Friday, September 30, 2011

'Centrists' Are Abandoning Ship

Jonah Goldberg

President Obama's failure to fully achieve the liberal agenda and remain popular in the process is fueling dangerous radicalization in the oddest of places: the media establishment, which considers itself the guardian of the political center.

I should say "the so-called center," because one of those most tedious -- yet meticulously maintained -- fictions is the claim that the establishment is, in fact, "centrist."

If you've ever met these people and talked to them about how they see the world, heard them give a college commencement address, read their books or endeavored to find out the political views of their spouses, you'd have all the evidence you need to learn that the establishment's centrist facade is so much Potemkin poster board.

For example, remember the media obsession with the cockeyed fantasy that Obama was the next FDR? Go back and watch some of those late-2008 and early-2009 episodes of "Meet the Press." The guests were so giddy about the prospect they looked like 6-year-olds at a birthday party ordered to sit still while the clown got ready to make balloon animals.

But Obama is no FDR, nor a Lincoln, nor a liberal Reagan. At this point he's simply hoping to not be a Carter. And that's fomented establishment despair. Tina Brown editor of both the Daily Beast and Newsweek, recently let it slip on MSNBC (a trifecta of establishmentarian liberal media outlets!) that she thinks Obama "wasn't ready" for the job in 2008.

The establishment can't bring itself to blame liberalism (or themselves). So instead they blame the system. Obama's own re-election theme of running against "Washington" -- a town he had near total control over for two years and in which he is still the most powerful figure -- is a variant of the same argument. Obama can't blame the party he leads, so he blames the "system."

That idea -- that the system itself is to blame -- has now gone viral.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who's been pushing and predicting a "geo-green third party" since 2006, is convinced there will be something like that in 2012. Why? Because his gut tells him so.

Friedman's gut is a terrifying thing. During the fight over "Obamacare," he didn't just think the political system "sucks" (to borrow Democratic wise man Tony Podesta's term), he found it demonstrably inferior to China's authoritarian regime.

Just last week, Bev Purdue, Democratic governor of North Carolina, declared, "I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make." She now says she was joking, an interpretation hard to square with the audio recording.

Similarly, former Obama aide Peter Orszag (now of Citibank, of course) also pinpoints democracy as the real problem. In the latest New Republic, he proposes that we empower more "depoliticized commissions" to make the important decisions.

Friedman likes "depoliticized commissions" too, like the Chinese politburo. That's why he's written how he wishes we could be just like "China for a day," so we could simply impose all the policies he likes.

At least Matt Miller, an avowed radical centrist, doesn't want to scrap democracy. He just wants to scrap the two-party system. Now, this isn't undemocratic. It's not even necessarily a terrible idea (though I don't endorse it).

But what's interesting about Miller's argument is how un-centrist it is. Writing for the Washington Post, Miller explains how he wants a new third party that will reject "the Democrats' timid half-measures and the Republicans' mindless anti-government creed."

The new centrism: No more half-measures, just full-blown liberalism.

As you go through Miller's platform, you can tell he's serious. He wants to spend vastly more money over "a couple years" to "fix the economy." Ever more taxpayer dollars will be poured into infrastructure, make-work service jobs and education. Once unemployment is lower, he wants to tax "dirty energy" and impose trade tariffs.

That's pretty much Friedman's ideal agenda too.

Come to think of it, it's also Barack Obama's! Perhaps not in every particular, but as several left-wing bloggers have noted, Miller's third party sounds an awful lot like the Democratic Party with a new coat of paint.

This is a fascinating departure from the usual pabulum from centrists who insist that they are neither right nor left. This is nothing less than a desperate abandonment of Obama and the Democratic Party in order to preserve the credibility of the ideas driving Obama and the Democratic Party.

There are few things more pathetic than rats deserting a sinking ship while claiming they're a superior breed of rat.



Who Owns History?

The Southern Poverty Law Center is appalled by the results of a new study finding that states are not teaching the history of the civil rights era. The SPLC, which commissioned the study of state curricula, concludes that students in at least 35 states are missing out on important facts about our history. And even in states that include units on civil rights, "their civil rights education boils down to two people and four words: Rosa Parks, Dr. King and 'I have a dream.'"

On one hand, you want to welcome disgruntled liberals to the club of those worried about historical amnesia among the young. We conservatives have been worrying about it for decades. On the other hand, it's tough to believe that American students are being cheated of knowledge about civil rights, compared with say, knowledge about World War II, or the progressive movement or the nullification crisis. One of my sons, who has been educated in public schools most of his life, offered that in his experience, American history is taught as "the Revolution, the internment of the Japanese during World War II and the civil rights movement."

When Common Core, an advocacy group for educational standards, surveyed American teenagers in 2008, they found that nearly a quarter were not able to correctly identify Adolf Hitler, but 97 percent knew who delivered the "I have a dream" speech. Care to speculate about how many would know who Joseph Stalin was?

Teaching history is inevitably a somewhat political act -- which is why an effort during the 1990s to establish national standards foundered in acrimony and bitterness. Some textbooks in wide use in America devote pages and pages to the so-called "McCarthy era" while neglecting much else and are written in a tone of condescension toward our forebears. Fights over textbook content in leading states like Texas have become protracted tugs of war between competing visions of our nation.

One suspects that only Howard Zinn's version of history would meet with the approval of the SPLC, and there are perhaps some on the right who might want to airbrush Joe McCarthy out altogether. But if we cannot come to some meeting of the minds on teaching the fundamentals of our history, we will have a drastically diminished future. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found in 2010 that only 12 percent of high school seniors were proficient in history.

The founders believed that special skills were necessary for free, self-governing individuals. Our second president, John Adams, said, "Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom." Thomas Jefferson proposed a system of public schools to instill the necessary knowledge and attitudes, saying memorably "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

When Ronald Reagan reflected on his eight years as president in his farewell address, he mentioned that one of the things he was proudest of was the renewed spirit of patriotism in the country. "This national feeling is good," he said, "but it won't count for much, and it won't last unless it's grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge." Recalling that his generation had absorbed "almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation for its institutions," he noted that "Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children." And in what may have been the understatement of the decade, he said ". . . As for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style."

"We've got to do a better job," Reagan warned, "of getting across that America is freedom -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection."

When liberals tell the story of America -- and they overwhelmingly dominate the education establishment -- they tend to focus excessively on our flaws and sins. By all means, our kids need to know about the civil rights movement, just as they should know all about slavery and Jim Crow. But they should also be taught that this country overcame an ugly history of slavery and racism to a degree unequaled by any other nation on Earth. Nations that have practiced slavery (some still do) and racism are in legion. Those that have managed to transform themselves -- to listen to the "better angels of their nature" -- are incredibly rare.

In this, as in so much else, the U.S. is exemplary. If the public schools could convey just that much, it would be progress.



For the GOP, Romney and Perry Are Still the Guys to Beat

Thus far, the maddening Republican storyline in the presidential election cycle is complicating the party's prospects of winning back the White House in 2012.

A clear majority of the American people disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, particularly on jobs and the economy, but the GOP's rank-and-file remains deeply divided over who their nominee should be.

Actually, they are worse than divided, which is not unusual in a large field of candidates. Some Republicans, if not many, do not like the choices they have and are looking around for a new contender to enter the presidential primary race in the 13 months before our nation goes to the polls next year.

That has left many uncommitted Americans on the sidelines, including campaign donors whose contributions will be critical to any serious bid for the White House.

The postwar history of presidential politics is clear on what it takes to win: plenty of time, preparation and money to mount a nationwide organization in all 50 states. This is not a game where a candidate can jump in at the 11th hour -- especially a candidate, no matter how worthy, who is not widely known.

For all practical purposes, the Republican race for the nomination has come down to two contenders, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

But there are others with sizable followings, including Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, backed by his die-hard libertarian supporters, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who draws strength from the Christian right, and even dark-horse business executive Herman Cain, who pulled an upset in the Florida straw poll, beating Perry and Romney by large margins.

Making the GOP's battle even more intense is the issue of party purity, which is expected in Republican primaries. But it has been become a more divisive issue this time, fueled in large part by the tea party conservatives who demonstrated their power in the 2010 midterm elections by toppling House Democrats from power.

In this case, though, it turns out that political purity, at least among the front-runners, is hard to find.

The newest example of this is Chris Christie, the blunt, tough-talking, take-no-prisoners New Jersey governor who made his reputation as a U.S. attorney who put a number of crooked officials -- Democrats and Republicans -- behind bars. In his first year and a half, he has balanced the state's budget, capped property taxes, cut retirement benefits for teachers and state employees, all without raising taxes.

However, he differs with his party on several fronts. He has suggested there ought to be a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and that being here "without proper documentation is not a crime." He has supported some gun control laws as well as civil unions for homosexual couples.

But conservatives, who may not be aware of these positions, find his blunt speaking style appealing and are pleading for him to run, most recently when he spoke at the Reagan Presidential Library Tuesday night when he called Obama a "bystander in the Oval Office."

Even so, Christie has said he will not be a candidate for one big reason: He doesn't think he's ready. He wants to complete his term as governor, run for a second term, and show some major accomplishments before considering higher office.

Perry and Romney have problems with party purity as well.

Romney's biggest problem has been his enactment of a sweeping state health-care law that requires everyone who can afford it to buy private health insurance, as would Obamacare. He has said it is a state program dealing with a state problem, but has vowed to repeal one-size-fits-all Obamacare and to give waivers immediately to states to drop out.

His strength is his long business career as a venture capital investor whose company provided seed money for promising start-up businesses that, like Staples, grew into major job creators. His advisers think that the recession trumps all other issues. "I know how to fix the economy. I know how to create jobs," he says.

Perry, on paper, looked like the answer to conservatives who do not trust Romney. He is a longtime conservative governor of a major state with a booming oil economy, no individual income tax, low tax rates and a stellar record of job creation.

But then came his approval 10 years ago of an in-state college tuition break given to children of illegal immigrants, which he defended in a recent debate, saying that anyone who opposed helping these kids get an education was "heartless."

After stinging criticism for his disjointed, often rambling performance in his last presidential debate, a chastened Perry retreated somewhat. Calling his remarks "inappropriate," Perry said he had been "over-passionate" in his answer. "I probably chose a poor word to explain that."

Romney, by the way, said he vetoed a similar state law.

As things stand now, Perry and Romney remain the front-runners in a primary season that begins in just three months, and that seems unlikely to change as things stand right now.

Perry, who surged into the lead soon after he entered the race, has clearly been wounded by his performance in the debates. Romney has made no missteps yet and has stayed focused like a laser beam on the salient issue that will decide the outcome of this election: the jobless Obama economy.

Party purity, all things considered, takes a back seat in that equation.



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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)


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