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March 31, 2010

Obama Care is about the Redistribution of Wealth

Over the weekend we got some honesty from former Vermont Governor and DNC chairman Howard Dean and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) both admitted that much of ObamaCare was about good old fashioned socialist redistribution of wealth.

No one who paid attention during the campaign can say this is a surprise. We all recall then-Senator Obama's infamous encounter with Joe the Plumber:

"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the plumber asked, complaining that he was being taxed "more and more for fulfilling the American dream."

"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

via Gateway Pundit, first up is Howard Dean:

Next we have Senator Baucus, also via Gateway Pundit:

"This is also an income shift, it's a shift, a leveling, to help lower middle income Americans. Too often, much of late, the last couple three years the mal-distribution of income in America is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind. Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America. This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America, because health care is now a right for all Americans, and because health care is now affordable for all Americans."

And on what basis is health care now a right? Because you say so? Because we passed a law? I thought we were supposed to justify these things by natural law, natural rights, or at least a reference to, you know, the Constitution. For that matter, where exactly in the Constitution does it specify that it is the role of government to level incomes?

More, if enough Democrats say this sort of thing often enough, can we just admit that this is what Obama and most leading Democrats are about?

The New York Times gets it

In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

By David Leonhardt

March 23, 2010

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government's biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

Everybody's Old Favorite

Barack Obama in a 2001 interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I'd be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

Liberals object loudly whenever we on the right call Obama a socialist, and from a tactical standpoint we may want to avoid using that term.

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March 30, 2010

Down the Entitlements Hole We Go

Our public debt has slowly grown for the past hundred years. Sometimes it grew slowly, sometimes fast. It accelerated a bit under George W Bush. But Obama is Bush in steroids. No, he is the spending habits of all past American presidents on steroids. Anyone who doubts this need only watch this video again

I'll say it again: Just because Bush increased the deficit does not make it right for Obama to do likewise. And anyone who thinks that Republicans and conservatives didn't bitterly criticize Bush wasn't paying attention.

On to where we are now. Which is that entitlements are going to destroy us.

Andrew Biggs explains the problem:

Our long-term budget challenge can be summarized in one word: entitlements. Without Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the budget would be roughly in balance over the coming decades. But with these programs, and without reform, a fiscal crisis is inevitable. To balance the budget over the next 25 years would require an immediate and permanent 30 percent increase in all federal taxes. That is the future we face, and it is a future of our own making.

Entitlements traditionally have paid generous benefits -- financed by affordable taxes -- to rich and poor alike, because the ratio of workers to beneficiaries has been high. Those days are gone and will not return. Maintaining entitlements in their current form will require either crippling taxes or crippling debt. Alternatively, we can rethink the entitlement philosophy, focusing resources where they're needed most, empowering individuals to make choices and giving them incentives to reduce waste, and buttressing personal retirement savings.

We spend 9.7 percent of GDP on entitlements today, and by 2030 we will spend around 14.4 percent. Two forces bear primary responsibility for pushing entitlement spending upward: population aging and health-care-cost growth.

To get the gory details read the whole thing, but the message is pretty simple; we're going broke and our current leadership is only making the problem worse. And you know the drill, anyone who objects wants to see poor people die and children starve.

And so, with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid breaking us, what does Obama and his Democrats do? Start a new entitlement program!

Victor Davis Hanson tells us where this is all headed.

Not only are we running $1.7 trillion annual deficits and scheduled to nearly double the $11 trillion debt in only eight years -- and watching the logical end to an entitlement state in Greece's implosion -- but we are witnessing the meltdown of almost every government-run program imaginable: Medicare is broke; the Postal Service is insolvent and cutting back Saturday service (but probably not a commensurate one-sixth of their budget); and now Social Security spends more than it takes in.

So is this frenzied effort to expand government, widen entitlements, raise taxes, and borrow more money some sort of nihilistic urge to achieve a universal, cradle-to-grave, redistributionist entitlement state at about the same time the entire system goes bankrupt?

Constant campaigning, photo-ops, fluff interviews, adulatory essays in the corrupt media -- all this can give a one or two point plus in the polls. But the reasons the bumps are transitory and followed by net losses after a week or two is that the public now realizes we are broke. When Obama announces yet another give-away or entitlement, the public equates that with spending more money we have just borrowed, and suspects that this can no more go on than can the spree of the giddy shopper who maxes out a dozen credit cards, oozing wealth and confidence, before the tab comes in and financial destruction follows.

And it's not just the federal government that's in trouble. As the New York Times reports, California, New York, New Hampshire, Colorado, Connecticut, and maybe New Jersey are in trouble too. Wonderful news all around!

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March 28, 2010

Obama Insults Our Ally and is Weak Towards our Enemy

If this story is even half true it's enough to set your teeth on edge. The Telegraph reports on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House:

The Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening brimming with confidence that the worst of the crisis in his country's relationship with the United States was over.....

But Mr Obama was less inclined to be so conciliatory. He immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.

When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: "I'm going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls."

As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. "I'm still around," Mr Obama is quoted by Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. "Let me know if there is anything new."

For over an hour, Mr Netanyahu and his aides closeted themselves in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor of the White House to map out a response to the president's demands.

Although the two men then met again, at 8.20 pm, for a brief second meeting, it appeared that they failed to break the impasse. White House officials were quoted as saying that disagreements remained. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, added: "Apparently they did not reach an understanding with the United States."

Meanwhile, Obama is softening his sanction plan against Iran. But of course.

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Thou Shalt Not Oppose ObamaCare!

Being busy, I'm a bit late on this, but since I saved the links it's better late than never.

Taking McCarthyism to a new level, Democrat Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) says that people who oppose ObamaCare are racists who are aiding and abetting terrorism.

Ah yes, win a vote, the other side objects, and you accuse them of bring on violence. Over the past week we've seen all sorts of insane charges from the Democrats about how they've supposedly received all these threats, about how black Democrats have been called the n word, yada yada yada.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is warning that some of his Democratic colleagues are being threatened with violence when they go back to their districts -- and he wants Republicans to stand up and condemn the threats.

The Maryland Democrat said more than 10 House Democrats have reported incidents of threats or other forms of harassment about their support of the highly divisive health insurance overhaul vote. Hoyer emphasized that he didn't have a specific number of threats and that was just an estimate.

TheFederal Bureau of Investigation, Capitol Police and sergeant at arms briefed Democrats behind closed doors today about the incidents of violence -- the most high profile of which have been toward Democratic Reps. Thomas Perriello of Virginia, Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Louise Slaughter of New York.

Hoyer hinted that Republicans should do more to condemn these threats of violence.


Not. Impressed.

Politicians, journalists, high-profile bloggers, radio-talk show hosts and the like get death threats every day. Some are serious, some not so much. All perpetrators should be prosecuted.

But it's pretty obvious that the Democrats are using this to change the subject. Their bill is unpopular and they know it. And this from t he party that never condemned the assassination chic rampant on the left when George W Bush was the target?

Eric Cantor Calls out the Democrats - by Name

Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA) nails it when he condemned the Democrats for their tactics, saying that "It is reckless to use these incidents as a media vehicle for political gains." What I like is that he denounces Democrats by name, not content is he to just issue the standard blanket statement.

As for the bullet allegedly fired into one of his offices, neither he nor I are hanging our hates on any tit-for-tat argument, so commenters are advised not to try and waste keystrokes on that one, because I'm not falling for it.

Victor Davis Hanson reviews the hypocrisy of how a book and docudrama fantasizing about about assassinating George W Bush are excused but when the Democrats are (allegedly) on the receiving end it's suddenly all serious, and laments that

Like it or not, between 2001 and 2008, the "progressive" community redefined what is acceptable and not acceptable in political and public discourse about their elected officials. Slurs like "Nazi" and "fascist" and "I hate" were no longer the old street-theater derangement of the 1960s, but were elevated to high-society novels, films, political journalism, and vein-bulging outbursts of our elites. If one were to take the word "Bush" and replace it with "Obama" in the work of a Nicholson Baker, or director Gabriel Range, or Garrison Keillor or Jonathan Chait, or in the rhetoric of a Gore or Moore, we would be presently in a national crisis, witnessing summits on the epidemic of "hate speech."

Yup. After eight years of "Bush Lied, People Died!" a zillion references to Bush as the new Hitler by leftist bloggers ("bushitler," chimpy McHitler"), feting Michael Moore and a whole lot else, it's awfully rich for the left to start demanding civility now that their guy is in office.

John Hinderacker wonders "what was that line about the tree of liberty and the blood of tyrants?" and says that the media and Dem focus is on alleged threats against anyone who voted for ObamaCare. These are disgusting scare tactics and McCarthyism pure and simple. And this from the "Bush Lied, People Died!" crowd.

The current threats (assuming they are real, as I assume some of them are) are being played up in the press because the Democrats want to dampen the anger that has erupted over their adoption of a government medicine program through a series of legislative maneuvers that are in some respects unprecedented. It is important for the Democrats and their press minions to understand that there are many millions of Americans who regard Obamacare not just as misguided public policy, but as an illegitimate usurpation of power. I am one of the many millions who are outraged at the Left's attempt to destroy the private health care system that has served my family so well, and who regard Obamacare as illegitimate. ...

In large part, the current focus on threats of violence is aimed at the tea partiers, just as they were accused, apparently falsely, of racism. It is not hard to understand the Democrats' motives; the tea parties are the most vital force, and likely the most popular force, in American politics, so smearing them is mandatory. But anyone who has attended a tea party rally will consider laughable the idea that the movement somehow tends toward violence.

I've been to lots of protests in and around Washington DC; many to counterprotest and observe leftist anti-war groups such as ANSWER, Code Pink, and United for Peace and Justice. I've also been to conservative rallies such as the Gathering of Eagles, the March for Life, and a Tea Party. There are kooks on each side, but the conservative ones are definitely family-friendly where as the leftist ones are just about X rated for profanity, vulgarity, and sexual innuendos. Check out "Rallies and Protests" under "Categories" at right.

Bottom line I don't take the Democrat claims seriously as anything more than an attempt to divert attention from the issue at hand; the massive unpopularity of their health care legislation. Let them rant all they want, we'll defeat them at the polls this November and in 2012.

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March 24, 2010

Barack Obama: The Most Divisive President Ever

How many times over the past twenty years or so have you heard liberals call conservatives "divisive?" Hundreds? Thousands? That and the charges of "racism" and "sexism" were their all-purpose responses to subjects they did not want to talk about. Democrats, we are told, are uniters who just want us to all get along, while it's those dastardly Republicans who are always so "divisive."

Carrying forth this theme during the campaign, Obama said he could unite the country better than Hillary:

Sen. Barack Obama said in an interview that he has the capacity she may lack to unify the country and move it out of what he called "ideological gridlock."

"I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can," Obama said. "I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running."

Has Obama united us? One way to tell is whether his legislation has received bipartisan support. Let's take a look at the legislative record.

President Obama

All vote tallies are: Yes, No, Absent/Abstain

The Stimulus - H.R. 1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

House - January 28, 200, 244 - 188: Democrats 244-11-0 GOP 177-0-1
Senate - February 10, 2009, 61 - 37: Democrats 58 - 0 - 1 GOP 3 - 37 - 0 Indep(Leiberman) 1 yes

Cap and Trade - American Clean Energy and Security Act "ACES", or Waxman - Markey Bill

House - June 26, 2009, 219 - 212: Democrats 211-44 -1 GOP 8-168-2
Senate - There has been no Senate action on this bill

2010 Budget

House - April 2, 2009, 223 - 196: Democrats 233-20-1 GOP 0-176-2
Senate - April 2, 2009, 55 - 43: Democrats 53-3-1 GOP 0-40-0

Health Care - H.R.4872 and H.R. 3590 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010

House - March 21, 2010, 220 - 211: Democrats 220-33-0 GOP 0-178-0
Senate - Because this is being done as a "reconciliation" bill it has not yet been voted on in the Senate, but given that all it takes is a simple majority it's passage is a fait accompli. More importantly, I think we're all aware that Zero Republicans would vote for the measure, where as Obama has to bribe Democrats into voting for it

Landmark Legislation in History

Let's go through some of the landmark history of the past century and examine the breakdown in voting between the two parties (for the sake of clarity, and because it doesn't really matter for our purposes, I have not included the votes from third parties in this legislation)

President Roosevelt

Social Security Act of 1935

House - August 8, 1935, 365 - 30: Democrats 284-15-20, GOP 81-15-4
Senate - August 9, 1935, 76 - 6: Democrats 60-1-8 GOP 16-5-4

President Johnson

Social Security Amendments of 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid)

House - April 8, 1965, 313 - 116: Democrats 237-48-8 GOP 70-68-2
Senate - July 27, 1965: 70 - 24: Democrats 57-7-4 GOP 13-17-2

Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Civil Rights Act")

House - August 3, 1965, 328-74: Democrats: 217-54 GOP Republicans: 111-20
Senate - August 4, 1965, 49 - 18: Democrats: 49-17 GOP 30-1

President Reagan

Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 "Kemp - Roth Tax Cut

House - July 30, 1981, 323 - 107: (I cannot find the breakdown, but the party breakdown in the House for the 97th Congress were: Democrats 244, Republicans 191, so clearly many Democrats voted yes)
Senate - July 1981, 89 - 11: Democrats 37-9 GOP 52-1


While this is hardly an exhaustive list of legislation, I believe it to be a fair sampling of landmark legislation passed over the past 75 years. Before President Obama, in every single case the legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Obama's legislation, however, is opposed almost unanimously by the Republicans. Worse, he can't even get all of his Democrats to go along with him without virtual bribes that stink to high heaven and legislative tricks that are foreign to most people.

Obama is worse than partisan; opposition to his bills is bipartisan, while support is strictly partisan. Obama even divides his own party.

This makes Barack Obama the most divisive president in modern history. This from the party that for the past few decades lectured the rest of us on the perils of "divisiveness." And this from the followers of Obama who told us how "divisive" George W Bush was and how Obama would unite us all. Liberals, I hope you're happy!

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March 22, 2010

Our New Campaign Slogan: Repeal It!

Prior to the insane health care bill just passed by the Democrats, our campaign platform for the next few years was going to be returning our country to fiscal sanity. With the passage of Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Care, it's now

Repeal It!

Don't get me wrong; it's going to be awfully hard to repeal the entire health care bill passed yesterday, but we're certainly going to try. I'll be happy if we can get rid of it's most onerous sections, but I'm going for the whole enchilada. And yes I know that history is against me, but by the same token this situation is unique. Landmark legislation like the 1935 Social Security Act, the 1965 Civil Rights Act, or the Medicare bill of the same year were passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

This healthcare bill, however, is unique in that not a single Republican voted for it, and 34 Democrats opposed the measure. As I pointed out the other day, between this and his other major pieces of legislation, all of which almost unanimously opposed by Republicans, makes Obama the most divisive president in modern American history.

First, why should it be repealed?

I'll let the editors of the Wall Street Journal answer that. A few excerpts, but read the whole thing:

We think all of this except the subsidies will turn out to be illusory, as most of the American public seems intuitively to understand. As recently as Friday, Caterpillar Inc. announced that ObamaCare will increase its health-care costs by $100 million in the first year alone, due to a stray provision about the tax treatment of retiree benefits. This will not be the only such unhappy surprise.

While the subsidies don't start until 2014, many of the new taxes and insurance mandates will take effect within six months. The first result will be turmoil in the insurance industry, as small insurers in particular find it impossible to make money under the new rules. A wave of consolidation is likely, and so are higher premiums as insurers absorb the cost of new benefits and the mandate to take all comers.

It gets worse from there, but you get the point

Repeal It!

Rich Lowry over at National Review gives us 5 reasons not to despair and why this thing can be overturned. I'll list them and summarize his points in my own words

Public opinion - on our side. The Democrats barely got this thing through, and had to resort to legislative tricks and bribes to do so, and threatened to do more. This leaves a huge distaste in the mouths of the public, who don't like the substance of the bill in the first place.

Structured so can it be overturned - most benefits programs are set up so that the benefits come first and the taxes later, the better to hook the public. This one is just the opposite; the taxes and chaos (in the insurance industry) come first and the benefits later. If much of the public hate it now, they'll really hate it in a year or two.

A moment of clarity - Democrats usually campaign as moderates and act like they're moderates once in power, but now the mask is off. Obama-Pelosi-Reid and other nuts like Barney Frank are out and out leftists and make no bones about it.

The truth will out - Obama has misrepresented his bill, and this will become clear in the next few years. As such, public opposition will only increase.

The GOP has been better than expected - much to our great surprise the Republicans have stuck together in opposition to Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Care. They were almost unanimous in opposing the stimulus and cap and trade. Their leadership has been much better than was expected. This gives reason for hope.

Repeal It!

The bottom line is that the Democrats have no mandate to do what they did, and public opinion polls as well as the partisan nature of the vote bears this out.

More, the conservative base is already fired up, and passage of this bill will light another fire under it. Whatever you think about the Tea Party activists, they're not equivalents to the leftist anti-war groups of 2003-7. I know, because during that time I looked into and went to many anti-war protests in and around Washington DC (as a counterprotester, I hasten to add)(see here, here, and here for my extensive blogging) and I've been to a Tea Party and know some of the organizers local to my area. Not the same.

Obama has also ruined his approval ratings over this thing. He could have addressed the issue(s) on everyone's mind; jobs and the economy, as did Bob McDonnell in his successful bid for the Virginia governor's mansion. But he went after healthcare, which a January 2010 Pew poll showed was 8th on the list of voter concerns, below even "deficit reduction," an issue that works against the Democrats.

The bill will end up costing far more than anyone thinks it will. The latest CBO projections were a joke and everyone knows it (here and here if you need links). Who are we kidding; all government programs, military or civilian, cost more than first projected.

Repeal It!

Yes yes, we can't just oppose what the Democrats have done. We must offer solutions of our own. But this said, I and I think the majority of Americans will conclude that even the status quo that we're all supposed to think is so terrible is better than Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Care.

Of course, Republicans and conservatives have been offering healthcare solutions, it's just that given the large Democrat majorities few have been listening. Here, though, are a few of them for anyone who cares to follow the links:

Republican House Leader John Boehner's Plan

GOP Solutions for America: Health Care

GOP Health Care Plan

The Small Bill: A One Page Alternative to ObamaCare

Senator Tom Coburn's plan (R- OK)

The Heritage Foundation: Real Bipartisan Reform

Google is your friend, there are a ton more. Agree or disagree with them as you will, but it's intellectually dishonest to say that Republicans and conservatives (not always the same thing) just want to keep the status quo and have no reform plans of our own.

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March 21, 2010

Over the Hump and Over the Cliff

It looks like the Democrats will get the required 216 votes to push Obama-Pelosi-Reidcare through. Rep Bart Stupak (D-MI), leader of the pro-life Democrat holdouts, caved earlier today. President Obama convinced him that an executive order will prevent federal money from funding abortion.

And if you believe that I've got a bridge you can buy.

Consider this; both pro-choice and pro-life Democrats are going to vote for this thing, both sides believing it supports their cause. The National Right to Life Committee thinks that the executive order is worthless, as do the Catholic bishops. Although pro-choice groups slammed the executive order, if they really thought it would prevent federal money from going to abortions they'd withdraw their support. As of this writing, they haven't. Therefore, one side has to be wrong.

And the wrong side are the pro-life Democrats. What they don't seem to realize is that an executive order cannot override actual legislation, is only enforceable in the executive branch (assuming no overriding legislation), and will most assuredly be ruled irrelevant by the courts, who will say that the pro-abortion language in the actual bill trumps. The executive order is not binding, and anyway can be overturned with the stroke a a pen. Stupak is pretty dumb if he thinks he's gotten a concession with having.

At least the Democrats abandoned "deem and pass," though that's a small concession.

In the end, though, troubling though the issue of abortion is, that's not the main problem with the bill, which is that it pushes us in the direction of a European-style socialist system. You know, the ones with the permanently moribund economies and where the citizens have been reduced to zombies under the care of all-knowing-all-providing bureaucratic monster governments.

As is so often the case, Mark Steyn is not lost in the trees but sees the entire forest

If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It's a huge transformative event in Americans' view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Their bet is that it can't be undone, and that over time, as I've been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there's plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada and elsewhere.

More prosaically, it's also unaffordable. That's why one of the first things that middle-rank powers abandon once they go down this road is a global military capability. If you take the view that the US is an imperialist aggressor, congratulations: You can cease worrying. But, if you think that America has been the ultimate guarantor of the post-war global order, it's less cheery. Five years from now, just as in Canada and Europe two generations ago, we'll be getting used to announcements of defense cuts to prop up the unsustainable costs of big government at home. And, as the superpower retrenches, America's enemies will be quick to scent opportunity.

Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side...

I actually think many American liberals might agree with Steyn, but think these results a good thing. Many or most of them think America is an arrogant nation who uses it's military too often and too unilaterally. They want us to be just another nation, and not a particularly powerful one at that. We shouldn't do anything without a Security Council resolution, and only if our "allies" participate too. Our sovereignty should be diluted with as many treaties (think Kyoto, Convention on the Rights of the Child, more) as possible. And of course the government should guarantee your health insurance coverage.

But as Steyn has also pointed out, it was one thing for the British to lose their empire, because we were able to step up and fill the gap. Whether anyone likes it or not, the reason why the world has held together as best it has since World War II is United States military and thus diplomatic power. And the only reason why Italy can be Italy, a nice country with a small military, is that the United States is the United States. Take away the United States Sixth Fleet and the Mediterranean suddenly becomes a much more dangerous place.

The Democrats are over the hump and the country is headed over the cliff. Hold on while we Republicans try these next few years to grab a hold on the way down and climb our way back up.

Monday morning update

We're on the road to ruin. The bill passed the House last night by a vote of 220 - 212. Every single Republican voted against it, as they have Obama's other major initiatives, making him the most divisive president in modern history.

Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) says it all

In the wake of the vote,the editors of National Review remind us that all is not lost:

It is quite possible that the majority of America that rejects this legislation will get its way in the next few years -- if it is given the right leadership. And it is worth the effort to try.

It is possible, for example, that the results of the legislation will turn out to be unpleasant more quickly than most observers realize. The bill requires insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions the same as everyone else, and the only reason for people not to game the system -- dropping their insurance until they get sick and the insurer has to take them -- is because the law requires them to buy insurance or pay a fine. For many people, the fine will be a cheap price to avoid premiums that could run around $8,000 a year for a family of four. The effect of the legislation could be to cause the number of healthy people with insurance to fall dramatically -- and for premiums to rise, which would cause more people to drop their insurance. If this happens, we can expect liberals to agitate for a single-payer system; but we can also expect the public to blame the Democrats whose health-care system it will now be. A less lopsidedly Democratic Congress is not going to respond to this chaos by enacting single payer or strengthening the fines.

For that matter, the lengthy legislation could turn out to have little time bombs, the nature of which cannot currently be guessed. Nothing about the process that produced the legislation, after all, suggests that it was put together with careful consideration. Conservatives will be able to capitalize on the discrediting of Obamacare, however it takes place, only if they campaign this fall on a pledge to replace this government-heavy system with true reform. Republicans running against Democrats who voted for this legislation will have the easiest task. But even Republicans running against Democrats who voted against it can advance the cause by challenging those Democrats either to advocate repeal and replacement themselves or to expose themselves as false opponents of Obamacare.

The next few years are going to be interesting, and we on the right have our work cut out for us. I'll certainly be on the front lines trying to get the right people elected.

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March 20, 2010

Obama: The Great Divider

B. Daniel Blatt at GayPatriot has such a brilliant insight I'll steal both the title of his post and the theme (while giving credit, of course!).

For years the left complained that George W. Bush was "the great divider, not uniter." The charge did have a certain amount of merit, in that for a time the war in Iraq bitterly divided the nation. Never mind, of course, that most Democrats voted for the war. But it is true that for various reasons, most of them dishonest, I think, they turned against it.

But Obama has divided America like no president for the past century. His proposals, from the "stimulus" to this insane health care bill have been met with almost unanimous opposition from Republicans. He has made no meaningful attempt to reach out to the right and incorporate any of our ideas.

Instead, Obama has shown himself the most vain, arrogant, narcissistic president since.... I don't know, Teddy Roosevelt? No, Obama even beats him. With large congressional majorities he proclaimed "we won" and that was that.

This is not how public policy should be enacted.

As much as I'd like all pieces of legislation to toe the conservative line one hundred percent, I know that's not possible (this is also what separates me from the purists on the right). As a practical matter, all legislation will take some bipartisanship to enact, which is why the Democrats are having such trouble. And as a policy standpoint, you want at least some buy-in from at least some people on the other side of the isle.

Consider that all of the major pieces of legislation over the past 100 years; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were passed with mostly bipartisan majorities. Not this one. This shows an astounding ignorance or contempt of history by this president and his minions in congress, and they will pay a steep price at the polls this November if they enact it.

In a much quoted column in the Wall Street Journal, , Peggy Noonan nails it

And so it ends, with a health-care vote expected this weekend. I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn't worth it--worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory. Memo to future presidents: Never stake your entire survival on the painful passing of a bad bill. Never take the country down the road to Demon Pass.

("demon pass" being a reference to how "deem and pass" sounds).

Whether this bill passes or not, Obama will have divided this nation like nothing I've ever seen. We've had temporary divides, like the impeachment of President Clinton, but that was a special situation. With Obama its over policy, and a lot of them. And it just seems to get worse and worse as time goes by. Whatever will he do if the Republicans make strong gains in November, perhaps even taking back one or both houses of congress?

Note on Peggy Noonan because this is bound to come up

Yes yes, fellow conservatives, I know that Noonan was once a sort-of supporter of Obama. But isn't that just the point?

If the normally clear-thinking Peggy Noonan was fooled but now smells the coffee, imagine how many others are also having second thoughts? A poll I saw after the last election showed that 20 percent of self-identified conservatives voted for Obama. We've certainly got them back. Many in the middle voted for him. We can get them back. All on the left voted for him, but are now disappointed. They may not vote for anyone in 2012 and will certainly not campaign as hard and contribute as much money. All of this presents us with an opportunity. Rather than beat up on people like Noonan, let's forgive them and move on.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2010

If The Democrats Lose, They Still Win

The line is that if the Democrats pass their healthcare bill they're doomed in the next election because it's so unpopular. That is correct as far as it goes; I do think the Democrats will lose many seats in Congress this year. I also think it may cost Obama a second term.

So by this way of thinking it is foolish for the Democrats to forge ahead. Much better, it goes, for them to abandon their efforts and start over, crafting something that is truly bipartisan.

But I think the true progressives within the Democrat party are thinking much farther ahead than the next few elections. They see a golden opportunity to permanently change the United States in a way that will work to their advantage. What the progressives aim to do is to fundamentally change the relationship of the American citizen to his or her government. They want to reduce us to dependence in a way never before done. And once they have done that they control the politics, because dependency breeds Democrat voters.

The American people may hate the changes in the short term, and they may even dislike them in the long term, but due to the nature of our government it will never be overturned.

If Republicans and conservatives think they can overturn whatever the Democrats pass they are kidding themselves. Reagan was never able to carry though on his promise to fold the Department of Education back into Health and Human Services (before Carter split off Education it had been the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare). Newt Gingrich and his Congressional majority were never able to end funding for PBS and the arts. If neither of them could achieve these relatively minor things, what makes any of us think that we can overturn Obamacare?

Mark Steyn agrees:

Why is (Obama) doing this? Why let "health" "care" "reform" stagger on like the rotting husk in a low-grade creature feature who refuses to stay dead no matter how many stakes you pound through his chest?

Because it's worth it. Big time. I've been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally "conservative" parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect (let's not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a "conservative"). The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless. ...

Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever expanding number of government jobs will be statists -- sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily "compassionate" statists, but always statists.

A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it's so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November. Okay, then what? You'll roll it back -- like you've rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you've undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel 'n' dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus: "Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?"

It's not. It's a very good bet, and one I'd take. Steyn explains why:

Look at it from the Dems' point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health-care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That's a huge prize, and well worth a mid-term timeout.

Even if we push the Democrat return back from 2012 to 2014 or later, it makes no difference. The healthcare apparatus is still in place, and there is more dependency than ever. Democrats simply promise free ice cream for everyone, and the votes line up. Even if they lose, they still win.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

March 15, 2010

Iraq Briefing - 10 March 2010 - The Drawdown of US Forces Continues

Major General Terry Wolff, commander of the U.S. Forces Division Central (USD-C), spoke via satellite from Iraq with reporters at the Pentagon last Wednesday, providing an update on operations.

Maj. Gen Wolff reports to Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., Deputy Commanding General for Operations. Jacoby reports to General Odierno, Commanding GeneralUnited States Forces - Iraq. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, commanding general of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

USD-C is headquartered by the 1st Armored Division, operating in the in the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Baghdad.

This and other videos can be seen at DODvClips. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

Several subjects were discussed in this briefing, the most important of which were:

1) The performance of Iraqi forces in the March 7 parliamentary elections
2) The continuing drawdown of U.S. forces
3) Whether U.S. forces were engaged in combat, or what exactly they do these days
4) A recent minor attack on a U.S. convoy.

All are important, but we'll concentrate on the drawdown of U.S. forces as that's what most on people's minds.

GEN. WOLFF: Great, Bryan. Thanks a lot. I would like to make a very brief opening statement. So that will provide the context you just talked about. So first of all, thanks to the members of the press for being here today. And good evening from Baghdad.

As Bryan said, I'm Major General Terry Wolff. I'm the commanding general of United States Division-Center. As many of you know, Multinational Division-Baghdad and Multinational Division-West were brought together in two separate transfers of authority, which occurred in January. And that created the organization we presently know today as United States Division-Center.

Our team is built around the 1st Armored Division headquarters out of Wiesbaden, Germany, and also the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is an AAB out of Al Anbar province.

In Baghdad, we've got the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which is a Stryker unit out of Fort Lewis, the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which is organized as an AAB, and the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, another infantry brigade.

Additionally we've got an aviation brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 16th Engineer Brigade. Just as a point of reference, 1st of the 3rd AAB arrived in Iraq simultaneously with 1st Armored Division. But the remainder of these forces that I've previously mentioned have been on the ground for a number of months, before we arrived.

As you all know, Sunday's election was an historic event. The Iraqis in Al Anbar province and Baghdad were protected superbly by the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi people came out and voted in large numbers. In Al Anbar there were no high-profile attacks, no attacks on polling centers and no loss of life. In Baghdad, the ISF succeeded in preventing vehicle-borne IEDs and also suicide-vest attacks.

While there were a few incidents which produced casualties, and a number of noise-bottle bombs, the Iraqi security forces secured the population and provided a secure, credible election process. And so before I close and take a question or two or three, I'd emphasize that Sunday's election-day success didn't just happen. The ISF owns security responsibilities in Iraq. The battlespace is theirs. They're in charge. They set the conditions for the elections through their hard work in the months leading up to the election day, and it paid handsome dividends on Sunday.

The ISF task didn't begin on or end on Sunday, as I just mentioned. And since then, they've continued to provide security on a daily basis for the last couple of days. We know that the ISF has an important role to play in the future, and we look forward to continuing to partner with them.

And so with that, I'll take your questions, please.

I think most media accounts back this up.

There are perhaps three measures of how well a new democracy is doing

1) Whether elections are relatively free and fair, and held without violence or intimidation
2) How the victors act when they assume power
3) How the losers act, especially those in power who are turned out of office.

Iraq passed test #1, at least this time. Although there have been several elections, the jury is out on numbers two and three. That said, it's so far so good.

On to the Q & A:

Q General, it's Anne Flaherty, with Associated Press. As we await the election results, do you see any outcome that could change the pace of U.S. withdrawal, or should change the pace of U.S. withdrawal?

GEN. WOLFF: You know, at this point -- at this point, no. You know, we've been told, based on the president's announcement last year at -- during his Lejeune speech, that we -- that USFI would come down to 50,000 folks. And so that's what we believe will occur, and that's the -- that's the planning process we move forward with, to move to that number.

This first series of questions is from from Al Pessin of VOA, who asks whether our forces are involved in combat and the impact of the elections on plans for a drawdown.

The Iraq Casualties website has the details. Follow the link for the complete chart, but here is one of their graphs showing combat fatalities by year. The bars are unmarked, but they're 2003 to 2009. You can see the decline since the success of the surge.

ICasualties as of March 2010

Q General, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. So do you have any of your troops actually involved in combat at this point?

GEN. WOLFF: Sure. We work with the Iraqis to help them train a number of different elements. And so -- let me give you an example. Many of these Iraqi brigades have what we call commando elements or strike platoons.

They're little -- they're platoons or companies, commando companies, that help them execute offensive operations. This is in addition to many of the soldiers they have out on checkpoints and doing that sort of duty.

And so when -- let's say a federal police unit goes out and executes a mission of this nature to go get a bad guy. There will usually be a U.S. partner element that will move and operate with them.

And so the answer is yes, we partner in that regard. But the person who's knocking on the door of the house that they're going into is Iraqi. It is a warranted operation, based on rules of evidence under the Iraqi system that have been brought forward, with a Article 4 warrant that has been issued by an Iraqi court.

Q So considering this picture that you painted for us, now that the election has passed, when do you anticipate beginning to draw down the forces in your AOR? And from what level now to approximately what level in August?

GEN. WOLFF: Sure. I won't talk about exact numbers, but what I can say is that -- you know, you've heard us talk about this as a responsible drawdown. Well, some of the responsible drawdown has already happened. I basically took the place of two division headquarters across two provinces. So responsible drawdown began with the arrival of the 1st Army Division assuming its role as the United States Division-Center. We've already had one of the brigade combat teams that were part of the United States Division-Center off-ramp and return to home station.

So in Baghdad province we're down to three brigade combat teams, as you -- as I commented. And now, Anbar, we're down to one; one -- now Anbar is end-stage. In Baghdad, we will eventually come down to one over time. And so the decision that will be made when to start that off-ramp is General Odierno's decision.

We'll skip the rest of the Q &A and move to Gen. Wolff's final comments:

GEN. WOLFF: Well, I would give you a couple of perspectives.

See, you know, you touched on responsible drawdown today. And there's a lot of work that has been ongoing with that. And it didn't just -- doesn't just start or stop with the end of the election process. And so you know, there's a lot of movement that's happened. We're positioning now to turn over a number of American JSSes to the Iraqis. We will also turn over some other bases to them.

It's a fairly comprehensive plan that we've been -- we've been working for a number of months, that our predecessors worked as well, that we continue to refine. And that's based on discussions we have with the Iraqi security forces. So responsible drawdown has been going on for a while around here. And it will continue to September and then beyond.

Secondly I would state that the environment out here is incredibly complex. And while casualty levels seem down, and we acknowledge that the Iraqi security forces did a bang-up job securing their population for the elections, I'd also tell you that we're asking an awful lot of these young American leaders and young American soldiers.

I'd also mention that the Iraqi security forces, again, have grown significantly. Some of you know I worked -- I worked helping train the ISF on my last rotation, in 2006 and '7. It was a -- it was an army of about 110,000. Well, it's grown to about double that. It was a police of barely 150,000; it's nearly triple that. And so the Iraqi security forces demonstrated on Sunday that they're up to the task.

If it were -- if it were a test, they'd pass with flying colors. And I'm pretty confident that they can continue to secure the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people. There's no doubt in my mind that they can do that exceptionally well.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2010

The Manhattan Declaration: A Christian Call to Arms

A Facebook post the other day on The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience by a friend of mine reminded me that I'd wanted to blog about it for several months but just never got around to it.

An explanation, from the website:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family. It was in this tradition that a group of prominent Christian clergy, ministry leaders, and scholars released the Manhattan Declaration on November 20, 2009 at a press conference in Washington, DC. The 4,700-word declaration speaks in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. It issues a clarion call to Christians to adhere firmly to their convictions in these three areas.

It will be easy for some to dismiss this out of hand as a propaganda piece of the far right, aimed at denying the civil liberties of gays, atheists, agnostics, and others. To those who would, bear with me for awhile.

The progressive view of history is that we are always moving forward, or at least should be, and are always improving our lot. All or most programs enacted in the past hundred and fifty years have improved society and everything is thus getting better. Jeff Bergner, writing in The Weekly Standard, calls this "The Narrative:"

The Narrative is the official story about America. It is a story composed by the political left, which entered American public life with the progressive movement in the early 20th century and was elaborated in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and '40s.

The story runs like this. America was founded on the ideal of equality, though that ideal at first was barely put into practice. The story of America is one of progress toward the fulfillment of the ideal of equality. The end of slavery and the achievement of women's suffrage are landmarks in this story. All fair enough. So is--less plausibly--the federal income tax, originally established to fund the government but later used to redistribute wealth and tax advantages among Americans. Then came the many programs of direct payments to individuals, the so-called entitlements, beginning with Social Security and extending to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, aid to dependent children, farm subsidies, and myriad others. And today the health care reform bill before Congress takes its place in America's advance toward equality. Each and every policy that aims to level distinctions between Americans has found its place within The Narrative.

As Bergner says, surely many things labeled as reforms have improved out lot. The end of slavery, universal suffrage, and the civil rights revolution stand out. I've have had conversations with many older conservative women who have no hesitation in telling stories of how they could not get jobs despite having advanced degrees in areas like law and business. Again, all fair enough.

But we're not getting better as a society everywhere, and in some areas are moving backwards. I'm not going to run through the numbers, but I think we should be pretty clear that things like the divorce rate and single parenthood are at all time highs. We're forever hearing that political discussion is meaner and worse than ever. The Playboy culture is upon us, and what you see in the Victoria's Secret window is unimaginable even a generation ago. Who can say that the Bratz series of dolls are really good role-models for girls? The sexualization of our children accelerates in a whole series of areas, from dress to books to what you see on TV shows and in the movies.

I am not arguing for a return to some "golden era" for there never was one. Go back fifty years and all you are doing is trading one sin for another, lack of civil rights for more modesty in dress, for example. No, what I am doing is rejecting the progressive view of The Narrative and the idea that such things as LBJ's Great Society programs were an unmitigated good. So that yes, I am happy that some of the social restrictions of the bad old days are gone, but am unhappy that it has led to the "hook up culture."

The Authors of The Declaration

Robert George Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Timothy George
Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Chuck Colson
Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, VA)

A quick look at list of religious leaders who have signed makes me think it's pretty ecumenical, though I'm no expert.

What is The Declaration All About?

From the summary page

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are

(1) the sanctity of human life,
(2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and
(3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from
powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their
defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are
brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this
commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the
crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Sanctity of Life

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

The authors here are not only concerned with abortion, but with euthanasia, research using human embryos, so-called "therapeutic cloning," as well as international issues such as "ethnic cleansing," neglect of children, the exploitation of workers, the sexual trafficking of girls, and other issues.

Pope John Paul II described abortion as "the culture of death," but the term also applies to those who casually dismiss those who are concerned about human embryo research and "therapeutic cloning" as religious nuts. It is the casual acceptance of these trends, or the rationalization of them, that disturbs the authors.

The chief objection to this "culture of death is that it promotes "the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable." It all started with abortion, and now continues into other areas. How long before we leganize euthanasia as they have done in The Netherlands? How can this possibly be good?

Critics often call conservatives hypocrites for failing to oppose the death penalty, to which I say "I'll trade you abortion for the death penalty." Given that there are 1.37 million abortions a year and approximately 52 executions, this is a trade I'll gladly make.

Dignity of Marriage

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:32-33

If a man can marry another man, and a woman another woman, why can't a man marry 600 other men?

Once you remove traditional and/or religious guidelines, then marriage and all other social institutions become subject to the whims of politicians and judges, who will respond to whatever pressure group screams the loudest.

The problem goes well beyond "gay marriage." As the authors point out, "perhaps the most telling--and alarming--indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent. Today it is over 40 percent." Most social pathologies, among them poverty, delinquency, drug abuse, crime, and incarceration, can be directly tied to single parenthood.

Just because the straight population, Christian or not, can't keep it's act together is no reason to compound the problem. The authors point out that "the impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture." Too many today are morally confused, lacking clear guidelines, and do not understand the reasons and societal benefits of traditional marriage.

The idea that we could allow same-sex marriage and everyone else would continue on their merry way is not tenable. The proponents of same-sex marriage want nothing less than to force its acceptance in society. They want it taught as perfectly normal in our schools and to eliminate discussion of the subject in the marketplace of ideas, and indeed to end the tax-exempt status of any church who dares object to the new regime.

Religious Liberty

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. Matthew 22:21

At first glance this may not seem to be a problem, as there is no Roe v Church seeking to overturn the First Amendment. But we see a weakening of religious liberty in other, less obvious, ways taking place.

There is a movement afoot to end conscience clauses for medical personnel in hospitals where abortions are performed. Some even want to force pro-life hospitals to perform abortions or lose their funding and/or licenses. Ditto for same-sex marriage; institutions and businesses will be forced to accept such "marriages" or face punitive legal action.

The Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority can be found in Hebrews 13:17, among other places:

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

So indeed we are generally prohibited from subverting our government (assuming it is not Nazi or communist or some such, then it gets more complicated).

But you don't have to go far to find stories justifying civil disobedience in the Bible either. There are many, but the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3 comes to mind. They refused to pray to the golden image built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, and were thrown into the fiery furnace as a result. They, of course, were saved by God, but the point is that one may refuse to obey wrong laws as long as one is willing to pay the price.

Did I Sign It?

Of course I signed it. No the document does not discuss every injustice in the United States. The wider one casts that net, however, the more disagreement you'll generate. Best to keep it short and simple.

So I agree with the principles of the document, and think it a worthy basis for action and belief.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 11, 2010

Krauthammer Nails it on Counterinsurgency
Are We Finally Beginning to Understand How to Win?

Charles Krauthammer last night on Fox News as one of the "all star" commentators:

...I think it fits with the interesting strategy that McChrystal has because the objective is not the killing of the Taliban. The objective is to gain the confidence of the civilians.

If you announce in advance you will do Kandahar, the capital [of the Taliban], the prize here, you hope that the small bands of the enemy roaming around will think twice about hanging around and facing the U.S. Marines, because they will lose.

And you are doing is appealing to the less fanatical and less ideological and the less suicidal enemy who will sneak around and join the population and give up the fight and become civilians. And we aren't against that.

The idea is once they get integrated in society, that's OK. You don't want a victory where you have to surrender on the battleship Missouri. What you want is to win the confidence of the population.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad when I read this. I didn't see the video, but Krauthammer seems to think this is some sort of a unique strategy. If so, I'm disappointed, because protecting the population as opposed to simply hunting and killing insurgents was the entire strategic basis of the surge in Iraq. I guess that Charles hasn't been reading The Redhunter.

I've gone over this a kazillion times on Redhunter, but once more can't hurt. Maybe there's a new reader who cares about this stuff.

Our strategy for what became known as the "surge" in Iraq was published in December of 2006 in the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24("3-24" is sometimes written as "3024" for reasons I'm not clear on). Long story short, the manual was written by a team led by then-Lieutenant General David Petraeus. A few months later Petraeus was promoted to four-star rank and sent to Iraq to implement the strategy he developed.

The authors of the manual examined the history of insurgency over the past hundred years or so to determine their nature and what strategies worked and which failed. The team included civilians as well as military personnel.

The essence of the new strategy was that raiding from remote bases does not work. Troops must get off their big bases and live among the people. Rather than concentrate on hunting and killing insurgents, troops should focus on protecting the population. There were three basic phases: Clear - Hold - Build.

Small Wars Journal explains it best, and quotes from the section of the manual written by Lt. Col. (Dr) David Kilcullen:

Counterinsurgency: FM 3024 / MCWP 3.33.5 defines the true meaning of the phrase hearts and minds as the two components in building trusted networks in the conduct of COIN operations:
"Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, successful trusted networks grow like roots into the populace. They displace enemy networks, which forces enemies into the open, letting military forces seize the initiative and destroy the insurgents.

I think Dr. David Kilcullen defined hearts and minds as two components of COIN operations quite nicely during a COIN seminar at Quantico, Virginia, several weeks ago.

In addressing the reality of hearts and minds Kilcullen explained how the following 1952 statement by General Sir Gerald Templer, Director of Operations and High Commissioner for Malaya, has been misinterpreted:

"The answer lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the Malayan People"

General Templer did not mean (or say) that we must "be nice to the population" or make them like us. What he meant, and his subsequent actions played out, was that success in COIN rests on the popular perception and this perception has an emotive ("hearts") component and a cognitive ("minds") component.

Kilculen continued - what is essential here is making the population choose. The gratitude theory - "be nice to the people, meet their needs and they will feel grateful and stop supporting the insurgents" - does not work. The enemy simply intimidates the population when COIN forces / government are not present resulting in lip-service as the population sees COIN forces / government as weak and easily manipulated. In time, this leads to hatred of COIN forces / government by the population. On the other hand, the choice theory - "enable (persuade, coerce, co-opt) the population to make an irrevocable choice to support COIN forces / government usually works better. The population typically desires to "sit on the fence" and not commit to supporting any side in an insurgency / COIN environment. COIN forces / government need to get the population off that fence and keep them there. This requires persuading the population, then protecting them, where they live. While this cannot be done everywhere, it must be done where it politically counts.

Go to the right sidebar on this blog, and under "Categories" you'll see some for Iraq. Choose Iraq II 2007 - 2008 and scroll away. Time and again you'll come across our commanders saying that the key to victory was living among the people so that we can protect them.

Or you can watch Gen Petraus give the definitive speech on the matter, or just read my summary of it at my October 12, 2008 post: Gen Petraeus' Speech on Iraq - How We Did It .

Or if you want to hear it from the colonels who commanded the brigades themselves read

Iraq Briefing - 04 Feb 2008 - "We do not drive or commute to work"
Iraq Briefing - 22 Feb 2008 - "We are Living with the Population"
Iraq Briefing - 14 April 2008 - "From Clear to Hold and Build"
Iraq Briefing - 09 June 2008 - Job Creation to Defeat the Insurgency
Iraq Briefing - 04 August 2008 - Achieving Durable Security

Did it work? Even the leftist rag Newsweek, something I usually pay absolutely no attention to but saw at my gym just this evening, says so. In an article titled "Rebirth of a Nation: Something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq. It may not be 'mission accomplished'--but it's a start" they basically admit that in the end Bush's surge strategy worked.

Yes yes, I know, we're not out of the woods there yet. There are dangers galore. Ditto that of the United States until the civil rights movement of fifty years ago, if you want to play that game. We won, the insurgents and naysayers lost, and we need to apply those lessons to Afghanistan and wherever else we need to fight.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Book Review - Whose Ethics? Whose Morals?

I listen to a lot of Christian radio, mostly music during the day and talk at night. Of course, I also listen to Laura, Rush, Dennis Miller, and others too. But I can't go a whole day without some time with God, and radio is part of His ministry.

Like any other genre, some Christian talk radio is good and some is bad. Spare me the fire and brimstone. Bring on insightful, intellectual, and intelligent commentary. Of the latter, Christian Research Institute Chairman Hank Hanegraaff is one of the best. I've listened to him long enough to know that he didn't earn the moniker "the bible answer man" by accident. Check your local radio listings for availability.

Hanegraaff has published a number of works, and one day I'll buy more of them. My time for reading being somewhat small, I decided to start with one of his smaller ones, Whose Ethics? Whose Morals? The Best of the Christian Research Journal. At 95 pages, it's not a long read.

Whose Ethics?  Whose Morals?

The book is a collection of short essays; one by Hanegraaff, and 5 by other authors. My conclusion; there are a few good sections, but in general it was a letdown. Partially this is just me, because any reader of this blog knows that while I am pro-life, I don't spend much time on the subject. Ditto with other hot-button social issues such as cloning and stem cell research. If the details of these subjects interest you, you'll probably find the book more useful than I did.

In the first part of the book Hanegraaff poses a series of everyday moral questions, and addresses them from a Christian perspective. "What's the problem with pornography" and "What should Christians think about global warming" are two typical ones. You can guess his answer to the first, the second is a bit more complicated. Global warming, climate change, or whatever you want to call it, is a scientific issue which is on the surface removed from Christian thinking. However, there is more to it than that. God has called us to be good stewards of the earth, so we must pay attention to environmental matters. On the other, the environmental movement has a strong quasi-religious aspect to it, and we must avoid falling into this trap.

The best essay is "Dispelling False Notions of the First Amendment: The Falsity, Futility, and Folly of Separating Morality from the Law" by Michael Bauman. There are those who argue that "you can't legislate morality," which is usually a prelude to "keep religion out of government/the/law etc." Bauman presents a convincing case that all law is ultimately based on moral and ethical judgments.

For example, one can justify environmental laws on pragmatic grounds by saying that clean air or water benefits us all. But the simple idea that more people leading healthy lives is itself a moral judgment. Speed limits can be justified on pragmatic grounds by saying that they save lives and we benefit economically and that "cleaning up" wrecks is expensive. Again, the idea that saving lives is good and that cost is a factor is itself a moral judgment. It is therefore foolish to think that law can be made on a strictly pragmatic basis.

Right now we are in a stage whereby vice-type laws are being removed, and more and more moral prohibitions relaxed. A quick look at the supermarket magazines and the cover of Cosmopolitan, or the window of you local Victoria's Secret, makes the point. And that's before turning on the TV for the evening sitcoms. Even the most cursory look at all of the social indicators; divorce rate, single parenthood, etc show a downward trend in the past 40 years, and every serious study out there shows these conditions lead to poverty. The cause-and-effect / chicken-and-egg is complicated, but if "pragmatism" was the basis for our law we'd make divorce and single-parenthood illegal. Neither I nor Bauman are saying these things should be illegal, just pointing out that pragmatism isn't the basis for our legal system.

More, vice-laws have more effect than many people want to admit. Prohibition didn't stop drinking but even after it ended, alcohol consumption was considerably less than before it was enacted. Before prohibition the average American drank 3 gallons of alcohol per year. After it was lifted it was at 1 gallon for the next 10 years, and took 40 years to return to pre-prohibition levels.

Obviously not all sins can or should be legislated, and Bauman makes this explicitly clear.

I don't want to say there is a "worst" essay, but unless you're interested in reading about the ethics of abortion in excruciating detail, you'll find the two essays on abortion tedious. The authors take on seemingly every imaginable "pro-choice" argument, including many I'd never heard of before. They not only take you through the biology of conception and pregnancy step-by-step, but address the very issue of "what does it mean to be human?" I'll admit that in a way it is interesting and indeed important, but it's just not my personal hot-button topic.

Before too long, though, we as a society are going to have to face all the hard questions about "what it means to be human" that we can now see but are just over the horizon. The debate over embryonic v adult cell research is all the rage now, but other issues will be at the forefront soon. Before too many years human cloning will not only be possible but cheaper and easier. Even the Brave New World scenario whereby babies are "grown" test-tubesin baby-factories is not too far off as our technology advances. We'll have to answer the question; just because something is technically possible, do we want to do it? Should these things be legal, illegal, or regulated? These questions are not my cup of tea, but in the end I'll be affected by them as much as anyone.

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March 9, 2010

Afghanistan Briefing - 04 March 2010 - A Taliban Who Trusts Americans

This briefing is by Brigadier General Lawrence D. Nicholson. General Nicholson is the commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Last Thursday he spoke via satellite from Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan with reporters at the Pentagon.

This and other videos can be seen at DODvClips. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

First, an excerpt from Gen Nicholson's opening statement, then on with the Q & A from the assembled journalists:

GEN. NICHOLSON: ... as you know, right now we're on day 20 going into day 21 of Operation Moshtarak, a planned 30-day op, at least for the initial phase.

RC (Regional Command) South, my higher headquarters, is working Op Moshtarak in two different AOs (Area of Operations). Really one is the Task Force Helmand, the British AO, in Nad Ali. And within Task Force Helmand, you had Afghans, of course, Brits, Danes and Estonians.

And then the port that we'll talk about tonight was in southern Nad Ali district or what we better know as Marja, where we had Task Force Leatherneck. Again we had Afghan, Marine, Navy of course and an Army Stryker Battalion....

What we wanted to accomplish very quickly was to go big, strong and fast, get into the center of Marja, occupy the spine of Marja if you will, and start clearing out. We were able to insert all of our heliborne forces without incident, and at first light -- we wanted to wait till first light to begin moving our ground forces in. We were prepared to breach at several different sites.

...we were able to move in relatively unencumbered. So we got about 4,000 Marines, Afghans and soldiers into Marja relatively quickly.

...within Marja today, we have about 2,500 U.S. Marines and about 1,500 Afghan soldiers. In addition, we have about 600 ANCOP, or National Police....

Marines don't search any of the homes. In an area this large, when you decide you've got to search a home, the guys going in are going to be Afghan soldiers....

And the other piece I would add is, when we did Operation Khanjar in July, we had -- for every Afghan soldier we had about 10 Marines. So for this operation, Moshtarak, I think it's almost a 2-to-1 ratio, maybe a little less than that, but -- you know, maybe closer to 3-to- 1, but the fact of the matter is, it's a tremendous improvement in not only the numbers but in the capability of the force that we have....

We've got a very skeptical population here, though. And I think, unlike some of the other areas that we've been in that were generally glad to see us but were always wondering if we would stay, the population here is concerned about what we're going to be able to do for them....

"wondering if we would stay" - That indeed is the crux of the matter. As we finally learned in Iraq, raiding does not work. When up against an insurgency you cannot go in, kill the bad guys, leave, and expect things to remain stable.

In a nutshell, the path to victory is Clear - Hold - Build. Unless you have enough troops and the gumption to Hold, you cannot Build. And unless you can Build, you do not give the populace a reason to help you resist the insurgents. If you have the populace on your side you stand a chance of winning, but without them all is lost.

I've only time for one exchange. it's a strange story, but actually provides a lot of insight into how insurgencies can be defeated.

Q General, it's Craig Whitlock with The Washington Post. You mentioned that the population there in Marja has been standoffish and skeptical. To what degree is that because they feel let down in the past by the Afghan government? And to what degree is it because maybe they're broadly supportive of the Taliban and their beliefs and goals?

GEN. NICHOLSON: Yeah, I had a great shura the other day. I was at City Market, I think on day five or six, and there were 40 or 50 elders that showed up. And they were one of the first guys to make any kind of appearance, because everyone had pretty well been locked down in their houses.

But in the middle of the shura this fellow stood up -- and this was reported somewhere, but an individual stood up and said -- he pointed at the Americans and said, "Hey, I like the Americans. The Americans built Marja. And I trust the Americans." And then he pointed to some Afghan leaders and said, "But I don't trust you, because in the past, you know, you've represented a failed and corrupt government." You know, my words, not his, but essentially that was the theme.

And then he said, "I'm a Taliban. I'm a Taliban leader. And we're all Taliban here."

And then he said -- the amazing thing was, he pointed at the Afghan leader and said, "I'm going to give you a chance. And you have a limited amount of time to prove to me that you're not the old government." Because I think one of the great talking points right now of the new Afghan government that's coming into Marja is, hey, we're not the guys from three, four years ago. We're different. And you need to give us your shot, you need to give us your chance to earn your trust.

So I think that's a positive. But that's why I'm so very impatient that we've got to get in here and we've got to start demonstrating and earning that trust.

A Taliban who supports Americans. How about that?

The lesson is that not all Taliban are hard-core Jihadists. Those who are, we must kill or take prisoner. But many are insurgents-of-opportunity. They can be co-opted and brought over to our side. This is what seems to be happening at this shura. May it continue.

Previous on Operation Moshtarak

Afghanistan Briefing - 18 February 2010 - Operation Moshtarak Update

Operation Moshtarak: Kinetic Operations in Afghanistan Begin Anew

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March 3, 2010

The Decline of American Military Hegemony

David Wood talks about something that I've been worried about for some time:

China, Iran Creating 'No-Go' Zones to Thwart U.S. Military Power
by David Woods
Politics Daily

The United States, Pentagon strategists say, is quickly losing its ability to barge in without permission. Potential target countries and even some lukewarm allies are figuring out ingenious ways to blunt American power without trying to meet it head-on, using a combination of high-tech and low-tech jujitsu....

At the same time, U.S. naval and air forces have been shrinking under the weight of ever more expensive hardware. It's no longer the case that the United States can overwhelm clever defenses with sheer numbers.

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up the problem this month, countries in places where the United States has strategic interests -- including the Persian Gulf and the Pacific -- are building "sophisticated, new technologies to deny our forces access to the global commons of sea, air, space and cyberspace.''

Those innocuous words spell trouble. While the U.S. military and strategy community is focused on Afghanistan and the fight in Marja, others - Iran and China, to name two - are chipping away at America's access to the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf and the increasingly critical extraterrestrial realms.

"This era of U.S. military dominance is waning at an increasing and alarming rate,'' Andrew Krepinevich, a West Point-educated officer and former senior Pentagon strategist, writes in a new report. "With the spread of advanced military technologies and their exploitation by other militaries, especially China's People's Liberation Army and to a far lesser extent Iran's military and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the U.S. military's ability to preserve military access to two key areas of vital interest, the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf, is being increasingly challenged.''

There seems to be a myth out there that because the U.S. is the U.S. we will automatically win any high-tech war. I call it the "Top Gun Syndrome," and while Hollywood is maybe partially to blame they're just rehashing what they saw in the Gulf War.

Due to other pressures I only have time for the briefest of comments. I also don't have time to set up a bunch of links, and so to a large extent will be going off of my general knowledge of the subject and my previous posts. Lets start with this:

The Air War Over Vietnam

We went into Vietnam convinced that we'd blow the aircraft of North Vietnam out of the sky in droves. Our aircraft and missiles were thought to be technologically superior, and our pilots surely better than those of a third-world nation.

Much to our surprise, in the 1964-68 period we only achieved a 2-1 ratio over the NVA, and perhaps only 1-1 against their premier fighter, the MiG-21. This greatly disturbed us because if we could only do this well against the NVA, we'd surely do much worse against the Russians.

There were two reasons we did so poorly; one, our pilots had lost the art of dogfighting. We assumed that most fights would be at long to medium range with missiles. When we did dogfight, the practice was Americans fighting Americans; i.e. similar aircraft with pilots using the same tactics against each other. The second reason was missile reliability, which stank.

During the bombing halt after 1968, we corrected all of the problems. We formed Top Gun for the Navy and Red Flag for the Air Force, and got our missiles to work. When we went back north again in 1972-73 we shot them down at the rate of 13-1, which was more like what we had achieved in Korea.

Old Hardware

Our Nimitz class carriers are based on a 40 year old design, and suffer lack of electrical power production. Nuclear reactors are not magical devices, and are limited in the amount of electricity they can produce. They simply don't have the capacity to generate power for all the modern computers and such we'd like to put aboard but can't. The first Gerald R Ford class won't hit the water until 2015. Right now we've only got 10 Nimitz class and the Enterprise, which was itself launched in 1960 and suffers more problems than the Nimitz. This is the fewest number we've had since before World War II.

More, carriers are only as good as the aircraft on board. The F-18 Hornet first flew in 1978, and it's upgraded sister the F-18 Super Hornet in 1995. The latter is a nice upgrade, but only an upgrade and not really a new design. As we all know the F-18 has a range problem and you can only upgrade an old airframe so much.

The replacement is the F-35 Lightning II, which is in the pipeline, but there are two issues there. One, it was supposed to be backed up by the more capable F-22 Raptor, but Obama stopped production of the Raptor to 187 aircraft, limiting it's availability. Two, the F-35 program is suffering the usual cost-overruns that seem endemic to any program, government or otherwise.

Spending is Down

No time to rehash what I've written, so follow the links to these previous posts:

Obama to Cut Military Spending to Pre - 9/11 Levels

and especially

U.S. Military Spending Is Not Starving Domestic Programs

Not Blaming Obama

The truth is that George HW Bush cut back too much when he was president, Clinton didn't reverse this trend, and W ramped up domestic spending and listened too much to Don Rumsfeld. The history here is bipartisan.

That said, the Obama-Pelosi-Reid domestic spending agenda is so insane that it puts us farther away than ever from being able to rebuild our military.

So Who Cares?

The short version is that we are a democracy that mostly does good in the world and Iran and China are not. Our allies in Europe, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan are also democracies that mostly do good in the world. No that doesn't give us the right to do whatever we want, but the world would be a better place with Western military hegemony in all parts of the world.

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March 2, 2010

Obama and the Arrogance of the Liberal Elites

I'm busy this week with projects, and so have no time to post much original writing. This piece though sums up much that is wrong with the progressive movement

An FDR lesson Obama missed
by Wesley Pruden
The Washington Times

Barack Obama is trying to be the new FDR before the concrete settles around his image as the new Jimmy Carter. History will ultimately decide, but last week's celebrated health care summit made him look more like Mr. Jimmy than FDR.

The president was full of self-righteous talk, mostly about himself, and he twice felt it necessary to remind everyone that he's the president, recalling Richard Nixon's bizarre reassurance that he was not a crook. Some things are self-evident, and if they're not, such things are usually not true. We can stipulate that, like it or not, he's the president.

The Democrats relished the opportunity to portray the Republicans as the wrinkled party of "no," a crabby relic of the 20th century, devoid of anything that anybody could want, and Barack Obama's low-church eloquence would melt skepticism like butter on warm toast. But it didn't happen. Setting out the idea of a plain and simple alternative to Obamacare -- smaller measures to reform, taken step by step -- the Republicans sounded like the party of common sense, purveyors of the kind of kitchen-table solution that would work a lot better than an elaborate welfare-state scheme.

The health care summit was not the demolition derby the Democrats expected, instead it's a pothole the president and his party will have difficulty climbing out of. The first public-opinion polls this week will measure who won and who lost. But the prospect of a lot of changed minds in the wake of the talkfest is a small prospect.

The president was in his favorite role, the long-winded professor trying hard to be patient with half-bright students who hadn't done their homework. Like most liberals, he suffers from a severe occupational hazard. Anyone who disagrees with him must be dumb, unlettered and redneck crazy. If Lamar Alexander, John McCain and Eric Cantor had only gone to the right Ivy League university they could understand the prescription for what's good for them. It's a fatal mindset that afflicts the cult. Jonathan Chait of New Republic put it plainly in a revealing blog post: "President Obama is so much smarter and a better communicator than members of Congress in either party. The contrast, side by side, is almost ridiculous."

The contrast was so stark that he could only liken the professor's summit seminar to basketball, our least cerebral sport, where oversized men in gaudy underwear run up and down a court to stuff a ball down a hole. The president is "treating [Republicans] really nice, letting his teammates take shots and allowing the other team to try to score. 'Nice try, Timmy, you almost got it in.' But after a couple minutes I want him to just grab the ball and dunk on these clowns already."

No one would have confused FDR -- or Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan -- with somebody shooting hoops on a schoolyard. Nor would anyone have confused one of those presidents with a professor showing off his mastery of detail and trivia by presiding over a congressional seminar. Mr. Obama should remind himself that he's the president, not a professor.

The president who would be FDR has squandered much of his authority and mystique in pursuit of something the people clearly don't want. The more he pursues it the more the people don't want it. He has yet to understand any of the parts of "no." He is learning too late, if he is learning at all, that too much of a good thing is too much. The powerful hold a president can have on the public is weakened by too much visibility. "The public psychology," FDR once wrote to a friend, "cannot be attuned for long periods of time to a constant repetition of the highest note on the scale."

Mr. Obama's profligate use of the highest note on the scale follows the example of his immediate predecessors, and it may be that the presidential mystique, with its power to accomplish a president's aims, was gravely wounded by the invention of the jet airplane. Air Force One is not only an impressive presidential icon, it makes every congressional district convenient to visit, and presidents are tempted to use it ever more frequently. In his 15 years in the White House, FDR, who preferred trains and was the first president to fly, never got around to visiting all the states.

A visit by a president meant something. Now it's often a hindrance and a distraction. Last week, Mr. Obama should have stood in bed. That may be the ultimate lesson from his great health care summit.

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