Latest from Tony Blankley
One of the nice things about human history is that no matter how much people or their leaders misjudge events and make a hash of things, within a few centuries, the debris is cleared away, and we can have another go at getting things right.
Yes, I am thinking about the Middle East. Whether or not there is a message in that turn of events, I'll leave it to theologians.
A just released book, "Bowing to Beijing" by Brett M. Decker and William C. Triplett II, will change forever the way you think about China — even if, like me, you already have the deepest worries about the Chinese threat. As I opened the book, I was expecting to find many useful examples of Chinese military and industrial efforts to get the better of the United States and the West.
Indeed, there are 100 pages of examples of the most remorseless Chinese successes at stealing the military and industrial secrets of the West and converting them into a growing menace — soon to be a leviathan — bent on domination and defeat of America. The authors itemize the sheer, unprecedented magnitude of this effort. But the opening chapters dealt with human rights abuses, and my first thought as I started reading was that I wanted to get right to the military and industrial examples.
Now is a particularly dangerous moment for American national security interests. Not just because threats are growing. Not just because the current administration is making a historic bungle from China to Iraq to Iran to Russia to Europe to Mexico to our historic allies in the Middle East — both Jewish and Muslim. All that would be bad enough.
But the greatest threat to our national security, at the moment, is the manifest indifference of the voting public to these foreign threats — and the silence on them from our alleged leaders. It's understandable.
For the past few years, fear of China's predatory mercantilism has been steadily growing in America, both amongst the public and in elite business and political circles. But last week, for the first time, one could discern the genuine possibility that America might actually do something about it — even if it means a trade war.
It's not that anything new has been revealed about China's practices, but rather that something new has emerged about the nature of Washington's opposition to it. Last week, the Senate passed a bill that would force U.S. retaliation against China's currency manipulations. The bill passed with 63 votes — including 16 Republican votes.
William F. Buckley, Jr., founding father of the modern conservative movement, famously asserted his doctrine of voting for the most conservative candidate who is electable.
Let me presume to add an analytic codicil: The GOP and the conservative movement have tended to support the most conservative policies only when they are understood to be conservative and are plausibly supportable by the conservative half of the electorate.
In one of the least needed reassurances in modern political history, President Obama's top political man David Plouffe, "told Democrats late last week that the White House would not suffer from overconfidence. 'What I don't want to suggest is that we're sitting around and thinking everything is great,' he said."
With the White House's own economists predicting 9 percent or worse unemployment on Election Day, the president at about 39 percent job approval, college grads unable to find jobs, a quarter of American homes under water, no credible White House policy or strategy for changing things — and with most non-institutionalized Americans convinced we are in a recession that is going to get much worse — it is surpassing odd that Plouffe was worried that his fellow Democrats might think the president and his men believed everything to be hunky-dory.
In the last few weeks, leading Democrats in Congress have called Tea Party constituents terrorists, said they should go to hell and accused them of wanting to lynch black people. Last weekend, at an event attended by President Obama, the head of the Teamsters Union, Jimmy Hoffa Jr., attacked the Tea Party, screaming, "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of bitches (Tea Party members) out and give America back to an America where we belong." (Note: the president was not on the platform when Hoffa spoke.)
So far, neither the president, nor any prominent Democrat has condemned such remarks — even though the phrase "take out" is commonly used to describe an act of criminal homicide. Thus, Hoffa's statement might rise to the level of incitement to violence.
Except according to the Lord's plans — which are not known to man — the "end of the world" is not nigh, although to listen to politicians and pundits, we should be packed and ready to go by next Thursday.
Recently, the headlines have read like Woody Allen's 1979 "My Speech to the Graduates": "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. I speak, by the way, not with any sense of futility, but with a panicky conviction."
Woody Allen, please note, was writing as a comedian.
The debt deal, if it sticks, is a triumph for the bipartisan, status quo-clinging Washington establishment. Here is a prediction: Between now and January 2013, total actual spending cuts will be minimal. That will result from the following: (1) The $900 billion deficit reduction is almost all back-loaded to the years beyond 2012. (2) The select committee created by the budget deal will fail to pass a "second tranche" deficit-cut package of an additional $1.5 trillion. (3) The "trigger" will be pulled that will identify an additional $1.2 trillion. (4) The pulled trigger won't require any more deficit reductions to go into effect until 2013, when a new Congress and either a new president or a re-elected President Obama will be able to re-decide (or repeal) all these decisions. That president will also have to decide what to do with the expiring Bush tax cuts, which if extended would be scored to increase deficit by $3.5 trillion over ten years. (5) The debt ceiling will not need to be raised until 2013.
How have we arrived at this place where the fate of our federal budget — our economy, indeed our capacity to have a functioning federal government — seems to depend on what two men (the speaker of the House and the president) may or may not be secretly talking about in an interior room in the White House?
Meanwhile, elected representatives and senators, kept ignorant of those life-and-death discussions, are forced to wait. When the two men are finished — doubtlessly mere hours before "the world will end" — our elected representatives and senators will be stampeded to vote yes for a deal about which no one knows the details. Cattle may need to be stampeded; elected representatives of the American people never should be so compelled.
In Atlanta, the teachers cheat on exams so the students don't have to. It doesn't raise the knowledge level of our children, but it gets the school system past the next exam — even as the system continues its death spiral. We will know the spiral has reached its terminal station when there is full unionized teacher employment and complete student illiteracy.
Now, in this same spirit of treating the symptoms at the price of the patient soon dying, Moody's credit rating agency, according to Reuters, has proposed that the United States "eliminate its statutory limit on government debt to reduce uncertainty among bond holders."
Some people can spot a slight in every compliment, whereas others — the happy ones — find a compliment in every slight. So last week, as a free-market, low-taxes, constitutional conservative, I happily found an apparently unintended compliment from the liberal New Republic.
It is not often that I agree with the central attack line of my sometimes media sparring partner, The New Republic's Ed Kilgore. But in his effort at a hit piece last week on Michele Bachmann and her stand for "constitutional conservatism," what he thinks is an effective attack on us constitutional conservatives, I take as a badge of honor.
One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of sheer misguided reporting than the story in The Washington Post last weekend in which it was reported that "Newt Gingrich thinks he can revive his debilitated campaign by talking about Alzheimer's. ... For most presidential candidates, Alzheimer's is a third- or fourth-tier subject, at best. But as Gingrich sees it, Alzheimer's, as well as other niche topics such as military families' concerns and pharmaceutical issues, are priorities. ... By offering himself as a champion of pet causes, Gingrich believes he can sew together enough narrow constituencies to make a coalition — an unconventional one, yes, but a coalition nevertheless."
Now, I admit, Newt is my old boss, and I am a friend and great admirer of Newt's — so I am hardly an unbiased source. But I also happen to be pretty familiar with Newt's public ideas over the years.
It is said that there are no atheists in foxholes. In that context, the recent rise in oil prices seems to have turned the Obama administration into true believers (at least rhetorically) when it comes to the best method to keep gas prices down and the American economy growing.
With oil at more than $100 a barrel, the White House announced last week that it was going to increase oil supply by withdrawing 30 million barrels a month from our strategic oil reserves and put that oil into the world market.
Sen. John McCain, whose life is a continuing exemplar of the American heroic ideal, regrettably has got it quite wrong when he says that growing GOP opposition to the Libyan and Afghan wars is evidence of isolationism. In his words on weekend television:
"Well, I was more concerned about what the candidates in New Hampshire the other night said. This is isolationism. There's always been an isolation strain in the Republican Party — the Pat Buchanan wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak. ... If we had not intervened, Gadhafi was at the gates of Benghazi. He said he was going to go house to house to kill everybody. That's a city of 700,000 people. What would we be saying now if we had allowed that to happen?
Last week, in a much-discussed, open, live, televised forum, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke the $64 trillion question. While most commentators focused on the apt question, it was Bernanke's answer that shocked me when I heard it — and ought to shock the nation much more than it so far has.
Question: "Now we're told there are going to be even higher capital requirements, and we know there are 300 (financial regulatory) rules coming, has anyone bothered to study the cumulative effect of these things? And do you have a fear — like I do — that when we look back and look at them all that they will be the reason that it took so long for our banks, our credit, our businesses and most importantly, our job creation, to start going again? Is this holding us back at this point?"
I had the honor of speaking last weekend at the Faith and Freedom Conference, at which most of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were the star attractions. The conference, led by Ralph Reed, brought together the nation's leading (what is called) social conservatives.
Politico's reporting of the two-day event typified the tone. "The day after Haley Barbour implored the crowd not to put ideological purity over pragmatism for the general election as they pick a 2012 GOP candidate, Rick Santorum took to the podium at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington to make a different case. In a strong pitch to the mostly evangelical crowd on Saturday morning, the former Pennsylvania senator cast social conservative issues as the defining ones for the country — and for the Republican Party."
While Western media continue to rhapsodize about the "Arab Spring democratic revolutions" in the Middle East, it may be that the real democratic revolution is beginning to occur in the European Union and the United States. And if the timing is right, the crisis in the European Union may play a decisive part in tipping the American electorate against President Obama and the Democrats in our 2012 elections.
Both by their votes and their demonstrations, the semi-enfranchised citizens of nations under the rule of the European Union are beginning to fight back against both the social welfare/debt and immigration/border policies that have been imposed on them.
The president's speech last week, which was described by the White House in advance as a speech intended to reach out to the Muslim world, will probably go down as one of the least well-understood major presidential speeches in modern memory. Confusion concerning the president's words and intent cut across the lines of Jews, Christians and Muslims, Democrats and Republicans, neocons and paleocons, friends and foes of Israel, and friends and foes of the president.
For many serious commentators, the confusion lies on what the president meant by his statement that "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." Was this a shift of policy, no shift or a critical increase in U.S. presidential pressure on Israel in future peace negotiations?
This White House, like its predecessors, can take some comfort in the fact that the Middle East has been breaking the hearts of diplomats and foreign politicians for at least 2,000 years. Of course, some centuries have been worse than others (Pontius Pilate had a particularly difficult innings). But in modern times, the American voting public has become accustomed to seeing regular news from the Middle East feature wars, terrorism, mayhem, religious fanaticism and failed peace initiatives.
As a result, few presidents pay much of a price at election time for failing to deliver peace or other conspicuous diplomatic successes from that cradle of civilization and birthplace of the three great religions of the Book. I am certainly not prepared to predict that President Obama will lose many votes in 2012 based on his Middle East policy.