The State Of Our Union Is…Confused.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new.  As all politicians do, he called attention to a few high points of the past year, but primarily focused on the future, laying out a fresh list of promises that few people truly believe he can make good on.

The President took aim at Big Business, especially the medical and insurance industries, blasting them for making record profits while average Americans struggle.  What is more interesting is that he went on to warn Congress that now is not the time to gut funding for medical research that helps to save lives.  We have to wonder if the President is aware of how much of those record profits the medical industry invests in just the kind of medical research he wants to protect.

The real issue here, though, is not the specifics of where certain money is being spent, but rather an entire political philosophy.  When the President suggests that high profits for private companies can actually have a negative impact on society, and that any reduction in government-funded research is unacceptable, he is implicitly saying that the responsibility to do such research should be entrusted to the government rather than those private companies.  It would be better, in his mind, for the medical industry to hand over more of its profits to the government (paying more of their fair share, as it were) so that the government can do more of the same work that the medical industry is already doing.  I’m not arguing here that this is either good or bad.  The President’s underlying philosophy could be right.  I merely point it out because, sadly, the underlying philosophies of our politicians are rarely scrutinized and examined in light of other issues, which often leads to confused voters and even more confused politicians.

An excellent example of this political schizophrenia came from two of the President’s more praiseworthy statements.  In his best line of the night the President said, “What makes a man is not the ability to conceive a child, but the courage to raise a child.”  He went on to say that our rights as individuals are always wrapped up in the rights of others, highlighting the importance of community and cooperation.  Taken alone, these statements are excellent and any Christian on the conservative side of the spectrum ought to be able to endorse them wholeheartedly.  What may seem puzzling to some, then, is the President’s radical Pro-Choice agenda and his newfound but staunch support for gay marriage.

President Obama rightly acknowledged that a stable family structure is best not only economically, but also for raising healthy and productive children.  The redefinition of marriage is at odds with this truth.  In every nation that has officially redefined marriage on a large scale, marriage is disappearing.

More important is the issue of abortion.  How can you hope to encourage young men to think of fatherhood as something that requires courage when all the consequences and “dangers” of sex and pregnancy are so easily removed, and with no remorse?  When you continue to push the “easy way out” on the one hand, any calls for courage on the other hand ring hallow.

Moreover, why is radical individualism only a bad thing, and why are the rights of others only important, when it comes to gun control or higher taxes?  Why does the President not chide the radical individualism of the successful businesswoman who seeks an abortion because a child is simply inconvenient at the moment?  Why is she not to be reminded that her rights are tied up in the rights of others, necessarily limiting her choices?

Again, our current way of political discourse in America is not set up to handle these underlying philosophical questions, so I don’t place all blame upon the President or his party.  Mr. Obama may be wrong, but Conservatives and Christians in the media are failing to say so in an intelligent and persuasive manner.  We are all caught up in the culture of soundbites and shouting matches.  Worse yet, when we finally do tire of this unhelpful bickering, we retreat into the amusement of trivialities.  Senator Marco Rubio delivered a winsome, articulate, and at times passionate response to President Obama’s address on Tuesday night.  All day Wednesday, the biggest topic of discussion was Rubio’s 3-second, awkward reach-and-sip from a mini water bottle.  This mildly humorous non-event has received more attention than anything the President said in his speech.  That’s a sad statement.

I don’t exactly know where to go from here.  But I do believe that if conservatives and independents start demanding more thoughtfulness from their representatives while refusing to reward the escalating “cycle of soudbites”, things can only change for the better.

You can start right now by NOT posting that angry knee-jerk response to your brother-in-law’s annoying Facebook post.


A Few Political Predictions

I predicted that Mitt Romney would win the 2012 Presidential race, so let that be a warning to you.

1.  The 2014 and 2016 elections will not be good for Democrats.  I don’t say this in a juvenile spirit of “Oh yeah, well we’re going to beat you next time, so there!”  Rather, I say this because the sixth year of a Presidency is historically brutal on the sitting President’s party.  This is merely a function of our tendency as an electorate to blame the current government for everything we think is wrong with the country at the moment.  Of course, the current party in power managed just fine on November 6th, despite a general pessimism about the current state of the economy, but there were a number of anomalies in the 2012 election.  Barack Obama is a popular President with a loyal base.  This was not true of Jimmy Carter or George Bush Sr.  There were also a number of major stumbles on the Republican side, most prominently the rape comments of Todd Akin and Richard Murdock, that tipped several races to the Democrats.  Without the aid of a popular President at the top of the ticket, however, the down ticket races in 2014 will be far more vulnerable, especially if Republican candidates begin to restyle themselves in a Libertarian direction (more on that in a moment).

And consider this:  In 2004, even after the seemingly ubiquitous outrage over the “warmongering” of George W. Bush, his portrayal in the media as a buffoon and Texas oil man who acted solely in his own interests, etc, he still won reelection by a healthy margin, with more votes than he received in 2000.  This could easily have been taken as a sign that America was doubling down on conservative social values and foreign policy, and yet just two years later in 2006 the House and Senate swung over to the Democrats.

This first prediction is the most provisional.  I’m far from certain that it will come true.  I can just as easily see the Democrats holding on to the Senate and gaining a few more seats in the House, but all this depends on what sort of candidates the Republicans nominate, which brings me to my next few predictions.

2.  Republicans will begin to favor the legalization of marijuana.
3.  Republicans will distance themselves even more from gay marriage, or say that it should be a state issue.

Both of these issues fall generally under the umbrella of Libertarianism.  Much of the Libertarian platform is popular with young voters (especially marijuana, and the “war on drugs” in general).  During the Republican primaries, the Ron Paul folks were fond of sharing polls that showed Ron Paul beating Mitt Romney among young and Independent voters, despite the argument that Romney was the more “electable” candidate.  Since Romney lost the youth vote in a major way, you can bet people will turn to Libertarianism as an easy solution.  There are plenty of conservative pundits, like Hugh Hewitt, who will continue to argue that issues like gay marriage are important to our society and shouldn’t be abandoned, but I have a gut feeling that his is the losing voice.

My final two predictions are more questions than actual predictions, so I won’t number them.  They concern immigration and abortion.  There is an impulse within Libertarianism towards something like open boarders, but this is one Libertarian position I suspect will not gain much ground by 2016.  Boarder security and illegal immigration have more to do with Mexican drug cartels and Islamic terrorism than whether an undocumented high school student should be allowed to stay in America so she can attend college.  Thus, while I suspect that “amnesty” in one form or another will begin to gain popularity, I doubt that Republicans will start getting too “soft” on immigration.  I say this is a question and not a prediction, though, because I have no idea what form Republican immigration policy will actually take.  There must be a better way to frame the debate than simply “pro-immigration” vs. “anti-immigration”, but I don’t know what it is.

Lastly, I am equally agnostic about the future of the abortion issue.  The Akin and Murdock fiascos demonstrated what should have been obvious already, that we must speak knowledgeably and with clarity about this issue, and candidates who do not are doomed to die the death of a thousand sound bites.  I still believe that this issue is different from the gay marriage issue, however.  For one thing, while public opinion appears to be racing towards gay marriage, the indications are that support for abortion, especially unrestricted or “elective” abortion, is slowly receding.  Moreover, the same Libertarian impulses we have been discussing do not apply to abortion, as we now have another human being involved, and her freedom and right to life is (at least arguably) of equal value.

This will be (I hope) my last political post for a good long while.  It’s time to take a break from politics and start picking some theological fights instead.  I’m sure I will revisit these things in 2014.  If every single one of these predictions turns out to be wrong, I will get out of the game altogether.  If just one is right, however, I will do as the professionals do and act as though it proves my clairvoyant powers.

What do you think?  Any predictions of your own?  Do you think my predictions are completely off base?  Let me know in the comments.

An Appeal To The Christian Left

For a large number of conservatives who were expecting Mitt Romney to win the election last week, day one of the Romney Presidency was also going to be day one of a concerted loyal opposition effort.  A good deal of conservatives were unhappy with the Romney nomination.  Not just the Ron Paul people, but also the Santorum-or-Gingrinch-or-anyone-but-Romney contingent.  They feared that Romney was a big government moderate merely posing as a conservative.  That is the main reason that enthusiasm for Romney among the Republican base was so tepid until the last month of the campaign.  The conservative base, especially the “Tea Party” movement, was expecting Romney to go back on all of his major promises, such as lowering taxes across the board and repealing Obamacare.  They were especially worried that his most important goals, lowering the deficit and balancing the budget, would fail to be acheived if he allowed himself to get mired in business-as-usual in Washington rather than holding fast to principle.  As such, those who were willing to vote for him (more in opposition to Obama) were gearing up for a (loving) fight.

Before the election, and now in the days following, I have not seen this kind of principled committment coming in large measure from the Left.  President Obama is still “their guy”, and the vibe I get is that opposition to those dangerous, wild-eyed conservatives is so important that showing anything less than total confidence in the Democrats’ agenda would be too harmful.  One notable exception I’ve seen is this article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf.  Friedersdorf is a liberal and makes no secret of his loathing for Republicans, but he essentially says that when it comes to foreign policy and the dangerous misuse of executive power, President Obama is far worse than any Republican (including Bush) and a principled liberal cannot enthusiastically endorse him.

The election is over and Mr. Obama is President once more, so this is no longer a question of support through voting.  Now the question is this:  Will those on the Left be willing to oppose the President when his agenda, either foreign or domestic, does not coincide with their own values and principles?  And more importantly, will liberals be willing to engage in the bipartisanship and compromise that they so often rail against the Right for failing to embrace?  My hope is that they will.

To be clear, I am not simply asking for liberals to become conservatives.  Those who believe in the necessary use of more government power, including increased taxes, for the common good of the people, especially the poor and disenfranchised, can still maintain that principle while refusing to accept as good every single use of that government power by those currently in office.  You can support Obamacare without supporting the attendant HHS regulations that would violate the religious liberty of Catholic institutions by forcing them to pay for birth control and abortions.  For that matter, you can fully support the availability and use of contraceptives without embracing wholesale the current narrative of the Left that any restrictions whatsoever on who has to provide and pay for them is a “war on women.”  In that sense, I simply call on my brothers and sisters on the Left to show discretion and wisdom, and not get caught up in the sound bite culture of political discourse.

If you’re wondering why the title of this post is aimed specifically at Christians, the answer is two-fold.  The first is abortion.  All Christians, Left or Right, must affirm the infinite worth of the human soul as well as a Christian sexual ethic (sex only within the bonds of marriage, generally, though not exclusively, for procreation).  There are still details that can be argued here.  Christians can disagree, in good faith, about whether the soul enters the child’s body at conception or at some later point, and also about what “personhood” means scientifically and philosophically, so I don’t want to get bogged down in those things here.  However, I believe that a general acceptance of the two things I just mentioned necessitate some form of pro-life view and a rejection of most of the assumptions of the pro-choice view.  At the very least, I see no reason why professing Christians on the Left should oppose something like a partial-birth abortion ban, or why they would whole-heartedly embrace the attitude that there is nothing wrong with “elective” abortion (that is, abortion for no other reason than the current material convenience of the parents), especially in the second half of pregnancy.

Perhaps even more interesting is the question of why the Democratic party has become the pro-choice party to begin with.  Democrats are (or claim to be) the party of the disenfranchised and those without a voice.  They value community over individualism, the good of others over the absolute rights of self.  Why on earth, when it comes to abortion, are they suddenly so radically individualistic (in the case of the mother) and absolutely uncaring toward the one party in the whole situation with no voice of her own?

In this light, abortion really ought to be the easiest point of agreement between Left and Right.  Why isn’t it?

Second, as those who share a transcendent faith in Christ, Christians on the Left and the Right ought to be able to come together and view their political differences in light of their religious commonalities.  In that sense, I actually think the church can set a good example for the rest of the country in how to engage in meaningful bipartisan cooperation.

My plea, then, is simple.  To my Christian brothers and sisters on the Left, do not merely celebrate the victory of “your guy” and avoid the difficult work of being a light in a dark world.  That darkness is present everywhere that Christ is not acknowledged as Lord, whether on the Right or the Left.  Please let wisdom and discernment win out over a party politics run almost exclusively by secular agendas.

If “my guy” had won, I would want the same admonition, and I genuinely I hope I would listen.

An Affair to Remember in Words Soon Forgotten

An entire year of planning goes into the brief, televised announcement. A network of hundreds of experts vet every point. Presentation is everything.  The words, carefully chosen, have the power to define the successes of the last year and set expectations for the next. But after countless hours of wrangling decisions, the audience gathered, the cameras turned on, and the show began. At 5:30am Pacific time, Mo’Nique and Tom Sherak announced the nominees for the 83rd annual Academy Awards.

Oh, and another big event happened Tuesday, too: President Obama’s State of the Union Address. At first, I thought Tuesday was merely a serendipitous convergence of the outlying regions of my geekdom. A film snob policy wonk who dreams of running away to the White House anytime she watches the West Wing can’t ask for a better news day. But more than just the sheer fun of it, Tuesday taught me something about the two events. They are more similar than you’d think.

Both events began as relatively small affairs. Article II Section 3 of the Constitution mandates that the president

shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

George Washington delivered the first on January 8, 1790, though then it was called the President’s Annual Message to Congress. It was 1, 089 words long, delivered to 81 members of Congress in New York City. It probably took seven to ten minutes for him to read it. Until 1923 when Calvin Coolidge’s became the first address broadcast over the radio, the address was a low-key speech between the president and Congress that laid out the president’s legislative agenda for the coming year. As in so many things, the advent of telecommunications changed its nature entirely.

Likewise, the Oscars began as a modest brunch in the ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood in 1929. Douglas Fairbanks and William C. deMille hosted the event. It was a private affair (tickets were $5 per person), and fifteen people were honored for their work from 1927 – 1928. Everyone knew who’d won because the winners had been announced three months earlier. For the next few years they withheld the names until the late edition newspaper the night before, and in 1941 they introduced the sealed envelope to increase suspense (and attendance).

Both events scarcely resemble their modest origins. I had the chance to attend the Oscars last year, and it’s a machine worthy of the most robust entertainment industry in the world. An Oscar nomination means millions in DVD sales, an Oscar win even more. The entire gathering is a showcase for studios, a runway for designers, fodder for the gossip mills, and the best networking opportunity of the year for filmmakers. Try as other awards might, they don’t compare to Hollywood’s big night.

Not that the Oscars mean much when it comes to the quality of the winning films. Though there’s plenty of pomp and circumstance about the value of the craft and prestige of the selection process, any organization that would nominate James Cameron’s Avatar for Best Picture has left artistry and cinematic excellence off its priority list. They may be bigger than ever, but the Oscars are just advertising with a black tie dress code.

The same could be said of the State of the Union Address. Every year since Woodrow Wilson set the precedent of delivering the address in person, presidents have had the annual chance to lend their voices and charisma to their legislative agenda, and for most of the 20th century it has been more for the benefit of the national audience than Congress. The event has become a campaign stop in our bloated campaign seasons that force politicians to start running for reelection before they’ve had a chance to move in to their offices. As such, it’s nearly impossible for the State of the Union to transcend mere branding of the party in power.

President Obama’s State of the Union was more of the same. I seriously considered running my review from last year’s address because so much of the speech was, point for point, repetition. That’s hardly the president’s fault: at best, a great State of the Union Address is a laundry list of policy achievements and goals sprinkled with sparkling rhetoric. It’s a pep rally for the presidency, and like the Oscars, has lost most of its true significance over the years. For the next few news cycles, pundits and politicians on the right will try to follow Representative Ryan’s example and paint the president as a leftist radical bent on the financial ruin of America, while in reality this speech was even more fiscally conservative than last year’s address (which didn’t seem possible). Left-leaning commentators will tout the bold proposals of a successful president and try to remind voters of Representative Bachmann’s nonsensical, bizarre response to downplay Ryan’s points. And so it goes.

But like the Oscars, the real story is much quieter. This was a good year for President Obama. He’s accomplished an extraordinary amount of items on his agenda, the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act both seem to be helping Americans while both are still in need of some tweaking to increase their effectiveness. Despite some fairly paranoid focus on competing with China, the speech reminded its audience that America remains strong and is likely to continue to be despite doomsayers on both sides. But the best moment of the speech is from its beginning.

What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

If we can manage that in the midst of vigorous debate, we’ll be fine.

Well, that and if True Grit wins Best Picture.

Tea Party Democrats

Rasmussen announced yesterday that Americans agree with the tenets of the Tea Party movement more than with President Obama “on most major issues” by 48%-44%.  Additionally, The Hill reports that 40% of Tea Partiers identify themselves as Democrats or Independents.

This is hardly surprising in the wake of the healthcare bill’s unpopularity, and it reminds one that there is something of a divide within the Democratic Party as well as the GOP.  Though most Conservative commentators will say otherwise, this leftist divide isn’t necessarily good for Republicans.

If the president is smart, he’ll take advantage of these Tea Party Democrats and Independents and give dissenters like them a voice in his administration.  Rather than enjoying a cabinet full of liberal ideologues who echo his own views, he should use moderate and disgruntled Democrats to his advantage by allowing them a place at his table.

As counter-intuitive as this sounds, it worked for Ronald Reagan, who was criticized for grouping moderate Republicans with movement conservatives in his own senior staff.    He explained the arrangement this way during a 1981 press conference:

QUESTION: There have been specific reports that your Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense are not getting along and that they argue in front of you.  Can you comment on these reports?

PRESIDENT REAGAN:  The whole Cabinet argues in front of me.  That was the system I wanted installed.

Presidencies have historically benefitted from internal dissensions—provided the divisions extend to those in leadership.  Reagan biographer Steven Hayward writes,

In a manner that eludes many historians, political scientists, and reporters, the most successful presidencies tend to be those that have factional disagreement within their inner councils, whereas sycophantic administrations tend to get in the most trouble.  Fractiousness in an administration is a sign of health: the Jefferson-Hamilton feud in Washington’s administration, the rivalry within Lincoln’s cabinet, and the odd combination of fervent New Dealers and conventional Democrats in FDR’s White House provided a dynamic tension that contributed to successful governance. (The Age of Reagan, p. 9)

Of course, the Democratic members of a single grassroots movement can hardly be expected to change the course of an entire political party—at least not at first.  These Tea Party converts, however, combined with the President’s plummeting popularity, do present him with an interesting opportunity.  If Hayward’s historical analysis is correct, President Obama might very well benefit from the Tea Parties by offering them his ear.

I doubt he will do so, and that may be just as well; as a conservative, I am eager to see him leave office.  If he even appears to shift to the Right, his approval ratings will probably increase.  I don’t want that to happen – and, for now, neither does much of the rest of America. ‘

A Rush to the Middle… Class

It’s the speech the White House Communications Office spends a year writing, and the news media spends a couple days dissecting.  It was important enough that the Framers mandated that the president “shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”  It is crucial for the political momentum of the chief executive in his role as chief policymaker, and it is forceful enough in its impact that Thomas Jefferson refused to deliver it in person to avoid being perceived as too monarchial.  And for this president, it was the speech the White House hoped could reboot a disappointing first year in office.

In many ways, President Obama’s first State of the Union address was successful.  Mindful of his often stilted, professorial tone, the president ad-libbed in response to the crowd, and delivered the more conciliatory portions of his speech with candor.  He did not recapture the rhythm and excitement of his campaign addresses (especially those from the last few months of the presidential race), but he wasn’t the boring, rational law professor again, either.  He managed to hit populist notes without seeming trite, academic reasoning without channeling Ben Stein, and delivered some grand passages without straying into ostentatiousness.

It’s hard to avoid comparing the speech to President Reagan’s 1983 State of the Union, when the country faced many of the same challenges.  President Obama did not flinch from these challenges, and he did not mince words when it came to our progress.  Perhaps he was a bit optimistic about the effectiveness of his policies, especially the stimulus package, but the State of the Union is, first and foremost, the president’s biggest moment as national cheerleader.  And though he fell into the familiar presidential pattern of blaming the previous administration for the problems he’s been unable to solve, he also gave credit where credit is due to President Bush’s actions in his last months to save Wall Street firms from utter collapse.

If anything, President Obama’s first State of the Union was a speech for the middle class.  The economy took center stage, and he launched into what was the flattest part of the speech, a long list of proposals for drawing the US out of its slump.  With a few key omissions, this speech could have been given by President Bush.  It was remarkably moderate, and touted policies like tax cuts and spending freezes that appeal to conservatives, with only a couple issues like the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell thrown in to appease the far left of his own party.  And, rightly responding to valid criticism that he’s abandoned his promised bipartisan approach for Chicago-style politicking, he reached out to Republicans on health care reform.

But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.  Let me know. Let me know. I’m eager to see it.

I know many conservatives doubt that sincerity, but from the look on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s face, it seems the president will be hearing from the opposition quite soon.

The Supreme Court, usually just in attendance for tradition’s stake, didn’t receive such a conciliatory overture.  One of the more surprising developments of the night was President Obama’s direct condemnation of the recent 5-4 decision for Citizens United v. FEC.  According to released transcripts, the president was apprehensive enough about breaking with precedent so drastically that he added “With all due deference to separation of powers” before delivering his remarks.

…last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.  I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.  They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

Though short of a constitutional amendment there’s not much either Congress or the Executive Branch can do about the Court’s unfortunate decision, it underscores the seriousness of the decision’s impact that the White House included the comments in the year’s most high-profile speech.

In all, it was a brave speech.  At a time when his job approval ratings suggest serious trouble for his agenda, President Obama did not play it safe.  He tweaked the Republicans throughout the speech, of course, but they were not the only targets for his criticism.  His call to publish all earmark requests by name on a website before each vote was a thinly veiled slap at the House and Senate Democrats for using earmarks in the most blatant bribery Congress has seen in quite awhile in exchange for votes for the health care reform bills.  It seems a bit hypocritical for the head of the Democratic Party to publicly rebuke his colleagues for tactics the White House tacitly approved.  But whether it was genuine outrage, or frustration at his inability to wrangle his gatekeepers and the Democratic congressional leadership, or a belated mea culpa, the proposal is a brilliant idea for an administration that strives for increased transparency before a skeptical public.

The most important moment of the night came late in the speech.  Like a disappointed dad, the president chided lawmakers for playing politics as a zero-sum game, where winning and losing are all that matters and governing for the good of the people falls by the wayside.

We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.

The Democrats immediately erupted in applause, and without missing a beat, the president turned to them and said “I’m speaking to both parties now.”  And there was silence on the left.  It was a beautiful moment for conservative and progressive alike.

Cynicism seems to be much on the public mind lately.  In his farewell address on The Tonight Show, Conan OBrien said that above all, he didn’t want his young viewers to become cynical, despite the blatant crooked dealing evident in the late night wars that took his show from him.  From time to time, political and social leaders raise the alarm at the increasingly divisive and juvenile tone of cable news media and political backbiting.  But even in this Neo-Gilded Age, the kind of frankness and equal opportunity offending the president brought to his State of the Union Address can break through the predictable back and forth.  Whether or not it will turn to any kind of true soul-searching that could lead to bipartisan efforts in the nation’s capital remains to be seen, but from time to time, we pause to listen to the nation’s chief executive and wonder, for a few days at least, if it could.


Barack Obama: The Populist Professor?

Last night’s State of the Union address changed nothing, aside from Chris Matthews’ eyesight, which I trust has returned to normal.  President Obama is still committed to the same unpopular policies that have left him with a dropping approval rating, and he “won’t quit”.

Neither will Republicans, despite—or perhaps because of—the verbal reprimand they received last night:

“Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.  We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.”

Despite his pledge to “show the American people we can do it together”, the President has firmly refused to rethink the fundamentally divisive policies Republicans have voted against.  In a way, there’s nothing wrong with that.  President Obama is consistently a leftist, through and through.  He absolutely believes what he preaches, and his apparent refusal to compromise on his core beliefs should come as no surprise—it should, however, serve as a warning to Republicans, whose recent victory in Massachusetts has left some emboldened and others in danger of becoming over-confident.

In light of that, it’s odd that Obama chose to compare himself with President Reagan.  He’s certainly no Reagan politically—nor should he claim to be, if he wants his actions to be consistent with his beliefs.  As time has worn on and the now-famous teleprompter has been a player in so many political dramas this year, we’ve learned that he’s not even much like Reagan rhetorically.  It made sense for a candidate Obama to try to link his name with that of Reagan, but as a sitting President who is thoroughly committed to the very leftist ideals Reagan eschewed, it’s a little strange.

Even more strange were Obama’s populist appeals spoken in his habitually professorial tone.  Believe it or not, it’s hard to be intelligent in America—especially if you are a politician.  No one wants to be stupid, but neither do you want to come across as too smart—at least not if you want people to like you.  Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, but fortunately for him he was also very good at acting like “one of the guys”.  This let him make full use of his intelligence without appearing stuffy or abnormal in ways that would have hurt his political career.

President Obama, on the other hand, is decidedly academic in both tone and demeanor.  While watching last night’s speech, Chris Matthews says he forgot our President was black.  I nearly forgot he wasn’t one of the visiting lecturers who used to speak for Capitol Hill interns on the house floor when Congress was out of session.

This academic approach obviously works for the younger generations, or at least it did during the election; 66 percent of the 29 and under crowd voted for Obama.  Will his populist appeals also work, or will his habitual aura of superior intelligence turn more and more voters off as they become accustomed to his habits?

Only time—and the next election results—will tell.  Meanwhile, Republicans can rest assured that they can expect more of the same liberal policies they’ve been fighting, without let-up and without compromise.  And unless the GOP manages to utterly take over the Congress in the next election cycle, Chris Matthews can expect to need glasses. ‘

Ebenezer Pelosi?

Nancy Pelosi wants to ‘decrease the surplus population’, Ebenezer Scrooge style. From Drudge:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?
PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?
PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

So, in other words, the way to help our ailing economy is to spend lots of money that we don’t actually have ensuring that the next generation of workers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and investors is never born. Sorry, Tiny Tim, you’re just too darned expensive.
I’d like her to say more about just what she means by ‘contraception’, because in this statement contraception sounds like an awfully good code word for ‘abortion.’ And that’s something I’m not even sure Scrooge would have wanted.

Americans “Born Again” Under President Obama

Apparently, we are “born again” as Americans through the redemptive work of President Barack Obama. Left unanswered, however, was the question of righteousness. It is clear to me that President Obama, by his merely assuming the office of the president, has made all America righteous before the world. However, I am left wondering if righteousness is imputed on me personally through the redeeming work of Obama being elected to the presidency or if it is imparted on me only through participation in President Obama’s government?

The Music Manuscript of Faith, iTunes, does not make the righteousness question clear to me:

Continue reading Americans “Born Again” Under President Obama

Five Things to Watch for at the DNC

By John Mark Reynolds
Chatting about expectations is a political junky’s game. Looking for a fix of actual news at the Convention, you will hear many things about the Democratic National Convention (DNC) most of which will turn out to be false in retrospect. For sane voters–most of whom will watch the Biden and Obama speeches and little else–the substance and the abiding visuals of the Convention are what will matter most.
There are five things to look for at the DNC (and just after) which will tell you whether the Convention was a success.
First, follow the Clinton money after the convention.
The idiotic spin that the Convention is about unity is setting a bar so low that the DNC cannot fail. The Clinton machine cannot afford to look like they killed Senator Obama. They will back him with loud words. This will be viewed as “success.” You could get rich if a friend would give you a dollar for every time a podium speaker says “this party is united.”
Bluntly, any large scale disunity visible to the viewer would so doom Obama that one must assume he will have it in check.
How do you know if real unity is achieved? Look for the small stories right after the DNC that talk about whether Clinton donors have opened up their wallets. If not, there is no real unity and the Clinton apparatus is trying to quietly knife Obama.
Second, look for the killer visual error that the old media loves immediately but which the new media turns clownish.
The best example is John Kerry coming to the podium with a salute. This looked good at the moment, but did not wear well with repeat viewings. Pols and their helpers still plan Convention tricks for the pre-video on demand era. They do things that look good once, but look silly on repeat viewings. It is the difference between the ability of the Old Star Trek to run in a stunt double for Kirk which they could assume that nobody would catch in one quick viewing (and nobody thought much about syndication then) versus the Whedonesque (Buffy, Angel) assumption that each episode would be viewed many, many times.
Think wedding videos. Hammy and “of the moment” ceremonies wear very badly (become camp!) on repeat viewing. Oddly, highly controlled traditional ceremonies wear well. Obama better find a Cranmer fast to control any desire to look “trendy” or do “cool” things at the Convention that end up looking (after a few weeks) like Mom’s “Princess Moonbeam” dress or Dad’s leisure suit in the old wedding pix.
Today you must run your Convention with the viral video in mind. No hammy salutes or chants that look good the first time but cloy on repeated viewings.
Third, count the references to the Clinton administration in non-Clinton speeches versus self-referential praise in Clinton speeches.
Many words of praise of Clinton governance (not just to the Clintons personally or to the “hard fought” primary campaign) in the “other guys” speeches means healing has happened on the Obama side. Will Obama praise the nineties? Ignoring the governance (as opposed to the personality of Clinton) will make Bill very mad and means there is still anger on the Obama side.
Many references to how Clinton governed in the Clinton speeches (where the Obama folk would like them eliminated) means healing has not happened on the Clinton side. President Clinton is his administration and Senator Clinton is his stand-in, so if the He and the She still feel the need to point out that they ruled well, then both are angry.
Their anger will kill Obama in places like Pennsylvania.
Fourth, wait for Biden to say something stupid.
If he doesn’t, Senator Obama is saved until the next time we notice Biden . . . which may not be until the Veep debates.
If he does, Senator Obama will look very bad for passing on Senator Clinton at just the wrong time.
Finally, the most important moment of the Convention, perhaps the only important moment, is the speech by Senator Obama.
Here we can assume that Obama will get the speech just right . . . but that the choice of venue is his big problem. He may not be able to solve it. The immediate visuals will be great and the television talking heads will praise them, but the totalitarian Olympic spectacle that just ended is a big problem for Senator Obama. He may not be able to win with the long term visual impact of his choice to speak in a stadium.
Republicans should pray for a loud and hyperactive audience of Obama acolytes who begin the weird “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma” cry early and often. McCain’s best coup of the campaign so far (other than the Biden pick) was to turn that chant into a cue to the American people of “celebrity worship.”
People forget political speeches. They will not forget seventy-odd thousand adoring leftists. The speech in the stadium made no sense when he first announced it, but now it is a McCain commercial waiting to happen. Success for Obama will be giving a speech to an intent stadium that is enthusiastic without being weird. Success is few if any camera shots of young adults for Obama with cult-like adoration. Success is getting out the stadium as quickly as possible.