Friday, November 05, 2004

Arlen's Spectre!

Pro-lifers from National Review to the Family Research Council are freaking out about Arlen Specter's remarks on what judges the President should nominate. My counsel (as a most avid pro-lifer, myself) is that everybody take a breath. Specter's lib/moderate status is not such a terrible thing. Nominees who do come out the relatively friendly confines of the Judiciary Committee will be more or less pre-approved. The normal rules still apply. Nominate people without a big paper trail and let them through.

Which seat is being filled is also something that should be considered. Bush should be given deference in appointing a serious conservative to Rehnquist's chair because that won't change the balance of the court at all. On the other hand, when he replaces Stevens, there will more scrutiny because that will be a major change in the court's ideology and Bush will have to be careful to select someone basically undeniable.

Welcome back, DLC

Your intrepid prestidigitator told you the Bill Clinton era Democratic Leadership Council would return and they have. Andrei Cherny, author of "The Next Deal" (a book effusively praised by Newt Gingrich), writes in the NYT about why the Dems lost the last two big elections. He's not settling for the easy stuff like a sighing Al Gore, either. Check this out:

"Democrats have a collection of policy positions that are sensible and right. John Kerry made this very clear. What we don't have, and what we sorely need, is what President George H. W. Bush so famously derided as "the vision thing" - a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.

"For most of the 20th century, Democrats had a bold vision: we would use government programs to make Americans' lives more stable and secure. In 1996, President Clinton told us this age had passed, that "the era of big government is over." He was right - the world had changed. But the party has not answered the basic question: What comes next?"

Cherny is right about the question of vision and thematic argument. The Democratic party has been in need of a good soul search ever since McGovern won the nomination in 1972. The social issues cost them a large part of their natural constituency. If they turn right, even halfway, on abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square, and national defense, they'll prove extraordinarily difficult to defeat.

Americans Not So Crazy After All

Gerard Jones’s excellent analysis of the meaning of the recent U.S. elections, in today’s Times of London, suggests that the American public is perhaps not so crazy after all:

Jones notes, “There is a broad consensus against gay marriage that goes well beyond the religious Right just as there is a broad agreement in favour of making abortions scarcer (for a country run by religious nuts, America has surprisingly liberal laws on abortion), or for lifting some of the world’s tightest restrictions on the role of religion in public life (the British particularly should remember that, especially, as they drop their children off at state-funded church schools.) Mr Bush’s re-election was no narrow victory for religious zealots. It confirms that America is a decidedly conservative country, but not an alien one.”

“And its implications for the rest of the world are not baleful. All the world has to fear now is four more years of an America doing its damnedest to export the value that is at the heart of all of its people’s beliefs: that people should be as free to choose their own direction as the American people so joyously were this week.”

What Jones is describing, of course, is true liberalism. The United States has always been the world’s most classically liberal nation, and this election not only does not contradict that truth, it in fact confirms it.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Team America Are Thunderbirds a Go-Go

As Hunter Baker notes, Team America: World Police is uneven but funny. The film certainly refers to many contemporary issues and personalities, and its comical violence, brazen vulgarity, and scatalogical and sexual humor certainly identify it as a product of our time.

However, I think an underappreciated aspect of the film is the 1960s side of it. The main concept, after all, is based on those cheesy mid-1960s TV marionette shows such as Supercar and especially Thunderbirds. Several of the Team America members look suspiciously like various Thunderbirds characters, as is evident in these pictures at the Thunderbirds site.

There are many other 1960s motifs in the film, such as the use of Kim Jong-Il—one of the few remaining Communist leaders in the world—as villain.

Why is this interesting? Because the viewer will take away from the film a very serious view of the War on Terror, a realization that the current war is as important, difficult, and serious as was the Cold War. Yes, Team America knocks down a few tourist attractions and some innocent bystanders in the zealous pursuit of their duty, but the enemy they are fighting really does want to harm all of us, and not by accident but by intention.

The film makes this very clear, through both action and dialogue, and the 1960s aspects of it keep bringing the Cold War back to mind, continually reminding us of the vastness of the forces now arrayed against America and the rest of the developed world, and expressing—in a very comical context, of course—exactly what is at stake. Team America are definitely on the side of good. There can be no question that although the filmmakers recognize all of America's many faults, they know that what we have is far better than what the other side has in mind for its own people, let alone what it would have in store for us.

More Trailing Edge Political Film Review . . .

When you see TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE you'll immediately understand the reason for its lukewarm box office. The film is terribly uneven. South Park's Stone and Parker clearly rushed the film to get it out before the election and it shows. Satire really scores when it speaks the truth. There are too many points in this film when the satire is just not fair to either side and thus comes up a bit short.

On the other hand, the creative team has an amazing gift for physical comedy. If you've never seen a puppet throw up, this is the way it should be done. No question about it.

Another success for TEAM AMERICA comes in the final monologue, when the newest member of the team delivers his political philosophy to a once gullible international audience. It's crude. Actually, it's extremely crude, but it makes its point very effectively. I think Dick Nixon might have put things the same way himself behind closed doors.

Mandate Talk

The inevitable discussion of mandate has begun. Many seem to expect a mandate to look like 55-60% of the popular vote, but I think Bush can make a strong case for having the mandate he lacked during his first four years. He improved his popular vote substantially, improved his electoral count, and won both measures outright. Although the party improved its standing in Congress in 2002, the Dems could argue patriotism in the wake of 9-11 created greater support for the incumbent party. Now, after Michael Moore's antics and a unified chorus of criticism from Democrats for the past two years, Bush has again been affirmed and to an even greater degree than before. Whatever the President is doing, he appears to have a mandate for it and from the first true majority of American voters in 16 years. I wonder if the out party would prefer to give Bush a shot at a third term and see what percentage he can deliver then.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Slow Learners . . .

Now that the election's over, I felt secure enough to visit some of the left-wing blogs. I found one comment particularly arresting. The lefty in question viewed the results with disbelief and reported that he felt as though he were trapped in a room full of slow learners. After reflecting for a moment, I thought about the Cubans, something liberals never do unless they're trying to return one to the homeland. They've been trapped in a nation ruled by one of the slowest learners of all time. Somebody send Castro a copy of The Road to Serfdom, wouldya?

The Hewitt Factor

I like Hugh Hewitt. I enjoy his writing and check in on his weblog almost daily. However, I have to admit I thought he was relentlessly over-optimistic about the 2004 election. Even when Bush's debate performances threw me into depression, there was Hugh Hewitt blowing the horn of triumph. It almost seems that he WILLED Bush and the GOP Senators into victory. Props to you, Hugh.

There's Something About George W.

I have a love-hate relationship with W. I love his heart, his determination, his moral clarity, and his faith. I hate watching him attempt to articulate anything verbally. I couldn't even make it through his acceptance speech. The guy is absolutely terrible as a public speaker. Four years haven't helped much.

BUT, I think he has God's hand on his shoulder or some special favor that can't be articulated. How many promising liberal politicians' scalps lie at this man's feet? Ann Richards, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, and Tom Daschle have all been finished by this President with a heart of steel and a tongue of cheap aluminum.

First Domestic Policy Agenda Item

I'd love to hear from our resident economist about this, but I think the answer has to be TORT REFORM. You can read some of my reasons why at American Spectator Online.

Prediction for the next four years

The Democratic Leadership Council will return as a major force in the party. Michael Moore and the Deaniacs will be marginalized. Hillary will run in 2004 as a "New Democrat" offering a less ambitious version of the health care entitlement. The Lieberman wing will return in full force. Hide and watch, as my mother used to say.

Two Americas, All Right

James Bone of the Times of London notes that the "gay poll was the key" in Bush's win in Ohio:

"The crucial factor, it emerged, was the referendum on gay marriage which was going on at the same time as the Presidential election, the Senate race, and votes on numerous other issues," Bone writes here.

Mr. Bone states, "Christian conservatives turned out in their tens of thousands to back a ban on gay marriage in the state of Ohio, and it was this, coupled with Mr Bush's strong showing in rural areas, that gave him an apparently invincible lead in the crucial Midwestern state."

It is clear, in fact, that such referenda were an important factor in the Bush victory nationwide. Many polls (for whatever they may be worth) show that a plurality of voters yesterday stated that the most important issue for them was gay marriage, and President Bush won among these voters by about four to one. There were votes on the issue in several of the swing states, and turnout among evangelical Christians was much higher than in the past few elections.

That was the deciding factor in the presidential election, right there, and rather unexpectedly for most of the press, judging by the relative paucity of media attention to the gay-marriage issue in the days before the balloting, with Iraq and the economy of course as the main areas of discussion.

Look at the map of red and blue states indicating support for the Republican or Democrat candidate, respectively. There are indeed two Americas. One believes strongly in one set of values, the other just as firmly adheres to a quite contrary view of the world.

The Republicans have their side staked out and seem fairly comfortable with it, despite some internal divisions—but the Democrats seem increasingly uncomfortable with theirs. African-Americans, suburban mothers, and union members, for example, do not share most of the values of the farther-Left side of their party. The three former groups adhere to the Democrat Party mainly for its traditional championing of the underdog, and they are by no means in it for a radical transformation of the American mind and society.

That tension seems likely to remain until these persons either leave the party or take it over.

More Mainstream Media Bashing . . .

I read thoughts by and spoke to conservatives decrying the media's unwillingness to call certain states for Bush while rushing to call others for Kerry, but I saw something else that indicated real bias. Which Senator elected last night got more press than any other? Barack Obama (rhymes with Osama . . .oh, forget I said that, I'm a better person than that, really, no I'm not, SHUT UP!).

DIGRESSION: I may be a little too sensitive. After all, I strongly supported Alan Keyes in two columns for the American Spectator Online before my favorite speaker came out for slave reparations and then needlessly took a whack at Mary Cheney. The only thing holding Alan Keyes back is Alan Keyes, but that was more than enough. Wlady P. tolerantly posted my righteous musings while shrewdly publishing counter-opinions.

ANYWAY, Obama was everywhere highlighted as the great hope of the Democratic Party and received about as much press as our President! Anything wrong with this picture, or was it just that he was available as a big winner from about 7 p.m. on? For a little perspective, imagine if a conservative female had won a blowout in a non-swing state. Do you think the press would have been panting after her like a sheepdog about to score some Alpo?

Shooting You Straight

Alan is telling the absoloute truth when he says what he had predicted for the presidential and senatorial races, and when.

And no, I don't know how he does it.

I think that Alan, as a true English Whig, should indulge in an extra glass of first-rate claret.

As an English Whig and unrepentant anglophile, I shall have me a black and tan. Or two. And a double Glenfiddich.

I share Alan's bipartisan disdain for politicians of every stripe--excepting, of course, those who happen to be my personal friends. Those, I see as good lambs who have lost their way.

Finally, contra Alan's contention, I am not really embarrassed by the name Samantha. I'm just not cool with it yet.

S. T. K.

Unsurprised therefore Unexcited

The day before the election I sent the following e-mail to Sam (who apparently writes under the alias of S.T. so strangers won't know that his real name is Samantha):

"Bush gets 300 electoral votes and a comfy margin in the popular count too.
That's all the obvious red states (213) plus Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Hawaii. I am not, however, dumb enough to either publish that or bet on it. On the other hand . . . if Kerry wins, the good news is that he won't be able to get anything past Congress. And Congress won't be able to get anything past the White House. There must be some bad news there, but I can't recall what it might be."

For a poll at the Cato Institute, I predicted 53 Republican Senators. I do this the way I used to kill a few minutes doing economic forecasting for the Journal and the Blue Chip bunch -- heroic assumptions plus informed guesswork.

Celebrating? At my age (fifty twelve) that means I might be allowed a third glass of wine. Under normal circumstances that might be a Souverain or Sebastiani chardonnay (cheap but good), but that sounds too girlie-manish for the moment. So does Pinot Noir. Maybe Kendall-Jackson Syrah? This is a much tougher decision than the vote.

I am bipartisan in the sense that I don't trust pols of any stripe. The Democrats simply failed to offer a serious presidential or vice presidential candidate this time, in my insufficiently humble view.



Hurrah! Hurrah! And Darn It!

HURRAH, HURRAH: Bush appears to be the man, despite the efforts of the porcine prince of propaganda to defeat him. I don’t make that characterization lightly because I’m a man of some heft, myself. However, I have pledged to use my mass only for good. I don’t know about Alan’s tastes, but Sam and I are going to virtually go on a bender. Break out a few quarts of Old GrandDad and wind up the VCR for the full run of Banacek. If my mood holds up, we can hit the brief, but brilliant Keen Eddie, as well.

DARN IT: Yesterday, I told my colleagues the vote would be 51% for Bush, 48% for Kerry, and 1% for Nader. Wish I’d preserved that here at the timestamped blog. My record isn’t that good, though. I said Bush would win the popular vote in 2000 and that Lazio would beat Hillary!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Early Exit Polling News and What Me, Worry?

All my conservative colleagues are dejected at Drudge's report of Kerry leading in exit polls from various states. I think the fears are unfounded. In a race like this one, I don't think exit polling this early in the day is going to be worth much. We also have to face the fact that internet rumor-mongering is a particular problem. I think Bush will win in light of the fact that he has not really trailed at any point in the race. That's usually a pretty good indicator of success.

Dutch Filmmaker Assassinated

I hope that this news item speaks for itself, so I shall simply note it without comment:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1340883,00.html

America the Liberal

The highly estimable Michael Novak has an excellent article in today's edition of National Review Online, available here, which was originally published in La Monde. Novak, who is a self-described conservative, notes that the United States is increasingly becoming liberal in the classical sense, the sense in which Europeans still tend to use the word:

"Year by year," he writes, "the American electorate becomes (in the European meaning of the term) more 'liberal' — that is, more committed to liberty, less willing to heed elite opinion, and a little more religious and 'traditional' in their moral ideals. Put another way, they become less like France. Less social democratic, less bewitched by the Left."

Novak mentions the "the optimism and energy of the 'conservative' movement for change," a phrase which astutely points out the confused nature of the terms liberal and conservative in the United States at this time. He makes a point with which we strenuously agree: that many people now called by one or the other of these terms actually would be better described by the other.

That is, many if not most people whom today's conservatives condemn as liberal are in fact either radicals (strongly dismissive of present institutions and realities) or real conservatives (people who want to preserve and perhaps extend the current welfare state, sexual revolution, national secularization, and the like; are elitist in nature; and approve of heritable social status and advantages, usually taking the form of race or sexual categorization). These latter individuals are quite conservative by termperament. Likewise, many if not most self-described contemporary American conservatives are actually liberal by both temperament and politics, hungry for reform of the very things the Left wants to preserve. (The most notable exception are the Buchanan American Conservative group, many of whom I would suggest are in fact radicals of the Right.)

Novak's article strongly shows what we believe to be the real value of the term liberal, which we see as a label not to be shunned but one to be embraced. (See my initial post for this site, from October 18 of this year, "Why the Reform Club . . . ," available here.) In the United States today, Liberal most aptly describes a rather large group of people on the Right, and very few indeed on the Left.

Novak's article is a very thoughtful and comprehensive analysis in the brief span of a couple thousand words, well worth reading.

I love the smell of democracy in the morning . . .

Despite misty rain and a chill in the air, I was having a good morning. I went to my little voting precinct, pulled the lever for straight ticket GOP, and walked out having done my civic, moral, intellectual, and possibly religious duty. But then I get in the car and hear Baylor's former President Herbert Reynolds attacking the Club for Growth's Arlene Wohlgemuth in a radio ad. This bit is surprising since Reynolds is a lifelong conservative. Why the anomaly? Because Waco's congressman Chet Edwards is a devious freaking Democrat. Reading the tea leaves in the Texas right turn, Edwards went around to Texas Baptists like Reynolds and co-opted them by saying, "I'm in a position of responsibility and I wonder if you could teach me more about the separation of church and state." For a Texas Baptist, that statement is roughly as compelling as a 17 year old cheerleader approaching a high school freshman and asking for help on a bra-shopping trip. In other words, it worked and now several Baylorites are in Edwards' pocket. We'll have to rely on the Fort Worth suburbs to save good Arlene.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Send this to an undecided voter in OHIO

A Washington Times ran article (Oct. 17), “Angry Ohioans Ask Kerry to Stop Outsourcing,” noted that “polls show than an overwhelming majority of Ohioans blame the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for their lost jobs.” China also comes in for a lot of blame. Assuming those polls are right, many Ohioans are badly misinformed.

The notion that NAFTA caused unemployment in Ohio has bee repeatedly retold by Rep. Marci Kaptur of Toledo, since NAFTA was enacted in 1993. Yet unemployment in Ohio was cut in half during the first 8 years of NAFTA, falling from 7 percent in January 1993 to 4.4 percent two years later, then to 3.6 percent by March 2001.

Mexico accounted for nearly 11 percent of our imported merchandise last year, but some $15 billion of that was oil. Mexico accounted for a larger 13.7 percent share of U.S. exports. Canada accounted for a much larger 17.6 percent of U.S. imports, yet Canada’s unemployment rate is 7.1 percent, obviously higher than Ohio.

The notion that Ohio lost jobs to China is also widely believed in Ohio’s steel towns. Yet U.S. exports of steel mill products to China last year exceeded $442 million. China’s growing demand also greatly increased the price of steel, much to the benefit of midwestern steel companies. China imported 43 million metric tons of steel last year – and exported very little.

China accounted for only 12.1 percent of U.S. imports last year, because the goods China sells here are visible but cheap. Before we bought shirts and gadgets from China, we bought them from Japan and others. “While imports attributable to China increased from 5 percent in 1992 to 12 percent in 2003,” notes the Congressional Budget Office, “the share of imports from other Pacific Rim countries declined from 34 percent to 21 percent.”

More than half our imports are industrial supplies and equipment (such as parts for Honda of Ohio). That partly explains why real U.S. imports rose 13.1 percent in 2000, when industry was doing well (until August), then fell 2.6 percent in the recession and terrorist attack of 2001. If imports caused job loss, we would have lost jobs in 2000 and gained them in 2001.

China had more than 98 million manufacturing jobs in 1995 (Asian Development Bank), but only 89.6 million by 2003. In every other major economy mechanical modernization is likewise having the same effect on assembly-line work it had on farm jobs a century ago. Employment nonetheless keeps rising, just differently (less work, on average, and more pay).

The U.S. is by far the world’s largest exporter; China is just fifth largest. It makes sense to worry less about cheap imported socks and more about valuable U.S. industrial and farm exports.

Recessions always hurt heavy industry the most and it always takes a few years to get back to normal. The booms and busts of cyclical industries are not the result of imports, which actually rise and fall in lockstep with manufacturing.

Ohio had a statewide unemployment rate of 6 percent in September, but even in August (when the statewide rate was higher) unemployment was only. 5.3 percent in Akron, 5 percent in Cleveland, 4.8 percent in Columbus and 4.1 percent in Hamilton-Middletown. Only three states had a higher rate. Among major metropolitan areas, high unemployment is mainly confined to Toledo and Youngstown. That’s not even a statewide problem, much less a national or international one.

Senator Kerry has nonetheless pandered to ill-informed anxieties about trade by talking about “outsourcing” without explaining what he means, and asserting, “thousands of Ohioans have seen their jobs shipped overseas.” He proposes to make U.S. companies “more competitive” by greatly increasing taxes on their overseas branches and also on their shareholders, customers and workers. Senator Kerry either does not understand these complex issues or he hopes voters do not understand them.

Kerry Recruitment Vehicle

I was in Florida over the weekend for my sister's wedding. As you might imagine, political signage was much in evidence. When I stopped at a gas station in Pensacola to fill up the rental car (a Dodge Stratus, which I didn't like much), a minivan pulled up with Kerry signs and flags festooning the outside. It looked somewhat official. A young man stepped out to fill his tank. A booming bass tune punctuated by frequent emissions of f***, n*****, and m*****f***** exploded into the aural range of my wife and two year old child.

The situation struck me in two ways. First, I'm sick of being assaulted by other people's music at gas stations. What ever happened to basic courtesy? I don't have a problem with playing the music of choice within the stereophonic confines of your own vehicle, but I'd be ashamed to have my speakers dropping f-bombs on innocent bystanders. Second, the guy was fronting for John Kerry and his vision of the big welfare, litigator-friendly, United Nations permission-asking, economically uninformed, junk food tax levying state. THAT WAS REALLY OFFENSIVE!

One Antiwar Zealot for Bush

Presidential candidates mining the upper Midwest are apt to lose sight of a local tradition that may prove extremely important. Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen got it just right. He noted that, “Our ancestors brought both isolationism and pacifism to the prairie, and those strains have dominated the state's political gene pool today, unless it's akin to the Civil War or the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Charles Lindbergh chose Des Moines to deliver a speech on September 11, 1941 warning against rushing to war without a plan. “We are on the verge of a war,” said Lindbergh, “for which we are still unprepared and for which no one has offered a feasible plan for victory.” Senator Kerry talks like that too, now that it’s too late. Yet Kerry’s plans for the future seem every bit as warlike as President Bush, if not more so.

I feel entitled to say that because I wrote several columns before the war trying to prevent it. On December 4, 2002, I predicted “war and its aftermath would be more costly and difficult than the optimists admit.” On March 13, 2003, I warned the Iraqis “may violently resist occupation . . . Just keeping the place from coming unglued could be a chore.” My critique of the CIA report on WMD, “Intelligence Without Brains,” was reprinted at antiwar.com.

Because of my credentials as an antiwar zealot, I now get angry e-mails from fellow zealots asking why I have been so critical of Senator Kerry’s economic schemes. For one thing, I am an economist; so I hate watching economic facts and figures so amateurishly tortured. But my isolationist side also sees no reason to prefer Kerry to Bush.

It is Senator Kerry, not President Bush, who keeps saying we need more troops in Iraq. He pretends the extras soldiers will be French or German, but nobody believes that. He says he’d train the Iraqis “faster,” which is blatantly meaningless.

The U.S. military had more than 1.4 million young men and women on active duty, yet only a tenth of them are in Iraq. We still have 75,000 in Germany, 40,000 in Japan. President Bush plans to reduce forces in Europe and Asia. It’s about time. Senator Kerry prefers to add yet another 40,000 to the armed forces. But he has no way to pay them and no place to put them. Maybe France?

A larger standing army does not bode well for those of us who believe the reason for a Defense Department is to defend the U.S. homeland rather than to fix-up foreign roads and schools. Regardless who got us into the Iraq War (including a fantasy-prone CIA), I cannot see any difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry on how they would get us out, except that Kerry is more inclined to add troops.

So the main difference between Bush and Kerry lies in their grasp of economics. I am as certain as the new Nobel Laureate Ed Prescott, who spent much of his career at the Minneapolis Fed, that President Bush is far more likely than Senator Kerry to help preserve and extend the budding economic expansion. When the economy performs well, that lifts the nation’s confidence and resources needed to accomplish many other tasks – including a graceful exit from this divisive war.

Welcome American Spectator Readers!

Thanks for dropping by after reading about the offensive reality of Texas' "Billion Dollar Man." Giant legal verdicts represent the ultimate in big government activism and should prove to be a uniting cause for classical liberals, libertarians, and modern conservatives. We've got to get a handle on the litigation problem before it completely cripples the healthcare system and continues its damaging effects on other sectors of the economy.

Don't stop reading with this post. We've got commentary from S.T. Karnick and Alan Reynolds, too. I think you'll enjoy the experience.