Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Courant Endorsement of Obama and Comments

A few comments on the Hartford Courant’s endorsement of Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama:

“Today we endorse a second Democrat, Sen. Barack Obama, with the hope that if elected, he governs from the middle as Mr. Clinton did.”

Hope must be based on something more firm than pious wishes, and there is no reason to suppose that, on important matters, Obama will govern from the middle. When has Obama ever crossed the liberals in his own party? Answer: never. Just as Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain is not President George Bush, so Obama is not former President Bill Clinton. During the primaries, Sen. Hillary Clinton thought she saw some differences between the two, and so did the Courant, which endorsed Mrs. Clinton as the presidential nominee of her party.

“Mr. Obama must resist serving only his party's interests and instead serve the greater interests of a worried nation.”

Oh? Must he indeed? If the Democrats garner enough seats to establish a veto-proof congress, why shouldn’t Obama serve his party’s interest, especially if he believes they are congruent with national and even global interests?

“America is starved for a leader who can restore pride and once again make the nation a beacon for the world, or in the words of Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop in 1630, ‘a city on a hill — with the eyes of all people upon us.’”

The line from Winthrop, wretched out of context, is often quoted but little understood. The full quote reads: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken… we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God… We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a-going.” Winthrop was a Puritan, rather fussy in his moral habits, a strict constructionist of scripture and an unapologetic theist. It is difficult, even at this remove, imagining him favoring gay marriage, partial birth abortion or the black power theology of the Rev, Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s chosen pastor for many years.

“Mr. Obama has the right qualities of leadership, the elevating, can-do message that ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for’ and the calm temperament for these anxious times.”

Perhaps the sharpest comment concerning Obama’s “We are the ones…” statement is to be found in the most recent issue of National Review. Other commentators think it highly narssisistic and bristling with hubris. Michael Knox Beran writes concerning a similar sentiment ("As long as iI live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible") that "The worthiness of the conviction is tempered by its narcissim. It is as though Perricles, in his funeral oration, offered as proof of the greatness of Athens the fact that it had made his own story possible." Other than soaring rhetoric, what are those qualities of leadership that have sent a tingle up the legs of the Courant’s editorial board? Obama’s sole executive experience has been working with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayres on the Annenberg Challenge.

“Mr. Obama is a transformative figure, as Mr. Powell has said. He would be the first African American president if elected.”

The bloody pages of history are full of transformative figures, some of whom – Hitler, Stalin, Ghengis Kahn, Bill Ayres, not an exhaustive list -- the editorial page editors of the Courant would not wish to associate with. But when someone tells the American public that a president will be “transformative,” they naturally wish to know what is being transformed into what.

“The times cry out for a leader of Mr. Obama's mettle. Americans have suffered through years of losses, from the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, through the more than 4,000 American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tens of thousands wounded. More than a million people have lost their homes through foreclosure. Economists are warning that the United States is facing the gravest economic threat since the Great Depression.”

The 9/11 losses, occurred during the second bombing of the World Trade Center towers in New York, are irrecoverable. The troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan died in the service of their country. Early in his presidency, George Bush and his associates mismanaged the war; any unnecessary deaths should weigh heavily on their consciences. Two years ago, the Bush administration adopted measures long before supported by Republican nominee for President Sen. John McCain. Since adopting those measures, al-Qaeda in Iraq has been driven from the country; the Iraqi army, trained by the American military, has been successful in pacifying provinces once controlled by terrorists; and Iraqi citizens and tribal leaders have turned against the terrorists. If Obama’s council had been followed more than two years ago and American troops had been withdrawn from the field of battle, Iraq right now would resemble Mogadishu, in the opinion of Christopher Hitchens, a hawkish commentator who, along with his friend Christopher Buckley, recently endorsed the candidacy of Obama. Under such circumstances, the troops who had died in Iraq all would have died in vain. This is not the way troops are honored. It is not the way wars are won. The serious economic threats now plaguing the country would become considerably graver if, during a recession, a president and a veto-proof congress were to punish entrepreneurial capital by taxing it or moving capital from business developers to tax consumers, which is what Obama is proposing. That way will deepen and prolong the recession. It will also assure more foreclosures because, believe it or not, mortgage payments are drawn from pay checks; paychecks are drawn from the profits of employers; and if you tax profits, paychecks diminish in proportion to the diminishment of jobs. It’s all wondrously connected.

The soundest brief commentary on Obama’s tax plans is to be found, as usual, in the Wall street Journal. According to the WSJ, Obama has not proposed tax cuts but tax credits, not the same thing: “Mr. Obama would roll back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two brackets, raising the top two marginal rates of income tax to 36% and 39.6% from 33% and 35%. The 33% rate begins to hit this year at incomes of $164,550 for an individual and $200,300 for joint filers. Mr. Obama claims no "working families" earning less than $250,000 would pay more in taxes, but that's because he defines income more broadly than the taxable income line on the IRS form. If you're an individual with taxable income of $164,550, you will pay more taxes.

"The Democrat would also reinstate the phaseout of the personal exemptions and itemized deductions for married couples making more than $250,000 a year. Those phaseouts would raise the top marginal tax rate for millions of taxpayers by another 1.5 percentage points.”

"Most worrisome, however, is Mr. McCain's choice of a running mate, Sarah Palin, who is not yet ready for prime time. With so many capable people to choose from, Mr. McCain's pick of a governor with such a thin resume was disappointing."

But Palin’s executive experience, however thin, is thicker than Obama’s. To repeat, Obama’s only executive experience was acquired as the distributor of grant money in connection with the Annenberg Challenge.

“It's a wonder how Mr. McCain can make his Democratic rival out to be too green to be commander-in-chief when his Republican running mate is so vulnerable on that point.”

But compared to McCain’s breath of experience, Obama is green. The Courant and other commentators sometime forget that the presidential candidates in the race are Obama, whose executive experience is thinner than that of Palin, and McCain. Lofty rhetoric aside, Bush, the object of much of Obama’s attacks, will not be running for president next term.

“If he uses his tremendous talents wisely, he offers the best hope to make America once again, in the eyes of the world, that ‘city on a hill.’”

If…

And if I had two pieces of bread, I’d have a baloney sandwich – if I had baloney.

If…
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