John McCain's former chief of staff, campaign strategist, and book collaborator Mark Salter is dismayed at how far the public discourse has fallen. He writes:
Excesses of zeal by anti-Obama protestors make me ashamed for my country. As did excesses committed by anti-Bush protestors. Today's "birthers," are no more offensive or weird than those who believe the Bush Administration was complicit in planning the attacks of September 11 or invaded Iraq to increase the profits of defense companies. And, yet, it only seems to be rude or asinine behavior on the right that gives the press and other Washington elites the vapors. While on the left it is tolerated, attributed to provocations by the right, or in some cases invested with a virtuous significance it surely lacks.
So far so good. Salter goes on:
Political intolerance and incivility by the left and right is as prevalent on the internet as porn, and not that much less a factor in the coarsening of our culture. But for many reporters, anger on the right side of the web is worrying and important story. The Huffington Post is a source.
Right on. He continues:
I'm more than a little familiar with that calumny, having been charged along with other senior members of the McCain campaign and our candidate with the same offense. We were somehow complicit with every intemperate jerk who shouted something obnoxious at any of our campaign events. Our ads about Democratic support for Fannie Mae were racist. Calling candidate Obama a "celebrity" was racist. Shouts of "murderer" or "warmonger" by Obama supporters or our opponent's accusation that Senator McCain was anti immigrant or trying to steal grandma's Medicare went largely unnoticed. And yet it was our candidate who often and publicly denounced crude or outrageous attacks on our opponent. The courtesy was seldom returned. McCain would have fired any staffer who said something or acted in a way that could fairly be described as racist. For his troubles, he was likened by a leading civil rights figure and Obama supporter to the murderers who killed three little African American girls. There was barely a murmur of protest by the press about that injustice.
The double-standard is indeed appalling. Salter concludes:
I despair of the coarsening of our politics and our broader culture. So much so that after a lifetime in politics I'm beginning to think I might have rendered more honorable service to humanity had I worked in professional wrestling. That independents, who decide elections in this country, seem to feel the same way is enough encouragement to hope that perhaps we are still capable of reform. But our political discourse won't begin to recover any civility until we get some referees back in the game, who will call bullshit on both sides.
Oh, how that kicker makes me smile. Once again: Atrios was right.
Our last discussion about health care, fascinating though it was, lacked a certain level of expertise on the subject. In this episode, Ben is joined by David Burkhart, who when he isn't lurking in the shadows of Infinite Monkeys is consulting with hospitals on how to navigate the ins-and-outs of bureaucracy while continuing to turn a profit.
Also joining us is the Heartland Institute's Jim Lakely, a.k.a. Dr. Zaius at Infinite Monkeys. Joel sat this one out.
(By the way, we recorded this one a couple of weeks ago -- and before President Obama's address to the joint session of Congress. But it still holds up!)
Among the questions we discuss:
• Can Medicare be fixed? If not, how does the government expect to fix the whole health care system?
• Which typeface is better for treating a sick person? Times New Roman or Helvetica?
• Are medical savings accounts worthwhile?
• Is health care reform akin to intelligence reform?
• Should presidents even bother with sweeping reforms during their first year in office?
• Is Obama trying to take over the Internet? Or is the real threat that the Internet will become as efficient as the Department of Homeland Security?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Blast Off" - The Monks
• "Complication" - The Monks
• "Higgle-Dy-Piggle-Dy" - The Monks
• "Monk Time" - The Monks
• "He Went Down to the Sea" - The Monks
• "Oh How To Do Now" - The Monks
• "Treat Me Like Your Mother" - Dead Weather
Economic illiteracy among the journalistic class is hardly new. Journalists were usually the people with higher verbal than math scores on the SAT. (I speak from personal experience.)
Economic illiteracy among the political class is fairly widespread, too. I'd wager that four out of five congressmen of either political party, if asked, couldn't explain the law of supply and demand and would probably vote against it if they could.
But economic illiteracy among presidents is a much more consequential affliction.
The shape and scope of Barack Obama's economic illiteracy becomes more manifest with each passing day. Three examples from just the past week suggest the president and his team of economic advisers know little about the big plans they wish to foist upon the American public.
Obama visited Wall Street on Monday to mark the anniversary of Lehman Brothers' collapse with plans to enact sweeping new regulations over U.S. financial services.
"Under the Treasury reform blueprint," write the Wall Street Journal's editors today, "any financial company, whether a regulated bank or not, could be rescued or seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation if regulators believe it poses a systemic risk."
Much hinges on the term "systemic risk," but the president didn't elaborate much about that on Monday. Instead he hauled out a few hoary clichés from last Winter.
"We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses," Obama said. "Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall."
Obama's visit to Wall Street follows an announcement Friday that the United States would impose a 35 percent tariff hike on Chinese-made tires. Now, the tariff is a complicated issue. Phil Levy attempts to explain the nuances at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog. The bottom line, however, is that the tire tariff was a choice, not a necessity -- an act of protectionism, not of free trade.
Yet here's what President Obama had to say about the tire tariff on Monday: "Enforcing trade agreements is part and parcel of maintaining an open and free trading system."
That's true -- when a trading partner breaks an agreement, you enforce the rules. And the Chinese have not been good partners when it comes to intellectual property, for example. But the tire tariffs have more to do with appeasing unions and other special interests in the United States, not punishing Chinese malefactors abroad. Naturally, China filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Now, I might feel less anxious about Obama's high-stakes gambits with China and other prominent trading partners -- including Japan and Mexico -- if he didn't say things that would make a freshman econ major blush.
In the middle of his address to Congress last week, Obama dropped this little stink bomb:
I've insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.
Profits aren't overhead and overhead isn't profits. Profits are what you're left with after overhead, salaries, benefits and taxes are paid. That's elementary economics -- so basic even a freelance journalist knows it.
(There are actually two stinkers in that passage. Perry Glanzner noticed and discusses the second one.)
Possible objections: That's just one gaffe! Bush made a million of them and gave us TARP and committed a million other sins, shredded the Bill of Rights, and all the rest of it. Yes, yes, that's fine. But Obama is president right now and it's his economy to ruin by virtue of his words and deed.
In fact, Obama's public displays of economic ignorance are extensive, if not particularly well documented. And they aren't always gaffes. Sometimes, Obama will speak in vague platitudes that suggest maybe he's just trying to B.S. his way through a economic policy discussion or making stuff up. From little slips like "profit and earning ratios" to howlers such as comparing the stock market to a "tracking poll," it's clear that the president is simply not in his element when it comes to questions of finance and economics.
Take a look at the transcript of the president's July 22 press conference. In his opening remarks, he says, "we passed a Recovery Act that has already saved jobs and created new ones." The administration predicted the $787 stimulus -- most of which has not been spent, by the way -- would hold unemployment at 8 percent. The official unemployment rate in August was 9.7 percent.
The point is, making economic predictions is tricky and making economic policies is trickier still. Having a president who doesn't know much about economics in the Oval Office wouldn't be so alarming if he had advisers who could check his worst impulses and correct his errors and temper his anti-market instincts. But instead Obama's surrounded by people, with the exceptions of Ben Bernanke and possibly Tim Geithner, who think and act just like him.
It's worth noting that the president's Wall Street audience gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks Monday morning. Praise, like currency, can be easily inflated. Obama's job is to do no harm to the economy. So far his efforts, while expensive, have been of little help.
But the president can only get by on wit and ridiculous federal expansion for so long. For while those stockbrokers were cheering the president, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 23 points on sluggish trading. The market, it seems, is immune to the president's charms.
Via FilmDrunk (whence I stole yet another headline) comes news of the Norwegian formerly known as Andreas Jankov:
"I wanted to show that it is possible to be serious and at the same time take the name you like," said Julius Andreas Gimli Arn MacGyver Chewbacka Highlander Elessar-Jankov. The movie enthusiast decided to change his name three years ago after radio host and comedian Espen Thoresen changed his name to Espen Thoresen-Hværsaagod-Takkskalduha.
I guess that's cooler than Julius Andreas Gimli Donknotts MacGyver Chewbacka Highlander Elessar-Jankov. But not by much.
By the way, you should really click through to the FilmDrunk link for a picture of Jankov. The new name is somehow fitting.
Here is L. Gordon Crovitz, writing in Monday's Wall Street Journal on the campaign finance "reform" case currently pending before the Supreme Court:
How can any regulation based on an assumption of information scarcity be justified in an era of information abundance?
Whatever the arguments for blocking direct contributions by corporations and unions, McCain-Feingold goes beyond this and directly limits First Amendment speech. The Constitution doesn't promise "equal" speech, just the freedom to speak.
Technology now makes it possible for everyone to share their views, so why shouldn't companies and unions be able to make political arguments? Companies and their shareholders are on all sides of issues, depending on who benefits from which government policy, from health-care rules to environmental regulations to industry bailouts.
Here's what I wrote in this week's Scripps-Howard column:
Eliminating the corrupting influence of money from politics has been the stated goal of campaign finance reforms for at least a century. The reforms Congress passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal and again with the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 have, of course, done no such thing. Instead, campaign finance reform has empowered bureaucrats, courts and political incumbents.
The cure for campaign finance reform is fewer rules, not more. There should be little or no restriction on money in politics. There should be no limits on what a candidate can raise and spend. Political parties, corporations, unions... let them all in. The only exception should be for foreign contributions.
Transparency and instant Internet disclosure make most of the old objections and warnings about quid pro quo corruption irrelevant. If a political candidate receives the financial aid of large corporations, and public knows about it, then the question of undue influence falls to the voters to resolve. As it should be.
Joel worries that letting corporations contribute unlimited funds to political campaigns would let "big corporations... overwhelm political debate in this country." Well, certain big corporations already have a prominent voice in the political debate. They're called media companies, and they happen to be exempt from McCain-Feingold. Yet, by every measure, their influence on the political debate has diminished over the past decade.
I'd rather err on the side of free speech, with full disclosure, than regulation and red tape.
A reversal by the Supreme Court of decades of precedent governing campaign-finance rules would put Chief Justice John Roberts in jeopardy of being remembered as "a conservative Earl Warren." So says Jeffrey Rosen in Sunday's New York Times. I suppose that might not be as bad as being remembered as a conservative Abe Fortas, but it would still be pretty bad -- even though liberals generally regard Warren as a hero.
So who would tar Roberts as a right-wing Warren? Antonin Scalia? Forget it, let's just go with Rosen's conceit. He writes:
For decades conservatives have attacked Warren, who was chief justice from 1953 to 1969, as the face of liberal judicial activism. They have criticized him for presiding over a court that imposed a contested vision of social justice on an unwilling nation — overturning decades of precedents and scores of federal and state laws in the process.
If the Roberts court issues a sweeping 5-to-4 decision in the current case, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, striking down longstanding bans on corporate campaign expenditures, it would define John Roberts as indelibly as (Miranda v. Arizona) defined Earl Warren.
As it happens, Joel and I tackled the Citizens United case in this week's Scripps-Howard column. The high court heard new arguments about the case on Wednesday. In his own argument for upholding the maze of restrictions that the McCain-Feingold law imposes on political speech, Joel stakes out a Rosenesque line:
(A) vote to strike down the regulations would make a mockery of conservative complaints of "judicial activism." The court would be disregarding its own precedent and the wishes of the American people expressed through their elected representatives.
I disagree, of course. Striking down an unconstitutional law is not judicial activism. Nor is slavish -- but selective -- fidelity to court precedent any decent model of judicial moderation. I'm sympathetic to Boston University law professor Randy Barnett's understanding of judicial activism. "The epithet 'judicial activism' could be used to describe departing from the requirements of the Constitution, whether to uphold or strike down legislation," Barnett wrote not too long ago at the Volokh Conspiracy. "On the very rare occasions when I use the term, I am careful to define it in this way."
Liberals who call upon conservatives to defer to the sanctity of stare decisis, of course, must concede that precedent is not nor shouldn't be the last word on constitutional law. They wouldn't expect the justices to respect Dred Scott v. Sanford, or Plessy v. Ferguson, or Korematsu v. United States -- three cases in which the Supreme Court notoriously misread or ignored the plain language of the Constitution to achieve a preferred political or social outcome. Yet those rulings endured for years or decades before a later court saw fit to overturn them.
Regarding campaign finance restrictions generally and McCain-Feingold in particular, the issue really shouldn't be so tough for the Supreme Court to sort out. The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The First Amendment does not say Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, except 30 or 60 days before an election, or depending on whether the speaker is a corporate PAC, a "527" organization or an individual donor, or except when lawmakers say they want so very much to eradicate the appearance of "corruption" or other improprieties, real and imagined.
Instead of deferring to the plain language of the Bill of Rights, however, the high court has engaged in Olympian contortions and legalistic acrobatics that affirm a maze of regulations placing Draconian fines and even prison terms on violations of laws that the Constitution's framers could never have envisioned and would never have endorsed. "When there is a resolve to use the law," my friend and occasional teacher Hadley Arkes once wrote in a slightly different context, "the arts of argument will be strained to the implausible."
Cohen... implies that conservatives contradict themselves by supporting "overturning" of the Court's precedents and invalidation of decisions by federal agencies. Few if any conservative jurists believe that the Court's precedents are somehow sacrosanct, especially not if they conflict with the text and original meaning of the Constitution.
(My emphasis added.)
Somin is a perceptive critic of "judicial activism," both as a concept and an epithet. My point is simply that if the Roberts court overturns precedent and voids portions of McCain-Feingold, it would be an affirmation of the original meaning of the First Amendment, not an act of judicial activism properly understood.
But, look, I'm no legal scholar. Another Volokh Conspiracist, Orin Kerr, wrote a fascinating law review article in 2003 on the uses and abuses of judicial activism. And Keenan Kmeic, son of Doug Kmeic, wrote a lengthy and worthwhile comment on the origin and current meanings of judicial activism in 2004 for the California Law Review. I also re-read portions of Randy Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution to get my mojo workin' on this post.
Ralph Peters minces no words in the New York Post today:
We've dishonored our dead and whitewashed our enemies. A distinctly unholy alliance between fanatical Islamists abroad and a politically correct "elite" in the US has reduced 9/11 to the status of a non-event, a day for politicians to preen about how little they've done.
We've forgotten the shock and the patriotic fury Americans felt on that bright September morning eight years ago. We've forgotten our identification with fellow citizens leaping from doomed skyscrapers. We've forgotten the courage of airline passengers who would not surrender to terror.
We've forgotten the men and women who burned to death or suffocated in the Pentagon. We've forgotten our promises, our vows, our commitments.
We've forgotten what we owe our dead and what we owe our children. We've even forgotten who attacked us.
We have betrayed the memory of our dead. In doing so, we betrayed ourselves and our country. Our troops continue to fight -- when they're allowed to do so -- but our politicians have surrendered.
On this eighth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Rasmussen reports 49 percent of Americans say most of their countrymen have forgotten the impact of the terrorist strikes that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and scarred the Pennsylvania countryside. The other 51 percent either disagree with the pollster's proposition or simply aren't sure.
I think I would agree that most Americans have forgotten the impact of the attacks. There is no way to carry that burden or keep that horror fresh for eight years. Life goes on.
America's response to the attacks was in many respects not unlike its actions leading up to that bright Tuesday morning: too much and too little. Eight years later, we're debating the merits of an ongoing U.S. presence in Afghanistan, where the Taliban ruled and al Qaeda thrived like bacteria in a fresh petri dish. The presence of American and British troops has done little to curtail the resurging Taliban, which has found aid and comfort in neighboring Pakistan. And where in the world is Osama bin Laden?
Another indicator of the nation's health eight years on is the shameful fact that still no gleaming, majestic new tower stands at One World Trade Center Plaza. Ground zero of terror quickly became ground zero of politics and competing bureaucracies. One report said the new building may not be finished until 2018. And officials abandoned the name "Freedom Tower" awhile ago. Not practical to market, you understand.
Yet another indicator eight years after 9/11 may be gleaned from a line in President Obama's health care address to Congress on Sept. 9: "...the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years -- less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars..." Mind you, this president has said he supports the Afghanistan war. Yet clearly he sees it -- as he has always seen Iraq -- as secondary or even tertiary to his more ambitious domestic policy agenda.
What's lost eight years after that terrible day is a clear sense of American purpose at home and abroad. I often turn to Angelo Codevilla for clarity on the subject of war. "We don't fight in order to change the way we live," he told Investor's Business Daily in December 2001. "We fight to not change the way we live and to be left alone. Nothing in our military operations promises that we will be left alone."
"The war on terrorism is becoming an occasion for changing the way America lives," he warned. "This should not be confused with victory. Indeed, it's the very opposite of victory."
What, then, does victory look like? Codevilla put it this way in a magnificent essay for the Claremont Review of Books published two months after 9/11:
Common sense says that victory means living without worry that some foreigners might kill us on behalf of their causes, but also without having to bow to domestic bureaucrats and cops, especially useless ones. It means not changing the tradition by which the government of the United States treats citizens as its masters rather than as potential enemies. Victory requires killing our enemies, or making them live in debilitating fear.
On this day, Americans remember the dead and the sacrifice so many thousands have made to vindicate our cause and our way of life. But Americans should remember, too, that we are nowhere near victory.
The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is a day to remember who attacked, why we fight and to discuss what America's victory -- and America's peace -- would look like.
In a follow-up post at the Daily Kos, Olbermann writes:
To clarify something I obviously didn't previously, I'm not talking about letting up on criticism of Lonesome Rhodes' work here. I am talking about calling off the Baker Street Irregulars -- while reserving the right to reactivate them. Trust me, I'm going after him tonight on the tweet to his masses that precipitated this, the "find out everything you can" about three Obama appointees.
Yay! A urination contest! With Arthur Conan Doyle references! As it turns out, it's really just about thin-skinned Olbermann sticking it to his former paymasters at News Corp:
In 2006 or 2007, Glenn Beck responded to something I said about him by going on his HLN show and ranting about me. He described how I write my show, how my research copy is delivered to me, and how the technical issues of handling and ordering questions are handled in my script. This came from a staffer or ex-staffer, directly or otherwise.
NewsCorp has been playing this game since I left its employ in 2001 mostly in Page Six of the New York Post (and 90% of what was printed hasn't even been true). The Post once printed my then street address, sent somebody over to terrify my neighbors, and mocked the fact that I (and Letterman, and Sumner Redstone, and others) had received fake anthrax, and that the police had ordered me to go to the hospital to make sure it was fake anthrax. Later the Post staked out my home, so a goober of theirs could shout insults at me about three-figure tax disagreements I'd had with the state of California seven years previously (which had been resolved five years previously)....
Blah blah blah blah blah... who gives a crap? Well, I only mention it because Olbermann offers a splendid opportunity to expound once again on the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Olbermann points to a post by David Carr, who asks:
What might Mr. Olbermann do if someone digs up dirt on his intended targets, who, like him, work in the infotainment industry and have been elected by no one? Once the game of oppo research on the press begins, it’s hard to tell where it might stop, no?
Olbermann's post is intended partly as a reply and a rationalization to Carr. Evidently, he sent a separate reply to Carr, who dutifully appended it to his blog post. Neither piece is persuasive. Does Olbermann not realize he sounds like a complete lunatic? Is he so blinded by his fanaticism? Does the sun rise in the east?
Here's the first, last and best profile I've ever read about Keith Olbermann. Although it appears in a generally sympathetic venue -- the New Yorker -- it pretty much tells you what kind of man he is. When Olbermann self-destructs on live TV in a few years, you'll know why.
Tunku Varadarajan's column at Forbes.com about some of the conservative response -- really, the preemptive reaction -- to President Obama's back-to-school speech today is pretty much spot-on.
Call me naïve, but I believe that Americans ought to accord their president a formal, ex officio respect, irrespective of party affiliation. He is, after all, the president of all of us (whether we like him or not), and it is unseemly that we should withhold civility from him on grounds of political disagreement. As things stand, no blow seems low enough, no criticism off limits, if the president happens to be from the other side. The pursuit of happiness has given way to the pursuit of picayune point-scoring. E Pluribus Unum ... Why do we still bother with that silly foreign phrase? Our great nation has become a Manichaean nation.
I might quibble a little with the phrasing of that second sentence ("...the president of us all..."), but the larger observation is entirely correct. Earlier in the piece, Varadarajan makes the rather obvious point that "Overheated sections of the right -- first the 'birthers,' now the 'speechers' -- are meting out to Obama precisely the sort of disrespectful treatment they execrated when it was directed by the left at President Bush."
To that I would only add that conservatives diminish our already tenuous position as a credible opposition when we overshoot like this. Objecting to the Department of Education lesson plans was an excellent fight to pick. Keeping the kids home from school today? That's just stupid.
As James Taranto observes in Tuesday's Best of the Web:
Under normal circumstances, some of the lines in the speech would merit some gentle mocking. ...Drudge amusingly bannered the president's instruction to WASH YOUR HANDS, or, as the speech puts it, "I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter."
But really, the conservatives are more deserving of mockery in this case. Is it really their position that children should have filthy hands?
I think for few, the answer would be yes. And so it's not just their hands that are dirty. Michelle Malkin and others are wiping the egg of their faces today, saying, "it's not the speech, it's the subtext."
Truth is, it's about picking battles wisely. Again: Hammering the Department of Education lesson plans was the right thing to do. It's possible that the ensuing outcry persuaded the White House to adopt a more moderate tone for Obama's remarks. That's entirely to the good.
I hate it when kids are used as political props or human shields. But my objections are minor compared with, say, our friend Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson, who on Saturday wrote: "(I)t's not a matter of parents all over the country being crazy. It's parents not trusting a president who has put together an eight month track record anyone with cognitive skills would deem as a cause for concern when it comes to their children." Sorry, but for most voters, the link between Obama's insane policy schemes, his extremist hires, and his speech urging kids to study hard and stay in school is not at all obvious. And when Malkin, Generalissimo, et. al., are forced to talk about "subtext," then it's clear they haven't made their case very well.
A very big part of the resistance to this speech is the double standard. And this is important, and not mere grousing. All conservatives know that there would not only be an opt-out if, say, President Bush the Younger had given this speech, but that it would (barely) have been shown at all in the first place.
The sensitivities of liberal parents would have been respected. Not just respected -- those sensitivities would have been dominant, blocking out coverage except for in a small fraction of schools.
On the other hand -- Obama.
Now, what the liberal/governmental establishment wants to tell us here is that we are second class citizens. We have some political rights, but not nearly the full panoply of rights enjoyed by liberals.
And we reject that.
We. Reject. That.
And we're not "crazy" or "stupid" to do so. We are simply tired of the liberal/bureaucratic establishment treating us like second-class citizens of no importance and no account, and of arrogantly treating us as children in constant need of their sage wisdom, lecturing, and hectoring.
Not having it.
I'm not having it, either. But I'm afraid it is grousing. And worse, it puts conservatives in the position of playing the victim over and over again. You are a second-class citizen only if you accept the premise. Liberal hectoring is as inevitable as the tides. So what? They hector. They poke and prod and advance their agendas. And we poke and prod and counter their agendas -- presumably with an agenda of our own.
I wrote last night that I would not prevent my 7-year-old from participating in his school's assembly today to hear the president's speech. I presume the problem isn't with the speech but with what the school's instructors choose to do with it. Moreover, I presume that my children will be exposed to a great deal of nonsense in the coming years -- much worse, certainly, than 20 minutes of banalities and clichés from a second-rate chief magistrate. But then so much of life is nonsense. My role as a father is to do everything I can to help my son and daughter distinguish between good sense and nonsense, legitimate and illegitimate, free and unfree, valuable and worthless, right and wrong, virtue and vice, good and evil.
Sometimes I overreact, so I know what overreaction looks like. We're falling into an obvious and foreseeable trap. "Anger is not a platform," I wrote after the election. "Saying 'Obama isn't my president' -- as some liberals insisted that President Bush was "selected, not elected" -- isn't persuasive. It's petulant. The job of the next four years is to check Obama's worst instincts and hold him accountable for his policies -- without anger or malice, but in the spirit of loyal opposition and cheerful patriotism."
That's even more true today than it was in November.
No, there is nothing particularly objectionable about Barack Obama encouraging students to study hard, pay attention, and stay in school. The speech is pretty routine stuff -- nothing we haven't heard ten thousand times before. I could pick on a few details. But it's noteworthy mostly because of the source, a man who holds the highest office in the land and has a unique story to tell.
The problem with the president of the United States addressing the nation's schools is the precedent it sets and the habits it encourages. He's the commander-in-chief, not principal-in-chief or the chairman of the school board of America. And schools have always been a local concern, even as the federal government has steadily eroded state and local autonomy in education over the past four decades or so. There's a very real chance that the speech Barack Obama delivers on September 8 will become a post-Labor Day tradition, repeated by this president and his successors for years and decades to come. Obama friends, partisans, and critics have already pointed to the speeches that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush delivered to school kids back when. Like that's an excuse!
Local school officials are taking a cautious approach, as they are wont to do. My son's school district put out a robocall from the superintendent over the weekend informing parents that we could opt out of the speech if we so choose. Well, having read the speech, I don't think there is any harm in my 7-year-old son listening to the president. He's a second grader. My guess is he'll be bored to tears. (As Ann Althouse points out, "The kids will need to sit still for 2540 televised words.") I can't wait to ask him.
Not really, of course, but they summarize some of the conservative argument against Obamaism quite well. This is well worth 90 seconds of your time.
I haven't Googled it, but when were people arrested for wearing anti-war T-shirts in the Bush Tyranny?
Apart from a flirtation with radicalism (you have to hope it did not become a full, deep and continuing relationship), Jones, in February, thoughtfully attempted to capture the essence of the GOP in a speech in Berkeley, Calif. "Republicans are —," he explained.
You have to hope Van Jones didn't establish "a full, deep and continuing relationship" with Marxists? Seriously, Peggy? Have you read anything other than The New York Times, which couldn't bring itself to cover Van Jones? Hoping that Van Jones isn't an unreformed Marxist radical (and somehow not too far off the "mainstream") is like hoping Santa Claus is real. Noonan almost immediately afterward writes:
But Mr. Jones is not my concern.
With all due respect, Peggy, it should be your concern — you primary concern, especially as a former Reaganite. The trouble with Obama's "staffers and appointees" is not that they are "so young and relatively untried," it's that they have matured after years of marinating in the worst elements of hard-left Marxist academia and "activism." Van Jones is 40 and has quite a number of years of public activism behind him. Valerie Jarret, who is 52, praised Jones to the hills, and undoubtedly had a hand in recruiting him to the Obama administration. David Axelrod is 54. David Craig, the White House Counsel, is an old Clinton retread at the age of 64. And the president himself is 48. When do these leftists grow up and leave the socialist utopian politics of their college days behind?
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Jon Gabriel of the glorious Exurban League hips us to the wisdom of Calvin Coolidge, one of my favorite presidents. Silent Cal, hopefully our last president from Vermont (considering the trend there lately), had the right idea. The less said, and less done, the better ... because a less active government has fewer opportunities to infringe on our liberties. And Jon even has an appropriately cool — and modern — poster to go with Cal.
Boy would I love to take that on a stick to a town hall meeting or a teaparty rally. Gotta remember that. Among the several quotes Jon excerpts, on a tip from Amy Kane, there's this:
The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the government. Every dollar we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.
Hard to fit on a bumper sticker, but I like it. Be sure to head on over to the original post. A good back-and-forth on taxation, freedom, Kennedy, Reagan, justice, the worth of work, etc., has broken out.
... literally. This is old news now, as the cyber-crow flies, but a senior citizen at a pro-Obama health care rally in normally placid Thousand Oaks, CA (a posh suburb north of of Los Angeles in generally Republican Ventura County) had part of his his pinkie bitten off by a MoveOn.org nut job who is apparently a big fan of Hannibal the Cannibal.
The kicker: The poor guy was not even part of the counter-demonstrators who showed up to heroically (at least it used to be heroic to liberals) present an opposing view. William Rice was just passing by and stumbled into an unfortunate event.
"I didn't go out to demonstrate my beliefs, I happened to be driving by and I stopped to ask people what their purpose was," Rice, 65, said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I had no signs, I was not part of the demonstration."
No matter, he was deformed. Apparently, the monster who bit it clean off did not have the decency to hand it over — a la Bruce Lee when he reaches into your chest, pulls out your heart, and shows it to you. Rice didn't tell reporters what side of the debate he prefers, but did add that rally "very scary." Ya think?!
Ventura County sheriff's spokesman Eric Buschow said a confrontation erupted after the biter crossed from the MoveOn.org side of the street to the counterprotest, where Rice was standing.
So ... counterprotesters were keeping their distance, and the MoveOn.org thug decided to escalate matters.
A loud scuffle ensued, punches were thrown, and the tip of Rice's finger was bitten off, Buschow said. The biter fled before authorities arrived. He could face felony mayhem charges.
Not to mention practicing the services of a butcher without a proper state license. In California, that's probably the more serious offense. Rice seems like a pretty tough and admirable fellow. Asked if his attacker had a "conversation" with him about health care, Rice replied yes: "If you want to call him screaming in my face that I'm an idiot a conversation."
For the record, MoveOn.org spokeswoman Ilyse Hogue said in a written statement that the incident is a "regrettable act of violence" but the group had few facts about the situation. Well done. It would be imprudent to comment further. Maybe Rice had it coming to him, just like Kenneth Gladney, who got the union thug treatment for daring to be a black man trying to make a buck by selling tiny "Don't Tread On Me" flags at a St. Louis town hall meeting.
It's hard to see what's gone on here and not imagine the enormous hue and cry that would be wafting from the MSM and the left if an opponent of Obamacare had not just assaulted a supporter — but bit off a digit. For Pete's sake, citizens showing up at town halls to (gasp!) raise their voices a little bit at the likes of Arlen Specter and John Dingell was portrayed in the MSM as if they were part of a beer hall putsch. People who legally show up at a rally with a firearm are portrayed as the return of the dangerous white-supremacist right-wing militia. And if MSNBC has to crop the video to hide the fact that their glaring example is a black guy, so be it.
Joel, who I like to call our house liberal (as well as a friend), baited me into posting this today with an email. I'd been too busy with paying work to get to it until now. And there are many jokes to be made of this incident, but I'm not really in a joking mood. I wonder what Rachael Maddow and Keith Olbermann — who have had a lot of fun joking about "teabaggers" — have to say about this now. Is even this funny? No. Which is why they will ignore it.
One of the things about the whole scene that has unfolded in the last several months — among many — has been the reflex of liberals who once championed spirited dissent to deride those who do it now. Yes, I've made good sport of the losers who made opposition to the Iraq War into an excuse to engage in bizarro public puppet shows. And I've decried the anarchists and losers who show up at ever G-20 summit to destroy the unfortunate city in which it is held. But if we're keeping score: Right-leaning protesters are not into violence, by and large. Yet obnoxious disruption, and even violence, has long been a key chapter in the left's playbook to bring about "change." And it's ignored. Constantly. To draw attention to violent leftists would do damage to the cause.
Seriously, can you imagine the public outrage — from all sides — if a group of Evangelical Christians went to a rally in support of gay marriage, and beat up one of the people there to sell buttons in opposition to California's Prop 8? Can you imagine if a right-winger went to a MoveOn.org rally, screamed at a senior citizen, started a fight, and then bit his damn finger off? I can.
Unfortunately, I'm not seeing the opposite — the reality — reflected in our media or our culture. That's pretty dammed depressing.
"I'm not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me. And I’m not interested in isolating myself."
It's not exactly a newsflash that Obama is a liberal elitist who believes city life is the best life. This is the man, after all, who in the campaign (when he thought no one was recording his words) told his fellow liberal urban elitists in San Francisco tales of the strange God-and-guns clingers in the far reaches of Pennsylvania where NPR comes in scratchy on the wireless ... if at all.
Now, I've lived everywhere — in the sense that I've spent a good amount of time experiencing life in urban, rural, and suburban settings. All areas have their virtues and drawbacks. And I think I could happily make a life anywhere. "Home is where you make it," and all that.
Driscoll, it seems, raised this point for little reason other than to post a classic James Lileks rant from 2000. The great humorist and rant-maker was riffing on the book: "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream." I highly recommend you go here to read the whole thing on Driscoll's site, but here are a few great nuggets:
This book regards suburbia as the equivalent of a Chemlawn gulag, a vapid archipelago into which Americans have mutely filed like sheep to the abbatoir. The authors hold up Alexandria, Virginia as a model for urban living – everything’s pedestrian-accessible, human-scaled, with mixed-use blocks and definable urban centers. All true. ... I recall a friend’s apartment – the bedroom had room for the bed. That was it. A bed. Two people could not live in that place – well, they could, but only if no one wore nappy fabrics, because you’d get rugburn from rubbing against each other all the time. ...
Here’s the dilemma: if the suburbs are such a horror, and inner-city life a clearly superior option, why do people live in the burbs? ... In the curious mythology of our freedom-encumbered age, the post-war vision of freeways and big back yards has curdled into a dark plot imposed on people, not an option freely chosen. ...
The book frowns on gated communities, of course, because they’re exclusionary. Conversely, they praise urban developments with dense housing — which include, I presume, apartment buildings with doormen and security systems. Driving past a guard booth or getting buzzed up via intercom — what’s the difference? "The unity of society is threatened not by the use of gates, but by the uniformity and exclusivity of the people behind them." Oh, blow it out your ass. Doctors will never live next to janitors. ...
This sort of fatuous moralizing can be found at the heart of most anti-suburban tracts, and it’s why I distrust the general idea. There are millions of Americans living happy lives in affluent comfort, never troubled by the aroma of cabbage wafting in from a neighbor’s window, never knowing the communal experience of being awakened at 4 AM by a siren and knowing that everyone else in the building is up as well, and this fact just galls some people. All that space . . . all that room . . . all those things! It just can’t be right.
Amidst the beautiful rant, Lileks makes some great points. It's not enough for liberal elitist snobs to sing the praises of their paradise — the impossibility of expanding one's living space without moving, convenient parking spaces being harder to find than the Ark of the Covenant, not being able to sensibly own a dog bigger than a flower pot. They have to look down their nose at those who freely choose to live a different life. People who may not feel it is one of life's joys to be harassed by smelly, rude panhandlers on the way to the corner store are somehow inferior. They are "isolating" themselves.
This would simply be an annoyance, akin to the traffic jams suburban dwellers endure, if books like "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream" were not published as often as a Danielle Steele romance novel. The left wants to impose their version of "enlightened" urban life on the rest of us — and we see it in the endless scolding about how suburban and exurban life is harmful to the environment. We need to give up these decadent ways, and soon. Government, through "planning" our lives, must make it so.
Both sets of my grandparents came to this country from Ireland. They settled in cramped, cheap housing in New York City. And every single one of their progeny grew up to leave New York City for the joys of owning (not renting) a real house, a real yard, and a better life — in the suburbs. To have the taking of that opportunity to improve one's lot in life blithely derided as "isolation" is a little offensive.
I wish I could "isolate" myself from Obama by living in the suburbs. No such luck.
Over at the Corner, Father Robert Sirico, the Catholic priest who heads the libertarian Acton Institute, shares a charming reminiscence of a brief encounter with the late Senator Kennedy and ponders how the politician's public policy stances square with his religious beliefs. Apart from the lead anecdote, non-Catholics may find the piece mystifying. But Sirico offers a careful and thoughtful take on a touchy subject.
Libertarian Will Wilkinson, writing at The Week, says that "death panels" are the wrong name for essentially the right idea -- or, at least, the inescapable policy conclusion if the federal government wishes to sustain Medicare, much less create a new "public option" health care plan.
"If most Americans don’t want their government meddling in hard choices about medical care near the end of life, then they don’t want Medicare," Wilkinson writes. "We’ve known that Medicare is unsustainable for a long time now. People flipping their lids about death panels and about government-funded doctors trying to sell seniors on suicide should have been flipping their lids years ago. If these are reasons to kill Obamacare, then, logically, they are also reasons to kill Medicare."
(Hat tip: John Moser at No Left Turns.)
All the light and space of the Lone Star State must have put the zap on this thug's head. From the Associated Press:
The chief of a small Central Texas town's police department has been fired and jailed for allegedly using a Taser gun on his wife.
Oly Ivy, 30, was the only full-time police officer in a town of roughly 500 people. Here's hoping he goes away for awhile.
When it was announced months ago that Ted Kennedy was gravely ill, I shared a little note about him. I reprint it here this morning:
Doctors announced today that Sen. Ted Kennedy's seizure on Saturday was caused by a malignant tumor on his brain. The prognosis is typically for a patient to survive such a condition for between one and five years.
I interviewed Ted Kennedy on several occasions outside the Senate chamber when I covered Congress for The Washington Times. I was always struck by how much shorter he was than I imagined. And he walked as briskly as he could with a noticible stoop -- half hunched over. That couldn't have been comfortable.
Kennedy wasn't the rudest senator I ever stopped to ask questions of (that's Ted Stevens, R-AK, hands down). Nor was he the most kind (it's a tie between Sam Brownback, R-KS, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.). But he was congenial enough and gave you quotes you could use. And there was also a sense that you were speaking to a living political legend -- which is undeniable, no matter how much I disagreed with his views and political tactics.
My prayers go out to him and his family today. It is a terrible thing to watch your body break down.
There will be much more to say later about the legacy of the liberal lion, but for now, prayers. RIP, Edward Kennedy.
I like this:
I have never liked to suggest that writing is grinding, let alone brave work. H. L. Mencken used to say that any scribbler who found writing too arduous ought to take a week off to work on an assembly line, where he will discover what work is really like. The old boy, as they say, got that right. To be able to sit home and put words together in what one hopes are charming or otherwise striking sentences is, no matter how much tussle may be involved, lucky work, a privileged job. The only true grit connected with it ought to arrive when, thinking to complain about how hard it is to write, one is smart enough to shut up and silently grit one’s teeth.
(Via Terry Teachout.)
The second volume of Steven Hayward's magnum opus, The Age of Reagan, hits bookstore shelves today. I ordered my copy several weeks ago from Amazon, but won't be receiving it until the end of September. Why? Because I happened to order it along with John Derbyshire's forthcoming tome on right-wing pessimism, We Are Doomed. The pair somehow seems fitting.
Reagan wouldn't have been so gloomy, although his sunny disposition has been greatly exaggerated -- as Hayward's work demonstrates. The Age of Reagan, though long, deserves a good, close reading. Admittedly, Hayward is writing intellectual revisionist history from a politically conservative point of view. But The Age of Reagan should not be mistaken for hagiography. Hayward is interested in learning from Reagan's successes and his failures. As the author explains at Powerline today:
Although Reagan made some important changes to the shape of American politics, Reagan didn't succeed at some his highest objectives such as reducing the size and reach of the federal government, and government has resumed growing at a fast rate and is set potentially to explode under President Obama. Reagan foresaw this and warned about it; too many of the conservatives who claim to be Reaganites today do so in a superficial way.
Conservatives who want to carry on or extend his legacy should ponder more deeply the lessons of Reagan's failures, the limitations of democratic politics, and relearn the art of constitutional argument, which Reagan did better, though still imperfectly, than any Republican since Calvin Coolidge.
Volume one of The Age of Reagan appeared when I was managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books. We made a big deal about it -- in part because the book deserved the attention, but also because we were still new and trying to draw some attention to ourselves. Charles Kesler's review essay, to which Powerline also links, offers an incisive take on Hayward's book and Reagan's legacy. I would recommend reading that review in tandem with Kesler's essay on the future of the conservative movement in the Summer 2009 issue of the CRB, which just landed in my mailbox yesterday.
Many conservatives who long to restore the Reagan Revolution no longer seem to understand what it was and what it wasn't. Hayward (and Kesler) offer a much-needed and sobering corrective.
Another issue that arises tangentially during this week's podcast is the matter of big government versus big business. Joel raised the objection that many Republicans are so critical of big government but all too willing to put their confidence in big business.
Joel has a point. I've said for many years that the conservative argument with big government has more to do with the adjective than the noun. Government is a necessary evil because, as Madison instructs, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." But it's precisely because government is a human project that it must be constrained. Madison continues: "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."
In principle, the conservative critique of government can (and should) apply to business, if not for the same then for similar reasons.
Christopher Caldwell writes in Saturday's Financial Times about "blind faith in bigness" -- government and business.
"We have lost the sense that big institutions can be a problem even when they are not failing," Caldwell writes. "Managing bigness is always a problem because big companies, big (organizations), big political units, tend to narrow the individual initiative of those who belong to them."
Caldwell notes that a tension between smallness and bigness in institutions is nothing new. He pegs his argument to E.F. Schumacher's 1973 opus, Small is Beautiful, which elaborated on to negotiate the "contradictory imperatives" of freedom and order in building and maintaining institutions. What's happened since Schumacher wrote his book is that business and government may still be big and unwieldy, but they've also gotten better at doing certain things with fewer people and resources -- the sorts of things that Madison and the framers of the Constitution worried would be destructive of liberty.
Caldwell concludes: "The tendency towards consolidation more often finds expression through a blind faith in 'humanity' or 'regulation' than through a blind faith in General Motors. But it is the same impulse, and the dangers of bigness are still present."
"The trouble with geeks," Poulos writes, "is that for them, a human love story isn’t cool enough — is simply boring."
That may be the trouble with geeks. I'm not so certain. But what's the trouble with the Avatar teaser trailer? I liked the comment I read somewhere -- I can't find it now -- that it looks like "Halo meets Ferngully." Of course, everybody wrote off "Titanic," too. (Rightly so. Terrible film...)
Charles Krauthammer's column in the Washington Post on Friday is about as sensible a take as I've read on the controversy over end-of-life decision making in the health care debate. He writes:
Except for the demented orphan, the living will is quite beside the point. The one time it really is essential is if you think your fractious family will be only too happy to hasten your demise to get your money. That's what the law is good at -- protecting you from murder and theft. But that is a far cry from assuring a peaceful and willed death, which is what most people imagine living wills are about.
So why get Medicare to pay the doctor to do the counseling? Because we know that if this white-coated authority whose chosen vocation is curing and healing is the one opening your mind to hospice and palliative care, we've nudged you ever so slightly toward letting go.
It's not an outrage. It's surely not a death panel. But it is subtle pressure applied by society through your doctor. And when you include it in a health-care reform whose major objective is to bend the cost curve downward, you have to be a fool or a knave to deny that it's intended to gently point the patient in a certain direction, toward the corner of the sickroom where stands a ghostly figure, scythe in hand, offering release.
I think Krauthammer underestimates the long-term effects a "public-option" dominated health care system will have on those decisions -- not a death panel, perhaps, but pressure surely not at all subtle. I tried to make a similar point, albeit less artfully, at Joel's blog the other day (it's the sixth comment):
If one of the goals of health care reform is to reduce costs and if end-of-life care is a huge cost driver, then what is the public policy solution other than to mandate restrictions? Families are forced to make these pull-the-plug decisions every day without the added pressure of weighing whether their decisions advance or undermine the public good.
President Obama recognizes it’s an issue and had done everything in his power to talk around it. Again, Obama said in his interview with the New York Times: “And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance.” Not determinative, but operating with the goal of reducing a huge chunk of health care spending. Suddenly, we’re not really talking about counseling people to get living wills anymore, are we? No way that could go wrong…
"Mandate restrictions" sounds harsh, doesn't it? Well, it isn't difficult to foresee a time when "hospice" and "palliative" care become the routine treatments based on some actual table produced by the sort of independent commission Obama has discussed in the past. The point isn't that Obama or some federal bureaucrat is going to "pull the plug on grandma." The point is that we are going to create a system of incentives and disincentives that make pulling the plug a decision of first resort.
Incidentally, Krauthammer writes at the top of his column:
Let's see if we can have a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling.
We might start by asking Sarah Palin to leave the room. I've got nothing against her. She's a remarkable political talent. But there are no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills, and to say that there are is to debase the debate.
That, of course, elicited a predictable response from these fanatics. I harbor no particular ill-will for Palin. I've written nice things about her and I've written skeptical things about her. I most likely wouldn't vote for her in the next presidential primary, but think she gets a bad rap from her critics. Too bad her supporters aren't much better.
Peggy Noonan — who's become more readable now that she's shaken off a lot of the "Obama's a great man of history" pollen from her shawl — has penned an interesting column in this week's Wall Street Journal. Her theme is whether Obama will learn humility from the ongoing health care disaster.
Noonan sets up her thesis by noting correctly that Obama's political strategy to get this through has failed — more than that, it has backfired horribly.
Health care as a subject is extraordinarily sticky, messy and confusing. It's inherently complicated, and it's personal. There are land mines all over the place. Don't make the mistake the Clintons made and create a plan that gets picked apart, shot down, and injures the standing of the president. Instead, push it off on Congress. Let them come up with a dozen plans. It will keep them busy. It will convince them yet again of their importance and autonomy. It will allow them to vent, and perhaps even exhaust, their animal spirits. Various items and elements within each bill will get picked off by the public. Fine, that's to be expected. The bills may in fact yield a target-rich environment. Fine again. Maybe health care's foes will get lost in the din and run out of ammo. Maybe they'll exhaust their animal spirits, too.
Summer will pass, the fight confined to the public versus Congress. And at the end, in the fall, the beauty part: The president swoops in and saves the day, forcing together an ultimate and more moderate plan that doesn't contain the more controversial elements but does constitute a successful first step toward universal health care.
That's not what happened.
No. That's not what happened, but it's feasible to believe this is the strategy old Clinton hand Rahm Emanuel intended. Trouble is, he and his political team didn't seem to account for Obama's unfounded confidence in his rhetorical talents — and his stubbornness in employing them.
Sure, when Obama's speaking about gauzy concepts like "hope" and "change," he's gold. But by inserting himself into the details-filled health care debate so personally, he turned himself into a salesman of rotten sausage. Though individual members of Congress were being read the riot act about the details in the various health care schemes, Obama made himself the embodiment of the whole bloody mess in the national psyche.
When the contentious townhall is over, Arlen Specter and John Dingell can walk out of the local community center, head on home and pretend it didn't happen — and cancel Thursday's townhall. Obama doesn't have that luxury. He has to — or, more accurately, has chosen to — defend the details of several plans he didn't even write every single day. It's hard to imagine a political and rhetorical strategy more doomed for failure than that.
So, back to Noonan. Among many great points she makes — including how Clinton and the country were blessed by the Gingrich-led Republican revolution in Congress — Noonan is sadly and typically naive. She imagines a world in which Obama will become as humble as JFK after the Bay of Pigs debacle.
In a more beautiful world, the whole health-care chapter could become, for the president, that helpful thing, the teachable moment. The president the past month has been taught a lot by the American people. It's all there in the polls. He could still step back, rethink, say it didn't work, promise to return with something better.
When presidents make clear, with modesty and even some chagrin, that they have made a mistake but that they've learned a lesson and won't be making it again, the American people tend to respond with sympathy. It is our tradition and our impulse.
Such admissions are not a sign of weakness. John F. Kennedy knew this after the Bay of Pigs. He didn't blame his Republican predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, or the agencies that had begun the invasion's tentative planning under Ike. JFK made it clear he'd learned a great deal, which increased confidence in his leadership. His personal popularity rose so high that he later wryly noted that the more mistakes he made, the more popular he became.
I suspect the American people would appreciate seeing Barack Obama learn from this, and keep going.
Oh, Obama will keep going all right. But I doubt it will be with the humility and modesty that turned JFK's presidency around. Audacity defines this president, not humility. And in assessing today's Democratic political dynamic in Washington, Noonan certainly has this right:
It's not especially pleasurable to see history held hostage to ideological vanity, but it's not the first time. And if they keep it up, they'll help solve the president's problem. He'll have a Republican congress soon enough.
We can only hope.