A Weekend at Bernie’s? Maybe we should hit the Jim, instead

Rarely am I one to read either Daily Kos or that most eminent economist of the Grey Lady’s, but a Facebook friend shared this, and I went for it like a bluegill for bacon fat.

Here’s the original Krugman column, which starts with a brilliant bit of humor from the author: “The 2016 campaign should be almost entirely about issues. The parties are far apart on everything…”

This post isn’t about Hillary Clinton directly, but it’s worth considering something risible noted by Krugman and echoed by DK:

The press, I’m sorry to say, tends to punish open-mindedness, because gotcha journalism is easier and safer than policy analysis. Hillary Clinton supported trade agreements in the 1990s, but now she’s critical. It’s a flip-flop! Or, possibly, a case of learning from experience, which is something we should praise, not deride.

(My emphasis. — TGFI)

Krugman, ever the good liberal, declines to convey the nuance of the cited article.

We looked into Clinton’s past remarks on NAFTA and concluded that she has changed her tune, from once speaking favorably about it to now saying the agreement needs “fixing.”

[…]

Today, Clinton’s campaign Web site says plainly, “NAFTA was negotiated more than 14 years ago, and Hillary believes it has not lived up to its promises.”

Semantics? Maybe. Clearly, though, Mrs. Clinton isn’t critical of NAFTA per se, but only to the extent that it has not delivered as promised — something about which wiser men, like Pat Buchanan, forewarned twenty-one years ago. That Mrs. Clinton has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership is heartening, but, pace Krugman, the cynic is compelled to question the political motivation for such opposition from the spouse of Bill “Free Trade” Clinton. It’s all about running to the left. Duh.

President Obama has proven himself to be a centrist — an actual liberal, in the mold of — Wait for it! — President Clinton, the “New Democrats”, and the DLC. As he has followed the same inclinations toward unnecessary and disastrous foreign engagements and capitalism-über-alles, he has brought the Evil Party closer to the Stupid Party, creating a gap that previously caught the eyes of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, and now draws into the race Senators Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb — and, purportedly, the good First Lady/Senator/Secretary/Wal-Mart board member/Wall Street harlot.

Needless to say, I’m skeptical that Mrs. Clinton is any less a liberal than President Obama, her husband, or the right-wing liberals of the Grand Old Party. I am willing, however, to entertain the possibility, as displayed in Krugman’s column, and as hoped for by the more socially democratically inclined members of the Democratic Party and the American electorate, that, politics being the art of expedience, Lady Hillary will be forced to campaign further to the left, especially with the entrance of Senator Sanders into the race, and this is all the more reason for those (not voting Republican) to reject the Green Mountaineer in favor of the Hillbilly.

Okay, so, excessive prefatory remarks out of the way, I am compelled to add a few more. Anyone who knows me or has read NathanContraMundi in the past knows that I’m either a right-winger or a conservative (though not both; I’m not sure which is the more appropriate term, but I am certain that “right-wing conservative” suggests something that I ain’t). My ideal candidate is a softer version of Pat Buchanan meets a saner version of Ron Paul meets a milder version of Ralph Nader. Oh, hell, just give me Bill Kauffman, please — or Andrew Bacevich  In the meantime, I’m tepidly (more so than I was with his father) supportive of Rand Paul.

That said, being skeptical of both libertarian capitalism (I really ought to discourse on why I’m not a libertarianwhy I am, nonetheless, so sympathetic to the libertarian conservatism of the Doctors Paul; and where I draw the line.) and the Republican Party’s tendency to choose Bob Dole over Pat Buchanan, as well as, you know, thinking that it’d be swell were “both” of our part”ies” to offer some kind of big-tent variety, what happens in the Democratic primaries is of great interest and concern to me.

So, here we go, the meat of the article, which, in characteristically Nathan-ish fashion, likely will be far shorter than the preface. (I can’t say for certain because most of this is stream-of-consciousness, and I’ve not exactly outlined what’s to follow.) Also, it’ll likely be a pretty superficial analysis, because, well, it’s midnight, this is the first time that I’ve posted at NCM in more than four years, and, well, I’ve reached the point at which I’m even inserting this soliloquy. (I aver that, should I get back into the habit of updating this Weblog with any frequency, the writing and arguments will improve — presumably good rationale for not redoubling my efforts!)

However much I’ve come to prioritize, at least short-term, concerns about foreign-policy recklessness and the concentration of economic power in the hands of relatively few, I am, undeniably, a cultural conservative who is typically politically “socially conservative” (though perhaps less so at the federal level than at the state and local).  This makes any contending Democrat less than appealing to me off the bat,  Senator Sanders more so than his Virginian counterpart, who, though certainly a “social” moderate-to-liberal, is arguably a cultural conservative. For me, though, this is as much a matter of practicality as it is a personal concern: there may be a certain attractiveness about Sen. Sanders to the fairly small cohort of Americans who embrace social democracy, and even to a number of more-liberal progressives, not to mention some of us despondent conservatives, but Jim Webb is likelier to have a broader appeal, while still drawing Her Majesty toward the left during primary season.

I truly believe that Sanders-ites are right to be excited that HRC will be compelled to campaign to the left as long as the soi-disant socialist of Vermont is in the race. I also believe that thinking that this sinister pull matters is rather deluded: expecting Mrs. Clinton, I fear, to live up to the faux-populism that she’s already been displaying on the campaign trail is akin, in retrospect, to expecting George W. Bush to keep his promise of a “humble foreign policy” (in the wake of the hawkish presidency of none other than Mr. Clinton!) or thinking that Barack Obama would really be delivering any substantive hope or change.

It’s nice to see a real progressive challenger compel HRC to do some work before her coronation, but, ultimately, it’s just a delay. With her gender, her name, her perversely embraced reputation, and her being a Wall Street harlot all in her favor, she has too good of an opportunity to grab the nomination as long as a kook (And I say this not to reflect my own opinion of Senator Sanders, but to suggest that this is what a social democrat from Vermont is going to be appear to be in the eyes of Joe Middle America.) is her leading opponent. That’s not to say that Jim Webb is going to perform any miracles, but he has a better chance both of playing the role of dark horse and of having any kind of impact on the party of Jefferson and Jackson (purportedly) than his further-left colleague. Why?

1. He’s a Hillbilly. Seriously, he comes from “real America”, born in Missouri, traveling across “real America” as his father was transferred from one base to another, ending up in swing-state Virginia, and proudly and publicly embracing his Scotch-Irish roots. The guy is, simply, more relatable to more Americans than a Jewish socialist who grew up in New York City.

2. He’s a veteran. This matters not merely because of the weird American fetishization of veterans that occurs even as our idea of “support[ing] the troops” constitutes, mainly, smearing anyone who criticizes the wars in which our service personnel fight or the civilian leaders who send them to God-knows-where unnecessarily, but because he is a veteran, like the aforementioned Bacevich, who has not been shy about his opposition to some of our stupider forays.

If someone’s going to challenge Mrs. Clinton on the foreign-policy front (and someone needs to), and if someone’s going to try to move the Democratic Party (which, we need to remember, has always been the war party, the GOP being something of a Johnny-come-lately in the Twentieth Century), Sanders may have the benefit of having opposed the Viet Nam conflict at the time (unlike Webb, who served in said conflagration and seems to be less opposed, retrospectively, than fellow veteran Bacevich), but Webb has the street cred afforded to someone who’s been there and knows from personal experience (Remember, not only is he a veteran, but he served as SecDef under the Republican Reagan. In 1990, out of office, he warned against escalation in Saudi Arabia and against a permanent presence in the Middle East (and he was insisting upon Congressional declarations of war before it was cool).)

Nine years ago, Scott McConnell reminded us, at The American Conservative, of Webb’s prescient words in the Washington Post at the outset of the Second Bush’s Mesopotamian Massacre:

Webb questioned whether an overthrow of Saddam would “actually increase our ability to win the war against international terrorism” and pointed out that the measure of military success can be preventing wars and well as fighting them. He charged, “those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade.” He concluded, “the Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. … In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.” If any major senators were thinking like this long before the invasion, not many Americans heard of it.

3. He’s not as “extreme”. In terms of both voting records and perceptions, Webb is the moderate, the guy who gets it wrong on X, but gets it right on Y — and even may have a decent reason for his wrong view on X. (I speak from the conservative perspective, of course, in using ‘wrong’ and ‘right’.) Bernie Sanders isn’t. And winning elections is about securing the strongest in-party base during the primaries without turning off independents and dissatisfied voters who generally support the other party. Jim Webb is likelier to attract, I think, progressives than Sanders is to get the attention of Blue Dogs (if any still remain); in November, Webb is absolutely likelier to attract Republicans than Sanders is.

Sanders may well be the “better” candidate — certainly for the real progressives, social democrats, and fellow-travelers, to say nothing of those of us communitarian conservatives troubled by the hyper-individualism guiding economic policy and practice today. Practically speaking, though, backing Bernie, however nicely principled, is an onanistic act of futility that will leave the Democratic Party securely in the hands of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Jim Webb’s chances may not be significantly better than Bernie Sanders’s, but they are better, and he’s the candidate likelier to have a measurable, propitious impact on the Democratic Party and, we can hope, American electoral politics.

Besides, Jim Webb vs. Rand Paul sounds like one helluva race, right?

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“Being better than McCain is just so damn easy . . .

that if that’s the only standard Obama is held to, he’ll hardly have a political incentive to get out of bed in the morning.” – John Schwenkler, who, further, notes, compellingly, that “[y]ou don’t have to be as hard-line (or is it cynical?) as Thoreau to think that pulling your support from a candidate who broke his promises and sold you down the river on one of the issues you care about most is one of the best tools you have for affecting real political change.”

Barack Obama is the new David Hasselhoff.

From “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live

Norm MacDonald: I don’t care about your stupid trip!! Look, just tell me how you would characterize — in one sentence — the way Germans feel about you.

David Hasselhoff: Well, I’ve always been fortunate to get a very positive response from the Germans–

Norm MacDonald: Oh, my God! This is no time for false modesty! We’re runnin’ late, we gotta wrap this thing up! Do Germans love you?

David Hasselhoff: Well, “love” is an awfully strong word…

Norm MacDonald: [hand to head] Oh, listen, David, uh… Let’s say a guy had a theory, all right?

David Hasselhoff: All right.

Norm MacDonald: A theory that he’s devoted several years of his life to. And let’s say he has a lot of evidence to back up this theory of his.

David Hasselhoff: All right.

Norm MacDonald: [puts a large pile of documents, file folders, etc., on desk — Hasselhoff is stunned] Now, don’t you think it would just be common courtesy to help that guy out, you know, and not – not ruin his life?

David Hasselhoff: Listen, I don’t know what you want me to say here, pal.

Norm MacDonald: Oh my God, here, I’ll write it down. [searches his pockets for a pencil, finds one, scribbles something on a piece of paper and gives it to David] Here! Say this!

David Hasselhoff: [puzzled, reads from paper] “Germans love me.”

[Camera pans quickly from Hasselhoff to a beaming MacDonald who addresses the camera.]

Norm MacDonald: Which once again proves my theory: Germans love David Hasselhoff! [Cheers and applause.] And that’s the news! See you next time. Thank you, David. [fusses with his pile of documents]

David Hasselhoff: [waves good-bye] Auf wiedersehen! [?], meine liebe! Auf wiedersehen! Auf wiedersehen!

Nicole Wynands, my class-mate and friend, who comes from Aachen, Germany: “We don’t love Hasselhoff any-more!”

BERLIN – Cheered by an enormous international crowd, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama on Thursday summoned Europeans and Americans together to “defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it” as surely as they conquered communism a generation ago.

[ . . . ]
“People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment. This is our time,” he declared.
[ . . . ]
Knots of bystanders waited along Obama’s motorcade route for him to pass. One man yelled out in English, “Yes, we can,” the senator’s campaign refrain, when he emerged from his car to enter his hotel.

For his speech, Obama drew loud applause as he strode confidently across a large podium erected at the base of the Victory Column in Tiergarten Park in the heart of Berlin.

The crowd spilled away from the Column for blocks. Police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski said there were more than 200,000 people, nearly three times the 75,000 Obama drew in Oregon this spring in his largest previous audience.

Germans love Barack Obama! He’s the new Hasselhoff! Whether we should rejoice or fear that two hundred thousand frenzied Germans love a charismatic leader who wishes to remake the world I leave to the readers to judge.

Obama, oh boy! NAFTA, FISA, USA PATRIOT Act, and the politics of consensus

Viewed in a certain way, you can argue that everything Obama has done is consistent with his general views and his habit of avoiding confrontation, but this is not very flattering for Obama and it is even less flattering for his conservative admirers. As a supporter of the PATRIOT Act, Obama has never exactly been a champion on civil liberties, so when he said that he would filibuster the FISA bill it was may have been nothing more than pandering and a refusal to court confrontation during the primaries. Once he became the nominee, he wanted to avoid confrontation with the telecoms and the executive, which was easy enough since he has been a fair-weather civil libertarian all along, because to be anything else would be to court resistance and opposition from entrenched power in the government and the media.

                                                           –The nonpareil Daniel Larison

The few of you who read this, loyally or occasionally, have, doubtless, noticed that I spend far more time criticizing Senator Obama than Senator McCain. Know that I support him no more than I support his presumptive opponent; however, I feel that people more than willingly recognize his faults, where-as the cult of Obama has so obfuscated the truth about where the senator from Illinois stands and how willingly he plays the games of the political world into which he has entered as an “out-sider”. This being the case, any effort taken to dis-credit the hack from Hyde Park is well worth the effort.

“You need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”

So sayeth Senator Obama. I fully endorse his suggestion that our education system — or, better yet, parents (Yes, they have an equally important as, if not more valid than, right and duty to educate chilrden than the State has.) — ensure that Americans possess the ability to speak two, if not more, languages. I am, how-ever, uncomfortable with his specific assertion that our children need to learn to speak Spanish. Yes, as the American population becomes increasingly Hispanic in origin (unless, bucking trends, we “Anglos” start making many more babies, which I fully advocate), Spanish will become even more prevalently spoken; however, English remains, for now, at least, a lingua franca of the world, and, undeniably, in this nation (and Obama contends that immigrants will learn English, anyway). The ever-strengthening power of China would incline me to suggest that Mandarin should be the second language of choice; how-ever, never will I make such a claim, because, well, I loathe Red China. Learn Lëtzebuergesch, the native dialect of Luxembourg, instead: that country, ancestral home-land of the Origers, is a pretty swell place (or so I hear; I’ve yet to visit, though, some-day, I intend to remedy this).

Further proof that people are stupid

AP writers Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson, writing eloquently about the unsurprisingly stupid responses from the American public, have this wholly unexpected tid-bit to offer:

Ask people to blurt out their first words about the two presidential candidates and one in five say “change” or “outsider” for Barack Obama and “old” for John McCain, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll released Monday.

Yes, McCain is old, for better or for worse. Numerous position flaws of his trouble me, however, far more than his age: My grandfather has twenty-two-plus years on him, and, I contend, would make a far wiser chief executive than the esteemed senator. What, of course, truly infuriates me is that the American public, by and large, it seems, remains foolish enough to believe that Senator Obama truly stands for the change that he and his supports champion in chorus after chorus. As I have contended here and here, and Daniel and the Schwenk have, far more astutely, noted, Senator Obama represents real change, offers any source of true and last hope, about as much as President Bush embodies the intellectual prowess for which we recognize his alma mater. Finally, (half-)black or not, Senator Obama, too, possesses and Ivy League education and came up through the farm system, so to speak, that is the Chicago political machine. Hardly an outsider is he.

Perhaps, some-day, if even only in response to cataclysm, the American populace will take the time really to educate itself, and we, then, may have legitimate opportunities for change. Echoing myself, I note that I remain bitterly pessimistic.

Obama secures the nomination and . . .

the jury convicts Rezko on sixteen of twenty-four counts. Laissez les bon temps roulez!