The Limits of Diplomatic Engagement

Aside from its affects on our adversaries, diplomatic engagement creates certain expectations at home: expectations that can be manipulated to gain advantage by politicians during the electoral contest and during legislative debate; and expectations that can be manipulated, also, by our adversaries as they augment the quiet closed-door diplomacy of engagement with public relations efforts aimed directly at the American citizenry.

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The Office and the Occupant

The uproar over President Obama making a speech to school kids is ludicrous and, once again, undermines efforts to steer the liberals away from their most harmful and anti-liberty projects by making the conservatives, by association with such paranoia, look like idiots. The response, even to well-reasoned and principled opposition, is now the general-purpose dismissal, “Oh, it’s just those crazies again”; and a Republican party (and any Republican office-holder or aspirant) that wants to reclaim any moral authority and/or intellectual integrity should be up front in telling those people, “Get over yourselves! And stop claiming to speak for me!”

But I have to ask: Wasn’t the root of this paranoia established by the left during the Bush years?

The wingnuts complaining about Obama’s speech are failing to distinguish between the Office of the President and the man who occupies it. They so dislike and distrust the man that they can’t accept any action of the Office, no matter how proper and reasonable.

But wasn’t that precedent set by those leftist nutters who utterly refused to accept George W. Bush’s legitimacy — “He’ll never be my President!” — and who did everything in their power to undermine anything and everything he did just because he did it, even if it undermined the nation in the process? Did they not create the template of contempt for the Office that we are now seeing? Did they not set the pattern of refusal to respect the Office because they did not respect the man? And, if we are honest about it, was that not, in itself, a continuation of the pattern they set during the administrations of Nixon and Reagan (and, to be fair, embraced by the right during the Clinton years)?

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Replacing Ted Kennedy

So, the Democrats — both at home and in Washington — want the Massachusetts state legislature to change the law (again) on senatorial succession, allowing the Democratic governor to choose Senator Kennedy’s replacement rather than deferring to the electorate.

Set aside, for a moment, the appearance (and reality) of pettiness and cynicism such a move implies — it was, after all, not that long ago that the governor had that authority, until the Democratic legislature became alarmed that its exercise might fall to a Republican governor. Even if a change now is justified, it will make them look self-serving.

But, beyond that, are we forgetting it was less than a year ago that Rod Blagojevich exposed, in dramatic fashion, the potential for corruption and abuse in such authority? Are we forgetting that, back then, the entire Democratic establishment, all across the country, was lining up in principled opposition to such prerogative? Are we forgetting that they were united in their fervor for democracy, united in their demand that all states adopt elections over appointments as the only ethical way?

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Cash for …

My friend and occasional correspondent, Ira Goldman, has a somewhat droll sense of humor. When President Obama and the Democratic congress created the “Cash for Clunkers” program as an “economic stimulus”, Ira sent me a series of e-mails containing a list of other, increasingly ridiculous, suggestions for “Cash for …” programs on which the government might be able to waste money.

Among his nominations was one — Cash for Hookers — that, for some (perverse?) reason sent me spiraling down a thought hole — to land with a thud at the bottom onto the following insight:

    Prostitution may be the perfect metaphor for our current insane political divisions:

      Conservatives are against it because they think sex is a sin

      Liberals are against it because they think commerce is a sin

    It’s the one thing on which everyone can agree!

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It’s Bush’s Fault!

In the 2008 Presidential election, the Democratic party and its nominee, Barack Obama, made a conscious decision to run their campaigns as if their opponent — in every race, from President to dog-catcher — was the outgoing President, George W. Bush. They explained every problem, anywhere in America, no matter how trivial and no matter how disconnected from actual federal governance, with the simple admonition: “It’s Bush’s fault!”. It was both dishonest and tiresome but it was, alas, effective.

It was also, on occasion, rather amusing to observe the stretches of imagination that otherwise seemingly rational people would employ to make that nonsensical connection. It’s hard to argue against that kind of willful ignorance….

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Beating a Dead Horse: Social Security Edition

So yes, if you want to be pedantic about it, Social Security is not in trouble at all. It is covered by the trust fund. The managers of the Social Security Administration can sleep well at night knowing they’ve served us well in securing the benefits they’ve promised.

But, unless we do something clever, and fairly soon, the federal government as a whole will be in trouble because of Social Security. To me that is a distinction without a difference.

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Addicted to earmarks

On an individual basis, if we refuse the earmarks targeted at us but other people don’t refuse the ones targeted at them, then we end up paying for their earmarks without benefiting from our own. So, on an individual basis, we end up worse off by refusing earmarks unless we can count on everyone else doing likewise.

Hence, the system is perpetuated: if/when individuals stand up to it, they end up losers while everyone else takes advantage of them. Only a universal agreement from the top to change the system can work; insurrection from the bottom is suppressed by self-interest.

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Bailing Out the Auto Industry

Am I the only one in America who has grave doubts about whether the combination of marketing vision, business acumen, strategic sense, operating experience, and hard-nosed decision making required to rejuvenate the American auto industry is really to be found in the Congress of the United States and the editorial board of The New York Times?

And…

Are we about to force Detroit, through the strictures Congress puts on the bailout funds, out of a market (larger vehicles) in which they had clear dominance and into a market (for smaller fuel-efficient vehicle) in which they have historically had a hard time competing and for which competition is likely to be even fiercer in the future?

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Lies and the Big Lie

Forget that McCain has spent the last 8 years bucking both President and Party to bring an alternate vision of conservatism to the fore. Forget that he worked across the aisle when he could. Forget that he stood up for what he thought was best for the country even when it meant undermining his own chances at the presidency. No, the Democratic strategy in this, and in every other race, has been to ignore the actual candidate in front of them, to replace that candidate with their cardboard cutout of George Bush and then to flail at it mercilessly.

I have great sympathy for John McCain. It’s one thing to be beaten on the basis of your proposals or your temperament or your philosophy of government, or by bad timing and unfortunate circumstance. But to be beaten by the lie that you are what you hate, by the lie that you stand for the things you’ve spent your time and your political capital resisting — that must be the ultimate bitter pill.

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