Entries from June 2009

Dems Protect Their Own on Countrywide

June 16th, 2009 at 6:31 am 3 Comments

According to this story in The Hill today, capsule Democrat Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) refused to join ranking Republican Darrell Issa (R-CA) in seeking documents related to the “Friends of Angelo” program.  Makes one wonder what Chairman Towns’ reaction might be if it were two Republican senators who received sweetheart mortgage deals from Countrywide instead of two leading Democrat senators – Dodd and Conrad.

Negotiations with Iran Would be a Sham

June 16th, 2009 at 6:23 am 7 Comments

As David Frum and Richard Perle quipped in An End to Evil, Iranian elections are a contest between “a fanatical fundamentalist, a really fanatical fundamentalist, and a really, really fanatical fundamentalist.”  This year, it looked as if the powers-that-be in Tehran were content to allow the fanatical fundamentalist, Mir Hossein Mousavi, emerge as the new President of Iran.

From a geopolitical standpoint, this made plenty of sense.  Following President Obama’s Cairo speech and the Lebanese elections, the White House had been harboring the delusion that Cairo would single-handedly beat back Islamists every hot spot in the Muslim world.  A Mousavi victory would have fed into this perspective and been taken by our President as a sign that Iran was finally “unclenching its fist.”  Negotiations could have begun forthwith, and the centrifuges would have kept spinning. 

Instead, the outpouring of support for the most liberal of the Council of Guardians’ hand-picked candidates seems to have struck a nerve for Supreme Leader Khamenei.  No doubt he remembered the years of gamesmanship that followed the last time the regime accepted the election of the “fanatical fundamentalist”, Mohammed Khatami, in 1997.  Khatami, like Mousavi, wanted to preserve the Islamic Republic.  One might have called his ideology “velayat-e-faqih with a human face.”  Like Dub?ek and Gorbachev, Khatami saw the movement he represented turn strongly against the regime, demanding not simply a little crumb of freedom, but the whole pie. Ultimately, these hopes were dashed when Khatami chose to assist in suppressing the worst rioting the country had seen since the overthrow of the shah, the July 1999 student protests.  Later, Khatami would address the country on television and admit the hard-liners had so fully boxed him in that he no longer had any real power.   

No doubt Khamenei decided that this was not the time to empower another Khatami, which would force the clerics to focus more on the regime’s survival and contingency planning against Mousavi and his young supporters than on supporting terrorism and developing nuclear weapons.  Like most authoritarians, Khamenei might appreciate having global public opinion on his side (as would have no doubt happened had Mousavi been elected); but not at the expense of his own personal power.  Hence, the sloppy fraud of Ahmadinejad’s re-election was announced to the world.

We can only hope that this travesty of justice will wake up the dreamers in the White House.  Right now, the Iranian dissidents need the American president to use his profound eloquence to make their case in the court of world opinion.  They do not need him to come to Tehran to snap photos with “Dr. A’jad” and hold negotiations that will be as much of a sham as this election was.

A Republican Majority Must be Conservative

June 16th, 2009 at 6:20 am 43 Comments

As the Obama administration defines itself by actions rather than words and George W. Bush fades into history, sickness the number of people calling themselves conservative has increased. As RealClearPolitics notes however, they do not call themselves Republican. Yet we find ourselves in a world where the Republican Party, which is unpopular, often calls for abandoning major facets of conservatism which are popular. This is consistent with the party direction between Goldwater and Reagan. The Republican Party, when seen as the party of big business and privileges for the rich, is unpopular. When seen as the vehicle for conservatism it regains popularity.

Again, and again, the Republican Party is maneuvered into a position to defend corporations against popular outrage, even when, as with subsidies and earmarks, such policies work against the free market, accountability, and the other principles for which the party is nominally said to stand. One way that Republicans obtained a working majority in the 1980s was to convince conservatives who were Democrats that it was safe to vote for them, and indeed dangerous to vote for the Democrats.

Once again Republicans need to take a page from this playbook. The main type of conservatives available, but unmarried to the Republican Party, are the fiscal conservative, balanced budget hawks. At the present time, the congressional party is not doing that much to gather them in. It is Obama and his policies that are causing them to look to the Republicans again. Republicans must build on the successes of fiscally conservative governors like Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty and go national with slowing the growth of government.

The next thing Republicans can do is publically get behind popular initiatives in the states. Again and again, Republicans have shied away from publically backing initiatives in the states with massive public support such as anti-discrimination ballot initiatives and pro-traditional marriage efforts. The Republican Party rarely raises money and presents a popular face for these movements which then go on to win by landslide margins.

This is also the case for anti-tax movements, where the Republicans sometimes join but just as often don’t. Arnold Schwarzenegger is single-handedly destroying the Republican brand in the nation’s largest state. He was against Proposition 8. He was for every tax hiking ballot initiative that failed by 25% margins. He has supported affirmative action. It is as if Conan was asked “What is best in life” and responded “To raise taxes, to spend enormous sums we don’t have, and to hear the lamentations of social conservatives.” I would love to hear a defense of Ahnold from some New Majoritarians if there is one to be made.

The Republican Party needs to poach on the territory that is vacant by Democrats. That is defense of balanced budgets and less spending. This should be coupled with a shot at corporations that live on the public dole. Republicans should attack the takeover of banks and businesses with the rallying cry “Keep the Private Sector Private — Vote Republican.” Ronald Reagan said that Democrats have a three-step process: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” Obama has added “If it continues not to move, socialize it.” There is vast unease in the land over this. It is unease tailor made for conservatives. If they fail to seize it they deserve their minority state.

Violence in Iran – 3

David Frum June 16th, 2009 at 6:06 am 37 Comments

Among other casualties of the violence in Tehran: President Obama’s foreign policy hopes. If he persists now in his deal-making efforts, pharmacy he’ll be acquiescing in fraud and violence. What is happening in Iran now is this year’s Tiananmen Square, sales and if Obama tries do business with the regime afterward, discount he’ll open himself to exactly the same criticism Bill Clinton meted out to the elder George Bush: of coddling tyrants.

On the other hand, if Obama does not persist in his deal-making, what else does he do? He promised in 2008 to end the “threat” from Iran’s nuclear program. Diplomacy was his plan A to deliver on his promise. If he abandons diplomacy, there’s no Plan B. Sanctions have repeatedly failed. The president describes force as “on the table” – and there it will stay.

Obama’s outreach to Iran has been slapped away. If the regime prevails in this power struggle, the American president will be left trapped and optionless. Obama badly needs a Mousavi win, not because such a win means change (let’s not get over-excited about that), but because it offered the appearance of change. Without that appearance, the realities for Obama with Iran get very dismal.

Who Wants School Vouchers? Rich Whites and Poor Nonwhites

June 16th, 2009 at 6:05 am 2 Comments

As part of our Red State, seek Blue State research, advice we developed statistical tools for estimating public opinion among subsets of the population. Recently Yu-Sung Su, medicine Yair Ghitza, and I applied these methods to see where school vouchers are more or less popular.

We started with the 2000 National Annenberg Election Survey, which had responses from about 50,000 randomly-sampled Americans to the question: “Give tax credits or vouchers to help parents send their children to private schools—should the federal government do this or not?” 45% of those who expressed an opinion on this question said yes, but the percentage varied a lot by state, income level, and religious/ethnic group; These maps show our estimates:

Vouchers are most popular among high-income white Catholics and evangelicals and low-income Hispanics. In general, among white groups, the higher the income, the more popular are school vouchers. But among nonwhites, it goes the other way, with vouchers being popular in the lower income categories but then becoming less popular among the middle class.

You can also see that support for vouchers roughly matches Republican voting, but not completely. Vouchers are popular in the heavily Catholic Northeast and California, less so in many of the mostly Protestant states in the Southeast. We also see a regional pattern among African-Americans, where vouchers are most popular outside the South.

We also fit our model to survey data from 2004 and found similar results.

See here for further detail, including the maps for 2004.

Violence in Iran – 2

David Frum June 16th, 2009 at 4:08 am 1 Comment

Here’s Bret Stephens in today’s Wall Street Journal:

In Cairo two weeks ago, Mr. Obama trumpeted “my commitment . . . to governments that reflect the will of the people.” He also lamented that “the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.” Yet here is his administration disavowing the first of these commitments while acquiescing in the overthrow — before it can even be installed — of another democratically elected Iranian government.

Violence in Iran – 1

David Frum June 16th, 2009 at 4:07 am 2 Comments

See Michael Ledeen today:

The Iranian people know that they’re on their own;  they aren’t going to get any help from us, viagra or the United Nations, recipe or the Europeans.  But paradoxically, sales this lack of support may strengthen their will.  There is no cavalry on the horizon.  If they are going to prevail, they and their unlikely leaders will have to gut it out by themselves.

An African-American Opportunity for Republicans

June 15th, 2009 at 11:17 am 84 Comments

The historic election of Barack Obama was indeed an electrifying moment for the United States. The election of the first African-American President was a monumental step in racial equality and harmony. It was truly a sign that America is the land of opportunity and that regardless of race, people can succeed.

In particular, the Democratic party has historically seen high numbers of African-Americans vote for their candidates. African-Americans turned out in droves to elect Obama. Obama has not been the only African-American Democrat to capture the attention of blacks. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Charlie Rangel and others have become a beacon in the Democratic Party.

I will not waste my time addressing issues of the past regarding the Republican Party and it’s relationship with the African-American community. However, I will talk about how the GOP can move forward and establish a good relationship with the black community.

1.) The GOP must ATTEMPT to reach out to the black community. If the GOP will put forth the effort, African-Americans will listen. Blacks are not one-side-minded people. They are very diverse in thinking, acting, and… living. Many blacks are frustrated with the GOP because they feel ignored. One of the ways the GOP can regroup and revitalize is to have “kitchen-table” talks with blacks, hear their ideas, and provide solutions.

2.) The GOP must realize that many blacks are socially conservative-minded. Family values are a huge concern and the central part of the African-American family. The culture of life is indeed sacred and valuable to the black community. With regards to the detrimental and devastating outcome of slavery and segregation policies regarding the lives of blacks, the African-American community deeply knows how precious life is. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who proclaimed that God is not a respecter of persons and that all men should be equal, therefore the culture of life reigns as an integral factor in many African-American lives.

3.) The GOP must have a sound economic message. Blacks for many years have been victims of economic disparity. They know how it is to work hard for minimum wages to provide food and shelter for their families. While many Caucasian individuals have seen wealth at the top of the economic ladder, many blacks have been in economic bondage. While the Obama Administration continues to expand government by massive spending, which is causing the national debt to increase, the GOP must counteract with a message that is helpful. Many African-Americans believe that they can achieve their goals and pursue their dreams without the government interfering. For long, governments have made promises that have turned up being empty. The GOP must proclaim it’s message of fiscal conservatism to the black community, so that their children and grandchildren do not have to spend their lives paying off the government’s debt, but can pursue the American dream joyfully.

In Michigan alone, where there is a heavy African-American presence, the GOP can do some serious outreach, This state, under heavy Democratic leadership, has seen its economic system decay. With the auto industry, located in Michigan, fallen to the captivity of bankruptcy, the GOP has an opportunity to emerge and help out the black community by making them aware that they will not only pay for Chrysler’s and GM’s incompetence, but that the government is making it better on them by making them pay for their lack of discipline.

4.) The GOP should outreach starting in a non-election cycle. African-Americans and minorities in general, find it highly offensive when politicians try to reach out to them months before an election. Since the GOP is not in the majority right now, they have the perfect opportunity to go into the African-American community and share their ideas and concerns. Showing up right before an election appears phony and simply “staged.” The GOP should not be afraid to go in the ghettos and the inner cities to outreach. The time for simply allowing the Democratic party to take advantage of the black vote is over. The GOP needs to take a visit to Black America and let its presence be known. They need to make their presence known on black radio, black television, magazines, etc. They should not be dominated by fear or anxiety, but be confident, optimistic and sincere.

5.) The GOP should avoid any slanderous commentary. The GOP should not advocate any racial slanders or commentary regarding Barack Obama, his nominees, cabinet or any elected official. While I do not advocate racial slanders, I also don’t believe that the GOP should stop providing an alternative message to Obama’s and the Democratic party’s “government-only” message. Like I previously said, African-Americans are not one-side-minded people. They like to hear the issue being portrayed from different sources. Just because many voted for Obama does not mean they will not hold him accountable. African-Americans are looking for results instead of rhetoric. The GOP should provide solutions and answers, not condemnation or meaningless criticism, because it will not prevail.

Last, but certainly not least, the African-American community needs to give the GOP a chance. It is a good thing to see an African-American President AND an African-American leader of the GOP — Michael Steele. This is good for the black community. It is healthy and constructive to have a dialogue with two different leaders that can help brighten the approach to political policies. It gives the black community two perspectives to look at. It gives them another voice to adhere to. It enables them to see that intelligence is promoted in both parties. The African-American community should not be resistant to the GOP, but should convey to the GOP their concerns and ideas.

To the GOP: get involved with the African-American community. Don’t expect things to change overnight, but build a relationship.

To African-Americans: If and when the GOP comes into your neighborhood, hear them out.

The Dictator’s Handbook

David Frum June 15th, 2009 at 11:09 am 4 Comments

The mullahs do not seem to have read this published excerpt from Paul Collier’s new book, Wars, Guns and Votes. If so, they would have done a better job with their election -rigging:

Option 7: Last but not least, miscount the votes

Pros: Finally, I have found a strategy that sounds reliable. With this one, I literally cannot lose. The tally might be: incumbent, 1; opponent, 10,000,000. But the headline will read: “Incumbent Wins Narrowly.” It also has advantages in reinforcing some of the other strategies. Once people get the sense that I am going to win anyway and that their true votes will not be counted, they have even less incentive to forgo bribes and take the risk of joining the opposition. Better still, I can also keep this strategy in reserve until I see that I am losing.

Cons: The international community won’t like it. I’ll just have to remember not to go overboard: not 99 percent. It should not look like a Soviet election.

Yes James Von Brunn Is Right Wing

June 14th, 2009 at 6:51 pm 115 Comments

An unfortunate tendency on the right these days is to attempt to win arguments through tendentious and shallow redefinitions of what constitutes “left” and “right.”

That tendency flared up in recent days with efforts to rebut any notion that the Holocaust Museum shooter was a right-wing extremist and, ambulance instead, to rebrand him as a leftist – or “vile leftist monster,” as Rand Simberg put it in one such creative feat of ideological legerdemain at Pajamas Media.

According to Simberg, there’s nothing in James von Brunn’s biography that qualifies as right-wing, “if by that you mean someone who adheres to individualism, the values of the enlightenment and limited government.”

That, however, is an absurdly limited and ahistorical view of what constitutes the right. Historically, “right” and “left” became political affiliations with the French Revolution, when those seeking continuity with the old regime sat on the legislature’s right side and those pressing for change sat on the left. Thus began the longstanding convention of labeling as “right” various efforts to preserve some earlier order (or idealized version of one), and as “left” efforts to bring about some new arrangement (typically presented as breaking away from a benighted past).

By that common understanding, the right includes advocates of limited government and the free market (key elements of the United States since its founding) as well as defenders of traditional religious morality (who may not be enthusiasts of the “enlightenment values” that Simberg doesn’t define). Being a libertarian-leaning conservative, I consider myself part of the right.

But right, like left, is also a broad term, one that includes all sorts of ideas outside the mainstream of American politics. Left-wing extremism would include, say, Maoists or anarchists (at least ones of a collectivist, anti-Starbucks persuasion). What might right-wing extremism include?

To ask such a question threatens to unleash a blog comments debate, heated to the point of sterility, about whether Nazism and fascism sprang from the right or left stretch of the political spectrum. It’s become a common theme of conservatives, particularly since the publication of Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, to emphasize the socialistic aspects of putatively right-wing totalitarian ideologies. Similarly, quite a few conservatives these days like to use the term “fascist” to describe the direction that America is supposedly heading under the current administration.

Such redefinition comes in reaction to a facile and misguided left-wing tendency to throw around “fascist” and even “Nazi” as pejoratives for conservatives. But asserting that these ideologies were simply manifestations of the left is also facile and misguided. Nazism and fascism were very much about restoring an earlier, idealized order – the very definition of the right, as it has long been understood. Mussolini harkened back to the lost grandeur of the Roman Empire. Hitler sought to restore the mythical purity of the Aryan race. The nationalism of these totalitarians was far more extreme than their socialism, and their cultural predilections looked largely backward (build classical columns, ban “degenerate” art). Their appeal to their followers was in no small part that they would reestablish order against modern decay.

Latter-day admirers of the Nazis and fascists, such as James von Brunn, typically emphasize racial or national chauvinism over socialistic economics by a wide margin. They want to recapture a lost (and generally bogus) past, rather than remake the world according to a future vision. As such, they are on the extreme right. It does no credit to current-day conservatives, and adds nothing to understanding, to redefine the extreme right out of existence by claiming that it’s just another bunch of leftists.