Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The empty vessel sounds again
"I want you to think about this," Barack Obama said in Las Vegas last week. "The oil companies have already been given 68 million acres of federal land, both onshore and offshore, to drill. They're allowed to drill it, and yet they haven't touched it - 68 million acres that have the potential to nearly double America's total oil production."
Wow, how come the oil companies didn't think of that? Perhaps because the notion is obviously false - at least to anyone who knows how oil and gas exploration actually works. Predictably, however, Mr. Obama's claim is also the mantra of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Nick Rahall and others writing Congressional energy policy. As a public service, here's a remedial education.
Democrats are in a vise this summer, pinned on one side by voter anger over $4 gas and on the other by their ideological opposition to carbon-based energy - so, as always, the political first resort is to blame Big Oil. The allegation is that oil companies are "stockpiling" leases on federal lands to drive up gas prices. At least liberals are finally acknowledging the significance of supply and demand.
To deflect the GOP effort to relax the offshore-drilling ban - and thus boost supply while demand will remain strong - Democrats also say that most of the current leases are "nonproducing." The idea comes from a "special report" prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Resources Committee, chaired by Mr. Rahall. "If we extrapolate from today's production rates on federal lands and waters," the authors write, the oil companies could "nearly double total U.S. oil production" (their emphasis).
In other words, these whiz kids assume that every acre of every lease holds the same amount of oil and gas. Yet the existence of a lease does not guarantee that the geology holds recoverable resources. Brian Kennedy of the Institute for Energy Research quips that, using the same extrapolation, the 9.4 billion acres of the currently nonproducing moon should yield 654 million barrels of oil per day.
Nonetheless, the House still went through with a gesture called the "use it or lose it" bill, which passed on Thursday 223-195. It would be pointless even if it had a chance of becoming law. Oil companies acquire leases in the expectation that some of them contain sufficient oil and gas to cover the total costs. Yet it takes years to move through federal permitting, exploration and development. The U.S. Minerals Management Service notes that only one of three wells results in a discovery of oil that can be recovered economically. In deeper water, it's one of five. All this involves huge risks, capital investment - and time.
If anything, the Democrats ought to be dancing in the streets about "idle" leases. It means fewer rigs. The days of hit-or-miss wildcatting have been relegated to the past by new, more efficient technologies, such as seismic imaging, directional drilling (wells that are "steered" underground) and multilateral drilling (multiple underground offshoots from a single wellbore).
At the same time, finding new reservoirs has become far more complex. Except for a few very large fields discovered decades ago like Prudhoe Bay, most recent discoveries have been smaller, deeper and less concentrated. The U.S. needs a continuous supply of discoveries to replace declining wells.
Yet companies are not allowed to explore where the biggest prospects for oil and gas may exist - especially on the Outer Continental Shelf. Seven of the top 20 U.S. oil fields are now located in analogous deepwater areas (greater than 1,000 feet) in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2006, Chevron discovered what is likely to be the largest American oil find since Prudhoe, drilled in 7,000 feet of water and more than 20,000 feet under the sea floor. The Wilcox formation may have an upper end of 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil and should begin producing by 2014 - perhaps ushering in a new ultradeepwater frontier.
Likewise, in April, the U.S. Geological Survey revised its estimate for the Bakken Shale, underneath the badlands of North Dakota and Montana. The new assessment - as much as 4.3 billion barrels of oil - is a 25-fold increase over what the Survey believed in 1995. Such breakthroughs confirm that very large reserves exist, if only Congress would let business get at them.
All of which has Democrats sweating bullets. The leadership is desperate to avoid debating a Department of Interior spending bill, because they know Republicans will offer amendments lifting the drilling moratorium that may peel off some Democrats. Last week, Chairman David Obey shut down the Appropriations Committee rather than countenance more domestic energy production. Given Democratic energy illiteracy, this is a fight the GOP can win if it keeps up the pressure.
Grim proving ground for Obama's housing policy
The candidate endorsed subsidies for private entrepreneurs to build low-income units. But, while he garnered support from developers, many projects in his former district have fallen into disrepair
The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can't afford to live anywhere else. But it's not safe to live here.
About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale - a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.
Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing - an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.
As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers. As a US senator, he pressed for increased federal subsidies. And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year. But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies - including several hundred in Obama's former district - deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.
Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama's constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.
Some of the residents of Grove Parc say they are angry that Obama did not notice their plight. The development straddles the boundary of Obama's state Senate district. Many of the tenants have been his constituents for more than a decade. "No one should have to live like this, and no one did anything about it," said Cynthia Ashley, who has lived at Grove Parc since 1994.
Obama's campaign, in a written response to Globe questions, affirmed the candidate's support of public-private partnerships as an alternative to public housing, saying that Obama has "consistently fought to make livable, affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods available to all."
The campaign did not respond to questions about whether Obama was aware of the problems with buildings in his district during his time as a state senator, nor did it comment on the roles played by people connected to the senator....
Much more here
Obama's Boys of Summer: A Who's Who of 1968 radicals supports the candidate
Backing a major-party candidate for president would have been anathema to Michael Klonsky 40 summers ago, when the organization he led, Students for a Democratic Society, urged young people to spurn elections. "By '68, our line was `Vote in the Streets,'" Klonsky told me last spring. "We thought we had to fight with Eugene McCarthy and those people." In August 1968, protesters clashed with police outside the Democratic Party's national convention in Chicago-but far from being political innocents who took to the streets to protest Vietnam War hawks' capture of the Democratic presidential nomination, many of them never supported antiwar candidates McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. "Those of us who have been in the streets for the past five days didn't give a flying fuck whether McCarthy would win or lose," SDS declared in posters around Chicago, "and now that he's lost, still don't." On the eve of the general election of that year-in which less than 1 percentage point would separate the popular-vote totals of Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey-Klonsky's SDS bluntly proclaimed: "The elections don't mean shit."
Klonsky, whose disgust for mainstream politics led him to launch a new, Maoist Communist Party in the 1970s, today supports Barack Obama so enthusiastically that until recently he was blogging on the Illinois senator's campaign website. And boycotting this November's election, Klonsky maintains, would be a "tragic mistake." He notes that Barack Obama isn't Hubert Humphrey, 2008 isn't 1968, and the strong movement he served back then is "relatively weak" now. "My own support for Obama is not a reflection of a radically changed attitude toward the Democratic Party," Klonsky recently explained to me. "Rather, it's a recognition that the Obama campaign has become a rallying point for young activists and offers hope for rebuilding the civil rights and antiwar coalitions that have potential to become a real critical force in society."
Michael Klonsky is hardly the only '68 radical supporting Obama this year. In 1968, when Mark Rudd organized the student strike that shut down Columbia University, the SDS chapter that he chaired ridiculed Kennedy and McCarthy as "McKennedy," claimed that "neither peace candidate offers an alternative to the war policies of Lyndon Johnson," and suggested "sabotage" as an alternative to voting. Rudd succeeded Klonsky as national SDS leader, presiding over the organization's metamorphosis into Weatherman and performing "a liaison function" for the plot to bomb a Fort Dix soldiers' dance that instead killed three Weathermen, including two of Rudd's Columbia SDS colleagues. Today, Rudd renounces bombs, embraces ballots-and supports Obama. "Probably the biggest difference between Columbia SDS people in 1968 and in 2008 is forty years," Rudd explained in an e-mail. "Most of us have lived with compromise our whole lives. As kids we were raving idealists who thought that `The elections don't mean shit' was a slogan that meant something to somebody. It didn't."
Then there's Carl Davidson, who was one of SDS's three elected national officers in 1968, when the organization first urged young people to refrain from voting. His disillusionment with traditional politics became so pronounced that, in the post-sixties hangover that followed, Davidson joined Klonsky in rejecting traditional politics for fringe Marxist movements. More recently, he helped organize the 2002 rally in which Obama first spoke out against the Iraq War and now serves as the webmaster of Progressives for Obama. "The last thing we need is a simple repeat of 1968, which saw Nixon and the new Right as an outcome, as well as the defeat of [Humphrey]," Davidson contends. "One thing I've learned. Social change is not made by elections, but it certainly proceeds through them, not by ignoring them or chasing the illusion of end runs around them."
Former SDS president Tom Hayden is also in the Obama camp. Hayden organized the made-for-TV protest outside the 1968 Chicago convention. But the catharsis of throwing debris at the Chicago police, the purer-than-thou sanctimony that tolerated no distinction between Lyndon Johnson and Eugene McCarthy, and the exhilaration of "voting in the streets" instead of in election booths combined to ensure liberal defeats. Hayden's orchestrated anarchy proved more damaging to Humphrey's presidential aspirations than any dirty trick Nixon's henchmen could have dreamed up. Klonsky remembers Hayden plotting to spread nails on a highway; another SDS leader recalls Hayden encouraging activists to firebomb police cars. If the Democrats couldn't run a convention, many Americans wondered, how could they run the country? "Did the radicalism of Chicago elect Richard Nixon?" Hayden asked, clearly pained, in his 1988 memoir. "Having struggled with that question for twenty years, I find there is no `neat' answer."
Now Hayden is one of the organizers of Progressives for Obama. "The difference is that back then the Democratic Party was directly carrying out the Vietnam War, which meant there was no anti-war critic to vote for after Kennedy was assassinated and McCarthy defeated by the establishment," he offered in an e-mail last month. "Today the Republican Party is directly carrying out the war, which obviously will make a lot of people favor changing the presidency despite the uncertainty of what the Democratic candidate will do when in office."
Progressives for Obama resembles a Who's Who of SDS luminaries. In addition to Hayden, Rudd, and Davidson, the group includes Bob Pardun, SDS's education secretary during the 1966-67 school year; Paul Buhle, a radical professor who has recently attempted to revive SDS; Mickey and Dick Flacks, red-diaper babies who helped craft 1962's Port Huron Statement, a seminal New Left document; and SDS's third president, Todd Gitlin. Age and experience have mellowed some of the SDSers in Obama's camp. Gitlin, for instance, has evolved into a respected Ivy League professor and milquetoast liberal. But others still glory in a past that can only damage Obama's future. The aging New Left still practices a therapeutic politics that places a higher value on feelings of personal liberation than on restrained pursuit of political aims.
Obama has already taken political hits for his connection to Weathermen Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. In the sixties, Ayers advocated that young people kill their parents, and Dohrn praised the Charles Manson murders. Alongside their Weather Underground cohorts, the pair declared war on the United States and participated in a bombing campaign that hit the Capitol, the Pentagon, and numerous law enforcement agencies. The couple eventually reinvented themselves-first as academics, then as players in Chicago-area Democratic politics. Obama praised Ayers's book in the Chicago Tribune, sat with him on a foundation's board, and benefited from a fundraiser held at the couple's home. Ayers spoke at events organized by Michelle Obama; Barack Obama spoke at events organized by Ayers.
With the public revelation of this unseemly relationship-between unrepentant terrorists and the man who now seeks to oversee America's war on terror-and the impact it's already had on voter attitudes, one would think that other sixties extremists might be more reserved in proclaiming their support for Obama, knowing the damage such associations can do to his candidacy. As for Obama, he'll need to do some distancing of his own. He protested that he was only eight when Ayers, Dohrn, Rudd, and company embarked on their bombing campaign, and that's reasonable enough. But he'll need to go further.
Fortunately for him, the Left has a long history of cold-shouldering predecessors to perpetuate its ideology, cleanse it from past failures, and make it appear fresh. The New Left dissociated itself from the Old Left's Russophilic dogmatism through the Port Huron Statement and other declarations of independence. Even the phrase "New Left" was adopted to divorce the Left from its history.
SDS's history offers a template for eliminating the embarrassing past. Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and others founded the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS) during the Progressive era, but by World War I the word "socialist" had fallen from favor. So, with the Left seeing labor unions as the agent of societal change, the ISS became the League for Industrial Democracy (LID). Then, by the end of the 1950s, theorists Herbert Marcuse, C. Wright Mills, and Norman O. Brown scoffed at the idea of blue-collar workers-often violently hostile to the Left's aims-as transformative agents, and the LID's student arm, the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID), rechristened itself Students for a Democratic Society. Just as SDS killed SLID as the fifties became the sixties, Weatherman killed SDS as the sixties became the seventies: SDS's spirit of "participatory democracy" could not peacefully coexist with the vanguardism of Weatherman. And now, completing the circle, the SDS alumni of "progressives" for Obama resurrect a term that would have been more familiar to their distant forebears in the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. On the Left, everything old is eventually new again.
In 1968, the Left served as unwitting allies of Republicans, costing the Democrats the White House by rioting at their convention and withholding votes from Hubert Humphrey. In 2008, it is their vocal support that may cost Barack Obama the presidency. Obama can take a page from the early days of the New Left, which-initially, at least-refused to allow discredited radicals to discredit it. Either Obama publicly divorces himself from radical supporters whose association does more for them than it does for him, or he faces the prospect of Bill Ayers as his Willie Horton.
Obama now playing the tough guy
The Democratic Party has long been mocked as the Mommy Party for its soft, nurturing governing style and its paralyzing patience for listening to dissent from every quarter, no matter how small or irrelevant. The Republican Party is the Daddy Party - always tough, determined and willing to do whatever dirty work is necessary to get the job done. Democrats want Oprah Winfrey. Republicans want Jack Bauer.
But now that Barack Obama has taken over the Democratic Party, he's bending these "genderizations." He's taking Mommy out of the Mommy Party. Now, it's the party that strides past a female reporter and calls her "sweetie" to dismiss her silly little question. And if you're wondering who's in charge, don't. Within days of winning the nomination, Obama moved party headquarters to his home town of Chicago and started pushing party heads around, telling them they can't raise money from PACs and Washington lobbyists.
Yet when it comes to raising his own money, he tossed overboard his campaign promises to participate in the public financing system so he can maintain his massive cash advantage over the Republicans. And in the ultimate display of testosterone, Obama unsheathed a new campaign emblem that looked emarkably like the presidential seal. (He has since dropped it.)
All-inclusive to the point of absurdity? Not anymore. Obama operatives last week rooted out a couple of Muslim women and ordered them to keep away from the bleachers behind the candidate unless they removed their head scarves.
Coddler of criminals? Not anymore. Obama - rated the most liberal member of the US Senate- now sides with the most conservative members of the Supreme Court in supporting a state's right to execute someone who rapes a child.
The candidate of anti-gun sissies? Nope. Obama may as well have strapped on his John Wayne chaps and holster yesterday to announce his support of the Supreme Court's decision that the Second Amendment guaranteeing gun rights actually means what it says.
Are the Democrats now the party of states' rights, gun rights and the death penalty? This wild election just keeps getting wilder. As Obama moves rightward and gets tougher, Republicans are desperately trying to portray him as some sort of arrogant flip-flopper. But these audacious moves by him are not signs of weakness; they're signs of a man who will win at any cost. Isn't that what they used to say about the Clintons?
Obama's Callous Indifference
According to the hagiography that passes for reporting about Obama, my attitude is rare. And, admittedly, unsophisticated. After all, I'm black so I shouldn't just like Obama, I should love and praise him. Sure, I'm conservative, but according to a recent AP story the Obama magic is so powerful that even black conservatives are in a swoon. But then, I'm also one of those bitter guys from flyover country.
I disagree with nearly all of Obama's positions, ranging from energy policy to the Iraq war. The National Journal's determination that he's the most liberal member of the Senate is a serious understatement. There may not be a more liberal elected official in all of Washington. But like most people, I like lots of folks with whom I have major policy disagreements. Put another way, if Barack Obama came up to me tomorrow, took my hand, looked me in the eye and said "when I'm president, I'll fight to win in Iraq, beat hell out of terrorists, appoint Supreme Court justices like Thomas and Roberts, cut taxes, secure the border, enact free market health care reform, honor our military and use the bully pulpit to prevent cultural decay,'' I'd still dislike him. Maybe more than I do now.
To be sure, Obama displays horrible judgment, surrounding himself with the likes of Wright, Pfleger and Ayers. He has a lot of close friends who seem to hate America. That's pretty unusual for the average person, but it's highly peculiar and troubling for someone running for Commander-in-Chief. It alarms me and makes me suspicious, but it's not why I dislike him.
Nor is it because he's an empty suit. He's gone further saying nothing than almost anyone in recent history. He's done nothing, yet he's poised to become the most powerful man on earth. He looks like he's never broken a sweat, furrowed a brow or dirtied a knee. That's not something to dislike. In today's culture it's something to admire-even envy. These all may be reasons for voting against Obama, but they're not, to my mind, reasons for disliking him. No, I dislike Obama because of his personal qualities.
Wait a minute. Aren't we constantly regaled about all of his endearing qualities? He makes people faint and write songs about him. Hardened journalists get tingles up their legs just thinking about him. Yet certain discrete actions can provide instant insights into a person's character. They can betray vivid flaws in a seemingly gleaming persona. And they compel one to make judgments about the actor. The acts may vary by degree, in turn prompting different degrees of reaction: the pillar of the community seen pilfering from the collection plate; the co-worker who uses a racial epithet behind a colleague's back. Indeed, people recoiled from the once popular Michael Vick when they found out he'd abused dogs.
I began to dislike Obama when I discovered that while in the Illinois state legislature in 2002, he voted against the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act. The bill was designed to extend the same medical care to babies who happen to survive an abortion attempt as is enjoyed by all babies born alive. I couldn't believe anyone would vote against such a bill. In fact, when a similar measure-- the Born Alive Infant Protection Act-- was brought before the U.S. Senate, not one Senator voted against it. Even NARAL Pro-Choice America didn't oppose the bill.
Admittedly, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon. It's difficult for me to like someone who's eager to extend a panoply of constitutional rights to terrorists but who refuses to provide the most fundamental rights to a living, breathing infant.
Perhaps it's a failure to comprehend Obama's exquisite intellectual nuance. He rationalized his vote in language that evokes Dred Scott. Obama challenged the constitutionality of the bill,contending that conferring equal protection, i.e.,personhood, upon a "pre-viable fetus" would render the bill an unlawful anti-abortion statute. At what point after birth does Obama call a baby a person and not a fetus? One day? Six months?
To be clear: I don't hate Obama as those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome hate President Bush. I just have a hard time generating warm, fuzzy feelings for someone who voted against helping newborns struggling to live. But that's just me.
I suspect most people don't know about Obama's position on babies who survive abortion attempts and it's unlikely that they'll ever find out. The media seem more interested in reporting on the cultural implications of fist-bumps or the racial animus of those who question Obama's policies. I would wager, however, that if more people knew about Obama's disregard for babies who have the audacity to survive an abortion, there would be more scrutiny and less adulation.
10 Concerns about Barack Obama
1. Barack Obama's foreign policy is dangerous, naive, and betrays a profound misreading of history. For at least the past five years, Democrats and liberals have said our standing in the international community has suffered from a "cowboy" or "go-it-alone" foreign policy. While politicians with favorable views of our president have been elected in Germany, Italy, France, and elsewhere, Barack Obama is giving cause to make our allies even more nervous. This past Sunday's Washington Post reported, "European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration."
Barack Obama's stance toward Iran is as troubling as it is dangerous. By stating and maintaining that he would negotiate with Iran, "without preconditions," and within his first year of office, he will give credibility to, and reward for his intransigence, the head of state of the world's chief sponsor of terrorism. Such a meeting will also undermine and send the exact wrong signal to Iranian dissidents. And, he will lower the prestige of the office of the president: In his own words he stated, "If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time." Not only has his stance toward Iran caused concern among our allies in Europe, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton called it, "Irresponsible and frankly naive."
Barack Obama's position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history. In justifying his position that he would meet with Iran without precondition and in his first year of office, Barack Obama has said, "That is what Kennedy did with Khrushchev; that's what Nixon did with Mao; what Reagan did with Gorbachev."
In reverse order, Ronald Reagan met with no Soviet leader during the entirety of his first term in office, not (ever) with Brezhnev, not (ever) with Andropov, not (ever) with Chernenko. He met only with Gorbachev, and after he was assured Gorbachev was a different kind of Soviet leader - and after Perestroika, not before.
If Barack Obama wants to affiliate with Richard Nixon, that's certainly his call. But one question: Was Taiwan's expulsion from the U.N. worth "Nixon to China"? That was the price of that meeting.
As for the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit of 1961, Kennedy himself said "He beat the hell out of me." As two experts recently wrote in the New York Times: "Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was `just a disaster.' Khrushchev's aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed `very inexperienced, even immature.' Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was `too intelligent and too weak.' The Soviet leader left Vienna elated - and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world."
So successful was the summit that the Berlin Wall was erected later that year and the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Soviets deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba, commenced the following year.
2. Barack Obama's Iraq policy will hand al-Qaeda a victory and undercut our entire position in the Middle East, while at the same time put a huge source of oil in the hands of terrorists. Barack Obama brags on his website that "In January 2007, he introduced legislation in the Senate to remove all of our combat troops from Iraq by March 2008." His website further states that "Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months." This, at the very time our greatest successes in Iraq have taken place. And yet, as Gen. David Petraeus has stated (along with other military experts from Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution to members of the U.S. military), our progress in Iraq is "fragile and reversible."
Obama's post-invasion analysis of Iraq is anything but credible or consistent, leading one to even greater doubt about his strategy as commander-in-chief. When President Bush announced the surge strategy in January 2007, Barack Obama opposed it, saying it "would not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly," and that "the President's strategy will not work." Of course, the surge is one of the greatest achievements in Iraq since the initial months of the invasion, and is has reversed much of the loss suffered since the invasion.
Beyond these miscalculations and poor judgment on Iraq strategy, Obama has been anything but consistent on Iraq. For example, the same year (2007) he stated it would be a good idea to bring home the U.S. troops from Iraq within March of 2008, three months later he stated, we should bring them home "immediately.. Not in six months or one year - now."
3. Barack Obama has sent mixed, confusing, and inconsistent messages on his policy toward Israel. Earlier this month, Barack Obama told an audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." The next day, Obama backtracked, stating: "Obviously, it's [Jerusalem] going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues.And Jerusalem will be part of the negotiations." Later, Obama's Middle East adviser tried to explain the flipping of positions on Jerusalem by stating Obama did not understand what he was saying to AIPAC: "[h]e used a word to represent what he did not want to see again, and then realized afterwards that that word is a code word in the Middle East."
Such quick switches of policy may stem from mere inexperience or they may stem from a general tone-deafness on the meaning of words and policy when it comes to the Middle East. After all, earlier this year, a leading Hamas official endorsed Barack Obama stating, "I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principle. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance." Rather than immediately renouncing such an endorsement, Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, embraced the endorsement, saying "We all agree that John Kennedy was a great president, and it's flattering when anybody says that Barack Obama would follow in his footsteps." Given Barack Obama's long-standing ties to Palestinian activists in the U.S., one has good cause to wonder.
4. While his Mideast policy may have been the quickest turnaround or flip-flop on a major issue, it is not the only one. In the primary campaign, Barack Obama consistently campaigned against NAFTA, but has now changed his tune, as he has with other issues. During the primary, Obama sent out a campaign flier that said "Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA," and called it a "bad trade deal." He also said NAFTA was "devastating," "a big mistake," and in what the Washington Post labeled as a unilateral threat to withdraw from NAFTA, Obama said "I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage."
No longer. Recently, Barack Obama backtracked on NAFTA and said, "I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally." "I'm a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people." He explained his primary campaign opposition this way: "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified."
This is of a piece with his further change of position on public campaign financing. As a primary candidate, he touted his support for the public financing of presidential campaigns, but then witnessing his own fundraising prowess, as a general election candidate he has gone the unique route of forswearing the system. As David Brooks put it in the New York Times:
Barack Obama has worked on political reform more than any other issue. He aspires to be to political reform what Bono is to fighting disease in Africa. He's spent much of his career talking about how much he believes in public financing. In January 2007, he told Larry King that the public-financing system works. In February 2007, he challenged Republicans to limit their spending and vowed to do so along with them if he were the nominee. In February 2008, he said he would aggressively pursue spending limits. He answered a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire by reminding everyone that he has been a longtime advocate of the public-financing system. But Thursday, at the first breath of political inconvenience, Fast Eddie Obama threw public financing under the truck.
5. Barack Obama's judgment about personal and professional affiliations is more than troubling. On March 18, after several clips of sermons by his longtime friend and pastor Jeremiah Wright surfaced (showing Wright condemning the United States with vitriolic comparisons and denunciations), Obama defended his friend stating: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother." After Rev. Wright delivered two more talks along the same lines as the clips that led to the March 18 speech, Sen. Obama finally denounced Wright the following month, stating: "His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church." "They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs," he said.
It strained credulity to believe Obama was unaware of Wright's previous rants - especially after a 20-year membership in Wright's church, especially when in February of last year Obama asked Wright not to attend his campaign announcement because he "could get kind of rough in sermons," and especially when his church's magazine honored on its front cover such a man as Louis Farrakhan. Nonetheless, once he ceased being a political asset and turned into a political liability, Obama dumped him.
Jeremiah Wright is, of course, not the only person close to Barack Obama who holds vitriolic anti-American views. Bill Ayers was a founding member of the Weather Underground. According to his own memoir, Ayers participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, the Pentagon in 1972. As recently as 2001, Ayers said "I don't regret setting bombs..I feel we didn't do enough.'' When asked if he would engage in such terrorism again, Ayers responded: "I don't want to discount the possibility." When confronted with his friendship with Bill Ayers, Barack Obama dismissed the negative connections saying he is also friendly with abortion opponent U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. While Obama has never, himself, discussed his relationship with Ayers, what we do know is that Ayers hosted a fundraiser for Obama in his home and, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Obama and Ayers moved in some of the same political and social circles in the leafy liberal enclave of Hyde Park, where they lived several blocks apart. In the mid-1990s, when Obama was running for the Illinois Senate, Ayers introduced Obama during a political event at his home, according to Obama's aides..
Obama and Ayers met a dozen times as members of the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a local grant-making foundation, according to the group's president. They appeared together to discuss juvenile justice on a 1997 panel sponsored by the University of Chicago, records show. They appeared again in 2002 at an academic panel co-sponsored by the Chicago Public Library.
6. Obama is simply out of step with how terrorists should be handled; he would turn back the clock on how we fight terrorism, using the failed strategy of the 1990s as opposed to the post-9/11 strategy that has kept us safe. The most recent example is his support for the Supreme Court decision granting habeas-corpus rights to terrorists, including - theoretically - Osama bin Laden. When the 5-4 Supreme Court decision was delivered, Obama said, "I think the Supreme Court was right." His campaign advisers held a conference call where they claimed the Supreme Court decision was "no big deal" according to ABC News, even if applied to Osama bin Laden, because a judge would find that the U.S. has "ample grounds to hold him."
In a recent interview, Obama stated: "What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks - for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, `Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.'"
Ask the legal officials during the 1990s just how cowed terrorists were by our continued indictments against them. Or, witness the bombings at the African embassies, the attack on the USS Cole, or the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Now, ask yourself why we have not been attacked since 9/11, and, even more specifically, why there have been no successful attacks against American civilian interests abroad since 2004.
7. Barack Obama's economic policies would hurt the economy. As Kimberly Strassel recently put it in the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Obama is hawking a tax policy that would take the nation back to the effective marginal tax rates of the Carter days. He wants to further tax income, payroll, capital gains, dividends and death. His philosophy is pure redistribution."
When Barack Obama speaks of taxing only the wealthy, keep in mind this could have a devastating effect on new small businesses. As Irwin Stelzer has written: "Taxes change behavior. By raising rates on upper income payers, Obama is reducing their incentive to work and take risks. The income tax increase is not all that he has in mind for them. He plans to increase their payroll taxes, the taxes they pay on dividends received and capital gains earned, and on any transfers they might have in mind to their kith and kin when they shuffle off this mortal coil. If the aggregate of these additional taxes substantially diminishes incentives to set up a small business of the sort that has created most of the new jobs in recent decades, the $1,000 tax rebate will be more than offset by the consequences of reduced growth and new business formation."
8. Barack Obama opposes drilling on and offshore to reduce gas and oil prices. While Barack Obama has opposed off-shore drilling and a gas-tax holiday (as supported by John McCain or Hillary Clinton), his solution to our energy crisis does include additional tax burdens on oil company profits, taxes we can only imagine will be passed on to the consumer, thus causing an even more expensive trip to the gas station. As the New York Times recently detailed, ethanol subsidies are a major plank in Barack Obama's view of energy independence and national security; the "Obama Camp is Closely Linked with Ethanol," and "Mr. Obama.favors [ethanol] subsidies, some of which end up in the hands of the same oil companies he says should be subjected to a windfall profits tax."
9. Barack Obama is to the left of Hillary Clinton and NARAL on the issue of life. As a state senator in Illinois, Barack Obama voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, a law that would have protected babies if they survived an attempted abortion and were delivered alive. When a similar bill was proposed in the United States Senate, it passed unanimously and even the National Abortion Rights Action League issued a statement saying they did not oppose the law.
10. Barack Obama is actually to the left of every member of the U.S. Senate. According to the National Journal, "Sen. Barack Obama.was the most liberal senator in 2007." As the magazine reported: "The ratings system - devised in 1981 under the direction of William Schneider, a political analyst and commentator, and a contributing editor to National Journal - also assigns `composite' scores, an average of the members' issue-based scores. In 2007, Obama's composite liberal score of 95.5 was the highest in the Senate. Rounding out the top five most liberal senators last year were Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), with a composite liberal score of 94.3; Joseph Biden (D., Del.), with a 94.2; Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), with a 93.7; and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), with a 92.8." Whom will a man this far left appoint to the Supreme Court?
(For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)