Civil War on the Left, Part 9

Further to our occasional series about the civil war on the left (part 8 here), it is worth taking note of a new article by Paul Waldman in The American Prospect (one of the more smartly written lefty journals) entitled “Can Liberalism Survive Obama? Yes, It Can.”  I’ll skip over the obvious ironic mocking of the title, and proceed to some relevant excerpts:

It isn’t hard to find discontent with Barack Obama on the left, so long as you know where to look. . .

Adolph Reed Jr. wrote a cover story for Harper’s earlier this year excoriating the president and the milquetoasts who still support him, arguing that Obama’s election was “fundamentally an expression of the limits of the left in the United States—its decline, demoralization, and collapse.”

Given the political roller coaster of the last decade and a half, liberals would be forgiven for feeling worn-out, even cynical. . .  This period in the history of American liberalism—covering the Bush and Obama presidencies—looks like one of extended misery, followed by an explosion of hope, followed by disappointment and dismay. . . “There’s a realization,” says Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an organization that works to promote and assist progressive candidates, “that this is not a bold, progressive president. He’s ultimately not going to be a game-changer when it comes to taking on the powers that be.”

“Some traditional Democrats, low-information people, are willing to give him a pass and say, ‘Oh, the Tea Party got in the way,’” he says. “But those who are more of the progressive movement and look at this through a more sophisticated lens see that there was a fundamental lack of willingness to fight in the beginning of his presidency that had ripple effects throughout.” The White House has from time to time made it clear that it dislikes liberal activists as much as the activists dislike it. As former press secretary Robert Gibbs put it, the “professional left … wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

There’s more—lot’s more—in the piece; more than anyone (even a liberal) needs to read to get the point.  I’ve got news for Waldman: Obama’s a far-left liberal, and this is as good as it gets.  Trust me on this—years from now, you and other lefties will look back on the Obama Administration as the golden age of progressive liberalism, as it slowly crumbles under the deadweight of its own bad ideas.

Waldman ends thus:

Liberal intellectuals, for whom slights are long remembered and compromises loom large, will continue to debate the ideological character of Barack Obama’s presidency for years to come. That debate is worth having for any number of reasons.

Oh please, please do have this debate.  It will provide endless entertainment for the rest of us.

Mid-Week in Pictures: Milton Friedman’s Birthday

It’s Milton Friedman’s 102nd birthday today, and as such a good excuse for some reminders of his greatness, and a few pics that illustrate the economic divide of our time.  This is perhaps my favorite Milton Friedman quote, just as true now as when he first wrote it: “The society that puts [economic] equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.”

Meanwhile, enjoy:

Freidman Day copy

Keynes explained copy

Krugman Explained copy

Keynsian Multiplier copy Keynesian Economics copy Economic Justice copy

Krugman Quote copy

Keynesians at Work copy


The politics of crying “impeachment” [UPDATED]

The Democrats have been fundraising like crazy based on claims that President Obama is in danger of being impeached by House Republicans. Last night, John wondered whether it’s good idea to tell your party’s members repeatedly that the leader of their party is in danger of being impeached.

The answer, I think, is that it is a good idea to the extent the message is heard only by party members. Few Democrats will be able to conceive of a rationale for impeaching their leader and nearly all will view the alleged threat of impeachment as confirmation that House Republicans are evil.

And the money will pour in.

But money isn’t the key to saving endangered Democrat-held Senate seats and making inroads into the House Republicans majority. Only the votes of independents and true moderates can accomplish these goals.

The Democrats can’t keep the “news” of possible impeachment to themselves. The question thus becomes whether it is a good idea for Democrats to cause independents and moderates to believe that President Obama is in danger of being impeached.

I don’t think so. Unlike Democrats, many independents and moderates understand the Republicans’ deep discontent and frustration with Obama. Polls show that these sentiments are no longer confined to Republicans.

Few independents and moderates favor impeaching Obama, and if the House were to move in that direction, these voters would sympathize with the president and blame Republicans. But unless and until impeachment proceedings commence, they will blame Obama for having put himself in a position where impeachment is being discussed by anyone.

If a child tells his parent that his school may suspend him, a normal parent will conclude that the child has put himself in jeopardy by misbehaving. So too, I suspect, with the Democrats’ cries of “impeachment.”

If independents and moderates credit the Democrats’ claims that Republicans might impeach Obama, they will also blame Republicans for going overboard in their opposition to Obama, just as the parent in the above example will probably worry that the school is overreacting. But there’s little reason to believe that many non-Democrats will credit claims that impeachment is in the cards, now that Speaker Boehner has said that it isn’t.

Thus, as months pass and no impeachment materializes, no blame will attach to Republicans. The remaining impression will be that of a problematic president whose party cried “wolf.”

There’s another dimension to the politics of “impeachment.” By some accounts, Obama is poised to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. There is speculation that the cries of “impeachment” are related to this impending development.

If House Republicans become so outraged by the amnesty that they talk seriously of impeachment, Democrats can say “I told you so” and Boehner may look like a liar. If House Republicans don’t talk seriously about impeachment, Obama will have lessened the firestorm and elements of the Republican base may become disillusioned.

But this strategy — if that’s what it is — seems too clever by a half. The lawlessness of a unilateral grant of amnesty by Obama will likely upset not just Republicans and conservatives but many independents and moderates. They still won’t favor impeachment, but they will understand more clearly why a case for impeachment can be made.

They will probably blame Obama even more for being a president whose name can appear in the same sentence as “impeachment” (is this what “hope and change” has come to?) And some may even credit House Republicans for their forbearance in not impeaching him.

UPDATE: A new AP/GfK poll finds that 68 percent of Americans now disapprove of Obama’s handling of immigration. Lawless action by Obama on an issue that Americans already think he’s mishandling will likely strengthen the sense that Obama has brought impeachment talk on himself.

A new old regime

Hamburger29 I wrote at some length about the inconsistency of administrative law with what we understand to be our constitutional system in “Crisis of the administrative state.” Searching around online for additional sources of learning on the subject, I happened to discover a listing for Professor Philip Hamburger’s then forthcoming book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

I brought the listing to the attention of our friends at National Review, hoping the magazine would take note of the book. I was afraid the book might die on the vine for lack of attention, but it has been reviewed both in the Wall Street Journal (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall) and the Weekly Standard. That’s quite an accomplishment for a sober work of legal scholarship published by a university press.

Our friends at NR sent me their review copy. Thanks to Rich Lowry and Michael Potemra, my review of the book appears in the current (August 11) issue of NR, on your newsstand now. This morning NR has posted the review online with a rewritten introduction to relate the book to the week’s headlines. Please check it out: “A new old regime.”

In his vitally important book, Professor Hamburger demonstrates the regressive nature of the Progressive project. He explains and vindicates the original project of the Constitution in erecting barriers to the exercise of absolute power. As Barack Obama brings the crisis of the administrative state to full boil, I believe that Professor Hamburger has given us, not a book of the season, but a book for all seasons.

NOTE: Thanks to the folks at RealClearPolitics for including the review in their honor roll this morning.

Tweeting Conor Powell

Hamas carefully manages civilian casualty statistics in Gaza as a tool of war. It embeds its men and materiel among civilian facilities such as hospitals, mosques and UN schools. When Israel targets weapons depots and sources of fire, these facilities may be targeted with resulting casualties.

Yet Hamas itself frequently turns out to be the direct cause of the civilian casualties, as in the case of Jihad Masharawi in 2012 and other incidents this time around. The media nevertheless attribute the responsibility for every such incident to Israel. See, for example, this Washington Post story along with the embedded statistics by Sudarsan Rhagavan.

Yesterday was a bad day for civilian casualties in Gaza. The Wall Street Journal reports that “UN blames Israel for shelter attack.” The editors of the New York Post provide the sane response in “Obama’s friendly fire.”

It’s important to get both the facts and the moral calculus right. I don’t think anyone has done a better than Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal column “Palestine makes you dumb” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall). He writes in part:

Consider the media obsession with the body count. According to a daily tally in the New York Times, NYT -1.40% as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses “Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.

When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there’s something wrong there, too.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the numbers are accurate. Does this mean the Palestinians are the chief victims, and Israelis the main victimizers, in the conflict? By this dull logic we might want to rethink the moral equities of World War II, in which over one million German civilians perished at Allied hands compared with just 67,000 British and 12,000 American civilians.

The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing. Questions such as: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools, as acknowledged by the U.N. itself? What does it mean that Hamas has turned Gaza’s central hospital into “a de facto headquarters,” as reported by the Washington Post? And why does Hamas keep rejecting, or violating, cease-fires agreed to by Israel?

The media blight is universal. Take, for example, FOX News Channel’s man in Gaza, one Conor Powell. FOX anchors regularly turn to Powell for his hysterical recitation of civilian casualties. I gave Powell a try on Twitter earlier this week. Here is what turned out to be my Twitter soliloquy.

About those new Lois Lerner emails

It didn’t require nasty emails from Lois Lerner to establish that the IRS targeted conservative groups for harassment. The numerical disparity in the IRS’s treatment of conservative vs. liberal groups makes the case.

107 conservative groups were scrutinized. They were asked an average of 15 questions and approved at a rate of 46 percent. Only seven liberal groups were scrutinized. They were asked an average of less than five questions. All seven were approved.

Nonetheless, we now have the nasty emails and they confirm what the numbers proved.

Most of the attention will be on Lerner’s use of an obscenity to describe conservative talk show hosts and their callers. But more telling is her claim that such conservative activists will do the work of “alien terrorists” and take America down, and that because of them America may be “through.”

An IRS bigwig might well view a group’s members as []holes yet still choose not to harass the group. But if she believes the group is going to take America down, she will likely consider it her duty to get in its way.

And, again, the numbers show that conservative groups were singled out for particular harassment.

Democrats tilt towards Hamas, blame Republicans

Caroline Glick makes a persuasive case that under President Obama, America has switched sides in the Middle East. It has switched, that is, from Israel’s side to that of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

You could argue that Obama has switched sides twice. First, during the failed peace process, from Israel to the Palestinian Authority; now, in the Gaza war, from the PA to Hamas. After all, Obama undercut the PA by rejecting the ceasefire proposal (Egypt’s) that it favored and instead pushing Qatar’s pro-Hamas concept.

Deep down, though, I suspect that Obama has been partial to the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore to Hamas, all along.

But it isn’t just Obama that has switched sides in the Middle East. Democrats have too, albeit not to the same extent.

This is clear from recent polling. Seth Mandel points to a Gallup Poll showing that, by a 47-31 percent margin, Democrats do not think Israel’s actions in Gaza are justified. In addition, according to a Pew survey, Democrats are about evenly divided over whether Israel or Hamas is more responsible for the current violence.

Republicans, meanwhile, overwhelmingly side with Israel in both polls.

What explains the fact that Democrats now see Israel as no better than Hamas in a war precipitated by Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel and its refusal to accept a cease fire.

Pro-Israel liberals have come up with an odd but not unexpected excuse: it’s the Republicans’ fault.

This, as Mandel notes, was the thesis of the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg back in 2012. He argued that by criticizing President Obama for his policy towards Israel, Republicans make “supporting Israel distasteful to many Democrats.” Worse, they cause Democrats to “lump supporters of Israel in the same category they reserve for climate-change-denying anti-choice Obamacare haters.”

Lefty blogger Josh Marshall recently expressed a milder version of this theme. Israel, he argued, plays a “dangerous game” when it causes its alliance with the U.S. to be heavily identified with the Republican party.

As question-begging arguments go, this one belongs in the Hall of Fame. Why is there enough distance, when it comes to Israel, between Obama and Republicans that the GOP finds itself able to criticize Obama on this issue? Why has Israel’s alliance with the U.S. come to be closely identified with only the GOP? And how can Democrats even contemplate equating supporters of Israel with the conservative political activists they despise the most?

The obvious answer is that ideology drives contemporary Democrats to view Israel far less favorably than Republicans view Israel. The political fallout — criticism by Republicans of Obama’s Israel policy and the identification of the Israel-U.S. alliance with the GOP rather with both parties — is a symptom of the difference in the way the two parties view Israel, not its cause.

What accounts for the underlying ideological difference between the two parties when it comes to Israel? The answer, I think, is this: Israel is a U.S. ally with strong Western values and a willingness to use military force when necessary to protect itself.

Most Republicans are quite comfortable with these attributes. Indeed, we find them refreshing.

Many Democrats are uncomfortable with one or more of these attributes. Their ambivalence towards the U.S. and its values causes them view a hardcore U.S. ally skeptically (or worse). Their knee-jerk tendency to sympathize with what we used to call Third World nations engenders ambivalence (or worse) towards a bastion of Western values in the midst of the Third World. Their loathing of the use of force to further merely national interests makes them hostile to a strong nation that uses force effectively.

And it’s only going to get worse as old-time Democrats fade away.