Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 29, 2008
POLITICS: O-Fomercial

Jonathan Last on Obama's informercial: "Never before have I noticed how wonderful commercials are. It's not until you're forced to go without the Geico cavemen for 30 straight minutes do you realize how much you appreciate them."

For those of you, like me, with no desire to watch the thing, sit back and watch the master at work in the same 30-minute ad format - here he is on the October 27 before Election Day 1964, then a 53-year-old private citizen standing in to make the case his party's presidential nominee had been trying and failing for months to get across to the American public, the "A Time For Choosing" speech:

The text of the speech is here, and while the precise challenges of the present day have changed, so many of the principles Reagan talked about then (especially the segment on the soft, slow slide towards socialism starting around 18:20) is still vital to today's election.

Notice three things. One, this predates the happy-warrior Reagan - he's tough and uncompromising. Two, you won't get lost in a fog of generalities - Reagan was pithy and philosophical, but as always he also came loaded for bear with statistics and specifics to back up his points. And three, I had seen clips of that speech before but this is the first one that showed the crowd.

It's instructive to compare Reagan's stark choices to Obama's "Closing Argument" speech on Monday in Ohio. There's a bunch of interesting and telling tropes in that speech, but just to touch on two of them - the speech may as well have been entitled "A Time For Not Choosing," because a core theme speech was the idea that hard tradeoffs are, in fact, not really tradeoffs at all:

We don't have to choose between allowing our financial system to collapse and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street banks.
The choice in this election isn't between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It's about whether you believe we should only reward wealth, or whether we should also reward the work and workers who create it....
When it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or allowing every job to disappear overseas. ...
When it comes to health care, we don't have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one we have now. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is that we will lower premiums....
When it comes to giving every child a world-class education so they can compete in this global economy for the jobs of the 21st century, the choice is not between more money and more reform - because our schools need both....
And when it comes to keeping this country safe, we don't have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq....

Both Reagan and Obama do a play on the "this is not right vs. left" argument, but Reagan argued that "left" is really "down" to a socialist future, while "right" means America's traditional liberties:

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down--up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

Obama, by contrast, does the same thing - but while Reagan insisted, into the teeth of an electoral disaster, that his ideas could stand the test of history, Obama uses the "no left, no right" meme to disguise his Great Society big-government liberalism behind an updated version of Michael Dukakis' "competence, not ideology" slogan:

Understand, if we want get through this crisis, we need to get beyond the old ideological debates and divides between left and right. We don't need bigger government or smaller government. We need a better government - a more competent government - a government that upholds the values we hold in common as Americans.

Not exactly the words of a man confident that he can openly proclaim a "progressive" ideology and survive. To the very end, Obama will refuse to admit what it is that he is selling. A time for choosing, indeed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

We don't need a bigger government; government can't do it all.....and so forth.

Obama's hypocracy, his absolute refusal to own up to what he has in mind for the country, reminds me of a similar series of quotes from long ago, from another guy in the process of gaining power over the citizenry. Namely, a quote from April 25, 1959, from Fidel Castro: New York on April 25 he said, communist "influence is nothing. I don't agree with communism. We are democracy. We are against all kinds of dictators.... That is why we oppose communism."

What Obama wants is power over our lives, and it fair breaks my heart that Americans are so willing to give him that power.

Posted by: dd at October 30, 2008 12:07 PM

Pssst, dd. Sarah Palin wants the government to control women's reproductive rights.

Posted by: Berto at October 30, 2008 1:34 PM

Yes, it's a well-known fact that Republicans are the pro-choice party, and the Democrats the anti-choice party, except when it comes to the deliberate taking of a human life.

I can live with that.

Posted by: Crank at October 30, 2008 1:40 PM

It's sweet the way you call it "reproductive rights" rather than something more descriptive, such as taking unborn lives.

Think as I might, I can't ever remember a woman announcing, "I've elected to exercise my reproductive rights--and it's a boy!" No, they always use the same hackneyed phrase: "I'm going to have a baby." Or words to that effect.

Posted by: Dai Alanye at October 30, 2008 2:53 PM

Sarah Palin wants the government to control women's reproductive rights.

If you're going to make an argument through a pithy statement, it's helpful if you have the capacity to get across the appropriate point.

Being Pro-life has nothing to do with a belief that the government has control over a woman's reproductive rights. A woman is free to reproduce (or not) as much as she pleases. Pro-life is a decision based upon the belief that the unborn child deserves a voice as well. Painting it as control over reproductive rights is so intellectually deceitful.

I've remained Pro-Choice under restrictive circumstances such as 1) abortions not being allowed after the fetus is considered viable outside the womb*; 2) abortions are not used as common forms of birth control; 3) abortions are allowed in the case of rape or incest; 4) abortions are allowed at any point during the pregnancy if the woman's life is at risk.

*I may be off by a week or two, but a fetus becomes a viable life -- able to sustain and grow outside of the womb -- after approximately the 24th or 25th week. In my opinion, once the life becomes scientifically viable, there should absolutely be someone fighting for the life of the child. That's when I switch to 'Pro-Life'. To me, it's the only sensible and human position to take. Furthermore, as science advances the viability of life outside the womb will draw closer and closer to conception, making the idea of 'Pro-choice' an absolutely abysmal position to take, unless under the most dire of circumstances (rape, incest, life of the mother).

Posted by: Agent W at October 30, 2008 2:55 PM

Liberal reasoning 101-allowing people to decide issues, like abortion, either by debating/voting directly or thru their elected representatives is dictatorial and evil. Unelected judges creating rights that do not exist in the Constitution, that just so happen to be the same as their own personal policy choices, is progressive, open minded and not problematic.

Also the word choice only means what liberals choose, if you have a different view you are an intolerant neanderthal.

Posted by: dch at October 30, 2008 4:01 PM

It might also be mentioned that limiting access to abortions is hardly a stealth objective of the Republican Party. It's right out there in front for all to see. And, one might add, they have been popular building support for their position over the years.

Personally I am and have been of two minds concerning the abortion issues. I hate the idea of abortion; I also hate governmental coercion. My best hope would be for both parties to devise opposing constitutional amendments, then let the public debate the matter, vote, and live with the result. I am sick to death of hearing of the matter.

Posted by: dd at October 30, 2008 4:07 PM

Letting the citizens decide for themselves..........what a bizarre concept.

Posted by: dch at October 30, 2008 4:11 PM

Great Reagan Clip -- Considering the GOP stands in about the same spot now as it did when he gave that speech, its fitting. Can anyone say with a straight face that the party of George W Bush and Tom Delay that recklessly squandered our nations wealth and prestige over the last eight year's shared anything in common with vision RR describes on this tape?

And one other point -- has social security EVER been solvent?

Posted by: Patrick at October 30, 2008 10:02 PM

Can anyone say with a straight face that the party of George W Bush and Tom Delay that recklessly squandered our nations wealth and prestige over the last eight year's shared anything in common with vision RR describes on this tape?

I don't think you'll get any argument about that from true conservatives or, as I prefer to be recognized, classical liberals.

I've mentioned before how many have suggested that the beatings the Republicans took at the polls in 2006 and appear to be in line to take this year were a public repudiation of the conservative ideology. I disagree completely and still see this country as a center-right country. What the beatings at the polls were about was a repudiation of the Republican parties ability to execute conservative philosophy.

I was hoping this would force the Republican party to rethink their positions and where they had gone astray. Along those lines, I was hoping conservatives (and the blogosphere, etc...) would push for a change back to the party of Ronald Reagan. Alas, I fear that many of these people are taking the wrong tack and are now suggesting a 'rightroots' style response, whereby they circle the wagons much like the nuts at DKos and HuffPo.

It's a rather sad time for those of us who are classical liberals.

Posted by: Agent W at October 30, 2008 10:33 PM

1. The rightroots activism effort is needed regardless of what direction the party takes. And in fact, as Ruffini has noted, it can be an antidote to an establishment that's not responsive to conservative principles.

2. It's not really fair to blame the GOP for not changing enough after 2006. Bush got a little tougher on spending, but he's still Bush; spending is his weakest area. In Congress, we no longer had power to set the agenda. In the presidential race we faced an uphill political climate and were limited to the candidates in the field. It simply wasn't possible to do much else in the time provided. Whereas the next two years, regardless of who wins the presidential election, the Right will be working very hard to regenerate itself around the next generation of leaders and ideas.

Posted by: The Crank at October 30, 2008 11:16 PM

1. The rightroots activism effort is needed regardless of what direction the party takes. And in fact, as Ruffini has noted, it can be an antidote to an establishment that's not responsive to conservative principles.

I disagree, to an extent. Much like the left, the rightroots activist movement is taking to defining what conservativism is and tends to consist of more, as Jeff Goldstein mentions, 'wagon circlers'.

Nowhere do they take on the reality that one of the way to win elections and take back this country is through again, as Goldstein notes, "the key to “conservatives” winning elections is championing classical liberalism, a project that includes learning how to take back language, how to thwart identity politics and muticulturalism, and how to steer debates back toward the primacy of the individual, the plurality of choice, and the idea of natural rights that are not subject to state interference."

The netroots movement, while creating a strong Democratic following, only served to take the party further left (away from it's true roots), and really is made up nothing more than mindless 'Democrats right, Republicans wrong' types.

Honestly, that's exactly the WRONG kind of movement that a true classical liberal would prefer. One of the main reasons why is that we're not beholden to a party. If the Democrats suddenly had an honest, and noticeable, shift back towards classical liberalism, I'd vote Democrat in a heartbeat. It's not about the moniker, but about the ideology.

Creating a rightroots movement seems to lose that type of focus and I, for one, don't agree it's the proper approach.

Posted by: Agent W at October 31, 2008 6:02 AM

Agent W, there won't be any kind of rightroots without classical liberals. I'm pretty sure you can't make a successful coalition of only pro-lifers and fiscal conservatives. In fact, that coalition already exists and it's driving us off the cliff.

I don't know if I would trust Democreats who suddenly started talking about individual rights. It would take a generation of demonstrating that commitment before I trusted the party of Rahm Emmanuel and "greater good" Obama.

Posted by: spongeworthy at October 31, 2008 10:04 AM

In fact, that coalition already exists and it's driving us off the cliff.

I agree but the same could have been said about the netroots movement. They were driving their party off a cliff and continued to push the party and ideology further to the left. Yet, they lucked into an election that's rewarding their misguided ideas.

In reading Ruffini and others, I don't get the sense that there are classical liberals among them. As Moran mentioned about Ruffini's musings, "Ruffini seems to be saying that he wants bloggers who will shill for the cause. "

Classical liberals will not 'shill for the cause'. That's not what we're about and it was the purpose of my "I'd vote for a Democrat if..." statement.

Posted by: Agent W at October 31, 2008 4:03 PM
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