Thursday, January 27, 2011

No more post-speech autographs, puleeeeeez!

I am not sure when it started, but I am sure it should be ended.

I am referring the President of the United States signing autographs on the floor of the Congress as he exits the chamber. It defines the word “tacky.”

Certainly, it makes the President and the event look bad. There has been significant notice of the fact that the State of the Union speech has become more of a political pep rally than a presidential report. In signing autographs on his way out, the President makes the entire event look like a campaign appearance. It is just not, as they say, presidential.

Even worse, though, is the gaggle of legislators begging for his signature on their souvenir programs. These are supposed to be serious minded legislators, contemplating the great issues of the day. Instead, they behave like teenie-boppers at a rock concert.

Some legislators even handed the President a stack of programs. And one fellow appeared to have an unrelated photograph for the President to sign. Has he no sense of propriety and dignity? At least the President was not suckered into that gambit. He refused to sign the photo.

Personally, I think the President should have made – and let us hope all future presidents will – a hasty, albeit dignified, retreat from the chamber with minimal glad-handing and autographing.

Obama Gives a D-minus Speech

The wisdom of the American people, as impressively demonstrated on Election Day, was played out in the State of the Union speech. It was most certainly a far different report to the Congress than would have been made had President Obama and his liberal wing of the Democrat party not taken such a shellacking at the polls.

Because this was a speech borne on practical politics, as opposed to his heartfelt ideology, it was not a well-delivered speech. It seemed more like a speech class assignment than the report of the chief executive of the most powerful nation on earth.

Substantively, it was a disaster.

In trying to find the elusive common ground between the newly enlightened and emboldened free-market/limited government Republicans and the strong-central-government, tax-and-spend Democrats, the President proved there wasn’t any.

In attempting to please everyone, he ended up offending both sides.

His vision of “investments” (meaning massive government spending) in infrastructure, education and new technology were nothing more than the same old public works programs of the past.

On the other hand, the president’s hawkish talk on Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran would certainly offend his progressive base. You could almost hear the gasps of the left-wingers when he called for putting the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) back on all the college campuses. And then there were those references to cutting community grant programs and Medicare.

Perhaps his only universally interesting suggestion was to restructure the government. The problem will be the cantankerous debate that will ensue as to how to do that. Most certainly it is going to have to be done with an eye on drastically reducing the cost of the federal government.

Overall, the speech lacked any grand, but achievable, vision. He did not ask the American public to soar to the sky, as did John Kennedy. Rather, he merely invited the American public to climb to the edge of the hole.

And what about that obligatory memorable phrase? “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself,” Roosevelt assured the nation. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” implored Kennedy. “Our long national nightmare is over,” declared Ford. “The age of big government is over,” announced Clinton.

Somehow, “this is our sputnik moment” does not measure up. It might have been better offered up in a Saturday Night Live spoof than on the floor of the Congress.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ron Reagan Jr.'s Parental Smear Campaign

In the recent biography of his father, Ron Reagan, Jr. alleges that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s’ Disease while still in the White House rather than in 1994 when his diagnosis was made public.

Based on the contention that some signs of Alzheimer’s are detectable many years in advance of the more obvious and severe symptoms, young Reagan offers up a baseless opinion. He has no medical evidence to support his scurrilous contention.

As expected, the liberal community rose in a great “I told you so.” After all, the “authority” in this matter was none other than the 40th President’s only flesh and blood son. (Michael Reagan was adopted.)

What needs to be considered is that Reagan Jr. was estranged from his father for most of his adult life. Ron carried out a life-long vendetta against whatever he perceived was the failure of his dad to meet his emotional needs.

Not only did young Ron separate himself from the family, he took on the role of the anti-Reagan. He became a radical liberal, repudiating everything is father stood for. After a few unsuccessful attempts at show business – dancing to be specific – the younger Reagan became a radio talker for the left. He used the airwaves to carry out his loathing for his father.

He was a star of the short-lived Air America network, where he worked alongside and in concert with the most notable Reagan bashers in the country, such as Bill Press and Tom Harmon. He reveled in their company, and never disagreed with a single statement demonizing his father.

I would listen to his show from time to time, and I always felt a certain level of pity for the younger Reagan. Somehow, he allowed his life and his talent to be consumed by hatred of his father. It shaped him – perhaps more accurately, it twisted him.

Ironically, the fact that Ron Jr. has had a platform to lambaste his father is because of the very man he vilifies. Without the heritage and namesake of his president-father, Ron Reagan, Jr. would be an unknown something or other – obscure to the point of irrelevance. Oddly enough, he might have been a better and happier person.

Burton's Wall

Indiana Congressman Dan Burton is continuing his 25-year battle to have a glass safety wall constructed in the House Chamber to separate the visitor gallery from the floor of the House.

My knee-jerk reaction was unfavorable. Just seemed to be another way to create a hermetically sealed elitist government. After reading Burton’s thinking, and the counter arguments, which are pretty weak, I have come to the conclusion that Burton is right.

First and foremost, we live in dangerous times. When the Capitol was built, the potential danger to legislators was single shot weapons of dubious accuracy. Hand explosives were possible, but not likely. A congressman of that era was more likely to be injured or killed by a colleague than a constituent.

Since the visitor gallery is only for guests to see and hear their legislators in action, the glass barrier makes no change in the relationship between the representative and the represented. There is no permissible communication from a gallery guest to the assembled legislators. When such communication does take place, the party is swiftly removed from the gallery, and occasionally arrested.

In 1954, the Ladies Gallery was used as a sniper perch, and five congressman were wounded in the ensuing gunfire. Capitol tour guides still point to a portion of splintered railing that was hit by one of the 30 rounds fired at the well of the House floor.

Burton worries that plastic explosives, other new technologies or a lapse in security might allow a bomber to sneak in. It would not take a professional baseball outfielder to make the toss to the speaker podium.

Burton notes that at least once a year, the entire United States government is assembled within shrapnel distance from each other. During the State of the Union address, and within 25 feet of the President, sit the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, the entire Supreme Court and most of the Cabinet.

I say “most” of the Cabinet because one member is taken to a secure hiding place just in case Burton’s worst fear were to happen – that by the action of one deranged individual or one motivated terrorist, the entire national leadership of the United States is wiped out in a nanosecond.

Now I figure, if prudence dictates that we hide away one of the Cabinet members as a safety measure, it makes even more sense to do everything possible to prevent such an attack in the first place.

The glass wall takes nothing way from the ability to view and hear the proceedings, but goes a long way in preventing what would be the worse attack on our seat of government since the British destroyed the city in 1812.

As public figures, members of Congress will always be individually at risk, as was so tragically demonstrated with the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords. We cannot fully protect against this risk without doing serious damage to our representative form of government. We must not isolate our public officials from the public. It is quite a different matter, however, to protect the assembled government in the performance of its duties. Burton’s wall is not to protect individual members of Congress, but to protect our very system of government.

To play on the words of President Reagan in Berlin, “Mr. Speaker, put up that wall!”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Politicization of a Tragedy

One could expect the strident left to politicize the tragic shooting in Arizona in shameless effort to demonize the conservative majority in America. I am, however, greatly bothered by the general media’s propensity to serve as spokesperson for the radical left.

While conservatives lean to individual responsibility, liberals always look for the larger social phenomenon. It is always the non-liberal society that is at fault due to ignorance, mean-spiritedness or downright evil.

The media pundits and talking heads immediately blamed the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and the death of six innocent bystanders on right-wing rhetoric generally, the Tea Party Movement collectively, and Sara Palin individually.

No matter how nonsensical the left’s accusations were, the media gave them credibility by trumpeting the “party line.”

Never mind that the shooter, Jared Loughner, was described as “liberal” and “left-wing” by those who knew him. No matter that Giffords was a conservative, blue-dog Democrat – “targeted” by the left in the primary. No matter that the assassinated Judge John Roll was a staunch conservative. The media still made Loughner the tool of the right.

Evidence seems to suggest that Loughner was provoked to violence by Gifford’s perceived inadequate answer to his question at a previous public event. By liberal logic, does she bear some responsibility for her own fate?

In citing the acrid political atmosphere, virtually all media commentators cited “examples” of conservative comments and imagery. Most notable was Palin’s website graphic with crosshairs on congressional districts, including Giffords’.

In one of the greatest examples of gall and hypocrisy, Markos Moulitsas, of DailyKos, blasted the Palin graphic while ignoring his own “target” icon on Giffords’ district because of her conservative leanings.

In targeting the right (no pun intended), the media ignored innumerable examples of gun and violence metaphors pouring from the left, and even some outright threats. They failed to note President Obama’s “threat” that “if they bring knives, we will bring guns.” These words were not uttered by a largely unknown Tea Party rallier, but by the President of the United States. Is he culpable in the rampage in Tucson?

On the other side of the coin, what is the effect of all the shrill, accusatory rhetoric coming from the left and the media? Will Tea Party leaders be assaulted by vengeful mobs? Is Sara Palin now at higher risk of being the victim of another deranged leftie? Is the left essentially “targeting” these people?

Furthermore, do these baseless accusations of the left provoke the rage of those so wrongfully blamed, whether individually or collectively? I know that watching MSNBC Keith Olbermann spewing his arrogant vitriol against me, via my philosophy, got my ire raised.

Being old enough to have experienced the Days of Rage in the 1960s, I find it interesting that the widespread and clearly politically motivated violence of the left in those days was largely excused by the press. While there was lip-service condemnation of the wave of deaths and destruction, the cause was justified and celebrated. What is the example when society takes two murderous terrorists – speaking of Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernadette Dorn – and makes them “distinguished” college professors to help influence and mold the minds of thousands of impressionable students?

Is the modern-day repetition of young adults becoming crazed mass murderers due to political rhetoric and the availability of guns? Or, should the call for national discussion include the breakdown of the American family? Violence on television and in the movies? Participatory fantasy violence in computer games? Or even … the oppressive policies of our increasingly authoritarian governments?

In seeking political advantage by blaming conservatives, the left wing media did a great disservice to the truth, to journalistic integrity and to identifying the real reasons why a guy like Loughner goes sufficiently nuts to kill innocent people en masse.

Finally … gun metaphors are ingrained in our language and our culture. They do not breed violence. Sane people do not take them literally, and deranged people don’t need them to act out their personal insanity.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daley to Push Obama to the Right

The appointment of former Commerce Secretary and Chicago political major-domo Bill Daley, as White House chief of staff is bad news for Republicans and terrible news for Progressives and their public-sector union supporters.

This appointment means that the Chicago Machine is still in charge in the Oval Office. However, Daley is more right-of-center, more bipartisan and less acerbic than departing advisors Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod. They were responsible for the sand-in-your-face Obama. Since the President tends to reflect his advisors more than most presidents, you will see the Daley difference in Obama in short order.

The old guard was about legislative accomplishment along philosophic lines regardless of the political fallout. They fought the political battles in left field. Daley will reverse that. Political success will take precedence over philosophic purity.

I say this is bad news for Republican partisans because the new Daley-made Obama will be more popular. The combative language will disappear. He will give more than lip service to bipartisanship. The change will be substantive, not just style. Daley is definitely a boost for the President’s 2012 reelection effort.

I also note that it is terrible news for Progressives and the hard left unions because Daley will move Obama to a more pragmatic position, which is clearly to the right of center. Obama cannot improve the economy without yielding to free-market concepts, and Daley is Mr. Business, not Mr. Labor or Mr. Liberal Agenda. Job creation will be achieved with policies pushed more by the Chamber of Commerce than the AFL-CIO.

Daley is smart, affable and effective – a combination hitherto not seen in the Obama White House. His knowledge, contacts and persuasiveness will give him great sway over the less experienced and malleable Obama. Daley is capable of actually negotiating a bi partisan compromise rolling back the most egregious portions of the Obama healthcare bill. If you doubt that, just think NAFTA.

Daley is a military hawk. Don’t expect to see Gitmo closed or the troops out of Afghanistan short of some discernable victory. I doubt that many terrorists will be tried in domestic courts.

The title on the door may say “Chief-of-Staff,” but Daley will function more like an associate President. Bet on it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

White House Press Secretary Now Creating (bad) News

In what can only be described as supreme arrogance and hubris, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs got into a very heated, and somewhat physical, altercation with Indian security officials during President Obama’s state visit.

It started when Indian security officials decided to limit the number of reporters from India and America allowed in the room to five each, down from eight.

This threw Gibbs into a highly public rage. He even used his foot to prevent Indian guards from closing the door to the room where President Obama was meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Gibbs angrily inquired, “You gonna break my foot, now?”

Several times, Gibbs threatened to pull Obama out of the meeting if the Indian officials did not acquiesce to his demand for eight reporters. Rather than call his bluff or disrupt the official meeting, the Indian officials relented and admitted all eight U.S. reporters.

Gibbs is to be faulted on two very serious counts. First, he created an unnecessary international incident embarrassing the President and the United States. The image of an enraged American White House official yelling at Indian security officials can only transmit a negative image of America as an arrogant power to the people of India – and around the world. The photo accompanying this post is now the face of America – more so than any smiling poses of the President. Think about that.

Even worse is the fact that Gibbs appeared both willing and able to disrupt a meeting of two heads of state by ordering … yes ordering … the President of the United States to withdraw over a tiff that had nothing to do with the President or the serious business of the meeting. By this threat, Gibbs makes the President seem like nothing more than the figurehead of a cabal of all-powerful advisors.

I do not believe there is anything that Obama can do, short of firing Gibbs, that can undo the harm the Press Secretary has done to the image of America and the President’s own credibility as the man in charge. If the President does not send Gibbs packing for home immediately, he leaves himself vulnerable to critics who see an increasingly impotent president. Gibbs’ poor behavior will overshadow the rest of the trip – and maybe the rest of Obama’s presidency.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Labor Blew a Billion

While the Democrats whine, and the press reports, about excessive corporate expenditures and secret funding, it is the spreading around of big bucks by big labor that should be of concern.

This year, it is said that the major unions spent more than one billion dollars in this election cycle. Certainly the amount of money is noteworthy, but it is the source that is most troubling.

Business tends to give to both Republican and Democrats. The unions give virtually all their money to Democrats. The union bosses are not trying to influence the Democrat party, they are trying to own it – and they already seem to have a long-term lease on it.

In addition to the distribution of the money, there is a serious problem with the source.

Virtually all corporate money is given voluntary. Union money is taken from members regardless of their desire to give, or their party/candidate preferences. In some elections, more than half the union members vote for Republican candidates, yet 99 percent of the money confiscated by the union “no choice” rules goes to Democrats.

It is encouraging that the American people are not so easily fooled or influenced by big labor’s big bucks. What did these labor bosses get for that billion-dollar donation this year? A crushing defeat that goes well beyond the obvious humiliation.

They lost real prestige and real power. They lost control of the U.S. House. They lost influence in the Senate. They lost key governorships and state legislatures in this all-important redistricting year. They lost the chance to pass any of their top-priority legislative agendas.

I would dare say that they even lost the unconditional support of the President. Seeing these election results, I suspect Obama will move away from the labor camp in setting his priorities. In fact, his post-election press conference contained a ringing endorsement of business and free markets, and nothing about organized labor. He talked about the need for small business job creation, very little of which is unionized.

Coming into this election, labor wanted to be the 800-pound gorilla, but instead, it turned out to be a paper tiger.

Image ©

Things look better already. A GOP Victory Dividend?

One of the immediate economic benefits of the Republican resurgence is the shift from pessimism to optimism –- or at least less pessimism. Consumer and business optimism is, to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophesy. Purchasing, investing, hiring, producing are all risk-based decisions – relying heavily on the perception of the future.

With Republicans in a position to – at minimum – block the most egregious, growth-retarding policies, both consumers and producers will open their wallets – the former to spend and the latter to produce.

The rate and level of economic recovery will take a little more than first impressions, however. If this were a poker game, I would say that the American public matched the bet on the first round of seven-card stud. Now they want to see more of the faced up cards.

Right now, the game is to the advantage of the Republicans. They will argue, with some legitimacy, that any economic improvements coming down the pike were due to their being put into the game. They will claim that without the GOP resurgence, the Obama administration would have continued down the path of economic devastation.

Obama and the Democrats will argue that all future improvements were due to their policies and the results just happened to be delivered after the Republicans arrived in town. That is a much harder argument to make convincingly.

Speaker Pelosi – Arrogant or Stupid?

When I suggest that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might be stupid in the headline, I do not mean a lack of common intelligence – maybe more a lack of common sense. I am referring to the kind of stupidity which results in very intelligent people not seeming to see reality very clearly.

Pelosi was one of the key ingredients in the toxin that poisoned the political atmosphere for the Democrats. She may well be the most unpopular American woman since Jane Fonda traveled to Vietnam to play patty cake with the Viet Cong a couple generations ago.

There are two moments that define the obscenity of this woman. The first is when she marched through the crowd of Tea Party ralliers with the oversized gavel flanked by Black legislators. There is no doubt it was done in the hope that some renegade demonstrator would say or do something outrageous so that Pelosi could tar all Tea Party participants with racial and/or violent epitaphs. I am sure this was her intention because that

was not the normal way legislators enter the building, especially if there are demonstrators at the main entrances. In fact, she usually rides to the Capitol Building in the underground railway. It backfired because none of the thousands of demonstrators took the bait.

The second defining moment was when she said at a press conference, in response to criticism for not allowing time to read the healthcare bill before taking a vote, “we have to pass it to find out what is in it.” Such arrogance is beyond comprehension.

So, it appears that the GOP’s luck has not yet run out. If Pelosi were to ask me what she could do to further help the Republican Party, without hesitation, I would advise her to stay on as the leader of the House Democrats. Let her dismal 8 percent popularity be the face of the Democrats in the House for the next two years.

The fact that the surviving Democrat members would elect her would signal to the American public that they have not yet heard the voices of America, and that they may need yet another political “time out” in 2012 before they get it.

This also means that the reviled Obama, Reid and Pelosi troika is still in place. In a previous

blog, I suggested that Senate President Harry Reid will now be an albatross around the neck of the President. Should Pelosi succeed in her quest to maintain leadership over the House Dems, the President has a second albatross.

This is also where the liberal Democrat bias of the newsrooms becomes a benefit. They will undoubtedly afford Pelosi much more coverage than they did Republican minority leadership. She will be in the press a lot – pressing her unpopular left wing agenda -- and nothing could be better for the Republicans.

You have to wonder if Pelosi got the go-ahead from Obama. If she did and he did, then the President is as out of touch as Pelosi. I try to keep this blog on the highest ground, but honestly, doofus Reid and cackling Pelosi always bring to my mind images of the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz.

To use comedian Jackie Gleason’s line, “How sweeeet it is!”

Friday, November 05, 2010

What can Obama do with a lame duck?

Obama’s moment of truth will come at the calling of the special “lame duck” session of Congress. This is when we see what meaning there is to all the mea culpas and all the pretty words in the President’s post-election news conference.

The House under the new Republican conservative orthodoxy has promised to reverse the tide of big government, or, none-dare-call-it, socialism, in the face of the election night rant of Harry Reid, promising to fight for as much of the old Obama, Pelosi, Reid progressive agenda as possible – even as the reins of power are slipping from their politically cold dead hands.

Where is the President in all this?

The telltale issue may well be the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Obama, Reid and Pelosi have hitherto been adamant that they will only be extended to those with incomes under $250,000. The party-of-no says “no” to any tax increases at all – and the failure to extend even a portion of this IS, by definition, a tax increase on those left out.

This is a very key issue, because Congress MUST pass one version of the extension or the other. They cannot afford to do nothing. In his press conference, the President talks of an extension for the “middle class.” These are the buzz words for the $250,000 break point.

Unless Reid and Pelosi have gotten religion, or a private message from the Oval Office, they are likely to pursue the old plan in the “lame duck” session.

The current Democrat strategy is to demand the passage of the OPR version, daring the Republicans to filibuster it – essentially killing the extension and raising everyone’s taxes. With no choice, the Republicans might have to capitulate.

But it would be a Pyrrhic victory for the Democrats.

Should the President take the hard line, he will have effectively rendered his press conference conciliatory rhetoric meaningless. The new Congress will convene as a war party because the President will have fired the first shot of strident partisanship. Reid and House Speaker John Boehner will be two generals leading their forces into a two-year series of philosophic battles.

On the other hand, if Obama surrenders on the Bush tax issue, he will lose what remains of his core left-wing support and signal his willingness to let the Republican House set the agenda for the next two years. The President already has the progressives crazed with his press conference endorsement of capitalism, free-markets and corporate America.

What the President does in advance of the new Congress may well determine the last two years of his first term, or the last to years of his presidency.

*Image © Eric Allie*