Free Markets, Free People
Lots to comment on, little time in which to do it (it is a holiday weekend after all). But here are some stories that caught my eye that I may do a more extensive commentary on at a future date.
Thomas Friedman pens a column in which he explores what it will mean if America is no longer the superpower of the world. Quoting Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert, he makes the case that our debt and the subsequent frugality it will require is essentially going to make us retrench and probably withdraw much of our foreign aid (not just money, but troops and fleets, etc., which have helped keep the peace over the years). He notes that when Great Britain gave up its “global governance role”, the US stepped in. The question is, when the US pulls back and creates the expected power vacuum, what country will try to fill the role?
After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.
Cast your eyes toward a the Middle East. While Turkey and Iran don’t have what it takes to step into the shoes the US has filled, each certainly feel that the withdrawal of us influence presages a much greater leadership role for them in their respective region. China may feel the same thing about the Far East. Friedman concludes:
An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.
That’s true, I believe – at least while a Democrat is in the White House or Democrats control Congress – not because they’re suddenly frugal, but because they’d prefer to spend the money on other things.
But this is my favorite paragraph:
America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.
Some of us Americans have know this was a probable result for years. Welcome on board, Mr. Friedman. It’s about freakin’ time.
If you read no other column today, read George Will’s about the global warming industry.
The collapsing crusade for legislation to combat climate change raises a question: Has ever a political movement made so little of so many advantages? Its implosion has continued since "the Cluster of Copenhagen, when world leaders assembled for the single most unproductive and chaotic global gathering ever held." So says Walter Russell Mead, who has an explanation: Bambi became Godzilla.
In essence, it’s analogous to something else we discussed not to long ago, the UAW is now "management". Will’s point is the former "skeptics" – environmentalists – are now the establishment. Funny how that works.
According to the New York Times, Democratic leaders are in the middle of doing what can only be characterized as “political triage” concerning the upcoming House mid-term elections. Reality, as they say, has finally penetrated the happy talk and leaders are taking a brutal look at the chances of all their House members:
In the next two weeks, Democratic leaders will review new polls and other data that show whether vulnerable incumbents have a path to victory. If not, the party is poised to redirect money to concentrate on trying to protect up to two dozen lawmakers who appear to be in the strongest position to fend off their challengers.
My guess is the Blue Dog contingent is about to be cut loose. The leadership probably figures that losing those seat isn’t as big a problem as losing seats in which automatic votes for whatever the leadership puts forward are assured. That would be members of the Progressive caucus and the Congressional Black caucus for instance. The good news for Democrats is most of them are found in what are considered “safe” districts. So they’ll go in the “will live with minimal treatment” category.
The Blue Dogs will most likely go into the “mortal” category and receive little money or backing. They’ll simply let them die, politically It is those in the big middle, in perhaps marginal districts that could go either way or those who’ve survived tight races previously in districts that may lean slightly to the Democratic side which will get the money. These “critical but can be saved” members will get the lion’s share of the money and support allocated for the mid-terms.
Whether they can save enough of them to avoid the magic 39 seats the GOP needs, however, remains to be seen. My guess is it would require a miracle – and possibly that would require some of the Blue Dogs to squeak out a victory. But if those patients are left to pass quietly away when some might have been saved, the Dems may rue the day they decided to pitch them outside the tent and leave them to be brutalized by the political elements. Or said another way – the Dems may outsmart themselves, this strategy could easily blow up badly in their faces and it may be they that assure the 39th seat by not fighting for all of them.
Thomas Friedman is at it again. He finds our method of governance just too cumbersome and one which mostly yields “sub-optimal” results. I mean, look at the Chi-coms:
TOM BROKAW: Tom, are we at a kind of turning point in America in terms of being able to make this a functioning country again, or are we dysfunctional?
TOM FRIEDMAN: Well this is what worries me. I’ve been saying for awhile Tom, there’s only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, the Chinese form of government, and that’s one-party democracy. In China, if the leadership can get around to an enlightened decision it can order it from the top down, OK. Here when you have one-party democracy, one party ruling, basically the other party just saying no, every solution is sub-optimal. And when your chief competitor in the world can order optimal and you can only produce sub-optimal? Because what happens, whether it’s health care or the energy bill, votes one-through-fifty cost you a lot. Fifty to fifty-nine cost you a fortune. And vote sixty: his name’s Ben Nelson! And by the time you’ve made all those compromises, you end up with the description David [Brooks] had of the health care bill, which is this Rube Goldberg contraption. I really hope, I hope personally it passes. I hope it works. But I can’t tell you I think it’s optimal.
Well, of course mandating one child and one child only was certainly considered to be “optimal” by the leadership. The polity didn’t agree. And now the mostly male generation which has since grown up and is experiencing a vast shortage of women doesn’t either. Damn law of unintended consequences – it always tends to screw up “optimal” top-down decisions, doesn’t it?
And as I recall, they certainly considered the “Great Leap Forward” to be “optimal”, didn’t they? What are a few million, er 14 to 20 million deaths, when the “top down” solution is so, uh, “optimal”. Indeed, with those 14 to 20 million deaths, the plan ended up working rather well – except for those cases of cannibalism – because there was more for those who were left.
And the “Cultural Revolution” was pretty “optimal” as well, wasn’t it?
It was certainly “optimal” for Stalin to declare the Kulaks “enemy of the people” wasn’t it? It allowed him to essentially steal their farms and “collectivize” them while deliberately starving millions of those “enemies” of his “optimal” plan to death in 1933. Yup, very “optimal” if you’re Joe Stalin and you get to make those “top down” decisions, isn’t it?
I assume Hugo Chavez thought it was an “optimal” solution to nationalize the oil industry Venezuela. None of that sloppy law and democracy stuff for him, by George. And that’s worked out so well, hasn’t it?
Would someone buy Mr. Friedman a one-way ticket to China please? There he can forever bask in the goodness of top-down “optimal” decisions and glory in them like so many millions have already done there since the imposition of “optimal” top-down decisions.
That would be an “optimal” result for me.
In an interview with Thomas Friedman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (Alarmist – SC) says that the GOP needs to embrace the suck that is AGW. He says 3 things brought him around to the alarmist point of view – politics, jobs and legacy. We’ve covered “green jobs” before. Ask Spain how well that’s working out. That leaves politics (there’s a surprise) and legacy (he wants to be remembered for saving the earth – no hubris there).
Lets deal with politics first.
The Republican Party today has a major outreach problem with two important constituencies, “Hispanics and young people,” Graham explains:
“I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It’s a value. These young people grew up with recycling and a sensitivity to the environment — and the world will be better off for it. They are not brainwashed. … From a Republican point of view, we should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them. You can have a genuine debate about the science of climate change, but when you say that those who believe it are buying a hoax and are wacky people you are putting at risk your party’s future with younger people
Just “wow”. Let me ask the Republicans out there – are you against recycling and are you insensitive to the environment? Do you find unacceptable the notion that we should be good stewards? Are you for dirty water and dirty air?
Of course not. That’s what the Lindsey Graham’s of the world ought to be out there making clear. Not allowing the implication that if people, and especially the GOP, don’t buy into this nonsense of global warming they’re against everything to do with the environment. It’s a false premise!
So the fact that those who are 30 or younger consider the climate issue a “value”, he should be asking “what does that mean”? A “value” in which bad and/or unproven science is acceptable as “proof” that man has more of a role than nature? That’s not a value, sir – that’s a religion. The fact that this nonsense has been pumped into their brains for years and years doesn’t make it a fact or a “value”. And Graham can claim those who believe all of that aren’t brainwashed but I’d beg to differ. If they’ve bought into AlGorism, the only reason a thinking person would still believe it, given the recent revelations, would be due to something akin to “brainwashing”.
The solution? Oh, you’ll love this:
So Graham’s approach to bringing around his conservative state has been simple: avoid talking about “climate change,” which many on the right don’t believe.
Yeah, that’s brilliant – cede the field to unproven nonsense. And by the way Mr. Graham – it isn’t that the right doesn’t believe in “climate change”, of course they believe in that. It is a constant of life on earth. What they’re having trouble believing is the cause is man. Ceding the field to the alarmists is a sure way to see bad legislation based on bad science become a reality.
And sure enough, Graham is right in the middle of trying to accomplish just that:
Instead, frame our energy challenge as a need to “clean up carbon pollution,” to “become energy independent” and to “create more good jobs and new industries for South Carolinians.” He proposes “putting a price on carbon,” starting with a very focused carbon tax, as opposed to an economywide cap-and-trade system, so as to spur both consumers and industries to invest in and buy new clean energy products. He includes nuclear energy, and insists on permitting more offshore drilling for oil and gas to give us more domestic sources, as we bridge to a new clean energy economy.
Of course despite his opposition to cap-and-trade, he buys into the key concept “carbon is pollution” which, once established in law, is but a short run to establishing a future need for full blown cap-and-trade. Those are the politics Mr. I Buy Into The Alarmist Nonsense is backing.
Once the “carbon should be taxed” genie is out of the bottle, it won’t be put back in. All it can do is get bigger and more powerful. And that’s precisely what Mr. Graham’s “putting a price on carbon” promises.
“Cap-and-trade as we know it is dead, but the issue of cleaning up the air and energy independence should not die — and you will never have energy independence without pricing carbon,” Graham argues. “The technology doesn’t make sense until you price carbon. Nuclear power is a bet on cleaner air. Wind and solar is a bet on cleaner air. You make those bets assuming that cleaning the air will become more profitable than leaving the air dirty, and the only way it will be so is if the government puts some sticks on the table — not just carrots.
So, despite his claim, putting a price on carbon means zombie cap-and-trade is not only not dead, but lurking in the wings. How Graham doesn’t understand that is mind boggling. Oh, wait, I know why – legacy:
This isn’t just for the next generation, says Graham: “As you talk about the future, if you forget the people who live in the present, you will have no future politically. You have to get the people in the present to buy into the future. I tell my voters: ‘If we try to clean up the air and become energy independent, we will create more jobs than anything I can do as a senator.’
It is visions such as this that usually end up driving thriving economies right off the cliff. We’ll tax what fuels the economy and we’ll hope that the vision comes to be just as we’ve imagined it. Unicorns and rainbows quickly meet real people without jobs because idiots like Graham want to use government’s power to build their legacy. And how pathetic is this?
“What is our view of carbon as a party? Are we the party of carbon pollution forever in unlimited amounts? Pricing carbon is the key to energy independence, and the byproduct is that young people look at you differently.” Look at how he is received in colleges today. “Instead of being just one more short, white Republican over 50,” says Graham, “I am now semicool. There is an awareness by young people that I am doing something different.”
Thomas Friedman says:
Sure, Graham’s strategy will give many greens heartburn. I don’t agree with every point. But if there is going to be a clean energy bill, greens and Democrats will have to recruit some Republicans. Graham says he’s ready to meet them in the middle. “We’ve got to get started,” he says, “because once we do, every C.E.O. will adopt a carbon strategy, no matter what the law actually requires.”
Bad premise, bad science, hubris and an inclination to use the coercive power of government to change the world.
What in the world could go wrong with that?
I get a kick out of Thomas Friedman, because for a guy who travels around as he does and sees what he sees, he can seem so clueless at times. So here’s how he sets his article up:
A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”
Welcome to the lean years.
Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.
But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.
A “new” era where government is going to be about “taking things away from people”? How in the world do you suppose we were able to have the “fat years”. Because government had been taking things away from those able to pay for years. Decades.
Suddenly those they were taking things away from no longer have a job or the income to support all the fat the government built up for so many years. We’re not in the “lean years” – we’re in the PAYGO years. Now, suddenly, the subsidies are drying up because tax revenues are down – way down. Want the services? Pay for them instead of expecting others to do so. And yes, we’re a compassionate country, we can make exceptions for things like 911 service. Provide it free to the elderly and poor. Just make sure “elderly” doesn’t start at 50 and poor is actually poor – i.e no way they could afford a $300 call.
Note that Friedman naturally makes an attempt to equate charity and government when he talks about “giving things away”. Of course it goes without saying that private charity is given voluntarily while government give always come from coerced tax money. Relativity at its finest.
Anyway, Friedman figures that President Obama is missing the boat. As he says “for a politician who speaks so well” he’s mystified why Obama can’t put together a “compelling narrative” from which to explain his politics and polices. The short answer, of course, is that despite the continued belief by the left that the problem lies with the how the message is delivered, in fact the problem is with the message itself. The “narrative” has been heard and examined by the nation and it’s been found wanting – severely wanting. Obama and Friedman could come up with the best narrative in the world and it would still come down to money we can’t afford and more government control/intrusion into our lives that we don’t want.
But let’s hear from Friedman:
Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.
They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.
Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.
So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list — one that got way too dominated by health care instead of innovation and jobs — and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.
Friedman begins with a false assumption – the belief that Obama won to do what he’s trying to do now. Instead Obama won because of a general dissatisfaction with the way things were aggravated by two wars. There was a mood to punish the Republicans. Obama was an attractive candidate when compared to old man John McCain. Friedman interpreted the win as a mandate to do the things Friedman and the left have always wanted done. In fact it wasn’t that at all. It was the right man in the right place at the right time with the right nebulous message that others wrote for themselves. And it comes as no surprise then when their premise is put to the test (“this is why America elected Obama”) it comes up snake-eyes. It is the usual delusion we’ve been talking about for years – it is never, ever the message/premise/narrative. It is always about how it is delivered. It’s just not being properly explained, packaged or marketed. If only the right way to present it could be found, the public would go “ah, of course” and all would be right with the world.
Obamism has, in fact, been presented in every way possible and has been rejected each and every time. It is time that Friedman and the left stop the self-delusion and recognize that it isn’t a problem with delivery or packaging, it is a problem with what what they want to do. It’s not what the majority of Americans want to do and the route to a one-term presidency and minority in Congress is to keep believing it has to do with “narrative” and pushing the present Obamism agenda.
In the ’60s and ’70s when leftist anti-war protesters began calling the police “pigs”, police forces turned the tables and defined the epithet as “Pride, Integrity, Guts” thereby taking ownership of it. The GOP should take ownership of the “Party of ‘No’”.
Why? Because sometimes – in fact, many times – saying “no” to the opposition is not only responsible, it is an absolute necessity. In many cases, given what the ideological opposition attempts to pass into law, it is the job of the minority to say “no”. Bi-partisanship for bi-partisanship’s sake is nonsense. There’s a reason we have competing parties and have a system that grants the minority a form of power. It is so we don’t fall under the oppressive rule of the majority. And that requires the minority at times to say “no”.
“No”, of course, doesn’t mean the minority must oppose everything. But it does mean that it should oppose those issues and policies which are incompatible with its ideology. In the case of the GOP, those issues and policies consist of those which expand government control, spending, taxation and intrusion.
There’s a building narrative, however, which is designed to cast any opposition in a negative light. The President mentioned it in his State of the Union address and reiterated in his speech to the Republican caucus. The essence of the message is “opposition is bad, bi-partisan cooperation is good – so be good and cooperate with us”.
Of course, bi-partisanship only became “good” and something to be sought when the Democratic Senate lost its 60th vote. Until then it wasn’t necessary and the GOP was irrelevant. Republicans couldn’t have stopped anything from passing Congress if they tried. But now, because they can, they’re suddenly cast as the “Party of ‘No’”.
Thomas Friedman gets into the act with a whine about how the world is talking about us now. Apparently, in Davos during the World Economic Forum, he’s hearing people say things he’s never heard previously. They’re using the words “political instability” to describe our situation. Apparently they just don’t understand why a supposedly popular president swept in by a solid majority can’t seem to get what he wants passed into law.
Of course “political instability” is just another way to say “ungovernable”, the new cool term used to describe those who don’t agree with the political majority’s goals. The elites apparently cannot fathom opposition to government expansion, huge spending increases and intrusion to a level never before seen in this country. I can only attribute that to a lack of understanding of America’s foundational beliefs and how resistance to government intrusion and expansion is a veritable part of our DNA.
But because the left’s agenda is now in even more jeopardy with the election of Scott Brown to the Senate, a counterattack against those in opposition is called for. Friedman picks up the President’s meme and runs with it:
It was hard to read President Obama’s eloquent State of the Union address and not feel torn between his vision for the coming years and the awareness that the forces of inertia and special interests blocking him — not to mention the whole Republican Party — make the chances of his implementing that vision highly unlikely. That is the definition of “stuck.” And right now we are stuck.
The sad and frustrating thing is, we are so close to being unstuck. If there were just six or eight Republican senators — a few more Judd Greggs and Lindsey Grahams — ready to meet Obama somewhere in the middle on deficit reduction, energy, health care and banking reform, I believe that in the wake of the Massachusetts wake-up call the president would indeed meet them in that middle ground to forge not just incremental compromises, but substantial ones on these key issues. But so far, the Republicans are having a good year politically by just being the Party of No.
He’s right – the GOP is having a good year being the “Party of ‘No’”, mainly because that’s what the public demands of them. But there’s been no risk to being the “Party of ‘No’” to this point. They could yell “no” to the top of their lungs but had no power to stop anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.
And now the left intends to shame them into passing their agenda. Friedman doesn’t mention certain GOP Senators by name without reason. The entire purpose behind this “Party of ‘No’” silliness is to guilt trip a few Republicans into reaching across the aisle on key issues. The idea is to shame them into being bi-partisan when being bi-partisan is actually not in their best interest. Democrats were as much the “Party of No” as the GOP when they held those unassailable majorities for this past year – the party of “no Republicans allowed”.
Hopefully one of the things the GOP talked about at their retreat was why their opposition – saying “no” – is critical to the functioning of this Republic. Majority rule is tyranny, because it runs roughshod over the minority. The founders of this country designed a system of government that protects minority rights. So it is critical that one side – the minority side – assume the mantle of the “Party of ‘No’”, embrace it and work it. That’s how the system should work. And the Republicans should remember that the only time such words and phrases as “political instability” and “ungovernable” seem to find their way into the talking points and the press is when the GOP is saying “no”, and not the Democrats.
It is high time for Congressional Republicans to grow a thick skin and a spine, quit worrying about what Democrats and the media will say about them and embrace the “No”. Sack up, guys. Be proud to be that party. It’s your job, one which is critical to the survival of this nation as the land of the free. And remember, it is a role the Democrats will happily assume, with no apologies, when their time comes – you can count on it.
I don’t know how else to describe this from Thomas Friedman:
I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.
And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.
Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.
Really? Is your stomach turning Mr. Friedman? Because if so, it must be a very recent problem.
Change the name Rabin to Bush, remove the particular situation and add “during his presidency” and you describe the last 8 years and the behavior of the left to a tee. And yet I don’t remember a single column by Friedman or any other liberal lamenting the “poisonous political environment” that existed during that entire time.
Suddenly though, because the opposition is instead focused on Democrats and Obama, dissent is a serious thing that shouldn’t be “winked at” as it was lo those many years when the other side suffered it.
That leads to selective remembrances by ideologues such as this guy speaking about opposition to Obama:
Some of his opposition is politically predictable, since President Bill Clinton was under political attack from the day of his election and presidential candidate John Kerry was slandered in a way that turned voters away from him. Those who present no good ideas of their own can only resort to dubious, rumor driven attacks to generate fear and damage their opponents.
Notably missing is the “selected not elected” tenure of Bush who had eggs thrown during his inauguration parade, was booed by the opposition during a state of the union address and called “incompetent” by the most competent Speaker of the House we’ve ever had. And signs depicting Bush as Hitler were ubiquitous. All, apparently, right down the memory hole.
The Friedman’s of the world feigned no concern whatsoever about the atmosphere of hate engendered then possibly leading to violence when their ideological foe sat in the White House. They seemed to see nothing wrong with the demonization of Bush. The cries of “traitor, “war criminal”, “liar” and “loser” apparently didn’t coarsen the dialog or create a “poisonous political environment” like they do now. And the Southern Poverty Law Center had nothing to say about the virulent hate that was evident then. This demand for respect for the President of the United States we hear today wasn’t at all evident in the left’s gleeful celebration of shoes thrown at the President of the United States during a press conference, was it?
No, according to the left, it is now worse than it has ever been. And that’s because the right is engaged in spirited opposition. The left can deal this sort of thing out, but they simply cannot take it when it is returned in kind. So the entire dialog changes and what was recently the “highest form of patriotism” and “speaking truth to power” is now “dangerous and hate filled rhetoric” and a threat to all that’s decent and good. You have to wonder if the left suffers from a chronic case of political Alzheimer’s disease, because their short-term memory is completely gone.
The conventional wisdom, sold by the left over the years, is that the right is the violent side of the ideological spectrum. And again, those ignorant of history seem to buy into the meme. Never mind that the last two politicians who suffered assassination were killed by a communist and a Palestinian nationalist and the last assassination attempts made on presidents were made on Republican presidents.
It is a sight to behold the left, after an 8 year tantrum, suddenly projecting their behavior and history on the right and calling it dangerous, disrespectful and poisonous. In comparison to their behavior, what is happening now is both mild and warranted. But don’t expect this orgy of leftist whining to end anytime soon. Like a goose does every day, they seem to have awakened in a new world and have absolutely no memory of their own recent behavior or of the recent history of violence toward politicians here. Instead, they prefer to invent their own version as they go.
I can only assume Thomas Friedman has finally gone round the bend:
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.
This, from his lament today in which he waxes idiotic about our country being much to constrained by democracy. The poor Democrats are so hobbled by having to deal with the other side (and public opinion, for heaven sake!) that they’re not able to ram through what Thomas Friedman wishes for.
Ah, for a few “reasonably enlightened” autocrats in our time of need. Sure it has its drawbacks, but what’s a gulag or two when provided the opportunity to “move society forward” with or without its consent?
Seriously, if George Bush hadn’t existed, the left would have had to invent him in order to have someone to blame the world’s ills on. CBS has republished a piece by Laura Secor that ran in the New Republic and calls Ahmadenijhad Iran’s “George Bush”. (This on the heels of the Bonnie Erbe piece calling for right-wingers to be rounded up before they can hurt anyone.)
Secor’s comparisons are strained at best, and are a rather simple attempt to fit a very round peg in an extremely square hole (no mention of the mullah’s control, which, of course, completely kills the comparison). Apparently Secor pins her premise on this line:
Ahmadinejad has made a mess of the economy, clamped down on political dissent and social freedoms, militarized the state, and earned the enmity of much of the world.
And in Secor’s world, that essentially makes Ahmadinejhad and Bush twins.
Of course, not to be outdone, “conservative” Andrew Sullivan manages to find even more parallels to the Bush years. If you think Secor’s attempt is strained, you’ll howl when you read Sullivan’s:
Ahmadinejad’s bag of tricks is eerily like that of Karl Rove – the constant use of fear, the exploitation of religion, the demonization of liberals, the deployment of Potemkin symbolism like Sarah Palin.
As an interesting aside, an article mostly ignored by the left has a fairly interesting take on the Bush era in the middle east. And by none other than Thomas Friedman. Even though he can’t bring himself to describe what has happened in complimentary terms, he finds he must give some credit where credit is due:
There are a million things to hate about President Bush’s costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. “Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,” said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. “It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.”
In Benen’s piece today, he ends up calling Ari Fleisher a “shameless hack” (as if Benen has any room to call anyone else a “hack”) for essentially saying the very same thing Friedman said. Apparently, Benen and the left are content to believe in the fantasy that it was more likely the “Cairo speech” that determined the results in Lebanon and spurred the protest vote in Iran – because we all know that movements such as those are easily developed within a week of someone like Obama speaking.
Yesterday I mentioned Paul Krugman’s trashing of the Geithner plan, now the NYT op-ed page triumvirate of MoDo, Thomas Friedman and Frank Rich take a few shots as well.
Friedman tried mightily to temper his criticism by claiming the that GOP was using this horrible crisis as an opportunity for partisan bashing.
We’re in a once-a-century financial crisis, and yet we’ve actually descended into politics worse than usual. There don’t seem to be any adults at the top — nobody acting larger than the moment, nobody being impelled by anything deeper than the last news cycle. Instead, Congress is slapping together punitive tax laws overnight like some Banana Republic, our president is getting in trouble cracking jokes on Jay Leno comparing his bowling skills to a Special Olympian, and the opposition party is behaving as if its only priority is to deflate President Obama’s popularity.
Interesting. Friedman was no where in sight, of course, when Democrats were engaged in precisely what he accuses the Republicans of doing during the war in Iraq. As with many on the left, apparently history started on January 20th of this year.
OTOH, deflating Obama’s popularity is politically important to the GOP, because anyone who watches politics knows full well that Obama plans to trade on his popularity to pass the economy killing legislation he want to see passed. This ain’t bean bag, Mr. Friedman.
Frank Rich likens this crisis to “Bush’s Katrina moment”:
A charming visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by The Times last week: “President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.”
Rich implies that Obama doesn’t recognize the depth of political risk this crisis carries for him. And I agree. Obama, it appears, thinks he can lay this all off on “inherited” problems. But he can’t. It’s his now. While it may have been right to say New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco were the real reason Katrina was a fiasco, that’s not who much of the public ended up blaming. Bush too seemed not to understand the depth and breadth of the anger (whether right or not) that Katrina spawned. Obama seems even less aware of the risk, jetting around the country having moved on to defending his budget and appearing on comedy shows while the financial crisis lingers and deepens. As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, it is all about leadership, or the lack thereof. In reality, it is the “lack thereof” on which both Rich and Friedman are actually commenting.
Maureen Dowd wonders if, after watching Michelle Obama talk about the White House garden, perhaps the wrong Obama is in the Oval Office. She then let’s the male Obama have it with both barrels:
It’s a time in America’s history where we need less smooth jazz and more martial brass.
Barack Obama prides himself on consensus, soothing warring sides into agreement. But the fury directed at the robber barons by the robbed blind in America has been getting hotter, not cooler. And that’s because the president and his Treasury secretary have been coddling the Wall Street elite, fretting that if they curtail executives’ pay and perks too much, if they make the negotiations with those who siphoned our 401(k)’s too tough, the spoiled Sherman McCoys will run away, the rescue plan will fail and the markets will wither. (Now that Mr. Obama has made $8,605,429 on his books — including $500,000 for letting his memoir be condensed into a kids’ book — maybe he’s lost touch with his hole-in-the-shoe, hole-in-the-Datsun, have-not roots.)
Despite all the appeals to class warfare, what is at the base of her criticism?
Lack. Of. Leadership.
The nation elected someone who has never once been in a position in which he had to lead. Mr. Obama is a charmer and someone who knows what to say to please his audiences. But he’s never had to translate what he says into action. He’s never had to really take full ownership of his agenda, at whatever level, and implement it. He has never had to ‘make it happen’.
Where does one learn to do those sorts of things? From experience. Take a new lieutenant and make him a battalion commander and I can promise one poorly led battalion which will fail at its first leadership test. That’s because the LT isn’t a leader yet. He first had to serve as a platoon leader and learn leadership skills. Then if he does well there and is advanced in rank, he’ll eventually get a chance to become a company commander and fine tune those skills with a larger organization. Again, if he shines and is further advanced in rank and responsibility, he may get a shot at a battalion command. But he will first prove himself to everyone’s satisfaction at the lower level leadership positions before he is even considered for that job.
Anyone – what lower level position held by Barack Obama did he demonstrate the leadership necessary to do the job he now holds? Why is charm more important politically than experience and leadership abilities?
Apparently Krugman, Dowd, Rich and Friedman are suddenly discovering what many of us have understood from the beginning – Obama is completely unqualified for the job he holds.
Unfortunately for all of us, if ever there was a worst time for such a man to be President of the United States, this is probably it.