21 April 2009

Random musings from the Commish

One of the wonderful things about maintaining a blog with a centrist bent is that there rarely is a lack of things to complain about.

I was not thrilled to see President Obama paying a visit to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but I won't go as far as Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, et al., to say that it was patently un-American to do so. Chavez does not support al Qaeda or provide them safe harbor. He is simply a socialist who, especially during the Bush years, peppered his speeches with anti-American rhetoric. It is very clear that whatever justification the president proffered for his visit is ridiculous and stupid -- there is clearly no compelling reason to visit with the man, and for that reason, if I were president, I would not have paid Mr. Chavez a visit. A meeting simply for the sake of having a meeting and a photo-op is unproductive. But to suggest that meeting him somehow threatens national security is absurd. 

If the president is going to pick a country with which diplomatic relations should be opened, it should be Syria. Yes, Boy Assad finances Hezbollah, and is an enemy of Israel, but he is a key pawn on the world stage because Syria remains Iran's lone ally. Reopening diplomatic relations could potentially lead to the isolation of Iran and cause Syria to move away from the financing of radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah. The reason for this is because Assad fancies himself as progressive and western, and by all accounts, views his relationship with western Europe as more important than that with Ahmadenijhad. If President Obama wishes to do something really outside the box, instead of simply capitulating to the workers-of-the-world-unite wing of his party by visiting Hugo Chavez, he'd pay a visit to Damascus. In terms of state leaders, Ahmadenijhad is the most clear and present danger to the United States. Isolating him is imperative, and by any means necessary.

I have two thoughts on the tea party protests of April 15:

First, the premise of these protests is ridiculous. For eight years, a Republican president cut taxes and raised spending, blowing through an enormous budget surplus he inherited, causing the national debt to skyrocket. Non-defense discretionary spending, which rose an average of 3 percent every year under President Clinton, rose nearly 10 percent every year under President Bush. In 2008, the Bush administration shoved through two separate financial bailouts, one of them unilaterally after Congress voted it down. Every economic indicator is worse now than it was eight years ago. This happened under a Republican president. And now conservatives have the audacity to protest the "tax and spend" policies of a Democratic president, all of a sudden claiming that enough is enough? It's insane. Just insane. If Bush was still in office, they'd still be cheering wildly as they followed him over a cliff. These people are unbelievable. 

(Check out this random collection of signs photographed at various tea parties across the country, and try to gauge the level of intelligence.)

Second, however, much of the media coverage of the protests was despicable. On Countdown with Keith Olbermann, left-wing moonbat Janeane Garafaolo opined that these protests were simply borne out of hatred of a black president. Her claim went unchallenged. I watched coverage on CNN and MSNBC, and read reports in various mainstream media outlets, and it's safe to say that journalistic integrity has gone the way of the dinosaur. As a journalist, your job is to afford the subjects of your reporting a certain measure of respect. If you can't put aside your personal political predilections for a couple of hours, you're in the wrong field. 

I am with Sen. McCain on the issue of the release of the interrogation memos. Even if you support the president's decision to close Guantanamo Bay and bring our interrogation policies into line with the Geneva conventions, let's move forward. Grandstanding and railing against the Bush administration is just another example of the Obama administration childishly pointing the finger at someone else. 

On Friday, I walked to the Starbucks a few blocks from my office, and while waiting for my drink, I picked up the New York Times. On the front page was a "news story" about the interrogation memos. The headline called these techniques "harsh," and the lede called them "brutal." What were these techniques, you ask? Sleep deprivation. Placing detainees in cramped quarters. Forced nudity. Dousing detainees with water. And my favorite: Putting insects in their cells to "exploit their fears." Give. Me. A. Break. Once again, journalistic integrity no longer exists. Could Times reporters Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane perhaps put aside their biases just for the purposes of this assignment? Could the Times editors at least pretend to have journalistic integrity, instead of allowing their reporters to preach from the front page? I will cheer the day the Old Gray Hag shutters its doors. 

Dick Cheney should take the lead from President Bush and Secretary Rice and gracefully ride into the sunset. Along with Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney was one of the chief architects of the "preemption" doctrine that led to a war in which we sustained thousands more casualties than necessary. Unlike past Republican leaders like Henry Kissinger and James Baker III, Mr. Cheney has very little foreign policy capital left to use up. And Mr. Cheney's rhetoric drags down the rest of the party, as escaping his large shadow becomes even more difficult. It's time to move on, sir. You have had your chance to lead.


Gilbert said...

"Dick Cheney should take the lead from President Bush and Secretary Rice and gracefully ride into the sunset."

Maybe she's staying away from spewing a bunch of baloney that incites anger like Cheney, but, Condi hasn't ridden into the sunset. If she had her say she'd be dissecting the Ravens' defensive schemes and interviewing Clemens about his network of apartments across North America to rendezvous with his cadre of ladyfriends:


John Burke said...

Good points all. One relatively minor point of disagreement: we centrists shouldn't fall into the trap of dismissing the "tea parties" or more generally conservative discomfort with Obama spending either because Bush did a lot of intemperate spending or because some people who attend open rallies carry obnoxious signs.

Both the left and the right engage in instant blame shifting whenever any issue comes up that's hard to make a direct case (e.g., "How can you complain about Obama when Bush did X,Y,Z"). Better to stick to the merits of the case.

As for creepy people and signs at demos, there has never been an anti-war or other more or less liberal protest of any size where whacko leftists don't show up to sell The Workers World and similar papers and flaunt their own signs emblazoned with hammers and sickles and the names of various sectarian left-wing "parties." On the whole, people don't focus on these radicals; no need to dismiss the 25 or 30% of Americans who are rock-ribbed conservatives because they have a dew whackos among them too.

Great blog!

Line Judge #2 said...

Here's the problem with the Commish's analysis: Apparently if you don't protest something initially, you forgo your ability to protest it at a later time AND any later protest is irrational. Or as the Commish put it: the premise becomes ridiculous.

The Commish's reasoning goes like this: Conservatives didn't protest Bush spending but are protesting Obama's spending. This obvious hypocrisy renders the "premise [of the protests] ridiculous." That is what in law school is called a non-sequitur. The Commish should be familiar with not only the term, but why non-sequitur reasoning results in a flawed argument.

Maybe conservatives didn't protest Bush's spending because Bush was trading on the rest of his conservative agenda. Maybe conservatives didn't protest Bush's spending because they think spending done by a conservative is OK, whereas spending done by a liberal is not OK. Maybe conservatives didn't protest Bush's spending because Bush is white. (All conservatives are racist, right?) Maybe conservatives didn't protest Bush's spending because they liked Bush's choice of color of necktie.

The reason there were less protests of Bush's spending and are more protests of Obama's IS IRRELEVANT to the debate as to whether the spending is prudent.

If you want to debate WHY protesters who didn't protest Bush's spending are now protesting Obama's spending - Have that discussion, but don't confuse the issue of the reasons for the differential treatment of Bush and Obama spending with the MERITS of the arguments for and against the spending.

Commish: If you think the protesters are hypocritical, fine. You are likely correct. But it is you that is irrational when you conclude that the protester's apparent hypocrisy means that their opposition to spending is necessarily insane.

In fact, whether anyone, at any time and for any reason protests government spending, is completely IRRELEVANT to whether the spending is justified on its merits.

Give me a break Commish. We have enough people out there adding obviously flawed reasoning to debates over important issues. Don't join the club.

The Commissioner said...

I generally try to leave reader comments alone, but I wanted to quickly clarify. The "premise" to which I referred is not that the new administration spends too much (it clearly does), but rather that the policies of Barack Obama are so much worse than those of George Bush, that protests are in order.

My point clearly was that conservative reaction to the president's policies is completely hypocritical. I of course agree that taxes are too high and that the administration's bailout plan was excessive; hence, one of the reasons I vehemently opposed Obama in the first place.

And yes, I do believe that many of these protesters are blinded by some sort of hyperpartisan stupor that clouds their judgment. It's the same idiocy that leads people to drool over Gov. Palin and pay $1,000 a plate to listen to Joe the Plumber speak.

Line Judge #2 said...

I must be an idiot, because the Commish's point was "clearly" something other than how I interpreted it.

So addressing what was so clearly the Commish's point:

[now] the Commish's reasoning goes like this: Bush spending and Obama spending is equally bad. Ergo, protesting Obama's spending is "ridiculous", "insane" and "unbelievable". Again, non-sequitur. (see my previous post).

If both president's spending is bad (as the Commish readily agrees it is/was) then, contrary to the Commish's post, there IS A GOOD REASON for the tea protests. Thus, characterizing the protest premises as "ridiculous" is incorrect.

So, we are left with:
Protests = Hypocritical AND
Protests = With Merit

Whether the Commish thinks the protests were ridiculous and insane because their premises was Bush was good while Obama is bad, or their premises was Bush & Obama are both bad, his view in no way supports the conclusion that the premise of the protests was ridiculous and insane.

The fact that protesters protested Obama and not Bush was ridiculous and insane. But that doesn't mean the premise of the protests have no merit.