Thursday, May 8, 2008

The unpredictable Obama

Andrew Sullivan writes that Ron Paul "seems a little more comfortable with a president Obama than a president McCain" based on, among other things, Obama's "integrity of the Constitution" (except on the Second Amendment - on the rest, we lack any evidence of reliability) and "walking back the doctrines of pre-emptive war." In reality, we never know what a president will do. That's why trust is such an important election issue. But Sullivan's hyper-fawning over Obama has never been about policy, it's about the power of personality and perception. And his take bears no resemblance to the political philosophy of skepticism he wrote about in his book.

"I don't think you have to agree with Obama on many things to want him to succeed," writes Sullivan, echoing his past writing on the topic. Well, why in hell not? In the end it should be about policy, shouldn't it? Obama, outside of foreign policy, believes in the expansion of government control: higher taxation, attack on profit, draconian controls on energy, socialized health care, etc . why would a conservative of any flavor want Obama to succeed? (The best a classic liberal or libertarian can hope for in this election, in my humble opinion, is gridlock government.)

In any event, I thought those thick-headed Americans who voted for candidates they could envision themselves having a beer with exposed a deeply unsophisticated electorate. That's how we got Bush. After 9/11, we listened to Dear Leader, because we trusted him, and found ourselves on our present disastrous course- or so the story goes. Supporting Obama based solely on his messianic allure is just as simplistic. Obama's (untapped and unproven) transformational power to bring folks together hasn't panned out, anyway. Fact is, as it stands now, Obama can't even bring his own party together. He doesn't deserve such adoration. No politician does.

On this topic, everyone would benefit from Gene Healy's superb "Cult of the Presidency." This kind of veneration for a candidate, Bush or Obama or anyone else, just doesn't strike me as something from the "conservative soul."
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a pointed warning yesterday to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying that as president he would be prepared to order U.S. troops into that country unilaterally if it failed to act on its own against Islamic extremists.

I realize this Obama quote is from last year, but a unilateral invasion of a sovereign nation which has fallen short of our expectations in the War on Terror seems as adventurous and irresponsible as anything in the Bush Doctrine. Surely Saddam's sins were as dreadful as Musharraf's? Is harboring terrorists enough of reason for an invasion? Or only certain terrorists? What about the unforeseen consequences of such an invasion? Imagine all the anger it will generate on the Muslim street? A new tool for terrorist recruitment and so on . Why don't these issues apply? We may believe bin Laden is holed up in Pakistan but, for all I know, he's in Somalia or Sudan or Sacramento.

Old news, I know. But, looking back at it now, I think it illustrates the problem with the perception of Obama vs. the reality of Obama - and the complexity of the world. He'd be just another president who would have to deal with the Middle East. It's going to be ugly. It always is.


Whites go for Hillary, blacks for Obama

Race again played a pivotal role in Tuesday's Democratic presidential clashes, as whites in Indiana and North Carolina leaned solidly toward Hillary Rodham Clinton and blacks voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, exit polls showed. Almost half said they were influenced by the focus on Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama, the Illinois senator battling to become the first black president, again failed to gain ground with a crucial voting bloc that has consistently eluded him - working-class whites. But he pieced together coalitions that besides blacks included the young, first-time primary voters, the very liberal and college graduates, plus sizable minorities of whites.

According to exit polls of voters, about two-thirds of whites in both states who have not completed college were supporting Clinton. The New York senator could use that to fortify her argument that she would be the stronger Democratic candidate in the November general election. Of 28 states that held primaries in which she and Obama competed before Tuesday, Clinton had prevailed with working-class white voters in 25.

Wright was a looming factor in the voting, with nearly half in each state saying he was important in choosing a candidate. Of that group, seven in 10 in Indiana and six in 10 in North Carolina backed Clinton. Those saying Wright did not influence them heavily favored Obama. In North Carolina, Obama got more votes from people saying they discounted the Wright episode than Clinton got from those affected by it, while in Indiana the two groups were about equal in size.

Among whites, eight in 10 in both states who said Wright affected their choice went with Clinton. That was well above the six in 10 whites overall who supported her. In both states, two-thirds of Clinton's white voters said Wright was important. That compared to eight in 10 white Obama supporters who said Wright was not a factor. Wright has said the U.S. government may have developed the AIDS virus to infect blacks and that the U.S. invited the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Obama denounced the remarks last week.

The six in 10 whites in both states supporting Clinton were similar to her margin over Obama among whites nationally so far, showing he continues to have trouble cutting into her support from those voters. Even so, his lopsided backing from blacks meant he didn't need white majorities Tuesday to be competitive.

The two rivals have been trying to win over top Democratic officials, the superdelegates, who may decide who gets the party's nomination. Clinton has argued that her strength with this group makes her the stronger candidate for the fall campaign. Obama's campaign says he will do well with those voters in November once he contrasts himself with Republican John McCain.

Nine in 10 blacks in both states were backing Obama - an even stronger margin than usual for a group he has dominated. That proved decisive in North Carolina, where they comprised about a third of voters - nearly double their proportion in Indiana. In another troubling sign for Obama, independents did not lean toward him as usual in either state. Though Clinton won once again among Catholics in Indiana, she and Obama divided them about equally in North Carolina. Obama also had an edge in both states among first-time primary voters, underscoring his continued ability to draw new voters to the polls. North Carolina was clearly Obama's stronger state. He won there among young voters, college graduates and those earning more than $100,000 a year.

Clinton gave a better performance in Indiana. She won handily among white men, a group she and Obama have split about evenly but whom she won easily in Pennsylvania and Ohio. She and Obama about equally divided the votes of people earning at least $100,000 a year, who usually have leaned toward Obama. In both states, whites who said race was an important factor were favoring Clinton, as they have before. Older voters were also solidly behind her as usual.

Voters in both states overwhelmingly named the economy as the nation's top issue. While voters most concerned about the economy and who said they were affected by it were evenly divided in Indiana, they supported Obama in North Carolina.

In the latest evidence of bitter feelings between the two camps, just under half of Clinton's supporters in both states said they would support Obama against McCain in November. Seven in 10 Obama backers in North Carolina, and slightly fewer in Indiana, would back a Clinton candidacy. Analysts expect those heated feelings to wane once the party finally chooses its candidate.

The results were from exit polling by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and television networks conducted in 35 precincts in each state. The data was based on 1,881 people voting in Indiana's Democratic contest and 2,316 in North Carolina, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for both states.


More distorted history from Obama

Obama wins North Carolina, concedes Indiana, calls for unity. Here is a transcript of his speech: this detail struck me:
I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.

Obama's supporters are too young to know any of this, but Roosevelt led the United States in the war against Hitler; the Allied policy was unconditional surrender, so there was very little for Roosevelt and Hitler to discuss, and in fact, the two did not meet at all (but they did exchange correspondence before the war).

So my guess is that Obama is thinking of the Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin as talking to "our enemies", although of course we were still allied with the Soviet Union against Germany and Japan at that point. Beyond that, is the Yalta Conference something Obama and his advisers view as a success worthy of emulation? Puzzling.

HE'S KIDDING? Maybe Obama's team is finally realizing they have a Michelle problem;from Obama's speech:
I believe in our ability to perfect this nation, because it's the only reason I'm standing here today. I know the promise of America, because I've lived it. Michelle has lived it; you have lived it.

It is the light of opportunity that led my father across an ocean. It's the founding ideals that the flag draped over my father's coffin stand for. It is life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It's the simple truth I learned all those years ago when I worked in the shadow of all those shuttered steel mills on the south side of the Chicago, that, in this country, justice can be won against the greatest odds, hope can find its way back from the darkest of corners. And when we are told that we cannot bring about the change that we seek, we answer with one voice: Yes, we can.

"Michelle has lived it"? Any reasonable person would say that Michelle has lived the American dream, but I am not talking about a reasonable person - I am talking about the woman who whines about loneliness and crushing college loans every time she speaks. Well, maybe they will gently ask her to go to re-write and try to find something to smile about.

ERRATA: "It's the founding ideals that the flag draped over my father's coffin stand for" - shouldn't that be "grandfather"? Presumably granddad was entitled to a military funeral; dad was off in Kenya IIRC, probably not with an American flag.


Pastor Wrong does NOT represent the "black church"

C. Eric Lincoln's mid-1980s survey of the leaders of 2,150 black churches found that two-thirds of them said they had not been influenced by "any of the authors and thinkers of black liberation theology." Indeed, 63 percent did not believe that the black church had "a different mission from the white church." A third did not even think it was "important have black figures in [their] Sunday school literature."

This integrationist vision is at one with the values of most Americans. A glance at the National Baptist Convention and the AME web sites is revealing. They feature what one might expect of any religious denomination-a statement of their creeds, the tenets of the theology and worship practices that distinguish their faith from others. There is almost no indication that these churches are predominantly African American. The closest they come to mentioning race is the AME's statement that its basic beliefs do not "differ from what all Methodists believe." The church, we learn, separated from the main Methodist body two centuries ago because of "man's intolerance of his fellow man, based on the color of his skin."

The web sites of Rev. Wright's Trinity Church and the national body to which it belong stand in shocking contrast. Before the Trinity site was sanitized in early 2008, its material seethed with racial animus and hostility towards America. It described itself as "Afrocentric"; its motto was "Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Christian." Its quasi-literate foundational document, "The Black Value System," devoted much more attention to blackness than to Christianity. It is the manifesto of a church for people of the black race, designed to be an "instrument of Black self-determination." Blacks were depicted as a race apart-the scurrilous perspective that pervaded Rev. Wright's April 27 Detroit speech, in which he contended that blacks and whites had completely different brain structures, one left-dominant, the other right-dominant. This is nothing more than an updated version of the pseudo-science once used to defend segregation in the Jim Crow South.

It is no accident that Rev. Wright's Trinity Church is affiliated with the highly progressive United Church of Christ. The UCC had its first Jeremiah Wright back in the 1960s, when it tolerated the activities of Rev. Albert Cleage of Detroit, a pioneer preacher of the gospel of Black Power. Cleage was determined to "dehonkify" Jesus. Jesus was black, he insisted, and a black revolutionary. He went on to form his own Black Christian Nationalist Church, later renamed the Pan-African Orthodox Church. This racist conception did not trouble the leadership of the United Church of Christ, which saw it as helping to "make the church more sensitive to and aware of its need to respond to the agenda of black people."

The web site of the UCC currently features plans for a May 18 "sacred conversation on race" in which white participants will need to acknowledge "the sins" of their "ancestors" and their own "failures to confront racism." Non-whites who have "suffered the ravages of racism" will be expected only to keep their "rightful indignation" and their "temptation to despair" under control. The conversation is desperately needed, we are told, because "the quality of life for the majority of racial and ethnic people is worse today in many ways than it was during the 1960s"-a ludicrous claim.

Clearly, Rev. Wright does not speak for mainstream black churches-and he has done them a gross disservice by claiming to do so. He shares neither their vision nor their values. Why their relative silence in the face of Rev. Wright's rants? Perhaps they believe they are protecting Sen. Obama, but if Wright convinces white Americans that his hateful speeches reflect the ways African-American churchgoers think and worship, the quest for racial equality will be set back decades.


The politics of bitterness

This past Friday Michelle Obama gave essentially the same stump speech in Charlotte, North Carolina that she had given the week earlier in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Based on the stump speech, Yuval Levin calls Mrs. Obama "The unhappiest millionaire." Levin's NRO column carries a link to the C-SPAN video of Mrs. Obama's North Carolina speech. It is well worth watching.

Levin characterizes the pervasive themes of Mrs. Obama's stump speech as the "gospel of bitterness." Levin finds Barack Obama to be preaching a similar gospel, albeit one that benefits from "a peppier and more upbeat stump speech[.]" Senator Obama's enormous political skills make it much more difficult to discern the somewhat repulsive views and attitudes that are nakedly on display in Mrs. Obama's stump speech.

Michelle Obama seethes with bitterness. While she preaches the gospel according to Barack, she wears resentment and bitterness on her sleeve. It is therefore painful to listen to her. She's apparently even still angry about her SAT scores. She didn't test well in school, she explains. Somehow, she has overcome....

Mrs. Obama mocks the notion that she and her husband are elitists. She implicitly asserts that only those born to wealth are capable of looking down their noses at their fellow citizens. She does not think highly of those of us who want to be left alone by advocates of the administrative welfare state such as she and her husband. Moreover, she finds us guilty of making our children the victims of our fears. We are raising "young doubters." (I confess!)

But aren't those in her audience afraid of the sinister forces struggling to hold the Obamas down? Apparently not any more than she is. If her remarks were to be believed, they would by themselves instill deep fears. Her audience seems to understand that her impassioned whining is not to be taken seriously.

I have often commented on the Obama's assent to prosperity under the Bush administration. They have gone from a family with a maxed out credit card in 2000 to a net worth of over $4 million in less than eight years of a Republican administration they are bitterly complaining about.

While they may think it because he had a popular book or two, but without the good economy, people would not have had the discretionary funds to buy those books if they were in the bitter circumstances the Obama's complain about.


Michelle, Dumbbell, These Are Words That Go Together Well

I would prefer to write about a happier subject than Michelle Obama -- and few subjects are more unhappy -- but I just can't get her dumb-as-a-stump speech out of my mind. Hugh Hewitt was playing it on the radio yesterday afternoon, so I heard parts of it on the drive home from work. It was an odd juxtaposition. Driving up the coast, to the left of me, the beautiful blue Pacific. But further to the left of me, the bluest waves of bleak rhetoric you'll ever hear coming out of the piehole of a would-be first lady.

I'm just kidding about the "dumbbell" crack, of course. I don't really believe Michelle is stupid. Rather, I believe she's psycho. To put it another way, never mark something down to stupidity when it is much more easily explained by mental illness. Hewitt took some callers during the speech, and to a person, everyone thought she was not just deranged, but palpably disturbing in a way that only an unhinged person can be, since they are leaking their mind parasites all over the place, to such an extent that they are the last person to notice them. As the PowerLine boys put it, "she is woefully deficient in the ability to see herself as others see her."

One caller remarked that if Obama can't even cheer up his morbidly depressed and paranoid wife, how is he supposed to lift the nation's mood? Put Zoloft in the drinking water?

I wish I had a full text of the speech, so I could fisk it line by line. (Hewitt's website has the link to it, but don't listen to it if you are vulnerable to depression.) As Hewitt writes, "This is the rhetoric of resentment and victimization.... [T]he radio audience reacted with a combination of astonishment and anger. Michelle Obama discounts all the good that is going on in the country, skips over the deep generosity of Americans, and ignores the astonishing economic and social progress made in the U.S. since the close of W.W. II, as she indicts [every] aspect of American life. Her very grim vision chills those who do not share it, which I guess to be the 'vast majority' of Americans."

You just have to be so ahistorically narcissistic to share Obama's bleak vision of the United States. Your mind has to essentially circle in a tight spiral around your own myopia and provincialism, so that it is simultaneously petty, and yet, grandiose and presumptuous. Far from having doors closed to her, this is a woman who has probably never been confronted and brought down a peg, one of the sad legacies of white liberal guilt. This is the very reason why left wing black "thinkers" tend not just to be such cringeworthy mediocrities, but downright embarrassments, such as Cornell West, whereas conservative black thinkers such as Thomas Sowell or Shelby Steele are as brilliant as they come. The left systematically substitutes compassion for standards, which is not a recipe for excellence, to say the least.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with race and everything to do with it, in that left wing ideology systematically rots the mind, but especially in more vulnerable communities (Dennis Prager also discusses this in a column today). In other words, it doesn't so much harm a tenured white leftist professor (at least economically) to adhere to his pathological views, since he's got a lifetime gig at our expense. The people who suffer from the white leftist's dysfunctional ideas are the underclass -- even if they are upper class, like Barack and Michelle, who certainly prove that poverty is not just a state of mind, but more importantly, a state of the soul. When white liberals sneeze their viral ideas, urban blacks catch a head cold. They publish and blacks perish.

I am reminded of P.J. O'Rourke's "graduation speech," in which he mocks those who complain that "Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We'd better close that 'income disparity gap.' It's not fair!"

"Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I've got a 10-year-old at home. She's always saying, 'That's not fair.' When she says this, I say, 'Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That's not fair. You were born in America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you.'"

That's what I want to say to Michelle Obama: Damn right, life isn't fair. It's not fair that someone as dense as you attended Harvard law school. It's not fair that you pull down $$273,618 for being a "vice president of community and external affairs," whatever that is. It's not fair that that crook Tony Rezko sold you that prime lot at such a discount. It's not fair that the liberal media are in the tank for your husband. It's not fair that he's going to surrender to our enemies, placing me and my family in jeopardy. It's not fair that American blacks are the most wealthy and prosperous the world has ever known. And most of all, it's not fair that your husband made a million bucks from his vacuous book, The Audacity of Hope, but Gagdad Bob hasn't even seen a royalty check for his spiritual classic!

There is also some incisive analysis at PowerLine:

"Michelle Obama seethes with bitterness. While she preaches the gospel according to Barack, she wears resentment and bitterness on her sleeve. It is therefore painful to listen to her. She's apparently even still angry about her SAT scores. She didn't test well in school, she explains. Somehow, she has overcome.

"Mrs. Obama seeks to convey convey the impression -- she expands on the theme at great length -- that Senator Obama's campaign is, to borrow Joe McCarthy's formulation, the victim of 'a conspiracy so immense...' It is not clear whether the Obama campaign can overcome the power of these sinister forces.

"According to Mrs. Obama, the Obama campaign has been constrained by nameless forces constantly changing the rules of the game and thereby preventing Senator Obama from securing the nomination. Who are 'they'?... 'They' seem... (incredibly) to include the mainstream media. These nameless forces have approximately the same specificity as the names on Joe McCarthy's list."

As an example of how clueless Michelle is about her projections, one of the central themes of her speech is how frightened Americans are, and how Obama is going to somehow heal this. But if America is controlled by the dark, conspiratorial forces of her imagination, we have every reason to be frightened, and no reason to believe that Obama is equipped to take on an enemy so simultaneously nebulous and ubiquitous.

In this regard, her cognition has the exact structure of a clinical paranoid -- big on generalities, short on specifics. Rather, the paranoid just knows that someone is out to get them. Furthermore, if you don't agree with them, you're one of the people who is out to get them. You are inducted into the conspiracy. So there's your proof that it exists!

In an amazing display of unintentional irony on stilts, Michelle accuses the rest of us of "victimizing our children" with our bleak and frightening world view. This from a woman who deliberately exposed her own children to the hateful ravings of a racist conspiracy monger week after week, in the one place that should be free of such poison! The Obama's campaign slogan ought to be, We Didn't Make It, And So Can't You!

At NRO, Yuval Levin writes of The Unhappiest Millionaire, and her weirdly nostalgic, dystopian and dyspeptic vision:
"In fact, a great bulk of Mrs. Obama's speech is devoted to nostalgia for a simpler time -- an odd approach for a progressive, yet an altogether common one on the left today. She describes a steady downward path from that golden age of distant memory. 'We know where we're living,' she tells the slightly confused audience, 'this is where we are right now, and this has been the case for my entire lifetime: that trajectory of hope has gotten more difficult for regular folks.'"

What. Is. She. Talking. About.
"This view of America has been a real problem for the Left in the Bush years. As the liberal labor economist Stephen Rose has put it, 'What progressives generally say about the economy is unrelentingly pessimistic -- stagnant wages, rising costs, overwhelming burdens of debt. It's a message that doesn't resonate with the middle class -- not only because it's overly negative (by itself political poison), but because it's simply flat out wrong."

Byron York also has some good analysis. The left always uses and abuses children for political purposes, and he describes a particularly vivid and disturbing example:
"[Michelle] tells the story of a ten-year-old girl she met in Newberry, S.C., before that state's primary.... After the rally, the girl came up to her and said, with great seriousness, 'Do you realize when your husband becomes the next president of the United States, it will be historical?'

"Everybody laughs; what a cute thing for a child to say. But then Obama asked the little girl what that would mean for her. 'It means that I can imagine anything for myself,' the girl said.

"The crowd begins to applaud; they think they're hearing a happy, inspiring story. But that's not where Mrs. Obama is going.

"'And then that little girl started to break down in tears,' she continues. 'She sobbed so hard. She was crying big, huge tears. And I had to think, why is this little girl crying so hard? And I thought, you know what's going on? This little old girl gets it."

"This little ten-year-old girl knows what's at stake. She knows that she's already five steps behind.... She knows that her hopes for college are already dwindling.... She knows that if she gets sick, maybe has an asthma attack, instead of going to a doctor and being treated, she's going to be sitting in an emergency room for hours on end.'"

Again, this is not a stump speech. This is a cry for psychological help. Why on earth would you steal the innocence of your children and indoctrinate them with any political ideology, let alone this deeply depressing, hopeless, fearful, and defeatist view of the world? Indeed, one of the main responsibilities of a parent is to shield your children from such concerns until they are old enough to be "disillusioned" by the world. For in order to cope with the rigors of adulthood and deal with its inevitable disappointments and frustrations, we need to internalize a deep well of love, trust, and security from our parents, otherwise we will spend the rest of our lives searching for the Lost Entitlement of Childhood.

Which it certainly appears that Michelle is doing. She is in essence inflicting her own childhood on the rest of us. Hey, I didn't say it. She did. For this little girl -- who is "suffocating under a veil of impossibility" -- is "in all of us."

Speak for yourself, Michelle. You're confusing projection and empathy, condescension and compassion.



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