Archive for October, 2008

One Conservative’s Reasons to Vote For John McCain

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

A casual reader here will not be surprised to learn that “Frank’s Case Book” is supporting Senator John McCain for President. The principle applied here is to endorse the most Conservative candidate with a reasonable chance of winning. John McCain is not a Conservative champion in the Republican Party. He is about the least Conservative person that could secure the nomination of the Republican Party, and he manged to do that in a crowded field where Conservatives split their vote.  Nonetheless, the fact that he is far to the Right of Senator Barack Obama is a more an indication of how far Left Obama is than how Conservative McCain is.

There are some  ideologically pure Conservatives who suggest that perhaps it would be better to loose this election cycle and work for the nomination of a more Conservative nominee next time. If McCain wins and is successful enough to earn a second term, the worry is that the Republican Party would be shifted to the Left (probably ending up in the Center-Right) of the political spectrum. Such a strategy is too clever by half. A Ronald Reagan presidency is a once-in-a-lifetime stroke of good fortune. In a democracy is almost always necessary to compromise. We do not wish to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Economies have cycles, and in four years it is very likely, no matter who wins the election, that the economy will look better than it does now. At the very least it will not be as volatile and stress-inducing as the current situation. The housing market and stock markets will recover providing a sense of wealth.  This will almost insure a second term for the 2008 presidential winner. A President Obama would be in an even better position four years from now than McCain, given that the main stream press wants him to succeed and will focus on any positive results. President Clinton won re-election in 1996 with an unemployment rate about what it is today but with an optimism that carried him to a second term. Optimistic prospects are more important than absolute results.

To give you an idea about the role of the media in feelings on economic well-being we can refer to the misery index (the inflation rate plus the unemployment rate). The value during the Bush Administration if half that of the misery rate during the Carter years and very close to the the rate during the Clinton years. Yet consumer confidence is at an historical low.

If one believes in moving the economy toward a Socialist/European model, with the government controlling more and more of our lives, then by all means vote for Barack Obama. He is your man, with a record that is one of the most if not the most Liberal in the Senate.

However, I suspect that the country is truly Center-Right. Senator Obama speaks about heartland values and focuses on his inspiring biography. However, his true positions are sufficiently opaque or simply unexamined by the press that people can project on to him whatever qualities they are seeking.

What else but such a projection and willing blindness can explain the endorsement of Obama by General Colin Powell. Powell supported a George W. Bush who is further Right than John McCain. Unless Colin Powell was never really the moderate or Conservative-moderate we supposed, his Obama endorsement can only be explained by an attachment to undeniably hopeful the countenance of Obama, not his policy positions. Although people should be able to like and admire a president, it ought to be more fundamentally about principle than about personality. Unless you believe that McCain is unqualified to be president, anyone to the right-of-center voter should support for him. Powell must be basing his decision on something other than policy positions if he is endorsing someone as far to the Left as Obama.

The following are least eight reasons Conservatives (and perhaps others) should support McCain over Obama:

  1. McCain is moderately Conservative, while Obama is very Liberal.
  2. The next president would like appoint two more Supreme Court justices who would continue the Liberal jurisprudence of undemocratically creating laws to grant Liberals victories they could not win legislatively. For example, if Senator Kerry had won in 2004, Liberal justices would have been appointed in lieu of John Roberts and Sam Alito. The Second Amendment would have been so narrowly interpreted that gun ownership would not have been protected. Recall that the Second Amendment right to gun ownership was affirmed with only a 5-4 margin.
  3. Clinton was successful because he skillfully triangulated between Liberals and Conservatives in Congress. Obama might do this, but he has shown no propensity to do so, voting almost in lock step the House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid. Unlike, McCain, Obama has never paid a political price for standing up to his party so it is unjustifiable leap of faith to believe that he will in the future. Believing that Obama will prove to rule moderately is the triumph of hope over evidence.
  4. The country is about to collide against the fiscal challenges of the retiring baby-boom generation. With Obama’s medical insurance approach, it is likely that the entitlement burden will be increased rather than decreased over the next four years. The only solution is high rates of economic growth. If Obama moves us more toward a European economic model, we will likely experience their significantly slower rates of growth.
  5. Although Obama has re-iterated his support for Israel, acquaintances and allies have suggested a strong tilt away from Israel. Has Obama ever stood up against his Party to demonstrate a commitment to Israel? He does not seem to surround himself with those sympathetic to Israel and the company we keep is one indication of who we are. Without a long enough political record, we must unfortunately relay on such indirect proxy information to try to understand Obama. Such information, such as it is, is not encouraging with regards to Israel.
  6. We have no history on which to make a certain assessment of  Obama’s true convictions on free trade. During the Democratic primaries Obama was competing with Senator Hillary Clinton on who could be the most populist in that regard. He even suggested a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Erecting trade barriers is one of the policies that converted a market downturn in 1929 to the Great Depression — an historical example we ought to avoid. Are we to believe what Obama told us, or the behind the scenes assurances to Canada and Mexico undermining Obama’s campaign statements. This issue is one more example of how we possess no executive and little legislative history with which to make an informed judgment about Obama’s beliefs and priorities as opposed to his campaign rhetoric.
  7. Although Obama certain does not have any affection for the neglect of children who survive abortions, he has shown a troubling willingness, probably born of political opportunism, to accommodate pro-choice (in this case fairly labeled pro-abortion) groups by voting against requirements to provide appropriate medical treatment for live children of ineffective abortions. It was not a “profile in courage” moment for Barack Obama. The most charitable interpretation is that he bent his knee at the alter of political expediency.
  8.  Much has been made of Barack Obama’s “spread the wealth” comment. In an apparent moment of revelatory honesty, Obama revealed an ideology of wealth redistribution according to a Liberal idea of justice. If his response to the query by “Joe the Plumber” had been that as a society we have a responsibility to provide for people who do not have the capacity to care for themselves, Obama would have expressed a thought consistent with American generosity. Instead, the “spread the wealth” comment suggested an intrusive government distributing what people have earned at its own discretion. Surely, there was little deference to or even respect for private property rights.

What to Make of Associations

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

In an infamous photograph, the unfortunate Rosalynn Carter,  the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, was captured posing next to serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was convicted and later executed for the rape and murder of 33 boys. At the time of the photograph, of course, no one knew the secret crimes of Gacy. Such images are the inevitable consequence of retail politics: politicians graciously and generously having the pictures taken with any reasonably friendly face without much vetting.

No serious person finds fault with Ms. Carter for the photograph. Not only was she ignorant of who Gacy was, it is likely that when Gacy’s crimes became known she did not even recall having that particular photograph taken. The Carter-Gacy photograph is the far end of celebrity associations. On the other end are very personal and ongoing relationships, where we are likely to know the character of our acquaintances. In such cases, it is fair to draw some inferences from the close associations of political candidates. What then are we to make of the association of Democratic Candidate Barack Obama and Tony Rezko, Chicago businessman and convicted felon and unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers?

Tony Rezko has used his wealth and political contributions to become a local king maker in Chicago and was Obama’s earliest contributor. Rezko and also since been convicted of receiving kickbacks from state contracts. Receiving political contributions from unsavory people is difficult for even conscientious politicians to avoid.  Though, it must be mentioned, that Rezko was also responsible for soliciting millions of dollars of other contributions from Rezko’s friends and business associates for Obama. Obama could not have been oblivious to Rezko background and importance to his political future. Perhaps most disturbing is the involvment of Rezko in a exceptionally profitable real estate deal for the Obama and his wife [1].

In 1995, when Obama was beginning his political career, reports in a sympathetic article that:

“In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.  [2]”

Obama has also served on the boards of foundations together for considerable periods of time. At this point, Obama claims he was ignorant of Ayers’s past. This would be exculpatory though not particularly credible given that his first denials focused on the casual nature of the relationship. In addition, anyone who is quoted on September 11, 2001 (an unfortunate coincidence) as saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” [3] s unlikely to be too reticent with regard to his political perspective.

The truth is that political ascension in the Left-wing political structure of 13th district of Illinois required passage through the gauntlet of the local Left-wing power establishment of which William Ayers is a part. Nonetheless, to understand how truly reprehensible even a relationship of convenience between Obama and Ayers is, imagine how much appropriate criticism there would be leveled if McCain had even a vaguely similar relationship with an abortion clinic bomber or a unrepentant KKK radical would had bombed black churches. The assertion Ayers was just a guy in the neighborhood does more to discredit the kind of neighborhood comfortable with Ayers than it does to excuse Obama.

Now, we may be called to served a public function with those not only that we happen to disagree with, but what about those that are genuinely morally despicable. Perhaps, we serve those functions rather than to abandon them exclusively to the unsavory. However, prudence and judgment dictate a clear separation from such people.

Obama should had said at the time, “Ayers is domestic terrorist who should not serve on this board and should not even be accepted by his university community. I serve with there only to fight against the policies such a person might try to implement.” He would have been morally correct and political destroyed.

Does this mean that Obama is fundamentally as corrupt as Rezko or that he embraces bombing as a tactic like Ayers? No, though we should all feel uncomfortable that he does not have greater discomfort in these environs.  Rather, it demonstrates the pull of a political ambition to which all other considerations are lashed. If political success requires alliance with the politically corrupt and with unrepentant domestic terrorists, Obama seems to pay that price too willingly and without obvious introspection. Indeed, there appears to be no incident in his career where he stood stood up for principle when he expected to pay a political cost. As has been noted, he has too often voted “present.” These issues are  particularly relevant to the Obama candidacy. Obama has had few executive or legislative accomplishments. Hence, the understanding of Obama’s personal history is one of the few ways we have to assess the prospects for an Obama presidency.

  1. Tim Novak, “Obama and his Rezko Ties,” Chicago Suntimes, April 23, 2007.
  2. Ben Smith, “Obama Once Visited 60’s Radicals,”, February 22, 2008.
  3. Dinitia Smith, “No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen,” NY Times, September 11, 2001.

A Small Hopeful Sign

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

It has been a difficult and stressful week nationally. Congress struggled with whether to pass a $700  billion “rescue bill” to alleviate instability in the financial markets. The decision was not an easy one. Would it be better to allow those companies that made unwise economic decisions to suffer the economic consequences or would the fallout from such failures cause an unnecessarily deep economic collapse? Are our current economic problems the consequence of unfettered free enterprise or the fault of government sponsored enterprisee like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae encouraging loans to individuals and families without sufficient resources to repay them.

This week, 70 million of us also experienced the vice-presidential debate contest between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin. With the competitive spirit unleashed from the debate, there was the simple temptation to consider here the observation that the lower income Palin family appears to be far more generous than the Biden family with their charitable donations. Although there are many liberals that are very generous, the reliance on government, practiced and advocated by Liberals, attenuates personal responsibility for charitable giving making Liberals less likely to embrace private donations. See Who Really Cares by Author Brooks for documentation.

Rather now, in the midst of charged and sometimes mean-spirited partisan rancor, it is heartening to witness small, but revealing acts of humanity.

At the end of the vice-presidential debate, the Sarah Palin and Joe Biden families met on stage and exchanged pleasantries and handshakes. There was a brief moment shown in the picture (from Reuters on the left) with Palin and Biden engaging in friendly post-debate conversation. Between them, stood Piper, Palin’s 7-year old daughter. Like any neighbor might, Biden had his hands gently and protectively resting on Piper’s shoulders. Quite obviously, Piper has been brought up well enough to know how to conduct herself around adults. The whole picture had the air of a friendly chat after a PTA meeting where the principals were debating whether to spend PTA money on a swing set.

The issues debated, of course, were of far more import. Nonetheless, the scene is a salutary reminder that Palin and Biden are good and decent people and that both deserve the respect of honest policy criticism and not the personal attacks that have drowned out so much of the legitimate political conversation.