Not Quite Ready to Join the Crusade
Note: We had a temporary glitch, in which readers' comments did not appear and some of the text got lost and did not appear in its final form. Hope that is resolved. vdh
Frannie and Freddie
So far we know that the meltdown of Frannie and Freddie, abetted by Wall Street greed, caused the larger financial panic. Yet, there is little outrage that a Franklin Raines or Jim Johnson gave money to oversight members of Congress, hid behind a mantle of political-correctness in boasting about home ownership for everyone, and then cooked the books and borrowed to the hilt to justify mega-bonuses for themselves and their friends.
This was no different from Enron, but Freddie and Fannie miscreants had far more politically-correct cover than did Ken Lay. I don't think a special prosecutor will ever look into the maze of conflict of interest problems of a Barney Frank, or the political associations of a Franklin Raines, or Congressional members who took cash or discounted loans and then signed off on these massive frauds.
While Obama is right that we need more Wall Street oversight, he cannot or will not explain the relationship of a Raines (informal?) or Johnson (once official) with his campaign, or his past support for resisting regulation of these entities, or his own receipt of funds from them.
Once Wall Street crooks caught on to the Freddie and Fannie schemes, and the availablity of government propping up of paper profits, they too could not resist piling on. But whereas we expected that from fanged Wall-Street serpents, we surely want more from public servants, who supposedly protect the public trust and take an oath to protect the national assets. A Lehman's Fuld does what such creatures do—maximize profits for themselves and their friends; but a similarly flawed Raines suffers from the additional charge of falsity and hypocrisy.
Do We Want a Trillion-Dollar Increase in Government Programs?
So I fear, his trillion dollars in new entitlements would follow the Fannie and Freddie model: sinecures for hack politicians and ex-officials, big gifts to Congress to ensure lack of oversight, and fraud cloaked by grand slogans of promoting equality and helping the poor. Yes, I'll pass on all that.
What’s the Matter with Obama?
For all those who write in adoration of Obama’s hope and change mantra, I hope that they can at least see why others are worried about his candidacy. The problem is not an Ayers or Wright per se, but the succession of such odious figures—the bomber Ayers,the racist Pfleger, the Palestinian zealot Khalidi, the crook Rezko, the hyper-racist Wright, etc.—that in aggregate cement the notion of a young hip radical who ingratiated himself with suspect characters, all of whose ideas Obama wishes suddenly to downplay rather than publicize.
He did not just know a Wright or Rezko, but knew them quite well for quite a long time. And in the case of Ayers, Obama has sorely misled: he apparently still emailed and communicated with him after 9/11, when Ayers, on his Fugitive Justice book tour, grandly announced that he regretted only that he had not bombed enough. At that point any further communication was indefensible, since the New York Times had widely circulated Ayers’ views. Yet Obama was emailing him at least until 2005!
A Pattern Here?
But even that coterie of fringe figures would ipsis factis not be fatal to his candidacy, if he and his wife had not serially dropped hints that they had deep reservations about this country that only reinforced the messages we hear from Ayers and Wright (“God D—mn America”)—and therefore confirm the picture of the Obamas as products of a disturbing Chicago leftist circle.
Michelle announces that the U.S. is “downright mean” and that hitherto she had no reason to have pride in America (a logical thing to say, given whom the Obamas had associated with for years). Indeed, her assertions, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” was not only not an anomaly, but typical of her world view: “Our souls are broken in this nation, ” or "(America is) just downright mean.”
Indeed, such declarations are in line with Obama himself when he says, “And if that child should ever get the chance to travel the world and someone should ask her where is she from, we believe that she should always be able to hold her head high with pride in her voice when she answers, "I am an American." I think most Americans, given what they’ve seen of the United Nations and the world abroad, are already proud to be Americans and don’t need Barack Obama to restore their faith. And if it were a question of being admired by those on the West Bank, or in Russia, or Iran, they’d rather be disliked.
Even all that would be tolerable if Obama did not almost serially make the most astounding statements, from calling (before chastised) for reparations, ethnic studies charter schools, and more “Oppression Studies” to demonizing the white working class of Pennsylvania (“And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”)
But even his associates and his own admissions would not be fatal, had Obama himself not been involved in suspect organizations like ACORN, like the Woods Foundation, and like the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, that typically squandered someone else’s money to help radical organizations undermine existing institutions in service to some utopian vision of what they wish the United States someday to become.
Too Many Lacunae
And even then I would withhold judgment had Obama earned any record of success rather than played on identity politics. He had no distinguished record as an undergraduate at Columbia (so far as we can tell, given his refusal to release his transcripts) that would have won entry to Harvard Law School. Once there, he published nothing, in contrast to past editors at the Law Review. There is no record that his community organizing helped any but the career of Obama, and many of the Rezko projects are now boarded up. As a state legislator there is no record of legislative achievement, but plenty of ‘present’ votes to prepare for further career aggrandizement. As a Chicago Law Professor, there is not a single scholarly article of the sort Chicago insists on for everyone else. And as a US Senator, there is essentially a campaign for president from the day he was sworn in. So, yes, there is a pattern or rhetoric at the expense of achievement.
One sees that had Obama not been of half-African ancestry, or had he not used identity politics to accentuate that background, there is no reason to believe he would have ever left Chicago politics. Certainly he has no record comparable to a Rice or Powell, who excelled in their given areas of expertise, and while proud of their race, still felt it to be incidental to their professional personae. Again in contrast, when concerns about voter registration, Bill Ayers, or Obama's experience are voiced, both the candidate and his appendages almost instinctively play the race card--we saw that today with the worries over Acorn and the attacks on Palin for raising the Ayers issue yesterday.
And even then I would have withheld judgment had it not been for his (always later retracted after huddling with his advisers) revealing statements that an Iran was not much of a threat, that we needed to cut missile defense, that there was no need for further oil drilling should we just properly inflate our tires, that all U.S. troops should have left Iraq by March 2008, that we should leave NAFTA (later modified), that we should repeal the FISA accords (later modified), and a host of other disturbing contradictions on taxes, guns, abortion, capital punishment, public campaign financing, and almost every other position he took in the early primaries.
The Anoited Do as They Please
But even all that might be tolerable had Obama not engaged in questionable politics that reveal the Old Left’s doctrine of the noble ends always justifying the dirty means—suing to get an opponent off the ballot, his friends leaking, or in collusion with others leaking, sealed divorce records, not once, but twice to eliminate his primary and general election favored rivals, and now legions of Obamaniacs swarming radio shows to intimidate critics, fund raising millions of dollars illegally from foreign donors and the nonexistent, or his efforts to shut down free speech by seeking to sue or intimidate officials to stop unfavorable opposition ads.
Non Hic Porcus
So after a while, it adds up and becomes rather scary—and thus I still resist ‘we are the change we’ve been waiting for,’ vero possumus, and this is the moment when the planet ceased to warm and the seas subsided nonsense. And I have no apologies for such resistance, despite the swarm of emails one receives alleging racism, or worse for not bowing down in obeisance.
I must likewise differ with legions of readers who suggested Biden won the debate and I was remiss or blinkered in not acknowledging that. He was the more impressive in recall of “facts,” but they were not facts at all. In fact, almost everything he said was simply false, from nutty comments about Hezbollah in Lebanon and our strategy in Afghanistan to his own record on Iraq and Bosnia, or Obama’s stance on Iran. I prefer someone who honestly adduces a few real facts versus another far more polished who believes his sophistry and rhetoric allow him to present dozens of untruths under the banner of “experienced” and “knowledgeable.”
Biden has a little of the Obama con-artist in him (e.g., cf. Obama’s: “Another one of those tricks I had learned: (White) People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied, they were relieved -- such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn't seem angry all the time."). That is, Biden believes that his smile and rhetoric always allow him to say almost anything and (almost) get away with it. In the past, his plagiarism and phony bios had derailed his candidacy only when the evidence was so overwhelming as to become embarrassing for the media. This year had he not been allied with Obama, his serial gaffes, racist remarks, sexist condescension, and fabricated assertions on foreign policy would have long ago made him a national embarrassment.
So yes, I confess I am more impressed with the Idaho graduate who was earnest, if not sometimes hesitant, than the class toady who gets everything wrong as he smirks about his powers of recall. Biden’s falsity even extended to his appearance, as he wore too much make-up that only added to his image of vanity (whitened teeth, hair plugs, frozen forehead and smile).
McCain’s problem is that after playing Zeus on Olympus, it is hard to bring up such worries about Obama’s judgment in friends, the type of associations he cultivated in Chicago, and his once hard-left views—without seeming crass and cruel. Obama has so prepped the battlefield, that legitimate worries about whom he knew, what he did, and how that past might explain some of his more astounding assertions, are now de facto seen as racist, or Rovian or mere “smears.”
For McCain to win, the current financial panic will have to subside, he will have to bring up Obama's serial record of poor judgment, and his background which is far to the left of a Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, or Mondale, but quite synonymous with a European socialist. Palin will have to ignore critics and go out fighting in an unapologetic manner. She is an underutilized asset, since she has no qualms drawing distinct class and cultural lines, and only benefits when the elite go negative on her. It's not over yet, but last night's debate was a lost opportunity and such opportunities are rarer as the race winds down.