Bring Back Mark Sanford

When I first heard South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer’s now infamous remarks comparing people who receive public assistance to “stray animals” who “breed,” I simply thought “what a goofy way to criticize welfare.” Other than that, I really didn’t find Bauer’s comments controversial, just clumsy. In fact, I agree with the gist of his sentiments.

Any time government gets involved with or subsidizes something, it tends to promote or “breed” that very thing. When President Eisenhower coined the phrase “military-industrial-complex,” he was warning that military subsidies were quickly becoming an “industry” where government might begin to make war for profit and not just basic defense. Ike was right. When the federal government gave “bailout” dollars to big banks in 2008, many took improper advantage of it. President Obama is now attempting to target CEOs and others who did this. And when government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, food stamps or “free” school lunches are offered, such programs quickly prove inefficient, become bankrupt and, to quote Bauer, end up “reproducing” or “facilitating the problems” they were intended to address.

The primary stink concerning Bauer’s comments is that he supposedly compared human beings to animals. He did. So does anyone who uses the phrase “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” which usually doesn’t elicit much controversy. If I honestly believed Bauer was trying to dehumanize poor people I would take serious issue with his comments, but I found his analogy no more intentionally malicious than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s recent, clumsy use of the word “negro.” I will admit that I don’t view such controversies through a politically-correct lens and therefore don’t seem to possess the same sensitivities as others. Perhaps I should be more sensitive–but can you really teach an old dog new tricks? Whoops. Sorry.

Still, once you clear away all the PC muckety-muck surrounding Bauer’s comments, South Carolina conservatives considering making the Lt. Gov. the next governor (an office Bauer is actively seeking), might want to take issue with his recent method of attacking big government, even if they agree with his sentiment.

The greatest problem facing South Carolina is the same facing the nation at large—our government continuing to spend money it does not have. This affects the value of the dollar, which affects the overall economy, which affects unemployment, and so on. Bauer’s focusing on public assistance is legitimate, but fiscally it’s a comparatively trivial concern. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are already bankrupt. The military-industrial-complex Eisenhower warned about is here in full force. Right-wing talk radio accuses the president of cutting defense spending when nothing could be further from the truth, unless adding another $33 billion to a 2010 defense budget already approaching a trillion dollars qualifies as a government “cut.” Bank bailouts? More “stimulus?” National healthcare? Contrary to Obama’s supposed federal spending “freeze,” that big government snowball keeps-a-rollin’.

A governor has little to no control over such federal matters, but there’s something special about one perceptive enough to recognize the correlating, damaging affect of runaway government spending at all levels. When Governor Mark Sanford refused federal “stimulus,” a significant portion of which would have gone to aid SC’s unemployed, most state politicians—including Republicans–called him heartless. Yet Sanford stood firm, warning that accepting the federal stimulus would only prolong the state’s problems and the debt accrued would inevitably make things worse. Reported the Post & Courier this week: “The (unemployment) agency has borrowed more than $700 million from the federal government since October 2008 to pay out jobless benefits to the unemployed in South Carolina, which has one of the nation’s highest jobless rates — 12.6 percent in December…The Legislature must figure out how to repay the federal debt and make the account solvent in the future.” Unemployment continues to rise, the state’s budget continues to grow and “stimulus” has now given SC more debt. Sanford was right.

Yet, when Sanford was making national headlines battling against federal stimulus, Republicans like Bauer never showed a hint of support. In fact, the last time Bauer made national headlines before last week was to attack Sanford in the wake of the governor’s admission of adultery.

Many become angry when seeing food stamp or EBT recipients using public assistance to purchase non-essential items only to step into their Cadillac, or schoolchildren from middle class backgrounds receiving free lunch. Understandably and often justifiably, the concept of the “welfare queen” has been a stock conservative gripe for almost as long as there has been a conservative movement.

But what has any Republican done about it? Better yet, what Republican has done much of anything to stop spending, period? GOP politicians have long used welfare, or gay marriage, or abortion, or other hot button issues to rally their conservative voting base–and then proceed to spend as much as any Democrat.

I have not seen anything in the Lt. Gov.’s record to indicate that he’s much different from the typical establishment Republican and I’ve certainly not seen him exhibit any Mark Sanford-style conservatism. And far from rallying this conservative to his side—Andre Bauer’s welfare comments simply reinforced my already low expectations.

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Can We Afford to Help Haiti?

In the wake of the Haiti earthquake tragedy, something unusual has been happening amongst conservatives. On talk radio, the blogosphere and elsewhere, some have been wondering how our government can afford to help Haiti given the current economic crisis in the United States. Considering the magnitude of the tragedy in Haiti, I found this to be a rather insensitive question. It’s also a good one.

Republican opposition to the Democrats’ national healthcare agenda is in large part due to the exorbitant cost, perceived inefficiency and intrusive, bureaucratic character of the plan. Still, argue liberals, there are too many Americans suffering for government to do nothing. Conservatives argue that there is only so much government can, or should, do. It’s time for conservatives to apply their argument more comprehensively.

In 2007 during a FOX News interview, when Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul suggested that the US was involved too much militarily around the world, talk host Sean Hannity asked “Are you saying then that the world has no moral obligation, like in the first Gulf War, when an innocent country’s being pillaged, and people are being raped and murdered and slaughtered, or in the case of Saddam, he’s gassing his own people, are you suggesting we have no moral obligation there? Do you stand by and let that immorality happen?” Paul responded “We have, on numerous occasions.” Hannity’s co-host Alan Colmes chimed in “the fact is the Reagan administration stood by while the Kurds were being gassed, it happened in 1988, we didn’t do anything.” Paul followed up “And what did we do with Pol Pot, what did we do with Moscow, what did we do at the time? We stood by while they did it to their people.” Flustered, Hannity replied “We got it, Ron, you would stand by and do that, I would not… I think that’s immoral.”

President Obama and the Democrats believe it’s immoral for government to stand by and not help uninsured Americans receive healthcare. Hannity disagrees and devotes a significant portion of his radio and television programs to opposing national healthcare. Is Hannity being immoral? Or is he simply taking the conservative position that despite the suffering that exists, government benevolence has its limits?

A nation possessing the wealth and power of the US should be in a position to help Haiti, at least temporarily, and this is something countless Americans have already done privately, donating millions. But these same Americans might not think it’s a good idea to provide government healthcare in their own country. Does this mean they simply do not care? Americans who donated to Haiti may not believe, for instance, that we should send our military to stop the genocide in the war-torn nation of Darfur, something liberals have long advocated using the same “we can’t stand by and do nothing” logic many conservatives used with Iraq. In continuing to just stand by, does this make the US “immoral?” Will Hannity soon devote significant portions of his radio and television programs to highlighting Darfur, a country that’s “being pillaged, and people are being raped and murdered and slaughtered?”

Haiti is close to the US in proximity and the earthquake was so overwhelmingly disastrous that it makes sense to most Americans to lend a helping hand, something that occurred even without government prompting. The US should be able to afford to help Haiti and the extent to which we technically are not—our government operates on a monstrous debt—is due in large part to the hyper extension of our supposed benevolence in other areas. Yet, how many conservatives who now oppose national healthcare due to the cost, or even more strangely, now question the US’s ability to send dollars to Haiti given our own bad economy, didn’t blink an eye over spending trillions on wars in the Middle East, often citing humanitarian reasons as an excuse?

This week the US Senate is debating whether to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, totaling a whopping $14.3 trillion, which is about the same size as the nation’s overall economy. Some estimate the cost of national healthcare would be in the ballpark of $1 trillion. The initial relief donation to Haiti by the US government was a relatively measly $100 million while the cost of the Iraq war alone has been estimated at $3 trillion dollars. Regardless, our government, and the debt to maintain it, keeps growing astronomically.

The old fashioned, biblical concept of charity is that it begins at home, and once a man has taken care of his family, property and immediate surroundings he can then afford to address greater concerns. Increasingly and sometimes tragically, America can no longer afford to address greater concerns—not that affordability will prevent our government from continuing to do so. The conservative’s task should be to prevent it from doing so, or “limiting” government–and not promoting its unlimited use at home or abroad, and certainly not to save the world.

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Scott Brown’s One-Night Stand

Why does anyone care about politics? It’s a good question. For all the yammering people do about government and politicians little seems to change and few seem satisfied. But politics could be compared to romantic love, where people still long for a certain ideal despite constant heartache, false hope and disappointment. No one finds it strange that people keep looking for love despite a lifetime of failure.

Politics is no different. A year ago, conservatives had not only just been betrayed by a big government Republican president, but the hoopla surrounding the new Democratic president led many to declare that liberalism had permanently triumphed. The Left claimed the GOP had been reduced to a Southern, regional party and some on the Right, notably Bush speechwriter David Frum and New York Times columnist David Brooks, advised conservatives to ditch their limited government rhetoric and embrace a more constructive attitude toward the state.

Today, liberalism is not enjoying the same popularity. Obama has the lowest approval rating in history for any president at this point in their term. The centerpiece of the Democrats agenda—national healthcare—is opposed by a majority of Americans. And a Republican just won Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts. Think about it–in just a year’s time, we’ve gone from the conservative movement being read its eulogy to a Republican taking over the decades-held, blue state seat of the so-called “liberal lion of the Senate.” Writes the American Spectator’s James Antle, “Well, it took George W. Bush five years to bring his party to the brink of electoral disaster. It has taken Obama one year. That’s change, all right.”

But what are conservatives going to do with this discontent? Republican Scott Brown’s senate win in Massachusetts this week was indeed a conservative victory despite the fact that Brown is no conservative. Brown isn’t even much of a Republican and would be dubbed a “RINO” in any political context that was not ultra-liberal Massachusetts. Senator Brown will hopefully be useful in stopping the Democrats current national healthcare scheme but is by no means opposed to the concept, or as he told NBC’s Today show, “I never said I was going to do everything I can to stop healthcare… I believe everybody should have healthcare, it’s just a question of how we do it.”

Yet, the Right continues to go gaga for Brown. Let us remember that it was national disenchantment with Bush that led to the election of Obama. Now that Obama is governing pretty much like Bush—and the nation is still disenchanted—why are so many conservatives eager to rally around a Republican who isn’t much different than Bush or Obama?

When so many voters are expressing discontent with Washington, DC, not only at tea parties but at the ballot box, why would anyone looking for a substantive change in our government look to a politician who exhibits the worst, most establishmentarian positions of both parties? For example, Brown not only voted for government run healthcare in Massachusetts, in addition to supporting some version of it at the national level, but he applauds President Obama’s troop escalation in Afghanistan. If it can be said that Bush protected the welfare state while expanding the warfare state, and Obama is now protecting the warfare state while expanding the welfare state—Brown’s brand of Republicanism seeks to protect and expand both. The tea party movement’s message is clear: “stop spending!” This is not Brown’s message. Not even close.

No doubt, it is frustrating that there isn’t much serious leadership to harness and direct this growing anti-government sentiment, or as Pat Buchanan sums up the current conservative conundrum: “Who in the Republican Party today is calling for a Barry Goldwater-like rollback of federal power and federal programs? Except Ron Paul.”

There is no one–with the noted exception of the not-so-sexy Ron Paul–which is exactly why conservatives are so eager to find someone. Anyone.

People too eager to find love usually don’t, and in their desperation, they settle. When the nights are lonely any warm body will do. This is exactly what conservatives found this week in Scott Brown. Brown is no rightwing knight in shining armor, but a one night stand—attractive and useful for the moment but ultimately good for just one thing—stopping Obamacare.

Conservatives cannot afford to settle. Not anymore. Yet, too many seem ready to marry themselves to this new, barely Republican senator from Massachusetts. The Right needs to control its hormones. And while there’s no shame in being thankful the Democrats no longer have a supermajority in the US Senate, conservatives shouldn’t be thanking Scott Brown for anything more than a good time.

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Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and the Tea Party Saga

That Sarah Palin will be speaking at what’s being billed as the first “National Tea Party Convention” makes complete sense. A popular movement that is still trying to figure out exactly what it is will be addressed by a popular woman still trying to figure out exactly what she is.

For now, this is OK. Come to think of it, this confusion or vagueness concerning ideology and identity amongst grassroots conservatives is much better than OK — it’s a necessary and encouraging journey.

As the Left and liberal media tries to portray outspoken Americans fed up with government spending as some sort of wacky fringe, the much-maligned “tea baggers” actually represent the first sign of sanity on the mainstream Right in some time. Perhaps it took the extreme spending example of President Obama’s Democratic Party to induce fear in so many about America’s future, but it is also significant that the tea partiers don’t seem to find any worthwhile value in the recent Republican past. In fact, Republican politicians who supported TARP or stimulus spending remain primary targets of the tea party set, and the big-government, big-spending, warmongering of the George W. Bush years seems to have become a distant, often embarrassing memory. Reported ABC News this month, “So-called ‘tea party patriots’ are members of a political movement sweeping America whose core beliefs center around fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.”

“Fiscal responsibility?” “Constitutionally limited government?” “Free markets?” Isn’t this just long established, stock Republican language? It is. The difference is, unlike grassroots Republicans of the past 30 years, the mostly conservative and independent folks who make up the tea party movement are beginning to realize that the so-called party of “limited government” has not delivered.

But who might deliver? Generally not comfortable with the same old Republican establishment types, Palin is perceived as someone outside the Beltway, who is held at arm’s length by GOP elites and who is abused mercilessly by the mainstream media — just like the tea partiers. Given the dynamics in play, no one should be surprised that the tea party movement has embraced Palin. But it could be that Palin’s emergence as a tea party favorite is more indicative of a thirst for leadership than a thirst for Palin.

If the ideologically incoherent Palin is embraced simply because she is perceived as anti-establishment, so is the more politically sound Rand Paul. Thanks in no small part to the tea partiers, Paul has a good shot of becoming a US Senator in 2010, or as PoliticalLore.com reports:

“As rumors are circulating as to which politician may be able to lead the Tea Party movement into Washington D.C. many are talking but very few are working as hard as Kentucky US Senate candidate Rand Paul… While his Republican primary opponent (Trey Grayson) enjoys the support of the GOP establishment, namely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, it does not seem to be translating into votes. It will be interesting to see how extensively the RNC and the GOP establishment is willing spend resources on a campaign that is already looking desperate for Grayson. And if Grayson fails, will McConnell ever back Rand Paul?”

It’s a good question, especially considering that men like Mitch McConnell are part of that old Republican guard that grassroots conservatives used to dutifully obey. Not anymore. As the son of popular libertarian maverick Ron Paul–the presidential candidate most troublesome to the RNC in 2008 — Ron’s son Rand might become the next US Senator from Kentucky precisely because he is perceived as an antagonist of the establishment, not merely despite it. Notes PoliticalLore.com “While names such as Sarah Palin and Gary Johnson are thrown around as the potential leaders of the Tea Party movement, it is Rand Paul that is on the ground raising real dollars that look as though they will soon translate into real votes.”

I’m not a big fan of Sarah Palin precisely because I don’t know what she stands for and am not sure she does either. Regardless, I do recognize a certain value in her popularity and in many ways Palin is perfect, at least symbolically, for this moment in the tea party movement.

But the tea partiers cannot simply stop with Palin. They have to keep evolving. Unlike Palin, I’m a fan of Rand Paul precisely because I have a confident grasp of what he stands for, much of it to do with his father. While Rand is his own man, it is still safe to say that the Paul political lineage is based on tangible conservative principle and not mere personality. Such serious conservative principle can be, and eventually must be, the guiding force for any tea parties worth having. And any future political force based on a genuine desire for limited government coupled with an unrelenting distaste for both the Republican and Democratic establishments could finally be the popular movement serious conservatives have been waiting for.

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Harry Reid Hysteria

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s politically-correct, guilt-ridden, white liberals. Lately, too many Republicans have been behaving just like them. Even the black ones.

Or as current Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said of the controversy over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s supposedly racially insensitive language: “There’s a big double standard here… When Democrats get caught saying racist things, an apology is enough. If that had been (GOP Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell saying that about an African-American candidate for president of the United States, trust me …the DNC would be screaming for his head very much like they were with Trent Lott.”

In 2002, Republican Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott was forced to resign his position over what were perceived as racially insensitive comments in which he praised the late Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign. Citing Lott’s example, Steele has called for Reid to step down as Senate Majority Leader.

Steele is not the only one in his party calling for Reid’s head and neither he nor any other Republican is wrong that a double standard exists. But the problem is not so much the double standard–but that such an absurd, politically-correct standard exists in the first place-something Steele and his fellow Republicans are all too eager to enforce.

Such Republicans would be better off taking the advice of GOP Senator Tom Coburn, who notes “It pains me that Republicans are saying Harry Reid ought to step down. When you point a finger, you have four fingers pointing back at you. There is not anybody in Washington who has not said something that could be judged inappropriate and wrong.”

I would extend Coburn’s charitable observation further-there probably isn’t anyone in this country who has not said something that could be judged inappropriate and wrong.

Call me crazy, but I’m one of these weird people who is always seeking to broaden, not restrict, the limits of permissible dissent. When during the 2008 election, every Republican from Sean Hannity to Sarah Palin was warning that Barack Obama was consorting with some “terrorist” named Bill Ayers, I was far more interested in learning what Ayers was all about than using him to discredit Obama. The same went for Obama’s controversial preacher Jeremiah Wright. Naively, I figured Obama’s actual political platform was all conservatives needed to discredit him and believed serious voters should concentrate on policy differences, not personalities. Of course when there are no real policy differences between candidates it only makes sense that the personalities involved will eventually descend into name-calling and other pettiness, as they certainly did during the 2008 presidential campaign.

On the Right, Republican presidential candidates like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul have been called “racist,” “anti-Semite,” and “isolationist,” though such slanders usually reflected political positions that had earned them my vote-whether opposition to welfare or affirmative action, ending foreign aid (including Israel) or the rollback of American empire. Such slanders are more often used as ways to prevent discussions establishment politicians would rather not take place, than accurate descriptions of the slandered. There are simply some issues the powers-that-be, Republican or Democrat, do not want brought to the public’s attention, therefore principled, outspoken men like Buchanan and Paul must be targeted and turned into monsters they are not-at least long enough to get through an election.

In 2008, when The New Republic ran a ridiculous article trying to paint Paul as a racist by drudging up some old newsletters, a supporter of rival presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney asked me, snidely “hey Jack, did you hear Ron Paul was a racist?” I replied, “Did you hear Mitt Romney was a socialist who implemented government-run healthcare?” Today, Obama and the Democrats exorbitant healthcare plan-much of it based on the Massachusetts model–is a major concern for conservatives. Paul’s momentary, alleged “racism?” Not so much. Once again, policy–not personality, or even perfect Republican hair-should always be the focus.

The term “racist” is perhaps the most potent cuss word in modern politics and despite my intense dislike for Harry Reid’s politics, neither he nor any man deserves to be called something he isn’t, especially in the name of petty, partisan revenge. Coburn is right– when Republicans point fingers they can expect to have more pointing back, invariably, inevitably and without mercy.

One would think that fighting political correctness is one of the few, basic things you could count on from conservatives. Yet, still confused, Steele says of Reid’s language: “It’s either racist or it’s not.” Hey Michael–It’s not. Neither were Trent Lott’s comments. And instead of constantly surrendering to the gods of political correctness, the Republican Party would have been better off standing by Lott in 2002 and not subscribing to the same liberal nonsense in 2010.

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The Neo-Wilsonian Worldview

Author of the landmark 1953 book The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk once observed that “Human society is no machine, to be treated mechanically.” While progressives of all stripes have always sought to restructure society according to specific liberal mechanics (socialism, feminism, etc.), Kirk believed conservatives should stress that man’s grandiose vision is no match for his nature. To proceed with their Leftist programs and big-government schemes, liberals always tend to leave human nature out of their equations, while conservatives — almost by definition — cannot afford to. This fairly conventional conservative belief would have not been the least bit controversial at William F. Buckley’s National Review, a magazine Kirk helped establish in 1955.

Unfortunately, some at National Review seem to have “progressed” from conventional conservative views concerning human nature, or as current editor Rich Lowry wrote in his syndicated column recently:

“Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab couldn’t ignite the bomb in his underwear on Flight 253 on Christmas Day. All he managed to blow up was a worldview. His failed attempt put paid to the notion that terrorism is the byproduct of a few, specific U.S. policies and of our image abroad.”

This “worldview” that was allegedly “blown up” by Mutallab is usually considered common sense when discussing any subject besides US foreign policy-namely, that when you diddle with people, they will diddle back. In ignoring Human Nature 101, Lowry seems to be saying that unlike taxation and welfare, two intrusive government interventions conservatives have long insisted affect human behavior, intervening in the business of other nations by invading, occupying or bombing them-for decades — does not elicit any specific reactions from the native population. Predictably, Lowry’s explanation for the underwear bomber’s actions is the same, lacking government narrative we’ve all become accustomed to: “Abdul Mutallab was in the grip of a violent ideology with an existential hatred of the United States at its core.”

No doubt, radical Islamic ideology was an obvious, personal motivator for Mutallab. But was it just Islamic ideology that allowed him to reach out to a wider network of terrorists to help him in his efforts?

The title of Lowry’s syndicated column, as it ran in Charleston’s Post & Courier, was “Flight 253 provides reminder of the Left’s naiveté on terror.” While Lowry is correct that the Left is foolish to ignore the religious dimension to Islamic terrorism, the naiveté on the Right is just as ignorant and even more dangerous — as too many conservatives still fail to recognize that foreign interventionism is the motivating factor behind the current terrorist threat. That Mutallab came from a wealthy Nigerian family, was educated in England and has likely never seen war up close, is far less significant than the fact that those who aided him — and who will recruit and aid more terrorists — do so precisely to resist the massive presence of “infidels” on Muslim holy land. Explains former CIA terror expert Michael Scheuer: “On no other foreign policy issue since the Cold War’s end has the truth been so easy to establish on the basis of hard facts but so hard for Americans to see… that Muslim hatred is motivated by U.S. interventionism more than any other factor.”

The same right-wingers who will readily acknowledge that for decades the war on poverty has done nothing but subsidize and expand the ranks of the poor cannot, or will not, acknowledge that our never-ending war on terror continues to have the same affect on terrorists. In the war on poverty, liberals are always insisting we must redouble our efforts and that conservative critics are simply finding excuses to hurt the poor. Similarly, Lowry does not see any reason to change course in the war on terror and has little patience for critics: “A totalist rejection of the United States, this ideology will never lack for particular reasons to hate us… . If we pull our troops from Afghanistan, they’ll object to our missile strikes in Pakistan. If we stop the missile strikes, they’ll object to our training of foreign militaries. If we stop that, they’ll object that we have the temerity to maintain a blue-water navy. Nothing short of suicidal abdication will suffice.”

Despite his flippant navy exaggeration, Lowry is basically right — collectively, such military actions really are the reasons they hate us and these actions will continue to inspire terrorists, which is why we should finally “abdicate” our commitment to such a needless, costly and counterproductive interventionist foreign policy. What is truly suicidal is continuing this quixotic project of nation-building and trying to force democracy on countries that have not known it, do not want it, and hate us for trying to impose it. This Wilsonian, neoconservative vision that continues to animate so many on the Right, has caused too much damage already and is in no way conservative — if men like Russell Kirk still have any claim on that label.

Former National Review editor Joseph Sobran once wrote, that “War has all the characteristics of socialism most conservatives hate: Centralized power, state planning, false rationalism, restricted liberties, foolish optimism about intended results, and blindness to unintended secondary results.”

“Foolish optimism about intended results, and blindness to unintended secondary results” perfectly describes the Leftist mindset and our current foreign policy, even if men like Rich Lowry are too foolish, blind — or perhaps too liberal — to recognize it.

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Our Stupid Foreign Policy

In the ongoing war of words over who’s more willing to fight the “War on Terror,” former Vice President Dick Cheney says President Obama has made us less safe, while Obama says the policies of Cheney made us less safe. Obama’s right–Cheney did make us less safe. And Obama continues to make us less safe precisely because he continues the policies of Bush/Cheney. Arguing between the two is like debating whether it was mistress no. 4 or 40 that finally made Tiger Woods less safe from his wife’s lawyers.

But at least Woods, deep down, had to realize his behavior might one day come back to haunt him. And now Woods is learning the hard way about that nasty constant in human nature: retribution.

Cheney and Obama, on the other hand, have learned nothing. Ignoring that 9/11 was caused primarily by Islamists seeking retribution for constant U.S. intervention in their “holy land”-something Osama Bin Laden made perfectly clear–Bush/Cheney launched a pointless war in Iraq, giving al-Qaeda its best recruiting tool in its history. In his tenure, Cheney did absolutely nothing to fight the terrorist threat–his administration invested in it. Heavily.

Obama’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and whichever country next strikes his fancy, is a jihadist’s dream-a new American president, who despite promising “change” seems hell-bent on continuing with the same foreign policy as the last president. When former CIA terror expert Michael Scheuer was asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” this week whether U.S. efforts had succeeded in diminishing the terrorist threat, he said bluntly “I think it’s stronger than it was before 9/11, certainly because the support and opposition across the Muslim world to American foreign policy is far greater today than it was on 9/11.”

This phenomenon of opposition to American foreign policy translating into terrorist activity is so well-established, the CIA created the term “blowback” to describe it. Cheney and Obama not only refuse to address blowback, but instead squabble over who’s more willing to use torture or increase airport harassment, a conversation which does nothing to address the root problem of why terrorists want to attack us in the first place or why there are more terrorists now than before 9/11.

Could you imagine police detectives trying to stop a serial killer while completely ignoring his motives? Or how about if police simply dismissed the murderer as “crazy,” which is probably true, as many so-called “Islamofascists” are certainly not of the same mind as you or I. Yet in order to stop such a murderer, crazy or not, law enforcement still tries to get inside his mind, paying particular attention to certain patterns.

Our leaders in Washington refuse to look at motive or patterns when it comes to trying to prevent terrorism. Instead, we are told terrorists simply “hate our freedom,” as Bush put it. Obama might not employ the same language as Bush-something some Republicans laughably find “weak,”–but to date has still not offered a more substantive explanation. Canada is far more libertine culturally than the US, and this is precisely the sort of “freedom” that supposedly gets the Islamists’ goat. Yet strangely enough, Canada does not find itself constantly having to worry about Islamic terrorism–because terrorists don’t find Canadians en masse on Islamic land.

It is past time to ask the big questions. How can invading and occupying a nation stop an individual or a collection of individuals from carrying out terrorist acts? How can invading and occupying a nation, or a handful of nations, stop a terrorist network that exists in over 80 countries? What could our presence in Iraq, stepping up the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Pakistan, or a new war in Yemen possibly have done to deter the so-called “underwear bomber” on Christmas day? Would the Nigerian, would-be suicide bomber have been radicalized, or would a terrorist network be as available to accommodate and encourage his radicalization, if the U.S. did not have such a massive presence in the Middle East? Do terrorists simply hate our “freedom” or is there indeed a correlation between US intervention and terrorist recruitment and activity? Hell, let’s get extreme: would completely annihilating the Middle East through nuclear war finally eliminate the terrorist threat-or create the greatest terrorist threat in our history? Might such genocide make the Islamic world mad? Or just “freedom?”

Trying to fight terrorism by opening up more battlefronts is like trying to fight alcoholism by opening up more bars. It doesn’t make any sense. No doubt, the five-deferment, Vietnam-draft-dodging Cheney still thinks his belligerent rhetoric makes him some sort of a tough guy, but it doesn’t. It makes him stupid. And sadly–and at the expense of our safety–if the definition of “stupid” is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, both Cheney and Obama’s foreign policies certainly fit that bill.

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Global Warming, WMD, and Faith-Based Politics

In a recent column, I challenged the very concept of “expert” consensus, using global warming as an example. Unlike many right-wingers I did not outright deny that climate change was real, only that given our history and experience with expert opinion, even amongst scientists, today’s supposedly impenetrable truths often become tomorrow’s fiction. For example, blacks were once thought to be inferior to whites and homosexuals were once considered mentally deranged-all according to “science”-and I know racists and homophobes who still point to certain “data” to bolster their cases.

But science or no science, I instinctually have a problem reducing minorities or homosexuals to mere tests or charts, and can’t help but note that such “expert” consensus was dominant during eras when the ruling elite had an obvious disdain for blacks and gays. The very notion that science is somehow completely separate and untouched by the politics of its day seems fanciful at best.

Today, I find it hard to separate the hysteria over climate change with the trend toward globalism and disdain amongst elites for the concept of national sovereignty. Writes the UK Telegraph’s Janet Daley “2009 was the year in which ‘global’ swept the rest of the political lexicon into obscurity. There were ‘global crises’ and ‘global challenges,’ the only possible resolution to which lay in ‘global solutions’ necessitating ‘global agreements… The word ‘global’ has taken on sacred connotations. Any action taken in its name must be inherently virtuous, whereas the decisions of individual countries are necessarily ‘narrow’ and self-serving.”

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells an international summit in Copenhagen that we should spend $100 billion annually to help developing nations, allegedly to stop global warming, excuse me for thinking the same woman who was wrong about TARP, stimulus and the war in Iraq, might also be wrong about climate change, and for the same government-empowering reasons. With or without the aid of science, such wannabe masters of the universe frighten me and should frighten most Americans, or as Daley notes about Copenhagen “The dangerous idea that the democratic accountability of national governments should simply be dispensed with in favour of ‘global agreements’ reached after closed negotiations between world leaders never, so far as I recall, entered into the arena of public discussion. Except in the United States, where it became a very contentious talking point, the US still holding firmly to the 18th-century idea that power should lie with the will of the people.”

In my decade or so of punditry, I have learned that what some people choose to believe often has more to do with their political identity than logic. For conservatives and liberals alike, there has always been a certain dogmatism concerning certain issues and those sacred issues are never to be questioned–lest devout partisans be shaken in their faith.

As an antiwar conservative, similar in my foreign policy views to men like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, I quickly learned during the George W. Bush years that no matter how painfully obvious it became that there were no WMDs in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and that everything the Bush administration had told the American people to justify his war had been a lie-most conservatives would still simply refuse to believe it. The “expert” consensus in 2002-2003 concerning Iraq had become such an integral part of conservative identity, that no amount of reasoning could dissuade true believers on the Right. Being conservative meant supporting Bush and supporting Bush meant supporting his war, with no ifs, ands, buts or dissent permitted.

Today, thankfully, many conservatives seem more inclined to shed that old religion, though some still cling pitifully to their holy Ws. During one of my rants on WTMA talk radio recently, in which I told listeners that Bush and his war had been a disaster for America, a distraught caller said “but Jack, I just can’t believe that.” I replied, “Sir, I’m well aware of this.”

In the age of Obama, liberals apply this same religiosity to climate change, or as columnist George Will notes “never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.”

Indeed. Like Bush Republicans and the Iraq war, global warming has become an integral part of liberal identity and the Left would no more question climate change than Christians would question the divinity of Christ. Whether in politics, science or both, this is exactly what blind faith is-and all the more reason to question it.

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And a Talk With Tom Woods

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An Interview With Ron Paul

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