He is one of the worst conceivable messengers for a populist message around. If he were to make such a proposal now, it would be dismissed as one more implausible reinvention of himself. It may be that he genuinely believes that deregulation and tax cuts are a cure-all economic agenda, or it may be that he assumes that this is what he thinks he’s supposed to believe. Either way, Romney is no more likely to call for breaking up the banks than he is likely to abandon Bush-era foreign policy. Would he be right to do these things? Yes. Would it prove that Romney is capable of doing something other than campaigning as a cookie-cutter Republican nominee? Of course. Those are the other main reasons it is never going to happen.
It says a lot about how the US electorate has changed that during a period of high unemployment the sitting President stands a decent chance of getting reelected. Historically, bad economies doom the party in power. Yet Obama's supporters consider other factors more important. Why is that? I can think of a couple of things. First, identity politics. The electorate votes more heavily by racial and ethnic identity (or loyalty) as America becomes more balkanized. Second, declining workforce participation across a wide range of demographic groups. The health of the economy doesn't matter much if you've given up working. Supporting Obama becomes even more important if you don't work because you've managed to join the millions who have gotten onto disability benefits since Obama took office.
Suppose Obama gets reelected. That could turn out to be a blessing to the Republican Party if the economy deteriorates over the next 4 years. Best to not be in a position to be blamed for it. The decline in the number of workers per retiree and per other entitlements collectors has put the US on the same path as European nations that are struggling with sovereign debt burdens. The future looks like a vicious cycle:
But as public debt, pensions and healthcare burdens escalate and a shrinking manufacturing base denies opportunities to willing workers, there is much more at stake here than the credit, blame and spin of presidential politics, according to the University of Michigan's Don Grimes.
"We could be facing a much bigger problem," Grimes said, pointing to the experience of Europe, where aging, debt-ridding nations are now struggling for equilibrium. "The experience of Europe is that they essentially sustained a lifestyle with borrowed money," Grimes said, adding that as the population-aged resources "dried up, there was no income flow, no tax revenue. It's a vicious cycle."
Newt Gingrich is such a big supporter of marriage that he's divorced two wives so he could do 2 more marriage ceremonies. With Newt as the front runner for the Presidency in the Republican Party I'm wondering how his supporters square their support of him with his history of adultery and divorce. Newt can't even lie competently about his divorces.
The Republican presidential candidate insists that it was his then-wife, Jackie Battley, who sought a divorce in 1980. After court records showed he filed the action, the Gingrich campaign said he’d done so at her request. Court documents, Gingrich’s own previous explanations and the recollections of two former Gingrich aides refute his current claim.
Surely the Republican Party can come up with someone
Acknowledging that it was, “for a conservative, a little controversial,” Gingrich said in 2008 that he believed, “You’ve got to require everybody to either have insurance or to post a bond.”
Now's he's attacking Romney on a position he supported for years up to as recently as 3 years ago.
The National Review has come out against Newt for President.
High IQ is dangerous when its concentrated in verbal skills only. Razib's take sounds right to me. But I'd say Razib's "probably" on Romney's analytical advantage is an unnecessary qualifier.
Is Newt Gingrich as smart as he thinks? He’s obviously not dumb like Rick Perry, or ignorant like Herman Cain. But I think Newt is a “high verbal” type who can impress the dull more than actually get anything done. I believe that Mitt Romney is somewhat higher in I.Q., but more critically he probably has a better practical skill set. Newt is not one known for contingency and coherency, and that’s a problem.
In politics high verbals show up more on the Left than the Right. One can say that's the major problem with the dominant liberal media. They can make better arguments than the evidence supports. So they end up being very persuasive for wrong positions. Then a bunch of grouchy right wingers listen and angrily pronounce "what a bunch of bullshit". The conservatives aren't heard much except on talk radio or in right wing blog comments.
A right winger with insufficient analytical skills and very high verbal IQ would just be a repeat of what goes wrong routinely on the Left but with all the blame getting heaped on the right wing brand by high verbal IQ lefties. Bad for the Right and bad for the country.
Tragically, our political system now favors the election of high verbals who are lacking in analytical rigor. So maybe Newt has a chance. I am reminded of something Steve Sailer posted about Newt several months ago: Newt is so convinced he knows everything that he doesn't know when to shut up and listen to people who know more than he does.
I've always kind of liked Newt, but he's a flake. I remember listening to a dinner table conversation in the 1990s about Newt between two people who were much more insiders than me, so I kept my mouth shut and paid attention. The first, who I won't name, was a woman who attained some prominence in politics in the 1990s, but struck me as a flake. She was highly enthusiastic about Newt running for President.
The other person was General William Odom, who had been Zbig's assistant for military intelligence in the Carter Administration, then head of the National Security Administration in the Reagan Administration. He was not a flake. Odom rolled his eyes at the idea of President Newt, and replied that when Gingrich had first obtained a leadership position in Congress in the 1980s, Odom had invited Gingrich over to get the two-hour NSA briefing reserved for the top few officials in Congress. When Newt showed up, however, he talked for two hours straight, giving Odom's staff Newt's two-hour tour d'horizon. Nobody left the room better informed than they had entered, except in terms of awareness of Newt's chief liability: Americans want leaders who give the impression that they know more than they are saying, but nobody could possibly know more than Newt says.
So really, Romney's the best bet for the Republicans. He's got very high analytical skills, understands finance, understands business management, and knows how to be a CEO. His Mormonism is not important. That he governed a liberal state from a moderate position was really the only choice he had as governor of Massachusetts. He's not a nut case or a dummy like some of the other Republican candidates. He harkens back to an earlier (and better) Republican party when executive competence mattered and ideological zeal was suspect.
George W. Bush has a Yale undergrad degree (from before Yale raised admissions standards) and a Harvard MBA. Barack Obama has a Harvard law degree. Mitt Romney (the most likely Republican Party presidential candidate in 2012) has a Harvard MBA and Harvard law degree. You see a trend here? I'm thinking in 2016 2 Harvard degrees will be the minimum for a Presidential candidate to win party nomination. 3 Harvard degrees would provide a distinct advantage.
So what about Yale? Yalies had their high point in the 1990s with George Bush Sr and Clinton and even George W. Bush. The tide is now running toward Harvard in a big way. You can think of George W. Bush as having drawn on both Yale and Harvard. But it is clear that 2nd best is no longer good enough.
So we've got to start thinking: Which Harvard alums would make good Presidential timber in 2016? Harvard ought to make available an online searchable database of Harvard grads with ability to restrict by age range so we can troll online for people to promote as Presidential candidates. Time to fill up the pipeline and get those folks elected to the Senate or a governorship in 2012 to get them ready for 2016.
If Harvard doesn't take steps then this is going to create an opening for Yale or even Princeton.
With Rick Perry fading with every gaffe Romney's biggest challenge now shifts to the general election.
NASHUA, N.H. — Buoyed by a series of strong debate performances, Mitt Romney is suddenly attracting new support from major donors and elected officials, some of whom had resisted his previous entreaties, as people across the GOP grow more accepting of the presidential contender as the party’s standard-bearer.
Romney's the smartest of the Republican candidates. I count that heavily in his favor. Plus, he's worked in the private sector quite successfully.
I see the election pivoting in large part on how the economy goes. Just as the recession assured Republican defeat in 2008 the economy is working against Obama's reelection. All the people not working and not getting raises want a change. A bank crisis emanating from Europe could make this much worse between now and November 2012.
FDR managed to get reelected in spite of very high unemployment rates because he wasn't blamed for the economic disaster. Can Obama put the blame on others? Harder to do when he's so aligned with reviled bankers.
If Romney gets elected he will have a hard time getting reelected because I expect the economy will still be doing quite badly in 2016. If world oil production is shrinking by then people will remember 2011 as the last of the good times. This is not the decade for easy incumbent reelections.
One was born into a privileged family in a tony Michigan suburb; the other, onto a flat expanse of West Texas dirt with no indoor plumbing. One spent his youth tooling around his father’s car factory; the other, selling Bibles door to door so he could afford to buy a car. One excelled at Harvard University, simultaneously earning law and business degrees and swiftly climbing the corporate ladder; the other, his hope of becoming a veterinarian dashed when he flunked organic chemistry at Texas A&M University, joined the Air Force.
Organic chemistry is not hard. It is a lot of memorization. But it does not require complex feats of logic. Someone who can't pass organic chemistry probably should not become President of the United States. Someone who can simultaneously earn law and business degrees has a lot more intellectual octane and is more up to mastering everything a US President had better understand.
Perry and Romney both have experience as governors. That executive branch experience is essential, as Obama's lack of such experience has showed. You've got to be good at managing people and sizing up the people offering you advice. The fact that the Republican front-runners are both governors is a good thing.
Unfortunately, Romney's background as a northerner works against him in the current Republican Party. Ditto his Mormonism. But we really would benefit from having a very smart former governor and accomplished businessman as President. America's problems are large and growing. Things are going to get worse regardless of who gets elected. But the rate of decline could be less under better management.
My take on presidential elections: They are periodic sources of emotional pain if you spend much time thinking about the choices. One can't have a deep understanding of various facets of what is going wrong in the US of A and then listen with any degree of satisfaction to the press and promoters of the candidates argue about their visions of a future America. The course America is on now is tragic and the national debate touches only lightly on all that is going wrong.
Having said all that: Sounds like Texas governor Rick Perry is to the right of George W. Bush on social spending. He might even be willing to govern to the right of Bush on immigration, his previous statements on it notwithstanding.
Perry, who closely allied himself with Bush earlier in his career, was a supporter of Bush’s tax cuts and praised his leadership on national security issues. But he has been critical of Bush’s fiscal stewardship and his attempts to court the political middle by taking on issues such as education, immigration and Medicare. He has said that “this big-government binge [in Obama’s tenure] began under the administration of George W. Bush.”
Bush rankled conservatives with remarks such as this 2003 comment: “We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.”
Perry has dismissed that idea.
Read the full article to see what Perry thinks of compassionate conservatism.
My take: We need leaders who will govern as if we aren't as wealthy as we imagined ourselves to be. The next President doesn't necessarily have to know we are poorer than we've imagined. He just has to be cheap and not easily emotionally swayed to try to relieve all suffering with social programs. While an accurate understanding of where we are headed would help it is too much to expect of our elites to have an accurate model of human nature or natural resources or the effects of globalization. An accurate understanding requires too big a willingness to reject the prevailing consensus on multiple topics. Someone like that is unlikely to make it into the Presidency.
It seems obvious that many developments both in the US and abroad will put intensifying pressure on living standards and therefore on tax revenues. The people in Washington DC need to scale back spending across the board and make it clear to the public that the federal government will have to unmake many promises. Why? The US economy can't grow enough to support the grandiose promises made for future retirees, poor folks, assorted industries sucking at the federal trough, and the many current and former federal employees and companies that make big money off of serving the federal government.
If you have been lucky and the financial crisis did not reach into your life you might be feeling complacent. But we've had a weak recovery and already the recovery has stalled and it looks like the world might already be in Global Financial Crisis Recession II (even the BRICs are tanking). The limited recovery was concentrated in the resource extraction regions and the same high oil prices that boosted their employment ultimately helped choke back the rest of the economy into recession. We are looking at either a lost decade of economic growth or, even worse, a steep decline.
Back in February 2008 I made a prediction: Recession Assures Republican Presidential Defeat In 2008. But Obama's got a really big advantage independent of the economy that Shelby Steele has explained: Obama's Unspoken Re-Election Edge: This presidency flatters America to a degree that no white Republican can hope to match. Still, the economy is a really big enemy of Obama's election chances and another oil price spike could send the economy into a deeper downturn than 2008-2009.
Guy Molyneux, a Democratic pollster, said that while the economy might not be the sole factor in deciding Obama’s political fate, it will set the overall frame of the campaign.
“If things get worse, it would take a great campaign or a terrible failure by his opponent for Obama to win,” Molyneux said. “And if this ends up being just a hiccup and we see strong growth next year, then a Republican victory starts to look pretty unlikely.”
What is funny: Obama's reelection depends on a large increase in oil production. Only a big uptick in exports from Iraq or Saudi Arabia or some other big producer could lower prices enough to allow faster economic growth. Obama needs economic growth fast enough to lower unemployment. But hiring slowed and the economy is slowing down to at best a 2% growth rate.
Economic growth is going to become increasingly difficult. Since the system has many pieces designed with the assumption that growth will occur (e.g. pension funds that are only financially sound if rapid economic growth enables a high return on investment to pay future benefits) the lack of robust growth causes huge financial problems. Since nanotech's potential has been exaggerated, Peak Oil is near, the world economy is becoming limited by other natural resource shortages, and the external costs of population growth are rising we are headed for hard times.
Parenthetically, since the less educated have very high unemployment rates it would be sensible for policy makers to put an end to all low-skilled immigration. Of course, America is not ruled by sensible people. But still, it would be sensible to deport all the illegal aliens and stop letting in anyone who doesn't have at least a college degree, preferably in engineering or another especially well-paying occupation.
The economic problems of the US are part of a larger global pattern. With slow economic growth in both developing and developed countries the whole world shows the effects of high commodity prices, especially high oil prices.
The IMF forecasts 6 per cent gross domestic product growth rate for 2011 for emerging economies – three times higher than in the developed world.
The less developed countries are hardest hit by high grain prices since poorer people spend much larger fractions of their income on food. That article reports on high inflation in a number of developing countries (e.g. India at 8.7%).
Parts of Latin America look headed for harder times. Chronically mismanaged Argentina has 25% inflation. Venezuela's inflation is at 23% and in spite of oil wealth the poorest quarter of Venezuelans spend 45% of their income on food. Given Hugo Chavez' mismanagement that's not surprising.
We are in a zero sum world. Economic mismanagement in some countries can cut demand and prices for resources and therefore allow other countries to grow. Obama could be helped by a downturn in China that would lower commodity prices. But he'd be hurt by political unrest in the Middle East or Nigeria that would raise oil prices. His political fate is very much out of his hands.
Drudge is pointing to a speech Barack Obama gave at CIA headquarters where he said "I" 35 times. (a speech supposedly about the accomplishments of others) Click thru and you can see under Obama's part of that page 7 my's, 2 me's, and, yes, 35 I's.
It is all about Barry.
America's political parties compete in an unpopularity contest where they take turns becoming unpopular. Clinton famously damaged his popularity somewhat with Monica Lewinsky and a few policies. Though low unemployment from the dot com bubble really put a floor on how far his popularity could drop. By contrast, George W. Bush made bigger mistakes with the Iraq War and loose credit for housing and the Republicans lost both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Way to go Dubya! Now Barack Obama and the Democrats once more have a chance to make themselves unpopular. Barack Obama's approval rating dropped to 47% and 46 disapproved. The attempt by the Democrats to pass a big health care plan is backfiring on their popularity.
Democrats' problems seem in part linked to their ambitious health-care plan, billed as the signature achievement of Mr. Obama's first year. Now, for the first time, more people said they would prefer Congress did nothing on health care than who wanted to see the overhaul enacted.
The recession (mostly caused by George W. Bush's housing credit policies and the approach of Peak Oil) is hurting Obama because people simplistically blame the guy in power at the moment and can't remember policies of a few years ago (unless they are political bloggers who obsess on the mistakes the other party made - while not noticing the mistakes their own parties made that contributed to a mess).
"For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. "What we don't know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?"
At 10% unemployment any US President is going to suffer declining popularity. Obama even more so because he's looking like a lightweight.
Some Democrats see health care as an issue where they could win back some popularity if they could just pass the bill. But several Senate Democrats see the current bill as a big threat to their desire for reelection. So Megan McArdle thinks some Senate Democrats secretly do not want to see a vote on the bill. Megan thinks the left of the Democratic party never had enough support for what they were trying to pull off.
This bill is, at this point, hideously unpopular. I'm pretty sure you've got a bunch of senators who would really, really love not to vote for it. Ultimately, the moderates had a very good alternative to negotiated agreement, and the progressives didn't, and that was crystal clear from Day 1. That meant the progressives were never, ever going to get very much. This was not a failure of political will or political skill. It was the manifestation of a political reality that has long been obvious to everyone who wasn't living in a fantasy world. If progressives decide that the lesson from this is that they haven't been sufficiently demanding and intransigent, they are going to find themselves about as popular with the rest of America as the Bush Republicans, and probably lose their party the House next year.
Could the Democrats lose the control of the House in November 2010? The advantage for Republicans of the Democrats maintaining that control by a small margin: Come 2012 the Democrats won't be able to spread the blame for poor economic performance across 2 parties if a single party controls both houses of Congress and the White House.
WASHINGTON - In the waning days of the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney launched a last-ditch campaign to persuade his boss to pardon Lewis (Scooter) Libby - and was furious when President George W. Bush wouldn't budge.
It wasn't enough that Bush commuted Libby's 30 month prison sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice. Cheney wanted more. But even Bush is capable of learning.
About the same time, however, an official who has worked closely with both men mused that the relationship "isn't what it was" when Bush tapped Cheney as his running mate in 2000.
"It's been a long, long time since I've heard the President say, 'Run that by the vice president's office.' You used to hear that all the time."
I wonder if Bush decided that Libby pushed disastrous policies and lost sympathy for him.
Former Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris think America will swing left under OBama.
2009-2010 will rank with 1913-14, 1933-36, 1964-65 and 1981-82 as years that will permanently change our government, politics and lives. Just as the stars were aligned for Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and Reagan, they are aligned for Obama. Simply put, we enter his administration as free-enterprise, market-dominated, laissez-faire America. We will shortly become like Germany, France, the United Kingdom, or Sweden — a socialist democracy in which the government dominates the economy, determines private-sector priorities and offers a vastly expanded range of services to many more people at much higher taxes.
Obama will accomplish his agenda of “reform” under the rubric of “recovery.” Using the electoral mandate bestowed on a Democratic Congress by restless voters and the economic power given his administration by terrified Americans, he will change our country fundamentally in the name of lifting the depression. His stimulus packages won’t do much to shorten the downturn — although they will make it less painful — but they will do a great deal to change our nation.
It is not even obvious that fiscal stimulus will help speed recovery from a recession. But politicians want to be seen as trying.
Obama probably will reduce the number of people who pay federal income taxes. That's problematic. If fewer people pay any federal income taxes fewer people will oppose expansions in federal spending. They know they won't have to pay for it. Fewer taxed means more political irresponsibility.
But it is not his spending that will transform our political system, it is his tax and welfare policies. In the name of short-term stimulus, he will give every American family (who makes less than $200,000) a welfare check of $1,000 euphemistically called a refundable tax credit. And he will so sharply cut taxes on the middle class and the poor that the number of Americans who pay no federal income tax will rise from the current one-third of all households to more than half. In the process, he will create a permanent electoral majority that does not pay taxes, but counts on ever-expanding welfare checks from the government. The dependency on the dole, formerly limited in pre-Clinton days to 14 million women and children on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, will now grow to a clear majority of the American population.
Morris doesn't expect Obama to raise taxes since Obama wants to run a huge deficit to supposedly stimulate the economy. But some of Bush's tax cuts will expire in 2010 and I do not expect Obama and Congress to renew them. Plus, inflation will come back once the economic recovery kicks in and oil prices recover. Rising interest rates will put on the pressure for smaller deficits.
Illegal immigrant amnesty for a bigger permanent lower class is the scariest possibility. Morris is dreaming to imagine these people will ever move rightward.
And Obama will move to change permanently the partisan balance in America. He will move quickly to legalize all those who have been in America for five years, albeit illegally, and to smooth their paths to citizenship and voting. He will weaken border controls in an attempt to hike the Latino vote as high as he can in order to make red states like Texas into blue states like California. By the time he is finished, Latinos and African-Americans will cast a combined 30 percent of the vote. If they go by top-heavy margins for the Democrats, as they did in 2008, it will assure Democratic domination (until they move up the economic ladder and become good Republicans).
Higher taxes or more government spending will cause only temporary damage. These things can always be reversed. But importing low performing ethnic groups who do not improve across generations. I do not want to live in a society full of gangs. The libertarians who support open borders while purporting to defend liberty have a lot to answer for. Starr County Texas shows us our demographic future and it is not pretty.
A lot of people have been in ecstasy the last few days. But this mass delusion is not productive of good government.
Update When I call the Republican Party "road kill" I do not predict its demise or break-up. Rather it will move Left and supporters of limited government and a free market aren't going to have a real choice to vote for. As the Republican Party moves Left and picks up more moderate leftists with more left-leaning policies it will leave the Democrats with remaining members who are even more Leftist. So the Democratic Party will become even more hostile to markets and to individual rights and property.
Neoconservative commentator Stanley Kurtz says Barack Obama was chosen to head an educational foundation by an unrepentant communist 1960s bomber radical who co-founded the Weathermen. But does Obama know which way the wind blows?
Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.
Obama pretends to hardly know Bill Ayers. But Obama is misrepresenting the relationship. In other words, he's lying.
The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.
Ayers and Obama used CAC to promote radicalization of school curricula.
One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.
The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.
In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.
Yet Democrats swoon over Obama. They sure have low standards.
But Obama faces stiff competition in the unfit-to-lead race for the top. Conventional conservative George Will sees McCain as unconservative, with a flawed temper, and serious judgment problems.
The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is government control of capital. So, is not McCain's party now conducting the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never acted so precipitously on such a scale. Treasury Secretary Paulson, asked about conservative complaints that his rescue program amounts to socialism, said, essentially: This is not socialism, this is necessary. That non sequitur might be politically necessary, but remember that government control of capital is government control of capitalism. Does McCain have qualms about this, or only quarrels?
On "60 Minutes" Sunday evening, McCain, saying "this may sound a little unusual," said that he would like to replace Cox with Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general of New York who is the son of former governor Mario Cuomo. McCain explained that Cuomo has "respect" and "prestige" and could "lend some bipartisanship." Conservatives have been warned.
Will argues that both Obama and McCain are not ready to be President of the United States.
It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
These are pathetic choices. A Leftist who hides the extent of his Leftism and an ill-tempered guy who seems to have learned nothing from the Iraq Debacle and whose mind is going to age considerably in the next few years.
Here's my take on it: McCain could become senile while in office. But if we are lucky (and we can't count on luck) then he'll stroke out a few months into office and Sarah Palin will take over. Now, Sarah is not the sharpest card in the deck. One could argue that she'll be in over her head. But if we are lucky she'll respond to the office by not doing very much. She leans rightward. But she's not a man. She doesn't have as much of a need for conquest or radical restructuring. At least that is my take.
What about Obama? Maybe he's grown up as he's gotten more connected and does not attach as much importance to advice from Bill Ayers as he used to. He might instead get lots of advice from the Ivy League. Such advice will cause problems. But has he really abandoned his radical past? I think he would have plenty of knobs of government to turn in support of harmful Leftist ideas.
Which one is worse? Hard to tell. We are only going to experience the disaster of one of them and we'll have to wonder whether the loser might not have been quite as bad as the winner will turn out to be.
I actually went back and watched Palin's speech a second time. I didn't go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. I had to make sure I got the lines right. Her timing was exquisite. She didn't linger with applause, but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke. And she delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid. She didn't have to prove she was "of the people." She really is the people.
As for Palin herself, she is going to be very, very effective on the campaign trail, especially if McCain's people can figure out how to gently keep her from getting into confrontations with the press. If she can answer questions like she handled herself at the convention, Palin will turn out to be the most interesting person in all of politics, and the press will treat her like they treated Obama when he was first discovered. And remember, the Palin bandwagon needs to roll for only two months.
Meanwhile, blogger HalfSigma has questioned Palin's intelligence, guessing she's in the 110 range. It's an interesting post with lots of comments including from yours truly. He bases it on her taking six years to get through college and the generally working-class life choices made by her and her family. I'd guess she's a little smarter than that, but she seems to have such a natural affinity for leadership I find it unlikely she would not have landed herself in a far more lucrative position if she were especially smart. So this is an interesting question, as it may ultimately restrict her ability to rise too far.
James Fulford, in the VDARE blog, found an interview with her where she expresses admiration for Ron Paul, so she at least has promise to be something other than the package the McCain campaign will box her into. Again she speaks effortlessly without notes about some mildly technical issues, so I'm guessing she's a bit more intelligent than Half Sigma claims.
In an exchange with Ross Douthat Tyler Cowen comments that he sees Sarah Palin as politically formidable.
T.C: There is also the notion that the Kennedy School of Government does not and never will rule America and that America can revoke an electoral victory for the Democrats "at will." Sarah Palin is a populist of the right, and that scares a lot of people. I differ from her myself on many fundamental views, but I will confess that I am enjoying seeing her upend so many presuppositions of her critics.
I tell you, I watched a big chunk of that debate she had when she ran for governor of Alaska a few years ago. She crushed her opponent. If she can survive the next few days, she will prove a very formidable opponent for the Democrats. They are torn between realizing that and not wanting to admit it, by painting her as a lightweight. She isn't.
Everyone is harping on the experience issue. The biggest question is how good a decision-maker you are and how "meta-rational" you are, namely having the ability to recognize your own imperfections. I don't know how she does on those counts, but those are the more honest questions, not whether she can name or understand all the different factions in Afghanistan. No one can.
Tyler does not see her as a libertarian.
Over at Gene Expression Razib decided (correctly) that Audacious Epigone doesn't get the size of readership he merits. This led into a discussion thread on the political suppression of human biodiversity research which is really worth reading in full, particularly Godless Capitalist's comments. But Mencius also makes a number of points worth considering when looking at McCain and Palin as candidates.
And the second thing you're missing is the symbolic nature of the Presidency, especially in Republican hands. Ever see an article in the Times complaining about "political interference" with "nonpartisan public policy?" If you've seen one, you've seen a thousand. And they are the exception that proves the rule. The 20th-century American civil-service system was designed, in the Progressive Era, to respond with perfect fidelity to Harvard, and completely ignore all elected officials. Americans could elect Sarah Palin for four straight terms, and there still isn't a damn thing she could to do to get NSF to hand out grants to creationists.
Ie: don't be manipulated by the fear of an imaginary boogeyman. It is a mistake to think of electing Republicans as turning America into Palin-stan. When you vote for Democrats, you are saying that the people who have real power should stay there. When you vote for Republicans, you are agitating and disrupting the system, if to a much lesser degree than most think.
There are two genuine, positive effects of voting Republican. One, it serves as a symbolic protest against the rule of Harvard. (Or, to be more specific, of Drew Gilpin Faust.) Progressives are very good at calibrating their demands to what the public will accept - I believe it's one of Alinsky's rules. By saying, "we want Palin," you implicitly say, "we have an issue with Maoist freshman indoctrination struggle sessions" - and many other such things. This does not stop such programs, not at all, but it strikes a little bit of fear into the enemy's heart. By saying "we love Obama," you say, "full speed ahead." This is basically gc's argument.
Second, the American right is a destructive tool. It cannot error-correct the great consensus, with its one tiny little flaw. And it is full of errors itself. But suppose that consensus cannot correct itself, either? Then we know of one tool that can be used to help destroy it.
Since the right has no significant elite and no intellectual institutions, its beliefs are not a good guide to the beliefs of a world in which the progressive edifice has been toppled and shattered - a change that would make the fall of Communism look like a petty detail. After that great, cataclysmic collapse, which I'm sure would discard some good along with the bad, a new intellectual elite would have to construct itself. And you, personally, would be on the inside track for membership. With your present views, you are certainly not eligible for membership of the current ruling elite.
The whole thread is worth reading. Godless Capitalist's argument that thread is the most troubling one I've heard about the downsides of an Obama presidency. GC fears Obama will clamp down on genetics research into human biodiversity just as DNA sequencing costs have gotten so cheap that questions about genetic causes of human nature have become answerable. The Left does not want those answers. They do not want scientific evidence that supports thought crimes.
Whether you think Obama or McCain will be worse depends in part on your values. But it also depends on your assessment regarding what sorts of damage they each might cause. I'm aware of the threat that McCain poses in foreign adventures. But I think our biggest problems are domestic and we should focus our concerns chiefly on what either of them will do with domestic policies. Obama is a typical Leftie who wants to do Robin Hood taxation. He's to the Left of Bill Clinton on welfare and tax policy. But I'm more worried about what he'll do with racial preferences and restrictions on research into taboo subjects.
Peak Oil, the US trade deficit, the retirement of the Baby Boomers, and the lingering effects of the unfolding financial crisis will make the economy into a disaster zone regardless of who gets elected. So the next President won't be popular.
Lots of people are reacting in all sorts of ways to John McCain's pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Veep. A woman named Susan had this to say about Sarah Palin on the comments of an LA Times article:
I don't know who Bill Kristol spoke with but most people I know were personally offended by McCain's choice. It exemplifies the current state of politics, it's a game. All the republican party has in its pocket is the pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay fear mongering. Bringing in an hugely inexperienced policitian who has nothing more than her gender and her Christian ideologies creates a lightning rod of distraction to the real, immenient issues that we face as Americans. I used to respect McCain. No longer, this choice is an insult to all those who love this country.
I think the intensity of these reactions indicate that people are getting bored with gushing Obamamania. They want a new thrill already. Obama needs to hire some script writers and a camera crew to create a reality TV out of his campaign. Then he needs to hire some campaign staffers who are good at comedy acting, tragic acting, and other roles. He can strike back if he can fashion a really good hit TV show loosely organized around his campaign. Then a vote for Obama can be seen as a vote for a much larger cast of entertaining and novel characters. He needs to admit that he needs supporting actors with charisma as well. Look, Jerry Seinfeld is a funny guy. But Kramer and the other characters were essential for making his show a multi-year success.
The New York Times editorialists were happy that John McCain opted to add a diversity talisman to his ticket. Without diversity the forces of evil will take over and plunge us into a dark ages. All hail diversity.
The Republican Party has hardly been a champion of diversity in recent memory. So it was heartening to see Senator John McCain choose Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.
We would be criticized for cynicism if we were to suggest that Mr. McCain might also be hoping to sow a new round of gender discord in the wake of the Democrats’ unexpectedly unifying convention. We didn’t have to.
Governor Palin (who was on almost no one’s short list) left no doubt of her mission, as she eagerly praised the “determination and grace” of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who failed to make the Democratic ticket. “But it turns out that the women in America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” she vowed.
Plus, Palin lets them be cynical even as they embrace the diversity talisman. Is that cool or what?
Clark Stooksbury points to a National Review Corner blog post by Jay Nordlinger where he once again demonstrates an enormous acumen for gushing.
She is leaderly. That’s not quite a word, but I have employed it often. (It ought to be a word.) Governor Palin is strong, assured, natural — and leaderly. I’m not sure she is less presidential — to say nothing of vice-presidential — than any of the other three on the national tickets.
Like many Americans, she says “Eye-rack” and “Eye-ran” (for two neighboring countries in the Middle East). Some people mock this, but it is very American. And — speaking of mockery — she also says “nuke-u-lar”: like George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter (who was a nuclear engineer), and Eisenhower.
I feel all choked up. Gush, er, I guess I mean gosh.
Everyone who is anyone seems by now in agreement that the presidency and thus the vice presidency should be about personality and perception, because that’s what television media is calibrated to deliver. The resemblance of political news to celebrity news has gone beyond deliberate to become unavoidable. Soon there will be no dividing line, and the non-telegenic will be barred from public service as if bound by physical deformity. We are now into our second and third generations of television journalists who deliberately feed the public superficial pulp; they are no longer capable of making the distinction themselves. This might explain their bemusement and occasional outrage at the blogs. Journalists don’t ask tough questions of leaders because they don’t want to get the public started. We could start asking tough questions of them.
Any contrarian voice against this order of things is probably the sort of eccentric character that still talks of enumerated constitutional powers and congressional declarations of war. Cut to Chris Matthews assessing how the new gal looks cradling an AR-15. At moments coverage may resemble fetishistic soft-core guns & girls pornography. This is the zeitgeist. We really deserve whatever deprivations come at this point.
Well, at the right time I think Sarah ought to do an episode where she goes skeet shooting with a rifle. Then maybe Sarah could do Iditarod sledding. We want authenticity in our Alaskans. Just because she's going to spend most of her time in the lower 48 doesn't mean she can't entertain us with her Alaskan roots. We expect some pioneer wilderness scenes in this election. Little House On The Tundra.
In a post entitled "Palin Rocks" Scott McConnell argues that Palin is great because she's not a neocon and supported Pat Buchanan. I agree with Scott that her support for Buchanan is promising.
Indeed Palin is, if anything, the Lieberman antithesis. The blogosphere has begun to chew on the fact that she apparently played some role in the Buchanan campaign of 1996, and perhaps in 2000 as well. There remains a constituency in this country for the idea that Buchanan is the devil incarnate, but if he’s not correct on absolutely everything, his views on American foreign policy have proved more prescient than any single sitting Republican senator. The Palin choice promises to instigate a boomlet of old Buchanan controversies, including a criticism of the Israel lobby which has become increasingly mainstream since the Iraq war went south. Sarah Palin may not have supported Pat in 1996 primarily because of his foreign policy views, but clearly she wasn’t put off by them, despite the hysterical anti-Buchanan frothings of every neoconservative and neoliberal media outlet in the country. You have to think a hockey mom mother of five would be more resistant to the American Enterprise Institute world view than anyone else McCain could conceivably have chosen. If there’s a good argument for John McCain, it might be that he’s old, has a history of serious illness, and has chosen Sarah Palin as his veep.
I hope Palin doesn't cave in and let her foreign policy views get dictated to her by the neocons.
Kevin Michael Grace says Sarah Palin brings a form of exoticism to this election. This of course breaks the Obama monopoly on exoticism.
WASHINGTON—Americans reacted mostly positively Friday to the surprise selection by John McCain of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as Republican nominee for Vice President. The 37-year-old Palin continued her meteoric rise to political demigod status, which began just 9 years ago, when she was elected Mayor of Kolyma, AK, population 79, and continued two years ago when she was elected Governor after the entire Republican state hierarchy was indicted for corruption and then photographed in a giant hot tub with underaged Boy Scouts.
In an already historic Presidential year, one that has seen left-field Democratic candidate Barack Obama ride a wave of guilty hysteria to triumph over supposed sure-thing Hillary Clinton, Gov. Palin brings her own considerable exoticism to the table. A working mother, she is married to her dog-mushing school sweetheart, Ookpik, who runs a thriving seal-gutting business when not doing something or other for Alaska's only major employer, Big Oil. Ookpik, who is 1/32 Eskimo on his stepmother's side, is an X-treme moose-eating champion and enjoys staring at the aurora borealis. The Palins have five children, Truck, Trig, Sine, Cosine and Hypotenuse.
What I want to know: Is Sarah's husband related to Michael Palin? If not, could we at least pretend he is? Then she could bring fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the pope, and nice red uniforms to the job.
Update: Maria Bartiromo interviewed Sarah Palin on oil in Alaska a few day before Palin was chosen as McCain's Veep. She's quite well spoken.
BARACK Obama’s half-brother has been helping to promote cheap Chinese exports in a low-profile business career while the Democratic senator has been winning worldwide fame in his race for the White House.
He has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid public attention and his family links remain unknown to most of his acquaintances in Shenzhen, a border boomtown in southern China where he has lived since 2002.
Mark Ndesandjo is the son of Barack Obama’s late father and his third wife, an American woman named Ruth Nidesand who runs the up-market Maduri kindergarten in Nairobi.
Ndesandjo disappointed Obama by not feeling African enough. But Ndesandjo is living the international life that probably gives him insights about the world Obama only pretends to have. Living in the future world superpower China gives Ndesandjo a perspective that is more relevant to the future than anything Obama can get out of a fast trip thru the Middle East and Europe. Once Obama gets into the White House maybe Ndesandjo can give him tips on China relations. Though in light of America's huge trade deficit with China Ndesandjo's work boosting China's exports are going to put him and Obama on opposition sides of disputes.
Ndesandjo has a Chinese girlfriend in her 20s. How stereotypical.
It has long been known that Mr Clinton is angry at the way his own reputation was tarnished during the primary battle when several of his comments were interpreted as racist.
But his lingering fury has shocked his friends. The Democrat told the Telegraph: "He's been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn't. I've spoken to a couple of people who he's been in contact with and he is mad as hell.
"He's saying he's not going to reach out, that Obama has to come to him. One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support.
"You can't talk like that about Obama - he's the nominee of your party, not some house boy you can order around.
Barring some unforeseeable event Obama is going to become the next president. Bill Clinton will probably get even madder as his friends all try to kiss up to Obama.
Bill had black loyalties when they did not have a black choice. The overwhelming black loyalty for Obama demonstrates the truth of an old saying: blood runs thicker than water. This tendency to put genetic loyalties and other loyalties ahead of a rational evaluation of the candidates reduces the quality of the people who win elections. We are going to see more of this in the future.
I expect Barack Obama to win this election because the incumbent party always loses in a recession, the US unemployment rate just jumped up by the largest amount since 1986, people are feeling poorer from the popping of the housing bubble, and the price of gasoline is about $4 per gallon. That's far too much bad news for the incumbent party to emerge victorious. Oh, and the war in Iraq is unpopular and Obama is more against it than John McCain. So McCain does not matter and Obama is the only candidate worth discussing. With all that in mind: Obama can not fund his spending program by increasing taxes only on the wealthy.
Yet limiting tax hikes to the $250,000-and-up set probably won't pump enough money into the U.S. Treasury to pay for new spending programs and deal with the ballooning deficit, even when combined with proposed corporate tax increases. Analyst Daniel Clifton of Strategas Research Partners has tallied some $350 billion in promised new annual spending by Obama. He has outlined plans to pay for new programs without increasing the deficit, but budget analysts are skeptical. "Targeting just a fraction of the population [for an increase] is not going to generate the revenues they need," says Roberton Williams, an ex-Congressional Budget Office staffer now with the independent Tax Policy Center. Adds Clifton: "They are going to have to find a way to get more from the middle class."
Well, if Obama manages to pull US troops out of Iraq then he'd free up $150+ billion per year from the deluded fantasy (turned nightmare) project to bring democracy to the Middle East. He could then use some of that money to waste on Obama's own deluded fantasy about how another big increase in educational funding could turn dumb students into higher performers. Yes, Obama embraces the big Blank Slate illusion that education is the answer to the problems of a large dumb dysfunctional lower class. Never mind all the evidence to the contrary. Why is it that Washington DC attracts people who seem to focus and amplify the nation's delusions?
Having gotten shafted by George W. Bush how are we going to get shafted by Barack Obama? I figure he'll push harder for racial preferences. His views on race and those of his wife make that a certainty. Plus, he'll push for lots of social welfare programs and higher taxes. But a lot of economic trends are going to limit how far he can go with his agenda. James Pethokoukis points out that even before considering Obama's spending proposals we have serious problems in funding entitlements.
Obama has shown no interest in trimming future Social Security benefit growth while at the same time pushing more government spending, which Mallaby approves of. Now here, courtesy of the Congressional Budget Office, is what would have to happen to tax rates to pay for rising entitlement spending, not including all of Obama's spending plans:
The tax rate for the lowest tax bracket would have to be increased from 10 percent to 25 percent; the tax rate on incomes in the current 25 percent bracket would have to be increased to 63 percent; and the tax rate of the highest bracket would have to be raised from 35 percent to 88 percent. The top corporate income tax rate would also increase from 35 percent to 88 percent. Such tax rates would significantly reduce economic activity and would create serious problems with tax avoidance and tax evasion. Revenues would probably fall significantly short of the amount needed to finance the growth of spending; therefore, tax rates at such levels would probably not be economically feasible.
The entitlements problem is bad enough. But another big trend is going to hit hard during the Obama presidency: Peak Oil. Most worryingly, oil exports are in decline from major oil producers. Declining oil supplies will cause an economic crisis that will cut tax revenues and force yearly cutbacks in government spending for several years in a row.
The good news about Obama and his radical past: he can probably be deterred. Barack Hussein Obama is more Hussein than Osama, an opportunist rather than a fanatic.
While his heart may be black, his head is quite white, the epitome of the small-town Midwest where his maternal grandparents originated. He's conflict-averse, cautious, polite, eager-to-please, sensitive, and insecure, with a Sally Field-style need to be liked.
So, Obama's radical principles have repeatedly pushed him left … right up to the point where he starts worrying that if he goes any farther to the left, not everybody will like him anymore, and that could endanger his amazing rise to power. Thus, he compromises and accepts promotion to the next level in return for selling out.
Up through now, Obama has been focused on attaining more power for himself rather than on actually using the power he already has to benefit the people in whose name he has promoted himself. He's kept his eyes on the prize: the White House.
I hope Steve is correct about this because I think Obama has the best odds of getting elected President.
Once Obama is in power will he continue just as hard to try to get everyone to like him? Will this attempt to get people to like him eventually turn him bitter? He's got to reach a point where he realizes this is as high as he's going to go. Will he find that perch as insufficiently satisfying? Will he try then to satisfy himself more by accomplishments that appeal to his base?
A friend who is old enough to remember the 1960s calls up to relate her emotional reactions to the election. She tells me "Obama is Malcolm X light - and I liked him!". Then she says "But Malcolm X was way better than Obama." Then she says about Obama: "He's just not as real.... but he doesn't want to offend anybody." Malcolm X didn't need white votes.
She tells me that people are voting for Obama to feel cool about themselves. White people do all sorts of things to feel cool and boost their status relative to other white people.
She adds "I like him. He's very likable." I have to agree. He doesn't come across as grating or obnoxious or hostile. He seems to really like people.
She thinks Obama really helped a lot of Democrats by giving them a reason to get out of their obligation to vote for Hillary Clinton. They don't have to hold their noses and vote for Hillary.
In the same hotel ballroom where conservative activists greeted John McCain with a mix of cheers and boos just 16 hours earlier, President Bush tried to calm his party's base yesterday. Without naming McCain, Bush assured the group that the eventual Republican nominee will "carry a conservative banner" to the White House.
Eight years after they battled it out for the presidency, Bush and McCain find their fates linked again by history, but this time they are on the same side. With McCain virtually guaranteed the Republican nomination to succeed Bush, they head together into a general election campaign depending on each other. McCain needs the president to help reunite their splintered party, and Bush needs the senator from Arizona to validate his presidency and carry forth its strategy in Iraq.
Bush gets double bonus points with a McCain nomination: Iraq and immigration amnesty. McCain wants to keep fighting in Iraq and McCain has tried very hard to get immigration amnesty passed. Even now McCain has only backed off on immigration to the point of saying that border enforcement comes before amnesty. But McCain and Bush just want to make it easier for Hispanics to enter legally. They are not for immigration restriction. They are for immigration increases.
We are approaching my nightmare scenario: John McCain versus Barack Obama. Who is worse?
2) McCain said that "only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure" would he pursue the semi-amnesty part of his immigration reform. This non-trivial concession would be more reassuring if proponents of that reform didn't righteously claim a 'widespread consensus' in its favor in 2006 and 2007. ( "[A]national consensus has formed around what the president calls 'comprehensive' immigration reform."--Fred Barnes, May, 2006.)
3) McCain said he had "respect" for opponents of his immigration plan (which he didn't renounce) "for I know that the vast majority of critics to the bill based their opposition in a principled defense of the rule of law." Not like those others who base their opposition on bigoted yahoo nativism! McCain's semi-conciliatory words aren't what you say when you really respect your opposition--then you say "I know we have honest disagreements." Not "I know most of you aren't really racists." Even his suckup betrayed how he really feels. Which I suspect is sneering contempt! (See his former campaign manager and informal adviser Mike Murphy, who--writing under cover of a pseudonym--likened Tom Tancredo to the "Bund"!). .... 10:49 P.M. link
I liked Reagan because he didn't hate the Republican base.
Mickey also thinks Obama is very far left.
Remind me again, what is the evidence--in terms of policies, not affect or attitude or negotiating strategy--that Obama is not an unreconstructed lefty (on the American spectrum--a paleoliberal or a bit further left)? For example, would he roll back welfare reform if he could? ... P.S.: One way to know Obama isn't the black Gary Hart: He's been endorsed by Gary Hart. .... Update-Reminders: Obama "fails to denounce" free trade. OK, that's one. ... More: This site, featuring anonymous posts on what he was like as a law prof, is worth monitoring. Most troubling post so far:
I took his Voting Rights Class at UChicago Law at the crack of dawn. His class was still packed. He was incredibly charasmatic and engaging, but is really, really, far-left liberal in the socialism completely rocks kind of way.
This is why I'm hoping Hillary gets the Democratic Party nod. Obama really looks to be left of Hillary. Of course Hillary is left of her husband Bill. In addition to pining for the fjords I also pine for the day when the major Presidential candidates were well to the right of our remaining 3 contenders.
Note that during a recession the party in power always loses. There's no exception to this rule in the post-WWII era that I'm aware of. So in theory whoever wins the Democratic nomination wins the Presidency. Hillary's weakness against Obama might just be setting us up for putting a guy in the White House who is further to the left than any President in the post-WWII era. We'll be at most risk in the first 2 years of Obama's presidency. Then the Republicans will probably win back the House in 2010 due to a backlash against Obama's policies. After that he won't be able to get what he wants through Congress.
On the other hand, if McCain could bring himself to take positions he doesn't really agree with he could create a big enough contrast with Obama to have a chance of winning. He could, for example, attack Obama for supporting drivers licenses for illegal aliens. Can McCain bring himself to take such a position given his general lax attitude toward illegal immigration? Maybe. He has shifted toward border enforcement before amnesty. Can he go even further and support interior enforcement before amnesty?
I'm mixed on a best-case scenario. The major hangup I have with a McCain defeat is what it will mean for the Supreme Court. Justice Stevens will turn 90 during the next President's term. There has only been one other nonagenarian judge in the Court's history, and he (Oliver Wendell Holmes) left within the year of becoming one. Scalia, Ginsburg, and Kennedy are all in their seventies. With Democratic control of both the Senate and the Whitehouse, that could spell a drastic leftward shift in the court, especially if Scalia retires.
But the worst-case scenario doesn't seem as cloudy. Obama versus McCain, with McCain winning, strikes me as the least desirable outcome of all. The GOP's performance among Hispanics would be maximized, possibly eclipsing the 50% mark, as Hispanics otherwise tending to support the Democratic candidate would be unenthusiastic about voting for a black. Many would stay home, and others would 'defect' to McCain and his pal Juan Hernandez. If you think the WSJ bilge over the essentiality of the Hispanic vote as garnered through support for open borders is nauseating now, just wait.
I think McCain is worse than Hillary on immigration because McCain has co-sponsored and actively worked for immigration amnesty bills. Also, immigration is more important than the Supreme Court. Demographic damage is very long lasting, much more so than Supreme Court appointments.
Once John McCain's winning of the Republican presidential nomination becomes certain watch for a big change in media coverage of him. When he was running against other Republicans for the nomination the media treated him pretty favorably because he was seen as the most leftward leaning Republican candidate on many issues. But once he is only running against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama he will be the most rightward leaning candidate still in the race and then the media will likely go much more negative on him.
In spite of the fact that I'm rightward leaning myself I'm looking forward to this coming change in the tone of McCain press coverage. I think Republicans will be better off if McCain loses. Republicans will find it much easier to oppose a given set of policies if Hillary Clinton advocates those policies than if John McCain does. Well, I want to see Republicans oppose immigration amnesty and the continuation of the war in Iraq and other foolishness. With a Hillary presidency the intensity of Republican opposition to bad policies will rise.
Barack Obama won the Iowa Democratic caucus with a total of 93k votes (38%) versus John Edwards 74k (30%) and Hillary Clinton with 73k votes (29%). Okay, the Democratic Party's race changed direction because of only 93k votes. Evan Thomas says that now Obama will jump to the lead in New Hampshire. The purpose of the Iowa caucuses was to create winners and losers and now Obama is the biggest winner.
Isn't it bad that a single state at the outset plays such a big role in the final choices of party nominees? On second thought, the deeper problem seems to be that even with just a single state to hold an election in we can't get better candidates to show up and campaign for months before the caucus election. We are stuck with the likes of these people.
57% of those under 30 went for Obama. He got 35% of women versus 30% for Clinton. Even John Edwards beat Hillary. What does this say? Hillary is not a likable person. Even in a caucus of fairly activist Democrats Hillary can't manage to get more than 29%.
On the Republican side Huckabee won with 34% versus Romney with 25%, Thompson at 13% and then McCain slightly lower at 13%, Ron Paul at 10%, and Rudy Giuliani at 3%. I am not surprised by this result. Lots more liberal Democrats are eager to vote for a black man than Christian Republicans will vote for a Mormon. Also, as for Giuliani I never saw how Christians would vote for a guy on his third marriage. 60% of the Republicans who came out were born again Christians and Huckabee got 45% of them.
In the Republican contest, born-again or evangelical Christians comprised six in 10 Republican caucus-goers, and 46 percent of them favored Huckabee. Only 19 percent favored Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has been viewed skeptically by some religious conservatives.
The Christians who vote for Huckabee demonstrate the power of identity politics. It doesn't matter that Huckabee wants a huge immigration amnesty that the overwhelming majority of the Republican base oppose. That Huckabee is one of them in religious belief trumps mere policy positions - never mind how damaging those policy positions might be for his supporters.
The movement's old leadership, which looked as tired and confused as the conventional wisdom suggested, splintered. Pat Robertson stunned some in the movement by endorsing Mr. Giuliani, despite his three marriages and support for abortion rights. Paul Weyrich and Bob Jones III, both leaders among Christian conservatives, endorsed Mr. Romney, a Mormon. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Christian conservative favorite, endorsed Sen. McCain after his own candidacy flamed out.
And when former Sen. Fred Thompson entered the race, much of the punditry world figured he would be the man to consolidate conservative Christian support.
But what happened in Iowa was that the foot soldiers moved out on their own, without regard to where their leaders were heading. They singled out Mr. Huckabee, and turned him from afterthought to front-runner.
I like Fred Thompson's supposed laziness. Bush is lazy in the "I'm not going to bother to understand the real world before march off on some crazy campaign" way. Fred is more of the "I'm lazy and so I won't go marching off" way. I prefer the latter in Presidents. Do less. Mess up less stuff.
I hear Weird Al Yankovic singing "I lost on Jeopardy baby, woo ooo ooo."
For example, one cause of voter cynicism is the suspicion that the candidates are complete ignoramuses on every topic on which they haven't been preprogrammed by their handlers. So, instead of having them stand around and semi-argue with each other, why not have them play Jeopardy instead, with the categories weighted toward history and current affairs.
Sure, the frontrunners wouldn't be likely to agree to it, but why not let laggards like Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich volunteer for a match. They don't even have to be in the same party. Come on, you'd watch that, right? And once a Hunter-Kucinich-Paul Jeopardy match got triple the ratings of the last debate, pressure would mount on the big boys and girls to pick up their buzzers and fight.
This is a great idea from Steve Sailer. Our current crop of Presidential contenders is pretty weak. To hear, say, Obama just go out and try to speak with really lofty rhetoric makes me disgusted. Sure, anyone can hire a speech writer. Yes, the published speeches of Churchill et. al. can be studied to look for ideas. And some of the candidates are pretty good performers (but no match for the Gipper). But what does this have to do with competency to carry out the duties of the US Presidency? Not much as near as I can tell. Good judgment and a highly excellent grasp of reality are more important.
Jeopardy is just a beginning. I have an idea for a reality TV show: Pair up Republicans and Democrats to survive in a wilderness setting. Let them choose each other. See who can best work in a bipartisan manner. Find out which pair can, say, figure out how to catch salmon without a fishing rod in a stream in Alaska. Or see which pair can build a raft to get off an island that is only a half mile from another island. Give them life preservers and homing beacons so none will drown. Plus, the camera crews will be on hand to fish them out.
I would also love to see them try to build a vehicle from parts. "We've given you each 3 times as many parts as needed to build a dune buggy and escape from the hell hole we've put you in. But some of the parts don't fit. You need some of the duplicates because some parts will fail part way through your trip. Have at it. First person to get into that distant old Western town on engine power wins."
Libertarianism is very much a fringe movement in American politics. Yet enough non-Democrats are sufficiently disgusted with Bush and repulsed by the Republican front runners for President that Texas libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul that he raised $5 million in the third quarter of 2007.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign reported today to have raised $5 million in the third quarter of this year, a sum suggesting that the Lake Jackson Republican's Internet-driven campaign continues to attract intense support despite his low standing in the national polls.
The libertarian-leaning Republican has drawn media interest and a group of devoted followers, in part because of his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war, which has set him apart from other GOP presidential candidates.
The Iraq war is a pointless waste. We have no national interests to defend there. Paul wants out and he is opposed to illegal immigration. So for paleocons and the non-open borders libertarians (and there are plenty such people) Paul's candidacy is attractive.
True, $5 million pales in comparison to the $27 million Hillary Clinton raised this past quarter or the $100 million she and Barack Obama are each expected to raise this year. But Paul's haul isn't far behind the far-more-established John Edwards' $7 million for the third quarter.
And get this: Ron Paul's $5 million is about five times what former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee raised last quarter, despite all his enhanced publicity springing from a second-place finish in the Ames straw poll.
I'm skeptical of Paul's ability to win in a general election because as near as I can tell it sure looks like the welfare state is popular with the majority of the voters. Otherwise conservative Republican farmers support their farm subsidy pork. Lots of retired Republicans support Social Security and Medicare. Real limited government libertarianism is supported by a pretty small minority of the electorate.
Update: What is with Rudy Giuliani? He regularly interrupts public appearances to take phone calls from his latest wife. Can someone so nutty win the Presidency? Of course, George W. Bush won. But back in 2000 he tried to act sensible. Rudy can't be bothered. We seem to be looking at a President Hillary future.
Texas journalist Robert Draper was given access to George W. Bush and members of his inner circle to work on a book about Bush's Presidency. The book, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, is out. Robert Draper draws a picture that is not flattering. Bush can't remember what he decided on big questions about Iraq.
Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”
But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.
On the title Dead Certain: Bush is not alone in confusing the feeling of certainty with the reality of being correct. No, you aren't automatically correct just because you feel highly certain.
Bush, for his part, was not disposed to second-guessing. Througout 2006, he read historical texts relating to Lincoln, Churchill, and Truman — three wartime leaders, the latter two of whom left office to something less than public acclaim. History would acquit him, too. Bush was confident of that, and of something else as well. Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs. [p. 388]
Looney Tunes. He gets a wrong idea and becomes highly attached to it. Won't let it go.
What’s more, when dissenting views did reach the president, the results could be an obstinate digging in of heels. For example, calls for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation from several retired generals in the spring of 2006 elicited this response from Mr. Bush: “No military guy is gonna tell a civilian how to react.” As one aide glumly put it: “The moment someone would say ‘Fire Donald Rumsfeld,’ Donald Rumsfeld would get a new lease on life.”
The best approach to selling the ever-competitive president on an idea, aides told Mr. Draper, was to tell him, “This is going to be a really tough decision.” Mr. Rumsfeld (whose own Big Idea was to “transform” the military and go into Iraq with a lighter, faster force) gave similar advice, telling his lieutenants that if they wanted the president’s support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a “Big New Thing.”
Mr. Draper writes that Mr. Bush was “at root a man who craved purpose — a sense of movement, of consequence” and that he was irresistibly drawn to Big Ideas like bringing democracy to the Middle East, Big Ideas that stood in sharp contrast to the prudent small ball played by his father, who was often accused of lacking the “vision thing.”
"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue," he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, "is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you've got a dangerous situation. ... That's what I mean by strategic thought. I don't know how you learn that. I don't think there's a moment where that happened to me. I really don't. I know you're searching for it. I know it's difficult. I do know—y'know, how do you decide, how do you learn to decide things? When you make up your mind, and you stick by it—I don't know that there's a moment, Robert. I really—You either know how to do it or you don't. I think part of this is it: I ran for reasons. Principled reasons. There were principles by which I will stand on. And when I leave this office I'll stand on them. And therefore you can't get driven by polls. Polls aren't driven by principles. They're driven by the moment. By the nanosecond."
Our political system scares off most of the people who would make good Presidents. We are stuck with the likes of the Bushes and Clintons.
But Judith carries some distinctly un-Laura baggage. Like her husband, she has been married twice before. They also had a secret affair for a year before Mr. Giuliani announced it to the world — and to his second wife, Donna Hanover — at a news conference.
Her relations with Mr. Giuliani’s children by Ms. Hanover are by all accounts deeply strained, despite her efforts at rapprochement. And his son and daughter, ages 21 and 17, have said they do not plan to campaign for their father.
Sharply critical articles, most recently in Vanity Fair, have described Mrs. Giuliani as an imperious striver who shops extravagantly, demands a separate seat on the campaign plane for her Louis Vuitton handbag and has compiled a hit list of campaign aides she wants fired.
He'd have to get the nomination from Christian Republicans. Then he'd have to get some of those Christian Republicans to vote for him in the general election. I guess it depends on who the Democrats nominate. But his kids are down on him. He's married to his third wife who he started an affair with while still married to the second wife. Has America changed so much that he's got any sort of chance?
What he has going for him: He's not intellectual enough to turn off the mainstream voters because he's not that smart. Also, California moved up its primary date. So he might be able to get a bunch of delegates to the Republican convention early on and build momentum. But go on to win when married 3 times and to a woman who is also on her third marriage?
Some people are going to vote for Fred Thompson because he's old enough and seemingly content enough that he won't surprise us by, say, trying to convert the Arabs to democracy and he won't get divorced or have an affair. I'm guessing Romney's going to turn off most fundamentalist Christians due to his Mormonism.
Also, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Or does a third Democrat even have a chance?
Conservative leaders among House Republicans say that President Bush's upcoming showdown with them on immigration could threaten support for the Iraq war as well as for the president's other top policy goals.
"The White House should keep in mind that if they have a direct confrontation with House Republicans on [immigration], it could affect the vote on the Iraq appropriation in September," said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican. "It will not affect me. I intend to stand by the president. But I do think it is something they should keep in mind for other Republicans who are borderline."
King has introduced an enforcement-only immigration bill in the House. He obviously wants no part of Bush's immigration policy and he's probably quite eager to play good cop-bad cop with other House Republicans to pressure Bush to abandon his push for amnesty.
This week President Bush's approval rating took a further tumble from a position that was already below sea level. At 28 percent in a Newsweek poll, it has collapsed to Jimmy Carter's level during the Tehran hostage crisis. Worse, it is now only five points ahead of Richard Nixon's during Watergate.
That's small comfort to Democrats. As they emerged as Bush's crucial allies on immigration, they have shared his unpopularity. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has seen his approval rating fall to 19 percent. The Democrat-controlled Congress has reached levels of unpopularity that it took the GOP more than a decade of scandals to hit.
As Bush has demonstrated on Iraq he doesn't learn from his mistakes. He places far too much emphasis on his personal experience and personal judgment. Since he's not a big book learner and at the same time he wants to think that he understands the world he downplays the importance of empirical studies and trusts his own gut feelings over advice from those far more knowledgeable.
Congress critters need strong reminders that, yes, they should oppose Bush on immigration. Many are thinking this already. Tell them you expect them to vote against amnesty or else you will vote against them and tell all your friends and family to do likewise. Contact your Senators. Then contact your Representative in House and do the same.
Johns Hopkins University political scientists Matthew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg argue in a new book that the American Presidency has become too powerful (and I agree)
Picking up where Crenson and Ginsberg's first co- authored book, Downsizing Democracy, left off, Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced explains the exponential growth of the White House's authority since the second half of the 20th century. Writing for a general audience, they approach their subject as they would a murder mystery, looking at the motives, means, and opportunities leading to the aggrandizement of the commander-in-chief.
How did the world's most powerful democracy wind up delegating so much power and influence to just one person, despite our system of checks and balances? Crenson and Ginsberg point to a convergence of factors, including fractured political parties, a weak Congress and the return of national security issues and foreign policy matters to the center of American politics.
The American people also are responsible for strengthening the executive branch, thanks to waning citizen activism and a general lack of participation in politics. All this fuels presidential candidates who are pathologically ambitious, making the modern approach to electing a president much more cynical and calculated than in the past. Today, the authors say, a president is borne on the shoulders of an inner-circle of handlers and image-makers who fashion the candidate into an electable figure. Gone are the days when the candidate's political party shaped a candidate's character or the groundswell of a popular vote mattered. Crenson and Ginsberg call this "institutionalized ambition."
"Because of the way elections are orchestrated today, we have people running who are 'monsters,' to quote Mike Kelly of the Washington Post," Crenson says. "They spend their whole lives running for office. The party they belong to is irrelevant." Though the George W. Bush administration has capitalized on this situation, Crenson and Ginsberg are quick to note that it didn't create it. Presidential Power traces more than 200 years of political and presidential history, outlining how past presidents were chosen, elected and ultimately exercised their power.
I think the sheer size of the American population causes more power to concentrate in the center. As the population grows the vote of each person coulds for less and less. This breeds apathy. As the federal government cuts into the turn of state and local governments the authority of local leaders declines and this breeds even more apathy.
Look at the Iraq war for an example of too much power to the Presidency. Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq and now has no way to take back that power since it can't muster veto-proof majorities in both houses. So the war becomes ever more unpopular and get the US presence continues.
I see the promotion of national security issues to an exaggerated degree as harmful to the Republic. Not every potential fear amounts to much. Commentators who see dangers everywhere help to make the Presidency even stronger and much stronger than it needs to be.
If we simply kept the Muslims out of the United States our risk of terrorist attacks would decline dramatically. We wouldn't need to spend as much time thinking about threats emanating from the rest of the world. The resulting decline in fear would cause a big redistribution of power away from the center. That would be very healthy for the Republic.
Libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is the most consistent opponent of taxes and most consistent advocate of personal liberty in Congress. This makes him a fringe figure in the mainstream liberal media and the traditional gatekeeper editors in big media organizations If the next US Presidential election was fought on YouTube then Ron Paul wold win.
Then comes "Ron Paul."
The presence of the obscure Republican congressman from Texas on a list that includes terms such as "Sopranos," "Paris Hilton" and "iPhone" is a sign of the online buzz building around the long-shot Republican presidential hopeful -- even as mainstream political pundits have written him off.
Paul is solidly libertarian and yet he's opposed to open borders and wants immigration laws enforced. Tom Tancredo seems too supportive of the Republican status quo outside of immigration. Paul is a refreshing alternative. However, I'd take either of them over any other Republican currently in the 2008 US Presidential race.
Libertarians are probably online far out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. So Paul's popularity online might be a reflection of number of libertarians on the web.
Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
No one's more surprised at this robust Web presence than Paul himself, a self-described "old-school," "pen-and-paper guy" who's serving his 10th congressional term and was the Libertarian Party's nominee for president in 1988.
The proliferation of web logs, social networking sites, and other methods of mass communication usable by the masses weakens the influence of the establishment media organizations. Views which the mainstream could marginalize in the past are harder to shut out today. You don't need to get a degree in journalism, impress gatekeepers in a job interview, and spend years writing at their direction in order to get your views heard.
The lowering of barriers to publication increases competition and serves up talented writers and insightful analysts who in previous eras would have gone unheard. Thought police are less effective. Writers who earn their livelihoods in other occupations can more easily express their views without fear of punishment.
The on-going battle over the Senate immigration amnesty bill S.1348 demonstrates that when a measure is favored by elites and organized in secrecy that the masses can organize to stop it. When the measure is strongly opposed by the majority we can organize electronically and put up a lot of resistance to elite machinations. Elites try to project a sense of inevitability to their plans in order to sew the feeling of defeat and weaken opposition. Online communities need to develop greater feelings of independence from elites. If they reduce their respect to elites they'll become more immune to elite psychological games.
John Derbyshire answers questions on the 2008 Republican Presidential candidates.
DG: In your commentary on National Review Online, you often, at least indirectly, allude favorably to the GOP frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani. What are your thoughts on the mayor? Do you believe he is an acceptable presidential choice for conservatives?
JD: Yes, I like Rudy. He’s an arrogant, ruthless son of a bitch, a power-hungry bully with a mean streak the width of the Asteroid Belt. I like that in a presidential candidate. Ronald Reagan gave me a lifetime’s supply of sappy uplift delivered with actor-school Throaty Voice No. 5. Poppy Bush convinced me that affectless managerialism can do nothing to advance conservative interests. Bill Clinton proved that boomers are scum, as if it needed proving. Bush Jr. I looked forward to as an empty suit with an empty head, but basically sound instincts—patriotic and so on—who would do a lot of nothing, nothing being the thing I most wanted my president to do at that point. Well, see how that worked out. Let’s try the son of a bitch.
I would gladly put up with large doses of sappy uplift if it was delivered by a President who was deeply realistic and pragmatic. Spout platitudes galore while governing with a brutally accurate model of human nature. Placate the people who want to hear happy talk but make decisions based on accurate appraisals of reality.
As for Rudy Giuliani: I suspect he's not smart enough for the job. Also, I don't see compelling signs that he's be all that conservative. Plus, Guiliani's response to Tancredo in a debate suggests he's wrong on immigration:
MR. GIULIANI: No, I’m very uncomfortable with it. I mean, the reality is, it’s one thing to be debating illegal immigration. It’s a very complex subject. I think we’ve had a very good debate about it. And I think the bill needs to be fixed in the way that I’ve indicated. But we shouldn’t be having a debate about legal immigration.
Derb's own position on immigration would serve as a useful litmus test for all Republican Presidential contenders:
DG: Every single GOP presidential contender not named McCain has voiced opposition to McCain’s immigration bill. What sort of immigration legislation would you prefer the GOP candidates to spearhead?
JD: First and foremost, I want a president who will vigorously enforce current laws against illegal entry and visa over-stayers. Then I’d like to see legislation to (A) abolish EOIR —deportation first, due process later, (B) end chain migration—spouse and dependent children only, (C) end birthright citizenship, and (D) set very low numbers, and very high standards, for settlement. We need another 40-year pause, like the one from 1924 to 1965, so we can get some assimilation done.
Of course, even worse than Giuliani on immigration is McCain and Derb sees this clearly:
DG: Which Republican presidential candidate would you LEAST like to see win the nomination? Are there any candidates who would make you consider voting Democratic, or perhaps for a third-party candidate in the general election?
JD: John McCain, just for his blinkered stupidity on immigration. I can’t actually imagine voting Democratic, even in a Gravel-McCain matchup. I can imagine not voting, though, and I can certainly imagine voting for a Third Party candidate. I’m a conservative. The GOP is not really, most of the time, a very conservative party. It’s only that once in a while they will throw a bone to conservatives, while the Dems never will. I feel no strong loyalty to the GOP—a thing that sometimes gets me into trouble at National Review. A real conservative, of proven executive ability and clear principles, running on a Third Party ticket, would get my vote. Alas, no-one comes to mind.
Bring back Eisenhower. He's got the best track record on immigration of any President in the last 60 years at least. Anyone know any magic spells for bringing people back from the dead? Short of magic Tom Tancredo is our best bet on immigration.
The Republicans face one really big problem with the 2008 election: Iraq. If they were wise (which they aren't) they'd let the Democrats force a US withdrawal real soon. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 61% of Americans think the Iraq war was not worth fighting. But any Republican Presidential candidate faces the problem that 37% of mostly Republicans still think the war was a good idea. If a Republican supports continuation of the war and manages to win the Republican party's nomination then that candidate will carry that war support as a burden in the general election.
For the general election the Republicans need a candidate who claims he wants to drastically cut back on troops in order to force the Iraqis to fight their own civil war.
In a nutshell: Republican primary voters are too dumb or ignorant or irrationally loyal to notice they are forcing Republican Presidential candidates to support an unpopular and doomed cause.
Mr. McCain declared in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute that defeat or surrender in Iraq was not acceptable, but he acknowledged that the hour was late and the result remained very much in doubt. He might well have been referring to his own political aspirations, the near-term future of the Republican Party and the historical verdict on George W. Bush’s presidency.
If polling is correct, Mr. McCain and the other Republican presidential candidates may have little choice. Republican primary voters, unlike the rest of the nation, appear to remain supportive of the president and the war, and the generals on the ground are asking for public patience in pursuing the new policy of pouring more troops into Iraq. Backing away from the White House and the war now could prove problematic for any candidate seeking the Republican nomination even if it could prove helpful in the general election.
All those Republican candidates are going to run in the primary supporting a huge mistake that the majority correctly perceives as a mistake. Then when the winner of the Republican nomination faces the Democratic contender in the general election that Republican will be saddled with that record of war support.
The Republican nominee for 2000 will benefit if an original war supporter wins the Democratic Party's nomination in 2008. Someone like Hillary Clinton has baggage of earlier war support. Barack Obama has the advantage of earlier war skepticism. But Obama doesn't seem as weighty and experienced about the world and in the general election people favor greater age and more experience when choosing a US President.
Vanity Fair is running excerpts from Presidential historian Robert Dallek's new book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power. Dallek spent years going over phone transcripts and other now public records of the Nixon Presidency. One excerpt covers the period of the 1973 Yom Kippur war when Syria and Egypt attacked Israel while Nixon was distracted by Watergate.
Although Kissinger spoke to Nixon frequently during these four days, it was usually Kissinger who initiated the calls, kept track of the fighting, and parceled out information as he saw fit. On the night of October 7, according to a telephone transcript, Nixon asked Kissinger if there had been any message from Brezhnev. "Oh, yes, we heard from him," Kissinger replied, volunteering no more. Nixon had to press, asking lamely, "What did he say?"
At 7:55 on the night of October 11, Brent Scowcroft, Haig's replacement as Kissinger's deputy at the N.S.C., called Kissinger to report that the British prime minister, Edward Heath, wanted to speak to the president in the next 30 minutes. According to a telephone transcript, Kissinger replied, "Can we tell them no? When I talked to the President he was loaded." Scowcroft suggested that they describe Nixon as unavailable, but say that the prime minister could speak to Kissinger. "In fact, I would welcome it," Kissinger told Scowcroft.
What is striking is how matter-of-fact Kissinger and Scowcroft were about Nixon's condition, as if it had been nothing out of the ordinary—as if Nixon's drinking to excess was just part of the routine. They showed no concern at having to keep the prime minister of America's principal ally away from the president.
The whole article is very interesting.
If you read the full article pay especial attention to the sections on Vietnam. Note how what Nixon and Kissinger said publically about Vietnam contrasted with their private conservations. Then consider Kissinger's latest statements about Iraq.
"A 'military victory' in the sense of total control over the whole territory, imposed on the entire population, is not possible," Kissinger told The Associated Press in Tokyo, where he received an honorary degree from Waseda University.
The faceless, ubiquitous nature of Iraq's insurgency, as well as the religious divide between Shiite and Sunni rivals, makes negotiating peace more complex, he said.
"It is a more complicated problem," Kissinger said. "The Vietnam War involved states, and you could negotiate with leaders who controlled a defined area."
"I am basically sympathetic to President Bush," he said. "I am partly sympathetic to it because I have seen comparable situations."
Kissinger opposes a pull-out from Iraq even though he has a pretty dim view of the US position in Iraq. But what is he thinking about Iraq in the privacy of his own mind? Does he worry more about saving face for himself over his support for the war or does he think we should stay longer in order to avoid admitting defeat?
I used to think that top leaders surely must have more information and much greater insights than I do about the world. I no longer hold that opinion. It isn't so much that my estimation of my own views has risen but rather that my estimation of the understanding and insights of elected leaders (both American and foreign) has declined.
The trick to understanding the world is to figure out who has the right information. A lot of times the right person to turn to is someone directly doing something out in the world away from the top halls of power. Lawrence Auster points to a Powerline blog post that is supposed to come from an American soldier in Iraq who works in intelligence gathering. This soldier reports that the Iraqi government is so much like the Iraqi Shia militias that they are almost the same thing.
The Iraqi government and security forces are so thoroughly infiltrated by the Shia militias that you could say that the militias are the government and you would not be far off. Iraqi police in Southern Iraq are not in the fight against the militias at all. Top CF targets walk the streets freely in every city. In most cases police stations are manned by JAM members in police uniforms who actively aid the terrorists. On the rare occasion that a Shia terrorist is actually arrested by an ISF unit, he must be turned over to CF immediately or he will be released by the police or courts.
In addition, politicians from the city council to the CoR, if not Maliki himself, make calls and appearances on behalf of the terrorist, often threatening the job (if not the life) of the offending ISF leader with the audacity to actually do his job. Imagine our Congress, and governorships, and police departments staffed with members of the Crips and Bloods. Imagine being a citizen, a victim of or witness to a crime committed by one of these gangs. What would you do? Where would you turn? Ignoring for the moment the systemic corruption, this is the “government” we hope to turn this country over to.
Does Kissinger understand this? How does he really see Iraq? I'd love to sit next to Kissinger at a computer screen and go over in detail some posts by soldiers serving in Iraq (e.g. see this one) and ask him how he thinks we can as a nation gain some benefit from continuing to stay in Iraq. I also wish Nixon wasn't dead so that we could hear from him on Iraq. Would Nixon take the same position of supporting Bush while sort of painting a bleak view of Iraq?
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post goes over a recent Pew poll on George W. Bush approval ratings and finds interesting facts about the decline of approval among elements of the Republican base.
The president's job-approval rating has dropped in every region of the country, level of income, education level, and age group, but the slippage is particularly pronounced among self-identified moderate Republicans. Eighty-one percent of this group gave the president positive marks in December, while just 56 percent did the same in May -- a precipitous 25-point decline that outpaced the 20-point drop (89 percent in December '04, 69 percent now) among Republicans overall.
The numbers are less stark when it comes to President Bush's conservative base, but perhaps even more worrisome for Republicans hoping to hold the House and Senate in the fall. The president's job approval among self-identifying conservatives has slipped from 93 percent in December 2004 to 78 percent in May. But Courtney Kennedy and Michael Dimock, authors of Pew's own analysis, pointed out that the smaller dropoff is somewhat misleading.
"There are far more conservatives than moderates in the GOP; as many as two-thirds of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives," the duo wrote. "Translated into real numbers, just as many conservative Republicans as moderate and liberal Republicans have grown frustrated with the president's leadership over the past year and a half."
As evidence of the erosion in what has long been considered Bush's base, take a look at his job-approval numbers among white evangelical protestants. In December 2004, 77 percent of this voting bloc approved of how the president was handling his job; the numbers was down to just 55 percent in May. Among Southern voters, Bush's job approval has dropped twenty points (56 percent in December 2004, 36 percent in May 2006); among those who attend church weekly or more often it has slipped 17 (58 percent to 41 percent.)
The drop in approval among white evangelical protestants has been greater than the drop among self-identified conservatives. I suspect a substantial portion of the latter support Bush because the liberals are highly critical of Bush.
President George W. Bush's job approval rating is at 37 percent, up 1 percentage point, in a NBC News and the Wall Street Journal poll taken after the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the formation of a new government in Iraq.
The new government in Iraq might be able to bribe some Sunnis into switching into an alliance with the government. It all might depend on how much oil money Ahmad Chalabi makes available for bribery of Sunni tribes. Perhaps Bush ought to send some of Chalabi's old neocon friends to Iraq to try to find ways to get Chalabi to funnel oil money toward bribing Sunnis.
But the president last week decided to keep Iraq on the front pages by convening a meeting of his senior intelligence and military advisers at Camp David and then sneaking out of the presidential retreat for a secret trip to Baghdad. To make sure the press stayed on Iraq, he invited reporters to the Rose Garden to fire questions at him -- all but a few were on the war.
The gambit paid off. A USA Today-Gallup poll taken from June 9 to 11 found that 48 percent of Americans think the U.S. will probably or definitely win the Iraq war, up from 39 percent in April. The poll showed Mr. Bush's approval rating at 38 percent, up from 31 percent in May.
I do not see how his bounce from the Zarqawi killing can last. Where in Iraq can the US military achieve some goal that would provide opportunity for Bush's people to spin it as a great success? Here's a long shot: The Bush White House could build up the images of some other insurgency leaders as the new bad guys. Then those leaders could be hunted down and killed with a benefit in the sphere of domestic US public approval.
A successful terrorist attack in the United States is the only scenario I can see that would substantially reverse Bush's approval ratings. People rally around their leaders when they feel threatened. So Bush would get a really big bounce from a terrorist attack.
The news from Iraq will remain bad overall. If you want to understand what is really happening in Iraq then the transcript of a recent US embassy cable from Baghdad is a great place to start. Also see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq. Given that Iraq's insurgency can't be subdued with a small military force the continuing bad news will eventually make the Zarqawi killing fade in the public's memory (along with Saddam's capture and the killings of Saddam's sons) and the bad news will drive down Bush's approval ratings once again.
El Presidente Jorge W. Bush has become something of an enigma in American politics. However did he manage to become such an unrelentingly bad President of the United States? What motivates him to pursue so many policies harmful to the United States of America? I've made comments here asking why our elites hate us and want to replace us. Noted evolutionary theorist Greg Cochran, responding specifically about Bush, advances some hypotheses to explain the destruction derby that is the Bush Presidency. First he points to one of Bush's quotes for a clue:
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - George W. Bush
Then Greg lists various possible explanations for Bush's otherwise seemingly inexplicable behavior as President:
Maybe Bush is a time traveller who has seen a future where robots created by American industry took over the world and killed off most of humanity. Maybe he's trying to bring US industry down to Latin American levels of creativity and innovation in order to save the human race from extinction.
Maybe Bush wants a dumber society where he can feel superior to a larger fraction of the population.
Maybe Bush thinks he has to ruin US relations with the oil producing countries in order to force us off our dependence on oil for energy. Or maybe he secretly hates Israel and is trying to increase animosity toward the Israelis in the Middle East.
Bush's determination to drive up the national debt, let in massive numbers of low-performing ethnic groups, pursuit of a foreign policy in the Middle East that decreases US national security, and still other obviously bad policies all call out for an explanation. I gotta say on the effort to discredit representative government that he's having considerable success with me. Bush has played a big role in creating a legacy with the pre-schoolers that promises to make the electorate much more stupid in future decades. You might think the people who elected Bush are dumb. Well, future electorates are going to make our current voters look like geniuses in comparison..
Do you have any novel explanations for the Bush Presidency? Is he a poster boy for the brain damage caused by alcohol abuse? Did the devil send him among us to discredit Christians as a bunch of con artists and fools? Or is he just lazy?
With Bush's approval rating plummeting to new lows with Fox (which is the most pro-Bush news network in Americ) putting Bush at 33% approval and CNN reporting at 32% I became curious about how his approval rating compares to other modern era US Presidents. Carter left office with a 34% approval rating and Nixon resigned wiith a 24% approval rating. So Bush is now less popular than Carter was when he left office. See the chart at that link. LBJ left office with 49% approval and the rest of the modern presidents starting with Eisenhower and later left office with more than half the populace approving.
Curiously, Clinton comes in at the top at 65% and Reagan at 64% comes in second place after him. The dot com bubble of the late 90s combined with fairly cheap oil had people feeling happy in spite of the scandals and the impeachment. Bush is dogged by Iraq, expensive gasoline, a middle class feeling more pressured by debt and job fears due to globalization, and his own dogged insistence on alienating his Republican base and quite a few others on immigration.
My question: Can Bush descend all the way down to Nixon levels of approval? I figure he has a chance of getting there for a few reasons:
Bush only needs to drop another 8 or 9 points to get down to the level reached by Richard Milhouse Nixon when he resigned. Can Bush achieve such a low level of approval and such a high level of disapproval? I figure he's up to the task. What do you think?
For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.
On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office -- the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.
Read the full article for the bigger list of ways that the American people have a negative view of the Bush presidency. He can't hit numbers this low without it being a sign that even a substantial number of people in the Republican conservative base are turning against him. Bush is a faux conservative. Wake up Republicans. The article reports Republican support for Bush has dropped from 91% to 78% since the beginning of 2005.
The American people are catching up with me on the character issue.
The survey found that 40 percent now view him as honest and trustworthy -- a 13 percentage point drop in the past 18 months. Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58 percent -- said they have doubts about Bush's honesty, the first time in his presidency that more than half the country has questioned his personal integrity.
We can't trust that man. He's demonstrated this again and again. Can't trust him on immigration, on spending, on racial preferences, on foreign policy, etc. On the bright side thanks to Dubya's performance it'll be a lot harder for a Bush family member to win a future US Presidential election.
Check out this graph "Historical Bush Approval Ratings". The trend is obviously downward. At some point he'll probably hit bottom where a core of dedicated religious and partisan faithful just refuse to see him in a bad light - at least when answering questions put to them by pollsters. I have a hard time seeing how he could recover some of his lost popularity unless he uses Ayatollah Sistani's coming request for the US to pull out of Iraq and decides to point to it as a reason to declare victory and withdraw.