Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Obama Might Vote Republican in November

Fred Barnes speculates in the WSJ that Mr. Obama's best hope for political survival in 2012 is that the GOP wins back Congress in November. I can't think of a better way to keep Republican voters home in November than to tell them that voting for Republicans is Mr. Obama's best hope for reelection, but Barnes makes a convincing argument:

Let's assume Mr. Obama recognizes that the fiscal and economic peril facing the country because of trillion dollar deficits is a problem for him as well. At the moment, the 10-year deficit tab is pegged to be as low as $6 billion (Congressional Budget Office) or as high as $13 trillion (Heritage Foundation). Either way, the public is alarmed.

Mr. Obama's re-election to a second term is heavily dependent on his ability to deal effectively with the fiscal mess. He could try to push a big tax hike, like a value-added tax, through a lame duck Congress after the November election. But that's very much a long shot. Besides, higher taxes-on top of those from expiration of the Bush tax cuts-could infuriate voters all the more.

For Mr. Obama, serious spending cuts are the only sensible means of dealing with a potential debt crisis or at least an unsustainable fiscal situation. However, he may not be able to rely on reductions in military spending, as liberal Democrats usually prefer. Mr. Obama has already included deep defense cuts in his budget, and Republicans are unlikely to go along with even deeper cuts.

Mrs. Pelosi won't be any help. She's committed to enacting the Democratic Party's entire liberal agenda, and next to the president she is the most powerful person in Washington. When the president flirted with scaling back his health-care bill last January, Ms. Pelosi stiffened his spine, and the bill passed. As long as she is House speaker, bucking her would be painful, especially if Mr. Obama proposes to eliminate a chunk of the spending she was instrumental in passing in 2009 and 2010.

But if Republicans win the House, everything changes. Mrs. Pelosi's influence as minority leader would be minimal-that is, assuming she's not ousted by Democrats upset over losing the majority.

A GOP victory in November would be good for the country, good for the world, and, paradoxically, good for the President. God must have a sense of humor.

By the way, guess who has been the most fiscally conservative president, after Reagan, since Kennedy. Read the rest of Barnes' article for the answer.



A former colleague of mine, a high school chemistry teacher, sent me an email saying that she was grading final exams and one question was to list two things a company can do to slow the spoilage rate of food in order to extend shelf life.

One student answered that the company could "add different conservatives to foods." Pretty funny.

Maybe the student somewhere along the line learned to associate conservatives with the salt of the earth.


Hypocrisy and Decadence

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson offers a much needed admonition in an essay on how we tend to treat politicians caught up in sexual infidelity. Gerson writes:

There is a difference between breaking a vow out of weakness and smashing it out of malice. Sexual behavior can reveal our shared foolishness. Or it can reveal coldness, compulsion, cruelty, exploitation, arrogance and recklessness. Who can deny that these traits of character are potentially dangerous in a political leader?

But while sexual conduct is not irrelevant, it is also not everything. I have known politicians who are cold, arrogant, reckless -- and faithful to their spouses. And I have known politicians who have been unfaithful and served the public well.

Moral conservatives need to admit that political character is more complex than marital fidelity and that less sensual vices also can be disturbing. "The sins of the flesh are bad," said C.S. Lewis, "but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."

Yet moral liberals have something to learn as well. The failure of human beings to meet their own ideals does not disprove or discredit those ideals. The fact that some are cowards does not make courage a myth. The fact that some are faithless does not make fidelity a joke. All moral standards create the possibility of hypocrisy. But I would rather live among those who recognize standards and fail to meet them than among those who mock all standards as lies. In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence.

What we really need is to combine high moral standards with humility.

Sexual infidelity is a serious thing, but as Gerson notes, the condition of the heart out of which it arises is much more serious. And yet the delight people seem to take in exposing and reading about these sad scandals and in hounding the people who've fallen into them may belie a heart far more encrusted with malice than are the hearts of those whose failures they gleefully exploit.

Why this fascination with the sexual foibles and failures of our political leadership and indeed, our entire celebrity class? Why the appetite for reporting and devouring every salacious detail? Are those who gloat over these personal scandals and those who feed our fascination for them not just as spiritually disordered as the people involved in them?

The politics of personal destruction wherein defeating an opponent's ideas is accomplished by tearing him down as a person has become politics as usual in much of our media and in our country, and it speaks very poorly of who and what we are as human beings.