Archive for August, 2010

Does Dowd Miss Bush Now?

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

It is hard to remember the euphoria, particularly on the part of the Left and the Left’s spokes people when President Barack Obama was inaugurated into office in 2009. There was weariness and apprehension after President George Bush’s eight years and the new president came into office amid hope and approval percentages approaching 70%. With a struggling economy, an unpopular health care program, and a number of missteps, Obama’s approval has quickly submerged below 50%.

When Obama was inaugurated there was every reason for the Left to walk with a cheerful step in their gait, and little reason to be snarky. Some could not resist. Appearing on a news program, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, could not help but nod in knowing agreement with the interviewer that the “nightmare” was over. She compared Bush’s leaving office to the feeling of lightness and relief when an exorcist manages to cast away evil spirits. According to Dowd, Bush was the president who let New Orleans drown and trumped up the Iraq War.

Post-presidency, Bush has exhibited more class than his critics, remaining largely silent, letting the current president govern without the second-guessing of a previous president. Bush showed this admirably restraint even as Obama has been quick to blame current economic woes on his predecessor, after more than eighteen months and a trillion dollar stimulus package that hasn’t seemed to jump start the economy as promised.

Now that Obama has grossly mismanaged the controversy about the potential construction near ground zero, with a muddled message, Dowd wants Bush to pull Obama’s bacon out the political flames. Dowd writes:

“The war against the terrorists is not a war against Islam. In fact, you can’t have an effective war against the terrorists if it is a war on Islam. George W. Bush understood this. And it is odd to see Barack Obama less clear about this matter than his predecessor. It’s time for W. to weigh in. This — along with immigration reform and AIDS in Africa — was one of his points of light. As the man who twice went to war in the Muslim world, he has something of an obligation to add his anti-Islamophobia to this mosque madness. W. needs to get his bullhorn back out.’’

It would have demonstrated more charity than Dowd can apparently could muster to have made similar acknowledgments as Bush was leaving office. Now it just appears as uncharacteristically obsequious praise to urge Bush to do Dowd’s bidding. Perhaps she can increase the praise ante by also agreeing that the recent removal of combat troops from Iraq, on Bush’s negotiated schedule, was a consequence of the successful surge strategy. This was a strategy she previously mocked as a “girdle,’’ and once “Peaches Petraeus, as he was known growing up in Cornwall-on-Hudson, takes the girdle off, the center will not hold.’’

Dowd is tone-deaf if she believes that the opposition to the mosque is anti-Muslim. In this way, she mimics Obama’s style in always assuming the worst motives for those who disagree with her. Could there not be people legitimately concerned that the mosque was built as a trophy of the 9/11 attacks as people as reputable and knowledgeable and with as much moral authority as Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggest? Is it not legitimate to ask, if the purpose of the mosque and community center is to encourage healing and reconciliation, that mosque backers be sensitive to the feelings of people who they are ostensibly building a bridge to?

In the 2009 interview, Dowd made one accurate observation. The American people look to their leaders to represent their values and are displeased when the leaders do not. In the case of the mosque, most are not pleased with Obama. Dowd blames the two-thirds of Americans who wish that the mosque be built a littler further away from the place where radical Islamists killed more 2700 in the name of Islam.

Will the Economy Recover in Time for Obama?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

While most Democrats will concede in moments of honesty that this year’s Congressional elections are likely to be very tough on Democrats, many like console themselves by citing President Ronald Reagan’s experience in his first term. Reagan came to office in difficult economic times with unemployment rising to double digits. In the first Congressional elections (1982) after Reagan’s election, Congressional Republicans paid the political price for poor economic times. Democrats gained 27 seats in the House. Republicans faired better in the Senate with the balance between the political parties remaining essentially the same. The analogy most heartening for supporters of President Barack Obama is the fact that as the economy recovered, Reagan’s popularity exploded as he won re-election in 1984 in a landslide taking every state except Minnesota, the home state of his opponent Walter Mondale. Reagan even came within 0.18% of the popular vote of winning Minnesota. Mondale was able to carry the District of Columbia, as Reagan secured the electoral college 525 to 13.

For history to repeat itself in Obama’s favor will require more than the poor a Congressional showing in the mid-term election. That’s the easy part. The economy will have to enjoy a strong recovery. It is interesting to determine if the pace of current recover with match itself in speed and magnitude with Reagan’s 1983-1984 recovery. A political potent measure of the economic recovery (though a lagging indicator) is the unemployment rate. Below is a table of the unemployment rates for the Reagan and Obama. The table begins on the data of the highest unemployment for each of the presidents.

Reagan   Obama  
Date Unemployment Rate Date Unemployment Rate
Nov-82 10.8 Oct-09 10.1
Dec-82 10.8 Nov-09 10.0
Jan-83 10.4 Dec-09 10.0
Feb-83 10.4 Jan-10 9.7
Mar-83 10.3 Feb-10 9.7
Apr-83 10.2 Mar-10 9.7
May-83 10.1 Apr-10 9.9
Jun-83 10.1 May-10 9.7
Jul-83 9.4 Jun-10 9.5
Aug-83 9.5 Jul-10 9.5
Sep-83 9.2 Aug-10
Oct-83 8.8 Nov-10
Nov-83 8.5 Dec-10
Dec-83 8.3 Jan-11
Jan-84 8.0 Feb-11
Feb-84 7.8 Mar-11
Mar-84 7.8 Apr-11
Apr-84 7.7 May-11
May-84 7.4 Jun-11
Jun-84 7.2 Jul-11
Jul-84 7.5 Aug-11
Aug-84 7.5 Sep-11
Sep-84 7.3 Oct-11
Oct-84 7.4 Nov-11
Nov-84 7.2 Dec-11
Dec-84 7.3 Jan-12
Jan-85 7.3 Feb-12
Feb-85 7.2 Mar-12
Mar-85 7.2 Apr-12
Apr-85 7.3 May-12
May-85 7.2 Jun-12
Jun-85 7.4 Jul-12
Jul-85 7.4 Aug-12
Aug-85 7.1 Sep-12
Sep-85 7.1 Oct-12

Interestingly, for both Reagan and Obama unemployment fell to 9.5% about eight months after the peak. However, unemployment had to fall from 10.8% rather than 10.1% for Reagan. At this point after the peak unemployment for Reagan, GDP was growing at at rate of 9% with the economy rapiding regaining jobs. The growth now rate is at best 3% and probably lower. In order for unemployment to abate at the same rate for Obama as during the Reagan recovery unemployment would have to fall to 8.5% by the end of this year. No one anticipates this. Indeed, the latest estimates from the Obama Administration suggests an employment rate over 8% when Obama stand for re-election. By contrast, on election day 1984 unemployment stood at 7.2%, over 3% points below its peak.

Obama has more about one more year than Reagan did for his recovery to take hold before his bid for re-election, but Obama’s recovery thus far has been at a lower rate. Obama will at best have an unemployment rate a full percentage point above what Reagan faced on election day.
To maximize chances for re-election, Obama needs to implement policies to increase economic growth. Thus far, high levels of government spending have done more to spook business than encourage it.

Thoughts on the Mosque Near “Ground Zero”

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

The controversy surrounding the decision build a mosque 600 feet from where Islamic terrorists flew planes into and destroyed the World Trade Center Towers killing over 2,000 people on September 11, 2001 calls for a few observations:

  1. It is unlikely that those building the mosque are simply moderate Muslims who just happened to need a mosque and community center in this area. It is more likely that those behind this particular mosque at this particular place view it as a political statement.
  2. However, political statements, beautiful and ugly, are protected. It is probably not possible or even desirable for an intervention by the state to block construction of the facility. The most appropriate response is for community pressure — legal and open pressure — to dissuade construction.
  3. There is more than a little idiocy involved in the defense of the decision to allow the mosque’s construction.


From a distance, it is impossible to determine with certainty the motivations of those who are building the mosque. However, there are several negative indications.While Fiesal Abdul Rauf, the inman behind the he construction of the mosque, is reputed to be a moderate devoted to reconciliation, he can’t quite get himself to concede that Hamas is a terrorist organization and holds the United States an “accessory” by its foreign policy to the attacks of 9/11.Rauf has not revealed the sources of funding for mosque construction. While not required to do so, his refusal suggests a lack of openness that would be consistent with reconciliation.

Ayann Hirsi Ali, was a Somali woman, who escaped what she considers the tyranny of Islam over women as Islam is traditionally practiced. She escaped her planned marriage to a Canadian, and managed to get elected to the House of Representatives of the Dutch parliament after receiving asylum. She has since moved to the United States, but is still under death threat from Islamic zealots. She published the books Infidel and Nomad, based on her experiences. She has earned credibility on issues regarding the relationship between Islam and the West.

On a recent Washington area radio show Ali explained how Muslims have traditionally built mosques at the scenes of its conquests and victories. She believes the proposed mosque near ground zero is one such trophy.

It is possible that despite the above evidence, that the Muslims building the mosque are really well-intentioned and misunderstood. If that is the case, the should consider building the mosque elsewhere out of an abundance of goodwill.

An appropriate analogy is the case in the 1980s where a group of Carmelite nuns moved into a unused building near Auschwitz, where over a million Jews where killed by the Nazis. No one doubted the good will of the nuns, but many Jews considered their presence so close to Auschwitz to be hurtful.  Pope John Paul II, after consultation and thoughtful prayer, decided to ask the Carmelite nuns to move. Catholic-Jewish reconciliation would not be served, if Catholics pursued an unnecessary course of action hurtful to Jews, even if no bad intent was involvedA large number of the relatives of victims of 9/11 have expressed such hurt, and Inman Rauf could demonstrate his good will by honoring and respecting those feelings.

State Intervention

It appears that the construction of the mosque as passed all the local zoning restrictions. There was an attempt to use landmark preservation laws to preserve a building at the proposed site of the mosque as a means to prevent the mosque’s construction.Conservatives should be a little reticent about the use of such tactics, usually abused by the Left. Although local zoning boards many times make reasonable decisions based upon the evidence, the broad discretion allowed these authorities are invitations to petty politically-based decisions. Conservative should not encourage such a use.

The state and city of New York, probably have no legitimate recourse but to allow construction of the mosque. It is, however, in the power of individuals to dissuade construction. Among other things, they can stage protests at the construction sites. Local unions and contractors could refuse to participate in the construction. If the feelings against the perceived insult to the victims of 9/11 is strong enough, such approaches might prevail.  Of course, care should be taken to make it extremely clear that it is the symbolism of this particular mosque in this particular place less than a decade after 9/11, and not mosques and Muslims in general, that are at issue.

Idiots (Useful or Not)

There is a difference between conceding that the local government is prohibited from stopping the construction of this particular facility in this particular place, and trying to make smugly self-aggrandizing boasts about it.New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a case and point. He boasted about tolerance and openness in allowing the placement of a mosque so close to ground zero, neglecting to acknowledge that the people who suffered loses on 9/11 could legitimately feel pain from such losses. Such feelings were not important.

Perhaps Bloomberg should be forgiven. His ability to make judgements in times of stress has not been well vindicated. In the immediate aftermath of the attempted bombing of New York Times Square when no one knew the motivations of the bomber, Bloomberg volunteered  that the culprit could have been “somebody with a political agenda who doesn’t like the health care bill or something. It could be anything.” Ultimately Islamic extremist Faisal Shahzad, who wanted to “plead guilty 100 times over,” is believed to be the guilty party. Fortunately, we know now from where Bloomberg sees the real threats arising.