Category Archives: Politics


Sound and Fury: Looking Beyond the 2008 Elections

While standing in line today waiting to vote, I was reminded of that great line of George Carlin’s: “Think of how stupid the average person is and realize half of them are stupider than that.” Considering how sharply-but-evenly divided we are on the question of who should be the next US president, it is easy to think that the ‘other half’ is the stupider because they’re voting for ‘that guy’ and we are among the smarter – because we won or despite losing, whichever way it goes.

Although the choice of president is very important, he’s typically just the most visible element of the government. There are special powers and privileges and a gifted rhetorician can sway and engage popular opinion in support of his efforts to work with Congress. Nevertheless, let’s remember that much of what we have heard and been told until now is only so much sound and fury which signifieth, well, maybe not as much as we thought.

Regardless of which side you’re on, the most important thing to remember is that there are natural constraints to what the next president will be able to accomplish. We’re in a rough economy and we have a divided electorate. So, whether tomorrow you Greet the Dawn or fear the Apocalypse, let’s take a moment to look beyond the elections and consider the months ahead.

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s highly unlikely that Sen Obama, as President, would change the course of either of these wars from the one they’re on under current leadership. By leadership, I’m referring to the military leadership and not the Bush administration. The surge has shown itself to be a success with deaths in Iraq falling to the lowest point in the war. Indeed, there were fewer killings in Baghdad last month than occurred in Chicago. A president McCain can keep his campaign promise to support the troops and Obama will be forgiven if he accedes to realities on the ground if he abandons a fixed schedule for troop withdrawal.

The US and Worldwide Economy. Since government has only a few albeit very powerful tools available to influence the direction of the economy – the power to tax your money, spend your money, and throw you in jail if you don’t cooperate – much of what can be tried is underway: massive Keynesian stimulus spending via checks to US tax filers (not necessarily payers but we’ll discuss that another time) and massive, unprecedented bailout dollars to major financial institutions. In light of the major commitments already in place and the enormous existing government debt, it’s unlikely that the next president will be able to engineer major new spending programs in this weak economy. If McCain tried, the Democrat majority is likely to oppose his budget efforts. Massive spending by an Obama-led congress would probably risk a further market meltdown, as Clinton learned to his disappointment in 1993.

Where, then, can the next president get his way? For Obama, two places. Regulations, rules, and other soft-cost legislation and judicial appointments. Resurrecting the fairness doctrine, removing the secret ballot for union votes, and enacting other rules that are designed to guide the economy should be fairly easy for him to accomplish and the costs will be hard to calculate. A compliant, Democrat-led Congress will likely be quick to move on any judicial nominations they receive. A President McCain, on the other hand, would have a bigger hill to climb. He’ll need to be uncharacteristically Reaganesque and win the support of the public to put pressure on their own legislators to get his agenda through. And, assuming there’s no Democratic super majority, he’ll need to dust off the Veto pen.

In any event, we’ll soon see how my broad predictions pan out.


Sen Obama Becomes Dem Nominee for US President

Sen Barack Obama, addressing a cheerful and sporadically cheering crowd of supporters in Saint Paul tonight, declared victory in the primary contest and established his status as the Democratic candidate for the US presidency.

With the final Democratic primaries finishing earlier this evening in Montana and South Dakota, and with a significant number of undeclared super-delegates lining up behind him in the last 24 hours, Sen Obama today secured the 2,118 delegate votes necessary to attain an insurmountable lead over Sen Hillary Clinton.

“Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States,” he declared confidently in the hall where his Republican opponent, Sen John McCain, will accept the GOP nomination in September.

Striking a statesmanlike tone and in a clear effort reunify his Democratic base as he shifts his attentions to the general election, Mr Obama paid homage to Sen Clinton, citing her efforts with healthcare and children’s issues. “It was an honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton,” he said.

Setting the stage for the general election, Obama focused most of his energy tonight on Sen McCain. Visiting most of the liberal touchstones of the current election – Iraq, universal healthcare, US energy policy, ‘wealthy CEOs’, and ‘tax breaks for big corporations’ – Obama worked strenuously to tie McCain to the ‘failed policies’ of President Bush, giving a clear hint of what his strategy will be in the coming months.

While Sen Clinton congratulated her opponent earlier today, she has yet to officially withdraw from the race and there is continued speculation that she is seeking a negotiated exit from the competition.

Sen McCain spoke earlier this evening to his supporters in New Orleans.

People Politics

On Katrina

I have a friend who is unquestionably one of the smartest and typically self-confident people I know, who starts many of his observations with “Now I’m not a very smart guy, but… ” often enough to be noticeable, anyway. I also know him well enough to say that he’s serious. It’s not self-deprecating shorthand nor is he seeking empty compliments. I don’t know why he says it but there it is.

Near the conclusion of what had been a humorous, well-presented, and interesting speech, Jonah Goldberg pronounced the speech to be ‘terrible’ and I thought of my friend.

Jonah visited the University of Minnesota at the invitation of CFACT, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, to give a talk ‘On Katrina’, as the flyer indicated. Knowing a little of Jonah’s off-beat humor, I half expected the speech to be ‘On, Katrina!’, but never mind.

Jonah framed the topic of Katrina nicely as a package of stories that the MSM is most comfortable covering: natural disasters, the plight of poor minorities, in a nice global warming box tied up with a ‘get Bush’ bow. As evidence, he cited a decent string of unchecked-but-checkable rumors reported as fact: New Orleans sniper gangs, rapists roaming the Superdome, and others.

The irony is that the MSM holds up the Katrina story as a model of reporting – motivated by public service, uncovering government ineptitude and corruption. Whereas in reality the breathless reporting of outlandish stories (later to be proven indisputably false) while trying to lay the whole blame on W’s doorstep is a model of all that’s wrong in the modern mainstream media. A classic of ‘world about to end – minorities and women hardest hit’.

Jonah made sure to point out that Bush is far from blameless in the whole affair, citing Bush’s penchant for cronyism, (where FEMA appears to be a fertile landing ground) and FEMA’s role as a post-disaster check-writing organization rather than a first-responder.

Much of the most interesting portion of the evening came during the Q&A with a discussion of the philosophical underpinnings and motivations of modern environmentalism and the paganistic religious motivations of the movement’s founders and, knowingly or not, of its modern adherents. Without going into a detailed account, let me just say both the words ‘theodicy’ and ‘theotropic’ were used properly in complete sentences.

So in my mind, Jonah’s speech was good and interesting, replete with his characteristic humor (with a few forgettable ‘laff-lines’, to be candid) my favorite being a throwaway about New Orleans police corruption being part of a the city’s ‘rich, European tradition’.

I’m not a very smart guy, Jonah, but that was anything but a terrible speech.