Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Julia, Meet Christie

Younger son last posted on the creepiness of the “Life of Julia,” a cartoon/PowerPoint currently featured on the Obama Campaign website which depicts the symbiotic relationship of Julia, Ms. Average Citizen, with her beneficent Federal Government. The presentation chronicles the reliance – almost exclusive -- of anonymous citizen Julia on her Government benefactors for encouragement, investment, education, retirement, and general subsistence.  The Life of Julia is apparently intended to remind the viewer of the extent of the modern welfare state in the perpetuation of our everyday lives, particularly for women, and presumably serves as a grim foretelling to these same single women of the goodies they will lose if Mitt Romney wins in November.  To those who view life as an adventure to be lived, consider the modern welfare state as bloated and self-serving, practice self-reliance and teach that noble trait to their children and families, the Life of Julia is both sad and pathetic.
I saw over the weekend (during college and professional football games, no less) the sequel to “Life of Julia”, and the latest contribution of the Obama Campaign.  The commercial features “Christie”, a pleasant looking, middle-class mom.  Christie describes her busy life, her responsibilities to her children, her struggles to pay her bills, do the laundry, feed her family, etc.  Like the character in Life of Julia, there is no male father or husband figure apparent in Christie’s life.  Christie laments that Mitt Romney only cares about rich people and corporations, and that if he is elected she could lose various tax benefits for her children’s college tuition, her child care, mortgages and so on (dubious claims, at best, since Romney has not outlined what tax reforms his administration would support).  Christie concludes that Mitt Romney would tell the middle class “Tough Luck” in deference to enhancing the life and fortunes of his cherished Daddy Warbucks Millionaires and Billionaires. 
Christie is Julia writ live, evolving from an anonymous stick figure to a suburban, single working class mom.  We are left to conclude that Christie, like Julia, is beholden to her Federal masters for her betterment and lo, her survival.  Both Christie and the Life of Julia are misleading and deceitful ads.  Democrats of course claim what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; that ask Bill Clinton: Romney’s ads about Obama’s Executive Order changing the work for welfare requirement are misleading and deceitful (they’re not; see attached explanation from Robert Rector, author of the welfare reform provisions in 1996); and if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. 
More important, the Christie and Julia spots highlight the fundamental difference between the Obama Campaign and the Romney Campaign, and our country’s futures under a second Obama Administration and a Romney Administration.  Voters need to ask themselves not which candidate they like better, who they would rather have a beer with, or who does a better job on late night TV shows.  Obama and Romney are seeking election as Commander in Chief, not Celebrity in Chief.  Rather, voters should ask themselves what kind of country do we want not just for the next four years, but what kind of country do we leave to our children and grandchildren? 
Obama campaigns on a model of ever-increasing involvement of the Federal Government in personal decisions about health care, child care, nutrition, education and education funding, retirement planning, etc.  This involvement minimizes (if not eliminates) the element of personal choice and necessarily requires a larger Federal bureaucracy and deeper, more complicated tax base to generate the revenues to support the ‘freebies’ and the bureaucracy to administer the distribution of the freebies.  It’s a model similar to what we presently see in many European social democracies.  By contrast, Romney campaigns on a model emphasizing the growth of small businesses, less Federal regulation, a simpler tax code, greater self-reliance (hence the 47% ‘gaffe’ which is actually a very accurate summation of the progressivity of the Federal income tax system), and the beginning of a return of personal choice in health care, education, retirement, and other areas of life.  This model can support the erosion of the Federal Leviathan or at the very least curb its Frankenstein-like growth. 
Of course there are other significant differences in the visions of the two candidates, in areas like military defense, social issues (abortion, mandatory recognition of gay marriages), foreign policy and so forth.  But the contrast highlighted by the plight of Julia and Christie presents the starkest difference in what we can expect from a second term of Obama and a first term of Romney-Ryan.
Early voting has begun in several states.  It’s time to choose.  But choose wisely.


Those who choose unwisely should expect no less a fate than this:


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Convention Wars, Episode III: Return of the Juliae

This is what President Obama thinks is a good life for women.
With all that has transpired in the so-called "Muslim world" since September 11th, it is hard to believe that the Democratic National Convention ended not too long ago. Obviously, the latter has more or less faded from the news cycle already. But before this blog begins to focus on the recent spate of embassy and consulate protests for which the United States government believes a single YouTube video is entirely responsible, this post will present our final thoughts on the DNC.

What fascinated me most about the Democratic National Convention is that its hosts undertook no efforts to hide the extent of their party's leftward tilt in recent years. Unlike the speakers at the Republican National Convention, whose tasks consisted almost entirely of "humanizing" Mitt Romney and convincing disaffected Obama voters that they are not obligated to vote for the president again, most of the speakers at the DNC tore straight into Romney from an undeniably leftist perspective. We have already assessed prominent speakers Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton. And though there were many other speech-givers at this convention who did not bother to dial back the partisanship--such as leaders of NARAL and Planned Parenthood, organizations that believe in unlimited, unrestricted access to abortion, an issue on which Americans are still at best divided--two of these have earned themselves a critique in the following paragraphs.

Let us begin with Julian Castro. Castro is the young Hispanic mayor of San Antonio. As such, he is, quite plainly, the Democratic answer to conservative superstar Marco Rubio, Florida's junior senator. But he is a bit more than that, in our reckoning. Near the end of The Truman Show, after Jim Carrey's simulated reality-trapped protagonist has broken up with the wife the producers of his life-cum-television-show have foisted upon him, he meets a new, attractive woman whom the same producers expect him simply to accept as his new spouse. This is Julian Castro, more or less--no matter what happens to Obama this November, Mr. Castro is likely the next great progressive hope. He has a lot of similarities with Obama circa 2004: young, non-white, "articulate" (as Joe Biden might say), Ivy League-educated, and with little but enough political experience. Castro's speech at the DNC was, therefore, probably intended to do for his political prospects what Obama's speech at the DNC in 2004 did for his own: that is, launch them sky-high. But there is one problem with this comparison: though it is hard to believe now, as Obama has revealed himself to be nothing more than a partisan Democrat, his 2004 convention speech was full of bipartisan overtures ("there is no Red America, there is no Blue America, there is only the United States of America!"), barely mentioning then-President Bush. Castro's speech, wrapped though it was in an only-in-America immigrant backstory, was anything but bipartisan. Still, Republicans ought to be on the lookout for Castro in the future, though Marco Rubio does set him off quite nicely...

And now, let us turn our gaze to Sandra Fluke, a 31-year-old graduate of Georgetown Law School, class of 2012. As of a few months ago, Ms Fluke was not even a blip on the national radar. And she would have remained that way, had Democrats not turned her into a national figure to promote the HHS's First Amendment-defying contraception mandate, a national figure, in turn, publicly attacked by Rush Limbaugh. Rush survived the resulting controversy, as is his wont, but apparently being insulted by Rush is now all one requires to become a star in today's Democratic Party. At least, that's what Sandra Fluke has been in the months since, having campaigned with the President before speaking the DNC. What is the message Ms Fluke promotes with her newfound fame, you ask? It is this: she wants Georgetown--once a proudly Catholic institution that now barely qualifies as such--to abandon whatever remains of its moral principles so as to pay for her birth control medication. This message is a completely logical outgrowth of a group called "Students for Reproductive Justice" of which Fluke was a member at Georgetown. It is also an affront to Catholicism, the First Amendment, sexual morality, personal responsibility, and limited government, and the idea of adulthood as the West has understood it for centuries--Mozart died at the age of 35, for example--among many other things. And yet there she was, speaking at the DNC, her fame derived almost entirely from siding with the Obama administration in deliberately discriminating against Catholic institutions and organizations. She is today's Democratic Party.

And yet there is even better representative of modern Democrats: Julia. You may have heard of her. A few months ago, when metaphorical armies were fighting the metaphorical "War on Women" with lots of metaphors, the Obama administration campaign published a slideshow on its website called "Life of Julia." It purported to show how the policies of President Obama shaped the life of a faceless, anonymous woman ("Julia") from birth, through childhood, through parenting a child conceived without a father, all the way to a peaceful retirement enabled by Social Security and Medicare. Conservatives immediately mocked the slideshow as ideologically inane propaganda--which it is--but, despite the mockery, the Obama campaign never removed the slideshow from its website. And recent statements by Obama ("you didn't build that!") and affiliated Democrats ("government is the only thing we all belong to") have shown why: Democrats believe firmly in the primacy of the state--above the individual, above the family, above the community. Allow National Review's Yuval Levin to explain:
This difference of opinion about mediating institutions is no trifling matter. It gets at a profound and fundamental difference between the Left and the Right. The Left tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it enables the application of technical knowledge that can make our lives better, and that this knowledge can overcome our biggest problems. This is the technocratic promise of progressivism. The Right tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it has evolved to channel deep social knowledge through free institutions — knowledge that often cannot be articulated in technical terms but is the most important knowledge we have. For the Left, therefore, the mediating institutions (and at times even our constitutional forms) are obstacles to the application of liberal knowledge. For the Right, the mediating institutions (and our constitutional forms) are the embodiment of liberal knowledge.
The Left’s disdain for civil society is thus driven above all not by a desire to empower the state without limit, but by a deeply held concern that the mediating institutions in society — emphatically including the family, the church, and private enterprise — are instruments of prejudice, selfishness, backwardness, and resistance to change, and that in order to establish our national life on more rational grounds, the government needs to weaken and counteract them. The Right’s high regard for civil society, meanwhile, is driven above all not by a disdain for government but by a deeply held belief in the importance of our diverse and evolved societal forms, without which we could not hope to secure our liberty. Conservatives seek mechanisms and institutions to bring implicit social knowledge to bear on our troubles, while progressives seek the authority and power to bring explicit technical knowledge to bear on them.
Today's Democratic Party, in short, wants to "hollow out" the space between the individual and the state, or at least to co-opt the things--family, community, religion--that stand in between. It is the Party of Julia.

Let us close with a quick look at this article from the satirical newspaper "The Onion":
My fellow Americans and godless infidels, I command you to join me as we cast an endless pall of far-left evil across the hills and valleys of our nation!” Obama bellowed from the stage, as thousands in attendance moaned in compliance and gyrated their hips and groins in a lascivious dance. “Together, as a barbarian people forged by the wicked flames of irreligiosity and united by visions of a liberal dystopia, we will rise up as one to scorch the earth with boundless amorality.”
"The Onion" can be pretty funny sometimes, but it can also lean liberal in its political perspective. I don't have problem with that choice, but the publication, having made it, opens itself up to ideological criticism. The point of the article was, if I understand it correctly, to satirize the prudishness that caused Democrats to reinsert the references to God and to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel that they had removed since 2008. "The Onion" likes to engage in hyperbole to make political criticism seem inane; a past article implicitly mocked Republicans' distrust of Mitt Romney for implementing a universal health insurance scheme in Massachusetts because it seemed on the surface to be such an undeniably benevolent act. This article goes on to have Obama sacrifice infants on the DNC's stage, force all heterosexual Americans to engage in homosexual acts, and other agenda items from the scariest nightmares of conservative evangelical Christians.

But if one looks past the rank hyperbole and obvious satire, how much of the article is truly an exaggeration? The Democratic Party may not have slaughtered infants at its convention, but it did invite the leaders of NARAL and Planned Parenthood (the latter with racist roots), both organizations that support an abortion status quo that has prevented the existence of over 40 million people since 1973. Democrats may not want to kill Christians, but Obama's Department of Health and Services continues to discriminate actively against the Catholic Church by forcing many of its affiliated institutions and organizations to provide "free" birth control against the Church's own moral teachings. Democrats may not want to force every American to engage in homosexual acts, but they do support nationwide legalization of gay marriage while the issue still divides the country in polls, and while only a handful of states have legalized it of their own accord (not through the imprimatur of a judge). Democrats may not worship Satan, but "government is the only thing" they all belong to, and Obama's 2008 campaign was full of pseudo-religious iconography. Obama, of course, is not Satan, or the anti-Christ, or the 12th Imam, or anything like that, but contemporary liberalism does have a history of "immanentizing the eschaton." I may have missed the point of the article (unless it was actually meant to highlight these interesting truths); it seems to hold a lot more truth than some of its liberal readers would like to think. And that is an even scarier possibility.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Convention Wars, Episode II: "Slick Willy" Strikes Back


Above: Bill Clinton in full--a beacon of integrity, speaking truth to power.

(First, to the--hopefully--growing number of readers, I apologize for the gap in postings.  The rush of getting kids moved and some medical issues set my schedule back.  With the campaign about to go in full spin cycle, the Sons anticipate more frequent posts to this site.)
Last week we had the opportunity to watch the Republican National Convention.  The G.O.P. offered an impressive slate of young, ideologically driven speakers and office-holders.  These included, among others Suzanne Martinez, Marco Rubio, Artur Davis, and of course the VP nominee Paul Ryan.  We also saw some older, familiar names including Condileeza Rice and film icon Clint Eastwood.  Regarding Clint’s performance, it is one appreciated more on review than experienced live.  During the broadcast I thought at any moment Mr. Make-my-Day was about to slip on the metaphoric banana peel, much to the delight of the Democrats and the media (wait, that’s redundant).  But just as the whole idea of Eastwood performing acupelo seemed ill-conceived and poorly executed, Clint pulled out rhetoric gems that transformed a performance that started as cringe-worthy to virtuoso.  The most memorable of these was “we own this country, you and I, and when somebody doesn't do the job, we have to let him go.”  Memo to the Romney Campaign: please adopt this as your slogan for the next 60 days.
Presidential nominee Mitt Romney closed the convention.  Romney strikes me as an imminently decent, honorable man who is devoted to his faith and his family.  His speech suggests a candidate who, if elected, would surround himself with capable people – many from the private sector – set clear objectives for performance and allow them to do their job.  He would make a far better President than he is candidate.  Without question he does not have the ‘rock star’ quality of some recent candidates and office holders.  But maybe the country would benefit if we moved past the era of President as “Celebrity in Chief” in which we are currently living. 
Which leads me to the subject of this post.  Former President Bill Clinton is delivering the nomination speech for Barack Obama at this week’s Democrat National Convention in Charlotte.  Slick Willie has led a charmed political life.  I remember thinking on at least a dozen occasions during the 1992 campaign that Bill’s candidacy was toast (most notable, perhaps, the revealing of his creative draft dodging and admission to a U.S. Army officer that he ‘loathed the military.’)  The scandals and anecdotes which emanated from the Clinton campaign should have, by rights, led to its demise. 
But love him or hate him, and I fall in the latter category, Bill Clinton is a crafty political street fighter and a survivor.  He rode the magic carpet of a high energy campaign, cunning use of media (for example, his saxophone performance on the Arsenio Hall show) and an apparently disinterested and disengaged incumbent to victory.  I remember watching the returns of that election and sadly lamenting that a man like this could be elected to the highest office in the land marked a permanent change in our national temperament.  Of course, he was aided in no small part by the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot who, I’ll be forever convinced, took many more votes from Bush the Elder than Clinton.
As President, Clinton refined the skill of using the powers and trappings of the office to advance him personally.  On Day one, Clinton relieved all of the seated U.S. Attorneys of their positions.  While the position of U.S. Attorney is appointed, and it is certainly in the President’s prerogative to replace them, the concept of a President firing them all on the first day of office was stunning and previously unheard of.  (By comparison, recall the media-created “scandal” in the Bush 43 Administration when Attorney General Gonzales released a handful of U.S. Attorneys, purportedly for political reasons.)  Some speculated the cursory dismissal of the U.S. Attorneys, chief prosecutors of the Federal Government, was intended to slow or terminate pending investigations of a handful of Clinton and/or Clinton-supporter-related matters.  Later in the first term, First Lady Hillary Clinton engineered the dismissal of the White House letter-writing staff, most of whom were elderly women who held the positions for decades.  The bloodletting continued as the heads of the White House travel staff rolled on the orders of the Queen First Lady.   
Hiding barely behind the curtain of the Clinton Administration were ongoing rumors of political and personal scandal.  These included the suspicious suicide of close aide Vince Foster; shadowy campaign contributions from Communist China; the miraculous returns by financial wizard Hillary Clinton from her skillful exercise of cattle futures; and the real estate pyramid scheme known as Whitewater.  Later came sex scandals associated with Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones (which ultimately led to Bill’s disbarment), Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broderick and most famously Monica Lewinsky--if the "war on women" exists as anything more than a Democrat talking point, then who can deny that Clinton was one of its fiercest combatants?  (Here is a handy list of Clinton-era scandals.)
Through all of these diversions, however, the Clinton machine persevered.  Early in his term, Time magazine ran a cover story describing “The Incredible Shrinking President.” 

 Clinton was asked once at a press conference if he was becoming irrelevant.  After an ill-fated attempt at health care reform, the Democrats lost the House in the 1994 mid-term elections.  It was the emergence of a foil, notably Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who readily played Lex Luther to Clinton’s Clark Kent) that energized Bill and brought out his best political animal instincts.  Simultaneously publicly excoriating the Republican majority while quietly signing their legislation, Clinton skillfully allowed the GOP to do the heavy lifting that led to the passage of NAFTA (over union objections), welfare reform, tax reductions, and balanced budgets.  He was a master at the art of ‘triangulation,’ appearing to soar over the petty skirmishes of the right and left wings.  The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Lewinsky and associated scandals really brought out the Clinton political beast.  Clinton and his minions savaged Kenneth Starr, a quiet and judicious former Federal Judge and Solicitor General.  Starr did not consider as part of his charter the obligation or authority to return rhetorical fire.  Consequentially, Clinton’s verbal volleys went largely unrebutted and Starr was successfully caricatured as having a Javert-like obsession with poor and noble  Jean Valjean Bill Clinton. 
As we know Bill survived a Senate impeachment trial and sailed out of the White House with head held high and public opinion polls soaring.  Today he is a multimillionaire, media darling, respected political elder of the Democrat party, and First Gentleman-in-waiting to Hillary Clinton.  So what can we learn from the trials, tribulations and ultimate political conquests of Bill Clinton?  And what can we expect from that loveable scoundrel Bill later this week and through the rest of the campaign?  Rest assured that Bill will be guided by the first principle of the Clinton id: above all, do no harm to the Clinton legacy. This corner speculates he will use the nomination speech not as much of an endorsement of the first Obama term, but as an affirmation of the greatness of the Clinton Administration. This could well be a primary example of the idiom of Obama being damned by faint praise.  I anticipate as well Bill seizing the opportunity to herald the (so-called) foreign policy successes of the Obama Administration, successes which were instituted by candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton.  Bill is an expert at political tea-leaf reading.  He will skillfully navigate the murky convention waters with an apparent endorsement of the incumbent all the while preserving his and Hillary’s hopes to return to future residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Interestingly, reports are that Clinton is not previewing or vetting his speech text with the Obama campaign team.  This adds to the possibility that the speech may not be so much an affirmation of the accomplishments of the Obama Administration as a fond remembrance of the Clinton years and a reminder that, if they ask nicely enough, the public could have those years back.   Rest Assured also that regardless of what he says the assembled delegates will go wild for their hero. 
We’ve all had people in our lives whom we concluded never received the fate they truly deserved.  I’m sure there are a sizable number of people on the opposite end of the political spectrum who feel that way about George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  For years Bill Clinton was to me the equivalent of the kid who cheated his way through class and yet somehow ended up as the class valedictorian. 

Perhaps it’s time for me to grudgingly acknowledge the instinctive political and survival skills of the roguish William Jefferson Clinton.  That said, I will never stray from my personal belief that Bill was devoid of the character this country should always expect and demand in its President and Commander-in-Chief.  In that respect, perhaps there is no more appropriate person to deliver the nomination speech for the current incumbent. At the same time, however, the leftward movement of the Democratic Party since the Clinton years on a whole host of issues--gays in the military, welfare reform, free trade, capital gains taxes, "the era of big government is over," and others--shows as much as anything else that Republicans are hardly the only "extremists" in Washington. Yet somehow, in a Party that philosophically rejects nearly all the political accomplishments through which Clinton earned his fame, he survives--as he likely always will.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Convention Wars Episode I: An Un-Warren-ted Hope

                                           "Help us, Obi-Warren, you're our only hope!"

This past week, the Republican Party held its National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Although Hurricane Isaac had threatened to derail the event, the storm ended up drifting westward and missing the convention entirely; this did, however, force Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal--a young and highly accomplished politician of Indian descent, one of the Republican Party's rising stars--to cancel his slated convention address. Other complications also shortened the convention by a day--to the length of the Democratic National Convention (about which, more in just a bit). I did not catch much coverage of the RNC, though it was certainly not without its share of good speeches. The following links will direct one to the speeches of Mia Love, a Haitian-American mayor running for a Utah Congressional seat; Susan Martinez, the Hispanic governor of New Mexico; Paul Ryan, the now-official Republican vice presidential nominee; Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American junior Senator from Florida; surprise guest Clint Eastwood, who needs no description; and Mitt Romney, finally the "official" Republican nominee. 

We may have covered the RNC a bit more extensively if partisan boosterism were the purpose of this blog. Yet while the speakers and opinions present at the RNC might coincide more neatly with our own, intellectual combat is our main interest. Thus, in the days preceding the DNC, we shall be "pre-gaming" it, with posts on three of its most prominent speakers: Elizabeth Warren, Bill Clinton, and Sandra Fluke. These three figures might not say everything there is to say about today's Democratic Party, but they come pretty darn close. I shall begin with Elizabeth Warren.

Many of our readers could be forgiven for never having heard of Ms Warren. Indeed, before her career as a Harvard academic intersected with politics upon her involvement with TARP and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (an agency which requires neither congressional funding nor oversight, and is hence of highly dubious constitutionality), I had never heard of her. But somehow, a few months ago, she established herself as the Democratic nominee to challenge Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown for the seat he won in a special election back in early 2010. Ever since then, her profile has been rising--but almost exclusively among the progressive left. A July article from The Atlantic magazine details the extent of her status among the furthest-left elements of the Democratic Party today. Some key quotes:
"[The article's author] went to a conference of liberal activists this week hoping to find out who the party's activist base sees as its up-and-coming stars. But the exercise turned out to be revealing largely for how unprepared people were to answer the question. Nearly every answer I got began with a blank stare or incredulous laugh, followed by some fumbling around, followed by "Elizabeth Warren"...
"Whew, man, that's a tough one," said Jeanette Baust, a 55-year-old educator and activist from Denver who was attending the progressive conference along with her partner, Evelyn Hanssen. "I guess I'd have to say Elizabeth Warren if she can get elected"...
I pressed [Minnesota Democratic congressman Keith] Ellison for names for 2016, and he thought for a moment. "If we can get Elizabeth Warren through in Massachusetts, she could end up being a presidential candidate," he finally said. "She's super."...
Sentiments like these echo across the progressive left, and have now for some time. And for as long as I have heard these echoes, I have asked myself just one question: why? What on earth convinces these activists that their future lies with Elizabeth Warren? Perhaps this bizarre infatuation stems from the Democratic Party's relative dearth of rising stars and potential 2016 presidential candidates, which the article above also mentions. With this in mind, these un-warrent-ed hopes make a bit more sense, but not that much more. Here are just three reasons why:

1) Philosophically, her campaign is a mess. In the interest of genuine debate, I like to believe that the left does have some views and beliefs viable enough to be worthy of serious political contention and response (a far more charitable view than most on the left, I should add). But in her campaign thus far, Elizabeth Warren has held virtually no such beliefs, or espouses such nonsensical versions of them as to muddle almost completely the philosophical grounding of her candidacy. Most famously, Ms Warren originated President Obama's infamous "you didn't build that" remark. Compare her version:
You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
with President Obama's:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The right has responded to these ideas impressively; here is a thorough critique of Warren's remarks, and here, of Obama's. The essence of a proper rebuttal is this: both Warren and Obama are simultaneously setting up Republicans as anarchist straw men who don't believe in any government at all--President Bush says hello--and subsuming the individual beneath the weight of the collective. Conservatives acknowledge that government has a role in society (you have to go pretty far rightward to find someone who denies this), but also that this reality is not an excuse for unlimited government, government without a limiting principle, a sort of intellectual cop-out that this view enables. Believing that government ought to do more is one thing; to say that government defines society rather than the other way around is...a novel view in American politics, to put it lightly.

Just one intellectual stinker like that would ordinarily be enough, but Warren is something of a special case. Just last year, when the "Occupy Wall Street" movement became a media frenzy--what happened to that movement, by the way?--Ms Warren claimed the movement's intellectual paternity: "I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do. I support what they do." I wonder if her "support" covers things like this. Finally, for good measure, let's throw in Warren's quasi-messianic belief that she could "save capitalism," , and her Thomas Friedman-esque insistence that we need to spend as much on infrastructure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product as China does, a claim full of misconceptions.

2) She is a liar. I may have lost some liberals with the above assessment, as I can understand that some of them may hold more intellectually defensible versions of the ideas Warren has espoused, which is fine with me. But what follows ought to offend honest partisans across the political spectrum. Not long into Ms Warren's campaign, it was revealed that she had been claiming a significant Cherokee ancestry for the better part of her adult life, dropping and adding it from her resume as she saw fit. When she worked at Harvard, it did the same, counting her as a "minority" faculty member. All this would be well and good if she actually were of Cherokee descent, but...well, have a look for yourself:

Do you think she's Cherokee?

Media backfire whittled her claim all the way down to "1/32nd" Cherokee, which is probably as much Cherokee blood as the average person from Kansas has, and her "high cheekbones."  Interestingly, more substantiated genealogical evidence raises the possibility that Warren descends from ancestors who rounded up Cherokees on the infamous "Trail of Tears." Regardless of the truth of Warren's claims, she has dealt with them by disobeying the first rule of holes ("stop digging"), to the extent that now a group of actual Cherokee Indians is dogging her on the campaign trail, making it clear that she does not represent them. You can find their blog here. Must I even ask the typical "what if she were a Republican" question?

 3) She's not winning. I know this is something of a long post, but bear with me--it's almost over. Now think back--or look back, if you must--to the earlier quotes from progressive activists about Warren's future. Notice something all of them assumed? No? Well, it was this: that she would be elected. For a while, I thought that she would have a chance: she's running in Massachusetts, for goodness sake, and money from deep-pocketed leftists across the country--who do exist, by the way--has been pouring into her campaign (that she accepts it might raise an entirely different issue). Despite these advantages, however, the race is simply not moving in her direction. A poll from July had the race tied--an impressive feat for a challenger against an incumbent, to be sure--but a more recent poll from the same source has Scott Brown ahead by five points. There are certainly many weeks until November, but this is hardly the performance one would expect from a progressive wunderkind...in--it's worth repeating--Massachusetts. Don't "champions"--even progressive ones--have to...win?

Those are just a few of the reasons why Elizabeth Warren is more likely to end up as a pariah than a messiah, and why the news that the DNC would prominently feature her delighted conservatives; she is to big government liberalism what Todd Akin is to social conservatism: an ideologue who poorly understands and represents that guiding ideology. When her "nobody got rich on their own" remarks first burst her onto the national political scene and conservatives felt compelled to rebut her arguments, liberals formulated a sort of Catch-22 to ensure her fame: if conservatives ignored her, then it was because they feared her; if conservatives responded to her, it was because they feared her. Presto! Elizabeth Warren is invincible!

But this is not at all the case. Warren's candidacy has been a middling effort so far, at best, full of intellectual and political errors (such as attacking reporters). But if she is the progressive movement's only hope, what does that say about progressivism? For all the talk we've heard about Republicans and conservatives being (choose your adjective) radical, unhinged, crazy, racist, bigoted, plutocratic, out of the mainstream, etc, could the left be just as bad in its own way, if not worse? And for all the talk we hear that Republicans are the doomed party, threatened by changing demographics, why then does it have dozens of inspiring, articulate potential presidential candidates for 2016 and beyond, while the Democrats see a lying Harvard academic in her early 60s as their champion?

Elizabeth Warren's candidacy raises these and other questions, and that is why conservatives pay attention to her; why we do not fear her, but love her. Let her views be disseminated as widely as the platforms on which she stands and will allow, and let her represent the staleness of a modern liberalism that senses no limiting principle on government action, that hears racism in every utterance, and that thinks being a woman today means abrogating the first amendment rights of religious institutions, about which we shall speak later. I am confident that the rest of the country will not be nearly so receptive, that she won't help Democrats nearly as much as Obi-Wan Kenobi helped the Rebel Alliance (though there, the analogy ends; taking it any further puts the Democratic Party, which currently controls the White House, in the position of rebels, which makes no sense). And if she does...well, if she does, then this country is in a much different place than I thought.


Next up in our DNC-pregaming: the Elder Son tackles Bill Clinton, long his bete-noire, and attempts to chart the leftward movement of the Democratic Party since Clinton was president.