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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Everybody But You

February 27th, 2008 - 6:54 pm

The Forgotten American (Americanus oblitus)

Listening to the give-and-take entitlement bidding war between Hillary and Barack, I thought there must have been a number of Americans—tens of millions in fact?—whom they have more or less forgotten. Who are they?

The forgotten American day in and day out pays off his monthly mortgage—$1000, $1500, $2000 a month perhaps. That his house went up in value was no reason to take out a second for a new car or kitchen or to max out the charge cards or to trade up to a home he could not afford, power, or maintain. He was happy his equity went up and upset it went down, but he planned on paying his mortgage either way. When he got the flyer in the mail promising a “fixed” 1.9% interest rate he threw it away with the male enhancement and no-pain diet ads, knowing that anything too good to believe is too good to believe, and that his 5.8% fixed 30-year mortgage wasn’t all that bad anyway.

The forgotten American may have empathy for those who took out no-down payment loans, balloon payments, and interest only plans, but would never do so herself. She’s more worried about putting away $500 a month or so away for her kids’ college, since she assumes there is no scholarship waiting for her own, and doesn’t want them to go into any more debt than is absolutely necessary. So she passes on the bigger home, the Vegas vacation, and the SUV to ensure her children graduate without crippling loans.

The forgotten American has worries about Iraq, and while he claims he doesn’t think it is now a good idea, he admits at one time he did. He wants out and is tired of Iraq, but after we’ve come this far hates the idea of losing the war more than he does the war itself.

He doesn’t like Guantanamo, wire taps, and all the other security measures, but for all the rhetoric also doesn’t feel he or anyone else he knows has had his liberties abridged. He cares about charges the innocent might be unjustly targeted, but notices the last six years that in any given month someone from a mosque, a Middle East charity, or a community center is indicted or on trial for disseminating jihadist literature, raising money for terrorist groups, or recording anti-American radical Islamic propaganda—and he makes the connection between that activity and the sort of landscape that allowed the perpetrators of 9/11 to operate so successfully inside the United States.

The forgotten American likes it when we are liked abroad, but doesn’t much care if we’re not—since those who burn our flags, storm our embassies and damn us on television live in societies of the sort that few others want to visit, much less live in. We assume that the shaking fist on TV is not as representative as the near million who cross our border illegally to have what we take for granted.

The forgotten American has no grudge against Muslims, and wishes the Middle East well. But he doesn’t have much guilt over paying $100 a barrel oil, or the tens of billions in handouts to Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan. And when he sees the young bearded Muslim male shout ‘Death to America!” whether in Pakistan, Iran, or Egypt, or the paid intellectual on CNN rant about Americans from dictatorial Jordan or theocratic Saudi Arabia, he either turns the channel or the TV off altogether.

The forgotten American doesn’t know much about Harvard or Princeton, or private school for her kids, or prep schools she never went to, or jobs that pay over $300,000 a year, or million-dollar homes. But she is pretty happy to be an American and the chance to have a comfortable house, car, good food, security, and a clean, safe, and good community. As far as her own country’s past goes, she knows it was not perfect, but still good enough—and far better than the alternative, then or now. She doesn’t just see a past America of racists and sexists, but one far more complex whose toil and sacrifice built the roads and bridges she uses, the house she lives in, and the airport and train station she travels from.

The forgotten American gave up a long time ago on Hollywood—he doesn’t watch the Oscars or see the new movies, or know the names of the latest actors. A Sean Penn, or George Clooney or Tim Robbins is a blur, a vague memory that very wealthy people who fret over hairlines and wrinkles also feel bad that their politics aren’t listened to.

He likes a little action, mystery, and comedy in his TV fare and film, but he accepts that ultimately the villain is going to be a white guy, the more southern, pink, obese, and Christian the better. The American corporation—remember Hollywood is not run by corporations that cut costs and charge high prices, but rather by noble artists who “collaborate” and have neat logos and clever trademarks that pop up on the screen with cool music—usually has robbed or killed the heroine, or made medicine that crippled the third-world noble infant or weapons that killed the innocent and idealistic reporter, student, or social worker. He accepts generals are bad, and naïve privates good; that the robber and hustler in film are far better, not to say more interesting, than the fat balding wimp behind the desk. Teachers are heroic, never lazy, but they work in schools that are underfunded, yet full of Einsteins, Mozarts, and Shakespeares that remain undiscovered because of racism and sexism. And the forgotten American knows that in every film, in every episode that he watches now there is a conspiracy of some shady government entity or corporation that is out to “get” the whistleblower, the reporter, the writer, or soccer mom.

The forgotten American worries about health care and wishes everyone were covered somehow. But for now when her son turned 23 she helped him take out a catastrophic policy, and when he forgets to make the $200 a month payment, she ensures that it is paid.

She knows that she can scarcely, as it is, balance work, housekeeping, and kids—and would not be able to at all if just once she weakened, and smoked a joint before work, drank during the day, or popped pills at the office. She is sorry that others do and wants them to get help—and accepts that her government, or society, or parents, or some –ism or -ology, or she herself in the abstract will be blamed for others indulging in what she would not.

The forgotten American always pays his FICA and Medicare taxes, but assumes he may not get the Social Security payout that he’s been promised, and that more will go to those who either did not pay into the system or paid very little or saved not at all for their old age. He doesn’t know much about the stock market, but manages to save or have deducted $200-500 a month to put in a 401K or SEP account, counting on no one but himself, and assuming the government cares more about those who didn’t do what he did than those who did.

The forgotten American knows that if Obama is elected she and her husband will pay $4000 or $5000 more in income tax, and that or more when the Social Security cap on income is raised or abolished, and her children far more when they inherit what she’s already paid tax on once. But she doesn’t think the extra money will go to pay down the deficit, or make government run the country more effectively, or make the additional recipient of her redistributed money either better off or happier for it.

The forgotten American has respect for the illegal alien from south of the border who hammers shingles, and lays cement and is out cutting grass when too many strapping young suburbanites are still asleep from a long Friday night of video games and mall cruising. But he also knows that the mindset that says it is fine to break the law and enter a country illegally that is not your own, is not sustainable for the host, and establishes a precedent for the transgressor that all subsequent laws and regulations and protocols are similarly to be followed when helpful—and not at all when inconvenient.

The forgotten American listens to Hillary and Barack and thinks all these promises are nice and well and good, but figures that they expect someone like herself to pay for all those programs for all those who chose to live life differently than she did—for whom in most cases there was as much or more chances than she had. She wants to pay taxes and help, but shrugs that those who receive think it’s never enough—resentment, not gratitude is their more appropriate response for government help. And she assumes that Hillary and Barak, given what they make, don’t much care whether they pay a few thousand dollars more in their own taxes, and that they, like a John Edwards or John Kerry or Al Gore or Ted Kennedy, are rich enough to feel everyone else’s pain but her own.

I don’t know how many forgotten Americans there are out, but I have a feeling the answer may well determine the next election.

The Forgotten Issues

Consider: $100 a barrel oil/$4 a gallon gas; $25 a bushel for March spring wheat; $1.50 Euro; 1 trillion dollars of government bonds in Chinese hands. These are symptoms of a alternate reality that the candidates of both parties are not debating: the world in the last twenty years has copied U.S. economic practices, gotten very good at it, and now wants what we have and is planning to take it. So everything from fuel to food is up for global sale and billions abroad have the money now to bid on it. People abroad who used to work in stupid fashion, now work smartly—and in some cases harder, and longer, and more effectively than do we.

The U.S. will either rise to the challenge, improve our educational system, relearn the work ethic, encourage discipline, and unleash our talents and creativity and praise those who succeed—or fade, blaming others, ourselves, our parents, our ancestors for our current decline, trying to legislate what we can’t produce or fix, fearing rather than welcoming the challenge.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq?

Sen. Obama did not understand that al Qaeda in Iraq is there and it was started by Zarqawi who was there in Iraq before we arrived. The problem is that Obama has not studied the war or the nature of Pakistan’s Waziristan, so he continues to make these astounding assertions—anytime he speaks off the cuff, in reaction to charges he is too vague, strange things can happen.

It doesn’t compute

Obama was rightly chagrined by Hillary’s attacks on his kindergarten essays, but now he’s claiming that living in Indonesia at that age constitutes foreign affairs experience or at least sensitivity to different cultures. Hillary has bragged, by the same token, about her First Lady experience but now disowns NAFTA—everything bad Bill’s; everything good hers.

She’s right out of Sophocles now—eirôneia: every theme she’s long embraced—identity politics, multiculturalism, big-ticket entitlements, media favoritism, and race/class/gender pandering—has been trumped by the smoother, younger and more “authentic” Barack Obama. Now she’s complaining about the left-wing media bias!

Even her loose canon Bill is out loosened by his Michelle, who has been under wraps (?) much more than Bill has—lest she prove to be a Teresa Kerry. But then it’s a long campaign and whenever Michelle speaks, her eyes flash and she goes into the “I’m addressing another guilt-ridden white elite audience who must be reminded what they owe me for what I’ve suffered” mode. Serving up charismatic contempt for such people is all fine and good (I enjoy watching it), but it won’t work in East Los Angeles or Akron.

Obamamania now is based on our collective infantilism that we all want to be liked, to feel good, and so the country can find an easy fix to racial tension and unfair depiction here and abroad by taking 500mg 2x daily of a dashing, eloquent African-American novel candidate who offers ourselves painless absolution and turns the tables on our multicultural critics abroad. He is a vast void and anyone can put anything they want into him—ACLU liberal, across the aisle healer, kind moderate, you name it. He is a mirror and reflects what anyone wishes to see.

More on Obama

Obama is elegant and poised, but he has never run a campaign against a vigorous opponent or addressed hostile audiences or faced a mean press, or debated hard-core effective conservatives. So we don’t know how he’d react to the strain. Thus I don’t how he’d react if Sen. Clinton asked him the following tough questions that are legitimate concerns—other than to decry “guilt by association” and “McCarthyism”.

Why Sen. Obama do you belong to a church whose very platform and principles would mean that your own mother could never have really been welcomed? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why Sen. Obama would the racist Louis Farrakhan speak for two hours in praise of your candidacy? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why would your wife not once, but twice say that she’s never had pride in the United States until your ran for President? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why would MoveOn.org that called General Petraeus a betrayer endorse you? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why would you have accepted donations from Bill Ayers who said that he had not done enough terrorist bombing against the United States in his youth? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

Why Sen. Obama are so many of your advisors—Ms. Power, or Mr. Malley, or Mr. Brzezinski–so critical of Israel, and so sympathetic to the Palestinians? But that’s no doubt a minor and irrelevant point.

But why, Sen. Obama, are there so many of these minor and irrelevant points that continue to be raised?

The answer is simply that Obama is a man of the hard left, and thus one must always worry about extremists or extremist themes that drift in and out of that general landscape. It won’t do to tsk, tsk Farrakhan anymore than it would a conservative to do the same with David Duke. The only difference between the late Timothy McVeigh and Bill Ayers was a question of magnitude and efficacy—not evil intent. Both targeted US governmental facilities with bombs. No politician would have visited a McVeigh (who likewise prided himself a pundit) to sound out his ideas or pay a cordial visit.

The net result is that Obama’s entire past coterie of associates should be reexamined. He should have daily tutorials on the major countries involved in the war on terror and the problems with each—and drop the talk about his foreign experience as a toddler in Indonesia.

The Colonels’ War

I have written often in the past about the role of the colonels in Iraq and why they should be promoted when up for general, since they are a singular generation with exceptional experience.

Despite the agony and ordeal of the US Army the last five years, we have witnessed a gifted cohort of officers below the rank of general essentially reverse the course of the entire war. The experience they have gained is invaluable and as a nation we can only pray that they are retained, and rewarded for their courage and brilliance. At some point, as was true in 1940-1, there has to been a generational change in the military, in which a David Petreus, not a Tommy Franks, is the model that guides our forces this next half century.
Nothing will bemore important than the news from the next round of military promotions, especially the type of colonel that is promoted and the reasons why. We are at a crossroads. Twenty-years from now we need 4-stars protecting us who once were colonels that saved Anbar.

The Way Ahead

February 22nd, 2008 - 2:33 pm

What Brought Us Here?

One wonders how the United States has come to the brink of nominating and probably electing someone with almost no experience as either an executive or national legislator, replete with ratings and rankings that suggest he will be about the most liberal Presidential candidate since George McGovern.

1.Spending. The Republicans spent a fortune between 2001-5, at rates far above inflation to fund new federal programs at a time of war. No vetoes, no remorse. The ensuing deficits then discredited the wonderful effect of the tax cuts that brought in more revenue, but today are somehow blamed for the shortfall.

2.The Half-measure. Conservatives did not articulate what we sought in Iraq. They did not give the public some historical perspectives about the cost versus the benefits of a stable constitutional Iraq. The looting, the pullback from Fallujah, the escape of Sadr, etc. were half-measures when double measures were needed, while no counter-narratives to “Bush Lied, Thousands Died” were offered. So now we are in the situation where a supposedly “failed” and “worst” something will be looked back within ten years as a heroic feat of arms in fostering a constitutional government in the heart of the ancient caliphate, after removing Saddam and defeating al Qaeda, and at a cumulative cost that in past wars might have been exceeded by single campaigns.

3. Scandal.
The Republican Congress—Mark Foley, Tom DeLay, Larry Craig, Duke Cunningham, and the Abramoff recipients—was as messy as it was hypocritical.

4. Open Boders. There was no humane argument advanced to end illegal immigration as a phenomenon that aided a corrupt Mexican government at the expense of its own dispossessed. What is so liberal about tile-setters, cooks, and pruners scrimping on their $15 an hour wages to send back $5 to Mexico to support their families whom Mexico City ignores—all the while expecting a liberal U.S. government to make up their ensuing shortfall with health, food, housing, education, and legal subsidies? Yet somehow Republicans could not find a way of identifying the real insensitive culprits and so were either demonized as racists and nativists or reduced to impotent complicity in keeping the borders open.

The Obama Message

I’ve now listened to almost every Democratic debate, watched at least three long Obama speeches on C-Span, and read his website. There are two messages I distill from all that.

One, he is an extremely good speaker, quick and humorous, perhaps the best natural orator and politician we’ve seen since Ronald Reagan and JFK—far better than Bill Clinton, inasmuch he rarely loses his temper or pouts on camera. So far, in Clinton fashion, he has not started shaking his finger.

I note in passing he almost never receives hostile questions. His debates have been limited to those with like-thinking liberal Democrats,. His political races were against other liberals or a weak conservative. And in general the press has bent over backwards to be considerate. Bottom line: we have no idea how he will react when crossed, although Hillary’s dig about his plagiarism in the Texas debate made him squeamish and moan.

Two is the message. Early last year, Obama started out as the post-racial candidate, a sort of liberal version of Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell. His handlers even worried whether he would solidify his African-American base (“not black enough?”) given Hillary’s liberal credentials, apparently sure-thing candidacy, and Bill’s honorific title as the first “black” President.

But sometime by December, the Obama candidacy had transmogrified, as his wife and Oprah, in style and substance, vouched for his African-American fides—and suddenly 90% of the black vote was unexpectedly won in many primaries. If his worry in the cauldron of Chicago politics was that he was too “white”, suddenly those fears were assuaged in the current election.

Second, at about the same time the hope and change message began to morph as well into a prophetic, near messianic sermon along the self-righteous lines of something like, “You, America, have a final chance to show that you are still good, after all, by voting for a brilliant African-American charismatic leader. If you don’t, then you are captive to race, and we were right all along about your America.”

The Racial Paradox

Racial solidarity or perhaps racial atonement is the subtext of Michelle Obama’s controversial speech, and the lame meae culpae that followed. So now we are in this Orwellian paradox of seeing Obama’s base turn out in record numbers on the basis apparently of race, but on the other hand the implied warning that if anyone else were likewise to consider that fact, then he would be racialist.

So is he an identity-politics candidate or a post racialist unifier? Or both? It all reminds me of the perennial complaints of the National Council of La Raza (the race) lecturing insensitive others about their unfair consideration of race in matters of illegal immigration. This is very disappointing, because lost in Obamania is the complete repudiation of his original promise precisely not to become a racial candidate.

Instead, in brilliant fashion, he has not only done so to secure his base, and out trump the identity politics of the possible first female nominee, but added a narcissistic and minatory twist that only by voting for someone who denies he is running on race do others have a chance to prove that they are beyond race. The country is soon to be in a position, thanks to the Obamas, that voting for a national hero, with three decades of governmental experience, and prior national campaign savvy over a half-term U.S. Senator is proof of being illiberal.

There are two general themes to his message that he has begun, to be fair, to articulate in more detailed fashion. At home, there will be an increase in taxes—income, estate, payroll—to fund more government health care, education, and general entitlement programs. The old Reaganesque notion that government subsidies can make one more dependent, angrier, and envious is forgotten, along with the notion that lower taxes stimulate economic growth and encourage risk-taking, innovation, and independence. I worry especially about the lifting of income caps (how far?) on social security taxes inasmuch as they were part of the original covenant justifying the caps on benefits paid out.

NAFTA and other free trade agreements would be repealed; illegal immigration would either not be an issue, or more a problem of finding the right way, with borders still open, to grant amnesties. Appointments would hinge on a belief in bigger government and the theme that the individual is currently suffering due to reactionaries in government and corporations, barely housed, fed, or educated, and deserves more federal dollars appropriated from others who either don’t need all their income or didn’t deserve the compensation they were given.

Abroad, there is a general argument that things are going terribly. Forget that the Taliban and Saddam are gone. Forget that we have not suffered another 9/11 attack. Forget that there is far more democratic promise in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Lebanon than was true in 2001. Forget that the Merkel and Sarkozy governments, along with Eastern European leaders, are more pro-American than their predecessors in 2001.

Instead, we are disliked by everyone, and for good reasons. The fact that Iranian mullahs, the House of Saud cousins, Hugo Chavez’s communists, European mullahs, and the Arab street don’t approve of America says more about us than it does them. The solution is to follow more the dictates of European Union and United Nations, where sophisticated internationalists can guide us through the maze of global power, instructing mostly ignorant Americans how and why we tend to cause so many of the world’s problems. Misunderstanding and our own obtuseness explain global tension, not the agendas of enemies who know exactly what they want and how to get it.

Our military is not so much an offensive force, designed to defeat and kill our enemies, that needs support and constant honing; better to see it as a large social organization that we must look at in terms only of proper rotations, health care, and benefits. We are to support the troops not in the sense of doing everything we can to ensure they win, and gain the proper recognition for their courage and sacrifice, but rather in consideration of their victimhood, offering proper sympathy and remediation for the defeat in Iraq, the unwise use of their skills, and the needless loss of their lives.


The McCain “Affair”

I should start off by saying I don’t really care about the exact parameters of a McCain’s, or Hillary’s, or Obama’s marriage. When the tabloids ran stories about Bill’s latest girl or Hillary’s personal companion I snored. It mattered only in the case of Bill circa 1999-2000, since the circumstances of the trysts were sordid and in the Oval Office, and flagrantly violated the Clintonian sermons on feminism and power, inasmuch as he used his stature to entice a gold-digging intern.

That said, three questions arise about the Times.

1. The Descent. Is this more of the same—when we remember the Jason Blair mess, the leaks of National Security information, the Moveon.org discounted ads, and the serial stories about defeat in Iraq and relative silence about the surge? The Times in the ideological sense has become indistinguishable from the Nation, and in its lack of craftsmanship no different from the British Tabloids or National Inquirer. Like Dan Rather and the crash of CBS, its directors know what their disease is, but also that the medicine is worse, so they will keep at it until they will expire.

2. Why Now? What are we to understand about the timing? That they held it to ensure a scandal-free McCain in the primaries, as the least offensive of the Republican candidates? They hoped he would win the nomination, as they argued in their own endorsement, but almost immediately upon becoming the veritable winner he should be weakened to favor the Democratic candidate in the general election? It is surreal to see the New Republic of recent Scott Beauchamp infamy in a tussle with the New York Times, on matters of conscious and probity. Name an old standby: CBS—Rather and the “memo”; Newsweek—the Periscope flushing of the Koran lie; Reuters—the photoshopped smoke over Beirut; New Republic—the Beauchamp mythology. The examples could be multiplied, but the theme is the same: a media elite, well educated and sophisticated, believes that their own biased means are necessary to achieve a utopian and just ends for the rest of us.

3. Open Season?
Does the McCain story establish new benchmarks? Now we are going to go carefully through the last ten years of Obama’s personal and professional life to discover whether anyone ever wondered about attractive women in his general vicinity, and whether he was ever familiar with lobbyists?

The Tragic Self

February 16th, 2008 - 4:55 pm

How We Got Where We Are—Turning Points of the Primaries

Candidates have intrinsic strengths and make their own fate, but the primary campaign did not necessarily have to end up where it did—since the following events were as pivotal as they were unexpected

1. Bill Clinton’s decision to drop the bite-the-lip therapeutic self and revert to the war-room hack, which along with Hillary’s clumsy civil rights revisionism turned off the liberal media.

2. Michelle Obama’s fiery speeches, that along with Oprah’s omnipresence, ended all notion that Barrack Obama was not black enough, and helped solidify the African-American base.

3. The Obama team’s decision to avoid detail and concentrate on his rock-star sermons on “change” and “hope”, that hypnotized voters, who after they woke and found he had said nothing had already joined the pied piper. In contrast, Huckabee’s specifics—fair tax, Bush’s “arrogant” foreign policy, invading Pakistan—proved the dangers of a rookie not talking only about “hope and change.”

4. Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous decision to delay, forgo face time and press coverage, and invest in Florida, based on the false assumption that leads in the national polls are static and are immune from the human desire to switch and side with the winner—even if the perception was created in tiny caucuses or small states primaries.

5. The New York Times’ decision to run serial stories on Giuliani’s personal life and petty sins of a decade prior.

6. Hillary’s scripted tear that gave her a second chance even as her cackle and screeching voice helped lose the first

7. The success of the surge by September/October that gave the McCain candidacy not only a second life, but also sanctioned his lonely and principled stand on the war when few were willing to invest in Iraq.

8. Mitt Romney’s decision to go negative in TV ads rather than give uplifting human speeches that proved effective only at the very end of his effort

9. Talk radio and right-wing base attacks on McCain that won him fides with independents and moderates, and some sympathy from mainstream Republicans

10. The vast dislike of the Clintons in the media, punditry, and among Democratic politicians–cf. Bill’s lectures and finger pointing and Hillary’s whining– who were all looking for a spark to ignite

He Kept Us Safe?

If we are not hit again, and if Iraq continues to settle down, in five years President Bush will be reassessed as the one who kept us safe after 9/11 when popular wisdom insisted that more attacks were to come. Soon someone will write a history detailing the losses al Qaeda suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq from a perspective other than “we created more terrorists”— such as “we killed thousands of committed terrorists over there, not here.”

The Illinois Shooter

No one has an answer to these serial incidents of deranged shooters murdering students. Explanations abound: the culture of the violent video game blurs reality; lack of meds; cultural relativism; easy access to guns; inability of ‘normal’ people to carry concealed guns, etc.

After watching dozens of news reports on the incident, I know all I want to know about the murderer and all the catalysts. My only reaction to this? Had this taken place in 1935 or 1948, the reports would have talked of a “no-good” or an “evil” “criminal” and wondered where the “cops” were and why someone did not shoot him in mediis rebus—and we would have learned very little of his psychological state, upbringing or even motivation other than he was “crazy” or “a monster”.

California’s implosion

Apparently we are back to Gray Davis-like multibillion deficits again. The problem is not Republican or Democratic in California, but structural and built on three dilemmas. Our high income taxes, spiraling sales taxes, and high property assessments are driving out to neighboring, low- tax states our upper-middle class taxpayers. Meanwhile illegal immigration has led to a quarter-million or so a year of illegal aliens arriving without high school diplomas. The results are vanishing high tax-payers, and more and more of those in need of subsidies and entitlements.

Two, the UC, CSU, JC and high-school and grade school systems have been micromanaged from the legislature, and are now largely therapeutic. For thirty years, we have raised an entire generation that cannot read, compute, or reason in a competent fashion, while being indoctrinated that they are important, “somebody” and deserving of esteem. The result is that our educational, political, and government leadership is, well, mostly ignorant, borrowing to create programs and entitlements while state infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate and languish.

Finally, the baby-boomer mentality of “me first” is parasitic: prior generations built our freeways, airports, universities, ports, and rail for us to enjoy. So we ran on their fumes, had a good time, and never invested for our own children. The port at LA has no quick exit links, LAX is a nightmarish airport; the UC campuses (cf. the catalog curriculum at UC Santa Cruz) are noncompetitive; I-5, 101, and the 99 are in perpetual catch-up expansion mode; there is essentially only two all-weather ways to leave the state from West to East over or around the Sierra.

The strangest development is the mixture of the primordial and the postmodern: I get lengthy ag and environmental reports to fill out about a tiny 40-acre parcel that would require a PhD to fathom, and are no doubt filed and forgotten—even as down the road every imaginable zoning, health, and environmental violation is ignored. While I was trying to figure out the exact number of pipeline feet on the farm (who cares?) on my government form, one-quarter mile a way, several Winnebago’s on wheels, outhouses, and dozens live in supposedly single-house parcel. The logic: apparently I am more likely to follow the nonsensical law, while the others are beyond hope in meeting the very critical statute. The felony is now so egregious and widespread that it is mostly unenforceable, so the bureaucratic mind always prefers the misdemeanor that can be addressed.

Meanwhile Back on the Clash of Civilizations Front

British police chiefs claim that there were 17,000 reported crimes of honor “violence” (including murder) last year in the UK. Surely this must be a mistake? Are we to believe that over 45 Middle Eastern UK residents are beaten or killed every day?

Consider the antithesis this past week:

Them—honor violence in the UK; plot broken up to kill the Danish cartoonists; Turkish Prime Minister announces in Germany to Turkish residents that assimilation is a crime against humanity; videos posted of al Qaeda burning prisoners alive; reports of Al Qaeda recruiting women with Down’s syndrome and other mental ailments to serve as human bombs.

Us—Archbishop of Canterbury announces imposition of Sharia Law is “unavoidable; Congress shuts down without passing renewal of ant-terrorist statutes; Obama reiterates proposed withdrawal from Iraq within 60 days of his inauguration; Hirsi Ali pleads in vain for EU security details while in Europe; Nancy Pelosi announces surge has “failed”; Zbigniew Brzezinski visits Syria at time marquee terrorists are murdered, and exposed as having lived here with full knowledge of government.

So the question remains, is the third millennium up to battle against the first? Are we arguing over wiretaps while al Qaeda burns its captives alive in Iraq?

Obamiana

Barrack Obama’s team should begin to worry that in the popular culture and even the mainstream media, people are beginning automatically to associate his set speech with vapidity, “hope” and “change” with saying nothing. If not curtailed, that Pavlovian identification will take on a life of its own.

Historians will wonder at what point the post-racialist Obama, who, it was alleged, “was not black enough”, transmogrified into “The Black Candidate” and began winning 85-95% of the black vote, even when head-to-head with the wife of the honorary “black” president. The downside, as Hillary’s campaign seems to be trying to exploit, is that racial identity politics married with appeals to upscale yuppie whites, is beginning to turn off other minorities such as Asians and Hispanics, as well as working whites. One lives and dies with appeals to the tribe, whether intended or not. A good example was Cruz Bustamante’s run for governor during the California Gray Davis recall. Suddenly commercials ran with crowds of Mexican-Americans shouting and waving red flags, and his ratings nosedived with each spot that aired.

Obama may well capture the nomination, but there is an outside chance that he will lose to Hillary all the key states so important in the general elections—California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Not a good sign for the November elections.

Much of the rhetoric of the Obama campaign concerns mortgage and student loans, with the clear implication that the borrower has been victimized, and is need of federal redress. Two observations: prior to the mortgage meltdown, the rhetoric had been “home ownership” or the notion that the “non-traditional” borrower had to be accommodated to get him into a first home. Now such marginal borrowers apparently were “tricked”, or coerced into buying more home than they could afford.

The same logic will apply to student loans, as we begin to hear all sorts of bail-out programs aimed at those “burdened”. Perhaps true, but in a great many of cases, many had no business going into debt for college, since they were not yet motivated and only limped through the undergraduate years, attending class haphazardly in a holding pattern, unsure whether to graduate or work or sort of both.

It may be a conservative canard, but the common theme of the Obama rhetoric is that the US is a depressingly oppressive place, where the poor citizen has not much income and gets no help from an uncaring government. It all sounds like 1929, not the entitlement colossus of 2008.

Spare Us the Elite Populism

February 8th, 2008 - 1:33 pm

Obamology

I was watching on television last week both Barack Obama and his wife Michelle speak about the supposedly depression-like conditions in the US, and a people strapped by students loans, near hungry, and without hope of betterment. Neither said anything of substance, though both were engaging, effective speakers. Still, never has so much talent been invested in saying so little.

If you were to believe them, we are in a sort of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Frank Capra-era housing depression, not a boom-and-bust cycle where for the last five years, rival television shows proliferate on “flipping” houses (in which strapped investors and rookies borrow against rising equity to put in granite counters and stainless steel appliances for quick flip sales).

I have developed a bad habit up in the Sierra (Huntington Lake is hardly Tahoe) of asking strangers about their playthings—big boats, jet-skis, jacked-up four wheel-drive trucks with chrome struts that require a ladder to enter, all-terrain vehicles, recreation vehicles, racing-type snow-mobiles, etc. Most of these toys cost several thousand dollars. I am struck by the background of most that I meet who are driving them: the owners are electricians, cops, plumbers, teachers, government inspectors, etc. So far very few lawyers, doctors, and investors.

In other words, the middle class that Obama assures us is bankrupt seems to have been able to afford optional consumer goods as never before. Don’t buy a snow mobile and you can put a kid at a public college for a year. Don’t buy a racing boat, and you can put one there for four years. There seems to be plenty enough disposable income, it’s just that it is going to video games, big-screen TVs, and gas-powered toys.

Likewise I try to go a Wal-Mart or mall once a week just to survey crowds. Yesterday I saw a nasty fight between two 40-something obese people over the last mechanized cart available. By rough calculus, I would wager that 40% of the shoppers were clearly overweight. Vegetables and fruit are still cheap by world standards, and the notion of widespread hunger is simply not true. The plague that is killing the lower middle-class is obesity. In the Dr.’s office two weeks ago, every single male patient (I went to the urologist for kidney stones) was 40 lbs. overweight—or more.

Then we get to student loans. The Obamas were assuring us that they only recently paid off their student loans! But they live well, and their dual income was nearly a million dollars last year. And who ever promised that Princeton and Harvard, much less two additional law degrees from Harvard Law School, were either to be cheap or a government entitlement?

The shocking thing is not that the Obamas were still paying off student loans, but why in the world is the government subsidizing Ivy-League education for elites, especially when these universities’ billions in tax-exempt endowment income are not going to full tuition waivers, which in the case of Harvard it could easily do? Why should the government offer subsidized loans to the Obamas to go to Harvard Law School; but, more importantly, why are we to hear anger from two Harvard Law School lawyers that the loans have to be paid off rather than gratitude for their availability?

I could go on, but will save it for this week’s column.

Mail:

Some answers:

1. Relationship with McCain: No, I don’t work for the McCain campaign; don’t know a single person there; and haven’t had a single communication from anyone involved. I have heard, but never met McCain; don’t want a federal job, wouldn’t leave California under any circumstances, etc, but mightily fear the Clinton or Obama alternative (see below).

I like McCain’s chances against Billary or Obama, and admire his heroism. I learned one thing in farming—waiting for the perfect harvest (we did this in 1976 when we waited until mid-SEptember for 21 brix sugar in the grapes before laying them down to dry as raisins and then watched them float down the rows due to unseasonable rains) usually means you will lose it. If conservatives are angry that there is a watered down McCain candidacy, it is a little late. All Republican candidates since Jerry Ford have compromised—even and especially Reagan, who raised payroll taxes, upped gasoline taxes, appointed O’Connor and Kennedy to the Supreme Court, created a new cabinet of veteran affairs, did not eliminate as promised Energy and Education, put in and pulled out troops in Beirut, (no need to mention Iran-Contra), and advocated global nuclear disarmament. I could make a longer list for Bush I (cf. tax cuts and the Souter appointment to start), and likewise with Bush II on spending, illegal immigration, etc. The idea that McCain is no different from the Democratic alternative is, well…again see below.

2. Makers of Ancient Strategy should be out a year from November. The contributors are, I hope, just starting their essays. I should finish No Man a Slave in 6 weeks It’s at 300,000 words, so it’s a long novel, and has derailed me from a new book on history since the 2005-6 Peloponnesian War volume. Hope to begin one however this summer, now that No Man a Slave is nearly done.

3. There are 7 rooms left on the May battlefield tour. We hope to have a NATO tour of their headquarters in Brussels, and a good speaker there, and a French jurist as well at a garden party in Versailles. The Trianon Hotel at Versailles is worth the trip itself. No finer mind on the current war than Bruce Thornton and Tom Connor knows more about the European battlefields than any historian I know. So I am very excited about it.

4. I like Rush Limbaugh a great deal. My mention of his ads, as one reader noted, was a reference to the unfair criticism of them from elite snobbery, not a suggestion there is anything inherently wrong with commercials.

The Republican Blood Feud

The present Republican infighting is as if Sherman marched on Grant while Lee headed toward Washington.

I wrote this recently for NRO, since I think nothing is scarier than 8 more years of the Clintons.

Thoughts on the Current Mess

There were four developments that got conservatives into this mess—the inexcusable increase of federal spending from 2001-05 (that gave mendacious Democrats room to fabricate that the tax cuts had caused the red ink), the sordid scandals of 2005-7, the tentativeness in the war (cf. the 1st pull-back from Fallujah, the reprieve to Sadr, the retreat to compounds in 2006, etc), and the complete unwillingness to close the border. McCain was involved with only one of these.

On these four critical issues would McCain be far better than Clinton or Obama. He is good on earmarks and pork barrel spending, and hates deficits; he is without scandal and, while terribly wrong on McCain-Feingold, is a corruption fighter; and he is aggressive on the war and wants to win. The problem with his prior support of immigration “reform” was not just that it would lead to ever more illegals and make a mockery out of past federal law, but that he either ignored criticism or impugned the motives of those who were genuinely worried about open borders and the travesty of the law, but themselves were neither racists nor without compassion.

So on 3 of 4 critical issues, McCain in strong, and on the 4th he is now on record in speeches and ads that he would close the borders first. His views on religion, abortion, gay marriage, guns, etc. please mainstream conservatives, on global warming, Guantanamo, campaign financing, etc. hardly.

How then to recapture the base? I don’t think the attitude “they have nowhere else to go” or “we don’t want to lose moderates by moving right” will work, especially if Obama is the nominee.

It would be better to get a base conservative on the ticket. And when you look around at the necessary requisites: youth to balance McCain’s age; strong base support; energetic; an experienced campaigner; not afraid to mix it up; geographical balance; economic experience and Wall Street fides; you inevitably keep coming back to Romney.

He would unite the party, not just by gaining the VP spot, but by acknowledgment that he would then be best positioned to assume the top spot after McCain. It would reassure conservatives on immigration, tax cuts, etc. And Romney’s last two weeks of speeches revealed a charismatic figure unlike that seen most of the campaign. Their animus is no greater than between Bush I (“voodoo economics”) and Reagan in 1980, but would be a genuine gesture on the part of McCain, to think of the base and swallow his seeming anger at Romney.

The alternative is a Republican loss, and likely increased Democratic control of the Congress and soon a trifecta with the Supreme Court. We would witness a new generation of European-like tax increases, unnecessary new programs, negotiated or unilateral surrender in Iraq, loss of what has been achieved in preventing another 9/11 (a return to the Sandy Berger/Albright response to terrorists in the late 1990s when our embassies were leveled and Pakistan got the bomb), 2-3 far Left Supreme Court justices, and the race/class/gender industry given official sanction.

The idea that feuding conservatives would each not make some sort of concessions to prevent all that is lunatic.

Reflections on Today’s Campaign Speeches

Bill Clinton as Jimmy Swaggert

Bill can’t stop campaigning if he wanted to. He can’t cease talking about himself if he was paid a billion dollars. He can’t stop lusting after the limelight of the White House at any price.

But he can change his approach after almost losing the nomination for his wife and himself. So today’s appearance at a Los Angeles African-American Church saw a reconstituted Bill Clinton as the Reverend Swaggert begging for forgiveness after one of his assorted sins.

Yes, he still talked about his brilliant administration as the chief reason to have his wife continue it. In praising Al Gore he talked of “we”. But now there was no more finger pointing, no more red-faced, cheek-swelling outbursts, and no more flashing eyes and thundering voice.

Instead, we got the swollen, teary-eyed reminiscences about his impoverished parent. His voice was at times barely audible. His pauses went on for a few seconds, as he carefully drew his breath and like Ajax in his soliloquy solemnly went on. He bit his lip enough no doubt to require minor surgery. He paused and then went on in sad mournful tones. He often let out a self-effacing, heartfelt muffled laugh.

If Bill before slandered, accused and lectured at poor us who did not appreciate his genius, he now evoked Jesus, as his prophet to politely beg us to vote for him and her. “We all want to be in a gang,” he tearfully stammered to his African-American audience, as he reminded his listeners that he learned about gangs from none other than Maxine Waters—the most prominent Californian African-American to endorse his wife.

One final note. Bill kept talking of “Our government doesn’t————”. Fill in the blanks how we shortchange veterans, blacks, students, the poor, the indebted, the homeowner, and the sick. Aside from whether his accusations are true (most are not), one wonders, are not these so-called pathologies of longer standing than the past seven years? Were there no foreclosures, none without health insurance, no homeless, no racism, no evil whatsoever during his own tenure? Did George Bush alone undo all that Bill Clinton had bequeathed?

McCain’s Case rested

I’m neither a political scientist nor working for any particular candidate. Instead, as a historian I simply look at the Republican race empirically, as an observer who came to an understandable conclusion that (1) McCain is not that much more liberal than his Republican rivals or the actual record of recent Republican presidents such as Gerald Ford, the two Bushes, and Ronald Reagan. Note that if one uses conservative indices like the American Conservative Union’s, or those of the liberal counterparts like the Americans for Democratic Action, McCain scores in the 80s on the conservative side, Obama and Clinton below 10; on liberal scorecards the reverse is true. (2) Given the recent drift leftward, and the opening given by the Clinton drive-by attack on Obama, McCain has some chance to capture enough independents and moderates turned off by the Clinton roguery to squeak by.

That said, the race is not over, and Romney supporters should continue to promote his cause until the delegate count is decided. I understand that the base is angry not just because of McCain’s immigration or tax cut heresies, but mostly one of attitude and past pride in opposing conservatives. The complaint then is often that ‘McCain snubbed us once in an unnecessary condescending manner, but kisses up now since he can’t win without us” . Perhaps all that is true. But I would prefer to look to conservatives’ own self-interest—and it is not with Hillary or Barack.

My interest is not antipathy to Mitt Romney. I met and liked him. I have no grudge against Mike Huckabee. But I fear, I confess, another eight years of Bill Clinton—never brought home more than by his recent multimillion-dollar glad-handing trip to Kazakhstan to cement a uranium deal for Frank Giustra, who then donated generously to his various foundations.

Ms. Obama

I have now seen her speak three times on television on C-Span. She is attractive, bright, and educated, an effective communicator (though verbose and prone to go on too long), and the most impressive of the potential first wives still in the race. But she seems right on the edge. As she goes on and on without a scripted text, she starts to tense up and gets a little angry and then makes the implicit case that a vote for her husband is a sort of redemption for the entire country. Again, there is no argument on specifics. Never does she say: vote for Barack because of the a-z platform. Instead, the appeal is that we all will be morally better; she and Barack have suffered more than the rest of us, but can offer us still a sort of redemption.

A common target is once again “they” and “the government”— those nameless faceless people that have done everything wrong and bad and stupid to hurt folks like Ms. Obama and her husband, who went to Harvard law school and became professionals and live well, but have suffered since, she insists, because they only recently paid off their student loans (going to Harvard Law School is not a birthright, but for most quite expensive). No mention is made that this is the world’s wealthiest country, the destination of the worlds’ immigrants, or an amazingly humane and creative place– only that “it hasn’t gotten better.”

Ms. Schwarzenegger

Maria Shriver spoke as well on behalf of Sen. Obama today, even as her husband endorsed Sen. McCain. Rather than try to convince strangers to vote for Obama, she should try to convince the governor to endorse him. But her endorsement was once again framed in religious tones—we find salvation by “going beyond the labels” and voting for a self-labeled black candidate? It also again reminds me of Clinton today singing Hillary’s multifaceted strengths that he apparently in the most gratuitous fashion in the past had serially disdained. (e.g., if Obama is so great and we strangers are to be swayed by her endorsement, why not first sway the Governator?)

Oprah as Jesse?

One wonders whether Oprah has overdone it a bit for Obama. She was not reflective like Bill at today’s UCLA rally in her usual talk-how therapeutic host mode, but angry, fiery, fully in campaign form, with full black intonation and a hint of the Southern preaching style, as much evident on the stump as she eschews it in her syrupy talk show. Ms. Winfrey should learn from Bill; he squandered his faux-statesman persona by campaigning crassly; she may lose her Dr. Phil trust-me endearment by morphing into a female nice version of a partisan Jesse Jackson.

A final note. After Winfrey talks about gender and race ad nauseam, she quickly notes that race and gender have nothing to with the election. The effect on the casual listener who is not hypnotized is surreal. Barack Obama is considered the “black” candidate; his white mother and the complete outsourcing of his formative years and education to his mother and her parents go unspoken. And this is to bring us together?

The subtexts of today’s speeches by the Obama and Clinton supporters are that the perennial culpable white male has finally met his nemesis. He can pay penance for past sins by voting for either a woman or someone of mixed racial heritage. We can unite the nation only by endorsing candidates whose first identification is apparently to their race or gender—something that would be considered abominable for the white male.

But when I think of white male, I don’t evoke a billionaire John Kerry or Ted Kennedy, but thousands of poorer, blue collar whites here in southern Fresno County, who live a world apart from Ms. Obama, or Ms. Winfrey or Ms. Schwarzenegger, and are hardly a “they” or “them.” In this regard, Mike Huckabee’s Lava Soap speech today almost matched Ms. Obama’s pain for pain, hunger for hunger—but praised the past generations rather than blamed them.

The final irony? The way the election is going, the Obama and Clinton obsession on race and gender will ultimately so alienate the demonized white (but middle and lower class) male that he might really vote, in sheer contrarian fashion, with some consideration of race and gender in a way that he would not have before.

As my old Swedish cowboy grandfather used to say as he lumbered around his barnyard, trotting a wild horse in a vast circle tied to a stake and gasping from his gassed lungs at the daily idiocy— Iyiyi!

The Candidates

February 1st, 2008 - 11:32 am

Candidates—some final appraisals

Biden et al—how do these non-candidates (cf. Dodd, Richardson, Paul, etc.) mark the beginning and end of their non-campaigns, since there is no resonance at any time? One day it’s ‘why not try that’—and another you wake up and say, ‘ok, no more of that’? Is the decision to run predicated on the free face time on TV, and the decision to quit then taken when the cameras vanish?

Clinton—so many third rails, where to start? She has to watch her grating, shrill octave and cackling, and the innate tendency to get mean and nasty. Then there is Wild Bill, who is taking her up on his half of “the deal” (you got leftwing White House clout by sticking by me; I get White House ego clout by not embarrassing you during your turn). There is always the land mine of Bill’s financial prostitution, in which he glad-handed his way in a mere eight post-presidential years to hundreds of millions for his library and foundations.

Edwards—surely some sort of Harold Stassenian record: since his 1998 Senate election, and 2004 and 2008 presidential runs, he must have entered the most elections and won the least. He has now made blue-jeans into the equivalent of Mike Dukakis’s tank helmet.

Obama—the more he talks about not talking about race, the more he talks about race, apparently so that he never has to take a position or offer details about his European-like socialism, and so can be perpetually beloved for promoting “change.” In the white liberal mind, a suave rhetorician of half-African ancestry from Harvard can be safely reconfigured as an African-American victim of historic racism, and thereby avoid the Sharpton-Jackson scare factor. The more he writes and talks about his father, the more one is reminded that his critical training and education were more likely due to his mother and maternal grandparents.

Giuliani—a strangely comatose campaign, in which from August to November apparently it spent millions, but on what, no one knows? We tsk, tsk the New York Times, but their serial character assassination of him for days on end was picked up on the blogosphere and regional papers, and he never got over the damage. A reminder about human nature: most have no ideology other than wishing to associate with a winner. While Rudy sat on his lead waiting for the sure thing in Florida, others were perceived as “winners” and in the limelight, and so like the proverbial magnet stone drew away his supporters. He did prove by far the best candidate in one-on-one repartee.

Huckabee—I grew up with thousands like him in Central California during the 1950s after the Arkansas and Oklahoma Diaspora: bright, educated, witty, a good guy without any background in foreign affairs and whose overt Christianity would always help to achieve a strong second or third place primary finish, but ipso facto never win the nomination or the general election. 90% of the time he’s charming and suave, the other 10% wacky, and one never knows when or where or why that rarer side pops up.

McCain—the old warhorse. The Greeks might say that something happened in Vietnam, or maybe during his long career or his past failed bid in 2000, to suggest that in his twilight his luck has finally changed and it is now his turn. His candidacy offers intriguing possibilities: at 72 he might feel no need to triangulate and thus might really balance the budget, cut programs, and talk candidly in a way others would not. I’ve had the following experience hundreds of times: a Democrat will write or call and say if Hillary is nominated, he won’t vote for her, but would for McCain (alone of the Republicans), and that “lots” feel the same way but would never admit to such. I imagine he gets far more votes than he polls. As in the case of Giuliani and Thompson, McCain’s frenetic pace makes one confused about how a cancer survivor in late middle/old age could keep up such an ordeal. His last debate should be a warning to his handlers: he was confused and tired, and needed a rest. On the day of debates, ensure he gets plenty of rest. At 54 after an occasional kidney stone, yard work and writing, I’m exhausted; the notion at 71 after cancer, I could be traveling 18 hrs a day is inconceivable. McCain’s biggest problem? He must reach out to enemies and not gratuitiously insult his erstwhile allies.Go on Limbaugh and Hannety and take whatever they dish out.

Romney—I met him for breakfast twice and found him a thoroughly nice guy with enormous talents. On paper, he may be the most impressive: sharpest mind, vigorous, well educated, pleasant. His supposed liability—Mormonism—faded while his apparent strengths (looks, money, suaveness) were seen as his weaknesses, cementing the image of a “slick” product.

Thompson—solid conservative, but apparently surprised that a sixty-something, well paid actor, recovering from lymphoma, with young wife, and children, is suddenly told that he leads polls and could be the next president. How do you refuse that? I found him the most charming of the candidates (also had breakfast with him). I especially appreciate his relaxed attitude and ‘crap happens’ resignation, and hope he is considered as a VP candidate or cabinet secretary. Again, I never understood why a cancer-survivor in his 60s is called “lazy”—but then this campaign has proved that the press and its pundits are creepier than we ever imagined, as if we all have no memory of their own viciousness and triangulations.

“We’re Back!”

So said Bill Clinton Wednesday night in Denver. He was talking ad nauseam ostensibly about Hillary but mostly about Bill, past and present. And he seems to think things like 100mpg cars would be developed because of his wife, or that she would lower interest rates for affordable loans— although I thought shaky rules to get more people in homes were part of the problem by extending too easy credit to the unqualified.

He was speaking and speaking and speaking, pacing and without notes, in total stream of thought fashion, in which he can and does say anything that comes across his jittery mind. What does he mean that “Hillary is the best change maker” he ever knew? Answer—in second one he damns debt and all the money we owe to the Chinese and Japanese, and then in second two lists all the expensive federal programs she started or expanded, as if there is to be no connection.

If this continues, he will say some outrageous things before this is over. I’ll stop with the anecdotes he offers about their partnership—“Bill, do you love me?” (The problem with Hillary as President is not just being that we are on new ground with an ex-President shilling for his wife to find a way to beat term limits, but doing so as part of a mercenary and utilitarian, and cynical, tag-team marriage.)

The Debate

There was no California debate tonight between Obama and Clinton, just a consensus about a sort of squishy sort of European socialism—more federal programs, more UN, more retreat from Iraq, more assumption that the government alone can save us all.

His fear? Don’t mention one detail, one specific proposal that might suggest he’s not an Olympian but could offend someone who didn’t think he got as big a federal program as his neighbor. So “change” and “historic” (aka first black serious candidate) are the extent of his vocabulary. On immigration, taxes, defense he talks only in anti-Bush generalities. No mention that we haven’t been hit since 9/11, the Taliban and Saddam are gone, and the four soon to be nuclear powers of the 1990s (North Korea, Iraq, Iran [if one were to believe the NIE], and Libya) were not by 2007. We should compare the contrast with Pakistan in 1998 about which no one offers any mea culpa.

Her fear? The Cackle. From time to time she lets loose and it gets sort of eerie as even supporter gasp and think ‘Please don’t do that again!’. She too deplores the Bush debt as she lists billions in new federal programs—without a hint that they might be connected. And when she said that Syria and Iran will be in bad shape when we begin fleeing Iraq 60 days after her assumption of office, should we laugh (please! No!) or cry (sort of).

Re: the non-debate. I guess Obama thinks he’s gaining, so keep it cool; she’s cooling it to ensure she doesn’t blow it. Again, expect Bill to muddy the waters next time around.

McCainimosity

McCain is weak on borders, in that he changed and slurred his critics—but his present position is light years from the de facto open borders—and ‘proud of it’ attitude—shared by Clintama.

I still think if McCain goes on Hannity, Rush, etc., talks bluntly, but graciously and reviews his positions on the war, spending, corruption, and vows on illegal immigration, he can mollify his base—in light of the alternative seen tonight. See below:

I’m still being bombarded by those who promise that they will sit out if McCain is nominated. But any simple collation of his views with the Clintama positions will show an abyss of difference. I can’t believe that conservatives will stay home while someone with a 82 percent ACU rating may run against the Senate’s most highly rated liberal senator. If either Hillary or Obama is elected, conservatives could kiss the Supreme Court off for 30 years, and see the Petraeus surge squandered. For those who keep writing the McCain venom, at least turn some of it on St. Reagan (new taxes on payroll and gas, arms for hostages, flight from Lebanon, O’Connor and Kennedy as justices, 1986 amnesty, desire for global and rapid nuclear disarmament, etc.) or President Bush (massive growth in government, spending hikes, immigration bill, Dubai ports, farm bill give-away, etc.).

The debate has become so crazy that today they were attacking McCain’s war record! And complaining about his class ranking at Annapolis! I’d cool it, since we are really talking about a return of Bill Clinton and more Justice Ginsburgs, Madeline Albrights, a few cruise missiles when our embassies are incinerated, tax increases from payroll to income to estate, more reductions in military forces (peace dividend), and a near veto by Europe and the UN on U.S. options abroad. A McCain-Thompson ticket, with pledges on taxes and immigration, would not be the same as the above, and to suggest otherwise is, well…

Edwards Emeritus

After he withdraws, has Edwards created a blue-jeans jail in which he can’t go back to John’s room in the mansion? How long can he walk around in plaid and jeans as man of the people, now that there is not much political gain to be made from it, other than a cabinet post?

So I would suppose that insidiously he’d go back to the $50,000 a pop university lectures on poverty, the weekly-salary haircuts, and hedge-fund/Wall Street freelancing—Clinton-like using the cover of a foundation for poverty to pay for the private jetting and good life, sort of analogous to the Arianna Huffington Brentwood populism or the John Kerry camouflage and mansion show.

In the end, he remains the most enigmatic of all the candidates: how can an ambulance chaser turned into Blue-dog southern senator transmogrify into Tom Joad, and apparently fool millions of voters?

A Different Sort of Populism

A reader wrote in inquiring: who has the biggest house among our present populists: Kerry, Kennedy, Gore, or Edwards? I answered in total square footage, Kerry. But was not sure about the primary residence. Could it be Edwards? And does one count total houses and aggregate footage, or single residence or principal home?

All of our present liberalish billionaire populists who critique capitalism and want higher taxes—Soros, Buffet, Gates, Trump, etc.—beat the system years ago, once railed against government intrusion into markets and competition, and now, billions later, feel themselves exempt. So in Carnegie fashion, they sense before the twilight it’s time for a little magnanimity, one that will have absolutely no effect on their billion-dollar lifestyles. For a man with $1 billion there are ways to tax all ‘income’ at 20% as capital gains and not 35% plus as income—if taxed at all in offshore investments, trusts, and foundations. And if one high-profile magnate is making $70 million a year in interest, whether he pays $25 million or the higher $35 million is not as important as the sense of status and acclaim that greets his strikingly liberal positions on making the rich (i.e., those greedier families, making say $300-500,000,) pay their fair share—or else!