Let’s review what’s going on right now in American politics:
Our president is touring the country, railing against the opposition party in Congress for not passing a bill he has proposed in the Senate.
The president insists that this bill has elements that are supported by both Republicans and Democrats, but zero Republicans support the bill and quite a few Democrats oppose the bill.
The Republicans have attempted to force the Senate – which is controlled by the president’s party – to vote on the president’s bill. When they did this, the leader of the Senate’s Democrats called the proposed vote a “charade.” He later changed a very old rule in the Senate so as to prevent a vote on the bill that the president wants passed.
People mistakenly believe that Adolph Hitler proposed “the big lie” – a lie so large and preposterous that those who heard it would presume that no one would would say it if it were not true – as a propaganda tool for the Nazis to use. That’s not true. Rather, he accused his opponents of using a big lie – namely that Erich Ludendorf was responsible for the German loss in World War I – and decried them for doing so. Like any vaguely rational individual attempting to win public support, he did not write a book advocating dishonesty. So if someone accuses another of using a “big lie,” the accuser is not putting the accussee in the position of the Nazis, but vice versa.
With that being said, what can we make of our president’s current speaking tour? He is touring states and districts represented by Republicans, railing against Republican obstructionism, but the house of Congress controlled by his own party will not support his bill. If the president’s agenda was being blocked by his own party, but he toured the country telling everyone that it was the opposition party that was blocking his agenda, wouldn’t a casual listener believe that the president was telling the truth because no one would have the audacity to say such a thing if it wasn’t true?
…this story should assuage them. The New York Times devoted 1300 words on the front page to try to explain the administration’s strategy on the economy, and I can sum up the story with 4: “They ain’t got one.”
But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers, according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
“Bigger ideas,” like futzing with the tax code to provide some temporary incentives? That‘s their big idea? Also, they want to launch the umpteenth effort to keep people living in houses they can’t afford. Fantastic.
Dan Pfeiffer, the White House director of communications, said that there was no internal debate. “The president’s first priority is to work with Republicans and Democrats to grow the economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit, but if the Republican House continues its ‘my way or the highway’ approach, he will make sure the public knows who is standing in the way and why.”
So they’ll engage in some snivelling and complaining that the other party has principles. Sounds like a winner!
Administration officials, frustrated by the intransigence of House Republicans, have increasingly concluded that the best thing Mr. Obama can do for the economy may be winning a second term, with a mandate to advance his ideas on deficit reduction, entitlement changes, housing policy and other issues.
Mr. Obama plans to spend time this weekend considering his options, advisers said. The White House expects to unveil new job-creation proposals in early September.
A mere 33 months after taking office, and not even at the end of our second Recovery Summer, and they’re already going to propose a plan! Why the rush?
Republicans contend that the Obama administration has mismanaged the nation’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. Mr. Obama’s political advisers are struggling to define a response, aware that their prospects may rest on persuading voters that the results of the first term matter less than the contrast between their vision for the next four years and the alternative economic ideas offered by Republicans.
Obama-Biden 2012: If You Think We’re Bad, Imagine How Awful Things Would Be Under President Satan!™
“If you’re talking about a stunt, I don’t think a stunt is what the American people are looking for,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters on Wednesday.
The story then proceeds to discuss such non-stunts as (I’m not making this up) creating a “Department of Jobs” or “Department of Competitiveness” and giving tax breaks to companies that hire disabled veterans.
I’ll spare you the rest, because it’s just meaningless blather that seems disconnected from reality (evidently the White House believes “paying down the debt” will be popular; what substances would the government need to legalize in order to get people high enough to believe that talking about reducing the annual deficit from 13 to 12 digits was “paying down the debt”?). Their plan boils down to the president trying to convince people of things, and we all know how well that’s worked out for them in the past. The unstated message of the story: Curtain-makers should start previewing fabrics to the Republican candidates.
Whether it’s cranking up the deficit spending to 11, preemptively attacking foreign countries (serious question: are we still bombing Libya?), doubling down on Afghanistan, or asserting executive power, it frequently seems to me like the Obama administration consists of taking all the stuff that George Bush did and liberals didn’t like, and amplifying it.
President Obama told a crowd at a battery plant in Holland, Michigan, this afternoon that Republicans must “find a way to put country ahead of party.” Obama went on to say, “There are some in congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.”
Ugh. We spent years being lectured about how divisive George Bush was, and how he was always questioning everyone’s patriotism. And we were told that Obama would be better. Well here we are.
The story I linked to referred to this as Obama aping McCain’s ’08 slogan, “Country First.” But if you look at it, it’s the converse of McCain’s slogan. “Country First” was a description, meant to refer to McCain - how he himself had put country first during his military service, how he had put country first in bucking his own party to do what he thought was right, how he would continue to do that as a president beholden to none of the interest groups of his own party. “Country First” was a candidate pointing out his own virtues and history of service.
Obama’s message, “Put country before party,” on the other hand, is a command to Republicans – who, were it not for Obama’s urging, would surely place the interests of their party above the interests of their country; who would ruin our economy in order to achieve partisan gain.
So while McCain focused on hyping his own devotion to country – I guess you could have taken it as an implied swipe at the patriotism of others, but that’s being unfair; if people can’t point to their own virtues without it being taken as a swipe at others, we’ve entered a very unpleasant world – Obama is using the theme to question the patriotism of others in blunt terms: “There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.” Because Republicans love power/hate Democrats more than they love America.
In a thread regarding how spectacularly aggressive Obama was in his decision to raid Pakistan and murder bin Laden, FormerSwingVoter links to this NYT story. The lede:
President Obama insisted that the assault force hunting down Osama bin Laden last week be large enough to fight its way out of Pakistan if confronted by hostile local police officers and troops, senior administration and military officials said Monday.
Ay caramba! This struck a cord in my memory regarding how much Obama talked during the campaign about his willingness to launch raids into Pakistan. At the time, I didn’t take him seriously. Whether Pakistan is a friend or enemy, it is not terribly stable, has a large and powerful Islamist population that is sympathetic to our enemies, and, um, has nuclear weapons. It struck me that there could not possibly be a terrorist target in Pakistan important enough to risk upsetting or destabilizing such a country, and that no right-thinking person would take a risk with such enormous potential downsides.
How common was disbelief of Obama’s campaign rhetoric? It’s hard to say, but I found this in our archives. In one of the debates, McCain said that Obama’s threats of launching ”military strikes” in Pakistan were unwise. The Washington Post factcheckers called McCain’s characterization “misleading” and said that Obama had insisted he would only go into Pakistan with the approval of the Pakistani government. Here’s a Jake Tapper discussion from 2007 regarding what Obama actually promised, which features Obama plainly trying to walk back any from any hint that he would “invade” Pakistan.
Am I glad Osama’s dead? Hell yes. But I’m still concerned about the long-term effects of our actions on Pakistan. The Pakistanis appear to be starting to sort out some of this, regarding who knew what, when. There are forces in Pakistan beyond our control, and if this shakes out in such a way that the baddies in Pakistan gain power, history will not view his death as happily as we now do.
In case you dropped acid and imagined that our president has any desire to engage in a debate over the future of the country, or even believes that deficit spending is a problem, he seems to be giving a series of speeches now to assure you that that was all just an hallucination.
It’s going to be fear-mongering, name-calling, strawman attacking 24-7 pretty much from hear to next November. Hopefully the Republican primary will drown him out and hide from us, if only for a month or two, the sad fact that our president is a boor. But we should keep in mind that the president’s campaign speeches have already been written and their content will not change one whit regardless of who our nominee is.
Obama needled one questioner who asked about gas prices, now averaging close to $3.70 a gallon nationwide, and suggested that the gentleman consider getting rid of his gas-guzzling vehicle.
“If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know,” Obama said laughingly. “You might want to think about a trade-in.”
What car gets 8 miles per gallon? The story doesn’t mention what sort of car the guy had, whether he actually got 8 mpg (even if you’re driving a Prius, wouldn’t rising gas costs bother you?), or whether Obama just made that number up. Given the joking tone, I’m going to think he made it up.
But enough about high-end imports, what about the dread SUVs. Surely they get 8 mpg, right? A Ford Expedition comes in around 3 tons, and in its most fuel inefficient form gets 12 city and 17 highway (9/13 if you use ethanol fuel, which is less efficient than regular gasoline and still isn’t as inefficient as the president’s out-of-his-ass number). It may be weighed down with three tons of bling, but a Cadillac Escalade, gets 13 city and 20 highway. A 4 wheel drive Hummer would still get no worse than 9 mpg city, and that’s using inefficient ethanol (it gets 13 city on regular gas).
Anyone who knows the slightest about cars knows that getting 8 mpg is simply preposterous in today’s world. I once spent a day at a race track in a 300 horsepower BMW 335, during which I always had either the break or the accelerator in contact with the carpet, and I still got 7 mpg. But I guess I agree with the president on this one point: if you’ve got a million dollar car and are complaining about gas prices, you should probably trade it in.
In his pre-presidential book “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama said the U.S. will lack international legitimacy if it intervenes militarily “without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands.”
He questioned: “Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?”
So let’s go back to his famed 2002 anti-Iraq War speech. What conclusions do you think 2002 Obama would draw about 2011 Obama?
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.
He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
Why wasn’t the president’s speech last night effective? Aside from any problems of substance (it’s hard to give an effective speech when what you’re selling is nonsense), it simply wasn’t believable that Barrack Obama believed the things he was saying. We didn’t know much about this man when we elected him in 2008, but we knew he opposed the Iraq War because he didn’t think Saddam was a threat to us. Last night’s speech throws into doubt whether he was sincere then, whether he’s sincere now, whether he’s capable of sincerity, or whether he just did a piss-poor job of explaining what’s different this time.
At any rate, I think it’s impossible to reconcile what little we knew about pre-presidential Obama with the Obama who was on tv last night. A speaker cannot be effective when he undermines his own credibility.
How Mr. Obama manages to do that while also balancing American interests is a question that officials acknowledge will plague this historic president for months to come. Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”
I could say quite a bit about this, but I’d rather leave it on its own.
The Tucson shooting had absolutely nothing to do with the tone of discourse. People on the Left grabbed ”civility” as the first weapon at hand to attack the Tea Party. But it was ineffective as a weapon, and soon enough they realized that being civil’s no fun, so they gave up on it themselves and are back to hissing every time someone says the word Bush.
Ultimately, everything is as it should be. There wasn’t a problem to begin with and nothing has changed. But it would have been nice if, during the process of staying the same, one vocal and influential group of people hadn’t spent a couple of weeks insisting Tea Partiers were crypto-Nazis because they used the ordinary rhetoric of American politics. (Wait, aren’t you now griping about incivility just like they were?–Ed. No, I’m griping about the phoniness of their civility incivility. That they were uncivilly invoking civility is a mild irony that I find inoffensive.)
This article on higher education – despite using my absolute least favorite metaphor in its title – is worthwhile. It’s not an overtly political article, but these question got me thinking:
What good does it do to increase the number of students in college if the ones who are already there are not learning much? Would it not make more sense to improve the quality of education before we increase the quantity of students?
On so many issues, the Obama administration has approached problems by just insisting that if we do a lot more of the same, things will work out. Education is one example: Our children is not learning? Send them all to college. There’s no concern about the quality of education, that students carefully select what career and educational path suits them, or that education costs too much. No, simply having more of it will fix the problem.
This is the preferred solution in other areas: Healthcare costs too much and not enough people have insurance? Well, we could address the underlying issues that are forcing the price of healthcare too high (hard), or we could just make everybody buy insurance (easy). Our massive deficit spending is draining capital from the economy and inhibiting growth? Well, we could analyze the budget and keep those programs that are genuinely productive while making cuts elsewhere that will free up capital and spur growth (hard), or we could just borrow more for investments while leaving current deficit levels alone (easy). The most heavily regulated industry in America, banking, has an utter meltdown and millions of people lose billions of dollars? Well, we could take a serious look at how the regulators failed and rearrange our system to reflect the understanding that the government cannot adequately monitor every single aspect of a free market and it shouldn’t let investors think that it can (hard), or we can blame it all on the greedy bankers, ignore the failings of the government, and add on significantly more regulation while telling everyone that we’ve fixed the problem and the market is safe again (easy).
It’s even apparent in the president’s political activities. Failing to convince the American people that your signature legislative policy is a good idea? Well, we could slow down the process, schedule a few carefully crafted speeches that take our opponents’ arguments seriously, and gradually advance a convincing argument (hard), or we could just have the president on every channel half a dozen times a day repeating the same talking points for months on end (easy). Trailing badly going into a midterm election? Well, we could consider the things about our administration that people don’t like and carefully coopt the issues that we think we can sensibly address without ticking off our base and make rational arguments for why our policies are a success (hard), or we could insist that we’ve done everything right and send the president out every single day to hammer into the minds of the American people the most important facts of this election: D stands for Drive, R stands for Reverse, and Republicans drink a lot of slurpees (easy).
Time and time again we see that this administration has an utter lack of imagination. Obama should be near the top of modern liberal intellectualism: two Ivy League degrees, married to a woman with two Ivy League degrees, community organizer, civil rights lawyer, race-conscious author, with his pick of advisers from among the most celebrated academics in the country. Every tenet of the modern Left tells us that this man should be among the most able men around.
And yet, I’m not sure I’ve seen a spark of original thinking, or a hint that he’s open to creative solutions, since his inauguration. There’s nothing wrong with the status quo that more of the status quo can’t fix.
Ann Althouse, on birthers, makes a worthwhile comparison:
It’s perfectly rational to take as your working theory that evidence that isn’t produced would run counter to the interest of the party who could produce it and does not. In legal cases, if a party fails to produce a document requested in discovery, the judge can deem that the fact is established to be what the party seeking discovery is trying to prove. (See Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 37(b)2)(A)(i)).
At this point, I think there are only three possibilities:
There’s a birth certificate, and Obama refuses to produce it because he thinks it’s to his political advantage to paint all of his opponents as nutters.
There’s no birth certificate because it’s somehow been lost, and rather than explaining this to us like we’re all adults, Obama would prefer to continue painting his opponents as nutters.
There’s no birth certificate because there never was one.
I can’t think of a possibility that doesn’t reflect poorly on Obama. Either he’s willfully dragging out this issue for callous political gain, or else there are legitimate legal questions regarding the legality of the office he holds and he’s stonewalling rather than addressing those questions.
At any rate, we can tell when Obama is at his weakest – whether it was back when he was trying to explain Obamacare, or now that he’s telling us that not decreasing the deficit now is fine because someone else will decrease the deficit in seven or eight years – by watching when his friends in the media drag out the birthers. I think it’s become more of a meta issue now than a real issue.
2. It’s “win one for the Gipper,” not “take one for the Gipper.” “Take one for the Gipper” makes absolutely no sense. The sort of thing someone only says if they’re ignorant of who the Gipper actually was.
3. What the hell sort of guy waffles about what tie to wear and then takes a subordinate’s tie? That’s not the sort of story someone retells, for it reveals numerous unflattering things. Not the least of which is that our president can’t decide on what tie to wear.
4. All that indecision, the mangled quote, the taking of another man’s tie, and thatwas the end result. I’m not saying it’s a bad tie; it’s alright. Nothing special one way or the other. But it’s a plain gray suit with a white shirt. Who can’t pick out a tie for that? Jesus, dude, it’s the biggest speech of your career, and it’s going to be on national television. Stop off somewhere and pick up a Brioni. Don’t commandeer your subordinate’s mediocre tie.
5. The more I think about this story, the more unflattering it becomes. Ponder it for a minute or two. Liberals are supposed to be the sort of people who are aware of and concerned about power dynamics and oppression. And here he is taking the tie off the neck of a subordinate because it looks better than the “five or six” ties that he’d bought himself. This is like some populist caricature of a robber-baron plutocrat, or a Biblical parable – the rich man who has it all, but then takes the one nice thing that his employee has out of sheer avarice. All Gibbs ever did was have better taste than Barry and Michelle.