Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama's 2 Step

Obama and the Farrakhan TrapThe Democratic frontrunner stepped in it Tuesday night.By Byron York

Cleveland, Ohio — Talking to reporters after the Democratic debate here at Cleveland State University, David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s closest adviser, insisted that Obama didn’t try to spin his way through a question on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who recently praised Obama as “the hope of the entire world” who is “capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow.” “I thought that he was very forthright about it,” Axelrod explained. “The point is this: Louis Farrakhan said kind things about [Obama]. From what I read, he didn’t say it was an endorsement, and I think Sen. Obama made clear what his position on Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic statements was.”

The question stemmed from Obama’s initial answer when NBC’s Tim Russert asked, “Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?” Obama might have said, “No.” But instead, he seemed to go out of his way to denounce some of Farrakhan’s statements while not taking on Farrakhan himself (and even using Farrakhan’s preferred honorific in the process). “You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments,” Obama said. “I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can’t censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we’re not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally, with Minister Farrakhan.”More than a few observers were taken aback by Obama’s not-so-deft sidestep. What if, the blogger Andrew Sullivan asked, it had been a question to John McCain about David Duke? And what if McCain had answered, “You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Dr. Duke’s racist comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in a white man who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can’t censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we’re not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally, with Dr. Duke.”And what if then, after the debate, McCain’s top campaign aide explained by saying, “The point is this: David Duke said kind things about [McCain]. From what I read, he didn’t say it was an endorsement, and I think Sen. McCain made clear what his position on Duke’s racist statements was.”But Obama’s sidestepping didn’t stop there. After his answer, Russert asked again, just as directly, “Do you reject his support?” Obama might have answered, “Yes,” but instead tried his best to stay away from anything so definitive. “Well, Tim, you know, I can’t say to somebody that he can’t say that he thinks I’m a good guy. You know, I — you know, I — I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements, and I think that indicates to the American people what my stance is on those comments.”At that point it became clear that Obama simply would not say that he rejected Farrakhan’s support, preferring instead to refer to, but not repeat, previous statements. It’s a common technique for a politician who doesn’t want to say something to say that he has said it before without actually saying what he says he said. Here in Cleveland on Tuesday night, Obama seemed to be heading in that direction until Russert pressed a bit more, bringing up Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s long-time pastor, whose magazine last year said that Farrakhan “truly epitomized greatness.” And then Hillary Clinton — who must have enjoyed seeing her opponent take a rare turn on the hot seat — added, “There’s a difference between denouncing and rejecting…I have no doubt that everything Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we’ve got to be even stronger.”At that moment, Obama was in trouble. If he continued to repeat his I-have-denounced-Minister-Farrakhan’s-anti-Semitic-statements position, he would clearly seem to be avoiding a larger critique of Farrakhan. So he rather nimbly suggested that it was all a matter of semantics, and if Sen. Clinton liked, he would reject as well as denounce. “Tim, I have to say I don’t see a difference between denouncing and rejecting,” Obama said. “If the word ‘reject’ Sen. Clinton feels is stronger than the word ‘denounce,’ then I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”The concession got Obama out of trouble. But it didn’t stop the talk in the spin room after the debate. Was Obama initially trying to nuance his way through the question? “Sen. Clinton was pleased that he came back later and…not only denounced it but rejected support,” said top Clinton aide Mark Penn. But Penn continued: “I think you have to listen to the answers. He did not reject what his minister said about Farrakhan. If you listen to the answers, he only responded to Farrakhan, and he never responded to the fact that his minister, if I have it right, said that Farrakhan was a person of greatness. So if you listen very carefully, I do not think he in fact rejected or denounced his minister praising Farrakhan — he only did that to Farrakhan.”A few feet away, Rev. Jesse Jackson approached the question indirectly. He told reporters he was disappointed that there wasn’t a serious discussion of poverty in the debate; why was there no time to discuss the poor and time to discuss Louis Farrakhan? And if there was going to be a discussion of Farrakhan, how could it then leave out…Bill O’Reilly? “They mentioned the Farrakhan matter,” Jackson said. “He’s a free speaker, but in the case of O’Reilly, who suggested about Michelle Obama’s statement about love for the country, about the lynch mob — a very reprehensible statement. He comes under FCC and Fox scrutiny. And so I thought there was an imbalance there.”(Jackson was referring to a recent incident in which the Fox News host, on his radio program, defended Mrs. Obama on her comment that she had not, in her adult life, been proud of her country until her husband’s run for president. “I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama until there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels,” O’Reilly said. Later, O’Reilly, noting that his statement was in Mrs. Obama’s defense, said, “I’m sorry if my statement offended anybody.”)In the end, what did Farrakhan’s prominent role in Tuesday night’s debate amount to? Perhaps it was all just of interest to the press. But Obama’s reluctance, at least initially, to reject Farrakhan’s support said something about the closeness of this Democratic race. There are a lot of voters out there who admire Louis Farrakhan. Why alienate them? “What I think we all have to be careful of, in the process of these elections, is people saying, ‘O.K., I support you,’ and then determining whether or not you would want or not want their support,” Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Clinton supporter, said after the debate. “I am confident that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would love to have the votes of people within the Farrakhan sect… Maybe you don’t necessarily embrace the leadership, but you embrace the fact that there are millions — not millions, but thousands — of people within that religion who on a daily basis are suffering from the same things all the rest of us are suffering from.”

Obama's Promise To Fix Everything

Barack by the Issues
by Michael D. Tanner

Barack Obama is now the clear front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He's risen high on his inspiring persona and uplifting rhetoric. At a time of prolonged war and economic uncertainty, he appeals to Americans' hope for something better than the bitter partisan infighting that has paralyzed Washington. And Obama offers an opportunity for closing America's racial divide. It is hard not to cheer his success.
Yet, politics is also about issues. And on this score, Sen. Obama represents less hope and change than a wish list for every conceivable liberal special interest group.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. According to the respected and nonpartisan National Journal, Obama is the most liberal U.S. senator, with a voting record actually to the left of Bernie Sanders, Vermont's self-proclaimed socialist. Consider what Obama actually promises to do:
Taxes and spending: There is no doubt an Obama presidency would represent a return to traditional tax-and-spend liberalism. According to the National Taxpayers Union, Obama has so far proposed at least $287 billion per year in new government spending. And that was before he unveiled his $150 billion "green energy plan" last week. Nor does that include the spending proposals he has supported in the Senate but not discussed on the campaign trail. For example, Obama is co-sponsor of a Senate bill to spend at least $845 billion over the next five years to fight global poverty. CNBC economic analyst Larry Kudlow estimates that, when all is said and done, Obama's new spending plans will cost us more than $800 billion per year.

A President Obama would mean a much bigger, more intrusive, and costlier government.
He would pay for all of this with higher - much higher - taxes. He would, of course, allow the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2010. But that's just the beginning. Obama also has called for removing the cap on Social Security payroll tax, a $1.3 trillion tax hike over the first five years. And, at a time when the U.S. economy is slowing down, Obama would significantly increase taxes on business, investment and job creation, including nearly doubling taxes on capital gains. Americans would face some of the highest marginal tax rates in the world.
Health care: A President Obama would take America down the road to a government-run health care system. He supports a concept known as "managed competition" under which insurance would remain privately owned, but would operate in an artificial marketplace with strict government regulation, much like a public utility. The government would determine what types of benefits you would be required to purchase and how much insurers could charge. Young and healthy people would have to pay more than they ought to in order to subsidize premiums for older, sicker individuals.
While he would not actually mandate that individuals buy health insurance - a point of contention with Hillary Clinton - Obama would mandate that all employers provide their workers with insurance. That proposal would almost certainly end up hurting workers. An employer is indifferent as to whether compensation comes in the form of wages, taxes, health insurance or other benefits. Employers will therefore have to find ways to offset the added costs. This they can do by raising prices, lowering wages or reducing future wage increases, reducing other benefits such as pensions, or hiring fewer workers. As always, employees will be the net losers, with the low-skilled suffering most.

Regulation: A health care mandate is not the only new regulation that Obama wants to impose. For example, he would require businesses to pay an undefined "living wage." He would require paid "family and medical leave." He would regulate mortgages and credit card interest rates. He would impose a host of environmental and labor restrictions. The net cost of this regulatory burden almost certainly will be higher unemployment and greater poverty.
And it's not just businesses that would feel the regulatory hand of an Obama presidency. Consumers too will have to pay, as he imposes new costs on products ranging from homes to automobiles and appliances. In almost everything we do, Obama sees a need for the government to intervene.
A President Obama would mean a much bigger, more intrusive, and costlier government. Indeed, when considering his policies, one searches in vain for any break with liberal orthodoxy. Personal accounts for Social Security? Entitlement reform? School choice? Obama rejects them all, calling such proposals, "Social Darwinism."
That's a lot less inspiring than Obama the candidate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama's Snake Oil

Obama – The Medicine Man

Snake oil is a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat joint pain. Elixirs were potions used to heal every known disease. In western movies both were sold to the gullible as cure alls that could fix any problem you had. The snake oil or potions were medicines that were fake, ineffective or of dubious quality. They were sold with exaggerated marketing and questionable or unverifiable quality.
The snake oil peddler or medicine man became a common character in Western movies: a traveling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling some “medicine” with marketing hype, often supported by fabricated and bogus evidence.

Barack Obama is just another snake oil salesman. Obama is selling us fake cures for the economy, the war on terror, and social issues that divide our country. On the economy it’s a big “yes we can”. Yes we can raise your taxes and spend more of your money to fix the economy. On health care it’s a big “yes we can”. Yes we can raise taxes, subsidize health care for all, and have the government take over the health care system. On the war on terror it’s a big “yes we can”. Yes we can pull all troops out of Iraq. This is the promised elixir that most politicians, Democrats and Republicans, both know cannot happen for several years. On the divisive social issue of illegal immigration. It’s a big “yes we can”. Yes we can solve this issue by granting illegals drivers’ licenses, providing welfare, and providing a massive amnesty plan. On every issue Obama sells us the promise of the elixir that cures all. His elixir is simply the tired old formula of the ingredients of bigger government, more taxes, and more spending.

Barack is not a politician, he is an evangelist along the lines of Joel Osteen, a communicator, a motivator, and an orator. Obama sells us hope but little else. At least Osteen sells us on a change of life brought on by a sincere belief in Christ. Obama sells us hope based upon an elixir that government can fix everything that is wrong with our country. Don’t swallow it. It’ll just make you sick.

McCain's Man

By Shawn Tully, Fortune editor at large

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Now that the faltering economy has replaced national security as the overriding issue in the presidential campaign, John McCain is portraying himself as a budget-shrinking, flat-tax-embracing, healthcare-privatizing champion of free markets. But is this Reaganesque zealot the real John McCain?
The big question is whether McCain's radical agenda is simply designed to rally the Republican base, or would prove a blueprint for a McCain presidency. Given the Arizona Senator's maverick record, voters have every reason to distrust the new McCain. He twice opposed the Bush tax cuts, advocates a big hike in gasoline taxes as part of an elaborate energy policy to halt global warming, and keeps dropping disturbing lines like, "I don't know as much about the economy as I should."

But economic conservatives should take heart. McCain's chief economic advisor - and perhaps his closest political friend - is the ultimate pure play in free market faith, former Texas Senator Phil Gramm. 65. If McCain follows Gramm's counsel, and most of his current positions are vintage Gramm indeed, his policies as president would represent not just a sharp departure from the Bush years, but an assault on government growth that Republicans have boasted about, but failed to achieve, for decades.

Since retiring from the Senate in 2002, Gramm - a former economics professor at Texas A&M - has been circling the globe as an investment banker at UBS (UBS). In July, McCain called on his old friend to salvage his floundering campaign.
"The campaign was structured on the belief that McCain would be the prohibitive front-runner, so he'd have no problem raising money," Gramm told Fortune. But McCain's support among voters and contributors collapsed when the "surge" in Iraq, which McCain championed, got off to shaky start.
"Suddenly it was 'McCain's war,'" says Gramm. With the campaign strapped for cash, Gramm swooped down on McCain headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and spent a marathon session combing through the books. He helped McCain dramatically shrink the staff and budget. In the fall, McCain re-emerged following the Gramm strategy, as a scrappy insurgent underdog, running on puny budget.

On the economy, McCain's most daring manifesto is his healthcare plan. Not surprisingly, it bears the Gramm imprint. In fact, McCain has been heeding Gramm's "power-to-the-consumer" approach for over a decade. The two senators bonded when they linked arms to fight Hillary Clinton's ill-fated healthcare program in 1993. "We couldn't get any press coverage in Washington, DC, so we traveled all over the country, to the regional media markets," says Gramm. In 150 meetings at hospitals and clinics, McCain and Gramm relentlessly pounded the Clinton plan, helping fire the voter outrage that killed the plan in 1994.
Today, McCain is advocating a plan that's radically different from those of Clinton and Barrack Obama, and - if he goes all the way by following Gramm - could revolutionize America's healthcare system. For McCain and Gramm, the problem with our healthcare system - and the reason why over 47 million Americans are uninsured - is that it¹' excessively, scandalously expensive. The solution, they say, is to let Americans shop for healthcare with their own money. McCain advocates giving tax rebates of $2500 per individual or $5000 per family. With that money, families could purchase policies on their own. What's truly radical about the plan is that it eliminates the tax exclusion for healthcare benefits offered by companies to their employees, and replaces it with the $2500 to $5000 rebates.
Consumers could then use that cash to buy their own insurance in what Gramm foresees as a vibrant, consumer-driven marketplace for healthcare packages.

By contrast, Clinton and Obama want to leave the employer-based system in place; Clinton would make big companies either fund gold-plated packages for workers, or pay a stiff tax to support a new Medicare-like system. The Democrats wouldn't allow insurers to charge lower rates for young workers who cost far less than older Americans. McCain favors allowing insurers to charge rates based on actual cost. Gramm adamantly supports that policy allowing insurers to tailor their premiums, and their packages, to their customers. Says Gramm: "Most people without coverage are young and healthy. We shouldn't penalize them by forcing them to pay for someone else's coverage."

What about taxes? McCain now advocates extending the Bush tax cuts that he twice voted against. For Gramm, McCain's strength is that, unlike Bush, he will be a relentless hawk on spending. "McCain's main objection when Congress passed the tax cuts was that we didn't have spending controls," says Gramm. "If we'd had them, we could cut taxes again and not make do with some temporary stimulus."
McCain pledges to balance the budget by 2012, not by increasing taxes, but by vetoing all pork barrel spending, and curbing outlays for Social Security and Medicare. That would accomplish the seemingly impossible, reducing federal spending as a portion of GDP, a holy grail for conservatives. Could Gramm be the Treasury Secretary who spearheads the McCain plan? He says he'd be reluctant to return to public life, but doesn't rule it out. Indeed, he says that he and McCain talk every day. Gramm even quotes Rudyard Kipling to salute his friend's grit in political combat.
McCain is a hero to Gramm but not to free-marketers. Conservatives are hoping that by embracing their hero, McCain will become one himself.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, by George Weigel, Doubleday, 208 pages, $18.95

We westerners are also deceiving ourselves about the Muslim threat to our civilization by embracing a mushy style of multiculturalism that has replaced our former tradition of robust assimilation of immigrant populations. Europeans are guilty of the same deadly sin. As a result, Weigel sees a distorted notion of tolerance at work that, over time, will reduce non-Muslim citizens of countries like the Netherlands and Denmark to second-class citizenship.

The Dutch Moroccan who murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh as part of a personal fatwa retains the right to vote from prison. Dutch children, on the other hand, are forbidden to display their country's flag on their backpacks because immigrants might view it as a provocation.
Already in France, he claims, there are dozens of "ungovernable "suburbs where cops fear to tread and consequently French law has been usurped by Sharia law, which is enforced by local Muslim clerics. Similar enclaves exist in Great Britain, he says.

Weigel's book, styled as a call to action, chides us for taking false comfort in the mantra that most Muslims are not terrorists. While the mantra is literally true, he argues that the terrorists enjoy the tacit sympathy of many of their brothers in faith, "not only in the Middle East, but throughout western Europe, in Canada, and in the United States."
His prescription is for patience and resolve and, most difficult, an acceptance of substantial sacrifice in a war of ideas and weapons against an enemy, the Jihadists, who will never be appeased and are dedicated to putting our civilization to the sword. This is a thoughtful, compelling little book, filled with brilliant analysis that is crucial to comprehending the jihadists' threat against the world.

Obama The Moderate?

Obama's Plan for the Tax Man (From Barrons)

WELCOME TO OBAMA-NOMICS 101. If you're wondering how the young candidate would impact Wall Street if he wins the presidential marathon in November, here's the bottom line: He would hike most rates on dividends and capital gains from their current top of 15% to between 24% and 25% in order to generate new revenue and pay for middle-class tax simplification. So says Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor who advises Obama on economic matters.
"That's less than the 28% rate under Ronald Reagan, and more than the 20% rate under Bill Clinton," Goolsbee told us last week. And raging bull markets occurred during both their presidencies.

TO INSURE AGAINST A NEGATIVE impact on innovation and new business formation, Obama would have a zero rate on capital gains for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and small-business owners forming new enterprises.
"He is being careful not to disturb innovation," said Goolsbee. Most of the highest taxes, he says, would fall on "gains from the past."
Supply-siders claim that a tax hike on capital will seriously retard capital-gains realizations and consequently reduce revenues to the U.S. Treasury. A pro-supply-side editorial last week in our sister publication, The Wall Street Journal, notes that the Congressional Budget Office estimated collections under a 20% rate from 2003 to 2007 would have netted $260 billion. However, collections under the 15% rate for the same period are $470 billion.

Goolsbee says you will always experience a short-term "unlocking" effect when you lower rates after the market has run up. The surge makes it appear that the tax cut pays for itself. But once those gains are cleared out, he argues, then the lower rates result in lower revenues. As for ordinary income, Obama would allow the top marginal rates to return to the Clinton era's 39.6% versus 35% today. Obama would also eliminate all tax shelters and loopholes, Goolsbee says.

For moderate wage earners who take the standard deductions, tax filing would be simplified. The Internal Revenue Service would figure out their taxes for them and send them a one-page form to sign, reducing preparation costs.
We asked him if Obama thought that corporate rates were too high, and were hurting the competitive position of the U.S. "He hasn't gotten into that yet," says Goolsbee. His own view is that while the statutory rate is high, the actual rates paid are not: "There is a great deal of variability in rates, and that is disturbing in what it says about loopholes and who is connected."
Ideally, he concedes, you would eliminate all loopholes in return for a lower rate. But in the sausage factory of the U.S. Congress, the temptation would be to keep the loopholes and lower the rate, he says, reducing revenues.
So there you have it, Wall Street: a preview of life under President Obama.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Obama's Latino Gamble

With "Super Tuesday" only three days away, the state's Latino voters are set to play a crucial role in choosing the next president.
But the country's fastest-growing minority is split on a candidate to represent the Democratic Party.
While Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., enjoys strong support among Latinos, growing numbers are pledging their allegiance to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

There are about 9 million Latino registered voters in the nation, including 2.7 million in California and 186,000 in San Bernardino County.
Latinos make up one in five Democratic primary voters in California, according to the the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
Because they are concentrated in states rich in electoral college votes such as California and New York or in key swing states such as New Mexico and New Jersey, it only takes a small switch in the Latino vote to change the outcome of an election.
About 20 Latino and black activists held a rally Friday in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at San Bernardino City Hall to formally endorse Obama.
"Senator Obama is a unifier that can transcend ethnicity, race, gender, class and religion and bring the country together to effectively address the multiplicity of domestic and international issues facing the country," Armando Navarro, an ethnic studies professor at UC Riverside, said at the rally.

Navarro and others said Obama has consistently supported policies to give legal residency, citizenship and driver's licenses to the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Obama takes big risk on driver's license issue
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Monday, January 28, 2008

(01-28) 04:00 PST Washington -- Sen. Barack Obama easily won the African American vote in South Carolina, but to woo California Latinos, where he is running 3-to-1 behind rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he is taking a giant risk: spotlighting his support for the red-hot issue of granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
It's a huge issue for Latinos, who want them. It's also a huge issue for the general electorate, which most vehemently does not. Obama's stand could come back to haunt him not only in a general election, but with other voters in California, where driver's licenses for illegal immigrants helped undo former Gov. Gray Davis.

Clinton stumbled into that minefield in a debate last fall and quickly backed off. First she suggested a New York proposal for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants might be reasonable. Then she denied endorsing the idea, and later came out against them.
Asked directly about the issue now, her California campaign spokesman said Clinton "believes the solution is to pass comprehensive immigration reform."
"Barack Obama has not backed down" on driver's licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. "I think when the Latino community hears Barack's position on such an important and controversial issue, they'll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community."