Obama, Biden inspect “ships that go underwater”

Monday night’s foreign policy debate only continues the existing trend.  Mitt Romney came off as measured, composed, and presidential, while President Barack Obama, pressing with a desperate and full bore attack, looked a little more petty and a little less presidential.

The horses and bayonets dig has backfired, now that folks from Chuck Todd to Tim Cotton have attested to the utility of those helps in modern warfare.

What really got me though was the part about “ships that go underwater.”  Our Commander-in-Chief was by a magnitude of order too self-satisfied in letting off that salvo.  He sounded like he really thought he was talking to a five year old.

A pundit with some military smarts was quick to inform that submarines are referred to in the American Navy as “boats,” not “ships” as the President claimed.  Oh well, what could we expect from a President who doesn’t know how essential bayonets are to the Marine “Corpse?”

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The Romney dividend

The Presidential debates are three-quarters of the way through, and all sides are bracing for Monday’s foreign policy clash in Boca Raton.  A lot has happened since the transformative first debate on October 3.  The election is far from over, but at the moment the likeliest candidate for the mythic “October surprise” is Mitt Romney himself.

The governor’s numbers have improved on several fronts this month.  His likeability ratings are above water for the first time, showing an ability to beat back this Summer’s flood of negative ads and spin from the Obama campaign.  On October 17, Gallup had Romney besting Obama by seven points (+7) among likely voters nationally.  And looking at recent electoral map changes, it’s obvious President Obama’s September swing state advantage has effectively evaporated.  RealClearPolitics’s electoral projection even broke in Romney’s favor for the first time this cycle.

What impact will the vice presidential and second presidential debates have on the polls? One might conclude that Romney’s momentum has dissipated upon meeting renewed energy in Obama’s executive.  Biden and the president brought vigor to their exchanges, garnering an arguable draw and an arguable win respectively.  But the take away from these middle two contests won’t help their ticket.

More likely to be remembered than any policy point ticked off were the impressions of character: Biden’s dismissive, cartoonish grin and Obama’s finger-pointing truculence.  Yes, Romney was a fighter in round two too.  But aggression comes off better from the challenger than the incumbent, who should be cheerfully defending a good record.  Through three debates now, the Obama presidential ticket has looked unpresidential.

Meanwhile, Romney has benefited from exceeding long-lowered expectations.  He has risen as a sleeper candidate, one who seemed dogged by a failure to galvanize a devoted base in the primaries.  But recalling his GOP rivals–among them Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, and Cain–could we imagine one delivering on the debates with such a combination of discipline and amiability as Romney?  The October boost we’re seeing redounds to the credit of early Romney supporters.  It is the Romney dividend.

In the pivotal October 3 debate, Americans glimpsed a dedicated work horse who knew what to say and when to say it.  But more importantly, they saw an actual human being, not a robot, or some combination of cardboard, wood, and plastic.  The meme of a stiff and aloof Romney will persist as much as Cowboy Bush did among the hard left, and it will be just as untrue.  Still, Aloof Romney will continue to be exploited where the media find it profitable.

But like a raja who parades at the head of a princely procession, Romney has been broadcasting an image of genuine likability, conviction, and competence onto the masses.  This mutual energy between Romney and the electorate was evident at Thursday’s Al Smith dinner, a neutral forum where elites from both sides of the aisle gathered to civilly toast and roast the two candidates.  Romney was very much in his own skin delivering scripted barbs of humor.   The president, while also good, couldn’t help but evince a bit of his trademark professorial unease.  If only for the laughs, it’s worth watching both routines (Romney and Obama).

Surveying the aftermath of October 3, it appears that Mr. Romney is the Happy Warrior and the president is a bit beleaguered.  Of course, the race remains close. But if all goes well, Romney will continue to connect with and persuade voters, capitalizing on a growing desire to send Mr. Obama packing to an early Hawaiian island retirement.

Does floating unfounded allegations of racism help Obama?

The other day I came across a commentary in the Christian Science Monitor that absolutely floored me.  Offered by two academics, McIlwain and Caliendo, its headline questions: “Is a pro-Romney ad racist? Five questions to ask yourself.

Apparently, the coauthors don’t think Democrats can ever make a racist appeal, so they only focus on the Romney campaign.  To them, it’s not a question of if but which of his ads will be racist.  As we’ve seen with Joe Biden’s  “unchained” appeal,” this myopic model leaves voters unable to account for racism when it actually happens.

You can’t find racism from the left if you’re only looking right.  But with advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences, the coauthors command a toolkit that enables them to pick out the finest notes of that pesky racism “dog whistle.”  Funny though, only a self-selecting pool of liberal academics have the authority or ability to discern them.  Good thing they’ve taken the time to help the rest of us out!

The examples the coauthors provide in their commentary are tenuous at best.  They advance their arguments on mere possibilities.  Does this sound familiar?  Elements of Romney’s ads “could be interpreted” or might “imply” some kind of racism.  A string of possible but weakly supported claims puts the piece just a notch above Harry Reid’s completely groundless claim that Romney didn’t pay ten years’ worth of taxes.

In one section of their commentary, the authors warn against the deployment of stereotypes.  Their metric for determining a potential stereotype is wide, vague, and subjective.  They bar Romney from any avenue of attack, while allowing Obama to proceed. Consider this passage on criminality:

For instance, while the Obama campaign might charge that Romney is a felon – a strong attack to be sure – there is no historical association between whites – as a group – and criminality. That association is present with respect to blacks, however. Thus, the message functions as a stereotype, not merely a criticism of one individual.

Have you ever watched a Hollywood action movie?  The villain is always some rich white guy in a suit!

Or, think of the TV series 24.  Each season, there are two levels of bad guys.  The first wave of villains might be terrorists from a fictitious Middle Eastern country, a Mexican drug cartel, or maybe opportunistic African warlords.  But then, somewhere around hour 10 or 12, the ultimate culprit emerges: always a cold, well-heeled white guy who is an unscrupulous industrialist, a crackpot defense hawk, or otherwise a liberal’s gross impression of Dick Cheney.  And this from a show with supposedly conservative leanings!

Although not matching McIlwain and Caliendo’s cherry picked “historical” or “group” criteria, Team Obama’s felon accusation against Romney exploits a real Hollywood stereotype embedded in the American consciousness.

Indeed, racism was a serious problem fifty years ago, but some folks haven’t gotten the memo that things might have improved just a bit.  This fact is easily missed by those who can’t put down their Critical Race Theory books.

It is sad that unsubstantial claims of racism get undying attention in the media.  The effect, whether intended or not, is to silence genuine criticism and steer the conversation into divisive, unproductive territory.  Just by running McIlwain and Caliendo’s commentary, the Christian Science Monitor sanctions a free tarring of conservatives, a gift to Democrats and their allies.

Why should government endorse same sex marriage?

The above fictional account touches on the gimmicky raffles the Obama campaign has been using to raise money.  Small-time donors first had a chance to meet George Clooney, and now  Sarah Jessica Parker.  For Mother’s Day, there was the opportunity to win mom a tweet from the President himself.

The other issue I’ve depicted and invite you examine for the remainder of this post is gay marriage.  The tendency in the public square is to conflate cultural practice with government endorsement.  We saw this two weeks ago when some folks were upset with North Carolina’s poll but pleased with President Obama’s evolution.  If we want a lucid discourse on marriage, we need to parse the cultural practice from government endorsement.  The critical question to ask: why is this new task of endorsement—with its associated costs—necessary?

Supporters of gay marriage often say it’s a civil  rights issue, inviting a comparison to the historic plight of racial minorities.  But the gay community’s experience today is nothing like the suffering under Jim Crow.  The collective socioeconomic status of homosexuals doesn’t reflect some sort of pervasive systemic bias.  And Federal laws already protect against sexual orientation discrimination.  The relative lack of exigency is a strike against the necessity of endorsement.

Yet, through personal experience, many feel gay marriage to have the moral force of a civil rights issue.  “Equality!” is the cry.  What is government supposed to equalize: individuals or relationships?  The state certainly treats individuals differently.  Men must sign up for selective service; women don’t.  Divorcing mothers tend to win custody over fathers.  And government  justifiably treats relationships differently too:  marriages are proscribed on the basis on age, blood relation, ability to consent, or number of  partners in the relationship.  Having strong feelings about equality doesn’t make government endorsement necessary.

The question remains, why endorse?  One with an expansive view of government may say that endorsement validates or affirms the humanity of gay individuals.  But personal affirmation is not the state’s  business.  We all have God-breathed dignity in spite of what government says about us.  Dissidents living under oppressive regimes around the world know this.  It’s our patrimony as Americans to know and live this truth without such pointed help from Uncle Sam.

In opening up two weeks ago, Vice President Biden gushed about commitment and love.  But governmental recognition of marriage, which boils down to enforcing a contract, is an unsexy thing.  It’s not about feeling love or commitment.  It’s a man and woman assenting to being bound by the law, with the end of raising children well in mind.  With the contract, the couple faces an increased cost of separation, and so does the court system for that matter.  This is another reason why government shouldn’t recognize relationships it doesn’t have to.  And it doesn’t have to because same sex couples never produce children naturally, while opposite sex couples do all the time.  Simultaneously, they face pressures that would separate them from each other.  It’s a bit ignoble, but that is the human condition.

All this to say government needn’t recognize gay marriage.  In fact, the  push for recognition sends the dangerous signal that government’s role is to correct every perceived societal slight, or worse, validate our personal feelings.  Each of us should feel free to pursue any relationship or endeavor we find fulfilling.  Just keep government out of it if you’re able.

A workable green energy solution

We all know the things we’re supposed to spurn the Republican contenders for: vomiting on hearing JFK talk about church and state, offering statehood to a yet-unfounded lunar colony.  The litany against front-runner Mitt Romney is long, if insubstantial: having buddies who are NASCAR team owners, driving two Cadillacs (not Porches or even Mercedes, mind you), being an Etch-a-Sketch candidate.  Since there is no major scandal or outrageous hair-flaming position the man takes, mainstream media must squeeze every ounce it can get out of the latest Romney gaff.  It’s getting old for anyone with half a brain, and fortunately those are the people who tend to show up at the polls.

Republicans have been scrutinized intensely, but what has been coming out of mouths in the Democratic corner?  You wouldn’t know watching NBC or reading Yahoo! News.  Sure, Maxine Waters called Eric Cantor and John Boehner demons.  Nonetheless, it’s the recent speeches of household-name White House officials that are worth looking at.

President Obama kicked things off earlier this month, comparing himself to Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.  He claimed that, as with those men in their noble struggles, the fight is hard and it takes time.  But how is the Democratic agenda in 2012 comparable to the effort for Indian independence or the campaign to end Apartheid?  Does this mean the GOP is as brutal as the British Raj or as unjust as the old South African regime?  This sloppy pandering is reminiscent of the racially-tinged “dollar bill” accusation Obama hurled at McCain and Republicans in his 2008 campaign.  But these remarks get scant media scrutiny when they come from this president.

Next, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spiced things up at the 2012 Women in the World Summit.  She equated more ardent American conservatives with the more egregious human rights abusers in the Muslim world, slapping them both with the common label of “extremists.”  Opposing compulsory contraception coverage is nothing akin to what women deal with every day in Afghanistan, or Egypt for that matter.  Secretary Clinton scores bonus points for lugging domestic politics into foreign affairs.

Finally, Joe Biden rounds out the good times with a speech given to the UAW in Toledo last week.  The Vice President branded his ticket as one offering a “fair shot and a fair shake.”  With this language we might as well have entered a time warp and come out in FDR’s bad old New Deal.  This is the kind of sloganeering given to those who think capitalism is wrong, broken, or dead.  In its place comes Uncle Sam who “takes care of things” for you.  Just like when you need Vito Corleone to get your landlord off your back.  More like fair shakedowns than fair shake.  This rhetoric values shameless deal-making over the rule of law.

It’s no surprise the highest officials in the land get the soft treatment; they’re liberal and progressive after all.  Their rhetoric should have generated some push back from the mainstream media.  If only we could harness all their hot air, we could generate electricity instead.  Then they could deliver on their green energy solutions promises.

Rule of Law, Rule of Gut

The BP oil spill has provided a chance to clearly delineate between two worldviews vying for our political discernment: the visions of the liberal Left and the conservative Right.  In responding to Republican House representative Joe Barton’s double-apology gaffe, President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said as much.  And while Emanuel is correct in observing that two governing philosophies are at stake this November, it would be an error to take his class warfare bait.  The choice is not between wise, compassionate Democrats and corrupt, cozy-with-big-business Republicans.  To the contrary, this November is a chance to dump destructive Democratic impulses to rule from the gut, and empower a new, conservative Republican leadership that values rule based on law.

The rhetoric of emergency is the greatest pitfall of the Democrats’ liberal governing philosophy.  In times of crisis like the BP oil spill, inflammatory rhetorical appeals come naturally to them. At the onset of the oil spill, Democratic strategist James Carville cried out “We’re dying here!” In a recent attempt to capitalize on Barton’s apology blunder, Vice President Joe Biden chided that “people are drowning.”  As a tool of political persuasion, the appeal to emergency is dangerous.  It preys on raw emotions, leading to the loosening of purse strings and  easing the approval of impractical and downright harmful policies.  Recall that appeals to emergency during the Great Depression ushered in the New Deal.  Among the many blunders under the aegis of enlightened activism, the federal government paid farmers to wastefully slaughter their livestock, denying food to the hungry for the sake of stabilizing food prices.

Having lived through Bolshevik brutalism as well as America’s New Deal fiascos, Ayn Rand warned in her brilliant polemic Atlas Shrugged that appeals to emergency inevitably empower either unsavory autocrats or unreasoning incompetents.  The Left’s Rule of Gut is all the more dangerous given their inscrutable devotion to the cult of the political savior.  Whether as youth admiringly looking upon the iconic visage of revolutionary Che Guevara, or as older generations fondly recalling fireside-chatter FDR, Democrats and their Leftist base turn not to reasonable stewards of power, but at the gut level dream of charismatic, decisive deliverers of salvation.  Perhaps it is only slightly more tragic for a banana republic to produce a Castro or Chavez than it is for the United States to beget a starry-eyed bungler like Carter or Obama.

What then stands as an antidote to the twin appeals of emergency and charismatic deliverance?  Many people dismiss today’s conservative movement out-of-hand because they buy the idea that Republicans are beholden to big business and that conservatives are under the undue influence of social “wedge” issues.  But while the political Left relies on emotional appeal to further a hazy end of “progress” shared by the political bedfellows of victimhood, American conservatives look to widely-established and long-standing traditions as the means to preserve national well-being.  Broadly considered, these traditions share the spirit of and are inclusive of the Rule of Law.

The decisive factor in favor of conservatism may be the question of ends and means.  Not only are the ends of the Left mistaken, the means of achieving their ends leave us vulnerable to the imperfections of alliance-wrangling.  As Thomas Sowell effectively notes in Conflict of Visions, the ends are paramount to the Left, but the means are the key focus of conservatives.  With an aim to preserving the integrity of process rather than seeking to guarantee a specific result outright, the conservative vision offers the greatest chance of behavioral accountability from our leaders.  Conservative constituents demand fidelity to function, but liberal politicians, supposing a backdrop of knock-down, drag-out class war, must satisfy their constituents’ identity-based grievances by any means necessary.  And more often then not, the sausage-making that begets vaunted progress for the Left is deleterious to the national interest.

Its a paradox that those on the Left, who seek change by Rule of Gut, will always remain unsatisfied by their side’s inability to effect the immediate gratification they seek.  But we, whether at the election polls or in the course of day-to-day life, can avoid that frustration by choosing to live under the Rule of Law instead of the Rule of Gut.

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