Archive for September, 2009

A Leadership Moment

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

It used to be the conventional wisdom that an African-American  would find it impossible to become president. The analysis held that an African-American person who was not threatening to whites would not be appear sufficiently authentic to the African-American community.  The more a potential black candidate modulated his persona to make white America comfortable, the less support he or she would likely garner from African-American community. Shelbe Steele was the most persuasive proponent of this view.

President Barak Obama shattered this analysis in November 2008. Whether through his personal charm, intellect, oratory skills, or political organization, Obama has manged to remain a hip celebrity while energizing white Americans on his behalf. In many ways, Obama’s greatest contribution is to demonstrate America’s movement past preoccupation with race. Obama made Americans proud that they could support an African-American candidate.

The current argument offered by former President Jimmy Carter and even the usually level-headed Bill Cosby is that much of the opposition to Obama’s health care plan is rooted in  racism. This does not make statistical sense since Obama entered office with nearly 70% approval and now his medical care plan has less than majority support. Clearly some people who were sufficient unbiased to approve of Obama’s presidential performance at one time now disagree with Obama’s medical care policies. The casual broad brush of racism is pernicious and toxic, and ultimately undermines the historic importance of the Obama presidency.

Long after the results of the medical care controversy are resolved, the nation’s psyche will either overcome these racism charges or the notion of perpetual American racism will ingrain further itself among some. If the racism charge is allowed to gain currency, the nation will be become more polarized on racial grounds. Many Americans who fancy themselves as unprejudiced  are  likely be insulted by the charge.

The time is now for President Obama to exercise leadership before charges of racial animosity are allowed to undermine any potential unity in the country. It is incumbent on Obama to speak out against such a path in an unequivocal way. Obama must devote an public speech to making clear that there is room for disagreement with him outside the scope of racism. He should marshal his considerable rhetorical skills to calm the racial waters. He should warn that he will not allow charges of racism to undermine his presidency or his goals.

When Obama’s candidacy was jeopardized by his 20-year association with the radical minister Jeremiah Wright, Obama quickly delivered a special speech to explain his views on race and cauterize the Wright’s wound on this reputation. At this point, people like Jimmy Carter, who destroyed his own presidency, are undermining the transformative nature of the Obama presidency. Now is a time for an Obama leadership moment.

You Lie, [fill in]

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Maureen Dowd is an amazing women with a remarkable acuity of hearing and the ability to read other people’s intentions. As everyone now knows by now, Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) rudely shouted out “You lie!” as President Barack Obama argued that his health care would not cover illegal aliens. Wilson quickly apologized to the the White House for the outburst — an apology accepted by the President.

However, Dowd says, “…fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!” What makes this feat extraordinary is that most people watching on television could barely hear anything, but the growns and boos  in response tp Wilson. In addition, Dowd was immediately able to know which particular representative made the remark. Her instant recall and in depth knowledge of all 435 Congression representatives allowed her to know that what she describes as a “milquetoast Republican backbencher ” is a racist. I respectfully submit that Dowd hearing was largely improved by  her later by reading of either, Left-leaning blog posts or the reports of the NY Times research department. Dowd’s reading of Joe Wilson’s intentions probably are more revealing of Dowd than of Wilson.

Earlier in his speech, Obama perhaps began the attack when he said.

“The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.”

Everyone knows that Sarah Palin is associated with the death panel charge. Would someone with as acute hearing as Dowd, whose head is tilted with different political perspective, hear at the end of the statement, “It is lie, plain and simple, bxxxx]?”

Liberal Reactionaries

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

I am not sure what is more amusing, watching middle class Americans marching for Conservative principles in the Nation’s capital or Liberals (at least the Liberal blogs) becoming apoplectic in reaction.

On September 12,  some thousands of Americans exercised their right to freely assemble and petition their government for redress of grievances. Estimates on the numbers who came vary by orders of magnitude. The Washington Post reported that 30,000 registered with FreedomWorks, but that was only one of the organizers. The New York Times reports a “sea of protesters” composed of “tens of thousands” that far exceeded the expectations of authorities. The tens of thousands figure is also carried by the Washington Post and Washington Times. It is safe to say that the tens of thousands value really means a “a lot of people and we really don’t know how many.”

Matthew Hemingway of National Review on the scene believes the numbers were in the hundreds of thousands. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin headlines a 2 million crowd estimate, based on a barrage of tweets and posts but apparently no authoritative sources. Many crowd estimates cross-referenced each other in a information-lacking echo chamber. Inflating crowd estimates from supporters and minimizing estimates from those opposed to a demonstration are a traditional Washington DC sport. Here is a link to a time lapse movie of the march taking from a high building, documenting that there was quite a crowd.

Like any crowd, there are a few at the fringes. Both the NY Times, Huffington Post, and Think Progress  found what thety were looking for and noticed several tasteless pre-printed signs that read “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy.”  This is milk toast tasteless compared to the vicious anti-Bush attacks during antiwar rallies.  The Washington Post noted that most signs were hand printed and from the pictures posted by the Washington Post, most people appeared to be hard working middle class people for whom public protests were a new experience. The NY Times notes that, “many came on their own and were not part of an organization or group.”

However, the Huffington Post and Think Progress feel necessary to demonize the protesters by focusing on a few oddballs . These sites  cannot even acknowledge that the honest concerns of the protesters. Even if you believe, as the Huffington Post and Think Progress that these protesters are wrong, confused or used, only the angriest and most partisan perspective would group  all  the demonstrators together and assign the worst motives.

We should perhaps forgive the Left. The seem to be a bit disoriented, unaccustomed to the fact that there is a President and Congress sympathetic to their views. Public protests and marches are their preferred tactics. Shouting chants is a Left wing sword wheeled in service of the people. How dare Conservatives usurp the means of the Left? They are for the exclusive use of the Left, the true representatives of the people. Perhaps, in a couple of years the Left will grow acclimated to dissent — but don’t bet on it.

Keeping Up With Jones

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

It is an old political ploy to associate political adversaries with extremists at the ends of the political spectrum. Mainstream political persons should not be appropriately held hostage to the rantings of those who happen to reside the same side of the political divide. Indeed, the political space is composed of more than one dimension. Although similar people cluster in local  regions of political space, there are occasions when people find themselves close to those they might normally disagree with.

While no one is responsible for the behavior of others, we are responsible for our reaction to the behavior of others. Are we willing to excuse or at least ignore outrageous behavior on the part of political allies. In some measure, the people we directly choose to associate with says something important about who we are.

This brings us to the interesting case of  Van Jones, the Obama Administration appointment  as Green Jobs Czar.  Unfortunately, Jones is a person who is burdened with noxious baggage, offensive to most Americans.

  • Although he claims ignorance now , jones signed the 9//1 1 “Truth Statement” asserting that the Bush Administration “had foreknowledge of impending 9/11 attacks and `consciously failed’ to act”
  • Jones participated in a recording complaining about “Israeli occupation,” asserting the Palestinian “right of return” which would end Israeli as a Jewish state. Jones argues that “This is now a global struggle against a U.S.-led security apparatus and military agenda.”
  • Jones believes that “the true terrorists are made in the U.S.”
  • Jones’s political erudite political assessments can be summarized by the statement: Republicans are “assholes.”

The reaction of the Obama Administration has been interesting and perhaps illuminating. When Jones’s radical past came to light, the Obama Administration did not immediately request Jones’s resignation. They seemed reluctant to do anything in the hopes that the issue would fade. After all they have managed to keep a tax scofflaw as Treasury Secretary. Certainly, there has not been the same press pressure as would have been applied to George Bush if his Administration have appointed a similarly radical individual. This morning, Jones finally resigned without repudiating his past and painting a picture of himself as the victim of a smear campaign.

There are several possible explanations with regard to this failed appointment.

  1. It was a major vetting mistake, where the Administration was sloppy in its selection. If this were true, one would expect that Jones would have been gone at the first hint of this embarrassment. It has taken too long for the Administration to dump Jones.
  2. The Administration is generally sympathetic with Jones’s views, pretends to be more moderate than it really is, and was reluctant to dismiss a like-minded soul. It finally allowed Jones to resign when the political costs grew too large.
  3. The Administration does not have a particular affinity  with Jones or his positions (though not a visceral aversion them either), but the appointment was jobs patronage for Jones and a political payoff for the far-Left. Like possibility (2), Jones was dumped when the costs were no longer worth any possible benefit.

Possibility (1) is the most benign signifying only incompetence on the part of some. Possibility (3) is slightly more damning, suggesting only Machiavellian political manipulations. Possibility (2) is the most damning. If true, itsuggests radicals in power, with a habit of mendacity.