White House Attack Dogs? The Left Devours One of Its Own

untitledFor better or worse, Bob Woodward is an icon of American journalism. He and Carl Bernstein did their original investigative reporting for The Washington Post on the scandal that eventually brought down the administration of President Richard Nixon: Watergate. Not only did that reporting influence American politics, it changed our national culture. Hints of scandal are forever being referred to as thisgate or thatgate.

He has been a prolific author.  He and Bernstein co-authored All the President’s Men in 1974, their accounting of the Watergate affair. It became a blockbuster movie a couple of years later, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein. His latest book is The Price of Politics. It’s described by one reviewer as offering a chronicle of secret budget meetings in summer 2011 between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner along with descriptions of tensions between Boehner and other GOP House leaders.

Though Mr. Woodward and I would probably disagree on what it means “to restore the American economy and improve the federal government’s fiscal condition,” I give him credit for writing a book in which he argued that both sides have responsibilities to meet.

It takes great emotional and intellectual energy to write a book such as The Price of Politics. Perhaps for that reason Woodward went on the offensive yesterday on MSNBC’s early commentary show, Morning Joe. There he took aim at President Obama’s decision not to deploy a naval aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, supposedly because the president is concerned about the sequestration budget cuts looming for tomorrow. Some might argue that he got too personal regarding the commander-in-chief, calling his actions a “kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Previous to this he published on opinion piece at The Washington Post (where he is still employed as an associate editor), blasting the Obama administration for its handling of the sequestration negotiations. There he rightly pointed out that the sequestration idea came from the White House. “Obama personally approved of the plan” and had it sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Woodward then went on in the article to demonstrate that Obama and his Democrat allies have been unfaithful to their promises to Republicans and have, as he says, been “moving the goals posts” ever since.

These well-targeted criticisms of his fellow Democrats and their imperial leader may give Woodward a taste of the true price of politics; it appears that the most powerful man on earth wants to bring him down. You see, at some point after his morning remarks were aired on MSNBC, Woodward received a warning from someone in the White House who is among the “very senior” staff. Referring to the criticism of Obama, the email warned that he “would regret doing this.” That “very senior” person is reported to be director of the White House Economic Council, Gene Sperling.

Woodward now says he’s “very uncomfortable.” He should be be. The political long knives are out. Like certain species in the animal world who eat their own, the pro-Obama, left-wing press intends to devour this veteran journalist. Their goal is to chew him up and spit him out as a worn-down, bumbling leftover who should have retired long ago.

Over at the Daily Intelligencer they’re asking “What the Hell Happened to Bob Woodward?” He’s just a proponent of “weird philosophy,” they say. The folks at the Huffington Post accuse him of “Gangland”fantasies. Over at Slate they say “he’s going the full wingnut.” A writer at The Week says Woodward is waging a “ridiculous war with the White House.”

There is no room on the left for criticism of the Great Leader.

In addition to published remarks, numerous reporters have blasted Woodward in the Twitter world. “All of these reporters combined might equal one tenth a Bob Woodward in the journalistic pantheon,” according to Breitbart News.

For his part, Woodward knows a few things about how the political game is played in DC. He has not accused Obama of approving of the “threat.” Instead, he condemned the action as a possible misguided tactic or strategy that “somebody’s employed.” Would Obama approve of such tactics?  I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Why Republicans Are Losing to Obama

imagesApproximately twenty-five hundred years ago a Chinese general named Sun Tzu is said to have written a treatise known as The Art of War. Of all the strategic advice it offers perhaps none is more important than this: for success, you must know your enemy and know yourself. It applies to politics as well as war.

When it comes to dealing with Barack Obama, it appears that the GOP leadership doesn’t get it. They fail to understand who it is they are dealing with or the ideology that inspires their political opponent. Republicans complain that since Congress is deadlocked between a Democrat Senate and Republican House, the president should lead us away from the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) recognizes that President Obama admires Abraham Lincoln. He used that recognition to make a point.  Referencing the new Spielberg movie, Lincoln, Blount said that “the lesson of that movie is that to get hard things done the president has to decide he wants something done.”  He seems to think the president wants a preventive measure to be found that will avoid the expiration of the tax cuts that have been in place since the administration of George W. Bush. Speaker of the House John Boehner seems to be negotiating with the same premise.

Republicans are focused only on the short term, hoping to stop an increase in taxes during a period of economic decline.  Obama is focused on his ultimate goal, the redistribution of wealth away from the producers and investors whose success he believes to be the product of a great immorality. His rhetoric about protecting the middle class is nothing more than a political ploy to achieve his goal of remaking America into a welfare state where taxes are higher on all producers and earners, but especially high on anyone he refers to as “the wealthy.”

Obama’s goal–and the legacy by which he wishes to be remembered–is not a stronger, more prosperous economy. It’s an economy of redistribution. The long-term cost is of little concern to him. Like Lincoln, whom he admires, Obama will do whatever he must to achieve his goal.

Lincoln’s goal was the forced preservation of the American union. Using an invading army in states that had declared themselves separated from his authority, he presided over scorched-earth tactics, declared martial law and imprisoned Americans without legal authority, closed hundreds of dissenting newspapers, ignored constitutional limits on government, and oversaw the arrest and deportation of a member of Congress because he had sympathies for the states in rebellion. Sadly, in this case, might really does make right. Lincoln successfully remade America into nation where membership could be compelled by force of arms and states were no longer sovereign.

Slavery could have been ended without warfare, as it was elsewhere. There were already southern leaders preparing for the end of this immoral institution. Political conflicts could have been settled without the violation of states’ rights. Constitutional limits on federal power could have been preserved. But Lincoln wanted a stronger, more powerful federal government. He could not allow threats to this goal to stand. As Prof. Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, “the Lincoln regime destroyed the system of federalism, or states’ rights, that was established by the founding fathers.”

For Obama, the economy is a zero-sum game. It’s a pie with only so many pieces–a pie that belongs ultimately to federal authority. It can therefore be seized and divided any way the government sees fit. He fails to understand even the most basic of economic principles. Why should he? He has never operated a business, paid employees, taken a risk to expand services or hire new workers. He has always been a leader among those who criticize the investors, planters, growers, makers, and builders–unless those growers are building a bigger government.

What he will not, cannot see, is that economies can grow and expand. Governmental power can be used to fashion an environment where that can happen or it can be used in a way that impedes it. The pie of economic vitality can actually grow and assist everyone in securing increased prosperity. That idea, however, is anathema to Obama. He sees economic growth as an injustice perpetrated upon workers rather than a form of economic cooperation bringing rewards to all.

Republicans, stop negotiating as if Obama wants to avoid economic disaster. He doesn’t. You do. Take a hint from the ancient writings of Sun Tzu. Know Obama and know yourselves.

A Simple Lesson in Economics

untitledAlthough I don’t generally post long quotations from other sources here, in this case I’m going to make an exception.  In fact, I’m going to post an entire page. It’s just that good.

Not only is it top-notch information, it’s timely too. As you read it, compare its wisdom to the message coming from our nation’s capital these days.  Big difference.  Given the consequences, I’d say there’s not only an important difference, but a frightening one as well. Barack Obama certainly doesn’t get it (unless his ultimate goal is to bring down and remake the American economy into a socialist model). I don’t think that John Boehner and his merry band of big-government Republicans get it, either. Otherwise they would refuse to cooperate with President Obama’s agenda altogether.

Be sure to read the entire thing (it’s short).  Reflect a few moments.  Then read it again. I suspect it will leave you shaking your head. It’s page 139 of Henry Hazlitt’s fine little volume entitled Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Three Rivers Press edition, 1979).  It’s still available if you’d like to purchase a copy for yourself. I highly recommend it; it was written for folks like you and me, folks who aren’t economists but who wish to understand the topic.

Hazlitt was an economist, but also a philosopher and a journalist. He wrote for several influential publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek.  He was greatly influenced by economist Ludwig von Mises and the so-called Austrian School of Economics (I have written in this blog before about Mises and the Austrian School). Economics in One Lesson originally appeared in 1946 and it has become a classic economics text. I wish every American would read it, just after they take the time to read the Constitution.

A voice for reason and logic rather than emotionalism and polemics, Hazlitt died in 1993. From the vaults of heaven I bet he’s shaking his head and thinking, “they still don’t get it.” Anyway, here is the extended quotation. I find it inspiring and loaded with common sense. Sadly, common sense isn’t so common in the halls of government. Though it begins with the topic of the minimum wage, it raises broader implications quickly. I have reproduced the page in bold print to make it clear that this is the work of Hazlitt and not my own.

As you read Hazlitt’s words, you may come to the conclusion that our federal government is doing the exact opposite of what it should be doing to assist our citizens in securing their economic recovery. It’s as if Hazlitt were still alive, writing for today.

 

Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt

“All this is not to argue that there is no way of raising wages. It is merely to point out that the apparently easy method of raising them by government fiat is the wrong way and the worst way.

This is perhaps as good a place as any to point out that what distinguishes many reformers from those who cannot accept their proposals is not their greater philanthropy, but their greater impatience. The question is not whether we wish to see everybody as well off as possible. Among men of good will such an aim can be taken for granted. The real question concerns the proper means of achieving it. And in trying to answer this we must never lose sight of a few elementary truisms. We cannot distribute more wealth than is created. We cannot in the long run pay labor as a whole more than it produces.

The best way to raise wages, therefore, is to raise marginal labor productivity. This can be done by many methods: by an increase in capital accumulation–i.e., by an increase in the machines with which the workers are aided; by new inventions and improvement; by more efficient management on the part of employers; by more industriousness and efficiency on the part of workers; by better education and training. The more the individual worker produces, the more he increases the wealth of the whole community. The more he produces, the more his services are worth to consumers, and hence to employers. And the more he is worth to employers, the more he will be paid. Real wages come out of production, not out of government decrees.

So government policy should be directed, not to imposing more burdensome requirements on employers, but to following policies that encourage profits, that encourage employers to expand, to invest in newer and better machines to increase the productivity of workers–in brief, to encourage capital accumulation, instead of discouraging it–and to increase both employment and wage rates.”

(Henry Hazzlit, Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics. (New York: Three Rivers Press 1979)

Elections Have Consequences

Two weeks and a day.  That’s how long it has been since America made its presidential choice for the next four years.  The prediction of Michelle Obama will continue to unfold as the country’s Democrat leadership works to “change our traditions, our history,” and as we “move into a different place as a nation.”

While I was wrong about how the voting would turn out on November 6th, there were some things I got right.  I wondered aloud back in February if “Anybody But Obama” was enough to defeat the sitting president.  The GOP tried to be excited about this contest, but I’m not convinced that most Republican voters were that enthused about Mitt Romney. Their energy was aimed at removing Obama from the White House rather than putting Romney into it.  That wasn’t enough.

If you compare the electoral maps of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, you’ll see that very little has changed in terms of how the state electoral votes will actually be cast on December 17th.  Romney garnered a few more electoral numbers than McCain (206 to 173), but the overall pool of nationwide voters was down.  Approximately five and a half million fewer voters turned out for this election than in 2008.

One of the biggest mistakes that Romney made in his campaign was to present the economic issue as “us vs. them.”  As I have often pointed out here, the tide of those who receive government benefits is growing rapidly while the number of taxpayers is shrinking. That isn’t the combination for a successful economy; it’s bad news for the future.  But it’s understandable that people vote to keep their benefits coming.  Mitt Romney was right to point this out, but he did a poor job of explaining why it’s such a dangerous situation to be in.

It’s not “us vs. them.”  Nor is it really “the makers vs. the takers” or anything else like that.  It’s about us–all of us.  By describing the free market in a way that divides us (as Democrats often do) we misrepresent its communal nature and we allow ourselves to be duped by the rhetoric of the left.  Simply put, Republicans must make the case for why our current spending is a path of destruction–not for the rich but for the poor and the middle class.  Romney was painted as the wealthy guy who resents the poor and the working classes.  I don’t for a moment think that hey believes that, but the Democrats did a good job of making it appear that he does.

How high will spending go?  Will it get to $20 trillion?  Perhaps $24 trillion?  Economic bubbles eventually burst.  That includes monetary bubbles.  Maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to avoid a complete meltdown.  But must we take the chance?  Can we awaken from this dreamworld of never-ending spending that our political leaders have led us into? The one good thing about Obama’s re-election is that if the double-dip recession does become a reality, there won’t be a Republican in the White House for the Democrats to blame, though they’ll undoubtedly try to blame the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.  (Given the timid nature of Speaker John Boehner and his merry band of big-spending Republicans, that will be especially ironic.)

By the way, that predicted double dip is now a reality in Europe.  We can expect it to move our way in the near future.  As it does, the economic darlings of the left will continue to push for more spending and higher taxes.  This includes the intractable Paul Krugman.  In a recent column he sang the praises of 91% federal taxation.  That’s right.  He seems to like the idea that a wasteful, bloated, overspending federal government should be allowed to return to the days of taking nearly all the money of the very wealthy.  He wants them to pay their fair share.  We hear that often these days, don’t we?  How much is fair?  If they take 100%, will that finally be fair?

As author Dustin Siggins points out, the top 1% of earners make fifty times the amount of money made by the bottom 20% of earners.  But they pay 1500 times the taxes!  It’s not enough to talk about what’s fair–we have to talk about what’s just, what makes sense, and what is hurting everyone.

In the midst of all this, it appears that the GOP has lost its soul.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got to take a ride on Marine One (the president’s helicopter) and to speak to Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen while they rode on Air Force One.  Who knows?  Maybe he even voted for Obama.  Now he has made his debut on Saturday Night Live.  His constituents probably enjoyed seeing their governor on TV.  Well, those who have electricity anyway.  These are unfortunate signs of the time.

Don’t look for genuine leadership from most of the GOP.  Instead, you should expect them to stomp their feet and to talk a good game.  All the while they’ll do only what they have to do in order to appear to oppose Obama.  Our nation’s capital is a stage on which the players perform.  Perception is everything.

Even I was surprised on November 6th, but now I’m listening more attentively.  As Republican leaders argue about turning further left and becoming even more like their Democrat counterparts, I wonder if we really have a two-party system anymore.  The Democrats kept the White House and the Senate.  The Republicans kept the House.  The electoral map has barely changed.  That speaks more to me of apathy than an energetic mandate.

Republicans, take note.  Becoming more like Democrats is the wrong lesson to take from this election.  Drinking their Kool-Aid is intoxicating, but it makes you lean left.  It doesn’t look good on you.  Give the voters an alternative vision, one that is inspired by the constitutional values and free-market inventiveness that made this country great.

This vision might be a hard thing to sell to voters who have been poorly educated in these truly American values, but acting more like liberal Democrats isn’t winning the GOP any friends.  In fact, it appears to be losing them the few that they already have.

Political Theatrics is Destroying Us

There are some common-sense lessons we learn as children that we really should hold dearly.  Here’s one that I recall.  It was acted out time and time again as I progressed through school.  Class would be going as usual, and in the corner of my eye there would be some unexpected movement from another part of the room.  Inevitably, the teacher’s back would be toward the class.  Out of two dozen or so students, two or three people would be acting up.  They would eventually come to the attention of the teacher and would be scolded.  But their antics would only end temporarily.

Once the teacher returned to writing on the chalkboard, the antics would begin anew.  Again the teacher would address the students and perhaps she would even mete out some punishment.  Sometimes the problematic students were removed from the room to face consequences from the school’s administration.  More often than not, the problem continued and the eventual outcome was that the entire class was punished with the loss of some privilege.

This same model is very popular in government.  You see, rather than confronting a problem directly and with bold action, it’s easier to make a general rule or prohibition that affects everyone.

In the classroom, the best action would be to deal with the offenders in no-nonsense terms, engage the support of administrators, and demand action from the parents of the offending children.  That, however, is a difficult path requiring self-confidence, determination, clear vision, and bravery.  Well do I know this from my 21 years of teaching!  Parents don’t like to be called when their children are out of control.  But the truth of the matter is that when they are forced to be involved, the problem is much more likely to be resolved.  I know this from experience.

Now let’s turn to examples regarding government.  I’ll apply this lesson to reality.  In each case there is a small minority of trouble makers, or there is a small group of citizens with genuine needs that must be addressed.  In the examples I provide the government response (or proposed response) is often not to fix the problem or curtail the offenders directly but to limit the rights and opportunities of everyone.

GUNS

 The US Census Bureau provides a real-time “clock” that monitors the population of the USA and the world.  As of this posting, the US population is just a bit over 314 million.  In 2009 and 2010, according to statistics gathered by The Guardian (a UK newspaper), there were approximately 9,000 homicides in the US by firearms.  I realize that I’m not being very exact, but these statistics are close enough to give us a very interesting picture.  If we adjust the US population back to levels of 2009 and 2010 and average it at 305 million, we can do an interesting math equation.  The results?  Gun deaths in the US in 2009 and 2010 represent approximately 0.0000286% of the population (way less than 1%).  That means that for every 100,000 Americans there were 2.8 murders for those years.

Is that a tragedy?  Yes, assuredly so.  Even a single innocent death is a tragedy.  But let’s learn from some perspective.

In the fall of 1995, the Northwestern School of Law published an insightful article in their peer-reviewed journal entitled “Armed Resistance to Crime: the Prevalance and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun.”  The article documents a study completed in the previous year in which a convincing argument was made.  It was so convincing that even one of their opponents was amazed.  The survey found that about 2.5 million times in that year an American used a weapon for self-defense.  Of those, it was reported by self-defenders that in 392,500 cases someone would “almost certainly” have died if a gun had not been used for defense.  In 2,087,500 instances (83.5%), the perpetrator either used violence or threatened to do so.  In addition, 73.4% of the time the attacker was a stranger and 79.7% of the time the attacker used a concealed handgun.  The most amazing statistic is still to come:  in 91.7% of these cases of self-defense, the attacker was neither killed nor wounded.

Shortly after these findings were published, two gun-control advocates (Cook and Ludwig) attempted to disprove the statistics with their own survery.  They could not do so.  Their findings indicated that the number of successful gun self-defense incidents was probably higher than originally reported.

Honestly, I wish we could do away with every weapon on earth.  But we can’t do so until evil no longer exists.  That issue, I’m afraid, is above my pay grade, even as a theologian.  But until there are no violent people in the world, every person should have the right to adequate self-defense.  That includes the ownership of a weapon if they choose that option.  The old adage about guns is trite, but true:  when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have the guns.

DRUGS

In the US, we’ve spent billions on the so-called “war on drugs.”  For all the success we’ve had, perhaps we should just as soon be fighting a war on human nature.  Our species has been finding and cultivating mind-altering substances almost from its inception.  The first humans to become intoxicated probably thought themselves under control of a deity or other spiritual force.  We’ve been imbibing ever since then, and not always harmlessly.  The “bath salts” craze is just the latest.  Government authorities can’t wait to ban another substance that is being abused, but at soon as one is banned, another synthetic drug is invented and circulated.

In my home state of Mississippi, as in others, we have a problem with illegal use of methamphetamine.  Law-enforcement officials report that it’s being dangerously manufacturered in home “meth labs” all around the state.  Because these “labs” can explode and kill unsuspecting neighbors, I support the vigorous search to find and dismantle them.  But in 2010 the Mississippi legislature went one step further:  it banned the use of a simple over-the-counter antihistamine (pseudophedrine) without a prescription.

Used by thousands daily, the drug is safe, inexpensive, and extremely effective.  I know because I used it for years, since I suffer from sinus headaches.  It’s found in many name brands, including my favorites like Advil Cold & Sinus.  Now its use requires a visit to my doctor and a prescription that must regularly be renewed.  Why?  Because pseudophedrine is used by those who illegally produce meth in their home laboratories.  Once again, the law-abiding citizen pays a price–in liberty and in health–for the criminal.  According to the DEA, the problem continues, as always:  through falsification of prescription forms, by lying to doctors, and through illegal shipments from out of the country.  Go figure.

HEALTHCARE

We’ve heard it so many times that it’s obnoxious:  thirty million people in the US have no healthcare, we were told, so the responsible thing to do was to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “Obamacare.”

The problem with that statistic is that there are lots of facts that aren’t being mentioned.  First, it includes illegal aliens–millions of them.  No nation is obliged to give permanent, long-term healthcare to those who are within its borders illegally.  We are obliged to give emergency medical care, of course, and this we are already doing.  Law-enforcement officials are obligated to do so when sick or wounded persons are apprehended, and US hospitals are required by law to stablize everyone who comes to an emergency room no matter what their financial situation.

Second, that figure includes millions of young Americans who simply don’t want or don’t believe they need healthcare coverage.  Never mind that they can purchase catastrophic health insurance for a low premium because of their youth–that’s a discussion for another day.

When we finally get down to the barest of healthcare facts, there are only 5-7 million Americans who want healthcare coverage but who are unable to get it.  If the US Census Bureau is correct and there really are 314 million Americans, that means that the real healthcare problem in America only affects about 2.2% of us.  Back in 2009 The Washington Times reported that 89% of us were happy with our healthcare.

Huh.  Imagine that.  We have a small problem that we can fix.  Most of us are happy.  So the federal government rushes through a Utopia-inspired healthcare law that butts into the private affairs of citizens, increasingly limits their options, is going to cost tremendously more than it was ever intended, and still doesn’t cover millions of Americans?

Does that sound responsible to you?

THE MEN AND WOMEN “BEHIND THE GOVERNMENT CURTAIN”

We Americans are sending elected representatives to Congress, supposedly, to fix real problems.  Ideally, any fix they offer should fall within the scope granted to their powers by the Constitution.  That gives them plenty to do without overreaching and making things up.

For their service we pay them exceedingly well.  We pay 100 senators (two from each state) and 435 representatives (distributed by national census numbers) a base salary of $174,000 per year.  Let’s put that into perspective.  That’s $14,500 per month.  That’s $3,346.15 per week–nearly $500 a day!  Leaders in the House and Senate get even more:  Harry Reid (D-NV) makes $193,400 while John Boehner (R-OH) gets $223,500.  Let’s not even start talking about all the perks enjoyed by the political elite.

In addition, we have fifty states with legislatures, legislators, salaries, and perks.  Far too often, like Congress, they react like teachers who don’t know how to confront a problem directly.  So they limit the rights and opportunities of us all.  Is that the best they can do?

For the money we’re spending on the federal and state levels, one might imagine that government could find those direct answers to the few problems that truly belong in the arena of governmental responsibility.  Instead, we get grand-standing and theatrics.  That’s much easier than finding genuine solutions.  It’s popular and it makes our elected officials look as if they are actually accomplishing something useful.  It looks decisive.  It provides terrific soundbites to the journalists who refuse to do the hard work of digging and asking questions.

Remember the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz?  The old man behind the curtain wasn’t a bad guy after all.  Neither are the men and women in our state capitals and in Washington, DC.  But, like the old fellow in Oz, he couldn’t help Dorothy and her pals until he came out from behind that curtain, and put aside the pretended pomp and allusions of grandeur.

In the end, the old guy behind the curtain is us.  He helped others to find the answers they truly needed only when he met them directly, confronted their issues honestly and bravely, and became one of them.  As an elitist he was useless to them.  Face to face, respecting the limits upon them all, he began to move them toward resolution of their problems.

The elite in Washington and in our state capitals could learn a great lesson from the man behind the curtain.  I hope they learn it while we citizens still have a few liberties left to us.

 

Governing By Appearances and Sound Bites

Obama the Conqueror has gone to Afghanistan, spoken to the troops, and presented medals.  Most importantly, he has addressed the American people from Afghanistan, standing before camouflaged war equipment festooned with the Stars and Stripes.  The primary goal of this multi-million-dollar trip, however, was not the agreement with the Afghan government–it was the re-election of Barack Obama.  As his so-called “moderate” supporters abandon him in droves, he needs to shore up that component of his electorate by appearing to be strong in defense and international issues.

If you doubt my interpretation of events, I challenge you simply to look at the context.  Just prior to the trip to Afghanistan, the Obama campaign went into high gear in its attacks against Mitt Romney, who is all but anointed at this point by the GOP as Obama’s opponent.  The campaign released an ad featuring no less than the lecherous Bill Clinton singing the praises of Obama’s bravery in authorizing the taking down of Osama bin Laden a year ago.  As Clinton would have us believe, Obama’s love of country led him to risk his political strength in ordering the assault by Navy Seal-Team 6.  “You hire the President to make the calls when no one else can do it.”  Clinton should know.  After all, he made the call to destroy an aspirin factory during his own term of office–presumably to prevent the members of al-Quaeda from finding the headache relief they undoubtedly need.  In addition, the Obama campaign has insinuated that as President, Romney would not have made the decision to take down bin Laden. (The same type of tactic was condemned by the Obama team when it was tried by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary race against Obama–remember Hillary’s ad about the phone call at 3:00 am?)

If you want to understand what’s going on, you can see all of this as the sound of the campaign starting pistol for the November presidential election, at least as far as Barack Obama is concerned.  The most important thing between now and then will be the effects brought about by sound bites and appearances.  Obama is a good leader because he looks like a good leader.  He’s strong on defense because he flew a long way to look strong, and because he addressed the nation in front of camouflaged vehicles.  Facts are less important than appearances.  As voters step into the voting booth in November, he wants them to take his preferred sound bites and appearances with them.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  This tactic gets a great deal of play in the Republican party as well.  A perfect example would be that of my own congressman, Steven Palazzo (of the 4th Congressional District of Mississippi).  About a month ago he showed up at Sumrall High School to tell those in attendance that the nation has a spending problem.  Sounding like a member of the Tea Party, he boldly proclaimed that “we are not in a revenue crisis.  We are in a debt crisis.”  He’s another politician counting on us to forget, hoping to gain our vote by shallow appearances and sound bites.  The fact is that Mr. Palazzo is a big-spending supporter of Speaker John Boehner; their votes and the votes of moderate Republicans have helped to give us the debt problem Palazzo now uses to preach fiscal responsibility.  What an odd turn of events!

On August 1, 2011, Palazzo voted to raise the debt limit.  He has consistently misrepresented his vote as a vote for “the largest spending cut in American history” that takes a “blank check” away from President Obama and the radical wing of the Democratic Party.  In reality, the Republicans who cooperated with this rise in the debt ceiling did nothing more than secure a very small decrease in the growth of future spending.  The passage of this dangerous bill—with majority Republican support—immediately accomplished two things:  it resulted in a lowering of the nation’s credit evaluation by Standard and Poor’s Rating Services and it turned on another spigot of cash that can be diverted to top supporters of the agenda of the Democratic Party.  On September 21, 2011, Rep. Palazzo voted for the Continuing Appropriations Resolution to fund the federal government through November at a level $24 billion higher than the previously passed budget offered by more conservative members of the House.  Twice in February of 2011 he voted to increase federal spending.

Clearly, dear reader, political gamesmanship is a skill that is widely exercised on both sides of the aisle.  Democrat or Republican, wouldn’t it be nice to have a politician who believes less in games and appearances and more in statesmanship?  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a representative who speaks plainly and honestly?  Wouldn’t it be nice to choose our elected officials because we have heard them speak their minds truthfully and we know how they will vote on particular matters like spending?  And wouldn’t it be a blessing if they actually did what they promised?

The politics of honesty.  One can only imagine.

Remember the Vote to Increase the Debt Ceiling in August? It’s “The Gift That Keeps on Giving”

In a move that seems destined to add insult to outrage, President Obama is about to get another $1.2 Trillion increase in the already outrageous debt ceiling.  Who helped him make this possible?  Speaker John Boehner and the majority of the GOP, including my senators (Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker) and my representative (Steven Palazzo).

As reported by Reuters, the President will ask for this increase by the end of this week.  And he’ll likely get it because the debt deal that was reached back in August gave him the authority for further increases that are automatic unless Congress specifically votes against them.  Where is Congress?  On Christmas break, of course.

If Boehner, Cochran, Wicker, and Palazzo are conservatives–as they constantly claim they are–they’ll insist that Congress return immediately to deny this request.  That won’t happen, dear reader, so ask yourself why.  Then go back to your dictionary and check on the definition of “conservative.”