Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting thesis that it was the Cold War which was the "holiday from history," not the 1990s.
Many have called the decade between the fall of the Soviet Union and the attacks of 9/11 a “holiday from history.” The truth is closer to the opposite. The Cold War years, while historic in a literal sense, were something of a great parentheses, a sharp departure from historical norms. Communism was a transnational ideology imposed on nationalist movements. That’s why every supposedly Communist movement eventually became nationalist once in power. Still, the rhetorical and psychological power of Communist ideology, combined with the fear of nuclear war, made international relations seem like a sharp break with how foreign affairs worked before 1945 — or 1917.

It turns out, the Berlin Wall wasn’t blocking us from a new world order, it was holding back the tide of history. Western Europe was especially slow to realize this. Its politicians and intellectuals persuaded themselves that they had created a continental “zone of peace” through diplomacy, when in reality they were taking U.S. protection for granted. They let their militaries atrophy to the point of being little more than ceremonial.

The contrast with Russia and China (not to mention Iran and Saudi Arabia) is amazing. In Moscow and Beijing, they still believe foreign policy is about military and economic power, “spheres of influence,” formal alliances, and political control. In Western Europe (and much of this administration), it’s about moral authority, international norms, and other kinds of “soft power.” Soft power is great, but it’s useless against people who respect only hard power. And that lesson predates the Cold War by a few millennia.
Fred Barnes argues that Barack Obama has been a real gift to the Republican Party.
President Obama is a gift to Republicans. His policies, his partisanship, his allegiance to liberal interest groups, his indecisiveness​—​they all have served Republicans well. Without Obama’s self-destructive presidency, Republicans would probably be somber today. Instead they are bursting with optimism about the November midterm election.

It didn’t have to be this way. And it wouldn’t be, had the president shown more foresight and less insistence on getting whatever he wanted, pretty much in the form he wanted. Congressional Democrats had a hand in this. But the policies were his. Obama was in charge. He’s responsible.
Obama could have compromised to get some Republican votes to push through Obamacare. Instead he arrogantly pushed it through Congress without a single Republican vote. The same is true of his stimulus plans.
The same is true with the economic “stimulus.” The president wooed three GOP votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster. That was it. Every House Republican voted no. For this, Obama has paid a double price. The economic recovery is the weakest in decades, and a solid majority of Americans believe we’re still in a recession (it actually ended in June 2009).

Obama could have adopted private sector incentives sought by Republicans. He wasn’t interested. His plan was government-only, with tens of billions for unionized public sector employees. White House claims that the stimulus created or saved 1.6 million jobs per year in its first two years are not credible. On the contrary, the percentage of Americans in the workforce has shrunk to the lowest level since the 1970s. And there are fewer jobs today than in 2007.

Again, it could have been different. Had Obama compromised with Republicans and added incentives for private investment and job creation, the economy would in all likelihood have grown more robustly. And Republicans wouldn’t have a “growth and jobs” theme in 2014. House speaker John Boehner said last week it’s the best issue for the GOP.
Add in his dithering on the Keystone pipeline.
In 2014, Republicans are the lucky party. Obama has given them powerful issues. Without them, they’d be talking about the deficit, the national debt, big government, entitlement reform, and Obama’s failure as a foreign policy president​—​legitimate issues but not the ingredients of a Republican landslide. The issues Obama fumbled​—​Obamacare, the economy, energy​—​are.
Ramesh Ponnuru advises the Republicans to be prepared with an agenda that they can work on passing if they gain control of the Senate. They can use such proposals as a foundation for 2016. But it is important to start persuading the public now about that agenda.
If Republicans want to govern after 2016, for that matter, they should start preparing now: coming up with an agenda, selling it to the public and refining it as they go.

But those considerations involve thinking past the next elections, and that's not something that comes naturally to a lot of politicians.
Jonathan Tobin responds to a liberal argument made by Paul Waldman that has begun that the Republicans wouldn't be able to work together if they controlled both the House and Senate next year. They'd fight among themselves and would alienate the public with fruitless bills trying to repeal Obamacare. What that argument ignores is that there are Republican ideas out there on health care that haven't gotten much attention from the media, but are well worthy of discussion and make nice contrasts to the disaster that Obmaacare has become.
It is true that the continued presence of Barack Obama in the White House will mean the GOP will still not be governing the nation. He may well use his veto power more than before and frustrate Republican legislative initiatives. But by the same token, the ability of Republicans to hamstring Obama’s liberal agenda and subject his administration to probes will be enhanced.

The president may respond by accelerating his effort to bypass Congress and to govern by means of executive orders. But doing so as a lame duck will not only strike most voters as problematic from a constitutional point of view; it will also place a burden on Democrats in 2016 that they will be hard-pressed to cope with.

Most importantly, a Republican Senate would end any chance that Supreme Court retirements would allow the president to create a liberal court that could stand for decades or to continue his project of packing the appeals courts with like-minded jurists.

A Republican Congress won’t be able to undo everything Barack Obama has done or impose a Tea Party agenda on the nation. But it will act as a far more effective break on a liberal president than the current split Congress and also give Republicans more forums from which they can promote their ideas as they look to 2016. Any Democrat who doesn’t think that will materially damage his party or its leader will learn differently if the GOP vindicates the pundits and sweeps the board this November.
Charles C. W. Cooke also responds to Waldman's argument to demonstrate how Republican control of the Senate could change the cards on the table for 2016.
No, a Republican Congress can’t unilaterally repeal the Obama years and start over. But it can continue to hammer the president and whomever picks up the torch for the Democratic party from a position of power – much as the united Democratic Congress did between 2006 and 2008. At the moment, Harry Reid can ensure that nothing difficult ever reaches Obama’s desk. If the GOP takes the Senate, however, this dynamic changes completely. Bills to approve Keystone XL, make popular changes to Obamacare, and do anything else that polls well will be up for a signature or a veto — all backed up with a serious PR campaign. What will Obama do? And what will an aspiring 2016 candidate do? If Obama vetoes Keystone, does Hillary back him? Or does she snipe from the sidelines?

Finally, there are the less-easy-to-pin-down problems associated with being a president who isn’t running again, especially one whose signature legislation was sufficiently unpopular as to lose him control of both houses of Congress. It’s tough to put into words how this changes the political culture, but somehow it just does. British Prime Minister David Cameron had a brutal putdown for Tony Blair toward the end of Blair’s premiership. Introducing himself as the new Conservative leader, Cameron announced, “I want to talk about the future.” Then he turned to Blair and added: “You used to be the future once.”

It stung, as it always does at this stage in the game.

Megan McArdle calculates that there is no way that we are going to see the necessary mix of young and healthy people signing up for Obamacare that the system needs to keep insurance premiums from rising.

Garrett Epps explains in the Atlantic Magazine why he doubts why any liberal pressure on Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire from the Court. He also argues why liberals should want her to stay.

We need more liberals like Richard Cohen who are willing to attack Mayor de Blasio's war on charter schools.