Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thoughts While Shaving: Obama Missed a Golden Chance in McChrystal Removal…and Missed Another with Court Veto of Drilling Ban.

      The Birth of John the Baptist* 
                                            McChrystal Removal.
       Given that President Obama seemingly had to remove Gen. Stanley McChrystal for a Rolling Stone article that captured his insubordination…although I wish he had bit his lip and kept him on at this crucial stage of the Afghanistan war…he had a golden chance to reverse the dynamics with the appointment of David Petraeus…but botched it. 
      The statement removing McChrystal was excellent…courteous, gentlemanly, statesmanlike. Moreover for the first time it stressed Obama’s determination towin the war—an eloquent speech which affirmed the same clear vision that other presidents have shown in times of war.  But he could have made it perfect by taking advantage of the disruption in command by seeming to lift the deadline for withdrawal of troops: a meaningless finesse to the Left that has created great difficulties with the Afghans.  
       How many Afghans are going to be with us in opposing the Taliban when they know that we will be pulling out and they will be left at the mercy of their enemies?  With the public fully understanding the seriousness of the situation, Obama could have gently lifted the deadline and given Petraeus the psychological help he needs to deal with the Afghans. 
          No, it didn’t happen because Obama is very careful to placate the anti-war Left.  I don’t remember a president who once elected with his reelection date significantly far off (2012) who was so delicately careful not to offend his base. People don’t remember now, but Ronald Reagan deeply offended his conservative base by being willing to negotiate nuclear arms with Gorbachev.  Remember Richard Viguerie the mailorder king of the conservative movement?  Not long after Reagan’s election he was talking 3rd Party with his friends.  Richard Nixon offended many conservatives with his dawdling around with the Family Assistance Program ala Pat Moynihan which was a variant of guaranteed annual income.  And also his support of the Environmental Protection Act.  
           The point is: On the negotiations with Gorbachev Reagan pulled Star Wars out of the hat and Gorbachev lost the momentum.  We’ve never heard Viguerie apologize for his earlier wrongheaded views on that. With Nixon he was indeed too far left, listening to Moynihan tell him he could be the Disraeli of conservatism—moving the country to a social compact under the guise of being a right-winger. 
              But the point is both Reagan and Nixon took chances with their popularity and their base.  Obama hasn’t been willing to do this and passed up the opportunity with the Petraeus appointment.

                            The Federal Veto on the Drilling Ban. 
              Everybody knows that a six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling for oil pleases the Environmental Left but is bad…shockingly bad…for the economy of those states impacted by the oil spill. Several reasons.  The drilling rigs won’t stay there but will go elsewhere…to China…and the Gulf states will be bereft.  But a drilling moratorium pleases the Eco-Left, the editorial boards of The New York Times and The Washington Post and perky Katie Couric.  
               Once again, the veto by the federal judge could have been used by Obama as a political cover to allow drilling and save the economy of the Gulf states.  He had a perfect opening. But no…the Lefty base is too important to this president…and his Stetson-hatted Interior Secretary will issue an executive order…while the Justice Department appeals. 
             More than any other president, Obama is governing from the Left.  This hard-nosedness will do him in by 2010 and make him a one-termer in 2012.  Good for the country but until then the economic pain will be tumultuous.  
                    The Weekly Standard Misgauges the Tea Party’ers. 
          The Weekly Standard is often my favorite magazine but it really goofed…and I mean goofed…with its cover story this week entitled The Two Faces of the Tea Party. Seldom has a publication more seriously misjudged a grassroots revolution and the culprit is the writer, Matthew Continetti. 
           Continetti contrasts two spokesmen for the Tea Party: Rick Santelli who on CNBC came up with the idea and Glenn Beck, the Fox TV host.  When Santelli blurted out the idea that there should be a Tea Party, he obviously had in mind a kind of reaction against wild spending and unlimited taxation.   Fair enough.  But Continetti disses Beck as a kind of latter-day John Bircher. 
              I can’t watch Beck all the time but I can tell you from my experience as a decrepit octogenarian that he has been infinitely more valuable to conservatism at this time than any other pundit including Limbaugh, in my estimation. 
          Limbaugh is invaluable for one thing: examining the news and giving one-line zingers that put the truth in sharp chiaroscuro perspective…along with an often hilarious repartee which keeps listeners entertained and eager to be informed. He can’t be over-estimated.  His value to conservatism is measure-less. 
            But Beck is far different. He gives conservatives an invaluable historical perspective…showing how liberalism has grown from the bellicose histrionics of Teddy Roosevelt through the visionary era of Woodrow Wilson…on through the extra-constitutional days of FDR…the tumultuous era of Truman (his undeclared war was not even voted on once as a specific engagement: no Gulf of Tonkin—just a presidentially declared  “police action”).   
            Conservatives need both…it’s like asking you whether you prefer your right or left arm…but Continetti’s attack on Beck is foolish, short-sighted, ignorant and anti-historical.  To me, the glory of Tea Party’ers is that they are not just rooted in taxes and spending but thanks to Beck many of them are willing to re-examine the liberal excesses that dominated this country throughout much of the 20th century.  Continetti regards this as Birch-like.  P-l-e-a-s-e. 
            Take for example the amendment that changed the dynamics of the Constitution away from the concept of the Founders who saw…as Washington himself postulated…the House of Representatives as a direct sounding board of the people…and the Senate as a coolant.  To illustrate this, Washington took up a cup full of hot tea and poured some into his saucer.  The Senate, he said should be a coolant: taking the hot passions of the House and cooling them for a time so that seasoned judgment can be made. 
            To do that, the Founders wrote into the Constitution that the Senate should not be directly elected by the people…but should be indirectly elected by the Legislatures: so as to act as a kind of mature House of Lords.  It took a long time for the 17th amendment…providing for direct election of the Senate…to pass.   The first attempt was made in 1826 and from that date on until the amendment’s adoption 86 years later there were in all 187 attempts that proved unsuccessful.  It was finally ratified in 1912. 
            The idea that everything that has happened in the past is verboten for discussion is absurd and a liberal tactic to foist silence and frustrate dissent. To me the glory of the Tea Party movement is that it is wide-ranging.  The 17th passed because progressives argued that the democratic principle militated that the Senate be elected directly by the people.  Pardon me? Do I have to repeat the age-old statement that this is supposed to be a Republic—not a democracy?The framers understood that electing Senators via legislatures stressed the goal that lawmakers of at least one house shall be concerned to protect the original interest of the states…as states. 
           As Roger Sherman wrote to John Adams (who agreed): “[T]he senators being eligible by the legislatures of the several states and dependent on them for reelection will be vigilant in supporting their rights against infringement by the legislative or executive of the United States.” 
             Look at things since 1912.  Has the Congress or the presidency respected the original concept of a union of states? I think not. Now look at the composition of the Senate today.  I used to sit in the Senate gallery in the 1950s when the original stature of senators was fading away but still existent.  I can count them all from my gallery seat: Taft of Ohio…Milliken of Colorado…George of Georgia…Russell of Georgia…Dirksen of Illinois…Douglas of Illinois…Humphrey of Minnesota…Harry Byrd of Virginia.   What do we have now?  Dickie Durbin of Illinois…Roland Burris of Illinois.  A retired TV comic representing Minnesota: Al Franken…and a Minneapolis Star sportswriter’s daughter, Amy Klobuchar.
              Indeed the Senate today is composed of pencil-thin anchormen types. Maryland has an ex-social worker, single Barbara Mikulski who gets elected by purveying sound-bytes to the Left. 
             Now think of the Senators we had when the legislatures elected them: Daniel Webster of Massachusetts…Henry Clay of Kentucky…John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. 
           If Glenn Beck can help us focus on the Founders’ ideas…and as a former college adjunct professor myself I find him gloriously accurate and a brilliant instructor…who the hell is a punk like Matthew Continetti to say that this is Birch talk?  He ridicules that Beck is a reformed alcoholic. That’s a lousy cheap shot which disparages anyone…everyone…who has reformed or wants to.  
          So I salute Beck and the Tea Party’ers for encouraging us to think beyond the economic—to the source of what made our country great. And we don’t need sarcasm from a phony “journalist” who doesn’t know our history and who thinks referring back to the Founders’ original ideas is Birch-like… to slur the ongoing effort.   
          What do you think?  If I had to give up one…Limbaugh or Beck…I’d reluctantly give up Limbaugh and stick with Beck.  
    *: The Birth of John the Baptist. Legend has the Angel Gabriel who announced the forthcoming pregnancy of Elizabeth who was thought barren, said this to her and her husband Zachary: “You shall call his name John and you shall  have joy and gladness and many shall rejoice in his birth because he shall be great before the Lord.” The birthday of the Baptizer was one of the earliest feasts to find a definite place in the Church’s calendar and it has always been where it stands now—June 24.   
         No one expressed John’s value better than Augustine. He found it appropriate that John said in the 4th Gospel: “He [Jesus] must increase and I must decrease.”  Appropriate, says Augustine, because after the birthday of John, the days grow shorter whereas after the birthday of the Lord the days grow longer. As we know during Elizabeth’s nine month pregnancy, her husband had suffered some disability…probably it would be adjudged today as a stroke…for he turned mute. After the 8th day when the baby was circumcised, a small gathering at their home speculated on the baby’s name. A number suggested he be named after his father. Elizabeth held out for the name “John.”  At last Zachary called for a tablet and writing utensil and wrote “His name shall be John.”With that he regained his speech.  In his joy he sang the great canticle of love ands thanksgiving The Benedictus which the Church sings every day in the priestly office and which is often recited over the grave of her faithful children when their remains are committed to the earth.

1 comment:

  1. 1) There were plenty of useless clods elected to the Senate by legislatures.

    2) By the time the 17th Amendment was enacted, most states had popular votes for Senator with the legislature legally bound to elect the winner.

    3) Before the 17th Amendment, legislatures often failed to elect Senators. This resulted in vacancies of several months to two or more years.

    As to Beck: Continetti noted that Beck has many virtues, but he is also an enthusiast for Birchite Cleon Skousen, a genuine paranoid conspiracy theorist.