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Monthly Archives: May 2008

Battles, Past and Present

May 29th, 2008 - 3:21 pm

Scott McClellan

We have had a number of Bushites, who in disillusion about their own careers, or angry that they were becoming scapegoats, wrote memoirs at odds with their former pronouncements. But never have we witnessed someone who made the about-switch so abruptly in a matter of months, going from official megaphone to court Procopius— and so blatantly forcing the reader to choose between “he’s lying now” or “he was lying then”, since his own admissions are antithetical to one another. And when McClellan talks about “my truth,” as opposed to a universal truth, we understand how the Foucouldian/Lacanian postmodernist hocus-pocus filters down to the half-educated and gullible like McClellan.

Ultimately, the President would have been far better off not to have selected so many on the basis on “loyalty” rather than competence, since he got neither loyalty nor merit, and missed the eternal truth that the incompetent (McClellan was the worst press secretary of either party since Ron Ziegler) are ultimately the most disloyal.

All we need now is the ex-felon John Dean and mastermind of the Watergate cover-up, as the voice of conscious, to comment on the McClellan case.

Europe

I’m currently in Carbourg lecturing and visiting the Normandy battlefields and monuments. The weather is stormy and rainy as it was in 1944, and very little seems to have changed in the surrounding communities.

Driving through the dense hedgerows gives instant understanding to how the Americans could have lost 80,000 casualties while going almost nowhere in the two months after the brilliantly successful landings—but still leave one perplexed about how such thorough planners at SHAEF could have neglected the effect of the well-known bocage on mobile operations.

This tragedy evokes ‘my brilliant three-week victory over Saddam, your foolish flawed occupation”, albeit the deaths were in the former case in the tens of thousands. Perhaps had only 1/100 the time spent on designing the ingenious Mulberry artificial harbors at Omaha and Gold beaches been invested in equipping Shermans with rhino spikes from the beginning, or training troops in the brush of England rather than the plains, or practicing B-17 bombing runs on enemy formations, then we might have had the breakout in mid-June rather than late July—and therefore reached the Siegfried line a month earlier when the weather was good and the days longer.But then here we go again with baby-boomber third guessing about a prior generation’s heroic decisions.

Obama—at Last!

After reading a number of essays and talking to a number of liberals, I would sum up the Obama madness this way:

At last the hopes and dreams of the 1960s are in our grasp. McGovern imploded. Carter was hopeless and suspect. Mondale was inept; Dukakis a punching bag. Clinton carried the torch, but only by triangulating and betraying the dream. Gore was cheated out of his victory; Kerry Swift-Boated.

But at last (if that damn Hillary would just get out of the way!) we have the perfect candidate—charismatic, young, fresh, multiracial, and we know that he is the furthest on the left of the entire bunch and the most likely both to win and actually make the long-overdue changes in America—tax the rich (get those income rates back up to 40%, subject all income to payroll taxes, restore all death taxes, up capital gains), subsidize the needy (more welfare, food and housing subsidies, universal state health care, more federal loans, more farm aid, more government programs to aid the middle class), change the government (more ideological appointments who will enforce an equality of result, more liberal judges and bureaucrats), follow international leads (more “soft” power, less military bellicosity, more deference to the UN, a true partnership with the UN, a backing off from hot spots that put us on the wrong side of history, get out of Iraq, more “balance” with the Palestinians, talk with Iran, Venezuela, etc who are misunderstood progressives anyway, follow the intellectual and cultural lead of the foundations and the universities (more candid support for gay marriage, abortion on demand, gun control, affirmative action, revisionist views of U.S. history, more emphasis on “oppression studies.”)

The left likewise is, to its credit, willing to take a big gamble. This year, for a variety of well-discussed reasons, almost any experienced mainstream Democrat should win. But why go with the sure thing Hillary who will only bring you another Clintonian compromise, when you can roll the dice with the unknown candidate, squeak by and might get 100% of the agenda?

That means, of course, that after nominating Obama, progressives understand that they are on thin ice—3-4 or more Obama gaffes, another Wright or Ayers disclosure, a Michelle outburst, or an off-the-record “clingers” or “typical white person” quip from a mid-October meltdown.

So Democrats are gambling on a virtual unknown. Both Carter and McGovern were transparent quantities. We are in the middle of something entirely new now. Never in recent American history has someone with so little state and federal experience come so close to being President of the United States—with the likelihood of so radically changing America at home and abroad.

Fascinating times.

Footnote on Europe

I went to a beautiful Catholic blessing of the harvest service at the historic cathedral at Rouen. Some observations: the service was quite moving—the Latin mass, the singing, and the tolling of the bells at the end. But there was a touch of sadness as well. There were not more than 5-6 under 60 in the crowd of well over a thousand (maybe a noontime Weekday explains the absence of the young?). In Rouen itself and its environs one sees not very many, if any, new homes; few are pregnant; couples with children are rare, and usually with only one child. Middle-Eastern families are pretty common, always with several offspring. One does not have to be a demographer or an alarmist to see that in 40 years such historic services might well be rare—and a great deal of what had always been the West, in the cultural sense, could be lost.

Europe to an American

May 25th, 2008 - 1:29 pm


A Memorial Day Speech?

I was listening today from Brussels to Barack Obama’s Memorial Day commencement address. It was, as usual, well-delivered, and broadcast worldwide, but instead of any–even slight–reference to what we owe hundreds of thousands of Americans this day who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our present freedoms, we hear remonstrations about the “money culture” and how young students are to not to pursue the big money and house (as he has lately), but instead pursue a path of public service that, as usual, is analogous to that once followed by the noble Mr. Obama himself.

Then I heard a bit of news from another speech of his on Latin America:

“Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.
No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum.”

But all that hardly seems either accurate or fair: (1) The “misguided” war was “launched” only after a majority ratification vote of the US Senate, including a majority of the Democratic Senators. (2) The current administration is currently desperately trying to craft a free-trade agreement with Columbia, and ensure that Nafta continues with Mexico-over protectionist sentiment of the sort voiced by Obama. (3) Hugo Chavez came on the scene well before the Bush administration, taking office in 1999 and then being reelected in 2000. His shredding of Venezuela’s constitution and interference in Latin American politics were well under way during the last years of the Clinton administration.

Is it going to be this way each day of the campaign: We get some pious sermon relating the selflessness of his own past to shame us into being similarly idealistic, followed by a complete Orwellian rewrite of history? If so, its’ going to be a long five months.

Memorial Day in Europe

I spent the last two days visiting the American military cemetery at the Meuse-Argonne that commemorates the horrific battle of that name in 1918 (my grandfather Frank Hanson was gassed and severely wounded in the battle), and the next day at Hamm, in Luxembourg, where George S. Patton is buried. Both are beautiful, solemn places, and the care and attention given to their upkeep should make all Americans proud. The evidence of Memorial Day French and English flowers and wreaths was remarkable.

Friendly Europeans

At Bastogne today, I heard a fiery pro-American rant from a Dutchman, contrasting not just the WWII treatment of his country by the United States versus that from Germany, but the present-day treatment as well from haughty powerful EU members like Germany.

Two notes on Anti-Americanism this trip: one, it seems on the wane; two, it is almost an exclusively urban and elite phenomenon. Everyday Europeans in the countryside are especially warm, and seem tired of knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Most seem more worried about Arab immigrants and German bullying in the EU.

The Dollar

Another note. Although the season is early, there are almost no Americans to be seen. Gas is 1.60 Euros a liter or about (over) $9 a gallon for gas here. I haven’t seen much of Exxon here, so at least we can be assured that the evil American oil companies are not at the heart of the “price-gouging”. The price fixing here seems instead a combination of Gulf monarchies and EU tax collectors.Most hoteliers are happy, but whine nevertheless that fewer Americans are coming, and more Euros are going stateside for the summer.

More European myths

I try to come over here 2-3 times a year and am always struck by the Al-Gore-type lectures bac home to Americans about how far we are behind on the Internet, public wifi, etc. Two observations. Buying Internet here is about 3 times the cost as in the US. And in every hotel I’ve been at yet, there has been some sort of disruption of service or complete failure. At almost any hotel in the US, it takes about 3 minutes to log-in for 24-hour service at about $10; here the same time runs about $25 and is far less reliable.

The high tax, big government, secular, pacifist, and enforced egalitarianism of Europe–which seems the Obaman model– is something we should be very wary of emulating

Euromania

May 23rd, 2008 - 3:08 pm

It’s a Euro Thing

If one were to collate European criticisms of Americana and then compare them to reality in Europe, well, sure confusion results. Some random thoughts about another visit these next two weeks in Europe.

1. We Americans, we are told, are violators of freedom and have shredded our Western heritage through Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, and detentions.

But if one were to assess rationally the degree of privacy and freedom in Europe, by any fair margin it proves far more the police state. There are far more municipal surveillance video cameras. On the highway flashes go off, as computerized cameras snap pictures of speeding motorists who set off their sensors. Bus drivers must find ingenious ways to hide their hours logged driving, as they insert their computerized cards into their ignition to start their motors. All that seems unimaginable in the US.

2. Grasping Americans? The last few weeks I have stayed at some top hotels in the US while speaking. Internet service was usually around $10 to log in on Wifi. The pool and gym were of course gratis.

Here? Hotel internet service can run about 20-30 euros for a mere day. There are additional fees to use the gym or pool at most hotels. Read your bill carefully at restaurants; most require some “correction” as the waiters inadvertently add things not ordered. In short, money and its acquisition seem on the brains of almost everyone you meet.

3. Health conscious Europeans? In France and Luxembourg this week, I tried to count the obese among an average of every 10 or so on the street. The result? Americans seem no fatter than Europeans.

Smoking? I don’t know the statistics, but each time I come over here I notice immediately that it is far more common and socially acceptable. As far as the incidence of meat consumption, and the size of servings, I sense no difference, only that food is about double what it is in the states.

4. Repugnant American culture? The television has nothing much but dubbed American old movies and current television series. Fashion, music, and popular culture are usually American derived. America may run a massive trade deficit with Europe, but American trade names are everywhere.

5. American decline? The French and German newspapers are full of scare stories about their own fuel costs, price-fixing and the loss of national treasure. Scandals involving mortgages and bank collapse are common. In other words, Europeans share the same anxieties about finance and energy as we do—despite having much of the oil and banking industries nationalized or at least carefully state monitored.

The Cauldron of Europe

The region along the French-German border is beautiful, rich and understandably disputed for over 2,000 years. We Americans have a long history with it as well. My mother’s cousin Holt Cather is buried at the American cemetery at Hamm. Not far away at the Meuse-Argonne battlefield, my paternal grandfather was gassed in the first World War. My late cousin Dick Davis came through Luxembourg with the 3rd Army. And so it goes for most Americans, whose ancestors came here under much different circumstances that we do today.

We rightfully give the European Union credit for stopping the historic bloodletting for two generations. But two qualifiers. First, it was birthed because of the American-led destruction of fascism; and preserved only by the American-led resistance to the Red Army.

Second, the price for peace has been a sort of Lotus-eater society of long lunches, obsession with fashion and “nice things”, and secular worship of the God Leisure. In their abhorrence at the old catalysts of strife—nationalism, patriotism, religion—the Europeans have failed to see that national defense, religious belief, and pride in culture need not lead to endless war, but in fact to a healthy society that is content not to expect heaven on earth.

If the EU Needs the US, and We Become Another EU, then where’s our U.S.?

Today the French here are striking over threats to raise the retirement age back up to 62, and to reconsider the 35-hour work week. Lost in the discussion is any notion that there is not a “they” out there to shake more money from—only themselves. Europe, for all its socialism and egalitarianism, seems a sort of lottery society, in which each union, each age cohort, each EU collective recipient, in a game of musical chairs, tries to outwit the other—the pie finite, its pieces endlessly resliced.

I have admiration for the European Union’s unmistakable achievement in avoiding war for half a century, and its widespread prosperity—but it has come at a price. Given what Barack Obama has said about raising taxes, funding new entitlements, yielding to international consensus abroad, and seeing Americans in terms of various racial, class, and tribal constituencies, all with justified grievances, I think his notion of our future is what we see in European today—even as the Europeans grow increasingly restless about unions, high taxes, and their impotence in the world abroad. Apparently even two-hour lunches, no children, no church, no military, good food and the disco can get boring.

A note on Obama: in minute one, Euros gush; in minute two, the questions come; in minute three, they express concern (if they think you too might as well and so can be candid); in minute four, you sense they understand there is only one EU. So should the US become one too, they worry about who might play the US to the US?

In a sick way this speaks well of Obama: by his intent to turn the US into something like the EU, he is scaring some elites in the EU as never before. There can only be one socialist union: it requires a capitalist wide-open trading partner and a Nato-like ally to offer it free defense as well as an easy target for cheap invective. So the Europeans hint: “Please, don’t become quite like us—we need you as you are.”

More McCain Agonistes

May 20th, 2008 - 4:08 pm

So ME, ME, ME…

So we won’t drill off our coasts or in Alaska, we won’t build nuclear power plants, or develop shale and tar sands, or go into massive conservation modes or burn clean coal–but the House will sue Saudi Arabia? Our generation is back at it, in a 60s time warp, screaming at our parents that we can’t have it all…In this case we want to burn lots of fossil fuels but won’t develop any new sources, but are MAD at those who do…

McCain and The Vast Leftwing Hit Machine

We have already seen, to paraphrase the Democrats, the elements of the vast leftwing hit-machine to come in the fall. So we will get even more amplification of what we have seen thus far:
a) McCain is “unstable” and not in control of his temper (more liberal Senators will reluctantly offer testimonials.)

b) McCain is warlike, being from a “militarist” family of admirals. He also missed out on the critical anti-war years at home that evolved more sensitive veterans like John Kerry into thoughtfully questioning the military-industrial complex. He in contrast was stuck in a time warp in Hanoi and never emerged from his Manichean “war mode.” (cf. The New York Times on this narrative).

c) McCain is demented and “old” (cf. more subtle suggestions from Obama like the “losing his bearings” quip).

d) McCain is a sell-out and hypocrite, who has disappointed liberals who once enjoyed his attacks on Bush in the 2000 primaries (cf. the Huffington Post stories on these crocodile tears).

Expect, as the campaign goes on, that McCain begins to drop his reluctance to reply in kind. I think he is beginning to fathom how he can surely lose: accept the “Obama rules” that apply one set of taboos for McCain, and open-season for Obama, on everything from amnesty for his wife as she rants and raves; broadcasting his middle name for foreign consumption, alleging racism at home for any who follow suit; getting personal as he decries just such “divisiveness;” and counting on racial block voting and passes for occasional racial stereotyping as he laments the racialization of the white working class that distrusts his elitism.

Does McCain Have a Chance?

For McCain to win, two things have to happen. He needs to become angrier at the attacks, and, in general, Obama’s worldview of more spending, more taxes, a timetable withdrawal from Iraq, more UNism, and a Harvard Law School view of the courts in order to energize his base. Limbaugh and others distrust McCain, but they will slowly grow incensed at what they hear from Obama and Co. as this campaign unfolds.

Second, very few Senators with three-years experience can conduct a national campaign without daily gaffes. Every time Obama speaks extemporaneously, he astounds, whether talking about how Americans eat too much of the world’s food or calling those “low class” who reply in kind to Michelle’s slurs. He has over 160 more days of this and insidiously these remarks will add up.

A Real Scrap

I apologize for sounding cynical. But the Democrats smell blood, and will be willing to do almost anything to win—note the media posse that turned on the Clinton roadblock to Obamatopia.

I am afraid I never bought into the sincerity of the messianic “hope and change” gospel, but instead went back and looked exactly at the Obama past in Chicago, his voting record in the U.S. Senate, and his pronouncements on the campaign. If one were to forget the undeniable eloquence and verve, what one finds in all three cases is something indistinguishable, first, from Jesse Jackson’s Chicago politicking; second, hyper-partisanship and doctrinaire no-prisoners liberalism; and, third, the same old rough-and-tumble campaigning we have seen for over 200 years, albeit dressed up with a sort of elite, above-the-fray aristocratic disdain.

In my own experience, messiahs usually become the nastiest when crossed. Look at the Carter pieties that quickly devolved into “kick his ass” slurs about Ted Kennedy, suggestions that Bush Sr. was effeminate, and blanket condemnation of the United States while lobbying for the Nobel Prize.

McCain has a touch of this self-righteousness—so the Obama-McCain collision will not be a McCain-Feingold post-politics lovefest, but one of the hardest hitting campaigns in recent history.

Just watch…

A Simple Conservative Message

There is a lot of anguish among Republicans as they look at the dismal polls and the even more depressing performance of their candidates in various preliminary House races. New books and prophets forecast an end to conservatism, and a need to formulate a new sort of muscular liberalism to meet new challenges. Expect more such nostrums if Barack Obama wins in the fall.

What mystifies is the paralysis of Republicans and their impotent protestations that “Bush did it”. The truth is that Congressional Republicans, responsible for turning principles into governance, deserve to lose—unless they craft clear positions that won’t be compromised and then offer them as alternative choices to the voters this fall. Here are some examples:

Spending: a balanced budget, no exceptions. Voters are tired of hearing that this or that projection assures a balanced budget in 2, 3, or 5 years. Revenues continue to soar after the tax cuts, so the problem is too much going out, not too little coming in. Surpluses are preferable to deficits, since we want to retire, not add to out foreign debt. Just say no—or better yet “Please pay for it” — the next time a new entitlement is introduced.

The War: Afghanistan and Iraq have radically improved. Anti-war hype and slurs are a year out of date. We are finally on the edge of having done the impossible: removed the most odious regimes in the Middle East and fostered constitutional governments in their places. Spending on general defense and the war still run at only 4% of GDP, not high by historical levels. The reforming Petraeus army is stronger and wiser, despite the toll of war, for our ordeals in the Middle East. As troops slowly begin to come home next year, let everyone take credit for it.

Energy: Drill, explore, conserve. The answer does not lie in any one area, but in the willingness to produce more energy in all of them. We must ensure more oil, coal, and nuclear power, conserve more energy as we produce more—to prevent going broke while we transition to next-generation fuels.

Why should others abroad, who are far less careful, extract oil for us in areas of the world more fragile than our own? We must end the notion that ANWR only yields a million barrels a day, or the coasts only 2 million, or tar sands or shale only a million, or nuclear power and coal only so many megawatts of power. To paraphrase, Sen. Dirksen—‘a million barrels a day here, a million there, pretty soon it adds up to real production.’

Economy: We are in a natural down cycle, not the Great Depression—interest rates, unemployment, economic growth, and stock prices do not reflect a recession. Use this downturn as a warning not to spend what we don’t have when things rebound.

Immigration:
Close the border, and then, and only then, argue over what’s next. Stop illegal entries, while we promote assimilation, the English language, integration, and education in American civics. Do that and most of our seemingly insurmountable problems will shrink as we endlessly bicker over amnesty, guest workers, and legal quotas.

Trade: free and supervised trade creates more jobs, makes us more competitive, and fosters alliances. Protectionism does the opposite. Americans like to compete and usually win—when they know the rules of the contest are fair and clearly explained to them.

Foreign Policy: Neither provoke nor talk to our enemies in the Middle East, Asia, or South America. Instead, cultivate our allies, build our defenses—and be ready for anything.

Homeland Security: the framework is in place. Let the Democrats try to repeal it. Let them make the argument that the Patriot Act and Guantanamo haven’t made us safer.

Ethics: Warn Republicans that in matters of sex, influence peddling, and graft, the Party of family values suffers the additional wage of hypocrisy. So the tolerance level for these sins is zero.

If Republicans could adopt such a simple message, stick to it, and find the most articulate spokespeople, they could still win.

The Alternative

Why? Because for all the charisma, Barack Obama advocates antitheses that most in most years would not otherwise choose—higher taxes, more government spending; pie-in-the-sky promises of wind and solar while gas hits $5 a gallon; more government intrusion into the economy that leaves us with more obstacles after the economy improves on its own; more illegal aliens as we talk in lofty terms of “comprehensive immigration reform,” a de facto euphemism for open borders; a protectionism that only antagonizes friends, drives prices higher, and insulates us from reality; and a multilateralist foreign policy, patterned after UN leadership, in which we deny rather than confront challenges.

In short, the Republicans’ problem? They forgot who they were and can’t explain what they might be. They need to go back to basics, adopt conservative principles to confront new challenges, and then find the most effective spokesmen they can to explain their positions—hourly.

War and Politics

May 14th, 2008 - 10:24 pm

Democratic what?

The Republicans, no doubt, get what they deserve, given the out-of-control federal spending the last few years, the corruption and sex scandals in the Congress, and the inability to articulate a conservative message.

That said, the current Democratic Party is nothing like what I remember my parents and grandparents belonged to. The latest Farm Bill is welfare for the wealthy. The restrictions on energy exploration and production are boutique—and hurt the working classes, who can’t wait for hydrogen cars and solar houses while they drive the 10-year-old Chevy truck to work at $4 a gallon.

Democratic populism is an oxymoron these days, something like multimillionaire John Edwards in blue jeans on his way to his mansion, or John Kerry in duck-hunting garb, or Michelle Obama and those oppressive Ivy League loans that have to be paid back and no doubt cut into the meager $20,000 annual donations to the pulpit of Rev. Wright.

What I miss most about the old Democratic Party was its “can-do” energy. Here one thinks of Pat Brown building California highways and universities, or a Harry Truman setting up the ambitious policy of containment, or the soaring rhetoric and tax cuts of JFK. After that it was mostly ‘how do we divide up the pie’ rather than ‘how we create a bigger pie.’ And for ‘damn it, we are all going to get along, and stand together or hang together’ we got ‘you and you and you can all have your hyphenated-names, set-asides, and tribal spaces.”

Populism

The last two weeks in speaking in various places I have had dinner with a few of what I would call “elite” Democrats. I was struck how in conversation one hears about Johnny going to Stanford, Jane to the Peace Corps after Princeton, the private clubs, the parties where the local grandee and the regional magnifico were present—all chit-chat sandwiched in between a sort of radical socialist hymn to Barack Obama. The point? That the people in question lived lives that were not merely not harmonious with their abstract world views of a radical egalitarianism by result, but downright antithetical to them—without a hint of the contradictions.

When a privileged wealthy liberal elite goes on about unfairness in between name-dropping and snobbery it achieves the same effect as the evangelical moralist talking about loose women or going to the bar for his fifth cocktail.

Quiet in Iraq

There are two keys to stabilizing Iraq—getting a Shiite-dominated government to turn on Shiite militias backed by Iran, and doing so in such a fashion to lure the Sunnis back into the government that will ensure regional support and a continuance of the Anbar Awakening and coalition against al-Qaeda.

Both seem to be happening in major campaigns in Basra, Mosul and Sadr City. And yet in the midst of these operations, American fatalities at the half-way point in May (it could change next hour) are, by the standard of past months, low. Something is going on in Iraq, and the U.S. military and its Iraqi allies are on the verge of achieving a radical reconfiguration of the theater—to the silence of the media.

I talked for about an hour with Dave Petraeus last October in Baghdad. One thing struck me: at the time in Washington it was fashionable for almost everyone (especially Senate Democrats) to damn the Maliki government for its incompetence and biases. But while acknowledging problems (that caused him problems), Petraeus was almost alone optimistic in his support for the elected government, the take-over process of the Iraqi Security Forces, and the eventual ability of the government to deal with the Shiite militias. “They’ll make it” is what I remember him saying.

Given the campaign hype, we haven’t heard much about Petraeus lately, but already he has achieved an amazing turn-about, not just in the military sense, but in the cultural and political sphere of giving confidence to the Iraqis, prompting them to take over their own security, and in a manner that assures them of our support even as we plan to slowly disengage.

If he pulls this off, I think his place is assured among the very great generals in our history. In his appreciation of the role of public opinion, politics and perceptions of war, he resembles Sherman; Marshall in his efforts to reform the military and promote a new sort of officer; and Ridgway in his ability by personal leadership to turn around an entire front. I think he is a rare talent, and as often happens in American history, we were given a great gift by his command—and none too soon.

Such things can happen very quickly in American history. In late 1861 Sherman was in self-imposed exile, melancholy and without a command, by December 1864 he was a legend. Grant by late April 1862 was all but finished, by July 1863 a genius. And so on…

Obama Rules

May 11th, 2008 - 5:32 pm

Ten new regulations for the 2008 election

Barack Obama is a gifted politician who has led an exemplary life. His run for Presidency for many offers redemption that America has finally moved beyond race. But that laudable proposition is beginning to foster surreal rules of campaigning from both the media and Obama himself that do no one any good.

1. The 2008 campaign must stick to concrete issues and detailed policies. That said, Barack Obama can continue to speak only in vague terms of “hope and change.”

2. Rev. Wright’s racist tirades must be contextualized and only understood in their proper historic milieu of white racism—that is, unless he suddenly turns on Barack Obama, in which case one is now free to deride him as “mean-spirited,” “malicious” and on a “vendetta.”

3. Rev. Wright is like “an old uncle” and his church “not particularly controversial.” Those who insist otherwise are using “snippets” and “loops” out of context for cheap political advantage. But should the Rev. repeat his serial lunacies at the National Press Club on national television, and insult the sympathetic liberal DC press corps, then he is suddenly expendable and inexplicably not the same pastor that Barack Obama knew for 20 years—and so now to be freely derided as a “spoiler”.

4. It is assumed that Barack Obama’s exotic middle name Hussein can provide authentic multicultural fides and hope of projecting a new, more globally sympathetic American image abroad, but to voice ‘Hussein’ aloud is assumed to be nefarious.

5. It is legitimate to appeal to, and thus win en masse 90% of African-Americans of all classes over a rival liberal candidate, but it is absolutely illegitimate and a sign of a racialist strategy should someone else win two-thirds of that total of the white working-class vote—and, worse, acknowledge it as such.

6. John McCain can be written off as “losing his bearings” and wanting U.S. troops in Iraq for “100 years.” But to repeat the fact that a Hamas advisor has praised Obama, or that one of his own foreign policy advisors has met with officials of that terrorist organization, is “divisive,” “a distraction,” and the “old politics as usual.” McCain’s fuzzy references to Shiite/Sunni terrorist cooperation are signs of his senility. Obama’s repeated confusion over how many states there are in the Union (48? or is it 58?) is proof of exhaustion and lack of sleep.

7. Racial generalizations of any type in connection with the candidacy of Barack Obama are out of order. Barack Obama is free to characterize his grandmother as a “typical white person” and to lump the middle-class voters of Pennsylvania together as nativists, racists, and superstitious in their reliance on religion and guns. Only endemic white racism—never anger over Obama’s overt racialist stereotyping of the white middle class and his Reverend’s slurs—can explain that group’s rejection of him at the primary polls.

8. Substantial campaign contributions and the money nexus in politics are pernicious, proof of the “old politics” with a long history of distorting campaigns. The record fund-raising and enormous war-chest of Barack Obama are instead proof of a healthy American democracy and preclude any need for public campaign financing.

9. If a zealous pastor endorses John McCain, then his past illiberal talk about Catholicism demands a formal rebuke. If Barack Obama’s spiritual advisor of some twenty years addresses a meeting of a branch of the NAACP and announces that blacks and whites have genetically different brain chemistries and learning abilities, then one simply keeps quiet about it.

10. For conservatives to have suggested that the media was biased in favor of the Clintons in the 1990s was McCarthyesque. For Clintonites to suggest that it is now even more biased toward Obama is even more McCarthyesque.

This is the new political landscape that we are in, and those who object to it should expect to face hysterical outrage—in the manner of anyone who suggests that a messiah should at least try to practice what he preaches. And the problem is that those he will face as President—whether an Iranian religious nut, a Hamas terrorist, a Chinese communist, a Castro, Chavez, or North Korean extortionist—will follow no such Obama rules.

Everything Upside Down

May 8th, 2008 - 10:54 pm

Basra wasn’t Tet because Tet wasn’t “Tet”

Just a month ago, pundits (cf. Frank Rich’s mid-April New York Times article) were writing off the violence in Basra—especially rocket and mortar attacks on the Green Zone—as Tet, 1968. But of course it wasn’t. And not just because Americans, in a spike of violence, lost 52 in April—not the some 1500 during Tet (depending on how one defines the length of the campaign).

That said, Tet was an impressive American victory, not a defeat—in Saigon, Hue, and Khe Sanh—in which the North Vietnamese broke the armistice, attacked with thousands of troops and lost nearly 50,000, surrendering control of the South Vietnamese countryside for over a year. The North Vietnamese after the war admitted the extent of the disaster they suffered—and the propaganda victory they achieved.

The chief problem in Iraq has been the fragility of the Anbar awakening, and concern that the tribal chiefs will revert in anger at the fact that the Iranian-back militias have either taken control of, or are immune from, the Maliki Shiite-dominated government. For Iraq to survive, the Sunnis to participate, and Iran to lose influence, there had to be some sort of Shiite government cleaning up of Basra and turning on Sadr and his thugs. That has happened, and while we might not have liked the timing, its resolution is necessary for Iraq to stabilize.

Basra, then, was hardly a Tet, but then Tet wasn’t a “Tet” either.

The War about the War

With the publication of Gen. Sanchez’s memoirs we are now fighting the book war over the real war, remembering that Gen. Franks, Doug Feith (by far the best documented), Paul Bremmer, and a host of others have already weighed in. Of course, “not me, him” is the theme, but there is nothing new here either. From 1865 to 1890 Union and Confederate generals refought Shiloh (cf. poor Gen. Lew Wallace), Gettysburg (poor Longstreet), and almost every campaign of the war. The same was true of WWII, as the memoirs of Eisenhower, Bradley (two versions no less!), Montgomery, and the notes and letters of Patton, were all mutually contradictory—as Falaise, the halt at the Rhine, Arnhem, and the Bulge were all blamed on someone else. And the position and status of postbellum writers always matter. (Nothing is sadder than Gen. Wallace’s entreaties to ex-President Grant to give him the benefit of the doubt about the mix-up at Shiloh). The Eisenhower Presidency and the longevity of Bradley meant that the mainstream narrative of a reckless, uncouth Patton was pretty much standard—not the truer account of a sophisticated, widely-read, sober and judicious thinker, who was right on his views of Falaise, Arnhem, and the Bulge.

What happened in Iraq won’t be known for years—and the judgment will hinge on whether we insure the continuance of the democratic government there, or abandon it and the country sinks into chaos.

Metamophoses

Think of all the weird changes we have witnessed the last few months:

The liberal media suddenly flipped and now apparently hate the Clintons far more than the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ ever did. In fact, they seem to be trumping all the arguments of duplicity and disingenuousness made between 1997-2000. One wonders whether, if they now acknowledge that they were wrong about Clinton then, some day in the future they will likely turn on Obama?

Race: the Clintons went from the “first black” co-Presidency to openly talking about catering to the “white” vote; likewise, the first “transracial” candidate went from “bring us together” to “typical white person” and white working classes clinging to guns and religion—and garnering 95% of the African-American vote. No one can think that defining oneself in racial terms first is not a dangerous and reprehensible trend, and can never be liberal, no matter how many liberals subscribe to it. The proverbial chickens came home to roost this election, and it is eerie to see liberal Democrats on both sides of the issues split along racial lines, implictly encouraged to do so by two “liberal” candidates.

John McCain went from the darling bipartisan moderate of the press to being portrayed as a foaming right-wing nut, supposedly too old and too tempermental.

Hillary went from the hard-left, elitist half of the Clinton team to a blue-collar, pant-suited, beer-drinking everywoman—and after she loses back to what?

Bill Clinton lost any gravitas he had so carefully sought to reclaim after the pardons, Monica, the asleep-at-the-wheel reactions to terrorism, etc., going from the star of the jet-setters at Davos to speaking to tiny unconvinced audiences in North Carolina.

Meanwhile gas hits $4 a gallon and there is no chance of a grand compromise in which conservatives further increase mileage standards and solar/wind subsidies in exchange for the far more important concession from liberals to drill in ANWR, our coasts, build refineries, as well as clean-burning coal and nuclear power plants.

A Final Note: Flying, Take #5

After doing more flying this week, I realize that 99% of the problems are caused by 1% of the passengers. And yet, given the squeeze of seats, lack of storage space, and long lines, just one or two persons can do a lot of damage.

While boarding, on yesterday’s flight, a 30-something woman, with a 4-5 year old in tow (along with two enormous carry-ons) in Zone 5, suddenly cut in (“My daughter must go to the bathroom, right now!”). Most murmured that she should go off down the hallway before boarding, but nevertheless she and her bags cut in and went onto the gangway.

Then once on board, she blocked the aisle for 2-3 minutes with her cell-phoning. Then she went against the aisle boarding traffic to get to the first class on-plane bathroom, again delaying boarding for some 150 people. Then once in the air, she gets up and pulls out an oversize carry-on to find her book (rummaging through the bag on the aisle floor). Then she asks the stewardess for various snack boxes and pulls out a $50 bill.

I won’t go on, but you get the picture that planes and their use are fragile, and a single miscreant can put them all out of kilter, ruin the mood of dozens, and delay even more appointments.

I never understood why the supposedly lax government has all sort of rules you dare not break at the security check-in; while the supposedly tough private sector enforces none of its own.

On the Eve of the Primary

May 5th, 2008 - 8:37 pm

The New Hillary

Why does she continue? Because she grasps that Obama is just one more landmine away from imploding (e.g. , if Oprah left, why did Obama stay?). And given the sinister nature of Wright, he might just well release a revealing email, or a DVD clip of a nodding Obama in the first pew or some such thing that would require a 4th “correction” that would make his 3rd version of Wright “inoperative.” Or there is always Michelle’s self-absorption that is reaching a critical mass: one or two more “raise-the-bar” speeches will do the public in—and don’t forget Ayers and the rest. So, yes, Hillary was right months ago in warning about this. And Obama’s legions who threaten those with “racism” for pointing all this out proves only counterproductive.

Hillary appears to have morphed into a different person over the last six months. (Note I said “appears”). The sheer exhaustion of the campaign trail has left her voice worn, scratchy, tired, and Midwestern—and oddly far more appealing that her former know-it-all, mommy knows best, nasal sermonizing.

She Feels Our Pain?

For years cruel critics ridiculed her pantsuit, endomorphism, and her attempts to seem elegant when she was not. But now, weathered and tired, she seems more at home in the bowling alley, and her outfits convey a sense of practicality, wear-and-tear, and sensibility. The old Hillary’s eyes flashed and mouth tightened whenever challenged; new Hillary throws back her head and laughs on Bill O’Reilly.

When she was running 20 points ahead of Obama, and 10 beyond Giuliani, she was distant, arrogant, and aloof—and hard Left. Now in desperation, she is the earthy beer-drinker, and (far too late) appealing to the working classes. While she still gratuitously trashes George Bush, she seems to become more animated over Barack Obama, and welcomes the unflinching fight with his religious disciples who hate her with great passion.

Had she campaigned at this level of intensity last fall and edged to the center, she would have won the nomination. But, then, to be fair to her, had she run under any election rules known to Americans, she would have already won the delegate count by her big-state victories.

Has she metamorphosized permanently? I doubt it, but her present moth stage is at least most interesting than her past caterpillar incarnation. A final point: her “first woman President” is much less bumper-sticker than Obama’s “First Black President.” Believe it or not Hillary has almost made her gender incidental to her candidacy.

Fuelishness

Listening to all the candidates debate whether to lift the gas tax or not; to finish filling, or to draw from, the strategic petroleum reserve; and to tax or not tax more the oil companies’ mega-profits conveys a sense of the surreal. None of these measures will give us more fuel or cut consumption; some will no doubt worsen the situation. Is our generation so bankrupt that it merely fights over slices of the shrinking pie, rather than chooses to bake new ones? Can’t the last honest man in America simply say: “Either produce more energy, or voluntarily cut back on our lifestyles to something akin to 1970?”

In the liberal mindset, one forbids Alberta oil, stops Anwar, doesn’t dare drill off our coasts, insists on using high-priced natural gas that is scarce over plentiful coal for our power-generating plants, outlaws more refineries, accepts that nuclear power is bad and clean hydroelectric dams are worse—and then when naturally short of everything cries about the “two oil men” in the White House for not subsidizing solar and wind to magically cure all our ills.

Taxes…

I was reading some of Obama’s tax proposals. They seem designed to extinguish the notion of high-bracket, duel income elites. Say, someone is a veteran high-school principal (e.g., $110,000) and married to a lawyer, who, while not as well-paid as Michelle Obama, nevertheless is making $150,000. That $260,000 duel income will probably see a 4-5% increase in income taxes when Obama raises the federal rates, or about $10-13,000 more. Then when the payroll tax cap is lifted, say $160,000 more income is subject to another $15,000 in Social Security taxes, inasmuch as the lawyer’s income derives from a self-employed practice, and so gets the double dose of SS deductions. That takes about another $22,000. Now in toto we are up to $37,000 more per year to the Fed.

Don’t Expect a Thanks

Worse still, that hit does not go to reducing the deficit, as was true under the Clintoni when federal spending was not that much over the rate of inflation, but rather to fund entirely new federal programs that go well beyond the Bush wasteful spending.

Even worse, those taxes don’t arise in an environment of conciliation, but rather in an atmosphere of accusation and slander about the rich shirking their responsibilities—as if the net income left to this hypothetical couple is anything like the net yearly wealth of the multimillionaire Obamas ($4 million last year) or the Clintons (who knows—$10, $20 million a year now?).

Our European Future

So the “wealthy” couple, depending on what state and municipality they are living in, may well be paying now $100-130,000 in aggregate total taxes, take on another $37,000, and end up paying over $150,000—only to accept that the country is still broke and they are still dubbed “elites,” who nevertheless pay mortgages, tuition, food, fuel, car, etc. out of their remaining net income of less than half what they earned.

And with existing tax cuts and exemptions for the middling brackets to be expanded, we are reaching the new frontier in which the aim is that what you make won’t matter. I predict very soon that we are all going to end up with about $50,000 in family net income, either earning that amount tax-free, or making five-times that and having it expropriated.

The Obama Cult

I would say that about 90% of my current mail concerns things I have written about Obama—50% of it readers furious that anyone would dare question their messiah. I can accept that he is charismatic, means well, and has led a largely exemplary life, but cannot tolerate the charge that questioning Obama’s honesty and judgment in the Wright and related matters is somehow “racist.”

Let us remember: we were once promised that two liberal Democratic candidates would run a clean campaign in which the racially transcendent Obama would not, well, inject race. Almost a year later here are the sad facts—and they have nothing to do with the ‘right wing freak show.’ Note well:

1. Blacks are now voting 90% along racial lines against a white liberal wife of our first “black” President.

2. The liberal African-American transcendent candidate attributed racist views to his own grandmother who, he said, is “a typical white person,” and on a morally equivalent plane with the racist Rev. Wright.

3. Obama has smeared the white working class as xenophobic and nativist, racist in their distrust of the ‘other’, and hopelessly clueless in their clinging to guns and religion.

4. Then there is Rev. Wright: praised in Obama’s memoirs and in set speeches, and by his donations and 20-year church attendance, the Right Rev. nevertheless is on record slandering America, Jews, Italians, whites, et al.

5. In response, Obama at first defends him (“not particularly controversial”) , then as more hatred comes out, suddenly desires to give a transcendent speech on race (odd timing) in which he contextualizes Wright’s racism, and suggests right-wingers are smearing him by replaying these “snippets.”

Then Wright himself corrects Obama in a press conference, by assuring the liberal DC press corps that his hatreds are not taken out of context, but reflective of his odious views (race determines brain chemistry, Farrakhan is an historic figure, our government is giving blacks AIDs, etc.)—completely undermining both Obama (now in Wright’s view a mere “politician”) and the scores of African-American intellectuals, ministers, and professors who on the air for two months excused Wright by defining down Martin Luther King, quoting black liberation theology, citing Wright’s great works, and suggesting we are racists to demand explanations.

Enough said. Ethics and integrity call for pointing all this out. The real amorality belongs to all those who excused the racialism, gushed over Obama ‘context’ speech, and simply accept that a President of the United States need not meet the same standard of racial tolerance that others must adhere to.

Try all of the above with McCain or Clinton and see how long they would last.

Lord Hypocrisy

May 2nd, 2008 - 7:13 pm

Sunset of the West

We hear that Guantamo is a Stalag or Gulag; but the real disaster is the rising number of early released killers—so unlike the fate of our enemies caught out of uniform in WWII—who have gone on to kill the innocent, such as the former Gitmo murderer who blew himself and seven Iraqis in Mosul recently. The essence of modern liberalism: agitate to eliminate the theoretical and distant wrong to find alleviation of guilt, then absence of any contrition when in the here and now the innocent are killed for that magnanimity. The ultra liberal always feels good at someone else’s expense.

The Blame Game

Now Gen. Sanchez has a book out blaming Rumsfeld etc. for the botched occupation. I just reviewed Douglas Feith’s book for the next issue of Commentary. I tried to read the Tenet, Franks, and Bremmer memoirs (but could not finish them), as well as the “I accuse” volumes of Ricks and the Cobra II authors. No one wishes to defend the occupation, all wish to say it was someone else’s fault. For the final verdict–wait decades.

If one were to find out who did not close the gap at Falaise in August 1944, you can find all sorts of “not me” accounts in the memoirs of Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, and various letters of Patton–and the most likely culprit on the American side—Bradley— is the least blamed. So I doubt we will know the full story for decades, and the decision will be predicated on the ultimate fate of Iraq.

One of the most disturbing facts of this war is how various officials in mediis rebus give a party line–and then,when out of office, suddenly offer the opposite take, claim they were coerced or framed, and that now they are finally speaking the truth.

I will read Gen. Sanchez’s volume, but at some point I would have wished he had taken some responsibility for the fate of the troops under his command and the pulse of the war. No one was stopping him in 2004 from implementing Petraeus-like tactics over most of Iraq. In the past I have been charitable to him, in the sense that he didn’t lose the war, and attrited the enemy despite the dismal news from the front.

I wish I could say all this blame-gaming is new and representative of our ‘me’ generation, but in fact it is no different from the rehashing of the Civil War and WWII for the next thirty years following those conflicts. Sherman’s memoirs caused a near riot; poor Lew Wallace begged Grant to write kindly of him. Eisenhower was hurt by Montgomery’s story; and Bradley published two memoirs, and got meaner in the process. Nihil novum sub sole.

Peace at Home Was the Natural Order of Things After 9/11?

We grandstand about “lost liberties” and a “new fascism” due to the elements of the Patriot Act and wiretaps of terrorists, although few Americans can point to any liberty lost since 9/11—only that Americans have not been slaughtered by Islamic terrorists as promised. Note that there is indeed a loss of freedom since 9/11 in the Western world; just ask a European novelist, film-maker, opera-producer, or cartoonist.

May Day

If illegal aliens wished to gain public support for their plight, then once again it was a terrible mistake to choose the international communist day of liberation (“Workers of the World Unite!”). When watching some clips of the mostly failed May Day immigration parades in California, I noticed the de rigueur Che posters. That is especially incoherent: immigrants come to a capitalist, democratic society in illegal fashion, and then glorify a communist cutthroat, who, had he had his way, would have ruined North America in the way he and his friends tried in Latin America.

How can one’s feet be so at odds with one’s head. Here is the message of the protestor with the Che placard: the feet say “I’m running as fast as I can from a failed Mexico to get to El Norte,” and the head responds, “I want to arrive in a place with revolutionary social fervor just like Mexico.”

Couric, Stephanopoulos, et al.

Very strange to see the Latino outrage at Katie Couric for simply suggesting in her film piece that anchor babies allow illegal aliens to enter into the entitlement bonanza—reminiscent of the left’s furor at Stephanopoulos. I guess no one ever thought that by creating identity politics and hypersensitive victimization that such things would not be, Frankenstein like, turned on their creators.

Obama’s Folly and Left/Right Brain Racism

The true crime of Obama is the silence about Wright’s grotesque “left brain/right brain” lecture in front of the NAACP. He sort of, kinda disowned Wright due to his National Press Club rants, but was silent about his racist, pseudo-scientific exegesis about genetic differences in learning—and the irony of delivering it in front of the premier civil rights organization.

Again, Obama et al. are systematically destroying race relations. Had any other African-American ran who made it a point to make race irrelevant, it would have advanced conciliation. But what Obama accomplished is the following: to demonstrate that the outrage over the Bell Curve, Imus, Michael Richards, etc. was merely politics, not based on principle or substance, since Wright, to either approval or silence, has trumped them all; to demonstrate by his “clingers” comments, “typical white person” cast-off sneer, Michelle no-pride speech, etc. that there must be two standards of acceptable speech, and that “victims” cannot be “victimizers” no matter what they say.

The Backlash

The result?

I don’t think I’ve heard or read more white cynicism in my entire lifetime. And it is a sort of “I’m tired” attitude, in which, after what Obama has said and done, the white middling class no longer cares all that much about minority angst, since it senses that minority leadership is hypocritical and shows a hatred of whites as voiced by Wright and euphemized by Obama. We owe all that to our first trans-racial candidate.

And because Obama either could not or would not tell the truth, the so-called typical white voter now believes not that he was inexperienced or clumsy, but in fact silently shares the Wright world view that peeps out in Michelle’s speeches, Barack’s off-the-record remarks, and was fully voiced long ago by Michelle’s Princeton thesis.

Note Well:

BO (Before Obama) my use of “white voter”, which is used routinely by the media these days, would have been considered too racialist for polite usage; but AO (After Obama) it is perfectly acceptable (again, cf. “typical white person”).

A Hope?

I think, nevertheless, that most black churches would reject Wright and privately most African-Americans are getting tired of Wright, and concerned that Obama is blowing what was a golden opportunity to run as a post-racial candidate, whose record and performance would make race irrelevant, not essential to his identity.

Superdelegate Fright

I think this is the current Democratic insider position:

Obama is a disaster. Yet, we’re stuck with him, and if we were to dump him at the convention (in the manner that for decades conventions used to do just that with primary leaders), African-Americans would sit out or worse, and leftists and students would try another 1968. In that calculus, they will probably nominate their McGovern and be willing to lose the fall election.

Final Note on Wright

I posted this today on the NRO corner:

Wright Postmortem

Why the Obama Pass?

I think we have sort of reached an impasse on Rev. Wright. Most Americans, I think, accept the following realties. Obama, by what he wrote in his memoirs, by what he said when he spoke in his early campaign speeches, by his frequent praise of Wright, and by his 20-year presence in front of, and subsidies to, Wright knew exactly the racist and anti-American nature of his odious pastor.

But many also seem to accept that they have invested too much in Obama and have come too far to accept anything that might end his candidacy. (Hence their hysteria over the Wright “smear”.)

In other words, privately they acknowledge:

—that their candidate made a devil’s bargain with a racist to create an authentic black persona in order to jump start a political career in Chicago;

—that their candidate was so inured to de rigueur anti-American speech from his church days, black-liberationist friends, assorted reverends, and former radicals like Ayers, that he never really thought things that Wright said were all that big a deal — hence his deer-in-the-headlights approach to the initial scandal and serial hedging. After all, in Obama’s adopted world, his church really isn’t “particularly controversial;”

—that their Obama messiah is hardly a new politician, but instead a very gifted and charismatic actor, who, in skillful fashion, can talk about utopian politics but then backstep, hedge, and get away with more than anyone since Bill Clinton in his prime in 1992 (one of the reasons that those two dislike each other so is that they are so much alike) — and that is not such a bad thing after all.

So while Obama is hurt in the primaries, and perhaps mortally so in the general election (the white working classes have a long memory), he will probably get the nomination, because his base will overlook all the above: they despise George Bush, will do anything to prevent another Republican in the White House, are tired of the Clintons, and feel Obama offers them symbolic capital, making them liked abroad and free of guilt at home.

Bottom line: unless Obama was caught on tape nodding as Wright screamed his obscenities at the United States, or an angry and spiteful Wright produces some letter, e-mail, etc. that reveals a kindred soul in Obama, or Michelle gives another speech “from the heart” about how hard she has struggled and how in return she has had no pride in this country, or there is another off-the-cuff, but recorded sneer at the white working class (50/50 chance on all four counts), I think he will weather the current storm and get the nomination. Obama evokes pure emotion and raw politics now, and logic, honesty, and accountability have little to do with his nomination bid.

05/02 05:13 PM