Friday, May 31, 2013

Michelle Bachmann and the Left

Michelle Bachman recently announced that she will not run again. That led several left-leaning columnists to revive all of the misstatements she has made. In doing so, they prove that she is right in stepping down, not because of her own failings but because she can't get fair treatment from the press. This column by Dana Milbank is representative.

Certainly, the media and late-night TV hosts will greatly miss the woman who declared that the American Revolution began in Concord, N.H., instead of Concord, Mass.; that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation; that certain members of Congress are "anti-America"; that John Wayne came from her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa (she confused him with serial killer John Wayne Gacy); that God created an earthquake and a hurricane to protest federal spending; that the U.S. government is plotting death panels, re-education camps and an IRS database of Americans' medical records; and that the feds could use census data to put people in internment camps.

Whether she was calling President Obama a socialist, misplacing John Quincy Adams in history as a "Founding Father," or wishing Elvis Presley a "happy birthday" on the anniversary of his death, Bachmann frequently furnished evidence for her claim that God had called her to run for president — if only to provide comic relief.

Certainly Bachmann made errors but this list is misleading. The biggest one is John Quincy Adams. In a speech, Bacjmann referred to him as a fore-bearer meaning someone in the past. She did not call him a founding father but someone substituted that term and proceed to ridicule her for confusing Adams with his father.

While it is true that John Wayne was not from Waterloo, Iowa, his parents were. Confusing John Wayne with his parents is a lot different than confusing him with a serial killer.

It should also be pointed out that President Obama was a Marxist in college and it is unclear when his world-view changed (assuming it did). Public statements by some members of Congress do come off as anti-American and she would know more about their private views than most outsiders. The existence of death panels (panels deciding to withhold medical treatment because of expense) will not be known until Obamacare is fully implemented. The same is true for the IRS and medical records.

The real errors on the list - things like confusing Concord, N.H. with Concord, Mass., confusing an account of the MMR vaccine with the HPV vaccine, and the anniversary of Elvis's death with the anniversary of his birth are the type or error made by every politician. Even Obama was unclear about the number of states. Finally, there are her statements of faith which cause consternation to the left.

The point of this is that the left goes to lengths to paint her as an idiot of some kind. Everything she says is taken as ridiculous, even when it is true.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Obama Scandals

A score-sheet to the current crop of scandals.

Benghazi - The left keeps presenting this as a made-up scandal. It is not. Regardless of who came up with the talking points, the Obama Administration used them to conceal what happened. To be clear, an al Qaeda affiliate executed a planned assault on a consulate and killed the ambassador. This raises questions about intelligence gaps and the strength of al Qaeda in a country we had been aiding. With an election coming, the administration preferred to push the idea that the attack was spontaneous. If it wasn't planned then there could be no intelligence failure. Even when testifying before Congress, Hillary Clinton's "what difference does it make?" outburst presented it as either spontaneous but inspired by a video or simply spontaneous.

The furor over the talking points hides the fact that the real question is why we didn't anticipate an attack.

The IRS - Obama apologists like to insist that it was perfectly logical to profile Tea Party groups for additional tax scrutiny. Here is an example:

Someone at your office notices that a lot of the applications for 501(c)(4) status are from groups that claim to be part of the burgeoning Tea Party movement. Aha! When you're looking for signs of political activity, wouldn't it make sense to search for criteria related to the largest new political movement of our times?

The problem is that there were lots of political groups being formed but only conservative causes got put on the list. These were not large groups with lots of money, either. This shows every sign of being politically motivated.

The AP - The Obama Justice Department spread a wide net in trying to track down a leak. It is true that some Republicans called for the leak to be investigated but they did not specify the means. They assumed that the Obama Justice Department would follow the guidelines set down in 1980 which call for the narrowest search possible. The leak investigation is not the scandal. The scandal is that the Justice Department totally ignored the guidelines.

Fox News - In a different leak investigation, the Justice Department named a reporter as a co-conspirator because he asked a source for more information. This goes way beyond the AP investigation.

Obama's cluelessness - Last weekend the President's supporters defended him on the basis that he didn't know anything about any of these. Even when the White House had been briefed, the President was kept in the dark. This fits other accounts of President Obama as a hands-off administrator who only puts in minimal effort.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Progressivism Hits the Wall

In the early 20th century a new political idea took root - the idea of an expansive central government managed by dispassionate professionals. To a large extant, that is what we have now and why the IRS and AP scandals are so damaging to the Obama Administration and the Left.

While it is often ignored, Civil Service was a big part of the Progressive movement. The political patronage system was corrupt and a significant barrier to an expanding government. As the government's power expands, so does its ability to be abused.

The solution to this was to create professional bureaucracies. Lawmakers would no longer write the rules. They would write legislation enabling bureaucrats to write the actual rules.

The bureaucracies themselves were supposed to be non-partisan professionals who would administer the law impartially. The office that rules on tax-free status was moved to the regional office in Cincinnati specifically to keep it away from Washington politicians.

So the news that this office was specifically targeting conservative groups received universal condemnation. If the bureaucracy has be used to target one group then it will be used again. It does not matter who gave the order. There were no controls to stop it and the practice was allowed to continue at a high level.

The AP story is similar. There are specific guidelines for discovering a security leak. These were totally ignored. Instead of limiting the data narrowly, the government cast the widest net possible. This is chilling for reporters who depend on inside sources to cover the government.

The progressive idea of dispassionate professionals has run into reality. Civil servants do not live in a vacuum. Some of them have strong political leanings and are willing to act on them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Obama Scandals

The hits keep coming on the Obama administration. First it was the Benghazi hearings, then the IRS scandal. The most important things about these two is that conservatives knew all about them but were scoffed at. The big revelation is not that they happened but that everything the conservatives complained about was true. The White House really did rewrite talking point memos to remove references to an organized terrorist attack. Instead it was explained as a spontaneous regional event which was inspired by a video.

Let's be clear that there were such demonstrations but not in Libya and the administration knew it. This was not an attempt to tie local events to regional ones as some apologists have claimed. It was an attempt to rewrite events in order to aid the President's reelection campaign.

The IRS scandal keeps growing. When it was first released, on a Friday in the hopes that it would be buried, it was presented as a small, rouge group working without authorization. Since then it has come out that at least three offices were cooperating and that any group that was identifiably anti-Obama was included. Even Jewish groups were given special, chilling scrutiny. Now that the MSM is paying attention, there is no hiding things. There is a long paper trail that is beyond the control of the administration. All of the affected groups can produce the list of questions they were asked by the IRS.

The third scandal is likely to hit the Obama administration the hardest. The Justice Department was secretly monitoring the AP for two years. This is likely to turn the press against the Obama administration which means that they will receive less cover for their other improprieties.

Barack Obama must be asking himself why he ran so hard for a second term? He already suffered major defeats on gun control and the sequester and now he has to cope with multiple scandals at once. He was too competitive to walk away from the office but he doesn't like it and he is not very good at it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Judging Bush

Last week's opening of George W. Bush's Presidential Library had many reassessing his presidency. It is really too early to do this. Most of the people writing were still suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Regardless, four years and 100 days have given some perspective. We can see how Bush's policies actually played out and which of them the Obama Administration continued. This is important because it removes the "if you only knew what I knew" problem that most critics have.

Bush looks particularly good when compared to his successor in many areas. The first of these is politics. The Bush years were marked by strident political division. The Left outright hated him. Despite this, all of his major achievements were done with bipartisan support. Even after losing both houses of Congress in 2006, he still managed to piece together a working majority. Even when the Republicans controlled the Senate, they never had more than 51 votes. In contrast, President Obama needs 60 Senate votes to pass anything important.

The invasion of Iraq may have been a mistake but it must be taken in context. We had been in open hostilities with Iraq for a decade prior to the invasion. Saddam may not have been making WMDs but he had every intention of doing so as soon as the sanctions were lifted and it was only a matter of time before that happened. Look at our powerlessness to stop North Korea and Iran and you can see where Iraq would have been by now.

You should also look at Syria to see what might have happened in Iraq if we had not invaded. They have tens of thousands of dead, a million refugees, and a rebellion that is increasingly made of Islamic fundamentalists.

Bush is often blamed for the Great Recession. This was a bipartisan problem with roots going back to the Clinton administration. The Bush administration pushed for reforms that would have lessened the impact of the crash but these were blocked by prominent Democrats.

Bush's response to the crash must also be taken into account. Economists agree that he saved the world's economy. Technically, the recession ended before Obama's stimulus went into effect.

It is often said that Bush took a surplus and turned it into a deficit. Actually the Internet Bubble created the surplus and the recession caused by it bursting created the deficit. Bush did have some significant deficits but they peaked with the recession and were declining until the crash in 2007. In contrast, Obama turned the emergency stimulus into the new baseline. His deficits are three times Bush's and that's with a declining military presence in war zones.

Bush received a lot of blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina. This was undeserved. He was even blamed for the levies flooding (because he caused global warming, because money allocated for levee maintenance went to pay for troops, or because he ordered the levees to be dynamited). This must be compared with the response to Hurricane Sandy - a much smaller storm. Bush's response looks fairly good by this measure.

Bush's Medicare Drug Plan was not properly funded but it ended up costing a fraction of what was projected. In contrast, Obamacare was supposed to be funded but new projections show it will be much more costly than projected.

The left could never utter the words "Bush tax cuts" without adding "for the rich" but Obama signed a measure continuing 99% of the cuts. These tax cuts were blamed for the growing divide between the rich and poor but that divide has widened during the Obama years.

In all, Bush looks pretty good compared with his successor.