be moved away from "who would best manage government run healthcare, and should annual increases in funding for the agencies that run it should be debated between a few percentage points". The question should always be "How can we do this AT ALL unless we can pay for it?" The easy money of the previous 25 years is gone, there is no "next new thing" like personal computing in the '90's that will ride to our economic rescue. Cruz has taken the mature and practical point of "no money available, no program period."

That the institutional Republicans fight this notion, one that has supposedly defined them at least since Coolidge, and that they attack a messenger who embodies it, tells me that they cannot be trusted. I'm guessing that like Arlen Specter many of these guys are Republcans simply because that party was their path to power. There aren't any real convictions there except to promote power for themselves and their main donors.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't often repost anything, but this is from yesterday's thread, and it is relevant for today's them re: Alamo:
=======================================

In all the Democrat and GOP RINO spin out there to the effect that Cruz is just "tilting at windmills", that since the Democrats hold the Senate and the Presidency, there's no chance of repeal of the ACA/Obamacare, they miss one point, and deliberately so, I believe.

This thing isn't paid for yet.

A current Congress is Constitutionally prohibited from binding future congresses. In that the ACA was never fully defined in the law, let alone budgeted or paid for, it's not only appropriate but OBLIGATORY for the current Congress to debate the not yet implemented law.

Cruz is doing his job, whereas, the Senate Democrats have failed to do theirs for at least four years (i.e. no budget since 2008).

There is so much Constitutionally wrong about the way the ACA was enacted and the way it has been modified by Executive branch Tzars (not Senate confirmed Cabinet appointees!). Obama and his Democrats have been governing against the will of the people for five years, have been doing end-runs around the Constitution, and it's going to cost them big time.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
“If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed;

if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly;

you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.

There may even be a worse case.

You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”

--Winston Churchill

Or, the Republicans [sic] could keep playing the Washington Generals' role in the Harlem Globetrotters' exhibition games.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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So the Alamo is remembered because everyone got killed, but ultimately it had a good outcome and the Mexicans were pushed back to their grubby little country and told sternly to stay there. But what about Pearl Harbor, and "rousing the sleeping giant"? What will it take for the American public -- the ones who actually pay taxes and get up in the morning to go to a job -- to get tired of Obama and his antics and throw him out? Personally, sort of think that legitimate American public is outnumbered now by the Marxists, the socialists, and the free-loaders of various hues. And I don't know that the people who actually pay taxes will ever have the numerical superiority to win either Presidential or budget elections again. It's gonna be great, though, watching the welfare mothers having to pony up money for their "free" Obamacare.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Political parties over the life of our nation have held differing & evolving agendas. Now in early 21st century the Democrat party stands for and is committed to a secular, socialist form of big government with rights & values determined by, and flowing to the people from, a centralized power. Its entire big government, high taxes, high regulation, collectivist philosophy epitomized by the "Obamanation" Obamacare(otherwise known as the Unaffordable Careless Act) is the antithesis of the principle of subsidiarity which Pope John Paul II and others have strongly advocated. Essentially this principle holds that nothing should be done by a large complex organization which can be done by a smaller, simpler organization. Its unrelenting attacks against the unborn, traditional marriage and religious liberty among other things confirm its secular agenda.Speaking as a Christian, a former Democrat and a firm believer in the principles of our founding Fathers, no Christian today should belong to the Democrat party. "Opting out" of the Democrat party should be followed by re-registering as a "no-party" registrant or re-registering with a party more compatible with your beliefs.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
It bothers me when people deliberately try to twist history to prove a point. So I will correct the impression.

Yes, Houston did not want to defend the fortifications at Bexar. He had not been there, and never went there, and was under the impression that the old mission was simply a crumbling compound that could not withstand an assault since James Neill, and his men, had taken it so easily from the Mexican Army garrisoned there. But Col. James Neill of Mina, had been reporting his improvements to the compound to Governor Smith, and Smith felt the fortifications could not only be defended, but defending it would also buy time for Houston to train his bunch of rag-tags into a real army.

When Travis arrived at Bexar, he was also impressed with the improvements Col. Neill had made to the mission, and he too felt that it was, in fact, the place to make a stand against impossible odds.

Travis, Bowie, Crockett and others, may have given their lives but they won the revolution by buying for Houston two weeks of very, very precious time. It allowed Houston to appear to be retreating and to select the very ground where the Texican Army would make its stand. The rest is history.

Wars are not won on one battle alone, but there often comes a time when you can say that one battle changed the tide of the war. Ted Cruz understands that. So he decided to take a stand in the wake of lily-livered Republicans who would sell their souls to the Devil for the price of a microphone.

Did Cruz win? Most certainly. Why? Because for almost two years, prior to the elections in Nov. 2012, Obamacare was pretty much off the table since it so closely resembled Romneycare and the American voter was told by all the talking heads that only Mitt Romney, a "moderate" could win against the inept Obama. If we talked about Obamacare, and consequently saw it compared against Romneycare which Mitt Romney wanted to claim as a success, why vote against Obama?

Ted Cruz has brought the subject to the forefront again. And while the lily livered Republicans who voted for cloture will now claim they voted against the CR, the American people understand that a vote for cloture WAS a vote for Obamacare and Harry Reid. Ted Cruz has educated the American people to the machinations of the Senate and how the Senate uses procedure to sell us out.

Henninger is wrong. Like all socialist policies in our government, once Obamacare is fully implemented, it is here to stay and no matter how great a failure, or no matter what an federal expense it turns out to be, we are doomed to keep it. It will become another entitlement program, and I challenge anyone to tell me one entitlement program that once implemented, has ever been gotten rid of.

Ted Cruz knew he could not turn the tide but he did know that he could put the issue back on the table and cause consequences for those who sold the American taxpayer out. So in that respect, yes, Ted Cruz has won.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Neither the man in the elliptical cubicle nor his flock of inflatable advisors seem to consider that as more they bankrupt and impoverish this nation, so more they make it vulnerable and attractive to a takeover by outside forces. US armed forces are being reduced in numbers and capabilities while adversaries around the world are growing their fleets of ships, submarines, aircraft and mechanized divisions.

Eventually, the dictators and tyrants in other lands will realize that their strength is sufficient to challenge the US. They need not actually defeat this nation's forces in battle, if a craven leadership continues to retreat and make concessions.

So far, the only people for whom our government has shown a willingness to treat with brutal tactics, are its domestic adversaries. According to its own proclamations: U.S. military combat veterans; Christians, especially evangelicals and other "believers;" political and cultural conservatives, anyone who believes in the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of this nation; anyone who believes the unborn have any right to life; anyone who persists in believing the 2nd Amendment protects individual rights to posses firearms; anyone who still believes this to be a nation of laws debated and passed by representatives in the legislature, not men issuing edicts and decrees.

The perverts currently running things in our country have made it clear they feel only contempt for EVERY value, tradition, and normative institution or behavior that guided the founding and growth of this nation. But for all its mis-steps and problems, America continues to be a magnet for people yearning for a life better than they can hope for in other countries.

My little bit of reading of the Old Testament reminds me that the people of Israel were enslaved and lived in bondage for some four centuries. There is ample archeological evidence that several generations of Akkadian rulers overwhelmed Judah, and sacked Jerusalem; you don't need to see the story in supernatural terms to see many important lessons there. The sorry rascals who have lied and cheated their way into positions of power seem to actually believe their little party will last indefinitely. They can't seem to grasp that they are destroying the structures on which they dance.

Someone (possibly our host) likened BHO to a child tearing apart fine watches, one after another, with no ability whatsoever to re-assemble them, no understanding of their workings, no grasp of how essential they are to sustaining civilization. Around spring of 2003, then-Governor Gray Davis of California announced that he and his team of cronies had decided that California public schools would no longer offer vocational training - carpentry, welding, metal fabrication, etc. - because all the students needed to know was how to use a computer. All that "other stuff" would be done by computer-controlled robots and assembly lines anyway, right?

To my eyes, this is like the hysterical crowds making bonfires of precious books in Germany in the 1930s, or the storied destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

It is the scouring of the shire. It is our civilization being dismantled by thugs.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
" Neither the man in the elliptical cubicle nor his flock of inflatable advisors seem to consider that as more they bankrupt and impoverish this nation, so more they make it vulnerable and attractive to a takeover by outside forces. "

With all due respect, I think you are cutting them far too much slack. From the evidence so far presented, it is at least equally as likely that such is the intent. What would they do differently if an outside takeover *was* their goal?

Subotai Bahadur
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like the fact that Cruz will fight. I will not spend another red cent supporting Republicans who won't.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Standing on principle is always a good idea, no matter what the immediate outcome.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
To Lisa86: Sweetie, we don't care. Not at all. Now, you run along, like a good three year old should, and play with your dollies. Your little girl silliness is not relevant here, and sassy brats are made to be seen; not heard.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Richard, we must not place our hope in lies. There ain't no right way to do wrong. Travis decided to hold The Alamo, whatever the cost, because he believed it was the right thing to do. Our GOPhers need to think the same way. Not a cent for the Affordable Care Act, and let the chips fall where they may. My Aunt Stella used to say, "Y'all do your best and God will take care of the rest." That which is right cannot be compromised, nor can that which is wrong be tolerated. Senator Cruz has taken a courageous stand, but Speaker Boehner has a long and dismal record of giving in, bugging out, and demonstrating something less that valor above and beyond the call of duty, to euphemize his cowardice.He will roll over and give the madman in the White House whatever he wants.The cost will break us, and our accession to this patently unconstitutional collectivist scam will eventually bring us to the very precipice of civil war. As my namesake told his superior at Gettysburg, "General Lee, Sir, you're sending those men across almost a mile of open ground, into the face of massed Union artillery and fire from entrenched infantry. Sir, those men can never get there." And they didn't. Ain't no right way to do wrong.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
King David IV of Georgia had a weak army that was outnumbered 10 to 1 by the Jihad led by Sultan Mohammad ibn Mohammad. But David's men were fighting for their homes and way of life. They soundly defeated the Jihad. Doing right, even in the face of inevitable defeat, brings victory. And if you die trying, you die with a clean conscience.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Alamo is a reasonable comparison to Cruz and company, although I think Doolittle's Raid fits even better, with the Alamo being a better comparison to Diana West as Travis with Alinskyites Radosh and Horwitz being the Mexican army.

Why Academics Hate Diana West" by Vladimir Bukovsky and Pavel Stroilov.

Groundbreaking books about the history of communism, such as Robert Conquest's The Great Terror, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago or Viktor Suvarov's Ice-Breaker, are never written by "professional" historians. Indeed, historians typically meet those books with remarkable hostility.

Yet, non-academic history books certainly have their advantages. For one thing, they are readable. More often than not, they are better researched too. Above all, they are intellectually honest, free from the unspoken taboos of the academic world and from allegiances to theories and to colleagues that tie the hands of many an academic.

Where a professional historian pursues an academic career, the amateur seeks after the truth. Ignorant of taboos, the amateur can follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads and discovers things which, according to the academic conventional wisdom, are best left untouched and unsaid.

That is what Diana West does in American Betrayal:The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/09/26/Its-worse-than-a-conspiracy-it%20-s-consensus

So, while the Left applied their usual tactics of silent censorship, the less advanced "conservative academics" have only reached the mediocre Agitprop level and responded with a Soviet-style propaganda campaign against Mrs. West and her book. In the best traditions of those campaigns, most of the eminent critics attacked the book without ever reading it, and some of them even admitted this. Come to think of it, one hardly needs to read a book in order to accompany any mention of it with a garland of epithets such as “awful”, “embarrassingly kooky”, “poorly conceived”, “ill-informed”, “conspiracy-mongering”, “preposterous”, “incompetent”, and “dishonest”, and to insult the author in similarly intelligent expressions, including positive assertions that Mrs. West is insane (pity Professor Lunz is no longer with us). This is all the "conservative academics" did, all they could do, and all they needed to do. Just look at their headlines:

McCarthy on Steroids;
Diana West vs. History
Why I Wrote a Take-Down of Diana West’s Awful Book;
Diana West’s Attempt to Respond;
Diana West Down Crackpot Alley;
Diana West Invents a New Conspiracy; etc., etc.

Amazingly and alarmingly, it was FrontPage Magazine that published the Pravda-style header which triggered that campaign, and provided a catalog of smears and insults for endless repetition by other members of the consensus. No doubt a highly distinguished "conservative historian" named Professor Ronald Radosh wrote a lengthy review of American Betrayal, headlined (with remarkable wit, good taste, and academic courtesy, if we may say so) McCarthy on Steroids. There, the Learned Professor dismissed the author as Sen. “McCarthy’s heiress” and the book as a “yellow journalism conspiracy theory” not really deserving the honor of his eminent critique. In his infinite generosity, however, the Learned Professor reluctantly agrees to provide some, and picks several specific points from American Betrayal to accuse Mrs. West of dishonesty and incompetence.

For anyone who has read both Mrs. West’s book and the Professor’s review, however, it is the review that is dishonest and incompetent. The Professor’s trick is to pick a couple of minor points from the book, invent a few more points of his own which he falsely attributes to the book, declare all those points to be “the pillars of West’s conspiracy theory," and then to "disprove" them with all academic solemnity. Unable to argue with the book itself, he instead argues with his own misrepresentation of the book.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
It will surprise no one when I say there are some in the US who have not heard of Democare. (they bought it, they own it) The use of Obama in the ACA tells some it"s freebie time again. Some people (supposedly 'educated') who know O is a Jew and Biden is Black! Watch some of the Howard Stern on the street interviews, you will be amazed and amused. Others have done the same thing with much the same results. Many people are like a goose--they wake up in a new world everyday. I, also, think the Democrats have a new name for the Modern Democrat aka Progressive. It is not your father's democratic party. MD's aka Progs will admit to being socialist. Problem is that dem. socialism has morphed into communism giving us the Marxist/socialist. Not to be out done by anyone, the Modern Democrat, Progressive, Marxist/socialist loudly shouts "That's Racist". We all know leftists always accuse others of what they, themselves, are doing. In walks Racist. We now have MSR's to contend with. Marxist/socialist Racist. Nice ring to it.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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