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The Crotch Bomber – “The system worked!” The trials and tribulations of government run airport security . Why weren’t some pretty obvious dots connected?
Do they just not get it? – Are Democrats misreading the anger among Americans as nothing more than the normal partisan nonsense from the out of power party? Are Republicans?
Obama’s foreign policy – Does our president really have any real interest in foreign policy? Or is his focus mostly on the domestic side of things?
A few days ago, David Brooks wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The God That Failed” which is still bubbling in various blogs. Here’s how Brooks began his piece:
During the middle third of the 20th century, Americans had impressive faith in their own institutions. It was not because these institutions always worked well. The Congress and the Federal Reserve exacerbated the Great Depression. The military made horrific mistakes during World War II, which led to American planes bombing American troops and American torpedoes sinking ships with American prisoners of war.
But there was a realistic sense that human institutions are necessarily flawed. History is not knowable or controllable. People should be grateful for whatever assistance that government can provide and had better do what they can to be responsible for their own fates.
That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished. Now we seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can’t.
Glenn Greenwald and a host of other lefty blogs are now assuring us that this “hysteria” over the crotch bomber is a result of our immaturity as a nation because of our concerns about terrorism:
This is what inevitably happens to a citizenry that is fed a steady diet of fear and terror for years. It regresses into pure childhood. The 5-year-old laying awake in bed, frightened by monsters in the closet, who then crawls into his parents’ bed to feel Protected and Safe, is the same as a citizenry planted in front of the television, petrified by endless imagery of scary Muslim monsters, who then collectively crawl to Government and demand that they take more power and control in order to keep them Protected and Safe. A citizenry drowning in fear and fixated on Safety to the exclusion of other competing values can only be degraded and depraved.
Nonsense. This outrage isn’t just about terrorism and our fear of it. In fact, this isn’t a regression. It is a reaction to the continuing failures of a government which has repeatedly claimed it is the answer to all problems and repeatedly fails to live up to its claim. It is also an indication of the growing citizen anger at its continued unchecked expansion.
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways. The original line out of the White House was that the system worked. Don’t worry, little Johnny.
Really? Well let’s think about that for a second, shall we? Prior to the complete takeover of airline security by the federal government, any president might certainly have been able to stand up and said that. And most of us would have likely agreed. Airlines, which were responsible for their own security screening at that time, would certainly have reacted appropriately and taken new measures designed to heighten safety. And naturally, airlines which didn’t would most likely see passengers vote with their feet since a heightened chance of having your planes routinely blown out of the sky, when compared with the competition, isn’t good for business, is it?
Instead –and it happened under a Republican administration- the Fed decided that only it can properly provide the security necessary to ensure airline safety. A huge and costly system with its attendant bureaucracy was put into place based on that premise. And the implicit promise of the premise was that while under the airlines, “some terrorists are bound to get through”, under government, it would be safer than that. That was the purpose of the takeover. And it is that which both Greenwald and Brooks miss.
In the case of this particular incident, you couple that with a little stupidity (Napolitano: “the system worked”), a dollop of denial (Obama: “an isolated extremist”) and typical non-responsive overreaction (TSA: stay in your seat the last hour with your hands in your lap) and you begin to understand why the president couldn’t go on TV and say something like Brooks claims he could say in a “mature nation”. This has nothing to do with the maturity or lack thereof of the nation. It has to do with an inept government unable to fulfill it’s promise and the righteous anger that causes.
This incident is just one of many which are awakening the public to the falsity of the pernicious myth that government is “the answer”. It was the financial crisis that began the process. As it developed, people were suddenly confronted with the realization that those who had assured us they were in control and knew what they were doing really didn’t have a clue. Add that with the rapid takeover of the financial sector and GM, TARP and the “stimulus”, extended trillion dollar deficits, health care “reform” and cap-and-trade legislation and now this airline security failure and you begin to understand both the rising alarm and the rising anger.
I’m sure there are those out there who still think the Tea Parties were about health care and/or Obama and the Democrats. In fact, they were an early outward manifestation of the phenomenon – the rapidly growing realization that a) government can’t fulfill its promises but b) despite that, it continues to attempt to accrue more power and c) really doesn’t care if the public wants it or not.
They also are beginning to realize the mammoth cost of the leviathan in place is bad enough (and it is only going to get worse). And they are terrified of the cost of what is being promised as the government takes over more and more of our lives.
You can begin to understand why the growing anger is directed at this administration and government in general is the result. The attempted bombing incident and the resultant anger is no more just another indicator of that general anger and dissatisfaction.
What Brooks and Greenwald don’t seem to understand – and I’d think it is a safe bet to make the same claim about Republicans – is this isn’t anger just directed at this administration or Democrats alone. They’ve simply managed to bring it to a head with their over-reaching. It is anger, in general, at the depth, breadth, cost, intrusion and control government has and seeks to broaden. In a larger sense, what Greenwald and Brooks would like to write off as an immature tantrum about a security failure is just another manifestation of the growing anger and discontent directed at government in general and as result of the swiftness and scope of the recent expansion.
The culture of dependency that politicians have carefully engineered over the last 80 years is finally seeing a backlash. Ironically it is the financial crisis and the Democratic ascendancy, along with their attempts to broaden that dependency, which has suddenly alarmed and angered the public. As dependency was incrementally increased over the decades, the public’s alarm at government’s increased powers was muted. With the sudden power and control grabbed by the government, precipitated by the financial crisis, the alarm –and anger- is no longer muted.
That, by any measure, is a good thing. What it isn’t, however, is an immature reaction. It is, if anything, not strident enough.
For the self-named “reality based community” I sometimes wonder if the left lives in a bubble, or have a selective memory, or just flat don’t remember anything before January 20th, 2009.
In fact, take the word “Republicans” out of this quote and it could have been said of any number of people on the left during the previous 8 years:
The climate right now is that Republicans use everything they can to undermine and delegitimize this president. And it’s actually un-American. It’s traitorous, in my opinion. Do you want to give aid and comfort to our enemies? Continue to treat this president like he wasn’t elected and he doesn’t know what he’s doing! He knows what he did. He knows what he’s doing. I’m proud of him. I believe that he has the stalwart, resolute nature to get this done…
That was Joan Walsh of Salon.com on Hardball. You can watch it here. Obviously she didn’t get Hillary Clinton’s memo about questioning people’s patriotism and she obviously doesn’t know that dissent is, in fact, the highest form of patriotism (a sentiment, btw, with which I agree) according to the left.
Given she apparently believes that this is something new, she’s obviously oblivious to the irony of her own words. Either that or she found the left’s behavior acceptable during the Bush years.
In reality, what she and the rest of the left are going through is the transition from the opposition to the establishment.
Ed Driscoll provides some prime Victor David Hanson quotes to remind the left of how well it acted during its chance to show support for an opposition party president, and how miserably they failed. In fact, it isn’t a stretch at all to say they did “everything they [could] to undermine and delegitimize [that] president”.
Do you remember the uproar this year when someone admitted they hoped Obama would fail? Why that was simply outrageous. But any observer of the left during the last administration knew it was nothing new. Via Driscoll (and another part of the irony of this quote) here is Gary Kamiya writing at – wait for it – Salon.com about President Bush:
I have a confession: I have at times, as the war has unfolded, secretly wished for things to go wrong. Wished for the Iraqis to be more nationalistic, to resist longer. Wished for the Arab world to rise up in rage. Wished for all the things we feared would happen. I’m not alone: A number of serious, intelligent, morally sensitive people who oppose the war have told me they have had identical feelings.Some of this is merely the result of pettiness–ignoble resentment, partisan hackdom, the desire to be proved right and to prove the likes of Rumsfeld wrong, irritation with the sanitizing, myth-making American media. That part of it I feel guilty about, and disavow. But some of it is something trickier: It’s a kind of moral bet-hedging, based on a pessimism not easy to discount, in which one’s head and one’s heart are at odds.
Many antiwar commentators have argued that once the war started, even those who oppose it must now wish for the quickest, least-bloody victory followed by the maximum possible liberation of the Iraqi people. But there is one argument against this: What if you are convinced that an easy victory will ultimately result in a larger moral negative–four more years of Bush, for example, with attendant disastrous policies, or the betrayal of the Palestinians to eternal occupation, or more imperialist meddling in the Middle East or elsewhere?
Wishing for things to go wrong is the logical corollary of the postulate that the better things go for Bush, the worse they will go for America and the rest of the world.
Quite a confession, wouldn’t you say? Apparently in Mr. Kamiya and Ms. Walsh’s world, the “logical corollary of the postulate” is only valid for the ideological left.
So Ms. Walsh, it’s your turn – take a look at what your colleague wrote at your site back before you apparently began paying attention to things like that and, given how you’ve branded the right’s dissent and opposition as “traitorous” and “un-American”, tell us why Mr. Kamiya’s sincere wish for Bush to fail in Iraq isn’t fruit from the very same tree?
I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself – sometimes nature provides us with the best situational irony and this case is just hilarious:
A downtown protest of the climate change talks in Copenhagen became a victim of Wednesday’s snowstorm.
“Not many people showed up because of the blizzard conditions,” said organizer Clea Major, an international studies student at the University of Utah.
It didn’t take long for the six friends to pack up a bullhorn and posters they’d planned to use for their “scream-in,” an outlet for their frustration about the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks earlier this month to curb the pollution blamed for climate change.
Damn global warming.
Here’s an absolutely fascinating article by Micah Sifry in which he takes a detailed look at the myth and reality of the Obama campaign. As you might imagine the myth doesn’t live up to the reality.
What was the myth? That the campaign was a bottom-up, grassroots driven organization. Instead says Sifry, it was the 21st Century version of a top-down campaign (whereas the McCain campaign was the last version of the old 20th Century top-down campaign).
That’s not to say the campaign wasn’t managed brilliantly – the email list they built was over 13 million. However the myth they delivered was that A) the grassroots would have a seat at the table and B) they were electing a “different kind” of politician. In reality, neither of those promises has materialized. And it is that which has so disillusioned and frustrated many Obama supporters. They bought into the myth lovingly nurtured by a supportive media apparently as easily gulled as the public. For instance:
From Fast Company’s March 2009 cover story on Chris Hughes, the Facebook cofounder who led the development of Obama’s online community My.Barackobama.com (or “MyBO”): -“The theme of the campaign, direct from Obama, was that the people were the organization.” -“Trusting a community can produce dramatic and unexpected results.”
From National Journal’s April 2009 profile of Joe Rospars, the Obama campaign’s new media director: -“It was going to be something organic. It was going to be bottom-up,” Joe Rospars said.
From Rolling Stone’s March 2008 “The Machinery of Hope” story on the Obama campaign: -“Obama didn’t just take their money,” says Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000. “He gave them seats at the table and allowed them to become players.”
All are examples of the cheerleading and water carrying that was rampant in the press at the time of the campaign. And, for the most part, they uncritically helped develop the myth and enabled the campaign to push it much further than it should ever have been able to do on its own.
However, since January 20th – day 1 of “reality” – those grassroots supporters have not seen a “new” type of politician nor have they found themselves sitting at the table. Instead, an new organization (Organizing For America or OFA) has been formed around the old 13 million strong mailing list and seems to have the dual purpose of cheerleading for the administration and raising money. However, that’s not going as well as they’d like:
The returns OFA is getting on email blasts appear to be dropping significantly, for example. “”People are frustrated because we have done our part,” one frustrated Florida Obama activist told the Politico. “We put these people in the position to make change and they’re not doing it.”
That’s reality. As Sifry points out:
In The Audacity to Win, Plouffe writes often of an “enthusiasm gap” that he saw between Obama’s supporters and the other Democratic candidates, notably Clinton. Back then, there was plenty of evidence to support Plouffe’s claim: Obama was surging on all the online social networks, his videos were being shared and viewed in huge numbers, and the buzz was everywhere. We certainly wrote about it often here on techPresident. Now, there is a new enthusiasm gap, but it’s no longer in Obama’s favor. That’s because you can’t order volunteers to do anything–you have to motivate them, and Obama’s compromises to almost every powers-that-be are tremendously demotivating.
The question is, without the same enthusiasm as he was able to generate in 2008 in which Obama managed to turn out many first time voters, independents and young voters, can he win again in 2012 if the Republicans can find a viable and attractive candidate? Or perhaps the better question is, has he alienated enough of the marginal voters who gave him a win to ensure a good Republican candidate has a real chance in 2012, given the power of incumbency and all?
I think the answer, with those caveats, is yes. Obama was indeed a transitional candidate – the first black president and the first president elected based in a myth loosely contained in his “Hope and Change” motto. The electorate has now digested and marked “first black president” off the list. It doesn’t have the power it once had. Americans have proven they can overcome race in electing someone to the highest office in the land. However, the realization that his candidacy was based in this myth and they were gulled into believing the myth certainly won’t sit well with those marginal voters I spoke about – and that enthusiasm gap could become an enthusiasm chasm by 2012 (it’s why you’re beginning to see blog posts like this on the left).
Make sure you read the whole thing. There are many more aspects of the campaign covered by Sifry. For instance, how, in fact, it was a campaign immersed in “big money” from the usual suspects (something we pointed out repeatedly here at QandO) and what that meant in reality. It is a great analysis of a brilliant campaign which has had one major failing – it hasn’t been able to transition its promises into the reality of governing. Sifry seems to wonder if that was ever the plan to begin with. Regardless, that failing is not unique to this particular campaign – few are able to do that – however the difference between the promises and the perception they created vs. the reality of this presidency are probably unique in the magnitude of that failure, the frustration it has generated and the possible electoral results that frustration will bring if it isn’t addressed successfully. I, for one, don’t see how that can again be done, even with a compliant press (something I think we’re likely to see less of in the next few years, btw).
Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year from the QandO guys.
To those who read us (and watch and listen) – thank you.
To those who comment – on either side of an issue – thank you.
Blogging is, unless you make a living at it, a labor of love. And trust me, QandO is a labor of love.
It has been creaking along for 8 plus years now – that’s old in blog years. When QandO first started it was one of the few blogs out there. Now it is one of the millions, literally, but still has an excellent reader base and, at least in my opinion, one of the best commenter bases around. Since we switched to Word Press, we’ve recently passed the 20,000 comment threshold. And unlike the old platform, we have a handle on comment spam – you’ve not had to wade through 3,600 spam comments.
Anyway the labor of love continues into the year 2010 (my goodness, I never thought I’d see the 21st Century much less the year 2010) and it is with thanks for your continued readership and participation.
This little nugget from Science Daily:
Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere.
Hmmm … now if this is true (notice how, unlike alarmists, I still skeptically caveat my acceptance of this research until I see verification) it would put a very large dent in the argument for the draconian measures the warmists are attempting to write into law in various countries around the world, wouldn’t it?
Or at least it should. So why do I have this feeling that if true it will be mostly ignored.
Experience I guess.
The research was done by Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.
[Knorr] reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.
In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades.
The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.
I left that last line in there so that you understand that it is indeed published research and most likely his peers will try to replicate his analysis using his methods and data. As I recall, that’s how the scientific method works. We’ll see how “settled science” reacts to that if it should be validated.
Unfortunately, it leaves me still on my quest to find the answer to the following question: “If rising CO2, as science has told us, lags global warming by 800 years and is an “effect” of such warming, how in the world did it suddenly become a “cause” of such warming?
And I’m no closer to getting the answer to my second question either: “What is the optimum temperature for the “globe”?”
Any assistance in answering them would be greatly appreciated.
Fouad Ajami has a must-read article in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he lays out the emerging Obama foreign policy. In essence, however, he sums it up quite nicely in the subheading of this article: “No despot fears the president and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue”.
Instead, what they can expect is high-sounding rhetoric giving lip-service to past American foreign policy ideals (freedom for all, democracy, etc) with little or no action. As Ajami points out, there is no intent to live up to the rhetoric; the intent is to stay above it all. He calls it a “cold-blooded” foreign policy in which America withdraws, for the most part, from the world and takes more of an observer’s role. As for all that high minded rhetoric read or listen to any Obama speech on foreign policy and you’ll hear it. But Hillary Clinton provides the ground truth of the situation when she said, “Ideology is so yesterday”.
This administration has no real interest in the foreign policy agenda. But it can’t really admit that, since, as we all know, foreign policy is one of the primary jobs of the chief executive. However anyone with the intellect of a sand flea has been able to discern that this president’s interests are found more in the domestic agenda than the foreign policy agenda.
With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the “progressives” holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power.
In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration “cheats.” It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn’t fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid’s last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)
As revolution simmers on the streets of Iran, the will was summoned in the White House to offer condolences over the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, an iconic figure to the Iranian opposition. But the word was also put out that the administration was keen on the prospect of John Kerry making his way to Tehran. No one is fooled. In the time of Barack Obama, “engagement” with Iran’s theocrats and thugs trumps the cause of Iranian democracy.
As we’ve discussed many times, this is a man who wants to have it both ways. His “strategy” for Afghanistan wasn’t to do what was necessary to win the war, but what was necessary to win over most of his critics while still appeasing most of his base. In the case of his foreign policy, “engagement” is simply a device used to give the appearance of doing something while, in reality, doing (and accomplishing) very little.
In the Darwinian anarchy that is the world, leaders of the various tribes notice any weakness in those who’ve assumed leadership. And they instinctively exploit it. What 2009 has done is serve notice that the United States is a weaker nation to all those who want that and will take advantage of it. What 2010 will most likely bring is the expected exploitation of that situation. What forms or in what fashion that exploitation will occur is anyone’s guess at the moment (although astute observers will be able to point to probable actors and actions), but as Ajami points out with his little parable about Lebanon and Syria – reality is already adjusting the actions of the players, and not at all to the advantage of the United States or peace throughout the world.
I don’t know about you, but the attempt to continue to blame Bush for every failure of the Obama administration is getting to be quite old. In fact, it has become sort of a game – how will they manage to turn this is such a way as they can overtly or through implication, blame Bush.
Of course the latest attempt is the NWA bomber. Two simultaneous tracks on this one. First is the usual implication that this is an “inherited mess” from the previous administration. While I’m willing to concede some inheritance of problems from any previous administration, this isn’t one of them. I might be inclined to give such a concession on Jan. 20th of this year. But it is Dec. 31st, almost a full year since this administration has been in office and in charge of our security. This is their baby, not the previous administration’s.
Secondly, the claim that Bush didn’t take the flack Obama has when Richard Reid tried to detonate his shoe bomb. A couple of points. That was within months of 9/11 and plans and strategies were still being implemented. Additionally, Bush had been talking about terrorism in general since 9/11. So speaking out on this particular act of terrorism wasn’t a particularly necessary thing.
We’ve been doing this for 9 years since then. Almost one full year of it has been on the Obama watch. When the Ft. Hood shootings went down, the administration tried to play it down as something other than an act of terrorism, and then, belatedly and grudgingly acknowledged the possibility of such. Now we have this occurrence and again, we have an administration that looks inept and incompetent (“the system worked”) and again engaged in trying to downplay the significance of the attempted bombing and security breech.
Amazingly, Maureen Dowd most succinctly characterizes why this is much more significant a failure than Richard Reed (an act that took place well before the TSA and all the procedures designed to protect us):
If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?
This is a complete and utter failure of the system – and had it happened on the Bush watch, I’d say the same thing. But what I wouldn’t be doing, a year into the Bush administration, is blaming it on Clinton.
All the “dots” they love to talk about were there. What wasn’t there was any attempt to connect them. That says “FAIL” in big bold letters. And that “FAIL” falls squarely on the shoulders of the administration in charge at the time of the “FAIL”. That would be the Obama administration. And repeated attempts to pass it off to someone else are becoming both tiresome a bit worrying. It is time this President and his administration accept the fact that they are in charge and responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen on their watch. For military officers that’s leadership 101. For this crew, it seems to be anathema as they continue to try to pass the “responsibility” buck on to others. It reminds me of children who try to avoid blame by pointing to their siblings and claiming it’s all their fault.