The Party of special-interests

August 25, 2008 at 6:36 am

The Wall Street Journal on the motivations of the Democratic Party:

Instead, the Democrats of the past several years have shown themselves to be less a party of ideas than a vessel for special interests. Exhibit A: the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Privately, Congressional Democrats know this deal is in the nation’s interests. Colombia is a primary ally in a rough neighborhood, and the agreement is a win for both sides. Colombia’s goods can already enter the U.S. duty free because of the Andean trade preferences act. The AFL-CIO, however, has commanded that no vote can occur on Colombia, and so Democrats have obeyed and the trade deal languishes, frustrating and perhaps embittering a foreign friend of the U.S.

The fight over offshore drilling is playing to the same script. Despite solid public majorities showing a sharp turn in favor of exploiting the nation’s oil reserves, a Democratic Congress chained to carbon-phobic environmental groups has refused to allow even a vote on drilling. This fiasco has given House Democrats a black eye. No matter. The party’s special interests have the last word. The first word from these interests — Big Labor, the teachers unions, environmentalists or the trial lawyers — is: Do our bidding or we will make you pay at the polls.

This is the crowd that will be dancing in Denver. The Congressional Democrats have moved left on taxes and left on trade; they propose a significant federalization of health insurance and propose to resurrect the regulatory state that Jimmy Carter helped bury. On foreign policy, they are to the left of where Bill Clinton was on Kosovo and Bosnia.

The difficulty with interest-group politics, as we saw with the “dinosaurs” of Mexico’s PRI party until they were finally run out of power, is that it can become incapable of thinking about national interests. The lockdown on the Colombia deal shows that.

Do the Democrats really believe that the American pubic is ready for this kind of narrow governance? So it appears. Nancy Pelosi has outlined a path to Democratic dominance for a generation. The party builds its majority this year, she argues, wins more seats through redistricting after the 2010 census, and then achieves long-term dominance in 2012.

Team Obama has to hate this

August 23, 2008 at 2:23 pm

The Associated Press’s Ron Fournier throws a freezing cold bucket of water on the new Democratic ticket:

DENVER (AP) - The candidate of change went with the status quo.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness - inexperience in office and on foreign policy - rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.

He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate - the ultimate insider - rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t even make his short list.

The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn’t beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden selection is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative - a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.

McMentum

August 19, 2008 at 5:55 pm

John McCain’s campaign is gathering momentum in the wake of his performance at Saddleback Church. Even David Gergen is taking notice:

Heading into the candidates’ appearances on Saturday night at Saddleback Church, the conventional wisdom in politics was Barack Obama should have a clear upper hand in any joint appearance with John McCain — one the young, eloquent, cool, charismatic dude who can charm birds from the trees, the other the meandering, sometimes bumbling, old fellow who can barely distinguish Sunnis from Shiias.

Well, kiss that myth goodbye.

McCain came roaring out of the gate from the first question and was a commanding figure throughout the night as he spoke directly and often movingly about his past and the country’s future. By contrast, Obama was often searching for words and while far more thoughtful, was also less emotionally connective with his audience.

Obama takes the low road

August 18, 2008 at 6:10 am

The Wall Street Journal takes Obama to task for his nasty slur against Justice Clarence Thomas:

Barack Obama likes to portray himself as a centrist politician who wants to unite the country, but occasionally his postpartisan mask slips. That was the case at Saturday night’s Saddleback Church forum, when Mr. Obama chose to demean Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Pastor Rick Warren asked each Presidential candidate which Justices he would not have nominated. Mr. McCain said, “with all due respect” the four most liberal sitting Justices because of his different judicial philosophy.

[Barack Obama]

Mr. Obama took a lower road, replying first that “that’s a good one,” and then adding that “I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don’t think that he, I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution.” The Democrat added that he also wouldn’t have appointed Antonin Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, though he assured the audience that at least they were smart enough for the job.

So let’s see. By the time he was nominated, Clarence Thomas had worked in the Missouri Attorney General’s office, served as an Assistant Secretary of Education, run the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sat for a year on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s second most prominent court. Since his “elevation” to the High Court in 1991, he has also shown himself to be a principled and scholarly jurist.

Meanwhile, as he bids to be America’s Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama isn’t yet four years out of the Illinois state Senate, has never held a hearing of note of his U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had an unremarkable record as both a “community organizer” and law school lecturer. Justice Thomas’s judicial credentials compare favorably to Mr. Obama’s Presidential résumé by any measure. And when it comes to rising from difficult circumstances, Justice Thomas’s rural Georgian upbringing makes Mr. Obama’s story look like easy street.

Even more troubling is what the Illinois Democrat’s answer betrays about his political habits of mind. Asked a question he didn’t expect at a rare unscripted event, the rookie candidate didn’t merely say he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Instead, he instinctively reverted to the leftwing cliché that the Court’s black conservative isn’t up to the job while his white conservative colleagues are.

So much for civility in politics and bringing people together. And no wonder Mr. Obama’s advisers have refused invitations for more such open forums, preferring to keep him in front of a teleprompter, where he won’t let slip what he really believes.

Ideas for McCain

August 17, 2008 at 11:32 am

George Will has two very good suggestions for the McCain campaign:

McCain’s populism, if such there must be, should be distilled into one proposal that would be popular and, unlike most populism, not economically injurious. The proposal, for which he has expressed sympathy, is: No officer of any corporation receiving a federal subsidy, broadly defined, can be paid more than the highest federal civil servant ($124,010 for a GS-15). This would abruptly halt the galloping expansion of private economic entities — is GM next? — eager to become, in effect, joint ventures with Washington.

Next, McCain should make an asset of an inevitability by promising two presidential vetoes. The inevitability is enlarged Democratic congressional majorities in 2009. Americans suffer political astigmatism. They squint at Washington, seeing an incompetent cornucopia that is too big but which should expand to give them more blessings. Their voting behavior, however, generally conforms to their professed suspicion about unchecked power in Washington: In 31 election cycles since the restoration of normal politics after the Second World War, 19 of them produced divided government — the executive and legislative branches not controlled by the same party.

Two Democratic priorities in the next Congress would placate two factions that hold the party’s leash — organized labor and the far left. One is abolition of workers’ right to secret ballots in unionization elections. The other is restoration of the “fairness doctrine” in order to kill talk radio, on which liberals cannot compete. The doctrine would expose broadcasters to endless threats of litigation over government rules about how many views must be presented, on which issues, by whom, for how long and in what manner.

“At what point does a baby get human rights?”

August 16, 2008 at 9:11 pm

So went the question posed by Rick Warren to Barack Obama tonight at the Saddleback faith forum. Obama stumbled and bumbled in his response saying only two things definitively: 1 — the answer to that question is “above my pay grade”, and 2 — He “strongly supports” Roe vs. Wade.

Weak. And yes, entirely characteristic and predictable.

The next Lewis…

August 15, 2008 at 5:25 pm

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Just as conservatives probably should get comfortable with the notion that there will never be another Ronald Reagan, Christians should probably reconcile themselves with the fact that there will never be another C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ writings, particularly his defense of the Christian faith, has stood the test of time and to date is considered in a class by itself.

Nonetheless, David Skeel, writing for the Wall Street Journal, explains that many continue to look for the next “Mere Christianity,” only to be let down time and time again.

Tim Keller’s new book, “The Reason for God,” is one of the mentioned succesors. I am halfway through this book myself, and while it is wonderful, I have to agree with Skeel (I bet Keller would too):

“The Reason for God” is as sensible and winsome as one would expect from the pastor of a latticework of churches that draw more than 5,000 attendees in New York City every Sunday, most of them young, single, urban professionals. But it too is no “Mere Christianity.” It does not have the original arguments or the magical prose of Lewis’s classic.

Why can’t evangelical authors produce a true successor to “Mere Christianity”? The main reason, I think, is that today’s best scholars, like Mr. Plantinga and Yale philosophy professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, can’t write for a general audience (or, in Wright’s case, are distracted by the pressures of trying to help hold the Anglican church together), and the writers who can accomplish this are no longer real scholars. Lewis was both, at a time when the two were thought to be compatible. No need to borrow his bona fides because he himself was a leading medievalist and literary critic.

Lewis’s real ambition was, he revealed in his letters and diary entries, to be numbered among the great English poets. He didn’t get there. Unlike his Narnia novels, Lewis’s poems are largely forgotten. But when we marvel at a metaphor or memorable passage in “Mere Christianity” — such as the famous claim that Jesus, given what he said, must have been either a lunatic or the very Son of God — we are the beneficiaries of a gifted dreamer’s not quite successful quest. And maybe that’s as good as it gets.

And if it is, it is still pretty damn good.

Skeel also has a blog that is worth bookmarking.

Warren’s faith forum already controversial

August 13, 2008 at 11:59 am

Mega-church pastor Rick Warren is hosting a candidate forum for Barack Obama and John McCain. He is also the focus if a recent Time Magazine feature piece. Throughout the piece there is much to admire from Warren. For one, his skepticism about government is laudable:

“I have never been considered a part of the religious right, because I don’t believe politics is the most effective way to change the world,” he says now. “Although public service can be a noble profession, and I believe it is our responsibility to vote, I don’t have much faith in government solutions, given the track record. It’s why I am a pastor, not a politician. None of my values have changed from four years ago, but my agenda has definitely expanded.”

Good for him. No pastor should be a tool of either party. But according to this statement, Warren is more conservative than he knows. A deep distrust of government schemes plus a belief that everyday people not politicians are the best agents of change — these are hallmarks of conservatism. But that is an aside in this post.

The real issue is that Warren should not shy away from advocating principles of the faith that will make candidates uncomfortable.

Excerpts from the piece like this have some worried:

A shift away from “sin issues” — like abortion and gay marriage — is reflected in Warren’s approach to his coming sit-downs with the candidates. He says he is more interested in questions that he feels are “uniting,” such as “poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights,” and still more in civics-class topics like the candidates’ understanding of the role of the Constitution. There will be no “Christian religion test,” Warren insists. “I want what’s good for everybody, not just what’s good for me. Who’s the best for the nation right now?”

Warren’s apparent desire to avoid divisive issues while focusing on uniting issues is a disservice to the forum. People of faith, who look to Warren to moderate this forum properly, want to see what divides the candidates as much as they do what unites them. That is how you make a proper assesment of a candidates worth — by knowing where they differ from each other.

Furthermore, as Hunter Baker points out in an open letter to Warren, ignoring the issue of abortion is a missed opportunity to highlight one of the greatest moral issues of our time:

If the year were 1958, instead of 2008, do you think it would be right to host such a forum and ignore segregation, knowing one candidate was ardently in favor of the separation of the races? You and I both know that it would be wrong to gloss over a glaring breach of that kind. We both know many in the church were wrong in just that way. (It is a terrible irony of history that Mr. Obama now stands with those who favor the persistent removal of an entire class of human beings from legal protection through legal fiat. How I wish it were not so.)

UPDATE: Wow…today comes news that the Democratic Party is officially lurching farther left on the abortion issue:

The Democratic Party platform of 2008 finally dropped its old abortion language (”safe, legal and rare”), which had asked that women not have abortions unless they absolutely must. The 2008 platform, just announced, says instead, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”

In other words, the Democratic Party is emboldened by Barack Obama’s candidacy and the unabashed liberalism that he stands for. Now the Party platform betrays the Left’s desire to convince Americans not of the necessity of a woman’s right to choose, but rather, of the morality of the act of abortion itself.

Full steam ahead on the Leftward Express…

It would be a shame for Warren to let these developments go unnoticed.