Thursday, May 22, 2008

The farm bill disgrace

Excerpt from DAVID BROOKS at the NYT, pointing out that it wasn't Obama who defied the old corrupt Washington system; It was McCain. Once again we see the paradox that McCain actually is what Obama falsely claims to be

Farm net income is up 56 percent over the past two years, yet the farm bill plows subsidies into agribusinesses, thoroughbred breeders and the rest. The growers of nearly every crop will get more money. Farmers in the top 1 percent of earners qualify for federal payments. Under the legislation, the government will buy sugar for roughly twice the world price and then resell it at an 80 percent loss. Parts of the bill that would have protected wetlands and wildlife habitat were deleted or shrunk.

My colleagues on The Times's editorial page called the bill "disgraceful." My former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal's editorial page ripped it as a "scam." Yet such is the logic of collective action; the bill is certain to become law. It passed with 81 votes in the Senate and 318 in the House - enough to override President Bush's coming veto. Nearly everyone in Congress got something. The question amid this supposed change election is: Who is going to end this sort of thing?

Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries. Obama's support may help him win Iowa, but it will lead to higher global food prices and more hunger in Africa. Moreover, it raises questions about how exactly he expects to bring about the change that he promises.

If elected, Obama's main opposition will not come from Republicans. It will come from Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. Already, the Democratic machine is reborn. Lobbyists are now giving 60 percent of their dollars to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The pharmaceutical industry, the defense industry and the financial sector all give more money to Democrats than Republicans. If Obama is actually going to bring about change, he's going to have to ruffle these sorts of alliances. If he can't do it in an easy case like the farm bill, will he ever?

John McCain opposed the farm bill. In an impassioned speech on Monday, he declared: "It would be hard to find any single bill that better sums up why so many Americans in both parties are so disappointed in the conduct of their government, and at times so disgusted by it." McCain has been in Congress for decades, but he has remained a national rather than a parochial politician. The main axis in his mind is not between Republican and Democrat. It's between narrow interest and patriotic service. And so it is characteristic that he would oppose a bill that benefits the particular at the expense of the general.

In fact, in this issue, McCain may have found a theme to unify his so far scattershot campaign. He has always been an awkward ideological warrior. In any case, this year may not be the best year for Republicans to launch a right versus left crusade. But McCain has infinitely better grounds than Obama to run as a do-what-it-takes reformer. He has a long record of taking on not only the other party, but his own. In the current Weekly Standard, the brilliant young writer Yuval Levin suggests that McCain put reforming America's decrepit governing institutions at the center of his presidential race. Levin points out that the health care system, the immigration system, the regulatory system and the entitlement system all need reforms. Instead of talking about personal honor or perpetual tax cuts, McCain should focus relentlessly on modernization. In fact, Monday in Chicago, McCain declared: "In all my reforms, the goal is not to denigrate government but to make it better, not to deride government but to restore its good name."

Obama, sad to say, failed the farm bill test. McCain may have found a theme for a nation that has lost faith in its own institutions.


52 Seconds of Obama Unilaterally Disarming America

In 52 seconds, he rattles off what an Obama presidency would mean for our national defense; slowing down of existing programs to build new weapons, cutting "tens of billions" of dollars in "wasteful" spending, scrapping missile defense completely, and setting up an "independent defense priority review board" (you can imagine the anti-defense liberals sitting on that board) to make sure we don't waste any money building "unnecessary" weapons.

That's not all. Obama wishes upon a star for a "nuclear free world" and to that end, he will not allow any new designs for nukes nor will be build any new ones. He wants to talk to the Russians about re-targeting our missiles and "deep cuts" in our nuclear arsenal.

This is dangerous and stupid. Slowing down current weapons projects only makes them more expensive over the long term (but it looks good politically because of the money saved up front). He calls the anti-missile system "unproven" - and thank God for that because the only way to "prove" that it works is to shoot down an incoming missile. Recent successes have been incredible - shooting down a target traveling at Mach 7 is no simple matter. And almost every test shows improvement. Why scrap the system now after spending tens of billions of dollars and when we are close to success? Lunacy!

I shudder when I think his 1960's style liberal friends have a go at the defense budget. Considering the fact they don't think we face any threats, we'll be lucky to keep the Army band.

Then there's his pie in the sky notion of a nuclear free world. Everyone wishes for that. Heck, I wish that the moon was made of Velveeta cheese but wishing will never make it so. And somehow, I just can't picture him and Putin on the same page about much of anything. Obama, the charmer, the ideologue and Putin, the aggressive, canny, ruthless autocrat. Maybe we can convince a grown up to hold his hand during those negotiations.

In effect, Obama wants to gut the military to make sure we never go to war again. He has said as much on the campaign trail. And if a time ever comes, God forbid, where we would find it necessary to project our power to the far flung corners of the earth in order to protect Americans or American interests under an Obama presidency, I fear the military would be forced to tell him that it wouldn't be possible.

Obama is McGovern, Carter, and John Kerry all rolled into one when it comes to maintaining and improving our defenses. He would be a disaster as president and this video shows very clearly why


The uncool Obama

Based on Barack Obama's hysterical, paranoid reaction to President Bush's remarks to the Israeli Knesset condemning the practice of appeasing terrorists, one might infer Obama was lying in wait for just such an opportunity to capture some national security street cred. After all, Democrats begin any presidential race with a national security credibility deficit, and this one should be no different, notwithstanding the unpopularity of the Iraq war. Democrats like to think they gained congressional seats in 2006 because of the war, but a better read is that Republicans did themselves in through reckless spending, scandals and other abandonment of conservative principles.

Despite his puffed-up posturing, Obama probably recognizes this, as well. Otherwise, why would he have lashed out so nastily at both Mr. Bush (and Sen. McCain) for assuring our closest Middle Eastern ally that we would stand by it? Obama was so sure Bush's remarks were aimed at him that he shed his nice-guy facade and gave the nation a little glimpse of his inner anger. For those who insist Obama is all sweet and light, I challenge you to listen to his tantrums in response to the president's non-attack. Obama shouted: "I'm a strong believer in bipartisan foreign policy, but that cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks of the sort that we've seen out of George Bush and John McCain over the last couple days. They aren't telling you the truth."

Let me ask you: Where does Barack Obama get off proclaiming himself the high arbiter of civility and bipartisanship while he is engaged in a sputtering tirade of abject incivility and partisanship? Obama apparently expects us to assess his civility not on the basis of his conduct, but solely on the strength of his distorted self-description.

Like so many other liberals, Obama exempts himself from behavioral accountability through identification with liberal policies, which confer upon him the irrebuttable presumption that he is kind and compassionate. But those not subject to the self-deluding spell of liberalism or Obamaphilia will not be fooled by such hypocrisy. They will judge Obama's claim to civility not on his self-elevating but empty words, but on his self-damning, nasty ones.

Obama's joining with other Democrats to bear false witness against President Bush is a perfect example of the type of incivility for which he disingenuously excoriates President. Obama also decried the president's remarks as "exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided our country and alienated us from the rest of the world." No, Sen. Obama, what have divided this country and alienated us from the rest of the world are the nonstop Democratic assaults against President Bush -- assaults that you not only did not condemn as uncivil, dishonest and divisive but also have embraced and echoed.

What has placed America in a falsely negative light to the world is the Democratic chorus of lies that President Bush misled us into war in Iraq; that he is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians; that the United States is torturing and otherwise violating the "rights" of our enemy prisoners at Guantanamo Bay; that this very detention center is comparable to a Soviet Gulag or Nazi prison camp; that the Bush government is spying on its own citizens; that America, because of its corporate greed, refuses to lead the world against apocalyptic global warming; and that the heartland of America is inhabited by jingoistic, imperialistic, intolerant, homophobic, xenophobic, racist and reality-challenged Bible-thumpers.

President Bush is not guilty of leveling a partisan attack against Barack Obama in Israel. But if he were to change course after seven long years on the receiving end and start returning cheap shots at Democrats, say, at the rate of 10 per day for the remainder of his term, he still would be behind Democrats in this department by a sizeable multiple. Truly, it amazes me how civil, composed and un-reciprocal President Bush has been in the face of this incessant barrage of partisan vitriol.

Shame on Barack Obama for falsely accusing the president of behavior he and his party have perfected through meticulous practice. Shame on him for pretending that he offers bipartisanship when his actual record is one of extreme liberalism and is strikingly bereft of aisle crossing or compromise. Shame on him for defining bipartisanship and civility, in effect, as acquiescing to his dictates.

Obama likens his own foreign policy approach to that of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, but reality places him closer to George McGovern or Michael Dukakis. But there is a method to his madness. He has assumed the offense against his Republican rivals to divert our attention from his demonstrable lack of toughness in the war on terror.


Obama To Meet With A Leader To Be Named Later

Oh, for heaven's sake - now the Obama people want to pretend that Obama's pledge to meet, without preconditions, with the leader of Iran didn't actually represent a pledge to meet with its current President. Joe Klein of TIME wants to ride this pony right into the barn - go, Joe! Their gist - Ayatollah Khamenei, not President Ahmadinejad, is the "Supreme Leader" of Iran.... Well, if Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei is the go-to guy, I suppose it is fair to ask whether he is also noxious. Let's ponder this quote reported in Dec 2000:
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Friday for the destruction of Israel, describing it as a "cancerous tumor" in the Middle East. "Iran's stance has always been clear on this ugly phenomenon (Israel). We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region," Khamenei told thousands of Muslim worshippers in Tehran. "The Palestinian issue is not an internal Israeli matter. It involves the interests of the whole Islamic world, including Iran. All should strive to return that piece of land to Islamic hands."

Khamenei offered an alternative solution which he said might be more "internationally acceptable": "Palestinian refugees should return and Muslims, Christians and Jews could choose a government for themselves, excluding immigrant Jews. "No one will allow a bunch of thugs, lechers and outcasts from London, America and Moscow to rule over the Palestinians," the ayatollah said in remarks broadcast on state radio.

And can we find a bit of Zionist conspiracy-mongering from Iran's latest leader? Yes We Can!
"Today, I can clearly see that there are certain hands at work to create rifts and schisms between the Shia and the Sunni. The Zionists and arrogant powers are definitely involved in the bloody incidents and explosions taking place during congregational prayers at the mosques and Friday prayer grounds. Muslims have nothing to do with the incidents taking place in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries."

I should add that the footnote claims that is from a June 2005 speech but the link now fails and Google is not delivering other references to the phrase. That said, here is a conciliatory bit from Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei that everyone attributes to Wikipedia; the source is this Guardian article, with no cite at all:
Finally, Ahmadinejad's own call for regime change in Israel - "the occupying Zionist regime of Jerusalem should cease to exist in the page of time" - has been mistranslated and distorted into the notorious phrase, "Israel should be wiped off the map" by the western media. What is never reported is that Ayatollah Khamenei stated unequivocally immediately afterwards that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country".

As to who's on first in Iran, President Ahmadinejad took the lead in 2007 when the British sailors were seized (Joe Klein's comical assertion that Ahmadinejad "has no power over Iranian foreign policy" notwithstanding), spoke at the UN, and came to Columbia, so he is the person one might reasonably expect to meet with an American President.

Regardless, it is absurd that Obama is making these bold promises with no apparent forethought; imagine if, as President, he had made a similar "no preconditions" pledge to meet with the leaders of Iran, Ahmadinejad tried to take him up on it, and Obama then explained that Ahmadinejad was not actuallly the leader he had in mind. Faux pas.


Obama's vulnerable on national security

Barack Obama says the United States should not negotiate with Hamas "unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence and are willing to abide by previous accords" that Israel reached with neighboring Arab states and the Palestinians. Which of those objections does not apply to Iran? The Democratic presidential candidate has said he's willing to meet, "without precondition," with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The difference between Iran and Hamas, Obama says, is that Iran is a country and Hamas is a terrorist organization. It's also true that the State Department describes Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism," a provider of "extensive funding, training and weapons" to Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups, and an opponent of the Middle East peace process with "a high profile role in encouraging anti-Israel terrorist activity -- rhetorically, operationally and financially."

Obama further muddied the waters last week when he told David Brooks of the New York Times that Hamas and Hezbollah need to understand "they're going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims." What would be the "legitimate claims" of Hamas, an organization founded for the purpose of the destruction of Israel? What are the "legitimate claims" of Hezbollah, also dedicated to the death of Israel, as well as serving as the agent of Iran and Syria in trying to kill democracy in Lebanon?

Obama has asserted unequivocal backing for Israel. But his "legitimate claims" remark gives you pause, making you wonder a bit about his worldview. Would the "legitimate claims" of Hamas be on the table in "no precondition" talks with Iran? National security has been a weakness for Democratic presidential candidates and doubly so for Obama because of his inexperience. Only four years ago he was an Illinois legislator.

That vulnerability explains the touchy reaction from Obama and his supporters to President Bush's speech in Israel likening negotiations with "terrorists and radicals" to the 1930s appeasement of the Nazis. Obama's defenders immediately jumped to argue that the problem with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wasn't that he talked with Hitler, but what he did in those meetings.

The problem is a little more complicated than that. Chamberlain entered those talks without the simple precondition that the integrity of Czechoslovakia was not negotiable. Besides leading to the sellout of Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain's flying to Munich to talk to Hitler undermined the fragile German opposition to Hitler. Military leaders, convinced his intention to go to war over the Sudeten issue would lead to defeat, plotted to overthrow Hitler.

William L. Shirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is scathing in condemning the generals for failing to depose Hitler, but he wrote, "If, as the conspirators claim, their plans were on the point of being carried out, the announcement of Chamberlain's trip to Munich certainly cut the ground from underneath their feet." He added "such a golden opportunity never again presented itself to the German opposition to dispose of Hitler."

Presidential meetings carry consequences, for good and ill. Leaders are subject to misjudgment and miscalculation. Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev saw John Kennedy as weak after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and left a 1961 summit over Berlin with his belief about the young president confirmed. According to the New York Times, "Kennedy naively thought he could make a breakthrough with face-to-face talks." Two months later, the Berlin Wall went up. The next year, Khrushchev moved to put missiles in Cuba. He was wrong about Kennedy, but it took the Cuban missile crisis to convince him. This is not an argument against summits, only a cautionary tale of how they can go wrong.

The issue here is not whether America should at some diplomatic level engage rogue nations like Iran. The issue is whether a president should hold talks without preconditions with the world's worst despots.


Barry honey, can we talk?

By Kyle-Anne Shiver

Senator Obama, I think it might be time for you to do a bit of adjustment on that attitude of yours. Time to ditch some of that peevish audacity and pick up an ounce of humility. For one thing, you might want to remember that when you're out on the campaign trail, the professional female reporters are not your little maidservants, nor your girlfriends, not even your adoring groupies. And they don't fetch your coffee or even want your autograph. Calling them, "sweetie," as you condescendingly brush off their legitimate questions is starting to cause voters concern that you are somewhat uncouth without your programmed teleprompter.

But since you adopted an informal tone when speaking to members of the fairer sex, I will return the favor here, and call you Barry honey, as if we were talking across the counter of a diner in my own South.

As a lawyer, you must know that if you had called this woman, "sweetie," in the workplace, you could have been on the receiving end of a sexual harassment charge, the kind of the thing you liberals seem to love in theory but can't seem to live up to in practice. Bill Clinton is the model for this unseemly Democrat trait, but he is probably not the kind of man that someone like you, trying to pass himself off as an unblemished new kind of candidate, would want to emulate.

And, Barry honey, these lordly asides of yours might work for the little tyrant calling himself the president of Iran, and other narcissistic dictators like Chavez and Castro, but it would seem wise for you to start remembering that you are attempting to get yourself democratically elected as the President of the United States of America. And we Americans prefer our Presidents to be quite a bit more egalitarian.

They did teach you that word, "egalitarian," at Columbia and Harvard, did they not? Our all-are-created-equal "thing" in the U.S. Constitution is something we bitter folks in mainstream America cling to -- like we do our religion and our guns. But you ought to know that. You are, after all, a constitutional lawyer, are you not?

And, Barry honey, you ought not to assume that just because you send tingles up the leg of Chris Matthews, you do the same to every female. A few of us are actually immune to what you apparently deem your universal sexual appeal. David Axelrod, confirmed this mysterious allure of yours, with numerous focus groups of white women before unleashing you upon the campaign trail. But it does come across as quite conceited, arrogant, narcissistic and impervious when you automatically assume that every woman in the entire world equally shares this mystical attraction.

Barry honey, take a word of caution from this wiser, older woman: Untamed conceit puts a gaping dent in the armor of any would-be Lancelot.

Thinking you are God's gift to women will get you nowhere fast with those of us smart enough to see through your perfectly polished, wearing-thinner-by-the-day veneer.

Which, Barry honey, brings us to the matter of your wife. It has come to my attention that you have taken grave umbrage at the words of your wife, Michelle, being used in political ads. I believe I read that you sent a message, via network television, that you expect Republicans to "lay off" your wife, and that you consider using her campaign speeches in ads reflecting badly on you to be "unacceptable" and downright "low class."

Barry honey, at the risk of seeming picayune here, I would like to remind you that your wife has, for months now, been speaking in public as your other half, your surrogate, your marriage partner, your equal in every single way. Much has even been made of her own professional cred. Michelle may dress and style her hair like Jackie, but she certainly has not been the quiet, unobtrusive helpmate staying in the shadows while you, her husband, take to campaigning. And she is a lawyer herself, is she not?

So, as a simple matter of common sense, we Americans would have expected you to ensconce your little woman safely on the home front, if she is too squeamish to handle the scrutiny we necessarily give to our candidates for the highest office in the Land.

Which brings us to the matter of the current ongoing job interview for the Presidency. You seem, Barry honey, to be of the opinion that you, the interviewee, set the guidelines and behavioral rules for the interview. We, the voters, should not need to remind you that we are the interviewers, and we, not you, make the rules. We are not your doting grandparents, willing to look the other way while you dabbled in drugs and who knows what else. You, Barry honey, are not the object of undying adoration of all of us. Probably not even of a majority, though you are able to draw quite a crowd in towns like Madison and Portland.

And we are not your mommy either. As you poignantly revealed in your memoir, you felt that you were one of your mother's "social experiments," a real personal encounter with a racially mixed, more perfect society. It must feel horrible to be used in such a callous fashion, and I feel great empathy for the boy forced to endure it. But, Barry honey, it's time to grow up now and fully understand that the Presidency is much too big, much too harrowing and far too dangerous to us all to be conducting social experiments. We, the guardians of this great Nation, are duly charged with taking responsibility for the person who largely guides our own fates and those in dependent countries around the world. This is not something to be taken lightly or even with too much audacity. Seeking the Presidency of the United States of America requires a great deal more humility than audacity.

So, Barry honey, if you think now that you and your wife, Michelle, are not up to withstanding the harsh glare and critical nature of this interview, we will certainly understand if you decide that it's in the best interests of America and the world for you to withdraw from our consideration. We will understand and we will not fault you for brashly jumping the gun a bit when you made the monumental decision to place your hat in this awesome ring. At the end of the day, Barry honey, we Americans tend to save electing geniality and social-experiment presidents for peacetime. In times of war, we generally go with the one who garners our respect.



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