March 21st, 2008 by Rightsideup

It seems President Bush’s failure to exert much downward pressure on spending at home applies to the UN too. Thanks mostly, it seems, to various Bush-inspired initiatives, the UN’s administrative budget for the coming year is going to be 25% higher than the previous year. A lot of the additional spending flows from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although some of it is also going to various typical UN projects, including a conference on racism in South Africa which Canada has already decided to boycott because of anti-semitic themes.

The UN headquarters is also getting a makeover, which reminds me of the John Bolton quote that “if the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference” – I wonder if it might be best and cheaper all around to do that than renovate the place? Might cut down on some of that massive spending too.

Hopefully our next president will take the rampant spending both domestically and at the UN more seriously, and take actions to reduce that spending rather than allowing it to continue to balloon at the current alarming rate…

February 8th, 2008 by Rightsideup

The WSJ’s op-ed today on Mitt’s suspension of his campaign is a little kinder on him than its previous analysis of his candidacy, although it makes some of the same points anyway:

… while he convinced various radio and TV hosts, he never made the sale about his convictions to enough voters.

The former consultant and entrepreneur also faced a stark data point: His campaign never caught fire with his party’s voters in the way he hoped. Americans often say they want a businessman candidate, but rarely do they elect one as President. Perhaps that’s because they understand the incentives are very different in the business marketplace than in Washington, and they are looking for convictions and ideas as much as technocratic competence in their candidates.

The irony here is that surely, over the last eight years, we’ve seen what ideology alone does, both when not accompanied by competence, and when not tempered by reality. While Bush’s ideology has allowed him to appoint two good Supreme Court justices, his lack of competence and over-emphasis on ideology has meant he’s failed to exercise discipline over Congress by using his veto power, and pursued failing strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Competence is exactly what we need, especially when coupled with strong principles, and perhaps what Romney failed to do was make that point effectively, which was hard for him to do when running as a Bush fan. A businessman’s analytical mind would likely have being able to grasp much more quickly that the Iraq strategy wasn’t working, and probably would have been quicker to make personnel changes too.

Some of the more positive comments were a little kinder, however:

Given that some of his more melodramatic supporters have taken to declaring their intentions to support Hillary Clinton over Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney’s statesmanship will win admirers across the GOP.

… He… showed himself to be a man of personal integrity, and he arguably made Mr. McCain a better candidate — in particular by forcing the Arizona Senator to speak more clearly about the economy.

… [McCain’s] task of unifying the party was made easier by Mr. Romney’s statesmanship.

Glad they recognise that Romney has exercised self-discipline whereas Huckabee apparently intends to continue his Quixotic pursuit of the nomination at great cost to himself, his supporters and the party.

March 23rd, 2007 by Rightsideup

The quote attributed to Andrew Jackson, “One man with courage makes a majority,” (see this link for an explanation of why we shouldn’t really attribute it to him) appears to have been both taken a little literally and distorted by his political descendants.

For the last several years (essentially since the 2000 election) Democrats and other liberals have acted as if small groups with strong enough opinions should be treated as if they were in fact majorities. After accusing George W Bush of “stealing” that election, they have since claimed that he was “not listening” on the war in Iraq, that we needed to pull out of the war, etc. even though for a long time these people did not constitute a majority. James Taranto included some comments on a recent story in his Best of the Web column this week (see Vandals for Peace).

Although the 2000 election provides a pretext (the 2004 election surely should have neutralised this, but of course didn’t), Democrats no longer even tie their civil disobedience back to the stolen election. They just act like they’re in the majority, and express disbelief when neither Bush himself nor their elected Democratic leaders in Congress are willing to adopt their extreme positions. They assume this means that they are “not listening” rather than understanding that their political leaders have listened and yet disagree with them. This must be particularly frustrating for them since Democrats now have a literal majority in Congress and yet haven’t pulled troops out yet. On the other hand, it appears the original quote (even if attributed to Jackson’s biographer and not Jackson himself) appears to have been “desperate courage makes one a majority” – so not such a far cry from the Democrats’ current interpretation “desperation makes a majority”.

Will this trend continue, or will things change if a Democrat wins in 2008? Chances are, the left wing of the left wing will continue to be unhappy with virtually any political leadership and will continue to act as if its strong opinions (not courage) make a majority.

March 13th, 2005 by Rightsideup

Enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts. The liberals won’t give the President credit for long. This short-term quasi-endorsement of President Bush’s Middle East policy will crack up within weeks.

Democracy will not be achieved overnight in the Middle East, and the President has never claimed that it will. But count on it that the liberals – whose motto might well be “no-one will ever call me on it if I change my tune” – will quickly return to their strategy of calling his policy “an impossible dream” etc. Having briefly accepted the blindingly obvious because not to do so would smack of stupidity, they will quickly return to the negativist attitude which characterises all liberal foreign policy – “nothing ever changes, especially when America tries to bring about the change.”

How long will this about-face take? I predict a matter of weeks from now.

February 4th, 2005 by Rightsideup

As ever, the State of the Union speech has been picked over ad nauseam by the press, and commentators both pro and con allowed to share their views on TV and in the press. Those who enjoyed the speech were primarily those who supported President Bush’s re-election campaign, while those who denigrated it were primarily those who supported Kerry in the recent election. In other words, it won over none of those commentators on either side of the spectrum – no surprise there.

But according to polls conducted by CNN and others with ordinary people throughout the country, those who listened to the speech responded much more favourably to questions about President Bush after the speech than before it – by about 15%, apparently. This is worth looking at. What was it about this speech that had such a powerful impact? Wasn’t President Bush just reiterating many of the same policies that he outlined during the election campaign? He was, but now that the “ra ra ra” aspects of campaigning have been dispensed with, President Bush is able to articulate his policies in a more measured fashion, explaining his stance and providing the supporting evidence on subjects such as social security.

This, along with last week’s inaugural address, also marks the first time since the Republican Convention that a substantial speech has been shown in full on national TV. During the campaign, the positions of both the President and Senator Kerry were reduced to soundbites, as is customary, so that the Social Security debate was reduced to “Social Security is almost bankrupt” versus “Bush wants to take away your benefits.” In the State of the Union speech, Bush was able to explain the real situation, which is more nuanced than soundbites are able to convey. The fact is that Social Security will not fall apart tomorrow, or even next year, if nothing is done to reform it. But, at the same time, if nothing is done over the longer term, it will run out of funding, which will lead to either a need for increased taxes or a cut in benefits. Ironically, it is the “do nothing” position which would put future benefits at risk, not the reformers’ position.

President Bush used the customary terminology to describe this situation, saying that Social Security faces bankruptcy unless the system is reformed. Nancy Pelosi and others rejected this terminology as alarmist, but conceded that the system faces a funding shortfall if it is not reformed. In a business, a chronic inability to fund obligations would lead to just that – bankruptcy – but apparently this standard terminology is unacceptable when used to describe the Social Security quandary. Why should this be? It’s simple – bankruptcy is a concept most ordinary people can relate to – it withdraws the cloak of complexity the opponents of reform want to use to convince people that the problem is not simple to define, and therefore not simple to solve. Allow people to see how simple the problem is, and President Bush’s desire to reform the system is much more compelling. Hence the Democrats’ unwillingness to submit to the logical clarifying terminology.

On other issues, too, the President explained his policies in his trademark, straightforward style, and viewers responded positively to that too. On healthcare, foreign policy, immigration and other policy areas the President discussed in his speech, he was rightly applauded for setting an overall framework and calling on the combined legislators of the House and Senate to prepare bills to bring these policies into effect.

And, of course, there were the non-verbal sections of the speech – the introduction of invited guests from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the parents of a soldier killed in Iraq. The image of those parents embracing and being embraced by the Iraqi pro-democracy activist was a fitting confirmation of the rightness of the war in Iraq, regardless of the presence or absence of weapons of mass destruction.

In all, the speech set a solid foundation for the second Bush administration. He made it clear that he was serious about his campaign promises, as those who know him and his style could have told us, and does not intend to conform with the supposed precedent of lame-duck second-term presidents. Assuming there are no real or imagined scandals, and assuming the Democrats don’t follow through on their anti-democratic filibuster plans, President Bush should be able to get a great deal done in his second term.

It is conceivable that by the end of that second term, we could have significant progress towards peace in Israel and Palestine, fledgling democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, reform underway in Social Security and the tax system, and many other positive changes. The world in 2008 could look very different indeed from today’s world, and this would set things up nicely for President Bush’s heir, whoever that may be.