Thursday, July 31, 2008
Barack Obama conceded yesterday that US voters were nervous about making him their next president as fresh polls showed him in an increasingly tight race against John McCain, his Republican rival. The Democratic candidate sought to explain why he has not seen a significant bounce in the polls after his international tour last week - with a new survey showing Mr McCain taking a lead for the first time since Mr Obama secured his party's nomination. Mr Obama's aides say that it is relatively early in the general election cycle, but there is a growing anxiousness about why he is not doing better against Mr McCain, who has so far run an unimpressive, disjointed and at times shambolic campaign.
The Democrat said that voters were still sizing him up and that his candidacy was "new for them, new for us as a country. "This is going to be a close election for a long time because I'm new on the national scene and people sort of like what they see but they're still not sure." But he added: "The odds of us winning are very good."
Most recent surveys show Mr Obama about six points ahead, but stuck several points below the 50 per cent threshold. A USA Today/Gallup poll yesterday showed the Republican four points ahead - 49 per cent to 45 per cent - among likely voters, in the first poll taken since the Democrat's overseas tour. It showed a surge since last month among likely Republican voters, suggesting that the trip might have galvanised them.
What concerns Mr Obama's supporters is that by every measure he should be doing much better. In generic polls, voters overwhelmingly want a Democrat in the White House next year and a record number believe that the country is on the wrong track.
The Illinois senator is running a sharp, disciplined campaign - often setting the day's agenda - with Mr McCain appearing slow-footed and reactive. Yet in recent polls the message is clear: voters may want change, but they are uneasy about Mr Obama. Both campaigns admit that the election is becoming a referendum on Mr Obama, testing the willingness of voters to overcome their doubts about a 46-year-old African-American with little political experience, to whom many find it hard to relate.
In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll last week, half of those questioned said that they were focused on what sort of president Mr Obama would be, with just a quarter focused on what kind of leader Mr McCain would be. Asked who was the riskier choice, 55per cent said Mr Obama, to just 35per cent who said the same of his rival.
In a private conference call with supporters last week, Steve Schmidt, Mr McCain's chief strategist, vowed to sharpen attacks on Mr Obama and to try to increase the perception that he is a risk.
Mr McCain, who at 71 is the oldest US presidential candidate in history, said last week: "They need a steady hand on the tiller. That's what I'm going to convince them of."
He has also begun to attack Mr Obama's patriotism. In a new advertisement the Republican campaign pounced on Mr Obama's decision to call off a visit to wounded US troops in Germany. "He made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras," the narrator says. The Obama camp countered that the visit had been scrapped amid concerns that it would appear too political.
Nagging at Mr Obama are memories of his big defeats to Hillary Clinton in the later stages of their primary battle, when white, working-class voters turned their backs on him.
Hope? Change? Yes! Hope Obama Changes!
By Prof. Barry Rubin
Barack Obama has been to the Middle East. He said he supported Israel and wanted peace. So I guess everything's ok, right? Well, if he's elected president and follows through on these words that'll be just fine. But concern about an Obama presidency is hardly dispelled, except in the media systematically ignoring the real issues. Without getting into the debate over Iraq strategy, here are the serious problems:
Obama claims there is a "window of opportunity" for successful Israel-Palestinian negotiations. That's nonsense. But won't Obama pretend progress and "prove" he's right: by demanding unilateral Israeli concessions? Equally, Palestinian intransigence won't prompt him to admit they're responsible for failure. This isn't a window of opportunity but a doorway to disaster. Consider this simple question: If Israel withdrew from all the West Bank would anything really change? Would the Palestinians reciprocate, alter their line, stop terrorism, and accept the conflict's end? No.
In this context, Obama's emerging campaign theme is especially worrisome. He criticizes Bush for not jumping into a peace process from his term's start. The reason, of course, was President Bill Clinton's discovery that Palestinian leaders weren't interested in peace. Obama doesn't understand why the 1990s' process failed or that you don't commit the president's prestige unless there's a real chance for progress.
Obama thinks it "pro-Israel" to argue that Israel desperately needs peace with the Palestinians above all and that he'd do Israel a favor by pressuring it into concessions. But Israel only benefits from an agreement producing stability, the conflict's end, no cross-border terrorism, and a moderate Palestinian state. Obama's approach seems likely to turn into a peace-at-any-price scenario on the pretext of saving Israel in spite of itself. Obama thinks he knows best about Israel's security needs.
Obama remarked that Israel's government is weak and "the Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas. And so it's difficult for either side to make the bold move needed" for peace. He believes there's no problem with Fatah being eager for peace whereas its own radicalism--not divisions--is the roadblock. Even if one believes his thesis, since Obama can't solve Palestinian or Israeli political divisions, which he equates as the equal barriers to progress, how's he possibly going to advance peace?
Meanwhile, he totally misstates--and presumably misunderstands--Israeli politics. If the Palestinians were willing, Israel's government could easily move ahead. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's alleged corruption is a big issue but the coalition agrees on peace steps. Far from shrinking back, Olmert and his government see making progress as the key to popularity and survival. In contrast, the PA knows that the actions needed to make a deal would be its downfall. That's the critical difference.
Does Obama really understand that the region's central issue is a war with radical forces who seek to overthrow every regime and seize control of the area? He emphasizes al-Qaida as the threat thus neglecting Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brothers? Are they potential allies if only treated nicely?
His new gimmick--I'm for fighting harder in Afghanistan and less in Iraq--is foolish. Whatever one thinks of Iraq, Afghanistan is far harder. U.S. policy has a chance to help create a stable regime in Iraq but not in Afghanistan. And does Obama really intend to be a hawk on the Afghan front or is this a cheap trick to show him as being tough? I'll bet on the latter explanation.
There's no indication Obama understands the need to defend Lebanon against a takeover by Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Obama's last statement on Lebanon actually endorsed Hizballah's position, due either to ignorance or his philosophy of avoiding confrontation at all costs.
If Obama wants to make the United States and the West more independent of Middle East instability or radical blackmail, at least in the long term, he'd favor extensive oil drilling on U.S. territory, which he doesn't.
The real issue is not that he wants to talk to Iran and Syria but what he'll offer them and what he'll conclude when they reject or sabotage his efforts? Obama says his "willingness to negotiate" would expose Tehran by stripping "away whatever excuses they may have, [and] whatever rationales may exist in the international community for not ratcheting up sanctions and taking serious action." Isn't that what the Bush administration did last week and Europeans have been doing for years? Do we really believe Obama just wants to have talks as a trap so he then can get tough?
Obama says the right things on Iran nuclear but can he actually be counted on to stop Tehran? Asked about an Israel attack he replies, "My goal is to avoid being confronted with that hypothetical."? Yet his more likely avoidance strategy would be to block the attack, not force Iran to back down. He claims U.S. policy failed because it didn't "follow through with the kinds of both carrots and sticks that might change the calculus of the Iranian regime." Clearly, he's not familiar with the history which contradicts that assertion.
Won't radicals conclude he's so weak (or even sympathetic) that they can walk all over him and get away with it? Do we think they're wrong? Does he really understand the use of force, deterrence, the stick as well as the carrot? That doesn't fit his record and ideology.
It comes down to this: Do you really believe Obama has the understanding, toughness, and worldview needed to deal with the extremists or that they will eat his poor allies for lunch and him for dinner? There are thus two options:
Option A: Obama becomes president and hope he does a good job, perhaps after a three-year, possibly costly, learning process.
Option B: We won't have to find out whether the previous sentence will come true.
President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour
Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee.
Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.
Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him. His schedule for the day, announced Monday night, would have made Dick Cheney envious:
11:00 a.m.: En route TBA.
12:05 p.m.: En route TBA.
1:45 p.m.: En route TBA.
2:55 p.m.: En route TBA.
5:20 p.m.: En route TBA.
The 5:20 TBA turned out to be his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls -- just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door -- just as they do for the actual president.
Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."
As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama's biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.
Some say the supremely confident Obama -- nearly 100 days from the election, he pronounces that "the odds of us winning are very good" -- has become a president-in-waiting. But in truth, he doesn't need to wait: He has already amassed the trappings of the office, without those pesky decisions.
The Debate McCain Must Force
Have you noticed a change in Barack Obama's campaign? Instead of avoiding controversies over values, religion and race, he seems to welcome them and wade into the debates with an increasing enthusiasm. Characterizing how the Republicans will attack him, he predicted that they would criticize his "funny name" and add "and by the way, did you notice that he's black?" Obama used to go out of his way to avoid this kind of reference, but now he brings it on. Deliberately. Why?
Obama and the conservative right are mutually trying to keep the debate about his candidacy on the existential level -- is he the hope for America's future or a Manchurian Candidate, a kind of sleeper agent sent to destroy our democracy? That debate, which pits Obama's rhetoric against the Rev. Wright's rantings, is a contest that could go on all day, and Obama would win it. It is simply a bridge too far to believe that Obama is that evil and that invidious. But the more the debate covers such fundamental questions, the more it ignores the details -- details which could bring Obama down.
Quite simply, Obama would rather address his religious views and his optimism about America and his embrace of diversity than talk about his plans to raise taxes, let gasoline prices soar and socialize healthcare. In our new book, Fleeced, we try to bring the debate back down to earth, focusing on the specific plans that Obama has announced during his presidential primary campaign and discussing the consequences. This is the debate Barack Obama hopes he can avoid. Consider his proposals:
In effect, he would legislate a 60 percent tax bracket for upper-income Americans, killing all initiative and innovation. He'd raise the top bracket to 40 percent. He'd apply FICA taxes to all income, not just that under $100,000 as at present. So add 40 percent plus FICA's 12.5 percent plus Medicare's 2 percent plus state and local taxes averaging, after deduction, at 5-6 percent, and you have a 60 percent bracket.
He would double the capital gains tax, saddling the 50 percent of Americans who own stock with dramatically higher taxes. He'd double the dividend tax, hitting elderly coupon-clippers now retired and depending on fixed incomes.
He wants to cover 12 million illegal immigrants with federally subsidized health insurance, dramatically driving up costs and forcing federal rationing of healthcare. As in the U.K. and Canada, you will not be permitted certain medical procedures if the bureaucrats decide you are not worth it.
He proposes requiring Homeland Security operatives to notify terror suspects that they are under investigation within seven days of starting the investigation. He says that unless they can establish that there is "probable cause to believe that a certain individual is linked to a specific terrorist group," Homeland Security cannot seize his documents and search his business. The current standard is only that the search be "relevant" to a terror investigation.
He does not oppose $5-per-gallon gasoline but only says that he wishes there had been a more "gradual adjustment" to the higher prices.
Obama can talk about the Rev. Wright and flag lapel pins and his wife's love of America all day long. But what he resists is a specific discussion of his own plans for our country. That's the discussion he fears and he avoids. And it's the discussion John McCain must force upon him if he is to have any realistic chance of winning the election.
What Has Obama Accomplished?
By Richard Cohen
"Just tell me one thing Barack Obama has done that you admire," I asked a prominent Democrat. He paused and then said that he admired Obama's speech to the Democratic convention in 2004. I agreed. It was a hell of a speech, but it was just a speech.
On the other hand, I continued, I could cite four or five actions -- not speeches -- that John McCain has taken that elicit my admiration, even my awe. First, of course, is his decision as a Vietnam War POW to refuse freedom out of concern that he would be exploited for propaganda purposes. To paraphrase what Kipling said about Gunga Din, John McCain is a better man than most.
But I would not stop there. I would include campaign finance reform, which infuriated so many in his own party; opposition to earmarks, which won him no friends; his politically imprudent opposition to the Medicare prescription drug bill (Medicare has about $35 trillion in unfunded obligations); and, last but not least, his very early call for additional troops in Iraq. His was a lonely position, virtually suicidal for an all-but-certain presidential candidate, and no help when his campaign nearly expired last summer. In all these cases, McCain stuck to his guns.
Obama argues that he himself stuck to the biggest gun of all: opposition to the war. He took that position back when the war was enormously popular, the president who initiated it was even more popular, and critics of both were slandered as unpatriotic. But at the time, Obama was a mere Illinois state senator, representing the (very) liberal Hyde Park area of Chicago. He either voiced his conscience or his district's leanings or (lucky fella) both. We will never know.
And we will never know, either, how Obama might have conducted himself had he served in Congress as long as McCain has. Possibly he would have earned a reputation for furious, maybe even sanctimonious, integrity of the sort that often drove McCain's colleagues to dark thoughts of senatorcide, but the record -- scant as it is -- suggests otherwise. Obama is not noted for sticking to a position or a person once it (or he) becomes a political liability. (Names available upon request.)
All politicians change their positions, sometimes even because they have changed their mind. McCain must have suffered excruciating whiplash from totally reversing himself on George Bush's tax cuts. He has denounced preachers he later embraced and then, to his chagrin, has had to denounce them all over again. This plasticity has a label: Pandering. McCain knows how it's done.
But Obama has shown that in this area, youth is no handicap. He has been for and against gun control, against and for the recent domestic surveillance legislation and, in almost a single day, for a united Jerusalem under Israeli control and then, when apprised of U.S. policy and Palestinian chagrin, against it. He is an accomplished pol -- a statement of both admiration and a bit of regret.
Obama is often likened to John F. Kennedy. It makes sense. He has the requisite physical qualities -- handsome, lean, etc. -- plus wit, intelligence, awesome speaking abilities and a literary bent. He also might be compared to Franklin D. Roosevelt for many of those same qualities. Both FDR and JFK were disparaged early on by their contemporaries for, I think, doing the difficult and making it look easy. Eleanor Roosevelt, playing off the title of Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, airily dismissed him as more profile than courage. Similarly, it was Walter Lippmann's enduring misfortune to size up FDR and belittle him: Roosevelt, he wrote, was "a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for office, would very much like to be president." Lippmann later recognized that he had underestimated Roosevelt.
My guess is that Obama will make a fool of anyone who issues such a judgment about him. Still, the record now, while tissue thin, is troubling. The next president will have to be something of a political Superman, a man of steel who can tell the American people that they will have to pay more for less -- higher taxes, lower benefits of all kinds -- and deal in an ugly way when nuclear weapons seize the imagination of madmen.
The question I posed to that prominent Democrat was just my way of thinking out loud. I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I'm still not sure, though, what's in it.
Obama and the Affirmative Action Media
By James Lewis
Sometimes it's important to state the obvious, as George Orwell urged in another era of big lies and Political Correctness. It's obvious that the media are in the bag for Obama for one big reason, and one reason only: his race. The media have adopted liberal race bias as it is practiced on hundreds of campuses, in newsrooms all over, and in corporations galore. It's "affirmative" race discrimination, but it's still completely arbitrary favoritism based on skin color.
There's something profoundly wrong with that. It offends our sense of fair play. When governments behave this way it's a flagrant violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Every time normal people get a chance to vote, they vote against it. Even leftwing Supreme Court justices say that affirmative action is only a "temporary" fix for a history of discrimination against blacks.
But that's a lie. The race industry will never let go; on the contrary, they are including ever-more victim groups. The gender industry came in on top of the civil rights movement, and the sexual minority establishment rode in on the back of feminism. Hispanics and illegals are going to be the next big victim groups. From anti-black discrimination to anti-white discrimination -- where's the progress?
"To the victor belong the spoils" said the ancient Romans, and today, we have a political spoils system again. The Left hands out all the loot wherever it takes power. An Obama presidency will build up that race-and-gender spoils system, not pahes it out.
Divide-and-conquer is the basic Leftist strategy. Divide by race, gender, sexual habits, and anything else you can talk people into. That's what "identity politics" is all about. So the Left will inevitably dig in more deeply if Barack and Michelle get into power. It's going to be race politics forever -- only the victim class has changed.
The year 2008 is therefore an historic moment in the downward slide of race relations. Yes, it would be fine to elect a black president -- if he were well qualified. But Barack Obama is so unqualified compared to John McCain that we have a clear case of affirmative action of the worst kind, the kind that selects your brain surgeon on the basis of race rather than performance. Do you think a wartime president needs any less experience, talent, training, character and commitment than a surgeon? If the doctor blows an operation, somebody could die. But if the next president blows it, we all could.
The media are dominated by the Left. They contribute to the Left on a 100-to-1 basis. It's not news any more when a Clinton operative like George Stephanopoulos becomes a TV "news" anchor for a major network. Such corruption is now taken for granted. We expect it. And yet the revolving door between the Democrats and the media constitutes the worst kind of influence peddling, just like stacking the judiciary with Leftist ideologues.
When the Sixties Left took over American culture, it institutionalized ideological favoritism. "Affirmative action" has now created a race/gender/sexual minority spoils system, as bad as the spoils system that used to flourish In government jobs. In the 19th century it used to be the party in power that appointed all the bureaucrats during its term. That was pretty bad, but at least the voters could throw the rascals out and a new set of job-seekers would get their chance. Today it's almost exclusively liberal blacks, women, gays, and Hispanics who are favored in education, hiring and promotion. That is why universities practice speech censorship, why Global Frauding is pushed by corrupt "scientists," and why Dr. Larry Summers was fired as President of Harvard just for telling the truth about young mathematics geniuses. The gay lobby insists on its Divine right to infiltrate the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church is wallowing in priestly pedophile scandals, and all sources of duly constituted authority have been rendered helpless.
That is the real meaning of the media's one-sided propaganda for Obama. The Berlin Victory Celebration would be impossible in a free media market. But the newsies don't even care that they're caught stealing from the cookie jar. Nobody is going to fire the media apparatchiks for supporting Obama.
The New York Times' profit margins are crashing, but the NYT is just a prestige item owned by the Sulzberger family. They don't seem to care if it loses money. If the Sulzbergers sold out, George Soros or someone like him could buy it and run it at a loss, just to jack up his ample ego. The Politically Correct establishment is locked into power just as much as the hereditary aristocracy was during the reign of King George III.
The Left has no interest in transcending race and gender, or solving racism and sexism, as Barack Obama likes to boast when he's not playing the race card. It's just the opposite; Obama and his media suck-ups represent the corruption of racial politics -- or even more broadly, the corrupt rise of the Leftwing elites chosen just for their race, gender, and sexual habits.
That is why Obama was cheered by thousands of indoctrinated Germans, who have been steeped in anti-American hatred during the Bush years. The Euroleft controls the media, the universities, the bureaucracies. They can easily rustle up a big crowd on demand. They don't bother with the appearance of electoral democracy any more, because they don't have to. The elites have lifetime jobs without elections. That's what socialist Europe wants to see in America. Socialism is just modern European imperialism, and Obama is their hero, down to his Leninist iconography.
And yet, the American dream of equality before the law, equality of opportunity -- but not equality by government coercion -- is still alive in our hearts. It is a human fundamental. But we have slipped far, far down the slope toward racial socialism. Perhaps we are beyond recovery.
Let's just keep those facts in mind. Hold on to your sense of outrage. Keep your sense of fairness. Vote for blacks and women when they are qualified, but not when they are not. Don't lose sight of the fact that Barack Obama isn't remotely qualified for the most important and hardest job in the world -- the one that we all depend upon for simple survival in the age of nuclear proliferation to madmen.
Don't lose your bearings. Obama might win, but Leftist corruption must not. Meanwhile, we must keep fighting for what's right. If we give up, the bad guys win. Don't surrender to them.
(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, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena . My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)