Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Madness of 2008



By Victor Davis Hanson
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

America is suddenly angry at the laxity, incompetence, and polarizing politics of the Obama administration, the bad optics of the president putting about in his bright golf clothes while the world burns. Certainly, no recent president has failed on so many fronts — honesty, transparency, truthfulness, the economy, foreign policy, the duties of the commander-in-chief, executive responsibilities, and spiritual leadership.

For those who are “shocked” at the present meltdown, of a magnitude not seen since the annus horribilis of 1979, in their defense: Obama certainly did not campaign on a new health-care plan that would force Americans to give up the doctors they liked and their existing coverage, while raising premiums and deductibles, while giving exemptions for insiders and cronies, and while raising the deficit.

Nor did we hear on the campaign trail that Obama would push gay marriage, open borders, near-permanent zero interest rates, six consecutive $1 trillion deficits, and record food-stamp and Social Security disability payouts. He criticized Bush for relatively minor executive orders, suggesting that he would never rule by fiat — as he since has done in matters of Obamacare, immigration law, and environmental regulations. Remember the promise of ending the revolving door and stopping aides from cashing in — and then follow the post-administration careers of Obama’s closest advisers.

Obama promised to halve the deficit — not run up more red ink than almost all prior presidents combined. Indeed, he once as a senator voted against raising the debt limit and blasted Bush for borrowing from China. He once sermonized to us that the presidency is serious stuff, that it entails inordinate personal sacrifice and even a virtual absence of downtime and vacation — and then he became just the sort of president he was critiquing. But those deceptions were simply politics as usual, and it was logical for the hard leftist Barack Obama to try to appear to be a moderate, given that no Northern liberal had won the presidency in the half-century since John F. Kennedy.

The antidote to the great madness of 2008 would have been, instead of focusing on what Obama claimed or hedged, simply to recall what he had done before he ran for president and to notice what he did during the campaign. Had America done that, there would never have been a President Obama to surprise us now.

The racial animosity characterized by Obama’s editorializing about Skip Gates, Trayvon Martin, and, now, the Ferguson, Mo., hysteria, or his call to Latinos to “punish our enemies,” or the tenure of Eric Holder is simply a continuation of 2008’s “typical white person,” the clingers speech, Michelle Obama’s America as “just downright mean,” “They raise the bar,” and “For the first time . . . I’m really proud of my country” commentaries, and of Obama’s earlier boast that he never missed services at the Trinity Church of the hate-mongering and anti-Semitic Reverend Jeremiah Wright. If Obama had not proved to be a racial divider, we should have been surprised — given what we learned of his past in 2008. After all, it’s from Jeremiah Wright that Barack Obama got the title for his campaign brief, “The Audacity of Hope.”

We are now shocked at the current spate of alphabetic scandals — IRS, AP, NSA, VA. But why are we surprised, given that Obama never told the truth about his relationships with the old terrorist Bill Ayers and former PLO ad hoc spokesman Rashid Khalidi, or about the creepy land deal with the crook Tony Rezko? If the Obama White House demonized the Tea Party as tea-baggers, or compared the Republican House opposition to terrorists and arsonists, why should we be astonished, given how he was elected to the U.S. Senate? Quite mysteriously, his primary opponent, Blair Hull, and his general-election opponent, Jack Ryan, both of whom were favored to win, had their confidential divorce records leaked. Their campaigns subsequently imploded.   

Obama has played fast and loose with ethical rules, from promoting crony capitalists to attending near-constant fundraisers among the pay-to-play 0.0001 percent. Again, why should we be surprised, given that he was the first presidential candidate who refused in a general election to accept federal campaign financing, with its accompanying rules curbing mega-fundraising? Obama was the largest recipient of Goldman Sachs donations in the company’s history, and raised more cash in 2008 and 2012 than any other presidential candidate in history.

We are terrified of the chaos that is spreading across the world: Egypt, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Putin’s Russia, and the Chinese–Japanese tensions. But was there any evidence in 2008 that rookie senator Obama had any foreign-policy experience or even knowledge of the world beyond Chicago, other than as a boy in Indonesia or a teen on a jaunt with buddies to Pakistan? We knew in 2008 that his opportunistic trashing of Guant├ínamo, renditions, tribunals, drones, and preventive detention was permitted only by the fact that the Bush–Cheney protocols he was criticizing had prevented another 9/11-like attack — and thus gave him the leeway of easy second-guessing. If we are now worried about Obama’s equivocation, there was plenty of evidence, as Hillary Clinton pointed out in 2008, that Obama as a state legislator had voted “Present” as a matter of habit.

Polarization? Partisanship? The National Journal warned us in 2008 that Obama was the most partisan of the 100 U.S. senators. Did we assume that he would revert to something that he never had been?

Critics are angry that Obama seems disengaged, or that as a man of the people he is inordinately obsessed with golf, a sport that the Left used to despise as a fixation of the rich in their lime-green pants and bright pink polo shirts. But again, can we point to any landmark legislation that Obama accomplished as a state legislator or U.S. senator? Was not Obama golfing during the 2008 campaign?

Then there is the matter of the presidential untruths. The problem is not just that Barack Obama says things that are untrue but that he lies about what Barack Obama has said. He brags that he set red lines, but then he says it was the U.N. had set red lines. He boasts of pulling out every U.S. soldier from Iraq but then alleges that President Bush, the Iraqis, or Maliki did that. He claims that ISIS are Jayvees but then claims they are serious. But his prevarication too is habitual and was known in 2008 when it was discovered that he had simply misled the nation about his relationships with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. He had no desire, in the transparent manner of John Kerry, Al Gore, John McCain, or George W. Bush, to release his medical records or college transcripts. If Americans find their president ill-informed, there was no record that he was informed in 2008. His gaffes were far more frequent than those of Sarah Palin, who knew there were 50 states.

Historians will look back at 2008 as a time when the country became more or less collectively unhinged. There was an accompanying perfect storm of sorts: He was the first serious African-American candidate, whom condescending liberals like Harry Reid and Joe Biden heralded for being clean, light-skinned, and without a black patois; he was running in an orphaned election without an incumbent vice president or president on the other side’s ticket, a situation not seen since 1952; we had an unpopular lame-duck president and the Iraq war; the sudden financial meltdown in September 2008 caused a then-behind Obama to immediately surge ahead; the McCain campaign was lackluster; and the media became an advocate of the Obama effort.

Pundits vied for superlatives. On little evidence, Christopher Buckley assured us that Obama possessed “a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect.” For some, proof of Obama’s godhead became almost physical — a “perfectly creased pant” for David Brooks, a tingling leg for Chris Matthews. For Evan Thomas he was a “sort of God”; for one blue-chip historian he was the smartest man with the highest IQ ever running for the presidency. And on and on, as huge crowds acted as if they were watching Paul McCartney on tour in 1966. After the election, there was real apprehension that the country might not make it for the two and a half months until an elected Obama could take power.

Given that there was no evidence from Obama’s legislative career to justify such superlatives, we can only assume that our intellectual elites got caught up in the faux Greek columns, the Obama tutorials for fainting crowds about proper first aid, the teleprompted emphatics of “Let me be perfectly clear” and “Make no mistake about it,” the Latinate motto “Vero possumus” on the faux presidential seal on his campaign podiums, the boast that Obama & Co. were “the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the messianic promise to cool the planet and lower the seas, the Lincoln self-comparisons, and the other embarrassing childish banalities.

Obama, it is true, ran a brilliant campaign in 2008, hinting to the Other that as a non-white he shared both their racial bona fides and their frustrations, hinting to white elites that his own unique heritage would end racial hostilities and thus allow them to square the circle of living largely separate elite lives and not having to feel guilty about it. He dropped his g’s and went into Southern cadences among African Americans, and then back again into wonkish academese to mainstream whites. It was well known that in impromptu talks he stuttered and stumbled with uh’s in deer-in-the-headlights fashion, and used the pronouns I, me, my, and mine ad nauseam, but such unease was ignored given his teleprompted eloquence and the considerable elite investment in his symbolism.

In sum, in 2008 Obama gave America more than enough evidence to doubt that he was ready for the presidency, but when a nation becomes unhinged by trivialities like “hope and change,” there is not much one can do — until the patient wakes up from his trance and in embarrassment asks, “What exactly was all that nuttiness in 2008 about?”

We will be fathoming that strange madness of 2008 for decades to come.

The Republican Racist Myth


By Mona Charen
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The unsinkable Charles B. Rangel appeared on C-SPAN over the weekend. Why unsinkable? Well, the House of Representatives censured the New York Democrat in 2010 by a vote of 333 to 79 (when the body was still majority Democrat) for violating 11 ethics rules and "bringing discredit to the House." The New York Times called it a "staggering fall" for the senior Democrat. But fall-schmall, he's since been reelected and will retire at his leisure.

While chatting with Brian Lamb, Rangel dropped a few falsehoods as casually as cigar ash. This isn't to pick on Rangel. He's just illustrative. His assertion -- that the Republican and Democratic Parties "changed sides" in the 1960s on civil rights, with white racists leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republicans -- has become conventional wisdom. It's utterly false and should be rebutted at every opportunity.

It's true that a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, shepherded the 1964 Civil Rights Act to passage. But who voted for it? Eighty percent of Republicans in the House voted aye as against 61 percent of Democrats. In the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans favored the law, but only 69 percent of Democrats. Among the Democrats voting nay were Albert Gore Sr., Robert Byrd and J. William Fulbright.

The Republican presidential candidate in 1964 also opposed the Civil Rights Act. Barry Goldwater had been an enthusiastic backer of the 1957 and 1960 civil rights acts (both overwhelmingly opposed by Democrats). He was a founding member of the Arizona chapter of the NAACP. He hired many blacks in his family business and pushed to desegregate the Arizona National Guard. He had a good-faith objection to some features of the 1964 act, which he regarded as unconstitutional.

Goldwater was no racist. The same cannot be said of Fulbright, on whom Bill Clinton bestowed the Medal of Freedom. Fulbright was one of the 19 senators who signed the "Southern Manifesto" defending segregation.

OK, but didn't all the old segregationist senators leave the Democratic Party and become Republicans after 1964? No, just one did: Strom Thurmond. The rest remained in the Democratic Party -- including former Klansman Robert Byrd, who became president pro tempore of the Senate.

Former racists of both parties renounced their old views (as Kevin Williamson points out, Johnson himself voted against anti-lynching laws and poll-tax repeals), and neither party has a perfect record on racial matters by any stretch. But it is a libel to suggest that the Republican Party, the anti-slavery party, the party of Lincoln, and the party that traditionally supported civil rights, anti-lynching laws and integration, became the racist party after 1964.

The "solid south" Democratic voting pattern began to break down not in the 1960s in response to civil rights, but in the 1950s in response to economic development and the Cold War. (Black voters in the north, who had been reliable Republicans, began to abandon the GOP in response to the New Deal, encouraged by activists like Robert Vann to "turn Lincoln's picture to the wall. That debt has been paid in full.") In the 1940s, the GOP garnered only about 25 percent of southern votes.

The big break came with Dwight Eisenhower's victories. Significant percentages of white southerners voted for Ike, though the Democratic Party remained firmly segregationist and though Eisenhower backed two civil rights bills and enforced the Brown decision by federalizing the National Guard. They also began to send GOP representatives to the House.

These Republican gains came not from the most rural and "Deep South" regions, but rather from the newer cities and suburbs. If the new southern Republican voters were white racists, one would have expected that Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia would have been the first to turn. Instead, as Gerard Alexander notes in "The Myth of the Racist Republicans," the turn toward the GOP began in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Florida. Eisenhower did best in the peripheral states. Alexander concludes: "(T)he GOP's southern electorate was not rural, nativist, less educated, afraid of change, or concentrated in the ... Deep South. It was disproportionately suburban, middle-class, educated, young, non-native southern, and concentrated in the growth points that were the least 'Southern' parts of the south."

Rangel is peddling a libel, and Republicans should say so, loudly and often.

Dear Millennials: Hollywood, Your Favorite Bands, and Your College Professors Have Been Lying To You About Life



By John Hawkins
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I feel sorry for Millennials. We are leaving them an almost insurmountable debt, an American Dream that seems tarnished, and chances are, they're not going to have it as good as their parents.

However, we've done something even worse to these kids. We've left far too much of their education in life to Hollywood, musicians, and college professors who've passed on a skewed view of the world. Not only have most of these kids never been told the truth about how the world works, they've been told that anyone who even tries to tell them the truth should be immediately tuned out because they're boring, mean and "uncool."

Unfortunately for them, reality doesn't care about boring, mean or "uncool." It just keeps rolling on like a threshing machine, cutting anyone who ignores it to pieces.

With that in mind, do you REALLY want to know why America has been so prosperous? Want to know why we're a superpower?

It's because of Judeo-Christian values, Western culture, a Puritan work ethic, patriotism, capitalism, small government, adherence to the Constitution, and a capability and willingness to use our military to decimate enemies of our country.

None of those things are being celebrated in songs by Lady Gaga, movies by James Cameron, or in women's studies courses at American colleges.

Do you want to know who has made America successful?

Ninety eight percent of the businesses, inventions, and great ideas that made America a cultural, economic, and military superpower came from old dead white guys of the sort who are sneered at on college campuses as bigoted, awful relics of bygone eras. That's ironic if you think about it because without those men the colleges where they're being sneered at wouldn't exist.

So much of our country is like that.

The only reason we have so much money to "redistribute" is because we spent so long devoted to capitalism. The only reason we feel so comfortable mocking Christianity is that we think a culture shaped by Christian morals will hold together anyway. We're become so confident that our culture will remain steeped in patriotism and Western values that we've come to believe we can allow an unlimited number of foreigners who don't share those values to enter our country illegally without changing anything.

Confidence is a good thing, but when it's coupled with a people who stop doing the things that make them successful, it becomes hubris.

We've forgotten that rich people and corporations can move out of the country, that people will change their behavior when it no longer benefits them, that no matter what our race, color, or creed, we all suffer if our culture becomes a corrupt sewer and that many great nations have been laid low when they stopped doing the things that made them successful. We've forgotten that we're one nation in a competitive world, full of other countries that yearn to see us trampled in the dust so they can have their day in the sun. We've forgotten that we're competing with workers in India, corporations from Britain, and with resource-hogging governments like China and Russia -- and guess what? They're all hungrier than we are because life has already taught them the hard way that you don't get participation trophies just for showing up.

We've forgotten not only how our country became successful, but the people who are making it successful.

We're successful because a lot of steady, responsible people do boring jobs that have to be done. It's the man who works 40 hours in his first job and another 20 hours a week at a part-time job so he can pay the bills for his wife and kids. It's the stay-at-home mom with spit-up on her blouse who has been on her feet for hours cleaning and taking care of the kids. It's the small businessman who worked 70 hours a week for peanuts over the last decade to get his business to the point where he can have people complain that he's not paying enough in taxes. It's the single mother who gives up partying every night to make sure her child is taken care of like he should be. It's the pastor who says something from the pulpit that will be controversial, but that his flock needs to hear. It's the cop who sweats through a half dozen encounters with drunk, drugged, and potentially violent creeps each night because he cares about keeping a neighborhood safe. It's a soldier sleeping in a tent far from home because he's doing his part to keep the peace. It's the couple who feels like they've achieved the American dream because they got married, bought a house, had two kids, and are putting enough money in their 401k to retire someday.

Those people don't get the respect they deserve because they're more concerned with doing their jobs, paying their bills, and making sure their kids get every advantage possible rather than yelling about "the patriarchy" or protesting the "oppression" of people who are asked to take a drug test to get their welfare benefits. No one is making any reality shows about people like them and if they do make it onto the silver screen, the Christian is a jerk, the dad is a buffoon, mom is a crabby Stepford wife, the southerner is a toothless redneck, the cop is crooked, the soldier is a mindless drone, the businessman is screwing everyone for profit and they're all living bland, oppressive lives waiting for some pampered pretty person to show up and teach them the error of their ways.

Hollywood, academia, and popular culture champion a world where snark has replaced wisdom, marriage isn't considered a lifetime commitment, where there's spirituality without God, where it's better to be silent than to risk offending someone, where people don't understand that everything is a trade-off, and where the more happy, successful and well-adjusted you are, the more likely it must be that you screwed someone else over to get that way.

Contrary to what you may hear from Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, and your college professors, life is not about how many times you get laid, how much marijuana you smoke, and embracing trendy causes to impress your friends.

It's about working 10 times harder than you thought you'd have to in order to get half as far. It's about struggling through your twenties and working like a dog in your thirties to start to accumulate some money in your forties. It's about trying to find a decent house in a nice neighborhood near a good school for your family. It's about taking more satisfaction in buying a gift for someone else than getting something for yourself. It's saying a prayer for a friend or family member who’s about to have an operation. It's about doing the right thing, not getting recognized for it and being fine with that because it was always about doing the right thing for you.

If that sounds frightening or depressing because it doesn't involve partying, getting blackout drunk and having sweaty sex in the alley behind a bar every few months, it's not. You can take a lot of pride in earning your keep, paying your own way, and doing your part to take care of yourself, your family and your country. It's also the sort of quiet lifestyle most successful Americans actually live as opposed to the funhouse mirror image of reality that's glorified in our popular culture.

One day, Millennials are likely to have a burden put on their shoulders almost as big as the ones the Greatest Generation carried, but they won't have the faith, the work ethic and the road-of-hard-knocks education gained from living through the Depression to carry them through. For their sake and the sake of our country, let's hope that enough of them have listened to their parents, their grandparents, and their churches instead of Hollywood, their favorite bands, and their college professors.

Facts vs. Visions



By Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The political left has been campaigning against the use of force since at least the 18th century. So it is not surprising that they are now arguing that heavily armed or aggressive police forces only inflame protesters and thus provoke violence.

Statisticians have long warned that correlation is not causation, but they have apparently warned in vain.

There is no reason to doubt that heavily armed police in riot gear may be more likely to show up where outbreaks of violence are expected. But when violence then breaks out, does that prove that it was the appearance of the police that caused it?

I strongly suspect that people who travel with armed guards are more likely to be murdered than people who do not travel with armed guards. After all, they are not paying to have armed guards for no reason.

If so, should we conclude from a higher murder rate among people with armed guards that having armed guards increases your chances of getting murdered? Shall we also conclude from this that we the taxpayers should no longer pay to have Secret Service agents guarding our presidents?

Actually, the history of assassinations of American presidents could be cited as evidence that armed guards are correlated with higher murder rates, if we proceed to "reason" the same way the advocates of weaker police presence seem to be reasoning.

There have been 43 Presidents of the United States, of whom four -- Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy -- have been murdered. That is a murder rate of 9 percent.

If the murder rate in the general population -- most of whom do not have armed guards -- were 9 percent, that would mean more than 27 million Americans murdered today. We haven't quite gotten up to a murder rate that high, even in Chicago.

Does anyone seriously believe that leaving presidents unguarded would reduce assassinations? Probably not. But this is the golden age of talking points, as distinguished from serious thinking about serious issues.

These talking points are often based on a prevailing social vision, rather than on hard facts. According to the prevailing vision, ghetto riots are due to racial injustices -- and the way to deal with them is to make concessions in words and deeds, while severely restricting the use of force by the police.

Factual evidence cannot make a dent in that vision.

But, for those who are still so old-fashioned as to rely on facts, here are a few: Back in the 1960s when ghetto riots broke out in cities across the country, the region with the fewest riots was the South, where racial discrimination was greatest and police forces least likely to show restraint.

In Detroit, with a liberal mayor in the city and a liberal governor in the state, where the police were warned against shooting during the 1967 riots, there was the largest death toll of any city during any riot during that whole decade -- 43 people dead, 33 of them black.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post expressed astonishment that such a riot could occur in a city with such liberal policies. But neither of them changed its vision in response to facts which contradicted that vision.

In Chicago, there were three nights of rioting on the westside in 1966. These riots were brought to a halt with what a Chicago correspondent for the Los Angeles Times called an almost "miraculous" low death rate of two. Yet that same reporter called the use of both troops and police a "serious over-reaction."

Any force sufficient to prevent riots from getting out of hand is almost certain to be characterized as "excessive force" or "over-reaction" by people with zero experience trying to stop riots.

During a later and larger riot in Chicago, Mayor Richard J. Daley went on television to inform all and sundry that he had given orders to his police to "shoot to kill" arsonists -- provoking outraged denunciations across the country.

The number of people actually killed during that riot was less than a third of the number killed in kinder and gentler Detroit the following year, even though Chicago had a larger population.

Do you prefer that fewer people get killed or that kinder and gentler rhetoric and tactics be used?