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Archive for the ‘National Politics’ Category

Congress’ Problem

Relax, this is just a short item about a bad habit that Congress has developed. There’s not enough time or bandwidth to cover all of their bad habits.

Those who follow political theater will no doubt remember a particularly vivid debate on the floor of Congress recently.  I won’t even bother to embed a video of the particular Congressman, but you will no doubt remember him for his screaming, complete with raised veins in the neck.  The subject of the debate?  Medical benefits for the brave souls that went into the New York City twin towers on September 11, 2001 to rescue others.

With a topic like that, one would think that there had been no need for debate at all.  In fact, that once this legislation had sailed through Congress and down the street to 1600 Pennsylvania, that Republicans and Democrats would be out front, arms linked, sinking Kumbaya.  But, no….

The reason that debate became inflamed was due to the fact that the Democrats had decided to move the legislation in such a way that no amendments could be added to the bill.  Fine enough; this action meant that there would need to be a greater majority of Congresspersons voting for the measure.  Yet, the measure did not pass.  The mainstream media stated that the Democrats chose to block amendments because “they feared the Republicans would put pork spending into the bill”.  Well, that’s kind of right, but what they called “pork spending” was apparently an effort to deal with illegal immigration, but it could have easily been any unrelated spending matter.

So, inquiring minds want to know; what’s illegal immigration have to do with helping the heroes of 9/11?  Well, actually, nothing, but it is an illustration of one bad habit into which Congress has fallen, regardless of political persuasion.  That is, Congress has taken to creating “omnibus bills“, which are:

a single document that is accepted in a single vote by a legislature but contains amendments to a number of other laws or even many entirely new laws.

In other words, Congress may be voting on a bill that deals with highway spending, but that bill will also be filled with a large number of related and unrelated issues.  The practice has become so common that I’m not sure that they even use the term “omnibus” any more.  The apparent inside term is Christmas Tree bill.

During the health care “debate” (so-called), it was publicly stated that Congress members really didn’t know what they were voting for, which was likely to be true.  In fact, there were so many things packed into that bill, and just about every bill coming out of Congress, that nobody really knows what they were voting for.  They can’t even vote on a resolution declaring National Peach Week without something unrelated being stuffed in.

Of course, it puts Congress into a bad light, but then again, you already knew that.  It’s a rare day when there’s an up or down vote on anything in Congress these days.  With money hemorrhaging out of the Federal government like BP’s Deepwater Horizon well, they simply don’t have time to examine every spending bill on its merits.  Not do that and run for reelection, too.

And, as the government continues to grow in size and scope, with related spending matters also growing, this problem will get worse.  It is just a matter of time before Congress has just one bill to vote on each year, with a complicated witches brew of spending, mandates and proclamations all hidden under one title.

This all points out an interesting situation.  Because Federal Money is so pervasive it is also becoming invisible.  Consider that the current administration had to spend millions to simply post signs indicating that a specific project was being done with stimulus money.  The scope of spending has become so widespread that money is now being expended for public relations which, while beneficial for the sign companies and sign installers, was not intended in the original law.

Look back to a time in North Georgia during the bleak 1930’s, when virtually nobody had a job.  When Federal money created the Civilian Conservation Corps, a lot of young men were given things to do, a place to eat and sleep, and enough money to send some home to their starving relatives.  Because of the circumstances, everybody knew that it was Federal money that was coming in for their help during a time of great desperation.  This engendered a sense of loyalty to the people that helped bring this assistance, and when the need was supplanted by entry into World War II, that money was quickly reassigned to greater priorities.  The CCC boys moved on to military service and war related jobs, but there are still strong memories from that generation.

Now, of course, there is Federal money everywhere.  By its vast increase, any sense of loyalty that might have accrued has passed.  And, because of that, people are developing an appreciation for the fact that while it is everywhere, it is also nowhere in most people’s daily lives.  This became apparent during the 1995 shutdown of the Federal government.  There were dire warnings every day in the media, that everything would stop because there was no Federal money.  To be sure, this would have eventually have turned up, but during the period of the shutdown, life seemed to go on for most people.  If you were a Federal employee, you might have felt it, but for the average person, it became increasingly apparent that nothing disastrous was happening.  Needless to say, even Congress eventually figured out this reality and did something about it.

Our screaming New York Congressman may become the poster child for Congressional dysfunction, but it also serves to point out that a government that insinuates itself into every matter, spends money on everything, is also wasting its psychic energy and, by doing so, losing its value to people in day to day life.  When everything is special, then nothing is special.

There is no loyalty to one’s Congressman for a number of reasons, but the net effect is the same.  Given the fractious state of the Congress, when people go out to vote this election year, they have little compelling reason to vote for an incumbent.  Certainly party loyalty will help the candidates, but the sense is that there is little reason to care about an incumbent candidate because they have no apparent presence in our lives.

In the larger sense, however, Congress has squandered its innate power, both by appearing unprofessional and also because it is so busy.  That when the time comes to handle an important matter, such as medical help for our country’s heroes, it cannot do it.  The examples are all over the place; the Delta Queen is another example.  It also has squandered its money, so when something as important as the 9/11 heroes comes up, they don’t have any money to pay for it without a huge debate.  They found $1,000,000.00 for “Textile/Clothing Technology Corporation, Cary, NC Textile Research Programs”, and countless other programs that were “needed”, but there’s nothing left for emergencies.

If you’re wondering about all those earmarks that are buried in each act of Congress, Jamie Dupree is a great source.

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I ran into a business acquaintance yesterday and as we talked, I averred that I am not a fan of the current administration.  She owns a typical small business and just smiled.  “I know that I’m not like most business owners right now, but I’m quite happy with what they’re doing.”  I’m still mulling that over, and if I figure out what she’s thinking, I’ll let you know.  Personally, I don’t agree with her but I was so stunned at her disposition with the current administration that I just smiled and moved away as quickly as I could without running.

Put another way: If you can keep your head about you when all others around you have lost theirs….. You just haven’t heard the news yet.  Conventional wisdom is better expressed by this item about the American middle-class being wiped out:

What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are “less attractive” than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.

So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

Granted, conventional wisdom is often wrong, but, on the other hand, sometimes things are glaringly obvious.  At this point, I’m doing everything I can to protect my family and that’s about all that I can do.  At least during the wild days of capitalism in the last two decades or so, you pretty much knew what the score was and that you were on your own.  Now, a lot of people are being deceived into complacency.  Gee, did I just write that?  Yeah, I did.  Moving on……

What I really intended to write about is about what experiences seem to make for better Presidents.  Looking back:

  • Bush the Second – Petroleum business, Governor
  • Clinton – State Attorney General, Governor
  • Bush the First – Petroleum business, House of Representatives, DCIA, Vice-President
  • Reagan – Actor, Governor
  • Carter – Farmer, Governor
  • Ford – U. S. Congress, Vice-President
  • Nixon – U. S. Congress, U. S. Senate, Vice-President
  • Johnson – U. S. Congress, U. S. Senate, Vice-President
  • Kennedy – U. S. Congress, U. S. Senate
  • Eisenhower – Military General Officer
  • Truman – County Commissioner, U. S. Senate, Vice-President
  • Roosevelt – State Senator, Ass’t Secretary of Navy, Governor
  • Hoover – Mining engineer, humanitarian, Secretary of Commerce
  • Coolidge – City politics, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Vice-President
  • Harding – Newspaper publisher, state senate, Lieutenant Governor, U. S. Senate
  • Wilson – President Princeton, Governor
  • Taft – Attorney, State Supreme Court, U. S. Solicitor General
  • Roosevelt – Historian, numerous local, state and Federal offices, Vice-President
  • McKinley – Attorney, prosecutor, U. S Representative, Governor

So, you look at the individuals that have occupied the office of the President of the United States, and you begin to see some common threads.  A lot of them were governors of states.  Others had administrative experience; one had conducted a massive military campaign.  Many of them had ties to private enterprise.

And you look at the sum total of their individual lives that led them to that great office and you know that they had been seasoned through many years experience.  And at a time when the United States really needs it, we have an individual in that great office that talked a big game but is having trouble delivering.  And when a legislative success is delivered, it  has been at the cost of partisan conflict.

The Republic will survive because the people have been awakened to realize that elections have consequences, but our greatest danger is that by having a President who is perceived to be weak, there are a lot of third-rate dictators, terrorists and political opportunists that see opportunity.

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In Comparison

From the earliest appearance of Barack Obama on the Presidential horizon, there were those who decided that an impending Obama administration would, in fact, be the second term of Jimmy Carter.  Honors for calling this first apparently go to Jeffrey Lord. To quote, in part: “Are there enough voting Americans who survived the disastrous odyssey through the late 1970s that was led by blessedly now ex-president Jimmy Carter?”  For better or worse, I remember.

It should be noted that such a comparison is essentially unfair since we have the benefit of historical perspective on the Carter administration while the Obama administration is still a work in progress.  Likewise, Lord’s call to remember the Carter administration left the typical Obama voter lost, since most of them seem to view Carter as being some kindly old guy who frames houses as a hobby.  Add to this the fact that many Republican voters were still arguing over why Nixon lost the debates to Jack Kennedy and you realize that it was not fair expect the average voter to have any memory.  Those that truly remembered wanted to forget, while everybody else was caught up in the specialness of the moment.

Now, well into the Obama administration, there are those who are getting the nagging feeling that things are not going as well as promised during the campaign.  And, you can see a campaign question coming up in two years: “Are you better off today than four years ago?”  This one is a toss-up.

In the ensuing months since Mr. Lord’s observation, there have been others that have also expressed this opinion, some out of wishful thinking, others out of hard experience.  Regardless, now that we’ve had sufficient time to enjoy the Obama administration, it is time to take a look at the similarities and differences between the Jimmy Carter administration and the Barack Obama administration.

Background

Astrological sign

  • Carter:  Libra
  • Obama:  Leo

Home Town

  • Carter: Plains, Georgia
  • Obama: Honolulu, Hawaii

Education

  • Carter: United States Naval Academy
  • Obama: Columbia, Harvard Law

Family

Married

  • Carter: Yes
  • Obama: Yes

Outspoken Mother

Beer Drinking Brother that Owns Gas Station

Religious Relatives

Skill Sets

Previous Experience

  • Carter: Farmer, nuclear engineer, two-term State Senator, one-term governor of Georgia
  • Obama: Community organizer, two & a half-term state Senator, partial term U. S. Senator

Military Experience

  • Carter: United States Navy, Lieutenant
  • Obama: No

On the Job

Administrative Style

  • Carter: Micro manager.  Famously controlled who played on the White House tennis courts.
  • Obama:  Calculating.  Everything for those groups that are needed during the next election cycle.

Professional Recognition

As the most powerful executive in the Free World (so-called), it is assumed that being the occupant of that office should be sufficient recognition, but there’s always more.  So:

  • Carter:  Yes, Nobel Prize – Camp David Accords with Sadat of Egypt & Begin of Israel.
  • Obama: Yes, Nobel Prize – To quote CNN:  “The decision appeared to catch most observers by surprise. Nominations for the prize had to be postmarked by February 1, only 12 days after Obama took office. The committee sent out its solicitation for nominations last September, two months before Obama was elected president.

Fireside Chats

Use of Teleprompter

  • Carter: No, which got him into trouble
  • Obama: Yes, which gets him into trouble

Need for Love from Other Countries

  • Carter: Yes, especially in Arab world
  • Obama: Yes, especially from Europe

Order of Succession

Vice-President

  • Carter: Walter Mondale
  • Obama: Joseph Biden

Speaker of the House

  • Carter: Tip O’Neill
  • Obama: Pelosi, to be determined

President pro tempore of the Senate

  • Carter: James O. Eastland, Warren Magnuson
  • Obama:  Robert C. Byrd, to be determined

Secretary of State

  • Carter: Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance
  • Obama: Hillary Clinton

Secretary of the Treasury

  • Carter: Michael Blumenthal, William Miller
  • Obama: Timothy Geithner, to be determined

Secretary of Defense

  • Carter: Harold Brown
  • Obama: Robert Gates, to be determined

As an aside, it is interesting to compare the politicians of that era with today’s models.  An evening with Tip O’Neill and a bottle of Irish would yield a worthwhile and enjoyable hangover.  An evening with Pelosi would likely yield depression.

The Staff

Chief of Staff

  • Carter: Hamilton Jordan
  • Obama: Rahm Emanuel

Press Secretary

  • Carter:  Jody Powell
  • Obama: Robert Gibbs

Staff Hijinks

  • Carter: Studio 54
  • Obama: No apparent staff hijinks, presumably because staying in the White House and developing new ways to torture the private sector is much more fun.

Political Contemporaries

Senate Majority Leader

  • Carter: Mike Mansfield, Robert Byrd
  • Obama: Harry Reid, to be determined

House Minority Leader

  • Carter: John Rhodes
  • Obama: Bill Frist, Mitch McConnell, to be determined

Challenges

There have been those who wishfully describe the current oil well problem in the Gulf of Mexico as being “Obama’s Hurricane Katrina”, which is not fair.  With Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Government had a limited role at the outset of a crisis that traditionally was supposed to be handled by State and local authorities. On the other hand, the BP oil well problem was in an environment regulated by the Federal government; in the intervening weeks, it has become a significant problem for the States.  A comparable crisis would be Three Mile Island, which was within Federal purview from the start because of government regulations.  So,….

  • Carter: Three Mile Island, Iran Hostage Crisis
  • Obama: BP Transoceanic Horizon

Certainly, with at least two years left in the Obama administration, there are sure to be another crisis or two.

Scandal

From vicuña coats to oil leases in Teapot Dome to ACORN, every presidential administration has its share of scandal.  In that sense, the Carter administration was some what of a dud, delivering only one demi-scandal.  Being children of Chicago politics, the Obama administration would seem to be a ripe field for scandalous events, but it is a bit early for that.

The Economy

  • Carter: Recession combined with 18% inflation
  • Obama: Recession, with inflation always a possibility in the future.

Relations With The Press

Respect

  • Carter: “Mush From The Wimp” (Boston Globe headline accidentally printed after a bored headline writer decided to go free-lance).
  • Obama: A willing and compliant press that is unwilling to acknowledge their responsibility for creating the environment for someone so inexperienced to become a viable presidential candidate.

Front Row, Center

  • Carter:  Helen Thomas
  • Obama: Helen Thomas, to be determined

Approachability

It has been noted that Americans want to be able to relate to their Presidents.  That is, for a President to succeed, the American people have to like them.  And, to like them, they have to feel that they have something in common.  From at least one perspective, Barack Obama has very little in common with the garden-variety voter.  Consider this recent Wall Street Journal article: “Obama and the Shoes of the Presidential Fishermen.

  • …..what could be better than to take up a sport in which Ivy League graduates are regularly outsmarted by creatures with brains the size of peas?

There is something humbling about the act of fishing since the fish are quite able to identify the difference between a Mepps #0 Aglia and a Lazy Ike “Fly Ike”.  And to tell whether you paid retail for those lures.  And to reject both of them.  There are no shortcuts to fishing, yet, at the same time, you are in contact with nature, which remediates the frustrations.  And, the WSJ article points out an inconvenient truth:

And then there’s George W. Bush, a long-time angler who keeps a lake on his Texas ranch stocked with largemouth bass. As president, Mr. Bush established the world’s largest fully protected marine area in the Pacific and placed two-thirds of federal waters off-limits to harmful dredging and bottom-trawling. Among other steps, he also protected and restored millions of acres of wetlands, and joined with Pacific nations to safeguard coral reefs. In 2007, Mr. Bush signed an executive order to protect two popular game fish, striped bass and red drum, in U.S. waters.

See?  Like him or hate him, you have to respect George W. for something.  In any case:

Fishing

Beer Drinking

  • Carter: Not publicly, not even Billy Beer.
  • Obama: Yes, with the entire press corps gathered at a respectful distance.

Uhhhhmmmm, Errrr, Uhhh

In general, Presidents are entitled to some privacy.  There are some inescapable events, such as when Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom (To quote: “This marriage was unusual because Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom’s estate and had supervised Frances’ upbringing, but the public did not, in general, take exception to the match”). Imagine that happening these days; TMZ would go into overdrive.

Of course, in recent memory, it has been impossible to ignore the Presidential bedroom antics when there were periodic Bimbo Eruptions. And that particular President was responsible for bringing the term Lewinski to new depths.  Regardless:

Visual

  • Carter: Gas lines
  • Obama: Unemployment lines

Leaving a Legacy

  • Carter: Department of Energy, Department of Education
  • Obama: Debt

And, finally, there is one thing which both the Carter presidential campaign and the Obama presidential campaign share.  Both campaigns firmly executed plays to the emotions of the voters, pulling every heart string and plucking every sensitivity.  It was so much so that popular expectations in the electorate were heated up to a boil.  When it came time to deliver on all those emotional promises, both administrations were destined to disappoint those that truly believed what they had been told.

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Voter Anger

In the cool light of the morning after a Primary Tuesday, it is evident that the voting sector of our population is restive. Several professional politicians have been voted out and others are going back for a run-off in two weeks.  Certain portions of the media are describing this as voter anger. I’ve seen a couple people in our neighborhood that are interested in politics and they are, indeed, angry.  It is helpful in this situation to stand back and consider what is happening.

Yes, it is anger, but the source of the anger is that just about every institution in our society has failed us in one way or another.  It runs across the entire grain of our society from the Catholic Church, to ACORN, to the banks, to our internet providers, to the two major political parties.  In some cases, you can switch supporting an institution, such as moving from AT&T to Comcast, or vice-versa, but in the end, they are just Tweedledum and Tweedledee (ooops, alittle too close to home on that).

On the other hand, politicians are the one place where people can successfully express their anger, either publicly by standing up and yelling or silently, by quietly going to the polls and casting their vote.  There are sure to be collateral casualties, politicians that have worked hard and tried to do the right thing, but lost anyway.

A mentality has developed that believes that a particular political position is a “Democrat seat” or a “Republican seat”, and while that might be historically true, the electorate no longer views it that way.  That political position is “The People’s seat”.

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There’s a term used in charity fund raising circles called charity fatigue, a.k.a donation fatigue.  Basically, it happens when people receive yet another heart rending appeal for money for hurricane victims, earthquake victims, the homeless or helpless animals.  You receive so many appeals in a year and you can’t help all of them, so you get tired of hearing it.  As a result, the charities have to resort to even more heart rending photographs and tear jerking words to pry the money loose.

Leave it to the Brits to express this issue with wit and aplomb.  This from The Guardian in the formerly Great Britain, written by one Malcolm Gluck of London:

It is impossible in London to avoid being propositioned in the street by well-meaning people purporting to represent charities. I have been pestered by buskers inside a tube carriage who beg for an audience and I am regularly threatened by do-gooders who demand, via email, that I support their son or daughter who is going to swim the length of the Amazon under water to raise money for whatever good cause. Whenever there is a knock at my door, I am unsurprised to find a callow youth beseeching me to sponsor him for a three mile egg-and-spoon race. So it was with no small measure of irritation, that I sat down to solve Saturday’s cryptic crossword by Paul (a wily and sometimes difficult-to-grasp setter), to read he too had his hand out, to help fund his volunteer work in a deprived community, which was the answer to 22 across – and, frankly, dear Guardian, I have had enough. I am not an heartless man, but give me a break, Paul. You rarely give your solvers one, so don’t expect any reciprocal charity from me.

Who can argue with that?

Of course, there are always those who want to make things your fault, even when it isn’t.  This charming paragraph from the Urban Dictionary:

Charity fatigue is caused ultimately by the ever-increasing phenomenon of self-interest fostered in societies that have had a paradigm shift from believing it was a civic responsibility for the better-off to protect the less fortunate to that of a user-pays, dog-eat-dog, each-for-themself dystopia. And as a result, the disadvantaged have to scrape together their own resources, competing not only against other charities, but vying for the carity most of us cannot afford to give due to the need for us to service our own out-of-control disease of consumerism.

Repeat after me.  It is because I am too selfish and greedy that I cannot support your wonderful cause.  Suit yourself.

That said, I write these words after hearing yet another appeal by our destitute Federal Government for even more money.  After countless bailouts for countless institutions that cannot stand by themselves without taxpayer largess, we have yet another one.  There it was, right there on the ABC Evening News: Obama Administration Backs $23B Bill to Save Teacher Jobs. Of course they do.  And, of course, this little bailout follows a $100B from the previous year.

The whole process takes on a kabuki like air.  This is, after all, for the children, but there is a certain irony that we are spending even more money for the childrens’ benefit but at the end result of these same children being saddled with untold debt that will be a constant presence for their entire lives.  ABC, being a member of good standing in the lapdog media, reports the compelling need for more money for the unionized school marms.  Yet even with their fealty to the progressive agenda, ABC seems to have difficulty summoning up the appropriate urgency; this is, after all, yet another 23 Billion spent after last year’s 100 Billion.

The Government apparently even have boilerplate for each bailout.  Simply plug in the necessary words at the appropriate locations.  Consider:

“We are gravely concerned that ongoing state and local budget challenges are threatening hundreds of thousands of [teacher] jobs for the upcoming [school] year, with estimates ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 [education] jobs at risk,” [Education] Secretary [Arne Duncan] wrote in a letter to House Speaker [Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.], and Senate Majority Leader [Harry Reid, D-Nev].

“Without swift action, millions of [children] will experience these budget cuts in one way or another through reductions in [class time]; cuts to [early childhood] programs, [extracurricular activities], and [summer school]; and reduced [course] offerings as [teachers] are laid off,” the letter continued.

With one bailout after another, it was inevitable that bailout fatigue would happen even to the most bleeding of hearts.  It’s like being pecked to death by ducks or beaten to death by al dente spaghetti.  And, the temptation is that when these people ring your door bell, to just throw $23 Billion at them and slam the door, but we don’t have it.  Maybe we can borrow it from Greece.  Of course, unlike charities, the governments simply pry it out of our hands by force or write checks that will never be good and leave it to the next generation to deal with the mess.

There is one other difference between bailout fatigue and charity fatigue.  When you tell the solicitor for that homeless charity that you can’t support their cause because you can’t afford it, at least you feel guilty.

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Strong Women

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States, and with this event come the inevitable series of articles, op-eds and related stories about women in today’s society.  Perhaps the most interesting story dates back to March, with an article written by Kenneth Vogel on Politico.com,  Face of the tea party is female.  Building on that, Michael Graham writes Moms to the Barricades in the Wall Street Journal, which observes that the Tea Party movement has a distinctly female component.

“Forget “angry white men.” In the male-dominated world of conservative politics, the tea party stands out as a movement of energized and organized women. In particular, moms.”

Or, as observed in this same article:

Her favorite tea party sign? “Menopause Was Change Enough for Me.”

Of course, no article about prominent female opposition to the current regime would be complete without talking about you-know-who. She is ubiquitous, and I personally am not completely resolved about her presence.  And, no, we’re not talking about Lady Thatcher.  Like her or hate her, you do know who Sarah Palin is.  In the larger sense, I feel that she is a drum major looking for a parade. And just how big a parade she gets is still an undetermined matter.

The Tea Party movement is remarkable in a variety of ways,  but it is notable that there are no “charismatic” leaders who run out in front of the cameras and grab.  And, there is the dawning realization that this movement is for real and reflects the growing sense that the growing government is not a good thing for a lot of sectors of our economy and for our society.  You can’t turn around without running into some Federal presence, from A (the Arts) to Z (Zoos).  As a conservative, I feel that this cannot be a good thing, no matter how well-intentioned.  Big governments remind me of elephants being taught to dance.

The “experts” question how influential the Tea Party movement will be, neglecting to see that it has already become influential.  “Other such movements have flowered briefly, only to wither without making much of a difference.” The Bull Moose Party comes to mind, of course, which fractionated the electoral vote to give the United States Woodrow Wilson for eight wonderful years.

By describing the Tea Party movement as just being a passing fad is an effort to minimize its actual effect.  It also ignores the fact that a core tenet of conservatism is to keep government at a minimum.  In most cases, this refers to the taxing and administrative component of government, but it could also refer to the actions of the political parties.  That is, once the Tea Party movement has achieved its desired goals of less government and lower taxes, there is little reason for the movement to stay around as just another bureaucracy.

I’ve been around strong women all my life, and although it can be difficult, I would have it no other way.  Years ago, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal talking about Republican women and gender discrimination.  One woman was quoted, saying words to the effect of “It’s not that Republican women don’t run into gender discrimination.  We just work around and and not talk about it.  If we were to talk about, some “progressive” would come along and try to pass a bunch of laws to control it.

I think about that from time to time when I think of an aunt that lives in the northeast.  She married well and raised a family in a huge Victorian house in a tony suburb.  As her family grew older and started moving out of the house, it became obvious that the Victorian was much too much house for their needs.  She started looking around and found a place around the corner; it was a fallen angel that had suffered years of neglect and deferred maintenance.  But this house also had strong bones and she took a liking to it immediately.  She showed it to her prominent husband, who promptly turned his nose up at it, saying that there was no reason to buy this wreck of a house.

So, she went out and bought it herself.  Over the following months, she conducted a stealth construction operation that completely renovated this Federal style house, making it into a home.  Once the work was completed, she quietly advised her husband over a Thursday morning breakfast that she was moving over to a new address on Saturday and that he was quite welcome to come along if he wanted.

He is always the one to bring the subject of  The Move up, and he always smiles when he regales his guests with this wonderful story.  “Being a prudent man, I chose to come along.”

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A recent Peggy Noonan column, Road to the Nut House, gets into some of the unpleasant realities of running for the position of President of the United States.  In short: “You have to be crazy to run for president. Seriously, you do.”  Based on a recent book Game Change, she continues: “almost all of the 2008 candidates appear to be truly barking mad.”  The truth hurts.

One of the tenets of many high school civics classes is that anyone can become President.  This alone may serve to explain the varied personalities of those individuals who have held this high office.  Fortunately, the process of running for President has a way of weeding out a lot of those who should continue in their current line of work rather than taking up residence is a very exclusive piece of government housing, The White House.

Of course, with the proper advertising and public relations campaign, more than a few individuals have managed to sneak in.  And once ensconced, they have tried to work their way with the American People, with varying degrees of success.  It has been noted that you can’t really judge how successful a President is until you have the benefit of historical perspective.  Consider Harry Truman, who more than a few considered to be a dud at the time.  Likewise, historical perspective has a way of clearing away the facade of a carefully cultivated public relations program.  That is, every Presidency experiences events which shape it, forces beyond the ubiquitous presence of the White House staff of that administration.  And, that job offers very few places to hide, which is what makes Camp David so special.

The process of getting elected itself is only part of the issue.  They run a good campaign, lots of cheering crowds, a tight election night and then there they are, standing in front of the Capitol with one hand raised and the other on a Bible.  They run madly from one inauguration ball to another, dancing and thanking.  The new President gets home late, takes off their tie and hits the sack.  The most prominent leader in the Free World.  The next morning, they wake up and their job is no longer running for office but leading.  And the skill sets are very different.

You can see them age right in front of your eyes.  The outgoing President meets with the incoming President.  They are shown the location of the executive restroom and the outgoing officer hits the road for golfing and goofing.  You can’t really take a new job at a major corporation.  And, it’s safe to say, you can’t go to Reno without being spotted.

Years ago, probably around 1980, I had the questionable pleasure of attending a convention of fringe political candidates.  That’s the way that it was billed and that’s the way that it was.  The room was filled with more nuts than a Claxton fruit cake.  Myself included. It was an interesting experience, hearing the rantings of people who felt that they should be in charge of the most powerful democracy on earth.

In the intervening years, things have not improved, but it becomes more obvious that anyone who becomes President of the United States also becomes a captive.  There’s no place to run, no place to hide.  The scrutiny is withering.  Any thing that you do will be both praised and slammed.  You can’t even declare national Peach Week without somebody getting their shorts into a twist.  In office, you can be held captive by some of the most unanticipated things; consider that Jimmy Carter’s presidency was largely driven by the Iranian government.  When you were running for office, the candidates reflected their political orientation.  Once in office, the elected individual now must be the President of all the people.

Which brings us to the current occupant of the office at 1600 Pennsylvania.  After running a terrific election campaign, one which promised all things to all people in the vaguest of terms, the current president seems to be having a difficult time with the “President of all the people” stuff.  Consider that his recent “victory” with health care reform passed with the thinnest of margins and only after political maneuvering that rivaled a Jamaican limbo dance.  How low can you go?

Enter Shelby Steel, who writes with some authority on the subject, with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “Barack the Good“.  In part:

Well, suppose you were the first black president of the United States and, therefore, also the first black head-of-state in the entire history of Western Civilization. You represent a human first, something entirely new under the sun. There aren’t even any myths that speak directly to your circumstance, no allegorical tales of ancient black kings who ruled over white kingdoms.

And:

Standing on ground that no man has stood on before, wouldn’t it be understandable if you felt pressured by the grandiosity of your circumstance?

And:

The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.

In other words, because of the current president’s circumstances, much of his presidency will be driven by the fact that he can never be “President of all the people”, even if he tried, which he hasn’t.  If anything, the community organizer aspect of his background seems to largely trump his ability to tell people what they want to hear during elections.  It also brings focus on the difference between equal opportunity and equal ability.  History will tell.

Be that as it may, the current president’s peculiar situation also means that doing something as modest as trying to create jobs is not congruent with the vision that has been placed upon him and aggressively cultivated by the president’s advisers.  The guy can’t even go out and suck down a couple beers with anyone without the event taking on the import of nuclear arms negotiations.  In short, because the current president is “special” we face a long run of “historic events” rather than a mundane four years.

Likewise, things don’t bode too well for certain people.  I seem to be falling into that category, no matter how hard I try to avoid it.  My high-deductible health care plan and its related HSA is slowly going to be taken away from me.  So much for being responsible for my personal health care.  After over forty years of forcibly being made to give money to the government for “social security”, I am now being called a socialist for wanting to claim some of that money back.  If I choose to oppose the current administration’s policies, some will call me a terrorist and militia member; hey, I couldn’t even cut it in the Cub Scouts, much less be a member of any stinking militia.

I took one of those “quizzes” on Facebook to determine which President I am similar to.  No sense talking about the results, but suffice it to say, I’m staying away from the theater.  At this point, I’m ready for some mediocre.  I’m ready for some boring.  I’m ready to hear news from some place other than Washington or Hollywood.  I’m ready for Millard Fillmore or Calvin Coolidge.  I can dream, can’t I?  Or is that illegal, too?

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