Monday, February 25, 2008

John O'Sullivan follows up on "the conservative interest" column

John O'Sullivan has written a follow up post in NRO's Corner explaining conservative deliberations regarding McCain and this November's election.
Ramesh and Derb both aim reasoned (and reasonable) criticism at my long piece last week on the circumstances in which voting against one's own party might be justifiable or, in extreme cases, even required. I've also discussed these arguments with Ramesh off-line. Since my original piece was—as Noel Coward said of Camelot — "longer than Parsifal but not as funny," I don't want to compound the offense by writing a long exercise in self-justification. So how about a short exercise in self-justification? Let me respond first to Ramesh:

1. It's true that I cited the "National Question" issues—immigration, multiculturalism, preferences—as a possible justification for defection. That was because I thought (and think) they are the issues most likely to provoke conservative voters to abandon the GOP. My own objections to the Senator's policies go somewhat wider—his enthusiasm for the EU, for instance, as well as the usual conservative moans.

2. Sure, the same indictment could have been mounted against President Bush in 2000 and 2004. Readers with long memories may recall that I actually levelled such charges against the candidate, especially in 2000 before 9/11 had kicked in. One can agree with Ramesh that consistency requires those who supported Bush then to back McCain now. Equally, however, one can make the opposite case: namely, we never liked these policies and we can now see that, in addition to their other harmful effects, they are widely unpopular and damaging to the GOP. Four or eight years more of them and the party will be in ruins.

3. Of course, some overriding moral issue may override (as they do) these calculations. For some of my colleagues, Victor in particular, the war in Iraq and the wider war on terror are between them such an issue. I respect that view and am close to sharing it, but because I think that nation-building in America is more important than nation-building in Iraq, that alone would not be decisive. For me — as I believe, also for Ramesh — the pro-life issue is such an overriding consideration. You can see where that is driving me — either to the Senator or to some third-party candidate who combines pro-life views with soundness on the National Question, the EU, etc., etc..

Now to Derb who rides boldly up to what seems to me to be my strongest point favoring Obama and swings his ball and chain at it with his usual elan. He asks if a President Obama, far from being a force for racial and ethnic reconciliation in America, might not be a disaster for it — if his presidency was a failure and if non-blacks deserted the Democratic party in droves as a result. He mentions the awful warning of the Carter presidency and goes on to suggest that a Black Jimmy Carter would be even more catastrophic for America. However:

1. Very few presidents fail and visibly and comprehensively as Jimmy Carter. Even if one takes a kind view of his administration, as such distinguished Carter appointees as Zbig Brzezinski do, there is no quarrelling with the fact that most Americans and many Democrats thought he had been a failure in 1980 and for many years afterwards. This was exceptional.

2. Even so the Carter administration did not destroy the Democrats. He scored a respectable 45 percent of the two-party vote in 1980 against the most brilliant politician in postwar American history. Twelve years after his defeat the Democrats regained the White House. They held the House of Representatives for all this period until 1994. So the prospect of a post-Obama Democratic meltdown is unlikely even if Obama is regarded as having failed disastrously.

3. Those white, Asian, and Latino voters who are open to the temptation of thinking a Black candidate would be simply incapable of governing competently are highly unlikely to vote for Obama in the first place; and those white, Asian and Latino voters who are moved to vote for him in this election in order to advance the cause of racial reconciliation are unlikely to abandon him in droves if he performs as badly as Carter or even just not very well. So a collapse of the Democratic vote and the party's transformation into a racially uniform rump seems to me to be a paranoid nightmare.

4. Whatever else he is, Obama is a smart man. His campaign shows that. So I doubt he would repeat Carter's mistakes when the evidence shows that they failed the tests of both practicality and popularity. The current version of Carterism is too close to the original to be mistaken for something else. In this context, unlike most of my colleagues, I think Obama's rhetoric of American unity is probably a better guide to his potential presidency than his liberal voting record.

Well, it's turned out to be a long exercise in self-justification after all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

John O'Sullivan considers the Conservative Interest and John McCain

An excellent column by National Review editor at large, John O'Sullivan titled The Conservative Interest: McCainiacs and anti-McCainiacs
......... I had argued that some of these conditions had applied in the recent past. In fact I maintained that two of the three in extremis justifications had recently applied on two different occasions.

The first occasion was the first of the two British elections of 1974. On that occasion I was not in favor of reelecting Ted Heath. He was promising what a Marxist group (which asked its members to vote Tory) called the most extensive program of socialism and state control—including control of wages, prices, and dividends, and the establishment of a tripartite Labor Union-Corporate Business-Government council that would determine economic policy — ever proposed in Britain. I voted for an independent conservative candidate. That vote was not cast from any Leninist “the worse, the better” reasoning but because I thought that Heath’s solutions would make a terrible national situation much worse while also being harder to oppose because they would likely be supported by both the government and the Left.

As it happens, things worked out well: Heath was defeated and succeeded by Thatcher who reversed Tory policy, adopted sensible free-market policies, won power four years later, and instituted Thatcherism. Something similar happened in the U.S. when the failure of the Carter administraion and the over-reaching of the Soviets led to Reagan’s 1980 victory (though Gerald Ford’s policies bore no relationship to the Heath madness and would not have justified Republican abstentions.) But those of us who rejected party loyalty in favor of conservative principles in Britain have to concede that it might have turned out very differently—and much worse. I can justify the risk we took only by the extreme folly of the Tory government’s policy—and by our knowledge that some Tory leaders, imprisoned temporarily in the Heath orthodoxy, would take the Tories in a more genuinely conservative direction if given the chance by defeat.
read the whole column

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shlaes dicusses the politics of the economy

Amity Shlaes takes a look at Middle Class Anxiety at a time of low unemployment.
What is most striking about today’s anxiety is that it has emerged despite a robust economy. Americans have worried in times of 8- or 10-percent unemployment, but why at 5 percent or less? Even with the recent jump in oil prices, today’s misery index is at a docile low. Yet a Gallup survey published in March 2006 reported that “Americans continue to resist giving the nation’s economy positive ratings.” Data from ISR, a research firm, suggest that in 2005 three times as many Americans were afraid they would lose their jobs as had similar fears during the ugly downturn of the early Reagan years.
Members of the new majority on Capitol Hill mock Republican talk of an “ownership society,” and have moved quickly to try to raise the minimum wage. Charles Rangel of New York, the new Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, attacked as “dangerous” a White House plan to move responsibility for health care from employers to individuals. Even some Republicans have gotten in on the act. John McCain has warned that “My children and their children will not receive the benefits we will enjoy. That is an inescapable fact, and any politician who tells you otherwise, Democrat or Republican, is lying.” In the 2008 race for the White House, class angst is sure to be a prominent theme—as John Edwards, among others, has already made clear in his early campaign rhetoric.

Economic populism, in short, is back with a vengeance. But is it justified by our economic circumstances? And do its noisiest proponents have viable answers to the concerns of working Americans?
Who would have believed that 5 percent unemployment, which used to be considered "full employment," would be labeled "a sluggish economy?"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Whom should supporters of the 1st Amendment vote for in this fall's presidential race?

What do Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have in common? All three of them believe that the government should be able to ration the amount and timing of political speech during political campaigns.

Bradley Smith and his fellow first amendment activists are engaged in the highest form of patriotism. They are motivated not by the latest cult of personality to strut across the political stage, but by the enduring principles that led to the founding of this great nation.

What should a voter do if one takes the following words seriously?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I realize that there are significant differences between John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on many political issues. But if the people of the United States lose the right to criticize our elected officials during election contests, or if we have these rights severely restricted, haven't we essentially accepted tyranny over liberty, fascism over freedom?

We are often advised to support a candidate with whom one agrees with more than the alternative candidate. But is it morally correct to support a candidate who wants to limit your Constitutional right not only to support or oppose his candidacy, but to support or oppose any candidacy now and in the future? Isn't the principle that underpins the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution more important than any single political candidate? Or are all political values negotiable?

Canadian Health Care: A health care monopoly

Here's an excerpt from Lorne Gunter's column about Canada's National Health care system titled, Dying To Save 'The System'
For defenders of Canada's government-monopoly health care system, there is only one goal that truly matters. And, no, despite their earnest insistences to the contrary, that goal is not the health of patients. It is the preservation of the public monopoly at all costs, even patients' lives.

This week, the Kawacatoose First Nation, which has an urban reserve on Regina's eastern outskirts, announced it wanted to build a health centre there with its own money. Among other things, the band wants to buy a state-of-the-art MRI machine and perform diagnostic tests on Saskatchewanians -- aboriginal and non-aboriginal-- who currently face some of the longest waits for scans in the country.

This should be a win-win: Aboriginals show entrepreneurial initiative, without any financial obligation on the part of the federal or provincial government, and create well-paying high-tech jobs for natives who desperately need them, while at the same time easing the wait for MRI tests in Saskatchewan that can now run to six or even 12 months.

Each year, hundreds or even thousands of Saskatchewan residents -- mostly middle-class -- drive across the border into North Dakota and pay their own money for scans rather than wait for one at home. The Kawacatoose proposal would give them a much closer alternative.

So what was the reaction of the opposition NDP in Saskatchewan? Restrained contempt and veiled fear-mongering.

The restraint was a result only of the fact that this proposal was coming from aboriginals. Had a private, non-native company suggested the same thing, Saskatchewan's opposition socialists would have been screaming from the rooftops that greedy insurance companies and health profiteers are lurking under every hospital bed ready to prey on unsuspecting patients the moment they get the green light.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Excerpt from "The Forgotten Man," by Amity Shlaes

I am currently reading "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression," by Amity Shlaes. Here is an interesting excerpt from page 262-263.
Benjamin Anderson at the Chase Bank --- warned of trouble too. The new law raised taxes on several classes of taxpayer. But it targeted the rich. It might sound amusing to impose high rates on wealthy people. But such taxes also caused enourmous damage. The thing to focus on was not that the economy might be improving a little bit, but rather that the country was not getting the strong recovery that it should expect. The New Deal was causing the country to forgo prosperity, if not recovery. The wealthy, after all, were in a position to take risks with new ventures precisely because they were wealthy --- they could invest in several projects at once. Under the new 1935 law, a very wealthy man would see more than three-quarters of any profits from new ventures taken by income tax. Any loss, however, would be the same man's to bear. This man would try to hoard his capital and wait --- thus coming to fit the very stereotype of the idle rich man the New Dealers were hoping to propagate.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Clinton and Obama economic plans

Alan Reynolds takes a look at the tax plans of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a column titled Tax Delusions
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both propose to "turn the economy around" in a novel way - by raising tax rates on small businesses, working couples and stockholders in general, including retirees.

Of course, their plans are also meant to raise revenue for their various hundreds of billions in new spending - but the move would fall flat on that front, too.

Start with the deficit. The Bush administration predicts a $409 billion budget shortfall for fiscal 2009. But that rests on absurd assumptions - a sudden $104 billion drop in the price of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a freeze in non-security discretionary spending - and a speeding up of economic growth.

In fact, this election year's "stimulus" bills are likelier to slow things down in 2009. Seven of the 10 postwar recessions began in the year after a presidential race, including 2001 and 1981.

So, with luck, the next president may start out with an economy that is only fragile or feeble and a deficit not much above $500 billion.

Now, on to tax hikes.

The federal government now takes 33 percent of taxable income above $200,000 on a joint return and 35 percent of income above $357,700. Both Democrats would raise those tax rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.

Even the Tax Policy Center (a think tank famously friendly to tax hikes and Democrats) estimates that raising the top two tax rates might bring in a mere $32 billion in 2010. That's 6 percent of the likely deficit - not a license to start a dozen new programs.
If one of these two Democrats get elected, we will see how well "tax and spend" policies help the economy or how much those policies will hurt it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Death of an Obasm

Red State offers up a great analysis of Obama's campaign slogans and rhetoric with this post titled The Death of an Obasm:
I am having trouble fully appreciating the phenomenon that is Senator Obama. Certainly, Obama’s overpowering charisma has an amazing effect on any listener, such as spontaneous tears or quasi-erotic tingling in one’s leg. (The latter phenomenon is dubbed the "Matthews syndrome” after a man whose capacity for rational thought has been completely destroyed by the syndrome’s effects.) For me, however, any such tingling is immediately recognized and countered by my brain, which forces the nascent Obasm to a premature and unsatisfying conclusion.

Usually, my brain counters the Obasm by asking difficult and disturbing questions. For example, I will begin trembling with excitement when the senator’s magnetic voice rings out with an inspiring, “Yes, we can.” However, as soon as the leg starts tingling, my brain quashes the excitement with nagging questions: “What, exactly, is it that you think we can do? Do you really think we can afford to do that right now? Shouldn’t we take care of our other responsibilities before we start doing it? How are we going to do it, anyway? Are we going to do it your way, like always, or can we do it my way for once?” (Interestingly, my wife uses a similar tactic to quell tingling sensations. She even uses some of the same questions.)
It actually gets better as it goes on.

More Bad Ideas on Energy Policy from the Democrats

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line Blog writes in a post titled Not serious about energy policy either that the Democrats' proposals on energy policies would actually increase US dependency on foreign oil and increase the cost of energy for American consumers.
In a post below, John shows once again that congressional Democrats are not serious about national security. They would rather pander to their radical base and, it would appear, to their trial lawyer financiers than authorize measures through which the government can obtain the intelligence needed to fight terrorism.

As Ben Lieberman of the Heritage Foundation demonstrates, the Democrats aren’t serious about energy policy either. Both gasoline prices and oil company profits are high. Thus, House Democrats propose to raise taxes on oil companies. But, according to Lieberman, oil companies already pay their fair share of taxes. In fact, their effective tax rate of 37 percent is slightly higher than that of large corporations in general.

More importantly, the proposed tax hike would tend to produce even higher gasoline prices. It would do so in part by discouraging investment in new domestic drilling for oil and natural gas, thereby tending to decrease supply as demand continues to grow. In addition, any new tax on gasoline, whether at the pump or at the producer level, will raise the cost of this product to consumers. Furthermore, says Lieberman, the Democrats’ proposal would undermine our energy security by providing a competitive advantage to OPEC and other non-U.S. suppliers whose imports are not subject to most of the bill’s provisions.

The Democrats should understand this. As Lieberman reminds us, they tried something very similar in 1980. during the Carter administration, when they imposed a “windfall profit tax” on oil companies. According to the Congressional Research Service, this tax “reduced domestic oil production from 3 to 6 percent, and increased oil imports from between 8 and 16 percent.”

To make matters worse, the Dems would use the new revenue generated from the tax increase to subsidize alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power. Lieberman notes that, even after decades of tax breaks, alternative energy provides only a small fraction of America’s energy needs. Solar energy, for example, provides only 3 percent of our electricity due to its high cost and unreliability. And the Department of Energy estimates that the overall percentage of electricity attributable to renewable sources is not likely to increase even by 2030. In short, the forms of energy the Democrats want to subsidize are the sources of the future, and likely always will be.

The federal government has a dismal record of picking winners and losers among energy sources. Yet the Democrats persist in seeking to raise taxes on what works and subsidizing what doesn’t. They simply aren’t serious.
The policies of the Democrat party nearly always make the problems that they complain about worse than if their policies were to not become law. They complain about corporate "outsourcing," yet they advocate policies that could convince many corporations that the United States isn't a good place to do business.

The Democrats appeal to emotion over reason time after time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Joke: A political activist chooses between Capitalist Hell and Communist Hell

A political activist named Dave was just arriving in Hell and was told that he had a choice to make. He could go to Capitalist Hell or to Communist Hell. Naturally, Dave wanted to compare the two, so he wandered over to Capitalist Hell. There, outside the door was Rockefeller, looking bored. "What's it like in there?", asked Dave. "Well, he replied, "in Capitalist Hell, they flay you alive, boil you in oil, chain you to a rock and let a vulture tear your liver out, and cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."

"That's terrible!!", gasped Dave. "I'm going to check out Communist Hell!" He went over to Communist Hell, where he discovered a huge line of people waiting to get in. The line circled around the lobby seven times before receding off into the horizon. Dave pushed his way through to the head of the line, where he found Karl Marx busily signing people in. Dave asked Karl what Communist Hell was like.

"In Communist Hell," said Marx impatiently, "they flay you alive, boil you in oil, chain you to a rock and let vultures tear out your liver, and cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."

"But...... but that's the same as Capitalist Hell!", protested Dave. "True, sighed Marx, "but sometimes we don't have oil, sometimes we don't have knives......

Will conservatives unite behind John McCain?

The more conservatives hear from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the more difficult it will be for conservatives to sit out the election this November. Still, conservative have doubts about McCain and Former US Senator Rick Santorum explains why:
Why are so many conservative Republicans upset about the inevitable nomination of Sen. John McCain, and what are we going to do about it?

The cause of conservative discontent isn't hard to fathom. Start with the Arizona senator's voting record on many key issues. He has opposed pro-growth tax cuts and supported limits on political speech. He has pushed amnesty when it came to illegal immigration and half-measures when it came to interrogating terrorists. He wants to close Guantanamo and allow the reimportation of prescription drugs into the United States. Not only does he part company with conservatives on these and other issues - climate change, drilling for oil in the Alaskan hinterland, federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, international criminal courts, gun-show background checks - he invariably adopts the rhetoric of the left and stridently leads the opposition.
It's understandable as to why conservatives don't look forward to a federal government completely controlled by the Democrats and would prefer to elect a Republican president this November as a check against the Democrat Congress. But McCain's record of working with Left wing Democrats in the Senate means that a McCain presidency might not provide as much of a check against the Left wing agenda as we would like.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Conservative Talk Radio and John McCain

Here's a good column by Jeffrey Lord titled, Sean Hannity is Right
The "McCain problem" is not talk radio. Listening Thursday evening as I drove through Washington after day one of CPAC I tuned into Mark Levin's show. In paint-peeling language, Levin, a former Reagan-era colleague, ran through McCain's problems in terms of his record. What else should Levin be doing? Anyone who has ever crossed paths with him -- and I have -- knows Mark Levin to be one very, very smart guy. He is nothing if not devoted to principle, and in fact has spent a considerable part of his life living for the conservative cause.

It simply is not his job as a talk show host to elect McCain or anyone else president. He has made it his job -- his life -- to talk and write and fight for conservative principles. What amazes with the McFarlane criticism is the notion that if Levin -- or Hannity or Rush or Laura -- would somehow just shut up, McCain's problem would somehow go away.

Some Straight Talk here. If talk radio fell mute this minute, McCain's problem would still exist.A case in point appeared the very next day at CPAC itself. Floating around the hotel the day after Levin's latest scorching was the new issue of the National Journal, a decidedly mainstream media publication that is most assuredly not a journal of conservatism. The cover article featured a story about McCain by Kirk Victor, the Journal's longtime Senate reporter. Victor's story was titled "The Right Stuff?" Notice the question mark. In the quiet language of traditional Capitol Hill print journalism, Victor was saying almost exactly what Levin was saying in his more flamboyant, talk radio fashion. It pointedly referred to McCain's "put-up-your-dukes" demeanor, and even more troubling for McCain's relationship with conservatives, produced a chart tracking the Arizonan's conservative ranking in the Senate since his arrival in 1987.

According to Victor's story, McCain's best year as a conservative came in 1994, when he was ranked the 8th most conservative among all Senators. By 2004, he had fallen to 49th, with rankings of 45 and 46 respectively for 2005 and 2006. No ranking was available for 2007. The 2004 ranking, Victor says, tied McCain with the GOP's famously liberal Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, with only two liberal Republicans further to the left, Maine's Olympia Snowe and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee. Chafee, of course, faced a primary challenge from a conservative in 2006 and then lost to a Democrat in the fall. He has now announced that he is leaving the Republican Party.

Conservatives across America clearly have some sort of sense of McCain that corresponds with the essence of Victor's story, even if they have not seen it -- and with the Internet being what it is doubtless it is already everywhere. In other words, the problem for McCain is not talk radio hosts anymore than it is mainstream reporters covering the Senate. The problem is McCain's record.
Conservatives have not invented their disagreements with John McCain. McCain has actively worked to irritate conservatives and now McCain needs their support. At this point, I lean towards staying neutral in a McCain versus Obama or McCain versus Clinton presidential race.