Monthly Archives: August 2011

America To Rudy: Thank You

Chris Smith, writing in New York Magazine, grudgingly reminds us of Rudy Giuliani’s amazing leadership on 9/11 and the aftermath:

…What truly mattered, then and now, is that Giuliani was this city’s mayor, distilled, in all his contradictory glory, when we needed him the most: among the people in the streets fleeing the Towers’ collapse because his multimillion-dollar emergency bunker had gone down too; issuing clear-eyed calls to ­remain calm as he learned that many of his close friends had been killed; taking a brief break to hug the gay roommate who’d given him a place to sleep when his marriage fractured; condemning the barbarity of our attackers while emphasizing tolerance for Muslim New Yorkers; leading around-the-clock meetings with cops, firefighters, and federal officials to improvise an unprecedented rescue-and-recovery effort; but most of all, for speaking these words a mere five hours after the attacks: “The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ­ultimately.” Probably the city would have borne up without him. But Giuliani, showing what a leader is supposed to do in a crisis, did more than any single person to keep us together.

And a fuller treatment by Seth Mandel:

Every year around this time, as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I re-read Time Magazine’s 2001 Person of the Year profile of Rudy Giuliani​. This year, when I read it again, I found it easier to understand how as an undeclared candidate Giuliani still polls at nearly 10 percent nationally. And when I watched as our current mayor, Giuliani’s successor, did his best to look awake during press conferences about Hurricane Irene, I found it easier still.

It’s difficult to quantify the concept of “leadership.” It’s one of the reasons Giuliani had such a rough time gaining traction as a national candidate in 2008, especially since he was running seven years after the attacks. Rick Perry can talk about the jobs created in Texas during his tenure; Mitt Romney can point to executive experience with direct relevance to the country’s current challenges. But if Giuliani mentions his executive experience, he will have the “noun-verb-9/11” joke thrown in his face, as Joe Biden did in 2008. (Incidentally, I have always found it unsettling that a man who thinks 9/11 is a punch line has become our vice president.) [my emphasis] The Person of the Year article, written by Eric Pooley, begins with this:

“Sixteen hours had passed since the Twin Towers crumbled and fell, and people kept telling Rudy Giuliani to get some rest. The indomitable mayor of New York City had spent the day and night holding his town together. He arrived at the World Trade Center just after the second plane hit, watched human beings drop from the sky and — when the south tower imploded — nearly got trapped inside his makeshift command center near the site. Then he led a battered platoon of city officials, reporters and civilians north through the blizzard of ash and smoke, and a detective jimmied open the door to a firehouse so the mayor could revive his government there. Giuliani took to the airwaves to calm and reassure his people, made a few hundred rapid-fire decisions about the security and rescue operations, toured hospitals to comfort the families of the missing and made four more visits to the apocalyptic attack scene.

At 2:30 a.m., Giuliani finally got home…

With the President out of sight for most of that day, Giuliani became the voice of America. Every time he spoke, millions of people felt a little better. His words were full of grief and iron, inspiring New York to inspire the nation. “Tomorrow New York is going to be here,” he said. “And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before…I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”

The country still seems to be grateful for Giuliani’s leadership…

In politics, the American memory rarely contains more than fleeting moments and evanescent passions. But Giuliani’s heroics appear to be the exception that proves the rule. It doesn’t seem nearly enough, 10 years later, to get him elected president. But his leadership during that time shouldn’t be dismissed, either. America’s Mayor consistently gets about 10 percent of the vote–again, a decade later, and again, as an undeclared candidate. It isn’t the base of a presidential campaign, but it just might be America’s way, in whole or in part, of saying thank you–of saying: some things, we don’t forget.

And let us not forget Rudy’s singular accomplishment of yanking New York City back from the abyss by attacking the crime and squalor then strangling his city. He achieved this despite the best efforts of the extremely powerful New York liberal media and political establishment’s best efforts to stymie his efforts.

His success in transforming New York from a city people feared to enter (think of the menacing squeegy guys) to one people once again wished to live in and visit is an achievement unlike any of today’s politicians can claim.

Thank you, Rudy.

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Colin, The Moral Coward

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin with a lot more on Colin Powell’s Clintonesque performance on yesterday’s Face The Nation:

…Powell had this to say in response to Cheney’s book, which lays blame on Powell’s deputy Richard Armitage as the real leaker who revealed Plame’s identity as a CIA employee, setting off the appointment of a special prosecutor and the eventual conviction of Scooter Libby. Powell says this:

“Then [Cheney] goes on to talk about the Valerie Plame affair, and tries to lay it all off on Mister Rich Armitage in the State Department and me. But the fact of the matter is when Mister Armitage realized that he was the source for Bob Novak’s column that caused all the difficulty and he called me immediately, two days after the President launched the investigation and what we did was we called the Justice Department. They sent it over the FBI. The FBI had all the information that Mister Armitage’s participation in this immediately. And we called Al Gonzalez, the President’s counsel, and told him that we had information. The FBI asked us not to share any of this with anyone else, as did Mister Gonzalez. And so, if the White House operatives had come forward as readily as Mister Armitage had done, then we wouldn’t have gone on for two more months with the FBI trying to find out what happened in the White House. There wouldn’t have been special counsel appointed by the Justice Department who spent two years trying to get to the bottom of it. And we wouldn’t have the mess that we subsequently had. And so if the White House and the operatives in the White House and Mister Cheney’s staff and elsewhere in the White House had been as forthcoming with the FBI as Mister Armitage was, this problem would not have reached the dimensions that it reached.”

Let’s count the ways in which this is inaccurate or misleading. To begin with, Powell leaves out the critical fact: He and Armitage never told the president what Armitage had done. Instead, they sat silent as the investigation played out and others, including Karl Rove and Libby, were ensnared in an investigation for a crime that, if committed at all, was one for which Armitage should rightly have been prosecuted. Powell on Sunday slyly said they informed the attorney general that they “had information.” But they most definitely did not tell him, the president or the country that the leaker was Armitage.

The best account of this comes from Michael Isikoff, hardly a Cheney or Libby apologist. In his book, he explained what unfolded after Armitage told Powell about his role in the leak:

“The next day, a team of FBI agents and Justice prosecutors investigating the leak questioned the deputy secretary. Armitage acknowledged that he had passed along to Novak information contained in a classified State Department memo: that [ Joe] Wilson’s wife worked on weapons-of-mass-destruction issues at the CIA… [William Howard Taft IV, the State Department’s legal adviser] felt obligated to inform White House counsel Alberto Gonzales.

But Powell and his aides feared the White House would then leak that Armitage had been Novak’s source — possibly to embarrass State Department officials who had been unenthusiastic about Bush’s Iraq policy. So Taft told Gonzales the bare minimum: that the State Department had passed some information about the case to Justice. He didn’t mention Armitage.

Taft asked if Gonzales wanted to know the details. The president’s lawyer, playing the case by the book, said no, and Taft told him nothing more. Armitage’s role thus remained that rarest of Washington phenomena: a hot secret that never leaked.” [Emphasis added.]

Notice that in Isikoff’s account the FBI never told Armitage and Powell to keep quiet. No, the secrecy was their idea. Moreover, Powell states that White House aides were not “forthcoming.” We know, of course, this is false. Numerous aides were dragged into FBI interview and grand jury rooms, required to pay for counsel and, in the case of Libby, prosecuted and convicted while the actual leaker’s identity remained secret. Talk about cheap shots.

Recall how all of this played out. Armitage and Powell allowed the entire country and troops in the field to believe a lie, namely that the White House had “outed” Plame. This, aside from the galling display of moral cowardice, also put the president’s reelection in jeopardy since Democrats were all too intent on making this into a huge scandal.

The extent of the dishonesty is quite stunning. In a Cabinet meeting on October 7, 2003, the White House press corps bombarded President George W. Bush with questions about who the leaker was. Bush said he didn’t know, but there would be an investigation to get to the bottom of it. Powell, who had been told by Armitage just days earlier that Armitage was the leaker, sat there next to the president, stone silent. Not very loyal or honest, was it?

Moreover, the notion that Armitage’s slip was somehow inadvertent is belied by Bob Woodward’s taped interview in which Armitage repeatedly mentions Joe Wilson’s wife, evidently doing his best to get Plame’s identity out there. This was no slip of the tongue. Woodward testified that when he spoke to Libby sometime later that Libby never said anything about Plame.

At issue here is not simply Powell and Armitage’s deception and undermining of their commander in chief. There was a victim, one whom neither Powell or Armitage has ever apologized to. The person who ultimately paid the price for this was Scooter Libby. Had the president and the country known about Armitage, a special prosecutor would never have been appointed. Libby was eventually convicted on the basis of a he-said-he-said dispute between his recollection and that of the late Tim Russert. (Charges concerning Libby’s alleged comments to Judy Miller were dismissed, and he was acquitted on the count involving Matt Cooper.)…

Powell may be peeved at being fingered by Cheney. But on this one Cheney has him dead to rights. The Plame is a blot on his record and that of Armitage. Maybe it is time to own up and make amends rather than bristling at Libby’s former boss.

Colin, The Silent

I used to think highly of Colin Powell. I used to think he would have been much preferable to the current White House occupant as the first black president. Unlike Obama, Powell had real experience: as an army officer, a war veteran, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.

But Powell’s role in the spectacularly preposterous Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame affair should have, but has not, destroyed or even tarnished his reputation and credibility.

Why? It is an indisputable fact that Powell’s close friend and aide Richard Armitage was the source of the leak to the late Robert Novak that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, which dispatched her husband to Niger to investigate rumors that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellow cake uranium. It is an also an indisputable fact that Powell knew Armitage was the leaker, but kept silent about it while independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (who also knew Armitage was the source) went off on a very expensive and destructive fishing expedition.

Fitzgerald’s fishing trip eventually netted Cheney aide Louis Libby who was then convicted of the crime of contradicting the late Tim Russert who had previously contradicted himself, but was nonetheless believed by a jury of 12 Democrats, one of whom was Russert’s neighbor and acquaintance. How, you might ask, did the star witness’s neighbor get on the jury? Answer: The rest of the pool was worse.

Now Dick Cheney’s memoir takes Powell to task (at least someone has) for allowing the Fitzgerald-Libby travesty to go forward:

…Cheney recalls that during the CIA leak investigation, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage stayed silent: “And, it pains me to note, so did his boss, Colin Powell, whom Armitage told he was [Robert] Novak’s source on October 1, 2003. Less than a week later, … there was a cabinet meeting. … [T]he press came in for a photo opportunity, and there were questions about who had leaked the information that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. The president said he didn’t know, but wanted the truth. Thinking back, I realize that one of the few people in the world who could have told him the truth, Colin Powell, was sitting right next to him.”…

I hope, but doubt, that someone in the media will someday ask Powell to explain his behavior. I suspect his defense would be that Fitzgerald told him not to talk and he could not disobey an independent prosecutor.

Allow me to preemptively say Bullshit! No pasty-faced prosecutor would dare go after the mighty Colin Powell for refusing to enable a witch hunt when the identity of the witch was already known.

No Profits, Please

I am reading Mark Steyn’s new book After America: extremely funny and scary.

Michael Ramirez


Here’s an excerpt from his most recent column:

…The problem for the Western world is that it has incentivized nonproductivity on an industrial scale. For large numbers at the lower end of the spectrum (still quaintly referred to by British reporters as “working class”) the ritual of work – of lifetime employment as a normal feature of life – has been all but bred out by multigenerational dependency. At the upper end of the spectrum, too many of us seem to regard an advanced Western society as the geopolitical version of a lavishly endowed charitable foundation that funds somnolent programming on NPR. I was talking to a trustiefundie Vermont student the other day who informed me her ambition is to “work for a non-profit.”

“What kind of ambition is that?” I said, a little bewildered. But she meant it, and so do most of her friends. Doesn’t care particularly what kind of “non-profit” it is: As long as no profits are involved, she’s eager to run up a six-figure college debt for a piece of the non-action. The entire state of Vermont is becoming a non-profit. And so in a certain sense is an America that’s 15 trillion dollars in the hole, and still cheerfully spending away.

In between the non-profit class and the non-working class, we have diverted too much human capital into a secure and undemanding bureaucracy-for-life: President Barack Obama has further incentivized statism as a career through his education “reforms,” under which anyone who goes into “public service” will have their college loans forgiven after 10 years.

Why?

As I point out in my book, in the last six decades the size of America’s state and local government workforce has increased over three times faster than the general population. Yet Obama says it’s still not enough: The bureaucracy needs even more of our manpower. Up north, Canada is currently undergoing a festival of mawkish sub-Princess Di grief-feasting over the death from cancer of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Jack Layton’s career is most instructive. He came from a family of successful piano manufacturers – in 1887 H A Layton was presented with a prize for tuning by Queen Victoria’s daughter. But by the time Jack came along the family’s private-sector wealth-creation gene had been pretty much tuned out for good: He was a career politician, so is his wife, and his son. They’re giving him a state funeral because being chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative is apparently more admirable than being chairman of Layton Bros Pianos Ltd.

Again: Why?

The piano manufacturer pays for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, not the other way round. The private sector pays for the Vermont non-profits and the Manchester[U.K.] rioters and the entire malign alliance of the statism class and the dependency class currently crushing the Western world. America, Britain, Canada and Europe are operating on a defective business model: Not enough of us do not enough productive work for not enough of our lives. The numbers are a symptom, but the real problem, in the excuses for Manchester, in the obsequies in Ottawa, in the ambitions of Vermont, is the waste of human capital.

One “Kinky” Jewboy For Perry

Even though Kinky Friedman went to college (University of Texas, Austin) and is thus a smart guy, he supports Rick Perry:

Gary Clement

…I have been quoted as saying that when I die, I am to be cremated, and the ashes are to be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair. Yet, simply put, Rick Perry and I are incapable of resisting each other’s charm. He is not only a good sport, he is a good, kindhearted man, and he once sat in on drums with ZZ Top. A guy like that can’t be all bad. When I ran for governor of Texas as an independent in 2006, the Crips and the Bloods ganged up on me. When I lost, I drove off in a 1937 Snit, refusing to concede to Perry. Three days later Rick called to give me a gracious little pep talk, effectively talking me down from jumping off the bridge of my nose. Very few others were calling at that time, by the way. Such is the nature of winning and losing and politicians and life. You might call what Rick did an act of random kindness. Yet in my mind it made him more than a politician, more than a musician; it made him a mensch.

These days, of course, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama. Obama has done for the economy what pantyhose did for foreplay. Obama has been perpetually behind the curve. If the issue of the day is jobs and the economy, Rick Perry is certainly the nuts-and-bolts kind of guy you want in there. Even though my pal and fellow Texan Paul Begala has pointed out that no self-respecting Mexican would sneak across the border for one of Rick Perry’s low-level jobs, the stats don’t entirely lie. Compared with the rest of the country, Texas is kicking major ass in terms of jobs and the economy, and Rick should get credit for that, just as Obama should get credit for saying “No comment” to the young people of the Iranian revolution.

More to the point, could Rick Perry fix the economy? Hell, yes! Texas is exhibit A; Rick’s fingerprints are all over it. He’s been governor since Christ was a cowboy. The Lone Star State is booming. The last time I checked, Texas is kicking in a hell of a lot of the U.S. GDP. Unemployment is lower than the vast majority of the other states. Hell, we could probably even find a job for Paul Begala.

As a Jewish cowboy (or “Juusshh,” as we say in Texas), I know Rick Perry to be a true friend of Israel, like Bill Clinton and George W. before him. There exists a visceral John Wayne kinship between Israelis and Texans, and Rick Perry gets it. That’s why he’s visited Israel on many more occasions than Obama, who’s been there exactly zero times as president. If I were Obama I wouldn’t go either. His favorability rating in Israel once clocked in at 4 percent. Say what you will about the Israelis, but they are not slow out of the chute. They know who their friends are. On the topic of the Holy Land, there remains the little matter of God. God talks to televangelists, football coaches, and people in mental hospitals. Why shouldn’t he talk to Rick Perry? In the spirit of Joseph Heller, I have a covenant with God. I leave him alone and he leaves me alone. If, however, I have a big problem, I ask God for the answer. He tells Rick Perry. And Rick tells me.

So would I support Rick Perry for president? Hell, yes!

Proud But Dead Jews

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen is a British Jew who has made a reputation for himself by apologizing for Muslims and trashing both Israel and her supporters.

Cohen’s last big columnistic campaign was to convince the world that those of us who considered Iran’s mullahcracy dangerous and evil were deluded. He kept telling us that right up until the mullahs began shooting unarmed protesters in the streets of Tehran.

Any normal person might have paused and taken stock before going off on another campaign that is bound to seem counter-intuitive to the common sense community. But Cohen works for the allegedly august New York Times and timespersons never take stock even after making complete asses of themselves (see Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman, not to mention Paul Krugman).

Roger’s latest foray into illogical, French-style intellectualism so beloved of left wingers the world over is to blame Israel and its supporters for what he accurately calls “a ferocious anti-Zionism of the left” (the main non-Muslim anti-Semitism existing nowadays):

From left-wing blog Daily Kos

…Jewish identity is an intricate subject and quest. In America, because I’ve criticized Israel and particularly its self-defeating expansion of settlements in the West Bank, I was, to self-styled “real Jews,” not Jewish enough, or even — join the club — a self-hating Jew. In Britain I find myself exasperated by the muted, muffled way of being a Jew. Get some pride, an inner voice says, speak up!

But it’s complicated. Britain, with its almost 300,000 Jews and more than two million Muslims, is caught in wider currents — of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political Islam. Traditionally, England’s genteel anti-Semitism has been more of the British establishment than the British working class, whereas anti-Muslim sentiment has been more working-class than establishment.

Now a ferocious anti-Zionism of the left — the kind that has called for academic boycotts of Israel — has joined the mix, as has some Muslim [my addition: Some??] anti-Semitism. [My warning: moral equivalency ahead!] Meanwhile Islamophobia has been fanned by the rightist fabrication of the “Eurabia” specter — the fantasy of a Muslim takeover that sent Anders Breivik on his Norwegian killing spree and feeds far-right European and American bigotry [my addition: This is akin to the Paul Krugman assertion that Sarah Palin caused Jared Loughner to shoot Gabrielle Giffords].

Where then should a Jew in Britain who wants to speak up stand? Not with the Knesset members who have met in Israel with European rightists like Filip Dewinter of Belgium in the grotesque belief that they are Israel’s allies because they hate Muslims. Not with the likes of the Jewish writer Melanie Phillips, whose book “Londonistan” is a reference for the Islamophobes. Nor with those who, ignoring sinister historical echoes, propose ostracizing Israeli academics and embrace an anti-Zionism that flirts with anti-Semitism.

Perhaps a good starting point is a parallel pointed out to me by Maleiha Malik, a professor of law at King’s College London. A century ago, during the Sidney Street siege of 1911, it was the Jews of London’s East End who, cast as Bolsheviks, were said to be “alien extremists.” Winston Churchill, no less, argued in 1920 that Jews were part of a “worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development.”

The lesson is clear: Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel’s isolation and ultimately its vulnerability…

So it isn’t the Islamists and their bien pensant, leftist fellow travelers who are to blame for the Jew hatred raging among the “best and brightest” in Europe and on American university campuses. No, it’s Israel’s “continued colonization of Palestinians” and the warnings of brave journalists like Melanie Phillips and Mark Steyn who do no more than point out the obvious.

Cohen urges Jews to “get some pride and speak up,” by which he clearly means Jews should appease their enemies, slime their friends, and then commit suicide. They’ll be dead, but at least they’ll be proud.

Another example, in Orwell’s words, of an idea so stupid only an intellectual could believe it.

Too Simple For Intelligent People To Understand

David Warren, one of the best columnists in the world, on “where all this sophistication has got us”:

Glenn McCoy

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, made waves this week, upon entering the Republican presidential fray, by suggesting that Ben Bernanke, of the Federal Reserve, would be treacherous if he continued to “print money” to grease the government’s way out of the solvency crisis. Perry’s colourfully frank Texas language got him into big trouble with all the smooth people who routinely refer to politicians like him as “terrorists.”

That language may have been rather cleverly chosen, for the splash it created had two immediate political consequences, beyond persuading people who would never vote for Perry that they must never vote for Perry. First, it elbowed Ron Paul and others aside, by making Perry the “don’t print money” candidate. His Republican rivals on the tea party side are now moaning about his theft of their thunder.

Second, it puts Bernanke on the spot. For after the sympathy has evaporated for a man who has been verbally abused, he cannot go ahead with what in fact amounts to printing money, without totally identifying himself with President Barack Obama and the “stimulus” establishment. Perry has made Bernanke’s job impossible, and in present circumstances that might just be a good thing.

For generations now, governments not only in the United States have eased their way out of solvency crises by stoking inflation, and by some plausible mixture of cosmetic budget cuts and real tax increases. To do otherwise, as even the Economist now says, is to display “economic illiteracy.” Sophisticated people play with all the dials, on the economy machine, and those who refuse to touch certain dials are unsophisticated.

Observe, where all this sophistication has got us.

There are some issues that are too simple for intelligent people to understand. Most moral issues are like that. The problem isn’t distinguishing between right and wrong. That is not always as plain as day, but usually it is. The problem is finding a way to justify doing the wrong thing. And once you think you have found it, the people still arguing for doing the right thing may be dismissed as “simplistic.”

On the grand economic questions, “simplisme” has long been decried. John Maynard Keynes, a truly brilliant man, and an entertaining one with wide cultural interests, made wonderfully entertaining arguments for doing the wrong thing, many of them ingeniously counter-intuitive. “Public economists” (on the analogy of “public intellectuals”) such as John Kenneth Galbraith in the last generation, and Paul Krugman in this, stand in direct succession to him: same attitudes, same habits.

Lord Keynes’ great rival, Friedrich Hayek, exploded many of the economic fallacies upon which Keynes depended, along with many of the facts which Keynes massaged to fit his own passing needs. But Hayek’s strongest criticism is too lightly passed over. He said that Keynes was interested in economic theory only as a means to influence current policy. He had not, in fact, the “intellectual chastity” to examine anything on its own terms.

I am cumbering my column with these assertions, because they are necessary to hear. Observers are easily distracted, even intimidated, by intellectual fireworks. They are awed into a silent refusal to think things through for themselves.

Often common sense alone will guide us past intellectual impostures. But when it doesn’t, we need to know that the weight of economic literature is there; that “Keynesian economics” was exposed from the start.

So let us return to simplisme. If what we want is a functioning, even flourishing economy, and therefore jobs, jobs, jobs, then the policies of Texas make sense. They are, as Rick Perry says, low taxes, minimal regulation, the avoidance of debt, and business-friendly attitudes. It is a political culture which at least tries to focus on the political questions (law, order, and so forth), and leave economic questions to the free market (with its inevitable bulls and bears).

If what we want instead is a dysfunctional and stagnant or shrinking economy, and therefore spreading unemployment, then California’s policies are just the ticket. They are: high taxes, maximal regulation, and excruciating debt…

Smart As Dog Poop

Our Smartest President (see the book in his hand)


All of the really smart people I know (and even the really smart people I don’t know) voted for Obama because they believed him to be just like them: a really smart person. His predecessor, as all smart people will attest, was and is as dumb as dog poop.

None of these smarties really know how smart Obama is since his academic records and work are ultra, ultra secret. Somehow his very smart wife’s Princeton senior thesis got online a while ago and it proved to be semi-literate and vapid at best.

An acquaintance says Obama’s two books prove his intellectual superiority. At the risk of being labelled a Book Truther, I am skeptical. Some reckless right wingers have noted the similarity between Barry’s putative writing style and that of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. God forbid I should believe any of that, but it is interesting that no one seems to have the stomach to investigate further when you know they would be all over anything that George Bush or Ronald Reagan claimed to have written all by himself.

No, all smart people want Obama to be smart because he is our first black president and it just would not do for our first black president to be as dumb (or merely as average) as many of his predecessors were reputed to be.

It was all right for Reagan, Eisenhower, and both Bushes to be idiots or even of average intelligence though I know the smarties won’t even grant them that. Those guys are not of the persuasion that makes smart people feel morally superior (as well as smart) for supporting them. Smart people consider anyone who supported Reagan, Ike and the Bushes to be dumb and immoral.

And there is no use pointing out that nobody thought Lincoln was very smart until after he was assassinated on Good Friday (a great career move). I mean, how could somebody who got us into an “unnecessary” war that produced 620,000 dead “kids,” after which it took another hundred years to actually “free” the slaves, be considered smart? Yes, I know he wasn’t around to clean up the mess. Lincoln was perhaps dumb and lucky?

Harry Truman? I remember sitting through a lecture in an American History survey course in 1961 where (it goes without saying) the very smart professor devoted the entire hour to trashing Ole Give-‘Em-Hell Harry. How did Professor smarty know that Harry was a dummy? Harry never went to college!!!

And everybody who was around during the Eisenhower administration (well, intellectuals at least) can attest to Ike’s dimmness: His syntax was “tortured,” and all he did was play golf, although apparently not as much as the current White House inhabitant who is so smart he can be president and play golf at the same time.

As George Will says being a really smart guy is sometimes an impediment to presidential success:

Near the statehouse office of New Jersey’s 55th governor sits a sort of shrine to the 34th. Fortunately, Chris Christie is unlike Woodrow Wilson [my addition: arguably our smartest president; after all, he was a former professor].

Christie, who resembles Falstaff in girth and Jack Dempsey in pugnacity, is a visceral politician who thrives on conflict. Wilson — lean, intellectual and pious, particularly about himself [my addition: Remind you of anyone?] — regarded opposition as impious.

Wilson acquired the governorship, his first elective office, in January 1911, having learned about government mostly from books he wrote about it. (And he wrote “Congressional Government” without ever seeing Congress.) Eighteen months later he was the Democrats’ presidential nominee.

Christie’s only previous elective office was as county freeholder. But later, as the state’s only U.S. attorney, he became prominent while learning a lot about New Jersey’s gamy political culture by prosecuting some of the participants. This unsentimental political education prepared him so well for the governorship that today, in his 20th month, he is being importuned to seek the Republican presidential nomination…

Pretending We Can Go On As We Are

British columnist Janet Daley speaks hard truth to the delusional left:

Henry Payne

…The truly fundamental question that is at the heart of the disaster toward which we are racing is being debated only in America: is it possible for a free market economy to support a democratic socialist society? On this side of the Atlantic, the model of a national welfare system with comprehensive entitlements, which is paid for by the wealth created through capitalist endeavour, has been accepted (even by parties of the centre-Right) as the essence of post-war political enlightenment.

This was the heaven on earth for which liberal democracy had been striving: a system of wealth redistribution that was merciful but not Marxist, and a guarantee of lifelong economic and social security for everyone that did not involve totalitarian government. This was the ideal the European Union was designed to entrench. It was the dream of Blairism, which adopted it as a replacement for the state socialism of Old Labour. And it is the aspiration of President Obama and his liberal Democrats, who want the United States to become a European-style social democracy.

But the US has a very different historical experience from European countries, with their accretions of national remorse and class guilt: it has a far stronger and more resilient belief in the moral value of liberty and the dangers of state power. This is a political as much as an economic crisis, but not for the reasons that Mr Obama believes. The ruckus that nearly paralysed the US economy last week, and led to the loss of its AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s, arose from a confrontation over the most basic principles of American life.

Contrary to what the Obama Democrats claimed, the face-off in Congress did not mean that the nation’s politics were “dysfunctional”. The politics of the US were functioning precisely as the Founding Fathers intended: the legislature was acting as a check on the power of the executive.[my emphasis]

The Tea Party faction within the Republican party was demanding that, before any further steps were taken, there must be a debate about where all this was going. They had seen the future toward which they were being pushed, and it didn’t work. They were convinced that the entitlement culture and benefits programmes which the Democrats were determined to preserve and extend with tax rises could only lead to the diminution of that robust economic freedom that had created the American historical miracle.

And, again contrary to prevailing wisdom, their view is not naive and parochial: it is corroborated by the European experience. By rights, it should be Europe that is immersed in this debate, but its leaders are so steeped in the sacred texts of social democracy that they cannot admit the force of the contradictions which they are now hopelessly trying to evade.

No, it is not just the preposterousness of the euro project that is being exposed. (Let’s merge the currencies of lots of countries with wildly differing economic conditions and lock them all into the interest rate of the most successful. What could possibly go wrong?)

Also collapsing before our eyes is the lodestone of the Christian Socialist doctrine that has underpinned the EU’s political philosophy: the idea that a capitalist economy can support an ever-expanding socialist welfare state.

As the EU leadership is (almost) admitting now, the next step to ensure the survival of the world as we know it will involve moving toward a command economy, in which individual countries and their electorates will lose significant degrees of freedom and self-determination.

We have arrived at the endgame of what was an untenable doctrine: to pay for the kind of entitlements that populations have been led to expect by their politicians, the wealth-creating sector has to be taxed to a degree that makes it almost impossible for it to create the wealth that is needed to pay for the entitlements that populations have been led to expect, etc, etc.[my emphasis]

The only way that state benefit programmes could be extended in the ways that are forecast for Europe’s ageing population would be by government seizing all the levers of the economy and producing as much (externally) worthless currency as was needed – in the manner of the old Soviet Union.

That is the problem. So profound is its challenge to the received wisdom of postwar Western democratic life that it is unutterable in the EU circles in which the crucial decisions are being made – or rather, not being made.

The solution that is being offered to the political side of the dilemma is benign oligarchy. Ignoring national public opinion and turbulent political minorities has always been at least half the point of the EU bureaucratic putsch. But that does not settle the economic predicament.

What is to be done about all those assurances that governments have provided for generations about state-subsidised security in old age, universal health provision (in Britain, almost uniquely, completely free), and a guaranteed living standard for the unemployed?

We have been pretending – with ever more manic protestations – that this could go on for ever. Even when it became clear that European state pensions (and the US social security system) were gigantic Ponzi schemes in which the present beneficiaries were spending the money of the current generation of contributors, and that health provision was creating impossible demands on tax revenue, and that benefit dependency was becoming a substitute for wealth-creating employment, the lesson would not be learnt. We have been living on tick and wishful thinking.

So what are the most important truths we should be addressing if we are to avert – or survive – the looming catastrophe? Raising retirement ages across Europe (not just in Greece) is imperative, as is raising thresholds for out-of-work benefit entitlements.

Lowering the tax burden for both wealth-creators and consumers is essential. In Britain, finding private sources of revenue for health care is a matter of urgency.

A general correction of the imbalance between wealth production and wealth redistribution is now a matter of basic necessity, not ideological preference.

The hardest obstacle to overcome will be the idea that anyone who challenges the prevailing consensus of the past 50 years is irrational and irresponsible. That is what is being said about the Tea Partiers. In fact, what is irrational and irresponsible is the assumption that we can go on as we are.

Reduced To An Apoplectic Rage

The New York Times and the rest of the Democratic media are definitely off their meds. It’s even too much for one reasonably sane liberal, the Washington Post’s liberal columnist Charles Lane, who notes:

Michael Ramirez

…liberals are in deep, deep denial about their own incivility issues. Consider the “terrorism” analogy now being aimed at the Tea Party by Democratic members of Congress — in the acquiescent presence of the vice president, no less — and by some journalists who sympathize with the Democrats. To pick just one example of the genre, today’s New York Times carries Joe Nocera’s column, “Tea Party’s War Against America.”

According to Nocera, President Obama’s debt-ceiling deal with the Republicans violated a basic rule: “Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.” He adds: “Much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people.” These “intransigent” spending cutters were indifferent to “blowing up the country” in pursuit of their goals. They are indifferent to “inflicting more pain on their countrymen” via “the terrible toll $2.4 trillion in cuts will take on the poor and the middle class” and the extra unemployment it will bring.

I’m puzzled. The Times editorial board only recently condemned “many on the right” for “exploit[ing] the arguments of division,” and “demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats.” Right-wingers, The Times notes, “seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.”

So how can it be okay for Times columnists to demonize the Tea Party and try to persuade Americans that they are not just misguided, but the enemies of the people?…

Terrorists are people who commit acts of physical violence, or threaten them, to influence politics. Tea Party members of Congress, by contrast, ran for office, got elected, and are now casting votes in the national legislature according to what they promised and what their constituents want. In the debt-ceiling debate, they played hardball politics in pursuit of their principles, as they see them.

If there’s any violence, or threat of violence there, or any law-breaking at all — much less a “jihad,” I can’t see it.

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto explains the roots of the rage:

…”Terrorist,” “racist,” “uncivil,” “insane,” the list goes on–in this context, these words have no real meaning. They are mere epithets. The Obama presidency has reduced the liberal left to an apoplectic rage. His Ivy League credentials, superior attitude, pseudo-intellectual mien and facile adherence to lefty ideology make him the perfect personification of the liberal elite. Thus far at least, he has been an utter failure both at winning public support and at managing the affairs of the nation.

Obama’s failure is the failure of the liberal elite, and that is why their resentment has reached such intensity. Their ideas, such as they are, are being put to a real-world test and found severely wanting. As a result, their authority is collapsing. And if there is one thing they know deep in their bones, it is that they are entitled to that authority. They lash out, desperately and pathetically, because they have nothing to offer but fear and anger.