Welcome the new aesthetic of Barack Obama, the left wing ideologue. The signs have long been there, for those with the eyes to see them.
Take a close look at the Obama campaign emblem placed on the "progress" poster. It is placed almost as if it were a medal worn on his lapel. And in place of the ordinary Obama campaign "O" seen on the "Change" poster, the "Progress" poster features a five pointed star in the middle. Look at it close up:
The symbol is almost reminiscent of the Soviet medal the Order of the Red Star [hat tip to reader Mark Roth]:
This is not to suggest that Obama is some Manchurian Candidate controlled by a conspiracy from the vanished USSR, but rather that his campaign is choosing to cultivate a hard left constituency via semiotic means. There is in America a substantial faction of the hard left which waxes nostalgic for the good old days of Soviet art and culture, and members of this group have been cultivated by the Obama campaign.
(source: Jay Nordlinger, National Review Online)
Of course, the smug in-group nostalgia for an evil and murderous ideology is not only repellant to most Americans, it is easily mocked.
Barack Obama has been able to preach racial harmony while attending and donating to Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for two decades. He has been able to masquerade as a centrist while hobnobbing with the radical chic activists and unrepentant terrorists of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He has been able to pose as a centrist while believing in the necessity of punsihing owners of capital. But with Hillary Clinton and her minions aggressively pursuing him, and an awakened press chagrined at giving him a pass for so long, those days may be numbered.
Obama's Tax Evasion
The empty vessel again
The parsons of the press corps are furious with Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, which means the pair must have done a pretty good job moderating Wednesday's Democratic debate in Philadelphia. Barack Obama had an off-night, so his media choir wants to shoot the questioners.
We thought the debate was one of the best yet, precisely because it probed the evasive rhetoric we've heard from both Democratic candidates throughout the campaign. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the exchanges between Mr. Gibson and Mr. Obama over taxes.
Time and again, the rookie Senator has said he would not raise taxes on middle-class earners, whom he describes as people with annual income lower than between $200,000 and $250,000. On Wednesday night, he repeated the vow. "I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes," said the Senator, "I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes."
[Graphic via Doug Ross]
But Mr. Obama has also said he's open to raising - indeed, nearly doubling to 28% - the current top capital gains tax rate of 15%, which would in fact be a tax hike on some 100 million Americans who own stock, including millions of people who fit Mr. Obama's definition of middle class.
Mr. Gibson dared to point out this inconsistency, which regularly goes unmentioned in Mr. Obama's fawning press coverage. But Mr. Gibson also probed a little deeper, asking the candidate why he wants to increase the capital gains tax when history shows that a higher rate brings in less revenue.
"Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20%," said Mr. Gibson. "And George Bush has taken it down to 15%. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28%, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?"
Mr. Obama answered by citing rich hedge fund managers. Raising the capital gains tax is necessary, he said, "to make sure . . . that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools. And you can't do that for free."
But Mr. Gibson had noted that higher rates yield less revenue. So the news anchor tried again: "But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up?" Mr. Obama responded that this "might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going." And then he went on a riff about John McCain and the housing market.
This is instructive. The facts about capital gains rates and revenues are well known to our readers, but we'll repeat them as a public service to the Obama campaign. As the nearby chart shows, when the tax rate has risen over the past half century, capital gains realizations have fallen and along with them tax revenue. The most recent such episode was in the early 1990s, when Mr. Obama was old enough to be paying attention. That's one reason Jack Kennedy proposed cutting the capital gains rate. And it's one reason Bill Clinton went along with a rate cut to 20% from 28% in 1997.
Either the young Illinois Senator is ignorant of this revenue data, or he doesn't really care because he's a true income redistributionist who prefers high tax rates as a matter of ideological dogma regardless of the revenue consequences. Neither one is a recommendation for President.
For her part, Hillary Clinton said that she, too, was open to hiking the capital gains tax rate, just not by as much as her rival. "I wouldn't raise it above the 20% if I raised it at all," she said. Of course, she too promised during Wednesday's debate not to raise "a single tax on middle-class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year."
Both candidates would have voters believe that taxes on investment income only affect the rich. But that's not what Internal Revenue Service returns show. The reality is that the Clinton and Obama rate increases would hit millions of Americans who make well under $200,000. In 2005, 47% of all tax returns reporting capital gains were from households with incomes below $50,000, and 79% came from households with incomes below $100,000.
By the way, a higher capital gains tax rate isn't the only middle-class tax increase that Mr. Obama is proposing. He also wants to lift the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax. That cap was $97,500 in 2007 and is $102,000 this year. "Those are a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200[,000] and $250,000," said Mr. Gibson. "If you raise the payroll taxes, that's going to raise taxes on them." Ignoring the no-tax pledge he had made five minutes earlier, Mr. Obama explained that such a tax increase was nevertheless necessary.
In other words he dodged the question, as he so often does with impunity. But thanks to Mr. Gibson's persistence, for 90 minutes Wednesday night Mr. Obama didn't get away with it. The voters learned a lot about Mr. Obama, who needs to learn a lot more about taxes and revenue.
Hillary and Obama in Small Town America
Hillary Clinton knows exactly what Barack Obama is feeling as he struggles to contain his San Francisco faux pas. Her moment came during the 1992 campaign in an appearance on "60 Minutes" when she suddenly said: "I'm not sitting here as some little woman, 'standing by my man' like Tammy Wynette." Why she said that doesn't matter now. What matters is that every Tammy Wynette cooking dinner in a mortgaged house for three kids and a working man in some small town rose up to say, "You're not me, Hillary."
So it came to pass last Saturday night, in what is surely the most preposterous photo-op in campaign history, Hillary Rodham Clinton of Wellesley and Yale was pounding down Crown Royal whisky from a shot glass at Bronko's bar in Indiana. A friend emailed that if she really wanted to win Pennsylvania, she would have drunk some of the draft beer in her left hand, dropped the shot glass into the mug and slammed that back. But hey, her heart was in the right place.
For those of us who monitor the political currents to discern direction in the nation's life, this was one of the biggest weeks in the campaign. Remember the culture wars? This week the Democrats sued for peace.
On Friday evening, email queues lit up everywhere with people reacting to Barack Obama's thoughts on life being nasty, bitter and short in small-town America. Time was not long ago that a Democratic candidate could have said such folk cling to guns and religion and are hostile to "diversity" with nary a peep from his party. Not now. Obama was repudiated. Crushed. Media analysis suggested the damage could last til November.
Before midnight, Hillary was paddling down Whiskey River with the boys at Bronko's. Then on Sunday evening, the white flag really went up over the culture war's battlefield. Hillary and Obama were both at an event in Grantham, Pa., in Cumberland County. That's south of Mechanicsburg and east of Boiling Springs. John Kerry took Pennsylvania by 2.5% in 2004, but Cumberland gave George Bush 64% of its vote. Hillary and Obama were appearing on a CNN event called the "Compassion Forum." They were at a place called Messiah College. Connect the dots.
Campbell Brown to Sen. Clinton: "And you have actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions. Share some of those occasions." Hillary Clinton: "I have had the experiences on many, many occasions where I felt like the Holy Spirit was there with me as I made a journey . . . You know, it could be walking in the woods. It could be watching a sunset."
Hit rewind on the tape of history. It is 1992, the Republican Convention in Houston, at the Astrodome. This was the moment of arrival for the "Christian right." Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush's VP nominee, spoke to a huge throng of evangelicals about "family values." Pat Buchanan delivered his "culture wars" speech. The press corps, for whom all this was alien ground, was openly hostile to the GOP.
Shelves bend beneath the weight of books analyzing the "war" between religiously oriented cultural conservatives and secular libs. "Piss Christ" and all that. Abortion. Robert Mapplethorpe's erotic photographs banned in Cincinnati. Abortion. Gun control. Michael Moore mocking Charlton Heston. Hollywood's endless Babylon. Home schoolers. Abortion. Though vilified, these people wouldn't go away. The exit polls for George W. Bush's victory in 2004 revealed that the No. 1 issue for most voters was "moral values." Liberal analysts furiously attacked Karl Rove for "exploiting" these sentiments. But even Karl Rove couldn't invent God, and God and faith were everywhere in Grantham Sunday evening.
Sen. Clinton: Faith "is everything that makes life and its purpose meaningful as a human being . . . We want religion to be in the public square. If you are a person of faith, you have a right and even an obligation to speak from that wellspring of your faith . . . Our obligation as leaders in America is to make sure that any conversation about religion is inclusive and respectful. And that has not always happened, as we know."
Sen. Obama: "Religion is a bulwark . . . Somebody like myself whose entire trajectory, not just during this campaign, but long before, has been to talk about how Democrats need to get in church, reach out to evangelicals, link faith with the work that we do . . . There is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake . . . A comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence, where we are teaching the sacredness of sexuality to our children."
Some bloodless analysts have said for several years that Democrats had to say this to win because, you know, a lot of people "go to church." And yes, what candidates seeking votes say may be false, faked or fantastic. What remains is the fact that these two, in competition for votes, have conferred political legitimacy and respect on this swathe of America.
Set aside the controversies over the name-brand religious-right leaders. Whatever one calls these people - Reagan Democrats, the religious right, values voters - their main beef was not with the election returns but with the manifest evidence that the big-city elites thought their beliefs and their lives were stupid. That is what died this week. Whatever he meant to say, Barack Obama's small-town "cling to" statement was the Final Condescension. Hillary's trip from Bronko's bar to Messiah College ratified drinkin' on Saturday night and prayin' on Sunday morning.
Certainly, both as president would stock the judiciary from the liberal flock. Conservatives should still pocket the fact that the awful culture war has been replaced by a legitimate political competition whose locus has moved rightward. What's left of the rancid war are guerrillas in the Hollywood foothills, pot-shotting at Pat Robertson and other bogeymen. But at the big-league level of presidential politics, it's over. Say good-bye to the Michael Moore Mockathon. Say hello to the spirit in the sky.
Obama obfuscates his stance on Race Preferences
Post below excerpted from Discriminations. See the original for links
Regular readers will know that I have criticized Obama's various pronouncements on affirmative action as waffling obfuscation, muddled, lacking any commitment to his own announced vision, to name a few of my reservations. Thus I was quite interested in his attempt at "clarifying his views" last night in the Philadelphia debate with Sen. Clinton.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, last May we talked about affirmative action, ad you said at the time that affluent African Americans like your daughters should probably be treated as pretty advantaged when they apply to college, and that poor white children -- kids -- should get special consideration, affirmative action. So, as president, how specifically would you recommend changing affirmative action policies so that affluent African Americans are not given advantages, and poor, less affluent whites are?
SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I think that the basic principle that should guide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we are admitting young people to college generally is, how do we make sure that we're providing ladders of opportunity for people? How do we make sure that every child in America has a decent shot in pursuing their dreams? And race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities and other institutions to say, you know, we're going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they're black or Latino or because they're women --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if they're wealthy?
SENATOR OBAMA: I think that's something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So if they look at my child and they say, you know, Malia and Sasha, they've had a pretty good deal, then that shouldn't be factored in. On the other hand, if there's a young white person who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcome great odds, that's something that should be taken into account.
So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black or white or Hispanic, male or female.
What we want to do is make sure that people who have been locked out of opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors of opportunity in the future.
Well, I'm glad we finally got that cleared up. For those of you who are still not sure you've got a firm grip on Obama's opposition to/support for racial preferences, you might re-take the quiz I suggested you take after reading his equally clarifying interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here's the quiz, as relevant now as then:
Does Obama believe it is wrong to burden some and benefit others because of their race? Always? Usually? Sometimes? Never?
Are "qualities such as leadership, motivation, teamwork, and ability to effectively communicate" found primarily among disadvantaged blacks? If race were not a factor, would placing more weight on those qualities increase the proportion of blacks who are admitted to selective colleges?
How can affirmative action programs that treat race in a preferential manner be "properly structured" so that they give additional opportunities to blacks without "without diminishing opportunities for white [or Asian] students"?
What is the nature of the "diversity" provided by blacks and Latinos in math and science, and why is it important?
How would "a scholarship program for minorities interested in getting advanced degrees in these fields ... broaden the pool of talent that we need to prosper in the new economy" more than a scholarship program that was not racially restrictive? If such a program were racially restrictive, why would it not "keep white [and Asian] students out of such programs" who could not attend without a scholarship?
Does Obama believe [as I've already asked, here and here] that all minority applicants who, like his daughters, "are pretty advantaged" should receive no preferential treatment?
Would Obama award preferences to those "who are still struggling, ... who are in the middle class [but] may be first-generation as opposed to fifth- or sixth-generation college attendees" only if they are "African-American kids," or would he "take into account" those facts equally for all applicants, regardless of their race?
In short, does Obama support or oppose preferences based on race? If he opposes them, why did he make ads opposing their abolition in Michigan?
I'm afraid that what I said then is also still relevant: Done? Good. Now you'll have to grade your own quizzes, since I don't know the correct answers.....
It seems to me that what Obama is doing is expanding affirmative action, not restricting it in a meaningful way. He acknowledges that taking race into account continues to be useful as a way to combat "potentially current discrimination." Moreover, as long as race is considered a proxy for hardship, as it would be in practice by the current generation of admissions officers, the best that could be squeezed out of the emanations and penumbra of Obama's tentative suggestion is something like the new "holistic" admissions program at UCLA, which appears to be little if anything more than racial preferences with a pretty new name. (On UCLA's "holistic" review, see here, here, here, here, and here.)
Thus the position that Obama seemed to announce (can you tell for sure what he meant?), it seems to me, is no different from what he's said before, including having the same ambiguity. Kaus also, I believe, misreads Hillary's comments, writing that "If Hillary said [what Obama said], there would be a firestorm from the civil rights lobby, I think." She didn't say what Obama said, but what she did say was much more at variance with her earlier statements than his statements were. As Peter Schmidt notes on a Chronicle of Higher Education blog:
Asked by Mr. Stephanopolous whether she supported the sort of approach advocated by Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton said, "Here's the way I'd prefer to think about it," and then gave an answer that did not touch on the issue of race-conscious admissions policies. "We've got to have affirmative action generally to try to give more opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds - whoever they are," she said. She then described such affirmative action as support for early childhood education and universal pre-kindergarten, scrapping the No Child Left Behind law as it is currently operating in favor of other approaches to improving elementary and secondary education, and various steps to make college more affordable, including the expansion of aid programs.
Ms. Clinton has not been as reticent to take up the issue in the past. In a question and answer session with The Chronicle last fall, she said she "will support strong and sensible affirmative action" - but not quotas - and said she was "distressed" by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions striking down the race-conscious student-assignment policies many public school systems use to promote integration.
No doubt with an eye to those important white voters in Pennsylvania, Hillary kept her previous unqualified endorsement of racial preference policies carefully under wraps.
Inside the Obama Campaign
I've received plenty of email from both supporters and critics of rookie United States Senator and presidential hopeful Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Obama supporters who email me usually are as crude and crazed as Obama's spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah A. "God damn America" Wright, Jr.," as shown on those "controversial" excerpts from his sermons proudly put on a DVD and offered for sale at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. Susan O'Donnel is an exception. Referring to Obama, Ms. O'Donnel emailed me as follows:
"I feel like the media just takes his press releases or statements at face value, who does that? I say that because I have worked on presidential campaigns as an advance person. This week I read that he only hires great people and refuses to have any drama. I don't know where that information came from or why it wasn't questioned because I did one trip for his campaign, and there are few ways to get to see how a campaign works better than doing advance for one.
"It was the worst week of my life (professionally). Averyl Bailey was the lead and made everyone cry -- every day. There was a person who was at least as experienced as her and I talked to her most days because this woman made me so unsure of myself and the job I was doing. If you look into who did advance for the campaign last spring, you will see that she had 80% of the teams she led fired from the campaign. When they do that they don't tell you. they just never call you again. That's what happened to me and seven other people on the team. She left hundreds of people in her wake and created nothing but drama. My family loves Senator Obama but won't vote for him because of the way they treat people -- and I know people who work on the campaign and Ms. Bailey is still there and not liked by anyone. Being unpopular is not a big deal if you do a good job or are effective but she is neither.
"I just don't understand why the press takes his word for everything. You shouldn't take mine, you should research this the same way you should research things he says. Feel free to email me any questions you have."
I emailed Ms. O'Donnel an invitation to write more for me to share with readers. The result is "The politics of personal destruction and Barack Obama," which is much more illuminating and insightful than the promotional material passed on as news in the pro-Obama press.
"In 2007 I went to the DNC winter/spring meetings in Washington, DC to see all the presidential candidates speak. I didn't know who to support. All looked good and bad at the same time. Then I saw Senator Barack Obama. His speech was everything his 2004 convention speech was and more. More importantly, I got to meet him after. If someone tells you they can meet him and not like him, they are lying. He was down to earth and nice and everything people had said. When I talked to him I felt like I was talking to the next president of the US.
"I spent the next few months trying to get on the road for him. I called every person I have ever met in politics and told them what I was trying to do. It took some work but they finally sent me out, and I agreed to go out for a small fee for my first few trips. They have to test out new people and I was virtually unknown to most of their staff. My first few trips went well, or at least well enough to be asked to do more. I thought I would be on the road through November 2008 and was looking forward to a longer campaign experience.
"Then I met Averyl Bailey. Every advance team has a 'lead' who is really your boss for that trip. She was harsh when I first met her but advance leads come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. I heard she was tough but that if you did a good job it would be fine. I did and it wasn't.
"You can learn a lot about a campaign doing advance. You get a window into how they view the world and treat people or events. The lead's job is to make sure everyone else does theirs and that nothing is overlooked. It's a stressful gig for sure. Averyl's approach was to be as mean as possible. In any campaign people will be mean, arrogant, abusive, disrespectful and unprofessional. None of that bothers me because it's kind of a "been there, got the t-shirt" kind of thing. She was all those and more. We have daily meetings in advance and hers started with a 20 minute speech about how many ways we could mess up, all of which would lead to our dismissal, and all the ways she had seen people screw up, who were now gone. We were berated nightly for sins other advance people had committed on other trips.
And she was paranoid. We were told if the Senator needed food and we used his name in ordering it, we'd have to eat a bite to make sure it wasn't poisoned. As part of the RONs on my last campaign, I got food for the Kerrys all the time and never tasted it. I often had to say where I was from so I got it in time. I saw most people on that team cry "every day". Nothing any of us did was right. It started to break my heart after the third day because our meetings were like watching someone beat puppies. We all left them dejected and defeated.
"Every campaign is different. Every lead is different. Every trip is different. I wanted Averyl to like me, because she was my boss, to be asked by her for feedback. She hated "dumb questions" and all of mine were. I apologized and said I just wanted to do the best job I could but nothing anyone did seemed right. I had worked with one other person and we talked about it and she thought if we just made sure there were no mistakes on "game day" (the day of all your events) there should not be a problem. To be sure I talked to people I knew on the campaign and they said that I should just do my best and wait it out; the next trip would be better. Well, our game day way flawless but it was my last trip. Advance can be like dating, the guy never calls to say what you did wrong, he just never calls again.
"It would nice to say she had a bad week. We all have them. I called around and out of the ten people on my trip, eight were never called again. Before I left I had been told to "pack for a long time" because they wanted to keep me on the road and I got my check and not the occasional fundraising letter but no calls. I have since learned that many teams Averyl headed up went the same way and she is still out there; loved by the candidate and hated by everyone else. This week I read that Senator Obama has a "zero tolerance policy for drama" and I don't get it. Averyl is brilliant at showing him a different side of her than what the world sees. Don't take my word for it, look into it.
"Words matter. One person can make a difference. Every vote should be counted. I was raised to, and do, believe these things are more than sayings. I have never missed voting since I turned 18 but I am going to sit this one out. I just can't vote for another Clinton, though I loved voting for Bill Clinton (1996 was my first presidential election that I could vote in). I don't like the idea of dynasties. I'd vote for Mr. Obama but you only get to break my heart once."
It took more than a year for the media to note what Obama must have had in mind for "disinviting" Rev. Wright after inviting him to speak at the announcement of his presidential campaign, on account of "rough" sermons. Will the media investigate and expose what happens behind the surface of the Obama campaign or merely show the public what the Obama campaign wants them to see?
In that fairy tale about the Emperor, the truth was that the Emperor was not wearing any clothes, but, like the Emperior, his foolish subjects had been successfully made to think otherwise. The truth about Obama and his campaign is not nearly as attractive as the fairy tale of a young man, half-black and half-white, becoming the President of the United States, transcending race and ushering in an era of world peace, prosperity and only wonderful weather. The idealistic Ms. O'Donnel wants every vote to count, but the wily Obama makes exceptions (currently voters in Florida and Michigan--he blocked revotes).
Whether we deserve it or not, we need much better than a hypocrite being hyped by the biased media who thinks that babies born as a result of botched abortions should be denied the same Fourteenth Amendment protections afforded to people in America without permission (aka "illegal immigrants"), to whom Obama wants to give driver's licenses.
(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)