Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trees Hang Low With Obama Guilt

Here is even more on Obama's "community organizer" association with our looming economic depression. Stanley Kurtz in "O's Dangerous Pals: Barack's 'Organizer' Buds Pushed for Bad Mortgages" (New York Post, Sept. 29, 2008), has become quite productive in this field of reporting.

WHAT exactly does a "community organizer" do? Barack Obama's rise has left many Americans asking themselves that question. Here's a big part of the answer: Community organizers intimidate banks into making high-risk loans to customers with poor credit.

In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes - and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it. ...

Mona Charen gives us, "ACORN, Obama, and the Mortgage Mess."

Kenneth Blackwell presents the connection in, "An ACORN Falls from the Tree."

David Limbaugh calls on McCain to, "Pin the Tail on the Donkey."

Perhaps it is because of connections like this that Nancy Pelosi went partisan-ballistic on the floor of the House, criticizing Bush and the Republican advocacy of small government for the nation's present financial instability. When the detectives start closing in on who done it, the culprit creates a distraction.

As an appendix, or something, here's Jon Stewart's take on why the American people are so opposed to this $700,000,000 lay out to "solve" the problem.

Jesus said "Do not worry about tomorrow," but laughing is always an option.

In Times of Crisis, Trust Capitalism

Joseph Calhoun, an investment officer at an investment management firm, speaks for a lot of people whose principles are still grounded in the American understanding of the seamless nature of freedom, encompassing the political, economic, religious, social, and cultural arenas. Socialism kills freedom in all its forms, like a wet blanket on a fire.

The US government is executing a coup d’etat of capitalism and I fear that we will pay the price for many years to come. Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and a host of others tell us the credit market is not working and the only way to get it working again is for the government to intervene. They claim this intervention is urgently needed and if we don’t act, the consequences are dire. Dire, as in New Depression dire. Have these supposed experts on capitalism forgotten how it really works?

If this bailout goes ahead in its current form and the Treasury pays a high enough price to recapitalize the troubled banks, what has been accomplished? The plan may be enough to induce the banking sector to start lending again, although frankly, I don’t know why we would want institutions who have shown such poor judgment in the past to stay in that business. This plan short circuits the capitalist model which would allow the stronger, well-run institutions to gain market share and/or expand profit margins. The long-term effect will be to lower the overall return on capital in the financial services industry. The government apparently believes that the key to economic recovery is to allocate limited resources in an inefficient manner. Does that make sense?
Read the whole thing here. It will cleanse your mind.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Dark Night of Fascism

One of our readers took me to task recently for describing the Left in this country as having fascist tendencies. It lowers the level of discourse, I believe was his claim. I have seen several examples come and go since then, but this story coming out of Missouri is truly chilling, and indicates the fascist intentions of elements within the Obama campaign and in.

Last Tuesday without any fanfare, the Barack Obama campaign announced Jennifer Joyce and Bob McCulloch, the top prosecutors in St. Louis city and St. Louis County, were joining something called an Obama truth squad. They plan to respond immediately to any misleading advertisements and statements that might violate Missouri ethics laws.

The story itself is scary, in that the reporter's sarcastic tone shows he sides with the Obama campaign in threatening free speech--he obviously thinks his speech rights will never be threatened. Governor Matt Blunt of that state was sufficiently alarmed to issue a statement concerning the threat of law enforcement officials signing up to deter what they consider untruthful campaign ads against Barack Obama.

What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.

This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.

What response would be appropriate from a prosecutor to paid advertising, which I believe still falls under the First Amendment? We do still have a First Amendment, right? What business do prosecutors have, in their official capacities, being part of a "truth squad"? I'll bet Ernst Rohm, the community organizer in charge of Hitler's Brown Shirts, would admire that one.

Organized intimidation: now an approved method in American politics, and the jihadis haven't even gotten warmed up here yet.

The Democrat Fannie and Freddie Cover-Up

The current financial crisis has corrupt, market-meddling Democrat fingerprints all over it.

This is another video that documents Democratic Congressional resistance to Republican attempts at reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Notice the role of Franklin Raines in fiddling the Fannie and Freddie books and skimming huge sums of money off the top for himself. Raines is an Obama economic adviser.

According to Neil Cavuto, Sen. Obama was at the head of the line when the piggies lined up at the Fannie and Freddie trough for campaign bucks. Senator Barack Obama! Number two on the Fannie and Freddie list of favored politicians after just four short years in the Senate."

McCain needs to forget the post-partisan image he is trying to craft and hammer away at this connection. You can be quite certain that Obama and his friends in the MSM are sparing no efforts to paint this as a Bush crisis that is founded on Republican principles. The problem is economic liberty. The solution is an economy managed from Washington.

This McCain ad is a start.

If we end up in a depression, its architects, the Dems, will blame it on the Republicans and we'll all believe them for the next fifty years.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dems Using Crisis to Fund Radical Friends

As usual, the Democrats are using a public crisis to enrich their far left political constituencies with huge gobs of public money while claiming to look out for the little guy.

The deal they were supporting before the House Republicans scuttled it would have shaved 20% off the top of any profit from selling the purchased bad debts and given it to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an organization of Marxist agitators with a history or embezzlement and intimidation, and an important role in using government programs to hook up people with mortgages they can't afford in overpriced houses.

Sen. Lindsey Graham blows the whistle:

Read "One Reason There Was 'No Deal' Yesterday" at Right Wing News. The article quotes Lindsey Graham, the text of Chris Dodd's proposal from Ed Morrisey's Hot Air blog, and The Heritage Foundation.

See also Michelle Malkin, "Kill the Bailout: More ACORN Funding?"

It's a Democrat Financial Crisis or an Obama White House

Clearly, John McCain's advisers put him under strict orders to guard his tongue during the debate at Ole Miss. He should have put that punk in his place and made headlines doing it. As it is, they sparred to a draw, giving the win to Barack Obama.

When Obama accused McCain of being complicit in the present economic mess because 90% of his votes in the Senate have agreed with the administration, McCain should have looked straight at him, and said, "Mr Obama, not only are you are a Senator, you are also part of the Democratic Party's governing majority in Congress. You are in no place to be pointing the finger at me. Let me tell you about that 10%. It's a 10% that you don't have in disagreement with your party! Congress has made a mess of our financial system are you are part of that."

But because McCain seems to want to present himself as a post-partisan unifier, he didn't criticize the Democrats. But the Democratic Congress is even more unpopular than the President, and they are responsible for this mess.

You must watch these two videos.

The first one from Fox News documents how the Bush administration saw this subprime loan trouble coming and tried to prevent through regulation Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from making all these bad loans to people who really could not afford to be in the housing market. But the Democrats blocked it. Fox provides footage of Barney Frank--yes, Barney Frank the extremely liberal Democrat from Massachusetts who is scolding Bush and Wall Street for this crisis and who is at the center of Congressional efforts to dig us out of the crisis--saying that all this talk of problems at Fannie and Freddie is just a Republican trick to deny mortgages to the poor (i.e. adjustable rates, subprime rates, no money down, interest only payments, no questions asked about income--step right up!). Brit Hume and Bret Baier ask, "What were those warning signs? Who raised them? Who raised them, and who disputed them?"

This next video, "Burning Down the House," is longer--ten minutes--and very fast paced, but people under thirty should have no problem keeping up with it. It shows how the crisis developed, viz. not the failure of free market capitalism, but Democrats forcing private financial institutions to lend money to people who are not credit worthy It then documents John McCain's opposition to all of this and Barack Obama's political and financial involvement with the whole caper and its chief culprits.

[Oct. 1 - The "Burning Down the House" video has been pulled from YouTube for this stated reason: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Warner Music Group."]

So why does McCain not tie this around his opponent's neck? Instead, he lets Obama and the Democrats define the problem as a capitalist problem (markets don't work; they must be directed by wise and benevolent bureaucrats) and a Republican problem (Republicans don't believe in any regulation ever--yes, he said that).

Finally, Barack Obama closed with a story about his father coming to America because he saw it as a land of opportunity. (He has gall mentioning his father who was a communist, and who took the "opportunity" to abandon baby Barack and his mother and head back to Kenya. But that aside.) He claimed that--here comes the down-on-America stuff--people around the world no longer see American that way. Of course, it only Barack and Michelle and their Amerika hating friends (like Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers) who don't see America that way. McCain should have used his final minute to draw attention to the continuing political goodness of this country and to the millions of people still clamoring to come here, yes, even from Muslim countries. Instead he repeated his commitment to help veterans. Obama pricked him on the issue and McCain feasted on the bait.

Despite what you hear about negative campaigning, Americans like a fighter. McCain needs to define his opponent for who he is and do so with a few solid, memorable blows of devastating wit. He has got it. He needs to use it. Otherwise, we will see the triumph of evil regimes abroad and painful lessons about government control at home.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Landing Safely in the New World of Finance

The financial crisis is very confusing, even to those in the industry, or so it seems given the variety of analyses we have seen. But I pass along what ever I think seems especially insightful (emphasis on seems).

First, what we have always known as "Wall Street" is no more. A Wall Street Journal editorial, "The End of Wall Street," Sept. 23, 2008) announces it.

And so, in a single week, the era of the independent investment bank has ended. Wall Street as we've known it for decades has ceased to exist. Six months ago there were five major investment banks. Two -- Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns -- have failed, Merrill Lynch is selling itself to Bank of America, and now the last two are becoming commercial banks.
What has replaced it? David Brooks calls it "The New Establishment" (New York Times, Sept. 22, 2008). He helps us understand it with a short historical retrospective on the old establishment and what intervened. The Paulson plan "is a pure establishment play."

[The Paulson Plan] would assign nearly unlimited authority to a small coterie of policy makers. It does not rely on any system of checks and balances, but on the wisdom and public spiritedness of those in charge. It offers succor to the investment banks that contributed to this mess and will burn through large piles of taxpayer money. But in exchange, it promises to restore confidence. Somebody, amid all the turmoil, will occupy the commanding heights. Somebody will have the power to absorb debt and establish stability.
Here are two different views of the Paulson bailout plan. Andy Kessler, a former hedge fund manager, says that "The Paulson Plan Will Make Money for Taxpayers" (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 25, 2008). He predicts a $1-2 trillion dollar windfall for the public treasury. The political reality of this is, however, that even if it is true, while the public would pay the bill up front for the $700 billion bailout, Congress would go on a drunken spending spree as the profits roll in. Net losers: generations of taxpayers.

In today's Journal, John Paulson, a New York money guy, argues that "The Public Deserves a Better Deal." Under what he calls the "Preferred Plan," because he thinks we should prefer it, we would "[i]nvest the $700 billion of taxpayer money in senior preferred stock of the troubled financial institutions that pose systemic risks." The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac deal serves as a model, and it is also the deal Warren Buffett has worked out with Goldman Sacks.

He argues that the most important feature of this plan is that it protects taxpayers while stabilizing the system.

Shareholders had their dividends blocked and remain first in line to bear losses, as they should have been. Taxpayers came both first and last -- first to get paid back, as the new preferred stock is senior to all shareholders; and last in realizing losses, as common and other preferred equity would be extinguished before the taxpayers would be at risk."
This mechanism -- purchases of senior preferred stock with warrants in troubled institutions -- addresses the problems with the Treasury plan. The financial market is stabilized, companies get recapitalized, failures are avoided, debt securities are supported, and time is gained for illiquid assets to mature.
The institutions continue to function, their cost of funding will decline as equity capital increases, and innocent third parties like bank depositors, broker/dealer clients and insurance-policy holders are all protected. The only difference is that potential losses are kept with the shareholders where they belong.
I suspect that the answers are fairly obvious to anyone who is informed and public-spirited. Thus, I suspect that the wrangling and disagreement on Capitol Hill between Treasury and Congressional Democrats (Barney Frank et al.) has more to do with securing power and prosperity for themselves and their friends than with the public good.

We should beware of the establishment protecting itself and enriching itself at public expense. Given that Washington players are lucratively connected with them, voters must judge for themselves who is dealing honestly and who is snowing us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Political Counsel for Soft-Hearted Evangelicals

A friend passed along this letter from an Evangelical Christian man whose politics are shifting leftward as he follows what he thinks are the practical implications of his faith.

He writes:

The biggest thing pushing me to Obama (or the Democratic Party as a whole) is a political paradigm shift I've had with regard to a solution to help me "love my enemy." I am willing for my taxes to go to help those less fortunate...those my church and other private organizations may not be able to reach. And while the Republican party tries really hard to protect life inside the womb, once you're out of the womb they could care less about you. Don't abort that baby born into a life of crime and poverty, but sure don't help him get out of that!

Well, where does one start? Vote Democrat, and kill the baby before he even has a chance? Barack Obama voted against a bill (3x!) that would protect babies born alive who were supposed to be killed by abortion. That IS a paradigm shift.

The Democratic approach is to treat people as though they were helpless children and do as much as possible for them. The Republican approach (when Republicans are true to their principles) is to treat people as adults and to help them help themselves. That is not saying, "You're on your own." Effective prosecution of crime (a Republican priority) and policies that promote broad prosperity through healthy free markets (oh, another Republican priority) will help that boy more than Democratic efforts to give him ever more entitlement programs, ensuring that he and the generations that follow him are reduced to being wards of the state. And where are the kids this confused brother describes? They are in cities the Democrats have controlled for the last 50 years.

The difference between the parties is the difference between liberty and paternalism. Liberty frees you to serve God; paternalism offers itself in place of God. The Biblically stated purpose of government is to "punish evil and praise what is good" (I Peter 2:14). That is to say, it is to secure the governed in their liberty so that they can live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness (I Tim. 2:2). It is to provide a secure environment so that they can go about their business providing for themselves and one another.

Having said that, even if it were the government's place to provide for people in that situation, Democrats want all power concentrated at the highest level, furthest away from the people where it is least responsive to the people and least responsible to them, instead of at the local and state levels. Democrats don't like the people getting in the way of the government "helping" them, for example when poor inner city parents want to be able to choose what school they use for educating their children. Foolish parents, thinking that they have a better understanding of what’s best for their children than the wise Democrats in the government school system.

Lastly, if this brother wants to spend his money helping specifically situated people in specific ways, there are private organizations to which he can give his money (whose effectiveness he vastly underestimates). What he should not do is use the coercive power of government to force others to make the same judgments.

(Never mind the fact that what he and those organizations do is charity, i.e., loving service perhaps even in Jesus’ name, whereas what the government does is entitlement. On that point, he must read how entitlements morally corrupt both the recipients and those who otherwise would be givers in Tocqueville’s "Memoir On Pauperism."* While he’s at it, he should read Tocqueville’s Speech on the Right to Work. I know of nothing better than these two writings to cure a kind-hearted man of his socialist confusions.)

*www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/Tocqueville_rr2.pdf (This links to a pdf file, and does not work directly from the blog.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reading List for Friday's Debate

The first of the three presidential debates for 2008 is on Friday in Mississippi. So in addition to everything Harold and I have written on this blog (see the tags "McCain," "John McCain," and "Barack Obama" or just go to "2008 election" and "2008 primaries"), here is a reading list. Get to it. There'll be a quiz on Monday. (No. Sorry. What was I thinking?)

Investor's Business Daily has a series of essays they entitled, "The Audacity of Socialism." Harold Kildow deals with it below in "Nightmare Scenario."

Barack Obama has styled himself a centrist, but does his record support that claim? In this series, we examine Senator Obama's past, his voting record and the people who've served as his advisers and mentors over the years. We'll show how the facts of Obama's actions and associations reveal a far more left-leaning tilt to his background — and to his politics.

We've seen many comparisons between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, but Christopher Hitchens in Slate gives us, "Is Obama Another Dukakis: Why Is Obama So Vapid, Hesitant and Gutless?"

By the end of that grueling campaign season, a lot of us had got the idea that Dukakis actually wanted to lose—or was at the very least scared of winning. Why do I sometimes get the same idea about Obama? To put it a touch more precisely, what I suspect in his case is that he had no idea of winning this time around. He was running in Iowa and New Hampshire to seed the ground for 2012, not 2008, and then the enthusiasm of his supporters (and the weird coincidence of a strong John Edwards showing in Iowa) put him at the front of the pack. Yet, having suddenly got the leadership position, he hadn't the faintest idea what to do with it or what to do about it.

Stanley Kurtz at the Ethics and Public Policy Center is finally able to share with us what he found digging through those papers that Obama's friends worked so hard to prevent him seeing. Read "Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools" in today's Wall Street Journal.

Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

On the McCain side, in "McCain Loses His Head," George Will wonders if John McCain is temperamentally fit for the presidency.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

John Podhoretz at Commentary joins in drawing attention to McCain's combustible character, and in that way his unpredictable behavior, in "McCain's Challenge."

Substantively, this has been the worst week of John McCain’s campaign — and I mean since its beginning, in early 2007. With a perfect argument to make on his own behalf — that he saw the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and called them out in 2005 while others were still angling for their largesse, and that therefore he possesses the experience and demonstrated the kind of leadership and insight that are required for the presidency — he instead flailed about. Calling for the firing of Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Chris Cox? Right there, in that act, we got a glimpse of why senators so often make bad presidential candidates. From time immemorial, senators haughtily acts as though the dismissal of executive branch officials is a form of policymaking when it is almost always the opposite — an act of scapegoating.

Harold Kildow wrote when he drew my attention to this short article, "We could be one election away from a slide into fascism...and only a maverick senator standing in the way. Or maybe he'll help usher it in. That's the problem with mavericks--you never know what you're going to get. "

Nightmare Scenario

Try this for the strangest outcome to the strangest campaign (possibly) in our great Republic's history:

On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor.
"Wow," said longtime presidential historian Stephen Hess. "Wow, that would be amazing, wouldn't it?"

The piece argues this tie vote scenario, replicating the vicious election of 1800, is more likely than it seems. And it would kind of fit in with what we've already witnessed, wouldn't it?

John Fund, with his book on election fraud, has been talking about "election month" versus election day for some time now, pointing to the army in wing tips lined up by both sides to contest outcomes all over the country, should the need arise. We move closer and closer to banana republic territory as the left increasingly gives expression to it fascistic tendencies to lie, bully, and manipulate. ACORN and its members are already on court dockets across the country for jamming up county election commissions with phoney voter registrations in this year's election--a typical Saul Alinsky tactic designed to further frustration, resentment, and anger among the general population who will not blame the agitators, but the officials, for delays and incompetence.

"By any means necessary" and "the worse the better" are the two guiding dicta of the Saul Alinsky Left, the familiar spirit of the Weather Underground and Students for Democratic Action. Oh, and the topic for Hillary Clinton's college thesis.

Why the picture of Bill Ayers with this post? He's another Alinsky acolyte, ally and mentor of Barack Obama, willing to do and say anything, including terrorist bombing campaigns. Look at him defiantly trampling the flag. This will be the mindset of an Obama administration. Are you questioning his patriotism?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Flatlined Mainlined Churches

Joseph Bottum at First Things has been reflecting on what the demise of the Protestant mainline churches has meant for American political life ("The Death of Protestant America"). Describing America as a Christian nation may scare people but it is an unavoidable fact that America's Christianity has been, in particular its Protestant Christianity, has been an indispensable element of the three legged stool that has been the formula for America's liberty and stability: democracy, capitalism and Protestant Christian religion.

The death of the Mainline is the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other ­period in American history. Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: The Mainline has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.

I found this last statement especially interesting. "The Mainline has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding." He has in mind the large (but shrinking), theologically liberal denominations that left the authority of Scripture for the certainty of science, and left spiritual salvation for social enlightenment--the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the American Baptists, the Congregational churches in New England, and such.

Of course, this invites a comparison with those other Protestants, the Evangelicals, whose churches are growing in numbers and who continue to influence American culture (though they are notoriously influenced in turn) and American politics. Consider the relative influence of Evangelicals and the Mainlines in the GOP and the Democratic Party, respectively.

Evangelicals generally vote Republican and the Mainlines, insofar as they are theologically liberal, vote Democratic. Yet, while the Evangelicals are an important constituency in the republican coalition, Mainline Protestants receive no mention in political discussion and go entirely unnoticed in the Democratic Party. Whereas the Evangelical presence in the GOP has lead to explicitly Christian approaches to Christian policy concerns, the Mainline presence in the Democratic Party has recognizable influence. The Mainlines don't actually bring concerns to the Democratic Party. They see that the party shares their concerns and flock to it.

And it is remarkable that the Democratic Party no more religious as a result of Mainline Protestant involvement. Indeed, they are a notoriously anti-religious party. The reason for this is that the Mainlines get their moral agenda from the same secular source as the Democratic Party does. After all, when we say "theologically liberal," liberal means departing (or set at "liberty") from the authority of Scripture. So where do they depart to? Rather than the thoughts of God, they turn to the thoughts of men, in particular to secular cultural and philosophical sources, the same sources that inform the rest of the American political left. Though conservative Evangelicals are often co-opted by secular American political conservatism, the Biblical perspective they bring is always there with the potential to challenge themselves and their party. The Mainlines, on the other hand, have nothing to challenge the left. Having abandoned Scripture, all that remains for them are the philosophical tenets they share with their leftist political community. They bring neither salt nor light.

The religious parallel between the right and left in American politics is not that between the Evangelicals and the Mainlines. The religious group in the Democratic Party that corresponds with the Evangelicals in the GOP is the environmentalists. And of course the Mainlines, in lieu of a Biblical agenda and having seen the god of the social gospel fail (liberal progressivism and socialism), has adopted that secular religion as their own.

The Mainline has flatlined.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Financial Crisis And What To Do About It

Conrad Black tells us what brought us to this national financial crisis and tells us what to do about it. ("Lessons to Learn From Wall Street's Week of No Return," National Post, September 20, 2008.)

Broadly, the principal official financial policy errors in the United States over the last 15 years or so (during which time there has been minimal inflation and unemployment, and nearly 30-million net new jobs created), have been:

• Nothing has been done in U.S. tax policy to discourage excessive debt accumulation by the American public, which has spent more than it has earned for years, most of it on non-durable goods, and much of it imported. This has created terrible financial and psychological vulnerability throughout the population.

• Nothing has been done to reduce the back-breaking importation of oil, which has grossly raised energy costs, fueled inflation, enriched unfriendly states such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela, and financed their mischief, and burdened the United States with about half of its $800-billion annual current account deficit.

• Successive U.S. administrations of both parties have sat, inert as suet puddings, while China has piled up a $265-billion annual trade surplus with the United States.

• The deliberate reduction in the value of the U.S. dollar came too late to save manufacturing jobs and went on too long to improve the real buying power of American consumers. Meanwhile, Washington’s low-interest-rate policy was too deep and prolonged, and encouraged compulsive spending and expansion, and excessive borrowing and speculation, especially in housing.

Beyond that, the United States and other countries have fallen too far into the fool’s paradise of the service economy. The U.S. GDP of $13-trillion is about half composed of worthless and non-productive effort, which yet engages the efforts of a large number of very skilled people. A trillion dollars annually goes into legal expenses to feed the absurdly litigious society and state prosecutocracy. Another great fortune goes to insane insurance costs on medical lawsuits, and superfluous consulting fees -- which mainly substitute for what management should be doing, and provide a lightning rod to shelter inept management from shareholder wrath.

His three step recommendation for fixing the situation is as follows. Go to the story itself for fuller details.

In the first step, the U.S. government should raise spending (and bailing out financial institutions will ensure that), increase the money supply, cut the discount rate, and reduce taxes, and not with Barack Obama’s shell game of “refundable tax credits,” which is only one step short of the late Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau’s famous “voluntary tax.”

The second step should unfold over the longer term, as the U.S. incentivizes savings, starts to seriously reduce energy imports, follows market forces in a redistribution of some effort from service to productive or research areas, and regains or exploits more of its sophisticated manufacturing potential.

The third step is creating the right combination of public-sector vigilance to prevent self-destructive financial excess, and private-sector fermentation, without regulators substituting themselves for commercially accomplished people.

Politically, he sees McCain as more likely to pursue a recovery agenda as opposed to a deepen-us-into-terrible-depression agenda. "Who would be the best for the task? Both candidates were pretty unconvincing last week. But I still believe that a tax-cutting ex-combat pilot is a better bet than a soak-the-rich ex-social worker."

Conrad Black, born and educated in Canada but now a British citizen and member of the House of Lords, is a former media mogul, author of biographies of Maurice Duplessis, Franklin Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Tight Battle For Reform Mantle

A New York Times/CBS News poll (consider the source?) indicates that registered voters (not necessarily likely voters) view Barack Obama as far more likely to bring change to Washington than John McCain. Given the tightness of the race, which is reportedly tied again, and the supposed importance of this "change" issue, this seems counter-intuitive.

So McCain's remarks today in Cedar Rapids are important. They seem devastating. Expect to hear more about these connections between Obama, this economic crisis, and those who brought it upon us.

McCain's remarks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:
I’m happy to be introduced by Governor Palin, but I can’t wait until I introduce her to Washington. Let me offer an advance warning to the big spending, greedy, do nothing, me first, country second crowd in Washington and on Wall Street: change is coming.
We need reform in Washington and on Wall Street. The financial markets are in crisis. Times are tough. Enormous strain is being put on working families and individuals in America. I know that the events unfolding can be difficult to understand for many Americans. The dominos that we have seen fall this week began with the corruption and manipulation of our home loan system. The reason this crisis started was the abuses that took place within our home loan agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and within our home loan system.
Two years ago I warned this Administration and Congress that regulations for our home loan agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, needed to be fixed…
But nothing was done.
Senator Obama talks a tough game on the financial markets but the facts tell a different story. He took more money from Fannie and Freddie than any Senator but the Democratic chairman of the committee that regulates them. He put Fannie Mae’s CEO who helped create this disaster in charge of finding his Vice President. Fannie’s former General Counsel is a senior advisor to his campaign. Whose side do you think he is on? When I pushed legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Senator Obama was silent. He didn’t lift a hand to avert this crisis. While the leaders of Fannie and Freddie were lining the pockets of his campaign, they were sowing the seeds of the financial crisis we see today and enriching themselves with millions of dollars in payments. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington.
There was no transparency into the books of Wall Street banks. Banks and brokers took on huge amounts of debt and they hid the riskiest investments. Mismanagement and greed became the operating standard while regulators were asleep at the switch.
The primary regulator of Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) kept in place trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino. They allowed naked short selling — which simply means that you can sell stock without ever owning it. They eliminated last year the uptick rule that has protected investors for 70 years. Speculators pounded the shares of even good companies into the ground.
The Chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the President and has betrayed the public’s trust. If I were President today, I would fire him.
We cannot wait any longer for more failures in our financial system. Structures like the resolution trust corporation that dealt with the failed savings and loan industry were designed to clean up the system and worked. Today we need a plan that doesn’t wait until the system fails. I am calling for the creation of the mortgage and financial institutions trust – the MFI. The priorities of this trust will be to work with the private sector and regulators to identify institutions that are weak and take remedies to strengthen them before they become insolvent. For troubled institutions this will provide an orderly process through which to identify bad loans and eventually sell them.
This will get the treasury and other financial regulatory authorities in a proactive position instead of reacting in a crisis mode to one situation after the other. The MFI will enhance investor and market confidence, benefit sound financial institutions, assist troubled institutions and protect our financial system, while minimizing taxpayer exposure. Tomorrow I will be talking in greater detail about the crisis facing our markets and what I will do as President to fix this crisis and get our economy moving again.
Senator Obama has never made the kind tough reform we need today. His idea of reform is what his party leaders in Congress order him to do. We tried for bipartisan ethics reform and he walked away from it because his bosses didn’t want real change. I know how to make the change that Senator Obama and this Congress is afraid of. I’ve fought both parties to shake up up Washington and I’m going to do it as President.
Those same Congressional leaders who give Senator Obama his marching orders are now saying that this mess isn’t their fault and they aren’t going to take any action on this crisis until after the election. Senator Obama’s own advisers are saying that crisis will benefit him politically. My friends, that is the kind of me-first, country-second politics that are broken in Washington. My opponent sees an economic crisis as a political opportunity instead of a time to lead. Senator Obama isn’t change, he’s part of the problem with Washington.
When AIG was bailed out, I didn’t like it, but I understood it needed to be done to protect hard working Americans with insurance policies and annuities. Senator Obama didn’t take a position. On the biggest issue of the day, he didn’t know what to think. He may not realize it, but you don’t get to vote present as President of the United States.
While Senator Obama and Congressional leaders don’t know what to think about the current crisis, we know what their plans are for the economy. Today Senator Obama’s running mate said that raising taxes is patriotic. Raising taxes in a tough economy isn’t patriotic. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s just dumb policy. The billions in tax increases that Senator Obama is proposing would kill even more jobs during tough economic times. I’m not going to let that happen.
I have seen tough times before. I know how to shake-up Wall Street and Washington. I will get this economy moving. I will lead us through this crisis by fighting for you, and when I am President we will be stronger than ever before.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin Can Shoot, But McCain Can Sing!

Are you down because the Dow is down? Did you work at Lehman Brothers? John McCain brings you a brighter today: McCain sings Streisand.

"I've been in politics for over 20 years. And for over 20 years, I've had Barbara Streisand trying to do my job. So I decided to try my hand at her job."

Watch this video of Sen. John McCain singing "Memories" and other musical classics back in 2002 on Saturday Night Live. Read the story.

Let's see Barack Obama top that! Actually, can you imagine doing anything like this? He takes himself far too seriously for this sort of light-heartedness. When you set yourself up as the Messiah (or allow others to do so), it really limits what you can do with propriety.

For more videos--both grave and gay (in the old sense, need I add)--scroll down a couple of posts, or click here.

Understanding the Credit Crisis and AIG

I found Michael Lewitt's "Wall Street's Next Big Problem" helpful in understanding how the continued stability of AIG (American International Group, FYI) is important for the financial system. Lewitt is president of a money management firm. Here is an excerpt.

Its collapse would be as close to an extinction-level event as the financial markets have seen since the Great Depression. A.I.G. does business with virtually every financial institution in the world. Most important, it is a central player in the unregulated, Brobdingnagian credit default swap market that is reported to be at least $60 trillion in size.

Nobody knows this market’s real size, or who owes what to whom, because there is no central clearinghouse or regulator for it. Credit default swaps are a type of credit insurance contract in which one party pays another party to protect it from the risk of default on a particular debt instrument. If that debt instrument (a bond, a bank loan, a mortgage) defaults, the insurer compensates the insured for his loss. The insurer (which could be a bank, an investment bank or a hedge fund) is required to post collateral to support its payment obligation, but in the insane credit environment that preceded the credit crisis, this collateral deposit was generally too small.

As a result, the credit default market is best described as an insurance market where many of the individual trades are undercapitalized. But even worse, many of the insurers are grossly undercapitalized. In one case in the New York courts, the Swiss banking giant UBS is suing a hedge fund that said it would insure nearly $1.5 billion in bonds but was unable to do so. No wonder — the hedge fund had only $200 million in assets.

If A.I.G. collapsed, its hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage-related assets would be added to those being sold by other financial institutions. This would just depress values further. The counterparties around the world to A.I.G.’s credit default swaps may be unable to collect on their trades. As a large hedge-fund investor, A.I.G. would suddenly become a large redeemer from hedge funds, forcing fund managers to sell positions and probably driving down prices in the world’s financial markets. More failures, particularly of hedge funds, could follow.Regulators knew that if Lehman went down, the world wouldn’t end. But Wall Street isn’t remotely prepared for the inestimable damage the financial system would suffer if A.I.G. collapsed.

As far as I can figure it out, this whole crisis stems from interest rates being so low for so long. (Read Alan Greenspan's warning in 2005 concerning this, though he was Federal Reserve Chairman at the time: "Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned Monday night that the baffling persistence of low long-term interest rates was driving investors to hunt for higher returns by plowing money into hedge funds that will not be able to deliver on their promises." -- NYT, June 7, 2005) That made money cheap to borrow. So lots of people did. They bought houses.

With so much money flowing into the housing market so freely, prices inflated. With home values rising so quickly, financial institutions eager for profit (nothing wrong with that unless it's unmoderated by prudence) developed ever more generous means of letting people into the market, such as adjustable rate mortgages and interest only mortgages. These are fine as long as home values keep rising. But they cannot rise indefinitely. This seems something like a Ponzi scheme without the scheming.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Campaign Videos and Humor

When I was a kid, like in the Clinton years when I was in my thirties, campaign ads ran on television. Where else would they run? And only the candidates, the parties, and well funded organizations like the NRA and AFL-CIO could afford to make them.

Today, anyone can make a campaign ad and run it on YouTube or some other Internet website. Those who see it have viewed it voluntarily. As the good ones get passed around, the size of the viewership is in some way a measure of the message. Also, the ad is not limited to 30 seconds, so you can develop an argument and say more.

Here are two exceptional videos running on YouTube. (I still have not figured out how to make a video screen image appear in my blog post like everyone else can do.)

"Dear Mr. Obama" runs 1:56, has had over 5 million viewers (that's a lot) and features a young veteran respectfully defending our military commitment to Iraq. It features a moving and unexpected twist at the end.

"Dear Mr. Obama II: Economics 101" is an imaginative, economically well-informed, and eloquent explanation of why Sen. Obama's policy proposals would bankrupt the country, or at least would revive the use of the "misery index" that we used under Jimmy Carter's disastrous presidency. That one is 4:20 and has had over 45,000 viewers.

Finally...well, this is not an ad, but a Saturday Night Live sketch that is purportedly "A Non-partisan Message from Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton." Tina Fey has you wondering for a second if it is really Palin up there. Amy Poehler does Hillary. Palin: "Tonight we are crossing party lines to address the now very ugly role that sexism is playing in the campaign." Clinton: "...an issue which I am frankly surprised to hear people suddenly care about!" They portray Palin as a beautiful ditz, but otherwise sincere and free of partisan animosity. They portray Hillary as an embittered, power hungry shrew. If that isn't a formula for great late night comedy, WHAT IS?

Finally, as if McCain-Palin weren't doing well enough on their own, the Obama-Biden camp seems to be doing everything they can to boost their opponents toward victory in November. In this ad, called "Still," the Obama campaign tries to depict John McCain as "out of touch" with ordinary Americans because he can't email. This recalls George Bush's surprise when he discovered supermarket checkout scanners during the 1992 campaign and how the Clinton campaign used it for the same purpose. But Jonah Goldberg tells us that McCain cannot use a keyboard without great pain on account of the disfigurement he suffered at the hands of his North Vietnamese prison wardens. Perhaps next they'll go after his patriotism for not being able to salute, and paint him as un-American for not being able to throw a baseball.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Is Obama Campaigning Against Himself?

So having reviewed much of what the Obama campaign is doing wrong, it is fair to ask what McCain is doing right.

Michael Barone says that the old fighter pilot has been "Getting Inside Obama's Loop."

Senator McCain was trained as a fighter pilot. In his selection of Governor Palin, and in his convention and campaigning since, he has shown that he learned an important lesson from his fighter pilot days: He has gotten inside Senator Obama's OODA loop.

That term was the invention of a great fighter pilot and military strategist, John Boyd. It's an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

"The key to victory is operating at a faster tempo than the enemy," Boyd's biographer, Robert Coram, writes. "The key thing to understand about Boyd's version is not the mechanical cycle itself, but rather the need to execute the cycle in such a fashion as to get inside the mind and decision cycle of the adversary."

For a fighter pilot, that means honing in above and behind the adversary so you can shoot him out of the sky. For a political candidate, it means acting in such a way that the opponent's responses again and again reinforce the points you are trying to make and undermine his own position.

Read how McCain has applied this strategy. It starts with his selection of Sarah Palin as running mate. The Obama people and their friends in the media go into a tailspin from there.

As Barone admits, Charlie Martin at American Thinker ("McCain and the OODA Loop") got the story first and provides more detailed analysis.

Palin Fits the American Mold

Maggie Gallagher suggests that Sarah Palin has established a new archetype for modern womanhood: the pioneer, oddly enough ("Sarah Palin's Pioneering Streak").

Generally, powerful female politicians fall into one of two archetypes: They are either Margaret Thatchers or Indira Gandhis.

Indira Ghandis come to power through their female family role, not in spite of it. They rise as daughters or wives in powerful political families to become mother figures -- playing off the "lady bountiful" ideal in traditional societies.

Margaret Thatchers are post-sexual figures. They're tough old biddies whose days as wives and mothers seem well behind them. Schoolmarms, crones -- they are classic female authority figures who can be trusted to exercise power "like men" because their disturbing and complicating female sexual persona has largely dissipated.

Hillary Clinton, as a pathbreaking female presidential candidate, struggled to combine both archetypes, and I think largely successfully. Hillary forged a way for a woman to appear tough and powerful enough to be president without altogether losing her female "brand."

But Gov. Sarah Palin is something completely new. She is still young, still beautiful, still in the middle of all the messy complications that the sexual role of being a woman brings -- a Down syndrome baby, a teenage daughter's pregnancy.

What we need here is a new sexual archetype for female achievement. And I think in Gov. Palin, we have an extraordinary one: pioneer woman.

A pioneer woman is a traditional figure. She stands beside her man -- not at war with him. She takes care of her home and her community. If her man is around, maybe she lets him kill the bear. But if he falls, or fails, she picks up the rifle and gets the job done, whatever the job is that needs to be done.

But Gallagher has it wrong. First, the pioneer wife did not "let" her man kill a bear. She would take charge quite capably if the man disappeared (death, long journey etc.), but while he was in the picture she was not in charge. She supported her husband. Palin's public service has had nothing to do with her husband. That's her husband (a man's man in every respect) standing off to the side holding the baby.

She does present a new model, but it's not the pioneer woman.

Her story certainly fits the classic democratic tale of universal opportunity. Despite your humble origins, perhaps a log cabin, if you work hard and have talent you can become President of the United States. Ronald Reagan was just a kid from Dixon, Illinois, who went off to seek his fortune and made his way to the White House. Bill Clinton was a boy from a broken home in Hope, Arkansas.

Barack Obama tried to package himself as an example of that American dream. It hasn't worked. The story has to start in an ordinary town. Yes, he was born in Kansas, and Hawaii plays a role at some point, but the story can't involve Muslim schooling in Indonesia.

Sarah Palin then steps into our American dream cravings that Obama had stirred but did not satisfy. She grew up in Wassila, Alaska (find that on a map). She married her high school sweetheart. She attended a non-Ivy League university. She has a big family. She started her trek to Washington on the PTA with a concern for reform. Americans can more plausibly look at Palin's life and say, "Her story is my story!" (not that I think that should make any difference, but that's our world).

And there's Barack Obama, standing at the side of the road with his baggage, watching the last bus to Washington leave with Sarah Palin sitting in what he thought was his seat. And all he has is Joe Biden to entertain him.

Note on the photos:

The photograph of the statue is from Flyoverpeople.net. The base of the statue reads: “Dedicated to the Pioneer Women of Kansas.” On the website (Nov.17, 2006), Cheryl Unrah writes concerning this photograph, “A woman, a babe, a boy, a gun and a dog. I thought the dog lying at her feet was a nice touch. I'm sure many pioneer women were often left on their own for days at a time. They were toughened by the danger, by the wind, by Kansas blizzards. This monument is on the grounds of the Kansas Capitol.”

The old photos of gun-toting pioneer women come from the Women of Action Network website, a page on markswomen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin is Hollywood's Frankenstein

Michelle Ryan in The Bionic Woman

It was not supposed to happen this way. From 2005-2006, Hollywood produced 19 episodes of “Commander in Chief” starring Geena Davis as an accidental President. It was a national prep for a Hillary Clinton Presidency. The storyline was that the party put Geena Davis on the ticket simply to attract female voters, and with this gimmick they won the White House. So when the President suddenly died soon after taking office, they took it as a given that she would step aside, as she was never seriously expected to serve as President. But she got it in her head to be President anyway, and went on to an unexpectedly successful presidency.

Well, it turns out that life has ended up imitating art far more closely than they had planned. Hillary lost the nomination, but the Republicans nominated...Sarah Palin...a beautiful young (relatively) inexperienced governor for the vice-presidency. Let’s hope the parallel ends there (as we wish no ill on Sen. McCain and expect great accomplishments from him).

Then consider the model of womanhood that Hollywood has been serving us for the last 30-35 years, from the bionic woman and Charlie's Angels (1976) to Angelina Jolie. (Of course Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels bridge the entire era, as it turns out.) These women were supposed to be the liberated anti-conservatives. Every film, every episode, every re-run was an assault on traditional sexual categories, a deconstruction of marriage and family as we have always known them.

But it has always been so absurdly fictional, such a daydream of the liberal imagination to which we have been constantly exposed like inmates at a re-education camp for political deviants. In real life, no one is like that except a few rock climbing products of modern technology. Then along comes Sarah Palin, the beautiful, athletic, charming woman who rockets into high office not on her husband’s coattails when he dies or serves his maximum two terms, but by her own extraordinary abilities.

But wait! The story is out of control! She’s not supposed to be a conservative! Add that she’s a social conservative, an economic conservative, a political conservative and an Evangelical Christian all rolled into one, and it’s a liberal cultural engineer’s nightmare, a Room 101 from 1984.

Thus, Sarah Palin has become Hollywood's Frankenstein with an ironic inversion. Of course, in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein was not the monster, but the scientist. So it is Hollywood that is Frankenstein. But who is the monster?

The project of the Hollywood liberal establishment was to reconfigure, construct, and propagate the modern woman, defying nature, for a brave new world. But just as Dr. Frankenstein's "man" turned out a monster and took on a life of his own, Hollywood's monster has turned out to be a real woman, a wholesome human being.

Can Sarah Palin be model for American women? That is a separate matter. Just because Hollywood is horrified doesn't mean that their nightmare should be every man's dream come true. Growing up is hard when your mother is busy in the public sphere. Rather than justify the female juggler of family and career, Palin may refocus attention on this quintessentially modern, democratic problem.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama-Biden Postmortems Pour In

After Walter Mondale’s drubbing at the hands of Ronald Reagan, Joshua Muravchik wrote “Why The Democrats Lost” (Commentary, Jan. 1985). Then in 1989, he wrote, “Why The Democrats Lost Again.” These postmortems were written after the election was decided. It is interesting that the postmortems on Barack Obama have begun two months before election day. The campaign does appear to be in meltdown. But let me remind you: anything can happen in politics.

Here is a far from comprehensive review. It is just what I have noticed.

Kirsten Powers in “How Obama Blew It” (New York Post, Sept 9, 2008).

Obama's toughest challenge has always been to connect with working-class swing voters. So attacking the poster child for small-town values, Sarah Palin, was a bad strategy. No, Obama didn't engage in the mass sneering at Palin - but he did fall into the trap of disrespecting her. When McCain chose her, the Obama campaign's first response was to ridicule the size of her town. Then the candidate himself began referring to her as a "former mayor" when she is in fact a sitting governor. ...

Lured by the McCain camp, Obama supporters engaged in an argument about who had more overall experience - the top of the Democratic ticket or the bottom of the GOP ticket. This diminished Obama. ...

So now he is weighted down with more baggage as he works to convince an important voting bloc that he and his party don't hold them in contempt.

Clive Crook at Britain’s Financial Times (“Democrats Must Learn Some Respect," Sept. 7, 2008) elaborates on this contempt problem among the Democrats, a problem that, despite all his little-guy sob stories on the campaign trail, Obama has earned for himself. He was recorded telling a private gathering in San Francisco (that didn’t help) that when tough times hit, small-town people "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." Despite billing themselves as the party of ordinary Americans, of Main Street versus Wall Street, Clive observes that Democrats “lack respect for the objects of their solicitude. Their sympathy comes mixed with disdain, and even contempt.”
Democrats regard their policies as self-evidently in the interests of the US working and middle classes. Yet those wide segments of US society keep helping to elect Republican presidents. How is one to account for this? Are those people idiots? Frankly, yes – or so many liberals are driven to conclude. Either that or bigots, clinging to guns, God and white supremacy; or else pathetic dupes, ever at the disposal of Republican strategists. If they only had the brains to vote in their interests, Democrats think, the party would never be out of power. But again and again, the Republicans tell their lies, and those stupid damned voters buy it.

Crook has great sympathy for Obama and would like to see the Democratic party in power more frequently. But he sees from afar the obstacles that the clever and highly paid leaders of that party cannot bring themselves to recognize.
They will have to develop some regard for the values that the middle of the country expresses when it votes Republican. Religion. Unembarrassed flag-waving patriotism. Freedom to succeed or fail through one’s own efforts. Refusal to be pitied, bossed around or talked down to. And all those other laughable redneck notions that made the United States what it is.

Jonah Goldberg (“McPalin Rattles Team Obama,” National Review Online, Sept. 10) faults in part Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as running mate. He may help win Pennsylvania, but for the next two months he is either either useless or a drag on the campaign. As a consequence, Obama is playing two on one defensive ball against McCain and Palin. (“McCain's team doesn't care if no one guards Joe Biden, who seems to spend most of his time yelling to the media, "I'm open! I'm open!" But when he gets the ball, all he does is talk about what a great player he is and dribble in place.”)

The Obama people keep walking (no, jumping!) into the Republican snares.
Thanks to the double-team strategy, Obama has found himself in the awkward position of sounding as if he's running against the GOP's vice presidential nominee. When Obama compared his own experience to Palin's tenure as mayor of Wasilla (leaving out her current job as governor), he ran right into the pick the McCain campaign had set, leaving McCain a clearer path to victory. The more Obama has to explain why being a community organizer - or a state legislator, or a one-term senator with few accomplishments under his belt - is better preparation for the presidency than being a mayor or governor, the more he volunteers his own shortcomings when compared with McCain.
In today's New York Post ("Why Bam's Flailing"), op-ed editor Mark Cunningham argues that that Obama's inexperience in fighting elections has been critical to his failure in this big league competition.
If it suddenly seems like the Obama campaign doesn't have any idea what it's doing, maybe that's because it doesn't. Barack Obama has never run a campaign against a real Republican. ... In the [2004 Senate election], he basically had it won once a Chicago paper took down the GOP nominee by getting a court to unseal unseemly divorce papers, and the local Republicans then tapped Alan Keyes - a carpet-bagging right-wing performance artist - as their standard-bearer.
He says the same of Obama's campaign team. "And his main strategist, David Axelrod, is way out of his areas of expertise. Axelrod specializes in urban politics. He's run a bunch of mayoral races (usually in cities with lots of blacks), plus contests in true-blue states like Massachusetts and New York."

J.R. Dunn at American Thinker was ahead of the game when he chronicled Obama’s flakery and electoral buffoonery, and anticipated a fatal continuation of this until election day. See my August post, “Why Obama Will Lose: He’s a Flake!

But the amazing Spengler, writing in the Asia Times ("How Obama Lost the Election," Sept. 3, 2008), has to cap it off with this account and a reference back to his devastating profile of Obama that he published back in February ("Obama's Women Reveal His Secret") that predicted the eventual self-destruction of the Obama candidacy.

Fatal step #1: He passed over Hillary for veep.
Obama will spend the rest of his life wondering why he rejected the obvious road to victory, that is, choosing Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential nominee. ...[R]ejecting Clinton in favor of the colorless, unpopular, tangle-tongued Washington perennial Joe Biden was a statement of weakness. McCain's selection was a statement of strength. America's voters will forgive many things in a politician, including sexual misconduct, but they will not forgive weakness.
Fatal step #2: He chose Biden instead.
Obama evidently chose him to assuage critics who point to his lack of foreign policy credentials. That was a deadly error, for by appearing to concede the critics' claim that he knows little about foreign policy, Obama raised questions about whether he is qualified to be president in the first place. He had a winning alternative, which was to pick Clinton. That would have sent a double message: first, that Obama is tough enough to make the slippery Clintons into his subordinates, and second, that he is generous enough to extend a hand to his toughest adversary in the cause of unity.
Fatal circumstantial flaw: he cannot get around his glaring inexperience, a weakness that McCain has skillfully exploited in his own choice of running mate.
The young Alaskan governor, to be sure, hasn't any business running for vice president of the United States with her thin resume. McCain and his people know this perfectly well, and that is precisely why they put her on the ticket. If Palin is unqualified to be vice president, all the less so is Obama qualified to be president.

Fatal character flaw #1: “a fatally insecure personality”
Obama, in short, is long on brains and short on guts. ...Obama could have allied with the old guard, through an Obama-Clinton ticket, or he could have rejected the old guard by choosing the closest thing the Democrats had to a Sarah Palin. But fear paralyzed him, and he did neither.

Fatal character flaw #2: subservience to Michelle, i.e. “His peculiar dependency on an assertive and often rancorous spouse."

Spengler calls Michelle “a very angry woman” who “hates America,” and documents both of these claims in his jaw dropping February column, "Obama's Women Reveal His Secret." He cites Robert Novak’s May 10 report that Michelle vetoed Hillary consideration as running mate. You could see the loathing in Michelle's eyes when Hillary was speaking at the convention.
If Novak's report is accurate, then Michelle's anger will have lost the election for Obama, as Achilles' anger nearly killed the Greek cause in the Trojan War. But the responsibility rests not with Michelle, but with Obama. Obama's failure of nerve at the cusp of his success is consistent with my profile of the candidate, in which I predicted that he would self-destruct.

Of course, Shelby Steele's little book, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win (Free Press, 2007) explores Obama's peculiar background and equally peculiar character more fully. You can read the first chapter in this NYT excerpt.

Spengler’s bottom line: “He is trapped in a losing position, and there is nothing he can do to get out of it.” He is the author of his own undoing.

But...it's a wild world we live in, and anything can happen in politics.

Conservatives Are Poised to Vote

The conservative base of the Republican party is back in the game and playing to win. This is the report from Bill Whittle at National Review Online ("Proud of the GOP").

I have personally seen hundreds of crusty, old-school paleocons who despised McCain now saying “He finally listened to us.” By picking Palin — instead of Lieberman, who we all know he wanted — he has told conservatives that he gets it. They’re not holding their noses and voting any more. They want yard signs and bumper stickers — they can’t wait to vote GOP. And the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, folks: they are writing checks.

His take on how Obama has been neutralized is spot on. "Sarah stole Obama’s glamour. McCain stole his message."

This comes as Obama Fatigue is settling in. There are two groups that are not fatigued and won't be: (1) the true believers who will commit mass suicide with him the day after his electoral defeat if he tells them they should, and (2) the millions who heard him for the first time during his acceptance speech. But there is also a significant number of politically attuned voters, perhaps independents, perhaps moderate Democrats and Obamapublicans, who are sick of hearing the media fawning over him for so long, and disturbed at the Messianic expectations that constantly surround him, especially now that he stands in real contrast to a genuine leader.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain Cutting the Republican Gordian Knot

Groucho Marx once said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member. John McCain is in a similar situation. He is running against the Repoublicans while serving as their chief standard bearer in this election. Watch McCain and Palin run against their own party in this TV ad, "Original Mavericks." Not a bad idea.

Up until last week, many Republicans have been tempted to stay home in November, and send their corrupted party out into the cold for sobering up until 2012. But wouldn’t it be nice to stay in power, especially given that the Democrats want to declare defeat overseas and fundamentally restructure the American economy at home?

In his acceptance speech on Thursday, however, John McCain offered a way to cut the Gordian knot. Electing the maverick Senator allows disaffected Republicans to deal a chastening blow to the Republican bums in office while retaining control of the White House at the same time.

That may be the ideal situation.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The King's College on the Front Page

The King's College in New York City (where I teach) is the cover story in this month's American Spectator ("King's of New York" by Shawn Macomber). He writes, "While there is no air of elitism at King's, it is clear that these young men and women are elite."

The article is not available online, so you will have to buy a copy, read it at Barnes and Noble, or find it at the library, a real bother for all of us who've been corrupted by Google.

You can also see some of the school's best students in this FoxNews story.

Sept. 19 update: You may now download a pdf of the article.

Friday, September 5, 2008

More Evidence the Winds of Change are Shifting Right

In this MSNBC floor interview with Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House overwhelms the reporter with an avalanche (do they have those in Alask?) of evidence that Sarah Palin has lots of experience that suits her for the vice-presidency, whereas Barack Obama actually has none.

Gingrich concludes with, "I don't know of a single thing Obama's done except talk and write."

Change You Can Indeed Trust

I have never heard a political speech like the one John McCain delivered tonight. It was powerful. McCain said essentially "If you want change like I want change (and I have always worked for change), you can trust me. I have not changed and so you can trust me to bring the change you want in Washington."

All politicians say, "I will work for you." But coming from John McCain, you know that it is more than just words. His account of his POW experience served as a testimony comparable to how Christians tell the story of their conversion to Christ. He said that his country "saved" him from his youthful arrogance. His brutal captors in Vietnam broke him of his high self-regard and self-centeredness. He explained that much of the partisan rancor in Washington traces back to elected officials putting self before service. That rings true.

Given the military history of honorable service in his family, his own experience in the Vietnam prison, and even the lessons he learned coming out of the Keating Five scandal, it is entirely beyond doubt that John McCain will put service to country before preference for self. What John McCain thinks best serves the public good may not in fact be good, as indeed he has demonstrated--the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and the "Gang of Fourteen" compromise on judicial appointments to name just two. But the remedy for that is in the wisdom of many counselors across the three branches of our government.

Barack Obama crows defensively that we cannot question his patriotism. I don't see why not. If Obama is running on a "change" platform (by now you would think it was his middle name), and if faithful commitment to what is required for genuine reform requires a strong, selfless, patriotic zeal, he has invited us to scrutinze his patriotism. John McCain's is beyond question. In John McCain, if you took away patriotism, there would be nothing left.

Politicians lie. They generate buzz and fabricate public personas that are designed to mask who they really are so that they can get away with using public authority for private advantage. For this reason, wise citizens should assume a politician is guilty of this duplicity until he proves himself otherwise. John McCain has more than proven himself.

Barack Obama on the other hand, a newcomer to the public eye, is shrouded in questions. He has talked endlessly about post-partisanship and yet he has no record of bi-partisan cooperation. He speaks incessantly about change and yet he has no record of having defeated entrenched political interests or of having persuaded them to mend their ways. As for his patriotic zeal, or public spiritedness, the vapor on which his claim to be a reformer stands together with his wife's anti-American statements, his rabidly America hating pastor of 20 years, and his own persistant refusal during the primaries to wear a flag pin invite legitimate scepticism. It would be naive and irresponsible not to scrutinize his character in this matter.

If you have enough natural charm, it is easy to look like the answer we've all been waiting for when you're on stage surrounded by a huge cheering crowd and flanked by Oprah Winfrey and your adoring wife. But when Barack Obama and John McCain stand side by side on the stage for three debates, I cannot imagine how the man whose only accomplishments are his two autobiographies and whose claim to merit our confidence is a fiction will survive the comparison.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Where's the Beef in 2008?

Experience has become an important issue in this campaign. The McCain and Obama camps are arguing back and forth over who is the most critically deficient in this regard, Obama or Palin. Does a small town mayor beat a community organizer or does it count for nothing?

We find ourselves in this odd situation because of Barack Obama's self-propelled meteoric rise to the nomination. He has hurried through various vocations and levels of public authority, never settling long enough to accomplish anything significant. Given that he had barely warmed his seat in the U.S. Senate before declaring himself a candidate for the White House, there is a sense in which he went straight from state senator to running for President. For Obama, the Senate was a launching pad, not a task to be completed before moving on. So he is presenting himself to the nation young and unaccomplished, but very charming.

Obama has picked the fruit of his own potential before it is ripe. He should have served at least a full term in the Senate, and perhaps even served as Governor of his state, and only then sought the highest office in his mid to late fifties.

In response, John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. She too is only in her first term in high office. The difference, of course, is that she has great accomplishments. Nonetheless, the fruit of her potential is, like Obama's, not yet ripe. And she's only 44!

Furthermore, weren't people seriously considering Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana for McCain's number two, whether inside the McCain circle or just outside? He is also in his first term as Governor and he is only 37.

I raise these points not to discount the possibility that any one of these people might, in the event of unforeseen circumstances, serve at least as well as...say...Jimmy Carter. I am only pointing out that this is a strange conclusion to a primary season that has been strange from the beginning. Why this youth and inexperience on both sides of the contest at one level or another? Is it simply that Obama has lurched ahead of himself and drawn the Republicans to select a running mate who is competitively young and novel? Is it that after 20 years of two families dominating the two parties, we are seeing a reaction in favor of obscurity? That theory is especially plausible on the Democratic side where the Clintons threatened to return for another eight years.

Regardless of how we got here, here we are, and we have to weigh these tickets and make our choice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Theatre of the Absurd as Political Convention

Warning: this is hilarious.

David Brooks is one of the most thoughtful, generous and likable pundits. He has been especially fair with Barack Obama. So it is all more funny when, after the Democratic convention, he lays out the candidate's weaknesses and absurdities in a satirical speech he would like to have given and, in a perfect world, he would have given. Here is a sampling from "A Speech to the Delegates."

My fellow Americans, it is an honor to address the Democratic National Convention at this defining moment in history. We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election since last year’s “American Idol.”

One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead. We must choose wisely. ...

We meet today to heal the divisions that have torn this country. For we are all one country and one American family, whether we are caring and thoughtful Democrats or hate-filled and war-crazed Republicans. ...

We got to know Barack and Michelle Obama, two tall, thin, rich, beautiful people who don’t perspire, but who nonetheless feel compassion for their squatter and smellier fellow citizens. We know that Barack could have gone to a prestigious law firm, like his big donors in the luxury boxes, but he chose to put his ego aside to become a professional politician, president of the United States and redeemer of the human race. We heard about his time as a community organizer, the three most fulfilling months of his life.

We were thrilled by his speech in front of the Greek columns, which were conscientiously recycled from the concert, “Yanni, Live at the Acropolis.” We were honored by his pledge, that if elected president, he will serve at least four months before running for higher office. ...

The comments people posted were interesting. Obamamaniacs really have no sense of humor when it comes to the One. many read the column as "bitterness." They saw sour grapes in it. They are convinced their Ubercandidate is a shoe in, and so Brooks must be writing out of anger as a poor loser. "A very childish article from a man who is obviously resentful that his party is heading for a spectacular defeat," said one (recommended by 909 readers). "Even for David Brooks this is over the top nasty. I think you are really scared!" said Cynthia or Portland OR. "Not funny, mean spirited," says Stephen of Santa Cruz (1,149 thumbs up). "Wow, bitter and jaded neocon." "This wasn't a funny column. It wasn't insightful. It was bitter and cynical." And on, and on.

They look in the mirror and do not recognize either themselves or their candidate. Take for example the "three months" and "higher office" remarks. He has never alighted long enough at any stage of his life to accomplish anything serious. He has been racing from one level of elected office to another, not serving but being served. True? And when you build your candidate up to Messianic proportions, you should expect his critics not to take him as seriously you think they ought and even to ridicule him.

"Barack Obama loves the future because that’s where all his accomplishments are." That's funny because it's true and witty.

Peggy Noonan is a little more sober in "Obama Gets Serious."