As much as I oppose any tax increase on any American -- much as President Obama once did -- it seems to me that there is at least some political merit in Speaker Boehner's bringing "Plan B" to a vote in the Congress. If President Obama vetoes it, we go over the cliff because of what he did. Majority Leader Reid refuses to bring it up in the Senate, to amend it so that a House-Senate compromise can be reached, it's on him. They're refusing to support, or negotiate based on, a plan they once supported because they think there's political advantage, for them, in inflicting pain on a large number of Americans when all the Bush tax cuts expire and we go over the cliff. . . and because Democrats always want more taxes on more people, not fewer taxes on anyone.
If the press reports with even any modicum of accuracy on this, it's going to be clear who's seeking political advantage rather than a solution. The GOP has already caved on the concept of tax increases. Where is any comparable concession on the part of Democrats?
President Obama has announced that he will tap Joe Biden to lead a task force to craft policies to curb gun violence. It strikes me that this is above all a cynical move by the President, designed to buy time to gauge public sentiment about just how far he and the Democrats can push gun control without outraging normal Americans.
Consider this: There have been plenty of liberal efforts to push gun control in the past -- indeed, state senator Barack Obama had some very detailed anti-gun prescriptions way back in 1999. If he were truly committed to taking a stand right here, right now, the President could simply reiterate those demands, or call for the Senate to pass Dianne Feinstin's proposed ban on assault weapons, or call for federal legislation mimicking the new California proposal to close "loopholes" in assault weapons bans and restrict the sale of ammunition.
But he's not. Instead, he's outsourcing it to a committee, which is often where politically tricky issues go to die. That's because Democrats have been aware in recent years that their gun control stance was hurting them among white males in rural areas like West Virginia, and tempered their stance accordinglly. That's why -- in the elegant rhetoric long associated wtih him -- Joe Biden (now described as a "longtime gun control advocate" by the Associated Press) had this to say in 2008: "I guarantee you Barack Obama aint' taking my shotguns."
Given the President's obvious hesitation to entertain the gun issue before his reelection, it's clear he's aware of those numbers and that history. Indeed, a piece by a Chicago journalist just last summer pointed out the political motivation for the contradiction between Obama's stance on gun control as a state senator and as president, noting:
For Obama, it’s a political calculation. Obama’s weakest demographic is white men without college degrees. He’s getting only 29 percent of their votes. Working-class white men have struggled during the recession, so Obama wants to make an economic argument for their support, especially in the Rust Belt swing states of Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But they’re also culturally conservative and disproportionately rural, which means they cherish gun rights. They’re already suspicious of Obama because he’s a big city African-American liberal. If he comes out in favor of gun control, they’re not going to listen to him on jobs or any other issue. These same voters punished Democrats for passing the 1994 assault weapons ban, giving Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
That’s why we’re not going to hear about gun control between now and Election Day.
However sincere Obama's pain at the death of the Sandy Hook children may be, it's still not enough to get him to take any personal political risk. His plan seems to be -- as par for the course with him -- say what he thinks his base needs to hear, then outsource responsibility for actuallly coming up with something. This committee is a way to establish "plausible deniability" if need be, while Democrats figure out just how much government intrusion into gun ownership they can get away with.
Judge Robert Bork has died. Although he was best known by the public for the contentious Supreme Court hearings that resulted in his nomination to the Supreme Court being defeated -- and because the malicious lies about his views purveyed by the likes of Ted Kennedy created the term "Borking" -- he held a significant place in American public life for a long time.
He was an antitrust scholar, a Yale Law School professor, Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General and a judge on the DC Circuit. He was also the author of fine books including Slouching Toward Gomorrah and The Tempting of America.
By all accounts, he was a man of great intellect and personal integrity -- who refused to tailor his views to prevailing notions of political correctness. He paid a price for that.
But he was a great American whose contributions to American jurisprudence and legal thought will long endure.
May he rest in peace.
We all know there's plenty of bias in the reporting that's done by the MSM: The adulation fro President Obama, the handy re-invention of taxes as "investments," the continued insistence (against all evidence) that Tea Partiers are the source of violence and incivility in our political culture.
But here's a handy reminder that media bias doesn't exist only in what is reported -- there's also bias in what goes unreported, too. As the invaluable Newsbusters tells us, neither ABC nor CBS bothered to report on the historic nomination of Tim Scott to the US Senate. This despite the fact that Scott will be the only African American senator currently serving, represented the district where the Civil War actually began, is one of only two African American senators post-Reconstruction (the Democrats have had three -- Carol Moseley Braun, Roland Burris and Barack Obama). What's more, he is taking the seat held for decades by Strom Thurmond, who was once a segregationist.
But nothing here worth reporting, no sir.
This morning, when I took my children to school, there was a guard at the gate for the first time. Obviously, the school intended it as a thoughtful gesture for anxious mothers.
But that's the point. Most of the "solutions" being touted offer only a false sense of security. To that point, Ron Fournier had a compelling piece in today's National Journal, titled "What If Nothing or Nobody is to Blame for Adam Lanza?" Fournier writes:
What if there is nothing or nobody to blame? Would that make this inexplicable horror unbearable?
What if we didn't rush to judgement? What if we didn't waste our thoughts, prayers and actions on assigning blame for the sake of mere recrimination? What if we calmly and ruthlessly learned whatever lessons we can from the massacre -- and prevented the next one?
What if it wasn't one thing, but everything, that set off Lanza?
Indeed. What if, like most things in life, Lanza was the product of genetics and environment? In his remarks last night, the President had this to say:
If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.
But what if there isn't "one step"? What if it required banning guns, AND violent movies, AND violent video games -- and even then, you knew that killers would just turn instead to homemade bombs, and cars, and knives?
It's easy to hold out the simplistic, false hope that there is "one step" that can stop heartrending tragedies like this. But in the long run, is it really doing anyone a service to pretend that there is a "one step" answer that will work, when evidence indicates -- over and over -- that it isn't one factor but many that result in this kind of evil and the resulting suffering?
As the mother of five-year-old twins in a small town not too far from New York city, yesterday's events in Newtown hit close to home -- literally and figuratively. It's hard to imagine the depths of shock, sorrow and anguish rippling throughout our community in the wake of yesterday's hideous crime.
It is a terrible, terrible thing to be reminded, once again, of how powerful, how senseless and how ugly the face of evil can seem. It is terrible even to have to acknowledge that such evil exists in the world. But it does, and there's no use in hiding from from that fact. We saw it in Newtown, and then its insidious ripple spreaded west to the haven of our house, where our little ones were full of questions and concern (I told them myself because they will be at school on Monday with children who have older siblings -- best to hear it from me, I thought).
They say that when you become a mother, your heart lives outside your chest. It's so true. It's impossible to fathom the grief and heartbreak of the parents in Newtown. It's sickening even to try.
In the aftermath, it was helpful to receive emails of concern and support from the twins' school and from our church (our rector wrote he was actually with the priest of a Newtown church just day before yesterday). It was touching to hear from so many friends from our former home in California, just checking in to make sure we weren't affected. How comforting it is to know that, even amid such horror and pain, there's so much love in the world.
It was less helpful, on the radio, to hear Governor Daniel Malloy giving shout-outs to the first and second selectmen of Newtown for arriving on the scene; this isn't a chamber of commerce event, for heaven's sake. Nor, sadly, was the President able to rise to the occasion. I sat in my car outside the grocery store listening to him on the radio. For a few brief moments, it seemed as though President Obama, uncharacteristically moved to an emotional display, might actually help unite grieving Americans -- transcending ideology and party. How disappointing that, during his otherwise moving remarks, he more characteristically decided not to let the crisis go to waste, calling for "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this." That was a signal for the political vultures to move in, and it wasn't long before Jerrold Nadler was advising the President to "exploit" the tragedy.
I love politics, but listening to some try to turn dead kindergartners into a means to the end of advancing a political agenda -- before the facts even were fully in -- helps me understand why so many (women, especially) hate politics. How indecent to be trying to profit in any way from a horror like this before 24 hours had even elapsed. Who are such people?
Of course, there's something reassuring about calling for government action in the wake of a crime like this; it helps lull us into the comfortable fantasy that, under the right conditions, horror and suffering can somehow be averted. But like water, committed evil will always find the path of least resistance; someone as depraved and malignant as Adam Lanza could have constructed a bomb or driven a car through the playground during recess. That's the really frightening part -- the idea that ultimately, we cannot completely protect even those we love best from someone who is determined to harm them.
In the end, like all of life, parenting is an act of profound faith. On Monday, I will take my twins back to school, and I will leave them there -- powerfully reminded that there's always a chance, every time we say good-bye, that I might not see them ever again.
The only comfort I can take is in the sure knowledge that the twins don't truly belong to me or my husband, anyway -- they are gifts of God's, and He loves them more deeply, knowledgeably and powerfully than I ever could. And I know that whatever happens, He is with them, even unto the end of the world, because He said so and His word is good.
Yesterday was a dark chapter in the sad story of a fallen world. But even through our heartbreak, we know that love, and unselfishness, and courage and hope persist. And through our faith, we know how the story ultimately ends.
God bless the grieving people of Newtown -- and America.
Peggy Noonan argues that now is a time for Republicans to come up with new ideas -- not just new messaging, but new ideas. So let's try it (feel free to contribute in the comments!).
1. Breaking up the "too big to fail" banks;
2. Doing away with the carried interest deduction.
In a powerful piece yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson made some excellent suggestions, too (some presumably with tongue in cheek), but among them are:
1. Those who leave government and immediately make $1 million or more pay 50% in income taxes;
2. End state subsidies and tax breaks for film and TV production.
To these suggestions, I'd add the following:
1. Disbanding the public employee unions, which artificially inflate government worker wages relative to the private sector, and end up costing taxpayers more;
2. Finding constitutional ways to limit the power of government (not private sector) unions to contribute to political campaigns (thereby reducing the cycle of corruption in which government unions simply buy state & local government seats for those willing to vote them ever-bigger benefits, as they have in California).
3. Using government money for more gas and oil exploration on public land, rather than to subsidize "green" boondoggles;
4. Supporting innovative plans to reduce the cost of tuition at public and private universities -- like Rick Perry's $10,000 college education plan -- so that students can get the skills they need to succeed without being burdened with crushing debt, and so taxpayers are no longer subsidizing sky-high loans that have allowed costs to soar.
Before Democrats start to re-write history and play the race card for their own personal political gain, let's just be clear: It was the left -- not the right -- that took Susan Rice out.
Certainly, Republicans like John McCain and Susan Collins had issues with Rice, and made that clear (although McCain also "softened" his opposition). But is there any thinking person out there who believes the Obama administration would have accepted her withdrawal if opposition to her could have been portrayed as some kind of right wing "dog whistle"? Please.
What ultimately did Rice in was criticism from the likes of Maureen Dowd (twice -- here and here) and Dana Milbank and Lloyd Grove and in the Atlantic magazine(both here and here) and in Foreign Policy even in a piece on the hallowed (to liberals) op/ed page of the New York Times. Hillary Clinton let her opposition to Rice be known. Those are the kind of opponents that a Democrat nominee simply cannot overcome -- not a couple of Republican senators when the administation's customary M.O. is simply to attribute everything to race and gender.
Note also that the Republican opposition was based specifically on Rice's misleading statements in the wake of Benghazi. It was her critics on the left, in contrast, who highlighted gauzier, more personal issues, characterizing Rice as someone afflicted with a supposed "personality disorder" (Grove), who is "ill-equipped to be the nation's top diplomat" because of her "shoot-first tendency" and "pugilism" (Milbank), with a "bull-in-the-china-shop reputation" (Dowd).
The effort to pin the race/gender card on the GOP had already begun, with Ben Smith writing about why the Repubilican "war"on Susan Rice held political risk, and after her withdrawal, the predictable Andrea Mitchell (below) pulling out the stops:
So again, before Obama sycophants try to turn Rice withdrawal lemons into racist-sexist-GOP lemonade, let's be clear for the record: It wasn't the Republicans who forced Rice to back out.
No conservative should really welcome tax increases of any kind. But if there is one for which we should really hold the line, it's the charitable deduction. It's not surprising that the Obama administration would want to do away with it; charities are one of the most important ways that a society can take care of itself -- and its poor and needy -- without relying on government.
Lessen charities' funding means reducing their reach and power. Doing that through effectively increasing taxes -- that is, the state taking more instead -- is helping President Obama put the government at the center of every American's life, especially for those in need.
No doubt many of "the rich" (and Americans generally) take larger deductions on their mortgages and/or state income taxes (especially those in blue states). Pure self-interest would require arguing in favor of those deductions rather than charitable ones. But the need to preserve America as a place where there are plenty of healthy institutions -- where government isn't the only powerful force -- requires putting preservation of the charitable deduction front and center.
The linked piece indicates that the administration is trying to pressure non-profits behind the scenes into supporting tax increases on "the rich." Those non-profits should realize that by playing along with Obama's plan, they are setting themselves up to be next on the chopping block -- and conservatives should remember (as they have with groups like AARP) which groups allow themselves to be used as hte pawns of the president.
FINALLY, the GOP begins to communicate! If they can keep this up and get this out, the GOP won't have to cave. In graph form, courtesy of a tweet from Paul Ryan: