Monday, August 06, 2012

Political update for August, 2012

The Race

It seems remarkable that there are only a few months left until the presidential election. I for one will not be wishing my life away. Although this should be the most exciting election in just about forever, it's deadly dull so far. Still, in the political world, hard to think about anything else. 

Frequently I rant here about the dire effect that partisanship has on us. While it is just an extension of normal arguing between people – probably no better, no worse, I do think we are capable of rising above it someday, in some general way, just as we have made strides in religious tolerance and race relations. But few people seem to even focus on the problem (my being obsessed with it, is an exception). In all cases of partisanship the center of the storm is the logical fault, argumentum ad hominem.  Not surprisingly, it increases when the stakes are highest, as in a presidential race. This year, as always, the partisanship runs rampant. The most frequent comment I get from people these days who are not virulent partisans is pain that each party is focusing too much on the life story and character of the other guy. What I want – what most people I personally know want, is a discussion of how they are actually going to get the deficit down, stop spending as much as we do, re-balance the exorbitant salaries of the federal government with the private sector and stop unfunded pensioning, reduce industry crushing regulations and while they are at it, reduce taxes too. I would not mind a debate about capitalism and socialism without the name calling at all. I don’t care about Jeremiah Wright or Bain Capital, about high school bullying or dope smoking. I don’t care if Romney ever paid his taxes or if Obama never really graduated from Harvard because he didn’t have enough credits (and I’ve heard both now argued by partisans while in the other breath complaining about the attacks on their guy). I am prepared to be very disappointed.

None of the above means you can’t love one pol or dislike another, love one policy and hate another. None of it means that character doesn’t count at all. While I don’t particularly care about whether a politician has been faithful to their spouse or made mistakes in their life (e.g., drug use), I do care if they seem to me more dishonest than politicians typically are or to deliberately make false arguments, display unbridled arrogance, contemptuousness or lack of tolerance for other's beliefs. As the easiest example, more than once I have written here and on other sites that Newt Gingrich was too arrogant, too narcissistic and too partisan to be president – and that is for a politician.

Of course, like everyone else, this is fairly subjective - my opinion. If you try to get away from that, you are on the road to partisanship. Or, at least to being a politician. Here's a quote from Darwin that just came to mind - "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." The same applies to politics.
So, here is why I am not voting for Barack Obama. I say that instead of here is why I am voting for Romney, because I may very well cast a vote for a third party – probably Gary Johnson, if he is on the ballot where I live. None of my reasons relate to anybody the president knew or “palled around with” (what does that even mean?), his tax returns, birthplace, family, religion, grades or drug use, but his actions and words as a candidate and in office.

1) I was immediately put off by his refusing to abide by his pledge to take public financing when he realized he’d have a financial advantage by not doing so. It was a message that he was a pure politician who did not care what he pledged or said before if it meant.

2) I was disappointed by his implicit approval of his followers use of the race card against Democratic adversaries during the primaries. That includes attacks on Bill Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro.

3) His track record in the Illinois state Senate and the U.S. Senate, as well as his rhetoric while campaigning showed him to be very much, if not exceedingly, of a the tax & spend philosophy. His first term has born that out.

4) I cringed during his inaugural speech when he essentially stated that it didn’t matter how much we spend, but what we spend it on (here’s the quote from his text – “that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.) Very shortly after, he added somewhat veiled language that he was not only in favor of the welfare programs we have, but thought them not enough (The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”)  Though these statements passed without much attention in the world and sound oh so reasonable, it pretty much told me what to expect. The philosophies are flat out wrong. If there was such thing as humans actually having the capacity to plan the economy in the way he believes possible, then great; but, in this world, as we have repeatedly seen, it is a recipe for disaster and a guarantee of the picking of winners and losers and an attempt at a planned economy. I am all in favor of safety nets. But, we have seen over and over again that the way we do it is financially ruinous, fosters dependence on government and almost begs for corruption.

5) He adopted – and had a big role in initially implementing (Bush sought the candidate’s advice and he was not, by reports, shy) the Bush program of TARP, bailout and preference which has certainly not resulted in a great economy. You can argue all you want it would have been worse without it, but to me that is not only a false argument, as attention has to be paid to the long range goad, but there is no way to tell what would have happened if government allowed the financial failure of big banks and companies who planned poorly or were simply unfortunate, that I and others (including, to some degree, Romney) thought the best course. When he took office he made another comment which chilled me – that we shouldn’t worry, because the “pointy heads” were on it. In other words, more assertion that there are people who can figure out what to do with a planned economy, when we plainly see, over and over again, they can’t.

5) The stimulus bill was an unprecedented spending bill that did not seem to do a thing to stimulate anything. Yet, the administration is talking up another. Even Obama had to acknowledge that the vaunted shovel ready projects were not shovel ready.

6) His other signature piece of legislation, sometimes called Obamacare has been, from day one, a disaster, politically, legally and on its merits. It is a rare piece of legislation that is actually unpopular (regularly a majority opposes), but, to many economists and ordinary Joes, it doesn’t work. It was laughable, if disturbing, that Congress excepted itself from its dictates. It is so deeply flawed that already hundreds of waivers have been issued to company’s that would possibly decide to do away with insurance coverage completely if there weren’t. How is it fair for one company, say a McDonalds, to get a waiver, when its competitors can’t? Its incredibly large size, so that virtually none (if any) of the legislators knew or understood what was in it – itself requiring under any rational democratic scheme must require it to be voted down – kept secret and then rushed through so that there wasn’t even a pretense of the majority of reading it – the sausage making – many would say outright bribery and favoritism -  and the insistence of some, even in the administration, that it is a debt raiser, not reducer, make it a disaster. And, I haven’t even discussed here the controversial - it’s a tax but not a tax - decision in the divided Supreme Court. But, it was not a surprise to learn that when campaigning and

Sen. Clinton was for a mandate, he was dead set against it. He has shown a strong predilection for flip flopping beyond even more famous flip floppers, like Romney and Kerry. I strongly believe, even if Obama wins, that the ACA as a whole will be short lived.

7) His attack on a sovereign nation, Libya, even if we hated its leader and even if most of the world wanted it, which has not attacked us (please, don’t say what about Lockerbie) and then his continuing without congressional authority past the war powers resolution deadline, was an obvious violation of the Constitution, and I think his only impeachable act. Let’s see what candidate Obama said in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that ‘any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.’”

However, despite some on both sides complaining, even suing over it, most in congress want the president – when he is in their party – to have this power, and did not make much of it. The limitation of the power of the president to declare war is essentially gone, and we can thank Obama for it. Because it was so easy to defeat Libya and we did not lose a plane or man, people don’t take it seriously. But, it is the disastrous precedent it sets that is the problem.

8)He promised to reduce unemployment and failed. That he had opposition in congress is not an excuse. In fact, he said that if the stimulus bill was passed, unemployment would be below 6%.

9) He promised to reduce the debt and failed. In fact, he greatly increased it. Prior to being president, he had voted against raising the debt ceiling when Bush was in office, but now calls that a mistake when he is – I am actually not against a little flip flopping when there is a good reason articulated, but the fact that it is his administration being funded is hardly a good reason. Of course, in this, he is no more hypocritical than almost every other member of congress or commentators in the partisan media world.

10) His plan now is to spend more money, raise taxes on the wealthy, and to continue raising the debt ceiling. This is a surrender in the face of the inarguable belief of almost everyone that we have an unsustainable economic situation that can be remedied and with the example of Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Spain and Italy in front of us.

11) The Civil Rights Division of his Justice Department was so biased in its activities other than to prosecute violations against blacks, that two long time employees, both Democrats, quit, rather than continue. One was forbidden to testify before congress when subpoenaed, but did so anyway. Obama seems to be unconcerned with this, though in two relatively local matters, a quarrel with a police officer and a black college professor in Massachusetts and a fatal shooting in Georgia (the Zimmerman case), he manages to jump in without even waiting for the facts to be developed, never mind a trial to occur. I did not hold the Fast & Furious controversy against him, until the White House took the problematic position of executive privilege against with respect to documents that is hard to fathom (it would have to be for national security reasons to succeed, and that seems highly unlikely).

There are probably other remarks I could make, but this seems a lot for now. I do not agree with right wing criticism of his foreign policy, other than Libya (which actually came from both parties) and what has sometimes been dubbed his “apology tour.” Overall, his foreign policies do not differ much from Bush’s or Romney’s. I actually approve of his handling of Israel, which is in the tradition of all modern presidents, and I do not see him as anti-Israeli. His positions on gay rights, which is not a major issue for most people  – don’t ask, don’t tell, and gay marriage (even if it had to “evolve”) are the right ones in my book.

Romney – oh, well

It had to be Romney. Other relatively moderate candidates who had a chance were just not running. People like Daniels, Jeb Bush, Christie just didn’t want it or knew they wouldn’t make it. Huntsman was reasonable, but he is a Dukakis type, as is Tim Pawlenty. Exciting only to those in a semi-vegetative state. Nothing either did or said was interesting and any attempt at a stemwinder of a speech by him just came out unconvincing. Ron Paul never had a real chance, and less of a chance in a general election where every single thing he said would have been caricatured and mocked. The evangelicals could have won the nominee for the tea party crowd with a few candidates, but Cain self-destructed on women (he probably would have one way or another at some point), Bachmann and Perry made themselves look ridiculous, Gingrich is too Gingrich and Santorum was only a serious contender because he was the last man standing.

Romney is relatively calm, listens to his advisors and sucks up to almost everyone unless they are a conservative enemy. Frankly, despite the fact that I prefer him to Obama because of economic policy, I have grave doubts whether he will make much of a difference or if he too will crack under the weight of needing immediate results. And, just as I saw him in 2008, when my choice for McCain was easy, I view him as a used car salesman.

I could care less how he did in business. It means nothing when it comes to being president. Only present policy and courage matters. Courage means telling congress you will veto any budget that does not significantly reduce the deficit. If the house passes a budget that the president will sign, the senate, even if still in Democratic control, will pass it.

Our foreign policy will not change a whit because of Romney getting elected.

Romney’s best chance to win is by stating that he will, unlike Obama, do a Ron Paul on the budget. It will electrify conservatives, who really don’t think much of him, and inspire more independents than it will turn off.

Romney’s Veep

If I am not too late to predict by the time this comes out, I am jumping on the super-conventional bandwagon and going with Rob Portman. Here’s why – Rubio is very charming, and though I don’t think the problem regarding when his parents came to America is going to be big, but he is very young still and doesn’t have the executive experience that conservatives claim is important. But he is still my second choice. Thune has some tea party trouble (voting for TARP and a bank bailout) and has dipped into the pork barrel, plus also has no executive experience (though a decade older than Rubio); but he is my third choice. Haley (South Carolina governor) has had a sex scandal in her past (whether true or not). Jindal (Louisiana governor) doesn’t really have any sort of national following, comes from a small state and bombed out on his biggest public speech. Christie is too much of a lightning rod and may overshadow Romney. Jeb Bush is a Bush and both he and Daniels aren’t interested. That takes care of all of those who have the supposedly important executive experience (I see it as sometimes a plus, but not necessary). It would be dangerous to take a budding leader like Ryan out of congress, though he would be my choice. That leaves Rob Portman, who fits well into the Romney steady, scandal free and not unexciting requirement, among those frequently mentioned, but, we know there can always be a surprise. Romney isn’t big with surprises, so, I’m going with the consensus. Portman also has no executive experience and tries to cover it with his time in his family’s small business and a couple of years in the White House under Bush 1.

What really matters is that the VP choice doesn’t hurt too much with your own base, because no one else is going to care much at all.

And what if?

I hate to say it, but right now, Obama is still winning. I say this because he leads in virtually every single poll in swing states, the ones that really count, and is almost tied in the one or so he isn’t winning (NC). That means he wins even if he loses the popular vote.

So what happens ifhe wins? No, I do not predict the end of western civilization, but I am hopeful that the economic turn down is significant enough so that he must change his ways, even if it means angering everyone at MSNBC except Joe Scarborough. But, also, it will mean that conservatives in the Republican part will get a chance to say – see, we went with RINOs (cough, cough), I mean moderates twice and lost. Time for a real conservative.

I disagree with them that this would be their best move, but it probably will be the result.

A Flake

There was some news recently that Sarah Palin was endorsing Rep. Jeff Flake for Arizona’s other senator. Because she means ratings and circulation, the media is more interested in her endorsement than it is in the candidates themselves. I could care less one way or the other who she endorses, and find it sad that the media still pays attention.

But, I have liked Flake for a few years now since I saw him courageously take on the leaders in his own party by attacking the seniority system and on irrational earmarks. Like me, he leans libertarian, though possibly more than I do (I always say I “lean”  libertarian, partly because I have seen Libertarian (capital “L”) conventions and . . . OMG, partly because I am still working on a credible theory on what areas should government actually intervene in and also because I just hate joining or labeling myself. Anyway, back to Flake, he has been unafraid to buck his party in big votes too, and that is something that always impresses me, even when I don’t agree with the vote. He is very anti-spending and surprisingly voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (though he is very socially conservative – much more so than fellow Mormon, Mitt Romney – and has, for example, voted to amend the constitution to make marriage hetero only). His immigration bill to give citizenships to foreign students who get Ph.d’s here should pass (there should always be exceptions, of course) as soon as possible.

If not for the fact that he is a Mormon, I’d say he would have been a good choice for Romney’s Veep. Maybe next time.

Peace, y’all.


  1. I just postd a long comment and it doesnt seem to have been saved????

  2. Sounds like some reactionary political group has infected my blog with an anti-Don virus.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

My photo
I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .