Archive for January, 2012
When I heard that two self-described conservatives had weighed in on the merits of the Obama administration, I eagerly anticipated reading the articles and commenting here. Ultimately I was disappointed. First, let me explain “self-described conservatives”. If my conservative readers are any judge, neither Andrew Sullivan nor David Frum are true blue conservatives. Sullivan, a newly minted American citizen hailing from the United Kingdom, and gay, abandoned the Republican party quite conspicuously some years ago, while claiming his conservative bona fides were as strong as ever. Frum had the audacity to suggest that the GOP needed to be more inclusive and lose the crazy if it wanted to survive: blasphemy to the hard-core. For coloring outside the lines, both men have been called RINO’s by their critics. Still, since the two men took opposite sides on the Obama debate, I wanted to see what they had to say.
Sullivan: A Love Letter to Obama
In his Newsweek cover story, Andrew Sullivan comes out of the chute, risking any claim to objective analysis by declaring himself an unabashed fan of Barack Obama. We try to ignore that and look at the claims:
- In 2010, we stopped shedding jobs and since then have gained 2.4 million more jobs, more than were added net in 8 years of Bush. The bleeding stopped concurrent with the stimulus. This is fine enough but Sullivan makes no effort to convince us of the cause-effect relationship of the stimulus to the job gains.
- Government employment has declined 2.6% since 2009. So much for growth of government under Obama. No argument there.
- The stimulus did not reduce unemployment to 8% in year 1 because the damage to the economy was underestimated. True though that may be, is it anything to campaign on? An integral part of solving a problem is properly defining the problem. That’s a failure no matter how you cut it.
- Sullivan writes: “Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms.” It’s hard to believe Sullivan is making reference to Obama’s budgets. It’s been over 900 days since we’ve had a budget.
- The core of Obamacare is the mandate, originally modeled by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Far from a government system, it funnels customers right into the private health insurance industry. Plus, as Sullivan points out, what could be more conservative than not allowing uninsured people to get a free ride in the ER?
After reading Sullivan’s defense of Obama’s domestic record, it’s clear that it’s a mixed bag. The great irony is that the prime objective of his GOP opponents is “to kill Obamacare” which has its roots in Nixonian politics and is not even close to a leftist solution.
Sullivan then moves onto foreign policy. Here, Obama’s opponents have to really stretch to find fault.
- Obama got bin Laden with a method contrary to the advice of the VP and Sec of State. Given the choice of just bombing the site or going in with the Seals, Obama chose the latter and could verify that we did indeed get bin Laden. The Republican spin of course is that Obama owes it all to Bush. While still disputed, let’s concede that information gathered during the Bush years eventually led to bin Laden’s capture. The fact remains that Bush openly admitted that he no longer gave bin Laden any thought. Finding and killing public enemy #1 was not a priority. Obama did it, and rightly said during the recent State of the Union that for the first time in 20 years we are no longer under the threat of Osama bin Laden.
- Sullivan points out that the “lead from behind” strategy in Libya is an improvement on the cowboy reputation we had pre-Obama. He neglects to add it is the smarter way to do business in a tough economy. Sullivan also rightly points out the wisdom of our handling of the Iran uprising in 2009. Had we engaged in covert or overt action to overthrow Ahmadinejad, the revolt would have been tied to the United States and would not have been seen as a freedom movement sparked from within. Contrast that with the overthrows in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya which were clearly seen as revolts from within.
- Sullivan closed with the observation that liberal dissatisfaction with Obama is unwarranted based on the fact that ” Politifact recently noted that of 508 specific promises, a third had been fulfilled and only two have not had some action taken on them.”
I found Sullivan’s defense somewhat soft overall. Even though his article cited hard facts, it was buoyed with some emotional flights of fancy including his main premise that Obama plays a long game and that we are too stupid to look beyond short gains. That impressed me as little more than wishful thinking.
Sadly, David Frum’s rebuttal was even worse.
David Frum’s Response to Sullivan: A Non-response
About one week after Sullivan’s article, David Frum wrote a response. Frum opens thusly:
Andrew Sullivan had good sport last week shooting fish in a barrel, rebutting the most unfair, the most intemperate, and the most flat-out crazy of the criticisms of President Obama. Now let’s move to the real debate.
In other words, Frum basically says, “I agree with everything Sullivan wrote and I’m going to write about something else entirely.” That, my friends, is not a response to Sullivan’s article. Now that the whole reason for writing the piece has been abandoned, let’s get under the hood of Frum’s analysis.
- Frum starts by bemoaning the rise in Social Security disability claims in the past three years. But he fails to tie this trend to Obama specifically, or to any particular Obama policy. In fact, he basically concedes it is a consequence of a deep recession. So why did he go there in the first place?
- Pointing to government expansion, Frum says, “In fact, hiring is up across the federal government, by 15 percent since 2007.” When you include the last two years of the Bush administration, you don’t prove anything about the Obama administration. I prefer to believe Sullivan’s numbers.
- Frum discusses the folly of public work projects which increase dependency on government for hiring. My confusion with this argument is that construction workers don’t work for the government. They work for whatever company won the bid to do the government work. Then Frum contradicts himself by criticizing the stimulus: “People argue over the size of the president’s fiscal stimulus, but the real problem was its shape. Only about one dollar in eight out of the nearly $800 billion stimulus was devoted to the most effective form of anti-recession spending: infrastructure.” But wait a minute, I thought infrastructure jobs increased dependence on the government as an employer? David, make up your mind.
- Then Frum takes his foreign policy shot: “During the campaign of 2008, Obama vowed a much bigger commitment to Afghanistan. He kept his promise. And what does the U.S. have to show for its redoubled war there? Precious little, if anything at all.By contrast, in Iraq the administration does have something to show for its efforts, including more oil production than at any time in the past 20 years, with more to come in the months ahead. Here the policy of almost total U.S. withdrawal threatens to destabilize all that has been accomplished, admittedly at severe cost.” Frum neglects to point out that Obama was basically cornered into committing more troops to Afghanistan than he wanted. He also neglects to admit that the war there is going poorly not because of Obama but because of insurmountable cultural issues. On Iraq, he accidentally gives credence to the blood for oil motive for war that many Iraq war opponents have always suspected. Then he conveniently omits the fact that Obama is abiding by Bush’s timetable. And most sadly, Frum seems in denial that Iraq is a no-win situation. We put in place a corrupt government incapable of running the place this year, next year, or any time in the future. Is Frum calling for endless occupation?
It’s hard to understand why Frum wrote the article in the first place since he fails to address Andrew Sullivan’s points and then fails to convincingly tie Barack Obama to any of the deficiencies he outlines.
Interestingly, the better critique of Sullivan’s article on an anti-Obama note comes from Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, a blazing liberal. Cenk cites the lack of boldness in Obamacare, the preservation of Bush-era civil liberties violations and Obama’s total failure to change the atmosphere of Washington, D.C. , specifically where campaign finance is concerned.
More than anything, I think the two articles on Obama by Sullivan and Frum demonstrate how difficult it is to pin down Obama as a huge success or an abject failure. Obama has the unenviable task in November of proving a negative … “without me, things would have been much worse.” How do you prove a thing like that? The result is that Obama will have to convince the American people that, with his Republican opponent, things will definitely be a lot worse.
Photo credit: Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project
I was browsing the web site of the Los Angeles Times yesterday when I stumbled upon an article about former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky expressing condolences to the family of just deceased head coach Joe Paterno. Really? What responsible newspaper thinks anyone should give a flying fig what Jerry Sandusky thinks about anything? Jerry Sandusky is a serial child rapist (ahem, allegedly). He deserves a total media blackout until his ass is put in prison where it belongs.
As for the man he was mourning, Joe Paterno might be a worse “sinner” than Sandusky. At least in Sandusky’s case you can blame it on a mental illness, a sick compulsion. What do we blame for Paterno’s behavior? A man in full possession of his faculties, with enough power and influence to put an immediate stop to the sexual shenanigans that went on at Penn State and he did next to nothing. So, the Los Angeles Times thinks it’s a good idea to publish an article about a child rapist (ahem, allegedly) expressing sympathy for an appeaser of evil and essentially his partner in crime.
I am neither a religious man nor a gambler but I’d wager that Joe and Jerry will meet again someday and it won’t be in heaven.
When the news came down today that the Iowa caucus results announced earlier this month were bogus, Republicans across the country were outraged. Tallies from eight precincts are hopelessly lost. Santorum is as of today, the winner of the caucus but we’ll really never know who won.
George Will said, “This is a travesty of justice!”
Erick Erickson cried, “Voter fraud such as this cannot stand!”
Andrew Breitbart exclaimed, “It’s a Catholic conspiracy against the Mormons!”
Rush Limbaugh belched, “This, my friends, is just another nail in the coffin of a free America, hammered in by socialist saboteurs.”
Well, actually none of those quotes are real. I made them all up. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be a single Republican upset that the Iowa caucus resembled an election in a banana republic or perhaps Afghanistan or Iraq. No outrage or finger-pointing. Just an “oh well, maybe Santorum really won, maybe he didn’t.”
Remember this in November when the GOP screams voter fraud upon Obama’s reelection.
I am making history today by offering a limited endorsement. This endorsement only extends to the South Carolina primary but make no mistake, this endorsement is sincere.
This Saturday I am urging all primary voters in South Carolina to vote for …
Yes, you read that right. Earlier this week, comedian Stephen Colbert made the point that he could not get on the presidential ballot in South Carolina even if he wanted to. Deadlines have long since passed. But he made the equally valid point that Herman Cain, despite dropping out of the race, cannot get off the ballot. So with a wink and a nod, Colbert suggested that a vote for Cain is a vote for Colbert.
I am fully with Colbert on this one. It’s time we made South Carolina a true protest vote. A vote for Cain/Colbert is a statement that:
- We are tired of this clown car masquerading as serious contenders for the presidency and
- We are disgusted with what the Citizens United decision has wrought, where money equals speech and corporate and lobbyist interests now have the biggest voice.
Using his, wups, I mean Jon Stewart’s Super PAC money, Colbert has launched several ads in South Carolina to get his point across including the Cain as Colbert vote initiative.
Citizens of South Carolina, go out on Saturday and vote for Herman Cain knowing that a vote for Cain is a vote for Colbert and a vote for Colbert is a vote to stop the insanity!
Bain: The Great Equalizer
I just finished watching the thirty minute smear piece against Mitt Romney produced by Newt Gingrich’s SuperPAC. Don’t lecture me about how this isn’t Newt’s SuperPAC. We all know better and I’ll focus more on this “joke” later in the article. The glorified campaign ad “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” is fairly well destroyed by a fact check done by the Washington Post. Still, the film leaves me with two conclusions. First, Mitt Romney was a very successful leader of a company. Mitt Romney was hardly a job creator. So henceforth in the campaign instead of saying he created thousands of jobs, Mitt ought to simply say he ran a very successful enterprise and can bring that successful executive leadership to our country. Don’t mention any other companies like Staples which can be countered with examples like Ampad. Simply stick to Bain — “I ran Bain and we did damn well!”
The second conclusion I came to was that Bain, or perhaps capitalism itself, is the great equalizer. All but one of the “common folk” interviewed in the smear job was white. “When you’ve only got two gifts for your kids [at Christmas] that hurts,” says one woman who lost her job supposedly because of Bain. Mmm, how many blacks can identify with that? I’d guess a helluva lot. Another woman talked about her ten kids, two of whom are still minors who need financially stable parents. I’ve read too many conservatives tell black women in the same bind “keep your thighs together and maybe you wouldn’t have so many kids, welfare queen.” Depending on your perspective, the tragedy or the beauty of full-blown capitalism is it knows no racial or ethnic boundaries. All capitalism knows is winners and losers, the powerful and the powerless. The fact is, white or black, if you don’t sit in the corner office, you’re vulnerable. Survival of the company and share holder value is paramount. I can’t help but believe that some, not all, but some of the folks in “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” thought their whiteness insulated them and protected their comfy middle class existence. It made the rude awakening of their actual corporate insignificance all the more shocking.
Our pastors tell us we are all equal before the Lord. When it comes to capitalism run amok, we in the 99% are all equal too and none of us are safe. That’s the real lesson behind the “King of Bain” campaign film. Yet, in the words of Romney, I’ll bet you “a thousand bucks” that these folks, despite what they’ve been through, given the choice between Mitt and Barack will pull the lever for Romney. What’s the matter with Kansas indeed.
The Big SuperPAC Joke
Four years ago, comedian Stephen Colbert tried to get on the presidential ballot in South Carolina and failed. Well he’s at it again this year but an intervening event has added an extra sharpness to his stunt, namely the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. For the past few months, Colbert has been collecting money into his own SuperPAC. This Thursday night, before announcing an exploratory committee into running for “President of the United States of South Carolina”, Colbert brought on his attorney to discuss what to do with his PAC. Since the law states that you cannot fund a campaign out of your own PAC, Colbert had to find someone else to run his. He chose … Jon Stewart. For the remainder of the sketch on The Colbert Report, Stephen and Jon discussed how they would not have any communication between them regarding the conduct of this PAC as law dictates.
Behind all the silliness was a great primer on the total BS of campaign funding rules as perverted by the Citizens United decision. We all know that the folks who launched the devastating ad campaign against Newt Gingrich in Iowa with no funding limits, were associates of Mitt Romney. Similarly we know that the folks who launched “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” are cronies of Gingrich. Both claim to be independent SuperPACS. We know it ‘s a lie. If we don’t cut through the noise, weigh the facts carefully and vote our conscience in November; if we let these SuperPAC ad campaigns overly influence us, then the big SuperPAC joke will be on us.
Killing Scientists, Really?
This week an Iranian scientist was murdered on his way to work. He had been working on Iran’s nuclear program. He was the fourth scientist to be killed in recent times. The last time I looked, scientists were not soldiers. They are not terrorists. They are not criminals. They are gainfully employed working in what is purported to be a peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy capability. No one has claimed responsibility for this murder. The leading suspects are the United States’ CIA and Israel’s Mossad. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has gone on record advocating these murders. All I can say is I sincerely hope the United States has nothing to do with this.
If scientists need to be killed to stop nuclear proliferation, then I suppose Einstein and Oppenheimer should have been killed long ago.
Pissing on the Enemy
Apparently four United States Marines didn’t get the memo about Abu Ghraib. Four of them are seen in a video urinating on dead members of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has condemned the behavior. But this gets me to thinking anew about why we need a draft. First, of course, with a draft the war in Afghanistan would be over by now because more parents of dead soldiers and soldiers at risk would be demanding an end to it. However I think it goes further than that. Three types of people volunteer to go to war:
- True patriots
- Folks who for whatever reason are not making it in American civilian society
- Sociopaths and thrill-seekers with blood-lust
I would hope the military is fairly good at screening out the third category but I’m not so sure. I’m damn sure they don’t spend much time screening out the second category. With a draft untainted by corruption the percent of folks in the military who should not be there should reflect the same types of folks in society in general. In other words, as a gross mathematical example, if 30% of Americans are true patriots then a fair draft will pull in about 30% patriots. With a volunteer army you don’t get that representative sampling that a draft encourages. I submit with a volunteer army you get more societal rejects and psychos.
Think about it. With Osama bin Laden dead, and the war in Afghanistan pretty much a waste of time and money, who would volunteer to go there now? You would either have to be blindly patriotic or have some less than ideal agenda. I know it is sacrilege to speak ill of our military, of our brave young men and women. But there is nothing brave about pissing on your enemy’s corpse. We should never forget the lessons of Abu Ghraib. War is dirty and a cross-section of the folks we are sending to fight it are not particularly clean either.
A few weeks ago, no one expected Rick Santorum to come in second in the Iowa Presidential Caucus. Therefore the speech he gave that night was less a concession speech and more a victory speech. And that is as it should be. Santorum pulled off quite an upset. I’ve been prepared to hate Santorum for quite some time given the only thing I really knew about him was his record of homophobia. Yet I must admit that the Santorum that I saw last Tuesday night was a down-to-Earth, sincere guy. I’m even almost willing to forgive him his attitudes about homosexuality because I don’t think they come from hate. I think they come from sincere Christian-based beliefs. The reference he made to his grandfather who made a life for the Santorum family in America, fleeing from Mussolini’s Italy was quite moving.
Later in his speech, Rick mentioned his youngest daughter who suffers from Edwards Syndrome, a severe genetic disorder. His daughter has already defied the odds relative to expected life span. Most children with Edwards Syndrome die within the first year of life. As I thought more about this, my mind flashed back to 2008.
In 2008, the Sarah Palin haters leveled valid and totally invalid claims against her. One of the invalid claims was how could a woman with a special needs child (in Sarah’s case, a child with Downs Syndrome) be on the campaign trail or even want the demanding job of President when she had that child to take care of? The charge, of course, was ridiculous on its face. As long as parents make arrangements for the proper care of their children, it’s nobody’s business if they choose to pursue a career, no matter how demanding. Still, this was a major bullet in the arsenal of the anti-Sarah faction.
So, in 2012 I wonder to myself where is all the outrage about Rick Santorum pursuing the Presidency when he has a special needs child at home who needs attention? The knee jerk answer is that his wife, Karen, is currently a full-time homemaker taking care of their daughter. Isn’t it interesting that no one asked why Todd Palin couldn’t stay home to tend to his disabled child? The responsibility was immediately assumed to be Sarah’s.
For all the gains the women’s movement has made, the old attitudes still linger. Even with many families having two income earners, the woman is still assumed to bear the main responsibility of child rearing, especially for young children. Where Rick Santorum doesn’t get a second look for running an all-consuming campaign, Sarah Palin got smacked for supposedly abandoning her maternal duties.
You may have come a long way baby, but you’ve got a long way to go.