Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Pragmatist and the Messiah

The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick asks whether it would be better to have as president a power-mad pragmatist or a messianic soul-saver.

An excerpt:

…Opponents of Clinton claim that she is a soulless woman who will do whatever is necessary to have power, because she likes power and wants it. But if this is true it is hard to see why a power-hungry president is worse than a president who believes that he is the people’s redeemer. It is hard to see why a leader who wants power because she likes power is less reasonable than a president who thinks he has a right to demand that the American people follow his lead and fix their souls in the name of unity. In the former case, opposition to the leader is a policy dispute. In the latter case, it is apostasy.

When someone wants power for power’s sake, that person tends to be fairly pragmatic. In his first term of office, when former president Bill Clinton – another consummate pragmatist who liked having power – understood his wife’s healthcare plan was about to be defeated overwhelmingly by Congress, he shelved the plan and cut his losses.

A messianic wouldn’t do that. When a messianic leader is faced with failure, his tendency is to castigate the people, or his political opposition, or the media as evil and to continue on unmoved and bring his country down with him. President Woodrow Wilson’s unpopular and unsuccessful championing of US membership in the League of Nations and former president Jimmy Carter’s wooing of American enemies in the name of peace are examples of what happens when messianic redeemer types are confronted with reality.

So with this distinction between the two senators in mind, the question is, how will a President Hillary Clinton or a President Barack Obama respond after being shown that appeasement of the Palestinians has once again failed and that appeasement or deterrence of the Iranian regime has also failed once again? Given their distinct emotional makeup, it can be assumed that Obama will argue that reality is wrong and continue on – Carter-like – into the abyss and drag his country and Israel down with him. Acting in a Clinton-like way, Clinton on the other hand, would be more likely to pick a fight with Serbia – or call for a federal ban on chewing tobacco in a bid to change the subject.

What is most interesting about the danger that Obama constitutes for Israel is how un-unique it is. It is no different than the danger the prospect his presidency constitutes for America. The reason that pseudo-realist Israel bashers [Zbigniew Brzezinski] and messianic peace mongering Israel bashers [Jimmy Carter] support Obama is because they naturally gravitate towards a man on a mission to save the free world from itself.

An empowered, free citizenry will question the realism behind their decision to pretend that the global jihad is the figment of the Jewish lobby’s imagination. A cowed, on its way to being redeemed by Obama’s cult of personality citizenry will be in no position to argue with them.

The same is as true of domestic issues as it is of foreign policy. When the Obama/Clinton tax hikes and economic protectionism exacerbate the current US recession, under an Obama presidency, rather than debating the merits of the administration’s failed economic policies, the American people will be told that they need to have more “discussions” about race to remind them how mean they are and how much they are in need of President Obama’s spiritual healing. If they are again attacked by jihadists, they will be lectured by Rev. Wright’s longtime follower, their president, about how black enslavement, his white grandmother, Israel, anti-abortion senators and their own “cynicism” played a role in convincing the jihadists to kill innocents.

US Jews have always had a weakness for messianic leaders and movements. Sometimes, as in the case of the civil rights movement, that tendency towards utopianism has had good results. More often it has not. In the current presidential race, American Jews, like all their fellow Americans, would be wise to consider if they are truly ready to accept Obama as their savior.

Free the Organs! Death to Heteronormative Structures!

From the Wall Street Journal’s “Notable and Quotable,” we have further confirmation of the truth of Orwell’s line that, “There are some ideas so stupid, only an intellectual would believe them. No ordinary person could.”:

From “Shvarts Explains Her ‘Repeated Self-Induced Miscarriages,'” an op-ed in Friday’s Yale Daily News by Aliza Shvarts. The author was defending her controversial senior art project, a performance piece in which, over a period of months, she claimed to have repeatedly inseminated herself and then terminated each pregnancy by ingesting an abortifacient.

It is the intention of this piece to destabilize the locus of that authorial act, and in doing so, reclaim it from the heteronormative structures that seek to naturalize it.

As an intervention into our normative understanding of “the real” and its accompanying politics of convention, this performance piece has numerous conceptual goals. The first is to assert that often, normative understandings of biological function are a mythology imposed on form. It is this mythology that creates the sexist, racist, ableist, nationalist and homophobic perspective, distinguishing what body parts are “meant” to do from their physical capability. The myth that a certain set of functions are “natural” (while all the other potential functions are “unnatural”) undermines that sense of capability, confining lifestyle choices to the bounds of normatively defined narratives. . . .

When considering my own bodily form, I recognize its potential as extending beyond its ability to participate in a normative function. While my organs are capable of engaging with the narrative of reproduction — the time-based linkage of discrete events from conception to birth — the realm of capability extends beyond the bounds of that specific narrative chain. These organs can do other things, can have other purposes, and it is the prerogative of every individual to acknowledge and explore this wide realm of capability.

The Doctor and the Weatherman

Jennifer Rubin cites John McCain’s comment on Obama and his Weatherman buddy, Bill Ayers:

…Because if you’re going to associate and have as a friend and serve on a board and have a guy kick off your campaign that says he’s unrepentant, that he wished bombed more — and then, the worst thing of all, that, I think, really indicates Senator Obama’s attitude, is he had the incredible statement that he compared Mr. Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist, with Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Coburn, a physician who goes to Oklahoma on the weekends and brings babies into life — comparing those two — I mean, that’s not –that’s an attitude, frankly, that certainly isn’t in keeping with the overall attitude… And it’s very insulting to a great man, a great doctor, a great humanitarian, to compare to him with a guy who says, after 2001, I wish we had bombed more. . . But how can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings which could have or did kill innocent people…”

And he wasn’t buying Obama’s excuse that he was only eight at the time of the bombings:

“…But he became friends with him and spent time with him while the guy was unrepentant over his activities as a member of a terrorist organization, the Weathermen. I don’t — and then to compare him with Dr. Tom Coburn, who spends so much of his life bringing babies into this world — that, in my view is really — borders on outrageous.”

You Don't Need A Weatherman

One of Barack Obama’s most irritating tricks is the use of illogical moral equivalency in defense of the indefensible. Thus, the loony Jeremiah Wright is somehow equivalent to both Geraldine Ferraro and Obama’s own grandmother. He did it again the other night by equating “weatherman” Bill Ayers with Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.

Writing in The Hill, Byron York explains:

If we’re judged by those with whom we associate, here’s a question:

Would you rather be associated with a ’60s radical who plotted to bomb the Pentagon and to this day believes, as he said a few years ago, “I don’t regret setting bombs; I feel we didn’t do enough,” or would you rather be associated with — slight pause, please — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)?

That was the rather bizarre scenario raised by Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) at Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Obama about Obama’s relationship with William Ayers, the unrepentant former member of the Weather Underground.

“An early organizing meeting for your state Senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly,” Stephanopoulos said to Obama. “Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won’t be a problem?”

At first Obama downplayed his connection with Ayers. “This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received an official endorsement from,” Obama said. “He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis.”

Then Obama downplayed the question’s relevance. “The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense.”

And then, the Coburn Card.

“The fact is that I’m also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate,” Obama said, “who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

“Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn’s statements? Because I certainly don’t agree with those, either.”

Where to start?

Well, Coburn is ardently anti-abortion. So much so that he once said, during his 2004 Senate campaign, “I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life.”

It’s a far-out position. But note a couple of things. Coburn also said in the campaign that he realizes abortion is not, you know, against the law. And he does not support the death penalty for people who haven’t broken the law and who haven’t received due process if they have.

“I understand what the law is,” Coburn said during the 2004 campaign. “My hope would be that we would get back to a time when we recognize the value of life, and I think we’re not.”

Now, that’s still an out-there position. Coburn’s dream is not going to happen.

But wouldn’t Coburn be more comparable to Ayers if he, Coburn, had bombed abortion clinics in the past — and then said that he not only did not regret bombing the clinics but wished that he had done more? And then, after bombing abortion clinics and refusing to express regret, he held a political event in his home for Barack Obama, which Obama attended?

And if all that had happened, would Obama say it wasn’t a problem because Coburn had bombed those clinics a long time ago, when Obama was just 8 years old?

Do you believe that would endear Obama to voters in the Democratic primaries?

As it was, Obama used his Senate colleague Coburn to suggest that the issue was not one of violence, and radicalism, and lawbreaking, but rather a simple disagreement: Sen. Coburn and I disagree on some things, and yet we’re still friendly. Bill Ayers and I disagree on some things, and yet we’re still friendly. So what’s the problem?

Click here for more on moral equivalency and double standards.

Yummy!

I have a weakness for The Divine Miss C who, in my book, is the second funniest, second liveliest columnist writing today. (Mark Steyn is first.)

Here’s some of this week’s column:

The Democrats’ “Fake-Out America” adviser, Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff, must be beside himself. Despite Lakoff’s years spent training Democrats to “frame” their language to stop scaring Americans, B. Hussein Obama was caught on tape speaking candidly to other liberals in San Francisco last week.

One minute Obama was bowling in Pennsylvania with nice, ordinary people wearing “Beer Hunter” T-shirts, and the next thing you know, he was issuing a report on the psychological traits of normal Americans to rich liberals in San Francisco.

Obama informed the San Francisco plutocrats that these crazy working-class people are so bitter, they actually believe in God! And not just the 12-step meeting, higher power, “as you conceive him or her to be” kind of God. The regular, old-fashioned, almighty sort of “God.”

As Obama put it: “(T)hey get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The rich liberals must have nearly fainted at the revelation that the denizens of small towns in Pennsylvania have absolutely no concern for the rich’s ability to acquire servants from Mexico at a reasonable price.

We don’t know much about Obama’s audience, other than that four fundraisers were held on April 6 at the homes of San Francisco’s rich and mighty, such as Alex Mehran, an Iranian who went into daddy’s business and married an IBM heiress, and Gordon Getty, heir to the Getty Oil fortune.

It is not known whether any of Getty’s three illegitimate children attended the Obama fundraiser — which turned out to be more of a McCain fundraiser — but photos from the event indicate that there were a fair number of armed (and presumably bitter) policemen providing security for the billionaire’s soiree.

In 1967, Gordon sued his own father to get his hands on money from the family trust — and lost. So Gordon Getty knows from bitter. It’s a wonder he hasn’t turned to guns, or even to immigrant-bashing. God knows (whoever he is) there are enough of them working on his home.

These are the sort of well-adjusted individuals to whom Obama is offering psychological profiles of normal Americans, including their bizarre theories about how jobs being sent to foreign countries and illegal-alien labor undercutting American workers might have something to do with their own economic misfortunes.

It’s going to take a lot of “framing” for Democrats to recast Obama’s explanation to San Francisco cafe society that gun ownership and a belief in God are the byproducts of a psychological disorder brought on by economic hardship.

It is an article of faith with the Democrats that they must fool Americans by simulating agreement with normal people. The winner of the Democratic primary is always the candidate who does the best impersonation of an American.

But then, after all their hard work making believe they’re into NASCAR and God, some Democrat invariably slips and lets us know it’s all a big fake-out. They’re like a gay guy trying to act straight who accidentally refers to Brad Pitt as “yummy!”

What's The Matter With The Jews?

Like Barack Obama, who criticized small-town working people for voting “against their interests,” I spend a lot of time pondering the same thing about my fellow Jews. The paradox was probably best expressed by the late Milton Himmelfarb who wrote, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” As Stephen Miller wrote in Himmelfarb’s obituary in the New York Sun:

…It was a nice way of formulating the paradox that Jews are perhaps the only significant ethnic group in America not to have become more conservative in its voting patterns as it climbed the economic ladder. In a 1989 essay, Himmelfarb somewhat peevishly labeled them “diehard conservatives” for refusing to vote against Democrats, even when confronted by a presidential candidate like Jesse Jackson, whom a majority of Jews considered an outright anti-Semite.”All that education must have addled their faculties,” Himmelfarb wrote.

After all, the Democratic Party is the party of employees, while Jews are, in comparison to other groups, largely employers. The Democratic Party is the party of wealth-redistribution, while Jews are largely the victims (not the beneficiaries) of wealth-redistribution. The Democrats are the party of racial quotas, which requires discrimination against, disproportionately, Jews (and Asians).

But unlike Obama’s imagined working class Pennsylvanians, Jews are not made “bitter” by any of that. Is it because “conservatives,” and fundamentalist Christians who usually vote Republican are seen by Jews as anti-Semitic and thus a Jewish vote for a Republican is a vote for Jew-haters?

But most Jews are unfazed by the demonstrable fact that conservatives and fundamentalist Christians support Jewish interests and Israel, while the “intellectual class” and blacks are both the most loyal Democratic voters and the most anti-Semitic, anti-Israel groups in the country.

Here’s my theory: Jewish fear and distrust of Christians has become hard-wired in Jewish DNA. Jews cannot comprehend nor will they accept that today’s devout American Christians, while not perfect, are not the same as the European pogromists. And Jews are definitely in denial of the large percentage (one in three) of virulently anti-Semitic black Americans.

Isaac Bashevis Singer once observed that all Jews consider themselves “intellectuals.” This explains why Jews reflexively subscribe to the intellectual class’s quasi-Marxist, pacifist ideology embodied by today’s Democratic Party.

Perhaps one can say about Jews what I. B. Singer once said about Irving Howe:

A wonderful man Irving Howe. He’s done so much for literature and for me. But he’s not a youngster anymore, and still, still with this socialist meshugas!

Deconstructing Our False Consciousness

George Will, at his best, places in its proper historical context Obama’s (and the Democrats’) condescension toward the benighted masses:

…By [his San Francisco remarks] , Obama … fulfill[s] liberalism’s transformation since Franklin Roosevelt. What had been under FDR a celebration of America and the values of its working people has become a doctrine of condescension toward those people and the supposedly coarse and vulgar country that pleases them.

When a supporter told Adlai Stevenson, the losing Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, that thinking people supported him, Stevenson said, “Yes, but I need to win a majority.” When another supporter told Stevenson, “You educated the people through your campaign,” Stevenson replied, “But a lot of people flunked the course.” Michael Barone, in “Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan,” wrote: “It is unthinkable that Roosevelt would ever have said those things or that such thoughts ever would have crossed his mind.” Barone added: “Stevenson was the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a celebrator of middle-class American culture — the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting.”

Stevenson, like Obama, energized young, educated professionals for whom, Barone wrote, “what was attractive was not his platform but his attitude.” They sought from Stevenson “not so much changes in public policy as validation of their own cultural stance.” They especially rejected “American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States was specially good and decent,” rather than — in Michelle Obama’s words — “just downright mean.”

The emblematic book of the new liberalism was “The Affluent Society” by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. He argued that the power of advertising to manipulate the bovine public is so powerful that the law of supply and demand has been vitiated. Manufacturers can manufacture in the American herd whatever demand the manufacturers want to supply. Because the manipulable masses are easily given a “false consciousness” (another category, like religion as the “opiate” of the suffering masses, that liberalism appropriated from Marxism), four things follow:

First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats. [emphasis added]

The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who died in 1970 but whose spirit still permeated that school when Obama matriculated there in 1981. Hofstadter pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims — the indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss rather than refute those with whom you disagree.

Obama’s dismissal is: Americans, especially working-class conservatives, are unable, because of their false consciousness, to deconstruct their social context and embrace the liberal program. Today that program is to elect Obama, thereby making his wife at long last proud of America.

Hofstadter dismissed conservatives as victims of character flaws and psychological disorders — a “paranoid style” of politics rooted in “status anxiety,” etc. Conservatism rose on a tide of votes cast by people irritated by the liberalism of condescension.

Obama voiced such liberalism with his “bitterness” remarks to an audience of affluent San Franciscans. Perfect.

When Democrats convened in San Francisco in 1984, en route to losing 49 states, Jeane Kirkpatrick — a former FDR Democrat then serving in the Cabinet of another such, Ronald Reagan — said “San Francisco Democrats” are people who “blame America first.” Today, they blame Americans for America being “downright mean.”

The paragraph emphasized above perfectly expresses the meaning of today’s liberalism. The point about Stevenson (and Galbraith) is on the mark. Stevenson was charming and witty which, along with his snobbishness, especially appealed to those who saw themselves as the enlightened class, as opposed to the uneducated working class.

Will doesn’t mention Hofstadter’s influential book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life which examined the proposition that Americans under-appreciate intellectuals. It’s true that ordinary Americans don’t revere intellectuals as the Europeans do, a characteristic which is probably the single most significant reason for America’s enduring success.

The Politics of Meaning on Steroids

Excellent piece by Peter Wehner on Obama’s arrogance:

…Beneath the enormous charm and cool persona of Obama beats the heart of an arrogant man. With increasing frequency, the 46-year-old one-term senator from Illinois orates as though he resides at Olympian Heights. By his presumptuous demeanor, he suggests that he sees what no one else sees, and can do what no other person can do; he is America’s healing balm.

Even his efforts at damage control radiate arrogance. Speaking in Muncie, Indiana, after the story broke, Obama said “Lately, there has been a little, typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my home town in Illinois who are bitter.”

The flare-up, you see, happened because Obama is the Great Truth-Teller amidst the masses, many of whom can’t handle the truth. Once it dawned on Obama’s aides that expediency demanded an apology, the Senator offered a qualified mea culpa: “Obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that.”

So if Senator Obama worded things in a way that made people feel offended (rather than worded things in a way that is offensive), well, he regrets that.

…On a deeper level, what we saw in Obama’s comments is a glimpse into a particular worldview, one that animates his political philosophy (contemporary liberalism). Senator Obama seems to view ordinary Americans as bitter, often broken, small-minded objects of pity rather than anger, ostensibly in need of instruction from — you guessed it — Barack Obama. The words of Michelle Obama are worth recalling in this context. She has spoken about her husband pushing us out of our “comfort zones,” saying “Barack knows at some level there is a hole in our souls” and “Barack is the only person in this race who understands that before we can work on the problems as a nation, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.”

This is the Politics of Meaning on steroids. If one views Americans as fundamentally needy children rather than competent citizens, one embraces the precepts of the nanny state — the state that (in Margaret Thatcher’s memorable phrase) takes too much from you in order to do too much for you.

What's The Matter With Pennsylvania?

As usual, the Wall Street Journal editorial page captures the significance of Obama’s remarks to a group of rich San Francisco Democrats:

This has been a long Presidential campaign, but often usefully so. The Democratic Party fight is helping us learn that there’s more to Barack Obama than the eloquent, post-partisan, disciplined purveyor of “hope” that he typically projects.

There’s also the Barack Obama who attended Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s (“God d— America”) church for 20 years, the one who emerged from the Chicago Democratic machine with friends like Tony Rezko, the one with the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate, and now we learn the one with a Harvard-eye view of American angst.

…As political psychoanalysis, [Obama’s remarks represent] … what they believe in Cambridge and Hyde Park. Guns and God are the opiate of the masses, who are being gulled by Karl Rove and rich Republicans. If only they embraced their true economic self-interest, these pure saps wouldn’t need religion and they wouldn’t dislike non-white immigrants.

Mr. Obama’s unreflective condescension is reminiscent of the famous 1993 Washington Post article that described evangelical Christians as “poor, undereducated and easy to command.” And the fact that he said it so naturally in front of a San Francisco crowd suggests that this is what he may truly believe. This is Mr. Obama’s inner Mike Dukakis.

It’s not just Obama and Mike Dukakis; it’s the entire Democratic Party: the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, Jimmy Carter and the entire wad of lefties who think the Enlightenment dawned in 1967.

Obama's Other "Spiritual" Mentors

Power-Line links to two pieces on Obama’s other bigoted “spiritual mentors.”

An excerpt from Christopher Hitchens’ piece:

Here is the form that [Wright’s ]”retirement” will take: a $1.6 million home, purchased in the name of his church and consisting of more than 10,000 square feet, in a gated community in Tinley Park, a prosperous white section of the city. There used to be a secularist line about fat shepherds and thin sheep, but the joke here is not just at the expense of a man who never pretended to be much more than a hustler. The joke is on those of the “flock” who tithed themselves to achieve this level of comfort for a man who must be pinching himself when he wakes up every day.

But, then, so must the Rev. Al Sharpton, routinely described by the New York Times as “the civil rights activist,” be pinching himself each morning. By evening, after all, several limos will have arrived to transport him to several studios where he will be flattered and taken seriously. And this enviable existence is watched with avaricious jealousy by more junior practitioners, like the raving Rev. James Meeks of Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church, who may not yet be quite ready for prime time, and by the members of Louis Farrakhan’s racist and sectarian crew, who affect to think that Christianity is a slave religion and that white people are the products of a laboratory experiment gone wrong.

The thing that this gaggle of cranks and parasites has in common is the extreme deference with which it is treated by the junior senator from Illinois. In April 2004, Barack Obama told a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times that he had three spiritual mentors or counselors: Jeremiah Wright, James Meeks, and Father Michael Pfleger—for a change of pace, a white Catholic preacher who has a close personal feeling for the man he calls (as does Obama) Minister Farrakhan. This crossover stuff is not as “inclusive” as it might be made to seem: Meeks’ main political connections in the white community are with the hysterically anti-homosexual wing of the Christian right. If Obama were to be read a list of the positions that his clerical supporters take on everything from Judaism to sodomy, he would be in the smooth and silky business of “distancing” from now until November. And that is why he hopes that his Philadelphia speech, which dissociated him from everything and nothing, will be enough. He seems, indeed, to have a real gift for remaining adequately uninformed about the real beliefs of his “mentors.”