Barack Obama’s Potemkin Bipartisanship

One of the major reasons why Mitt Romney was able to make such rapid inroads against Barack Obama in their first debate, and why poll after poll shows that independent voters have turned decisively against Obama, is that Romney was able to lay bare the hollowness of Obama’s claims to bipartisanship. And given the Obama record of the past four years, there is no reason to believe he will ever learn his lesson.

For a reminder what real bipartisan leadership looks like, recall Bill Clinton. Clinton’s first two years in office were – aside from championing NAFTA and GATT with Republican support and passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a series of lurches to the left, some successful (he added to George H.W. Bush’s tax hikes), some unsuccessful (Congress blocked his proposals for universal health care and a BTU tax), and just a few ending in compromise (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). Voters responded by running Democrats, in a landslide, out of their 40-year House majority, their Senate majority and a bevy of state governorships to boot.

Clinton, ever the survivor, read the writing on the wall. He and GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich (and Senate leader Bob Dole) fought each other hammer and tongs with every weapon in the book and some new ones to boot, but they also did business with each other, cutting deals that garnered Republican votes and a Clinton signature. (Just one Republican legislative priority, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, passed over Clinton’s veto). The voters, seeing that Clinton was steering a course more in line with the Congress they had elected, rewarded Clinton with a second term.

How did he do it? Partly charm and public pressure, of course, but Clinton also did the two most important things in any negotiation: he gave Republicans things they wanted, and didn’t demand Republicans vote for things they couldn’t support. Let’s review several of the accomplishments, large and small, of the the 104th Congress, 1995-96:

-After the bruising 1995 government shutdown, Clinton and the GOP agreed to budgets that restrained spending enough to balance the budget without further tax increases. The spending cuts would leave many conservatives unimpressed, and gushing tax revenues from the boom in technology and free trade would help the budget reach balance (as would a capital gains tax cut signed in Clinton’s second term), but the point is that Republicans got at least some of what they wanted (restraining spending as a percent of GDP from over 22% in Fiscal Year 1992 to 19.6% – under 20% for the first time since the Nixon years – in Fiscal Year 1997) and didn’t have to violate pledges to resist tax hikes.

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 sought to reduce paperwork requirements in federal regulation, a goal that satisfied pro-market conservatives as well as Vice President Gore’s efforts at the time to streamline government operations.

The Helms-Burton Act extended and expanded sanctions on Cuba, a conservative foreign policy priority championed by Jesse Helms.

-The Telecommunications Act of 1996 included broadcast and cable deregulatory provisions; the Act was complex and would remain controversial, but it was a significant piece of legislation that gave something to everyone.

-The Line Item Veto Act, although later struck down by the Supreme Court, was a longstanding conservative priority and part of the Contract with America. Of course, it gave Clinton something too – more presidential power.

-The Contract with America had proposed a Taking Back Our Streets Act anti-crime agenda, reflecting decades of conservative agitation for stronger law enforcement and longer prison terms. Many of its provisions ended up in subsequent enactments including the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which among other things placed new restrictions on abuses of the habeas corpus process, strengthened the federal death penalty, and imposed immigration restrictions on various types of offenders.

The Congressional Review Act, signed by Clinton in March 1996, gave Congress greater power to reject overbearing regulations passed by administrative agencies, again a conservative priority.

-The 1996 “Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2” would offer a variety of efforts at procedural protections for targets of the IRS, always a conservative bugaboo.

-The Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, sponsored by Bill Archer, would – among other things – expand 401(k)s for small businesses and use tax credits to promote adoption. It also included something of value to liberals (an increase in the minimum wage) that conservatives traditionally object to but are willing to treat as a bargaining chip rather than a poison pill.

-The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 accomplished a number of the goals of the failed HillaryCare health insurance proposal, but in more incremental fashion that many Republicans could swallow, such as protecting continuing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions who already have health insurance and then change jobs to an employer with a different plan.

Welfare reform in the form of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, a conservative priority ever since Ronald Reagan’s reforms to California’s welfare system in the early 1970s and a cornerstone of the Contract with America, was passed and signed by Clinton in late August 1996 (during the week between the Republican and Democratic conventions) following a drawn-out battle that had featured two Clinton vetos. It remains the only major example of a federal entitlement program undergoing significant reform.

-The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, a/k/a the Lautenberg Amendment, incorporated a variety of provisions designed to prevent people convicted of crimes of domestic violence from owning guns. Broad-ranging gun control was out of the question for a GOP Congress elected with major NRA support in revolt over the “assault weapons ban,” but a bill narrowly targeted at a class of criminals was able to attract enough Republican support to pass.

-The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 limited liability for charitable donors of food. A small bill, but one that combined two Republican passions: tort reform and private charity.

-The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Clinton on September 21, 1996 with overwhelming bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, gave states protection against being compelled to accept out-of-state same-sex marriages in other states; “Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns.” DOMA was and is, obviously, a social conservative priority.

-The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, signed by Clinton on September 30, 1996, imposed a variety of measures to tighten enforcement of the immigration laws, mainly by strengthening deportation provisions and expanding the ability to deport those convicted of crimes and keep out of the country those already deported. IIRIRA may not have satisfied border hawks, but like a number of Clinton-era initiatives it built bridges between moderates in both parties by targeting a narrow class of criminals.

“The Regulatory Accounting Act, passed in the final weeks of the 104th Congress, requires the executive branch to produce an annual report for Congress estimating the total benefits and costs of all federal regulations.” This, too, was a longstanding conservative reform proposal. Also passing at the end was the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, a Kit Bond-backed bill to ease regulatory burdens on small business, a perennial Republican priority.
Another Contract with America promise, the $500 per child tax credit, would be signed into law by Clinton in 1997.

Whether conservatives got a good deal out of all this, whether they chose wisely in striking each of these deals, and whether these bills worked in practice as promised is a whole separate issue. The point is, there’s a lot on that list that gave conservatives and Republicans things they wanted and had been agitating for over the prior two decades, and nothing on the list that compelled Republican legislators to go home to their constituents having broken any major promise or violated any core principle.

Continue reading Barack Obama’s Potemkin Bipartisanship

The Growth Deficit and Spending Fairy Tales

The United States faces a number of economic and fiscal challenges in the short and long terms. But the single biggest is the Growth Deficit: the problem of government spending and government debt growing faster than the private sector. That deficit needs to be reversed; we are on an unsustainable path unless we start producing a Growth Surplus. And Republicans and conservatives need to put more effort into emphasizing the importance of the Growth Deficit to the public.

The Obama Administration seems to recognize that this is a political vulnerability, as it has lately been spinning the notion that the last few years have not actually grown federal spending. Below the fold, I’ve collected a number of charts that illustrate why this is nonsense. But first, a word on how we should be measuring our solvency.

Continue reading The Growth Deficit and Spending Fairy Tales

Barack Obama Will Not Defeat The Taliban

We have reached an endpoint of sorts in the decade-long Afghanistan War. President Obama will not keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and force them to accept terms of any kind. Have we lost the war? Should we have left years ago, or never gone in? That depends on your view of what we were fighting for and about in the first place.

I. Lowering The Bar

The New York Times summarizes the lowered expectations Obama is pushing to be able to declare a successful withdrawal:

Gone is the much greater expectation that NATO will leave behind a cohesive central government with real influence beyond Kabul and a handful of other population centers. Gone is the assumption that Helmand Province, Kandahar and the rest of the heavily contested south – where the bulk of the 2010 influx of troops was sent – will remain entirely in the control of the central government once that area is transferred to Afghanistan’s fledgling national security forces.
…President Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, described a hoped-for outcome in Afghanistan that was far less ambitious than what American officials once envisioned.
“The goal is to have an Afghanistan again that has a degree of stability such that forces like Al Qaeda and associated groups cannot have safe haven unimpeded, which could threaten the region and threaten U.S. and other interests in the world,” Mr. Donilon said.

Nowhere on this list is the defeat of the Taliban, which – seeing this coming – gave up on peace talks months ago:

While Kandahar and other population centers in the south have seen a decrease in Taliban attacks since the surge forces arrived, insurgent attacks have increased in less populated southern areas, military officials report. The heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program two weeks ago, and reporting on a recent trip to Afghanistan, said the Taliban were gaining ground, something that is bound to accelerate once the NATO troops give way to Afghan-led forces.
“I think we’d both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said, seated next to Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan.

As Dan Spencer noted yesterday, this is a distinct change of tune from 2008, when then-candidate Obama described Afghanistan as “a war that we have to win” and 2009, when President Obama declared:

This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaida would plot to kill more Americans.
So this is not only a war worth fighting; this is a – this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

But despite the President’s bold words, the Administration never did set a clear definition of victory in Afghanistan. Specifically, while the State Department designated the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist group, it resisted requests by even Democratic Senators to designate the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist group, apparently – at the time – due to an unwillingness to foreclose a negotiated resolution that would bring the Taliban back into the political process. This was not a new problem (the State Department had likewise refused to designate the Taliban as a terrorist group during the Bush Administration even in 2001) but at a time when the nation was ramping up its military commitment to the war in Afghanistan, the broader refusal to define an enemy to be defeated (the essential element of any military action) left the war effort directionless and increasingly difficult to justify to a war-weary public. And now, by withdrawing unilaterally without using the leverage of our arms to force a negotiated resolution on favorable terms, we are essentially washing our hands of the fight against the Taliban.

Continue reading Barack Obama Will Not Defeat The Taliban

No B+ For Obama

The New York Daily News under the management of Mort Zuckerman is a fairly reliable weathervane of a particular stripe of moderate, Northeastern Democrat opinion, broadly liberal in inclination but more cold-eyed and hawkish when it comes to crime, national security, and in particular the threat of Islamic extremism to the U.S. and Israel – your basic Ed Koch-type Democrat (this is not an exclusively Jewish phenomenon, although in New York that’s who the leading voices are). Typically, the News gave fawning and totally excessive coverage of every historic move of the historic new historic presidency of Barack Obama during the high watermark of his Administration, from November 2008 through late January 2009; at one point either Obama or his wife was on the front page every day for more than three weeks.

So, it’s significant – in the way moderate-conservative outlets’ turning on George W. Bush between mid-2005 and early 2006 was significant – that the News today has a blisteringly harsh assessment of Obama’s sluggish public response to the attempted destruction of a U.S.-bound flight by a fanatic wearing bomb-laden underwear apparently designed by Al Qaeda bomb-makers in Yemen, especially given the revelation that U.S. intelligence had been warned by the Nigerian bomb-wearer’s father that he was in cahoots with Islamist extremists. The News’ assessment, which was featured with the front page headline “Get a Grip”:

The moment demanded inspiring, decisive presidential leadership.
America waited four days for a glimmer.
President Obama’s initial response Monday was too long in coming, too cool in delivery and too removed from the extreme gravity of the plot….

Before his first remarks on Monday, Obama had left a vacuum, and into that 76-hour empty space rushed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose ineptitude made a mockery of her position and threw millions of fliers into continuing states of confusion.
What the public was left with was a never-to-be-repeated case study in crisis mismanagement. It’s time to get a grip, Mr. President.

Napolitano’s “the system worked” comment is perhaps the perfect symbol of this tone-deaf response, given that this particular attack was essentially thwarted by the passengers, not by the government. This is, of course, in contrast to how swift and vivid Obama’s statements can be when he wants to make partisan hay from the news, as with his same-day statement declaring himself “shocked and outraged” at the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller. The News’ assessment of the substance of Obama’s response is no cheerier:

Obama’s description of Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” was remarkable and disturbing. This radicalized young Nigerian is nothing of the sort. He operated, in fact, as an Al Qaeda-recruited, Al Qaeda-supplied, Al Qaeda-directed foot soldier – as, to put it directly, an enemy combatant, and not as the criminal “suspect” of Obama’s description.
In similarly distant fashion, the President ordered up a “review” of how Abdulmutallab smuggled explosives onto the jet and a “review” of how he slipped through the government’s various terror watch lists despite signals of clear and present danger.

The Telegraph has a more detailed rundown of how the intelligence on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn’t prevent him from boarding the plane with a bomb in his pants, and how Obama’s response continues a disturbing pattern:

There has been a pattern developing with the Obama administration trying to minimise terrorist attacks. We saw it with Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim convert who murdered a US Army recruit in Little Rock, Arkansas in June. We saw it with Major Nidal Malik Hassan, a Muslim with Palestinian roots who slaughtered 13 at Fort Hood, Texas last month. In both cases, there were Yemen connections. Obama began to take the same approach with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

As the News notes, the security problems that led to this attack include laxity at the TSA and a too-easy hand in releasing Gitmo detainees (such as the Yemeni bomb-makers who were released to a Saudi “art therapy” program), both of which have roots in the Bush Administration’s periodic capitulations to political correctness and (in the TSA’s case) the disastrous “leadership” of Norman Mineta. But the News also notes that Obama can’t well avoid responsibility for Bush policies he inherited and chose to expand, rather than repair. He’s particularly put on the spot by liberal California Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s call for a halt to releases of further GTMO detainees to Yemen.
There will be no B+ for this effort.

Bill Ayers’ Revenge: The Left’s Crocodile Tears on Domestic Terrorism

Because they usually lack the organization, training, funding, numbers and suicidal ideology of international terrorists, it can at times be difficult to distinguish domestic terrorists from ordinary psychopaths. But domestic terrorism has been a sporadic presence in the United States since at least radical Kansas abolitionist John Brown in the 1850s, running through the likes of Leon Czolgosz, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Black Panthers, Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, and more recenly Bruce Ivins and John Allen Muhammad. The causes they have killed for have ranged from the noble (Brown) to the nefarious to the outright deranged (Kaczynski), and their inspiration has ranged from the purely domestic to imitations of foreign movements like anarcho-syndicalism or Islamism. This being America, domestic terrorists have almost always done more harm than good to their stated causes.

It appears that Scott Roeder, the man arrested for Sunday’s murder of notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller, would qualify for membership in this group, given press reports that Roeder has a long record of extremism, possession of explosives and profession of belief in killing abortionists. Now, it’s hard to generate much sympathy for Dr. Tiller himself; whatever moral blinders it may be possible for a man to wear regarding early-term abortions, anyone who has seen a sonogram or felt a child kick against its mother’s womb can hardly imagine the cruelty required to repeatedly perform…”terminations”…of such helpless and innocent victims. But as long as we live in a nation of laws made by the people and as long as his conduct is permitted by law, the job of judging men like Dr. Tiller belongs to the Lord alone, and the job of stopping men like him remains with the democratic process and with peaceful protest and persuasion; the way of the domestic terrorist is the way of madness no matter the cause.
Even before anything was known about Roeder, the left side of the blogosphere reacted to Dr. Tiller’s murder as if it was Christmas morning and they just got a pony; I was following the Twitter feed of Markos Moulitsas, the man best known for reacting to the murder of American contractors in Iraq by declaring “screw them,” and he and others were positively vibrating with giddiness about the possibility of using Dr. Tiller’s murder to discredit pro-lifers in general and critics of Dr. Tiller in particular.

Well, unlike the Left, some of us have been against associates of domestic terrorists all along. Most of us would, I think, agree that if Roeder somehow escaped prosecution, we would have serious reservations about supporting politicians who subsequently associated themselves with him in the process of cultivating favor with the Right. But that, of course, is exactly what Barack Obama did with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. And anyone who supported Obama has zero credibility in criticizing anybody for associating with violent domestic extremists.

Continue reading Bill Ayers’ Revenge: The Left’s Crocodile Tears on Domestic Terrorism

Barack Obama Thinks You Can’t Count

[W]hat I’ve proposed, you’ll hear Sen. McCain say, well, he’s proposing a whole bunch of new spending, but actually I’m cutting more than I’m spending so that it will be a net spending cut.

Barack Obama, Second Presidential Debate, October 7, 2008.

OBAMA: …[W]hat I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut. I haven’t made a promise about…
SCHIEFFER: But you’re going to have to cut some of these programs, certainly.

OBAMA: Absolutely. So let me get to that. What I want to emphasize, though, is that I have been a strong proponent of pay-as- you-go. Every dollar that I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.

Barack Obama, Third Presidential Debate, October 15, 2008.

If ever a public policy proposal deserved universal ridicule, it has to be President Obama’s effort to convince the public that [cue Dr. Evil voice] 100 million dollars in spending cuts are a significant dent in federal spending. Since Obama looked the nation in the eye and made that read-my-lips promise of a net spending cut in those two debates, we have sat and watched as he signed into law a colossal $787 billion ‘stimulus’ bill, proposed a $634 billion fund to begin offsetting the projected trillion-dollar cost of his health care plans, and unveiled a $3.6 trillion budget that’s projected to consume 26% of GDP, the biggest share for federal spending since World War II (it hasn’t been above 21% since the last budget before the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994).

Francis Cianfrocca notes the puny relative size of this proposal:

Continue reading Barack Obama Thinks You Can’t Count

It Depends Upon What The Meaning Of The Word “Lobbyist” Is

Jake Tapper notices that Obama’s nominee for US Trade Representative, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, worked as a state and local lobbyist in Dallas; Tapper notes that he’s at least the fifth lobbyist picked for a significant position in the Obama Administration (and that’s before we consider family members like Joe Biden’s son or Tom Daschle’s wife). Here’s the Administration’s defense:

“Ron Kirk has never been a registered federal lobbyist,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told ABC News….”How precisely is it a loophole when we never pledged to bar state lobbyists?” a Democratic official asks.

(Emphasis mine). Hey, isn’t that a tune we have heard before?

Continue reading It Depends Upon What The Meaning Of The Word “Lobbyist” Is

Barack Obama’s Gift To Conservatives

President Obama, like many presidents before him, would like to have it both ways: get broad bipartisan support for his domestic agenda without compromising it. Of course, in the real world, politics doesn’t work that way – you can charm, cajole, browbeat, bribe and blackmail your way to a handful of votes here and there, but unless (like Reagan) you have a substantial faction of the opposition party that is philosophically closer to you than to your critics, or unless (like FDR and LBJ) you have so many votes you don’t need the opposition, you’re going to have to give something to get bipartisan support.

And thus far, especially on the colossal pork barrel masquerading as a “stimulus” bill, Obama has made his decision, or perhaps just allowed Congressional liberals to make it for him: it’s the Democrats’ way or the highway:

As the president, he had told Kyl after the Arizonan raised objections to the notion of a tax credit for people who don’t pay income taxes, Obama told Cantor this morning that “on some of these issues we’re just going to have ideological differences.”
The president added, “I won. So I think on that one, I trump you.”

The results thus far have been predictable:

Continue reading Barack Obama’s Gift To Conservatives

You Should Have Gone To Kentucky, Mr. President

The state of Kentucky has, for the past six days, been under a state of emergency declared by Gov. Steve Beshear last Tuesday in the aftermath of heavy winter storms that knocked out power lines and is being followed by flooding as the snow melts. * On Saturday, the state finally called up the entire Kentucky National Guard, its largest mobilization in its history, and the storms have been blamed for at least 42 deaths across the region. * As many as 700,000 people were without power at one point, including nursing homes and shelters, and hundreds of thousands remain so. Some could be without power for weeks. As of Friday, things were getting worse in some places:

Some local officials are growing angry with what they say is a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In Grayson County, about 80 miles southwest of Louisville, an emergency management official said the 25 National Guardsmen who have responded have no chain saws to clear fallen trees brought down by ice.

More here. FEMA is still in making-excuses mode:

Marty Hudak, spokesman for Obama FEMA director Nancy Ward, said emergency personnel can’t get to the people living (and dying) in these dangerous disaster areas because it’s, well, too dangerous to do so.
“We have plenty of folks ready to go, but there are some limitations with roads closed and icy conditions,” she told the AP.

Where was President Obama? Not in Kentucky, that’s for sure; Obama may have ripped DC residents for being wimps about the snow in a city whose Democrat-dominated government is famously unable to clear snow (while he himself cranks up the White House thermostat – hey, as David Axelrod notes, “He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?…He likes it warm”), but he’s been nowhere to be found in Kentucky. Instead, Sunday night he was having a Super Bowl party to schmooze lawmakers (guest list here). * Of course, Beshear, being a Democrat, has to do what he can to defend Obama, but the best he can come up with in terms of the president’s personal involvement is that he made a phone call to Beshear. * As of this morning, Beshear was still pressing for Obama to declare a major disaster to speed up federal aid. Beshear has been visiting the affected areas, but the president is not at his side.
Obama’s defenders may argue that the new Administration, having only been put in charge of FEMA ten days ago, can’t be expected to renovate the agency overnight. That’s a fair point, even though it overlooks those same defenders’ focus on Mike Brown’s personal performance during Katrina. But the best way to overcome any lassitude on the part of the agency is to get the president publicly out in front of the issue, and the best way to inoculate Obama against political damage is for him to show some personal concern. He doesn’t seem to see it that way.
I noted among my ten lessons from the Bush Administration the importance of the president just physically being there in hard times. Bush’s physical presence was important to New York in September 2001, when he visited Ground Zero three days after the September 11 attacks; his physical absence was felt in New Orleans in September 2005, when he did a floyover two days after Hurricane Katrina hit but didn’t make an appearance on the ground until four days after the hurricane made landfall, by which time his presidency had been permanently damaged.
One of the easiest of all things for Barack Obama to learn from Bush’s successes and failures, then, is the importance of just taking some time out of his schedule to deal with disasters. Even if the crisis at hand right out of the chute is not a huge one, a new chief executive can set a tone for his administration early on by showing how he’s going to do things differently from his predecessor, as Rudy Giuliani did in New York:

Continue reading You Should Have Gone To Kentucky, Mr. President

BASEBALL/ Mixing The Two

There’s a long tradition of your basic ceremonial honors between the White House and the National Pastime, all of which is well and good even during times when you may not like the current occupant of the Oval Office. But really, does the game need to do this?

The Chicago White Sox are aiming to release a President Barack Obama-themed version of their cap in time for the start of spring training.

The club has developed two prototype designs of its club hat with Obama marks on the side and back. The hats have been approved by MLB Properties, and the White Sox now are awaiting a formal blessing from the Obama administration before league licensee New Era goes into production. Both designs will be made if accepted by Obama.

Even for those of us who love baseball and love politics, it’s better to keep the two separate. It’s bad enough that Obama* is being merchandised like he’s the latest George Lucas character (I swear some of the newspapers are only staving off bankruptcy by selling Obama commemorative memorabilia to his fans), and that businesses all over the place seem completely unaware of the fact that 59 million Americans voted against the guy – but to go and stick Obama logos on the hats of an MLB team is going too far. It would have been cheesy for the Rangers to do that for Bush even though he used to own the team; it’s no different with Obama.
* – Kung fu grip not available on all models. Batteries sold separately.

Remembering Paris

The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy peace which is merely an interlude between wars, but a peace which can endure for generations to come.

It is important that we understand both the necessity and the limitations of America’s role in maintaining that peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve the peace, there will be no peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve freedom, there will be no freedom.

But let us clearly understand the new nature of America’s role, as a result of the new policies we have adopted over these past four years.

We shall respect our treaty commitments.

We shall support vigorously the principle that no country has the right to impose its will or rule on another by force.

We shall continue, in this era of negotiation, to work for the limitation of nuclear arms, and to reduce the danger of confrontation between the great powers.

We shall do our share in defending peace and freedom in the world. But we shall expect others to do their share.

The time has passed when America will make every other nation’s conflict our own, or make every other nation’s future our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs.

Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine its own future, we also recognize the responsibility of each nation to secure its own future.

Just as America’s role is indispensable in preserving the world’s peace, so is each nation’s role indispensable in preserving its own peace.
Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to move forward from the beginnings we have made. Let us continue to bring down the walls of hostility which have divided the world for too long, and to build in their place bridges of understanding–so that despite profound differences between systems of government, the people of the world can be friends.

Continue reading Remembering Paris

The Democrats Play To Type

I argued during the general election campaign that the single most scandalously under-covered story of the campaign was Barack Obama’s thorough immersion in machine politics in Chicago. And I confidently predicted, on November 3, that Obama, if elected, would continue to be haunted in office by those and other ties to his Chicago past. But even I didn’t imagine that the continuing saga of Chicago political corruption and Obama’s role as a willing tool of machine politicians would explode so quickly that the Governor of Illinois would be arrested for trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat just five weeks after Election Day. Now, we have Bill Richardson withdrawing from his appointment as Obama’s Secretary of Commerce due to a federal grand jury investigation of pay-to-play practices in his administration in New Mexico. Of course, while the exact nature and timing of the Blagojevich and Richardson scandals came as a surprise, it was inevitable that the foul odor of political corruption – and not just from Chicago – was going to settle over Democrat-controlled Washington. It would have been shocking if it didn’t. Anyone who believed that the election of Obama would mean even the slightest bit of “new politics” was a fool of the highest order; Obama’s constant harping on that theme, given his longstanding willingness to avoid rocking the boat in Chicago and DC, was simply a cynical fraud.
In Blagojevich’s case, the first instinct of various Democrats has been to argue that this has nothing whatsoever to do with Obama. Other than, among other things, the fact that Obama endorsed Blago for re-election in 2006, knowing full well that Blagojevich was up to his eyeballs in corruption probes (go watch Blagojevich’s opponent’s final commercial from that campaign, to say nothing of the extent to which those probes focused on Obama’s and Blago’s mutual close patron Tony Rezko, eventually convicted of corrupting the Blagojevich Administration); while Illinois’ Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, among others, declined to endorse Blago at that point, Obama assured the voters that “We’ve got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois” and told the press that “If the governor asks me to work on his behalf, I’ll be happy to do it.” Then there’s the fact that it was Obama’s own Senate seat for sale, or that one of the apparent prospective buyers was Jesse Jackson Jr., recently seen as the national co-chair of Obama’s campaign. Or that Obama political guru David Axelrod, who got himself in hot water by admitting to contacts between Obama and Blago, is a former adviser to Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel as well as Mayor Daley’s spokesman on corruption issues (a busy job if ever there was one). Or that Emanuel, Obama’s very first staff hire and himself Mayor Daley’s former chief fundraiser, was in close contact with Blago and had taken over Blago’s House seat in 2002 with the help of Blago’s other main patron (at the time), his powerful father-in-law Alderman Dick Mell (Rahm apparently inherited a good bit of Blago’s Congressional staff) and was talking to Blago about arranging another transfer of their House seat to a stooge who would keep it warm (note: this was the seat vacated by Dan Rostenkowski’s federal conviction). Meanwhile, Obama had been pressing initially to give the Senate seat to Valerie Jarrett, another Rezko-linked housing developer who got Michelle Obama her first political job working for Mayor Daley.

The more you spin this stuff out, the more you are forcefully reminded that what was most of all missing from the media’s pre-election reportage was context, the kind of context that makes the disparate threads of this stuff hang together. (See this Michael Barone column for an example of how that works). Look at this NY Times article on Chicago’s dolorous history of political corruption and ask why it could not have run before the election.

Take one of my favorite examples, Obama’s run for Congress in 2000. Follow the chronology (more here and here):

1999: Congressman Bobby Rush challenges Mayor Daley in a primary. Daley’s great fear is a candidate who will unify the African-American vote; Rush, who is black, fails to defeat Daley.

2000: Obama retaliates against Rush by running against Rush in a primary for his seat. Obama loses, and is saddled with large campaign debts after having put surplus campaign expenses on his personal credit card.

2001: Obama, a sitting State Senator with a background as a “civil rights litigator”, gets $8,000 a month to provide unspecified legal advice to Robert Blackwell, a Chicago entrepeneur – more than Obama’s State Senate salary and 81% of Obama’s income from his law practice. Campaign debts get paid off.

2002-04: Obama helps steer $320,000 in earmarked state grants to Blackwell’s company to subsidize ping-pong tournaments.

If you pull together these facts – and I didn’t see a single mainstream media outlet put them all in one place the whole campaign – they present a pretty clear picture of Obama as a cog doing the bidding of the Daley machine, being paid back for his duty and then paying off the backer with public money: old-school Chicago politics that fit in neatly with the similar stories that play out over and over in the careers of Daley, Blagojevich and other Obama allies like Emil Jones. And when you have the context, the actions of Obama and Emanuel over the years regarding Blagojevich are not so easily explained away. Illinois has a corrupt governor, and now possibly a Senator selected by that governor, in part because men like Obama saw nothing wrong with keeping one, as well as because Illinois Democrats refused to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power even after his arrest. Harry Reid’s hilarious effort to avoid seating the man Blago finally chose may be incompetent or simply a charade, but in neither case does it excuse how we came to this pass.

Perhaps the most ridiculous effort to distance liberalism and the Democrats from Blagojevich was penned a few weeks ago by Thomas Frank for the Wall Street Journal. Frank’s column is perhaps the most egregious example of partisan hackery I have seen in recent years, and that’s a field that includes powerful competition; it’s the kind of column filled with things that make you think ‘I know why he would say that, I just don’t know why anyone would believe it.’
First, Frank argued that Blagojevich isn’t really a liberal. The same Blago who jacked up the Illinois minimum wage, making it the highest in the nation. The same Blago who in 2007 proposed a $7.6 billion tax hike package, the largest in Illinois history, to pay for increased education, healthcare and pension spending during a state financial crisis. Blago’s tax hike proposal was so far left it caused an open rift with Mayor Daley, who blasted it as business-unfriendly, and was essentially unanimously rejected by Illinois’ Democrat-controlled legislature. He’s also the same Blagojevich who was involved in a very public and successful shakedown of a major national bank just the day before he was arrested (see here and here), with what sounded (when translated out of typically gaseous Obama-ese) like the tacit support of Obama. Blagojevich may not be far enough left for Thomas Frank’s taste, but if words like ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ have any meaning to the rest of us, Blagojevich certainly qualifies, at least as far as his fiscal and economic policies are concerned.

Frank’s second and even more hilarious contention is that the Blagojevich scandal “interrupts, in spectacular fashion, a long stretch in which most of the Beltway scandal-makers had an “R” after their names.” Now, certainly the Capitol Hill Republicans had more than their fair share of scandals the last four years, for which they have been duly punished, but to suggest that Hill Democrats are a clean-government crowd is just laughable. Without mentioning Frank by name, Kimberley Strassel ran a column in the WSJ a few days later naming a sampling of the Congressional Democrats with serious ethics problems right now – Rangel, Jefferson, Mollohan, Dodd, Guitierrez, Reyes, Kanjorski, Murtha (she missed Tim Mahoney, who got booted over a sex scandal just two years after winning his seat due to a Mark Foley sex scandal that Rahm Emanuel helped keep quiet until a month before Election Day). And that’s just Congress. We at started up a “Corrupt Democrat Watch” last summer, samples here and here, and we eventually had to put it on ice for a while for lack of manpower; the sheer volume of this stuff from Democratic governors, Mayors, state legislatures and city councils is practically a full-time job to follow (we never did get around to a full roundup on corrupt Mayors like Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit of Sheila Dixon of Baltimore or late-breaking news on Birmingham’s Larry Langford). And now, of course, Bill Richardson. The best you can say of Frank’s argument is that most of the recent scandals trumpeted by the media involved Republicans.

In the final analysis, Blago’s style of graft, while heavier-handed than usual, is inseparable from liberalism as a political ideology and the Democratic Party as an institution. Government, by its very nature, involves giving some people power over the liberty and property of others. Because some government is necessary and because human nature is what it is, there will always be some people who abuse that power, and many of those will do so for personal gain. As a result, we will always have some level of scandal on both sides of the aisle. The root of influence peddling, after all, is the influence, not the peddling.

But there are a number of features of liberalism and the Democratic Party that make them especially and uniquely prone to corruption, always have and always will:

Ideology and Power: Contemporary liberal/progressive ideology stresses, at every turn, that government officials should be given an ever-increasing share of public money to control and disperse, and an ever-increasing role in telling people and businesses how they can use the money and property they are left with. Government officials are, we are to believe, better able to make the ‘right’ decisions about who gets what and how businesses are permitted to operate. A lot of this is out-and-out substitution of government for the private sector, but for the most part, rather than an avowedly socialist model (in which the state owns resources and their distribution is directly controlled by the politically powerful), American liberals/progressives since Woodrow Wilson have preferred to run what remains of the private sector through a corporatist model in which Big Government and Big Labor, acting in tandem, purport to get the buy-in of Big Business to ‘responsible’ business regulation. In practice, no matter which system is used, it ends up being a short step from believing you have the right and wisdom to direct other people’s property to more deserving recipients and better uses to believing that you are one of the more deserving recipients, and a short trip from telling business how to do its business to telling it who to do business with based on the desire to reward yourself and your friends. The root of money in politics, after all, is politics in money.

Accountability: Republicans, as a rule, get elected by promising to be more faithful stewards of public money (Republicans promise to leave people alone, and it’s hard to bribe a man with his own money), and so naturally they tend to get un-elected when they fail to deliver that. Also, even in high-watermarks of Republican power like the 2002-06 period, there are a lot fewer long-term one-party GOP strongholds than there are Democratic ones. By contrast, Democrats who get elected by promising to give people free stuff with other people’s money are a lot harder to hold accountable simply because they gave some of it to different people. If you look at a list of Republicans felled by scandal in the past decade, few of them would have lost their jobs if they’d been Democrats.

Urban Machine Politics: It’s always been true of American (and not only American) politics that big-city governments are bigger, more intrusive and more corrupt, and it’s also always been true that Democrats have, at any given time, long-term headlocks on the great majority of such governments. Machines of that nature are not so much ideological as they are coalitions of self-interest in which political power and political favor are inseparable. Michelle Obama grew up in such a machine – her father worked a coveted City job and worked for the Democratic ward – and it was only natural when she went to work herself for Mayor Daley, and from then on served as a conduit of favors between her career, her husband’s career and the Daley machine. It’s no accident that the list of corrupt Democrats is usually dominated by big-city politicians who are insulated from challenge to their job security. And of course, the best way to get such insulation, as machine politicians since Tammany Hall have known, is to run on ethnic/racial solidarity, since it’s easier to stay Irish (or black, or whatever) than it is to stay honest or competent at your job. Regardless of what the Democratic party’s brain may want at any given time, its body is an organism composed of political favor-trading with other people’s money.

All of which is why Blagojevich and Richardson should not in any way be seen as an anomaly, any more than Charlie Rangel (the political successor of Adam Clayton Powell, who the House unsuccessfully tried to expel for corruption) and Chris Dodd (whose father was censured by the Senate on ethics grounds) are anomalies among Congressional Democrats. These two scandals at the outset of Obama’s term (as well as those held over from Clinton Administration scandals) are not the end of scandal under Obama, or even the beginning of the end; they are, as Churchill would say, only the end of the beginning.

Obama Administration Survival Guide

The nation awakens today to a grim day (although less grim than it might have been, as the late Senate races come in and the prognosis for a decent-sized GOP resistance looks much better). But America has endured worse. Here’s 12 ways I recommend that conservatives and Republicans prepare to face the next four years under President Obama (yeah, get used to that one):

(1) Oppose Obama, Not America: The absolute wrong way to react to life in the minority is … well, what we saw from too many people on the Left the past 8 years: calling everyone from the President on down to individual soldiers and Marines war criminals, parroting the propaganda of our enemies, exposing classified national security secrets on the front pages of the newspapers, and generally doing whatever possible to stymie the national defense and convince the nation and the world that America is the bad guy. We’re better than that. When Obama fails to act to defend America and its interests and allies, or violates the basic common-sense principles of national security and foreign policy, we will of course be unsparing in our criticism. But we should not emulate the Left; indeed, the day may even come when Obama needs defending from the Left for doing what needs to be done, and we certainly want to encourage him to take actions that provoke that reaction.

(2) No Chicken-Hawking: This is a corollary of #1: given his shaky draft history, Bill Clinton at times appeared afraid of criticism over deploying the military on grounds that he didn’t serve. We should never make Obama feel that he should blanch at defending the nation simply because he never wore the uniform (fortunately, on that score, Obama’s defining personality trait is hubris). We’ve had civilian leadership before, we’ll have it again.

(3) Don’t Question The Verdict: Was there voter fraud in yesterday’s election? Were there other shenanigans both legal and illegal? I’m sure there were, and others who follow those stories will no doubt be expanding on them in the weeks to come. Chronicling specific instances of misconduct is an important service – to expose the miscreants and their connections to the Obama campaign, to punish and deter and provide a basis for someday preventing a recurrence (although don’t expect the Obama era to see anything but massive resistance to taking even the most tepid steps against voter fraud). And likewise, of course, there is still plenty more to be examined in Obama’s fundraising, to say nothing of the untruths he told to get elected and the really shameful behavior of the media.
But fundamentally, he got more votes where it mattered and he won the race. Supporters of Gore and Kerry who refused to accept those realities in 2000 and 2004 ended up doing a lot of lasting damage to public confidence in our electoral system. The step of challenging the results of an election is a grave one not to be taken without serious evidence. Let’s not repeat their mistakes with conspiracy theories.

(4) Don’t Blame The Voters: Yes, it’s tempting to go off into the place where Democrats were fuming about “Jesusland” four years ago. And yes, Obama got a lot of votes for bad reasons or from vacuous people. Hey, there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and in America, and a fair number of them vote – they vote when we win, they vote when we lose. Winston Churchill was a great believer in democracy as the least-worst system of government, but he’s also the guy who once said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

For all that, it’s counterproductive to lose faith in the collective wisdom of the American voting public over the long term. Even when the public makes a mistake, it usually has a reason – and while electing Obama will be clearly shown over time to have been a mistake, the GOP also has some serious introspection to do about how we let things come to the point of giving the public a reason to do what it did. And we need to retain faith that rebuilding our party around the principles that have succeeded in the past, and adapting those principles for the world of the next decade, will win them back.

(5) Don’t Get Mad, Get Even: Yes, it’s a cliche, but unfocused rage goes bad places. There’s a lot of work to do to prepare the ground for the GOP to come back as it did in 1994, 1980, and 1966-68. The Left drew first blood on the Bush second term only a few weeks after the election, with the Bernard Kerik nomination. We’ll have a target-rich environment to work with as the kind of urban machine politics the Democrats have made famous comes to the White House, and we’ll have fun doing it.

(6) We Play For 2010, Not 2012: I’ll be writing up shortly my early thoughts about the GOP presidential field in 2012, and plenty of others will too. Do it, get it out of your system, come to the aid of the people who will make up future presidential fields, but whatever you do, don’t get into primary-season, my-gal/guy-or-the-highway mode again until we are through the 2010 elections. There will be a need in the party’s future for Palin and Jindal and Sanford and Huck and Mitt and all the rest; we’re all in this together.

(7) Prioritize: More on this later, but Obama and the Congressional Democrats are going to have a long list of issues they want to press, and we can’t stop all of them. The GOP needs to divide issues into four buckets:

a. Things we are prepared to go to the mat to stop

b. Things we want to force the Democrats to commit themselves to so we can take the dispute to the voters

c. Things, however modest, we actually think we can accomplish even with the Democrats in power

d. Things we want to propose as positive agenda items even knowing they’ll go nowhere, to lay out our own roadmap for the future.

(8) Watch Your Budget: We’re all going to have to prepare for tougher economic times, plus the burden of Obama’s tax hikes. Don’t overextend your own finances.

(9) Grow A Thick Hide and Get Your Taxes in Order: Joe Wurtzelbacher won’t be the last Obama critic to feel the weight of government intrusion for standing up to Obama. David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz won’t be the last conservative journalists to have their investigations stonewalled and campaigns organized to drive them off the radio. And get used to being called a racist, as everyone who gets in Obama’s way is, sooner or later. Understand now that you will need to stomach all that and more, and you won’t get rattled.

(10) Buy More Life Insurance: Well, at least if, like me, you live or work in a city that’s a top terrorist target, and have roots too deep to leave. Our risk tolerance will have to go up.

(11) Pray: Well, this one speaks for itself. Pray especially for the unborn.

(12) Get On Living: Life is short and there’s more to it than politics. We’ll need committed activists, and as a whole our movement will need to be relentless – but thinking about politics too much is unhealthy, especially when you have a long wait ahead for any progress. For my part, starting tomorrow I’ll be back to doing more baseball blogging. Take a break whenever you need one, spend more time with your family. And teach your kids that every minute of life is worth it even when the world seems to have gone mad. Many generations before us have done so in tougher times than these.

Never Question Obama

Don’t answer that door!

You will find no better illustration of the hazards of simply asking a question Barack Obama doesn’t want to answer than the frenzy on the part of Obama’s campaign and his allies in the media and the Left blogs to attack Joe the Plumber. The amazing thing is, this isn’t a guy who was set up by one of the campaigns to tell a sob story that had to be checked. Obama was going door to door, he met this guy who was playing football in his yard *. Joe said he’d like to be more successful and buy his own business, and asked Obama why that meant he should have to pay higher taxes, and Obama gave his now-infamous answer that “I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” John McCain responded by retelling that story in the debate to illustrate Obama’s instincts for redistribution, and both candidates ended up using Joe as an example of how their various plans would affect small businesspeople.

But fearful of the damage caused by Obama’s answer, the Obama camp and its surrogates have gone on the attack against this ordinary citizen from Toldeo:

Continue reading Never Question Obama

Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Extremists

Chapter three of seven.

B. The Extremists

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our setereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling constraints. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

But this strategy alone couldn’t provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.

Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, describing his choice of friends as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, which he attended for two years. He also wrote about “socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union” after transferring to Columbia, and “went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and Black Power fame, speak at Columbia.” Carmichael, of course, was a famous Sixties radical, a subject that apparently interested Obama as early as his college years.

If Obama was going to pursue his dreams of political activism, he wasn’t going to follow the route of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in relying on his roots to his home town, nor did he have John McCain’s advantage of a famous war record. He was going to need a political base that would accept an outsider, and needed to bring something to the table. And this is how he built one. The groundwork for Obama’s entree into Chicago politics was laid through networking in the very same radical chic circles he described in the passage above. There’s not adequate space here to revisit in full the left-wing radicalism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Fr. Michael Pfleger, the New Party, Alice Palmer, Rashid Khalidi, Khalid al-Mansour, and others in Obama’s circle, but the thumbnail sketches and links below should clue you in to the common theme – Obama carefully cultivated an image as a friend of Sixties radicals, race-baiters, Marxists and worse. Maybe this was due to the same romantic impulse of his college years and maybe it was craven political opportunism, but the record shows how firmly he ingratiated himself with these people, with the result that he gets endorsements to this day from avowed Communists. * Even as a presidential candidate, Obama is willing to lend his appearance and good name to the operations of wholly disreputable far-left figures like Al Sharpton. *

Yet while Obama was adept at showing one face to the hard left, he and the organizations he worked with were also acutely aware of the need to present a more respectable face to the broader community, as the Woods Fund noted in a report on its grant to ACORN (more on which below):

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public’s eye. The Woods Fund’s claim to be “nonideological,” it says, has “enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government ‘establishments’ without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship.”

Continue reading Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Extremists

Obama and the Integrity Gap: ACORN

Chapter four of seven.


The left-wing group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national umbrella group of, well, community organizers, sits at the intersection of Obama’s ties to extremists and his ties to machine politics. ACORN is indisputably Sixties-style “New Left” in its orientation, pursuing what Sol Stern describes as an agenda of “undisguised authoritarian socialism.” The group has both money and foot soldiers, as it “uses banking regulations to pressure financial institutions into massive ‘donations’ that it uses to finance supposedly non-partisan voter turn-out drives.” See here for a more thorough description of the mischief ACORN plays in forcing banks to make subprime loans. And:

In one of the first book-length scholarly studies of ACORN, Organizing Urban America, Rutgers University political scientist Heidi Swarts describes this group… as “oppositional outlaws.” Swarts, a strong supporter of ACORN, has no qualms about stating that its members think of themselves as “militants unafraid to confront the powers that be.” “This identity as a uniquely militant organization,” says Swarts, “is reinforced by contentious action.” ACORN protesters will break into private offices, show up at a banker’s home to intimidate his family, or pour protesters into bank lobbies to scare away customers, all in an effort to force a lowering of credit standards for poor and minority customers. According to Swarts, long-term ACORN organizers “tend to see the organization as a solitary vanguard of principled leftists…the only truly radical community organization.”

Continue reading Obama and the Integrity Gap: ACORN

Not The ACORN He Knew

I’ll cover this in more detail in a few days in Part II of my series on the Integrity Gap between the two tickets, but as the evidence mounts* of the involvement of the left-wing community organizer group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in extensive voter fraud across multiple states, Barack Obama has tried to minimize his involvement with ACORN and the critical role it played in his rise in the world of the Chicago political machine.
Obama’s “Fight the Smears” campaign website denies any ties to ACORN other than his representation of the group in a 1995 lawsuit:

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN community organizer.

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN trainer and never worked for ACORN in any other capacity.

Fact: ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration drive Barack ran in 1992.

As the Cleveland Leader points out, this is flatly contradicted by an article written by ACORN head Toni Foulkes, which was conveniently removed from the internet (a common practice in the drive to scrub all evidence of Obama’s career prior to 2004) after it was quoted by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review and other sources, while the rest of the articles on the same site remain up:

Continue reading Not The ACORN He Knew

Factual Accuracy and McSame Syndrome

We stand today deep into the silly season of the 2008 presidential election; most of us have our dander up, and naturally some Obama partisans like Josh Marshall and Joe Klein have floated off on clouds of rhetorical overkill in an effort to push the idea that their opponent is somehow running an unusually dishonest campaign. Even aside from the partisanship, you have to be pretty willfully ignorant of history to think the 2008 race is at all exceptional in this regard, other than perhaps the degree of personal villification of one of the vice presidential candidates in a very short period of time. Now, personally I’m not as cynical as Jay Cost or Ross Douthat as far as saying “everybody does it, so what?,” but…well, I look at the accuracy of claims made in advertisements, speeches, etc. under three general categories:

(1) Is it literally true? Does it say anything factually false?
(2) Is it essentially true? Does it say something about the candidate or his/her opponent that is consistent with the point being made?
(3) Is it the whole truth, without any arguably important context or nuance omitted?

One of the reasons I enjoy writing longer-form blog essays is the freedom to drill down to all the relevant context and explain a point even in light of all the facts, all the context, all the nuance. But in the real world of short-attention-span politics, with its 30-second ads and soundbites, we have to accept that #3 is a hurdle that even the best-faith politicians frequently fail, and where politicians who do try to give the full context can end up losing their audience or tying themselves in “I voted for it before I voted against it” verbal knots.
That said, you do need to be able to defend a claim on both ground #1 and #2. If a claim is literally true but conveys a totally false image, you are basically in the Bill Clinton “it depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is” position; if it is intended to convey something people believe but rests on fabricated facts, that’s the Dan Rather “fake but accurate” defense. Either position is ultimately indefensible.
Let’s look at two main examples of recent controversies and how they measure up, as well as examining what I refer to as “McSame Syndrome.”

Continue reading Factual Accuracy and McSame Syndrome