Right Wing Nut House

9/11/2009

OBAMA IMPLANTS HIS POLITICAL VISION FOR AMERICA — BUT WILL IT TAKE?

Filed under: PJ Media — Rick Moran @ 6:54 am

My latest at PJ Media is up and instead of examining what the president said in his speech before Congress on Wednesday night, I sought to examine his underlying political philosophy — something he shared with us toward the end of his address.

A sample:

It is not often that a president opens his mind and allows us to see its inner workings, to view the philosophy that animates his actions and drives him to achieve a vision formed from personal experience and thoughtful contemplation.

I believe Barack Obama is indeed a thoughtful man. Not a scholar or intellectual, but someone who has an interest in living what the philosophers refer to as “an examined life.” Perhaps no modern president has spent as much time nor traveled so far in an effort to discover meaning and place as far as the threads of his life are concerned. This much was evident before he became president. Dreams from My Father was, if nothing else, a dissertation on one man’s journey of self-discovery and his drive for self-actualization.

What made that autobiography unique was not so much Obama’s age when he wrote it (33), but rather his almost melancholy realization that he really didn’t fit in anywhere and that he must create his own community in order to feel as if he belonged.

If one word could describe the president’s political philosophy it would be “community.” Not perhaps the way we commonly understand it, but rather a more personal community he himself wishes to create. Michael Powell of the New York Times refers to him as a “communitarian.”

The communitarian strain in Mr. Obama’s thinking often surprises liberal supporters. Roughly put, communitarianism holds that individual rights must be circumscribed by the communal, with all the cross-generational, religious and patriotic obligations that implies. Sweeping change must be approached slowly; when government enforces individual responsibilities, a moral crisis looms.

Communitarians also hold that government and corporations are bound by obligations to citizens, like a clean environment, education and health care.

That crisis is upon us as the president is seeking to impose individual mandates on all to buy health insurance. The president sees this as simply an entry fee in order to join his personal idea of a community, one that if you are not willing to ante up, government will force you to fulfill your obligation.

Needless to say, any outrage against personal liberty can be justified with this kind of a philosophy. The president sought union when he first got to office, hoping that by imparting this vision of community, we could raise ourselves up and defeat the forces of partisanship and excessive ideology that has so tainted our politics these last decades.

Alas, it was not to be. And it was the president’s own vision of community that proved the biggest stumbling block.

It is this vision that has gotten in the way of Mr. Obama’s “post-partisan” personae. One can immediately see that it is impossible to reconcile his admiration for our “rugged individualism” with what he sees as the needs of the community. Those who fail to recognize those needs must be coerced and “obligations” enforced. Who but government can fulfill the president’s desire to form this “more perfect” community?

I admire the presidents desire “to seriously examine the skein of his thinking to discover a rational and coherent political philosophy.” Perhaps no president since Reagan has thought more deeply about government and its relationship to its citizens.

The irony is, both men started from roughly the same place and ended up with wildly different notions of “community” and “individual rights.”

And I think that is something to celebrate.

9/10/2009

THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR OR THE GREAT PREVARICATOR?

Filed under: Government, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 10:53 am

The president went before Congress last night with an almost impossible job facing him; 1) calm the public’s fears and anxieties; 2) try and get some GOP cover for his fellow Democrats; and 3) move the ball forward on reform.

First, looking at the speech from the standpoint of political theater and speechcraft, it was as good as he’s ever been. James Fallows:

- Conciliatory: You Republicans want to talk about tort reform? Let’s hear your ideas.
- Tough: When you tell lies, we will call you out.
- Clarifying: For the first time ever, I felt as if I glimpsed a “larger idea” behind the Obama plan.
- Big picture: The role-of-government soliloquy at the end, including the connection to the moral and social-contract histories of Social Security and Medicare.
- Emotional, sans schmaltz: As he got ready for the end, I feared that he would tell the story of all the Lenny Skutnik figures in the First Lady’s box. Instead, he told Ted Kennedy’s story, with allusions only to Kennedy’s Republican friends.
- Simple performance dynamics: Well delivered, including at crucial points talking over the applause to keep the rhythm going.
- Manners: Will it pay off for the Republicans to have booed him and, in the case of Rep. “Gentleman Joe” Wilson of South Carolina, to have yelled “you lie!” at the President? We’ll see.

I would agree with most of that analysis. Obama implanted his vision of government’s role in society in the public mind - something he didn’t dare do during the campaign for obvious reasons. I disagree with that vision, but it has its roots in neo-liberal thought and modern social democratic philosophy. I can see Nicolas Sarkozy nodding his head in agreement through much of it. It is clear he had thought deeply on the subject and it was also clear that his experience as a community organizer informed at least some of his thinking.

I don’t think either Bush (father or son), or Clinton, had such a well developed political philosophy. Got to go back to Reagan to find someone who had given even more thought to the role of government in a free society. Reagan was older so no criticism of Obama is intended by that. Both men used their experience interacting with ordinary Americans to reach their almost opposite beliefs.

(Note: Critics of Reagan tend to forget that he spent nearly two decades on the “rubber chicken” circuit as both a conservative speaker and, more importantly, a spokesman for GE. Morris believes more than anything, this rubbing elbows with ordinary Americans helped change Reagan from an FDR Democrat to a Goldwater conservative.)

I must say, however, that his calls for “civility” and his outreach to Republicans rang a little hollow. I didn’t hear much criticism coming from the White House at the time as Congressional dems savaged Republicans for their opposition. Evidently, the president agreed with all the talk of “angry mobs,” and “racists,” and “fascists.” But going on national TV, he extends his hand in hopes that he can get cooperation from the other side?

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. It is unrealistic for the president to ask the GOP to support him on issues like the public option, or a “trigger” for the public option (if you believe the triggers will be designed to do anything except lead to an eventual public option, I got some swampland in Florida you can buy). Either provision is a deal killer. It would be political suicide in the party not to mention that it violates fundamental principles of conservatism. You wouldn’t expect Democrats to support and entirely free market approach to reform. Neither should the president expect the GOP to support the public option.

Co-ops are a little different story but I don’t think we need worry about them being in any final bill passed by the Democrats. My personal belief is that eventually, most of the co-ops would fail and necessitate a takeover by the Feds thus bringing us single payer insurance by default.

But it is the “If you tell lies, we will call you out” statement that I have the most trouble with.

Regular readers know that I have taken a dim view toward most of the slippery slope arguments advanced by Republicans and the right. But in the history of government entitlements, if anyone can show me where the law of unintended consequences didn’t emerge - and rather quickly - following their enactment, I would be most appreciative.

Obama is saying that if it’s not written into the bill that a public option will lead eventually to a single payer system, then you cannot draw logical conclusions that such would be the case. I totally reject that idea, based not only on the way the system is set up but also because several liberals have made absolutely no bones about the fact that this is exactly what the public option is for. When your opponent admits that your slippery slope argument is true, why would it be a lie?

The same holds true for the few other slippery slope arguments I believe are legitimate. For instance, is it possible for a bill (HR3200) that contains provisions to create 53 new panels, committees, and boards with regulatory or statutory authority over health care in America really, really lead to more “efficient” and “cheaper” health care?

Not in this universe. And the logical result of reducing Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals means one of two things; either those health care entities will stop or reduce the number of Medicare patients they take on or they will reduce services - i.e., “ration” care. If there is another conclusion that can be drawn from that, I am willing to hear it.

Again, there will be nothing in any reform bill that will mandate that behavior by doctors or hospitals, but the results are inescapable - unless you believe that they are stupid and will perform the same work for less money. Would you? Why should they?

But President Obama says that if anyone makes that argument, the White House will “call them out” for their lies. This is unreasonable and bad government to boot. The reason for Congressional hearings on such important matters is to flesh out these slippery slopes and write legislation that minimizes the chance they will be realized or eliminate them entirely.

Of course, we haven’t had any hearings on the most important social legislation in nearly 50 years so why bother now? These bills - including the president’s version - have been written in secrecy, negotiated behind closed doors. How much input have lobbyists had? How much has the opposition contributed? Who is for what? Who is opposed to which?

This is “good government?”

It’s not that there aren’t some good ideas being put forward, as I made clear in my post yesterday on the Baucus bill. But both sides have certain red lines that cannot be crossed, and for either side to insist that it’s their way or the highway on these deal breakers is unreasonable.

Obama might uncouple some Republicans with the co-op option if certain provisions relating to how they must operate are included while also incorporating some kind of tort reform in the final bill. He will lose liberal support, but probably gain a good 12-18 Republicans in the House and 6-8 GOP senators in the bargain. Not impressive, but considering the partisan nature of our politics today, it would be a significant achievement.

I would look very closely at such a bill if it included a more carefully crafted co-op provision, and meaningful tort reform, along with some of the measures in the Baucus bill I outlined previously. There is a need for health care reform - not a crisis by any means and certainly, not because Obama’s nauseating demagoguery from the speech that made passage a matter of life and death. But somebody somewhere has got to get a handle on skyrocketing costs. And I agree with the president that this is the moment for it.

A bill that may help cut the rate of growth in health care spending while doing minimal damage to the private sector, and improving the quality of care is a bill that I and many Republicans who want to see action on this might be inclined to support. But the chances of that happening are just about nil. The gargantuan mess that the Democrats have created of reform will now be bludgeoned to fruition by the president with several provisions that will be included that are bad for health care, bad for the people, and bad for the country.

9/9/2009

BAUCUS REFORM PLAN HAS SOME MERIT

Filed under: Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 9:18 am

Senate Finance chairman Max Baucus has labored long, hard - and in secret - to produce an 18 page summary of what Ezra Klein refers to as a “Not that bad health care bill.” The fact that I agree with Klein shouldn’t worry you. The irony is that he sees fault where I see merit and vice versa.

That should make both liberals and conservative heads explode.

In truth, there are reforms being proposed by Baucus that would do some real good as far as reducing health care costs, getting people who don’t have insurance now covered, and some long overdue Medicare reforms that would improve the quality of care.

There are also health insurance co-ops that will be so complex to set up, the chances of failure are great; expanded Medicaid coverage that will cost too much; and fees on insurance companies that don’t make any sense.

As far as mandates, no employer requirement to offer insurance but a “fee” will be assessed if an employee gets his own coverage equal to the premium and the subsidy offered by government. An individual mandate would be triggered in 2013 - everyone must have insurance either individually or through your employer.

I oppose mandates of any kind based on the notion that it is a violation of one’s individual liberty to have the government force anyone to part with their property (money) without their consent to be given to another entity or government itself. Even - or especially - if it is argued that such mandates are for the “good of all,” a government that can order you to buy insurance against your will can, and probably will, make other mischief as well.

Be that as it may, there is a serious attempt in the Baucus outline to address some fundamental problems with the health care industry. And although it doesn’t go near far enough in attempting to get a handle on Medicare costs, nor does it offer many solutions on the supply side of the health care equation, I consider it a good starting point for discussions on reform.

Ezra Klein mentions what he likes about the proposal:

The legislation really would protect millions of Americans from medical bankruptcy. It really would insure tens of millions of people. It really will curb the worst practices of the private insurance industry. It really will expand Medicaid and transform it from a mish-mash of state regulation into a dependable benefit. It really will lay down out-of-pocket caps which are a lot better than anything people have today. It really will help primary care providers, and it really will make hospitals more transparent, and it really will be a step towards paying for quality rather than volume.

Good summary of what’s good about the bill. I would quibble that the Medicaid expansion into a “dependable benefit” is a dubious idea, but Klein sums up most of what’s acceptable in a reform bill - something that those Republicans so inclined may wish to seriously examine.

But back to the irony part of our piece, here’s Klein on what’s wrong with it from his liberal perspective - most of these “problems” being something to cheer about if you’re a conservative:

The main disappointment is that insofar as you see the bill as a vehicle for moving us towards a better, more efficient, less costly system, there are some problems. In particular, this bill seems to block off a lot of its own possible points of expansion. The health insurance exchanges are limited to the state level, and appear to split the individual and small-group markets apart from each other. There’s no mention of a possible expansion toward larger employers, either. Similarly, the co-op plan is an interesting policy proposal, but unlike a public insurance option, it’s difficult to imagine it growing into anything significantly stronger than what’s outlined in the paper.

A government program with a built in brake on expansion? Be still my heart! That’s just what the doctor ordered. The two tiered employer market is also a good idea considering that for very small businesses, tax subsidies to help them cover full time employees should be generous while larger companies will obviously pay more.

I agree with Ezra that the co-op idea will probably not be as successful as Baucus would hope. This would be a massive undertaking - as big a job as setting up a public option. In the end, I don’t think enough people will participate in all 50 co-ops to give the program enough cash to do things like cover those with pre-existing conditions or who are denied coverage for other reasons. In short, an eventual government take over of the whole co-op system and what amounts to a single payer government run boondoggle would emerge. (For me, this is a deal breaker - a “no go” if it is included).

But there are bound to be things in any reform package that different people will find objectionable. There are a couple of proposals that are especially noteworthy and should be included in any reform measure.

1. Subsidies for those who earn up to 300% rather than 400% of the poverty line. This is fairer to the taxpayer. No one would have to pay more than 10% of their income out of pocket for health insurance.

2.Starting in 2015, states may form “health care choice compacts” that will allow companies to sell insurance across state lines.

3. The aptly described “young invincible” policy:

A separate “young invincible” policy would be available in addition to these benefit options. This policy would be targeted to young adults who desire a less expensive catastrophic coverage plan but with a requirement that preventive services be covered below the catastrophic amount. Cost-sharing for preventive benefits would be allowed.

Last night on my radio show, Rich Baehr, American Thinker Political Correspondent and a health insurance consultant for 25 years, wondered why the “young invincible” policy would be limited to those 25 years old and younger. Why not offer it to everyone, Rich asked?

The point is this; using the analogy of auto insurance, no company covers oil changes, pressurizing tires, or other routine services. This is one way premiums are kept down. And if only major medical problems would be covered, people would be less apt to incur health care costs for minor, non life threatening treatments.

Baehr uses his own analogy involving shoes. If government were to pay for shoes, everyone would have a closet full. Forcing almost everyone to buy “comprehensive” insurance only encourages people to load up on shoes even though they don’t need them.

4. Physician and hospital “value based” purchasing. The proposal would reward hospitals for the quality of their care for high cost services and reward doctors for not ordering unnecessary tests in some cases.

This is a step in the right direction although it doesn’t go far enough. We must change the supply culture in health care so that quality of care is paramount and quantity is discouraged.

5.Incentives to develop new patient care models. Always a good idea to incentivize innovation.

6. Payment penalty for hospital acquired infections. More of this please. Rewarding quality and penalizing poor care should be at the heart of reform.

7. Modest reforms in the Medicare Advantage (supplemental insurance) plans rather than severely curtailing the plans as the House bill would do.

8. There isn’t much to get excited about in the Medicare reform sections except the formation of a full time Medicare Commission to examine ways to reduce costs. Otherwise, there is too much emphasis on costs and not enough on the supply side of the equation.

9. A tax on gold plated plans costing more than $8,000 per year for singles and $21,000 per family. These plans are a waste that we can do without. If you can afford that kind of insurance, you can afford greater out of pocket medical care.

In summary, there is a lot to dislike in the bill. Medicaid expansion will put even more budgetary pressures on states already suffering - even with additional federal funds that would only add to the deficit. The co-op idea is a loser, the Medicare reforms only nibble around the edges of the problem (we must save trillions over the next few decades), the employer requirements are still too onerous for small businesses, and the individual mandate is an affront to liberty.

But for those conservatives serious about reforming our health care industry - and I believe good conservatives should be - then there are some things in the Baucus plan that should be given serious consideration.

9/8/2009

THE RICK MORAN SHOW: DON’T BOGART THAT JOINT SESSION

Filed under: The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 4:12 pm

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, my friends Rich Baehr and Ed Lasky of The American Thinker join me to preview Obama’s address before a joint session of Congress as well as talk a little about Van Jones and Obama’s views on 9/11.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

MY PROBLEM WITH ‘FALSE’ EQUIVALENCE

Filed under: Blogging, Ethics, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:35 am

John Cole of the blog Balloon Juice and I used to have a rather cordial relationship back in the day. A few angry back and forths later - not so much anymore.

Cole’s party switch over torture and the mismanaged Iraq War (along with GOP corruption and the excessive ideology of the base) endeared him to some on the left but I think even they may be uncomfortable with his demonstrated independence from orthodoxy from time to time. Sadly, his blog has morphed by and large into a collection of bitter denunciations directed at most conservatives who fail to meet his rather stringent ideological standards for relevance and correct thinking.

That said, now that he is a self-identified Democrat, Cole himself can be guilty of being as nasty a partisan as any on the left:

Rick Moran is a libertine the same way Glenn Reynolds is a libertarian. They are both Republicans. Moran occasionally chastises some of the obviously crazy nonsense on the right, but only when he can also include a false equivalency about the Democrats. It sometimes seems like he is making sense, but ignore his schtick of not being a party man. Ask him if he voted for McCain or Obama? For Bush or Kerry? For Bush or Gore? For Clinton or Dole?

I read him for years and finally gave up reading him regularly, because the only core principle I could ever find from him was “The Democrats are worse.”

First of all, I am a libertine the same way the dictionary defines the term:

  1. One who acts without moral restraint; a dissolute person.
  2. One who defies established religious precepts; a freethinker.

adj.  Morally unrestrained; dissolute.

The first definition could certainly have been applied to my behavior in my dissolute youth. And my atheism would meet the definition of defying “established religious precepts.”

But it is a large part of my self image that I consider myself, and strive to be, a “freethinker.” I make an effort to eschew a dogmatic approach to life and politics - not always succeeding but finding that it is in reaching for the goal that we learn the most and better ourselves. Some may glimpse sophistry in such an admission - nothing I can do there. You either take what I write as being what I think and feel or not.

In Cole’s case, he views my writing through the prism of partisanship. By dismissing my attempts at fully vetting a subject by presenting both sides, or pointing out that whatever nuttiness has been perpetrated on the right finds an equal or almost equally loony counterpoint on the left, Cole himself is guilty of dogmatic thinking.

It is the idea that I am guilty of “false equivalence” that betrays Cole as a less than neutral - and honest - observer. I will admit that there are times that I may, in fact, stretch to make the equivalence point. But does that make it “false?” Only if you have an agenda beyond trying to be objective. I have never knowingly perpetrated a fraudulent analogy and don’t think I ever have. Sometimes, it’s not possible to find an exact counter to the idiocy one side has engaged in. I expect if you were to really examine my 3,200 posts, you would probably find some inexact correlations on both sides. Demanding perfect symmetry is unrealistic and proof that Cole is unwilling to accept the fact that the excessive ideology and hatred of the opposition he so rightly condemns is a mirror image of the same idiocy found among his friends on the left.

Any reasonable analysis of “movement conservatives” and “movement progressives” would find a vast kinship in paranoia, the use of logical fallacies, slippery slopes, strawman arguments, as well as a quest for ideological purity, and other manifestations of a kind of absolutism regarding their political opposites that has infected our politics and made it extraordinarily difficult for presidents over the last 20 years to get anything done.

Guilty as charged, on occasion. I am not immune to emotionalism and spite and I apologize for being human. But it is dishonest for Cole to issue a blanket condemnation of my writing based on his idea of “false” equivalence when I take both sides to task for acting idiotically or saying insane things. You can nitpick my analogies and no doubt find differences in the examples I utilize to make my point. But substantively, I don’t believe you can argue that there isn’t at least a rough symmetry involved in my analyses. Denying such marks one as a partisan more concerned with scoring minor points in disagreement than in taking a hard look at the actions and beliefs of one’s own side to discern the truth.

By the way, why not voting for Clinton makes me a party man is beyond me. And Holy God almighty what conservative in their right mind would have voted for Kerry? Cole certainly has a limited idea of what does or does not constitute blind party loyalty. Perhaps John hasn’t voted much in his life. Most ballots I’ve marked in the polling booth have contained dozens of candidates for dozens of political offices. If Cole’s end all and be all definition of “party man” starts and stops with who I voted for president, that is pretty shallow indeed.

I did not vote for president in 1972 or 92, I wrote in Reagan’s name in 1976, did not vote in 88. I voted for Paul Simon twice because he was the most honorable politician I ever saw (Wellstone runs second there). I have voted for local Democrats for town and township races in the past although not in the last couple of election cycles. I vote for Democratic judges every few election cycles based on the theory that judges should not be career politicians.

I may vote for Rep. Debbie Halverson if the GOP runs Ozinga again (”Everyone in America has health care. All they have to do is go to an emergency room.”). She seems harmless enough and is thought highly of here in Streator, IL. She got on my good side when she introduced legislation when she was state senator that would have effectively killed the white elephant of an airport out in Peotone being pushed by Jesse Jackson Jr.

No, I am not a party man. I am a nominal Republican in that the GOP fields candidates more regularly who reflect my views. Give me a Democrat who does so and I will seriously consider voting for him/her as I have in the past.

For Cole, it would be interesting to find out the last Republican he voted for since he switched sides.

9/7/2009

WOULD SOMEONE ON THE LEFT PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME?

Filed under: Government, Politics — Rick Moran @ 6:49 am

I am getting old.

I’ll be 56 in January and I realize that the days behind me are beginning to far outnumber the days before me. I have lived a lot of history in those years and have seen just about everything in politics imaginable; huge upsets, the triumph and fall of conservatism, a presidential resignation, culture wars - exciting times to have lived.

But I will never understand this:

Van Jones was one of the good guys. A really, really good guy. He used his education and his passion to combat police brutality and the massive, wasteful incarceration of so many of this nation’s young, brown people. Having fought in the trenches for so long, he saw an opportunity to build hope and jobs and tangible communities as the world responds to the climate crisis. He connected the dots and inspired action and had a vision. He was the rare outsider who got a chance to move inside, and move he did.

This same blogger referred to health care opponents as “psychological terrorists.”

The way that some on the left bandy about the word “terrorists,” it sincerely makes me wish that they would demonstrate equal fervor in combating the real thing. Imagine if those who refer to conservatives as “terrorists” in any context would renounce the idea that the “War on Terror” is a made up political gambit of the Bush Administration and support the idea of stopping these fanatics before they attack us. As it stands now, we are geared to respond to terrorism after the fact - a very uncomfortable position to be in when one recalls we live in a world where the day is close at hand when using a weapon of mass destruction in a terrorist attack will be realized.

And then there’s this from Keith Olberman:

I don’t know why I’ve got this phrasing in my head, but: Find everything you can about Glenn Beck,  Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes.

No, even now, I refuse to go all caps.

No, sending me links to the last two Countdowns with my own de-constructions of his biblical vision quality Communist/Fascist/Socialist/Zimbalist art at Rockefeller Center (where, curiously, he works, Comrade) doesn’t count. Nor does sending me links to  specious inappropriate point-underscoring prove-you’re-innocent made-up rumors.

Tuesday we will expand this to the television audience and have a dedicated email address to accept leads, tips, contacts, on Beck, his radio producer Burguiere, and the chief of his tv enablers, Ailes (even though Ailes’ power was desperately undercut when he failed to pull off his phony “truce” push).

This is more understandable considering the source. Olbermann enjoys frolicking in the sewer of American politics. He and Larry Flynt should start a mutual admiration society.

And what in God’s name is Jane Hamsher so riled up about?

Now he’s been thrown under the bus by the White House for signing his name to a petition expressing something that 35% of all Democrats believed as of 2007 — that George Bush knew in advance about the attacks of 9/11.  Well, that and calling Republicans “assholes.”  I’m pretty sure that if you search through the histories of every single liberal leader at the CAF dinner that night, they have publicly said that and worse.

So where are all the statements defending Van Jones by those who were willing to exploit him when it served their purpose?  Why aren’t they standing up  and defending one of their own, who has done nothing that probably the majority of people in the Democratic party haven’t done at one time or another?  Is he no longer “one of their own?”

Let me get this straight: It’s ok for Van Jones to be a Truther nut because 35% of the Democratic party are Truther nuts? Holy Jesus, save me from the logic of liberals.

What has me so perplexed this morning is that these liberals and other Democrats are upset that this racist conspiracy mongering Truther is out of a responsible position in government.

It just absolutely boggles my mind that these and most other Democrats have no problem with a guy who is an admitted Communist (”Former” communist? Would that be anything like a “former” racist like Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, and other conservatives?), a man who pushed the conspiracy theory that white people want to deliberately murder black people by degrading the environment in the ghetto, who supports the cop-killer Mumia, and who signed a 9/11 Truther petition, claiming he didn’t know what he was signing thus making him a liar or an idiot.

They are defending this crackpot?

I don’t see how anyone can rationalize support for someone that the overwhelming majority of American people would agree is unfit to serve in any capacity in government. Forget Glenn Beck and Fox News. This guy was hoisted on his own petard of far left, radical statements and beliefs. For me, it had nothing to do with calling Republicans “a-holes.” I refer to many GOP’ers in such colorful language frequently.” But I draw the line at those who see shadows in the mist around every corner in America. There is no place in government for those whose minds have been captured by paranoid conspiracy theories. Such thinking colors everything else they believe and as such, interferes with sound judgment - a prerequisite for serving the people.

The Jones fiasco highlights how “movement liberalism” is so out of touch with ordinary people - treating those of us in flyover country with such nauseating contempt - that they are totally blind to the sensibilities of the majority.

The American people tolerate a lot in their politicians - in both parties. But they will not put up with conspiracy mongering communists. That’s a bridge too far and Obama and the left should have realized that before putting Jones up for such a prominent position in government.

9/6/2009

MOVEMENT CONSERVATIVES vs. THE PRAGMATISTS: THE BATTLE IS JOINED

Filed under: Birthers, Blogging, GOP Reform, Government, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:54 am

I could have just as easily titled this piece “Ideologues vs. The Realists” or some other descriptive caption for what boils down to a debate now fully underway among conservatives about the best way back to power.

Are the ideologues in the movement correct? Is a lack of “passion” regarding opposition to the left, as well as a less than 100%, strict adherence to their idea of conservative “principles” responsible for the right’s slaughter at the polls in 2006 and 2008?

Or are the pragmatists correct that the demand for “purity” by the ideologues coupled with the prominence of a conspiracy mongering, angry, paranoid base has connected conservatism to an unsavory, and unelectable politics?

At stake, a battle for the soul of conservatism in America and perhaps even the preservation of republican virtues given the left’s ascendancy and their first real opportunity in 40 years to “remake” America in ways that are an anathema to the tenets of modern conservative thought.

In the midst of this fight, a book by Sam Tanenhaus called The Death of Conservatism has been published which has already added fuel to the fire. Tanenhaus’s thesis is that movement conservatism has undermined the Burkean roots of conservative philosophy and that rather than trying to preserve and “conserve” institutions, movement-cons, who he terms “revanchists,” seek to destroy that which has been carefully built up over centuries.

The book is based on a shorter essay Tanenhaus published in The New Republic (no longer available) that I wrote about in depth here. I found that the essay reflected some of my own beliefs about where conservatism had gone off the rails, but was seriously flawed in its analysis of what Tanenhaus believed were “excesses” of the movement.

In reviewing the book, Garry Wills pointed to the classic tension between Burkeans and the movement personified by one of the most intellectually productive relationships in American history; the friendship and mutual admiration society that existed between Whittaker Chambers and William Buckley:

Tanenhaus is a deep student of modern conservatives. He wrote a biography of Whittaker Chambers, a self-professed Beaconsfieldian (Disraeli was the Earl of Beaconsfield), and he has been working for some time on a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. This short book is a kind of bridge between his two great projects, and it fits his revanchist–Burkean paradigm. Chambers and Buckley, though friends, began at opposite ends of the “conservative” spectrum. Buckley, who admired Chambers’s witness against communism, tried with all his lures and charms to recruit him as an editor of National Review when it began in 1955. But Chambers thought Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom the magazine championed, would doom Republicans. Besides, he was loyal to his ally in the Hiss case, Richard Nixon, and to Nixon’s meal ticket Dwight Eisenhower, while the magazine opposed them both as impure compromisers. (In 1956, only one National Review editor, James Burnham, endorsed Eisenhower for reelection.)

But Buckley finally wore Chambers down—in 1957, with great misgivings, Chambers joined the magazine. Murray Kempton wrote that Chambers finally went to work for a boss he could respect—which was not saying too much, since “Chambers’s former employers happened to be Colonel Bykov of the Soviet Secret Police, the late Henry Luce, and John F.X. McGohey, ‘then United States Attorney’ for the Southern District of New York.”[2] Chambers soon had to withdraw from the magazine for health reasons, but he and Buckley stayed in constant communication, Chambers advising, Buckley deferential. Tanenhaus makes the case that Chambers finally converted Buckley from a revanchist to a Burkean. Kempton, who studied both men closely, doubts that Chambers’s advice ever really took: “Buckley worshiped and did not listen: the Chambers of his vision is a saint whose icon stands in a Church where his message is never read.”

So close, yet so far apart. What we should take away from that extraordinary exchange of ideas between two brilliant men is that it was done amicably, with great respect for each other, and the debate was carried out with the recognition that both were working toward a common goal.

I don’t see that being possible today. With the absolute refusal of the ideologues to abandon their purge of who they consider less than ideologically pure conservatives, and with the pragmatists fighting what amounts to a rear guard action to marginalize the crazies who are, if not embraced then certainly tolerated by the revanchists, there is no “common purpose” that could lead to any amicability or respect.

Indeed, the revanchists look with askance upon most attempts to criticize conservatism at all, believing that “intellectual elites” are simply playing into the hands of the enemy by taking fellow conservatives to task for their idiocy, or paranoia. Relatedly, any criticism of conservatism coming from the left is automatically dismissed - usually without even reading it - because that would be allowing your enemy to define you.

As for the former, the idea that honest criticism is rejected outright because we’re at war with the left reveals a sneering anti-intellectualism among the revanchists that flies in the face of conservatism’s most cherished and important virtue; a duty to the truth above and beyond loyalty to ideology.

And while I sympathize and agree to a certain extent about not allowing your political foe to totally define your philosophy, that shouldn’t preclude anyone from exposing themselves to ideas with which you may disagree or close one’s mind to looking at the world from a different angle.

Tanehaus is a man of the left (former editor of the Times Book Review section) but he has also immersed himself in the history and personalities of modern conservatism more than most. He is a sincere critic of the right, a thoughtful man who wants to engage in serious discussions about the issues he raises. And while there is precious little empiricism on which you can hang your hat in his writings, some of his analysis will ring true with students of history who have given some thought to what ails the right today.

When Tanenhaus points to the very un-Burkean beliefs of many movement-cons, he is questioning how these revanchists can square their conservatism with the more traditional school of thought represented by Buckley, Hayek, Kirk, Arnold, and others who believed that preserving society’s institutions was the right’s highest calling. A reverence for our past has morphed into a psuedo-reformist mantra that seeks to destroy rather than build upon, tear down instead of conserve. Hence, liberals should not be defeated, they must be annihilated, along with the Great Society, the New Deal, and other “socialist” ideas. Supporting anything less calls into question one’s “true conservative” credentials.

The recent efforts by Jon Henke and Patrick Ruffini to counter these destructive beliefs are instructive. Henke’s call for advertisers and the Republican party to boycott World Net Daily for their enthusiastic coverage and endorsement of the Birther nonsense (among other idiocies) and Ruffini’s defense of Jon, along with a general criticism of the revanchists that is both trenchant and on point:

As a fiscal and social conservative, I happen to think Jon is completely in the right here, both substantively and strategically. Don’t raise the canard that we ought to be attacking Democrats first. Conservatives are entirely within their rights to have public debates over who will publicly represent them, and who will be allowed to affiliate with the conservative movement.

The Birthers are the latest in a long line of paranoid conspiracy believers of the left and right who happen to attach themselves to notions that simply are not true. Descended from the 9/11 Truthers, the LaRouchies, the North American Union buffs, and way back when, the John Birch Society, the Birthers are hardly a new breed in American politics.

Each and every time they have appeared, mainstream conservatives from William F. Buckley to Ronald Reagan have risen to reject these influences — and I expect that will be the case once again here.

But there is another subtext that makes Jon’s appeal more urgent. As a pretty down-the-line conservative, I don’t believe I am alone in noting with disappointment the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness that has overtaken the movement of late. In “The Joe the Plumberization of the GOP,” I argued that conservatives have grown too comfortable with wearing scorn as a badge of honor, content to play sarcastic second fiddle to the dominant culture of academia and Hollywood with second-rate knock-off institutions. A side effect of this has been a tendency to accept conspiracy nuts as a slightly cranky edge case within the broad continuum of conservatism, rather than as a threat to the movement itself.

In addition to “the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness” exhibited by those in the movement, one might add the curious and debilitating attitude of equating thoughtfulness with “elitism.”

Stacy McCain, who can be brilliant when the mood strikes him, wrote this about Henke’s and Ruffini’s efforts at marginalizing the crazies:

Grassroots conservative activists are, by their very nature, not engaged in the political process as a career. They tend to be older, well-established in non-political occupations and less concerned about the Big Picture questions than in finding immediate, practical ways to oppose the menace of liberalism. The question one hears from the grassroots is not, “Whither conservatism?” but rather, “What can I do?”

The Tea Party movement — which will host a major rally in Washington next weekend — has given the grassroots something to do, so that joining en masse to voice their opposition to the Obama agenda, they are actively engaged in the political process.

However, grassroots activism has consequences. One of the consequences of a ressurgent conservative grassroots is that their concerns, beliefs and attitudes are sometimes not in sync with the concerns, beliefs and attitudes of smart young Republican activists like Patrick Ruffini.

Stacy, who later goes on to say that the Birthers “are diverting attention from more valid critiques of the Obama administration and its liberal policies. So they should be discouraged or ignored…” fails to see the Birthers as a symptom of a larger problem; movement-cons rejecting criticism - even of Birthers - as “elitist” and ascribing dissent from their closed, ideological worldview as the critic having insufficient attachment to conservative principles.

McCain doesn’t engage on quite that level but doesn’t mince words when it comes to taking down those he believes have “elitist” attitudes toward the movement (”rubes”). And while he makes some valid points about “careerism” and its deleterious impact on what passes for “acceptable discourse,” methinks he paints with too broad a brush at times. The Ruffini-Henke critique is hardly born out of a desire to advance or augment those two gentlemen’s standing with other conservatives or the Republican party but rather - and I think this fairly obvious - the practical, and pragmatic calculation that we can’t get there from here. Changes are in order so that the public face of conservatism has a smile, rather than a snarl, and promoting the idea that one can vigorously oppose Obama without descending into the fever swamps of conspiracy and hate.

The road back to political power and intellectual relevance for the right will not be found in the rantings of Birthers, the false accusations of apostasy directed against conservative critics, a dogmatic and ideological approach to defining principles, nor an unrealistic and unattainable political agenda.

Nor should we count on the self destruction of the opposition which, at this point, seems well underway. What we do when we achieve power is as important as how we get there. For that, Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffinini, and others like them should be heard out and their call for a return to reason heeded.

9/5/2009

PAT BUCHANAN: KNAVE AND FOOL

Filed under: History, PJ Media, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 9:49 am

In case you missed it, here is my latest PJ Media column that was published yesterday. It’s on Pat Buchanan’s wretched column from September 1 in which he seeks to absolve Adolf Hitler of most of the blame for starting World War II.

A sample of Buchanan’s ignorance:

What follows are just a few of the more jaw-dropping errors of fact that Buchanan has included in his article, as well as the answers to some of the many questions that he should have known before even asking them.

After Munich in 1938, Czechoslovakia did indeed crumble and come apart. Yet consider what became of its parts. The Sudeten Germans were returned to German rule, as they wished. …

How could they wish to return to a place that in the entire thousand-year history of that enclave had never belonged to Germany in the first place?

From the 13th century on, the Sudeten Germans (making up about 25 percent of the population of the Sudetenland) had been ruled by the Habsburg Empire. The old Austria-Hungarian province of Bohemia claimed most of the land, and when the empire disintegrated following World War I, the Sudetenland was annexed by the new nation of Czechoslovakia.

Churchill tried without success to get Chamberlain to stop referring to the “return” of the Sudetenland to Germany in order to refute Nazi propaganda which was claiming otherwise. In effect, Buchanan is parroting the Nazi party line on the Sudetenland by claiming that Germany was only threatening war because they wanted their territory back.

It’s not that Buchanan is playing at revisionism that I object to. There has been much scholarship in recent decades that has shed light on pre-World War I British moves against Germany that were to have profound consequences for Europe for much of the rest of the 20th century. That kind of revisionism enriches our understanding of history and can be argued on the basis of fact.

Buchanan’s thesis is without merit because he fails to contextualize his arguments, placing them in a vacuum where the actions of Hitler can be examined without reference to any other events that were occurring simultaneously or in the past. It’s a clever manipulation of chronology - not serious analysis: A writer’s trick and not reasoned argument.

It’s a rather long piece and by no means a complete takedown. Buchanan asks too many rhetorical questions for that. But I think I captured the most egregious errors of fact and logic in Mr. Buchanan’s sad attempt to excuse one of the greatest mass murderers in history his foul deeds.

9/4/2009

HOLY CHRIST! WHERE HAS JOE KLEIN BEEN THE LAST 8 YEARS?

Filed under: Blogging, History, Politics, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 10:30 am

The left is discovering that unhinged speech directed at Obama is a very bad, very destructive thing.

Wow. I mean, like, Wow.

This is surreal. If Joe Klein really believes that this is some kind of recent phenomenon, then we must assume that he agreed with the vast majority of the Democratic base when they accused Bush of going to war for Haliburton and oil, for being like Hitler, for wanting to kill black people in New Orleans by deliberately withholding aid, for plotting to take over the government and set up a dictatorship…

Since Klein (and the rest of the hand wringers on the left who are currently upset at the idiocy being demonstrated by right wing talk radio listeners who think Obama is a commie) didn’t write similar warning screeds when the kind of talk above was not only commonplace, but accepted as part of the lefty narrative against Bush (and supported by many, many Democrats on the Hill who fed these nutters by hinting that they were right), it makes bullsh*t like this ring hollow indeed:

The amazing thing remains not only the unwillingness of responsible Republicans–a term that is in danger of becoming an oxymoron–to call bull– on this, but also the willingness of many prominent Republicans to join in the slinging of garbage. Michelle Cottle reports that there are Republican-sanctioned efforts afoot to have parents not send their children to school on September 8 because the President is scheduled to address the nation’s school-children that day and they are afraid that he will fill their little heads with socialist propaganda. That is somewhere well beyond disgraceful.

Could I just say that the intensity of this getting pretty scary…and dangerous? We are heading toward a cliff and the usual brakes of civil discourse are not working. Indeed, the Republicans have the pedal to the metal–rushing us toward a tragedy far greater than the California health care forum finger-biting Karen describes below. I’m usually not one to panic or be overly worried about the state of our country–even when we do awful things like invade Iraq and torture people, we usually right our course before long–but I have a sinking feeling about where we’re headed now. I hope I’m wrong.

WHERE HAS JOE KLEIN BEEN FOR THE LAST 8 YEARS? “Stolen elections” ring a bell, Joe? That one was advanced not only in 2000 (despite massive evidence to the contrary) but also in 2004 - to the point that Members of Congress actually challenged the electoral vote! Talk about intensity!

I am at a total loss in understanding such blindness. The left spends fricking 8 years in refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the Bush Administration, and then Steve Benen has the gall to write crap like this?

Birthers, Deathers, Tenthers. Beck, Palin, Limbaugh. Bachmann, Inhofe, DeMint, King, and Broun. A scorched-earth campaign intended to tear the country apart, questioning the legitimacy of the president, the government, and the rule of law. It’s all very scary.

Allow me to substitute: “”No blood for oil” conspiracists, Diebold rigging voting machines, Bush-Hitler, agents of Israel running government, re-instituting the draft, Bush a tool of the Saudi Royal family, HALIBURTON!, a staged terrorist attack so that the 2008 elections would be canceled, FEMA built sites to house anti-war protestors…and on and on.

Not to mention McKinney, Conyers, and half the Democratic caucus who worked tirelessly to undermine the Bush presidency, attacking him in the most vile personal manner, tearing the country apart with their unhinged opposition to anything and everything he did. And while legitimate criticism of our war effort in Iraq could have been tolerated, very few of the rhetorical bombs tossed at Bush from the left was of the “legitimate” variety and much of it was gross exaggeration, hyperbole, dishonest, and deliberately provocative.

Yes Steve, It’s scary now and it was equally scary back then.

There is no excuse for the unhinged nature of dissent on the right - something I have written about at great personal and professional cost for years. But when lefties like Klein, Benen, and their hand wringing ilk invade the public discussion with their weeping about how extreme the opposition is without even acknowledging the dangerous, delegitimzing, depressing, maddening, and yes, scary rhetoric coming from their cohorts during the Bush years, one can not only question their judgment but their sanity as well.

Who are they trying to kid? I will continue to assault irrational, and shallow conservatives like Beck, Limbaugh, and their rabid listeners. But I expect to see a little context from the opposition as well. Nothing in politics happens in a vacuum. For every action, there is an equal or greater reaction.

These vacuous, easily misled talk show adherents spent 8 years listening to the opposition say the most outrageous, the most putrid stuff about their president. And I have seen it more than once in comments on various blogs (and some have taken me to task for writing against the idea), that now it’s our turn for a little payback.

My response has always been “Why ape the absolute worst in your opponents? How dumb is that?” Of course, such logic doesn’t seem to get anywhere except that these same fruitcakes accuse me of being a liberal.

I see very little difference in how unhinged the opposition is acting towards Obama and those who pilloried Bush. Klein, Benen, and the rest are just being drama queens, solemnly informing us how frightened they are at such rank emotionalism in politics, while intoning warnings of these times being the “worst” this, or the “most dangerous” that. It’s pure poppycock. They either slept through last 8 years of the left’s assault on decency and rational discourse or they have the balls to ignore it in order to make a political point.

Get real guys. You’re still part of the problem. The overwhelming number of people who oppose Obama do so in a rational, respectful manner. They are not birthers, or deathers, or any other unhinged faction. They are ordinary Americans and for you to lump them together with the wild eyed fanatics brands you as being equally culpable for the state of political discourse in this country.

Try the truth. It would be a nice change after 8 years of bombastic lies.

WHEN GOVERNMENT HIRES NUTTERS

Filed under: Blogging, Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:16 am

So Van Jones is a Truther. A guy who was once, by his own definition, a fervent communist, morphed into a sort of free market enthusiast (with the understanding of a three year old of what free markets are), signed a petition in 2004 asking the New York Attorney General to investigate the notion that George Bush knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance but allowed them to happen so that he would have a pretext for war.

Jones denies he knew what he was signing, that he didn’t read it very well.

I’d take him at his word - that he’s stupid not crazy - except according to Jim Hoft, even if he didn’t read the petition carefully, the guy is a died in the wool, out of this world, Truther nut anyway. He participated in a demonstration all the way back in 2002 which claimed government involvement in the 9/11 attacks:

Yesterday, news broke out that Barack Obama’s communist Green Czar was a 9-11 Truther. The administration much later in the day released a statement saying Van Jones was “not now or ever” involved in the 9-11 Truther movement.
Jones said the petition he signed in 2004 did not reflect his views and that he did not carefully review the language in the petition before agreeing to add his name..

Not true.
This article at Rense.com from 2002 links Van Jones to the 9-11 Truther movement at its infancy…

Perhaps it’s not surprising that presidents misfire on occasion in their hiring and end up with nutters in high places. I documented plenty of this kind of idiocy during the Bush Administration. The appointment of Paul Bonicelli to be Deputy Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - who taught at Patrick Henry College which made faculty members sign a “statement of faith” declaring the earth was created in 6 days among other goofy beliefs - is just one of a series of appointments of radical Christian conservatives, anti-science Luddites, and other kooks that populated the Bush administration.

It’s just that Jones is one of Obama’s beloved “Czars” with his fingers on $30 billion of our tax dollars. Those who lack basic critical thinking skills and substitute belief in rational thought for adherence to paranoid conspiracy theories do not belong in government.

What’s more, lying about it when you’re caught dead to rights should disqualify you from public service period.

It perplexes me that people like Jones, whose radical past is filled with racist, bigoted, statements against white people as well as nutty beliefs that corporations are trying to kill black people, are even seriously considered for important posts in government. It says something worrying about politics and government that constituencies like Bush’s Christian conservative base and Obama’s radical left supporters must be appeased by appointing high ranking managers or bureaucrats who sympathize with or believe the ideas of the most extreme fringes of both parties.

Jones isn’t the only nutter in the Obama administration. Zeke Emanuel’s relationship with Paul Ehrlich, he of the “Population Bomb” pseudo science, whose Malthusian theories may go down in history as the most spectacularly wrong predictions from someone that important people still take seriously, has never been adequately explained.

True, Emanuel’s relationship with the quack goes back 30 years, but I would love to get ‘ole Zeke in front of a Congressional Committee and ask him if he believed at the time that the world would run massive, cataclysmic food shortages in the 1980’s, or that China and India would have hundreds of millions starving to death, or that we would be rationing food in the United States. That’s pure nutter territory - even for back then. It calls into question Emanuel’s judgment as well as his ability to think critically. A lot of the scare quotes from Emanuel are from papers he wrote with Ehrlich that posited absolute worst case scenarios for rationing health care in an overpopulated world.

Might also want to ask Emanuel if he still believes in compulsory birth control and forced sterilization as Ehrlich does.

I don’t know if Emanuel’s views from 30 years ago should disqualify him from being health care Czar. I think it a legitimate question of Emanuel’s ethical grounding if he believed in stuff like shorting health care for the old in order to give it to teenagers. Unlike scientific views, how someone arrives at an ethical conclusion are formed in childhood and very rarely can change.

As for Jones, it may be that he doesn’t really believe in anything except what can advance his career. When it was cool to be a communist after the Rodney King verdict, he embraced it. When he saw a chance to get in the good graces of the far left after 9/11 by touting Truther theories, he leaped at it. And when the tide turned toward green, he jumped on that gravy train as well.

Is it too much to accuse Van Jones of being a cynical opportunist, playing on white guilt, catering to a radical constituency, while dressing himself in respectability by riding the green bandwagon all the way to the White House?

Or does he really believe all that crap?

Either way, Obama should dump him. And soon.

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