Saturday, December 4, 2004

Manipulating the Election With Oil?

PowerLine casts a suspicious eye at the recent fluctuation of oil prices and asks cui bono. Their suspicions are understandable. Prior to the election the price of oil rose steadily from $35 a barrel last spring to over $55 a barrel at just around the time of the election. Since the election the price rise has reversed course and is now at about $43. What's causing this fluctuation which seems to be timed so closely to our election? Power Line considers two suspects:

There have been rumors that speculators, including George Soros, tried to drive up the price of oil in hopes of helping John Kerry. I know of no evidence to support that suspicion. But apart from Mr. Soros, what about the Arab states? Is there any doubt that the Saudi royal family would have preferred to see Kerry in the White House, and an end to President Bush's campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East? The bare minimum one can say is that the Saudis failed to follow through on their pledge to keep oil prices down.

How much of a conspiracy theorist does one have to be to wonder whether some combination of forces, inside or outside of the Arab world, tried to influence our Presidential election by allowing or forcing prices to rise during the fall? And has anyone in the mainstream media, with its alleged investigatory resources, shown any interest in finding out why oil prices seem to have risen and fallen in synchrony with the American campaign season?

It's not likely. If the otherwise supine MSM is going to put their nose to the trail they'll have to first suspect that somehow George Bush is implicated in some hanky-panky here. Otherwise, they're not interested. If there were even a whiff of suspicion of Bush, however, the media would be thrown into a frenzy, elbowing each other in the ribs in their rush to "get to the bottom of the story". Even old Dan Rather would be mustered back into the lists and soon be hot on the scent. That is, just as soon as he could get back from Texas where he's been busy proving that those National Guard memos were true in what they allege even if they were complete fabrications.


The collapse of European multiculturalism is proceeding apace. This article from Times Online in the United Kingdom makes it clear that all the old verities of liberal tolerance and the need to celebrate ethnic and religious diversity are crumbling like dry mud under the pressures of an unassimilated Islamic population which bids fair to transform once Christian Europe into Eurabia within a generation.

Richard John Neuhaus in the current edition of First Things (subscription required) quotes Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis as saying that by the end of this century, if not before, Europe will be part of the Arab West. Former European Union commissioner Frits Bolkstein of the Netherlands states that if Lewis is right "the liberation of Vienna in 1683 (from invading Turks) will have been in vain". Within a decade several major European cities will be majority Muslim, and if they are still democratic they will doubtless be governed by Muslims. What Islam couldn't accomplish in 1683 by the sword it will succeed in accomplishing through immigration and fecundity.

One might be a little less distressed by the prospect of an Islamic Europe if one could find some evidence somewhere in history that Islamic rule would be good for Europeans, and that an Islamic Europe would be good for America. Unfortunately, Muslims have a run up a pretty dismal record of governance over the centuries, and one is inclined to think that the future under a Muslim caliphate in Europe would be an unmitigated disaster for the world.

There are perhaps several ironies in all of this, but surely one is that in its eagerness to repudiate the fervent Christianity of an earlier age and to embrace the sophisticated secularism of modernity, Europeans are falling like overripe fruit into the hands of the most fanatical religionists on the face of earth. The world, it appears, abhors a religious vacuum. Sweep one set of dogmas out of the house and another will immediately rush in to fill the void. The last one hundred years have seen this process repeated several times. First, Christianity died of spiritual inanition and was replaced by communism and fascism. These were defeated in WW II and were replaced by an already effete secular materialism which lacks the moral will to withstand the contemporary onslaughts of a vigorous Islamism that believes itself to be in the ascendent.

Perhaps the entire future of Europe will be determined by how it reacts to this challenge in the next few years.

Whither the Democrats

Peter Beinart, writing for The New Republic Online, offers us what may be one of the most important post-election analyses of the Democrat Party's future. His essay is a rich pastiche of history, prescription, and prognostication. Distilled to its essence, Beinart's argument is that Michael Moore and not only do not represent the Democratic Party but have exerted a powerfully dysgenic influence upon it and need to be marginalized. Following are just a few excerpts from part I of a two-part article:

On January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that "the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction." Liberals, they argued, "consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West." Unless that changed, "In the spasm of terror which will seize this country ... it is the right--the very extreme right--which is most likely to gain victory."

American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.

Kerry was a flawed candidate, but he was not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem was the party's liberal base, which would have refused to nominate anyone who proposed redefining the Democratic Party in the way the ADA did in 1947. The challenge for Democrats today is not to find a different kind of presidential candidate. It is to transform the party at its grassroots so that a different kind of presidential candidate can emerge. That means abandoning the unity-at-all-costs ethos that governed American liberalism in 2004. And it requires a sustained battle to wrest the Democratic Party from the heirs of Henry Wallace. In the party today, two such heirs loom largest: Michael Moore and MoveOn.

Moore views totalitarian Islam the way Wallace viewed communism: As a phantom, a ruse employed by the only enemies that matter, those on the right. Saudi extremists may have brought down the Twin Towers, but the real menace is the Carlyle Group. Today, most liberals naively consider Moore a useful ally, a bomb-thrower against a right-wing that deserves to be torched. What they do not understand is that his real casualties are on the decent left. When Moore opposes the war against the Taliban, he casts doubt upon the sincerity of liberals who say they opposed the Iraq war because they wanted to win in Afghanistan first. When Moore says terrorism should be no greater a national concern than car accidents or pneumonia, he makes it harder for liberals to claim that their belief in civil liberties does not imply a diminished vigilance against Al Qaeda.

Moore is a non-totalitarian, but, like Wallace, he is not an anti-totalitarian. And, when Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Tom Daschle flocked to the Washington premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11, and when Moore sat in Jimmy Carter's box at the Democratic convention, many Americans wondered whether the Democratic Party was anti-totalitarian either.

After the defeats of 1994, 2000, 2002, and 2004 it may be appropriate to wonder whether the Democratic Party is headed the way of the passenger pigeon. A lot of people are asking what the party has to do to recover. Beinart's article is a good place to begin coming up with an answer. He closes with this:

[D]espite these differences, Islamist totalitarianism--like Soviet totalitarianism before it--threatens the United States and the aspirations of millions across the world. And, as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be liberalism's north star....If the struggles for gay marriage and universal health care lay rightful claim to liberal idealism, so does the struggle to protect the United States by spreading freedom in the Muslim world. It, too, can provide the moral purpose for which a new generation of liberals yearn.

The problem for the Democrats is that much of their energy and funding flow from their anti-war base. If the Democrats follow Beinart's advice they'll alienate a large segment of the people who give the party its distinctiveness. It would be as if Republicans suddenly became a pro-choice party.

Moreover, if the Democrats dress up like Republicans what incentive would there be for voters to elect them rather than Republicans? This is the root of the debate that's beginning in the Democratic party in the wake of November 2nd. Should they move further to the left and emphasize their differences with Republicans so that the voters have a clear choice, or should they move toward the right and blurr their differences so that elections become little more than popularity or beauty contests, like campaigns for student council president or Homecoming Queen?

The Democrats are in a tough spot, but so are conservative voters. If the Democrats move leftward that would be good for the Republican party since it would marginalize the Democrats with the American electorate, but it would be bad for conservatives because a Democrat shift to the nether regions of the left would create a vacuum in the center that Republicans would rush to fill in order to seize the political territory being abandoned by their opponents. Republicans would not only secure their hold on power for the next two generations, much like the Democrats did from FDR to LBJ, but the party would inevitably become more liberal.

Indeed, a pro-military, pro-choice, big government Republican party would be pretty much indistinguishable from the Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson, John Kennedy Democrats of the 1950s and 1960s. If the Democrats continue to make love with Michael Moore, George Soros, and look for Rudy Giuliani, or someone like him, to be the Republican nominee in 2008.