Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Obama’s Freudian slip

Last week on Univision while during an interview aimed at Hispanics, President Obama referred to Republicans as “enemies”.  As you might imagine, that raised a bit of a stir on the right side of things. 

Said Obama:

‘We’re gonna punish our enemies, and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us’ — if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election — then I think it’s going to be harder. And that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2nd."

Knowing he was going to take heat over the word used and before House minority leader John Boehner could deliver a well deserved scolding, Obama attempted to defuse the situation.

“Now the Republicans are saying that I’m calling them enemies,” Obama said during a get-out-the-vote to The Michael Baisden Show. “What I’m saying is you’re an opponent of this particular provision, comprehensive immigration reform, which is something very different.”

Well actually, no, it’s not.  It is certainly a rather poor attempt at damage control, but it is clear in a interview in which Obama was attempting to rally that particular base constituency during an election season that the object of the “enemies” remark was the GOP.    And, the use of the word “enemies” was purposeful and calculated.  It was meant to convey a message that the opposing party was an "enemy" of that which Hispanics wanted and it was important that they understand that message and act on in Nov. 2nd.

This wasn’t some unscripted slip of the tongue or poorly phrased appeal as he’s trying to spin it now. It was exactly how the post-partisan president views the political landscape and the other party.

Now the "smartest man in the room" is attempting this transparent and rather weak counter to his "enemies" remark.

I on the other hand have no problem attaching the word “enemy” to those on the left who would take my liberty and trash my rights.  Same for those on the right with the same inclinations. 

The fact that Obama used the word, however, is telling.  It is another indicator to me that he has no intention of doing what Bill Clinton did when he and the Democrats lost the House in 1994.  Obama is an inflexible ideologue who will go down with his leaky ship rather than do what is necessary to work across the isle.  The “enemies” remark does more than any other to finally pop the “post-partisan” bubble of nonsense he spun on the campaign trail.  And while I’m sure he’ll attempt to pin the failure of bi-partisanship on the right, it is clear, at least to me after watching the last 2 years, that there never was any serious desire or attempt on the part of the administration to make bi-partisanship work.

As it turns out – that’s fine with me.  But let’s put the claim that it is something desired by this president and administration to rest once and for all.


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Final Election Predictions

Tomorrow’s the big day. So, I thought I’d join Bruce in tossing out my final pre-election prognostications (with error bars).

House: Republicans 247, Democrats 188 (+/-3)

Senate: Democrats 50, Republicans 50 (+/-1)

The Senate is the real imponderable here. With Patty Murray leading by only 0.3% in a watershed year, I’m going to go ahead and tentatively call this one for Dino Rossi. But this one could go either way, so worst case for the Senate, I think, is a 51/50 Democrat chamber. I also think it might be days before we know that final Senate number, too.

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Schadenfreude summary: Election day minus 1

Obama has "abolished torture" and needs to be more theatrical to appease those silly people who are voting against his party

Tina Brown says that Obama will need to amp up the theatrics after Tuesday. Yep, it’s obvious to all thinking people that since he’s done wonderful things like abolishing torture (yes, she said that), any displeasure among the voters simply must be that they’re taken in by the theatrics of the right. Therefore the obvious solution is to increase theatrics on the left!

It would be harder to find an example of the shallowness and self-absorption of today’s left than Tina Brown. It would also be harder for find an example of just how biased and off the rails the mainstream media has become that Newsweek wanted her as editor.


"Gentlemen, we have to protect our phony-baloney jobs!"

In a desperation move that I can’t recall ever being used before, Harry Reid’s campaign is using congressional aides from out-of-state (specifically from the staff of Max Baucus) to do door-to-door canvassing. Now, remember, the Tea Parties are all astroturf, but the Senate Majority Leader, one of the most powerful incumbents on the planet, can’t find enough volunteers in his own state to go door to door for him. He has to supplement with lobbyists (natch), and congressional aides.

Is that even legal? Not using the snakes lobbyists, I’m talking about the congressional aides. Michael, what say you?


Nate Silver writes Republican election p0rn

A guy with a pretty good reputation on the election prediction front writes up what he thinks is the worst case scenario for the Democrats, with a pretend newspaper story from Wednesday morning. It’s brutal. It even includes Lieberman switching to caucus with Republicans, which if he is retiring after this term would make eminent sense.

Then Silver gives the reasons his imaginings are not so far-fetched. There’s nothing about them that looks very far out to me; in fact in a couple of areas I think he is understating likely effects. An example would be that I think the general animus against professional politician incumbents is stronger than he seems to think. I consider it stronger than it’s ever been in my lifetime.


Labor unions starting pre-election crocodile tears

This is in the NYT, and the article is a variation of the famous joke with the punchline "Women and minorities most affected". In this case, the wailing is for a different Democratic special interest group, organized labor. Here’s a sample:

“All this means that Republicans may well go on the offensive against labor, after two years in which unions have been on the offensive.”

Why that’s bad isn’t really explored in much depth. Of course they give the usual slanted "rebuttals" from Republicans, with cherry picked quotes from them about how their policies are good for businesses. This is classic NYT, nominally presenting the opposing case, but doing so in a way that will satisfy their latte-sipping Manhattanite readers that the Republicans are scum who don’t care about anything but money.


Not the best photo to highlight Obama’s Chicago trip

A black man kneeling to Obama’s limousine is the marquee shot for Obama’s pre-election visit. I notice that the guy put some paper or cardboard down on the street to use as a prayer mat.

I don’t care which side you’re on, if this picture doesn’t inspire revulsion, then you don’t understand what it means to be American.

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Win isn’t GOP mandate, just another chance

One of the things I keep harping on is the "direction of the country" polls. Forget all this generic polling and other such nonsense for a moment. I continue to try to point out that the dissatisfaction with the federal government isn’t confined to one party as some of the establishment Republicans (and establishment Democrats) seem to think, or at least want to believe.

Scott Rasmussen makes that point today while talking about the generic ballot lead the Republicans enjoy. As he asserts, this isn’t because voters think the GOP is great and wonderful nor is it to hand them a "mandate", no matter how big their win. It is the change from awful to maybe less awful with the warning that in two years they’ll do it all over again if the pols don’t start catching on.

But none of this means that Republicans are winning. The reality is that voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.

This is the continuation of a trend that began nearly 20 years ago. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president and his party had control of Congress. Before he left office, his party lost control. Then, in 2000, George W. Bush came to power, and his party controlled Congress. But like Mr. Clinton before him, Mr. Bush saw his party lose control.

That’s never happened before in back-to-back administrations. The Obama administration appears poised to make it three in a row. This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties.

Absolutely and positively correct. The reason there is a shift to the GOP is they’re the only alternative. My guess is if there were a viable third party, the GOP wouldn’t be feeling quite so smug right now. And that is a critical point that the establishment party needs to understand and understand quickly. I don’t know how many ways or how many days we have to repeat this, but if the GOP thinks this is a Sally Field ("you like me, you really do") moment they are as mistaken as a party can be.

For the GOP, here’s a free clue provided by Rasmussen:

More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that’s lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.

Precisely and the key to the consistent frustration found in the “direction of the country” polls for years.  Time to get out of the "big" business for both parties. The "American people" are the ones that vote. They should be the absolute and primary "special interest" of both parties. But they haven’t been for decades. And that’s why you see the probability that, for the first time in our history, the party in power will loose seats in back-to-back-to-back administrations.

The voters don’t like any of you in elected office and they’re not at all enamored with your parties either. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. For the GOP this is like sudden-death overtime in a football game and they get the ball first. They’d better score or the refs – that’d be the voters – will had the ball over to the other side and give them another shot. And we all know how badly that might turn out.


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Democrats await Armageddon as youth vote deserts them

All the signs are there.   Independents breaking hard for the GOP.  Senior voters, a demographic the Democrats usually own, dissatisfied with the health care bill.  And the youth vote that was so large in 2008 is unengaged in 2010.

In fact, young people are now feeling “abandoned.”  And that has translated into a noticeable lack of enthusiasm on the college campus – a hotbed of Obama and thereby Democratic support:

Now, however, former Obama volunteers nationwide say that they and their former colleagues are less involved and more ambivalent. Experts say the usual midterm effect, in which young voters are especially likely to disengage, has combined with an unexpected distance that has arisen between Mr. Obama and many young constituents. While most of them still view him more favorably than their parents or grandparents do, various polls show that the youthful passion that led to action has not been sustained.

“They were emotionally invested,” said Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. “Somehow that should have been turned into, for Democrats, a revival of progressive policy, and in a neutral way, a revival of democracy starting with young people.”

“So far, it hasn’t happened,” he added.

It isn’t going to happen. It’s the result of writing checks your bank balance can’t cash. It’s the result of taking advantage of the gullibility of youth for political gain by making promises that were unrealistic when they were made. It’s Obama politics.  Grand and soaring rhetoric, while pleasing to the emotions, have to be grounded in the real world.  Over promising has its downside – being unable to accomplish what you’ve promised to do.  Whether or not it is the fault of the politician or the “system”, the politician is the one who made the promises and he’s the one who will be held to account for his lack of accomplishment.  Or that’s the way it usually works.

Obama has never had a record on which he had to run (or defend).  For the first time in his life he’s compiling one.  And it isn’t anything to brag about.  It is that record – doing or continuing a lot of things he promised to change as well as not accomplishing things he said he would – that he’ll be forced to defend in 2012.

If the level of engagement this year (and yes, I know mid-terms see the level of engagement drop in comparison to presidential election years) presages the same sort of level in 2012, Mr. Obama may be in trouble.  Obviously 2 years is a lifetime in politics.  But certain little things indicate that the Obama magic of 2008 just doesn’t work like it once did.   A stop in Cleveland to rally the vote attracts only 8,000 to an arena he filled with 16,000 in 2008.  Democratic candidates avoiding being linked to him or having him help their campaigns.

Many like to cite Bill Clinton as an example of what Barack Obama will do to survive and thrive if the GOP wins the House.   Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.  Clinton was – whether you liked him or not – the best consummate politician of our era, bar none.   The “triangulation” strategy allowed him to work with a Republican Congress to get what he wanted – something he learned after being defeated once as Governor in Arkansas.   Obama is much more an ideologue.  And if anyone could be more self-absorbed (and impressed with himself) than Clinton, it is Obama.  Obama has never suffered electoral defeat so he hasn’t learned Clinton’s lesson.   That will become obvious in the next 2 years.

The question, of course, is whether he and his campaign staff will have the accomplishments necessary to reengage and reenergize key constituencies such as the youth vote in time for 2012.  That depends, in large part, on how Obama retools his approach to working with the GOP.  And, to be quite blunt about it, it also depends, in large part, on how the GOP conducts itself as well.  My hopes are not very high in either area – which means the political season of the next 2 years ought to be very interesting indeed.


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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 31 Oct 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Tuesday’s midterm elections.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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“In a wave election, … you feel powerless. Everything I feel I know how to do, that I’m trained to do, I can’t do.”

The title comes from a quote by a pollster for the Democrats in this article. Most of the article is about the resignation that the GOP will take the House, with some Democratic strategists predicting as many as 70 Republican pickups.

I highlighted that quote because I think it indicates what is different about this election and what is wrong with most elections.

Democratic consultants, pollsters, and strategists have a tried-and-true playbook. It includes some of the following:

  • Raise a whole lot of money from people who have a vested interest in more government, and promise them to exert the power of government on their behalf.
  • Don’t make concrete promises on the campaign trail. Talk about generic “hope” and “change” and similar ideas, so that you can carry out your special interest policies in office without anyone overtly accusing you of lying.
  • Rely on various groups to get out the vote from reliably Democratic special interests. Depend on those proxies to push the rules to the edge, and maybe break them, but expect that any fallout will take place after the election and so far ahead of the next election that it will have faded from the news.
  • Demonize the GOP opposition. If they utter a single word about cutting government spending, accuse them of wanting old people to eat cat food, or whatever. Talk in a generic sense about how you are in favor of responsible government and you want to cut “fat” and “waste”. This reassures clueless moderates, and your leftist base has long since grown to understand that these are code words for cutting stuff leftists don’t like, such as the military, or doing nothing at all.
  • Depend on most of the media to help you demonize the opposition, carry water for your campaign, and studiously ignore anything that makes you look bad.
  • Have your special interest groups, especially unions, round up a bunch of relatively uninterested people to come to your rallies, frame them as making it look like you’re enormously popular, and depend on the media to use that to make you look so popular that you can’t be beaten.
  • This anonymous Democratic pollster is right. None of that is working. Thank goodness, because it’s time and past time for such tactics to fail.

    To be sure, Republicans sometimes dabble in the same tactics. They can’t depend on the media to carry water unless they are pretty lickspittle to the press and talk trash about other Republicans, but some of them do that. And generic promises and backroom special interest deals are a staple among professional politicians of all stripes. The interesting thing about this election to me is that some of those Republicans faced the same difficulties as the Democrats (an “adverse political climate“) and some are already gone from the field.

    This election is different because there is a contingent of voters that simply does not give the benefit of the doubt to either professional politicians or the media any longer. In fact, it’s worse than that. They assume what they’re hearing from those entities is distorted or dishonest. They assume the media has chosen sides. They assume that the professional politician cares more about his power and perqs than about governing responsibly.

    They have every reason to assume all of this, because it’s all true.

    I see two things that have made the difference this time around. First, the media trashed any remaining credibility they had in relentlessly pimping for Obama. They covered up every potentially damaging fact that came up about him, never challenged him on specific policies, and basically acted as though they would be happy to bear his child (even the men) if that could be made to happen. This level of obsequiousness was detectable even in people who don’t pay much attention to politics.

    Second, the failure of leftism, and the arrogance of leftism even in the face of its own failure, is more obvious than ever. Obama and his cronies have made no attempt to hide their contempt for the foundational principles of the country. They believe they know better than the common citizens what is best for the common citizens.

    That arrogance has been around for a while. There are Democrats who have been trying to nationalize healthcare since Medicare passed in the sixties.

    The difference is that now it’s on open display. Barney Frank can now be caught saying outright that he wants single payer, but it can’t pass right now, so Obamacare is the best progress they can make this time around. Multiply this by thousands as the words Democrats are used to telling the faithful (and expecting to be hidden from wider view by a complicit media) now get played on YouTube to millions of pi$$ed off voters.

    We have a generation of political consultants and strategists who have basically looked at voters as a large group of marks and suckers. With good reason, since tactics based on that attitude have worked to put odious, nasty leftists like Frank, Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, and many others in office for decades.

    My biggest hope based on this election is that our incompetent and corrupt ruling class has at last awoken a critical mass of voters who refuse to be marks and suckers. Who work relentlessly to expose the true arrogance and ineptitude of pro politicians, and the feckless bias of the media.

    We’ll have to wait until 2012 to see if that’s the case. But then, I’ve waited all my life to see that critical mass awaken, and I’d almost given up even trying to talk to people about the dangers we face from unbridled government. I can wait a while longer to see if I’ll be disappointed again.

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    Defense: cut cost, not capability

    One of the eternal claims of the left is that there is much that can be cut from the defense budget. Shockingly they’re right. At least in a meta-sense. There isn’t a government bureaucracy anywhere in government that can’t comfortably be cut, despite claims to the contrary. Defense is no exception. Secretary Gates plan to cut 100 billion from the Defense budget is both necessary and laudable.

    But here’s the catch. Those cuts must address fat, not muscle. They must cut costs, not capability. We must address any cuts made carefully and in a way we ensure our future viability in a very dangerous world.

    We also need to understand that whether we like it or not, we have the dominant leadership role in the free world. Abdication of that role could have catastrophic results for our nation and our allies and, in fact, for freedom around the globe.

    Those are the facts.  And we need to understand that when the defense budget is addressed, a scalpel instead of a meat axe should be used. While it will be tempting to cut expensive programs as a means of achieving short term spending goals, their absence could, at some point in the future, lead to our defeat.

    Take the F35 program for an example. The F35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is a 5th generation fighter that will replace many of our present day 4th generation fighters, such as the F16, F15 Strike Eagle and A10 (all designed in the ‘60s and ‘70s).  It is an expensive airplane. But there are reasons why it is expensive and those reasons are sometimes hard to explain to those only focused on the bottom line. But the fact that our potential enemies, Russia and China, are busily developing versions of their own 5th gen fighters should tell us about what sort of priority a program like that should have. Scrap heap isn’t one of them.

    A fifth generation fighter is quite an upgrade from the 4th gen fighters we now have in that they include advanced stealth, exceptional agility and maneuverability, sensor/ information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.  And these result in far greater survivability, situational awareness, and effectiveness for war fighters, as well as improved readiness and lower support costs.

    The cost of the F35 appears higher than 4th gen fighters because the F35 comes as a package with all its mission equipment included on board – an important point that is rarely seen in discussions of cost. This puts the cost in line with current 4th Generation aircraft which do not carry their mission equipment in their price  (Targeting Pods, Jammer, EW System, Fuel Tanks, Infrared Search and Track and other systems). Currently that price is about $60 million a copy in 2010 dollars. And Lockheed Martin, the supplier, has transitioned to that fixed cost per copy 2 years early.

    Many would like to argue that austerity precludes paying for such programs. They claim we can do this on the cheap by modifying 4th gen fighters and extend their life.  But consider this –in combat configuration, the F-35 outperforms all advanced fourth-generation aircraft in top end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and radius. Additionally, it is comparable or better than the best fourth generation fighters in aerodynamic performance in all within-visual-range categories and the F-35 outperforms all fourth-generation aircraft in both the “Within Visual Range” and “Beyond Visual Range” air-to-air combat arenas.

    The  5th gen fighters of Russia and China will also out- perform today’s fighters. The question you have to ask is would you want your son or daughter in the cockpit of an upgraded 4th generation fighter facing that sort of threat? The obvious answer is no.

    Defense cuts must be made. That’s the reality of this era of austerity. But it doesn’t have to be a conflicting priority to fielding the best for our future national defense and security obligations. Intelligence and the future needs of the nation must be factored in to the cuts anticipated in the defense budget or we could put our military and our nation at a terrible disadvantage in coming years.


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    House seats still moving toward GOP

    Yesterday as I made my predictions, RealClear Politics was showing 123 safe Democrat seats and 163 safe Republican seats.

    Today, while checking, RCP had changed those numbers to 121/163.  That means 2 seats for the Dems have moved out of “safe” and into “likely”.

    Additionally 3 have moved from “likely” to “leans” Dem and 6 have moved from “leans” Dem to toss up (34 toss ups yesterday, 40 today).

    Not a good trend if you’re  a Democrat hoping for a miracle.

    RCP now has it +65 for the GOP.  I’ll stick with my +61.


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