It’s Tuesday, October 25th, 2011….and now that we’re back from a brief sabbatical, here’s The Gouge!
First up, for anyone requiring further proof of Team Tick-Tock’s undeniably indecipherable foreign policy, the following three headlines should serve to provide it:
Karzai would side with Pakistan in a war against America
Obama to Remove All U.S. Troops in Iraq By December
Libya to Establish Sharia Law
Or, as Hillary Clinton so eloquently put it:
Clinton to Iran: Don’t misread departure from Iraq
No worries Hilly; they’re your intentions LOUD AND CLEAR….just like these three….
….recognized the weakness of their respective opponents.
Then there’s this from Joe Nocera, who notes an important anniversary in the New York Times, courtesy of Speed Mach:
The Ugliness Started With Bork
On Oct. 23, 1987 — 24 years ago on Sunday — Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court was voted down by the Senate. All but two Democrats voted “nay.”
The rejection of a Supreme Court nominee is unusual but not unheard of (see Clement Hayworth Jr.). But rarely has a failed nominee had the pedigree — and intellectual firepower — of Bork. He had been a law professor at Yale, the solicitor general of the United States and, at the time Ronald Reagan tapped him for the court, a federal appeals court judge.
Moreover, Bork was a legal intellectual, a proponent of original intent and judicial restraint. The task of the judge, he once wrote, is “to discern how the framers’ values, defined in the context of the world they knew, apply to the world we know.” He said that Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, was a “wholly unjustifiable judicial usurpation” of authority that belonged to the states, that the court’s recent rulings on affirmative action were problematic and that the First Amendment didn’t apply to pornography.
Whatever you think of these views, they cannot be fairly characterized as extreme; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among many others, has questioned the rationale offered by the court to justify Roe v. Wade. Nor was Bork himself an extremist. He was a strongly opinionated, somewhat pugnacious, deeply conservative judge. (At 84 today, he hasn’t mellowed much either, to judge from an interview he recently gave Newsweek.)
I bring up Bork not only because Sunday is a convenient anniversary. His nomination battle is also a reminder that our poisoned politics is not just about Republicans behaving badly, as many Democrats and their liberal allies have convinced themselves. Democrats can be — and have been — every bit as obstructionist, mean-spirited and unfair.
I’ll take it one step further. The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork, recalls Clint Bolick, a longtime conservative legal activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb“to bork,” which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary. When Republicans borked the Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright less than two years later, there wasn’t a trace of remorse, not after what the Democrats had done to Bork. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.
It is, to be sure, completely understandable that the Democrats wanted to keep Bork off the court. Lewis Powell, the great moderate, was stepping down, which would be leaving the court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. There was tremendous fear that if Bork were confirmed, he would swing the court to the conservatives and important liberal victories would be overturned — starting with Roe v. Wade.
But liberals couldn’t just come out and say that. “If this were carried out as an internal Senate debate,” Ann Lewis, the Democratic activist, would later acknowledge, “we would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” (As Liberals always do….assuming facts rather than raw, uninformed emotions form the basis of the discussion.) So, instead, the Democrats sought to portray Bork as “a right-wing loony,” to use a phrase in a memo written by the Advocacy Institute, a liberal lobby group.
The character assassination began the day Bork was nominated, when Ted Kennedy gave a fiery speechdescribing “Robert Bork’s America” as a place “in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,” and so on. It continued until the day the nomination was voted down; one ad, for instance, claimed, absurdly, that Bork wanted to give “women workers the choice between sterilization and their job.”
Conservatives were stunned by the relentlessness — and the essential unfairness — of the attacks. But the truth is that many of the liberals fighting the nomination also knew they were unfair. That same Advocacy Institute memo noted that, “Like it or not, Bork falls (perhaps barely) at the borderline of respectability.” It didn’t matter. He had to be portrayed “as an extreme ideological activist.” The ends were used to justify some truly despicable means.
Today, of course, the court has a conservative majority, and liberal victories are, indeed, being overturned. Interestingly, Bolick says Bork’s beliefs would have made him a restraining force. Theodore Olson, who served as solicitor general under George W. Bush, also pointed out that after Bork, nominees would scarcely acknowledge that they had rich and nuanced judicial philosophies for fear of giving ammunition to the other side. Those philosophies would be unveiled only after they were on the court.
Mostly, though, the point remains this: The next time a liberal asks why Republicans are so intransigent, you might suggest that the answer lies in the mirror.
And since we’re on the subject of Dimocratic precedence, as Hillsdale College’s Paul Moreno details in the WSJ, The Boy Blunder appears to be borrowing a page from his illustrious Socialist predecessor:
Obama’s Re-Election Model Is FDR
With the economy sinking in 1937, Roosevelt accused business of sabotage.
President Obama is cozying up to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, intending to make resentment of big business a central theme of his re-election campaign. Here he’s following the lead of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who tried to convince the public that Wall Street was to blame for the double-dip recession that plagued his second administration.
In late 1937 the American economy, which had been recovering slowly since 1932, contracted even more sharply than it had after the stock market crash in late 1929. Industrial production fell by a third, stock prices fell by 50%, durable goods production by almost 80%. Payrolls fell 35%, and unemployment climbed back to 20%.
Roosevelt was initially nonplused, slow to appreciate the severity of the downturn. But once he saw the need for action, he called Congress into special session and undertook a massive new public-spending program.
Roosevelt and his advisers blamed the recession on a “capital strike,” trying to deflect public alarm about the United Auto Workers’ sit-down strikes—really illegal occupations of assembly plants—onto the shoulders of corporations. They even claimed that big business was deliberately refusing to invest and increase payrolls as part of a political gambit to destroy the New Deal.
Privately, FDR told Robert Jackson, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division (and a future Supreme Court justice), “Bob, I’m sick of sitting here kissing [businessmen’s] asses to get them to” invest and increase employment. Publicly, Jackson agreed in a December 1937 speech that the country faced a “strike of capital” by business in order to get New Deal legislation repealed. He denounced the notion that the president’s program was antibusiness. Given the “astounding profits under the present administration,” he said, “big business will never be able to convince the American people that it has been imposed on, destroyed, or even threatened. It has merely been saved from ruin and restored to arrogance.”
Interior Secretary Harold Ickes upped the ante, claiming that the economy was dominated by a handful of interlocked plutocrats who were on a “sit-down strike” against the government. “It is happening here,” he said in an NBC radio speech, alluding to Sinclair Lewis’s novel, “It Can’t Happen Here,” about a fascist takeover of America. The nation really did face the specter of “big business fascism.”
In his 1936 re-election campaign, Roosevelt had likened big business to “autocratic institutions that beget slavery at home and aggression abroad” and “a power-seeking minority.” Now, with the economy in a serious downturn, he returned to this theme, calling on Congress in April 1938 to investigate industrial concentration, reiterating his first-term complaint about “banker control of industry.”
Later that year, with the midterm election looming, he claimed that “the growth of private power [reaches] a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism.” A few days before the election, the president said that “if American democracy ceases to move forward . . . to better the lot of our citizens, then Fascism and Communism, aided, unconsciously perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism, will grow in our land.”
American students are all familiar with the “Red Scare” that followed World War I, and even more with the one led by Joseph McCarthy in the early years of the Cold War. But they almost never hear of the “Brown Scare” of the 1930s, when liberals painted political opponents as incipient fascists.
FDR told former speechwriter Rex Tugwell late in 1937 that he “wanted to scare these people into doing something.” It was an odd strategy, trying to vilify business into creating jobs. And it didn’t work well.
While his lieutenants were trying to depict American industrialists as brownshirts, Roosevelt’s 1937 efforts to “pack” the Supreme Court and to purge conservatives in the 1938 Democratic primaries made him look like the real threat to democracy. In March of that year he felt compelled to tell the press that he had “no inclination to be a dictator.” Nevertheless, the Republicans recovered from near-extinction in the midterm and the New Deal came to a halt.
President Obama is perfectly capable of resorting to antibusiness demagoguery. In his 2010 State of the Union he berated the Supreme Court for allegedly reversing “a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”
And in one of his speeches last summer on debt reduction, the president singled out “corporate jet owners and oil companies” for allegedly unfair tax breaks, and he asked “how can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries?” We may hear more, much more in coming months, if the economy continues to flounder.
Three rather significant differences between The Dear Leader and Roosevelt come to mind; strike one: Tick-Tock has never enjoyed a level of popularity and/or confidence that even remotely approached FDR….and what he had is rapidly waning. Strike two: as previously mentioned, if Obamao’s made a mess of America, his foreign policy misadventures have, if anything, inflicted even more serious damage abroad. And strike three: at the end of FDR’s first term, a large percentage of people who disagreed with FDR’s policies still trusted him.
Next up, Steve Malanga comments on why public-sector workers report such higher level of work-place injury than their private-sector counterparts, courtesy of the WSJ:
[T]he Bureau of Labor Statistics released 2010 rates of injury and illness in the American work force, and once again state and local government workers on average missed far more days from illness and injury per worker than workers in the private sector. . . .
Some of these higher rates might be attributable to more dangerous jobs in the public sector, especially public safety jobs. And indeed, the BLS’ detailed tables do show much higher injury and absentee rates for workers engaged in “justice, public order and safety activities.” But even construction workers working for local government have a much higher rate of injury and illness (9.5 cases per 100 workers) than private construction workers (4.0 per 100 workers). So do public school education workers, who record 4.9 injuries and illnesses per 100 workers, compared to just 2.2 per 100 among private education workers.
Of course, in some places, public sector workers enjoy more generous sick time and richer disability benefits than private workers, which may explain some of the difference. Incentives matter, including those that pay you not to work.
And in the “MSM Bias….WHAT Bias?!?” segment, we learn….
NPR Host Steps Down as Husband Joins Obama Team
NPR host Michele Norris is temporarily stepping down from the afternoon news show “All Things Considered” because her husband has taken a senior rolein President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
In a note sent to NPR staff Monday and posted on the network’s website, Norris says her husband’s new role could make it difficult to continue hosting the show. She says she is temporarily stepping away until after the 2012 elections.
Yeah….like her bias will have somehow magically disappeared by late 2012!
Turning to today’s Money Quote, consider the thoughts of an individual blogging at Eschaton.com, whose amazing grasp of monetary matters surely puts him atop the short list as the next chairman of The Obamao’s Council of Economic Advisors:
“It isn’t totally my preferred solution, but we should remember that the crisis and problems are fake, that there is a simple solution. Cancel Greece’s debts and have the ECB give free money to the banks.“
Because of course, free money is….well,….FREE!
On the Lighter Side….