Smooth talking

From Thomas Sowell:

Often, in politics, it doesn’t matter what the facts are. What matters is how well you make your case to the voting public.

Back in 1995, Bill Clinton and the Congressional Democrats, with the aid of the media, pounded away on the theme that the Republicans had “cut” government programs, even where the Republicans had appropriated more money than these programs had ever had before.

What Republicans had cut was the amount that Clinton had asked for. You might think that this was a fairly obvious difference and that this could be explained to the public. But the Republicans failed to do so effectively.

It was painful to watch various Republican spokesmen come on television and talk about discrepancies between Congressional Budget Office statistics and statistics from the Office of Management and Budget. This might have been fascinating stuff in a seminar on accounting, but it was like Greek to many TV viewers.

If the Republicans cannot be bothered to put in the time and the hard work required to develop an effective articulation of their case, then they deserve to lose. But the country does not deserve to have disastrous policies continue.

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The hate is coming from the New York Times

From James Taranto:

After the horrific shooting spree, the editorial board of New York Times offered a voice of reasoned circumspection: “In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions . . .,” the paper counseled.

Here’s how the sentence continued: “. . . from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East.”

The Tucson Safeway massacre prompted exactly the opposite reaction. What was once known as the paper of record egged on its readers to draw invidious conclusions that are not only prejudicial but contrary to fact. In doing so, the Times has crossed a moral line.

Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s editorial:

It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.” Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal. . . .

Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.

To describe the Tucson massacre as an act of “political violence” is, quite simply, a lie. It is as if, two days after the Columbine massacre, a conservative newspaper of the Times’s stature had described that atrocious crime as an act of “educational violence” and used it as an occasion to denounce teachers unions. Such an editorial would be shameful and indecent even if the arguments it made were meritorious.

The New York Times has seized on a madman’s act of wanton violence as an excuse to instigate a witch hunt against those it regards as its domestic foes. “Instigate” is not too strong a word here: As we noted yesterday, one of the first to point an accusatory finger at the Tea Party movement and Sarah Palin was the Times’s star columnist, Paul Krugman. Less than two hours after the news of the shooting broke, he opined on the Times website: “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was.”

This was speculative fantasy, irresponsible but perhaps forgivable had Krugman walked it back when the facts proved contrary to his prejudices. He did not. His Monday column evinced the same damn-the-facts attitude as the editorial did.

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Leftist delusions

From Charles Krauthammer:

The charge: The Tucson massacre is a consequence of the “climate of hate” created by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Obamacare opponents and sundry other liberal betes noires.

The verdict: Rarely in American political discourse has there been a charge so reckless, so scurrilous and so unsupported by evidence.

As killers go, Jared Loughner is not reticent. Yet among all his writings, postings, videos and other ravings – and in all the testimony from all the people who knew him – there is not a single reference to any of these supposed accessories to murder.

Not only is there no evidence that Loughner was impelled to violence by any of those upon whom Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, the New York Times, the Tucson sheriff and other rabid partisans are fixated. There is no evidence that he was responding to anything, political or otherwise, outside of his own head.

A climate of hate? This man lived within his very own private climate. “His thoughts were unrelated to anything in our world,” said the teacher of Loughner’s philosophy class at Pima Community College. “He was very disconnected from reality,” said classmate Lydian Ali. “You know how it is when you talk to someone who’s mentally ill and they’re just not there?” said neighbor Jason Johnson. “It was like he was in his own world.”

His ravings, said one high school classmate, were interspersed with “unnerving, long stupors of silence” during which he would “stare fixedly at his buddies,” reported the Wall Street Journal. His own writings are confused, incoherent, punctuated with private numerology and inscrutable taxonomy. He warns of government brainwashing and thought control through “grammar.” He was obsessed with “conscious dreaming,” a fairly good synonym for hallucinations.

This is not political behavior. These are the signs of a clinical thought disorder – ideas disconnected from each other, incoherent, delusional, detached from reality.

These are all the hallmarks of a paranoid schizophrenic. And a dangerous one. A classmate found him so terrifyingly mentally disturbed that, she e-mailed friends and family, she expected to find his picture on TV after his perpetrating a mass murder. This was no idle speculation: In class “I sit by the door with my purse handy” so that she could get out fast when the shooting began.

Furthermore, the available evidence dates Loughner’s fixation on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to at least 2007, when he attended a town hall of hers and felt slighted by her response. In 2007, no one had heard of Sarah Palin. Glenn Beck was still toiling on Headline News. There was no Tea Party or health-care reform. The only climate of hate was the pervasive post-Iraq campaign of vilification of George W. Bush, nicely captured by a New Republic editor who had begun an article thus: “I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it.”

Finally, the charge that the metaphors used by Palin and others were inciting violence is ridiculous. Everyone uses warlike metaphors in describing politics. When Barack Obama said at a 2008 fundraiser in Philadelphia, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” he was hardly inciting violence.

Why? Because fighting and warfare are the most routine of political metaphors. And for obvious reasons. Historically speaking, all democratic politics is a sublimation of the ancient route to power – military conquest. That’s why the language persists. That’s why we say without any self-consciousness such things as “battleground states” or “targeting” opponents. Indeed, the very word for an electoral contest – “campaign” – is an appropriation from warfare.

When profiles of Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, noted that he once sent a dead fish to a pollster who displeased him, a characteristically subtle statement carrying more than a whiff of malice and murder, it was considered a charming example of excessive – and creative – political enthusiasm. When Senate candidate Joe Manchin dispensed with metaphor and simply fired a bullet through the cap-and-trade bill – while intoning, “I’ll take dead aim at [it]” – he was hardly assailed with complaints about violations of civil discourse or invitations to murder.

Did Manchin push Loughner over the top? Did Emanuel’s little Mafia imitation create a climate for political violence? The very questions are absurd – unless you’re the New York Times and you substitute the name Sarah Palin.

The origins of Loughner’s delusions are clear: mental illness. What are the origins of Krugman’s?

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Worth understanding, but not debating

Andrew C. McCarthy on the Left’s reaction to the shootings in Tucson:

The atrocity has called on us to indulge a double fantasy. First, that it is worth the time and effort to engage Obama’s base in a debate about the root cause of the shootings, and specifically about whether what the Left frames as an atmosphere of toxic rhetoric (translation: the Tea Party, talk radio, and Fox News) is to blame. Second, that without such a debate, we wouldn’t and couldn’t know why this atrocity happened.

To grasp the absurdity of the first point, one need only remember the reaction to terrorist attacks by two jihadists: Maj. Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 people and wounded numerous others in the Fort Hood massacre, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to explode a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. There could not have been a more committed effort to deny that Islamist ideology and its hateful rhetoric had anything whatsoever to do with these events.

Very simply: The Left likes Islam and sympathizes with the Islamist critique of America, while it seethes with contempt for the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and any person or institution that can serve as a symbol of conservatism or bourgeois American life. Consequently, any heinous act that can be contorted, however counterfactually, into a condemnation of the Right will be exploited for that purpose. Conversely, there is to be quick rationalization for, and then studious suppression of, any shameful episode that is too clearly traceable to a leftist cause célèbre — Islam, a movie pining for George W. Bush’s assassination, ghoulish wishes that Clarence Thomas or Dick Cheney will meet swift and painful deaths, or Senate Democrats’ comparing U.S. troops to Nazis, Soviets, Pol Pot, or terrorists.

There is no point debating any of this. Two years ago, we were still being told dissent was the highest form of patriotism; now it’s the root cause of murderous rampage. Modern leftists are tacticians. They’ve convinced themselves of the rightness of their cause, obviating the need to be consistent or faithful to facts in any single episode. For them, it’s all about how the episode can be spun to help the cause. That’s worth understanding, but not debating.

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Political Vultures

From VDH:

Very few Americans are fans of both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kamp, as the Tucson killer, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, apparently was. Fewer still post on the Internet fears about “brain washing,” “mind control,” and “conscience dreaming”; have a long record of public disruption and aberrant behavior; were expelled from community college; or were summarily rejected for military service.

No matter. Almost immediately following Loughner’s cowardly murdering of six and wounding of 14 including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pundits and some public figures rushed to locate his rampage, together with his paranoid rantings about government control, within the larger landscape of right-wing politics — especially the rhetoric of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.

Apparently, we are supposed to believe that Loughner’s unhinged rants about the “government” indict those who express reasonable reservations about the size of government as veritable accessories to mass murder. The three worst offenders were Paul Daly of the New York Daily News, who claimed just that in an essay with the raging headline “The blood of Congresswoman Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s hands”; the ubiquitous Paul Krugman, who connected Loughner to the supposedly Republican-created “climate of hate”; and Andrew Sullivan, who thought he saw yet another avenue through which to further his own blind antipathy toward Sarah Palin and “the Palin forces.” In their warped syllogism, the Tea Party unquestionably creates hatred; a congresswomen was shot out of hatred; ergo, the Tea Party and/or the Republican party all but pulled the trigger.

That the 22-year-old shooter more likely fit the profile of an unhinged killer like Ted Kaczynski or John Hinckley did not seem to register. In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, commentators pontificated about a right-wing “climate of hate” in Dallas, Texas, that supposedly explained why a crazed avowed Communist — pro-Soviet, Castroite 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald — shot President Kennedy. Suddenly, this week, we are back in a 1963 mood of blaming politics for deranged shootings.

In the times of national uncertainty and fear that immediately follow hideous mass shootings, this cheap habit of channeling insanity into politics always surfaces but never convinces — as we learned from the deplorable tactic of blaming the Oklahoma City bombing on conservative talk radio. There is usually no clear-cut evidence that a shooter’s ideology has trumped his own imbalances; and we are never quite sure what outside stimulus is the deciding factor that pushes the unhinged over the edge from sounding like a nut on MySpace or YouTube into pulling the trigger.

Loughner was no John Wilkes Booth or James Earl Ray, whose bouts of insanity and past troubles seemed overshadowed by a virulent hatred of the men they shot, which in turn was driven largely by racism or sectarian hatred. But even in such seemingly clear-cut examples of political assassination as Booth’s small cabal, we do not quite see a Day of the Jackal–like cold professionalism, funded by nefarious and well-organized political organizations. Plenty of southerners wanted Lincoln dead by spring 1864; scores of racists shared the sentiments of Ray toward Martin Luther King. But while both killers carefully planned their shootings, it is far harder to uncover elaborate conspiracies that used Booth and Ray as mere triggermen than to discover that both were troubled, sick, and often violent characters whose demonic furies turned their own political extremism into carefully calculated murders.

Further, there is no evidence that political killers share a common ideology. For every apparently right-wing Timothy McVeigh there is a left-wing Ted Kaczynski; both exhibited a sort of mental derangement in their braggadocio about extreme politics. The Sixties culture of drugs, permissiveness, national liberation, radical politics, and environmentalism no more made the Palestinian extremist Sirhan Sihran assassinate Bobby Kennedy, or Charles Manson follower Squeaky Fromme try to kill President Ford, or pop socialist and cult preacher the Rev. Jim Jones order the execution of Rep. Leo Ryan, or Arthur Bremmer shoot the “segregationist dinosaur” George Wallace, than right-wing politics drove on the equally deranged Jared Lee Loughner.

There is much talk that Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” ad pushed Loughner over the edge. But if sloppy use of gun metaphors can drive anyone to shoot congressional representatives, think what we are up against when the president of the United States invokes violent imagery to galvanize his supporters. What are we to make of Obama’s warning of “hand-to-hand combat” if the Republicans take over; or his comment that one of his supporters could “tear [Sean Hannity] up”; or his Untouchables boast that “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”; or his advice to supporters of his presidential campaign to argue with Republicans and independents and “get in their face”?

Why would a president boast about figuring out “whose ass to kick,” or, in a climate of fear about terrorism, call his opponents “hostage takers”? In a post-9/11 world, is it prudent for the commander-in-chief to say of his political opponents, “Here’s the problem: It’s almost like they’ve got — they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up”? What about, “But you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger”?

Also, in a political twofer, Obama once not only evoked gun imagery, but did so in a context of relegating Republicans into second-class citizenry: “We can’t have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.”

Yet do we really wish to tie crude presidential metaphors, similes, and bombast to the next violent attack on a conservative political figure? Are we to suggest that President Obama’s occasional indiscretions have created a climate of fear that someday will lead to violence against his political adversaries? Or, did Obama merely from time to time indulge in sloppy thinking and clumsy expression? Even as someone who did not vote for Barack Obama, I do not think the president’s ill-advised and juvenile similes and allusions will ever drive a liberal extremist into “bringing a gun” to a political fight or literally “tearing up” a political opponent.

The problem that political hatchet writers such as Paul Krugman have with channeling acts of unhinged violence into expressions of mainstream political thinking is threefold. First, such politicos cannot calibrate the degree to which ideological motivation trumps mental instability. If Arthur Bremmer hated racists and admired black politicians, did such feelings feed on mainstream liberals’ fears of segregationists, and did they alone result in his shooting of George Wallace? Analyzing an isolated act of violence is more difficult than finding a pattern in the 30-something terrorist plots since 9/11 in which avowed Islamic terrorists have tried to kill infidel Americans in open emulation of Osama bin Laden.

Second, there is no consistent evidence that the Kaczynskis or Squeaky Frommes of the world are less numerous than the McVeighs. If political fervor inspires extremism, is there any evidence that states’-rights zealotry prompts more terrorism than, say, radical environmentalism? Are left-wing nuts more or less numerous than right-wing nuts — and more or less likely to translate warped politics into pulling a trigger? If Sarah Palin has used crosshairs imagery, has the Democratic-party hierarchy never used shooting-range targets to illustrate their electoral strategy to unseat Republicans? And has any academic collated 100 years of political assassinations and shootings in the U.S. to determine whether radicals or reactionaries are more likely to shoot public figures — and, far more critically, to prove that such political motivations, rather than mental instability, were the real catalysts for the ensuing violence?

Third, the outrage of Daly, Krugman, Sullivan, and others is partisan and transparently self-serving. Paul Krugman would have more credibility on the topic of extreme rhetoric had he written a column a few years ago warning Americans that it was one thing to oppose George W. Bush, but quite another to publish a novel envisioning the assassination of the president, or to award first prize at the Toronto Film Festival to a “docudrama” constructing the shooting of Bush, or to compare one’s opponents (as Al Gore and John Glenn did) to “brownshirts” and “Hitler.” Did we ever hear from Andrew Sullivan to cool the sick rhetoric about Sarah Palin, in worries that his incessant rumor-mongering about her supposed faked pregnancies had reached the point of dehumanization?

If crazed gunmen are sadly a periodic characteristic of American culture, so are political vultures who scavenge political capital as they pick through the horrific violence.

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Prosperity

From Representative Tom McClintock:

House Chamber, Washington, D.C. January 6, 2011

M. Speaker:

I rise to express the hope that historians will look back on the 112th Congress as the session that restored American prosperity – and to express my strong agreement with the new leaders of this House who have declared that every action of this body must be measured against this goal.

We speak of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but jobs are a product of prosperity. And prosperity is the product of freedom.

Government does not create jobs or wealth – it merely redistributes them. Jobs and wealth can only be created through the free exchange of goods and services in a free market. Government’s role is to create and protect the conditions which promote prosperity.

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