The pressure is on Barack Obama - and it is starting to show. The famously-cool President lost his temper in Connecticut today after hecklers interrupted a speech he was giving at a rally.
Astonished attendees watched as Mr Obama interrupted his own speech as the hecklers - believed to be activists seeking more global Aids funding - began chanting at him.
'Excuse me, excuse me,' he said repeatedly, trying to speak over the hecklers. When they kept chanting, he fell silent for several seconds, looking visibly angry and raising one hand in frustration as the crowd began to boo around him.
'Let me just say this,' he said, addressing the hecklers. 'You've been appearing at every rally we've been doing. 'We're funding global Aids,' he continued defensively. 'And the other [Republican] side is not. 'So I don't know why you think this is a useful strategy to take,' he finished, jabbing his finger angrily in the direction of the hecklers.
The crowds boos turned to cheers as Mr Obama - who was in the state campaigning for Democrat Richard Blumenthal - spoke.
'So, what we would suggest,' he added, 'I think it would make a lot more sense for you guys to go to the folks who aren't interested in funding global Aids and shout at that rally. Because we're trying to focus on figuring out how to finance the things that you want financed.'
Then he turned to another group of hecklers on his other side, adding: 'You guys same thing.' As more chants filled the rally, he said: 'Alright, you guys have made your point, now let's go.'
Fighting to regain the momentum of the rally, he held his hands up saying: 'Everybody - we're alright. 'Come on guys,' he said.
He then fell silent again, watching with pursed lips as the crowd booed the hecklers once more. The President waited nearly 20 seconds for the noise to stop, then attempted again to continue with his speech.
But he was forced to wait in silence for another 20 seconds before finally saying: 'Hey! Listen up everybody!'
The same group has popped up at other Obama campaign events this election, including a rally in Boston two weeks ago.
Mr Obama finally regained control of the rally and continued with his speech. But the unexpected loss of control was in stark contrast to the power he held over similar audiences during his 2008 presidential campaign.
With the November 2 mid-term elections just days away, Mr Obama's Democratic party is facing heavy losses. The President himself is dealing with a devastating loss in popularity. Democratic voters are closely divided over whether he should be challenged within the party for a second term in 2012, an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks Poll finds.
That glum assessment carries over into the nation at large, which is similarly divided over whether Mr Obama should be a one-term president.
A real Democratic challenge to Mr Obama seems unlikely at this stage and his re-election bid is a long way off. But the findings underscore how disenchanted his party has grown heading into the congressional elections Tuesday.
The AP-KN poll has tracked a group of people and their views since the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign. Among all 2008 voters, 51 per cent say he deserves to be defeated in November 2012 while 47 per cent support his re-election - essentially a tie. Among Democrats, 47 per cent say Obama should be challenged for the 2012 nomination and 51 per cent say he should not be opposed.
Those favouring a contest include most who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton's unsuccessful faceoff against Mr Obama for the 2008 nomination. The poll did not ask if Democrats would support particular challengers.
Political operatives and polling experts caution that Mr Obama's poll standings say more about people's frustrations today with the economy and other conditions than they do about his re-election prospects.
With the next presidential election two years away - an eon in politics - the public's view of Mr Obama could easily improve if the economy revives or if he outmaneuvers Republicans in Congress or in the presidential campaign.
'Democrats currently disappointed with Obama will likely be less disappointed if he spends the next two years fighting a GOP Congress' should Republicans do well on Election Day, said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political science professor and polling analyst.
Even so, the poll - and today's heckling - illustrates how Mr Obama's reputation has frayed since 2008. It suggests lingering bad feelings from Democrats' bitter primary fight, when he and Mrs Clinton - now his Secretary of State - roughly split the popular vote.
Political professionals of both parties said the findings are a warning for the president, whose formal re-election effort is expected to begin stirring next year. 'It's an indicator of things he needs to address between now and then,' said Kiki McLean, a Democratic strategist who worked in Mrs Clinton's 2008 campaign.
The White House declined comment on the results.
'Nobody wants to work with this guy,' said Steven Fagin, 45, of Cincinnati. A Democrat and 2008 Obama voter, he cited deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans. 'We're never going to get anything done.'
The survey found that those likeliest to oppose Mr Obama's re-election include men, older people, those without college degrees and whites. Those groups mostly supported his 2008 Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Three in four Democrats want Mr Obama re-elected while nearly 9 in 10 Republicans oppose it. Independents lean slightly against Obama, 46 per cent to 36 per cent.
Democrats saying Mr Obama should face a primary challenge tend to be less educated, less liberal and likelier to have been 2008 Clinton backers.
Democratic activists say there are no signs of a serious primary challenge to Mr Obama, though some speculate an effort could come from liberals who think he's drifted too far to the centre.
Obama the Thinker?
Barack Obama is a pragmatist, James Kloppenberg tells the New York Times. No, he doesn't mean Obama is practical-minded; no one thinks that anymore. In fact, Kloppenberg, a Harvard historian, disparages the "vulgar pragmatism" of Bill Clinton while praising Obama's "philosophical pragmatism":
It is a philosophy that grew up after Darwin published his theory of evolution and the Civil War reached its bloody end. More and more people were coming to believe that chance rather than providence guided human affairs, and that dogged certainty led to violence.
Pragmatism maintains that people are constantly devising and updating ideas to navigate the world in which they live; it embraces open-minded experimentation and continuing debate. "It is a philosophy for skeptics, not true believers," Mr. Kloppenberg said.
Kloppenberg has a new book coming out, "Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes and the American Political Tradition." According to the Times, Kloppenberg "sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president," a "true intellectual." Such philosophers are a "rare breed": the Adamses, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Wilson and now Obama.
"Imagine the Republicans driving the economy into a ditch," the philosopher president said the other day. "And it's a deep ditch. It's a big ditch. And somehow they walked away from the accident, and we put on our boots and we rappelled down into the ditch--me and Jack and Sheldon and Jim and Patrick. We've been pushing, pushing, trying to get that car out of the ditch. And meanwhile, the Republicans are standing there, sipping on a Slurpee." John Dewey had nothing on this guy!
If the president does not seem to be the intellectual heavyweight Kloppenberg makes him out to be, the Harvard historian has an explanation: Obama is a sort of secret-agent philosopher. "He would have had to deny every word," Kloppenberg tells the Times, which helpfully explains that "intellectual" is "a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites."
When Sarah Palin called Obama a "professor," some professors accused her of racism. What she really meant, they claimed, was "uppity." Kloppenberg's similar characterization, however, draws a quite different response:
Those who heard Mr. Kloppenberg present his argument at a conference on intellectual history at the City University of New York's Graduate Center responded with prolonged applause. "The way he traced Obama's intellectual influences was fascinating for us, given that Obama's academic background seems so similar to ours," said Andrew Hartman, a historian at Illinois State University who helped organize the conference.
One assumes that Andrew Hartman is a serious scholar, although one doesn't know for sure because one has never heard of him. Barack Obama, by contrast, is a scholarly dilettante, a professional politician who has moonlighted as a university instructor.
Yet Hartman's remark about Obama's "academic background" is revealing. Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance.
Kloppenberg's thesis reminds us of another elaborate attempt at explaining Obama: Dinesh D'Souza's "The Roots of Obama's Rage." D'Souza, like Kloppenberg, imputes to Obama a coherent philosophy, in D'Souza's case "anticolonialism." It is a needlessly elaborate explanation for an unremarkable set of facts.
Occam's razor suggests that Obama is a mere conformist--someone who absorbed every left-wing platitude he encountered in college and never seems to have seriously questioned any of them. Kloppenberg characterizes Obama as a skeptic, not a true believer. We're not sure he has an active enough mind to be either one.
The 'big dog' of campaign spending
by Jeff Jacoby
WHAT SPECIAL INTEREST is spending the most money to influence the 2010 election? The answer isn't the US Chamber of Commerce, notwithstanding President Obama's recent attacks on the Chamber's campaign contributions. Nor is it the Karl Rove-backed network of pro-Republican campaign organizations, including American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, that have also been assailed by the White House and the focus of critical media attention.
In reality, the biggest outside spender is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which is pumping almost $88 million into TV commercials, phone banks, and mailings to promote Democratic candidates.
"We're spending big," AFSCME President Gerald McEntee boasted to The Wall Street Journal. "And we're damn happy it's big. And our members are damn happy it's big -- it's their money."
AFSCME isn't the only public-sector union "spending big" to influence the vote on Nov. 2. So is the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), respectively the nation's largest and fastest-growing unions. Together, the three government-employee unions will have spent nearly $172 million campaigning for Democrats in the course of this election cycle. That outstrips by more than $30 million what the Chamber of Commerce and the Rove network combined are pouring into the 2010 campaign.
I have no objection to close media scrutiny when business-linked organizations spend heavily on campaign ads. But it should be a far bigger story when public-employee unions do so. Indeed, it should be serious cause for concern.
"It's their money!" the president of AFSCME declares, and the heads of the NEA and SEIU would presumably agree, but where does "their money" come from? From satisfied customers paying for goods and services they voluntarily purchased? From profits earned by building better mousetraps, designing safer cars, serving tastier meals, developing cleaner fuels? From investing prudently in the marketplace? From risking their savings to launch a new company -- or to keep a going concern competitive?
Of course not. Every dollar the government pays its employees is a dollar the government taxes away from somebody else. As it is, public employees generally make more in salary and benefits than employees in the private economy: For Americans working in state and local government jobs, total compensation last year averaged $39.66 per hour -- 45 percent more than the private sector average of $27.42. (For federal employees, the advantage is even greater.) Which means that AFSCME and the other public-sector unions are using $172 million that came from taxpayers to elect politicians who will take even more money from taxpayers, in order to further expand the public sector, multiply the number of government employees, and increase their pay and perks.
Campaign contributions from public-sector unions, National Review editor Rich Lowry writes, drive "a perpetual feedback loop of large-scale patronage." Not only don't the unions deny it, they trumpet it. "We're the big dog," brags Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME's political operations. "The more members coming in, the more dues coming in, the more money we have for politics."
Unlike labor unions in the private sector, government labor unions can reward politicians who give them what they want and punish those who don't. The United Auto Workers has no say in hiring or firing the president of the Ford Motor Company, but public-sector unions like AFSCME and the NEA can use the political process to help elect the "management" that will have to negotiate with them. The unions flex their political muscle to push not only for ever-more-lavish wages and benefits (including the exorbitant pensions and health plans that are devouring government budgets), but also for more government hiring and bigger government programs.
The cost of government has thus soared in tandem with the growth in public-sector unions -- and those unions make no bones about their reliance on politics to enlarge their wealth and power. "We elect our bosses, so we've got to elect politicians who support us and hold those politicians accountable," AFSCME's website proclaims. "Our jobs, wages, and working conditions are directly linked to politics." That is exactly the problem.
Public-sector unionism has been unhealthy for American democracy. The power to "elect our bosses" has turned government employment into a rigged game -- rigged in favor of ravenous government growth and against the private-sector taxpayers who pay for it. AFSCME may be "damn happy" at the impact it has on US elections. But the rest of us ought to be alarmed.
It Can Happen in the USA today: Government really can be cut -- case studies from Canada, New Zealand, and the United States
In an era of frightful budgets and frightened politicians, cutting government may seem like a flatly impossible task. But a look around the world—and at our own recent economic history—turns up a few inspirational examples of knife work that not only trimmed back budget deficits but created the conditions for unprecedented prosperity.
New Zealand, Canada, and the postwar United States all managed to slash the state on a grand scale. Governments shed responsibility for forests, railways, radio spectrum, and more while relaxing labor markets, slimming the welfare state, and ending price controls. Far from damaging economies or increasing unemployment, these reductions in the size and scope of government boosted GDP, improved services, and created jobs.
Government cutters faced opposition along the way, from skeptical Keynesians to Kiwi bureaucrats. But they also found unlikely allies, with left-wing parties playing major roles in the Canadian and New Zealand examples.
Much more HERE
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)