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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Smartest. President. Ever.

Take away the teleprompter and you'd almost think that Obama was an inexperienced amateur who was ideologically out of step with the American people.

Exhibit A: Uses socialist language to justify his economic program to Joe the Plumber.

Exhibit B: Muffs a prearranged question on the Gates affair by attacking cops and saying they acted "stupidly."

Exhibit C: In an argument in support of the creation of a government run health care system, says that the government run mail is rife with problems and pales in comparison to its private competitors. Wow.

UPDATE: In fairness, I should clarify that by "smart," I mean politically smart. He isn't dumb, he's just way overrated when it comes to political savvy. His real problem is that it is really, really hard to pretend to be someone you are not. He's a lefty. Nothing wrong with that, but all of these "gaffes" are instances where Obama said what he really thinks. And it turns out that what he really thinks is very, very far removed from the views of the American people.

The president is quite smart and he can give a good speech. After this performance -- and the one the other night where he suggested his opponents should just shut up and get out of the way -- they will put him back on the teleprompter for a while.

Also, for the record, though I think the president is intelligent, I am not among those who think he is a genius. He is, after all, a law professor who published zero (0) peer-reviewed journal articles and law review articles. That's a pretty stunning non-accomplishment for a Harvard-law grad who headed up the law review and taught at the University of Chicago. The fact is, a really brilliant lawyer would have something important to say about the law and would be participating (at some level, at least) in the debates and discussions on those important issues that are taking place in law reviews and scholarly journals.

Still, he graduated from Harvard law and passed the bar, so he's no dummy. I hope that clarifies things.

Game Over.

Given that Chuck Norris has announced his opposition to the Democrat health proposal, I think it is safe to say that the debate is over and we can all go home.

Chuck 1, Commies 0.

The Summer of Dems' Discontent

On May 18, Time magazine ran a cover story declaring the Republican party an "endangered species." Less than three months have passed and, as the reaction to the health care town halls demonstrates, congressional Democrats are in disarray.

How did this happen?

My diagnosis:

1) Taxes - Taxes are the bread and butter of Republican politics. In recent years, the salience of this issue for the electorate has waned due to the passage of the Bush tax cuts (which reduced individual tax rates) and the strength of the economy through late 2008, which reduced individuals' relative tax burden by increasing incomes faster than taxes (which had gone down). Even without tax increases, Americans are feeling the pinch of taxes today far more than they were a year or two ago because their incomes are no longer growing as quickly (or they have lost their jobs or are making less money). Add to that the fact that taxpayers realize that they will have to pay for the trillions in new spending that the new administration has pushed through, and it should be no surprise that the GOP has additional traction on the tax issue.

2) Rhetoric is no replacement for Reality - The Democrats are a liberal party that has painted itself as moderate. It is very, very hard to pretend to be something you are not and get away with it for a long period of time.

For the last several years (at least) the Democrats have been able to have it both ways on spending -- criticizing Bush for not spending enough on X, Y and Z and criticizing him for spending too much in general. The Democrats have been able to use rhetoric to mask their party's true position - balancing out their high-spending image with words and political attacks that paint them as fiscally conservative. Now that they control all the levers of government, the fiscal conservative mask has fallen off and the national debt is spiraling out of control to the point where total financial ruin, or runaway inflation, or both, are well within the realm of possibility. Likewise, the same gamesmanship in the foreign policy area has allowed Democrats to be both to the left and the right of Republicans. Policy wise, the Democrats have been far to the left. Rhetorically, however, the Democrats have been able to use words to seem more hawkish than they actually are -- the threat to invade Pakistan, for instance, or the suggestion that it was just super easy to find Bin Laden if only Bush had his priorities straight. The same desire for short term political gain - as opposed to good policy or national interest - led Obama and Democrats to attack Bush for wireless surveillance, GITMO, interrogation techniques (under Obama, for instance, torture is forbidden unless we really really need to do it) and a host of other issues. Now that they have responsibility for America's security, the Democrats have had to deal with the reality of hard choices and least-worse options. All of this has hurt Democrats because they (a) have diminished their credibility and (b) they are no longer being judged on their rhetoric but on their actual policies.

3) Beating something with nothing -- The Democrats' beat the Republicans by being the Anti-Bush party. The result is that the party has a far more limited mandate. Americans were voting retrospectively (no on Bush) rather than prospectively (yes on Democratic policies). The Democrats helped this along by deliberately obscuring their agenda (note Obama's pledge of no new taxes on 95% of Americans, his claim that his policies would have no net impact on federal spending, etc...). While Americans were sick of the Republicans - and for good reason - they do not support new energy taxes, a government takeover of health care, the takeover of the auto industry, trillion dollar government bailouts or the adoption of a law enforcement approach to terrorism.

4) No easy enemy. With Bush gone, Democrats have flailed around looking for a new enemy to rally the troops. Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Insurance Companies, the tea party people, "the Mob" of old people yelling at their congressmen, etc.... Who is it going to be tomorrow? It's not that demonization doesn't work, it's just that it is far, far easier to use this tactic to block change than to affect it. Also, Obama faces a huge dilemma -- if the administration leads the charge demonizing his enemies (as he did with Rush), he diminishes a lot of the moral authority that comes from being "everyone's president" who is standing above the fray. By outsourcing it to members of Congress, he allows Pelosi, Reid, Frank and Hoyer to be the public face of the Democratic party. That's working out really well for Republicans.

5) Arrogance and ignorance. Obama seems to have very little appreciation for the fact that members of his party have their own constituencies and very little sense that the American political process is much more amenable to incremental change than sweeping change. Through a series of small steps, the left has created a huge national government welfare state in the US. Rather than building on that -- substantially, given the number of seats they control - Obama feels the need to make his mark and do something big and historical. Thus, rather than learning from the hard lessons of Clinton's first term, he's repeating the mistakes -- making House members take a senseless vote on energy taxes, for instance. Pushing single payer health care as opposed to an incremental expansion of coverage for the uninsured. My sense is that Obama thinks his oratorical powers are magical and we can't resist his eloquent arguments and charm. It is a recipe for disaster in 2010 that will hobble the remainder of his presidency.

Moreover, Obama will find it much harder to move to the center than did Bill Clinton because (a) his party is much more ideologically liberal (b) he has to worry about Hillary running a primary against him (c) Clinton was a bona-fide conservative dem from a southern state and Obama is a very liberal, black senator from Chicago.

Obama used rhetoric to define himself as moderate and fiscally conservative. His positions on a host of issues -- from guns, to abortion, to taxes and spending, health care, and energy (primarily coal) will make it next to impossible for Obama to portray himself that way again. Once the mask of conservatism is gone for Obama, it won't be easy to replace.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Simply Awesome

Check out this lively debate between a member of the MSM and a car dealer who is giving out AK-47s with the purchase of every vehicle. The car dealer doesn't give an inch in this debate and it is laugh out loud funny to watch -- it's pretty clear that the newsreader doesn't run into this sort of argument very much at Manhattan cocktail parties.

Hat tip: Jonah.

Monday, August 03, 2009
Random Thoughts

President John F. Kennedy, Jr.
* John Kennedy Jr. died ten years ago last month. Had he not been killed in the plane crash, I think it is likely that Kennedy, not Hillary, would have replaced Moynihan in the Senate. Kennedy had already told friends that he was going to wrap up his work on the crappy hollywood-politics magazine George by the end of the 1999. Hillary's name wasn't floated until early 2000.

If Kennedy had lived -- it would have been Kennedy, not Obama, who ran as the change/youth candidate in 2008. By then, he would have won two senate races (2000 and 2006) and had 8 years in the senate behind him. Imagine if he had survived the plane crash. The parallels to the PT 109 incident would have been endlessly repeated. Of course, if he left the scene of the accident without reporting it and left his passengers to die, he would have been compared to uncle Ted, but that scenario is very unlikely.

Interesting how one small event influences everything else. Would Kennedy have won the election in 2008? Would the GOP have nominated someone different, as Kennedy would have been the clear front-runner from the beginning? What would Hillary have done since 2000?

Future Time Magazine Cover Story: Were We Ready for a Black President?
* Small prediction: as the Obama administration continues to come off the rails, I expect the new message will rapidly become that America "just wasn't ready for a black president." The media and the democrats (but I repeat myself) will increasingly find racism behind every criticism of the president.

On a similar topic, look for far-left groups to plant agent provocateurs into the audience during the upcoming protests on health care. Someone will try to incite violence, shout racial remarks, or something of that nature. It's out of the ol' play book for the radical left - discredit your opponents by infiltrating them and standing next to reporters when you make your remarks. You saw it during the McCain rallies, you'll see it again here. The key is for people to use their cell phone cameras and catch them in the act. Tough to do, but not impossible in this age of technology.

* What to make of the white house's reiteration of their no tax increase on people making $250k and below? The administration is also saying that we will not add to the deficit, and that we will pass a massive new entitlement program on top of the stimulus. Given that revenues are dropping like a stone, does this mean that the Democrats will be proposing huge spending cuts? How does this all add up?

* The cash for clunkers program is about the most economically illiterate pieces of legislation that I have ever seen. Essentially, the government takes money from person A (future taxpayer) and gives it to person B (car-buyer). In exchange, dealers destroy tens of thousands of working vehicles. Tens of thousands of working vehicles ain't worth nothing. They have value. Yet we are destroying them. So the true cost of the program is the cost to the taxpayer, and the lost value of the cars. Beyond that, there are other costs as well - - the costs of administering the program, for instance, and the hidden administrative costs borne by the dealers.

* The key group to watch in 2010 election is upper income female voters. They abandoned the Democrats in 1994 like rats from a sinking ship. The issues, interestingly, were pretty much the same: taxes, national health care, energy taxes, stimulus.