The news keeps getting worse. The Washington Free Beacon reports today that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has “blocked” four senior military officers from answering questions on the Benghazi attack posed by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).
We’ve reached a watershed here, where we either live in our own heads affirming reality, regardless of spurious inputs from demagoguery or sentiment, or we give up on reality and let demagoguery and sentiment take over at the decision table. Did the president pull off a performance last night, in terms of sounding passionate and full of conviction? To some extent, yes. Does that mean he won the debate, or even achieved a draw with Romney? No.
The short answer is: because he’s got nothing. There is no record to run on, no argument to make for four more years. The ideology that drives him is outdated and bankrupt. He has, in fact, implemented his policies – Republicans have had little means of stopping him – and those policies are the problem. But there’s a slightly longer answer too.
Instead of sticking with our commitment to a new Libya, one in which Americans have friendship and influence – one in which we can walk free, and so can Libyans – we have closed our post in Benghazi and drawn down our embassy staff in Tripoli to “essential” personnel only. It will be of some interest to see how long it takes al Qaeda or other terrorist savages to attack us in Tripoli.
The year 1984, by Gregorian reckoning, came and went, and Americans seemed to have dodged the Nineteen-Eighty-Four bullet. We weren’t being interned for reeducation by a Ministry of Love. Although conservative, constitutionalist, limited-government ideas came under relentless attack in the mainstream media and the academy, those who expressed the ideas remained free to do so. (They in fact became freer with the lifting under Reagan of the genuinely Orwellian-named “Fairness Doctrine.”) In 2012, the atmosphere has changed.
There has been a tremendous growth in vague, elliptical, and/or tendentious narration of what’s going on in the nation and the world. The people can be pardoned for being tired and confused.
The U.S. is being made to look weak in Egypt, and is actually acting weak with allies and foes alike.
Dinesh D’Souza’s film, 2016: Obama’s America, is very good at putting the viewer in the milieu of Jakarta or Nairobi, which continue to feel “different” enough to engage the American viewer’s sense of distance and wonder. Conveying the difference of Barack Obama’s childhood and his idea of cultural roots – the difference from American life – is the movie’s most effective accomplishment.
Iran’s relative situation has deteriorated. To regain a sense of leadership and invulnerability – as well as to vindicate Shia Islam over the recent Sunni triumphs in the region – Iran needs a big strategic win. She needs a trump card over the emerging Sunni centers of gravity in Cairo and Ankara.
Prosperity has met its match. Regulation will kill prosperity by stealth unless we the people wake up to what’s going on. We are wildly, insanely overregulated today, and if we don’t attack the idea of the regulatory state on those terms – on the premise that regulation itself is mostly a bad thing, and we need far less of it than we have – then we will never recover.
India has just conducted an unprecedented four-day port visit in Haifa, during which Indian sailors roamed Israel as American sailors have for many years, and joint ceremonies were held with the local population. A naval visit to Israel is a big political signal; India would not be sending it lightly.
Watching the ceremony last night, I had a profound sense of sadness for the hollow revelry. There was no dignified memorializing of the greatness, uniqueness, and courage of Britain’s past. There was “irreverent, idiosyncratic” entertainment, and a very long segment of writhing self-abasement before the shibboleth of socialized medicine.
How should an American president use the military in an intimidating, persuasive manner, to induce Iran to give up her nuclear-weapons purpose? Very little has been discussed on this topic in the forums of punditry; virtually all treatments focus on the feasibility or proper method of a military attack campaign. Is there an “intimidation option,” short of a shooting war? And if so, what would it look like?
The period of the Obama tenure, and now the 2012 election, are forcing Americans to reconsider, in a way I’m not sure we have for a good 200 years, what the vote means, and what politics means to our lives. Since 1792, the sense has gradually crept upon us that when we elect a president, we are electing our collective future. That sense took a giant leap forward with the FDR presidency, and frankly, it took another one when Reagan entered office.
The Tumultus Post-Americanus is now well underway. There is no initiative on our collective part – we have done nothing but react in the last three years – and possibly even less appreciation of how the world is changing. The forms of international discourse – the processes of the UN, the G-8 and G-20, the IMF – are being adhered to now because they are a convenience, not because they produce anything useful.
We must not let our concept of the purpose and character of a tax be corrupted, precisely because taxing us is a power accorded Congress in the Constitution. The definition of “tax” is, in fact, the most important limit on what Congress can do with its power to tax. In the wake of the Obamacare ruling, defining “tax” is defending our liberty – or, from the opposite perspective, attacking it.
Understand this: it doesn’t matter if ObamaCare is repealed next year. Repeat as necessary until understood. The SCOTUS ruling is on the books. Congress can make you buy anything, as long as it fines you if you don’t. The concept of constitutional limits on the power of government has been effectively removed from our guiding idea of law and jurisprudence.
This is what a tax now looks like? This is an open invitation to “tax” via whatever mandate sounds good to you. What sort of unequal-before-the-law mandate would not fit this definition of a tax? Congress can do anything it wants, by the logic of this decision, with the judicial precedent set that levying mandates equals using the power to tax.
Ever since the case of the offensive ceramic pigs in 1998, the British have been assiduously refining their methods for dealing with offenses to Islam.
Ideological statism is not a mere cultural alternative, it is absolutely evil. Reagan had no doubt of what was right and wrong in this regard: “It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy.” But Reagan’s refusal to gloss over evil never produced discouraging rhetoric. It was always accompanied by a hard-nosed optimism about what was good in the Western culture of freedom and restraints on the state.
For many people, especially younger ones, ideas about which government rules and “services” we can happily do without will be new and startling. But it is possible to slip the surly bonds of the Regulated Man construct and envision a better future. Wisconsin has taken an important step toward that future. Walker’s Wisconsin is what “Forward” looks like.
The holiday from history is over, although we may be the last ones to see it. Neither Russia nor Iran – nor China, North Korea, or Syria, for that matter – is very interested in signing anything with the West right now. Good deals based on the old assumptions aren’t as tempting when better ones seem to lie just over the horizon.
For the United States, issuing attack threats in the manner of Hugo Chavez is not a convincing posture. I don’t know if the Israelis will find it reassuring; I suspect the Europeans and Iranians will find it annoying, and decide to ignore it.
If a civic or political group, meeting publicly, is not willing to have its activities and statements recorded truthfully by critics, its purpose is suspect. There can be no good purpose for preventing third parties – i.e., the whole of society, whether friendly or critical – from seeing what is said and done at a public event sponsored by the Palestine Society.
When Romney speaks of the US auto industry recovering, he is speaking in the language of big, dirigiste government, accepting at face value the short-term effect of a bailout process that has served mainly to perpetuate unprofitable but politically entrenched conditions. It guarantees that more subsidies will be needed down the road.