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.

The Statesman Vs. The Schoolyard Bully

October 23, 2012

The verdicts are rolling in from across the blogosphere and media. Obama won last night’s debate, Romney didn’t do himself any harm, the President seemed snarky and condescending, Romney was flat-footed and milquetoast, Obama was aggressive, Romney was passive.

Some of these things are true, but I have to wonder whether those people who thought Obama won the debate were watching the same debate I was watching.

Romney brought style and substance to the debate. He proved that he knew the issues, was familiar with the players, buried forever the impression that he was a neo-con warmonger, presented a steady, statesman-like vision of what United States policy should be, reiterated how crucial it is that America remain the leading force in the world, and tied in the importance of the domestic economy to foreign policy. And he did it without raising his voice, and with a demeanor that can certainly be described as “Presidential”.

Obama retaliated with sarcasm, interruptions, rudeness, and condescension. I’m sure it seemed like a zinger when it was discussed in debate prep, but how does this response to Romney’s assertion that our Navy is too small read?

Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships.

It reads poorly, like the childish taunt it is. You half expect Obama to finish this statement by making a face and saying “Duh!” But as poorly as it reads, the tone of voice in which it was delivered was downright appalling.

This tone was Obama’s hallmark throughout the night. Every question was turned into an attack on Romney, whether it was warranted or not. Every Obama answer devolved into an accusation, whether true or not. Every Romney answer was rebutted with the mantra that it was “not true, not true”, though the truth is easy to check.

Watching the debate last night was like watching an argument between Mitt Romney and Holden Caulfield, a snotty, arrogant, teenager who is convinced that his opponent is a phony, a hypocrite, and a liar.

So why do so many people think Obama won?

Because in this era of 24-hour news cycles and reality TV we have become convinced that the winner of the argument is the person who shouts the loudest and who gets the last word. Last night, Mitt Romney participated in a debate. Barack Obama participated in what passes for debate on any number of news shows. You can see this on every news station, from MSNBC to Fox. It’s there on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” where the liberals shout down and browbeat the lone conservative. It’s there on Fox’s “The Five”, where the conservatives shout down and browbeat the lone liberal. It’s there on almost every news interview with two competing points of view. It’s there on talk radio (and I exempt Rush Limbaugh from this because he rarely has guests or does interviews). It’s the hallmark of “The O’Reilly Factor” where the host constantly interrupts his guests.

We’ve become far too enamored of the soundbite. I know this is an old criticism, but it’s still valid. But on top of that, television has coarsened us to believe that the verbal bullies are in the right. He who shouts loudest and most often is “the winner.”

Barack Obama is perceived by many to be the winner of last night’s debate precisely because he was bellicose and rude. Too many people have become conditioned to believe that strength and aggressiveness are the same thing.

There’s no question Obama was more aggressive last night. But who was stronger? The guy who remained calm and steadfast, or the guy who acted like a schoolyard bully trying to provoke a fight?

The Rumble At Hofstra

October 17, 2012

I think The Anchoress said it best in a tweet last night: “Seriously, I liked both of these men better before this debate.”

The second Presidential debate at Hofstra University in Long Island was in a town hall format, moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley, and populated by more plants than the New York Botanical Gardens. Barack Obama came out of the gate swinging. His last, somnolent, performance was just a memory. This was Obama in a fighting mood. Both candidates interrupted each other, both accused the other of being dishonest, and both avoided answering questions they’d rather not answer. In other words, it was pretty close to a tie. Obama likely came out on top in the foreign policy questions, and Romney came out on top when discussing the economy.

The single best and worst moments in the debate belonged to Romney. The best moment of the debate, in reply to a question asked of Obama about what he’s done to deserve reelection, was this crystalline gem from Romney that needs to be turned into a TV commercial:

I think you know that these last four years haven’t been so good as the president just described and that you don’t feel like your confident that the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.

He said that by now we’d have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work. I wasn’t the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president’s plan. Didn’t get there.

He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He’d get that done. He hasn’t even made a proposal on either one.

He said in his first year he’d put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges. Didn’t even file it.

This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he’d do. He said that he’d cut in half the deficit. He hasn’t done that either. In fact, he doubled it. He said that by now middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by $2,500 a year. And if Obamacare is passed, or implemented – it’s already been passed – if it’s implemented fully, it’ll be another $2,500 on top.

The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, “Look, I’ve created 5 million jobs.” That’s after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans.

There are more people in poverty, one out of six people in poverty.

How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It’s growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.

The president wants to do well. I understand. But the policies he’s put in place from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank to his tax policies to his regulatory policies, these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have.

You might say, “Well, you got an example of one that worked better?” Yeah, in the Reagan recession where unemployment hit 10.8 percent, between that period – the end of that recession and the equivalent of time to today, Ronald Reagan’s recovery created twice as many jobs as this president’s recovery. Five million jobs doesn’t even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.

The president has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a – as a – as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need. Median income is down $4,300 a family and 23 million Americans out of work. That’s what this election is about. It’s about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.

This answer simply crushed Obama. It was a perfect summation of the choice in this election when it comes to domestic policy.

The single worst moment also belonged to Romney. Obama had given a ludicrously bad answer to a question about his Administration’s response to the terrorist attack in Benghazi. When asked who was responsible, Obama instead offered puffery about what he would do in the future, and then criticized Romney for his statement about the attack. This was a hanging curveball. This was a slow, straight pitch right down the middle of the plate and Romney should have, and certainly could have, blown Obama’s foreign policy fantasies out of the water as clearly and strongly as he had done for the President’s economic policy. Alas, it didn’t happen. Romney struck out, getting caught up in whether the President had condemned the attacks as an “act of terror” the day after it happened. Obama insisted that he had done so. The fair and impartial Candy Crowley backed him up. They were wrong, and Romney was correct. But Romney seemed so taken aback by Crowley’s blatant assist that he fumbled the rest of the answer. Hey Mitt, here’s what you should have said and hopefully will say in next Monday’s foreign policy debate:

“President Obama says that he referred to the attacks on Benghazi as an “act of terror” the day after they happened. He did not. He made general reference to “acts of terror” but did not specifically tie this phrase to Benghazi. But the President can not have it both ways. If he knew that the attacks were terrorism, why did he send UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Press Secretary Jay Carney out to claim that it was a spontaneous uprising turned violent? Why did the President himself refuse to answer the direct question when posed on hard-hitting news shows like The View and Late Night with David Letterman? Why did the President refer to the internet video six times in a speech before the United Nations? Is it the same reason that the White House still classifies the Fort Hood terrorist shootings as ‘work place violence’? Either the President knew, as he claims, and then attempted to cover it up to protect his reputation, or the President was too busy skipping intelligence briefings and attending fundraisers to pay much attention. There’s a short menu here: coverup, or incompetence.”

At the end of the day, it’s doubtful this debate will move the needle. If it does, it may do so in a surprising fashion. There was an awful lot of sturm und drang last night, but today nobody is talking about who won or lost: they’re talking about Benghazi, and whether or not Obama is covering up a terrorist attack and they’re talking about Obama’s blatant lies when it came to his statement on gas and oil production in America.

Win, lose, or draw the topic of conversation today is not one of Obama’s liking.

Boorish Biden

October 12, 2012

When the dust fully settles, very few people will remember anything about last night’s Vice Presidential debate except for the endless mugging and wildly rude behavior of the sitting veep. In that way it will be recalled similarly to the first Bush/Gore debate: no one remembers what was said that night, or even who “won”, but they remember that Gore spent the time sighing and rolling his eyes. Forget the substance of whatever was said that night, the impression was that Gore lost because he acted like an ass.

Biden has his fans, even on the Right. They may not like the policies he espouses, but Biden is by all accounts a good and decent man. Maybe so, but goodness and decency were not on display last night. What Biden demonstrated last night was complete and utter contempt for the young Congressman he routinely and, one would assume, sarcastically referred to as “my friend.” Well, with friends like that…

There were plenty of missed opportunities for Paul Ryan last night. He seemed nervous for the first half of the debate, repeated himself several times, got a little lost in the numbers, and failed to knock Biden off his heels. This could be because Ryan is new to a stage this large, but it is more likely due to the fact that nobody was expecting Biden to sit there raving like a drunk in the corner of the bar at three in the morning. My guess is that Ryan’s muted and tepid response to Biden was shock. Biden always seems affable, but last night he was giggling and snorting like Beavis and Butthead in Sex Ed class. Then, when challenged, he responded with something very close to rage. Ryan’s good at math, and he probably did some here: Rage + Huge Smile = Psychopath.

Many of Ryan’s responses were lukewarm, especially on foreign policy. But Biden’s responses were downright baffling. Sure he scored a few points here and there, but what conclusion can anybody draw when one candidate is discussing the very real possibility that a major terrorist force in the world is close to getting nuclear weapons and has stated the desire to destroy Israel and the other candidate is…giggling and laughing? If you’ve ever wanted to know what the Lloyd Bentsen/Dan Quayle debate would have sounded like if Bentsen had spent the afternoon drinking Kentucky mash liquor, you only need to see the clip of Biden barking, “Oh, so now you’re Jack Kennedy?!” Biden even snorted when Ryan was seriously, and touchingly, describing the ultrasound of his first child. Watching Biden was like watching the homeless man on Seinfeld who responded to every statement with a snappy salute and a non sequitur (“Potato salad!” “The government!”)

On substance, the debate was pretty much a draw. Biden held the edge in foreign policy, though some of his statements were, um, disingenuous. Ryan easily bested Biden on economic policies. But this is television and appearances matter so make no mistake: Despite the glee of the MSNBC crowd, Biden lost this debate. From the first minute to the last, it was clear that there was only one mature adult on that stage. His name was Paul Ryan.

A week from now all anybody will remember about this debate is the perception that the man currently a heartbeat away from the Presidency was loud, angry, rude, and contemptuous of his opponent who remained calm, unruffled, and serious. I doubt this will “move the needle” as the pundits say, but last night’s debate was like a slow release poison for Obama. They may not feel any effects now, but as time goes on Biden’s behavior will be looked at as unprofessional and childish, and that will not help Obama once people step into the voting booth and pull the curtain closed behind them.

UPDATE 10/13: The Magnificent Mark Steyn reminds us of what Clint Eastwood had to say about Joe Biden during the Republican convention: “Just a grin with a body behind it.”

I repeat: Who knew that Clint Eastwood was so prescient?

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