Obama, King of the Gaffes

Recently, it’s as if the president has been looking for ways to slip up when speaking to large, public crowds. In fact, his many gaffes have made it seem that these statements aren’t mistakes at all: they are just politically incorrect verbalizations of what Obama really thinks.

“‘We had to step in, it was the right thing to do, even though it is infuriating,’ Obama said, explaining why the government needed to bail out the troubled banks. ‘The same is true with AIG,’ he said. ‘It was the right thing to do to step in. Here’s the problem. It’s almost like they’ve got–they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up. But you’ve got to kind of talk to them, ease that finger off the trigger.'”
During an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Obama likened his sad bowling performance to the Special Olympics. Of course, the White House offered some terse explanation assuring people of Obama’s love for the disabled and how much the Special Olympics help people.
I can’t help but feel that Obama is not president yet (wishful thinking, I know). I mean, I know that he was sworn in–twice, just for good measure–and that he sits in the Oval Office, but I get a feeling that he is still in “campaign mode.” Rather than developing policies and working hard to implement them in these critical first 100 days, he is pandering to the crowd, going to basketball games, filling out his NCAA bracket, appearing (badly) on Jay Leno, and for what? How does this help America?
With regard to AIG, let’s go through a bit of logic: (1) the Obama administration agreed to give AIG the bailout money in order that AIG may continue on with its business. (2) Part of AIG’s business is giving bonuses in order to retain top executives [these are presumably the ones doing things right that will make the company profitable.] So, therefore (3) the administration is now angry with AIG for using bailout money to carry on their business. Something there just does not follow.
As far as Obama’s verbal faux pas, I think it is less of a misstep and more of his true character shining through his words when he strays from the teleprompter. I frankly do not find him as eloquent as so many others, mainly because eloquence requires not only good style, but substance. Obama lacks the second, and unscripted, he often lacks the first as well.
A stark contrast to Obama’s lack of respect for the disabled:

Is Conservatism Today Too Extreme? My experience from the once-Red State of Indiana.

As referenced in my post below, David Frum cites as one of the reasons that the GOP lost a lot of members last election – members who had been on the wagon 20+ years – was that the party has become too extreme (in a sampling from the state of PA; excuse me, Commonwealth of PA). Not only were these longtime GOP voters; they were affluent and educated. So what gives? 

I don’t know what the study actually said, and Frum doesn’t dive any deeper on the point, but I do have a clue, and it comes from my own state – Indiana. Indiana has voted Republican every election since WWII (with the exception of the 64′ landslide for Johnson), even when the rest of the Midwest went blue – as my picture attests; and we even voted against FDR in 40′ and 44′. But this year we voted Democrat – the first time in 44 years, and the second in 72 years. And further, our 5-term Senator, Richard Lugar, came out in support of Obama. Why this divergence? I’d venture to say that the people here are “conservatives,” that is, they want to keep their safe way of life, their rights, and especially their earnings. While they surely didn’t feel safe about Obama’s plans (which we can bash all we want, the writing is on the wall), they felt even less safe about the GOP running this country. 
My dad and my grandpa are surely both in the category of GOP voters of 20+ years, and are educated and affluent (more like middle class with stable professional jobs) – as are most of the people that I grew up with. I don’t know who any of them voted for (there’s an unwritten gag-rule in Indiana about who you voted for…), but I know that they don’t care too much about ideological issues. And I should note that Ft. Wayne is no small town that simply fears the real world (we have 300,000 people within the city limits and more in the greater metro). I think it’s safe to at least hypothetically use it as a gage of the opinions of the group of  people Frum was talking about. Here’s how they see a few of the “extreme” issues, as far as I can tell:
When they hear about the war in Iraq, they don’t think about protecting America from foreign terrorists, and they don’t care about spreading democracy. They think about their sons dying and the government deficit going through the roof. And for what? For benefits that are hypothetical to them, and they think in the back of their minds that it’s all about Bush finishing his dad’s folly, or looking out for oil interests. I’m not saying that these opinions are right, but this is how they see it, and they vote. 
And when they hear about gun rights, they don’t think freedom to hunt, or freedom to protect ourselves from trespassers or assailants; and they certainly don’t think of the real Constitutional reason for the 2nd Amendment – to protect ourselves from government gone totalitarian (you should have seen the looks I got when I was defending the Heller decision to them this summer). They think of guns being brought into our peaceful Midwest cities, and guns do one thing: kill people. Once again, I’m not saying that this opinion is right – you can debate it til your blue in the face. What I’m saying is that this is how these people see it. And these people aren’t going to listen to rhetoric or ideas. You have to bring it home to them. So when they see the GOP touting semi-automatic assault rifle rights, and laughing and making jokes at NRA meetings, saying in not so many words, “guns are cool, kids!” the conversation is over. They think: “#$%&, anyone can have one of those? That is crazy.” But then again, gun rights are a staple of the GOP…
And lastly, most of them are just deflated and desperate because they lost half their 401k and they aren’t going to be able to retire for another 5 years. So much for trust in the market without regulation… Emotions just kick in at this point. Principles of economic freedom and freedom of contract just don’t mean a thing to a 50-something man who just lost $100,000 of his 401K. That means losing everything he’s put toward retirement in the last 10 years. Imagine how that feels: “I wasted 10 years of my life.” Again, it’s not absolutely logical (especially when these men are small business owners). But people are not just thinking beings, they are thinking, feeling, moving, desiring, talking, loving, hating, working beings. And it’s people that vote. 
So is conservatism too extreme? It depends on your measuring stick. But if your measuring stick is votes and the congruence of the party with the opinions of long time GOP members, then the answer is, in lawyer language “probably yes.” 

Why General Motors Will Fail

Question: What should American car manufacturers do to increase the sale of hybrid vehicles?
Answer: Drastically raise the federal gasoline tax.

That was essentially the answer given by General Motor’s CEO, Rick Wagner, when he proposed that a gas tax hike was “worthy of consideration.”

Let’s consider the logic behind this. When gas reached (and exceeded) four dollars a gallon last summer, drivers were redlining. Toward new automobile purchases, however, they responded by buying hybrid vehicles. Thus, the GM’s logic is that by forcing Americans to pay a higher gas tax and maintaining gas prices at a minimum four dollars a gallon, car buyers will once again flock to the beloved hybrid.
Not coincidentally, increasing hybrid sales fits perfectly into GM’s roadmap, “around 2015” predicts GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, “we’re going to have to sell a ton of hybrids whether people want them or not.” (emphasis mine). GM, whose stock has dropped 94% since June 2007, has already begun implementing its program. During the height of the gas extravaganza, Wagner promised, “If you want to talk hybrids; we are introducing four more hybrids in the US this year. In fact, counting the new Saturn Green Line, we are introducing sixteen hybrids in the next four years. That’s one about every three months.”

But that gas has dropped to below two dollars a gallon, hybrid sales have fallen just as hard as GM’s stock.

Meanwhile, GM is on life support. And, of course, the government is generously providing enough capital to weather the financial storm. One string attached to the bailout though is the requirement that GM submit a viability plan to prove that GM will not be an utter failure. One can only wonder if Rick Wagner’s statement proposing a gas hike is an effort to please Uncle Sam. But if GM’s best response to demonstrate its future profitability is by suggesting a raise to the gas tax so Americans buy hybrids (“whether people want them or not”), then I fear to the car company has lost touch with basic economics and thus deserves what probably inevitable: failure.

Leading the Opposition

Reihan Salam, co-author of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, has an interesting article today on Governor Mark Sanford, the studious and professorial governor of South Carolina. Sanford made waves last week by becoming the first of the nation’s governors to reject a portion of the “stimulus” funds. More accurately, he asked the Obama administration for a waiver to spend the state’s portion of the stimulus money shoring up South Carolina’s fiscal health, a move consistent with his 15-year political career, and a request that was predictably denied today.

Salam notes some of the appeal of Gov. Sanford: his dogged determination to keep the government from involving itself where the private sector is best suited; his consistent approach to reducing government spending; and his popularity among fiscal conservatives across the country. As Salam states, Sanford is among the few Republicans who actually governs according to his professed principles.

While calling Sanford “impressive,” Salam’s assessment of the political efficacy of his brand of conservatism isn’t so rosy. He views Sanford as a Goldwater-type figure, starting a conversation that may produce political results in the future, but not politically successful on the national level himself. Other authors, however, have a different view.

If anything, as Salam notes, Sanford’s focus on limiting spending to sustainable levels, which prevents the boom-bust budget cycles through which we constantly suffer, might actually be more effective at producing limited government than the starve-the-beast tax cut approach (because re-election-seeking Congressmen tend to replace cuts with debt-financing, not corresponding budget cuts). Whatever Governor Sanford’s future political plans, he has clearly taken the role of opposition leader to President Obama’s fiscal mayhem, and any accusations of political grandstanding are made by the ignorant: throughout his political career, Sanford has taken –and will continue to take–principled positions that anger the echo chamber, while remaining wildly popular among the voters.


Governor Sanford today sent a response to the Obama Administration’s rejection of his request for a waiver. The entire letter is available on the Corner.


Several legal scholars have suggested that the bypass provision of the Obama “stimulus” bill could be unconstitutional. Basically, the argument posits that Congress may allocate funds subject to conditions, but may not bypass the recipient states’ constitutional structure.

Obamaphonics Worked for Me

The president simply forgot to read the bill.

In an act surely to prolong an already protracted debate on embryonic stem-cell research, the president just signed an appropriations bill that outlaws the use of federal funds for such research–funding that he ceremoniously approved a matter of days ago.

While the funding ban is technically only in place through the end of the fiscal year (September 30), the federal funding can only return before then by Congress passing a bill and the president signing it into law. Perhaps this will give the president some time to read up on the issue, find out what his pay grade is, and make the right decision the next time.

Out With the Old?

So I was flying back from NYC this Saturday and I pretty much read the March 16th Newsweek cover-to-cover. The cover tells the cover story – conservatism has had enough of Rush Limbaugh. The author, David Frum, is a resident fellow at AEI and runs a blog, newmajority.com, subtitled “building a conservatism that can win again.” His conservative credentials are unquestionable. And he thinks Rush should stick a fork in it.

Frum has two main jabs at Rush, as far as I can tell. One is that Rush cares more about promoting himself than the common good of society. Two is that Rush thinks, as he stated at CPAC, that conservatism “is what it is forever. It’s not something you can bend and shape.” And for all you Dostoevsky-reading amateur psychoanalysts out there (like myself), these two are obviously related – of course a man who has made his self-image on the Reagan-era brand conservatism is going to argue for its immutability. 

Frum believes that conservatives should reject Rush’s flamboyance because it makes a bad face for the movement among the voters that we need to reach – especially independents and women. And they should reject his view of the immutability of conservatism because 1) the old form isn’t successfully governing anymore, and thus 2) it isn’t getting us votes (which is the founding purpose of Ex Deserto). 

I think Frum is right for one simple fact: Without votes, conservatism means nothing.

Holding the line in an absolute sense to a certain political ideology is treating politics like religion. It is putting an absolute hope in the political order, as if politics were able to save man, to give him all he needs. That is Marxism. I don’t know about you, but my Savior is a person. Politics is not religion.  Politics is about governing, about ordering society well. In politics, you have to go with what works; you have to do as much good as possible and avoid as much evil as possible; and you are never going to know the exact outcome of your actions. Prudence is the name of the game.

And this is where Frum goes (minus the political theology). His critique of Rush is a springboard into his argument for how conservatism needs to change. Conservatism (in order to actually be a force again, i.e. to reach voters)

1)    needs to become less extreme

2)    needs to modulate its social conservatism

3)    needs an environmental message

4)    (above all) needs to take governing seriously again

I have to write an appellate brief now. But I’m going to cover each of these topics later. You should read the article.

Defending the Bush Legacy

Conservatives aren’t particularly pleased with much of President Bush’s legacy: the bank bailout, No Child Left Behind, the prescription drug bill, increased deficits, etc. However, it’s inarguable that President Bush performed valiantly in the area of national security, considering that there have been no more terrorist attacks on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. Here, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher defends the Bush legacy. He does an outstanding job, if you can handle the Chris Matthews bloviating long enough to hear Fleisher’s points.