Conservatives And The Culture Wars

March 6, 2014

There’s a lot of talk among conservatives these days about the culture. The late, great Andrew Breitbart knew that political victories would always be fleeting, but cultural changes have a tendency to stick around. Worse, as the culture goes so goes the politics. The subject of culture, specifically pop culture, in American politics and society is being debated in conservative circles but the discussions, while often interesting, tend to be somewhat circular. For starters, nobody can really agree with what needs to be done. There are a lot of slogans about “taking back the culture” but those slogans are misplaced. The culture was never really conservative. We can not “take it back” though we can certainly make impressions upon it.

There was no Golden Age of Conservative Culture. There have been huge stars who wore their conservatism on their sleeves, most notably John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. The brilliant director John Ford was an unabashed conservative. Today first-rate actors like the mighty Robert Duvall, Nick Searcy, Jon Voight, and Vince Vaughn are out of the political closet. Hollywood used to produce many films that celebrated America and patriotism, particularly during World War Two. In the early 1940s, Hollywood was “doing its part”, as they say, by making war films that showed America in the best possible light. Compare that to the Hollywood films that were released during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, where the Americans are routinely portrayed as evil, insane, or incompetent. The Hurt Locker won the Best Picture award a few years ago for its portrayal of an American bomb squad leader in Iraq who acted out of a perverse love of the risk of death. Less successful, the movie White House Down featured the military-industrial complex (those people who make the tanks) as terrorists. Today, the Liam Neeson action film Non-Stop has, as its main villain, a 9/11 family member and former soldier who become terrorists because they don’t think America has been proactive enough in stopping more terrorist attacks.

It’s certainly true that pop culture is distinctly Left wing when it ventures into political realms. But Progressivism has always been at the core of the creative arts. Was Hollywood conservative in the 1940s?

The clip is from 1948’s State Of The Union, directed by Frank Capra and starring Spencer Tracy as an industrialist (a Republican, no less!) who runs for President. The clip is too brief, and I wasn’t able to find the entire thing, but it gives a taste. The entire speech reads like it came straight out of the Communist Manifesto or Obama’s last State of the Union speech; it’s a litany of liberal pipe dreams. Free healthcare, affordable housing, you name it. No tax cuts, please, we need the government to provide. And this from the director Frank Capra, long known as a conservative Republican despite the Leftist tilt of classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

It seems to me that conservatives need to understand that we will probably never be the dominant force in the culture. But there are still ways to win cultural battles, and there are ways not to win cultural battles.

The way to achieve victories in the culture war is to engage the enemy. Listen to the music, watch the television shows, go to the movies. When you find examples of Leftist rhetoric, don’t scream for boycotts that never work. Engage the enemy. Talk about the culture, offer arguments against the culture, be a happy warrior. This is the lesson of Andrew Breitbart, and is being carried on by his acolytes like Chris and Dana Loesch, John Nolte, and Ben Shapiro. Don’t shrink away from the Left; fight them happily. When Jon Stewart mocks conservatives, mock Jon Stewart. Point out who he is and what his agenda is, because most people don’t know that he even has an agenda. Get his beliefs out in the open. Give serious examples of the arguments he downplays with sarcasm and scorn. Many people in this country do not follow politics closely. They get their politics from the likes of Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel. They are hearing one side of the argument, and contempt for the other side. You can point out why Letterman’s joke wasn’t funny, or why Colbert’s interview was skewed, but only if you know what they’re saying.

Conservatives should not only talk about the culture, they should create it. Conservative themes resonate deeply when they’re done well. Too often, they’re done poorly. I’m sure the members of the band Madison Rising are great guys, but their songs are Nickelback-worthy anthems full of sloganeering. “In The Days That Reagan Ruled”? “Right To Bear”? “Where Was The Media Then”? I’m conservative and even I don’t want to hear these songs. You never see a liberal band writing a song called “Barack Obama Is A Great President” or “Hillary Is My Honey”. Nobody wants to be hit with a brick, whether it comes from a liberal or conservative. For some reason conservative artists feel that they need to make conservative art. They don’t. They need to make good art. Their conservatism will bleed through into the music or movies, but nobody will care if the music or movie stinks. Create your art with no agenda other than creating great art. If you let your heart and soul come through your art, your conservatism will come through as well. If your art is good it will find an audience. It may be a small audience, but if it touches one person who spreads the word, you are reaching out and engaging in the culture. You don’t have to be bigger than the Beatles to make an impact. Think global but act local is a slogan that actually applies here.

But too many conservatives are doing the exact opposite. Read through the comments at Breitbart’s Big Hollywood site and you’ll see it. Conservatives are actively boasting that they will never go to another movie until Hollywood starts making pro-faith, pro-family movies. The contempt for Hollywood’s Leftists is not only palpable, it crosses the line into outright ugliness. The comments on a recent post about HBO’s “it” girl, Lena Dunham, descended into the most adolescent name-calling you can imagine. Dunham, a talented writer and avowed Lefty, was called “a pig”, “a sow”, “ugly”, “fat”, and “retarded” among many other epithets. She was mercilessly mocked for her appearance, her weight, her tattoos, and her willingness to shed her clothes on the show Girls, which she created, writes, and stars in. Nobody in the comments actually engaged with Dunham, her ideas, the culture she promotes, her writing ability, her acting, or anything else that was actually important. Several comments boasted about refusing to watch any show with her in it. A few years back, in response to a post about an anti-Bush statement made by Paul McCartney, commenters responded with a slew of “I will never listen to the Beatles again” diatribes. How does that win the culture wars? It makes you sound like cultural idiots.

I understand the mentality. Why support, with my hard-earned dollars, actors, musicians, and writers who hate everything I stand for? But there’s a difference between refusing to see Non-Stop because it’s blatant Leftist agitprop and refusing to see Schindler’s List because it stars the actor from Non-Stop. I agree completely with most conservatives that Sean Penn is an absolutely odious human being. He’s also a truly gifted actor. Will I go see a movie about Hugo Chavez that stars Penn? No. Would I go see a non-political film with Penn in the lead? Sure, if it’s good.

Big Hollywood guru John Nolte often discusses the “Left wing sucker punches” in films. It’s that moment when a character suddenly makes a Sarah Palin joke or spouts some anti-Tea Party rhetoric in a film that is otherwise apolitical. Conservatives can only make inroads to the heart of the culture when we confront these moments, as Nolte does. It doesn’t mean we have to spend our money or go to movies that are blatant exercises in Left wing buffoonery (like, say, Brian DePalma’s Rendition). But we will never be able to punch back against the Left if we withdraw. See the movies, listen to the music, watch the television show; then argue the merits with your families and friends. Point out the Progressive fallacies and sucker punches so that they are out in the open, and happily argue why those moments are wrong. Drag the Leftist agenda into the light and destroy it. You may not hurt the box office of the movie, but you will make people think about what they’ve seen. Progressive messages work because they are presented with no counter argument, and for far too many people it sinks in because the rest of the movie is so enjoyable, or because the song has a great melody. By pointing out these messages, by discussing them, and by arguing with facts and logic why they are wrong, you’ll be returning fire in the culture war and making your voice heard.

Conservatives need to seed the culture, not cede it.

Advertising, American Style

March 4, 2014

During the Winter Olympics, two advertisements that were in very heavy rotation presented contrasting and stark visions of America. Ironically, both ads were from General Motors but the underlying philosophy behind the ads appealed to two strikingly different demographics, even though both were aimed at luxury car owners.

The first of the ads, called “Poolside”, features the actor Neal McDonough, known for his excellent work in Band of Brothers and Justified. In the ad, McDonough rattles off a creed of American exceptionalism. We’re not like the rest of the world, content to put in a day at work and stop off at the café. “We’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers,” he says. Americans work hard and play hard. We’re “driven” to push boundaries, to create, to explore, to never be satisfied. The Wright brothers, Bill Gates, Muhammad Ali, and Les Paul are all cited as examples of the American spirit. We are such an exceptional nation that we pushed ourselves to go to the Moon and then became bored because outer space was no longer a challenge. “It’s simple. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible.”

The ad has been misunderstood. Critics, invariably from the Left, claim that it’s an ode to conspicuous consumption. McDonough is playing a rich guy with a great house, large pool, beautiful wife and kids, and a Cadillac ELR in the driveway. He extols Americans to take shorter vacations and work even harder. The critics miss the point. McDonough says early in the ad that Americans don’t work this way for “stuff”. We work this way because it’s who we are. The “stuff” comes as a result, not because it’s a goal.

The commercial promotes hard work, belief in yourself, and the old-fashioned notion that people make their own luck and that they succeed or fail based on a combination of attitude and effort. The ad could have been scripted by Horatio Alger.

Compare this to another GM ad that was running at the same time, this one for the Chevy Tahoe.

In the Tahoe ad, a young couple arrives home from a night out and asks the babysitter how things went. “They went right to bed,” the young girl replies. The mother then drives the girl home in her Chevy Tahoe. As they drive, the girl takes notice of the opulence of the vehicle. She runs her fingers along the stitching on the leather interior, notes the satellite radio, the various high-tech screens and push-button controls. When they arrive at the babysitter’s house, the woman says “Forty, right?” as she breaks out her wallet. The babysitter pauses, looks over the interior of the car again, and smugly says, “Ummm…sixty.”

Here is Entitlement Nation in the guise of a girl barely in her teens. She’s just come from a job that was, by her own admission, easy. There is an agreed upon price for the job but the girl decides she wants more based on how much the young couple have. In the America of the Neal McDonough ad, the young mother would have replied, “Here’s the forty dollars we agreed on. I don’t appreciate your pathetic attempt at grabbing more of the money that I’ve earned and you didn’t. I am going to make sure that all of your clients understand that you’re a self-entitled little brat who can’t be trusted to honor an agreement. Your compensation is based on the attitude and effort you bring to the table, not on the type of car we can afford. Get out of my car. Good luck ever finding another babysitting job in this neighborhood.”

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. But just a bit. The fact is that these two advertisements do convey radically different, and competing, philosophies of life in America. In one, you succeed based on your spirit and effort. In the other, you demand success from the spirit and effort of someone else. It’s the difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement; it’s the difference between the Conservative view of America and the Progressive view. It is the difference between a free nation and one where we shackle ourselves to government largesse. These ads represent visions of our future. The choice is up to us.

Like A Bad Penny

January 23, 2014

So where did 2013 go?

It was an incredible year for politics. The IRS scandal blew up big before being swept under the rug by a servile press and a corrupt Justice Department. The Benghazi scandal also hit the headlines on Fox News while being summarily ignored and/or dismissed by the rest of the news media. Obamacare was implemented and immediately crashed and burned on the back of a $500,000,000 website that didn’t (and doesn’t) work. The civil war in Syria was just the latest bungle in a feckless foreign policy from Obama and the panjandrum who now heads the State Department. Well, the latest until they capitulated to Iran at least, pleading pathetically with the mullahs to hold off for six months on their development of nuclear weapons. And for comic relief, there was Dennis Rodman, basketball’s “Worm”, who proved that there’s nothing like obsequiously toadying for the world’s most monstrous dictator to give meaning to the AA term “hitting bottom”.

And while the spirit was willing to write about all of this, the flesh was weak. To say that last year was personally rough would be understating it. Unemployment, depression, death, sickness (my own and others)…it all made for a very quiet year here on The Clampdown. Frankly, writing about the jungle of politics was not helping my state of mental health.

But this is 2014. Obama’s approval rating is hovering around the average daytime temperature in the Yukon, Obamacare is continuing to destroy the insurance industry and crush the relationship between the insured and their employers, and a midterm election is in the wings, possibly heralding a GOP takeover for the Senate…if the Republicans don’t sabotage themselves too severely. And after a long layoff, I remain committed to never, ever working for The Clampdown.

The Ghosts Of Roe

January 22, 2013

Many years ago, I was acquainted with a woman who was the very model of a proud Progressive. Fiercely liberal, she would refer to herself as a “hyper-feminist”. She was a non-observant Jew who wrote erotic fiction when she wasn’t serving food at a local pub. I can still remember the sheer joy she experienced when one of her stories was published in Playgirl, a magazine to which she subscribed (proving that there’s at least one woman who “reads” it, I suppose). She was a sexual libertine who talked openly of her conquests, and who viewed marriage with deep suspicion, if not outright hostility. She was a child of committed liberals, and she had these views so deeply ingrained in her it was highly probable that she’d never been exposed to the other side (I knew better than to ever discuss politics with her). When she was in her early 20s she’d had an abortion, something that she talked about with a sense of pride because it gave her the opportunity to expound on her pro-choice views. She viewed the abortion as a good thing. If she had kept the child, she once explained, her life would have been entirely different. I said nothing, but wondered why a somewhat promiscuous waitress who wrote girlie porn on the side and hung out, often alone, in bars was really that reluctant to have a different life. I think of Elaine in Seinfeld saying, when told that getting married would change her life, “It’s three-thirty in the morning. I’m at a cock fight. What am I clinging to?”

Regardless of her views, we got along well. She was certainly a nice enough person. She was forceful in her political beliefs but rarely strident about it, at least to me. We talked about music, movies, and other non-controversial things mainly. When she talked politics I nodded wisely and held my tongue.

One evening, after she’d had a few drinks, she casually mentioned someone named “John” to me. I was pretty familiar with her friends, and this name was unfamiliar so I asked who that was. “That’s the name of my son,” she replied.

The story that followed was surprising to me at the time, though from what I understand now it’s really quite common. “John” was the boy child she had aborted. She’d mentioned him because that day was the anniversary of the due date for the birth. She then proceeded to tell me about how she often had dreams where her son was alive, that she thought about him every year on this date that would have been his birthday. She told me how when she saw children of the same age she thought about the boy she had named in her head, though never on a birth certificate. At the time, “John” would have turned seven years old. She told me how the previous year she’d driven past a bus stop and seen little children lined up for their first day of school, and how the experience had devastated her. She confessed to me that “John” crept into her thoughts almost every day, mostly fleetingly, sometimes lodging in her brain and refusing to leave. Those days were the hardest, she said. Those were the days she felt empty. She described it “feeling sometimes like you’re missing a limb”.

It’s these ghosts that I think about on this day, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined abortion as a Constitutionally protected right. Not merely the ghosts of 55 million babies that never got to see their first day of school, that never knew what it was to celebrate a birthday, or graduation, prom night, marriage, children of their own. I think about the ghosts of the women like my acquaintance. She paid lip service to the liberal pieties, forcefully demanding her “right to choose”, but at the end of the day she was hollow inside, a woman with no self-respect. Her abortion had torn something deep inside of her, and she lived her life unable to get through the day without thinking at least a bit about a boy she never got the chance to know.

To be pro-choice, especially in 2013, requires a denial of basic biological science and gross contortions of logic. The science is there for all to see. With the increasing use of 3D sonograms those old blurry black and white pictures are now seen in sharp relief, and it is clearly a baby that appears in the womb. Not a fetus, or an embryo, or any of the scientific terms that are used to camouflage reality. It’s a baby. We all know it, deep down inside. The science is clear. As early as the moment of conception, there is the creation of an organism that did not exist mere moments before. That organism is human. The word is “embryo” but that is really just the scientific term for the first eight weeks of development. The talking point that this is only a potential human life is nonsense. It is a human life in the earliest stages of development. It has the “potential” to be nothing else, because it already is. It exists. Sexual intercourse has the potential of creating a life, but once fertilization occurs that potential is fulfilled. The life has been created.

We know this instinctively, which leads to the logical contortions required to be pro-choice. We mourn at a miscarriage because we know that it is a loss of life, not merely the discharge of cells. We cringe in horror when we read the news accounts of pregnant women who have been assaulted or killed, because we know that it is also a baby that has been victimized. We shed copious tears when a woman delivers a stillborn child, even as we debate whether the woman should have the right to have destroyed the same baby mere moments before the delivery. On the other side of the coin, we smile when we feel “the baby” kick. No woman ever refers to the child in her womb as “my fetus.” People play music (preferably Mozart, so I’m told) to their in utero child, and they stop drinking caffeine and alcohol, and stop smoking cigarettes. They do this because it affects the frail life inside. The human life.

Too many people hold the position that it doesn’t matter what the expectant mother does. Her body, her choice. But this is cowardly. It relies on the poisonous notion that the worth of the child is entirely dependent on whether the mother wants to give birth. It puts aside both the science and the concept of consequences for personal action and, by doing so, is a failure of the fundamental belief that we need more liberty and freedom for all. By relegating the child to this lowly status, it denies the inherent right to life to the unborn child. The unborn child, the unborn human, becomes nothing more than a possession to be disposed at will. It gives women the power of tyranny over the life inside them, and over the objections and arguments of fathers. Is this what libertarians and Progressives seek when they talk of ensuring the most freedom for all people? A true libertarian would argue that the choice to have sex resulted in a consequence for two people (mother and father) and the creation of a third, unique, person in an early stage of development. The rights of that third person can not be denied, which requires both mother and father to make another choice. They can keep the baby, or give the child up for adoption. That is the position that guarantees the maximum freedom for all parties. At a minimum of coherent thought, libertarians should be unanimously opposed to Roe v. Wade on legal grounds, keeping in mind that overturning this atrocious decision would not ban abortion, but merely return the control of the law to the states, where the people could decide whether this was a policy they wanted enshrined in law.

For Progressives, abortion is the one sacrosanct tenet of their political faith. Progressives will concede on tax cuts, on spending cuts, and even make some concessions to entitlement reform. What they will never compromise on is abortion. It has been the cornerstone of Progressive politics since Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger pushed for legalized abortion and birth control as a way of promoting eugenics and the eventual eradication of what she called "bad stock" (i.e., blacks and the disabled). Many politicians make the claim, first popularized by Progressive Catholics like Mario Cuomo, that they are "personally opposed" to abortion, but can not push their beliefs on others. This has become the fallback position for gutless politicos for decades as they try to thread the needle between pro-life and pro-choice. But those contortions of logic don’t go away with this position. They multiply.

For starters, Progressives love nothing more than to push their beliefs on others. It’s part of their DNA. But what these profiles in courage never talk about is why they are personally opposed. Is it because they believe that life begins at conception? Yes, when they’re cornered that’s usually what they say. But how does one go from believing "I believe abortion is murder" to "but if you don’t believe it, then you should feel free to murder"?

If you believe abortion is the taking of a human life, the only real justification for being opposed to it, you are morally obligated to speak out against it. If you do not believe it is the taking of a human life, there is no reason at all to be opposed to it. There is no reason to make it "safe, legal, and rare" as Bill Clinton once said. Nobody speaks this way about any other type of elective surgery. There is no talking point in the DNC to make nose jobs "rare". Why should it be rare?

People all over America were shocked and rightfully horrified by the school shooting in Newtown last month. Committees were formed, executive orders were signed, new laws and regulations were debated. In the past 40 years, in hospitals and clinics across America, there has been the equivalent of nearly 200 Newtown massacres every single day. Over 55 million children have been slaughtered. We have traveled the road from debating abortion to debating infanticide. Illinois State Senator Barack Obama voted in favor of a bill that would allow doctors to starve babies to death if they had somehow survived the abortion procedure. Not embryos, not fetuses, but real babies living outside of the womb. United States President Barack Obama appointed John Holdren as his senior advisor on science issues. John Holdren was also a supporter of forced abortions and sterilizations.

It’s my belief that even the most committed pro-choicers understand on a gut level that there is more to this than a simple, elective surgical procedure. Ask my old acquaintance, haunted by the ghost of her son. Rhinoplasty, breast enhancement, and liposuction are done every day without comment, criticism, or complaint. What makes abortion any different? The answer is as simple as the nose on the face in a 3D ultrasound.


Stopping The Monsters In Our Midst

December 18, 2012

It’s taken several days to get up the energy to write about the dreadful massacre in Newtown, CT. Even now, there is a part of me that would rather sit curled up in a ball under my desk than in my chair staring at a blank computer screen.

The reason is simple: there are no words in the human language to describe the grief we feel over the slaughter of innocents, even as the culture we live in goes out of its way to destroy innocence in our young. Aside from a few inchoate tweets, I’ve kept my silence regarding Newtown. I felt that this was simply a matter of respect. I grieve for the people murdered, but my grief is but a drop in the ocean of sadness that the families and loved ones of the victims feel right now. My life continues; their lives are shattered. For me, there is Christmas wrapping to be done, parties to attend, food to cook, decorations to be hung, and carols to be sung. For them, this Christmas season is marked by the horror of children, so damn many of them, in caskets, and wrapped presents that will never be opened. Newtown is never far from my thoughts. I pray for them and weep for them. The images splashed all over the media leap into my mind’s eye unbidden, and sadness pervades. I have not felt this way since 9/11.

There has been no shortage of people looking to capitalize on this massacre. On the Left, the gun control supporters have emerged as they do every time there is a mass shooting, hoping to use the emotion of the moment to trump facts and statistics in order to enact their useless and pointless agenda. On the Right, the compassionate scolds are also out in force. In the Eighties it was cartoons and heavy metal that was leading the youth to ruination. Shock rocker Marilyn Manson and The Matrix got the blame for the Columbine shootings in 1999. This time, the blame is on video games. For the first time, and this is welcome, some people are asking whether this country is doing enough for those who are mentally ill.

There is time to debate all of this, and questions must be asked. Assumptions must be challenged for all political persuasions. The murdered in Newtown almost certainly included the children of Republicans and Democrats alike. The voting affiliations of the adults murdered are unknown, and not germane to the discussion. The parents and families of those killed are grieving equally whether they voted for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

As a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and gun rights, I still ask: Are magazines that hold more than ten bullets necessary for any civilian? Are military style “assault” rifles really necessary for hunters? What are the limits of regulatory power that states can impose? The Supreme Court has already ruled that states can not ban guns (nor do I think it’s a good idea to do so). So at what point does the ability of the states to regulate stop? What type of regulations make sense, knowing that criminals looking for weapons are not bound by the law? Gun control advocates need to offer a specific example: what gun law would have prevented this? Is the solution, as many on the Right are saying, that we need more guns? Tens of millions of Americans own guns and handle them safely and responsibly. If the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary had a gun, would 26 people be alive today? Are “Gun Free Zones” really desirable? The number of mass shootings has increased dramatically since the Gun Free Zones were created in 1990. And with the exception of the Fort Hood shootings, every one of those mass murders has taken place in a Gun Free Zone. The movie theater shooter in Aurora, Colorado went to the one theater in his area that specifically banned concealed weapons, despite other theaters being closer to his home. Does the massacre at Bath Consolidated in 1927 have any lessons to impart about whether the issue is guns or madness? These questions, and many more, need to be addressed by gun control advocates and gun rights supporters. We need to be able to ask without questioning the motives of the other side. Neither the Left nor Right wants to see murdered children.

What role does the culture play? Do violent video games make children more violent, or does it desensitize them to violence? The Newtown Murderer was an avid video game player, according to reports. So are tens of millions of peaceful, law abiding citizens, straight A students, and churchgoing kids. Is pulling the trigger on a video game console really the same as putting a living human being in the crosshairs and pulling the trigger on a real gun? Do video games really teach you to be a marksman? Are the movies and video games today violent because they reflect the culture, or does life imitate art? What is the distinction between the culture and the civilization that creates the culture? Is the problem not the culture, but the civilization? Not to get all Pat Roberston-ish, but does a society that embraces easy divorce, abortion on demand, and unwed parenthood get the culture it deserves? And if so, is the solution to criticize the culture, or look to the society? Does the media with its 24-hour coverage, endlessly splashing the photo and name of the killers, provide the fame (or infamy) that many of these people seek? Would we be better off if the names and pictures of the killers were relegated to page 10 of the newspaper? Would we be better off if the television news reported these events drily, just the facts, and not sensationalizing them? Do reporters really need to approach children to ask them questions about what happened? Again, questions need to be asked.

What is the solution for providing mental health help? Do we really want to give judges and state-appointed psychiatrists the power to put anyone they deem unfit into a mental health hospital? What is the criteria for deciding whether a person should be put away? Is it violence, or just the threat of violence? If the former, isn’t that too late? If the latter, isn’t that punishing thought? There is a terrible stigma for people who have mental health issues. Would the idea of forced hospitalization just drive people further into hiding their problems? Short of keeping people locked up, how do you enforce prescription adherence? The history of government-run psychiatric hospitals is not pretty, and assurances that the government would do a better job if there was just more money are not credible. Would the private sector be better at providing care? Should parents have the ability to commit their children? Many mental health issues now are handled on an outpatient basis…go to the doctor every three months, get your prescription, see you next time. But some parents are living in fear. Sometimes out-of-control kids are taking advantage of doormat parents. These children will either grow out of it or become self-absorbed, but law-abiding, adults. Sometimes there is a genuine pathology at work, and all the time outs and all the punishments in the world won’t help. Some people, including some children, are mentally unstable. This is a sad reality. What can be done to get them the help they need and to prevent them from hurting themselves or other people, before they get a gun, or knife, or pipe bomb? Everyone knew the Virginia Tech shooter was crazy, but nobody would say it out loud for fear of repercussions. What the administrators at Virginia Tech did not know was that the shooter had previously been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. Federal privacy laws prevented this crucial piece of information from being passed on. Thirty-two people paid with their lives.

I offer no answers here. I have some opinions on the subject, but my purpose here is not to state that my beliefs are the correct answers. Before any solutions we need to first ask the right questions. We need to do it slowly, and deliberately. We need to do it away from the emotional maelström that is the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre. Rampant emotions do not make good laws. For now, let the families bury their dead. Let the grieving process proceed without talking points. The debate about how to prevent such crimes from happening again is when the dust has settled, when the fiscal cliff has been averted, and when the Left and Right can look at these horrific events with a dispassionate eye, with statistics, facts, figures, and logic to bolster their arguments. We honor the dead by not arguing at the gravesite.

Blame Bush

November 7, 2012

You know how you feel after you’ve just spent a long weekend drinking really cheap gin and tequila, consorting with people of ill repute, eating nothing but poorly prepared spicy food for three meals a day, and spending at least one night in a Turkish prison?

Yeah, I wish I felt that good.

So what happened last night? I’d like to claim that I simply blacked out and therefore can’t remember the events of the evening. But no, I remember everything right up until the minute I turned off the television, shortly before Mitt Romney’s concession speech. I simply couldn’t take it anymore.

I kept up with things for a while on Twitter (where you really should be following me @Blaknsam), so I learned that Romney was gracious and classy, as expected. I also learned that Obama gave a magnificent speech, far more reminiscent of the soaring rhetoric of 2008 than the childish taunts of 2012. I also saw the blame game beginning. That didn’t take long.

Some people blamed Mitt Romney. If he had only mentioned Benghazi more forcefully. He’s a RINO, a Massachusetts moderate. He can’t connect to biological life forms. He ran a poor campaign. He spent the first half of the foreign policy debate prefacing his answers with “I agree with the President…”.

Some of these things are true, but the fault for this doesn’t lie with Mitt Romney. Perhaps he should have mentioned Benghazi, but he would have been preaching only to the converted and to those unfamiliar with a topic almost never discussed in the media. He is a Massachusetts moderate who always seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the language of conservatism, but his choice of Paul Ryan and the dread of a second Obama term brought the conservatives in line. He did sometimes appear stiff in the earlier days of the campaign, and the strangeness of his Mormonism (and the media representations of that strangeness) could make him seem less like a regular guy and more like an outsider to American culture. Also, the single best issue of the campaign for the Republicans, ObamaCare, was negated by RomneyCare. Regardless, this election should have been an easy lay up for Romney. The economy is in the tank, the Mideast is burning, and for the past month Mitt Romney has run one of the best campaigns I’ve ever seen. I would have preferred a different standard-bearer in 2012, but in hindsight Romney was the best candidate of all the Republicans who took the field.

The blame also was being pinned on the mainstream media, and with some good reason. As disgracefully as they championed Obama in 2008, it was nothing compared to the “circle the wagons, protect the President at all costs” lack of objectivity of 2012. The mainstream media somehow morphed into the public relations wing of the Secret Service. The MSM didn’t just lean left, like it usually does. It ignored blatant scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and Solyndra. Only political junkies were familiar with these stories. For the majority of people, who only start to pay attention to the race at the end of October, these scandals were just names glimpsed in a headline or heard in passing during a dismissive 30-second TV news story. So yes, the media played their part in last night’s debacle. But the media always go Left. Media bias was even more prevalent in 1980 when the only source of news was the three networks and the major newspapers. There was no Internet, no Drudge, no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh, and yours truly was in high school listening to his Who albums and worrying only about the next day’s math test. Reagan overcame the media because the conditions on the ground were so unavoidably bad. He won in a landslide. The conditions now are worse, yet there was no landslide.

The culture came in for some blame, too. There’s also some truth in this. Barack Obama is the American Idol president, the Kim Kardashian of the Oval Office. Would a country less besotted with the idea of celebrity, less prone to elevating people like Paris Hilton (or Perez Hilton, for that matter) to stardom have fallen for the vacant “hope and change” speeches of 2008? Would people who don’t get their news from late night comedians, The Daily Show, and TMZ ever have succumbed to voting for the man who coined the term “Romnesia”? When Lincoln and Douglas were debating, were there pollsters asking questions like, “Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?” Does anybody really think in the darkest days of 1864 that people looked at Lincoln and said, “I prefer him because I think he connects with the regular folks”? Our culture is becoming less serious every day. Why would our politics not reflect that? Medicare’s going bankrupt? Social Security, too? We’re heading for a fiscal cliff that could cast us into very dark days? Quick, change the channel. Mitt Romney offered prescriptions that tasted like Castor Oil, Barack Obama offered sugar cubes. Yes, I’d rather watch that show with the man with the nice smile who always says nice things and reassures me that things are going to be great any day now. It pains me to say this, but a huge chunk of the American electorate really needs to take stock about what is important.

There is a lot of blame to go around. Some belongs to Romney who ran a flaccid campaign for much of the summer. Some belongs to the media who protected their overlord at the cost of their vaunted (and largely fictitious) objectivity. Some belongs to the Obama campaign and their PAC acolytes who ran a vicious campaign that portrayed a good and decent man as a cutthroat robber baron who may have been a felon and who almost certainly used his Cancer Gun (patent pending) to kill the wife of a worker he had personally kicked to the curb. Some belongs to a less-than-serious electorate that wants to ensure the continued flow of government goodies and avoid the hard questions and harder answers that are still out there, demanding to be heard.

But ironically, most of the blame belongs to George W. Bush.

Bush was a decent man who tarnished the Republican and Conservative brands so deeply that, four years after he left office, his successor was able to turn him into a campaign issue. Barack Obama presented no plan for his second term for a simple reason: he’s out of ideas. He ran his campaign on a simple premise: Mitt Romney is an evil man who will return us to the policies that caused the Great Recession. And it worked, or at least the second half of it did.

Romney proved in the debates and in the past month of campaigning that he is not evil. If anything, he may be the nicest guy to ever run for President. But the specter of George Bush hung over his head. Obama made the successful argument that Republican policies had caused the devastation we now feel. So what if it’s not true? The economy did tank in the last year of Bush’s term, but the actual collapse was not due in any way to the dreaded “Bush tax cuts,” Iraq, or Afghanistan (the three big boogeymen of Bush’s tenure). It was due to the mortgage crisis that had been bubbling up since Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act.

In 1977.

Bill Clinton was the first President to push the notion that everybody should have a house in the suburbs and that banks should lend to people who may not have good credit. In the name of “compassionate conservatism” and in his naïve belief in an “ownership society” George Bush doubled down on that idiotic policy. Banks were pressured into giving mortgages to people with poor credit and no down payments, and the mortgage crisis followed. So yes, in a very real way, Bush’s policies regarding home ownership sped up the explosion of the housing bubble. But this is a policy that Obama rarely mentions, most likely because it has its roots in a Democratic Congress and President, and its initial flowering under another Democratic President. In his heart, my guess is that this is a policy with which Obama agrees.

George Bush, under the noxious banner of “compassionate conservatism” and aided by a Republican Congress that had become the incarnation of Animal Farm, pushed for a massive expansion of Medicare. He pushed for a massive increase in the Federal takeover of education with the No Child Left Behind Act. He initiated the auto bailouts that Obama ramped up. He signed TARP into law, giving the President the de facto power of the purse. He “traded in” his “free market principles” to save the economy, and ended up saving nothing. When the Democrats took over Congress in January of 2007, George Bush went along to get along. While he did many good things as President, at the end of the day he sold out conservatism and replaced it with more Big Government Republicanism, increasing the size and reach of the Feds. He spent trillions of dollars, driving up the deficit and debt while uttering such ridiculous bromides as “When someone is hurting, government has got to move.” It was the opposite of conservatism. The economy reacted as many of us knew it would. It crashed. The real irony here is that Barack Obama, the most liberal man ever to win the Presidency, won re-election based on the electorate’s fear of, and hesitation to return to, liberal policies that were enacted by his predecessor.

It is now done. In 2009 Barack Obama inherited a mess of a country and spent four years blaming George Bush. Now, in 2013, Barack Obama will inherit a mess of a country again. But he can no longer blame George Bush. His predecessor is now himself. He has met the enemy and he is him.

There is a great temptation now for Republicans and conservatives to retreat. I saw more than one “I give up” tweet last night, and have heard similar sentiments from my own family. Michelle Malkin offers these words:

Once again, we have our work cut out for us. We lost this election, but we still live in the greatest country on the planet and we still have many ways to fight for and defend it.

My counsel to you tonight: Please, do not be bitter. Do not fall prey to the Beltway blame game. Do not get mired in small things. Do not become vengeful creatures like our political opponents who voted out of spite instead of love of country.

We still have boundless blessings to count — and to secure.

I remain a proud, unrepentant believer in the American Dream. And I know you do, too. Freedom will endure because we will keep fighting for it. We can’t afford not to, friends.

It’s good advice. Today we take stock, and maybe lick our wounds. Tomorrow we begin the fight anew.

The Obama Campaign’s Loose Screws

October 27, 2012

So the Presidential race is now in its final weeks, the debates are history, early voting has started, and the Obama campaign is desperate to show just how unserious it is. There’s a new ad that’s been getting an enormous amount of play featuring actress/writer/director Lena Dunham, the creative force behind the HBO show Girls, a Sex And The City for twentysomethings. The ad features Dunham talking in the hyper-excited, slightly disjointed, way that ironic hipster doofuses confuse with wit as she draws a parallel between voting for Barack Obama and…losing your virginity? Yeah, that’s right.

The most amazing thing about this ad is that it’s official. This isn’t some ridiculous video put together without the campaign’s knowledge. This is put out by Obama For America, and was promoted on Twitter by Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. What on Earth were they thinking?

A favorite Democrat meme this campaign has been that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” But watch the ad above. Who is it portraying women as smitten schoolgirls willing to vote for a guy who promises them birth control? Who is it portraying women conflating voting for Barack Obama with the promise of great first-time sex? (Come to think of it, who is that thinks first-time sex is ever great?)

The obvious jokes have been made a million times already: voting for Barack Obama is a lot like getting screwed, etc. But there’s a serious question here. At a time when tens of millions of Americans are out of work or underemployed, when the economy is barely growing at all, when we are $16 trillion dollars in debt, when we have troops fighting and dying overseas, why is the Obama campaign even considering ads like this one? It’s not funny, cute, or charming. The casual misogyny of portraying women in this vapid and superficial way is disturbing. The unsubtle mockery of virginity (it’s apparently “super uncool” to be “like, oh I wasn’t ready”) is an insult to anyone who actually takes sex and sexuality seriously. Barack Obama is the father of two young girls. Would he be comfortable seeing the words in this ad coming from the mouths of his daughters?

At the end of the day, the ad is pathetic. Is this really what the Left thinks is hip and edgy…a plea for more free stuff in exchange for a vote/sex? Is the campaign (or, for that matter, Lena Dunham) even remotely aware of how unlikable this ad is? At a time when there are major issues confronting the United States, the Obama campaign starts their closing argument by insinuating that women should be so grateful for Obamacare they would be willing to sleep with the President. If this ad doesn’t convince you that we need a change in Washington, nothing will.

And for the record, my first time was with Ronald Reagan in 1984. Best vote I ever had.

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