Thursday, June 25, 2015


So the Supreme Court, by 6-3, with Chief Justice Roberts himself writing for the majority, has told us that exchanges "established by the state" really meant "established by the state or the federal government."

We didn't foresee this outcome.  Roberts has doubled down on his amazing 2012 Obamacare decision in which he proclaimed the federal penalty assessed on those who failed to register for Obamacare was a (constitutional) tax, not a(n unconstitutional) fine, even though the federal government had argued the opposite.

In 2012, Roberts also went with a different majority in the same decision to rule that the federal government could not force the states to expand Medicaid by threatening to withhold Medicaid funding unless the states followed federal orders.  Obamacare was, as we earlier wrote, supposed to employ a "carrot and stick" approach to push states into running Obamacare at the state exchange level.  Medicaid subsidies would be withheld from state programs that failed to expand health coverage.  And individual subsidies, the "carrots," would go only to state exchanges, meaning residents of states that didn't sign up would lose out entirely on the subsidies.

Roberts screwed up the 2012 plan by 1) preserving Obamacare, but 2) denying the federal government the power to force states to expand Medicaid.  Most states, no longer concerned about losing Medicaid funding, decided not to bother with Obamacare, and specifically with creating state exchanges.  So by this year, 6.3 million people -- those living in states with no exchanges partly because Roberts in 2012 had taken away the federal power to force Medicaid expansion -- faced losing their subsidies entirely.

Now Roberts has doubled down on his 2012 decision by saving Obamacare once again.  He did so, in part because 1) his saving the program in 2012 led to those 6.3 million people gaining federal subsidies, and 2) his taking away the federal power to cut off Medicaid funding to states that didn't expand Medicaid had led to states not creating their own exchanges, when the original legislation had envisioned the states would, since they would have had to expand Medicaid anyway.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

U.S. moving past “hard work” and “personal responsibility”?

A century ago, the European-dominated world of empires run by constitutional monarchs self-destructed in the Great War (1914-18). That system had kept peace in the century following the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Europe’s collapse led to America’s democracy and leading economy taking center stage from the 1920s on, and following its “arsenal of democracy” leadership of the Allies’ World War II victory, the United States achieved unparalleled strength with half the world’s GNP as it ruled the Free World. It was the Fifties.

In the following decade, the horror of Vietnam--our own “Great War”-like disaster--underpinned the “triple revolution” of civil rights, sexual freedom, and women’s rights that transformed American life. Besides Vietnam, the U.S. lived through black-led demonstrations and riots and “the Pill”-engendered sexual revolution, while Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique launched women’s liberation. These revolutions have been with us for fifty years now.

Andrew Hartman, a historian at Illinois State University, has in A War for the Soul of America sought to put the culture wars -- much discussed here -- into perspective. Hartman, reviewer Tod Lindberg in the conservative Wall Street Journal tells us, documents the political and intellectual clashes beginning in the 1960s that pitted left-wing intellectuals and activists seeking fundamental social change against conservative counterparts protecting “normative America,” Hartman’s phrase for
an inchoate group of assumptions and aspirations shared by millions of Americans during the postwar years. Normative America prized hard work, personal responsibility, individual merit, delayed gratification, social mobility and other values that middle-class whites recognized as their own.
Hartman wrote these values included a preference for men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, sexual discretion, and faith in God and American exceptionalism.

Hartman describes “normative America” undergoing a comprehensive challenge from alienated, excluded people devoted to “a nation more open to new peoples, new ideas, new norms.” To Hartman, the “culture wars” began because conservatives fought back in defense of “normative America.”

Lindberg, the reviewer, believes
Hartman is correct to say that the “culture wars compelled Americans, even conservatives, to acknowledge transformations to American life” and to resign themselves to these changes if not to accept them. On matters such as women’s rights, gay rights and exclusionary freedom of association, conservative polemicists of the early years of the culture wars took positions few conservatives would take today.
Lindberg acknowledges “the New Left” got what it wanted: an America more open to “new ideas” and “new norms.” But Lindberg feels the 1960s and 1970s radicals had a greater goal. They sought to discredit the values of middle-class America once and for all. In Lindberg’s eyes,
“Normative America” still prizes “hard work” and “personal responsibility” but now also prizes diversity and expanded opportunities for minorities. . . the biggest deficiency of A War for the Soul of America [is] its lack of sympathy for . . . “normative America.” As George Orwell once famously wrote, “it is possible to be a normal decent person and yet to be fully alive.” [T]he New Left’s view [is] that normal decent persons, in their collectivity, represent a repressive force.
Kyle Smith, in the New York Post, speaks for many conservatives in discussing what the “new norms” mean for our culture:
  • what comes along with this mass departure of moral judgment from public life? 
  • Is it morally acceptable . . . to spark up a joint every day at lunch? 
  • Does being a good and tolerant citizen mean you should shrug when a person chooses to spend his life wasted? 
  • Consider the amazing turnaround in people’s views of single parenthood. As of 2002, only 45% of Americans thought it was “morally acceptable” to have a child outside of wedlock. Today it’s 61%. 
  • And yet, concurrent with that shift in opinion, it’s become obvious that whether or not it’s “morally” wrong to have a kid without being married, it’s undoubtedly bad for that kid. . . if you’re a child growing up in what was once called a broken home you’re six or seven times as likely to witness domestic violence as those brought up by married parents.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fearing Marco Rubio

“A Hillary Clinton match-up with Marco Rubio is a scary thought for Democrats,”

--New York Times, May 22, 2015

We just speculated that progressives may want an alternative to Hillary in next year’s battle for the White House. Hillary’s big problem, noted earlier here, is people don’t trust her.

The Quinnipiac Poll is a blog favorite, because it rightly considers Pennsylvania, along with Florida and Ohio, one of three swing states that could well decide the 2016 election. And Quinnipiac yesterday reported that in these three swing states, those polled found Clinton not honest and trustworthy.   Florida voters say no by 51–43%, Ohio voters by 53–40% and Pennsylvania voters by 54–40%.

If Clinton, as the New York Times suggested, is particularly concerned about facing Rubio in 2016, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll Peter Brown brought additional bad news to Clinton’s doorstep. Brown noted,
It’s a long way until Election Day, but in the critical swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has a tiny edge over the GOP field.
According to Quinnipiac, Rubio trails Clinton by only 47-44% in Florida and 45-42% in Ohio, and beats Clinton in Pennsylvania 44-43%.

As Brown indicated, Republican rivals along with Clinton worry about Rubio. Conservative John Podhoretz, in the New York Post, writes:
Ever get the feeling the candidate who is making other candidates worry the most is Marco Rubio? Your feeling is on the money. As the debates get closer, you can be sure that if Rubio remains at or near the top of the leader board, [GOP] rivals will target him before anyone else — with particular emphasis on his immigration-liberalization flip-flop.
What makes Rubio so frightening to others is, simply, that he is a freakishly gifted politician — and a daring one. He chose to challenge the sitting governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2009 when Crist was at 60% in the polls and he was at 3% — and not only knocked Crist out of the GOP race but then beat him by 20 points when Crist ran as an independent in the general election. It was an unprecedented triumph, like a rookie pitcher winning 25 games, and only another politician knows just how seriously he must take a rival like that.
Jeb Bush, I believe, is “another politician” who takes Rubio seriously; so seriously, in fact, that Bush launched his presidential campaign way last December, hoping to head Rubio off while Marco was still weighing whether in 2016 to go for the presidency or run for senatorial re-election.

Podhoretz ends by suggesting Rubio’s political skills truly set him apart:
here’s the real thing about Rubio. I’ve listened to him and watched him talk, both in private sessions and on the Senate floor in speeches you can see on YouTube. He is, without question, the most naturally gifted off-the-cuff political speaker I have ever seen.
Returning to Democrat worries, liberal concern about the Hispanic Florida senator recently drew the attention of conservative Jack Kelly. In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Kelly discusses the New York Times’ recent, strained effort to tear down Rubio, an effort likely motivated by fear:
Marco Rubio has gotten four traffic tickets since 1997, the NY Times reported June 5. One every four to five years may be below average for Florida. So [the NY Times] beefed up their story by adding in the 13 tickets his wife got[!]
Rubio’s “luxury speedboat”
Rubio paid off his student loans and mortgages with proceeds from a book advance. But he also, frowned the NY Times, “splurged on an extravagant purchase: $80,000 for a luxury speedboat" [see picture].
Kelly doesn’t think the NY Times' deep interest in Rubio’s driving and finances has hurt Marco at all:
The smears boosted [Rubio’s] fundraising, created sympathy for him among Republicans, making it more likely they’ll nominate the person Democrats fear most. The fail has been so epic that MSNBC talk show host Chris Hayes suspects the stories were planted by Rubio’s staff. Other GOP contenders are green with envy. What can they do, they wonder, to get the NY Times. . . to smear them? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hillary as Nixon

In a noteworthy column entitled, “Hillary Milhous Clinton,” progressive-socialist Evan Thomas compared Hillary’s “resentful, suspicious attitude toward the press” to that of Richard Nixon. Whoa!

Thomas added that:
Like Nixon, she sees enemies everywhere. Like Nixon, she is guarded and secretive. Nixon was, by his own description, an introvert in an extrovert’s business. Hillary is not painfully shy like Nixon, but she hardly comes across as a politician who loves people. Reporters who have long covered the Clintons note that . . . Hillary prefers to stay holed up in the waiting room for as long as possible.
Thomas elaborated, writing:
We have now been watching Mrs. Clinton on the national stage for more than two decades, since at least 1992 when her husband first ran for president. If you think that past is prologue, there is every reason to believe that President Hillary Clinton would spend her presidency lashing out at her enemies as she ducks small scandals and possibly large ones. She would be aggrieved and dodgy.
[She displays] Nixonian tendencies to try to stonewall and cover up. Her handling of the Clinton Foundation and email controversies is right out of the Nixon play book: Treat every new revelation as old news, attack the messenger as biased, reveal only what you have to—the old “modified, limited hangout,” in the parlance of Nixon aide John Ehrlichman.
[A President Clinton] will be easily aggrieved and suspicious about the media. She will be self-righteous about her own essential goodness. She will have a sharp temper, though she will tolerate her husband’s excesses. She will run an aggressive PR operation that will stonewall as long as possible.
Thomas concludes that “Nixon’s downfall was predictable,” with personality flaws “well known before he was elected. So are Hillary’s.”  

So are Hillary’s!

Tom Galvin, a former reporter for the liberal New York Daily News, seconds Thomas’ comparison of Hillary to Nixon:
there’s just always been something awkward about her relationship with the American electorate. [After] “Tricky Dick” . . . re-emerged in 1968 he was the “New Dick.” And that lasted just long enough for his paranoia, and darker angels, to resurface. No one ever doubted Nixon’s strategic brilliance, his understanding of power politics and ability to navigate policy issues. But he was an awkward, and ultimately, untrusted figure. Hillary Clinton is edging dangerously close to this narrative.
Liberals comparing Hillary to Nixon seems not-so-subtle longing for an alternative.

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 1215: King John Signs Magna Carta

Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European Parliament for the Conservative Party, reminds us why Magna Carta is so important today:
Eight hundred years ago. . . on a reedy stretch of riverbank in southern England, the most important bargain in the history of the human race was struck. I realize that’s a big claim, but in this case, only superlatives will do. As Lord Denning, the most celebrated modern British jurist put it, Magna Carta was “the greatest constitutional document of all time, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”
It was at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, that the idea of the law standing above the government first took contractual form. King John accepted that he would no longer get to make the rules up as he went along. From that acceptance flowed, ultimately, all the rights and freedoms that we now take for granted: uncensored newspapers, security of property, equality before the law, habeas corpus, regular elections, sanctity of contract, jury trials.
Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter.” It was so named [only] because it was long. Yet, almost immediately, the document began to take on a political significance that justified the adjective in every sense.
Magna Carta instituted a form of conciliar rule that was to develop directly into the Parliament that meets at Westminster today. As the great Victorian historian William Stubbs put it, “the whole constitutional history of England is little more than a commentary on Magna Carta.”
Magna Carta has always been a bigger deal in the U.S.[, however.] As early as 1637, Maryland sought permission to incorporate Magna Carta into its basic law, and the first edition of the Great Charter was published on American soil in 1687 by William Penn, who explained that it was what made Englishmen unique. . . “in England, each man hath a fixed Fundamental Right born with him, as to freedom of his person and property in his estate, which he cannot be deprived of, but either by his consent, or some crime, for which the law has imposed such a penalty or forfeiture.”
In [England], it was thought of, above all, as a guarantor of parliamentary supremacy; in the New World, it was already coming to be seen as something that stood above both Crown and Parliament. . .The concept of “no taxation without representation” was not an abstract principle. It could be found, rather, in Article 12 of the Great Charter: “No scutage or aid is to be levied in our realm except by the common counsel of our realm.” In 1775, Massachusetts duly adopted as its state seal a patriot with a sword in one hand and a copy of Magna Carta in the other.
Magna Carta initiated. . . constitutional government. . . “freedom under law.”
Above the king brooded something more powerful yet—something you couldn’t see or hear or touch or taste but that bound the sovereign as surely as it bound the poorest wretch in the kingdom. That something was what Magna Carta called “the law of the land."
Ilya Shapiro and Josh Blackman recently filed a brief on the Cato Institute’s behalf in King v. Burwell, the upcoming Supreme Court case that will determine whether Obamacare must follow a law that provides recipients of Obamacare subsidies must be enrolled through an exchange “established by a state.” Can the executive unilaterally re-write a congressional act? In discussing their brief, Shapiro and Blackman referred to the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, pointing out that
in disputes between the political branches; the judiciary. . . provides the ultimate safeguard of the separation of powers. Or, as Justice Robert Jackson put it [rebuking] President Truman ’s [1952] unilateral seizure of steel mills: “With all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the Executive be under the law, and that the law be made by parliamentary deliberations. Such institutions may be destined to pass away. But it is the duty of the Court to be last, not first, to give them up.”
Shapiro and Blackman recognize an independent judiciary must exist if the executive branch is to be checked. The legislature -- unlike England’s all-powerful parliament -- can’t do it alone.

As George Will explains in the Washington Post:
Magna Carta led to parliamentary supremacy (over the sovereign — the king or queen) but not to effective limits on government. The importance of the document was its assertion that the sovereign’s will could be constrained.
Magna Carta acknowledged no new individual rights. Instead, it insisted, mistakenly, that it could guarantee that certain existing rights would survive “in perpetuity.” British rights exist, however, at the sufferance of Parliament. In America, rights are protected by the government’s constitutional architecture — the separation of powers and by the judicial power to stymie legislative and executive power.
Chief Justice John Marshall, writing for the court [in Marbury v. Madison], held that the law authorizing the court to compel government officials to [deliver the order of a previous administration] exceeded Congress’s enumerated powers and hence was unconstitutional.
Marbury v. Madison. . . made Feb. 24, 1803, an even more important date in the history of limited government, and hence of liberty, than June 15, 1215. . . conservatives must decide: Is majority rule or liberty — these are not synonyms, and the former can menace the latter — America’s fundamental purpose?
Comment: OK, February 24, 1803. That means I was born on the 140th anniversary of a date Will considers even more important than the day King John signed Magna Carta.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Urban dead end? Move South.

Michael Barone, in the conservative Washington Examiner, tells us that gun violence is up 60% in Baltimore so far this year compared to 2014, Homicides are up 180% in Milwaukee, 25% in St. Louis, 32% in Atlanta and 13% in New York.

Barone quotes Heather MacDonald of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who provided the above stats. MacDonald attributes the increase to “intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months,” propagated by mainstream media, the Eric Holder Justice Department and the Barack Obama White House. Together, they maintained that unarmed innocent blacks are being slaughtered by racist police. "Black lives matter," they proclaimed, as if, in MacDonald’s words, most cops believed the opposite.

To MacDonald, the problem is "offices scal[ing] back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric." Proactive "broken windows" policing --searching for guns, approaching petty criminals and catching them on possession crimes that block more serious criminal activity -- is being replaced by police non-benign neglect, even as the resulting rise in homicide victims mostly kills blacks.

Indirectly taking issue with the MacDonald/Barone hypothesis, Carl Cannon of the conservative “RealClearPolitics” website seeks to document police literally getting away with a “shoot first” culture. Cannon quotes a Washington Post study that found police shooting 385 people to death in the first five months of 2015, and details two grim cases where police unnecessarily gunned down unarmed suspects (race not specified).

Yet from Cannon’s own story, we learn that of the 385 killer cop cases nationwide, 62 involved unarmed suspects. That means 84% of those killed were armed. Additionally, of the total number of deaths, only 105, or 27%, were black, while 180 were white.

At least Cannon is honest enough to provide figures that undermine the usual “white cops killing unarmed blacks; black lives matter” meme.

Let’s say the question of police behavior -- whether damped down by anti-cop hostility to the point it’s unleashing an urban crime wave, still marked by a “shoot first” mentality, or both -- deserves further examination.

Joel Kotkin, in the liberal “Daily Beast,” is more concerned with the underlying tragedy of life -- and death -- for those forced to live in our high-crime ghettos. Kotkin says,
The most dangerous places in in the U.S. in terms of violent crime tend to be heavily black cities, led by Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis, and Cleveland. Baltimore ranks sixth. . . the average poverty rate in the historical core municipalities in the 52 largest U.S. metro areas remains at 24.1%.
neighborhoods suffering entrenched urban poverty actually grew in the first decade of the new millennium, increasing in numbers from 1,100 to 3,100 and in population from two to four million. In other words, poverty spread but also became far more intense in cities. “This growing concentration of poverty,” note urban researchers Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi, “is the biggest problem confronting American cities.”
Kotkin is worried about “a hardening of class and racial divisions.” Inner Baltimore, for example, functions as a “dead-end, a cul-de-sac for dreams of a better future.” Kotkin finds that two in five Americans feel race relations have gotten worse since Barack Obama took office; only 15% believe things are better under our first black president.

Kotkin asks, “How do we reverse this ugly trend?” His answer:
  •  an improved economy is more important than ramping up social spending. States like New York, Massachusetts, California and Illinois spend almost twice as much on welfare payments than do North Carolina, Texas, or Florida. Yet overwhelmingly the best results for blacks are found in the former Confederacy, states not known for their generosity to the poor or interest in redress by race. 
  • Blacks go South not because they like the politics but because they seek betterment. Sunbelt cities have more broad based opportunities for middle and working class residents than do the “post-industrial economies” of California and the Northeast corridor.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Government is “good and bad”. . . and necessary.

In a recent post, I said that government can be “good and bad.” That’s different from what I said elsewhere in the same post: “government is the problem.”

It may make more sense, going into the 2016 election, for Republicans to hold to the view that government can be “good and bad.” GOP guru Karl Rove is suggesting such a shift, noting that under Barack Obama, the country has become
more supportive of bigger government. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll regularly asks whether government should “do more” or whether it is “doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” In December 2009, almost a year after Mr. Obama was inaugurated, 44% said government should do more while 47% said government was doing too much. By November of last year, the first figure had risen to 52%, while the second held nearly flat at 46%.
Rove added:
the GOP can no longer take for granted the plurality of economic conservative voters. New technologies are disrupting the economy, creating anxiety among working-class Americans. Republicans must offer an agenda that improves their lives. Making the moral case for limited government and greater freedom is important, but not enough. Middle-class voters want concrete answers to real-world concerns about their paychecks, job security, high taxes, education and health care—starting with a comprehensive replacement for ObamaCare.
Rove concludes that the GOP’s 2016 campaign must pull in “millions who have not voted Republican” recently, something done by nominating a candidate who appeals beyond the base.

Former Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post in April, added specifics while making Rove’s point:
globalization and the technological revolution have made it difficult for many Americans to find dignified work, sufficient to supporting a family, particularly when they have limited skills and education. Modern capitalism has left some communities in serious need of transitional help -- and the transition may last a long time. Some type of redistribution is necessary. But it should be, in the reform conservative view, redistribution that favors work, family and the accumulation of useful skills.
Gerson is talking about government programs, necessary since
the current blue-collar and lower-middle-class economy -- because of global labor markets and automation -- cannot function in a way compatible with our conception of social justice. The main reform conservative policy responses are wage subsidies (through an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit), payroll tax cuts, apprenticeship programs, dramatic increases in the child tax credit and a welfare system that requires work in exchange for benefits.
Gerson goes so far as to say that
there is a crisis in modern capitalism. It . . . comes from the introduction of tremendous competitive pressures into the labor market. Those who lack human capital, knowledge and skills are being left behind in large numbers. And government can't be a bystander. . . government needs to prepare as many people as possible for competitive labor markets and subsidize wages at the lower end so that unskilled labor can result in a decent life.
Unsurprisingly, such government-action recommendations coming from so-called conservatives are bound to generate serious blowback. Here’s an example, from conservative “Federalist” senior editor David Harsanyi:
Gerson’s rationale for a reformicon agenda has a strong and disagreeable “abandoning free-market principles to save the free-market system” vibe to it. If it’s not only about how we tax people, but about ceding some of our deepest philosophical beliefs, it’s going to be a nonstarter.
We do face something approaching Gerson’s economic “crisis,” while at the same time, Harsanyi rightly suggests the crisis has more to do with government’s failures than those of “modern capitalism.” Still, “government is the problem” is not going to win in 2016, as yet another conservative, Selena Zito in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tells us from troubled Appalachia.

In a plea for unity over continued division, Zito writes:
in the past eight years[, t]he “us and them” gap has escalated general mistrust; it has isolated our society's doers and makers from those who hold wealth and power. This isn't just about politics anymore; it is about values. Our nation is at odds with the intellectual elite in wealthy, urban and academic enclaves, who now control the engines of industry. To the rest of us, those engines are not robust machines; they're like little red tricycles.
Main Street Americans do not want to face such uncertainty. . . Not one person currently running for president is addressing the majority of Americans who want to know just who is going to lead all of us forward, the haves as well as the have-nots. We don't want another president who divides us even further. We want someone who will take us — together — to a better place in order to tap into our country's greatest resource, which has always been our people.
“Capitalism + good government.”

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Obama, Progressives, Shame, and American Exceptionalism

Ashley Kelleher at work in the U.S. city with highest poverty rate: Reading PA.
“Even as progressives claim to speak for ‘the people,’ the increasingly manifest reality is that their power flows from the death star in Washington.”

--Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal

From George Orwell’s 1984, we learned that:  

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

In our last post, we showed progressives adding: 

“Defeat is victory.”

And today, from the Washington “death star,” progressives seek to foist upon us a new 1984-style quotation: 

“Shame is patriotism.”

This new quote is distilled from Greg Jaffe of the progressive Washington Post’s article entitled, “Obama’s new patriotism: How Obama has used his presidency to redefine ‘American exceptionalism.’” Conservatives are associated with the old patriotism that exalted the American experience, a patriotism that reacted with hostility to Barack Obama’s saying in 2009, "I believe in American Exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

To Jaffe, current Republican criticism reflects:
Obama’s effort in the seventh year of his presidency to articulate a new and radical form of American exceptionalism. While American exceptionalism in recent decades has centered around the exercise of American power and influence in the world, Obama’s conception is more inwardly focused. It’s a patriotism that embraces the darker moments in American history and celebrates the ability of the unsung and the outsiders to challenge the country’s elite and force change. [emphasis added]
Jaffe says Obama has evolved from the person who in 2009 downplayed American exceptionalism as no different than Greek exceptionalism:
Five years later, and a little grayer, Obama [in 2014] summed up his feelings on the subject differently. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” he told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
Yes, but Obama’s is a progressive exceptionalism that “embraces the darker moments in American history.”

Check out the three drop quotes in Jaffe’s article. The quotes lead us down a path from traditional American exceptionalism to Obama’s “radical” version. The quotes are from the 2014 General Social Survey, done by the University of Chicago in cooperation with the Washington Post:

  • 84% of people agree with the statement “I would rather be a citizen of America than of any other country in the world.”  
Comment: OK, so now we are all “exceptionalists.”

  • 70% of U.S. adults agree “the world would be a better place if Americans acknowledged America’s shortcomings”  
Comment: Some will see “acknowledging shortcomings” as an important step in redefining downward America’s place in the world. Others say, “Well yes, we aren’t perfect.”

  • 64% of U.S. adults agree “there are some things about America today that make me feel ashamed”  
Comment: Of course, the meaning of “ashamed” varies from person to person. The poll shows Republicans are more “ashamed” than Democrats today, and were 20% less “ashamed” in 2004, when Bush was president.

In his article, Jaffe quotes Anne-Marie Slaughter, ex-Obama administration State Department official, who provides background “color” to Obama’s redefinition of exceptionalism:
When American history is told by the winners, by white [males] who were in charge, it looks one way. When American history is told by people who are every bit as patriotic, but who saw a different side, of course it is going to change.
Jaffe writes that in his Selma, Alabama speech on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the historic “Bloody Sunday” march for voting rights, Obama laid out his new, progressive version of American exceptionalism. Obama said,
What could be more American than what happened in this place? What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people — the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course? That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing.
Nice about the “plain and humble” heroes. But Obama also likes trotting out his “straw men,” so at Selma the president also pointed to those who would “define some of us as more American than others,” who “pine for the past,” “fear the future,” and see America as “some fragile thing.”

Evidently, Obama thinks his Selma speech might be a Gettysburg-like historical masterpiece, because the White House gave Jaffe special access to the drafts and discussions that went into preparing Selma’s redefinition of exceptionalism. In the process, Jaffe discovered Obama’s “straw men” alive in an early draft, where the president wrote:
Those who only understand exceptionalism as preserving the past; who deny our faults or inequality; who say love it or leave it; those are the people who are afraid. Those are the people who think America is some fragile thing.
These “straw men” are what conservatives have come to expect from our “one America: red, white, and blue” president. And in the president’s early draft language, there is an unmistakable echo of the much earlier Obama who when confronted with a different group of “plain and humble people,” also well-separated from the corridors of wealth and power, treated them with more disdain than the praise he heaped on Selma’s civil rights heroes.

Recall that on April 6, 2008, Obama told us:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they 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.
Well, now the jobs have been gone for seven years more. But we shan't worry for their fate, especially if “shame is patriotism.”

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Vietnam: When Losing Means Winning

"The United States has been engaged in five wars since World War II. In only one of them did it reach its stated objective.”

--Henry Kissinger (2014)

Kissinger’s comment, upsetting as it is, is mostly true.

Dominic Tierney (b. 1977) is an associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College and author of The Right Way to Lose a War: America in an Age of Unwinnable Conflicts. He has a lead article in Atlantic titled, “Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars?”  In it, Tierney tells us:
It’s not easy for . . . Americans to think deeply about battlefield disaster. American culture is a victory culture. Coded into the American DNA are the fear of failure and the celebration of winning. . . whether it’s a Christian prevailing over sin, a pioneer mastering the natural world, or a sportsman reaching the pinnacle of his profession. . .
Tierney adds that
when America’s recent record at war is one for five, that victory culture starts to look like wishful thinking, unhealthy braggadocio, and illusory triumphalism—good for the nation’s self-esteem, perhaps, but not good for handling reality. It’s time to reckon with the hard truths of conflict.
Tierney’s identification with “reality” and “hard truths” over “wishful thinking, unhealthy braggadocio, and illusory triumphalism” makes his anti-war bias self-evident. Tierney welcomes American defeat in war, presumably with the hope America will stop wasting lives and money overseas.

Kissinger, on the other hand, delivers his “one in five” victory tally with a sense of regret. He does acknowledge that Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan “divided the American opinion in such a way that it is very difficult to distill a consistent center of direction."  That’s a guarded way of saying anti-war sentiment trumpeted by progressives such as Tierney -- or in the case of Vietnam, Tierney’s elders -- stopped the U.S. war effort in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan from reaching what Kissinger called “its stated objective.”

Tierney argues he’s on the right side of history because:
  • when the U.S. “waded into far-flung quarrels featuring culturally alien enemies,” it handed “the opponent home-field advantage.” 
  • “It’s limited war for Americans, and total war for those fighting Americans. The United States has more power; its foes have more willpower.”
  • “The U.S. military also failed to adapt to a new era of civil wars and guerrilla conflict. . . big-unit warfare. . . tactics proved disastrous in civil wars, where indiscriminate violence can cause collateral damage, lose hearts and minds, and recruit more insurgents.”
  • “Since the prize on offer is less valuable, the acceptable price to pay in lives and money is also dramatically reduced. To achieve victory, the campaign must be quick and decisive—with little margin for error.” 
  •  “combat debacles can cast a long shadow over the American home front. The exit strategy could spark domestic uproar, congressional rebellion, and even blood on the streets” 
Tierney’s “history” is junk. Here’s why:

1. Korea was two wars, and Kissinger wrongly calls Korea a stalemate. In the first, starting from the tiny Pusan perimeter, we drove the North Koreans off the map, rolling to the Chinese border. China said, “no you don’t,” launched a surprise invasion, and pushed us back past Seoul well into South Korea. That war we lost. China, a big country with a really big army, won. It was Douglas MacArthur’s hubris that took on China. Harry Truman fired MacArthur, replaced him with Matthew Ridgway in 1951, Ridgway drove the Chinese back into North Korea, and we settled for the status quo ante--a non-Communist South Korea. Once MacArthur’s 1950 China misadventure was over, Korea ended as a victory over Communist aggression.

2. We won “Desert Storm.”

3. Everything else Tierney’s distorted record details is Vietnam. Giving opponents a “home field advantage” -- Vietnam. “Limited war” for us, “total war” for the enemy -- Vietnam. “Indiscriminate violence” losing “hearts and minds” -- Vietnam and only Vietnam. A too high “price to pay in lives” -- that’s Vietnam, where those dying included tens of thousands of draftees, not Iraq and Afghanistan where casualties have mostly been professionally-compensated volunteers (every life matters, but to professionals, risk comes with the territory). “Combat debacles” causing “domestic uproar, congressional rebellion, and even blood on the streets” -- that’s all Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam.

Following George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, you could not convince progressives like Tierney that Iraq was anything but Vietnam redux, with oil added. The Democratic Party, transformed by Vietnam, could not and cannot treat their success in pulling the U.S. out of Vietnam as anything less than a wonderful victory.

So getting America out of Iraq became a similar mission, and in Tierney’s eyes, a similar triumph -- the “Vietnam Peace” of his generation. This myth continues, even though the Bush surge in 2007-08 defeated al Qaeda in Iraq and left a country at peace. Obama ruined that peace by 1) failing to secure a “status of forces” agreement with Iraq, and 2) subsequently withdrawing all American forces there, which led directly to today’s Islamic State (ISIS) threat to take over Iraq.

And then there is Afghanistan. Obama and Democrats once considered Afghanistan and our victory over the Taliban the “good war.” But once Iraq was over, progressives were determined to repeat their “U.S. out of Iraq” peace triumph in Afghanistan. Tierney doesn’t have his “lost war” victory in Afghanistan yet, but it’s certainly on the way, after Obama, having first endorsed (half-heartedly) a surge there that might have stabilized the nation, only months later reversed that surge and ordered an end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan by 2016.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, America -- contrary to Tierney’s wishes -- should be supporting those nationals still willing to fight for their freedom. That we don’t is thanks to Tierney, his fellow progressives, and their distorted, Vietnam-shaped view of history.

In fairness to the progressive view, Tierney and company most sincerely oppose “wasting” U.S. resources abroad; they instead would spend the money on government programs at home. They would feed the “Blue Beast”.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Confession to confusion: two references to personal attacks.

I personally attack Hillary Clinton for her corrupt politics? And in the very next post, in the process of explaining the “endowment effect,” I accuse Democrats of engaging in personal attacks? Self-examination seems in order.

One reason Ronald Reagan was a successful politician was that he could brush off personal attacks. He reasoned voters cared most about policies, whereas the Democrats who disliked him -- upper class liberals mostly -- viewed politics as about personalities, and could not believe voters would actually choose a dumb, former B-grade movie actor over qualified Democrats such as Jimmy Carter or Walter Mondale. Living in the elite, you know your fellow leaders, and expect the best qualified to do the most important job.  

Hillary Clinton is smart, experienced, and qualified by background to be president. The 2016 election, in my view however, isn’t about her qualifications. It’s about her titanium-strength links to a corrupt political order built over decades that by 2016, exists primarily to sustain itself in power, and has showed under Barack Obama an inability to fix the economy, to manage foreign affairs, and even to run government competently (out-of-the-blocks failure to keep lobbyists out of government, a failed economic stimulus, corrupt subsidies to green energy firms, a “too big to fail” bank reform that coddles big banks at the expense of regional banks, failures in running the IRS and the Justice Department, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, corruption at the General Services Administration, a botched roll-out of Obamacare at DHS including “if you like the plan you have, you can keep it; if you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too,” false promises about zero middle-class tax increases, massive, embarrassing corruption at the Veterans Administration, corruption in the Drug Enforcement Administration and even in the Secret Service, botched handling of the ebola crisis at the Centers for Disease Control, the single most respected government agency, a corrupt TSA that passes through 95% of targeted contraband, federal workers getting away with owing $3.5 billion in taxes).

Corrupt describes the close working relationship between big money and the Democratic Party, first evident in Obama’s becoming the first president to reject (in 2008) the money and restrictions of publicly-financed presidential elections, followed by the blow-out money election of 2012 (Obama outspent Romney, even though Romney spent tons just to win the nomination), with Obama focused entirely on getting out his vote and defaming Romney as "Obama for America" blotted out economic failure and high unemployment.

Corrupt also explains the Democrats willingness to bypass the will of the people as expressed in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 congressional elections. These elections have turned Congress from overwhelmingly Democratic to Republican-controlled in just four years. Because our elected representatives in Congress are now Republican, Democrats rule by corrupt executive orders, contrary to a U.S. Constitution founded upon a separation of powers between legislative and executive branches. Corruption means a presidency defying the people’s rule as expressed through Congress, ignoring popular displeasure with the way Democrats run the economy, foreign policy, and government.

So to this observer, Hillary Clinton isn’t a personality. She’s the latest seeking to stand atop the rice pile, ruling a corrupt operation that no longer works. Democrats’ vicious focus on Republican personalities results from an unwillingness to discuss real issues -- the economy, foreign policy, government corruption -- while keeping in power the tired, status quo, decades-old “Blue Model.” So yesterday.