Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

11/03/2008 (1:10 pm)

Not a Bad Point from the Left (Updated)

I hate to admit it, but the lefty blogs have a point on this one.

This morning’s chatter is properly about the San Fransisco Chronicle’s snippy and hilariously obtuse defense of its failure to report Obama’s comment that his cap and trade plan is likely to bankrupt electricity producers that rely on coal. Gov. Palin is on the stump in Ohio asking why we’re just hearing about this today, and the Chronicle scoffs that the interview has been on their web site in plain view since it was posted in January. Sweetness and Light does a fine, satirical job of explaining what a crock that is, whereas Mark Steyn at The Corner makes the more serious point that their editorial choices only make sense if they’re less interested in selling newspapers than in promoting Obama’s candidacy. This is all true.

However, I have to hand it to Comments from Left Field. Though consistently a bastion of leftward vapidity, they make a perfectly reasonable point about the kerfuffle: McCain supports cap and trade, and defended his policy against a similar charge in the Senate. The claim that McCain is a much a socialist as Obama is only defensible if you ignore Obama’s life history and focus on the most positive and favorable interpretation of his public statements (which we all know are not to be trusted,) and at the same time ignore McCain’s life history as a Republican. However, on the specific issue of cap and trade and its impact on the coal industry, they’ve got a point. I seriously doubt that McCain’s version would be as draconian as Obama’s, but they do both support cap and trade.

Watch.

I’m voting for McCain, and every conservative ought to, because Obama will drag the country so far to the left that we’ll never return. However, let’s not forget that McCain is on board the Alternative Energy Bandwagon, and needs convincing that it’s bandwagon to nowhere.


UPDATE: I’ve just read over McCain’s and Obama’s cap-and-trade proposals quickly, and as expected, McCain’s is a lot more realistic, gradually phasing in auctions and giving utilities time to adjust to the changing economics. Obama proposes an immediate leap to 100% auctions. Obama also calls for immediate cooperation with the UN’s global climate management machinery, whereas McCain retains American sovereignty. Personally, I think either policy is completely unnecessary and economically distructive, but McCain’s considerably less so.

10/06/2008 (6:55 pm)

Tell It!

“I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to [the] American people. And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician.”

John McCain

Finally.

And, he finally lays the blame for Fannie and Freddie at the feet of the Democrats, including Barack Obama.

More from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, and from Moe Lane at Redstate.

Here’s the video, with thanks to Allahpundit at Hot Air.

Let me be clear; I don’t think the Democrats’ handling of Fannie and Freddie is the sole cause of the current crisis, nor do I think the government backing of subprime loans is the sole cause. I think both were contributing causes, along with some other factors. But I think McCain is speaking the unvarnished truth about this situation and about Obama’s comments about it so far.

09/27/2008 (9:43 am)

Obligatory Debate Post

Yes, I watched it. No, I honestly don’t care much about these presidential debates. I think it’s insane to base one’s vote on watching candidates trade memes and sound bites for 90 minutes in a media show. I always have. These debates are part of the evidence that far too many fellow citizens have become too shallow to govern themselves.

That being said, I thought there was more substance discussed in this 90-minute show than in most presidential debates I’ve seen. That’s arguably because neither candidate really had time to get briefed up thoroughly, due to the economic crisis. So here’s my proposal for the next election cycle: let’s have the networks kidnap the candidates with no warning and force them to debate unprepared. They could tape the session and release the tape in a scheduled time slot. (Just kidding, but…)

Neither candidate scored any really decisive blows. Obama was stylistically superior much of the time, but his style was not sufficient to overcome McCain’s overwhelming edge in real-world foreign policy experience.

Polls are showing more people think “Obama won” than “McCain won,” and the lefty blogs and mainstream press branch of the Obama campaign are happily reporting that, so that’s the meme we’re going to hear from now on. I’m voting “draw,” myself.

Now, my personal, visceral reactions to some of the contents: Obama really needs to give up on “McCain-Bush,” McCain’s amused dismissal of that repetitive nonsense was effective and completely appropriate. If I hear any more “Wall Street/Main Street” juxtapositions, I’ll be tempted to staple the speaker’s mouth shut. McCain’s point about Russia blocking action in the UN and the need for a League of Democracies is interesting, though, frankly, I’m no fan of sanctions — they get used against peoples whose governments really don’t care. I was intrigued by Obama’s claim that the Iraq war was a mistake because it made Iran more powerful; is he saying that we should have permitted genocide of the Kurds, mass graves, WMDs, and assassination attempts on our head of state because if we take down the nation that does this, it makes their opponents stronger? That’s loony. Obama got called on his “tough guy” stance on Pakistan and tried to back away from it, but the damage was done. What does he imagine the Pakistanis’ response to a similar public gaffe by the President might be? McCain was right; you don’t say things like that out loud. I’m disappointed McCain didn’t bring up the role NATO played in Afghanistan, which is the reason for the current debacle there, but that’s also a touchy subject that doesn’t need airing by high-profile fools (and this is where Obama’s NATO committee should have been meeting, and wasn’t). “I’ve got a bracelet, too…” (gag) McCain: “Watch Ukraine.” Ok, I will, but for what?

Obama lied through his teeth about Henry Kissinger’s support for his approach to Iran and Pakistan, and Kissinger was good enough to say so publicly this morning. Obama lied about his response to the Georgian crisis, and about his position on the Iraq war and his opposition to the surge. Obama also obfuscated badly while trying to make his position on talks without preconditions palatable. The number of statements Obama has made that he now wants to unmake is pretty high, and his standard approach to unmaking things that have slipped out of his mouth is to lie about them, and then call somebody else a liar for pointing it out. That says something truly vital concerning his fitness for the office.

09/20/2008 (2:58 pm)

Liar, Liar, Returning Fire

What began so long ago as the most entertaining campaign season in memory has turned ugly, and in a painfully predictable way. It’s not just that the candidates are slugging it out in “hit” ads, though that’s happening. It’s that the press has decided that it’s found the way to beat John McCain, and they plan to beat him by changing his image from “Maverick” to “Liar.”

I was trying to take inventory of what the Obama camp claims McCain has been lying about yesterday, in the wake of an unusually vicious Obama ad responding to BornAliveFacts.org’s ad featuring abortion survivor Gianna Jessen (see the ad here, and Michelle Malkin’s discussion here.) What I found was that major news sources, like Time, Newsweek, and the Washington Post, have picked up the Obama campaign’s knee-jerk response to all McCain ads and turned it into a theme: “Why is McCain lying?”

It’s no mystery why they’re doing it. Obama has been caught lying so many times that we’re almost immune to new instances; we think, “Oh, he’s at it again” and we tune it out. The list seems endless. He lied about his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Lied outright. Said he was proud of him, then said he’d never heard the things we were so agitated about. Bullshit, Barry. You heard them, and they sounded normal to you. He lied about his relationship with felon Tony Rezko; he produced favors for him through city hall and the legislature, and received favors in return. He lied about his relationship with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers; he said he was just a guy who lived down the block, but it turns out they did the Annenberg Challenge more or less together for five years. He lied about his stance on Iraq, he lied about his achievements in the Illinois legislature, he lied about his votes on born-alive infants, he lied about what his neighborhood activism achieved… the man’s instinct is to lie to protect himself, and if that doesn’t work, then he changes his story. The public learning about this has hurt Obama considerably.

So the press has to change the momentum and the message, and they’ve chosen to turn on Mav. In just one example among several, Joe Klein at Time Magazine published this utterly inaccurate piece characterizing McCain’s campaign as beyond the pale of ordinary political fudging. Similar examples can be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and various Democratic blogs. From Klein’s piece:

McCain’s lies have ranged from the annoying to the sleazy, and the problem is in both degree and kind. His campaign has been a ceaseless assault on his opponent’s character and policies, featuring a consistent—and witting—disdain for the truth.

It’s difficult for me to think that he actually believes this. Certainly yesterday’s howler from the Washington Post, in which they had to debunk their own news reports in order to claim an inaccuracy in McCain’s ad, illustrates how ready some media sources are to burn their own credibility in order to attack McCain’s. Klein’s article in Time is only slightly less laughable. We know they’re in the tank for Obama, but it’s disturbing that they’re willing to sell their integrity for him.

I’ve been watching McCain’s ads, and if they’re inaccurate in any way at all, it’s certainly not in any way that’s unusual for hard-hitting political advertising. What Klein seems to be complaining about is that McCain’s ads don’t take Obama’s campaign promises at face value. McCain, for example, claims Obama plans to raise our taxes, whereas Obama says he’s going to cut taxes to the middle class. As is usual for political advertising, both are accurate in their own sense. The marginal rates in Obama’s tax plan are lower than the official baseline of future tax revenues, but higher than what we’re paying today, so one can say either without lying. He plans to tax corporations, which are certain to pass along their taxes to all consumers. He plans to engage in copious social engineering by manipulating tax incentives, which inevitably distorts market behaviors and produces social dislocation. Worse, his promised initiatives will require far more funding than he’s accounted for in his plans to raise additional funds, so it’s easy to predict that he’ll have to raise taxes if he actually tries to do all that he’s planning. And of course, all this analysis rests on the assumption that one can trust Obama to do what he claims he’s going to do, and the McCain campaign would suggest that Obama’s past behavior, which includes support for tax increases, is a better predictor of his future behavior than is his campaign web site — and I would agree. All of this supports a plausible conclusion that an Obama presidency would require higher taxes.

The point in this instance is not that McCain’s ad is Gospel, where Obama’s contrary position is a Lie From the Pit of Hell. The point is that this is ordinary political advertising stating a candidate’s conclusions, not some new, nefarious depth of prevarication as Klein wants us to believe.

Or take Klein’s complaint about McCain’s ad mentioning Obama’s support for “comprehensive sex education” for students in kindergarten. Klein objects that the support was for instruction concerning inappropriate touching, which is what the Obama campaign said. That’s a nice thing to say, but the actual legislation is very, very clear, and it says “comprehensive sex education for K through 12.” The only mention of age-appropriateness in the legislation applies to age-appropriate instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Whether you think that any mention of STDs is age-appropriate for kindergarteners (I don’t,) this clearly goes beyond protection against inappropriate touching. Obama might be speaking truly about his intentions at the time (though we have good reason from the legislation itself not to believe him,) but McCain is entirely within his rights to quote the law verbatim, for crying out loud. Byron York has a full discussion at The Corner.

What we’re watching is a planned, deliberate screeching inversion. The Democrats are counting on support from the national press to produce a preponderance of firepower, overwhelming the McCain campaign’s ability to control the narrative by flooding the airwaves with their new and completely manufactured complaint about McCain’s illusive mendacity.

It’s not as though Democrats slandering Republicans is something new. Character assassination is about the only thing Democrats do well, and the list of slandered Republicans is long: Robert Bork, Dan Quayle, Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr, Ann Coulter, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, etc. Nor is press bias anything new. We’ve been pointing out for years how the press has taken sides, and examples of uneven treatment according to party affiliation fall into one’s hand like ripe apples from a tree.

What’s new is the size and virulence of it. It’s like we’re living in one of those horror flicks, where we’ve had the same pack of wild animals roaming the neighborhood at night for years. At first, they were a nuisance tearing up gardens. Then, they grew, and started threatening our pets. Then we started having to keep the kids close, ’cause a pack of them cornered somebody’s child. But now they’ve grown so big that we’re under siege in our own homes, having to board the windows and hunker behind doors with shotguns. The monsters have been feeding, and they’ve grown huge.

We don’t know yet whether the Obama campaign will get away with it. We do know that the national press corps intends to help them get away with it if they can. These are hard times for friends of liberty.

09/19/2008 (5:11 pm)

The New Fact-Checking Gold Standard

The campaign for President shows signs of turning into a real slugfest, as Obama’s minions attempt to tag every new McCain ad as a “lie.” Now, I’m used to leftists using creative definitions of “lie” from time to time; I remember back to 2000 viewing a web site called “Bushlies.com” that accused then-candidate Bush of lying in that he’d changed his position on abortion within a 20-year period, among other laughers.

Today, though, we get a new Gold Standard of Fact-Checking:

The Washington Post is calling McCain a liar for believing their news reports.

Yes, you heard me right. I would not have believed it if I had not read it myself.

The McCain campaign produced a pair of ads tying Obama to former heads of Fannie Mae, Franklin Raines and James Johnson (you can see the ads below. They’re good.) The WaPo factcheck folks objected to the Raines ad, noting that the claim that Raines “advises [Obama] on mortgage and housing policy” was stretching the truth. In order to make their case, though, they had to debunk their own news articles that had reported precisely that. The report amounted to the Washington Post fact-checking its own reporting and deciding, 2 months after publication, that they had overstated the truth. And for this, they called John McCain a liar.

Un. Freaking. Believable.

Never mind Obama. Will the press have any credibility left when this campaign season is over?

It’s not just a fact, it’s an important one. I’ve already noted here the cozy relationship between leading Democrats in Washington and the executives at Fannie Mae who padded their own pockets while defrauding investors. Obama has embraced two former heads of Fannie Mae, signaling that he intends more of the same relationship. Here are the ads, which are factual in every reasonable manner:

Hat tip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air and Byron York at The Corner for bird-dogging the story.

09/13/2008 (10:50 am)

The Seinfeld Candidate

A commenter at political site Inoperable Terran observed that Obama is rapidly becoming “the Seinfeld Candidate,” a campaign sitcom about nothing. Here’s why.

Barack Obama told his followers that in response to the unfair and inaccurate attack ads from the McCain campaign (I’m still not sure what part they think is false,) he was going to take the gloves off and get tough… but on important issues:

I will guarantee, we are going to hit back hard,” he pledged. “But we are going to hit back hard on the issues that matter to families.

This morning, it appears he needs to put the gloves back on. The first “important issue” in the new “get tough” campaign took McCain to task for being out of touch, noting that technology was very different back in 1982 and that McCain doesn’t even know how to send email.

Last night, Michelle Malkin was pointing out that some 83 million Americans are off-line, and that this ad insults them all pretty heartily, especially seniors. Today, though, the mob is getting angry; it seems that not only is McCain actually internet-savvy, he’s unable to send email because of injuries sustained while under torture — and a five-minute web search would have told them so, because it’s been written about at length.

I don’t think I’ve seen a political gaffe of this magnitude before, ever. John Kerry in a fire-retardant suit and Mike Dukakis in a tank don’t really come close. The implications tumble over each other: Obama’s campaign does not know how to use Google? They don’t vet their ads for accuracy? How pompous is it to assume that one who cannot send email is too far out of touch to hold office? This is what they think is important to American families? Obama wants us to take his campaign as evidence of his competence? And on and on…

I’m not going to produce all the links; Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has the Gold Standard collection, so I’ll refer you there. However, I want to draw your attention to some of the better comments. Jimmie at The Sundries Shack has a good laugh and links to the relevant support for McCain’s condition. Ace of Spades HQ makes the obvious connection to Obama’s fitness for office:

This is important:

What you are now seeing is Obama’s performance in a crisis challenging situation.

And Jonah Goldberg at The Corner skips lightly over the gaffe to analyze the original argument itself, which is almost as bad for Obama:

Lord knows I think the chicken-hawk arguments are stupid. And I don’t think the fact that Obama never served in the military should count against him in and of itself. But how stupid is it for the Obama campaign to claim that McCain is unqualified to be president because he can’t grasp cyber-security issues based on the fact he has never sent an email when the McCain campaign can just as easily say Obama can’t understand first order national security issues because he’s never fired a rife, flown a plane, commanded men in battle, or faced an enemy? I mean which prepares someone to be commander in chief better, hitting “send” on AOL or fighting a war?

I spent a fair amount of time earlier in this campaign season researching Obama’s Marxist roots and attempting to draw attention to them. I still think that’s true and relevant. These days, however, I don’t think that problem is nearly as important as the simple fact that Barack Obama is incompetent. He’s made dozens of gaffes, disavowed associations with a dozen friends (not credibly), had to retract several ill-considered comments, displayed a laughable ego, and now that he’s under a little campaign pressure for the first time in his life, he’s proving himself completely inept. He’s not suitable to be President; he’s not even suitable to be Senator. I think he’ll be happiest, and serving his genuine purpose best, as an instructor at a major university. He thinks deeply and does pretty good presentations and explanations. He sure as hell does not know how to run a campaign, though, and anybody who wants to take a chance with this flippin’ idiot at the head of the most powerful nation on earth deserves to have his voting privileges revoked for life.

Hillary Clinton has to be the happiest woman in America this morning. Barack Obama has granted her absolute moral authority to say “I told you so” in 2012. She’s going to be difficult to beat.

Inoperable Terran gave me my opening line, so I’ll give him the summary as well. This pretty much nails it:

This whole Obama thing has *got* to be a put-on by the DNC. Any minute Allen Funt will pop out and they’ll announce the real ticket is Hillary Clinton and Phil Bredesen (or Mark Warner) or something, right?

09/12/2008 (9:22 pm)

I Don't Hate To Say "I Told You So…"

I don’t hate to say it. I told you so.

Back on the 29th of August, when Sarah Palin was announced as McCain’s Vice Presidential nominee, a bunch of pundits (mostly to the left of center) said McCain was ceding the experience issue by selecting such an inexperienced Vice President. I said”Hogwash; she’s the bottom of the ticket, Obama’s the top.”

Check out the latest AP poll:

The poll suggests that perceived inexperience is more of a problem at the top of the Democratic ticket than in the No. 2 spot for Republicans.

Eighty percent say McCain, with nearly three decades in Congress, has the right experience to be president. Just 46 percent say Obama, now in his fourth year in the Senate, is experienced enough.

Fully 47 percent say Obama lacks the proper experience — an even worse reading than the 36 percent who had the same criticism about McCain running mate Sarah Palin, serving her second year as Alaska governor after being a small-town mayor.

Toldjah.

Hat tip goes to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who parses the rest of the poll data for you.

09/10/2008 (1:36 pm)

Lipstick

Barack Obama apparently took a shot at Sarah Palin yesterday, using a homey expression for faux change: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” The McCain campaign complained.

I wish they hadn’t. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that Obama’s making a sly reference to Palin’s joke about the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom, only in a manner that’s (implausibly) deniable. No, it’s not nice. But then, anybody who expected Barack Obama’s campaign to be nice has not been paying attention.

What Obama was doing was saying “Game on. You want to take shots at me? I’ll shoot back.” Yes, it’s nastier and more personal than anything Palin said about him, but the voters can see that. We’re not stupid. Nobody’s going to mistake it for anything but a tasteless, classless shot at a smart and funny lady. They should let him do it, and let him suffer the PR hit that he would inevitably suffer.

One thing’s good, though; at least he’s stopped pretending to be engaging in a “different kind of campaign.”

09/05/2008 (12:54 pm)

A Quick Note on McCain's Health

A great deal of chatter about Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been based on the premise that John McCain is likely to die in office. This strikes me as nonsense; by far the most likely outcome is that Palin will chair the Senate and meet with second-tier dignitaries for 4 or 8 years, if elected.

The concerns about McCain’s health always mention national averages, but that’s a pretty serious error that nobody who understands statistics should make. The average American male lives to 76.2 years, as of 2006. Does that mean it’s likely that McCain, who just turned 72, will keel over in 4.2 years? Not at all. One of the first things you learn in Statistics is that you cannot use general population statistics to predict the outcome of a specific, individual case.

Why can’t you? Well, for one thing, there are all sorts of causal variables that get mixed into a general population. That average age of 76.2 includes babies who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, American military personnel who died in combat, crack addicts, victims of HIV, victims of automobile accidents, suicides, etc. Since McCain obviously is not an instance of any of those, they have no value in predicting his longevity — even though they’re mixed into the average age statistic.

When you’re looking at an individual case, the most important factors are genes and lifestyle. McCain smoked for 25 years, so cancer is a concern, but quitting does reduce the long-term risk. Aside from the stress of high office and a lot of flying, McCain leads a relatively safe life; he’s not likely to starve to death or die in a cholera epidemic. He’s not seriously overweight, so diabetes is probably not a significant risk. I don’t know much about his diet and exercise regimen, but he looks pretty fit.

The genetic factor is truly the most important, and there we have a mixed bag worth considering. McCain’s mother is a steely-eyed 96, and most of us will do well to look and act as healthy when we’re 76. He’s got freakin’ great genes on that side of his family. On the other hand, McCain’s father’s family had loads of heart disease, and several of them died fairly young. So the question is, are the genes affecting heart health from his father’s side dominant or recessive?

The information the McCain campaign released in May indicates that he has slightly elevated cholesterol, but no signs of arterial constriction in the head and neck that might signal susceptibility to stroke, which claimed his father at age 70. It also says he shows no signs of the most common health effects of smoking, namely lung cancer and reduced lung capacity.

Good health, good habits, and great genes; what we should expect from Sen. McCain is that he’ll take at least 4 years’ presidency in stride, and keep on sailing into the foreseeable future. The likelihood of a President Palin is small before 2016, and even smaller before 2012. National averages don’t mean a thing.

Photo from YouTube clip of a WMUR-TV interview with Roberta and John McCain. WMUR is an affiliate of ABC in New Hampshire. I do not know the name of the host.

08/19/2008 (1:16 pm)

Veepstakes

I’ve stayed out of the speculation about the upcoming choices by the major candidates for President for who’s going to be their running mate; I hate speculation, I’m not interested, and Vice President is arguably the least-influential and worst-constructed office in American Constitutional government. However, today I’m weighing in.

From Rich Lowry at The Corner:

NR has learned that the McCain campaign has been calling key state GOP officials around the country the last couple of days and sounding them out about the consequences of a pro-choice VP pick. The campaign is asking about the reaction of conservative grass-roots activists to such a pick and whether a pro-choicer can be sold to them. This is an indication that the McCain campaign is serious about the possibility of a pro-choice VP nominee and that McCain leaving the door open to Tom Ridge last week may not have been merely a friendly nod to a longtime supporter.

National Review and David Limbaugh both argue that such a selection would be a mistake for McCain. I have to agree. McCain probably doesn’t appreciate how much progress he’s made among conservatives, and how important that progress is. Picking an abortion rights advocate for his Vice President would instantly set him back to square 1 with social conservatives, only this time he would not fully recover by election day.

Kathryn Jean Lopez on The Corner argues (actually, one of her readers argues) that Tom Ridge would be a poor choice anyhow, since his performance at his first job at the national level, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was dismal. However, it seems a lot more likely that Senator McCain is actually considering Rudy Giuliani, not Tom Ridge.

Now, Giuliani is a more intriguing prospect. I actually favored Giuliani’s candidacy early on; most people don’t appreciate how aggressively he defended against hard-left lunacy while he was Mayor of New York. The man is tough, and takes crap from nobody. His performance in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 demonstrated world class leadership skills. I would not abandon ship if the ticket turns out to be McCain-Giuliani…

…but a fair number of conservatives would. That’s the problem. A lot of folks don’t know Giuliani’s anti-loon bona fides, and given McCain’s fickleness toward things conservative over the past 10 years, they’re not likely to stick around to find out.

Senator McCain, if you’re listening: don’t do it.

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