You are currently viewing archive for August 2009
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A week or so before Election Day 2008, it occurred to me that a John McCain victory could well spell disaster for the American Experiment. Why? Half the nation would NOT accept him as president. Half the nation, so thoroughly appalled by the past eight years, had completely distorted the life and essence of a good man.

Ironically, most of these same tormenters had profusely professed to admire McCain as a man of singular integrity just a few short months before. But the frenzied stakes of a national campaign for ultimate power transformed their erstwhile hero into the personification of Republican evil. This powerful contingent in the American body politic had traveled down the road with Republicans as far as they were prepared to go. Another Republican president—no matter how virtuous—risked civil war.

On the other hand, Barack Obama, an appealing newcomer and something of a blank slate, symbolized a fresh start as well as a dividend on the American promise. Once the votes were counted, many John McCain voters (like me) embraced the sunnier side of what we did not know about this new president. We stood optimistic about the unparalleled American tendency to produce transformational presidents from unlikely soil. We mostly watched the historic elevation of President Obama with moist eyes and high hopes.

Of course, it is worth noting that not all of the vanquished were ready to concede defeat. The Republican Party split to some extent—some of us eager to believe in miracles and another segment hunkered down with Rush and Sean Hannity rooting for abject failure.

Why did we hope? What was our unlikely aspiration? Perhaps our half of the GOP could find common cause with a less militant wing of the Democratic Party led by the President and a new generation of leaders not formed by the cultural turmoil of the 1960s. We understood that we were going to have to leave many of our friends behind--but maybe the "vital center" really was something more than a rhetorical flourish.

Most important in the calculation, we accepted the reality that our party handed off a crisis that posed an existential threat to our survival as a nation. Desperate times call for serious introspection and bold action. Perhaps the acute exigencies in our path might form a new political sensibility. Perhaps this President might actually transcend the partisan trench warfare that had visited such destruction on the political landscape over the past few decades and rally a new coalition in pursuit of our lethal common foes.

What did the President have to gain?

Actually, a radically sweeping political realignment offered distinct advantages. Looking down the road, it was clear to most objective observers that the center-right American citizenry would never fully accept the pungently “liberal” policies of the Nancy Pelosi-wing of the Democratic Party. If President Obama were to be a truly transformative president, he would need to act boldly—and his boldness would need to be forward-looking rather than rooted in the traditional liberal past.

He would need to jettison the rigidly partisan leadership on his side of the aisle and reach out to patriotic and pragmatic realists who would place American survival over party ideologies. While painful to initiate, a genuinely innovative coalition of interests might have guaranteed permanent political success for the President as well as an authentic prescription for national well being.

But, alas, the President decided to eschew the bold move and chose the path of least resistance. Republicans skeptics proved absolutely right. Even as he followed the established course of the Bush administration on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Banking Crisis, the President cast his lot with the liberal ideologues in terms of his domestic agenda.

He used his power and popularity to “cram down” an extravagant and unprecedented $787 billion stimulus package. Even worse, the White House chose to be conspicuously absent in the legislative process, dashing hopes that the President would insure bipartisan participation and cooperation on Capitol Hill. Instead, he forced his opponents to swallow a bill created under the firm hand of Speaker Pelosi and her uncompromising leadership team.

His budget and “cap and trade” bill were further examples of a high-handed and strong-arm leadership style—and, even more disconcerting, further evidence that Speaker Pelosi was fast becoming the most powerful political player in Washington.

Enter the health care debate in which the President, once again, abdicated his role in crafting the legislation, once again, leaving the details to the House. The President chose to use (or misuse) his gift for rhetoric to oversimplify the discussion, too often employing “false choice” and “straw men” arguments. Too often, the President casts his opponents as shameless advocates for the unsustainable status quo working against the public good for nefarious reasons.

After unsuccessfully trying to blitz the American people into a half-baked bill, the President still seems inclined to berate us into submission on health care, disdainfully importuning us to overcome our ignorance and fear. The President needs to take a deep breath, slow down, and build a consensus to do the right thing. A consensus bill is out there. In truth, there is wide agreement on many of the most important elements of reform.

For the President, this truly is a time for choosing. To succeed, he must take the lead in a meaningful way. He must fulfill his promise to be a unifying president and reach across the aisle to come up with a pragmatic health care plan that addresses our real problems rather than pay off ideological expectations. This will anger his base—but he must place the good of his country above partisan politics.

While I am no longer Pollyannaish about a new era of selfless American political cooperation, there is still reason to hope that this President can work with elements of the loyal opposition to find bipartisan solutions to our most frightening challenges.

Godspeed to those elected officials of good will who are willing to work together for the common good.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
He took me for a chump.

1. Too often the king of the "straw man" and the "false choice," the President misuses his gift for rhetoric to insinuate that the alternatives in re health care reform are "his way" or "no way." If you do NOT accept his plan, you shamelessly advocate maintaining the unsustainable status quo--and for nefarious reasons.

What should he have done? He should have worked as a "uniter" and reached across the aisle to come up with a pragmatic health reform that actually solved a few of our problems--instead of wasting his immense talent on selling a moldy partisan-ideological Utopian non-solution that creates many more problems that it alleviates.

2. In that vein, he does not have the stomach to face up to the real problems: how can you ever get to sustainability without rationing? How can we add coverage for forty-seven million people and pay less money into the system? And aren't all the so-called cost cutting schemes that whack insurance companies only a drop in the bucket? Where is the money coming from?

3. He tried to blitz us into a half-baked bill. Of course, it is easy to see now why the President and his brain trust did not want to be in the unenviable (maybe even untenable) position of trying to explain and defend this monstrosity in the public square. We needed some straight talk--but, instead, we got the White House bulldozer. Slow down and build a consensus to do the right thing.

4. The President will not own up to his own past. We know that he and his partisans are fundamentally committed to a universal one-payer system. He has said this. Many of the leaders of the Democratic Party have admitted this. I have never known a thoughtful liberal who did not sincerely believe that socialized medicine was the smartest and most humane option. Nevertheless, President Obama pretends that none of this well-documented history exists. In fact, he belittles any critics who bring up this inconvenient fact. He needs to acknowledge what we all know to be true--and be forthright about his predispositions. He should have begun this conversation in a more honest place.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Death Panels?

Totally ludicrous. There is no such thing as a "death panel." They are a figment of someone's despicably vile imagination. Any person who traffics in that brand of misleading gutter politics should be drawn and quartered. In fact, it is exactly that sort of imprecise and insidious speech that makes this country such a breeding ground for neo-Nazi, right-wing conservative kooks.

And, aside from that, the Senate has pledged to omit the passage (that doesn't actually exist--in section 1233 of the House bill) from its own plan.

They didn't do it. But if they did, they promise not to do it anymore.

Sarah Palin sure is dumb.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Yesterday, I bought a new car for the first time in my life: a 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL.

Significantly, I traded in our 2002 Jeep Cherokee with 107,000 miles, a multitude of dings, dents, and scratches, a severely damaged tailgate (the product of an anonymous miscreant at the Target parking lot), an engine and drive train in the twilight of life, and a terminally unreliable right tail light.

As a result of "cash for clunkers," I received $4,500 for my trade-in (which I estimate is at least two grand more than any competent used car manager would have allowed). Add a fifteen-hundred-dollar factory rebate--and a little bit of dickering, and I feel pretty good about my "deal."

A few thoughts on my transaction:

1. "Cash for Clunkers" achieved its desired effect. It was the little program that could. Of all the humiliating disappointments and egregious inefficiencies in the $787 billion dollar stimulus program, the modest one-billion dollar incentive to trade in your jalopy and buy a new car proved singularly exciting and effective. As I say, I am forty-four years-old and this is the first new car I have ever bought in my life.

The Obamanomics brain trust should take note.

2. I bought a Nissan. There is no action in American culture driven more by emotion than buying a new car. Logically, I wanted to think seriously about buying a so-called American car. But, way down in my gut, I opted not to buy a vehicle manufactured by "Obama Motors" (which I am not especially proud to admit). Moreover, while I am rooting for Ford Motor Company to emerge as the great American car company of the 21st century, I could not bring myself to look on the Ford lot either.

In the end, I chose the Nissan Altima, manufactured in Canton, Mississippi, by non-UAW employees. I bought local (in Waco), helped out the Central Texas economy, and met some nice folks along the way. My conscience is relatively clear. Emotionally, I felt more secure with a Japanese-engineered mid size put together by hard-working Southerners far removed from the cancerous grip of latter day unionism.

3. Thus far, the good news for the program has been eclipsed by the incompetence of its administration. Obviously, no one at the White House or the Department of Transportation expected this type of incentive to catch on quite the way it did. After just four days at full speed, the DOT indecorously suspended the program as worries mounted that orders had already exceeded funding. While the President and the House moved quickly on Friday to extend the program, the frustration and schadenfreude over administrative uncertainty and sluggishness in implementing the plan nearly overshadowed the excitement associated with the program's success.

How will this be viewed by a public uncharacteristically engaged? Will the electorate see President Obama as the benevolent dispenser of down payments for new vehicles? Make no mistake, that is the best kind of PR for the White House--we are still looking for presidents who can deliver "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."

Or, does the President suffer from the stigma of bureaucratic ineptitude? Certainly, the right-wing talkers were peddling that interpretation. With the government websites cratering--and the program on-again and then off-again and then likely on-again, Rush Limbaugh used the incident as the perfect opportunity to ask:

"Is this really the people you want running your health care?"

"Sorry, mam, the computer is down, and I cannot get the okay for your emergency procedure."

"Yesterday we had funding for hip surgeries in your demographic--but we are waiting for the Senate to approve emergency appropriations for today's schedule."

The suddenly famous "Cash for Clunkers" program runs the risk of becoming an allegory for government's ability to ameliorate our health care system. While no one questions that progressives sincerely want to use government to make life better for people, the question has always been whether government can actually solve problems or, rather, create even worse unintended consequences with its ham-handed and shortsighted interventions.

Will "Cash for Clunkers" come to symbolize a progressive-government approach still not ready for prime time?

If the Obama administration, which fervently asks for stewardship of one of the most important segments of our life, cannot be successful in this relatively small and uncomplicated endeavor, we are likely to be much more skeptical of placing them in authority over what promises to be the most arduous and convoluted government undertaking in the history of our nation?

The Obama White House better start working overtime to make Clunkers work and, more importantly, put their best minds on selling the program as a great success. Our propogandists have a huge head start going the opposite direction.

No matter, in the end, I predict that this is likely a case in which the truth will triumph. No matter which way the talking heads spin it, this episode likely provides a telling window into the soul and constitution of the Obama administation.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Not at all surprising, one of the most trenchant analyses of the "Gates imbroglio" comes from Shelby Steele:

Take a moment and consider this incredibly provocative and penetrating paragraph:

"But this is not really the point. Many a Southern belle would have known she was being ogled by an uppity black man. She would have known that a cultural narrative—heated up by the nuclear taboos of sex and race—put the power of life and death at her disposal. But when would she have actually pulled the cultural trigger and set into motion those forces that would surely end in the annihilation of a black man? The great question in the Gates story is why he put himself so quickly into the cultural narrative, why he screamed 'racial profiling' more quickly than a Southern belle might have once screamed 'rape?'”

Read the entire essay here via WSJ Opinion Journal.