Morning Report, September 8th: The Big Catholic Con, Death of the Dollar, Principal Obama, ‘Feminist Porn,’ Din-Din with Palin, Raucous Baucus, and Reagan’s Yoda

1.  THE CON OF CONSERVATIVE CATHOLICS.  “The Big Con” explains the money and organization behind efforts to shift Catholic voters’ support away from those who oppose abortion to those who propose social welfare programs that would ostensibly reduce the need for (and thus the number of) abortions.  The article is written in the kind of suggestive, ominous language that I typically find bothersome, because I don’t think the activists who encouraged Catholics to vote for pro-choice Democrats thought they were doing anything wrong.  They did not believe they were “conning” everyone.  Probably, and at least we ought for the sake of civility to assume that, they genuinely convinced themselves with their arguments that the best way past the stalemate on abortion is to reduce “the need” for abortions due to poverty and the absence of a social net.

One problem, as the article reports, is that these activists depended on a single study which suggested that social welfare programs reduce the numbers of abortions because pregnant women find themselves with more options or more support–yet unfortunately for those activists, that study has been roundly criticized and debunked.

What would a true compromise be on the abortion issue?  My suspicion is that most Americans would support a ban on third-trimester abortions.  A majority might even support a ban on second-trimester abortions.  However, the Supreme Court erroneously defined this as an issue of fundamental rights.  As long as abortion is understood as a part of some fundamental right to privacy (where that right is found in the Constitution constitutes the great mystery), then any curtailment of that ‘right’ would seem to be against the Constitution.  This is not an issue of rights; it is an issue of social moral consensus.  We need a law that clarifies that there is no wholesale right to abort an unborn child at just any stage for just any reason, and then we need to draw boundaries that represent the moral intuitions of the majority of Americans.

This has been a part of liberal strategy for quite some time.  I remember in 2004 hearing Jim Wallis talk about reducing the number of abortions by reducing the need for abortions.  He loved to point out how the number of abortions had gone up under Bush (it subsequently went back down).  Jim seemed to genuinely care about the abortion issue, and he is pro-life in some sense.  For many, however, it’s hard to escape the impression that this is just a convenient rhetorical move for those who don’t really care about abortion all that much, and would rather see their co-religionists vote in line with their own social-welfare values.  (Thanks to reader L.D. for the tip.)

2.  BAD OMENS ON THE ECONOMY.  When the UN starts recommending a new global reserve currency, China publicly and repeatedly expresses its concern about the vast sums of money we’re printing off the mint presses, and the year’s ranking shows the U.S. is no longer the most competitive economy and its banks rank in stability behind those of Tanzania, it’s time to take very seriously the long-term economic threats of our debts and deficits.  Paul Krugman does not seem to have put two and two together.  He bemoans that our government may no longer be capable of solving serious problems (echoing the concerns of more astute columnists who brought this up longer before), and yet he argues ad nauseum that a $9T debt is not really a big problem.  The problem is not merely the debt, but the fact that we show no seriousness about reducing the deficit, and our political culture seems basically incapable of reckoning with its fiscal responsibilities.  It’s one thing to give a $100K loan to a person who makes $150K/year.  It’s another thing to give a $100K loan to the same person if he has shown no inclination to balance his checkbook.

The Senate apparently has no choice but to raise the federal debt ceiling to $12T.

3.  I think the concern over Obama speaking to schoolchildren is largely overblown.  It speaks to the distrust that many Americans have in Obama, and the suspicion that Obama is all about Obama all the time, that he is a relentless self-promoter who is interested (as Bill Ayers certainly is) in reeducating America about the values of liberalism.  Liberal bloggers and columnists are in high dudgeon, denouncing the stupidity of those who are concerned about Obama’s speech.  Yet it turns out, as the Washington Examiner points out (watch the Examiner; if it keeps reporting like this, it’s numbers are going to skyrocket), that Democrats in Congress not only condemned but even investigated and interrogated officials when George H. W. Bush gave a speech to schoolchildren.

Presumably the best response is not, as NBC’s Harwood did, to say that the parents who are concerned at having Obama address schoolchildren are “not smart enough” to raise their children “effectively.”  Nor is the proper response found in the faux-profundity of Michael Daly at the New York Daily News.  Daly writes:

Do they really just dislike Obama himself?  And is this dislike related less to his politics than his race?  Is the supposedly political opposition really just a cover for people afraid to say they can’t accept a black man in the White House?  If that is so, if they are (barely) secret racists, do they become particularly unhinged at the thought of a black President addressing their children?  Or do the nut jobs honestly believe what they say?

It’s really not hard to understand why conservatives object when liberal Presidents speak to their children, and liberals object when conservative Presidents speak to theirs: neither side trusts the other.  Both sides believe that the opposition is fundamentally dishonest and subversive.  Apparently the Left finds it impossible to understand why anyone would not trust in the beneficence of Barack Obama–thus they explain parents’ concern as irrational, racist, the crooked thinking of “nutjobs.”  Although I don’t share their concern in this case, those few conservatives who were bothered by this speech tended to focus on the preparatory materials around the speech, not the speech itself (which had not been released yet).  The actual speech seems unobjectionable.  Actually, if Daly had put aside his allegations of nutjobbery, the remainder of his column is correct: Obama tells an important story of how any American child can strive and strive and rise to the highest levels of American society.  It is an important story, and one that African American males in particular need to hear.  Unfortunately it was clouded by bad wording that suggested Obama wanted children to help him achieve his agenda — similar to the wording over which liberals objected in Bush I’s speech.  Were the liberals back then crazy?  Or are conservatives now not crazy?  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

This is just another example of the breakdown in America of political discourse–and the increasing absence of the moral and intellectual imagination that is required to enter into the mindsets of those on the other side of the spectrum.

5.  REMINDER TO BE VIGILANT.  From the TimesOnline:

Three British Muslims were found guilty today of conspiracy to murder thousands of passengers and crew in an unprecedented airline bomb plot that could have proved as deadly as the 9/11 attacks. After a retrial at Woolwich Crown Court, jurors found the ringleader, Abdulla Ahmed, and two other men, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain, guilty of plotting to use liquid bombs to blow up airliners en route from Heathrow to the United States

Remember when the airport security folks suddenly cracked down on liquids?  This was why.  The coordinated attacks could have killed thousands.

6.  ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO IGNORE.  Byron York is right to criticize the New York Times (and implicitly much of the mainstream media establishment) for ignoring the Van Jones issue.  To recap: Obama hired a fellow named Van Jones to be his “green jobs czar,” steering money toward the creation of new green energy jobs, yet this fellow had quite a checkered history.  He had signed a petition in support of the “9/11 truther” movement, which argued that 9/11 was an inside job.  He indulged in way-over-the-top rhetoric against Republicans, and was a self-declared communist for much of the last decade.  The problem for President Obama was that he lent further evidence to the view that Obama is just a closeted radical.

Apparently the New York Times decided that this was not really an important issue.  That’s understandable, in a sense, when much of the criticism came from conservative bloggers and activists.  But when one of Obama’s “czars” is badgered into resigning, and the Obama administration essentially admits that it failed to properly vet him, and this raises the larger issue of unvetted individuals being given enormous executive powers, surely it constitutes news.  The New York Times may not wish that it were news; they may think that the conservatives are making a big issue where there is none.  But there can be no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that the New York Times would have been quite glad to report–and would probably report ad nauseum–on any Bush administration official who had committed the equivalent sins on the right.

How could someone so suspect become a czar in the first place?  A detailed consideration here.

7.  Ralph Peters of the New York Post is usually too extreme for me, but I’m sufficiently ticked off about the Obama administration’s response to the Manuel Zelaya removal in Honduras to agree with him on this one.  I’m also beginning to get upset by their response, or rather non-response, to the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

8.  Laura Bush shows grace and class.

9.  STEP ONE IN FIXING THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS.  When bills are 1000 pages or more, unread and unreadable by the legislators themselves, then we have a problem.  We need a new process that allows not only legislators but ordinary citizens to read and understand the consequences of the bills before Congress.  Obama was on the right track when he suggested that there would be a space for public comment on any bill before it was signed; unfortunately he has done nothing to follow through on that.

10. WIN A DIN-DIN WITH PALIN.  EBay is auctioning a dinner for five with Sarah Palin.  Before you mock, the proceeds go to help wounded veterans.

11.  Max Baucus released what he hopes will be a compromise bill that could win votes from both sides of the aisle.  As Ezra Klein reports, at least from a liberal perspective it has many good points (see another liberal perspective here; and many on the conservative side would agree with some of those good points; they would also point to negatives that Ezra Klein would not).  It’s mostly being received negatively by liberals, who had dreamt of a more fundamental transformation.  And Klein’s main criticism seems to be that it does not create the mechanisms for “expansion,” by which he means that it creates no path to single-payer.

The dishonest rhetoric on both sides continues to be disappointing.

12.  COLUMN OF THE DAY.  Martin Feldstein, economic sage of the Reagan administration, speaks of the unintentional and detrimental financial consequences of Obama’s proposed medicare reform.

One further point, however.  Democrats made huge gains in 2006 even though they were accused (just as justly as Republicans are now accused) of being a “party of no.”  Americans would rather have no change than bad change.  But Democrats can count on the support of the press.  If Republicans wish to make substantial gains in 2010, they need to make very clear that they do have realistic proposals to fix the problems with our health care system.  I have long advocated a central website that lists the Republican alternatives — a website that Republicans reference whenever the issue is raised, so that every American who pays attention to the news will know exactly where to go to find the alternatives that Republicans have put on the table.

Nancy Pelosi once denied that the minority party has any responsibility to produce alternatives.  It’s the majority party’s job to come up with real solutions to problems.  I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now.

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~ by tddalrymple on September 8, 2009.

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