Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


Leave a comment

This Nation, Me

“One thing I think Americans should be proud of… this nation, me, my administration stood with them” –Barack Obama

“L’Etat c’est a moi” –Louis XIV

Because the nature of our military’s changed, we use fewer ships and don’t  spell-check.

The final presidential puerile squabbling fest debate of the cycle has come and gone—thank goodness—and we’re left to puzzle out an understanding of where we are to go from here. For starters, liberals are already crying foul over Romney seeming too presidential to be painted a raging extremist. You would think they’d be happy to find a Republican keeping his enemy close agreeing with Obama. Speaking of, what are the proposals, visions, and opportunities represented by the Leader of the Free World?

First off, this was a foreign policy debate, and it was supposed to highlight the strengths of the incumbent who killed bin Laden. Yet for all the talk of Barack Obama’s purported victory, the president left many questions unanswered and many potential voters uncomfortable. President Obama has opposed any attempts to defuse sequestration, but Debate Obama vowed that the sequestration cuts would (since backtracked to “should”) not happen. How exactly will you prevent those cuts, Mr. President? By shifting them elsewhere, as the Republicans (and the Secretary of Defense) have asked along? By raising taxes on small businesses during a recession? You would be forgiven any wariness of the president’s sincerity on the matter, as he continues to defy his legal requirement to disclose how sequestration cuts would be implemented.

The other inconvenient budgetary situation is that of ending the war in Afghanistan, which both candidates have pledged to do by 2014. Once Twice again, Obama promoted economic benefits:

“You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do here.

But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work”

I’m glad we can all agree that the incumbent president, whoever that is, should have been “nation-building here at home” by “developing our own economy” to “put Americans back to work”. Moving along, concluding the war in Afghanistan will eliminate only a fraction of the $1.2-trillion deficit. (Remember when it was supposed to be $520 million?) This will certainly mean less debt, but there will be no savings to put elsewhere. Obama can choose to restore the deficit by borrowing towards different spending, but if that is his intention, why hasn’t he said and defended it? Is he hoping the American people won’t notice?

On the subject of defense budgeting and strategy, what was the point of comparing Navy ships to “horses and bayonets” in jocular derision of valid concerns about defense policy? Does Obama believe ships are obsolescent in a modern Navy? Given that “aircraft carriers” and “nuclear submarines” are also ships, does it follow that the president believes we should have fewer of them? Is this where he intends to direct those undisclosed sequestration cuts? Whatever the answers, this clever gimmick allowed Obama to shrewdly avoid Romney’s actual point: due to defense budget cuts, the Pentagon has abandoned its “two-war strategy” and is reducing our ability to wage war. Why is it that the president seems so unwilling to defend this decision?

Regarding war direction and authority, Obama defended his actions in Syria by citing Muammar Gaddafi’s many crimes. The assessment is accurate, and we notice how much the exercise recalls George W. Bush’s indictment of Saddam Hussein’s violent record (notwithstanding the discredited 9/11 association). Am I saying Obama’s deployment of force in Libya is akin to the initiation of the Iraq War? No, of course not. President Bush sought and received congressional authorization for his invasions; President Obama never bothered and, when pressed, denied the need. This begs us to ask: what is the Obama Doctrine for the engagement of American martial power? What limits, if any, ought the executive to acknowledge on his authority to commit acts of war?

It is by no means clear what a second Obama term would hold for our military and our national budget. But the gist of it seems to be that the president is committed to three proposals: 1) cut the defense budget & downsize the military, 2) maintain a deficit to finance more government spending, and 3) don’t answer too many questions about 1 and 2. It’s almost like this president feels entitled to rule the country as he sees fit, without the burden of oversight or popular approval.

Can we afford four more years of this governance?

Advertisements


1 Comment

Bonfire of the Principles

“And, of course, 2012 offers nothing like the ecstasy of taking part in a historical advance: the reëlection of the first African-American President does not inspire the same level of communal pride. But the reëlection of a President who has been progressive, competent, rational, decent, and, at times, visionary is a serious matter.” –The New Yorker

The Left’s takeaway from the second presidential debate.

What are the signs of a campaign coming unhinged?

We’re nearing the home stretch, the last debate is tonight, and our collective nerves shriek at the yawning chasm of weeks between now and that first Tuesday of Standard Time. A song of desperation has reverberated through the partisan games since the waning days of summer. Back then, the prominent notes were “tax returns”, “Voter I.D.”, and, of course, “fear of a black president”. The tax returns served as a foil to the Buffet Rule fantasy in which the Left pretended that our fiscal problems can be solved by revenue. The voter I.D. reporting served as a coordinated exercise in willful miscarriage of reality—it takes obdurate aplomb to call racist a position favored by 65% of blacks and 64% of Hispanics. That discussion also conveniently fed into the tritely disingenuous narrative of conservative bigotry, which has fueled much sententious verbosity throughout the race.

Even beyond the predictable amalgamation of deceit and blame regarding the Obama record, the debate season has seen new heights—or lows—of rabid opposition as the Left circles the wagons. Mitt Romney details a methodology to alleviate a paucity of women in the workplace, and he is met with derision from the very people who presumably want more efforts to support women in the workplace. At the risk of stating the obvious, going out of your way to find qualified candidates from groups underrepresented in the work environment is the spirit of affirmative action. Since when were liberals opposed to that?

Romney goes on to implicate communal dysfunction in trends of social decay, including gun violence, and suggest that mitigating these evils would reduce that violence and dysfunction:

“What I believe is we have to do as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree…and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll — we’ll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that.

But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically.”

Liberals pounced. A firestorm of commentary accused the governor of going off the rails for blaming gun violence on “sluts” and single parents (they even threw in parenthetical racism for good measure). What seemed to be lost in most of this fury—beyond the proven correlation between broken homes and crime—was the substance of President Obama’s own comments, which immediately preceded Romney’s:

“But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence…And so what can we do to intervene to make sure that young people have opportunity, that our schools are working, that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control?

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.”

In other words, the president has the same kind of general communal prescriptions for reducing gun violence as Governor Romney. Obama even wants faith groups involved! Moreover, then-Senator Obama made a variation of this same pitch to the NAACP back in July 2008. So what’s the principled objection to any of this from the Left?

That’s actually a question. I haven’t a clue.

It would seem the allies of Obama are running on the last sputtering fumes of Hope, throwing every stick, stone, and word they can find at a rising opposition. From embarrassing Big Bird to ridiculing affirmative action to pretending they’re not enabling the perpetuation of Bush-era security policy, to imagining the economy isn’t a liability, the Left is flailing for a lifeline, and Candy Crawley is nowhere in sight. After this last debate, will Team Obama cling to comically ancillary disputes and awkward wording, or will they have answers for why we should entrust the president with another four years of American time?

I guess we’ll see.


2 Comments

Right in the Main

“And the suggestion that anybody in my team…would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.” –Barack Obama

“Be obscure clearly.” –E.B. White

I can’t be biased. I’m from CNN!

It must be nice to have the media so comfortably on your side that a debate moderator can authoritatively throw you a disingenuous lifeline and the supposedly undecided room around you erupts in inappropriate applause. But what do I know? I’m just a guy who thinks that our leaders should have a basic level of integrity when dealing with matters of life and death and that the media should serve as a check on power rather than the twelfth man on a certain candidate’s home turf.

It’s certainly true that the President used the word “terror” in his initial remarks in the Rose Garden, following the murder of Ambassador Stevens and his staff. What is odd is that neither he nor his administration was subsequently willing to label the attack as such for well over a week afterward. And even after several top officials had referred to the operation as terrorism, the president was still hedging on the term with talk show hosts—the same ones that trumped meeting with key allies—and going on about a YouTube video. The salient issue here isn’t terminology or devious political posturing, but that the Obama Administration actively misled the American people about a terrorist attack. For this reason, CNN debate moderator Candy Crowley called Romney’s criticism to that effect, “right in the main”.

The administration realized early on that YouTube protests had nothing to do with the “meticulously executed” attack. Yet despite knowing there weren’t even protests at the consulate, the White House clung to the story of the video triggering the assault. What a flustered Mitt Romney aimed to convey at Hofstra is that the President of the United States failed to protect American lives and then pretended that somebody else made that failure happen. From the U.N. remarks to the taxpayer-financed ads on a different continent, the administration put on a grand tour of deception to occlude any public reckoning with the reality of a disaster. Now that his chickens have come home to roost, Obama purports to be even “more concerned about [the] safety and security” of our diplomats than their own families, with the cool expectation that we will forgive the demonstrable want of a record to that effect.

President Obama is by no means a bad person; I genuinely believe he means all those anodyne reassurances he offers so eloquently. But when the chips were down, and that 3 a.m. call demanded leadership, this Commander-in-Chief was weighed in the balance and found wanting—in Vegas. Thus the U.S. has lost its first ambassador in the line of duty since the grim days of Jimmy Carter.

Remember that the next time this president declares, “We can’t afford to go back to failed policies.”


3 Comments

When October Ends

“Last night, we saw the clearest possible demonstration of why none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines between now and November 6th.” –Brian Moran, Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia

The Most Interesting Man in the World knows when to take a bow.

The first debate is over, the reviews are in, and we can pretty much agree that, in the words of Mark Hemingway, “Mitt Romney just took Obama for a cross country drive strapped to the roof of his car.” So dismal was the president’s performance that he’s already inspiring cringe-worthy comparisons to failed Democrats past, including, gasp, Jimmy Carter. It is a dark day indeed when Michael Moore of all people is dismissing a liberal president by one-line comparison to John Kerry.

The criticisms ran the gambit. Obama’s performance seemed “effete” and “wonkish”, his demeanor was “nervous and petulant”, his responses lacked “EQ as well as IQ”, and he looked like he needed a teleprompter. I could hardly sit through all the nitpicking over healthcare minutiae or the perfunctory appeals to century-old grandeur in muddling through education reform. The President came off as an irascible TA, running on too little sleep with too little to show for it, who would rather be anywhere else than at a podium, lecturing an irksome crowd of strangers fiddling away on social media. Watching him was the memory of that first crippling hangover in college that inspires a passing Mormon view of intoxicants, coupled with a profound, if migraine-addled, reckoning with the trajectory of your next four years.

Romney’s decisive victory in Denver also benefits from conveniently low expectations. Going into the debate, as many as 3 in 5 Americans expected Obama to win. Coming out, the most damning rebuke of Romney came for his stated intention to foreclose Sesame Street and murder its residents outsource Big Bird and Elmo. This is a curious conviction, to be sure, as the Muppets’ pensions aren’t remotely driving the deficit. But there are worse problems one could have with an aspiring U.S. president—like, I don’t know, disastrously incompetent leadership, mismanaging the economy, and a tendency to smirk at criticism.

What’s more, Obama picked the fourth most tweeted telecast of any kind for his epic implosion on stage. Earning overwhelmingly favorable social and mainstream media coverage is the best gift possible for Romney after a rather dreary September. But his team should keep circling the wagons. Championing the governor’s victory in the first debate is perfectly consistent with the media ultimately favoring Obama, albeit with a juicy narrative soap-opera drama. As the genre savvy young conservative Mytheos Holt once noted, “It’s not a good story if the villain doesn’t beat the hero” a few good times.

Conservatives should brace for increasingly hostile media cover as October pressures tighten the polls. Predictably, the Left is already at war with an avalanche of lies and myths, real and imagined, and we should expect Obama to bring a better game for the next two contests. So while this debate performance almost certainly breathes new life into Romney’s campaign, we should remember that Romney entered the fray from behind. The devil is always in the policy details.

And even the worst hangover is gone in a day or two.