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8/12/2011
SPARKS FLY IN IOWA

My take, up at FPM, on the debate last night:

The debate, sponsored by Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and the Iowa Republican Party, saw sparks fly early and often. Candidates directed most of their fire at President Obama, but Mitt Romney came in for his share of criticism and the two Minnesotans, Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, had several testy exchanges with Pawlenty criticizing Bachmann for what he termed her lack of a record while Bachmann charged that Pawlenty supported some of the policies of President Obama.

Pawlenty started the spat by accusing Bachmann of standing by in Congress while health care reform and other Obama proposals were enacted into law. “[H]er record of accomplishments and results is nonexistent,” said Pawlenty.

Bachmann shot back, listing issues to which Pawlenty appeared to agree with Obama. She said that Pawlenty “implemented cap and trade,” that he supported an “unconstitutional” individual mandate, and that he once said that “the era of small government is over.” The two combatants glared at each other as the exchange continued in that vein for several minutes.

Pawlenty must feel that he needs to open some daylight between himself and Bachmann, but his manner of doing so was perhaps too harsh. For her part, Bachmann more than held her own but seemed a little taken aback by the directness of Pawlenty’s assault. Both candidates righted themselves almost immediately and performed well for the rest of the debate.

Indeed, there appeared to be no clear winner for the evening. Mitt Romney made no major gaffes and seemed content to lurk in the background as the second tier candidates battered each other. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum criticized Rep. Bachmann for not going to Iowa to campaign against three state judges who ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and almost everyone criticized Ron Paul for his curious stance on Iran.

Paul is expected to do well in the straw poll on Saturday, given the passionate support he receives around the country and his impressive ability to raise money on the Internet. But his stated belief that Iran should have nuclear weapons if it wants them no doubt reminded voters that many of the Texas congressman’s views are not in the mainstream of the party and indeed, are “fringe” positions.

Santorum and Herman Cain performed well but did not get to distinguish themselves as they appeared to be shorted in air time by the panel of journalists asking the questions. Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman got plenty of questions directed his way, but his compatibility with much of the Republican Party is suspect. His answers showed him to be even less conservative than Mitt Romney, and he failed to adequately defend his positions on amnesty and gay marriage.

Huntsman, Romney, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have opted out of participating in the Ames Straw Poll, each for pretty much the same reason: they don’t have a chance of winning in Ames and will not compete very well in the caucuses next January. Gingrich has drawn a line in the sand in South Carolina, while Romney and Huntsman are pointing to the New Hampshire primary for their supreme early efforts.

By: Rick Moran at 11:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/10/2011
Obama Trapped by Tidal Forces of History and Doesn’t Know How to Swim
CATEGORY: PJ Media, Politics

My latest is up at PJ Media where I talk about leadership and Obama’s lack thereof:

The towering personalities of those narratives were largely trapped by forces of history that, try as they might, they couldn’t bend to their will in order to alter destiny. Lincoln put it best when he said, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

Lincoln could only ride the tsunami, not direct it. The ageless desire for freedom, the growing agitation for equality, the westward expansion of peoples and ideas, the rising shame over the sin of slavery, the greed of industrialists, the incomprehensible hypocrisy of a nation that boasted of its freedoms while keeping millions in chains, the emergence of free labor and a nascent labor movement — this and more was in the wave that Lincoln was trying to ride. He was successful only insofar as he was able to identify those things he could control, and those he could not. It was his particular genius, and you certainly can’t expect every president to be gifted with such insight.

But in Barack Obama’s case, events have gotten far the better of him. And most tellingly, he seems unable to see anything that he can control, settling for blaming his predecessor and promising to do better.

In these times, with the challenges he is facing, that simply isn’t good enough.

Obama is riding the wave without realizing he’s even on the water. And to make matters worse, he apparently can’t swim. The analogy of a “deer in headlights” seems harsh but that is a judgment of some of the Washington press corps.

[...]

His allies and apologists claim that this demonstrates the president’s “coolness.” Nice try, but that just doesn’t cut it. Coolness is telling your wife when you’re on a stretcher with a bullet an inch from your heart that you hope all the doctors are Republicans. Obama’s “coolness” appears to be an aloofness — perhaps even an arrogance — that manifests itself in the curious way in which he views “leadership.” Giving inspiring speeches is very nice (although it’s been a while since we got one of those), and feeling people’s pain is very politically correct these days.

But political leadership is more than delivering pretty words and demonstrating political empathy. It is projecting the ability — whether it is present or not — to identify a problem and make the rest of us partners in addressing it. Leadership engages those being led, makes them part of the enterprise, inspires confidence that collective action will make a difference. In short, leadership is a two-way street. You can’t lead if no one is willing to follow.

When the president speaks, it is usually to lecture, or to have his rhetoric take flight, mouthing meaningless platitudes that fail to inspire but allowing us to feel good about ourselves. “No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country,” sniffed the president during his speech Monday. Does that inspire you? It seems despairingly banal to me.

In some ways, it’s frightening to consider the idea of a president in over his head. This has been pretty obvious since the stim bill when he farmed out the writing of it to radicals like Pelosi and political hacks like Reid. It is now generally believed even among the president’s supporters that it didn’t work. Of course, they say it’s because it wasn’t big enough. But the fact that a president with a near 70% approval rating couldn’t do just about anything he wanted with huge majorities in both chambers bespeaks a singular lack of leadership on what was supposed to be his administration’s primal thrust.

The bottom line is that Obama doesn’t recognize those things within his control. Events are controlling him, which is a bad place for a leader to be.

By: Rick Moran at 12:28 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/9/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: DOWNGRADE DOWNER

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

Tonight, I welcome Tommy Christopher of Mediaite.com, Jazz Shaw of Hot Air, and GOP senate candidate from Maine Andrew Ian Dodge. We’ll discuss the debt downgrade, Obama’s presidency, and the riots in London.

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.”

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

By: Rick Moran at 3:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/8/2011
HOW MUCH IS THE TEA PARTY TO BLAME FOR THE DOWNGRADE?

There are times I want to grab some tea party folk by the neck and try and shake some sense in them. Many of them are, indeed, unreasonable and illogical. Advocating not raising the debt ceiling, forcing the government to cut about 40% of the budget in one year, may not be terrorism but they might as well support detonating an atom bomb in New York City considering the similar effect it would have on the economy. You don’t snatch a trillion and a half dollars out of the economy and not see a collapse of some kind. And if it is Gotterdammerung they seek, let them self-immolate and achieve their irrational goals that way.

But really, it is ridiculous to call this a “Tea Party Downgrade.” There was never, ever a chance that the debt ceiling wouldn’t be raised. Less than 100 tea partiers in the House and a few in the Senate could never have blocked the Congress from raising the debt limit. In fact, it was useful for both sides to use that non-existent threat in order to try and get their way.

The 11th hour nature of the debt deal was pre-ordained. Both sides were going to take the talks to the absolute limit before papering over their differences and reaching an agreement. This is the way things are done in Washington — pandering to both bases, both sides playing politics to the hilt, until at the last possible moment, order is restored and a deal is inked.

Right now, a gigantic game of “Pretend” is being played by those who are blaming the tea party for what appears to be a political decision by S&P to lower our credit rating. Both sides are elevating the tea party far beyond their actual influence, pretending that they were obstructionist hooligans who almost caused a catastrophe. Or, in the case of Republicans, well meaning activists whose whims had to be catered to on the spending issue lest Boehner and other Republicans end up being primaried by tea party candidates. This is nonsense. The Tea Party doesn’t have that kind of electoral clout. And while they may score a victory here and there (Senator Lugar seems especially vulnerable), their candidates were soundly defeated in primaries against most GOP incumbents in 2010. (They fared much better in open primaries but only 32% of Tea Party backed candidates won in the general election.)

Pretending what isn’t so in this case was extremely useful to both sides; it gave Boehner an excuse to rule out tax increases and gave Obama a foil upon which he could impale the Republicans while agreeing to a deal without an increase in taxes. Obama, running for re-election, knows full well that raising taxes on anybody - even the rich - is bad politics in an election season. It is not surprising that he “caved” on the tax issue — a stratagem, the logic of which has escaped his more rabid liberal supporters.

I can’t believe that John Boehner didn’t know that no deal he came up with would satisfy the radical libertarians and far right wackos who supported sending the American economy to guillotine. I predicted back in May that there was no deal save balancing the budget now, today, that would placate the extremists who are the most visible members (but not a majority) of the tea party. In fact, if they supported any agreement, it would be the end of them. The Tea Party exists to be contrarians, naysaying is their lifeblood. They cannot exist as majoritarians. The movement would collapse under its own internal contradictions if they ever did achieve power. How could a movement that is, at bottom, anti-government actually run the government?

Neither can I believe that President Obama didn’t realize the same, exact, thing. Thus, this game of Pretend where both sides brought us to the brink, playing out their political games, all the while knowing full well they would come to some kind of arrangement - even if, as it turned out, that the agreement was largely meaningless as a deficit reduction deal.

We are not going to address our deficit problems until our economy is a smoking ruin. Every European nation currently at or near default never addressed their problems either and are now paying for the fact that it is not in the nature of democracies to deal with such intractable issues. Democracy is about consensus and compromise. But the politics that fleshes out a democratic form of government is, unfortunately, made up of politicians, freely elected by the people, who can be unelected in a heartbeat if they were to inflict the kind of pain that will be necessary to solve our spending problems.

The Tea Party doesn’t care about the pain. Like small children, they know what they want and they want it now. But this only makes them juvenile delinquents, not terrorists. They might get some credit for altering the conversation in Washington to reflect the reality that we have a spending problem, but their unrealistic solutions should receive our disapprobation.

There is no way to get spending under control without cutting entitlements and raising taxes. The longer we wait, the higher the taxes and the more we’ll have to cut. It’s a matter of arithmetic now. The administration’s own estimates have us running up $9 trillion more in debt over the next ten years. And that’s with pie in the sky estimates of growth and the nonsensical notion that interest rates won’t rise, thus massively increasing the amount we pay to service our debt.

Within this coming decade, the dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency, we will probably be downgraded further, we will experience at least another recession - or two - and since neither side has the answer to the crisis, we will probably see a string of one term presidents and control of the legislature see-sawing back and forth every two to four years.

And then? Terra Incognito as the ancient mariners used to call uncharted waters. If I’m lucky, I won’t live to see it.

By: Rick Moran at 12:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

AGONY IN AFGHANISTAN

In my latest for FPM, I come out of the closet entirely and make the case that Afghanistan is hopeless:

Beyond the questions regarding the capabilities of the Afghan army and the confusing mission of Special Operations personnel, there is the huge problem of winning the Afghan people to the government’s side. This was one of General David Petraeus’s major goals when he announced his plans for the surge in troops in 2009. By pacifying population centers, freeing them from Taliban control, while the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) move in and improve the lives of ordinary Afghans by building schools, mosques, and infrastructure, it was believed that the people’s loyalty would flow to the government in Kabul rather than the Taliban.

To date, it hasn’t worked that way, and given the fact that troops will be leaving by 2014, it appears probable that the concept will never work.

An article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel profiling local PRT officers points up the daunting challenges faced by the reconstruction teams as they work with local officials to bring water, electricity, roads, and other amenities to the provinces. They also seek to develop economic infrastructure in order to boost local economies. One such effort involves developing an agriculture production system where none existed before. Capt. Gena Selby is working with Afghan officials to figure out ways to improve transportation and storage of crops and boost marketing. She is also working to set up an agricultural resource center so that local farmers can improve their farming methods.

“Farmers have no incentive to change their practices if they can’t get more money for their crops and if there’s not a market,” said Selby. She also listed the almost impossible challenges she faces: “You need transportation to move your crops to market. You need packaging and grading, sorting and milling to preserve it or canning if you want to make jams and jellies,” Selby said.

Very little of that — not even the roads — currently exist in Afghanistan.

Another PRT member hit upon the biggest problem facing these dedicated soldiers and public servants. “Afghanistan is tribal based, and if you had a problem you went to the tribal elders. Now we’re trying to get people to understand they can come to the government.”

This is where our nation-building efforts have landed us in Afghanistan. We are trying to alter a culture that has done things a certain way for a thousand years, attempting to make a nation-state out of a collection of farmers and small artisans who have never contemplated any identity other than that defined by their clan, or tribe, or village. Kabul is so remote to almost all of them that it may as well be on the surface of the moon. They appear angry at the occupation of their villages — not because they believe it violates Afghanistan’s sovereignty, but rather for the much more mundane reason that the fighting disturbs the familiar rhythms of their lives. They don’t like the Taliban much either, but at least they’re local.

The downing of the helicopter carrying 30 brave Americans is a tragedy. But perhaps a bigger tragedy is that we are still in Afghanistan after 10 years of failure — asking our courageous soldiers to do the impossible.

There aren’t too many people arguing that our continued presence in Afghanistan will lead to any kind of viable state in the near future. As I point out above, Afghanistan is not a “state” at all and the prospects for building one are bleak.

It’s not worth one additional American life to attempt the impossible task of pacifying a country where most do not want to be pacified, nor should we be spending one additional dollar to build infrastructure that will only be of use to the Taliban when we leave.

Let the Taliban have their prize. They revel in living and thinking like 12th century peasants, so the Afghan people and the extremists deserve each other. And if they insist on allowing terrorists to use their country to attack us, we will treat them like a 12th century city state and violate their non-existent sovereignty with impunity by sending in forces to squelch the threat.

As for withdrawal - Faster, please.

By: Rick Moran at 10:12 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/3/2011
RIGHT ANSWER, WRONG QUESTION
CATEGORY: Politics

What is the real issue that was being discussed during the debt limit debate? I make that the subject of my PJM piece today:

Government has grown so big that it is impossible to control. Have we ever asked how any government purportedly representing a free people can possibly oversee, manage, direct, command, administer, or even comprehend such complexity as our federal government today? One president, 535 members of Congress, and nine Supreme Court judges cannot even remotely grasp what they have wrought in our names. Yes, the president has cabinet officers who are supposed to ride herd on their departments. But even if they are competent, intelligent, and dedicated public servants, how much can they truly grasp of their department’s total impact on citizens?

My colleague at PJMedia, David Steinberg, had some similar thoughts a few months ago. After listing a mind-boggling number of commissions, departments, agencies, and programs that make up some of what our government does, Steinberg wrote:

What is Big Government?

It is our time: It is oxidizing, the aging process applied to civilization and turning us to dust. Big Government is nothing less than the consumption of our very moment here on Earth, our lives spent creating and producing. Take our works and humanity, skim from the top, then the middle until we were not here.

No man’s time is another’s to waste, not politics but morality. This stupid, stupid list is our government, and the creators of this owe an answer to their benefactors — an answer to a question neither about the politics or the theory, as none of that is relevant to the actual government that exists as people working at the above agencies, being paid from the profits, and then the principal, of civilization.

He’s right. But what do you do about it? Cutting spending doesn’t get at the root of the disease. It only treats the symptom. Unless we can confront the central question of what government should be doing, and come to some kind of rough consensus about the Leviathan’s role in American society, we are striking out blindly in an effort to tame it.

First, figure out what we want government to do, then fund it. The federal budget, as written, embodies what we think government should be doing for us. Thousands and thousands of pages of programs, services, agency budgets — $3.8 trillion that represents the hopes and aspirations of the people, as well as security, and life and livelihood to tens of millions. Incomprehensible? To a degree, yes. But the budget was not created by aliens and plopped on Obama’s desk. We created it. It’s all ours. And the idea that we can’t have a thorough and rational debate about what’s in that budget — that most of it is off limits or out of bounds — is absurd.

It’s a chimera, of course — this idea that we would ever really make the attempt to understand what government is doing and seek to define its limits or curtail its power. For many on the left, there are no limits. In the name of “social justice,” or some hazy definition of “equality,” the untrammeled growth of government is a necessity. The beast will eventually consume us because there is a sizable portion of the population that doesn’t want a rational discussion about the size or the nature of government in a free society, preferring the status quo with government spending on autopilot and the engineer asleep at the switch.

By: Rick Moran at 10:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/2/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: DEBT LIMIT TERRORISTS

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

Tonight, I welcome Monica Showalter of IDB, Jeff Dunetz of Yid with a Lid, and Vodkapundit Stephen Green. We’ll discuss debt limit politics - the winners and losers.

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By: Rick Moran at 5:30 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

GONE BERSERK: WHAT’S WITH CALLING THE OPPOSITION TERRORISTS?
CATEGORY: Politics

My latest up at PJ Media.

If it was some frothing-at-the-mouth liberal blogger calling Republicans “terrorists,” we could dismiss it as the mindless babblings of a hyperpartisan nitwit.

But incredibly, it is not. It is leading Democrats including the vice president of the United States who are referring to their fellow Americans who disagree with them as terrorists:

Vice President Joe Biden joined House Democrats in lashing tea party Republicans Monday, accusing them of having “acted like terrorists” in the fight over raising the nation’s debt limit, according to several sources in the room.

Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

It is New York Times columnists:

You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.

These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.

It’s MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who not only referred to conservatives as “terrorists, but also as “wahhabis of American government.”

In fact, referencing terrorists, or Osama bin Laden, or al-Qaeda when describing conservatives who decided to put their foot down and demand a change in how Washington works - this done in order to save the country from a fate worse than default in a few years - has been the du jour pastime among Democrats of all levels. “Hostage takers” is another bric-a-brac tossed around when describing Republicans as well.

All of this name calling is supposed to remind the public that the tea party and those who agree with them are “extremists.”

By: Rick Moran at 1:15 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)