On President Obama’s State of the Union address

Candidate Obama is back. In his State of the Union address, he was more forceful, eloquent and shrewdly misdirecting than he has been since 2008.

In the history of the American political cycles, President/candidate Obama may have more successfully evaded accountability for a failed economy than any president in history. Perhaps we should finally acknowledge as a nation that a president cannot work magic on an economy. Perhaps we should finally grant to this president, for the first time in American history, a pass for an abysmal economy and kudos for good intentions. Perhaps we should, for the first time in American history, give a sitting president credit for the excuse that it would have been a lot worse.

I admire much of what the president said. I love his eloquence. I admire particularly the very shrewd focus on all that can be done. But I wonder where the leadership to do all of those things was when it mattered. President Obama had enormous political capital in his first two years and chose to squander it on health care reform, without even exercising genuine leadership in that raucous debate and deliberately capitulating to the congressional circus for all of the particulars of that misbegotten bill. All of these wonderful ideas to stimulate the economy, retrain America, get rid of bad teachers, help businesses upgrade their plants, stop illegal immigration (by means other than there being no jobs in America for illegal immigrants to cross the border for), get jobs for veterans — if he was serious about these ideas, he’d have proposed them in 2009. He didn’t. He pursued health care reform.

And health care reform has been a palpable drag on the economy. And so we have a president running on great ideas for America who didn’t actively pursue them when he could, and instead pursued, sort of, health care reform, to the detriment of the economy, with an abysmal economy, saying “vote for me” (and, by the way, conveniently never mentioning health care reform).

But lots of bold ideas. How many times did the president say in his SOTU address send me a bill and I will sign it? That is preposterous. His time to say that was two years ago if he was a leader. Saying it only now is cynical. He knows it won’t happen. And that’s why he’s proposing it now instead of two years ago when it might have been viable. That is a deeply cynical presidency trying to do something no incumbent has ever achieved before with such a bad economy: evade accountability for a terrible economy.

I don’t think Barack Obama is a bad president. Like every president, he has priorities. I question his priorities. But I credit some of them — like getting Osama bin Laden (truly, kudos Mr. President), like taking out much of the al Qaeda leadership, like realistically keeping open Guantanamo, like insisting that “America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs” and he intends to keep it that way as long as he is president. In short, I like some of President Obama’s foreign policy because it is George W. Bush’s foreign policy against which he campaigned vociferously. I like that mature transformation of Barack Obama. I feel safer because President Obama is actually doing what President Bush did (notwithstanding the rhetoric of apology and capitulation that were words only and not deeds).

I just don’t like Barack Obama for what he was in 2008 geopolitically (and now chastened) or what he is in 2012 domestically. It’s still, for candidate Obama, about “fairshareism.” As if President Obama and members of Congress “paying their fair share” would put the slightest dent in the deficit. What a grandiose gesture — please tax me and members of Congress more! — and what a useless and transparently cynical sop that has nothing whatever to do with the deficit. Simply taxing rich people would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit. Yet virtually no rich person in America would object to higher taxes if it were coupled with serious deficit reduction measures.

That’s a failure of presidential leadership.

And this is what candidate/President Obama poses for America: the rich aren’t paying their “fair share,” and that’s the conversation we need to have as a nation, and that’s his campaign mantra. Damn the rich, like me, he says coyly. That’s a serious shame because that squanders an opportunity to institute deep deficit reduction measures, coupled with sensible tax increases, and fiscal measures that promise financial health for America.

None of that matters if making rich people bad people makes for a good talking point. Like “the Buffett Rule.” Camera to Warren Buffett’s “secretary.” Can’t have Warren Buffet’s “secretary” paying more in taxes than Warren Buffett. First, she doesn’t. Not even close. Second, her income tax rate is higher than his capital gains tax rate (but not his income tax rate) because Congress treats capital gains and dividend income differently than income, and for a reason. Third, reasonable minds can differ on what the rate for income tax, capital gains tax, and dividends tax should be, but it is silly to compare the tax on Warren Buffett and Warren Buffett’s secretary. It’s comparing different taxes. But the president knew this.

This is a president digging out of a hole that may not matter. Watching Gingrich and Romney duke it out, this president may very well get a pass. He already knows he has a leg up because any challenge to him is wounded. Barack Obama is looking like the superior candidate. No Republican can challenge him, thanks to the circular firing squad. And there are so many reasons why challenging President Obama matters.

 

On Voter ID laws in a “post-racial” America

Voter ID laws are controversial — bizarrely — so controversial in fact that our first post-racial presidency (as promised and aborted) steps in yet again to attack a state on ridiculous racial grounds. South Carolina enacted a voter ID law, and the Department of Justice invalidated it because the Attorney General claimed — against the facts and several Democrats — it would discriminate against minorities.

What is a voter ID law? It says when you show up to vote, you have to produce some identification that shows you are who you say you are so that you’re actually eligible to vote. Like they do in Canada. As opposed to showing up to vote and pretending you’re eligible when you’re not. Much like you produce an ID to get on a airplane, or you produce an ID when you’re driving and the police pull you over, or you produce an ID when you want to cash a check, or you produce an ID when you apply for a Social Security card, or you produce an ID when you use a credit card and there’s a question about whether you’re the actual owner of the credit card (to prevent credit card fraud).

This should be obvious. This should be a basic requirement around which everyone rallies because it contributes to the integrity of elections. And the integrity of elections matters enormously because democracy is fragile and turns precisely on the integrity of elections. We respect democracy only because we elect the people for whom we actually vote. We respect democracy only because we have good reason to believe that eligible voters choose our elected representatives.

South Carolina passed a voter ID law that requires a voter to present a South Carolina driver’s license or other photo ID — a passport, military ID, or a voter registration card with a photo issued by South Carolina election officials (issued for free). Even if a voter shows up at a polling place without an acceptable ID, he can still vote a provisional ballot that will be counted if he brings an ID to election officials before the results are certified. If a voter has a religious objection or a “reasonable impediment” that prevents him from getting a free photo ID, then the voter can simply fill out an affidavit in which he outlines his objection or impediment and swears that he is who he says he is. His provisional ballot will then be automatically counted unless local election officials have evidence that “the affidavit is false.”

In other words, the South Carolina law makes it as easy as possible to vote — whether or not you have a valid ID — but simply tries to ensure a threshold requirement that you are who you say you are. To which the Department of Justice objects. Using Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice squashed the South Carolina law as “discriminatory,” even though the Department of Justice approved a virtually identical Georgia law in 2005, and the Supreme Court approved a virtually identical Indiana law in 2008.

Why? In Austin, Texas, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Are we willing to allow this era – our era – to be remembered as the age when our nation’s proud tradition of expanding the franchise ended?” Then the NAACP’s Ben Jealous made it plain: “You saw it after the Civil War. You see it now after the election of the first black president.” The race card, the very cynical very-not-post-racial race card. And the race card in contempt of the facts.

Voter ID laws do not suppress minority turnout — quite the opposite. University of Missouri professor Jeffrey Milyo discovered that after voter ID, turnout increased in Democrat-majority districts. University of Delaware professor Jason Mycoff found that voter ID did not decrease turnout.

Rhode Island enacted a voter ID law, which is to say, Democrats did it. Rhode Island Democratic Representative Jon Brien said, “those who are opposed to voter ID never let the facts get in the way of a really good emotional argument.”

African-American Democrat Artur Davis in Alabama apologized for opposing voter ID laws: by claiming that voter fraud wasn’t an issue, and that anti-fraud laws were racist, “I took the path of least resistance on this subject for an African American politician.” And then he said:

Voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights — that’s suppression by any light. If you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.

We should be beyond this. We should be beyond this as a polity even without Barack Obama and Eric Holder’s Justice Department, who promised a post-racial America and who could have delivered that promise but failed miserably and cynically.

Voter ID laws make simple sense. Opposition favors election fraud and race-baiting. And that is our post-racial presidency.

Republican ephemera, Part 4: Even Newt’s baggage has baggage…

Newt Gingrich has been quite the Republican statesman lately, shrewdly applauding his fellow candidates at every opportunity and attacking debate moderators. And his poll numbers lift him from the presidential obscurity to which he seemed destined a mere month ago to Serious Contender status. (Americans viscerally detest debate moderators.)

A Fox poll of Republican primary voters gives Gingrich 23%, Romney 22%, Cain 15%, and the rest single digits. A CNN/ORC poll of Republicans and independents who lean Republican gives Romney 24% and Gingrich 22%. Quite the surge for the gentleman from Georgia.

Debate-weary Republicans dream of the Great Debate between Gingrich and Obama, and what the savvy Speaker and architect of the ’94 Republican resurgence could do to the guy who was 33 in 1994, and hadn’t yet begun his political career. Meanwhile, Democrats salivate at the prospect of Republicans choosing Newt Gingrich to run against Barack Obama, and their Playbook for such a scenario is thick with optimism.

Gingrich has three categories of baggage — and by “baggage,” we mean stuff that depresses voters, or more particularly, depresses voter enthusiasm and turn-out (or, alternatively, inspires enthusiasm or turn-out for one’s opponent).

1. Gingrich has high name recognition precisely because he was the guy who reintroduced America to divided government. When the Republicans took over the House in 1994 — the first time since 1954 — it was due in no small part to the raging partisan energy of Newt Gingrich, co-architect of the Contract with America, and back-bencher bomb-thrower for years before that success. There followed abundant legislative energy in pursuit of the Contract with America, an unpopular determination to impeach a popular president, and a sad stand-off with President Clinton that could have been a significant victory for fiscal responsibility, but ended up being about Newt Gingrich feeling personally snubbed by the president, and a government shut-down that Democrats successfully painted as Gingrich’s petulance. Gingrich’s name recognition derives substantially from his passionately partisan stature in the 1990s — not a recipe for attracting independents.

2. Fast-forward to the 21st century. Gingrich strives to acquire counter-baggage. Serious counter-baggage, not simply moderation of his views. He flips 180, and flips hand-in-hand with iconic Democrats who were as passionately partisan for the opposite camp as he had been for his. He holds hands with John Kerry about global warming, cuts a global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi, holds hands with Al Sharpton about education reform, supports a George Soros candidate in a special election, holds hands with Hillary Clinton about health care, and even applauds the individual mandate. And most recently, he calls Paul Ryan’s plan to save Social Security “right-wing social engineering.”

And now he’s trying to sound conservative again. I could make a case that Newt Gingrich is a smart man with views that evolve intelligently with the times — but if the question is who has flip-flopped more, advantage Romney, indeed, advantage all of the Republican candidates over Gingrich. And if the question in the general election is who has been more steadfast to their stated principles, advantage (barely) Obama. Gingrich’s reinvention of himself may be commendable — but it is serious baggage in the Republican primaries, and still baggage in the general election.

3. And then there’s the personal baggage. Should it matter? Probably not. But did it matter to Gingrich when he participated in the assault on President Clinton for his tawdry trysts with Monica Lewinsky and others? Yes it did, even though Gingrich was having an affair with his now third wife at the time. And then there’s the disputed treatment of his former wives, which would ideally be irrelevant, but will not in a general election with minions dispatched to slam the Republican candidate by whatever means possible. Similarly his status as the only Speaker of the House to have been disciplined for ethics violations. I’ve taken a look at those ethics charges — 84 charges, of which 83 were dropped — and the one that stuck, something about failure to seek legal counsel and providing inaccurate information, seemed thin to me — but we’re talking about “baggage.” And in the general election, Gingrich would simply be “the only Speaker of the House to have been disciplined for ethics violations.”

It wouldn’t appear from this essay that I admire Newt Gingrich — but I do. I cannot help but admire a man who ended a 40-year Democratic Party monopoly on Congress, a man who properly shares credit for some of the achievements of the Clinton administration and who deserves credit for preventing some of the mischief Clinton would have done but for divided government.

But that doesn’t mean he should, or could, be president. If Republicans are serious about winning the White House in 2012, then this latest Anybody-But-Romney uptick by Newt Gingrich should promptly go the way of Bachmann, Perry and Cain. Mitt Romney can beat Barack Obama. I don’t see anyone else who can.

On the Cain gaffe, the Perry gaffe, and what they do and don’t mean about Republican politics

Herman Cain performed poorly on Monday — as all candidates will at some point(s), who slog through the juggernaut of a hotly contested presidential primary.

Cain’s answer underscores a fatal weakness in his candidacy, despite his popular strengths of straight-shooting authenticity and business common sense: this is a man who simply hasn’t thought much about America’s role in the world or the complex question of what to do, or not to do, with America’s military might.

Cain’s answer is not, however, so indefensible, it is not, in my opinion, comparable to Rick Perry’s more telling gaffe in forgetting his own far-fetched talking point, and it is certainly not the evidence I see touted in so many liberal comments and posts of an intellectually bankrupt Republican field.

Here is what Herman Cain’s answer should have been (and I base this reconstruction on what he actually did say, so inartfully, not simply on what my ideal notion of a politician should have said), and something like what I think his campaign position will come to be, if his campaign recovers:

Which part of President Obama’s Libya’s policy are you talking about? The decision to bomb the country? The decision to bomb and put boots on the ground without congressional authorization? The decision to denounce Qaddafi even though the president had pointedly declined to denounce the tyrants in Iran, who were a far graver threat to the interests of the United States? The decision to supposedly turn over operations to NATO and Europe? The fiction that NATO somehow meant American non-involvement? The failure to articulate any clear American goal, and therefore simply to let events play out, which events could have played out very differently — and the ultimate consequences of which we still do not know?

It’s impossible to give a simplistic yes or no answer to your question about agreement, or not, with President Obama’s “Libya policy” — and not merely because the president obviously had access to abundant classified information that none of us yet has, but also because there are multiple elements, and still-moving and unresolved targets, in that “Libya policy,” whatever it is.

To ask me or anyone outside the privileged circle of highly classified information, what would you have done differently in Libya? generates an artificial and unlevel playing field. But I can tell you what I would have emphasized from the beginning: who are these opposition forces? What ideologies guide them? What political, religious and social goals? Are they true supporters of democracy, as the jilted protesters in Iran, whom this administration quietly allowed to be crushed, appeared to be? What happens if they take power? Is it better than Qaddafi? Can American seriously influence the winners in a post-Qaddafi Libya?

And I can tell you that I would have sought to articulate clear American goals, with which the American people could agree or disagree, rather than trying so hard and haplessly to have it both ways: to remove American fingerprints when all the world could still see American fingerprints. That’s a transparently insincere foreign policy — a policy designed to take specious credit for good results and retain specious deniability for bad results, and that’s unworthy of American greatness.

Well, okay, it’s got a tiny bit of the flavor of what my ideal notion of a politician should have said — but if you listen closely to Cain’s ham-fisted response, he’s essentially saying, wait a second, Libya? not a single policy with which one can simply agree or disagree. And that’s already an astute instinct, even though he failed, unpresidentially, to process the flaw of the question quickly enough.

Now contrast that with Rick Perry’s gaffe — where he simply forgot his own massively pandering talking point. He didn’t receive a question — “Governor Perry, what departments of the federal government would you abolish if you were president?” — he started the silly point himself and just couldn’t finish it. And the point was not a technical or complex one. It was very nearly as basic as political rhetoric gets, especially for a man who has authored (?) a book about the many sins of the federal government.

So I don’t have any sympathy for Michelle Malkin’s miscomparison, “Cain makes Rick Perry look like a Mensa president,” or James Carville’s misdirected swipe that Cain “made Rick Perry look like Henry Kissinger.” These are the breezy sound-bites for people with no interest in context.

And now that we’re done debating who’s less qualified, between Cain and Perry, to be president of the United States — the frothy game the unprecedented Republican debate circus enables (while we put aside the gaffes and missteps of candidate and President Obama, never mind Vice President Biden, outside any debate or gotcha’ context) — perhaps it warrants a moment of reflection on how generally well-spoken, articulate and well-informed some Republicans and Republican candidates are.

Neither the Cain moment nor the Perry moment highlight the gifts of the Republican opposition to the Obama presidency. But neither do they bespeak some basic Republican deficit in tackling our nation’s challenges. Much less do they warrant the gleeful schadenfreude of so many on the left who seize upon these two moments for evidence (as I have seen so tiresomely repeated in columns, posts and comments) that all Republican candidates, even all Republicans, are stupid.

95% of the authors of these savaging columns, posts and comments have not actually watched the Republican debates, as opposed to taking their favored source’s description of the debates and then issuing sweeping conclusions about intelligence. (Oh my the irony.) It must be great fun to be in the third-class peanut gallery, watching the second-class peanut gallery watching what happens, and opining so serenely on incompetence.

What is not great fun, what is grueling and exhausting beyond the capacity of most in either peanut gallery to comprehend, is running for president in a hotly contested primary with multiple debates, press conferences and public appearances. And yet we’re seeing consistently good and nimble performances from Mitt Romney, who quickly encapsulates complex issues as well as I have ever seen in presidential debates, surprisingly steadfast performances from a very well-informed (but baggaged) Newt Gingrich, consistent, if a bit ideologically obsessed, straight-talk from Ron Paul, a refreshing focus on the content and mechanics of problem-solving from Herman Cain, an impressive grasp of some issues (and then not others) from Michelle Bachmann, a bit petulant but often trenchant observations from Rick Santorum, a kind of floating-a-bit-too-far-above-it-all but plainly well-informed Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry (who candidly runs on his record as opposed to his debating skills).

There is much with which to agree and disagree in all of these performances, and much to contest as to matters of emphasis, tone and presidential stature. But it’s the Republican party doing the serious and exhausting debating — that thing we purport to celebrate as a critical fixture of democracy (not being, as we all imagine ourselves not being, ideological automatons).

So, a little respect please, between easy guffaws at the gaffes.

On “Teabaggers,” as the Obama Administration Now Calls Them

Okay, I’m officially disgusted. I let the whole “teabagger” pejorative go for a long time, consigning it to blogosphere hate-speech that didn’t matter that much.

But now the Obama administration is weighing in — and apparently “teabagger” is an official Obama administration term. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis addressed the Florida Democratic Convention last Saturday, and called the Tea Party “teabaggers” and promised to take them on.

“Teabagger” is possibly the stupidest and most offensive designation imaginable for the Tea Party, and the fact that it evidently has wings with the Obama administration speaks volumes.

“Teabagging,” just so everyone knows, describes sticking your testicles on someone’s face or in their mouth for sexual gratification. It’s a term with long-standing homosexual currency. And it’s therefore ironic, to put it mildly, that “teabagger” is a term of contempt by the left for the Tea Party. Are they condemning that particular sexual practice? Not likely. Just assuming that a sufficient number of people will get the joke.

Everybody gets it. Ha ha, “teabaggers” permits the “humorous” suggestion that Tea Party members, um, can be associated with this practice, while, ha ha, never having to take a moral position on tea-bagging (notwithstanding the implicit moral condemnation of tea-bagging). Oh my, we wouldn’t actually condemn tea-bagging, we just hate conservatives.

For the record, gays, teabag as much as you want. It’s your right. Or have trouble with it, as some of you do, also your right — and indicative of a healthy range. But I would respectfully suggest honorable opposition to use of “teabaggers” to describe political opponents. It rings profoundly untrue.

For the record, liberals who recklessly use the term “teabaggers” are massive hypocrites. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much until the Obama administration weighed in officially. That takes this administration yet another backward step in post-racial politics or any politics of conciliation, yet another confirmation that the Democratic party will cynically exploit the worst rhetoric, and yet another indication that American political discourse has stepped backward during this administration.

On Herman Cain and the Obamanation of Racial Politics

Herman Cain is a black black man. He’s got an accent. He was, in his words, po before he was poor. And he’s wildly popular — get this, with Republicans. Herman Cain is a southern conservative straight-shooter and currently leading some polls among Republican primary voters.

Herman Cain is an impressive man — and particularly compelling on the bread-and-butter issues that concern most Americans. But he’s not likely to win the nomination for the following reasons:

  • He lacks any organization in key primary states. While he doesn’t seem disturbed by this deficit, and it could be that his campaign is ground-breaking in appealing directly to voters without organizing on the ground, it’s hard to predict him a winner against candidates who are doing the hard on-the-ground conventional work of appealing to individual voters.
  • He lacks any political experience — arguably a plus for the voters who distrust seasoned politicians, but never historically a plus for Republican voters angling to win the general election. And it doesn’t help that one of the chief Republican criticisms of Barack Obama is his lack of experience, his meteoric rise way beyond himself after community organizing and two years as a Senator. The president has gotten some on-the-job training — but Republicans would still like to say, he wasn’t ready and he’s been inept, which is a more difficult argument if Republicans nominate someone who himself lacks any political experience.
  • He lacks foreign policy expertise, to put it mildly, and has committed some gaffes in this area that give foreign-policy-focused Republicans pause.
  • His insistence that he would never name a Muslim to his cabinet — while presumably designed as red-meat for voters idiotically obsessed with the imposition of Sharia law — cast doubt on his presidential ability to be inclusive. (To his credit, he back-tracked on this a bit. But it’s out there.)

If he nevertheless wins the nomination, count me a supporter. I just don’t think he will.

Which leads me to the Obamanation of racial politics. Some Democrats just don’t know what to do with a black man making headway in Republican primary politics. It can’t be that Republicans aren’t racist. And it can’t be that a black man could be conservative. So it must be a scheme — which narrative takes the following forms:

  • Herman Cain is a tool of the diabolical Koch brothers, a veritable Manchurian Candidate, poised for power and ultimate execution of the Plan. In other words, he’s not really black or real — just a puppet with a black face. (In short, the traditional slander against any African-American who dares to buck liberal dogma.)
  • Herman Cain is in it to make Republicans “feel good.” Or as Democratic strategist and former spokeswoman of the DNC Karen Finney told MSNBC, “I think he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel that they’re not racist because they can like this guy, I think they like him because he’s a black man who knows his place.” Knows his place?! Could you be more condescendingly racist?
  • Herman Cain won’t win the nomination — which confirms the racism of Republicans — or, as random ridiculous bomb-thrower Bill Maher put it: “I will put up a million dollars against one that he will not be the Republican nominee. A million to one… I will give you a million dollars if you think that the Republicans are going to have an election with two black guys against each other. That they don’t have a choice to vote for a white man in the general election. That will never happen.”

These are three distinct species of disrespect for African-Americans and recklessly base contempt for Republicans.

1. The notion that an African-American cannot really be a conservative — and that if he’s posing as one, he must be a tool of white conservative interests — is preposterously condescending. It suggests that all African-Americans merrily think the same. And it suggests further that a couple of rich white guys who support an African-American candidate must therefore control him, because it couldn’t be that the African-American candidate thinks for himself, which he probably doesn’t do in the first place, thinking that is, being conservative.

It may be that the left should no longer take for granted people of color. It may be that people of color have diverse views. It may be that some people of color reach conservative views for legitimate reasons. Shocking, to be sure — but given the broad-brush racism painted on Republicans for opposing President Obama’s policies, isn’t is just a bit racist to hammer Herman Cain as a tool of white interests just because conservative white people like and support him?

2. That any ostensible spokesperson of anything could speak of Herman Cain as a man who “knows his place” bespeaks a profound tone-deafness in leftist racial politics. This, to me, is the nadir of the Democratic party race-card. Yes, Karen Finney was presuming to describe Republican reaction to Herman Cain. She hoped to belittle Republicans — but she most shockingly belittled a black man. A black man who “knows his place.” I don’t have words. It speaks for itself.

I don’t believe Herman Cain will win the nomination — but if he does, and he becomes president, he’ll be the post-racial-president that Obama articulately promised and starkly failed to deliver.

3. And finally, Bill Maher’s easy sleazy prophecy — Herman Cain can’t be the nominee because white Republicans won’t stand for it. (Eyes roll.) I’m betting a million dollars to your one, seriously, a million dollars, that Bill Maher won’t be the Democratic nominee for president because Democrats would never permit a rich repugnant white ass to usurp their half-black man, especially if a black-black man might be his competitor. You see my point?

Bill Maher and his ilk are determined to paint Republicans as racists. It’s trickier if a black man is popular in Republican politics — so the solution is to call Republicans racists for not nominating Herman Cain. Anything to call Republicans racists.

It’s exactly the rhetoric of Karen Finney and Bill Maher that produces more black conservatives — men and women sick of being stereotyped by the left, tired of the canard that an African-American must be a liberal, and that any deviation from liberal dogma makes them a traitor and an Uncle Tom.

We’re not even close to post-racial — one of the reasons I’ll vote for anyone over Barack Obama because I took that promise seriously — and reaction to Herman Cain tells me the right has a better chance of being post-racial than the left.

On Broad-Brushing the Republican Party

Last Tuesday, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had this to say about the Republican Party:

Here’s a party that — I’m just keeping the list. They want more people to fry. They love executions. They want people that don’t have insurance to die on the gurney in the hospital bed. They want that to happen. They want — forget about illegal aliens. Gay soldiers, forget about them. They’re not — they’re to be booed. If you’re homeless, foreclose — if you have a home, foreclose on the people. If you’re a teacher, fireman or a cop, get rid of the guy! I mean, this attitude of causing cruel pain on people and getting cheers for it, what’s that about, Howard? You’re giving me that look. They’re in my head with this. I want to know where these candidates are heading with this.

Let’s break this down civilly, and give the increasingly unhinged Chris Matthews from the increasingly unhinged MSNBC a response on the merits, mindful that his slanderous gush had little to do with the merits and much to do with embarrassingly juvenile anger.

1. “They want more people to fry. They love executions.” This is the kind of preposterous statement that says so much more about the speaker than the target. No person of either party “loves” executions. It is impossible to be human and “love” an execution. I’m thoroughly Republican and hate executions. I just re-watched Anne of the Thousand Days with Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold, and I cringed and winced at every single execution ordered by Henry VIII, and despised Henry VIII all the more for his profligate killing. Nothing about executions is appealing.

If the question is support for the death penalty, most Americans do, including 58% of Democrats. It is possible to support the death penalty because some particularly heinous crimes take a person beyond entitlement to dwell with us — without “loving ” executions. It is possible to believe justice is served when a killer is killed without “loving” executions.

The Obama administration has executed, without trial, Osama bin Ladin and Anwar al-Awlaki, among others. I haven’t celebrated. I’m glad they’re dead and good for the president. Democrats are more likely to celebrate these killings as proof of the president’s national security bona fides. Rah rah, Chris. Who’s loving it?

2. “They want people that don’t have insurance to die on the gurney in the hospital bed. They want that to happen.” Note the redoubled insistence — “they want that to happen.” They want people to die. Republicans really want people to die.

Republicans don’t want ObamaCare — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want more people insured and medical care to be more affordable and accessible (much less wanting people to die). Republicans have a different approach, a more market-based approach that drives down costs (tort reform — the resistance to which demonstrates Democrats’ desire for people to die — just kidding and channeling Chris) and ensures medical care competition rather than the government monopoly toward which ObamaCare drives. This is a fair debate. I would hope in any event to call it a fair debate, unless I’m being accused of wanting people to die.

Wasn’t it outrageous when Sarah Palin rallied against “death panels”? Wasn’t that the left’s energetic attack on the right as “lies, lies, lies” and proof that conservatives would resort to any rhetoric to rally the base? Oh my, never mind that Sarah Palin’s claim enjoyed a kernel of truth in the bill, even if the rhetoric was beyond the pale. She suggested that a bill would result in “death panels.” Chris Matthews suggests that Republicans — the entire party — want uninsured people to die, really, “they want that to happen.” I’d suggest a measure of self-policing, of some very basic description of what counts for acceptable rhetoric.

3. “They want- forget about illegal aliens.” I think this sort of vacuously speaks for itself.

4. “Gay soldiers, forget about them. They’re not- they’re to be booed.” Granted, a bad moment for the Republican party in one debate. But think about the issue here: a hypocritical expectation that Republicans seize the moment to condemn booers in a Republican debate, when the moment moved very quickly to another topic. Who gets credit in that scenario? How is that navigated? And who yet in the Democratic party has condemned Chris Matthews? That said, Republicans, get serious about respecting our men and women in uniform who happen to be gay.

5. “If you’re homeless, foreclose- if you have a home, foreclose on the people.” Yes, that’s what Republicans want to do, foreclose on the homeless — and the homeful, hahaha. Anybody who can be without a home, that’s good. The people suck. We hate them. Are you following me?

What Republicans wanted was less profligate demand by Congress and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that lenders extend mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them. If fewer people who can’t afford mortgages had actually gotten them, then fewer people would have defaulted, and we might not be in this recession.

A foreclosure, like an execution (above), is never something any actual human being ever celebrates. To suggest that it is, and to paint an entire party as giddy about it, is the worst political rhetoric there is. Except for this:

6. “If you’re a teacher, fireman or a cop, get rid of the guy! I mean, this attitude of causing cruel pain on people and getting cheers for it, what’s that about, Howard?”

To be sure, Republicans want to get rid of teachers, fireman and cops. Vermin, all. But not before “causing them cruel pain and getting cheers for it.” That’s the Republican party. (And Howard helpfully agreed by the way.)

And this is what passes for the kind of discourse that’s acceptable as against the reviled Fox Network?

UPDATE (11/18/2011): Larry Elder does a Chris on Chris, and Chris crumbles.