American Elephants


A 2010 Presidential Analysis: How Does It Look Today? by The Elephant's Child

Last night, while sorting through some papers, I ran across a lengthy presidential interview by Peter Baker of the New York Times, dated October 12, 2010, called “Education of a President.” I am always interested in trying to understand why this president is doing the things he does, so I had printed it out and saved it. The president gave Baker about an hour, and access to his staff.

Obama had learned in his first two years in spite of his anti-Washington rhetoric, that he has to play by Washington rules. It is not enough to be supremely sure that he is right if no one else agrees with him. “Given how much stuff was coming at us, we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this…that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular.”

Baker adds:”That presumes that what he did was the right thing, a matter of considerable debate. The left thinks he did too little; the right too much.

When Obama secured the Democratic nomination in June 2008, he told an admiring crowd that someday “we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.

Obama agreed that it sounded ambitious but said he had made progress on each of those fronts. He said he makes no apologies for having set high expectations for himself and the country. In a big messy democracy like this everything takes time.

Baker said he met with nearly two dozen of his advisers, and “the view from inside the administration starts with a basic mantra: Obama inherited the worst problems of any president in years. Or in generations. Or in American history. He prevented another Great Depression while putting in place the foundation for a more stable future. But it required him to do unpopular things that would inevitably cost him.”

Obama came to office with enormous faith in his own powers of persuasion. He seemed to believe he could overcome divisions if he just sat down with the world’s most recalcitrant figures — whether they be the mullahs in Tehran or the Republicans on Capitol Hill As it turned out, the candidate who said he would be willing to meet in his first year with some of America’s enemies “without precondition” has met with none of them.

It is a strangely interesting piece. Peter Baker comes across as a committed liberal who is attempting to do a balanced, non-partisan interview. Clearly the new administration came in intending to change everything right away, were happy with what they had rammed through, and didn’t have any understanding of why the Republicans were so recalcitrant. The depth of ignorance of the principles and policies of the Conservatives is simply breathtaking. There is no understanding of why Republicans object to Democrat initiatives except that they are just bad people.

To better understand history and his role, Obama invited a group of presidential scholars to dinner at the White House. “Obama was curious about the Tea Party movement. Were there precedents for this sort of backlash against the establishment? What sparked them and how did they shape American politics? The historians recalled the Know-Nothings in the 1850s, the Populists in the 1890s and Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s. ‘He listened,’ historian H.W. Brands said ‘What he concluded, I don’t know.'”

Republicans believe in the rule of law. They honor the Constitution. They think the Founders did a pretty good job of setting up an exceptional country. They believe in limited government, and they believe that government should be distrusted and held to those limitations.

Democrats believe in winning elections. They regard the law and the Constitution as annoying restraints on what they want to do. They regard taxpayer money as simply their due — government money to be spent to enhance their electoral prospects. They have no concept of incentives nor of consequences. ObamaCare will “provide care for the sick” and if Republicans object — it is because they don’t care about the sick. Democrats believe in intentions and feelings.

Democrats believe in Keynesian economics. President Roosevelt called it “underconsumption”— people weren’t buying enough stuff. The current administration called it lack of demand, and were sure that if they just pushed more money into the economy, gave people more money, redistributed more wealth, then people would buy more stuff and all would be well. Oddly enough that has not turned out to be a remedy for joblessness or business’ reluctance to hire. Nancy Pelosi even announced that unemployment payments would help to grow the economy.

Has failure driven a final stake into the heart of Keynesian economics? Don’t bet on it. Bigger bonuses, redistribution of wealth, more welfare, bigger pensions, expensive public works and civic projects have bankrupted Detroit, and are on the way to bankrupting other cities, and perhaps some states as well.

Obama announced proudly a while back that he had ‘saved Detroit from bankruptcy’ without any understanding that bankruptcy is a legal protection to allow a company or a city to retrench, get their act together and recover if possible. Detroit provides a very large lesson in governance. The liberal project does not work. It is failing everywhere.

You can buy votes for a while with generous welfare, generous food stamps, generous health care benefits, nice civic projects, generous salaries and pensions for those who work for the government, but at some point there isn’t any more wealth to redistribute and those who still have some have moved to a place where they aren’t trying to tax their wealth away.

The piece can be found in the archives of the New York Times Magazine. I can’t link to it for it is behind a subscription barrier, and I have apparently exceeded my 10 pieces a month limit.



Ten Great Photos of Calvin Coolidge by The Elephant's Child

Calvin-Coolidge-cow-e1359473649623

The Daily Caller has “10 Awesome photos of Calvin Coolidge” today, and they are indeed awesome. (from the Bain Collection/Library of Congress) Don’t miss it.



Odd Friday Facts For Facilitating Conversation, or Stopping It. by The Elephant's Child
April 8, 2011, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Education, History, Military | Tags: , ,

—1646: The Act for Setting Schools was established in Scotland.  By the end of the 18th Century, Scotland’s literacy rate was higher than any other country. Scotland became Europe’s first modern literate society. Intellectuals wrote for a genuine reading public.  By 1750 nearly every town of any size had a lending library.

—The period from 1817 to 1844 has been referred to as the Canal Era, in which some 4,000 miles of American canals were constructed at a cost of $200 million. The earliest and best were built by private businesses such as the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts and the Santee and Cooper in South Carolina.  The Erie Canal was the most famous, its completion so anticipated that it collected an advance $1 million in tolls.  It was 4o’ wide, 4′ deep, and 363 miles long, all bordered with towpaths and 86 locks to raise and lower boats 565′.

I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal,
She’s a good old worker,
And a good old Pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

We’ve hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay
And we know ev’ry inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge! Ev’rybody down!
Low bridge, cause we’re coming to a town.
And you’ll always know your neighbor,
You’ll always know your pal
If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal

—In 1933, the Army of the United States totaled 137,000 men.  The U.S. Army was sixteenth in size in the world.  The French Army totaled 5 million men.

—The U.S Census of 1790 found that only 60 percent of the white population of well over three million remained English in ancestry.  There were 700 thousand of African descent, and tens of thousands of native Indians.  All the peoples of Europe were present in the country: 9% German, 8% Scots, 6% Scots-Irish, 4% were Irish, over 3 percent Dutch.  The remainder were French, Swedes, Spanish, and people of unknown ethnicity.

—The M1A1 Abrams tank weighs 70 tons. It is 11′ wide, and goes for ½ mile on a gallon of gas (30% less on ethanol).  For every ton of tank, we must ship 4 tons of fuel which cannot be airlifted. It must go by rail, and then ship.




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