16 September 2009

Required reading: Commish's swearing-in edition

Tomorrow, I will be sworn in as a full-fledged attorney at law in Jefferson City, the town that incomprehensibly happens to be the capital of Missouri.

This means that if you're located in or around the St. Louis area and need an attorney, ours is the firm you want. Of course, the shroud of secrecy around "the Commish" means that my identity is never divulged on this site. However, you can leave a post in the comments section at any time with your e-mail address, and I'd be glad to follow up with you. Our firm does mostly civil litigation, but we're pretty close to what you'd classify as a full-service operation.

Now, for some of the web's more interesting reading:

The best take on 9/11, eight years later, is from Andrew Sullivan, who is quickly becoming one of our favorites.

The RCP blog thinks that Sen. Dodd's re-election bid remains on thin ice, despite a recent poll to the contrary.

More election trouble for the Dems?

Charlie Cook says they're "bleeding independents."

Jeremy Lott from Politico thinks, and I quote, President Obama is "failing miserably."

The Obama White House made even more exceptions to their ultra-stringent, transparent ethics standards? I don't believe it!

Philip K. Howard from The Atlantic gives an informative overview of potential medical malpractice reforms. Interestingly, tort reform is virtually the only Republican idea the president has culled thus far as part of his health care package, and it's the plank of the GOP platform that I find to be the most asinine. I'll freely admit my bias against tort reform as a trial lawyer. However, my thoughts on tort reform can be found here. Facts are stubborn things.

Justin Gardner of the invaluable Donklephant examines the world of rescissions.

Our friend John Burke at The Purple Center has a good take on Congressman Wilson's idiotic outburst last week during the president's speech. My thought on Rep. Wilson is this: Sure, many liberals called President Bush a liar at almost every turn. But there's something different about a presidential address to a joint session of Congress, and an elected official's conduct during such a time. Regardless of your feelings on the president, Wilson's outburst was ugly and quite frankly, unbecoming of an elected official. Imagine your outrage, conservatives, if Charlie Rangel had done that circa 2006.

Two good takes on the "Obama wants to brainwash our children" issue: Pat Buchanan and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bill McClellan.

Sullivan, again, on the conservative movement that effectively excommunicated him.

Michael Moore says he might quit documentaries. Perhaps he should also quit triple cheeseburgers and morbid obesity.

14 September 2009

From the WTF department

I'd like to offer a hearty "attaboy" to the members of the lunatic fringe who took to the streets on September 12.

By the way, for those of you interested in cementing the GOP as a permanent, irrelevant minority, dressing your kids up like this is a great start.

Andrew Sullivan has his take here. I agree with 90% of it.

I had similar thoughts in April during the advent of the tea party protests.

I don't disagree with the idea that the current administration spends too much and is unconcerned with the deficit. Unless Sarah Palin inexplicably wins the Republican nomination, I will not be voting to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012.

But how quickly we forget about the incompetent, big-government "compassionate conservatism" nonsense peddled by Bush & Co. for eight years that is largely responsible for the Obama administration sweeping into power in the first place. This was an administration that immediately squandered a $200 billion budget surplus, doubled the national debt in just eight years and at virtually every corner, attempted to expand the size and scope of the federal government (Medicare Part D, the TARP bailout, every single possible issue concerning civil liberties, etc.). Outside of his conduct of the war in Afghanistan, I cannot think of one single measure that should indicate to anyone -- Republican, Democrat or independent -- that George W. Bush was an effective president. Sorry.

Here's why that's relevant. Bush left office with an approval rating right at 30 percent. However, his favorables among self-identified Republicans remained in the 70s. I'd bet the farm that the vast, vast majority of those marching would be more than happy to whoop and holler and tell you how much they miss the free-spending Dubya. As Sullivan noted, "limited government" appears to be quite an elastic idea.

Look. I don't care for Obama, either. I have written ad nauseum about why his "changenhope" banter was nothing more than a dog and pony show, and how he has been intellectually lazy (at best) at almost every turn in addressing critics of his policies.

However, I can't take these protesters seriously. These marches are not borne out of principle or logic, but rather out of the same sort of hyperpartisanship that has driven intellectual discourse in this country to the brink of extinction.

11 September 2009

Eight years on

Even though I have plenty to say about the health care debate, the president's speech and the idiotic outburst by Congressman Wilson, it seems much less important today than it did last night.

Eight years is a long time. For some perspective, the immeasurable Mark Steyn has must-reads here and here.

I'd also direct you to Charles Krauthammer's outstanding piece from September 12, 2001.

And the president had a well-articulated op-ed in the New York Daily News this morning.

We can start the bickering and jousting again tomorrow. Just not today.

08 September 2009

Our post-partisan healer

In a speech today, President Obama demanded that the health care debate end immediately.

It's kind of tough to kill the national discourse on a topic when you are scheduled to deliver a primetime address to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night, Mr. President.

The link above tells you everything you need to know.

First, it's impossible for the debate to end, if for no other reason than because the president still hasn't actually put forth any sort of concrete proposal yet. If he supports the House liberals' bill that has been skewered over and over, he should say so. Otherwise, he should actually tell the American people what this vague notion of "health care reform" entails.

I honestly don't get it.

By the way, two speakers who took the stage before the president today called for a public option.

Second, the reason the president wants to kill the debate is because he is simply unable to face critics head-on. As we noted here, his speeches are populated with straw men, as he ascribes to all opponents the characteristics and beliefs of the fringe right. In reality, 84% of Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive, and they are rightfully skeptical of the Pelosi-Reid far-left manifesto. The opposition to the liberal-led attempted overhaul of the health care system is not just from the fringe, and the president is either intentionally ignoring that in his speeches, or is patently stupid.

Is this really transparency? Is this really change we can believe in? Is this really a post-partisan utopia becoming self-evident?

Said Charles Krauthammer:

"For a man who only recently bred a cult, ordinariness is a great burden, and for his acolytes, a crushing disappointment. Obama has become a politician like others. And like other flailing presidents, he will try to salvage a cherished reform -- and his own standing -- with yet another primetime speech.

"But for the first time since election night in Grant Park, he will appear in the most unfamiliar of guises -- a mere mortal, a treacherous transformation to which a man of Obama's supreme self-regard may never adapt."

04 September 2009

Bipartisan health care reform

Tennessee's Bob Corker is quickly becoming one of my favorite senators.

Based on comments by Sen. Corker (see link), Sen. McCain on the Tonight Show a few nights back, as well as comments from several moderate Democrats, I think 70% of Americans could get behind a bill that accomplished the following things:
  • Increases portability of coverage -- e.g., if you lose your job, you still have the option to pay your premiums and continue your coverage
  • Allows people to go across state lines to get the health care of their choice
  • Limits the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions (Keith Olbermann, who I normally can't stand, described this phenomenon as "discriminating against the sick." I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's interesting)
  • Incentivizes the purchase of health insurance via tax credits
  • Encourages the creation of a special risk pool for people with serious illnesses
What's that, you say? You want a "public option"? It's called Medicaid.

The problem is, as noted here, it's up to the president and his liberal allies to actually demonstrate a willingness to compromise. Not surprisingly, "compromise" isn't a word that's used much in the Obama White House.

Your move, Mr. President.

02 September 2009

Slip sliding away

A few weeks ago, I termed Barack Obama a "50 percent president."

The obvious implication of those remarks was that the Changemaker has already alienated conservatives with his outlandish spending and backward-looking attacks on the Bush administration, and has turned off moderates with his insistence on governing largely from the hard left.

I genuinely believe what was unthinkable even four months ago: If he continues down this path, Barack Obama will be a one-term president. And I believe we will be able to point to the ongoing health care debacle as the turning point.

The Democrats could actually learn quite a bit by listening to Chris Matthews. Striking a populist tone, Matthews has argued repeatedly for increased portability of coverage as well as limits on insurance companies' ability to deny coverage to individuals based on pre-existing conditions. These are two big issues that virtually no one can deny are problems with the current system. Whether they should be addressed government regulation is another matter, but to argue that the current system affords "freedom" to choose is a misnomer. Matthews hasn't been a proponent of a single-payer system or even a public option, but rather, has argued that the system we have is only moderately flawed and could be cured by such incremental reforms.

I personally think Matthews is partially right, and it would behoove Obama to pay attention to what moderate Democrats like Matthews, Max Baucus and Kent Conrad are saying. This type of argument, I believe, would be supported by a majority of Americans.

It's no secret that the president's job approval numbers have been in the midst of a steady decline. Real Clear Politics has a handy page, found here, that tracks data published by most of the major polling organizations. As noted by us previously, the president took office eight and a half months ago with approval ratings in the 70s and unfavorable ratings in the high teens.

One poll not cited by RCP (which notably would have dragged the president's aggregate approval rating even lower) was Zogby's from August 31, found here. The veteran Zogby's cadre puts Obama's approval rating at 42. Forty-two! Additionally, Zogby isn't the only high-profile pollster to find Obama's approval ratings in the 40s -- Scott Rasmussen puts the number at 46.

The key to Obama's 2008 electoral victory was not the liberal outpouring of support on his behalf, but rather the fact that, according to Gallup, he won 60 percent of the self-described "centrist" vote.

By contrast, Zogby's poll, cited above, found that just 37 percent of independents approve of the job he is doing.

That is an astounding swing, and it's clear that the president's 20-point drop in his approval rating since inauguration day is due in large part to the views of these independents.

How many times have we argued on this site that winning the center is vital? During the general election, Obama out-centered perhaps the preeminent centrist politician in the country. He argued for middle-class tax cuts, reducing the deficit, adding troops to the fight in Afghanistan, promised transparency in government and only offered vagueries about his health care plans. Barack Obama ran as a moderate, plain and simple. Almost immediately upon his inauguration, he largely abandoned the vital center.

The president still has time to swat House liberals out of the way and formulate a real, adult solution to the country's health care issues that can attract a majority of Americans. But by offering virtually no specifics as to what his plan might include, letting House Democrats write the bill, and attacking anyone -- left, center or right -- who dared to criticize the package, the president has dug himself an enormous hole.

Many liberals, when confronted with the issue of the president's declining poll numbers, try to compare his slide to that of George W. Bush or, more favorably, Bill Clinton.

However, Clinton and Obama are as different as night and day.

Bill Clinton saved his presidency after the 1994 congressional elections swept the GOP into power. By regrouping and governing from the center, Clinton redeemed himself, passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, putting Al Gore in charge of slashing wasteful bureaucratic spending, passing a massive overhaul of the welfare system, and balancing the budget in 1997.

Obama's problem is that he is no Clinton. Clinton came to office in 1993 with a record of working across the aisle in a reliably conservative state. As noted by both Dick Morris and David Gergen, Clinton came to office intent on governing from the center, and became rattled when the Democratic leadership in the Senate gave him stern warnings about becoming friendly with congressional Republicans. Clinton was, in many ways, a different kind of Democrat. And Barack Obama is nothing if not a conventional liberal in every sense of the word.

If the president wants to actually save his presidency before it has barely gotten off the ground, he must demonstrate an ability to work across the aisle and, yes, include conservatives and moderates in the decision-making process.

Unfortunately for liberals, this is something their man has done precious little of during his remarkably unremarkable career.

The torture party?

Andrew Sullivan has a thought-provoking, albeit very hard-hitting and somewhat disagreeable, post here. Regardless of whether you agree with his policy positions, Sullivan is unquestionably one of the best bloggers on the internet, uses his intelligence like a buzzsaw and often is impossible to peg politically.

At the risk of shamelessly self-promoting myself a la The Other McCain, I wrote here that it is disingenuous for Dick Cheney or any other conservative leader to frame the entire torture debate around the ticking time-bomb scenario. If you think this is a simple debate, you need to read more. What Cheney and the likes of Bill Kristol have argued for is effectively a carte blanche on executive branch discretion on national security matters. I have read the original torture memo by Bush administration attorney John Yoo and have examined the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which President Reagan made the U.S. a party to in 1987.

I've also read the Federalist Papers and am a Burkeian. And the notion that any governmental official -- whether it is the Bush administration asking for a blank check and a blind eye to stamp out what they believe to be tyranny around the world, or the Obama administration asking to spend us into oblivion in order to achieve the increasingly vague notion of "health care reform," I'm not willing to buy what anyone is selling.

It's disappointing to me that the bottom layer of the right-wing noise machine -- Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, et al. -- automatically pegs any opponent of "enhanced interrogation techniques" as somehow un-American, or an ACLU ally who is ambivalent about protecting the homeland. That's wrong. Do you really think President Obama, Vice President Biden or Gen. Jim Jones, Obama's national security advisor, wishes to see a repeat of 9/11? If you do, I'd ask that you find the nearest city bus and jump in front of it.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. I blast the present administration more than I did the prior one. Yet I can't bring myself to agree with Dick Cheney. There's a reason for this.

The movement which Cheney leads has one thing in common with the Obama administration: It's intellectually lazy. As I noted on May 19, I want Cheney to tell me, "We tried X, and it didn't work; so we tried Y, and we got valuable information." That hasn't been Cheney's argument (or, for that matter, Cheney's disciples on the far right who still afford the former vice president the same slobbery adoration that spongy-kneed liberals reserve for President Obama). His point has simply been to waive the ticking time bomb scenario around as a magic wand and demand that the administration's critics leave him alone, regardless of the factual circumstances presented.

Much like the health care debate we wrote about here, the emptiest cans have made the most noise in the torture debate. In spite of Cheney's intellectual laziness, the far left, led by the ACLU, has been equally if not more egregious.

The ACLU demanded that the Justice Department release classified photographs of the Bush administration's enhanced interrogation policy in action. The organization claimed that the American people deserved to see the alleged abuses inflicted on terror suspects. In reality, it was a way to score some cheap political points with their benefactors and make a scene.

What has been most disappointing to me has been the president's attitude, approving the appointment of a special investigator to go after the Bush administration, after the torture debate has raged on for more than a year. Again, the president in this regard -- who, very quietly, has moved very little from the policies of the Bush administration that he so vociferously opposed during the general election -- is intellectually dishonest. He's attempting to score political points and distract the country from his own political comedy of errors. I have no other explanation when he has been in office now for eight months.

Additionally, while Cheney, et al. demand absolute discretion, the liberals at MoveOn.org and the Huffington Post demand that terror suspects be treated like they are on vacation. Waterboarding is torture. But loud music? Wall-sits? Sleep deprivation? Refusing to let prisoners read the Koran?


I genuinely would like to sit down with Keith Olbermann, Arianna Huffington or other harsh critics of enhanced interrogation and ask them to outline their own interrogation policy. Olbermann in particular expresses outrage -- outrage! -- anytime Cheney pops into the news. I slam Cheney because he uses tortured logic. But Olbermann slams Cheney because he genuinely seems to believe that the definition of "torture" is wide and sweeping. Additionally, and more notably, I've never once heard him articulate a sound, realistic interrogation policy that simultaneously ensures homeland security is protected and manages to keep the U.S. within the bounds of international law (and the governing international law can be found here).

At the most basic level, I genuinely doubt that the likes of Olbermann, et al. are able to formulate such an idea. It likely hasn't even crossed their minds.

As long as Cheney remains in the news, the likes of Limbaugh, et al. will continue to support him. The noise of the conservative talkers will inevitably rouse the loony left, and another food fight will be on yet again.

We've stated here before, many times, that much of our national discourse could not get much more embarrassing.

Where have the adults gone? The McCains, the Powells, the Liebermans and the Webbs have seen their voices drowned out by the inane shrill partisan drivel from either side.


I'm sick of all of you.