State of the Union

Barr Buzz Getting Louder

Word is former Georgia Congressman and ex-Republican Bob Barr might be closer to announcing a bid for President.

bob barr

Many Americans might only remember Barr as the sanctimonious Southern impeachment manager of nearly a decade ago. But libertarian conservatives know him to be one of the only Republican members of congress who didn’t acquire amnesia of his federalist principles after 9/11, and was and has been a passionate critic of the Patriot Act, overreaching government authority and excessive security measures spawned by successive Republican majorities and President George W. Bush over the last six years.

While the Republican establishment was dismissing libertarian conservatives in their ranks like illegitimate children, Barr was teaming up with the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union to help scale back the Patriot Act when it was up for renewal. He publicly balked at the Pentagon’s “Total Information Awareness” project and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. He even reversed his position on the War on Drugs and became a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. Unlike GOP pols who whined on cue at election time about the hubris of the party and the lack of adherence to conservative ideals, Barr went so far as to quit the party in 2006 to become a Libertarian.

For those who want to cast a principle-over-politics vote this fall, a Barr bid would be welcome news. Plus, all those devotees of Ron Paul are just itching to get back out on the trail.

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Eliot and Just War

I am reading Kirk’s book on TS Eliot (Eliot and His Age) for a upcoming seminar in Indianapolis, and this fragment caught my eye.  In 1936, Eliot wrote that “[t]he believer in just war is in danger of inferring, at the moment when war is seen to be inevitable, that the war is necessarily just.”  Eliot is pointing out the temptation to confuse an assessment of facts (war is coming) with belief (the war is just). Of course, that is exactly the temptation for some movement conservatives, for whom the inevitability of the war on “terror” is part of its justness. 

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Welcome to Atlanta, Bring Your Own Water . . .

Here’s noodle scratcher: Atlanta was the second largest growing metropolitan area between July 2006 and July 2007 as the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

Metro Atlanta continues to grow with no end in sight, ranking No. 2 in the nation for total population growth of metropolitan areas in the past year.”The jobs and the lifestyle here are attracting a whole lot of people,” said Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The 28-county area that surrounds Atlanta added 151,063 people last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

. . .
“The Atlanta area is viewed as a place of opportunity,” said Mike Alexander, research division chief of the Atlanta Regional Commission. People move here from California, New York and the Midwest for job prospects, promotions or to start their own businesses.

I’m guessing that Atlanta is a wonderful place to live and do business just like it’s boosterish Chamber of Commerce president says, except for one thing–The city of Atlanta is dying of thirst and has been for years:

An unprecedented drought stretching across the southeastern United States has forced some of the region’s largest cities to declare water emergencies.

The situation has become so serious that officials in Atlanta, where rainfall totals are more than 16 inches below normal, said they could run out of drinking water in a matter of weeks.

“Without any intervention, we are likely to run out of water in three months,” said Carol Couch, the director of the Environmental Protection Division in Georgia.

The drought has been sucking the city and its water sources dry.

“We have actually classified it as an exceptional drought,” said David Stooksbury, a climatologist at Georgia State. “Basically [it is] the type of drought that we expect to see about once in 100 years.”

It makes me question our collective ability to address serious issues–or even trivial ones–when a catastrophic decline in the most basic element of existence is not reflected in an area’s cost-of-living enough to retard population growth.

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Obama Drives A Chrysler

Steve Sailer’s report that Obama drives a Chrysler, not a Prius, will certainly help Obama here in the industrial Midwest.  Trade has the potential to be a big issue in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in the fall, and driving a Chrysler may help Obama (if he is the nominee) recover some of the credibility he lost when his campaign apparently told the Canadians that Obama’s criticism of NAFTA was just for show and not to be taken seriously.  Of course, the sort of people who drove Priuses are a core Obama constituency, so maybe the campaign will have to signal to them that the presidential Lincoln will be replaced by a hybrid if Obama wins.

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Obama the Golfer

In answer to Scott’s question, Obama took up golf and poker when elected to the Illinois legislature is 1996. His people recently told Golf Digest that his handicap is 16, which is pretty good, although they didn’t give a decimal point for it (e.g., 16.3), which is how you know somebody has an actual handicap rather than is just making up a rough estimate.

When the primaries are over and he’s pivoting toward the center, expect to hear more about how Obama doesn’t drive a Prius, he drives a huge V-8 American-made Chrysler 300.

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Dutch disappointment

Whenever somebody publicly offends Muslims, the media starts to hanker for reports of violent Islamist retribution. Four days have passed since Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic film “Fitna” was posted on line, and so far—fingers crossed—no bloodshed. The much-hyped film, a montage of gruesome terror images interspersed with Koranic readings, is an effective attack on Islamic extremism. Yet it is also a nasty, gratuitous attempt to provoke the monster of Jihad under the pretense of exercising free speech.

There have been angry protests and loony banners waved, but as yet no reports of infidels beaten or killed in revenge for the Dutchman’s artistic efforts. One wonders, perhaps uncharitably, if Wilders—a populist politician, whose own life is protected by security guards—is a little disappointed. A killing or two would help make his point that Islam is inherently incompatible with the west.

Of course this could all change. The Islamic anger machine can be slow to wind up. Within a week or so, Wilders may have the outrage he obviously craves. Yet the hope should be that Muslims have become less sensitive to childish western publicity stunts.

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A Different Problem

Kara’s post on Prof. Bacevich’s article makes sense to me, and I am inclined to agree that an end to the war in Iraq under Obama, if Iraq deteriorated after withdrawal, could reinvigorate neoconservatism more than almost anything else.  Such is the perversity of aggressive war that its advocates could conceivably gain political advantage from both continuing and ending the war.  I would add that there is something else that creates a different problem for the pro-Obama case.  James Barnes at National Journal describes Obama’s main advisors, and the section on national security is sobering for anyone hoping for much in the way of a shift in foreign policy paradigms.  Indeed, the list of advisors in Barnes’ article might be enough to satisfy Joe Lieberman, whose most recent denunciation of supposed Democratic “weakness” (i.e., supporting policies that Lieberman opposes) during his endorsement of McCain has been generating a lot of discussion.  While many mainstream conservatives are getting themselves into a lather talking about Obama’s “hard left” views on this and that, several of the advisors populating Obama’s campaign are perfect representatives of failed “centrism.”  With five advisors from the Brookings Institution, including Ivo Daalder, Obama’s administration could easily see a return to hawkish meddling in the name of liberal internationalism.  Remember that Daalder co-authored this pro-intervention op-ed with Robert Kagan, who, as Brendan O’Neill’s article on Obama’s foreign policy reminds us, expressed great enthusiasm about Obama’s interventionism.  If marginalizing neoconservatism entails empowering hawkish neoliberalism 2.0, the only things that will change are the targets.

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Also Baracking Pennsylvania. . .

I’d be pretty surprised if Hillary’s 12 point or so lead holds up. I went up over the weekend to Penn State, attended a massive Obama rally (they’re apparently historic, so you gotta do it). It was underwhelming as political rhetoric, but the guy is attracting huge crowds and is a slick, basically likeable campaigner. He played some 3 on 3 with Bob Casey and some “Lady Nittany Lions” in the gym in the morning, and fed some milk bottles to calves at the dairy center, and bowled (poorly) in Altoona. But people –very middle of the road white people–seem to be responding to him. He’s on the air in radio and TV, and Hillary isn’t. I think his sportiness will be a big advantage in appealing to sports crazed people there and elsewhere in the country. He’s apparently a decent if not good golfer –something he has definitely understressed during the campaign– but is likely, if it becomes better known, to help him with some of those mysterious white male voters. (And I suspect he only started playing when he arrived in the Springfield legislature, and soon thereafter young kids would have put a serious crimp in his weekend golf time). Kind of curious to me why Hillary is so obviously unathletic. I learned over the weekend that her younger brother was a second string quarterback at Penn State in early 1970’s, and that’s being a pretty serious jock. Isn’t athletic ability supposed to run in families? Steve?

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Right from the start

Remember the crucial passage of Barack Obama’s Oration for the Ages on Race where he lumps his still-living 85 year old grandma with Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.?

“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

By the way, I told you all about Obama’s grandmother getting hassled by a bum on the street a year ago in my article “Obama’s Identity Crisis” in the March 26, 2007 issue of The American Conservative. Of course, the story Obama recounted in 1995 in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was crucially different from his 2008 speech:

“Obama’s teenage self-consciousness is perpetually crucified by contact with stereotypes about blacks. When his grandmother wants a ride to work because the day before, while awaiting the bus, she was threatened by a black panhandler, he is outraged—at his grandparents. “And yet I knew that men who might easily have been my brothers could still inspire their rawest fears.” In high school, he gets upset when “a white girl mentioned in the middle of conversation how much she liked Stevie Wonder; or when a woman in the supermarket asked me if I played basketball; or when the school principal told me I was cool.”

So, Obama’s grandmother, the most level-headed member of the family, wasn’t in “fear of black men who passed by her on the street,” she was afraid of one “aggressive” bum whom she believed was ready to hit her on the head when her bus arrived.

I also told you the key lesson that Obama left out of his speech:

“The great irony of the book is that so many of the stereotypes about African-Americans and Africans turn out, in his troubling experience, to be true—which doesn’t make Obama happy at all: “I did like Stevie Wonder, I did love basketball, and I tried my best to be cool at all times. So why did such comments always set me on edge?” (When he moves to the South Side of Chicago, he eventually discovers that, like his grandmother, he’s sometimes scared of black males on the street, too.)”

Amusingly, I was immediately denounced in a long article in The Washington Monthly for, among my many other sins, calling attention to Obama’s reaction to the grandmother vs. bum incident:

“But in the book the situation is far more nuanced than Sailer lets on.”

Well, I certainly can’t out-nuance Baroque O’Blarney, especially not when my article summarizing his autobiography is restricted to less than one of my words per one of his pages. Nonetheless, I certainly did a more accurate job of recounting this incident from Obama’s life in 2007 than Obama himself did in 2008!

Indeed, “Obama’s Identity Crisis” would have saved everybody a whole lot of surprise over Rev. Wright in 2008 if they had read my article carefully in 2007. As I wrote a year ago:

“Even [Obama’s] celebrated acceptance of Christianity in his mid-20s turns out to be an affirmation of African-American emotional separatism. As I was reading Dreams, I assumed that his ending would be adapted from the favorite book of his youth, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which climaxes with Malcolm’s visit to Mecca and heartwarming conversion from the racism of the Black Muslims to the universalism of orthodox Islam. I expected that Obama would analogously forgive whites and ask forgiveness for his own racial antagonism as he accepts Jesus.

“Instead, Obama falls under the spell of a leftist black nationalist preacher, Jeremiah A. Wright, who preaches African-American unity through antipathy toward whites. Reverend Wright remains a major influence on the presidential candidate. (The title of Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, is borrowed from one of Wright’s sermons.) Ben Wallace-Wells notes in Rolling Stone: “This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr.”

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Baracking Pennsylvania

ALLENTOWN– Barack Obama may fall head first into the gap between national polls, and the results of the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. A new Gallup poll has him extending his national lead over Hillary Clinton to 10 points – his largest this year. But polls in the Keystone state have him behind by double-digits.

The Clinton camp is focusing on the “beer-track” voters in the state today. In Harrisburg, Clinton unveiled a set of economic policies that are likely to be popular with these voters, including a 30 percent interest rate cap on credit cards.

Obama is doing Town-Hall style events in eastern Pennsylvania today as part of his “Road to Change” tour. This morning Obama drew over 2,000 in Lancaster at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. He is delivering variations of his stump speech and incorporating more lines on the economy then I remember him using in New Hampshire or South Carolina. “We can’t wait to bring back good jobs and wages. We can’t wait for a sensible energy policy, ” he told the small but enthusiastic crowd.

Though the national media seems to be calling the primary contest for Obama, Pennsylvania presents him with even more difficult electoral challenges then he faced in Ohio. A double-digit loss in this state will not eliminate his lead in delegates over Clinton but his lead in the popular vote will shrivel. The media will ask questions that Democrat super-delegates are surely asking themselves in private: if Obama has this much trouble in Ohio and Pennsylvania (and presumably Michigan) how does he win the general election? A double-digit loss will also justify the continuation of the Clinton campaign — at least until Obama defeats her by a similar margin in North Carolina.

As the Obama Town-hall event here at Muhlenberg continues, I’ll update this post below the jump. I hope to catch Hillary Clinton tonight in Fairless Hills, PA – but if Obama is as tardy as he usually is, I’ll be late for that. Also if I can find an SD card reader in between here and there, I will upload some amateur photos from the event.

4:44 According to ESPN, Johan Santana threw his first pitch as a New York Met for a strike. Then he struck out Hanley Ramriez looking. I resent the fact that the Democrats prevented me from watching my Metropolitains on opening day.

More updates to come… Read More…

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