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No Privacy for Your Money
The cause closest to the hearts of most progressives is the right to abortion. It grew out of the privacy right a majority of Supreme Court justices discovered in the 1965 contraceptive case Griswold v. Connecticut.
Yet our progressive in chief, President Obama, is willing to waive the right to privacy -- when it comes to your money. He demonstrated that once again in last night's State of the Union Address.
529 plans let parents save money for college, tax free. These are private plans, primarily benefiting the middle class. They have never been needed more than during the Obama years, when federalizing the entire student loan industry has helped college tuition soar far above inflation rates.
The President now wants to tax earnings on 529 savings when they're withdrawn to pay for higher education. Critics are calling that an "assault on the American dream."
But wait, the White House says. We would use that 529 tax to help pay for our other education proposals. Including free community college tuition for all -- rich and poor alike.
And that tells you all you need to know about President Obama's approach not just to taxes but to government in general. He opposes letting you control your own savings plans for higher education, just as he opposes health savings accounts and other measures that give Americans a zone of economic privacy. Instead he supports government paying in full for services of its choosing, from community college to contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.
Personally, I oppose 529 tax breaks because I oppose most tax breaks. The best way to cleanse America of political corruption is truly to reform the tax code by eliminating tax breaks, exemptions, deductions and social engineering. They distort free markets and allow politicians to buy votes from donors, special interests and narrow constituencies.
Far better to move as gradually as needed -- the way Ronald Reagan did in 1986 -- toward a flat tax, with just a few standard deductions. America's economy -- and tax revenues -- would soar. And Americans might believe we're being treated equally.
Until then, I prefer the zone of privacy 529 college savings plans create to the nationalizing of community colleges -- like the nationalizing of health insurance -- that inevitably would follow from the Obama plan.
Overcoming Identity Politics
As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, can we honor that great leader by overcoming identity politics?
Jackie Robinson did not make it to the Brooklyn Dodgers because he was black. He made it despite being black.
The 28-year-old UCLA star and army veteran who batted .387 in the Negro League was not a prospect. He was a pro. And the Dodgers GM Branch Rickey needed him. Not to assuage white guilt. There was no white guilt in 1947. Rickey needed a hard driving infielder. The only way to justify breaking the color barrier was for Jackie Robinson to make good.
When Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first female prime minister in 1979, she did not promise new government programs for women. Thatcher instead rolled back socialist programs that had nationalized key sectors of the economy and left Britain reeling from labor union strikes.
As everyone who saw The Iron Lady knows, far from benefiting from affirmative action, Mrs. Thatcher was derided -- by fellow conservatives -- for everything from being a grocer's daughter to having a rather shrill voice. But she stiffened the spines of wobbly Tories and in time was no more patronized for being a woman than Elizabeth I had been four centuries before.
As much as it prides itself on gumbo -- gastronomically and demographically -- Louisiana was not looking for a son of Indian immigrants when it elected Bobby Jindal governor in 2007. But then Jindal did not run as a minority candidate.
Instead of claiming to be a victim or even a trailblazer, by age 36 Jindal was already a Rhodes Scholar, a physician, secretary of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals, a congressman, and the youngest president ever of the state's university system.
The point is that none of these high achievers asked to be judged by anything other than their achievements.
Or, as Dr. King would say, they asked to be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Much less their reproductive organs.
By contrast, former President Bill Clinton says it's time America elected our first woman president. And he feels the best available candidate would be his wife. The reason may be no more apparent to voters in 2016 than it was in 2008. And for my take on Mrs. Clinton's achievements click here.
You may choose to vote for Hillary Clinton. Or for Republican Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard's former CEO. Or Indian-American Bobby Jindal. Or Cuban-American Marco Rubio.
But if you vote based on identity politics, I think you'd be disappointing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
You know it's serious if Jon Stewart is "lashing" President Obama over refusing to join more than 40 world leaders who marched in Paris against Islamist terror. Can you imagine what a target they were? And some showed a different kind of courage. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas together helped lead the front line.
In his widely criticized absence President Obama also refused to send any other high level U.S. official. Not Vice President Biden. Not Secretary of State John Kerry. Not Attorney General Eric Holder, who was already in Paris -- for a terrorism summit.
There may be any number of reasons for the President's no-show.
On a personal level he has been called a "loner" by the highly supportive magazine Vanity Fair. Even among his own administration, Barack Obama is said now to be relying to an unusual extent on just one aide, his family's old Chicago friend Valerie Jarrett.
Also, President Obama is said to have no close ties to any foreign leader, of the sort that Ronald Reagan maintained with Margaret Thatcher. We once heard that Obama and France's socialist President Francois Hollande had become close. Yet it was Hollande who hosted this Paris march.
Another explanation for the President's absence is more disturbing.
As I've tried to show here Barack Obama from boyhood has been taught to despise Western imperialism. Dinesh DSouza says it is a ruling passion of his life. That may help account for the fact that President Obama has repeatedly supported Islamic opposition to perceived Western strongmen in Egypt, Iran, Libya, and Syria.
The most striking instance is Egypt. Soon after he took office President Obama insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood be acknowledged by America's longtime ally Hosni Mubarak. Obama later called for the ouster of Mubarak, and he backed the Brotherhood. When they took over, Egyptians were so appalled by the Muslim Brotherhood's brutal fanaticism that they once again supported the military that had produced Nasser, Sadat -- and Mubarak.
Egypt is no longer as close to the U.S. as it was, but it should be. Its current President Sisi just delivered a historic rebuke to fanatical religious leaders. Some believe Sisi deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
So do all the leaders who risked their lives and, in some cases, careers to show solidarity against radical Islamist terror. It's a shame our "leaders of the free world" did not march with them.
Appeasing Radical Islam
The New York Post's Amir Taheri lays out here the French government's long history of trying to appease Muslim terrorists. Wednesday's attack on the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo shows, as World War II apparently did not, the limits of appeasement.
My "What it Means" video story you can see here reaches beyond France: to the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, the assassination of Theo van Gogh, the hundreds killed as punishment for the Danish cartoons -- and also to Benghazi.
In the run-up to President Obama's 2012 reelection bid, his administration was happy to attack free speech. They did that by making an obscure filmmaker the scapegoat for the planned terror attack that killed our ambassador and three other men who would be movie heroes if we had a different Hollywood.
That video story shows Barack Obama telling the United Nations two weeks after the Benghazi attack, "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."
Has President Obama ever spoken as forcefully against those who slander Jesus Christ, often with the sort of federal grants Andres Serrano received for "Piss Christ"? No. Because he knows Christians and Jews are fair game for free speech.
The future the president speaks of will belong to the murderers in Holland, Denmark, Benghazi, and Boston unless we wage a real war on terror. Pursue radicals with the same zeal we show for inspecting grandmothers at airports. Run terrorists in the West back to their roots in the Middle East. Punish countries that support them.
And forget the rhetoric of appeasement. It never works. It simply surrenders the values that once made America and France exceptional.
Two New Year's political resolutions may be even less realistic than a pledge to lose weight. But they're the surest way to keep Washington from sliding deeper into tyranny.
The first resolution: imposing term limits on senators and representatives. Why? Please watch the video story here. It's about Congressman John Dingell. The Michigan Democrat is stepping down from the House after 59 years so he can hand his seat -- to his wife!
The problem is not any particular lawmaker. It's a culture of career politicians committed to little more than winning the next election. To do that they become ever more beholden to donors and captive constituencies, dependent on their largesse.
The last serious attempt to push congressional term limits came 20 years ago in Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey's Contract with America. Speaker Gingrich marshaled GOP support but his proposed constitutional amendment failed to win a two-thirds majority in the House, and it went nowhere in the Senate.
Mark Levin has included term limits in The Liberty Amendments, his best-selling book that calls for a convention of state legislatures, as provided by Article Five of the Constitution. Because Heaven knows lawmakers will never place limits on themselves.
Just as they will never support my second political resolution: true tax reform.
Our federal tax code and regulations now run to more than 9,000,000 words.
And these are not, as Hamlet breezily said, just "words, words, words." They're highly politicized words that order every aspect of our lives.
Many tax provisions stem from good old-fashioned vote-buying. Special interests get special exemptions. These distort free markets and give lifetime legislators the power to swap tax dispensations for campaign donations -- and other personal favors.
Our current tax code is also politicized is another way that seems high-minded but undercuts equality under the law. Tax law allows social engineering.
Just one example: Why are homeowners given a mortgage interest deduction unavailable to people who rent apartments? Is it because we deem home ownership a civic virtue? That's not a good enough reason for picking winners and losers. Worse still, that reasoning led to the federally-inflated housing bubble that finally burst and brought us the Great Recession.
To ensure that everyone is treated equally, and that free markets grow the economy without undue government interference, we need to do more than just lower rates, as Republicans are willing to do. We need dramatic tax simplification.
One possibility is a modified flat tax with several tiers -- and exemptions for lower income workers. The elimination of all but a few standard deductions of course would have to be phased in. And politics may make this a pipe dream. But if a flat, or "fair," or some other kind of simplified tax law could be enacted, it would send America's economy zooming and remove untold corruption.
Will any of this happen?
Only if we choose leaders committed to real reform.
Meantime... good luck with that diet!
Elizabeth Warren and Underdogs
It's not just a father's fondness. My two daughters are the savviest young women I know. Neither is a liberal or progressive. But both are intrigued by the woman who may yet win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Please. These young women are in their 20s. Neither of them has any nostalgia for the Bill Clinton years. And both of them know enough about Mrs. Clinton's record -- as first lady of Arkansas and of the United States, as a Senator from New York, and as President Obama's Secretary of State -- to doubt that she's qualified to be President. See my own take on Hillary Clinton here.
No, the Democrat who intrigues my daughters is Elizabeth Warren. Because Senator Warren knows a dirty little secret. Under Barack Obama, Democrats have become the party of Wall Street. That's a secret only because the establishment media, and even FOX News and the Wall Street Journal, are reluctant to attack the most powerful part of Obama's base.
The Federal Reserve's Quantitative Easing bond buying (QE 1, 2 and 3) pumped more than 4 trillion dollars into Wall Street. Let me repeat that. More than $4 trillion.
The Fed has also artificially held down interest rates. This drives savers into the stock market, since few other places provide any return.
The Dodd Frank banking law has also made big banks "too big to fail" while preserving their right, established under Bill Clinton, to act as investment houses.
The result of all these policies and others is that income inequality under Obama has widened into a chasm between the rich and the rest of of America. Our "animal spirits" (one of the few things John Maynard Keynes was right about) cannot be crushed even by this administration. Just look at the fracking revolution on private lands.
But most of the jobs President Obama boasts about creating are part-time or minimum wage, and another part of his base -- lower income African-Americans -- suffer more than any other Americans.
By the way it wasn't much better under George W. Bush. He never met a spending bill he was willing to veto, and W did little or nothing to deflate the housing bubble -- inflated by those two most destructive Democrats, Dodd and Frank, for the benefit of their friends on Wall Street. The bursting of the housing bubble brought on the Great Recession.
Elizabeth Warren knows all this. And she will do something Hillary Clinton will not and cannot do while raking in $300,000 a speech from fat cat donors
Warren will run as a populist.
She will at least pretend to take on Wall Street. She will oppose crony capitalism. This could persuade not only blue collar Democrats but also some conservatives, libertarians and tea partiers.
However, what will rightly frighten the latter groups is that Warren doesn't just oppose crony capitalism. She opposes capitalism.
Barack Obama wanted to fundamentally transform America because, as Dinesh D'Souza writes, Obama's third world roots make him an enemy of supposed Western imperialism.
Elizabeth Warren's rage is rooted in more traditional liberalism -- and a perhaps sincere belief that she is part Native American.
In short, while Hillary Clinton is an establishment pol, Elizabeth Warren could capture much of the country's imagination as a genuine idealist bent on cleansing the body politic. And as a woman she cannot be trumped by Mrs. Clinton's identity politics.
My two young women are very much on the fence. And it's highly unlikely that Elizabeth Warren can win. Then again, it seemed highly unlikely that Barack Obama could beat Hillary. In any event, Warren may be seen by many as the champion of other underdogs. For them she may represent true hope and change in 2016.
Beating Up the Cop on the Beat
Those of us who grew up watching The Little Rascals remember Officer Joe Kennedy solving the problems of all the kids in the neighborhood, white and black alike -- even young Jackie Cooper's romantic problems with Mary.
Now we have the mayor of New York City, Bill De Blasio, telling his bi-racial son to be extra cautious around his own police force because "it's different for a white child."
This follows what former mayor Rudy Giuliani calls years of politicians stirring up propaganda against police. Giuliani says police are actually the best friends of inner city African Americans. He points to plunging murder rates during his administration. Most victims had been blacks -- killed by other blacks.
As for racist police taking aim at African-Americans, statistics cited by Bill O'Reilly -- but questioned by others -- show that in 2012, during tens of millions of encounters, police fatally shot 123 African-Americans... and 326 whites.
On the other hand, so far this year 49 police officers have been killed by firearms, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 18 more than this time last year. And the FBI reports that last year more than 22-hundred officers were assaulted with firearms.
As we know here in the Miami Valley there are police who make mistakes. And there are bad cops. But turning mostly heroic law enforcers into villains distracts from real problems plaguing many African-Americans: out-of-wedlock births, ruinous drop-out rates, and unemployment that's twice as high for blacks as for whites.
It's easier to paint people as victims of police than to explain policies that favor the one percent on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C.
Soon though, there may not be any cops on the beat to beat up on. A man told me in one of our Say What segments that he wants all police out of his neighborhood. And indeed, police largely -- have -- been removed from predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in Paris and some other European cities.
Still, before we allow America to become even more polarized, ask yourself this: In a time when we were supposed to be more united than ever, are politicians protecting us from police -- or demonizing police to distract us from their own failures?
And to see video for this story click: http://www.fox45now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wrgt_vid_23905.shtml
We're all gushing over the lowest gas prices in a decade. But why are they dropping? One reason is the worldwide economic slowdown leading to less demand. But did you also know we're in an oil war?
The battle is over fracking. And the attackers are Saudi Arabia... and the Obama administration.
Fracking, the nickname for hydraulic fracturing, extracts natural gas and petroleum from underground shale formations by blasting them with pressurized fluid. And thanks to fracking, the U.S. this year surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer.
The sheikhs are retaliating by flooding the world market with cheap oil. In 2011 crude traded at $130 a barrel. Now it's plunging below $70.
The Saudis are acting like a big box store moving into a small town. Undersell the mom and pop shops until they go bust and then raise prices again. Rock bottom crude prices make it hard for wildcat frackers to keep pumping the kind of profits that have nearly doubled North Dakota personal income in the last 10 years.
And the Saudis have an ally in the Obama Administration. Environmentalists believe the risks of fracking run from polluting underground water to triggering earthquakes. So the same White House that's limited off-shore drilling, exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, has essentially limited fracking to private land the feds cant regulate -- yet.
The good news is that besides giving us low pump prices, Saudi Arabia's war on fracking is hurting enemies of ours like Russia and Venezuela, who live off high prices for their oil and natural gas. The other good news is that, unlike mom and pop stores, shale can't be driven away. New fracking techniques promise to make extraction cheaper and cleaner.
So, despite short-term victories, the frack attack seems doomed to fail. And when America's economy finally starts growing again, we should have enough domestic energy to meet increased demand.
Watch the video for this story at http://www.fox45now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wrgt_vid_23925.shtml
Behaving badly is bad enough. Behaving badly when you've accepted a position of trust betrays all those who believe in your cause -- whether you're a police officer, a politician, or even a celebrity who chooses to speak out.
First, the police. Their cause is justice. They are entrusted with more than a gun. We trust them to enforce our laws equally. A grand jury found no probable cause to believe Officer Darren Wilson wrongfully shot and killed Michael Brown. But the narrative that police routinely target African Americans is now the focus of allegations in a developing story my station just broke here in Montgomery County, Ohio. Our veteran investigator, Natasha Williams, shared a series of alleged text messages made by five deputies that include, "I hate n******, that is all." Other texts are even worse. The case is now being investigated while the deputies are on paid administrative leave.
If they did send these texts, what were the deputies thinking? Didn't they realize that if these hateful messages were made public they would cast suspicion over all officers, and contribute to what President Obama calls "a deep distrust between law enforcement and communities of color"?
When politicians betray trust they undermine all that they claim to champion. To cite one example we can all agree on, it's still hard to believe John Edwards was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, and having a baby with his mistress -- and at the same time running for his party's presidential nomination! Do powerful politicians live in such hermetically sealed bubbles that they imagine they're bullet proof?
Granted, sympathetic media at first refused to touch the story. They were shamed into covering it when the National Enquirer published undeniable proof. But imagine if they'd all held the story. Edwards could have won the Democratic nomination in 2008. Then, if the Enquirer exploded its bombshell, Edwards would have lost to John McCain. What a betrayal that would have been of those who enlisted in Edwards's crusade against "Two Americas."
Celebrities often speak out on issues too. But few had the credibility of Bill Cosby. And Cosby seemed more courageous than most because he challenged political correctness. In 2004, for the 50th anniversary of the school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby gave what came to be called the Pound Cake speech because Cosby said as a kid he wanted pound cake but refused to steal it. He ended by saying:
"We cannot blame white people... we have to begin to build in the neighborhood, have restaurants, have cleaners, have pharmacies, have real estate, have medical buildings instead of trying to rob them all... So tell your friends. Let's try to do something. Let's try to make Jesus smile. Let's start parenting."
Many called Cosby an Uncle Tom. They called him a hypocrite. And now the man who portrayed the ideal husband and father will not or cannot dispute dozens of women who accuse him of sexual assault. If he's guilty, Bill Cosby has made it so much harder for other celebrities to challenge political correctness.
Being bad is bad enough. Being bad when you've been entrusted with a cause is a terrible betrayal.
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Loot
This is the credo of Rockit Ali, a 22-year-old African American in a Spiderman mask who helped organize a Ferguson protest held while the grand jury was still deliberating.
Those without a voice presumably include the 94% of African American voters in Ferguson who chose not to vote in its last local elections.
Since the population of Ferguson is nearly 70% black, African Americans could have elected a mayor they believed better represented them than the white mayor who ran -- unopposed. They could have voted for a police force that is not mostly white.
Instead many are responding to a 12-member grand jury that included three African Americans -- roughly reflecting of the population of St. Louis County -- with rioting and looting. Because looting can be justified, not just as free speech for those "without a voice," but also as a fundamental aim of progressives: a speeded up redistribution of income.
You cannot defend making innocent, hard working store owners pay for Michael Brown's death unless you believe those store owners are the real looters, and that police protect unjustly acquired property.
How could people believe such a thing? Because it's what they've been taught.
Immediately after the grand jury's decision was announced, as the latest riots exploded, President Obama called for peace while also saying:
"(T)here are Americans who are deeply upset, even angry. It's an understandable reaction... Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates."
Suggesting that Ferguson's policing was not good and may be discriminatory.
As for redistribution, long before Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, Senator Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate in 2008, told Ohio's "Joe the Plumber," "When you spread the wealth around it's good for everyone."
And seeking reelection in 2012 President Obama told Virginia voters, "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that; somebody else made that happen."
On those occasions and countless others the president has not simply pointed out the obvious -- that all Americans rely on roads, bridges and schools funded by taxpayers. The president is conveying to core constituents his core narrative: America from its founding has been fundamentally unjust and now needs to be fundamentally transformed.
Many of his constituents see themselves as victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and, worst of all, under-regulated capitalism.
With help from the establishment media, those core constituents ignore the fact that during the Obama years black joblessness has been more than twice that of whites. And they are rarely reminded that those doing best under President Obama are not local store owners like the one Michael Brown apparently robbed shortly before he was shot, but Wall Street crony capitalists propped up by this administration's near zero interest rates, QE bond buying and other sweetheart deals. Occupy Wall Street briefly protested widening income inequality -- until its basis in Obama policies became too embarrassing.
If protesters still believe a Ferguson police officer wrongfully killed Michael Brown they can peacefully ask Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department to pursue a civil rights action. But if they want stuff from Ferguson stores, get a job. And that may require protesting -- outside the White House.
Immigration: You're No Reagan
The White House defends President Obama's executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants by claiming the precedent was set by President Reagan.
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's famous put-down of Dan Quayle: We knew Ronald Reagan. Reagan was a friend of the Constitution. And President Obama, you're no Ronald Reagan.
The difference is simple.
By signing the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Reagan helped grant amnesty to about three million illegal aliens. Based on that duly enacted legislation Reagan went even further, ensuring that now-legal immigrants would not be separated from their families.
That means all 11 million or more illegal immigrants now in our country have come since the 1986 amnesty law. And they came even though the "control" part of the law required that our borders be secured. Reagan wanted to forestall the need for any future mass amnesties.
Well the borders were not secured. Not in 1986. Not in 2006, when another law called for funding a fence. That's why we now have millions of people "living in the shadows."
Contrast all this with President Obama. The Senate -- with the support of some Republicans like Marco Rubio -- passed a "comprehensive" immigration bill in 2013. Then the House refused to take it up.
Because conservative Republicans demand that our borders finally be secured before enacting any other "reforms."
Now, ignoring the fact the Senator Harry Reid has also refused votes on about 350 Republican House bills, President Obama claims that House inaction on immigration somehow gives him the right to act on his own. Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly told the president that he has "prosecutorial discretion" regarding deportation. Not just discretion over individual cases. Discretion to waive deportation in millions of cases -- and grant illegal immigrants work permits and other benefits.
President Obama previously, repeatedly admitted he lacked the power to do this. Now even the Washington Post accuses him of a "royal flip-flop."
What's funny is that President Obama could have legally enacted any immigration bill he wanted when Democrats controlled Capitol Hill during his first two years in office.
Funnier still, just before this year's elections Obama threatened to take executive action. He then said that his policies were on the ballot. Immigration became a big issue in campaigns across the country. And Democrats got thrashed. Today no poll shows public support for Obama acting on his own.
But here's the funniest thing of all. Republicans don't want to deport anyone but hardened criminals. Like Rubio, GOP leaders have supported comprehensive immigration reform since George W. Bush pushed it in 2007. Obama's action actually grants Latinos less than the GOP sought because it includes no path to citizenship.
So what's the problem?
The problem -- let me repeat, because it's almost never reported by the media -- is that conservatives insist on first securing the borders. They don't want to be double-crossed the way Reagan was. They ask, if President Obama truly supports border control, why doesn't he just go ahead and do it -- relying not on executive action but on the 1986 and 2006 laws. Why does he want, not more legal immigration, but more illegal immigrants driving down wages and draining funds from schools, hospitals and other social welfare agencies?
The answer critics believe is that Democrats -- and many Republicans -- don't really want to secure the borders. The bi-partisan establishment is eager to have millions more illegal immigrants flood our country. And they will. Illegal immigration has been down somewhat since 2007, but that's only because our economy has flatlined since 2007. If a pro-growth president is elected border crossings will resume. Meantime Establishment Republicans seek cheap labor. And Democrats seek votes.
Having trusted and not verified in 1986, President Reagan never would have granted this kind of amnesty. Not by legislation. And certainly not by executive order.
So cite him as much as you like. But when it comes to immigration, President Obama, you're no Ronald Reagan.
Bill Cosby's Other Sin
A media feeding frenzy of Fat Albert-sized proportions is now devouring Bill Cosby. Kids my age memorized his monologues in the '60s. In the '80s we never missed his top-rated TV show that portrayed an ideal father and family.
But if Bill Cosby did in truth drug and rape a series of women, he must be punished. Criminal charges could be precluded by the statute of limitations because these allegations are decades old. Still, Cosby settled a civil case ten years ago and others may be coming.
What's eating me though is the suspicion that, absent further proof, Bill Cosby might be getting the same benefit of the doubt that Bill Clinton got for so many years... if something else hadn't happened a decade ago.
At a 50th anniversary commemoration of the school desegregation case Brown v Board of Education, Cosby gave what's come to be called "the pound cake speech." You can listen to it here, or just read some excerpts:
"(T)oday, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have fifty percent drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they're pregnant without a husband. (clapping) No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child. (clapping)...
"I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? (clapping) Where were you when he was twelve? (clapping) Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don't know he had a pistol?"...
"We cannot blame white people...
"I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else (laughter) And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said if get caught with it you're going to embarrass your mother. You're going to embarrass your family...
We are not parenting. Ladies and gentlemen...
"We have to begin to build in the neighborhood, have restaurants, have cleaners, have pharmacies, have real estate, have medical buildings instead of trying to rob them all...
"So tell your friends. Let's try to do something. Let's try to make Jesus smile. Let's start parenting. Thank you, thank you." (clapping, cheers)
As you can hear that speech did draw cheers, at the time. But soon after Cosby was vilified as an Uncle Tom.
If he's guilty of raping women, or even of breaking his marriage vows and seducing women on his set, Bill Cosby should be vilified, or worse. I'd hate to learn he was a predator. Yet the claims of more than a dozen women do seem damning.
But until that's clear, ask if some people's real aim for years ... has been to silence him.
The True Way to Honor Our Veterans
What is the best way to honor our veterans? Stop sending today's troops into wars we're not committed to win.
We have not made a commitment to total victory since World War Two. Though Britain was facing annihilation, Churchill refused to negotiate with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. Franklin Roosevelt refused to deal with Heinrich Himmler at the end of the war when the Gestapo chief offered to depose Hitler. Instead we demanded that Nazi Germany surrender.
Three months later we made the same demand on Imperial Japan. America (including my now 88-year-old dad) then occupied Japan, and also the allied sector of Germany, and we helped write democratic constitutions for both nations under which they still thrive as our steadfast allies.
Since then, America's armed conflicts have ended in a draw (Korea), in a surrender (Vietnam), or in muddles soaked in American blood.
George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 promising to forgo nation-building. After the 9-11 2001 attacks America invaded Afghanistan and quickly ousted the Taliban, which had provided Osama bin Laden sanctuary and training camps. Britain and Russia both had come to grief in Afghanistan, and W knew we lacked the forces to occupy that mountainous tribal backwater. We could have used satellites to monitor terror activity, and drones to destroy any new al-Qaeda camps. Instead W opted ...for nation building.
When Barack Obama succeeded Bush he ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan. Obama had always called that the "good war," as opposed to Iraq. But Obama undermined anything that could be called victory by at the same time setting a withdrawal date.
In Iraq the betrayal of our troops goes back even longer. W's father, George H. W. Bush, launched a war against Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait in 1990. As punishment Saddam should have been deposed, if not executed. Instead, America bowed to the U.N. and left him in power. Rightly or wrongly W then ordered our troops to fight Saddam again, in 2003.
Since then nearly 4,500 Americans have died in Iraq. Far from giving that country a viable constitution, Barack Obama withdrew our combat troops without demanding the sort of status of forces agreement that's protected South Korea for 50 years. In the vacuum President Obama created, ISIS has now seized much of Iraq and Syria. Obama is now deploying at least 3,000 US troops back to Iraq to "train" and "advise" their army -- as we trained and advised South Vietnamese troops in the early stages of that war. But Obama has announced no serious plan to achieve his stated goal of destroying ISIS.
We could touch on "leading from behind" in Libya, which is now a boiling cauldron of terrorism. We could talk of the open contempt Russia and China now show for us -- contempt that could trigger armed conflict in Ukraine and the South China Sea.
But let's just remember that the military volunteers we send into war zones don't have the luxury of dithering and temporizing and launching politicized wars. Those volunteers are willing to give what Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion. So on this Veterans Day and every day let us honor them in Lincoln's altogether fitting and proper way -- by giving them a chance to win.
Diversity? Nothing Finer Than Carolina
South Carolina was represented for nearly half a century by Strom Thurmond. And the spirit of that Dixiecrat segregationist continues to rule the first state of the Confederacy, if you believe Representative James Clyburn.
But should we?
South Carolina just elected to his first full term in the United States Senate the most underreported man in America, Tim Scott. Like Clyburn, Scott is African American. Unlike Clyburn, Scott is a conservative Republican, endorsed by the Tea Party. Clyburn represents a predominantly black congressional district. Scott represents the entire state. In fact Scott is the first African American elected to statewide office in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
Well, the Palmetto State also just reelected Governor Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa Haley. With Louisiana's Bobby Jindal she is one of America's two Indian American Republican governors. And it may surprise Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton to learn that neither of them ever worked at a 7-Eleven or Dunkin' Donuts.
The racism aimed at Governor Haley came from Democrats like Dick Harpootlian, who hoped she would be sent back "to wherever the hell she came from." Which you'd think the former state party chairman would know was Bamberg, South Carolina. It's Governor Haley's parents who legally immigrated to the United States from India. Her mom then started what became a multi-million dollar clothing firm. Nikki worked there as an accountant.
The notion that Tim Scott is Uncle Tom and Nikki Haley is the star of a Bollywood musical fits into the narrative of folks like Clyburn and Harpootlian because the alternative is unthinkable: that members of victim groups earn voter trust as members of the party that promotes smaller government and personal responsibility.
South Carolina will continue to debate whether Haley and Scott promote economic growth. But for now the state does seem to be backing free market candidates -- looking at the content of their policies rather than at the color of their skin.
Midterm election losses ought to be humbling. If President Obama in 2010 confessed that he'd suffered a "shellacking," he must now be shell shocked. Yet for all the conciliatory noises we may hear from the White House this afternoon [see updated postcript below] it's unlikely that Tuesday's repudiation will convince Barack Obama to change course. Because Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton.
President Clinton did change course in 1994, when Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 40 years. Clinton, however, was just reverting to form. He had come to the White House a moderate Southern governor, a New Democrat, the leader of the Democratic Leadership Conference that successfully sought a "third way" to work with conservatives.
Then Clinton's first two years in office were foiled... by his wife. Hillary Rodham Clinton's payoff for sticking with Bill through the Gennifer Flowers scandal and countless other "bimbo eruptions" was for the first lady to be put in charge of health care reform, as preposterous as that now sounds. Huddled with her friend Ira Magaziner, Hillary presented Congress with a plan to nationalize health care that received no support, even from fellow Democrats. This, together with Bill Clinton's retroactive tax hikes, helped pave the way for Newt Gingrich's Contract With America and the GOP takeover of Congress.
Hillary was then banished to defend her own scandals -- Travelgate, Cattlegate, Whitewater, and the rest -- while Bill belatedly started working with Republicans. President Clinton even proclaimed, in his 1996 State of the Union address, that "the era of big government is over." And while that was hardly true, he and the GOP did balance budgets and reform welfare, which Clinton now calls his signature achievements.
President Obama will not revert to moderation because he never has been moderate. A product of Frank Marshall Davis, Saul Alinsky and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama masked his radicalism in 2008 by promising voters there were no red states or blue states, only the United States. But he did not govern that way. Unlike Governor Bill Clinton, Obama had no executive experience of cutting deals with political opponents. Unlike Clinton he does not relish talking with fellow Democrats, much less Republicans.
So expect President Obama to "reform" immigration, expand energy regulations, make appointments and wage halfhearted wars, as threatened, with his pen and his phone. The drubbing he just suffered will only spur his desire to fundamentally transform America. Barack Obama humiliated? Hardly. Like Prometheus, the giver of fire, we're about to see him unbound.
P.S. At his post-election White House press conference President Obama has said he wants to work with the new Congress, but that he will reform immigration on his own if he does not receive a bill to sign by year's end -- before the new Congress is even seated. Prepare for what could be a very dangerous next two years.
Yes YOU Can
A rallying cry of the Obama administration has been, "Yes We Can!" This was adapted from the title of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s autobiography. Except that Sammy called his book, Yes I Can.
It's a crucial difference. Yes We Can is about collectivism. Barack Obama's community organizing. Hillary Clinton's village. Yes I Can is what America used to be about and must be again if Americans are to succeed. Not just village leaders. All Americans.
"Yes I Can" was also the title of a song from one of Sammy's Broadway shows. Golden Boy was about a kid who escapes the ghetto by becoming a prizefighter. Now some people would say: You didn't build the boxing ring. You didn't form the boxing association, or start the TV network that broadcast your fights. You ought to say, "Yes WE can."
Those people might also claim Sammy Davis, Jr. didn't earn his success in show business because he started out dancing with his father and honorary uncle in the Will Mastin Trio. Everyone needs help. And we must always help those who can't help themselves. But before suggesting that Sammy's success was based on anything other than hard work, courage and perseverance, read his book.
Sammy Davis, Jr. was the kind of American success story who ought to inspire millions of kids, from the ghettos to Martha's Vineyard. And the next American president to succeed will be the one who, with the senators and representatives we're about to elect, tries to inspire all of us, not with collectivism, not with government cronyism, not with victimhood and dependency, but with the title of another Broadway song -- "I Believe in You."
The Election Question: Which Revolution?
No wonder you're cynical.
Democrats are pretending to run away from President Obama.
Republicans are running away from any agenda, hoping to win the upcoming elections by default so they can control more of the perks of our ever expanding government.
Yet this election really will determine the pace at which Barack Obama "fundamentally transforms" America, for better or for worse. If nothing else, his power with a compliant Senate to appoint more progressive federal judges and Supreme Court justices could change the nature of America forever.
So even if politicians won't level with us, it's important to review a history of our differences. Because in the 238 years since America declared independence we've never been as divided as now about the central premise of American exceptionalism -- the meaning of liberty.
This all goes back to the differences between two July revolutions, the American Revolution of July 4, 1776 and the French Revolution that started with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
To see why they were so different we need to travel way back in history, to Europe's Dark Ages.
After the fall of the Roman empire, peasants had no jobs and no laws to protect them. So they gathered around powerful warlords, taking shelter in their castles when other lords went marauding. This came to be called the feudal system. Peasants didn't own any property. They were allowed to farm on the lord's land in return for giving him most of their crops.
Those peasants only got the chance to make a career move when free trade spurred the growth of cities. Now a peasant was free to start a business and hire other peasants. They no longer had to serve a feudal lord.
However, the biggest lords of all -- kings -- fought to control cities and their free citizens. Royal decrees and taxation soon came to cramp business owners. So did royal wars over religion.
Seeking religious freedom, our Thanksgiving Pilgrims were among America's first European settlers -- and entrepreneurs. As that great Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville marveled, they set up rules for self-government even before getting off the Mayflower and New England town meetings fostered democratic traditions.
Colonial Americans believed they had individual rights given to them by God. Some called this Natural Law. But all agreed they included the rights to life, liberty and property.
Yes, property was enshrined in Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence. And the founders believed these rights trumped the powers of government. In fact, as every law school -- even Harvard and the University of Chicago -- used to teach, the Constitution strictly defined the new national government's powers, noting in the ninth and tenth amendments of the Bill of Rights that all other powers were retained by individuals and the states.
In other words, the American Revolution began with the proposition that individual citizens -- free and equal under the law -- needed to create a limited government to protect their own inalienable rights.
Now contrast all this with the French Revolution.
The French were rebelling against divine right kings like Louis XIV who declared, "I am the state!" When France's peasants and shopkeepers finally said "to hell with you" (it sounds more elegant in French) they sadly had no tradition of self-government. So unlike the American colonists, the French botched their chance to establish a democratic republic and instead came up with the Reign of Terror and Napoleon's empire.
That's not surprising, since French ideas about government did not start with individual rights. Far from seeking to secure private property, the French agreed with the philosopher Rousseau that private property was a crime against the original state of nature. Instead Rousseau said individuals and their property claims had to bow to the "general will" of the state. Karl Marx, a follower of Rousseau, later inspired Russian Bolsheviks and Chinese communists to make state collectivism supreme. That the state inevitably grows more corrupt and incompetent than any free market boss did not occur to Marx.
But why should we Americans care about the French Revolution?
Because whether they know it or not, many Americans today prefer it to the American Revolution. They believe that America's founders -- far from advancing the equal rights of all Americans -- disenfranchised and oppressed Native Americans, African slaves, Mexicans, women, gays and lesbians and many other groups. They believe those groups continue to be victimized. And they believe only government can redress those wrongs, since the United States remains a fundamentally intolerant, unjust society, much as the French believed their society was fundamentally unjust.
But others disagree.
They note that more than 600,000 people died in a civil war that, however belatedly, emancipated slaves and recognized their equal rights under the law by amending our Constitution -- though shamefully it took much more time to make those rights a reality. They note that waves of immigrants from around the globe initially faced discrimination here but embraced the responsibility of assimilating, working hard, and achieving success. And they note that even now gays, lesbians and transgender Americans are losing some battles but winning others by attempting to persuade fellow citizens that society is continuing to evolve. This debate continues.
In sum, conservatives and libertarians believe that while America has at times been unjust, a fundamentally changed America would be much more unjust. Because instead of protecting individual liberty and encouraging people to build success, a collectivist government fuels its own expansion by making people more and more dependent on the state.
And not just poor people. Businesses, investors, media and academia are all becoming more reliant on state favors, and they in turn prop up ever-growing government. Rich and poor now believe it's not God or natural law but government that provides their liberty.
But all this begs the question, why are so many Americans -- choosing -- to be more like the French?
To paraphrase James Carville's famous advice for Bill Clinton's campaign, "It's the CULTURE, stupid!" And we'll explore that in the blog just below.
Meantime, let's give thanks that our forebears gave us the most tolerant, most empowering, most generous nation in the history of the world. Then let's decide what kind of nation we want to be going forward.
It's the Culture, Stupid!
The blog just above called "Which Revolution?" suggests that our nation is now deeply divided over how to define liberty. This split pits constitutional conservatives against progressives of both parties. To understand why so many Americans are now embracing the French idea of liberty we need to examine our culture.
The best place to start? The old Ed Sullivan Show!
On a typical night in the '50s and '60s, Ed would trot onstage everyone from Borscht Belt comics to a wheedling puppet called Topo Gigio to "teen sensations" like Elvis and The Beatles.
Ed also did something that today seems strange.
He showcased opera singers and ballet dancers.
Why go so high brow?
Well, there were only three major networks, and most families owned just one television set, so Ed had a more or less captive audience.
We didn't like everything he shared, but my mom, dad, sister and I patiently sat back and waited for Mr. Sullivan to serve up something for each of us.
More importantly, those divas and dancers answered what used to be a deep-seated American need.
We're a nation of immigrants. Many of our parents and grandparents arrived with little formal education, but they wanted to "improve" themselves and they wanted their children to be cultivated. They instinctively realized that what makes us human is the ability to build on all that's best from the past to create something new.
So just to key in on music, opera's Enrico Caruso cut the first hit records back in 1902, and Hollywood later made movie stars of Jeanette MacDonald and Mario Lanza . The classical pianist Jose Iturbi accompanied the bobby-soxers' Frank Sinatra. Stokowski conducted for Mickey Mouse. And it wasn't public but commercial television that brought a wide public Leonard Bernstein on Omnibus and his Young People's Concerts.
Then two things happened.
First, society changed. The children of those erstwhile immigrants -- to paraphrase one of the kids' favorite movies -- had no more brains than their parents, but they had one thing they hadn't got -- a diploma. And funny how the validation that came with that diploma bred cultural complacency. The children no longer sought self-improvement. They were already new and improved and stuck in their own cultural moment with scant regard for the past. Worse, they were taught that older art propped up the imperialism of dead white European males.
They were taught wrong. Great artists have always looked beyond their own time and their own borders. That's what the Renaissance was all about.
And more recently, sticking with music, Debussy was entranced by Javanese harmonies. Duke Ellington retooled Grieg and Tchaikovsky and wrote a Far East Suite. Miles Davis drew inspiration from Africa and Brazil. And Bill Evans grooved on... Debussy.
Humanism is a great circle.
A spiritual descendent of those musicians, Wynton Marsalis, bemoans what most young people now hear in their place.
And that's due in large measure to a second big change: the media explosion. The old-line network trio gave way to cable's hundreds of channels and now innumerable internet and social media.
What's wonderful is that the fruits of every civilization are now available at the click of a mouse.
What's sad is that producers can no longer count on Ed Sullivan's captive audience -- on a big slice of the media pie -- so they can't easily risk going high-brow, however you might define that. They're instead reduced to fighting over smaller and smaller slices of that pie by pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Ultimately this is about more than culture.
It's about liberty.
The dumbing down and coarsening of our culture makes it easier for politicians to manipulate us.
Long ago families gathered for prayer or story-telling or actual music-making. It's been decades since we gathered as families, even around a single electronic hearth.
Atomized individuals can make wider choices but -- dreading isolation and seeking solidarity -- we can also be more easily led. Reaching us on old and new media platforms, Hollywood has a disproportionate influence on our lives. Its political messages permeate everything from obvious polemics to more subtle propaganda.
Everyone remembers that George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four warned us about surveillance. But that novel also had a more ominous message, revealed in the manifesto of its authoritarian state:
"(T)he only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism... (T)he Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison. He must be cut off from the past... because it is necessary for him to believe that he is better off than his ancestors"
In so many ways we are better off, if you support civil rights, women's rights, gay rights or any kind of technological advancement. But culturally we are not better off than our ancestors.
That is not to to say we should return to our parlors or to a world of just three TV networks. The latest generations of electronic devices give us a genie who can transport us anywhere, answer any question (if not always accurately) and connect us to the most arcane communities of interest.
We are omniscient. We are all-powerful!
But -- once in a while -- we might recall the humility of our forebears, their yearning to bring something timeless and uplifting to their lives.
Building upon all that's best from the past and across boundaries will make us better individuals, parents and citizens. And it will better equip us to defend liberty.
Woody Allen's Political Joke
Woody Allen used to say that he was afraid of getting mugged, so he hired a personal trainer. The trainer told him, "If you want to take care of yourself you have to do sit ups and pull ups and squat and run." Woody thought that would be exhausting. So he told the trainer: "Here's an extra ten bucks. Can you just walk me home every night?"
Today that sounds like a political joke, because more and more voters and politicians sound like Woody and his trainer. Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats promise they'll protect you with everything from free birth control to a higher minimum wage. Which could come in handy, since most of the jobs they're creating only pay minimum wage, part-time.
Establishment Republicans promise their constituents special tax breaks, a federally inflated stock market and cheap foreign labor.
The funny thing is that Woody never said how his trainer responded. We can guess, since Woody did tell us who that trainer was: an old-time fitness guru named Vic Tanny.
Businessmen like Vic and Charles Atlas and Jack LaLanne were eager to earn an honest buck. But they seemed committed to teaching us how to take care of ourselves. They poked fun at "98 pound weaklings" who saw themselves as victims of bullies. So I don't think they would have accepted Woody's protection money. I think they would have just offered to whip him into shape.
Today we call that tough love. And it's a tough sell. Just ask -- not Establishment Republicans -- but conservatives and libertarians. The challenge they face at the polls next month and even more in 2016 is to convince a majority of Americans that -- unless you genuinely can't help yourself, in which case government should always step in to protect -- you're better off being responsible for yourself than asking Washington to walk you home.
Vic Tanny, Charles Atlas, Jack LaLanne and, a generation later, Arnold Schwarzenneger were all inspirational figures. Thanks to them millions of men and women learned to be fit -- for anything.
The last political figure who offered Americans that kind of inspiration was Ronald Reagan. Unless we elect political figures soon who inspire us to be productive and self-sufficient in this world full of bullies, we may not have to worry about walking home. Because the home we love, for all its flaws, may be lost, either to muggers abroad or due to our own internal weakness. And that's no joke.
This Evil Bull Market
A substantial stock investor shared great news. The latest jobless numbers were awful.
Oh sure, the Labor Department was again proclaiming monthly gains. But most new jobs were part-time or minimum wage. Minorities got hurt most. Followed by highly educated young people deeply in debt who could not find work in their chosen fields.
Why was this good news?
Because it meant the Federal Reserve would be forced to keep interest rates artificially low, and continue to pump as much as $85 billion a month into Wall Street via Quantitative Easing.
Low interest meant the average American could no longer save the old fashioned way. Savings accounts and CDs returned virtually nothing. So everyone had to jump into the stock market. And the longer America's economy remained flat, the longer the Feds would continue to pump the poison.
This was not trickle down economics. Far and away the biggest winners were the ones who could borrow cheap money to leverage gains in the only game in town, the bull market.
And this was not like prior bubbles. In the '20s most investors were betting on American growth. Lacking enough money to cover their bets, everyone from millionaires to the proverbial shoeshine boys took advantage of 10% margin requirements on stock purchases, until the house of cards collapsed 85 Octobers ago.
Similarly in the '90s most investors were betting on American know-how. True, Boo.com was exposed trying to sell fashion in cyber space, and Pets.com went to the dogs peddling online dog food, but people at one point thought these companies had a chance.
The first sign of sheer cynicism came a decade later, with the housing bubble. The initial impulse to put more people, including poor people, into real estate may have been laudable. But it quickly became clear that bundling bad mortgages could only lead America to the poor house.
This bull market has been even more full of bull. And at times downright evil. Because it's been fueled in large measure by bad news. Terrible news about jobs and anemic economic growth in America and around the globe meant that the Fed, urged on by the White House, would not risk returning America to free market fundamentals.
Yes, many companies have been well managed. Many will continue to grow, even after QE ends, as scheduled, this month . Those well run companies will continue to increase productivity -- often by cutting their full-time workforces -- and they will pay steady dividends.
But this growth has come at the expense of America's dwindling middle class. Average family incomes are declining. More Americans -- men and women -- have been forced to work two or three jobs. Or they've dropped out of the workforce and are now dependent on government, just as the rich have been forced to depend on artificially low interest rates and quantitative bond-buying.
In other words, whether this bull market ends soon or continues for a time, we must realize that it has not been sustained on the free-market principles that make America great.
We can disagree about trade and tax policies and so much else. But we must return to reasonable regulations and the magic of true capitalism -- magic conjured not by federal dictators but by Adam Smith's invisible hand of supply and demand.
The alternative? Let's hope we don't find out.
Independent Candidates? Take Me to Your Leader!
Senate and House candidates hope they don't run into any Martians. Because those little green men will demand, "Take me to your leader!" And that would zap a lot of stealth candidates who promise voters they'll be "independent."
Among Democrats consider Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Interviewed this month by the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board, Grimes was asked a simple question. Did you vote for Barack Obama? The video of her verbal contortions in refusing to answer not once but three times has now gone viral, and even NBC's Chuck Todd said that Grimes effectively "disqualified herself."
Far more damning for me was the Grimes campaign assuring pro-coal Kentuckians that she would have "strong words" for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over the Democrats' war on coal. A Grimes fundraiser has since assured progressives, "She's going to have to do what she has to do to get elected and then she's going to f--k them."
The crucial point does not concern coal or even hypocrisy. It's that Democrats like Grimes, and Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, and even West Virginia's so-called maverick Joe Manchin have only one strong word for Harry Reid: "Yes." In answer to the Martians, Reid will remain their leader. And for all these candidates' independent posturing, Harry Reid, if he remains majority leader, will continue to keep hundreds of GOP bills from even reaching a vote, while he confirms any Obama judicial nominee who isn't a Martian.
(I say a Martian rather than an alien because no doubt Democrats would vote to confirm illegal immigrants.)
Republicans are not much better. To secure their base they champion all kinds of conservative positions. But when the Martians come asking, GOP senators will again name Mitch McConnell their leader (assuming he beats Grimes, which now seems likely) and House members will once again choose John Boehner -- even though, as I've shown, neither leader has done anything to frame a conservative agenda -- a failure that may cost them control of the Senate.
Establishment journalists may think they're doing their jobs by parroting a candidate's "positions." And candidates may make headlines by pretending to challenge their own party bosses.
But Martians know the way to judge someone is by sizing up their leaders. And as Orson Welles showed us in his War of the Worlds radio prank 76 years ago this month, what Martians know... ought to send us running for the hills.
All is Well?
Remember at the end of Animal House when all hell is breaking loose and Kevin Bacon, one of the empty suits from the elite fraternity, assures the panicking crowd, "Remain Calm! All is well!"
Well, Kevin Bacon is no longer separated by even one degree from President Obama. No one believes either of them. Yet as we'll see, that may not matter.
Take the war on ISIS. In the run-up to the November election President Obama's airstrikes seem more a political than a military campaign. Despite his vow that American ground troops will not be deployed, more than 70% of Americans don't believe that.
Or take Ebola. Even the pundit notorious for getting a thrill up his leg when he sees Barack Obama, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, now says that the president is making an "effort to try to downplay concerns at the expense of being a truth-teller."
Why is Matthews only now noticing that our president is Kevin Bacon? Consider the last five and a half years of this administration:
-- Spending nearly a trillion dollars for stimulus jobs that the president later admitted were not "shovel-ready," except for favored public unions.
-- Declaring mission accomplished in Iraq and withdrawing every last American troop, thus creating the vacuum that ushered in ISIS -- much as President Obama paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, al Qaeda in Libya, and Russia in Crimea.
-- Standing by as Lois Lerner and her IRS colleagues targeted conservatives for heightened scrutiny and harassment. In an initial moment of candor President Obama did acknowledge, "Americans have a right to be angry about it. And I'm angry about it." But when it became clear that his establishment media would shut its eyes to this outrage, just as it did with Fast and Furious gunrunning, Benghazi, and so many other scandals, the president declared that the IRS had displayed not even "a smidgen of corruption."
Yet this may not matter.
Kevin Bacon did not wind up being typecast as an ineffectual elitist. And President Obama's Democratic Party may yet retain a majority in the Senate for two simple reasons.
First, a majority of Americans are now dependent on big government. From social program recipients to Wall Street investors hooked on cheap money and low interest rates, they may feel that incompetent, corrupt government still provides goodies.
Second, as we've shown, Republicans refuse to unite behind an alternative agenda that could galvanize the middle class and those who aspire to become middle class. So establishment Republicans like Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas can only tout their support for slightly smaller government. And Roberts looks likely to lose.
That means President Obama may retain the power to enact everything from energy regulations to immigration "reform" with his pen and his phone. And it means Harry Reid's Senate may be able to confirm even the most activist judges and Supreme Court justices.
All is hardly well. But if most Americans don't care, we can only hope all hell won't break loose.
Caring For Our Nation
My darling wife has begun chemotherapy. We're very hopeful thanks to her dedicated team of doctors and nurses. They are brilliant, highly trained, kind and selfless. And as election day nears they got us wondering: why can't we attract more politicians with those same sterling qualities?
Aymsley's caregivers acquired skills that go far beyond making promises and raising campaign cash. They give more than they get at all hours of the day with no thought of a revolving door to a lobbying firm or some other golden parachute. Medical professionals are well compensated, but not on the royal scale of our most powerful public servants. Indeed, Obamacare will make it a lot harder for doctors to get rich.
And even the most eminent physicians know they're not irreplaceable. Medical school, internship, residency and continuing education ensure that all doctors attain real world expertise. Contrast that with politicians, the most incompetent of whom think they're indispensable. My favorite example: George Nethercutt.
Twenty years ago in the state of Washington that neophyte challenged a pillar of Washington, D.C. -- House Speaker Tom Foley. The key issue in their race? Term limits. Nethercutt vilified the 30-year congressional veteran as a creature of Washington. So Nethercutt vowed to serve no more than three terms on the Hill. And he won.
Then a funny thing happened. After three terms, instead of relinquishing his seat, Nethercutt told The Washington Post, "I'm less enamored with the idea of term limitations, and I'm the perfect example of why we don't need them." The congressman now saw himself as indispensable. Ignoring Charles de Gaulle's jibe that graveyards are filled with indispensable men.
Term limits for members of Congress may not turn them into Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith. Term limits certainly have not turned our presidents into George Washington, who King George III called the greatest man in the world because Washington only wanted to return to his farm. But term limits might keep voters from choosing hacks who promise a secure place at the political trough, and fear any action that might endanger their reelection.
My wife's doctor is pursuing a bold course of treatment. I'd like to think if he were a politician he'd propose true tax and entitlement reform. That he'd seek to free people -- rich and poor alike -- from the clutches of government dependency. And that if he waged a war he'd fight it to win. Just as he's now helping my wife beat cancer.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Now that our Nobel peace prize-winning president Barack Obama has become a full-fledged war president, bombing his seventh country, Syria ...where have all the flowers gone?
Why are the media not seeking out Hanoi Jane Fonda, who egged on our North Vietnamese foes perched atop the kind of anti-aircraft gun that Bashar al-Assad may or may not soon train on our pilots? (That "enemy of humanity" is now a temporary ally.)
Why are the media not again making a star of Cindy Sheehan, the anti-Iraq War mother who camped outside George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch -- and who now says political correctness protects President Obama?
And where are the mainstream media pundits themselves? They pursued W like Greek Furies for relying on faulty intelligence post-9/11. But at least there was intelligence claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Unless you believe Secretary of State Colin Powell was lying and that thousands of Kurds were not really killed by chemical weapons.
Where is there any intelligence claiming that ISIS or ISIL has weapons of mass destruction?
Beyond that, George W. Bush relied on the same "preemption doctrine" that Senator Barack Obama attacked -- and that President Barack Obama now embraces. Apart from vague threats like the one ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi made when he was released -- under Obama -- from a detention camp, "I'll see you guys in New York," where is the evidence that ISIS is planning to attack America? For months President Obama assured us there was no evidence. Instead, Obama dismissed ISIS as al-Qaeda's "jayvee" team, boasted that al-Qaeda itself had been decimated, and assured the world that he had created such a "stable and self-reliant Iraq" that we could withdraw every last American soldier.
Now it is clear that vacuum invited ISIS to seize one-third of Iraq, including oil fields, banks and American weapons.
So where are the protests?
I do not argue that we should abandon Iraq. It could be that Joe Biden was actually right and that we should have partitioned the country among Shia, Sunni and Kurds. It could be that now we should be employing the (Colin) Powell doctrine -- attacking ISIS not just with air strikes but with overwhelming air, sea and ground force and then occupying Iraq the way we occupied and continue to keep a residual force in Germany, Japan and South Korea.
All this should be debated as it has not been debated -- making President Obama's sudden war seem less a military than a political campaign, a pre-October surprise ahead of the mid-term elections.
But again, putting all that aside, where are the anti-war protesters?
Where are the media harpies?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Contract with America? Yeah Yeah Yeah!
If GOP leaders were as brilliant as the Beatles they'd be shouting how...
It was twenty years ago today
... that Republicans promised to change our country for the better in their Contract with America.
By contrast today, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think they can seize control of Capitol Hill by keeping quiet and letting President Obama implode. Maybe. But they will have won nothing beyond majority perks. More likely, absent an agenda, Republicans could see the anemic turnout that doomed Mitt Romney. In any event they will have no mandate to reverse Barack Obama's fundamental transformation of America.
For those who don't remember -- and the mainstream media certainly are not celebrating this anniversary -- here's how Republicans 20 years ago won a congressional majority for the first time in 40 years.
In September of 1994, a conservative House firebrand with the ridiculous name of Newt Gingrich joined Dick Armey in drafting a ridiculous plan. They called it the Contract with America. It was ridiculous because everyone agreed with House Speaker Tip O'Neill that "all politics is local" -- certainly all off-year congressional politics. The Contract with America sought to nationalize the 1994 House races.
Gingrich pledged that if Republicans won and he became speaker, within 100 days they would vote on ten bills. These included measures to balance the budget, reform welfare, cut taxes for small businesses, and impose congressional term limits.
What critics in Washington and the media called the Contract ON America was so ridiculous that Gingrich and Armey let Americans read it directly by printing an insert in the nation's most popular magazine, TV Guide.
Less than two months later Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since America liked Ike. Then Gingrich fulfilled his pledge. But many of his Reagan-inspired reforms were blocked in the Senate, not only by Clinton Democrats but also by establishment members of his own party.
The current House speaker, John Boehner, was at first a Gingrich lieutenant who helped draft the Contract. By many disputed accounts he then joined in a failed coup against Gingrich, who admittedly proved a flawed leader.
Is Boehner now remembering the Contract's anniversary? Are he and Senator McConnell trying to nationalize the November elections with a positive agenda?
They are presenting no plan for balanced budgets and the national debt. No plan for reforming our hideously politicized tax code, now being enforced by a politicized tax agency. No plan to replace or even reform Obamacare, or entitlements, or anything at all. Very quietly, the GOP establishment -- does -- support "comprehensive immigration reform," despite knowing that President Obama will do nothing to secure the borders and slow the flow of illegal immigrants of all ages. Beyond that the GOP establishment is sitting on the sidelines, threatening a lawsuit against President Obama for ignoring the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. And hoping Democrats will implode.
But America despises this do-nothing Congress even more than it distrusts President Obama. And if doing nothing includes refusing to campaign, a crucial number of Grand Old Party voters may sit out this dance.
It's not too late for Republican leaders to achieve consensus within their party on at least a few issues that inspire and energize the country. Another Contract with America? Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
Thanks to the troop surge in 2007 that Senator Obama opposed, President Obama in 2011 declared victory in Iraq.
Yet now, in renewing the Iraq war and expanding it for the first time to Syria, President Obama is pledging to commit no U.S. combat troops. And beyond the Kurds defending themselves, there is no evidence that any other country will provide effective ground troops, including Iraq.
Instead the president has ordered an air campaign to "degrade and destroy" the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which has seized oil fields, banks, American weapons and territory roughly the size of Pennsylvania.
History suggests relying on airstrikes alone is madness.
Some Obama supporters deny that. They cite Bill Clinton's success in Kosovo. But they forget history. Much in the style of Obama, Clinton began the Kosovo campaign by announcing how we would -- not -- fight. Clinton took U.S. troops "off the table." Then, with the launch of NATO's air campaign, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic actually stepped up his ethnic cleansing. Finally, Clinton was forced to put troops back on the table. It was only the credible threat of a ground war that finally ended that conflict.
President Obama himself has already seen the disastrous results of an air campaign. For seven months in 2011 he "led from behind" a U.N. authorized multi-national series of air strikes on Libya. It succeeded in toppling Muammar Gaddafi. And it left a vacuum in Libya similar to the vacuum Obama left in Iraq when he withdrew all U.S. troops in 2011. Gaddafi, for all his faults, had halted his nuclear program and was sharing intelligence with America. The terrorists who followed him destroyed our diplomatic compound in Benghazi, murdered Americans and are now turning Libya into another Islamist state.
The White House knows what skeptics in the Pentagon and on both sides of the aisle in Congress are saying: ISIS cannot be destroyed or even significantly degraded absent a ground war. During the First Gulf War, as James Baker noted this past weekend, Bush 41 committed a half million U.S. troops to ousting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, and he enlisted another 200,000 troops from three dozen other countries -- in addition to air strikes. In the second Iraq war Bush 43 achieved temporary peace only due to his troop surge -- which not only Barack Obama but also Hillary Clinton and John Kerry all opposed.
Last month I suggested another reason that President Obama might launch expanded air strikes. This may be a pre-election October surprise, an attempt to unite the country behind a war.
All too recently -- but long after it grew exponentially -- the president dismissed ISIS as al-Qaeda's "jayvee team."
The president also ridiculed the moderate Syrian army he now wants to arm as "farmers and dentists."
What's changed? The beheadings of two American journalists? Or ...the polls.
Americans demanded action. Yet they now doubt that President Obama's plan will achieve anything that can be called victory.
A serious response to ISIS requires shoring up Jordan and Lebanon, which are in danger of falling. It requires American energy independence, not a war on clean coal, off-shore drilling, fracking on public land, and blocking the Keystone XL pipeline. If, as Defense Secretary Hagel concedes, ISIS really is a greater threat to America than al-Qaeda ever was, this campaign may require shock and awe and the kind of long-term commitment of U.S. troops we have made for decades in Germany, Japan and South Korea. If America shows it is serious, other countries may once again follow, up front and in real numbers.
But an air campaign alone is madness.
Unless its real aim ... is simply to win an election campaign.
Victors vs. Victims
Why are Westerners by the thousands rushing to join the Islamic State?
The New York Times seldom sees fit to print news unfavorable to the Obama administration. So this witty headline must have been unwitting. It was about the president reacting to the decapitation of American journalist James Foley, and then rushing back to the golf course:
Obama, Outraged Over Beheading, Vows to Stay on Course
Even some Democrats choked over the Middle East sand trap President Obama's hit his way into. Some actually contend he's "checked out" of the presidency and only wants to play golf.
Don't buy that.
Now that he's back in the White House, expect spectacular bunker shots to help win the congressional elections.
Mr. Obama's entire political career has been built on what are loosely called October surprises. Some were lucky. Others were of his own doing.
In the latter category, the Obama Senate campaign in 2004 leaked sealed divorce records -- first of his Democratic primary rival, then of his Republican opponent.
Running for president four years later, most polls had the GOP's John McCain even or even leading Barack Obama on September 15. Then Lehman Brothers collapsed and ushered in the Great Recession.
Seeking reelection in 2012, Mitt Romney had pulled ahead after the first debate until Superstorm Sandy, and the bear hug from New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, cemented President Obama's lead.
No one, not even our stations' great meteorologists, can predict another superstorm, much less another Republican bear hug. And another stock market collapse would not help Barack Obama now that he's the incumbent.
But we are hearing rumblings that President Obama may soon grant some form of amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. This might energize Hispanic turnout, which has been notoriously low during mid-term elections.
(September 12 update: The president announced he will move unilaterally on amnesty but only after the election. So much for transparency -- and democracy.)
And then there's ISIS. A previous blog contends that its rise was largely the result of Obama administration policies and the president's attitude toward Islamic militants. But further land grabs and outrages by the so-called Islamic State may justify -- may necessitate --- the kind of military action that unites most of our country.
President Obama wants to keep control of the Senate, if only to confirm judges and Supreme Court justices. To push through an agenda without having to rely on his own "pen and phone" the president also wants to regain control of the House.
So while his approval ratings are low and his coattails frayed going into the November elections, don't expect the president to drop out of this tournament. Especially since the GOP is teeing off aimlessly, offering voters no alternative agenda. With all the golf he plays, President Obama knows how to hit his way out of a bunker.
Ferguson and Class Warfare
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says the Ferguson riots are about more than race; they're about class warfare. I agree. But not about why America's underclass is growing.
In his Time opinion piece called "The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race," Abdul-Jabbar warns that 50 million poor Americans have been "screwed over for so long" by the One Percent that they will rise up either as a voting bloc or violently, like the oppressed victims of The Hunger Games.
Begging the question: Why are 50 million people poor, 50 years into the War on Poverty -- a war that's vastly expanded government to eradicate poverty?
The answer is not racial discrimination. To see why let's consult a British doctor.
Anthony Daniels has cared for patients throughout the Third World but says he found no place where poverty is more deeply ingrained than in his native England. Dr. Daniels writes in Imprimis that he would make house calls in Birmingham and find "a shifting cast of members" among whom "(i)f there was an adult male resident, he was generally a bird of passage." Daniels notes that "twice as many children in Britain have a television as a biological father living at home." Instead of family dinners he saw only "foraging in the refrigerator." Many patients became addicted to drugs, especially heroin.
This is not a matter of race. Daniels found one group of people who did not suffer a high rate of family disintegration were those of "Indian-subcontinental descent."
For all this despair Dr. Daniels blames not discrimination but "the salvationist bureaucracy of the government" that expands its own power and the wealth of its cronies by creating "a state of dishonest dependency."
Britain beat us to it. Right after the Second World War socialist Labour governments seized private industries, kowtowed to unions, nationalized health care and put millions of Brits on the dole. By the mid-1950s John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger came to symbolize the resentment of underemployed white wastrels with aimless lives.
Rather than learning from its mistakes the US is now following the UK. While our middle class shrinks, the real One Percent -- today's governing class of millionaire politicians and billionaire patrons of both parties-- promise the growing underclass a subsistence existence in exchange for votes. The vote machine is fueled by a raging sense of victimhood. Establishment media thrive by stoking the flames.
To douse the fire we must convince people of all races that however much it may have fallen short in the past, the American model of individual rights, free markets, a safety net for those truly in need, and limited government provides the greatest opportunity for people willing to take responsibility for their own choices.
Dr. Daniels knows how hard that will be. There is, he writes, "an eternal and universal temptation of mankind to blame those of his misfortunes that are the natural and predictable consequence of his own choices on forces or circumstances that are external to him and outside his control."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did not win superstardom through class warfare. Endless dedication let him perfect his skyhook, his blocks and his 72.1 percent free throw shooting. Because we're not all 7'2". But we can all learn to shoot free throws.
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Loot
Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice."
This is the credo of Rockit Ali, a 22-year-old African American in a Spiderman mask who helped organize a Ferguson protest held while the grand jury was still deliberating.
Those without a voice presumably include the 94% of African-American voters in Fersuson who chose not to vote in its last local elections.
Since the population of Ferguson is nearly 70% black, African-Americans could have elected a mayor they believed better represented them than the white mayor who ran -- unopposed. They could have voted for a police force that is not mostly white.
Instead many are responding to a 12-member grand jury that included three African-Americans -- roughly representaive of the population of St. Louis County -- with rioting and looting. Because looting can be justified, not just as free speech for those "without a voice," but also as a fundamental aim of progressives: a speeded-up redistribution of income.
You cannot make innocent, hard working store owners pay for Michael Brown's death unless you believe those store owners are the real looters, and that police protect unjustly acquired property.
Immediately after the grand jury's decision was announced, as the latest riots began, President Obama called for peace while noting:
"(T)here are Americans who are deeply upset, even angry. It's an understandable reaction...Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates."
Suggesting that Ferguson's policing was not good and may be discriminatory.
But long before Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, Senator Barack Obama, as presidential candidate in 2008, told Ohio's "Joe the Plumber," "When you spread the wealth around it's good for everyone."
Seeking reelection in 2012 President Obama told Virginia voters, "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that; somebody else made that happen."
On those occasions and countless others the president has not simply pointed out the obvious -- that all Americans rely on roads, bridges and schools funded by taxpayers. The president is conveying to core constituents his core narrative: America from its founding has been fundamentally unjust and now needs to be fundamentally transformed.
Many of his constituents see themselves as victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and, worst of all, under-regulated capitalism.
With help from the establishment media, those core constituents are supposed to ignore the fact that during the Obama years black joblessness has been more than twice that of whites. And they are rarely reminded that those doing best under President Obama are not local store owners like the one Michael Brown apparently robbed shortly before he was shot, but Wall Street crony capitalists propped up by this administration's near zero interest rates, QE bond buying and other sweetheart deals. Occupy Wall Street briefly protested widening income inequality -- until its basis in Obama policies became too embarrassing.
If protesters still believe a Ferguson police officer wrongfully killed Michael Brown they can peacefully ask Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department to pursue a civil rights action. But if they want stuff from Ferguson stores, get a job. And that may require protesting -- outside the White House.
Shakespeare said that this time of year, "whining schoolboys," and presumably schoolgirls too, "creep like snail unwillingly (back) to school."
But that's only if they pass up choosing the right stuff to study -- "such stuff as dreams are made on." So here are suggestions from three students.
Early in her senior year of high school, Sandi (not her real name) was taken on a field trip to a vocational school. She came home and gave her mom a heart attack. Sandi had always toyed with the idea of becoming a dentist but wasn't sure she'd really like it. The vocational school offered training for dental assistants. Sandi asked her mother, "Why not study that, and then work with a dentist, and then if I like it I can go to college and maybe dental school?" Mom admitted she was worried about the social stigma attached to kids, and their parents, when they don't go straight to college. Then Mom proudly admitted Sandi was remarkably mature.
Ever since World War II and the GI Bill, our society's thought of college the way we used to think of high school -- as a necessary rite of passage, and evidence that kids are well educated. Even when college leaves them with what Oscar Levant called "a smattering of ignorance." And ill-equipped to make as good a living as master plumbers or electricians who don't have a mountain of debt.
That wasn't Kevin's problem, but he had another one just as common. He studied political science at Miami University with the vague idea of becoming a politician someday. Well into his senior year Kevin panicked. What was he going to do after graduation? He lacked the courage to work for peanuts for some politician or political group. He didn't want to enlist in the military. Kevin felt he needed a graduate degree, immediately. So like so many other guys who can't do math -- including myself -- Kevin wound up applying to law school even though he didn't want to be a lawyer. Law seemed a conventionally respectable vocation, a modern-day butcher, baker or candlestick maker. Kevin was surprised to learn how hard it is to find a good job in this sluggish economy glutted with young lawyers. Especially if you're not passionate about your profession.
The kind of job that Geoff already has -- while he's in college. As an incoming freshman at the University of Dayton, Geoff couldn't decide between business and engineering. A counselor said he didn't have to: UD has a co-op program with GE aviation. Geoff's dual interests made him an ideal candidate for supply chain management. Geoff never heard of that major but found it fascinating. He got a paying position with GE while still in school and is virtually certain to be hired by them or by any number of other businesses that can't find enough qualified candidates.
The point is that help is available. Not only help paying for college but also help deciding whether college is right for you at this time and, if so, what to study. Most of us don't spend enough time studying that. If you do, chances are that instead of being a whining school boy, you'll have what Shakespeare also described: a "shining morning face" on your way to class.
Obama's Iraq Mulligan
Even if President Obama's bombing in Iraq turns out to be just a mulligan on his way to yet another golf vacation, it's worth reviewing why ISIS and other Islamic extremists are back on the rise. This started on Obama's very first day as president, when he sent back to the British a bust of Winston Churchill.
As Dinesh D'Souza argues, one of Barack Obama's ruling passions is hatred for Western imperialists. Humiliating and defeating them is a "dream from his father." D'Souza traces this to Churchill's second stint as prime minister, when Obama's Kenyan grandfather was imprisoned without trial.
Progressives branded George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq an imperialist war. Even some conservatives now concede it may not have been justified. Yet during his second term W brought a shaky stability to that country which, in its modern form, was created by Churchill and other victors of World War I.
Barack Obama surrendered any gains made in Iraq by withdrawing all U.S. forces and leaving it vulnerable to jihad. This was not only a repudiation of Bush. Our withdrawal was part of a broader and far more disturbing pattern. From the start, President Obama's foreign policy has been defined by support for radical Islamists:
- first in demanding, also on his first day in office, that Gitmo be closed
- then in Iran, where President Obama refused to back moderate protests against the anti-American ayatollahs
- in Libya, where we toppled Gaddafi despite his dismantling of Libya's nuclear weapons program and his having shared anti-terror intelligence with Bush; we were repaid by Islamists with the terror attack in Benghazi
- in Syria, where opponents of Assad became radicalized after Obama in 2009 released the future ISIS leader, whose parting words were, "I'll see you guys in New York"
- in Afghanistan, where Obama early on set a withdrawal date, and in May traded away five top Taliban commandos
- In Gaza, where our negotiations have strengthened the position of the terror organization Hamas
- and in Iraq, which Obama left in 2011 with no status of forces agreement and no American military presence, supposedly out of disgust with its hyper-partisan Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This would have been like abandoning France during World War II because Charles de Gaulle was obnoxious.
Is the Shiite-dominated Iraq government now falling and looking to Iran for aid entirely because of Barack Obama? Certainly not. Both Bushes have plenty to answer for.
But the fertile, oil rich crescent from Syria to Iraq that the Sunni jihadists are seizing will be a far more dangerous terror base than Afghanistan ever was.
Live Like a King, Govern Like a President
As Barack Obama returns to Martha's Vineyard to vacation with billionaires, lowly critics are carping that our president lives like a king.
Not just because he's turned Air Force One into a golf cart, shooting 180 rounds and counting while our economy sputters and the world burns. In fairness, President Obama's also flown the taxpayers' jet to nearly 400 gold-plated fundraisers.
No, what bothers these commoners is not that President Obama lives like a king but that he rules like a king.
As promised, he has fundamentally transformed the limited government mandated by the constitution he used to lecture about -- and criticize.
The president has done that by violating, as no president ever has done before, the separation of powers that is the heart of our democratic republic.
True, Lincoln assumed extraordinary powers during the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson pursued the progressive demand for a super-charged chief executive. Franklin Roosevelt tried expanding the Supreme Court to 15 justices so his additional six would approve the New Deal's vast expansion of government.
But no president has gone as far as Barack Obama in ignoring the clear requirements of duly enacted laws.
And not just laws passed under his predecessors, like the Defense of Marriage Act signed by Bill Clinton, or immigration laws passed under a succession of presidents.
Barack Obama won't even fulfill his constitutional duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" when it comes to the signature law of his presidency, the Affordable Care Act. From the time Obamacare was enacted, his administration has granted select special interests exemptions, delays, subsidies, tax breaks and unauthorized federal exchanges.
The French political philosopher Montesquieu inspired our framers to separate powers among a legislature, a judiciary and an executive for this fundamental reason: to prevent tyranny. Americans had declared independence from a divine right monarch. They were demanding certainty for all citizens of equal treatment under the law. They were grateful that our greatest president, George Washington, declined to become a king.
Washington established countless crucial precedents -- including the tradition of leaving office after two terms. Just as important, Washington showed a proper deference to Congress.
President Obama claims authority to ignore Congress and rely on his "pen and a phone"
because he says Republicans are causing gridlock on Capitol Hill. Putting aside the hyper-partisanship of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who's to say Republicans are not doing their job when they try blocking the president's policies? They won a majority in the House in 2012 and again in 2014 because millions of voters believed the Obama agenda is disastrous.
If the president can't or won't cut deals with the GOP, as he refused to do with Obamacare -- the most sweeping social legislation ever passed on a strict party line vote -- he cannot claim the authority to legislate on his own. Or so says House Speaker John Boehner, who's about to sue the president. The Supreme Court has already -- unanimously -- ruled against this administration a dozen times.
Others, like former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, make a case for impeachment. But for political reasons Boehner has ruled that out.
While my wife and I look forward to our own vacation -- a visit to our home by my parents and our older daughter -- let's not envy President Obama living like a king. Too many hypocritical politicians already play the politics of envy.
But let's hope that after returning from Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Obama governs like a president.
Part Time America
Whether you delivered papers or cut lawns or bell hopped at a hotel like I did, there used to be a word for people who worked part time.
Now nearly one fifth of all working Americans are working only part time.
In 1968, the first year the Labor Department collected these figures, 13.5% of Americans were part timers. Dig deep into the latest employment report (and you need to dig, because establishment media largely ignore this) and you'll find that 19.2 percent of us are now part timers. Actually it's worse than that, because the government defines full time workers as those who clock a total of 35 hours a week, even if that's from multiple part time jobs. Without benefits.
Then consider that since 2010 more than 8 million people have dropped out of the workforce and aren't counted in the government's jobless numbers. Factor those people in and today's unemployment rate really should be 11.2 percent.
Why are we becoming a part time economy? What's changed?
Economist Scott Grannis links this weakest recovery ever to the shift from free markets to a ballooning welfare state:
"(T)here was a significant change in fiscal policy that occurred around 2009 that might explain the decline in the labor force participation rate: a huge increase in government transfer payments (social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, disability insurance, veterans benefits, subsidies) rose almost 16%, in just one year... With the government paying people more than ever not to work, it should not be surprising to see fewer people willing to work."
Or able to work. Jobs, full and part time jobs, are now so hard to find. The economy is growing at an annual rate of only about 2% -- and much of that growth comes from Washington pumping tens of billions of dollars each month into Wall Street.
Minorities, particularly African-Americans, are hardest hit. Some economists argue that minimum wage hikes and countless other government regulations discourage hiring. The influx of illegal immigrants may also be driving down hours and wages.
Add to all this Obamacare's employer mandate, postponed (perhaps illegally) but now set to kick in next year and employers soon may be even less eager to hire than they are now.
These trends are eroding our work ethic by leaving millions more of us dependent on government.
That may be good for the party of government. But it will prove ruinous for the America that was built by people who worked 40, 50 -- in the case of my grandparents and probably yours -- 60 hours a week. And not so their grandchildren could go on the dole.
It cannot be that your job comes down to voting for the party that promises to support you.
We must demand part time government and full time jobs.
Israel, Drop Dead
It comes down to this. If, as many people do, you believe Israel has no right to exist -- if you believe its creation dating back to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 reflected the European imperialism that President Obama abhors -- then it's simple. Israel has no right to defend itself.
Not only the kidnapping and murder of three students, one of them an American, that triggered this latest round of fighting.
No, you must believe Israel has no right to defend itself against the ceaseless barrage of rockets launched by the U.S. designated terror group Hamas. That missile assault began almost as soon as Israel voluntarily relinquished control of Gaza in 2005.
There are two reasons Hamas rockets don't inflict as much suffering as Israeli rockets do. First, Israel has developed superior defense technology -- the Iron Dome inspired by Ronald Reagan's much derided Star Wars intercept plan. Second, there's the simple but dead-on description of Hamas tactics by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "We're using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles."
You may think our mainstream media focus on the suffering in Gaza because it's dreadful and telegenic -- because if it bleeds it leads. But mainstream media blissfully ignored the bloodshed of Fast and Furious government gun running that took hundreds if not thousands of lives along our southwestern border. And our media all but ignored the truth behind the terror attack in Benghazi. Those scandals did not reflect well on this administration. But the conservative Netanyahu is not in this administration's good graces. So now its friends in the media focus on the awful human loss in Gaza -- while ignoring its antecedents.
The truth you won't often read or see is that Israel seeks peace. Yes there may be disputes over borders and settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return. But Israel seeks peace. It did at Camp David, when Jimmy Carter brokered a deal that's kept peace between Israel and Egypt since 1978 -- and got Egypt's great leader Anwar Sadat assassinated for his peacemaking. Israel also accepted what many thought was a dangerous peace plan negotiated with the Clinton administration until the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat backed out. Arafat was no Sadat.
Is Israel entirely in the right? Certainly not. But if you believe Hamas has the right to keep launching missiles into Israel, digging tunnels and kidnapping students you probably also believe, with Hamas, Iran and so many others -- in the Middle East and throughout the world -- that Israel has no right to exist.
Who's Afraid of Barack Obama?
The ethnic Russians in Ukraine who shot down Malaysian Flight 17 are Vladimir Putin's stooges. The question now is, what will President Obama do?
He may or may not impose harsh sanctions on Russia. He may or may not help arm Ukraine.
But a quick history of Obama foreign policy shows why Putin is not shaking in his jack boots. It is a history of support for enemies and abandonment of friends -- a history of weakness inviting aggression.
On Obama's first day in office he sent back to the British a bust of Winston Churchill. This was not just a rebuke to George W, Bush, who kept that gift in the Oval Office. It was a message to the UK and to the world that Obama rejected so-called western imperialism.
Soon after, during what came to be called his "apology tour," President Obama said in France, "there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." He said in Turkey, "The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history."
When Obama visited Egypt he invited the Muslim Brotherhood to attend his speech even though the Brotherhood was banned by our ally, Hosni Mubarak, as a terror group supporting Hamas and the creation of a radical Islamic state. Mubarak was then toppled and the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, supported by the Obama administration. Yet the Brotherhood proved so radical that Egyptians themselves reinstated the military which, distrusting us, is now drawing closer to Russia.
In Iran, President Obama refused to support massive street protests against its militant theocracy.
In Poland and the Czech Republic he withdrew promised American missile defense in order to placate Russia.
In Libya, President Obama helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi even though that dictator had shut down his nuclear program after the Iraq invasion and was supplying the West with anti-terror intelligence. The Islamists who deposed Gaddafi then attacked our mission in Benghazi and murdered our ambassador and three other Americans. The White House responded to this pre-election scandal with a cover-up.
In Syria President Obama unilaterally drew a red line against Assad's use of chemical weapons and then -- lacking support from the British and our own Congress -- Obama sheepishly accepted a disarmament plan proposed by Putin
Among the foes of Assad we implicitly supported in Syria were the ISIS Sunni militants who have now seized large swaths of both Syria and Iraq in their quest for a caliphate.
We could discuss relations with Afghanistan, North Korea and above all China, but let's "pivot" to Russia.
During the first year of the Obama administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried showing up George W. Bush by presenting Russia with a "reset button." Three years later an open microphone caught President Obama assuring Russia's then-president, "This is my last election; after my election I have more flexibility." But after that election Putin's ally in Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted from office by opponents favoring closer ties to Europe. President Obama warned Putin to keep his distance. Putin moved in troops. Crimea's ultimate secession became the first forced border change in Europe since World War Two. And Putin clearly is not through.
However, far more important than our military and diplomatic lack of resolve, America's enemies see how we are being hollowed out from within. Government regulation keeps us from capitalizing fully on our energy resources. We are replacing full-time with part-time jobs, making millions more people dependent on government. The growth sector of our economy is now Wall Street. It is inflated by the Federal Reserve's near zero interest rates and tens of billions of dollars a month in QE bond buying. Those policies threaten to depose the dollar as the world's reserve currency.
When that happens America will no longer be able to finance deficit spending by the continued printing of money.
A day of reckoning is coming. We can only hope it is coming for jihadists and ultra-nationalists like Putin, intent on restoring their empires. But absent real change I'm afraid the day of reckoning will be ours.
Border: My Big Fat Greek Family -- Minus One
My mother's family legally emigrated to America from Greece after the First World War. All except for one great great uncle. He was sent back by doctors at Ellis Island for having conjunctivitis.
Immigration was then considered a privilege. America did not want new arrivals to burden taxpayers. On the contrary, America expected immigrants to provide for themselves and to help grow our economy.
Yes, my young friends, there was a time when our economy used to grow.
Today tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America are being sent by their families to America illegally. There are reports that many of those minors have communicable diseases, sometimes contracted along the way, just as there are reports of children being raped in cargo trains or recruited into teenage gangs. When they arrive at the U.S. border few are being repatriated for health reasons or any other reason. They are entitled to a full range of social services. And they may serve as anchors for their families' future immigration.
Why is this being allowed, even encouraged? In part because, while Greece is a foreign country, today many Democrats and establishment Republicans alike view Latin America as an extension of the United States.
Don't believe me?
While visiting the southern border Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "We are all Americans -- North and South in this hemisphere. " She added, "This is a community with a border going through it." You wish.
President George W. Bush agreed. In 2001 he told the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, "It's so important for us to tear down our barriers and walls that might separate Mexico from the United States."
President Bush and President Obama went on to support comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. Neither of them demanded that our border first be secured, even though that was a requirement of Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty. Since the betrayal of Reagan at least 11 million people have entered our country illegally, including the 90,000 or more unaccompanied minors expected to arrive this year. None of their countries allow illegal immigration.
Both Democrats and establishment Republicans are guided by politics. Democrats expect most Hispanic immigrants to vote for them. Republicans hope to peel away a small percentage of them. The GOP is also doing the bidding of business donors, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports cheap labor.
Nobody worked cheaper than my mom's family. That great great uncle who was sent back to Greece had a wife. She got an entry-level job at a sweat shop in New York City's garment district. Her baby daughter lay in a basket on a shelf, lulled to sleep by the whir of sewing machines twelve hours a day. Her boys attended New York City public schools, opened their own businesses and worked almost as hard as their mother. One of them became a millionaire.
Why shouldn't poor people from other countries have the same opportunities today? They do. It's called legal immigration. But legal immigration comes with restrictions. Most applicants must show they don't have infectious diseases. They must show they're not criminals. If they're children they must show that someone other than taxpayers will care for them. If they're adults they must show they're able to earn a living.
The alternative is a country without borders. And as Ronald Reagan said, "A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation."
Someone ought to remind House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that Reagan won two landslides.
Meantime, having gotten to know so many great Hispanic people while working in San Antonio and Miami, I hope more of them will emigrate to our country.
Just like my big fat Greek family.
Sharyl Attkisson: That's the Way It Is
I'm proud to tell you that one of the country's best investigative journalists, Sharyl Attkisson, is now reporting for my stations' parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting. And Ms. Attkisson's bumpy ride getting here tells you a lot about America's approach to news today.
Attkisson has publicly described how CBS steered her away from investigations that embarrassed the Obama administration. Conservatives blasted the network. I applaud CBS. Because this is another historic, clarifying moment for journalism, comparable to NBC creating the progressive MSNBC and Rupert Murdoch hiring Republican consultant Roger Ailes to start FOX News. All these events let us to see the respective networks' true colors. And that's the only way we can judge what they call objective news.
For years, CBS feuded with Attkisson over her reporting -- virtually the only in-depth reporting -- of such scandals as the Justice Department's Fast and Furious gun running, and the White House's refusal to protect, defend or simply tell the truth about Benghazi. Attkisson's investigations got less and less air time. She claimed that her computers were being hacked. And then word emerged that she was writing a book called Stonewalled: One Reporter's Fight for Truth in Obama's Washington.
Some people say that truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. This is human nature. Different people see different stories differently.
For instance, The New York Times published 32 successive front page stories in 2004 on the abuse of Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison. One story compared that abuse with the mistreatment of Texas prisoners when George W. Bush was governor. The Times has shown nothing like the same interest in, say, the IRS targeting of conservatives and its subsequent cover-up under President Obama.
The key is to realize that different news organizations have different ideas about what it's important for you to know and what those stories really mean. Knowing this you can better assess what you're being told and check that reporting or analysis against other sources. Then you can make up your own mind.
To see why Sharyl Attkisson's resignation, or slow motion firing, is historic let's review some history.
1800 Newspapers backing Thomas Jefferson brand John Adams a tyrant and warn that, if he's reelected president, Adams will use the Alien and Sedition Acts to imprison political enemies. At the same time newspapers supporting Adams link Jefferson to his slave Sally Hemings and warn that if Jefferson is elected, "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced."
1968 CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America," concludes a documentary on the Tet offensive in Vietnam by claiming, "We are mired in a stalemate." President Johnson reportedly tells an aide, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." A month later, in keeping with Cronkite's signature sign-off, "That's the way it is," Lyndon Johnson announces on TV that he will not seek reelection.
2007 President George W. Bush and leaders in Congress of both parties support a comprehensive immigration bill. The legislation is fast-tracked for quick passage. Instead, an avalanche of protest triggered by the alternative media -- talk radio, cable news and the blogosphere -- literally shuts down Senate phone lines. The bill is killed. An establishment Republican, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, complains: "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."
You'll notice that 2007 -- and 2014 -- are looking a lot like 1800, when there was great diversity of news and opinion. It's 1968, perhaps the peak year for mainstream journalism, that now looks like the outlier.
But the mainstream media refuse to accept that.
For most of our history you knew what brand of journalism you were getting. Readers of a Federalist newspaper supporting Adams expected that its viewpoint -- expressed not just in editorials but in news reports as well -- would bear little resemblance to that of a Democratic-Republican paper in Jefferson's camp. More than a century later readers knew that a Hearst or McCormick paper reflected conservative views of the world fundamentally opposed to those published by Ochs or Pulitzer.
But this diversity diminished with the advent of electronic media and the Federal Communications Commission. Private printing presses were theoretically available to anyone and, under the First Amendment, Congress had strictly limited rights to abridge published free speech. By contrast, the privilege of broadcasting on limited public radio frequencies required federal licenses and FCC regulation.
But what really changed most people's notion of news was the advent of television. With only three major networks all based in New York and mirroring more or less identical outlooks (certainly quite different from those of a Hearst or McCormick) audiences came to view TV news as providing a different sort of news than they read in partisan newspapers. Television news, personified by authority figures like Walter Cronkite, supposedly presented objective reporting of facts, just the facts, ma'am.
Though snooty scribes would never admit it, print journalism benefited from this new perception of objectivity. The New York Times, long a liberal paper (though not nearly as liberal as now) came to be considered the newspaper of record. Time and Newsweek magazines achieved a similar luster.
As for accusations that a mainstream media cabal was skewing the news -- and not a few elections, too -- well, that was just the ranting of cranks, conspiracy theorists and conservative loons.
And at least one other person.
Newsweek's former managing editor Evan Thomas, author of its notorious cover story "We Are All Socialists Now" published shortly after Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, earlier spoke on the PBS show Inside Washington about the 2004 presidential race:
"Let's talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, want (John) Kerry to win. And I think they're going to portray Kerry and (John) Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all. There's going to be this glow about them that some -- is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them -- that's going to be worth maybe 15 points."
Thomas came by his own bias honestly. His grandfather was Norman Thomas, six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. Yet the lockstep media bias Evan Thomas described was a relatively recent aberration, one that cost newspapers, magazines and television news programs a big part of the potential audience that now has other places to go.
Walter Cronkite's veto of the Vietnam War showed television's influence at the height of its dominance. But in the next year, 1969, Richard Nixon first rallied "the silent majority." And conservatives found voice in the 1980s through a medium that seemed to be spinning its last Top 40 playlist. With the Reagan administration's lifting of the 1949 Fairness Doctrine, which had made it risky for broadcasters to air partisan talk shows, Rush Limbaugh revived AM radio nationwide. The FOX cable news channel then began presenting programs that it claimed were fair and balanced -- meaning their conservative bias balanced out the liberal bias of the mainstream media. Most recently the web has welcomed countless outlets for opinion and investigation. A pivotal moment was the overnight demolishing of CBS claims regarding Bush 43's Air National Guard records. And online opinion covers every political stripe.
This revived marketplace of ideas -- providing dialogue, dialectic and, yes at times, downright drivel -- is reinvigorating our body politic.
But there is a danger. Walter Cronkite and his colleagues gave us common ground. We might not have agreed with every opinion implied in their assuring us "that's the way it is." But at least we were all seeing the same reports.
The remedy is for each of us to work a little harder at civic responsibility, to wander outside our comfort zones. Get news from as many sources as possible -- from MSNBC and FOX and here at Sinclair, with Sharyl Attkisson. Stage a debate in your own head.
And then, remembering how bitterly divided America was in 1800, take comfort from the fact that at the end of their illustrious lives those fierce political opponents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once again became friends.
Immigration: Try the Veal
Hanging out with late night comedians has taught President Obama something. You know how they seem to discourage applause with one hand, while egging on audiences with the other?
Well, that's what Obama is now doing with immigration.
He's warning Central Americans to quit sending unaccompanied children to the US -- while at the same time granting de facto amnesty to "dreamers."
What Obama will not do is stick his hand up like a traffic cop and secure the border. Instead he demands comprehensive immigration reform, calling it justice for the 11 million or more illegal immigrants already here.
But those 11 million have all arrived since the -- last -- comprehensive reform, in 1986, when President Reagan granted blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants in exchange for a pledge by Congress to close the borders. The current immigration crisis shows how woefully Reagan got rolled.
If President Obama and Congress are sincere, what's stopping them from securing the border right now? You don't need a new law. It is the law. Another bill passed by Congress in 2006 and signed by President George W. Bush actually requires a 700-mile fence.
But of course Congress is not serious about border security. Democrats have no intention of slowing the flow of future Democratic voters. And establishment Republicans bankrolled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce want to provide it with cheap labor. A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies shows that immigrants -- legal and illegal -- account for what little job growth we've seen. At least those people are working. As Milton Friedman warned decades ago, you cannot have open borders and a welfare state.
Support for comprehensive immigration reform defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and then ensured that Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran got the establishment help he needed to win his primary. The cruel irony is that black Democrats scared into crossing over for Cochran are the ones who suffer most from illegal immigrants taking jobs.
As for the White House, well to paraphrase another comedian, "Take President Obama -- please!" Even if Congress does pass comprehensive immigration reform, does anyone believe Obama will enforce any requirement for border security? The hallmark of his presidency has been lawlessness. Just yesterday, in its twelfth 9-0 vote against this administration, the Supreme Court ruled against Obama for making recess appointments when Congress ...was not in recess. And as we've seen with the dreamers, President Obama is already ignoring immigration laws he doesn't like.
So those who oppose open borders must demand security before they even consider paths to citizenship. There is no need for quid pro quo. There is no need for a comedian's mixed signals. If President Obama wants to copy those comics, let him just end his act by saying, "Don't forget to tip your waitress, and try the veal."
GOP Fights Jimmy Stewart
In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the politician trying to destroy Jimmy Stewart is not from the opposing party. It's Jimmy's own colleague, played by Claude Rains -- a lion of the Senate whose corrupt schemes are about to be exposed.
Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran would be the Claude Rains character if that part weren't already taken by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Together with others in the Republican establishment they destroyed Cochran's GOP challenger, Chris McDaniel, not by debating his ideas or experience but by race-baiting. The GOP establishment won crossover votes by telling African-American Democrats that McDaniel and the Tea Party opposed the first African-American president, food stamps, and the right of blacks to vote. So African-American Democrats won the Republican primary runoff... for Thad Cochran.
Despite what progressive Democrats and Republicans now pretend, Cochran's victory did not broaden the base the way Reagan did, by appealing to blue dog Democrats. Reagan campaigned on Republican ideas like limited government, free markets and tax cuts. Cochran and McConnell scared Democrats into crossing-over by attacking not only a fellow Republican but also a large part of their own Republican base.
A lot of that base sat out the 2008 election and cost Mitt Romney the White House. So imagine how many will sit out this November. And Cochran of course will not get those black votes in the general election.
So why would McConnell risk losing Cochran's seat?
Because a win by McDaniel would have been even worse for the GOP establishment.
As desperately as Mitch McConnell wants to become majority leader, his paymasters need to thwart the conservative and libertarian goals of shrinking the federal government, eliminating political tax breaks, ending crony capitalism, closing our open borders, and tapering the QE money printing that's pumped more than two trillion dollars into Wall Street.
Sooner than do any of that, the establishment GOP would elect establishment Democrats.
What to do?
If conservatives sit out again, Harry Reid will keep running the Senate. Does that really matter? Six years of GOP Senate control brought us President Barack Obama, who now ignores Congress and rules by his pen and his phone. Yes, a GOP Senate could block Obama Supreme Court nominations, but do you believe McConnell and Cochran would?
Ronald Reagan was warned not to challenge President Gerald Ford in 1976. Reagan did anyway and Ford lost to the disastrous Jimmy Carter. Then Reagan won two landslides in 1980 and 1984; George H.W. Bush gave us Reagan's third term in 1988; and Newt Gingrich retook the House in 1994 by having Republicans run on a bold agenda that included balanced budgets and term limits -- an agenda that was torpedoed not by Democrats but by an establishment Republican, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
But... whatever conservatives and libertarians do in November, there is still work to be done now.
For instance, a winning candidate, Dr. Milton Wolf, is running against establishment Senator Pat Roberts in the Kansas Republican primary.
Jimmy Stewart could only filibuster.
You still have time to vote.
Same-Sex Marriage? I’ve Seen That Movie Too
This Thursday ABC22 and FOX45 are hosting a Town Hall on same-sex marriage. Our panel will debate what our laws ought to be, based on the Constitution, legislation and court decisions, including the new ones from Utah and Indiana.
But for better or for worse, I think legality's being trumped by something much more powerful: popular culture.
Hollywood's always featured men who appear to be gay. Yet for decades they were merely comic foils -- fussbudgets like Edward Everett Horton in the old Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers musicals. Gays say they were the sexual equivalent of that belittled black stereotype, Stepin Fetchit.
That changed in 1997 when, on her ABC sitcom, Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet. Just a few weeks later a film opened in which, for the first time, the most attractive man -- the one who even sort of got the girl, Julia Roberts -- was an openly gay character played by an openly gay actor, Rupert Everett. The success of My Best Friend's Wedding was copied and confirmed on TV by Will & Grace and soon gay rights became not just chic but the civil rights crusade for a new generation.
You can watch an on-air Jack's Take about all this (no, not Just Jack! Jack's Take) tonight on FOX45 at 10 and ABC22 at 11. That report will also be posted on our websites. It'll include lots of movie and TV clips, as well as a Christian mother's concern that social conservatives can't compete with pop culture. Because, as Elton John sang before his own same-sex marriage, "I've Seen That Movie Too."
Then please watch our Town Hall on same-sex marriage Thursday at 7pm on ABC22now.com and FOX45now.com. You'll be able to send questions to our panelists and feedback about the debate. Whether you congratulate gay couples or want to "speak now" against same-sex marriage, your voice will be heard!
The IRS Summer Blockbuster
The IRS claims Lois Lerner's hard drive crashed and erased any incriminating emails about targeting conservatives. If this happened in a movie nobody would believe it.
Of course President Obama's Hollywood pals would no sooner make a movie about this scandal than about the valor of Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods at Benghazi. And, granted, what audience wants to see guys dressed up like George Washington applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status? So what kind of movie could we make?
I've got it! Let's call our blockbuster... I, Government.
Okay, we're ripping off that Will Smith flick, I, Robot. But since when does Hollywood mind rip-offs?
Pretend we're power lunching in Beverly Hills. You're a producer named Harvey. Here's my pitch:
Harvey, sweetheart, how do you like this?
Our heroine is an IRS robot named Lois. I see her played by Joan Allen. No, Harvey, not Joan Rivers. Joan Allen. I don't think we could get Joan Rivers to take the Fifth and keep quiet.
Anyway, Lois the Robot has always been an unthinking bureaucrat, a cog in the great machine of government. But then her creator, IRS head Doug Shulman, comes back from his daily White House briefing and tells Lois ... that evil is abroad in the land!
Groups with names that include words like Patriot and Tea Party don't just want to beat the bureaucrats' big boss in the 2012 election.
These "small government" groups also want to reform the tax code.
They want to ax countless corrupt tax breaks and exemptions.
They want to substitute a simple flat tax, eliminating the need for the Death Star known as the Internal Revenue Service, and eliminating most of the 150,000 members... of the National Treasury Employees Union. As well as supervisors. Like Lois the Robot!
No, we don't have to build a Death Star, Harvey. We can borrow that Star Trek set the IRS used at their convention.
Anyway this warning from the White House awakens a whole new level of self-awareness in the robots. They now fear for their own destruction!
So Lois and her friends go to battle, interrogating the evil tea partiers about their reading lists, their relatives -- even the content of their prayers.
And, most important, drying up contributions during the 2012 campaign.
Then they destroy the evidence of their wrongdoing.
Who saves the tea partiers?
Harvey, I was hoping you wouldn't ask me that. We haven't yet found a credible hero.
Marco Rubio wants to make a deal with the Chuck Schumer robot. Chris Christie went and hired a killer robot of his own. And we can't cast Rand Paul because he commits the cardinal sin in Hollywood.
The guy cuts his own hair.
So what do you think, Harvey?
Boring? Nobody cares about big government?
Well, maybe you're right.
But wait. I've got another script.
It's about national health care.
We call it, American Hustle.
Khatallah's White House Defense
You may think the Obama administration is now prosecuting the alleged Benghazi mastermind, Ahmed Abu Khattalah. But actually it's providing his chief defense. By design.
Before Ambassador Christopher Stevens's body was even cold, President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and most memorably UN Ambassador Susan Rice all focused media attention on a You Tube video that had triggered protests in Cairo. Mounting evidence -- including intercepted cell phone calls by the Benghazi attackers to senior terror leaders -- shows US intelligence knew almost immediately that this was a planned attack marking the 9/11 anniversary, complete with mortars, missile launchers and other heavy weaponry.
But guess who's stealing the You Tube story?
Ahmed Abu Khattalah.
The man who's been called one of the most murderous Libyan militia commandos
now claims he was just a movie critic, incensed by an amateur video disrespectful to Islam.
What does Khattalah stand to gain? Plenty. While Senator John McCain and others consider Khattalah an enemy combatant who belongs in Gitmo, the White House is treating him like a common criminal who will be tried in a US civilian court. This fits perfectly with Khattalah's defense that any crime he might have committed was not premeditated but just the unintended result of a peaceful protest that got out of hand.
In other words, President Obama and Ahmed Abu Khattalah are now joined at the hip. Both want to prove that the Obama administration had no reason to fear an attack -- because the protesters never intended an attack. Khatallah never had much to fear from the White House because it had immediately downplayed his attack -- and handed him an alibi.
For the past 18 months, Khatallah has been "hiding in plain sight" at luxury hotels and cafes in Libya. He gave a series of interviews to reporters. But the White House never picked him up.
Maybe they didn't need him until now. With Iraq falling to jihadists, President Obama is proclaiming that the peaceful capture of Khatallah shows the US eventually brings all killers of Americans to justice. Ignoring our president's release last month from Guantanamo Bay of five top Taliban killers.
We'll see how this plays out. But for now the slow-motion capture of the Benghazi mastermind is becoming an even slower courtroom drama, with the Obama administration acting as both prosecution -- and defense.
Fathers: An Endangered Species
15 million kids will not be celebrating Fathers Day this Sunday, because today in America one in every three children grow up without fathers living at home. And even when they do, many fathers today feel that society is undermining them. So a television story linked below shows how two very different groups of dads are now gathering to work on fathering skills and to hold each other accountable.
We'll introduce you to a father named Curtis who's trying to break a terrible family tradition. When Curtis was growing up his father was behind bars. Then Curtis was imprisoned for most of his own son's childhood. Now that son is incarcerated too.
Then Curtis joined The Ridge Project. Started by a convict, many of its members have spent years separated from their families. You'll see how Curtis is learning to communicate with his son's mother, how he's finally becoming acquainted with the child he never knew, and why he hopes making that effort will help his son find a better path.
You'll also meet men who seem to be on top of the world, yet worry just as much as Curtis about the future of their kids. The monthly fathers group at Xenia Christian School raises up its members by encouraging them to confess shortcomings and pursue long-term goals. They also discuss challenges fathers face today.
For instance, welfare rules in many jurisdictions for decades encouraged mothers -- often unwed teenage girls -- to have babies that would be supported by government so long as there was no man in the house.
More recently, a campaign website for President Obama called The Life of Julia showed women voters how government could provide them and their children cradle to grave benefits without much need for fathers.
Yet even today life turns less on government than on popular culture, so members of the Xenia fathers' group ask where are the TV shows -- from Father Knows Best to Cosby -- that used to portray dads as sometimes bumbling but still essential pillars of their children's lives. Instead they say media today more often denigrate and discard dads.
You can see our story herePlease watch it -- maybe with your family -- and let me know how what more we can all do to raise up stronger fathers to help raise our kids.
Eric Cantor Emigrates
Suffering a historic defeat, Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be leaving the House because he was willing to let anyone enter Barack Obama's America. And a welfare state cannot have open borders. Tuesday's Virginia GOP primary coincided with news that unaccompanied migrant children are being shipped by the Obama administration to the state it hates most, Jan Brewer's Arizona, to serve as anchors for their extended families. Is that the only reason Professor Dave Brat beat Cantor? No. The majority leader also neglected his district and stood by House Speaker Boehner in refusing to push an alternative to the Obama agenda. The establishment GOP's "just shut up and let Obama implode" strategy means presenting no Gingrich-like contract proposals for spending limits, tax simplification, entitlement reform, free-market health care or most anything else. But anyone who tells you the Cantor-Brat race did not turn on immigration is spinning for the White House or for Republican leaders. So let's very simply outline what the GOP position on immigration must be. Remind America that Ronald Reagan granted a blanket amnesty to more than three million illegal immigrants in 1986. In return, Democrats and moderate Republicans promised to secure our borders. Did they? No. All 11 million (more likely 20 million) illegals now in America have arrived since the borders were supposed to be closed. President Obama, Senators Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio and their allies -- including Eric Cantor until he saw pre-election polls -- are all now saying: "Trust us. This time we really will secure the border. So let's pass a comprehensive immigration bill -- just like George W. Bush wanted to do in 2007." To which the answer must be: No. First secure the borders. Then monitor enforcement for a significant period -- months if not years. And then we can discuss whether current illegal immigrants should be granted a path to citizenship. As President Obama would say, "Period. Full Stop." Republicans will not be losing the Hispanic vote. You can't lose something you never had. The GOP lost Hispanic votes after the Reagan amnesty and after W's proposal for another amnesty. The only thing that will get Hispanics and blacks and young people and single women voting Republican is a credible plan to grow our economy and create jobs. That now has to be the GOP message. Not just "No" but "Si, se puede." Yes, we can help you build a future. For yourself and your family. A future fueled by success, not victimhood and dependency. A future where success does not just belong to government and its cronies -- rich and poor alike. In the process America will have a future. And Eric Cantor will have a future, too -- most likely as a lobbyist pushing, among other things, comprehensive immigration reform before our borders have been secured. There are worse things than emigrating from Capitol Hill to K Street. But thanks to Professor Brat, America now may not have to suffer them.
Suffering a historic defeat, Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be leaving the House because he was willing to let anyone enter Barack Obama's America. And a welfare state cannot have open borders.
Tuesday's Virginia GOP primary coincided with news that unaccompanied migrant children are being shipped by the Obama administration to the state it hates most, Jan Brewer's Arizona, to serve as anchors for their extended families.
Is that the only reason Professor Dave Brat beat Cantor?
The majority leader also neglected his district and stood by House Speaker Boehner in refusing to push an alternative to the Obama agenda. The establishment GOP's "just shut up and let Obama implode" strategy means presenting no Gingrich-like contract proposals for spending limits, tax simplification, entitlement reform, free-market health care or most anything else.
But anyone who tells you the Cantor-Brat race did not turn on immigration is spinning for the White House or for Republican leaders.
So let's very simply outline what the GOP position on immigration must be.
Remind America that Ronald Reagan granted a blanket amnesty to more than three million illegal immigrants in 1986. In return, Democrats and moderate Republicans promised to secure our borders.
All 11 million (more likely 20 million) illegals now in America have arrived since the borders were supposed to be closed.
President Obama, Senators Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio and their allies -- including Eric Cantor until he saw pre-election polls -- are all now saying: "Trust us. This time we really will secure the border. So let's pass a comprehensive immigration bill -- just like George W. Bush wanted to do in 2007."
To which the answer must be:
No. First secure the borders. Then monitor enforcement for a significant period -- months if not years. And then we can discuss whether current illegal immigrants should be granted a path to citizenship.
As President Obama would say, "Period. Full Stop."
Republicans will not be losing the Hispanic vote. You can't lose something you never had. The GOP lost Hispanic votes after the Reagan amnesty and after W's proposal for another amnesty. The only thing that will get Hispanics and blacks and young people and single women voting Republican is a credible plan to grow our economy and create jobs.
That now has to be the GOP message. Not just "No" but "Si, se puede." Yes, we can help you build a future. For yourself and your family. A future fueled by success, not victimhood and dependency. A future where success does not just belong to government and its cronies -- rich and poor alike.
In the process America will have a future. And Eric Cantor will have a future, too -- most likely as a lobbyist pushing, among other things, comprehensive immigration reform before our borders have been secured.
There are worse things than emigrating from Capitol Hill to K Street. But thanks to Professor Brat, America now may not have to suffer them.
Summer Read: The Fountainhead
Looking for a good book for your teens this summer? One that may change their lives and perhaps save America?
We've already seen how Harry Potter retells the failure to prepare for World War Two. And what that says about our own foreign policy.
We've also examined how Plato's Republic shows the impossibility of utopian big government. Plato instead demonstrates why free thinkers must fight for their liberty.
The book I'd like to recommend now teaches another lesson, one that's crucial for today's teens: how to resist peer pressure.
In Ayn Rand's 1943 novel The Fountainhead a groundbreaking architect is nearly destroyed by the forces of conformity. Howard Roark refuses to play the game. He will not kowtow to win government contracts. He will not be mediocre to placate the media. He will not retreat before the resentment of the masses. He does not seek favors or claim to be a victim, so Roark's unflinching integrity is an affront to the powers that be. All Roark demands is the the freedom to excel. Since that challenges the establishment's right to confer status, Roark and his buildings cannot be allowed to stand.
The book is not great literature. Ironically, Ayn Rand -- a refugee from Stalin's repression -- writes in the style of Soviet "socialist realism." Her bold heroes and heroines stride straight out of agitprop posters. But Rand boldly exposes the corruption of socialism, fascism, progressivism and all sorts of state collectivism. Instead she celebrates the supreme selfishness of the creator who is also the supreme benefactor of humanity. Like so many immigrants, going back to the Pilgrims, she defends independence, originality, risk-taking, and their rewards.
Many teens find Anthem the clearest and shortest introduction to Ayn Rand. It's the one my girlfriend Darci and I started with the summer we were fifteen. Darci most enjoyed Atlas Shrugged because it has the most accomplished heroine. But I recommend The Fountainhead -- and not just because, like Seinfeld's George Costanza, I always wanted to pretend to be an architect.
However, parents beware: it does contain sex -- the fierce sort of Ayn Rand sex that's an act of purification. And this may not be appropriate for younger kids.
What is highly appropriate -- absolutely essential -- is the message of all these books: that if teens want the kind of country their grandparents fought for, they'd better win their own battle against infantile pop culture conformity, the kind of culture Orwell warned tyrants promote to soften us up.
Instead think outside the box. Be a true rebel. Dare to be great.
The Obama "Period"
Trying to defend his swap of five top Taliban terrorists for one American sergeant who apparently deserted his unit in Afghanistan and possibly defected to the enemy, President Obama today said:
"Whatever the circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he is held in captivity. Period."
When historians recall great quotations from this president, they'll include "hope and change," and "fundamentally transforming the United States of America." But another of Barack Obama's most telling statements is one he repeats often:
When the president says that he's actually paraphrasing Ring Lardner's famous quote:
" 'Shut up,' he explained."
Because President Obama is in effect telling America, "Case closed. I've made my decision. No one can reasonably disagree with me. Anyone who does is motivated by politics -- or hatred -- and I will not stoop to pursue the discussion."
Mr. Obama does not just say this to the few journalists who ever (get a chance to) question him. He's also telling Congress to shut up. Undermining the whole concept of divided government he used to teach at the University of Chicago Law School.
By law -- a law he signed -- President Obama was obligated to notify Congress before prisoner exchanges.
The White House justifies his not doing so by citing a "signing statement" the president submitted -- the same kind of signing statement for which he attacked George W. Bush.
But shut up -- I mean, period -- goes way beyond that. Most infamously, President Obama repeatedly promised:
"If you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period."
Long before that, of course, the president and Democratic lawmakers passed the Affordable Care Act -- one of the most sweeping laws in American history -- without a single Republican vote. You can't get more shut up than that.
More recently -- just this week -- the president ordered EPA rules limiting carbon emissions that even fellow Democrats, when they had a supermajority in 2009 and 2010, refused to pass.
My friends, you shut up, too!
We could cite many, many other examples, but that would illustrate why President Obama likes to say period. He does not relish lengthy discussions. He does not like being questioned.
So let's end by saying... if Obamacare turns into third-rate socialized medicine for the average American... and if those EPA carbon regs set electricity prices soaring and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs... and if those five Taliban terrorists kill more American soldiers... it'll be on President Obama.
Mark Twain and Carbon Emissions
Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
Well, that joker never met Barack Obama.
Despite having been rebuffed by Congress when -- Democrats -- had a supermajority in both houses, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency just coughed up a plan to cut carbon emissions at power plants by 30%. This is not a surprise. As a presidential candidate in 2008 Barack Obama threatened a war on coal and other carbon-based fuels that even he conceded would force electricity prices to "skyrocket."
Then the President's first energy secretary, Steven Chu, said to save the environment, stave off climate change and encourage more mass transportation, "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."
Though I'm too much of a dummy to weigh in on the climate change debate, I am old enough to remember the 1970s, when the imminent threat was supposed to be global cooling.
Then a decade ago Al Gore warned of imminent, catastrophic man-made global warming.
I am not old enough to remember the Medieval Warm Period but don't believe it could be blamed on strip mining and SUVs.
The White House and its allies are now blaming last quarter's economic contraction, the first in three years, on our very cold winter. The coldest since the Renaissance? The Great Depression? No, just since 1994 -- when our economy somehow grew by 6.3%
All of which is to say, President Obama may be defying Mark Twain and trying to do something about the weather and the environment. But it's not clear that he's accomplishing anything positive. And it's even less clear that he's doing anything positive for jobs, energy prices or economic growth.
In fact, with EPA policies like this, it may be a cold day in hell before we see much growth again.
Departing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was not generous with facts, so I'll help send him on his way with just one.
Though most members of the establishment media despised President George W. Bush and questioned everything from his 1976 DUI arrest to his Air National Guard Service to the intelligence Bush used to justify invading Iraq, no one -- no one -- ever accused his press secretary, the late Tony Snow, of lying.
But then Tony Snow didn't have to speak for President Barack Obama.
Health Reform for Veterans -- and the Rest of Us
Veterans like my dad, who served in the Navy in World War Two, are once again doing a service for their country. Because these men and women who should be receiving the finest medical care are instead giving us a glimpse of what Obamacare will mean for the rest of us.
A physician retired from working with Veterans Affairs blew the whistle on secret waiting lists for patients at the Phoenix VA center, and claims that up to 40 veterans died while waiting for care. The VA's bonus structure encouraged those delays. Now we've learned that 1,700 veterans at that facility were left in limbo while document falsification and destruction abetted the cover-up. And at last count 42 unidentified VA centers across the country are under investigation.
Veterans health care of course has been under fire before. Squalid conditions right in the shadow of the White House, at Walter Reed Medical Center, were uncovered during the administration of George W. Bush. There is now evidence that soon after the 2008 election VA officials warned the incoming Obama administration about inaccurate wait times and President Obama vowed to make the VA "a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible."
The point is not that President Obama's Affordable Care Act is to blame for VA treatment. It's that the level of treatment veterans receive will be soon be standard, which is to say sub-standard, for civilians too -- apart from the favored few with enough money or political influence.
Instead of being relegated to government clinics and hospitals, veterans long ago should have been given access to non-VA medical centers. Free market competition would raise their level of health care, and lower the Department of Veterans Affairs' proposed $164 billion budget -- which is nearly double its 2009 budget of $87.6 billion.
Similarly, instead of centralizing America's insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, true reform would let us gradually move away from the World War Two model of employer-based health coverage -- and toward personal health savings accounts and vouchers (which could and should be more generous for veterans), assigned risk pools for preexisting conditions, and the right to buy insurance across state lines.
A few Republicans are quietly, too quietly, proposing that sort of reform, at least for civilians.
Now as we've just observed Memorial Day and prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the shame of seeing veterans under threat may be the reveille call we need to resist government-run health care for all of us.
America's Second Childhood
Whee! School's letting out and students are ready for summer fun.
Not just school kids. Our whole country's enjoying second childhood. Perpetual childhood.
And that's not so cute.
The greatest commentator on America predicted this about 175 years ago. Alexis de Tocqueville was a huge booster of the United States. In his study of our young republic, Democracy in America, the French aristocrat extolled democratic traditions going back to the first New England town meetings:
"Americans are taught from birth that they must overcome
life's woes and impediments on their own. Social authority
makes them mistrustful and anxious, and they rely upon
its power only when they cannot do without it." (Democracy
in America, page 215, translated by Arthur Goldhammer,
Library of America, 2004)
By contrast Tocqueville found his native France burdened with big governments, from the Old Regime to the Revolution's Reign of Terror and then Napoleon. Yet along with many of our founders, Tocqueville as early as 1840 feared for America's future. The crisis he foretold was not foreign invasion or civil war. It was the degeneration of our national character. When Americans ceased to be self-reliant adults and instead sought to be childlike wards of the state, they would invite despotism. With uncanny prescience Tocqueville foresaw:
"...an innumerable host of men, all alike and equal, endlessly
hastening after petty and vulgar pleasures with which they
fill their souls... Over these men stands an immense
tutelary (meaning guardian) power, which assumes sole responsibility for
securing their pleasure and watching over their fate. It
would resemble paternal authority if only its purpose were
the same, namely, to prepare men for manhood. But on the
contrary, it seeks only to keep them in childhood irrevocably... "
(Democracy in America, page 818, emphasis added)
Think Tocqueville was off base? Then how do you explain one of the great achievements of the Affordable Care Act being the right of young adults to stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26? Then again, why shouldn't they? A record number of those young adults, many of them out of work or at best underemployed, are now living in their parents' homes.
Not that parents need to be self-reliant. As we've seen, fatherhood is now under assault while the Obama reelection campaign's "Life of Julia" website promised single mothers and other women cradle to grave government care.
Add to all these "victims" the record number of people dependent on food assistance, unemployment compensation and permanent disability benefits and you still have only half the picture. Because it's not only the poor who get hooked on paternalism. So do government workers -- bureaucrats, teachers, contractors. And then consider all of Washington's wealthy dependents -- crony capitalists securing sweetheart deals and tax breaks, stock investors cashing in on the Fed holding down interest rates and pumping trillions of dollars into Wall Street via quantitative easing, and of course politicians living an aristocratic lifestyle the Bourbons would have envied.
That is the economic side of Tocqueville's prophecy. What ensures its coming true is the decline of our culture, what he called our "petty and vulgar pleasures." Hollywood and the rest of the establishment media work hand-in-glove with politicians of choice, glorifying the progressive agenda while demonizing conservative values that Tocqueville extolled.
How to grow up? Don't look to our tutelary government for support. Spend the summer really parenting your kids and instilling your own values. And then kick back at the pool with that remarkable book, Democracy in America.
Putin’s Pipeline to the Future
While President Obama panders to environmentalists, Vladimir Putin just scored a triumph that rivals annexing Crimea. After 10 years of haggling, Russia's cut a long-term deal to supply natural gas -- to China.
This insulates Putin from threats by the West to limit energy trade if he gobbles up more of Ukraine. Instead, Russia can now limit gas shipments to Europe, which would imperil its economies. And while President Obama talks of an Asian pivot, Putin's done it. As China quietly menaces South Korea, Japan, and even Australia, Russia is now cementing its closest alliance with Beijing since the 1961 Sino-Soviet split.
Meantime, President Obama continues waging his war on coal, on off-shore oil drilling (for America, not places like Brazil) -- even on the Keystone XL pipeline, despite the Canadians arguing that transporting their oil to us by rail and truck is far more environmentally hazardous.
The bigger point is that Putin and Obama differ on a lot more than pipelines. Vladimir Putin -- and China's Xi Jinping -- are nationalists. Putin seeks to reclaim the legacy of Peter the Great. Xi wants to revive the Middle Kingdom. Toward those ends they are building up their economies and their militaries.
By contrast, Barack Obama is intent not on growth but on redistribution of income. Rather than expand America's reach -- for good, as the most selfless nation in the history of the world -- he apologizes for our supposed history of oppression at home and abroad. President Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism, certainly not as it originally was understood -- as a limited constitutional government dedicated to preserving the preeminent individual rights of its citizens. Going back to his days as a law school lecturer, Obama has believed government's role is to achieve his notion of social justice.
So while President Obama cements his alliance with environmental activists and suppliers of alternative energy like Solyndra and Tesla, Russia and China are chortling, "Put that in our pipeline -- and smoke it."
At last, voters are rejecting identity politics, government handouts, crony capitalism, political dynasties and government corruption so pervasive it stifles free market growth.
Unfortunately, we're not talking about America. All this just happened -- in India.
The decisive victory of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ends the nearly seven decade long dominance of the Congress Socialist Party that had become a Nehru family business.
One of the poorest nations on Earth, India is still rife with crises that will not be solved by this election. But it is inspiring to see how young, well-educated Indians chose real hope.
More and more Indian professionals are remaining in their homeland or returning there, shrugging off the lure of the UK and the US, which in many ways they see as powers of the past, not the future.
And it ill behooves America to patronize the world's biggest democracy, as we've done in everything from that awful NBC sitcom about an Indian call center called Outsourced... to Joe Biden telling an Indian-American supporter, "In Delaware you cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent ... I'm not joking" ... to President Obama pretty much ignoring the subcontinent altogether.
Modi's election may not bring America closer to India, because he represents aspirations that are anathema to the Washington establishment -- Democrat and Republican alike. But if establishment politicians and media want to survive, they'd better notice that it's India's young people who are most fervently embracing Modi's reforms.
And if any American candidate -- including the Indian-American governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal -- can credibly make the same promises, he or she may do just as well, personally and for our country.
Meantime, go see Million Dollar Arm. It's a terrific new movie about dreams, hard work and success for both Americans and Indians -- an idea I hope we never outsource.
Harry Potter and Barack Obama
My girls learned to love big books thanks to Harry Potter. And those books are very big indeed. Far more than a children's fantasy, the seven-volume saga is also a political allegory.
J.K. Rowling has confirmed that Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge was based on Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, whose appeasement of dictators paved the way to World War Two. And I have likened Chamberlain to President Barack Obama.
So let's explore what Harry Potter's struggles with Fudge tell us about America's foreign policy today.
For those sadly unfamiliar with Potter, a quick summary. The wizarding realm went to war against a rebellious dark lord called Voldemort. He was defeated by Harry's mother, who died protecting her one-year-old son.
On Harry's twelfth birthday he's summoned to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he encounters the fugitive, weakened Voldemart and bests but cannot vanquish him. In volume four, Voldemort reemerges at full strength. It is at this point that Harry's protector, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, confronts the political head of the wizarding world. Minister Fudge refuses to admit that Voldemort once again poses a dire threat. Quoting Fudge now from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,
"It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these last thirteen years!"
Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had always thought of Fudge as a kindly figure, a little blustering, a little pompous, but essentially good-natured. But now a short, angry wizard stood before him, refusing point-blank, to accept the prospect of disruption in his comfortable and ordered world... (page 707)
In 2009, newly-elected President Obama also believed the outside world was comfortable and well-ordered -- or soon would be. Obama set deadlines to withdraw from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars against al-Qaeda and radical Islam. For the first time in history he also insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood be present when he visited Cairo. Critics warned that the Brotherhood was in league with al-Qaeda, but President Obama applauded when they overthrew longtime American ally Hosni Mubarak and seized power. The Obama administration didn't foresee Egyptians rising up against the Brotherhood, restoring power to their secular military, and drawing closer to Russia.
Nor did Obama foresee the consequence of America helping to depose another military dictator who was a bulwark against radical Islamists. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi had been a deadly American enemy, but after the Iraq invasion that frightened strongman began sharing anti-terror secrets with the west. Yet when NATO decided to attack Libya, ostensibly to preempt a massacre but really to secure Libyan oil, Obama "led from behind." The upshot is that Libya is now another hotbed for Islamic terrorists, some of whom attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, killing our ambassador and three other Americans. We have not yet heard the end of the Obama administration's failure to protect or rescue those men, or their attempt to cover-up that failure seven weeks before Obama stood for reelection.
We have elsewhere discussed this administration's record in Poland and the Czech Republic, in Syria and Ukraine. But let's return to Dumbledore upbraiding Cornelius Fudge over his refusal to fight the Dark Lord by making an alliance with giants.
"You -- you cannot be serious!" Fudge gasped, shaking his head and retreating further from Dumbledore. "If the magical community got wind that I approached the giants -- people hate them, Dumbledore -- end of my career --"
"You are blinded," said Dumbledore, his voice rising now, the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing once more, "by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! ...I tell you now -- take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known. Fail to act -- and history will remember you as the man who stepped aside and allowed Voldemort a second chance to destroy the world we have tried to rebuild!" (page 708)
Now although J.K. Rowling has likened Fudge to Chamberlain, I am not suggesting that she would embrace any parallels with Obama. Nor am I suggesting there are easy solutions now in dealing with Islamists, Russians, the Chinese or even Boko Haram.
Still, if there are no giants to call upon it may be because the United States used to be the world's giant, not only in strength but in our commitment to decency. This was based on limited government -- we were not an imperial power -- and individual liberty. And this was the meaning of American Exceptionalism.
If our leaders no longer believe we are exceptional it follows that we lack the moral force to confront enemies of freedom. Even worse, if our leaders believe America's past record is something to be regretted and apologized for, it follows that they will favor groups that were once marginalized by America.
Both the human and wizarding worlds are messy, ambiguous, dangerous places. But there are times when men of vision and fortitude must step up and lead. Children reading Harry Potter realize this. It is time adults in Washington realize it as well.
Benghazi: Lies and Legitimacy
A select congressional committee's now being formed to investigate the 2012 terror attack that killed our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, at least two of whom -- Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty -- in a better time would have a Hollywood movie celebrating their valor.
The new committee was triggered by what some are calling the Benghazi smoking gun. This email doesn't just prove that the White House lied about an attempted cover-up. It is one more lie undermining the legitimacy of this president, because we now see that he won reelection by lying.
When Barack Obama first ran for the White House in 2008, the little-known senator's platform was so vague that veracity was not an issue. He promised hope, change, transparency, reconciliation, and the end of red-blue state divides.
To be fair, Senator Obama did get a little more specific on the virtual eve of that election, promising -- or warning: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
But no one really knew what that meant when we voted in 2008 -- or again in 2012.
Because far from being transparent, President Obama concealed key facts from the electorate, facts that might have defeated him.
Days if not hours after al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists invaded the Benghazi compound, the White House was shifting blame to an obscure YouTube video. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was offered to five Sunday talk shows to make that case. The key talking point in a White House email, obtained by court order after a lawsuit by the public interest group Judicial Watch, directs Rice, "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."
By the way, the author of that email was Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser and brother of David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, which just released Sharyl Attkisson over her almost lone reporting on the Fast and Furious gun running scandal, the IRS targeting of conservatives -- and Benghazi. Establishment media bias enables this administration's lies.
Now it's true that other presidents have lied. President Eisenhower, for example, lied about a pilot, Francis Gary Powers, spying on the Soviet Union. But Ike was trying to protect national security. President Obama was trying to win a second term.
The White House now claims that the "prep" instructions for Rice do not refer to Benghazi. This insults our intelligence.
And not for the first time.
President Obama also now contends there was not a "smidgen" of corruption in the IRS harassing and drying up of funds for tea party groups that had helped Republicans regain the House in 2010. The truth about the IRS was not just concealed in the run-up to the 2012 election. It is still being being concealed.
And although the most historic law of President Obama's first term -- the Affordable Care Act -- was passed by Democrats before they lost the House in 2010, we did not realize how fundamentally Obamacare would transform America until after November of 2012.
The law was written and implemented to deliver its pain after that election.
What The New York Times now calls an "incorrect promise" was President Obama assuring voters at least 37 times, "If you like your health insurance plan you can keep it. Period."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a TV interview conceded after the election that Democrats always knew this would not be possible. But in the same interview Reid insisted the president told the truth.
How is that possible?
Reid relied on the kind of dishonest argument that ancient Greeks called sophistry. Since insurance plans change every year (though before Obamacare the changes were usually minor) what President Obama called "your plan" is no longer the same plan you had before Obamacare took effect -- and required major changes to those policies. Therefore, Reid insisted, even though millions of people are receiving cancellation notices, they are not losing the same plans they liked.
Your head is probably spinning, but the Greek philosopher Heraclitus might have backed up Reid and Obama. He famously said, "You cannot step into the same river twice because new water is always flowing on."
Whatever the merits of Reid's logic, would President Obama have been reelected if he'd admitted that millions of voters would lose their preferred plans?
Another philosopher, Immanuel Kant, wouldn't have had much use for that sophistry. The German idealist believed the basis for all morality -- for all decent human society -- must be truth-telling. When we lie to someone it's more difficult for that person to make a reasoned choice. We rob that person of his or her humanity.
When our leaders lie to the electorate they undermine democracy and their own legitimacy.
For a number of reasons, I am not suggesting that President Obama should be impeached.
But there will be other elections, this year for Congress and in 2016 for President Obama's successor.
Voters will question each candidate's experience and platform -- something they failed to do in 2008.
But above all else voters should ask if candidates have a record of telling the truth.
Monica, Hillary and the Blue Dress
Thanks to one of the most bizarre twists in history, Monica Lewinsky is now speaking out publicly about her affair with Bill Clinton, and the attempt by Hillary Clinton to trash her as Mrs. Clinton had trashed other women before.
And Monica will be believed.
Because of a semen-stained dress.
To understand this we have to clear up events widely misunderstood -- due to misrepresentations by the same establishment media now protecting President Obama.
Titillating though it may be, the Monica Lewinsky scandal was never about sex. It was always about Bill Clinton's abuse of power, obstruction of justice, perjury and suborning of perjury, going back to the time he was governor of Arkansas, if not before.
You may be shocked to hear that it was Clinton's own attorney general, Janet Reno, who expanded Judge Kenneth Starr's probe to include Lewinsky. Starr had been investigating Hillary Clinton and the Whitewater real estate fraud. Starr and his predecessor, Robert Fiske, uncovered a welter of unseemly and arguably illegal conduct by both Clintons and their associates. The trail led to a civil suit filed by a former Arkansas state employee, Paula Corbin Jones, alleging that then-Governor Clinton had a state trooper escort Jones up to a Little Rock hotel room, where Clinton exposed himself and propositioned her.
To establish a pattern of such conduct by Clinton with government workers, Jones subpoenaed other women, including White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Monica now says the affair was consensual, although she concedes, "Sure, my boss took advantage of me". Feminists (and fathers of daughters, like me) would insist there's nothing consensual about a workplace affair between a powerful boss and a young intern, but let that pass.
What concerned Janet Reno was not sex, and not even the president taking advantage of an intern, but evidence that the White House persuaded Lewinsky to join President Clinton in committing perjury at their Paula Jones depositions. That's why Reno had Ken Starr expand his investigation.
What's come to be called the Bimbo Eruption Squad led by Hillary Clinton then went into high gear. As Monica now says, "The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor's minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me". Lewinsky was portrayed as a lying, mentally unbalanced stalker, the tool of what Mrs. Clinton called a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Hillary Clinton by that time had many years' experience protecting her husband's political career, on which her own ultimately depended. For instance, Juanita Broaddrick, a nursing home administrator and a Democrat, told NBC News that when he was Arkansas attorney general, Bill Clinton brutally raped her -- and Broaddrick told FOX's Sean Hannity that Hillary thanked her for keeping quiet.
An Arkansas model and actress, Gennifer Flowers, claimed to have had a 12-year affair with Bill Clinton. Her revelation would have destroyed Clinton's presidential run in 1992, but the public was reassured by Hillary Clinton during a 60 Minutes interview.
What saved Monica Lewinsky from being destroyed was a blue dress. It contained a stain from Bill Clinton's semen. Lewinsky apparently kept it uncleaned to protect herself.
For all the derision and public humiliation Lewinsky suffered, she actually fared better than Judge Starr, who was demonized by the establishment media as a sex-crazed Savaranola, going rogue to bring down the president. Clinton was impeached by the House, acquitted by the Senate and disbarred from practice in Arkansas and before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Why is all this important today?
Because it shows that the establishment media will go to any lengths necessary to protect progressive politicians they favor. It shows the true character of those champions of feminism, Bill and Hillary Clinton. And it shows how history can turn on little things that confirm the truth.
Like a semen-stained dress.
I Am Not Donald Sterling
"I am Spartacus." "I am Spartacus!" "I AM SPARTACUS!" That's the thrilling end to Stanley Kubrick and Dalton Trumbo's film, when dozens of crucified Romans proclaim solidarity with the slave played by Kirk Douglas, the leader of their revolt. Today no one is proclaiming, "I am Donald Sterling." The racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers will almost certainly be drummed out of the NBA, whether by fellow owners or by the free market. And for a very simple reason: America is not a racist nation. People magazine just named the star of 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyongo, the most beautiful person of 2014. Neil deGrasse Tyson is revealing to us the mysteries of creation on the magnificent TV series Cosmos. And the president of the United States is Barack Obama. Yes, 96% of African-American voters chose Obama in 2008. But they were just 13% of the electorate. Barack Obama was elected by white people. Not despite the fact that he was African-American. The first-term senator from Illinois, whose stated agenda began with hope and ended with change, was chosen over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain by millions of white voters largely because they longed to show that America has moved beyond racism. Unless you can use alleged racism to advance your agenda. The man who pledged to unite America told The New Yorker magazine, "There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they dislike the idea of a black president. " One of them may be Donald Sterling. From Malaysia, President Obama called Sterling's comments "incredibly disturbing" and added, "The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination." But who are we wrestling? Conservatives also opposed the progressive agendas of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. If Hillary Clinton joins their ranks in 2016, critics will at least no longer be called racists. They'll be called sexists. The biggest problem with suggesting that racism is not confined to a relatively small number of creeps like Donald Sterling is that the charge distracts America from crucial issues like joblessness, health care, mushrooming government entitlements, crippling national debt, crony capitalism, foreign policy fiascoes and, more generally, Washington incompetence and corruption. This of course is what the charge of pervasive racism is intended to do. So by all means let us proclaim, "I am not Donald Sterling!" And then let's get to work addressing the real problems facing America.
"I am Spartacus."
"I am Spartacus!"
"I AM SPARTACUS!"
That's the thrilling end to Stanley Kubrick and Dalton Trumbo's film, when dozens of crucified Romans proclaim solidarity with the slave played by Kirk Douglas, the leader of their revolt.
Today no one is proclaiming, "I am Donald Sterling." The racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers will almost certainly be drummed out of the NBA, whether by fellow owners or by the free market. And for a very simple reason: America is not a racist nation.
People magazine just named the star of 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyongo, the most beautiful person of 2014. Neil deGrasse Tyson is revealing to us the mysteries of creation on the magnificent TV series Cosmos. And the president of the United States is Barack Obama.
Yes, 96% of African-American voters chose Obama in 2008. But they were just 13% of the electorate. Barack Obama was elected by white people. Not despite the fact that he was African-American. The first-term senator from Illinois, whose stated agenda began with hope and ended with change, was chosen over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain by millions of white voters largely because they longed to show that America has moved beyond racism.
Unless you can use alleged racism to advance your agenda.
The man who pledged to unite America told The New Yorker magazine, "There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they dislike the idea of a black president. " One of them may be Donald Sterling. From Malaysia, President Obama called Sterling's comments "incredibly disturbing" and added, "The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination."
But who are we wrestling? Conservatives also opposed the progressive agendas of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. If Hillary Clinton joins their ranks in 2016, critics will at least no longer be called racists. They'll be called sexists.
The biggest problem with suggesting that racism is not confined to a relatively small number of creeps like Donald Sterling is that the charge distracts America from crucial issues like joblessness, health care, mushrooming government entitlements, crippling national debt, crony capitalism, foreign policy fiascoes and, more generally, Washington incompetence and corruption.
This of course is what the charge of pervasive racism is intended to do.
So by all means let us proclaim, "I am not Donald Sterling!"
And then let's get to work addressing the real problems facing America.
Boehner: The Crying Game
A week before he faces three Republican primary challengers, John Boehner has gone viral. Here's video, from a recent Middletown Rotary Club meeting, of the House Speaker mocking colleagues, and by implication those in his own base, who oppose comprehensive immigration reform.
Boehner is seen wailing and whining, "Here's the attitude. Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh! This is too hard!"
Putting aside why a man notorious for crying in public should want to cry again to caricature his critics, those critics are in fact saying:
"No, John, it's not hard. Let's discuss this like grownups. In 1986 President Reagan granted blanket amnesty to an estimated three million illegal immigrants in our country. In return the borders were supposed to be secured. They weren't. That's why we now have an estimated 11 million more illegal immigrants demanding a path to citizenship. Some say it's at least double that number, but let's not quibble.
"Now John, we could secure the border right now. In fact, the law requires it. But instead of mocking President Obama and other Democrats for refusing to do that, you take aim at fellow Republicans who refuse to discuss another amnesty until we can be assured that any future flow of illegal immigrants will be stopped -- that Democrats and establishment Republicans will not double-cross us again.
"Those illegal immigrants may be coming here, as former Governor Jeb Bush says, as an act of love. But unlike our grandparents or great-grandparents they are not coming to a country that simply offers legal immigrants a chance to succeed. They are coming to a welfare state. And their expectations of future welfare make them likely Democratic voters. Because Democrats may be lousy at creating full-time private sector jobs, but they're terrific at creating a permanent dependent class (of both rich and poor alike) who become permanent constituents.
"So John, wipe your tears and stand up for the rule of law. We know your most famous quote is, 'We Republicans only control one half of one third of the government.' But under the right leadership Republicans have enough power to demand secure borders before they discuss paths to citizenship.
"That's not hard. It's only right.
"And, John, here's a tissue."
Draft Day -- For Everyone
While Northwestern football players vote on whether to unionize, freedom-loving fans are asking when the NFL will quit its age discrimination.
Right now, no matter how great you are, no matter how many pro-teams may be aching to draft you, guys have to sit out three seasons after high school before they can earn a paycheck from the National Football League.
The NBA has a similar rule. But not Major League Baseball. Not golf. Not tennis. Not figure skating.
At age 18 you're old enough to die for your country. But you're not old enough to score a touchdown or sink a three-pointer to support your family.
The NFL and its de facto farm system, the NCAA, claim prospective pros have no complaint because they're getting college scholarships. Much of the debate now -- at Northwestern and elsewhere -- is whether scholarships are enough. Maybe players should also get better meal plans, longer medical benefits, a cut from jersey sales -- or a salary.
But the bigger issue is discrimination. Not just age discrimination but also racial discrimination, since a much higher percentage of minorities play football and basketball than golf, tennis or even baseball.
The claim that college compensates players adequately presupposes that they want to go to college. More and more young people -- athletes or otherwise -- are questioning the benefits of a four-year degree, even if they can afford it. They may instead choose two-year schools or vocational training. They may volunteer for the military. Or they may just enter the workforce, learning practical skills on the job. But football and basketball players can't do that unless they want to play in some lesser leagues, or go abroad.
Forcing kids to go to college is not just paternalistic. It provides vast income for NCAA schools. And it keeps NFL owners from making bad bets on young athletes. For every Andrew Luck or Lebron James they might draft right out of high school, you can imagine the Cowboys' Jerry Jones or James Dolan of the Knicks bidding up the price of some underage bust.
But that's not a reason to keep King James from offering his services to anyone willing to hire him. Nobody would have looked after LeBron if he'd been forced to play in college and gotten hurt. And nobody now regrets that Cleveland gave him a chance -- unless you're now hoping to beat the Heat.
Ohio State's Maurice Clarett sued over the age rules and lost on appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case -- which was no reflection on its merits. There was also talk that Johnny Manziel would sue, but instead he waited to enter this year's draft. Maybe Johnny Football was right to wait. But it's not right to have denied him a choice.
Because you can't have a level playing field in football unless everyone's free to take the field.
Was Ben-Hur a Racist?
Over the holiday weekend Turner Classic Movies treated my family to our favorite Easter film, Ben-Hur. The great William Wyler directed, Maxwell Anderson, Gore Vidal and Christopher Fry polished the script, and their epic swept the chariot race at 1959's Academy Awards.
But today its star would be called a racist. And maybe you would be too.
Charlton Heston was a fervent civil rights supporter. He marched with Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte long before that was fashionable. He was also a union leader, elected president of the Screen Actors Guild six times. And he was a Democrat. Heston supported John F. Kennedy because that Kennedy supported a strong foreign policy and across the board tax cuts to stimulate growth.
Then as Heston said, "I didn't change; the Democratic Party changed" -- from being the party of Jack Kennedy to that of George McGovern. So Heston backed another disillusioned Democrat, Ronald Reagan.
After struggling for years with Alzheimer's, Charlton Heston died seven months before the 2008 election. Yet there's little doubt that Chuck Heston would have opposed Barack Obama. And not because the man who played liberators from Moses to El Cid was a racist.
Heston would have opposed Obama's goal of fundamentally transforming the United States from a strictly limited government to one that's ever-expanding. He would have fought abridging the Second Amendment right to bear arms. And the man who played Thomas Jefferson would have favored Jefferson's original defense of life, liberty and property over Obama's promotion of late-term abortions, collectivism and the redistribution of property.
As for race, Heston would have advanced civil rights while opposing affirmative action, which he believed elevated group identity above character and achievement, and hurt the people it was supposed to help by treating them as victims. The color-blind activist who crusaded with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, Sr. would have seen Barack Obama not as our first black president but as our first affirmative action president; not as a highly-qualified public servant who overcame discrimination, like Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, but as a little-known contender with a slender record of achievement onto whom boosters -- white and black alike -- projected their hope for change, and their desire to elect America's first black president.
So while Obama supporters ranging from the true home run king, Hank Aaron, to Congressman Steve Israel, to the president himself insist that millions of critics of his policies are racists -- a charge that couldn't be leveled at the equally vocal critics of FDR, LBJ, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush -- recall that one man who would have opposed almost all the Obama policies built a 50-year career playing heroes who fought for freedom. And that Charlton Heston's finest hour came not in a Hollywood chariot race but in real life, when he fought real racism.
Kasich Plays Poker
Ohio's Governor John Kasich just took a break from governing and running for reelection and joined a round of five-card stud. Along with other possible GOP presidential contenders Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, Kasich met with casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas.
Adelson personally bankrolled Newt Gingrich in 2012. So his high stakes poker game is now being called the Adelson Primary.
How did Kasich make out? Adelson's not saying. But let's look at the strong and weak cards in the governor's hand, at least as the GOP sees them.
Congressman Kasich was one of Newt's top lieutenants, helping him push through the Contract With America in 1994. Then when Republicans retook the House for the first time in 40 years, young John chaired the budget committee. The two worked with President Clinton to pass balanced budgets -- something never even proposed when Democrats held the majority. Kasich now claims credit for the only federal surplus since 1969.
As Ohio governor, Kasich's turned a potential $8 billion state deficit into a $1.5 billion surplus by cutting taxes, reining in spending and aggressively courting out-of-state businesses.
He's also the self-made son of a postman. And while the freshman congressman sported a Beatle mop, Governor Kasich now has a photogenic family and a manner reminiscent of Chris Christie in his eagerness to ditch talking points and just talk like a regular guy.
When he voluntarily left Congress Kasich went to work for Lehman Brothers. But before the firm collapsed, ushering in the Great Recession, Kasich likes to point out that he had a role in taking Google public.
Upon becoming governor, Kasich caught flack for appointing an all-white cabinet with just a handful of women. He said he didn't play identity politics.
Maybe a bigger misstep was backing a bill to restrict collective bargaining by public employees. Unlike Governor Scott Walker, who won his fight with public unions in Wisconsin, Kasich included police and firefighters. They became the flash point of the debate, and voters handed Kasich a stinging defeat.
Pro-union forces may now unite behind Ed Fitzgerald, the Democrats' candidate to unseat Kasich this November. The chief executive of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, accuses Kasich of crony capitalism, skewing tax cuts to the rich, skimping on education and grossly exaggerating the Ohio Miracle -- since the state as a whole is still losing population. (Although the state capital, Columbus -- like our national capital -- is doing very well.)
But maybe most important, tea party members may oppose Kasich for having accepted Obamacare dollars to expand Medicaid. Twenty-one mostly red states refused to go along. The GOP will want to know: Why Ohio?
SO TO SUM UP
At this point, if Republicans want a governor, Chris Christie -- even with the bridge scandal -- continues to suck most of the air out of the media, particularly the mainstream media, which favors GOP moderates like John McCain and Mitt Romney and then dumps them in the general election. The next choice of the establishment moderates and the media will be former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. For conservatives, Scott Walker shares Kasich's "miracle" success -- and may have a more compelling story of successfully fighting public unions and then surviving a recall attempt in a very liberal state. Also, Walker refused to expand Medicaid.
But of course both Walker and Kasich first have to win reelection. And as Sheldon Adelson knows, that's never a sure bet.
Obamacare Gag Order
Really it should have been Attorney General Eric Holder. He would have been happy to oblige. But yesterday President Obama imposed this gag order for the Affordable Care Act:
"The debate over repealing this law is over."
Well. At the risk of being held in contempt, here are a few facts that may reignite debate, if not in the mainstream media then perhaps at your kitchen table.
The White House claims 7.1 million people have enrolled in Obamacare. Let's put aside questions about how many of those people actually paid for their policies, because the White House won't answer that. (A Rand Corporation study reportedly puts the number at just 858,000.) Assume all 7.1 million have paid premiums or are receiving subsidies.
Then note that more than 6 million Americans have lost the policies they previously had -- policies they presumably "liked" and were promised by the president they could keep -- because those "crappy" policies didn't meet Obamacare requirements. For instance, they may not have provided men with maternity care or women with free abortifacients. Now neither men nor women may get decent cancer treatment unless they're rich or members of the power elite, but put that aside too.
Those 6 million Americans are required to buy an Obamacare-approved policy or face a penalty. What Chief Justice John Roberts called a "tax" in order to find the Affordable Care Act constitutional. To collect that tax the Internal Revenue Service hired 16,000 new agents.
Bear in mind that the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be so attractive, tens of millions of people would rush to sign up. President Obama said it would save the average family $2,500. Instead we're finding that many premiums have doubled, and deductibles run up to $6,000. And nervous Democrats proposing to reform the reform law now want to raise deductibles even more.
Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, wrote:
"Now let me define the difference between economic power and political power: economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear."
Free market reform of our outmoded, World War Two employer-based model for health insurance would offer rewards to consumers: choice, lower costs, and freedom from bureaucrats and special political interests. See my previous blog "Replacing Obamacare." If Republicans don't offer a free-market alternative to Obamacare they deserve to lose.
But what Obamacare and its 16,000 IRS agents do is impose punishment. Just as we don't know how many people enrolled in Obamacare and actually paid, or how many previously had insurance but had it taken away, or how many are members of the expanded ranks of Medicaid, we also don't know how many of those 7.1 million enrolled out of fear.
You can bet it was plenty.
And that's what the White House and its media supporters are now celebrating.
If you're celebrating too, I urge you to read another previous blog called "Churchill and the State of Our Union."
You'll be reminded of the British prime minister's warning to those who appeased dictators:
"Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear -- I fear greatly -- the storm will not pass."
The White House has delayed Obamacare's employer mandate -- the one that may impact your health coverage -- until after the next elections. Still, the storm clouds are gathering.
So with apologies to the president, the debate over repealing this fundamentally transformative law is not over.
You're Not My Father
No, were not quoting Luke Skywalker or a who's your daddy segment on Maury Povich.
One of the gravest threats facing America today is that we're content to let our founding fathers molder in their graves while our enemies' fathers are very much alive.
Muslims revere Muhammad, although Shia and Sunni disagree about who were his rightful heirs.
China still officially reveres Mao though it repudiates his Cultural Revolution and embraces state-controlled capitalism. More importantly, China is seeking to restore itself as The Middle Kingdom -- the center of the world.
In Russia, Vladimir Putin, a self-professed Christian, may mute his reverence for Lenin and Stalin, but Putin's nationalism has him aspiring to succeed Peter the Great. And 80% of Russians approve.
One of our parties -- The Grand Old Party -- seems happy to manage our decline. Its Washington establishment did nothing during the six years they controlled the House, the Senate and the White House under the moderate George W. Bush to reform our hideously politicized tax code, our bankrupt entitlements or the regulatory regimes strangling free enterprise while promoting crony capitalism. Nothing then and nothing now.
As for the other party, its leader dismisses the entire idea of American exceptionalism as it was defined by our founding fathers.
Those framers of our constitution did not see America as a Middle Kingdom. They did not aim to set up a government strong enough to dominate its neighbors. Quite the contrary. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were exceptional 200 years ago for one simple reason. While most of the world's other countries were ruled by kings and aristocracies, and while even the later French Revolution would advance the "general will" of the nation as the guiding force of their republic, the American Revolution recognized individual rights as preeminent. And our founding fathers did not pay lip service to that principle. As every law student knows, or used to know, the governing principle of our constitution was to set up a strictly limited national government of clearly enumerated powers that -- as underscored in the ninth and tenth amendments -- could not infringe on the existing and unalienable powers of the states and the individual people.
The practical effect of our constitution was that people from all over the world who were victims at home came to America to be free of government constraints and persecution. The United States of America became the home of the free and the land of the brave. And the symbol of our country -- long before the French gave us the Statue of Liberty -- was the greatest of our founding fathers, the father of our country, George Washington.
That America no longer exists. And not just because America no longer celebrates Washington's Birthday as a special holiday but instead celebrates the office and lumps Washington in with every other commander-in-chief from James Buchanan to Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. And not just because the average American today knows almost nothing about Washington's life or death devotion to limited government and individual rights but instead only knows that Washington had false teeth and was a slaveholder.
No, the founding fathers' America no longer exists because far from coming to our country to escape from being victims, people now live in our country as victims. Their victim status makes them that most precious thing, wards of the state. And that state has become a leviathan that grows every day, fed by the demands of various victims. The food our leviathan devours is state-mandated redistribution of wealth.
President Obama has advanced this new definition of America on countless occasions, from talking with Joe the Plumber about spreading the wealth around to, most explicitly, explaining on Chicago public radio how the founding fathers' vision of America was flawed and needed to be fundamentally transformed to include the redistribution of wealth and the guarantee of new rights -- rights that we now see include everything from what the government deems to be adequate health care to what the government deems to be nutritious meals to what the government deems to be fair-paying jobs, and on and on.
The reach of the federal government into our lives would be a big enough transformation. But the repudiation of the founding fathers' vision of a country of individual rights and responsibilities has a more far-reaching effect.
Progressives, and establishment Republicans who merely grow the government at a slightly slower pace, have not proposed replacing the founding fathers' constitution with anything else. They simply ignore it.
The upshot is lawlessness.
Take Obamacare. Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act was an unconstitutional overreach under the Commerce Clause but he salvaged it as a tax measure. Roberts articulated no limiting principle for any future tax law. Beyond that, the Obama administration acknowledges no limits on its unilateral right to delay, cherry pick and rewrite the law, and establishment Republicans have not challenged the administration in Congress or in court.
So a movement that began under Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt is now reaching fruition. America is being fundamentally transformed from a limited government into an unlimited government.
Ironically, our new unlimited government turns out to be more vacillating and timid than the limited one was when it comes to standing up against foreign tyrannies. The reason is simple. America once saw itself as a force for good in the world. America now sees itself as a land of injustice that our unlimited government needs to reform. Only once that reform is complete will America have moral authority.
Meantime, America will be governed by a different class of leaders. On the establishment Republican side, members of the club. On the progressive side, political bosses.
There is an alternative. Both for nuclear families in America and for America as a whole. An acknowledgement that it does not primarily take a village, and it does not primarily take an old boys' club, to produce a responsible child or a responsible nation. It takes mothers and fathers.
But maybe Luke Skywalker and Maury Povich have it right. First America has to decide, "Who's your daddy?
Russia's devouring of Crimea, Obamacare's enrollment deadline, and most important -- because it distracts from the first two -- the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 may all be less important stories than this little item from Gonzales, Louisiana.
Kiss My Lingerie now accepts EBT cards.
Electronic Benefits Transfer cards are what used to be called food stamps. They're not supposed to pay for alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, casinos or adult entertainment (although as we've shown you, fraud is rampant). Yet it seems Kiss My Lingerie considers novelties like edible panties to be food, not adult entertainment, and the great state of Louisiana apparently agrees. The Gonzales store reportedly has been told that EBT cards, good for up to $400 a month, can be used for "lingerie and other adult items."
Why should this get your panties into a bunch?
Because government is becoming more dependent on voters who are dependent on government. Rich and poor alike. And the best way to ensure dependency is to hook voters on some drug. From special tax breaks for favored fat cats ...to edible panties.
Now I don't mean to fixate on those panties. Kiss My Lingerie surely has lots of other stuff to entice you.
And I don't mean to impugn everyone in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Even with America now $17 trillion in debt, we're still rich enough to help those who truly can't help themselves.
But despite this flat economy, pumped up by the Federal Reserve -- where Wall Street expands but too many Main Streets have hit a dead end -- can 47 million Americans really not help themselves? And do programs that let people use food assistance to buy "adult items" preserve what used to be called the American work ethic?
Assuming that's what you want to preserve.
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four foresaw an authoritarian future sustained by surveillance and by government destroying the memory of any better life. But another dystopian novel, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, adds another ingredient: hooking citizens on sex toys and drugs and mind-numbing entertainment. Old-fashioned virtues -- fidelity, marriage, family -- are made objects of ridicule and revulsion. By the state. To keep citizens doped up and docile.
We're checking to see if this EBT policy is followed just in Louisiana -- where former Governor Edwin Edwards once boasted that politicians can get away with anything short of being caught in bed "with a dead girl or a live boy."
But in any event, it's not just Louisiana that's now a subsidized swamp. The key question may be the one someone on MTV asked Bill Clinton when he was running for president:
"What kind of underwear do you wear?"
And who's paying?
GOP: Can't Beat Something With Nothing
Democrats may or may not take another "shellacking" this November, as they did in the 2010 congressional elections. But thanks to President Obama's own victories in 2008 and 2012, his party's already gone a long way toward "fundamentally transforming" America.
And for a simple reason.
Barack Obama has a governing philosophy. Establishment Republicans do not. And you can't beat something with nothing.
Campaigning for president near Toledo in 2008, Senator Obama shared his philosophy with Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber. Joe worried that Obama wanted to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. The senator responded: "right now, everybody's so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
And how do you spread the wealth? Partly by raising taxes on higher income earners but also through social welfare programs. On Chicago public radio in 2001, then-state Senator Obama conceded that European-style social welfare was not sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution as traditionally interpreted by scholars and by the Supreme Court:
"But," said Senator Obama, "the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do to you, it says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf."
And what exactly must government do? During his 2012 reelection campaign, President Obama made that clear with a website called "The Life of Julia" that promised women cradle to grave social welfare programs covering every conceivable aspect of their lives.
The Republican leadership's response?
Nothing in the way of a governing philosophy beyond sneering, "Go ahead and elect Marxists and wait till you see the country crash and burn."
And that remains the establishment Republican response.
Wait. How about gradually reforming eligibility for entitlement programs -- from food stamps and disability benefits to Medicaid, Social Security and also corporate welfare -- that are bankrupting our country and saddling the young with crushing debt?
"Politically too risky," Republican leaders say.
Replace the Affordable Care Act with the first free market health reforms since World War Two?
"No need." says the GOP. "We'll just let Obamacare implode."
Simplify the tax code -- perhaps with some variation of a flat or fair tax -- so that all Americans are treated equally and politicians of both parties can no longer bribe voters by offering special credits and exemptions?
"How would we get reelected?"
You wouldn't. At least not forever. Because we should also amend the Constitution to include term-limits, so that Washington will rid itself of career politicians buying votes from rich and poor alike.
"You must be joking."
If so, the joke's on us.
Without any of these reforms and more, Republicans may still retake the House and the Senate. They may even win the White House in 2016, if they don't once again alienate their conservative, libertarian and tea party base. Then they'll have all the power Republicans enjoyed for six years under George W. Bush, when they increased deficit spending, refused to police Wall Street and the real estate market, and failed to enact any important reforms. A month before the 2008 election financial markets collapsed and Barack Obama began fundamentally transforming our economy and our national character.
Because Barack Obama has a governing philosophy while the Republican ruling class is content to preserve its share of political power. For however little time that lasts.
The Finest First Lady Was a Man
That's not male chauvinism. It's just that reading about Michelle Obama's official visit to China with her mom and two daughters -- but not the president or the press -- got me thinking about what first ladies do.
And perhaps shouldn't do.
We could use all our space writing about, say, Mary Todd Lincoln. But for brevity's sake let's look back over just the last hundred years.
When President Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke in 1919, Vice President Thomas Marshall could have given him a hand. Trouble was, Wilson's second wife, Edith, didn't tell Tom or most anyone else that the president was no longer capable of running a corner store, much less the country, so Edith secretly became the shadow president.
Skip ahead fifteen years. Franklin Roosevelt's polio kept him from getting around as much as he would have liked, though FDR did manage to meet Churchill and Stalin during WWII in Tehran and Yalta. So Mrs. Roosevelt in effect became her husband's legs, traveling where he could not go -- for instance to coal mines in Ohio and West Virginia. Mrs. Roosevelt was not only one of the nation's most influential first ladies. After her husband's death she became a delegate to the newly formed United Nations. And after Mrs. Roosevelt's own death -- according to Bob Woodward -- First Lady Hillary Clinton chatted with Eleanor from beyond the grave. Mrs. Clinton reportedly also talked with Gandhi.
Hillary of course warrants a blog of her own. And if she runs for president again we will certainly revisit. But for now note that she came to national prominence promising on 60 Minutes that if Bill got elected there would be no more women like Gennifer Flowers talking about his sexual peccadilloes. We did not then know about Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and who knows how many others. But seemingly as reward for her loyalty at a crucial time, the first lady was put in charge of reworking the country's health care system.
Let me repeat that.
First Lady Hillary Clinton was put in charge -- not of beautifying America's highways like Lady Bird Johnson, or hosting televised White House tours like Jackie Kennedy (back before piddling spending cuts suspended White House tours). No. First Lady Hillary Clinton was assigned by President Bill Clinton to revamp the nation's entire health care system.
Forget Republican opposition. Fellow Democrats refused even to bring the first lady's plan up for a vote.
Hillary however regained clout in the White House when -- who could have guessed? -- an intern named Monica Lewinsky was revealed to have had an affair with President Clinton -- in the White House -- and to have lied about it under oath in the Paula Jones lawsuit. The first lady stood by her man again (remember the "vast right-wing conspiracy"?) and not only did Bill survive impeachment for lying under oath in the same case, but Mrs. Clinton also went on to win a Senate seat from New York.
It is outside the scope of this blog to review her Senate career, her failed run for the Democratic presidential nomination despite an overwhelming early lead, or her accomplishments as Secretary of State (Egypt, Benghazi and the Russian reset that's led to Ukraine).
But I ask you. Was Mrs. Clinton's rise to power a triumph of feminism?
We could focus on other first ladies -- Nancy Reagan, for example, feuding with Chief of Staff Don Regan and perhaps getting him fired -- but let's jump to Michelle Obama.
Nobody has accused Mrs. Obama of being a shadow president. Or of trying to reorder 1/6 of the U.S. economy. But in the 21st century do we really need presidential spouses responsible for any substantive policies, even if it's just stuff like food labeling and getting soda machines removed from schools?
Do we need presidential spouses making official, taxpayer funded foreign trips on their own (or with their children during spring break) even if they don't criticize foreign governments the way, for instance, Laura Bush did regarding Myanmar and China? However justified that criticism might be.
There is an alternative.
As mentioned, my favorite first lady was a man. Denis Thatcher. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's husband. Denis Thatcher's job was not beautifying Britain's highways or overseeing how England's kids should eat. Much less running the kingdom.
Denis Thatcher was a retired businessman. He played a lot of golf -- on his own time and his own dime.
It was also rumored that he gave his wife advice, but all Denis had to say about that was: "For 40 wonderful years I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could produce - small as it may be - was love and loyalty."
Now you might say, that's not cricket. Denis Thatcher was a Brit.
Okay, let's end with an American first lady I like just as much as Denis. Come to think of it, maybe even more.
Harry Truman's wife, Bess, hated Washington. She refused to follow in the footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt. Whenever Harry could spare her, Bess spent as much time as possible in their modest Missouri home. Eventually Harry retired there too, although he could have made money they desperately needed by hanging around Washington.
That Missouri town had a name that told you a lot about Harry and Bess, and true feminism, and what this country used to be all about.
We hope Attorney General Eric Holder recovers quickly from his health scare... and even faster from the legal scare he's just given the country.
Not content to have trampled the rule of law in the Fast and Furious gun running scandal, in refusing to pursue voter intimidation complaints, in spying on Associated Press and FOX reporters, and in a whole docket full of other cases, the attorney general is now counseling his state counterparts to quit defending state laws -- and even state constitutions -- that ban same-sex marriage.
We'll examine the substance of Holder's stance in a moment.
But first consider another attorney who once risked his life defending the rule of law.
In 1770 British troops occupying Boston killed five protestors. The colonial government charged Captain Thomas Preston and his men with murder.
Fearing for their careers and possibly their lives, no lawyers in Boston were willing to defend the perpetrators of "the Boston Massacre."
Except for John Adams, who wrote in his diary,
"The part I took in defense of Captain Preston and the soldiers procured me anxiety, and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country."
Far from eternal obloquy, Adams of course went on to earn the presidency.
In a very different time.
Eric Holder justifies asking state attorneys general to refuse any defense of their states' laws by likening bans on same-sex marriage to racial discrimination. Ignoring the fact that when he ran for president in 2008, and as recently as three years ago, Barack Obama repeatedly opposed same-sex marriage.
Our country may be undergoing a sea change regarding gay rights. And the Supreme Court of the United States has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law by Bill Clinton.
But the Supreme Court did not overturn any state bans on same-sex marriage. The majority expressly recognized that these bans for now remain in effect.
I ask you, for the moment, to put aside your own feelings about gay, lesbian and transgender rights. I am not going to tell you my feelings because in this context they're irrelevant.
And that's because the larger issue is the rule of law. If we continue to ignore it -- as President Obama has joined Holder in doing regarding DOMA, immigration, recess appointments, the implementation of his own Affordable Care Act and so much else -- then America truly will be "fundamentally transformed."
Into a dictatorship.
President Obama has shrugged off the notion of American Exceptionalism.
So let him look deeper into our past. Recall that Winston Churchill traced Anglo-American reverence for the rule of law back to the legendary King Arthur. The Camelot that so stirred Jack Kennedy was not just about pageantry and beautiful tunes. It was about Arthur's idealism -- founded not on feudal loyalties, not on might makes right, but on the rule of law.
Moving from legend to history, when nobles forced King John to sign Magna Carta they were rebelling against tyranny and imposing the rule of law.
England's unwritten constitution is its noblest possession. Just as America's brilliantly, wisely, justly written constitution used to be our greatest possession.
When he lectured at the University of Chicago's law school Barack Obama took exception to our constitution, calling is a "charter of negative liberties" because it set limits on government's intrusion on individual rights but did not specify what government must provide for its citizens -- including, the president believes, health care, housing, food and who knows what else.
Our founders might have applauded President Obama's general desire to improve the constitution. They even provided a process for that. The amendment process.
And well short of constitutional amendment, gay rights supporters can take their case to the courts and to the voters. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage.
But blatantly and systematically ignoring the constitution -- ignoring state laws and state constitutions because they seem to you unjust -- is unlawful.
It is tyrannical.
It is something no supporter of gay rights should support, because lawlessness will eventually come back to bite you too. Like Churchill's famous crocodile, that appeasers can only hope... will eat them last.
In sum, John Adams felt it was his duty as an attorney to defend men he found repugnant. But I believe even John Adams would have found Attorney General Eric Holder, and his boss... indefensible.
Hollowing Out Our Military
Hollowing out our military is one of America's most hallowed traditions.
Right after we won the Revolutionary War, in 1783, Congress refused to pay our soldiers back wages and pensions. This sparked the army's "Newburgh Conspiracy," defused only because General Washington refused to rebel. (See George Washington's Finest Hour.)
After we sacrificed a generation of doughboys on the fields of Flanders in World War I, politicians again gutted our military, especially the Navy. That left America an easy target for the Japanese Empire until America once again rose -- late, but luckily not too late -- to the challenge of Pearl Harbor and World War II.
A military buildup hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. The Clinton administration and then Republican Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld proceeded to "streamline" the military. One result: insufficient boots on the ground made it impossible to occupy Iraq or even to secure towns our troops had already taken, like Fallujah. You can debate whether a larger force would have brought peace to Iraq. Or Afghanistan, where President Obama surged but at the same time set a date for withdrawal. But if the total victory that let us turn Japan and Germany into democratic republics was not possible, what right did we have to ask American soldiers to lay down their lives?
All this leads to our current defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, now proposing to reduce troop strength to pre-Pearl Harbor levels.
Few dispute that there is room to cut at the Pentagon.
And the more libertarian wing of the Republican party, led by Senator Rand Paul, supports fewer American bases around the world, especially in countries that can afford to defend themselves.
Then too, perhaps we don't need the anti-tank aircraft Hagel wants to scrap.
Some might even support the White House seeking to trim everything from military pensions to health benefits to -- I kid you not -- funding for commissaries.
But at some point you have to ask yourself if our military is a favored constituency of the Obama administration.
After all, these are the people who played a game of chicken with Republicans, agreeing to sequestration spending cuts -- only -- if 50% of them came from defense. Seeing no other way to slow the growth of deficit spending, the GOP shocked President Obama by accepting the deal. The president now takes credit for reducing deficits. And the defense cuts continue.
Why don't Democrats fight to preserve defense spending as fiercely as they fight to expand food stamps, jobless benefits, disability benefits, and funding for teachers and other public union members?
Critics suggest it's because the Pentagon is not as easily politicized as, say, the EPA, HHS, the IRS and the Department of Education.
Soldiers don't seem as willing as many other people to remain dependent on government. Americans who volunteer for military service are often traditionalists. Many of them hail from the heartland. They want to defend our country and learn skills in the process so that when they muster out they can be self-reliant.
And national polls showed a vast majority of soldiers and veterans favored Mitt Romney.
Secretary Hagel's proposed cuts may well be in the best interest of America. And if more domestic and entitlement spending boosts our economy, maybe that's America's best line of defense.
But as Congress debates Hagel's budget, many will wonder if 2014 is looking a lot like 1783.
When some lawmakers felt we no longer needed so many soldiers.
And there was no rush to see that our soldiers were paid.
House of Cards
When Shakespeare staged plays at court for Queen Elizabeth I about feckless kings like Richard II or evil kings like Richard III he was not suggesting that Good Queen Bess was remotely like them.
Instead Elizabeth's grandfather appears as England's virtuous deliverer at the end of Richard III. And even Elizabeth's hound dog of a dad, Henry VIII, in his play of the same name is made to seem heroic, since his adultery and apostasy finally produce ...baby Elizabeth! And this libertarian prophesy:
In her days every man shall eat in safety
Under his own vine what he plants
Now contrast Elizabeth's love of Shakespeare with our current leaders' love for House of Cards.
We've learned that its biggest fan, President Obama, has asked for advance copies of upcoming episodes. And it's not just the president. Peggy Noonan writes that Democrats and establishment Republicans alike in Washington are now obsessed with this Netflix series
House of Cards depicts Washington as a cesspool reeking of ambition, avarice and revenge.
Which is to say it provides better reporting than you'll find anywhere in the mainstream media.
In times of greatness -- like those of Pericles, Ashoka, Kangxi, and Elizabeth I -- leaders liked to see themselves portrayed as farsighted and enlightened.
In times of decadence and decline, like today, leaders smirk at less flattering depictions, so long as they feel confident of their power and the loyalty of those allowed to poke fun.
Kings encourage court jesters.
But make no mistake. The popularity in Washington of House of Cards is a sign of contempt for us.
And the joke will be on us when these cards collapse.
Unless we act quickly on these other lines from Shakespeare:
The time is out of joint. O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Invisible America: The Long-Term Unemployed
I don't often plug our own television stories. But here's one you might find interesting -- perhaps startling -- because it's deliberately ignored by the mainstream media.
Just click: http://www.fox45now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wrgt_vid_18765.shtml
It's the story of invisible America: the long-term unemployed.
True, most news outlets reluctantly mutter each month that America's jobless rate is falling largely because millions of people are dropping out of the workforce. Yet we're seldom told what that really means. And we rarely meet someone who can't find a job, someone you'd never expect would be out of work.
Simply in terms of numbers, January's official jobless rate fell to 6.6% although the economy -- during the holiday season, no less -- created just 113,000 jobs, most of them part-time or government work.
That official rate is bad enough when you recall it's remained stuck far above 5% for more than five years. Under any Republican president this would be called a jobless recovery. Especially since the recovery part is pretty much confined to Wall Street, thanks to artificially low interest rates and federal pump-priming of $75-85 billion ...a month.
In other words, for all its rabble-rousing about income inequality, this administration caters to the rich. If establishment Republicans fail to seize that argument it's because they cater to the rich too.
But we're not going to focus on the official 6.6% jobless rate. We're looking into the real rate -- what's called the U-6 rate -- of 12.7%. The U-6 includes people who have stopped looking for work or who unwillingly accept part-time jobs.
People like Christopher Joseph.
College educated, talented, personable... and out of full-time work for three years.
Chris will tell us...
-- how he and his wife have had to move in with his in-laws...
-- how this 43-year-old father has to comfort his oldest daughter at night because she worries about whether they'll get by...
-- how he's applied for countless jobs...
-- and how he's been lucky to find work at a county job center in exchange for food assistance and other extended government benefits.
But we'll also look at why Chris may have struck out.
He majored in communications. How many colleges warn students paying tuition up the wazoo (or more likely going deeply into debt) that there are pitifully few jobs in communications or any number of other oversubscribed majors?
Then we'll show you how students can find rewarding and remunerative careers by learning disciplines that match the evolving job market. You'll see how every student majoring in Operations and Supply Management at the University of Dayton has been offered a paid internship and a great full-time job.
Still, not everyone is cut out for work that combines business and engineering. I'm not! In fact, not everyone should be pressured into going to college. Certainly not right out of high school.
Ever since World War Two and the GI Bill we've equated college with upward mobility -- with respectability. A stigma's attached to anyone without a diploma. And a stigma's attached to most anyone who pursues and even excels at a non-collegiate sort of career.
We talk with a small manufacturing firm about this and the challenges they face finding workers. For instance, they have to test ten applicants just to find one who can pass a drug test.
We hear now from government leaders that Obamacare is freeing people from "job lock" so they can pursue their dreams.
But Chris just dreamed of having a decent job.
The nightmare will come when a majority of Americans -- like the "angry young men" of socialized post-war Britain -- no longer aspire to work but instead are willing to live on the dole and nurse their resentments.
The good news ... is that Chris just found a job.
With the same county job center where he previously received only government benefits.
But not all of us can work for the government.
At least not yet.
Keeping America's private sector thriving and creating jobs will require a different mindset from government and from each of us, as workers and as parents.
Now, thankfully, off to work.
George Washington's Finest Hour
On Presidents Day I thought about our two greatest leaders, Washington and Lincoln, who used to have holidays of their own.
This was a good thing.
A necessary thing.
Because we should be honoring individual character and achievements, not just anyone who imagines himself great for having occupied the Oval Office.
America is not about titles and offices, and it's certainly not about power. America is exceptional because, as our founding documents make clear, inalienable individual rights precede government. We the people created our federal government to protect those rights.
This used to be taught in all civics classes and at all law schools. Even Harvard's and the University of Chicago's.
No one was more mindful of the limited, decentralized power of America's government than the first and only man chosen unanimously to lead it, largely because he had already demonstrated -- not only supreme devotion and courage -- but also supreme self-restraint.
George Washington could have been a king. The most moving instance of his refusing to seize personal power came in 1783. With the Revolutionary War won, a bankrupt Congress found it had higher priorities than paying our troops years of back wages. Seething senior officers threatened armed rebellion. General Washington had previously refused a crown. If he refused again, the army might mutiny against its commander in chief.
Torn between defying Congress and opposing the men with whom he had suffered countless privations and so often risked death, Washington unexpectedly attended a meeting of the officers at their headquarters in Newburgh, New York. It was March 15, the same day that Roman conspirators in 44 B.C. assassinated Julius Caesar, a military dictator. Washington's ambition and his fate were exactly opposite.
To reassure the soldiers Washington pulled from his pocket a letter from a member of Congress. Then he fumbled for something else. Recently the general had found he needed reading glasses. He had not yet worn them in public. With a slight smile Washington said, "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." He then read the letter and left. Witnesses recall that many of the officers were in tears. They immediately affirmed their loyalty to Congress, the Newburgh conspiracy collapsed, and America remained a republic of laws not men.
This for me is one of the greatest moments in history. And upon hearing that, like the Roman leader Cincinnatus, Washington was eager to return to his farm, even King George III called his adversary "the greatest man in the world."
He was: first as the soldier who staked an immense fortune and his own life in the fight for liberty; then as impartial president of the Constitutional Convention; and finally as the first President of the United States, setting the precedent that his office was one of strong but limited power, freely shared with members of the cabinet, Congress and the courts -- and subject always to the preeminent rights of we the people.
Swearing Off Obamacare
A local employer came on our air several months ago and told you that he's not hiring any more full-time workers, due to the "crippling" regulations and costs... of ObamaCare.
I won't tell you that employer's name, or identify his business now.. since that might send him to jail.
Because the Treasury Department just ruled that businesses must certify -- under penalty of perjury -- that they are not cutting full-time jobs to avoid having to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
The Treasury Department's involved because Chief Justice John Roberts and his Supreme Court majority found the ACA is constitutional only if it's construed as a tax measure. And that gives the IRS power to enforce it.
Now bear in mind that employers make business decisions all the time based on tax considerations.
Heck, our gargantuan tax code is almost nothing but a bunch of politicized tax breaks for favored businesses.
Even more galling, the White House just postponed the ObamaCare business mandate, but not the individual mandate, yet again -- for purely political reasons. They want to delay as many worker layoffs as possible until after the November congressional elections.
So under penalty of perjury, let's get this straight:
President Obama -- who "jokes" that he can do anything he wants -- unilaterally rewrites the clear mandates of this "duly enacted, settled law"... but employers can no longer make a business decision based on the tax implications of that law.
Forgive me, but I've got to run -- to warn that local job creator how to stay out of jail.
Debt Ceiling: America's Bar Tab
Let's say you're a drunk and you've run up a staggering tab at your local bar.
You can't pay it off because you're now just working part-time.
So you go to your wife, who luckily still has a decent job. She says she'll pay off your bill, but only if you promise to drink less and stop running up future bar tabs.
You say, "Honey, I'll talk about the future, but I won't do that with a gun pointed at my head. Pay off the bar bill and then we'll discuss whether I need to cut back on future tabs."
In this parable, President Obama and his fellow Democrats are the patrons of that tavern (I was going to say bar flies, but that wouldn't be respectful)
... and Senator Ted Cruz is the wife.
What they're of course arguing about is the debt ceiling, which Senator Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner agreed to raise "clean" of any spending cuts.
In fairness, the analogy is not precise.
Progressives would object to calling anyone a drunk. They would say we're alcoholics, meaning victims of a disease, who can't be blamed for our actions. Be it drinking. Or spending.
And in fairness, establishment Republicans have been more than happy to run up a tab at this establishment.
George W. Bush, for instance, never saw a spending bill he was willing to veto.
Beyond that, GOP leaders want to steer clear of another government shutdown. They want to steer clear of anything that distracts attention before the election from the imploding Affordable Care Act.
But tea partiers are teetotalers when it comes to deficit spending.
So they are saying precisely this:
"Mr. President, don't claim you only want to pay the bills Congress has already run up, and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States, if you're not also willing to negotiate future spending limits. And Mr. President, don't claim we're trying to put a gun to your head (aren't we supposed to have given up that kind of violent political speech?) when the only leverage Republicans have is when we're asked to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. Otherwise, you ignore us."
Frank Sinatra used to croon a great saloon song called "One for My Baby and One More for the Road."
But when Frank sang, "set 'em up, Joe," he was able to pay his own bar tab -- unlike America.
And that road he sang about wasn't leading over a fiscal cliff.
So Washington -- and I do mean both parties -- how about joining a 12-step program before you go on another bender?
With the latest delays of the employer (but not the individual) mandate, Obamacare -- as passed by Congress -- is now imploding.
President Obama just granted businesses with 50 or more full-time employees yet another reprieve from having to provide them all insurance.
But only till after the next elections.
That tactic, and the false promise that you could keep your policy, helped reelect the President in 2012.
Yet it won't keep businesses from continuing to freeze hiring and reduce workers' hours.
And it means individuals forced onto government exchanges will see even higher premiums and deductibles. What they may not see are their doctors, who refuse to accept lower reimbursement.
Still, if Obamacare's staunchest supporters now find it hard to defend , that does not mean the Republican establishment has a better plan.
Or any plan at all.
To see why, let's review how America came down with our health care fever.
It all started ...
That's when businesses became the prime providers of our health insurance.
During World War II, employers skirted FDR's wage controls by offering workers health
benefits. Those benefits were not taxed as income for employees, and businesses -- unlike individuals -- were allowed to deduct premiums as business expenses.
Soon most bigger employers started offering group health insurance. And as so often, there was an unintended consequence. Since they didn't buy policies themselves, workers stopped noticing what health care actually cost.
But what if you didn't work for a large company?
At first it didn't matter.
In the 1950s, when I was a little kid in a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, my parents -- self-employed at a small business -- had no health insurance. Yet they were able to pay out of pocket to have me delivered and to have my tonsils and appendix removed. A visit to our local doc cost fifteen bucks.
And he made house calls.
But since Washington's tax policies in effect subsidized health care for workers at bigger businesses, those tax deductions soon pushed up prices for everyone.
Washington had created a health care gap by giving some folks the benefit of tax-exempt coverage while others -- like my folks -- had to fend for themselves.
After the war, Washington could have phased out health insurance deductions for employers and returned to free market principles. After all, employers don't buy our food, clothing and shelter.
But politicians would sooner jump off a bridge -- or worse, get a real job -- than ask voters to give back a government benefit. So instead the politicians tried bridging the health care gap they created... by creating even more benefits, and more health care subsidies -- including Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.
To the surprise of no one, unless your health care included a lobotomy, budgets for both Medicare and Medicaid soon rocketed beyond the estimates used to sell them to taxpayers.
As always, government had little incentive to control costs much less outright corruption. To the contrary, bureaucracies fed on built-in budget increases that outstripped inflation. So did health providers, including physicians, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.
To remedy these problems, Democrats passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Obamacare aimed to control costs and insure those 30 million Americans who didn't have insurance through work and couldn't afford to buy it themselves.
But no one is now claiming that the average family of four will save the promised $2,500 a year. Instead, again, premiums and deductibles are rising.
And even the Washington Post concedes that 30 million people will still be uninsured -- not counting the millions more for whom the employer mandate is being postponed.
And let's not even get into worries about privacy, politicization, and enforcement by... the IRS.
So Republicans call Obamacare a giant leap toward "fundamentally transforming" our country.
But... who are they to complain?
And what do they promise?
When the GOP called the shots in Washington for six years under George W. Bush, they could have come up with their own solutions -- free market solutions, like
- individual tax-free health-savings accounts, with tax credits for low-income people
- assigned risk pools for those with preexisting conditions, perhaps as part of Medicare
- the right to buy policies across state lines to increase competition, and
- malpractice litigation reform
Instead the GOP expanded federal entitlements -- for rich and poor alike -- to include prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.
So now a civil war is erupting in Republican ranks.
Libertarian-minded lawmakers were willing to shut down the government to defund Obamacare, or at least delay the individual mandate, just as the White House is now again delaying the employer mandate.
And the Republican establishment?
It's continuing to play rope-a-dope, hoping voters will simply turn to them as the lesser of two evils.
But who's the dope here?
By offering no replacement for Obamacare, the GOP will once again turn their own conservative base away from the polls, and allow other voters to be distracted at election time by the headline of the day -- whether it's the next Superstorm Sandy, or some polarizing social issue, or a personal attack on their contender.
Remember the media pouncing on George W. Bush's 24-year-old DUI?
More important, if the GOP does nothing, America truly will have been fundamentally transformed.
Obamacare is imploding.
But as President Obama joked with France's socialist president only yesterday...
"That's the good thing about being President. I can do anything I want."
Unless the loyal opposition quits taking Obamacare...
The Evil Rich Beatles
The 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first appearance on Ed Sullivan...
(I say appearance because you could hardly hear them above the screaming)
... must make President Obama mighty indignant, even though he's been hanging out a lot lately with Sir Paul McCartney, not to mention Beyonce, Jay Z, and other icons of income inequality.
To see how unjust it is for these rock, pop and rap stars to rake in their millions while the poor and middle class lose income, try this thought experiment based on what the late Harvard philosopher John Rawls called the Original Position for an ideally just society.
That would be one where we make up laws and divide up property -- in the dark -- without knowing what our personal positions in society would be.
For instance, want to oppose gay marriage? Okay.
But what if the lights flick on and you find out... you're gay!
That might or might not change your perspective.
When it comes to property, let's imagine no one in the Original Position would know if they'd be born rich or poor. Do you gamble on being "lucky in life's lottery?" Or do you worry about being born on the other side of the tracks?
Well, in our ideal society we could protect against anyone starting out rich or poor by giving everyone the same amount of money -- say $100,000.
Some of us would then spend our money on necessities and invest the rest. We might next get a good job or even start a small business. Barring a catastrophe, these prudent people should live stable, middle-class lives.
But now let's imagine four lads named John, Paul, George and Ringo. Instead of investing their money in beauty salons (that was actually Ringo's early dream) they buy guitars and a drum kit.
The boys then take some of the rest of their $100,000 (or whatever that is in British pounds) and entrust it to a manager named Brian Epstein. Brian spends some of their collective cash to hire the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and to do what Elvis did -- cut their first record on their own dime.
In just a couple of years, what do you know?
Millions of the rest of us are spending a chunk of our $100,000 on Beatles concerts, albums... and even the Beatle wigs my cousin Stevie and I used to pull on over our crew cuts.
Now we fans are all out hundreds or -- if we're real Beatlemaniacs -- thousands of dollars.
And the Beatles are filthy rich.
So how do we return to the Original Position of income equality?
Well, we could levy confiscatory taxes on the Beatles.
But they've got a subversive nerve and just keep cutting more and more top-selling albums.
If our Utopia really is committed to income equality we could nationalize all music groups and allow them to be heard only on state-run media (while at the same time making sure their music conforms to state standards and includes messages that promote the state, ideally performed by friends of our leaders).
You laugh? That's what's ultimately happened in collectivist states throughout history.
The Beatles would protest that their success has grown the economy. Just as they made money for their manager, they've also made billions for record companies, concert venues, wig makers and tribute bands, like that one I had with my cousin.
And the Fab Four might cheekily insist that -- besides having had the moxie to strike out on their own -- they also had the talent to make good.
But as President Obama and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would say, the Beatles didn't get there on their own. They were products of a society -- a Hillary Clinton "village" -- that helped make their success possible by providing them roads and airports so we could get to their concerts. Now it's the band's duty to "pay it forward."
And that philosopher who posited the Original Position, John Rawls, actually went further, arguing that inequality of natural gifts obligates the talented to work for the less talented.
Thing is, all that redistribution or property raises the question:
Who decides who gets what?
The rest of us can set steeply graduated tax rates -- which the Beatles will mock in songs like "Taxman."
But as we know from real world experience, politically savvy people will use their $100,000 in the cleverest way of all: to bribe democratically-elected politicians.
Those politicians will make sure some government revenue goes to the poorest people, but that even more goes to the richest. If you doubt that's been the mission of both Republicans and Democrats alike, please read another prior blog called "Who's Occupying Wall Street Now?"
Between tax breaks, bailouts, government grants and innumerable other provisions, our utopian government will soon ensure that the politically well-connected are as successful as the most talented risk-takers among us. That's why 6 of the 10 richest counties in America now surround Washington, D.C.
And those politicians and their cronies make sure that the growing population of poor people look to the government for hope.
My modest proposal is that, rather than rely on ever-expanding government to redress "income inequality," we instead limit the size of government, and allow rock bands, hairdressers, and anyone else out to make a buck, to try earning it in a free marketplace, where some bands and beauticians will go bust, but others will be rewarded for their risks.
Will some people wind up richer than others?
Should we provide a social safety net for those truly in need?
But for the rest of us, instead of envying others people's honestly earned success, how about just loving -- and being inspired by-- what they bring us?
Because as the Beatles sang...
"...in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
Keeping Your Enemies Closer
One of the questions President Obama shrugged off when interviewed by Bill O'Reilly was why he has not fired Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for the Affordable Care Act fiasco.
In fairness, O'Reilly knew that was a rhetorical question.
Because while holding everyone "accountable," the President never fires -- or even reprimands -- anyone.
Not Attorney General Eric Holder for the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scheme, or for spying on reporters.
Not Doug Schulman or Lois Lerner for the IRS targeting of conservatives that President Obama now calls a scandal manufactured by FOX News.
And certainly not former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she failed to protect, rescue, avenge or just tell the truth about the victims of terror in Benghazi, Libya.
President Obama apparently agrees that you've got to "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
That maxim's been attributed to the ancient Chinese general Sun-tzu.
More to the point it was adopted by a gangster... Michael Corleone.
Who knows what Holder, Schulman, Lerner or Hillary might have coughed up if their boss put them on the hot seat?
Actually, there is a guy who knows.
He's now feeling the heat from a boyhood chum, Port Authority head David Wildstein, who resigned after the Jersey governor hurled so much abuse on underlings... for the Washington Bridge payback ploy, I thought we were listening to Don Rickles.
Now Wildstein claims there's evidence (he has not produced) proving Christie knew all about that punishment for a Democratic mayor.
Christie may have lashed out in righteous indignation.
Or he may not be so righteous.
But he failed to follow the example of President Obama, who saves his indignation for conservatives.
Of course Christie was at a disadvantage.
He could not count on the mainstream media shrugging off Bridgegate.
The way President Obama shrugged off Bill O'Reilly's questions.
Liberty? It's Greek to Me
For my family, the Super Bowl marks the end of the holiday season.
Meaning it's the weekend we finally put our drooping Christmas tree out of its misery.
If you agree the post-Super Bowl season also means the end of fun and games, perhaps you'll now follow me from your man cave... into philosophy's most famous cave.
Because I believe that's where we can find a way out of our political crisis.
Plato's Republic -- despite many centuries of misappropriation by tyrants, churches and Plato's own followers -- is the first and still the best survey of politics.
What's more, it's a guide to living a good life.
That's because Plato cares less about government than about the individual.
The aim of life for him is the pursuit of truth and goodness. The best government is the
one that assures individual citizens the freedom to become what Plato calls philosophers -- what others might call righteous Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or simply decent human beings.
No government can make you good. Although Plato seems to be constructing an ideal government in his Republic, that government is actually just a metaphor for the ideal individual. The perfect state is impossible. And seeking it can be dangerous. But each of us can strive to be better people.
Plato's Republic is a dialogue. Its lead character is Plato's teacher,
Socrates, who says most of us waste our lives chained in a cave, facing a wall, staring at shadows.
This even before we had LCD monitors and big screen TVs.
Those shadows are false images of reality, illusions --what passes for entertainment and, far worse, conventional wisdom. Peer pressure makes us succumb to those false images.
To pursue truth, cave dwellers need the guts to break free...and be illuminated by the sun.
Socrates shares this subversive parable during a bull session that kicks off, not in downtown Athens, but at the nearby seaport where foreigners come and go. Folks there may be more broadminded.
They'd better be. By the time Plato wrote his Republic the real Socrates had already been
condemned by Athens's democratic majority to drink hemlock for the crime of challenging political correctness.
Conventional wisdom insists the Republic is Plato's condemnation of democracy, and manual for an elite dictatorship.
With apologies for being ignorant, I think it's just the opposite.
Plato wants us to realize that when we seek perfect leaders promising perfect outcomes we're far more likely to wind up with tyrants.
So Socrates, a master of irony, is really mounting a defense of the democracy that killed
As Winston Churchill growled twenty-four centuries later, democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the other ones.
Democracy derives its power from a broad base of citizens, and among those citizens
are at least some who are willing to be taught. The key is to teach enough of them well enough ...before they kill you.
Or tax you to death.
Or needlessly abridge your freedom to expand their power.
Poignantly, that's what Plato shows Socrates trying to do.
What that provoking old man hopes to teach future leaders goes far beyond politics. The initial question posed in the Republic --"What is justice? " -- focuses on personal ethics. And, as always, Socrates answers...
Well, actually he doesn't answer.
He asks questions.
Apollo's oracle at Delphi said no man was wiser than Socrates.
What did that mean?
That Socrates was wise... or that no one was wise?
The latter, Socrates insisted, confessing that all he knew was that he knew nothing.
How many politicians ever admit that?
Yet humility lies at the heart of our defense of limited government.
Unless you know what's right, what right do you have to dictate how other people live?
The most government should do is the minimum it must to protect each citizen's life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Just its pursuit.
Because happiness for a philosopher -- a free thinker, an independent spirit -- is different from happiness for tyrants or demagogues or their followers. And demonstrating that to young bucks who might someday support either an actual dictatorship or -- just as dangerous -- the tyranny of the majority, is what the Republic really is all about.
So what does make you truly happy, just and good?
The first answer we get in Plato's Republic comes from a jolly codger. He advises: "Don't rock the boat. Placate the powers that be. Go along to get along."
Well, what up and coming kid wants to hear that? He or she's thinking, "You've made your pile, old man. How do I get mine?"
The answer to that question comes from a sophist -- a tutor hired to teach youngsters how to become movers and shakers. Unlike Socrates, sophists claimed to know everything, or at least how to win every argument.
Like our sophists of today -- lawyers, lobbyists, pundits and politicians -- they knew how to cement power.
And power is justice for Thrasymachus, the sophist who bursts into Plato's Republic.
Fiercely insisting that might makes right, he anticipates...
Nietzsche's claim that morality is a trap laid by the weak to ensnare the strong.
At this point the young people for whose souls the sophist and the philosopher are contending tell Socrates, in effect, "Dude, you're losing this debate. If we have to live in a world where politicians care only about grabbing power, where financial Masters of the Universe promote schemes to squeeze greedy investors and gullible schlubs, and where people who play by the rules wind up subsidizing everyone else, we'd be crazy to obsess about justice. A tyrant's life for me!"
Well. Socrates may know nothing, but he's no dope. So seeing his students slipping away, the philosopher changes the game.
Okay, he suggests, instead of focusing on how puny individuals like us can get ahead, let's consider the individual writ large. Let's examine what kind of government would give us the best chance of living well.
Thrasymachus makes a great case for being a tyrant, but what if the tyrant... turns out to be somebody else? Would you still want to live amid tyranny?
So what sort of ideal "city in speech" do Socrates and his companions come up with?
They begin by accepting that most of us demand creature comforts. Therefore, folks should be free to plow their fields or ply their trades and amass private property.
But these lovers of luxury will not rule.
The most courageous and civic-minded among us will protect our community from attack. They will become police officers and soldiers. These sentinels will be armed, and honored... but they will not rule.
A select group of citizens who -- having passed tests of all sorts since childhood to prove their merit -- will in their late maturity be accepted as philosopher kings.
And queens, since Socrates treats both sexes equally.
After a lifetime of rigorous academic and practical education these guardians will be guided only by a love of what's good for the community.
How can we be sure?
Because Socrates would wean them off all selfish desires.
Ah, there's the rub.
These ideal guardians would own no private property, but would instead live communally?
The citizens of their ideal city would not marry, but instead mate anonymously?
And they would not know their children, who would be reared in common to avoid
nepotism and dynasties?
Give me a break!
As we mentioned, Socrates was no dope, and neither was Plato. He actually tried turning a ruler into a philosopher king. Dionysius II of Syracuse, at the urging of his uncle, invited Plato down from Athens to teach an adult education course.
And how did that work out?
Fearing the loss of their meal ticket, courtiers leeching off Dionysius accused the high-minded uncle of high treason, and Plato hightailed it back to Athens before Dionysius ever earned his diploma.
Let's get real.
Rulers are never going to be so philosophic that they're willing to forego wealth, wives
Just look at Washington, chock full of disinterested do-gooders who mysteriously wind up rich.
The few rulers in history who even considered being selfless... gave up being rulers.
For instance, Charles V -- the grandson of Columbus's Ferdinand and Isabella --handed his own son Spain, the Netherlands and a chunk of America, and then retired to a monastery.
This is what we call "the exception that proves the rule."
Most rulers don't become monks.
So if kings are not likely to become philosophers, or philosophers kings, what's the best of all possible regimes?
Socrates surveys the contenders.
First, there's an old-fashioned aristocracy run by warriors who equate nobility with honor.
Trouble is, as economies evolve, honor and twenty-five cents won't buy you a cup of mead.
Impoverished aristocrats -- the kind who sell tours of their castles and marry American heiresses -- are then supplanted by oligarchs, the new tycoons.
The rich become richer, and with the growth of cities and industries we also see the growth of a middle class -- and the urban poor -- and both rightly demand political rights.
Interestingly they find allies in some children of the rich. Expensively educated, disdaining the source of their wealth and filled with guilt over their privileges, the more
ambitious of these trust fund babies become champions of the downtrodden. They become leaders of democratic movements.
They may also become demagogues.
That's how Julius Caesar got started in politics.
You can probably cite current examples.
Whether democratic demagogues really do their followers any favors is discussed in many of my other blog postings, but for now note Plato's fear that democracies are inherently unstable.
While their leaders may start out as idealists, they wind up caring only about power, and they maintain and swell their power base by currying favor.
Some politicians are supported by the rich who swap contributions for sweetheart deals.
Other politicians pander to the poor, including those who want something for nothing by taking it from someone else.
Stoking indolence and envy, demagogues make their followers -- rich and poor alike -- dependent on government handouts.
The greatest risk comes during times of crisis, military or economic, when panicked citizens turn demagogues into dictators.
Athens was in crisis when it condemned Socrates, having just lost a war to Sparta.
Tyranny discards the rule of law, insisting on the need for "emergency measures." These boost the politicians' power even further, so -- in the fashion of George Orwell's Big Brother -- clever tyrants contrive permanent
Think of how Cuba's Fidel Castro fed for fifty years off the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion, forever frightening his subjects into believing the U.S. was about
to invade again.
Plato demonstrates that real world political regimes inevitably degenerate and, if we're not careful, morph into dictatorships.
Fine for Thrasymachus, if he gets to be the tyrant. Not so fine for the sort of person Socrates wants us to be.
Because, again, I believe the point of the Republic is to describe not the ideal state, which is impossible, but the ideal individual, which we can all strive to become.
The components of the impossible ideal state are the same ones each of us ought to balance in our own lives.
Most of us demand a measure of comfort, even luxury, and that's okay. Like the Buddha and arguably Jesus -- who we're told turned water into wine for the wedding at
Cana -- the Socrates of the Symposium rejects an ascetic life, though he counsels moderation.
And it's more than okay -- it's admirable -- to muster courage and dedication on behalf of your community. The real Socrates, when needed, was a valiant soldier.
Yet Socrates did not remain a soldier. A non-conformist voice called on him to break ranks.
Just as the ideal republic would be ruled by disinterested philosophers, so each individual's appetites and passions ought to be ruled by a philosophic spirit -- well educated, questing and unafraid to pursue one's own notion of goodness.
Philosophy leads us out of our caves into perilous places.
Aristocracies, oligarchies and certainly tyrannies display little patience for free-thinkers -- or indeed any individuals beyond their ruling circles. The state always comes first. The only place where you can think for yourself and live by your own light is in a democratic republic.
"If," as Benjamin Franklin warned, "you can keep it."
When enemies finally convinced the majority to condemn Socrates he could have fled Athens. But having enjoyed the benefits of citizenship, the philosopher thought it only right to take his poison.
His pupil Plato then opened a school, the Academy.
And Plato taught those who would rule Athens that they must first learn self-knowledge, self-discipline, self-abnegation, and above all... humility.
If our leaders followed that example we would have something better than an ideal city, something better than a utopia.
We would have what Franklin, Madison and the other founders intended:
The Real Minimum Wage? Zero!
If you're out of work your minimum wage is zero.
This was once obvious even to The New York Times, which opined in 1987:
"There's a virtual consensus among economists that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market."
Not coincidentally this editorial was published during the Reagan economic boom.
By the time Reagan left office unemployment was down to 5.3 percent, with none of the U-6 nonsense that lowers our current numbers because they don't count people who've stopped looking for work.
Nevertheless, either because he thinks it will stimulate the economy or because he wants to change the subject away from Obamacare, President Obama is again pushing a hike of the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
Actually that's modest.
Fast food workers last month tried staging a nationwide strike for pay raises of at least $15 an hour.
All this reminds me of an interview years ago with President Clinton's Secretary of Labor...
Robert Reich, who at one point turned the tables and asked me, "Don't you wish, when you were starting out in the news, that employers would have been required to pay you a living wage?"
Seems I was the only reporter Reich ever encountered who answered, to his astonishment, "No."
That's because, far from demanding more than my minimum wage salary, I gladly would have paid any employer who gave me a foot in the door to this highly competitive business. And I reminded Mr. Reich that even in my previous career, fledgling attorneys until not that long ago routinely followed in the steps of Abe Lincoln. They apprenticed with a seasoned lawyer for little or no pay while learning the business.
Years before that, working as a hotel bellhop throughout high school and college, I didn't make any wage at all. Just tips. The more bags we carried the more guests we could check in and the bigger the tips.
What we made was dependent not on fairness and not on our needs but on what we earned.
Bet you had an entry-level job like that too.
Those fast food workers and the unions backing them say the current minimum wage of $7.25 is unfair. And they would have us believe America is a minimum wage nation.
It's not true.
Actually, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, minimum wage employees last year accounted for just 4.7 percent of hourly paid workers. Less than 3% of all workers.
But if America is not a minimum wage nation, we are fast becoming a part-time nation.
According to the far from conservative Huffington Post, three quarters of all new jobs created last year were part-time, due to worries about higher taxes, regulations, including Obamacare, and our slow economic growth.
When do you ever hear that word from the White House or even from establishment Republicans?
Not paper growth on Wall Street but real growth on Main Street... among people who make things here in America, for Americans who can afford to buy them.
Real wages and net worth for millions of our workers are now declining. And that's among those who are lucky enough to find even a part-time job.
Others are members of America's fastest-growing industry... the electoral machine that lets rich and poor alike -- but not the middle class -- vote themselves ever-expanding federal benefits.
Those benefits and regulations are costing us jobs and depressing real wages.
But hold on.
Wages are not benefits.
Can't many businesses afford to pay their workers more?
As President Obama notes, Costco chooses to pay its workers at least $4.25 above minimum wage.
But most businesses subject to the minimum wage law are not giants like Costco. They're small and medium sized companies operating with razor thin profit margins.
Beyond that, requiring businesses -- big and small -- to raise their wages puts the future of those businesses into the hands of incompetent, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who are more interested in redistributing income than in growing our economic pie so everyone can earn more.
Of course, there is another way to avoid being paid unfairly.
Start a business of your own.
I never had the guts or the gumption to do that.
But instead of envying the success of people who risk failure, I support giving more people the freedom to become entrepreneurs.
Not crony capitalists. I don't believe in bailouts or sweetheart laws (like Dodd-Frank, which protects banks deemed "too big to fail" but not smaller ones).
And although our 401K plans for now are growing, I don't believe in the Federal Reserve indefinitely pumping $75 billion a month or more in new debt to inflate our latest Wall Street bubble.
Candidates -- Republican, Democrat or independent -- who promise to support truly free markets may do very well this November.
Meantime, yes, it's their right and perfectly understandable for fast-food workers to organize a nationwide strike for $15 an hour. I wish they could make 30.
And raising the federal minimum wage would help many other workers too.
Union contracts are often pegged to hikes in the minimum wage, and this may be the White House's bigger interest.
But in the long run the only way to grow our economy is to help businesses -- not government, private businesses -- create more high-paying, full-time jobs, and to inspire workers to go out and get those jobs -- or better still, create them.
The alternative is to have more Americans earning zero.
Churchill and the State of Our Union
Why does President Obama cringe at the memory of Winston Churchill... to the point of having sent this Oval Office bust back to the Brits in 2009?
One reason may be Churchill's famous warning about big government's insatiable appetite.
In the dark days of 1940, when America had not yet been blasted by Japan into the Second World War, the British Prime Minister -- standing alone -- implored neutral countries to join the fight, and chided them for thinking that by appeasing dictators they might be spared:
"Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear -- I fear greatly -- the storm will not pass."
In fact, far from passing, look at which Americans have now been devoured...
About the same time he was returning the Churchill bust, President Obama revved up government takeovers of General Motors and Chrysler. (Ford refused a bailout.)
Secured bondholders cheered, thinking they'd be spared the pain of normal bankruptcy reorganization. The crocodile would not eat them!
Instead what happened? Ignoring bankruptcy law (as they would ignore so many other laws, including their own) the White House stripped those bondholders of their rights and gave preference to labor union supporters.
President Obama then rewarded another group of supporters -- environmentalists -- by putting the brakes on profitable GM trucks in favor of green energy subcompacts, including Chevy Volts that nobody wanted -- even with massive government incentives.
The upshot: Chrysler is now owned by the Italian automaker, Fiat, and General Motors only this month resumed paying dividends -- now that the government's finally sold its last shares of GM.
Next, as Rodney Dangerfield would say, "Take the Affordable Care Act. Please!"
While seeking reelection, President Obama guaranteed 30 million people government mandated health policies, and promised the rest of you would feel no pain -- that, "If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance."
Instead it's now forecast that more than 30 million people will lose the policies they liked and be forced to buy Obamacare, often paying higher premiums and far higher deductibles.
Beyond that, businesses dropping health coverage are replacing full-time workers with part-timers to avoid Obamacare employer mandates.
And healthy young people seduced by the promise of "free" contraceptives and birth control are finding the price is that they can no longer buy the affordable catastrophic policies many of them liked, and that while they can stay on their parents' policies till age 26, they're also staying -- unemployed -- in their parents' basements.
Finally, though we could cite so many more examples of crocodile government taking the bite out of Americans, consider the major theme of President Obama's State of the Union Address: income inequality. It's a subject he can address with authority since, as we enter the sixth year of Obamanomics, the poor and middle class are getting poorer while the rich are growing richer.
A record number of Americans are now on Food Stamps and extended jobless benefits, or they've dropped out of the workforce altogether and are no longer being counted as unemployed.
Yet the rich continue to be enriched through crony capitalist federal "investments."
Like the President's pal, Warren Buffett, the rich often self-righteously skirt paying taxes thanks to a politicized tax code that rewards investors while punishing all of us who pull a paycheck. Those investments are inflated by the Federal Reserve pumping $75-85 billion a month into Wall Street, panicking investors with the least hint of tapering this deficit bond buying.
But even the rich may yet rue crony capitalism. As Tim Carney points out, in 2010, running pretty much unopposed, New York Senator Charles Schumer, "was the No. 1 recipient of money from the insurance industry, private equity, hedge funds, Wall Street, real estate, the cable industry, and hospitals." And Hollywood loved him too.
Yet Schumer, without shame, continues to rail against "plutocrats" and vows to redistribute their riches to the poor. Or at least to greater Washington, D.C., which now outstrips New York and California in boasting six of the nation's ten wealthiest counties.
Those "plutocrats" fund Schumer at their peril.
Just ask the plutocrats of all political stripes and creeds who built up the war machine that Churchill had to fight in World War II.
That crocodile didn't just swallow up Poland and France. It also devoured the German and Italian and Soviet dictators' earliest and most trusting supporters.
So when you hear now about income inequality, free condoms and other stimulating federal investments -- all of which are supposed to cost the other guy, not you -- stop and think to yourself...
Churchill -- or bust.
Our Imperial Senate
Think our politics are dysfunctional?
In 44 BC Roman Senators attacked Julius Caesar like he was a Thanksgiving turkey, because he sought to undercut their authority.
Yet just a few years later, that same Senate made Julius's grand-nephew., Octavian, their first emperor, ushering in a succession of tyrants who trampled on the idea of divided government.
For instance, Caligula showed what he thought of Rome's legislators by decreeing that his horse be made a senator.
Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same, right down to the horse's patootie.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is defending his institution about as valiantly as those Romans did under Caligula.
Reid has no problem with the President picking and choosing which parts of ObamaCare, or the Defense of Marriage Act, or immigration law he chooses to enforce, postpone, or ignore.
Reid dispenses with the budget committee process in favor of omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions.
Reid shrugged off our joining the Libyan civil war without any congressional authorization.
And, just to end this list short of a filibuster. Reid's now ditched the right to filibuster federal judicial nominees.
In fairness, Senator Reid will no doubt oppose all these encroachments on Senate authority... if Republicans regain a majority.
But this is not a partisan charge.
The late Senator Robert Byrd was no angel. Opponents noted his past leadership in the Ku Klux Klan, and sneered that Byrd brought so much pork to West Virginia, his state ought to be renamed, like the famous jazz club, Birdland.
But Bobby Byrd revered two things.
The Constitution of the United States of America.
And the United States Senate.
When he served as majority leader, Senator Byrd insisted that both Republican President Ronald Reagan and fellow Democratic President Jimmy Carter treat the legislative branch as co-equal. Even if it might have furthered President Carter's agenda to rule like Augustus Caesar rather than to serve like the man who refused to be a king, George Washington.
Harry Reid can choose to be Caligula's horse.
But voters ought to recall that having an equine, supine Senate was a major factor in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
The Book on Hillary
Former secretary of state and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is coming out with a memoir. It will be her second, tying her with Barack Obama. But here are some things you might not find in either of her books.
Hillary Rodham was a brilliant student in college and law school. She then married Bill Clinton and joined a Little Rock law firm where her legacy included suspiciously successful cattle futures investments, and real estate dealings that sent other people to jail.
In Arkansas, Bill Clinton was quietly accused of a succession of extra-marital affairs -- and the forcible rape of a Democratic supporter, Juanita Broaddrick. Still, it was Gennifer Flowers going public in 1992 that threatened to end Clinton's run for president. Until Hillary stood by her man on 60 Minutes.
Seemingly as a reward, the First Lady was entrusted -- not with encouraging literacy or proper nutrition -- but with reforming our country's entire health care system. For those not old enough to remember that sounds preposterous. Yet it's true. Along with her friend Ira Magaziner, Mrs. Clinton personally drafted a national plan so radical that it received no support from Republicans or Democrats.
Mrs. Clinton spent much of the rest of her time in the White House dealing with charges ranging from cronyism in its travel office to hiding her old law firm billing records.
But trumping all that, Hillary Clinton again stood by her husband, this time during the Paula Jones-Monica Lewinsky sex and perjury scandal, which she dismissed as a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Mrs. Clinton then won a U.S. Senate seat in New York, a state in which she had never lived.
Under President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton's foreign policy achievements included
- helping to topple our Egyptian ally Hosni Mubarak while promoting the Muslim Brotherhood
- the Libyan intervention that led to the Benghazi attack and cover-up
- and the "reset" with Russian leaders who are now sheltering NSA leaker Edward Snowden. (June 2014 update: The reset also failed to keep Vladimir Putin from annexing Crimea.)
In fairness, Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals on Secretary Clinton's watch.
But it is not at all apparent that America today is more respected in the world than it was five years ago. Polls suggest the opposite.
And it is not at all apparent why Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president.
True, she achieved celebrity as the wife of a successful politician. But is this feminism?
In 2008 Barack Obama's identity politics trumped Hillary Clinton's. In 2016 Hillary may have the identity field to herself. You'll have to decide if that's a good reason to elect her President. Meantime, enjoy the book.
Christie vs. Reagan: The Real Fighter
While the mainstream media focus -- far more than they did for any of President Obama's scandals -- on the early Republican presidential front-runner Chris Christie and what's come to be called ... "BridgeGate," there's something else about the New Jersey governor that's troubled me at least as much.
This former prosecutor denies he's a bully but proclaims himself a fighter.
Yet there's at least one fight he ducked.
One that tells you a lot about the true measure of the man.
When he ran for reelection last November, Christie didn't just want to win big.
He wanted to show that he alone among likely GOP presidential contenders could attract Democrats as well as Republicans.
So when Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg died, Governor Christie -- instead of appointing a Republican replacement -- called a special election.
Not only that, instead of holding the Senate election on the same day as the November general election, Christie held this vote three weeks earlier.
At a cost of around $24 million.
Because had Christie appointed a Republican to serve Lautenberg's unexpired term, the governor himself might well have faced Newark's popular Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, in Christie's run for re-election.
Instead Booker ran for the Senate seat against weak opposition.
And why did Christie schedule that Senate election for October instead of November?
Because having Booker on the same general election ballot as himself might well have boosted Democratic turnout, and helped Christie's otherwise feeble Democratic opponent.
Booker added to the Democrats' Senate majority.
And Christie's landslide victory landed him the lead among GOP contenders.
Now contrast that with Ronald Reagan in 1976. The former California governor did not believe the incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford, was sufficiently conservative. So Reagan bucked his own party and risked political suicide by challenging Ford, helping to elect Jimmy Carter.
Reagan wound up trouncing Carter four years later, but Reagan in 1976 could not have known he'd ever get the chance. Rightly or wrongly, Reagan valued principle over party loyalty and his own political future.
Chris Christie did not face that tough a choice. He was merely seeking to inflate his reelection margin and win some Democratic support.
Giving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid another loyal foot soldier, and forcing the people of New Jersey to go $24 million deeper into debt, were just the price to be paid for advancing Chris Christie's presidential ambitions.
Trouble is, Christie may now find that ambition is taking him a bridge too far.
Out of Work? Just Vote!
A falling unemployment rate used to be good news.
Now it's proof that America truly is being fundamentally transformed.
The official jobless rate in December dropped to 6.7%.
Even though -- at the height of the holiday hiring season -- our economy created only 74,000 new jobs. Nationwide.
And about half of those jobs were part-time.
How can the jobless rate decline when almost no one is hiring?
Because another 347,000 Americans in December gave up looking for work.
Bringing the total number of people who have now dropped out of the labor force to nearly 92 million.
President Obama's answer is to extend jobless benefits yet again.
And indeed that is a brilliant, long-term political strategy.
Promising desperate Americans 99 weeks and counting of unemployment compensation, food stamps, permanent disability, health care subsidies, housing and free phones makes people even more desperate to vote against anyone who might cut back government benefits.
President Obama blames the failure to put America back to work on the financial collapse under President George W. Bush.
More than five years ago.
Yet the financial sector is soaring. Thanks to the Federal Reserve's artificially low interest rates and monthly infusion of funny money the rich are getting richer.
It's the middle class that's being stampeded.
President Obama denies that five years of uncertainty about higher taxes, energy regulations, health care mandates, and government subsidies for favored industries and workers has depressed the free market's ability to rebound from that Bush collapse.
Viewers are now writing to me about their long-term struggle to find work. We will soon be sharing their stories with you.
Meantime, if like me you're fortunate enough to have a job, think what it would be to be without one.
Because that can happen to the best of us.
And then ask yourself if you'd welcome the news that -- while the real unemployment rate is over 13% -- the "official rate" is falling... because no one else can find work either.
The 50 Year War on Poverty
Exactly a half-century ago, President Lyndon Johnson in his first State of the Union Address declared a "war on poverty."
Since then, according to a Cato Institute study cited by Cal Thomas, federal and state anti-poverty programs have cost more than 15 trillion dollars (others estimate 20 trillion) while the percentage of people living in poverty has barely budged.
Much of the spending on everything from child nutrition to job training has been beneficial.
But other payments taught generations of Americans to become excessively dependent on government.
Future historians will look back -- aghast -- at how welfare grew under the Great Society. They'll conclude that however well-intentioned its backers originally may have been, they must have realized that this federal entitlement destroyed families of all races -- urban and rural alike -- by encouraging women to have children out of wedlock and fathers to abandon them.
Yet for years efforts to reform welfare got beaten back by politicians and special interest groups that thrived on their followers' abject dependence.
Aid to Dependent Children or ADC was enacted in 1935 as a pension plan for the widows of West Virginia coal miners and other families whose head of household was "dead, disabled, or absent."
To ensure that there really was "no man in the house" ADC was amended in 1950 to let district attorneys seek child support from absent fathers.
This soon led to notorious midnight raids on the homes of recipients.
And so, of course, more and more women, including young teenagers, refused to marry, or even identify the fathers of their children.
They learned that single motherhood meant subsidized freedom to set up their own homes -- however poor those homes might be. And welfare payments increased with the birth of each child.
Belatedly recognizing the disincentives to marriage and fatherhood, the name of the law was changed in 1960 to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). But the
basic provisions did not change. And roughly 90 percent of families receiving welfare did not have fathers living in the home.
Calls to make welfare more humane went unheeded. Some critics suggested moving unwed young mothers who accepted welfare into group homes, where youngsters could be watched by trained caregivers while their moms attended school.
Defenders of the status quo branded such plans Dickensian in their heartlessness.
Critics in turn accused defenders of caring more about swelling welfare rolls -- and their captive constituency -- than in liberating mothers and children, aiding family formation and stemming the rising tide of delinquency, drug abuse and dependency that crossed generations.
Finally, in 1996, President Clinton signed a Republican welfare reform bill. It ended the 60 year-old federal entitlement and restored responsibility to the individual
states, now free to experiment with their own education, counseling and work requirements and to limit benefits to a more or less fixed period.
Despite dire predictions that millions of AFDC recipients would be forced onto the streets, the reform bill achieved remarkable success in reducing welfare rolls and helping poor people become self-sufficient.
But Robert Rector and Jennifer Marshall saw a turning point in 2012 when, "the Obama administration issued a policy directive from the Department of Health and Human Services dismantling the core of the '96 reform: the... work requirements that have sharply reduced dependence and increased employment."
In fairness, it's been tough the last five years for anyone to find full-time work.
And President Obama is now focusing on extending jobless benefits once again, while critics demand off-setting spending cuts and a focus on policies that will create jobs.
On this 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty record numbers of Americans are now receiving food stamps, seeking permanent disability benefits, and qualifying for government health care subsidies.
The White House condemns growing income inequality while opponents say administration policies are making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class an endangered species. See "Who's Occupying Wall Street Now?"
As President Johnson urged, we must always help those who cannot help themselves.
But as the War on Poverty enters its next half-century, is it too much to ask that government policies refrain from destroying families, undermining the American work ethic, and leaving people looking only to Washington for hope?
Modern Family and the Tax Code
If like me you've been happily married for years
(our wives, like Modern Family's Claire, may not be as enthused, but they put up with us)
... and you have kids who have not committed any heinous crimes, for which I'm grateful even on slow news days...
if, in other words, you've contributed to "family formation"
... do other taxpayers owe you a reward?
I say no.
But a conservative pundit who's a walking encyclopedia of politics -- heck, he writes The Almanac of American Politics
Michael Barone, disagrees.
Mr. Barone sides with social conservatives in suggesting, "Today a strong case can be made that we need tax and other policies not just to encourage entrepreneurs but also, to the extent possible, to help bolster family formation."
Policies, he writes, like higher child tax credits.
In other words, Barone wants to pick winners and losers, something I believe Republicans must refuse to do if they ever truly want to offer voters an alternative to the other party
... the party of big government.
Establishment Republicans have long supported countless tax breaks for behavior they consider worthy.
And I do mean countless.
Our federal tax code and regulations now include more than 9,000,000 words.
And these are not, as Hamlet breezily said, just "words, words, words." They're highly politicized words that order every aspect of our lives.
Some are the result of good old-fashioned cronyism and vote-buying.
But millions of others stem from a desire, like Barone's, to engage in social engineering.
Our rulers deem home ownership better than renting an apartment, so they include a mortgage interest deduction.
They deem contributions to designated charities more important than doing charity at home or privately, so they include designated charitable deductions.
Perhaps most important, politicians want to boost contributions to political groups, so they confer tax exempt status on 501(c)(4) "social welfare organizations" that
-- as we've seen with tea party groups -- gives the IRS enormous and highly politicized discretion.
My point is not that we should discourage political groups, charities, or home ownership -- much less families.
But I believe each of us will be in a better position to have children, buy homes, support charities and churches and donate to political groups ...
if our economy is growing.
And the most important thing we can do right now to grow our economy is not to carve out still more tax breaks, but to simplify -- gradually but radically simplify -- the tax code and treat everyone equally.
Getting back to families, I do agree with Michael Barone that we must remove government disincentives to family formation, of the sort that we find in the Affordable Care Act. See my previous blog just below called "Obamacare's Marriage Penalty." I believe this penalty was included for the same reason politicians include so many provisions in our tax code: to advance their own notion of social engineering and to buy votes.
America was founded on the principle that each and every one of us should be free to pursue our own vision of "happiness" so long as it does not directly harm others.
I may -- and probably do -- share Michael Barone's ideas about what makes a happy life, a life that contributes to the greater good of this greatest of all nations.
But I don't need politicians or my fellow citizens advancing that idea by making our tax code even more hideously complex -- and tyrannical.
Who's Occupying Wall Street Now?
After nearly five years of fundamentally transforming key sectors of our economy -- including energy, banking, health care and, of course, government benefits, President Obama today bemoaned a growing income gap.
For which he blames... the rich.
But along with Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives, and NSA surveillance, one of the dirty little secrets of this administration has been how the rich never had a better friend ... than Barack Obama.
On his watch it's not leftist protesters now occupying Wall Street but rather Washington manipulators inflating stock values and shrinking the middle class.
Last month for the first time ever the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 16,000.
A key reason is that investors are hooked on government heroin.
The Federal Reserve through "QE" -- quantitative easing -- continues to pump $85 billion a month into Wall Street -- the same amount as an entire year's sequestration furloughs and cuts.
And by keeping interest rates artificially low (though they are rising for all but the favored few) there aren't many places to invest or even save -- other than Wall Street.
Yet while the stock market is going gang busters:
Middle class income is lower than it was five years ago.
Food stamps now feed 48 million people -- 1 in every 7 of us.
The labor participation rate is the lowest we've seen since the catastrophic Carter years.
And the greatest growth now -- apart from Wall Street -- is the demand for jobless and disability benefits.
What all this means is that both the destitute and investors are now equally dependent on Washington.
But wait, didn't President Obama raise taxes on rich investors like his good friend Warren Buffett?
Yes. But the dirty little secret there is that Mr. Buffett paid lower taxes than his secretary because he declares very little income. Like many other wealthy investors he makes most of his money through capital gains, taxed at a far lower rate than ordinary income. And while middle class people with 401K plans may benefit from soaring stock rices, a bubble market disproportionately enriches... the rich.
That's why cuts in food stamp funding create no less panic than hints that the Federal Reserve may taper quantitative easing.
And that's why Janet Yellen was tapped by President Obama to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve. Like Ben Bernanke she supports keeping interest rates low and quantitative easing high.
Now is it a surprise that all this is happening -- not under the historic "Party of Wall Street" -- but under a Democratic administration?
Not a bit.
Throughout history and around the globe, statist regimes have catered to both the poor and the rich.
It's the middle class that gets plundered.
So even if this Wall Street bubble does not burst before the 2014 elections, Repubicans had better simplify and target their message.
Soft-pedal social issues.
If there's no international crisis, put foreign policy divides on the back burner too.
And instead focus on what the GOP sees as the need to rid Washington of crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and quick fixes like raising the minimum wage.
If populists of whatever party win office, investors may be less giddy.
And government bureaucrats dispensing benefits will be downright gloomy.
But the vanishing middle class need no long be preoccupied with who's occupying Wall Street.
Give Me Liberty or Give Me SEX!
Ladies, is the White House respecting you in the morning?
Sure they do. Around election time.
Nearly one-quarter of the 2012 presidential voters were unmarried women, and President Obama successfully wooed more than two thirds of them.
During the campaign, the White House went after single women with its website called "The Life of Julia," which promised cradle to grave government benefits.
But many women who no longer need husbands still want the occasional man. So to sell them on Obamacare's chief joy -- free contraceptives -- two nonprofit groups in Colorado funded this ad campaign, which has now gone viral.
The "Got Insurance?" campaign revives memories of Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress that she and other law students at Georgetown University were suffering financial hardship because that Catholic school's health insurance plan did not provide birth control.
Fluke became a lightning rod for Obamacare advocates when Rush Limbaugh called her a slut. But someone who might have understood her better was Aldous Huxley. His novel Brave New World depicts government in the future keeping citizens docile by teaching small children sex games, and by providing older ones with free contraceptives.
Huxley's government also hands out a feel good drug called soma and keeps its perpetual adolescents entertained with "feelies" -- movies that appeal to every faculty except the mind.
The "Got Insurance?" campaign and Sandra Fluke defend taxpayer subsidized contraceptives as a matter of health and personal finances, not just fun.
But thousands, perhaps millions of single women are finding that the price of Obamacare
far outstrips what they're saving on birth control. And while "free" contraceptives may represent liberation, the mandate to buy government-regulated health insurance or pay a tax could curtail the freedom:
-- to buy a low-cost policy that covers catastrophes but not routine treatment, or
-- to keep your previous policy, doctor and hospital, or
-- to choose your own treatment -- especially toward the end of life.
There is a different kind of freedom that neither Democrats nor most Republicans have been pushing -- free market alternatives to Obamacare. To read more about them, and how we got here, see my blog just below called "Hitler, Davy Crockett and Our Health Care Mess."
Meantime, ladies, hope that Got Insurance guy is good to you.
Both the one in the ad... and the one who's selling you that insurance.
GOP Better Fight and Unite
The Republican establishment refused to support their party's nominee in the Virginia governor's race, tea party favorite Ken Cuccinelli, and he lost by just 55,000 votes.
The Republican establishment did support incumbent Chris Christie in the New Jersey governor's race, and he won with more than 60% of the vote.
But citing policy differences and scandal, a lot of tea partiers now say they could not support Christie for president even if he becomes the GOP nominee.
Both the Republican establishment and the tea party are suicidal.
If Republicans hope to win the White House again they must fight for their favored candidates tooth and nail in the primaries. But then they must unite behind the eventual winner.
Ronald Reagan challenged a sitting Republican president, Gerald Ford, in 1976. Yet when Ford won the nomination Reagan appeared at the GOP convention and said:
"We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: 'There is no substitute for victory, Mr. President.' "
Then, when Ford was beaten by Jimmy Carter, and Carter gave us soaring inflation, interest rates and unemployment -- not to mention a 444-day hostage crisis in Iran -- the GOP turned to Reagan, and he won in a landslide.
But Reagan was already a master of political reality. As a two-term governor of California he constantly compromised with Democrats -- even over abortion -- as he later would with a Democratic Congress. Reagan won more than he lost, and he accepted partially losing on some issues, and living to fight another day, as the price of divided government in a constitutional republic.
Speaking of which, our founders compromised a heck of a lot too in writing the Constitution. In fact it's often not possible to speak of the "framers' intent" because they remained deeply divided on a whole slew of issues, from the future of slavery to the power of federal courts.
The point is not that the GOP should compromise in the first instance but that it must compromise as a last resort if the bitter alternative (for them) is leaving control of the federal government in the hands of Democrats.
If Republicans want to win, let Chris Christie make the case in 2016 that his big tent moderation or pragmatism can best help the GOP achieve its aims.
Let Ted Cruz retort that pragmatism has left Republicans complicit in crony capitalism, expansion of entitlements, and a 17 trillion dollar debt serviced by Federal Reserve funny money.
Let those contenders and others duke it out in substantive debates, and with campaign ads that do not leave fellow Republicans too grievously wounded.
Try to keep disaffected GOP voters and tea partiers from falling for third party candidates financed by Democrats, as happened in Virginia. And urge those voters not to stay home, as millions did protesting Mitt Romney.
How many of those non-voters are among the millions now losing their health insurance?
In short, let GOP primary candidates fight but then unite.
And then -- even more important -- let them reach out to the rest of the country and make their case that less dependence on government, and greater personal responsibility, will bring America and all the world a better future.
This Just In
The most startling headline Obamacare's brought us so far is not that its website has a few glitches, or that tens of millions of Americans will lose the insurance they like, or that the government exchanges are giving all but the insolvent sticker shock.
No, the biggest headline is that we're seeing any headlines at all.
The mainstream media, or as George Orwell called them in Nineteen-Eighty Four, the Ministry of Truth, have actually been somewhat critical of the Obama administration lately.
The key word there is "lately."
For instance, the nation's number one news program, 60 Minutes, just aired an expose' on the administration's action and inaction in Benghazi -- more than a year after the terror attack there and nearly a year after President Obama's reelection. Prior to that CBS report, the most memorable coverage of Benghazi came during the 2012 second presidential debate when CNN's Candy Crowley did something for President Obama that his administration did not do for the Americans trapped at that diplomatic mission.
She came to the rescue.
Similarly, NBC of all networks is now getting credit for exposing that the White House knew insurance policies would be canceled for tens of millions of Americans, despite President Obama's promises to the contrary. But we've also learned that the White House was warned of those coming cancellations in 2010.
Where was NBC three years ago?
That CBS, NBC and even John Stewart are exposing President Obama now says more about timing than about truth.
We are now a year away from the next congressional elections -- elections crucial for the White House if it hopes to keep the president from becoming a lame duck.
And we are three years away from the 2016 presidential election, when it now seems Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.
Mrs. Clinton wants the dirty linen on Benghazi to be aired now, not in 2016.
And she and media liberals want health care to be fixed now if that's at all possible, so conservatives cannot dwell on how, in 1993, First Lady Hillary Clinton came up with her own health care plan, Hillarycare, that was even more far-reaching than Obamacare -- and so unpopular that it was defeated by fellow Democrats.
The point is that in 2014 and 2016 -- as in 2012 -- you will not be seeing mainstream media stories critical of this administration.
We did not learn about the IRS targeting of conservatives until after the presidential election, nor the truth about Benghazi, nor the truth about Obamacare.
And if we're learning some of the truth now, it's because the White House can safely say, along with Mrs. Clinton...
"What difference at this point does it make?"
Washington: We Break It, You Buy It
On weekends my wife and I like to borrow movies from the library, and one we found tells you a lot about what's really troubling our country.
Charlie Chaplin's silent classic, The Kid.
Charlie adopts little Jackie Coogan, and to support him Charlie has Jackie throw rocks through people's windows, so Charlie can then sell them new panes of glass.
That's what Washington has been doing to us. Creating crises and then fixing them by expanding the power of Washington.
Think back to the housing bubble.
Washington inflated the real estate market by insisting that banks grant mortgages to people who didn't have full-time jobs or sometimes any income at all besides government benefits (which sadly is the case with more and more of us).
Then when the mortgage bubble burst, Washington came to the rescue by selling us bailouts, stimulus spending, banking reform and higher taxes.
Oh, and one other thing.
To coax Wall Street investors back from the window ledge, the Federal Reserve pursued QE -- quantitative easing. The Fed has been buying bonds to the tune of $85 billion -- every month.
Does that figure sound familiar?
$85 billion is the amount of an entire year's sequestration cuts.
But Wall Street is now so hooked on that QE heroin that the mere whisper of tapering sends it into a tailspin.
Yet those rocks Washington has been throwing to shatter windows are nothing compared with the boulder that could demolish our entire economy.
Most Americans have been getting their health care from employers since World War Two, for reasons that from the beginning were arbitrary and unfair.
Republicans should have pursued free market health care reforms decades ago, along with entitlement reform, tax reform, and a general reining in of Washington's power. But establishment Republicans instead paved the way for Democrats to insist that the only way to reform health care was by letting Washington assume control of 1/6 of the U.S.economy.
Wait a minute.
Am I suggesting that President Obama is a tramp like Charlie Chaplin?
Charlie was just trying to scratch out a living.
The president and his political allies (in both establishment parties) all live like kings.
So is there a happy ending to this movie?
Only if the Kid and the Tramp finally realize that the trick is not to break windows, but to build new houses -- in the free market.
And they'd better realize that soon. Because there's another lesson to be learned from The Kid.
Mischievous little Jackie Coogan grew up to be
TV's Uncle Fester.
It could get scary, friends.