American Elephants

Obama Talks a Lot, But What Does He Really Stand For? by The Elephant's Child

Words, words, words. And 64 members of Congress —32 Democrats and 32 Republicans—had to write a letter to the President asking him to pay attention, to recognize that there is a budget crisis. To notice that the spending just has to stop.  Alan Greenspan said that the activist administration was retarding the recovery. Government workers already enjoy job security and high benefits, they don’t also need to be paid twice as much as their private sector counterparts.  We don’t need dozens of unconfirmed and unconfirmable Czars. We don’t need an unworkable health care plan.  We don’t need big government expanding and regulating everything in sight.

The stimulus was wasted.  The cash appropriated for cash for clunkers was wasted.  The car companies have not paid back their loans.  There was no reason to continue to shut down oil drilling in the Gulf. There is no reason to shut down possible drilling in coastal waters nor to refuse to issue permits. I could go on and on and on.

President Obama and the Democrats do not want to stop spending, nor to cut back.  Lip service. Watch for “you can’t cut that.” Watch for forcing grannies to eat dog food.  Watch for shutting down schools, putting people out on the street, denying needed operations. All claims of how Republicans are supposedly going to ruin everyone’s lives, while the nice Democrats will care for you and give you presents.

The Obama Doctrine Would Dismay the Founders! by The Elephant's Child

The group now attempting to keep Gadhaffi from slaughtering the rebels in his country, France, Britain, Italy, Qatar, and America are responding to a humanitarian crisis, yet there seems to be no clear idea of what to do if Gadhaffi refuses.  Planes patrolling “No Fly” zones fly too fast and too high to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  We have pretty much informed Gadhaffi already of what we might do and what’s off the table, which seems silly, but is the way Obama chooses to avoid blame.

After two or three weeks, Obama issued an ultimatum to Gadhaffi.  Gadhaffi issued a “cease fire,” which he didn’t mean, and the British and the U.S. Navy shot off 112 Tomahawk and Cruise missiles.  Unidentified somebodys damaged Gadhaffi’s compound.  American authorities hastened to say it wasn’t us.

European reaction to Obama’s dithering and hesitation has been pronounced.  I found Janet Daley’s comments interesting. “After weeks of dithering and mixed signals…punctuated by periods of impenetrable silence, the White House had a sudden epiphany and declared itself in favor of a UN resolution allowing much more than a no-fly zone.”

She touches upon the spin from the left: “All this floundering was actually part of a superbly clever strategy. In other words, they were only pretending to be useless: it may have looked like a collapse of moral leadership to you but it really went completely according to plan.

Even if we take this wildly charitable interpretation at face value, what does it say about the role that America is choosing to adopt on the global stage? That in future we can expect it to follow rather than lead? That it has abdicated its role as defender and standard bearer for the principle of freedom – the idea that all men are born with inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, which the great founding documents of the United States declare to be universal and not simply the birthright of residents of one nation? If America is now to make its commitment to those values conditional – even when the oppressed populations of totalitarian countries are putting their lives at risk to embrace them – then we are living in a very different world from the one to which we have been accustomed. And this is a far, far bigger leap than is assumed by the champions of “international law” and multinational bodies who are happy to see America take a back seat – at least until the ammunition starts to fly.

The concept of “American exceptionalism” was coined by De Toqueville, who believed that the facts of America’s origin made it fundamentally different from the old European cultures from which it sprang: this was a country created on first principles which were consciously embraced by all those who chose to live there. Those principles necessarily implied that freedom was the ideal condition of human life and that democracy was the best protector of that condition – and the moral duty of America in the world followed from that. Mr Obama has given serious and consistent indications that he wishes to withdraw America from that historical function – to wilfully abdicate its traditional responsibility – and this not just on the grounds of pragmatic isolationism with which America has experimented before (only to repent later). …That presumably is the heart of it. Obama’s foreign policy is really perfectly consistent with the goals of his domestic policy. His object is to turn the US into a European-style social democracy complete with hugely expensive welfare provision and a federal healthcare programme: a country where security and universal provision of services is the first priority. What he was saying to Europe was: you have relied on our defence cover to spare yourselves the cost of military spending and that allowed you to lavish benefits and public services on your populations. It’s our turn now. The great threat from Soviet power is gone, so we are going home to tend our own fire.

What would an America be like that did not expect to be called upon to support democratic movements and defend oppressed people? Its citizens have always been taught to see themselves not just as fortunate residents of a lucky country but as bearers of a spiritual truth – a model for the world of how men should live. Are they now to become just one more self-preserving, inward-looking populace obsessed with entitlements and an easy life like so many – dare one say it – cynical, war-weary Europeans?

Janet Daley is an American who has been living and writing in the UK since 1965.  Always a trenchant observer and a thoughtful one, she’s worth listening to.  I think it helps to read the commentary of friendly writers from abroad.  When I say friendly, I mean people who generally share the same world view.  They are the ones who can really make you think.

Sunday Roundup: Obama Waffles, Democrats Puzzle, Survivors Found! by The Elephant's Child

—An 80-year-old grandmother and her 16-year-old grandson were found still alive under the rubble in Nishinomaki nine days after the earthquake and tsunami.  Both were very weak but able to shout  when search and rescue teams were scouring the debris. A miracle tale of survival.

—We don’t know what we are doing, says David Warren, my favorite Canadian commentator.  He moves from the Powell Doctrine, a relic of Colin Powell’s days in the Pentagon, to the “Just War Theory,” of the Catholic Church, to Obama’s apparent lack of a theory.  “Prudence, in the higher moral sense, cannot be reduced to a formula…Into sin we may fall, but we must try to live justly.” We want Gadhaffi to go away, but he doesn’t want to.  The article provides food for thought.

—Democrats are still trying to puzzle out the tsunami in American politics that has swept over the country since the red ink began flashing a danger signal. Why do people want the federal government to cut its budget? Advocates of Big Government just haven’t personalized spending enough.  Democrats have to make the spending cuts specific and relevant to people. It’s all public relations. Expect a return to claims of Granny surviving on dog food and crumbling schools having to close.

—The Congressional Budget Office sees trillions more in red ink under Obama’s budget.  Lots of gimmicks, fudging the numbers and overly optimistic assumptions.  The lowest deficit over the next ten years will be $600 billion, much higher than anything we saw under Bush.  The “new spending” proposed added just $8.7 trillion in new spending, but the CBO analysis found that the total would actually add up to $9.6 trillion

—Sixty-four senators call on Obama to take up tax and entitlement reform—32 Democrats and 32 Republicans. ” We need the White House to be engaged,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb), “there is no question that tackling tax reform and entitlements is tough. …We won’t have any chance unless the president joins with us in the good-faith effort.”

How do you spell the name of Libya’s dictator? (202,000 results on Google) The media cannot agree.  There is no single spelling because his name doesn’t romanize directly from Arabic. Probably just about any way you want to.  This post suggests 17 different ways, other posts suggest vastly more.  Who knew?

—Michael Kinsley, reliably left, writes a funny column on the nature of budget wars, which can be summed up in four words— “You Can’t Cut That”  1.  Expression of general support for deficit reduction. Reference to easy answers (there are none). Reference to burden (all must share).  2. Reference to babies and bathwater.  Former should not be discarded with latter.   I expect that we will be hearing all of his complaints/excuses in the ensuing weeks.

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