Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg explains why Joe Biden really isn't the answer for the Democrats.
But Clinton’s problems are also indicative of the Democrats’ more systemic challenges. Specifically that Barack Obama is a deeply polarizing figure who has been fairly disastrous for his party.

Of course, liberals can make the case that he’s been great for the nation or for liberalism — or both. But there really is no disputing that he’s been terrible for the Democratic party, costing Democrats control of Congress, state legislatures, and governorships.

#share#“No president in modern times has presided over so disastrous a stretch for his party, at almost every level of politics,” Jeff Greenfield wrote in Politico. “It’s almost a crime,” Democratic-party vice chair Donna Brazile told Greenfield. “We have been absolutely decimated at the state and local level.”

Obama’s presidency has been the most consistently polarizing in the history of modern polling. He is popular with partisan Democrats and few others. But that can be misleading. According to a Rasmussen poll, 86 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents think the country is on the wrong track. Democrats tend to agree, albeit by a smaller margin (48 percent to 42 percent). But one need only compare the sad turnout for some Clinton events with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s monster rallies to see that the enthusiasm even among Democrats is against the status quo. And Clinton is nothing if not a status-quo candidate. Perhaps not in all of her positions, but certainly in terms of her persona and “brand.”

The same political party rarely wins three presidential elections in a row, and when it does, it is only when the country is satisfied with the party’s direction and the incumbent is popular.

So let’s sum up the symptoms. The country is in a very sour mood and searching for change. Populist anti-establishment discontent runs like a prairie fire through the grass roots of both parties. The incumbent president is polarizing and unpopular. The Democratic bench has been cleared of viable young alternatives who could successfully promise a major course correction. (Greenfield notes that when Obama leaves office, he’ll pretty much be the only Democratic leader not eligible for Social Security.) The Democratic front-runner is a stiff, inauthentic establishment figurehead.

And the solution to these problems is . . . Joe Biden, the 72-year-old sitting vice president who ran unsuccessfully for the job twice? Really?

Yes, Biden clears the curb-height hurdle of being more charismatic than Clinton. But Biden, first elected to the Senate in 1972, is arguably even more of an establishment figure than Clinton. Moreover, Clinton has at least a little room to distance herself from Obama. Biden has none. In fact, he gives every indication that he thinks the Obama administration has been a story of one brilliant success after another.

Even if you forget his other problems — the logorrhea, the gaffes and the plagiarism — he is the ultimate “stay the course” candidate. And that’s the last thing anyone needs, the Democrats most of all.
Of course, Republicans have their own problems with their nomination fight. But Democrats don't have any reason to be celebrating Republican disarray when they're facing such weak choices on their own side.

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Ezra Klein explains why Bernie Sanders' rise in the internet is more impressive than Donald Trump's higher position in the polls.
His leads aren't Trump-size — at least not yet — but they were secured without the wall-to-wall media coverage that attends Trump, without the name recognition Trump brought to the race, and against a much stronger frontrunner than Trump faced....

Sanders is trying to expand the Democratic Party's base among the white working class and evangelicals; where Trump is a billionaire attempting to take over American politics, Sanders is a congressman of unusually modest means trying to stop billionaires from taking over American politics.

And that's why Sanders's rise might end up being more influential in the Democratic Party than Trump's rise will be in the Republican Party. Trump is functionally at war with the GOP: His policies, where they exist, are often at odds with party orthodoxy, and neither he nor his supporters have any kind of hold on the Republican Party's infrastructure. The Republican Party doesn't want to co-opt Trump so much as it wants to destroy him and scrub his virus from its bloodstream.

By contrast, Sanders, who is already the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, is pushing the Democratic Party in a direction many of its most influential members — from officeholders to labor unions — already want it to go. He's showing that the political style initially associated with Elizabeth Warren wasn't dependent on her; that there's a real constituency in the Democratic Party, and perhaps even beyond it, for politicians who fight economic inequality by fighting political inequality. In some ways, Sanders is a better test case for that proposition than Warren would have been, as, unlike Warren, he wasn't considered a wildly charismatic politician before this campaign, so his success makes a stronger argument that it's the message that has resonance, not just the messenger.

Bernie Sanders recently stated that America was founded on racist principles. It takes a British immigrant to the U.S., Charles C.W. Cooke to revisit the arguments that Frederick Douglass made refuting such a position.
Indeed, if there is a related principle within its structure, it is that slavery — which had existed almost everywhere since time immemorial — would henceforth be limited. Frederick Douglass, a former slave whose relationship with the young American republic was as complicated as one might expect, eventually came to agree with this assessment. Distancing himself from the cynicism of William Lloyd Garrison and the American Anti-Slavery Society, Douglass concluded that the charter was unsullied. “In that instrument I hold, there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing,” he supposed in July of 1852. “But, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? Or is it in the temple? It is neither.” “Take the Constitution according to its plain reading,” he concluded. “And I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand, it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.”

That Douglass came to conclude that the Constitution contains no “sanction” of human bondage — and, indeed that by “plain reading,” it is “hostile” toward the practice — should not in truth be surprising. Because the revolution had been fought at the call of both libertarian and equalitarian rhetoric; because the Declaration of Independence contained a set of universal propositions; and because so many blacks had participated willingly in the fight for separation, a reconsideration of the status quo had been inevitable from the moment the British surrendered at Yorktown. “Within thirty years of Lexington and Concord, every northern state had acted to end slavery, either immediately or gradually,” the historian John Ferling records in Whirlwind. “Change was less spectacular in slavery’s heartland, the southern states. Nevertheless, throughout the Upper South, state laws were revised making it easier for slave owners to manumit their slaves, with the result that the free black population witnessed a dramatic growth.” By 1810, the future looked bright. In 1787, slavery had been outlawed in the Northwest territory. In 1808 — on the earliest date that the Constitution permitted Congress to act — the slave trade had been brought to a swift end. And, outside of a few recalcitrant pockets in the Deep South, it was broadly predicted that if the practice was firmly restricted to a small part of the country, it would soon die out completely.

This, as we now know, did not happen. And why not? Well, because an ugly counter-ideal reared its head, and, tragically, took hold.
As I teach my students, there was a transformation in the first part of the 19th century from regarding slavery as a "necessary evil" which the nation could not escape to what John C. Calhoun called "a positive good." Even the Confederates admitted that the Founders opposed slavery as Cooke quotes from the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, a man who had argued that slavery was the "cornerstone" of the Confederacy.
How prescient Lincoln’s warning must have seemed two years later when, on the eve of the Civil War, the vice president of the newly minted Confederacy made the repudiation official. The Declaration of Independence, Alexander Stephens proposed, had been built upon a falsehood. Thomas Jefferson, now dead and buried, had been wrong. “The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution,” Stephens argued, “were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.” The core problem with the Constitution, Stephens submitted, was not that it was the compromised product of realpolitik, but that, like the Declaration before it, it actively presumed that slavery would — and should — disappear. “They knew not well how to deal with it,” Stephens noted with disdain. “But the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away.” Such an idea, he concluded, was “fundamentally wrong” and ought to be put aside by all civilized men. Whereas the United States “rested upon the assumption of the equality of races,” the Confederacy would be “founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” The departure from the settlement of 1789 would be dramatic. “This, our new government,” he submitted, “is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Mercifully, Stephens’s pernicious pseudo-“truth” was smashed and cut into pieces by the Union Army, and the older, more virtuous axioms were restored to the center of American life. Over the next century, by a tricky combination of legal reform and social pressure, the unrealized values of the founding were extended, little by little, to all. Today, we still grapple with them — not because we suspect that they may be wrong but because we worry that they are not being universally enjoyed and that this is unacceptable. When the likes of Bernie Sanders submit that that the creed is flawed per se, they do a disservice not only to America’s North Star — her “promissory note” as Martin Luther King Jr. memorably put it — but to themselves, for to advance the idea that warped men can by their behavior sully self-evident truths is to side unwittingly with the Calhouns and the Stephenses of the world, and to take firm aim at the hard-earned scars on Frederick Douglass’s back.
As Steven Hayward points out that Bernie Sanders' comment puts him line with Stephen Douglas and Roger Taney.
Good to see that Sanders is keeping faith with Stephen Douglas (and also Chief Justice Taney in Dred Scott) and is opposed to Abraham Lincoln’s view of America’s “title deeds.” (Also Martin Luther King Jr. for that matter.) Douglas, remember, said that the Declaration of Independence—and its great principle that “all men are create equal”—only applied to white people, and he repeatedly scorned the “black” Republican Party.

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Victor Davis Hanson ponders what a future president can do to undo what the Obama administration has done.
There will be a temptation for a reform president to use the lawless means that Obama has bequeathed — executive orders to unconstitutionally bypass Congress; arbitrary suspension or simple non-enforcement of laws, depending on where we are in the national election cycle; exemption of party loyalists from legal accountability — to achieve the noble aim of restoring legality. But such short-cuts to reform would be a terrible mistake.

It would be quite illegal to ignore emissions standards the way Obama has ignored the Defense of Marriage Act; or to reduce, by fiat, the EPA to the present toothless status of ICE; or to allow a new sort of “sanctuary city” to refuse to marry gays, in the manner of San Francisco’s refusing to hand over illegal immigrants; or to arbitrarily remove particular owls and newts from the protection of the Endangered Species Act as Obama has picked and chosen which elements of the Affordable Care Act at any particular time he considered legally non-binding. Payback is very tempting, but eight more years of it would ensure that we would become another Zimbabwe or Venezuela. Instead, the next president must, as never before, obey both the spirit and the very letter of the law to restore to us what Obama has almost destroyed.

Oh, like no one expected this to happen: "An Obamacare Change to Medicare Is Backfiring."
Medicare’s attempts to hold hospitals accountable for poor quality treatment is inadvertently penalizing hospitals that take care of sicker, poorer patients, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

A provision in the Affordable Care Act requires Medicare to reduce payments to hospitals that have high readmission rates. The goal was to improve patient care and cut the costs of avoidable hospitalizations. Instead, the new study finds that the Obamacare change unfairly affects hospitals based on the patients they treat.

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Thomas Sowell ponders why we actually do have elections. He has a good point, but I always would prefer if analysts avoided Hitler references when discussing current politicians.
It is easy to understand why there would be pent-up resentments among Republican voters. But are elections held for the purpose of venting emotions?

No national leader ever aroused more fervent emotions than Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s. Watch some old newsreels of German crowds delirious with joy at the sight of him. The only things at all comparable in more recent times were the ecstatic crowds that greeted Barack Obama when he burst upon the political scene in 2008.

Elections, however, have far more lasting, and far more serious -- or even grim -- consequences than emotional venting. The actual track record of crowd-pleasers, whether Juan Peron in Argentina, Obama in America or Hitler in Germany, is very sobering, if not painfully depressing.

The media seem to think that participation in elections is a big deal. But turnout often approaches 100 percent in countries so torn by bitter polarization that everyone is scared to death of what will happen if the other side wins. But times and places with low voter turnout are often times and places when there are no such fears aroused by having an opposing party win.

Despite many people who urge us all to vote, as a civic duty, the purpose of elections is not participation. The purpose is to select individuals for offices, including President of the United States. Whoever has that office has our lives, the lives of our loved ones and the fate of the entire nation in his or her hands.

An election is not a popularity contest, or an award for showmanship. If you want to fulfill your duty as a citizen, then you need to become an informed voter. And if you are not informed, then the most patriotic thing you can do on election day is stay home. Otherwise your vote, based on whims or emotions, is playing Russian roulette with the fate of this nation.

All the hoopla over Donald Trump is distracting attention from a large field of other candidates, some of whom have outstanding track records as governors, where they demonstrated courage, character and intelligence. Others have rhetorical skills like Trump or a serious mastery of issues, unlike Trump.

Even if Trump himself does not end up as the Republican nominee for the presidency, he will have done a major disservice to both his party and the country if his grandstanding has cost us a chance to explore in depth others who may include someone far better prepared for the complex challenges of this juncture in history.

After the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, we are entering an era when people alive at this moment may live to see a day when American cities are left in radioactive ruins. We need all the wisdom, courage and dedication in the next president -- and his or her successors -- to save us and our children from such a catastrophe.

Rhetoric and showmanship will certainly not save us.
I guess that Trump will now slam Sowell who can then join the ranks of Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Megyn Kelly, and Hugh Hewitt as conservatives for whom Trump has expressed his contempt. Hmmm. Given a choice, it's a no-brainer as to which I'd trust more.

This is truly Hugh Hewitt's moment in the sun. People who have never heard of him are now getting an introduction due to his presence on the debate stage tomorrow night. Todd Purdum at Politico profiles Hewitt. His background is certainly interesting and not one normally seen on a debate stage asking questions. I applaud the RNC arranging to have an avowed conservative as one of the questioners. I'd like to see more of that, but if there can be only one conservative radio host, Hewitt is a good choice due to his experience and lawyer's background.

Politico looks at the made-for-TV movie about Ben Carson's life. It's not every candidate who is portrayed by an Oscar-award-winning actor.

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Even the Progressive Policy Institute is endorsing charter schools over the regular public schools in Washington, D.C.
It's not that Washington public schools are bad or getting worse, they just aren't improving as fast as Washington's charter schools. "Under both models, student performance is improving," writes David Osborne, director of the Progressive Policy Institute's project on Reinventing America's Schools.

Osborne says D.C. public schools are improving because they now have more autonomy than they had in the past, though not as much independence as charter schools. Giving [District of Columbia Public Charter School Board] the power to authorize charter schools could give it an opportunity to turn around failing schools. "Charters excel not because their people are somehow better than those in DCPS," Osborne writes. "They excel because their governance framework — which includes school autonomy, full parental choice and serious accountability for performance — is superior to the more traditional DCPS approach."