Affirmative Action

Why not debate it?

Were Obama a magnificent president in all respects, Trump’s charge would have little resonance. Who cares how Obama got into Harvard Law? In 2008, it was obvious enough to voters that he might have benefitted from preferences. He won a national majority anyway. But it turns out there are some ropes Obama doesn’t seem to have learned in his turbo-boosted ascent up the political hierarchy. He hasn’t been alert to some ingrained bureaucratic pathologies–he told Jon Alter he learned as president that “one of the biggest lies in government is the idea of ’shovel-ready’ projects.” Wish he hadn’t had to learn that! Nor does he appear to have acquired the skill–that someone like Bill Clinton would need to acquire to survive several terms as a governor–of making a policy sale. And would a leader versed in effectively wielding power declare that, say, the leader of the sovereign nation of Libya “needs to go” if he wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to make him go? Rookie mistake? The synecdoche–Obama himself as Exhibit A in the broader race preference policy debate–works now in a way it didn’t in the Fall of 2008.

I hope that next year, the people will decide that it was a mistake to make someone president just so they could feel like they aren’t racist.

[Update a few minutes later]

Obama’s problem(s):

Time and again the President angers one side without conciliating the other. His public demand that Israel agree to a complete settlement freeze as a condition for peace talks alienated Israelis (and not just supporters of Prime Minister Netanyahu); his subsequent back peddling humiliated and angered the Palestinians. He pleased no one, fumbled what he had once proclaimed a crucial priority of his administration, and is left with reduced influence with both sides.

At home the President’s hedging has antagonized and energized the right without delivering the goods to his base on the left. The health care bill was so watered down from what candidate Obama proposed on the stump that key constituencies on the left were dismayed; the change was so large that the right was energized; the legislation so compromised and misshapen that it failed to satisfy. The stimulus was the same: large enough to stir up the deficit hawks but too small (and too poorly constructed) to launch a “V” shaped recovery. In the Middle East he has been too cautious and slow in siding with the revolutionaries to dent American unpopularity in the region — but by dropping US support for longtime ally Hosni Mubarak he antagonized and alarmed the Saudis.

Neither the Middle East despots nor the populists think President Obama is a reliable friend. In Afghanistan also he appears to have found a policy that is too robust to please the doves who want out no matter what — yet his hesitancy and announcement of withdrawal dates has not convinced either the Pakistanis or the Taliban that the US will remain until its basic conditions are met.

This repeated lunge for the sour spot — the place where costs are high and benefits are low — now seems to be a trademark of the President’s decision-making style. On the left it is earning him Carter comparisons from people like Eric Alterman; on the right it means that despite his compromises and yielding of significant ground he continues to feed the incandescent hostility of his bitterest foes. Worst of all, it suggests to people abroad and at home that the way to manipulate this “split the difference”, consensus-seeking President is to raise your demands. If you are going to get something like 50 percent of what you ask for, ask for twice as much as you really want. And with this Presidential style, the squeaking wheel gets the grease. Not surprisingly, all the wheels have begun to squeak.

The bad thing (or good thing, from the perspective of those who hope for a single term) is that he doesn’t seem capable of learning, or changing.

Multicultural

This story is sadly all too typical (and yes, I expect the usual suspects to chime in and say that real Muslims aren’t really like that — they’re just a few “extremists”):

A kebab shop owner, asked on German TV what he would do if Sila were his daughter, replied: “I would kill her. I really mean that. That doesn’t fit with my culture.”

Well, I have to say that I wouldn’t be that thrilled if it were my daughter, either. But I am absolutely certain that my response would not be to kill her. It would never even enter my mind.

This reminds me very much of Mark Steyn’s story of true multiculturalism in British India:

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

Of course, it wouldn’t do the young woman who posed for Playboy much good if her murderer were afterward hanged. One would like to prevent it. But how to do so, without wiping out the belief system itself? We marginalized one just as vile (and sadly related, given the alliance between the Mufti of Jerusalem and Germany at the time), decades ago. What will it take to do so again?

Demagoguery

The president is now trying to distract from his own policies by blaming the oil companies for high gas prices, and he wants to increase their taxes, by taking away “subsidies.”

a) Does he really think that increasing oil companies’ costs will reduce gas prices? Apparently the question tied Jay Carney up in verbal knots.

b) Do oil companies get much in the way of “subsidies” that other companies don’t? If he’s talking about things like accelerated depreciation and R&D tax credits, this is helpful to any company, not just an oil company. If he is proposing to take it away from them alone, isn’t he simply punishing a vital industry because it’s making him look bad?

Ramesh Ponnoru makes a good point:

The big energy subsidies, on a per-unit-of-energy basis, are for ethanol, solar, and wind power. Get rid of the oil subsidies — and the “oil subsidies” — and nothing much changes. Get rid of the subsidies for those other energy sources, and those industries disappear. Just ask their lobbyists.

And good riddance, too, if they can’t make it without Uncle Sugar.

[Update mid afternoon]

“The president doesn’t know squat about energy production.” Which, unfortunately, doesn’t distinguish it in any way from most other subjects.

The Politics Of Star Trek

Thoughts from Ilya Somin:

Instead, it is the Federation that turns out to be a sort of kinder, gentler Soviet Union. Both are multicultural, federal, socialist states with an official ideology of egalitarianism. But the Federation lacks the Gulags, secret police, and mass murder (or at least we never see them on-screen!). Meanwhile, the Romulans represent several of the negative qualities that many leftists associate with the present-day West: elitism, arrogance, and intolerance for other cultures. The same can be said of many other Star Trek villains, such as the Ferengi, who represent the supposed evils of capitalism. At some level, of course, Star Trek is a projection of Western values. After all, egalitarian socialism is a Western ideology. However, Trek is far more hostile to the present-day West than Nussbaum and some other left of center critics recognize.

Some say Roddenberry was a dreamer. But (sadly) he’s not the only one. Imagine.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!