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Catholics & Capitalism

June 12th, 2014 - 7:21 am

David Hume used to extol “the calm sunshine of the mind.” It radiates a gratifyingly clear and uplifting nimbus, that cognitive luminosity, all the more precious on account of its rarity. My friend Kevin Williamson has been a conspicuous source of such refreshing clarity, and his essay “Catholics Against Capitalism” at NRO is a work of particular scintillation. 

The occasion for Kevin’s piece was the meeting in Washington, D.C., last week of some Catholic intellectuals and clergy under the leadership of the Honduran cardinal, His Eminence Oscar Andrés Maradiaga. The title of the conference was “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism,” though as Kevin points out, the real object of criticism was not libertarianism particularly but free market economics generally. And as Kevin also points out, the Church has no special grace to pronounce authoritatively on such secular matters and, in the case of its reflections on matters economic, “the best that can be said of the clergy’s corporate approach to economic thinking is that it is intellectually incoherent, which is lucky inasmuch as the depths of its illiteracy become more dramatic and destructive as it approaches coherence.”

Kevin’s longish essay is worth reading carefully, for it is full of wisdom and is expressed with patient brio. The basic position of Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga is the familiar leftist litany: “Capitalism” is bad because it creates great wealth, while it also “destroys wealth, value and jobs. Those ‘wondrous technologies’ also manifest as wrathful deities, efficiently eliminating or reducing the need for labor.” (Kevin quotes from a truly obtuse review of Conscious Capitalism, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s book,  in Tricycle). “The implicit economic hypothesis here,” Kevin points out, “is that producing a certain amount of goods more efficiently — in this case, with less labor — makes the world worse off. . . . The reality is the opposite, and that is not a matter of opinion, perspective, or ideology — it is a material reality, the denial of which is the intellectual equivalent of insisting on a geocentric or turtles-all-the-way-down model of the universe.”

Here’s the bottom line: Capitalism is the greatest engine for the production of wealth the ingenuity of man has ever invented. Are you interested in helping the poor? Embrace capitalism. Do you want to help clean up the environment? Embrace capitalism. Are you interested in obliterating the scourge of malnutrition or some ghastly African disease or illiteracy or [fill in your personal do-good desideratum here]: yep, embrace capitalism. The global poverty rate, Kevin reminds us, has been cut in half  in the last 20 years. Think about that. Then think about the sorrowful history of our species up to about 1830.  How much progress against widespread — really, near total — poverty had there been from the beginning of time until then — until, that is, capitalism started to take off? Not much.

Like Barack Obama (indeed, like Karl Marx), Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga believes that the fundamental problem of economics concerns the redistribution of wealth. In fact, the fundamental economic problem concerns the production of wealth, the more, the better. “The question of how certain goods are “distributed” in society,” Kevin observes,  “is a second-order question at best; by definition prior to it is the question of whether there is anything to distribute.”

Exactly. But this is a truth that, for reasons I do not fully comprehend, the Left finds it impossible to take on board. Kevin gets to the nub of the issue with gratifying incisiveness:

Those who put distribution at the top of their list of priorities both make the error of assuming the existence of some exogenous agency that oversees distribution (that being the Distribution Fairy) and entirely ignore the vital question of what gets produced and by whom. Poverty is the direct by-product of low levels of production; the United States and Singapore are fat and happy with $53,101 and $64,584 in per capita economic output, respectively; Zimbabwe, which endured the services of a government very much interested in the redistribution of capital, gets to divide up $788 per person per year, meaning that under circumstances of perfect mathematical equality life would still be miserable for everybody. Sweden can carve up its per capita pie however it likes, but it’s still going to be 22.5 percent smaller than the U.S. pie and less than two-thirds the size of Singapore’s tasty pastry. You cannot redistribute what you don’t have — and that holds true not only for countries but, finally, for the planet and the species, which of course is what globalization is all about. That men of the cloth, of all people, should be blind to what is really happening right now on the global economic scale is remarkable, ironic, and sad. Cure one or two people of blindness and you’re a saint; prevent blindness in millions and you’re Monsanto.

“You cannot redistribute what you don’t have,” and in order to acquire more stuff to distribute you need to embrace that fantastic engine of prosperity, capitalism.

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Eric Cantor and the Conventional Wisdom

June 11th, 2014 - 4:45 am

There are two words that recur like a drumbeat in the news stories about David Brat’s defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia primary last night.  One is “historic.” The second is some variant of “stunning” (“staggering,” “shocking,” etc.).  John Fund does us the courtesy of deploying both: “Eric Cantor’s loss is historic,” he writes at National Review. “No sitting House majority leader has lost an election since the office was created in 1899. While Cantor’s loss was a stunning surprise, the warning signals were around for a while.” He then supplies a list of explanations that seemed obvious only after David Brat won. Yesterday afternoon, the wise men of the commentariat would have dismissed them with a self-assured thoroughness and consistency that is truly marvelous to behold.  

“Historic” and “stunning.”  That is, the triumph of the tea-party-backed economics professor was both 1) important and 2) unexpected.

It was unexpected because (for example) Cantor outraised Brat by $5.7 million to $231,000.  Cantor was the establishment candidate. He has (how long before that “s” becomes a “d”?) a national profile. Brat is . . .  (pause for Wikipedia check) an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College,  an obscure institution in Ashland, Virginia.

Frankly, though, what surprises me about such events as David Brat’s victory is the surprise they occasion. Nigel Farage and the other anti-EU politicians weren’t supposed to trounce the established parties in the European elections a couple of weeks ago. Members of the established parties and the human remora that attend them told us so. But Farage, Le Pen, and the rest trounced them across Europe.  This, said Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, was “a shock, an earthquake that all responsible leaders must respond to.”

Right.  And how’s that working out?  From where I sit, the response of “responsible leaders,” i.e., representatives of the conventional wisdom, has been mostly confined to what they used to call in the Wild West a circling of the wagons. Demonize the bastards. Ostracize ’em.  Talk incessantly about “fringe candidates” and “extremists”  who cannot win (except they just did), who will upset the status quo, which by an extraordinary coincidence just happens to benefit those registering their “shock,” their having been “stunned,” “staggered,” not to say “utterly dismayed.”

Both parties have been assiduous in demonizing the tea party.  And they’ve been quite effective in convincing themselves that it was yesterday’s news, that the upsets of 2010 were an anomaly, that business-as-usual (represented by us mature politicians who are already in office) had once again achieved the upper hand. Order, in short, had been restored.

Except that unexpected things like David Brat’s victory, like UKIP’s victory in the European election, keep happening.

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‘Unique and Exigent Circumstances’

June 2nd, 2014 - 8:33 am

Although the Framers didn’t get around to the executive branch until Article II — the real business of government, they thought, would normally be carried out by Congress —  the Constitution nevertheless vests awesome, but not unlimited, power in what James Madison called the “chief Magistrate,” the president of the United States.  This is right and proper, for the president, as commander-in-chief, needs the flexibility to be able to respond quickly and decisively in case of national emergency.  

Appealing to that necessity is what stands behind the Obama administration’s objection to the federal law requiring that the president give Congress 30 days notice before releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. There were, the administration argued, “unique and exigent circumstances” why that law should not be followed in the case of Bowe Robert Bergdahl, the Army solider who is reported to have deserted his post while on guard duty in June 2009 after announcing his loathing for America and hatred of the Army. “I am ashamed to be an American,” he wrote in an email to his parents.  “And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. . . . The horror that is America is disgusting.”

It would be interesting to have Sgt. Bergdahl’s views on “the horror that is America” now that he has had an opportunity to spend five years as the guest of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It would also be interesting to know exactly what “unique and exigent circumstances” prompted the Obama administration to exchange Sgt. Bergdahl for five high-level Taliban terrorists — the hardest of the hard core, as John McCain put it — who were cooling their heels in Gitmo. (What do you suppose these thugs and murderers will do now that they’re free? Go sight-seeing?)

At least six U.S. servicemen were killed searching for Sgt. Bergdahl. And Rep. Howard McKeon and Sen. James Inhofe are surely correct that the exchange imperils the lives of others. “Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans,” they said in a joint statement. “That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”

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‘The Law Requires . . .’

June 1st, 2014 - 6:32 am

What a quaint phrase!  Not quaint for you and me, of course.  For us plebs, what the law requires is, well, what the law requires. To the letter, Kemo Sabe.  But how about for our masters in Washington, especially for the master-in-chief, Barack Obama?  What, exactly, does the law require of him?  That he follow and (see Article II of the U.S. Constitution) “faithfully execute” the laws?  Not hardly. Andrew McCarthy’s new book Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment (not officially published until Tuesday but available now on Amazon) provides a sort of catalogue or cornucopia of Obama’s lawlessness. I won’t rehearse that litany here except to mention these key words:

When it comes to lawlessness, Obama is the gift that keeps on giving. If Congress passes a law that is Constitutional but that he happens not to like: no problem. He just won’t enforce it (ask the folks in Arizona about immigration laws).  Perhaps Congress fails to pass a law about something that he does want done: that’s no problem, either, because he has learned that there is no cost to governing by decree. The latest instance of presidential lawlessness concerns the Taliban’s release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in exchange for five high-level Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Naturally, one rejoices at the release of an American solider after nearly five years of captivity in the savage hell-hole of Afghanistan. But as Rep. Howard McKeon and Sen. James Inhofe observed yesterday, “America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for good reason. Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans.” Prediction: you’ll see many more Americans captured and held for ransom now that the Taliban knows our policy of not negotiating with terrorists implies that, if you push a little, we will happily negotiate with terrorists.

There’s also the little matter of how the transfer was arranged. As the Washington Post reports, “Lawmakers were not notified of the Guantanamo detainees’ transfer until after it occurred.” But, the report continues, “the law requires the defense secretary to notify relevant congressional committees at least 30 days before making any transfers of prisoners, to explain the reason and to provide assurances that those released would not be in a position to reengage in activities that could threaten the United States or its interests.” “The law requires.” Ha, ha, ha. This is King Obama we’re talking about, not you or me. Apparently, he can do whatever he pleases, from calling on the IRS to harass his political opponents to selectively enforcing to law to imprisoning video makers who are convenient scapegoats. But wait, there’s more. 

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Here’s a thought experiment: what if a Republican administration, six years into its term, had inadvertently blown the cover of its top CIA operative in a war-torn hellhole during a surprise visit by a president who had undertaken the trip in a desperate effort to shore up his sagging popularity in the wake of numerous scandals, including one involving widespread and deadly corruption in the administration of Veterans Administration hospitals.  To ask the question is to answer it: the legacy (formerly the “mainstream” media) would be skirling with criticism of the administration’s dangerous incompetence.  Every day there would be scathing articles dilating on the president’s fecklessness and the fecklessness, if not, indeed, the criminal negligence of those around him. And it would be endlessly (and correctly) pointed out that, at the end of the day, it was the president, not his underlings who must bear the brunt of the criticism, for along with the stupendou power in the president, the Constitution also invest in him a great burden of public trust. Thus is was that James Madison, in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 insisted that there had to be a mechanism for removing a president not just for “treason” or “bribery” but for “incapacity, negligence, or perfidy.” To protect the country, incompetence and other instances of what another Founder, George Mason, called “maladministration” as well as criminal behavior were grounds for impeachment and removal.

But what if, to continue the thought experiment, the administration in question was Democratic rather than Republican? Once again, the question is self-answering. In that case, the media’s excuse factory would go into overtime.  The specific articles produced by this exercise in extenuation vary according to circumstance. Sometimes it’s a matter of camouflage — “nothing to see here, move along” — sometimes it’s a sort of distorting mirror in which the large appear small and vice-versa. Sometimes it’s simply a sort of white-noise machine in which the ambient static cancels out unpleasant revelations from outside and induces slumber.

But I wonder just what is going to happen in the aftermath of this latest scandal. Is there anyone — anyone — who still believes that there was “not even,” as the President said, “a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS — that it was merely happenstance, or the work of a few “rogue” employees, that explains why the overwhelming majority of citizens the IRS harassed were conservatives? Is there anyone — anyone outside the corridors of The New York Times, that is — who still believes the administration’s story about the Benghazi massacre — that it was sparked by a “rogue” internet video about Mohammed? Is there anyone who believes anything the administration says about Obamacare — “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health plan, period,” etc., etc. As I write, there is also the disgusting scandal surrounding the Veterans Administration, whose callous maladministration and “secret waiting lists” for infirm veterans has caused many deaths and untold suffering. The President says he’s “mad as hell” about it, but exactly what has he done?

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The Lesson of the EU Election

May 26th, 2014 - 5:50 am

“Shock,” “Anger,” “Earthquake”—those are among the more frequent epithets employed to describe this weekend’s European elections.  All across the continent, voters turned out to deliver a resounding defeat to the top-down, politically correct, big-government, Brussels-centric, rule-by-unaccountable-elites project that is the European Union.  For years, Brussels has demanded allegiance to its mildly socialist species of transnational progressivism.  Local initiatives were everywhere forced to give way to the whimsical diktats disgorged by distant bureaucrats. The healthy, homegrown sentiments of national identity and robust patriotism were systematically stymied as Brussels-based politicians set about imposing their anemic version of utopia in which there would be no Frenchmen or Germans or Italians or Englishmen but only that shadowy abstraction a “European,” a creature that doesn’t actually exist but might be willed into being by a regulatory superstate that was environmentally sensitive, always and everywhere alert to signs of racism and Islamophobia, reflexively suspicious of capitalism, hostile to Israel, and contemptuous of the United States.  It didn’t work and now the voters, in a gigantic act of political reverse peristalsis, have delivered the first step in what promises to be a thoroughgoing rejection of the European project. 

The response from the organs of establishment sentiment has oscillated between astonishment and anxiety. The Financial Times, under the headline “Eurosceptics storm Brussels,” leads with the news that “France’s far-right Front National stormed to victory in European elections on Sunday night, leading an unprecedented surge in support for anti-EU parties across Europe that was set to reverberate far beyond Brussels politics.”  The fact that the FN is led by Marine Le Pen, daughter of the much-maligned Jean-Marie Le Pen, adds a dash of horror to the mix.  How can this be happening? How is it that in Great Britain, Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party snapped up 30 percent of the popular vote and increased its seats in the European Parliament from 11 to 24?  It was only a couple of years ago that Farage and UKIP were dismissed as a “fringe” party, a congeries of unappealing political neanderthals who, in a more enlightened world, would either be locked up or not exist.  And yet here they were, “the biggest winner,” as the FT mournfully reports, in the UK’s European race. Geert Wilders, the charismatic Dutch populist, did not do as well as many of his euro-sceptic confrères. But “among other eurosceptic parties,” the FT notes, “the Danish People’s party was set to become the biggest in Denmark with about 25 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Austria’s populist party, the FPÖ, is set to finish third with 20 percent of the vote – against 12.7 percent in 2009.”

What is going on? Jean-Francois Copé, president of France’s center-right UMP, observed that the vote for Le Pen’s Freedom Party was  a sign of “gigantic anger” among the French electorate.  He got that right.  But the anger is directed not just against the confiscatory socialist policies of President François Hollande. It is directed more broadly against the anti-nation-state bias of the European Union. The architects of the EU envision a European superstate in which national identity is subordinated to the abstraction of “Europe.” The regime would be internationalist but only titularly democratic: the real power (as has been traditional on the continent) would reside in a technocratic elite, not the people. But the people, it seems, have just awakened to this reality and it turns out they don’t like it. Marine Le Pen was surely correct yesterday when she said: “What has happened tonight is a massive rejection of the EU.” 

What happens next is anyone’s guess. But one take-away from yesterday’s election is this: when conservative parties cease providing a natural home for the community-binding sentiments of patriotism and national identity—when, that is to say, conservative parties cease being conservative—those parts of the population not indentured to the apparatus of dependency look elsewhere.  What Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said of the victory of  Le Pen’s Freedom Party is true of eurosceptic victories across the continent: it is, he said,“a shock, an earthquake that all responsible leaders must respond to.” We’ll see how many responsible leaders there are who will acknowledge the obligation.

Related from Michael Ledeen: Is Italy’s Center-Left Prime Minister Really a Neocon?

‘Law of the Land’

May 8th, 2014 - 5:13 am

To help while away the time while whittling away the calories, I generally listen to something while wheeling along the treadmill. One current favorite is the long-running English discussion program “In Our Time” with Melvyn Bragg.  Yesterday, I happened to puff away to a discussion of Magna Carta, the great foundational document of democracy that the barons imposed upon the evil King John (remember the Sheriff of Nottingham? Sir Guy of Gisbourne?) at Runnymede in 1215. (The operative bits date mostly from the charter of 1225, but 1215 is the date impressed upon our school memories.)

Bragg began his show by quoting one of the most famous sections of the Great Charter, clause 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Here for once the “emanations and penumbras” that William O. Douglas discerned some centuries later really do cast their reverberations. For what these few lines limn is what we now call the right of due process, with hints about a presumption of innocence, habeas corpus, and a good deal more of the machinery of modern civil rights.

Above all, however, Magna Carta revolves around two checks on tyranny, outlining the protections individuals enjoy against the arbitrary coercive power of the state and, just as important, declaring the subjection of the sovereign to the law of the land.

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More P.C. Crap from the Ivy League

April 29th, 2014 - 5:22 am

Daniela Hernandez: who’s that? Why that’s the ever-so-sensitive junior at Dartmouth who shut down a charity event, intended to benefit cardiac patients, because she found the theme of the event—“Phiesta,” i.e. “Fiesta”—offensive.

Yes, that’s right. As The Daily Caller reports, the self-described “Mexican-born, United-States-raised, first-generation woman of color”  (where’s the air-sickness bag?) didn’t like “the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo,” so too bad for those blokes with dodgy tickers.

Listen to the rancid, semi-literate P.C.-speak from this embarrassing beneficiary of the American educational system:

There are various problematic structures and ideologies regarding a Cinco de Mayo-inspired event, and I am sure that we, as a Dartmouth community, could learn from the extensive literature written about the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo and its construction as a drinking holiday in the United States, cultural appropriation and the inappropriate usage of cultural clothing, and the exploitation of groups of people and cultures for the sake of business opportunities.

Give me a break.

But what’s even more dismaying than Hernandez’s little pout is the reaction of Taylor Cathcart, the president of Phi Delta Alpha, the fraternity that had planned the event, as you’ll see on the next page.

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A Body Blow to Racial Discrimination

April 22nd, 2014 - 5:52 pm

Yes, you read it here: the Supreme Court of the United  States, in a 6-2 decision (Elena Kagan took no part in the case), upheld Michigan’s ban on racial discrimination in college admissions, overturning a lower court’s intervention to reverse a 2006 referendum in which Michigan voters decisively rejected the invidious process.

You’ll be reading a lot about this in the coming weeks, of course, but I suspect that most of the stories you’ll read will use the phrase “affirmative action” in stead of “racial discrimination.”  That is understandable, not least because the SCOTUS decision employs the phrase in the headnote to its decision: “SCHUETTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN v. COALITION TO DEFEND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, INTEGRATION AND IMMIGRATION RIGHTS AND FIGHT FOR EQUALITY BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY (BAMN) ET AL.”

“By any means necessary,” forsooth.  Where have you heard that before? If I forbear to employ the mendacious phrase “affirmative action” it is because it is a sterling piece of left-wing Newspeak. “Racial discrimination” doesn’t sound nice to our civilized ears. So we rename it “affirmative action” and it makes us feel better about tearing off the blindfold on the figure of Justice on courts of law and doing the same thing in the admissions offices of our colleges and universities.

G.K. Chesterton once described the “false idea of progress” as “changing the test instead of trying to pass the test.” That is so-called “affirmative  action,” i.e., discrimination on the basis of race, or sex, or whatever this weeks favored “victim” category may be.

Right on cue, Justice Sotomayor wheeled out the “centuries of racial discrimination” meme. Guess what — we know there was chattel slavery in this  country (as there was in nearly every other society known to man) and we know, too, that it ended rather late here. But end it did, almost 150 years ago. If you want to know why slavery persisted in parts of the United States, read Gene Dattel’s brilliant Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power.  Are you looking for someone to blame for all that misery?  You might try Eli Whitney and his clever invention for carding cotton. Or maybe you should blame the English, who had a greedy appetite for our cotton.

But I digress. There will, as I say, be a lot of ink spilled about this decision. The New York Times has already weighed in with a piece of sanctimonious handwringing  (“ . . . a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions among the justices over what role the government should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities.”) Expect more of the same tomorrow.

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More on ‘President Asterisk’

April 21st, 2014 - 9:55 am

This morning, Instapundit dipped its cup into the growing current of stories about the lies and lawlessness that have characterized the Obama administration.  One story, “Barack Obama and the Politics of Lies,” is from the Washington Examiner and it ought to give anyone, Democrat or Republican,  pause. Citing the president’s recent “victory dance” over the (distinctly suspect) statistic that eight million people have signed up for Obamacare, the Examiner noted with some asperity that “a president who is viewed by most Americans as less than honest has no business crowing about a victory that remains anything but obvious.” Moreover, the Examiner continued, the president “certainly should not heap insults on people who for four years have profoundly disagreed with him on the wisdom of Obamacare”:

To put this as “less than honest” is to be charitable. What Fox News found in its most recent public opinion survey was that 61 percent of Americans believe Obama “lies” about important public issues either “most of the time” or “some of the time.” No other president in living memory has conducted himself in a manner that warranted even asking if such a description was appropriate.

“No other President in living memory,” indeed. I suspect that the flapping sound that’s emanating in ever more exigent waves from the corridors of power in and around the richest spot in the country — viz Washington, D.C. — is the sound of chickens flying home to roost. The Examiner notes that the president’s defenders have gone into attack mode about that Fox News survey. But consider this:

It was the president, not Fox News, who repeatedly and knowingly misled the American people with two infamous Obamacare lies: “You can keep your health insurance if you like it. Period. You can keep your doctor. Period.” For better or worse, Obama will forever be known as the president who chose repeatedly to propagate two falsehoods. Those two lies were profoundly significant because they were designed to hide the truth about how Obamacare would affect the daily lives and health of hundreds of millions of Americans.

And that, it almost goes without saying, is the very tip of the proverbial iceberg. Barack Obama has been lying — lying, not “mis-stating,” not somehow getting it wrong because he was misinformed, ill-advised, out to lunch — no, he has been lying to the American public since 2009. Here is a little recap of 36 times he promised that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” It’s less than 3 minutes long.  Watch it a couple of times. Then ask yourself — especially if you voted for Barack Obama — ask yourself, was he telling the truth?

That’s the thing about credibility. Its loss is infectious, corrosive. Lose it here, and you find that you’ve lost it over there as well. The Examiner is quite right, “it has been increasingly difficult for many Americans to continue accepting at face value his statements on other major public issues. In both the Benghazi and IRS scandals, for example, Obama claimed to have known nothing about them until they were reported in the national media.” Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! (Quoth Dorothy: “If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises.”)  Flap, flap, flap: here they come!  If it it were true (don’t you love the subjunctive?), if, I say, it were true that Obama was just as ignorant as you or I about what happened in Benghazi or the IRS until the media told him then why the huge cover up? Why, as the Examiner asks,  “has the president’s attorney general and so many other of his most prominent appointees withheld thousands of documents subpoenaed by Congress and requested by journalists under the Freedom of Information Act? Are there passages in those withheld documents that make it clear Obama knew much more than he has admitted?” What do you think? (While were at it, why can’t we see Barack Obama’s Occidental College records? Are there items there that prove he applied to the college as a foreign student, thus committing fraud?  What do you think?)

Such questions bring me to the other story Instapundit scooped up this morning, “President Asterisk” in James Taranto’s indispensable “Best of the Web” column in The Wall Street Journal.  Taranto begins with an obeisance to Barack Obama’s political prowess. “No one,” Taranto writes, can deny that the president is “a highly skilled politician, at least by the measure of election outcomes.  . . . His 2008 presidential victory, after a fraction of a term in the U.S. Senate, was especially dazzling. It disproved those who said that Hillary Clinton was invincible, that a left-wing Democrat couldn’t win, and that America wasn’t ready for a black president.”

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