Thursday, May 29, 2014

Obama the administrator

I've seen several columns and posts on President Obama's managerial skills in the last few days. The unanimous consensus is that he has none. This should not be news. Prior to his run for president he had never managed anything bigger that his senate staff. Even his campaign was tiny compared to the US government.

The expectations from his followers was that he would rise to the occasion on the basis of his superior intellect.

That has not happened. In fact, he shows no signs of learning from his mistakes. The White House is organized to keep bad news from him so he is constantly learning about scandals from the news. When a scandal hits, he never fires anyone.

The right knew this all along. The left is just coming to realize it. In fact, they are embracing it.

One of the big questions of our time is the proper size and reach of government. Since Reagan, the right wants less government. Since the Roosevelts, the left has wanted more.

Obama stands at the heart of the debate. He is a champion for bigger government and a cautionary tale against it. The right has only to point to the Obamacare rollout to argue against further government programs.The right's argument is that government programs are too big and complex to be manageable and Obama has proven them correct.

That's where the President's lack of managerial skills comes in. The problems that have happened under his watch are not the fault of bad government in general. A better administrator could have made everything work.

The problem is that the Democrats are not advancing any administrators. Hillary Clinton did a poor job as Secretary of State. She spent most of her time traveling instead of running things. Probably she was getting out of the way of the people who were actually managing the State Department while burnishing her resume.

The Democratic alternative to Hillary is Elizabeth Warren. She has the same problem as Obama - very limited managerial experience. Like Obama, people want her because of her ideology.

This is a dilemma for the Democrats. Their case for big government requires competence at the top but they are choosing leaders based on ideology rather than competence.

Until the left starts advancing competent candidates, the right wins this argument by default. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

Doing what's right

Consider the case of Cliven Bundy, the rancher who is defying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing rights on federal land. The Left was always against him because he is fighting the government. The Right has largely abandoned him for two reasons - he is a crackpot and he has some offensive theories about race. While I expect no less from the Left, the Right should rethink their support.

Some wise heads in the Right say that we should pass on Bundy. He doesn't even recognize the authority of the federal government. We should choose someone less radical. The problem there is that people who become symbols are usually cranks and crackpots of some sort.

In Bundy's case, the issue is the federal government in general and the BLM in particular picking winners and losers. 20 years ago they decided that federal land in that county could be better used than by ranching. An endangered tortoise was found on that land and Bundy was ordered to reduce his herd size considerably. In effect, the BLM decided to make him a loser. Bundy was not alone. At the time there were a dozen or more ranchers in that county. Now Bundy is the only one left and he is only still in business because he defied the BLM.

But it didn't have to be that way. 30 miles away the BLM picked a winner, a large wind farm. That area has the same endangered tortoises but for them, the BLM has a solution - move them somewhere else, possibly the land Bundy is grazing.

So Bundy may be a crank but he has a point about the power of the government to ruin people's lives.

The other point here is that racists have rights too. I can understand the reluctance of conservatives to associate with someone who says that "the negro" was better off as a slave. The Left has been characterizing the Right as a group of racists for decades. Bundy gives them a chance to claim guilt by association.

Abandoning Bundy because of his racial beliefs is part of a general movement within the Left and it should scare everyone. Rights are supposed to apply equally to everyone. That is why the statue of Justice is blindfolded. But the Left does not see it that way. 12 years ago Charles Krauthammer pointed out that conservatives think that liberals are stupid and liberals think that conservatives are evil. More recently, the Left has been acting on this by denying rights to people who think the wrong way. If you are a racist then you should lose your cattle herd or your basketball team. If you supported an anti-gay marriage initiative then you are not fit to run a major Internet company. While these are big examples, little ones exist and have become pervasive. There is a controversy within Science Fiction because a conservative writer was nominated for a Hugo award (one of the highest awards). Other writers have complained that most publishers will not consider an author who is not a committed Marxist (seriously). Nationwide, kids who even think of guns are punished.

The idea here is to establish a left-leaning societal norm where no one is allowed to have a conflicting opinion. Conservatives have long know that we have to keep our mouths shut in polite company. Now this is beginning to have teeth where people with the wrong views are punished.

Liberal should be wary of this. Societal norms can shift quickly. in 2008, Candidate Obama figured he would get more votes if he was against gay marriage. By 2012 society had shifted and he calculated that being for it would give him more support. Things could shift again.

Once you start denying rights based on opinion you run the risk of losing those rights yourself. They cease to be "rights" and become privileges that can be revoked.

The Left sees themselves as being on the "right side of history" and expects that things will never change so they are perfectly happy removing the concept of inalienable rights and substituting privileges granted by the government. The Right needs to fight against this, even if it means siding with racists.