I Do Not Think That Means What You Think it Means, The Presidential Edition

President Obama
President Obama
President Obama, Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere over the last three years (give or take a few months) someone changed the definition of “worked” and failed to inform me. That’s the only (polite) take-away from this:

“Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked,” he added later in the speech.  “That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.”

Obama made these comments in Oakland, Calif., where the unemployment rate was 13.7 percent in May 2012. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent — up from 8.1 percent in May — for the second straight month.

If by “worked,” he means “successful,” then it would be tough to find folks to agree with his idea of success. Higher unemployment, lower job participation, higher prices, collapsed housing market, and rising energy costs certainly don’t feel like success.

Or maybe he meant “worked” as in “found jobs”– but that’s even harder to justify since “working” is exactly what many people aren’t doing these days thanks to a stalled economy and a sinking sense that America’s future under Obama’s stewardship hasn’t exactly been polished to a pretty, pretty shine.

Which is funny, because he seems to think that we’re feeling good about our collective future.

“Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There’s more confidence in our leadership. We see it everywhere we go,” President Obama said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno.

While I’m sure that Russians and the Chinese are feeling more confident in “our leadership,” it wouldn’t be because they have American’s best interests at heart. That smile you see, that applause from those corners, would only be their cheering our economic pain from the sidelines. Citizens of this country are far less pleased by our leadership– and not just for President Obama, but congress is seen, rightly, as spectacularly toothless and untrustworthy. The congressional job approval numbers are staggeringly bad. Even the Supreme Court has taken hits recently.

As for the question of whether our country is headed in the right direction, we, the people, seem decidedly nervous.

In fact, if President Obama truly believes that things are going well, then it is one more reason to vote for someone else. If he believes that, he’s delusional. Don’t get me wrong: I’d like for our leadership to be positive about the potential for our future and a true believer in the potential of Americans. I just don’t want that positivity to come at the expense of a realistic view of our current circumstances in the same way that I don’t want a doctor to tell me that the unstaunched flow of arterial blood is a sign of how great things are.

Candidate Reagan was relentlessly upbeat about the future of the country, but his optimism was always delivered with an understanding that we couldn’t get to that shining city on the hill without changing course. Obama’s upbeat speeches are simply an attempt to ignore and deny his own abysmal job performance.

Which is why, when most of us are worried about jobs and the economy, so many of Obama’s surrogates would really rather talk about immigration, gay marriage, and Planned Parenthood.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you this: my priorities are rock solid. I’m not forgetting that this election is about all the folks who can’t find jobs, the mountains of debt that just keep piling up, and the fear that four more years of Obama’s leadership will leave us in even worse straights.

And Another Reason that Romney Should Win

Sure, I want to “like” the president. Sure, I want the president to make pretty speeches and look stately and generally be someone that I would invite into my own home and encourage my children (my imaginary children, that is) to emulate in life. These things matter.

But more than that, I want a president who will support policies that get the hell out of the way of a desperately needed economic recovery.

Despite concerted Democratic attacks on his business record, Republican challenger Mitt Romney scores a significant advantage over President Obama when it comes to managing the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs, a national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, those surveyed say Romney’s background in business, including his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, would cause him to make good decisions, not bad ones, in dealing with the nation’s economic problems over the next four years.

If this number holds up, then Romney should win the general election. What we are facing– especially with renewed talks of another dip into recessionary territory– is a question precisely on that subject: who is the best candidate to help us rebuild our nation’s economy? The question is not one of gay marriage or Planned Parenthood funding; the question is who will help get Americans back to work.

When your car’s engine won’t start, you don’t change the tires. I support gay marriage, for instance, but I know that sudden legalization won’t stabilize our economy. Deal with first things first– and, for America, that means dealing with unemployment and a stagnating economy that threatens to render all these social policy discussions moot.

If Americans trust Mitt Romney to deal with the economy, then the choice for who to lead us through the next four years is an obvious one.

Read the rest.

Steve Wargames the Upcoming Election

If you’ve followed Vodkapundit for a while, you know that Steve has a fine history of giving us thoughts and insights on how the states could break for upcoming elections. It’s all mixed, of course, with Steve’s twisted wit.

I consider this outcome about as likely as the Brooklyn Dodgers going all the way to the Stanley Cup, barring some kind of unimaginably big (and probably illegal) October Surprise. Honestly though, as ineffective as Team Obama has been thus far, I’d expect their attempt at a Surprise to result in somehow swinging Illinois to Romney.

This one is quite good and, since I’m in the prediction business, I’d be putting my money on something happening between “Romney Squeaker” and “Obama Collapse.” Obama won’t be winning anything new; the question is how many states Romney takes and how big those states happen to be. Ohio and Florida are going to play a very important role in this contest.

Anyway, well worth your time to read through (and it has pretty pictures). Check it out.

Why Condi Still Makes (Some) Sense

Condoleezza Rice

My darling wife, who is uncommitted in the upcoming election, asked me who I thought would be Veep. I gave her a series of possibilities and then said that, despite the recent talk, it wasn’t going to be Condi.

“Why not? I love her. I’d even vote for Romney if she was going to be vice president.”

I countered that Condi had made it clear that she wasn’t interested; she wasn’t going to be running for anything.

“Maybe she should run for president. I’d probably vote for her.”

Now, my darling wife isn’t hugely political, but she has her strong opinions. She loves the same things about Dr. Rice that I do: her intelligence, her temperate nature, her accomplishments. While the wannabe wonks and politically-obsessed class can debate the merits of Rice, are we missing something spectacularly obvious to those of us who have a healthier politics/real life balance in their worlds?

Just a thought.

We’re All Rare and Special Snowflakes, The President Obama Edition (Mildly Updated)

Success and Failure

Ladies and gentlemen, a word from the President:

I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

There is nothing special about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Condoleeza Rice, Walt Disney, Ben Franklin, Ray Kroc, Fredrick Douglas, Thomas Edison, Clarence Thomas, Sean Combs, Henry Ford, Janet Rideout, Ronald Reagan, Andrew Carnegie, Oprah, Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Howard Hughes, or, well, President Obama. Because there are smart, hard working people everywhere who could have achieved all of their greatness, somehow, if only they had a chance to do so. Their achievements aren’t singular at all; in fact, they are almost common since none of them did it on their own.

I understand his bigger point: none of us exist in a vacuum and none of us achieve solely because of our own, native genius and ability. But he muddles his message by diminishing the role that the individual plays in this kind of success. Of course, when your tax strategy is built around the idea of punishing the most successful people in your society, you have to walk a pretty fine line between admiration and admonishment. I mean, he wouldn’t want to alienate them to the point that they stop giving him campaign cash, but he sure needs to use that heady mix of class envy and higher taxes to take baby steps toward solving budget problems and to convince poorer folks to come out and vote for him.

Maybe it’s even simpler than that. When you live in a world where folks go around handing you Nobel Peace Prizes even though you’ve done nothing to deserve it, perhaps it’s easy to feel the need to diminish the importance of individual effort. It’s a lot less embarrassing to pretend that they’re just handing the stuff out like candy on Halloween.

I still like the idea of teaching folks that it isn’t just a village that creates success (or happy, healthy kids); it’s individual effort, focus, discipline, visions, wisdom, and discretion. My grandpa was a chicken farmer and then a meter reader for the city. My father was a soldier, a preacher, and worked for the Government Employees Financial Corporation in some low-level desk-jockey position for a while. Before going to Vietnam, he was kicked out of a small college in southern Colorado; he finally earned a degree at the Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs some years later. Me, I’m a marketing guy who has worked for relatively small companies but has managed to do well for himself in spite of my lack of a degree.

My point is this: all of us were pretty easy to replace. When my dad left one job, they just plugged in another person to hold the position. When I left my last job, they carved it up and handed it to four people (not what I suggested they do, but that’s another story). When my grandpa retired from the city, they had a nice party and gave him a present but they didn’t miss a beat. The meters still got read.

If there is greatness in me, I haven’t quite found it yet.

That list that I made– a woefully inadequate list of folks who dug in hard to create the world we live in– is filled with people who achieved the extraordinary. Most of them came from low circumstance to build themselves in ways that no one might have predicted. Reagan was truly poor, his father was an alcoholic, and he went to a small college that wasn’t exactly in the Skull & Bones’  zip code.

Obama is right: there are a whole lot of hardworking, smart people in the world (and, yeah, I’m one of them) that never attain those heights. There are a lot of people born poor with alcoholic parents, too. How many of them find their way to the presidency? How many people go from being born to a poor, working class family in a small cottage in Scotland to building a business empire and becoming both one of the richest men in the world and one of the greatest philanthropists of his time? Andrew Carnegie did precisely that.

Now, that doesn’t make these folks any better than the rest of us in terms of human dignity. I bow and scrape to no one; their greatness doesn’t diminish my human value. It damned well does make them better than the most of us in another way, though: in building things that will outlast us. They have attained immortality because of their greatness.

Who knows what history will say about Barrack Obama– perhaps simply that he was the United States’ first black president– but it probably won’t spare even a sentence for most of us.

If you want to build something truly great, it takes more than a kind hearted teacher and an overly eager Nobel prize committee. We shouldn’t diminish that, we should celebrate and strive to emulate it, but that’s tough to do when the president is busy telling us that it was no big deal.


Read it for the comments. Fun.

Bring Me the Bigger Tent

Warning: Long, rambling post ahead. Best ignored by folks uninterested in my own personal inner monologue.

I’m a Christian, but I haven’t sat in a church where I feel comfortable worshiping in years.

I’m a Republican and a conservative but I don’t feel particularly comfortable sitting in those pews, either. When it comes to the movement libertarians, I’m sure as hell not one of that crew even when I’m feeling sympathetic to their goals (which happens fairly often). And I think that progressives tend to live on the wrong side of reality (and they would likely say the same about me).

When the Tea Party started up, I found myself drawn to them. There was an underpinning of something libertarian in the movement (or, at least, that’s what I thought), and I liked the initial focus on economic issues over social issues. It’s become something very different; the movement seems to have become very focused on a narrow view of what conservatism should be and who qualifies to be labeled as a Republican.

I’m really tired of the term RINO and really tired of having folks on Twitter and Facebook and myriad blogs telling me who I can and can’t vote for if I want to stay in the graces of the keepers of proper conservative ideology. It irritated me when Andrew Sullivan started playing that game and it doesn’t feel much better coming from self-important commenters on NRO and Spectator blog entries.

Talking Ron Paul would be unproductive and Gary Johnson is a mixed bag (and a useless way to spend my vote).

So, back to the beginning, and to my point: I know where my vote is going this year (barring some revelation that suddenly makes President Obama spectacularly more attractive, politically, than he is to me right now), but I really wish that some folks would remember that their narrow view of our country and our political possibilities not only won’t win elections but it won’t win change. It’s the Ron Paul trap in the sense that folks who believe that only their path and only their candidate can save us are pretty much guaranteed to consign themselves to smaller roles in greater things.

Bismark (or the writer who first attributed it to him) was right: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable, the next best.”

No, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your principles at the door, but it does mean that a wise man knows when to build coalitions, when to compromise, and when to refuse to bend. If you live in Boulder, CO, you shouldn’t expect to be hiring a stone-ribbed conservative to be your representative. So why not support a Scott Brown type figure? A man who may not be strictly conservative, but who will do a much better job of protecting your interests than the progressive left’s favored alternative.

What brought this up? I like Condi Rice. In fact, I find her fascinating and I hope that she continues to play a role American politics. I’m not blind to her faults and errors during the last administration, but I’m also not ready to minimize her strengths or dismiss her from our ranks. I don’t think that she is going to be Romney’s VP, though, and I don’t believe that she is the right person to give him the boost he needs to take the election– but he could do a hell of a lot worse than someone with her breadth of knowledge and experience.

So when I read this post on NRO, I started feeling cranky. Not so much because of John Fund’s analysis, which I think is reasonable, with the exception of the comparison to Sarah Palin and his concern for her ability to carry her message and handle the politics of a national campaign.

Seriously, can you imagine Rice being tripped up by a lightweight like Katie Couric asking about what’s on her reading list? Or being at a loss for smart analysis of any conceivable issue that she might face? That audio of her Park City speech should put those fears to rest. Her seriousness, her thoughtfulness, and her careful nature shine through at all times– even at those times where I find myself in disagreement with her. She is, in so many ways, the anti-Palin.

For as much as Sarah Palin was treated poorly by the press, she turned out to be a disappointment to me. I had revelled in the excitement she initially brought to McCain’s campaign and had high hopes that she would be a quick study on the national stage. Maybe many of her problems can be blamed on the staff’s mishandling of her, but in the end she simply wasn’t the person I thought she was. She wasn’t a Reagan in the making– a person rising from simple circumstances, with an undeniable charisma, to lift themselves up to bigger things.

She wasn’t a new Reagan because she simply didn’t have the vision or, seemingly, the willingness to put in the hours learning issues, defining messages, and preparing to bring leadership to the world. She seemed to shrink on the big stage, trusting on a mix of charisma and red meat to get her through.

As an agitator, that’s fine; as a national leader, it’s lacking. There should never, ever be any comparison between her and Dr. Rice.

But I digress. It was the comments that bugged me most. The comment suggesting that she is doing damage to the Romney campaign just by being rumored to be the VP choice, for instance. Or the comment that suggested that she was a “pathetic” option. Or the gentleman who suggested that she had issues with moral reasoning.

I am continually amazed at the arrogance of some folks who sit on the sidelines making their pronouncements about the imperfections of others. I am amazed at those same folks who consider their moral compasses so perfect and unfailing that they are willing to pass judgement with such finality.

The VP choice probably won’t fall in her lap, not least because she has very loudly said that she’s not interested. In pragmatic terms, the VP should help patch over the candidate’s biggest weaknesses (to help him build a winning coalition), and I’m not so sure that she is well-positioned to do that. She probably shouldn’t be the choice.

But why is it so angering to some folks that someone of her stature, accomplishment, and intellect might be considered? Personally, I’m happy as hell to see her on our side of the fight and I welcome her in our ranks.

I grew up believing in the big tent Republican dream.

Republicans  should be bound together for a desire to push back against governments’ creeping intrusion and excesses in citizens’ lives and businesses’ ability to operate with minimal interference and only the most necessary regulation. Republican’s should champion a wise conservatism that looks to maintain and conserve those important aspects of our American culture and political being that work well and have helped us to be a country of amazing wealth, creation, and success. But wise conservatism should also recognize that the things that are broken need to be changed, need to be fixed. Not the knee-jerk “hope and change” of the progressive left, but the well-considered change guided by necessity and adherence to bedrock principles.

Republicans should recall that our system was designed to let a culturally, religiously, ethnically, and geographically diverse nation as absolutely big as ours survive by protecting the localities from the whims of both our Federal government and from more populous states with wildly differing political priorities, but never at the expense of protected individual freedoms and rights. Which is why slavery could not stand and why women could not forever be denied the vote and why our electoral college is so vitally important as a safeguard to help protect smaller states’ important interests.

There is more, of course, but I trust you see my point: these aren’t sets of policy prescriptions (you must be pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and a big fan of the death penalty), these are sets of ideas to help guide us in wise decision-making. When the litmus test gets too specific, the tent starts shrinking to the point where the party will start ceding elections to the progressive left; we’ll be impotent and useless on the fringe while everything we had hoped to conserve crumbles around us.

I don’t want the Republican party to be guided by a checklist of policy positions. I want the Republican party to be guided by good principles, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and a deep respect for the dignity of the individual and a love for freedom.

Bring back the big tent. Bring back that sense that we can work together to build the shining city on the hill, because that’s the kind of hope I want to believe in, the kind of change I can give myself to support.

Obama Ties Himself to Fast and Furious Scandal


Much more to say about this later, but I have to say one thing right now: I’m shocked that President Obama would assert executive privilege over a set of documents pertaining to the Fast & Furious scandal right now (unless, of course, they implicate the White House in ways that haven’t been clear to this point).  Why shocked? Because his action pushes the scandal to the front pages and it ties his administration to something that they had heretofore managed to distance themselves from.

Obama does not want this to become an election year issue, yet his actions almost assure that it will be an issue. Sen. Grassley has it right:

“How can the president assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme? The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances,” he said.

“The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it’s never repeated again,” he said.

This move signals that something is being covered up; if there is nothing to see in those papers, though, why would the President paint himself in such a light? It doesn’t help that Holder has made misleading statements in an attempt to shift some blame to the previous administration— a tactic that the administration continues to use in other situations to explain away their own failures.

In a second major retraction over its version of the the gun-walking scandal, the Justice Department has retracted Attorney General Eric Holder’s charge in a hearing last week that his Bush administration predecessor had been briefed on the affair.

In a memo just released by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa senator reveals that Holder also didn’t apologize to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for dragging him into the Fast & Furious scandal that is headed for a major legal clash and likely contempt of Congress charge against Holder.

According to Grassley’s memo, Justice said that Holder “inadvertently” made the charge against Mukasey in a hearing.

That sound you hear is Republicans thanking the President for handing over another powerful campaign issue– and you might also hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the left as they realize that this is turning ugly.

If I might echo Vice President Biden for one moment: the Fast & Furious scandal is a big fucking deal.