Sunday, January 25, 2009

Retain Gubernatorial Appointments of Senators

The Constitution of the United States allows state legislatures to empower governors to fill vacancies temporarily in their state's Senate seats. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of governors to make appointments to the U.S. Senate when a vacancy occurs.

When the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, the provision in Article I that provided the appointment of senators by the state legislature was replaced by the direct election of senators by the people of their state. Direct election was not only considered more democratic, but the Progressives who promoted the Amendment cited the greater difficulty in corrupting a majority of the entire electorate than just a majority of the state legislature. But the Amendment retained the provision for gubernatorial appointment of senators, although only temporarily until the legislature calls an election within two years of the appointment.

This last vestige of the appointment of senators ought to be retained. It has been bad enough that we have the direct election of senators in the first place. The Framers of the Constitution created a bicameral legislature so that one house would represent the people (the House of Representatives) and the other (the Senate) would represent the states. Because of the 17th Amendment, now both houses represent the people and neither represents the states. Therefore, the Senate has itself become relatively populist instead of being a check on the populist House of Representatives. Now senators and candidates for the Senate favor popular positions regardless of the worthiness of those positions. As a result, instead of attempting to bribe a majority of the state legislature, candidates for the Senate now attempt to bribe a majority of the entire electorate with promises of government money or other favors, at the expense of the rest of the people.

The other problem with the direct election of U.S. senators is the decline of federalism, as no one in Congress represents the interest of states. Indeed, senators even engage in "constituent service" for the citizens of their states, even though their only constituent is their state itself. As a result, the federal government now regards every subject that it wants to as its domain and every state its province. There are no limits to the growth of the power of the federal government.

Eliminating gubernatorial appointments of senators would make the senate even more populist and further undermine the principle of federalism.

Obama Starts Off as a Radical, but Ought to Compromise on the Economy

I observed in earlier posts that Obama will either govern as a radical and suffer the consequences, or try to compromise and reap the benefits. I explained that he could govern as a radical when he does not need to compromise, such as when no legislation is required.

So far, through executive orders, which do not require legislation, Obama is governing as a radical. Obama has suspended military trials, initiated the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and limited interrogations of suspected terrorist detainees to methods no harsher than the ones publicly listed in the Army Field Manual (of which al-Qaeda is aware and already has trained its members in resisting). The liberals have claimed that the Bush Administration policies Obama has overturned were harming the image of the U.S. around the world. Instead of defending our image by defending these policies, the liberals have proposed overturning them because they disagree with the policies substantively and are only raising concerns about our image as an excuse. Their views reflect the belief that terrorism is a rational response to our provocations, as opposed to the belief that terrorists hate us because they accept an immoral ideology that promotes the killing of "infidels." Thus, Obama has sent a signal of weakness to the terrorists. It remains to be seen, however, if he will exercise his prerogative to issue waivers for his order on interrogations.

In addition, Obama has ordered that federal tax dollars be given to organizations that promote abortion abroad. In short, Obama is demonstrating his radical priorities by protecting the supposed rights of foreign suspected terrorists but eliminating the fundamental right to life of innocent foreign children.

The economy provides an opportunity for Obama to demonstrate nevertheless whether he will compromise on legislative matters. He has the votes from the Democratic majority in Congress to pass the massive economic stimulus plan he proposes. Republicans are offering their support for a stimulus plan if Obama includes tax cuts for businesses and investment to spur economic growth more quickly than his proposed infrastructure projects, and reduces some of the $825 billion in spending Obama proposed.

One example of overspending Republicans cite in particular is the so-called "tax cuts" for the poor and lower middle class who already do not pay income taxes. The lower classes would receive tax credits, which is the equivalent of welfare. Indeed, a majority of all Americans would pay no income taxes, which means that they could outvote the tax-paying minority to continue to give themselves benefits without having to pay any taxes at the expense of those who produce most of the wealth.

Obama is tempted by the support of the Democratic Congress to get his plan passed quickly without any compromise. The problem is that if the plan does not work, he will appear to be less popular than bipartisan support would suggest, and he would have no bipartisan cover if the plan does not work; the GOP would blame Obama and the Democrats for the failure of the plan Republicans had opposed, at the cost of a massive increase in the budget deficit. But if Obama compromises, he would benefit politically, while the economy would improve, which, in turn, would further benefit him politically. Republicans could share in the credit, just as they did with Bill Clinton, who had learned the hard way after earlier enacting his massive tax increases and deficit spending without any Republican support.

Conservatives should apply pressure on Congress to force Obama to compromise for the good of the country.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Historical Farewell Addresses

I would be remiss if I neglected to comment on George W. Bush's farewell presidential address. Clearly, he is secure in the knowledge that he has done the right things in keeping us safe from another terrorist attack without sacrificing our liberty, as well as in his other policies.

George Washington gave the first farewell address, but the tradition was not revived until Dwight Eisenhower. Only two-term presidents have given them thus far.

Washington's was memorable for his warning against permanent alliances and Eisenhower's for warning about the military-industrial complex. Ronald Reagan used his farewell address to exhort parents to inculcate patriotism in their children.

George W. Bush's farewell address will be memorable for warning against letting our guard down against terrorists and against the temptation to isolationism and protectionism.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Historical Inaugural Addresses

The best inaugural addresses were George Washington's First, Abraham Lincoln's Second and John F. Kennedy's, all of which were eloquent. Washington summarized the significance of the event and established the precedent. Lincoln sounded a conciliatory tone at a time when the War Between the States was nearly over. Kennedy not only inspired Americans to serve their country, but declared the importance of American resistance to International Communism at the height of the Cold War.

Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural was significant because of its conciliatory tone after the Revolution of 1800 -- the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in human history, a tremendous American contribution to mankind. That such transfers of power, like yesterday's transfer from Republican George W. Bush to Democrat Barak Hussein Obama, are taken for granted is a remarkable testament to this American tradition.

Franklin Roosevelt's most memorable quote came from his First Inaugural: "All we have to fear is fear itself." His addresses were eloquent, but having given four of them, it is understandable that only one stood out. Ronald Reagan was a gifted orator, but his best lines came from other speeches.

George H.W. Bush was prophetic when he observed that a "new breeze was blowing" in the opening line of his inaugural address, referring to the spread of democracy around the world. We can hope that his son's Second Inaugural will also be remembered for its emphasis on the role of the United States in promoting freedom around the world.

Inaugural Address Analysis

Inaugural addresses can be inspiring. I hope that Barak Obama's speech inspires Americans during this fiscal crisis and the other challenges we currently face.

First of all, I was glad that Obama chose to be sworn in using his full name, unlike Jimmy Carter, so as to maintain the dignity of the office. The inconsistency, however, is that he and his supporters had forbidden the mention of his middle name during the campaign.

I chose not to view the speech, but read the transcript partly out of curiosity but also so that I could comment upon it for you, my dear readers. On the positive side, Obama's tone was optimistic and confident in America, which might help people accept some economic difficulties. On the negative side, Obama portrayed the State of the Union as negatively as possible so as to make himself look better in comparison with Bush when the economy recovers, for example.

I was also glad that Obama continued the tradition set by Carter of thanking his predecessor. However, his thanks to Bush were as flat as Bush's toward his impeached predecessor. I had hoped that at least Obama would have thanked Bush for the 43rd president's great work in Africa, for which Obama has praised him previously, or for Bush's leadership in the aftermath of the September 11 Attacks.

I suppose it was too much to expect Obama to thank Bush for having kept us safe from a major terrorist attack for seven and a half years. It will be interesting to see if Obama's supporters judge him on the same basis: if there is no attack, praising Obama for preventing one will implicitly praise Bush for also having prevented an attack, but if there is one, Obama's record will contrast negatively with Bush's. As with the economy, the longer something bad occurs into Obama's tenure, the more difficult it will be for his supporters to blame Bush.

Speaking of the terrorists, it was encouraging that Obama sounded hostile to the terrorists --more than once, at that. He twice praised veterans for their service, but graciously praised all those who do good in some way. His message to the Muslim world was right on and perhaps could only have been made as effectively -- I hope -- from one with his background.

Obama made two minor mistakes in his speech. He stated that 44 Americans had taken the oath of office of the presidency. Forty-three have; Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president. The second was his odd inclusion of "curiosity" among his lists of "values" and "truths."

There were several serious negative points in Obama's speech, however. Obama said the "question we ask today is not whether our government is too large or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families finds jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified." Of course, he answers the question affirmatively. Obama is here trying to suggest that the debate over the size of government, which Bill Clinton had famously stated was settled against big government when he declared "the era of big government is over" has now by his election been settled in favor of it.

Although Obama and his supporters may not ask the question about whether government is too large or small, many of us Americans do. And the answer is clear that it is too big and it taxes and spends too much. Part of the conclusion about the size of government reflects the understanding about its purpose, which, as Thomas Jefferson reminded us in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure our rights. It is not the purpose of government to help families find jobs at decent wages, care they can afford or retirements that are dignified. Instead, it is the purpose of government to protect us so that we can attain these things ourselves. The difficulty in attaining them is made greater by the heavy hand of excessive taxation and regulation by government, to the point that we need to be protected from government itself -- just the opposite of what Obama says.

Obama then makes the absurd charge that government policies (Bush's policies) favor "only the prosperous." Although it is typical of liberals to utter such slogans about tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, as well as the middle class and poor, Obama's charge is refuted by his own promise to maintain the Bush tax cuts for the middle class and poor.

Worse, Obama summarized another liberal cliche when he declared that "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," which he intended as yet another repudiation of Bush's policies, which explains why he cannot acknowledge that Bush kept us safe from another terrorist attack. In Obama's liberal mind, Bush's alleged abuses of liberty were worse than September 11. Indeed, liberals hate Bush far more than they hate the terrorists, if liberals even acknowledge the existence of terrorists at all.

There are two major problems with Obama's view. First, there were hardly any true abuses of liberty committed by the Bush Administration, which was remarkable as compared to other presidents who faced threats of various degrees. Obama truly is more concerned with all of the supposed rights of accused terrorists and the perception that such concern will afford the image of the United States, than with protecting us from the terrorists -- even to the point of treating them as "Prisoners of War" under the Geneva Convention, which legitimizes them as soldiers and not as unlawful combatants (who can be summarily shot under international law), which thereby legitimizes terrorism as a wartime activity. In short, we did not trade liberty for security, as liberals often allege.

Second, Obama subscribes to the liberal view that we also traded another ideal that liberals regard as a fundamental part of liberty: the right to privacy. But there is no such thing in the Constitution as the right to privacy. There is only a constitutional prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures (although there is no requirement for a warrant, the standard is whether there is probable cause), which was intended as a protection against oppression through harassment by government agents more so than a positive right to privacy. At most, one can have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but not claim a right to it. Therefore, we did not lose a right that we never had in the first place. We can nevertheless balance privacy and security by sacrificing some privacy, such as being scanned by metal detectors as a condition of entering an airport terminal (in other words, it is not a matter of privacy to enter a public place), but we do not need to sacrifice any liberty. Despite the allegations of liberals, the Bush Administration and its supporters in Congress never made the curtailment of liberty a basis for policy.

Obama's expansive view of the rights of terrorists is dangerous to both our security and liberty and must be one of those matters of principle that the opposition not cede.

In short, although there were some inspirational aspects to Obama's speech, there were few eloquent lines, and a few troubling ones. Most of the speech will be as forgettable as the majority of inaugural addresses. Therefore, he should continue to remind people of America's greatness as a way of helping to restore economic confidence. It would help if he pursued the right policies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Historical Significance of the Obama Inauguration

This post provides me the opportunity to comment upon two of my interests at the same time: politics and language, which is the purpose of this blog.

The media and liberal commentators and politicians keep referring to Barak Obama's presidential inauguration as "historic." History is the memory of what men do. Therefore, all human activity is "historic." What they really mean is "historically significant." It is a common error to say the former when the latter term is meant.

However, all inaugurations are "historically significant." What the media and other liberals really mean is that Obama's inauguration is of particular historic significance insofar as it is the first of a black. In other words, the day after celebrating the federal holiday for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose main point they reminded us is that we should not judge each a person based upon the color of his skin, the media and others cited the historical significance of Obama's inauguration because of the color of his skin.

The media and others have managed simultaneously both to overstate and to minimize the significance of Obama's election in ethnic terms. First of all, Obama is not the first president who is the son of immigrants. Second, he is only half black. Specifically, as the son of a Swahili-speaking Kenyan father, Obama is of Bantu ethnicity, unlike the descendants of American slaves who are of Sudanese (specifically West African, not East African like Kenyans or Southern African) origin. Third, Obama is not even the first president whose ethnicity is at least half other than "Anglo-Saxon" (Germanic); several Celts have ascended to the presidency. Note: to the extent that there even is such a thing as race within the human race, there are actually many races, not the handful normally considered as such; therefore, Celts are actually of a different race than Germanic people, making Obama not even the first president of a different race than the majority of most Americans and their presidents.

On the other hand, Obama is the first president whose ethnicity is at least half non-Northern European. Indeed, he is even the first whose ethnicity is significantly non-Western, a point which is of greater ethnic significance than his level of melanin.

Yet I doubt that the media and other liberals would have noted the historical significance nearly as much of the election of a Slav or Greek or some other non-Northern European. Given public opinion polls that reflect negative stereotypes Americans associate with Italian-Americans and the noticeable lack of any corresponding outcry against the many examples of prejudice against Americans of Italian ethnicity, I would regard the election of an Italian-American to the presidency as at least as extraordinary as that of a black, especially one who is only a half Bantu versus one that was primarily descended from slaves.

The election of Obama reflects more of a less anti-immigrant and anti-black prejudice on the part of the American population than it does any accomplishment by Obama himself. Obama benefited politically in the election from his skin color because of white guilt about past mistreatment of blacks.

As an ethnic-American, I can understand the affirmation this moment in history provides for blacks. Obviously, it proves that anyone can aspire to even the highest level in America.

I pray that Obama will carry out God's will and that God would continue to bless America.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Judging the Bush Legacy: A Historian's View

We historians prefer to wait a few decades in order to pass final judgment on the legacy of a presidency. One reason is that some of his appointees, especially to the federal courts, remain in office long after the president who appointed them has returned to private citizenship. Another reason is that information that might affect our judgement about a president, for good or ill, is contained within the presidential papers that are released, well after a president has left office. Subsequent events also influence our judgment about presidents; the success of a successor in continuing his predecessor's policies influences our judgment about the president who initiated them. Finally, the perspective gained over a number of years always benefits judgment.

Nevertheless, it is possible to consider the legacy of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, to the extent that we can. I should note that one standard of measure used by many historians is to judge how successful a president was, in terms of carrying out his stated goals, as long as those goals were beneficial.

By this standard, Bush was unusually successful. As a candidate for election, he had announced a relatively high number of major goals that he had promised to pursue: rebuilding the military, implemeting missile defense, cutting taxes and promoting free trade, appointing conservative judges, reform education, and implementing faith-based initiatives and Medicare prescription drug benefits. He was successful in accomplishing all of these goals at least to some degree. The only goal for which he was unable to win congressional suppport was his faith-based initiatives, which he supported by executive order to the extent that he could.

After September 11, Bush promised to keep us safe from terrorists, a goal he also achieved. As a candidate for reelection, he promised Social Security reform, which was the one major campaign goal that he failed to achieve. In his Second Inaugural, Bush emphasized his goal of promoting freedom, which he as also spectacularly successful in accomplishing. But, during his second term, he also promoted comprehensive immigration reform, which he was unable to achieve. However, some of the policies Bush promoted in regard to aliens did increase security and help to decrease illegal immigration. Bush's most significant failure was the goal he had announced during his first term of cutting the federal budget defecit in half.

Although some historians judge presidents negatively if that president did not accomplish some goal that in the historians' personal opinion he should have carried out, I believe that absent negligence, presidents ought to be judged by what they did, especially in terms of whether they did what they promised to do, and not by what they did not do. Thus, for example, I do not judge Bush negatively for any alleged failure in his response for Hurricane Katrina, which is not a federal responsibility, but I give him some credit for the largest and fastest federal response to that catastrophe, which was above and beyond his duty.

Using my standard of judgment instead, we can enumerate all of a president's beneficial or harmful accomplishments, as long as we reserve some judgment about Bush until a sufficient number of years have passed about the full significance of those accomplishments.

Bush improved the overall strength of the military, as well as U.S. intelligence, both of which had been decimated under Bill Clinton, despite the strains of war. Those wars had the benefit of gaining combat, occupation and counterterrorism experience for the U.S. military, as well as restoring its reputation for victory, thanks in part to Bush's politically bold surge strategy in Iraq. The military was strengthened overall, even though Bush achieved a mutual reduction with Russia of nuclear weapons. One of Bush's most significant accomplishments was his implementation of missile defense. U.S. security was enhanced through foreign policy by better counter-terrorism cooperation with foreign states, and the expansion of NATO, as well as better security arrangements with other states.

Along with improvements to the military and an increase in pay for servicemen, Bush increased veterans benefits significantly. For example, he gave veterans something they had sought since the 1890s: concurrent receipt of pensions and disability benefits.

The 43rd President will likely be judged by historians for the War on Terrorism overall, and not just on Iraq. Bush put the United States on a war footing, which marked a transformation from the Clinton policy of treating terrorism as primarily a law enforcement matter. He implemented numerous reforms and signed significant anti-terrorism bills into law. The lack of terrorist attacks on the United States since September 11, 2001 suggests that Bush was more successful than many people, including "the experts," predicted. Despite the critics' charges that he reduced liberty, the abuses were extremely minimal, unlike those committed under the administrations of John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.

A note on one particular battle of the War on Terrorism, Iraq, is necessary. As in Afghanistan, Bush removed a terrorist-sponsoring regime and thereby liberated 25 million people. Both battles were defeats for al-Qaeda. A major bonus from the Liberation of Iraq was that it allowed for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, the presence of which were the main gripe of Osama bin Laden. Also, both Iraq's and Libya's weapons of mass destruction were destroyed and the Pakistani nuclear-smuggling ring destroyed.

The improvements in relations with India, a goal announced by Candoleeza Rice before the 2000 election, were particularly noteworthy. Relations also improved with the democratic states of East Asia, including Taiwan, without unnecessarily provoking China. Bush successfully handled the Chinese downing and capture of a U.S. spyplane and its crew with honor in his first significant foreign policy crisis. He was loyal to Israel yet positive toward the Palestinians, and successfully encouraged Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. Although I have seen no other commentator observe the significance of Bush's policy toward Macedonia, I believe that Bush helped avert an imbroglio between Greece and Turkey over that fledgling democratic state by encouraging a just end of its nascent civil war. Bush also supported Georgia, Ukraine and Kosovo, while sanctioning Belarus for oppression. His intervention in Haiti was minimal and brief, yet successful. Bush provided aid to the Cuban democratic opposition, in addition to working to overcoming Cuba's jamming of Radio and TV Marti.

Bush's policy toward Africa has won plaudits even from some of his harshest critics, mostly for his efforts to fight disease there. But he also deserves credit for increasing trade with the Dark Continent, although he imposed sanctions when deserved: on Zimbabwe over its racist policies and to Liberia over blood diamonds. Liberians credit Bush with their country's peace and democracy because of his pro-liberty rhetoric and brief intervention of a small number of American troops. Bush successfully mediated the end to the long, bloody southern Sudanese civil war, while his opposition to Sudan's genocide in Darfur contrasted sharply to Clinton's failure to oppose the genocide in Rwanda. As elsewhere, Bush's anti-terrorism policies and promotion of trade benefited Africa.

The 43rd President improved trade relations with many states around the globe, and won ratification of free trade agreements with more countries than all of his predecessors combined. It is not surprising that exports set records under his administration. Improved trade helped keep inflation down. Yet Bush imposed or strengthened sanctions when necessary, especially on terrorist-sponsoring regimes and organizations.

Tariff reductions are tax cuts, but Bush also championed tax rate cuts, which helped spark a period of prosperity that led to the creation of 8 million jobs, despite his inheritance of an economic downturn and the trillion-dollar shock of the September 11 Attacks. Not only inflation, but also interest rates were low, thanks to Bush's monetary policies.

Bush's energy policies brought increased conservation by the federal government, tax benefits for nculear, clean coal and atlernative energy, increased oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and a broader lifting of the moratorium on off-shore drilling. Access to Libya and Iraq's oil helped prevent further price increases. Unlike Clinton, Bush avoided the temptation to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for economic (read political) reasons. He also avoided overregulation based upon predictions of climate change.

Bush made some modest progress towards deregulation, except for the ill-conceived Sarbanes Oxley Act, and tort reform. His labor policies shifted the U.S. from an anti- to a pro-business position. For example, he allowed competition for federal contracts instead of only awarding them to businesses with labor unions.

Bush appointed conservative judges. Indeed, his Supreme Court appointments may turn out to be the greatest of any modern president.

Bush promoted the right to keep and bear arms, which the Supreme Court affirmed, and terminated a federal gun buy-back program.

The 43rd President was the most successful one thus far at promoting the right to life: he banned funding of abortions as part of foreign policy, banned partial birth abortions and signed the Fetal Homicide bill into law, among other measures. Bush also cracked down on human trafficking and child pornography. His relatively aggressive anti-drug policies contributed to a significant reduction in drug abuse among youth. The Bush Administration also cracked down on organized crime. The Gambino crime family, for example, has been decimated.

Bush's education reforms established the principle of accountability and changed the emphasis from education to learning. His reforms contributed to modest improvements in math and reading test scores among public school students.

Although Bush has not been successful in completely eliminating North Korea's nuclear program, his increase in U.S. and U.N. sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom, his diplomatic pressure through the Six-Party talks and his internationally-aided interdiction on the high seas of North Korean contraband have encouraged North Korea from continuing its program. As with North Korea, judgment in regard to Iran, upon which Bush increased U.S. and U.N. sanctions, will have to be reserved.

The major failure of Bush's presidency was the massive increase in federal debt. However, the increase was in part the necessary price of improving the military and fighting the War on Terrorism. Federal revenues had been depressed by the inherited economic downturn and the September 11-sparked recession, but Bush's pro-growth policies increased revenues and thereby minimized the debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. Bush's giveback of the federal suprlus contributed to that prosperity by freeing up for the American people money that had been hoarded by the federal government.

More disappointing was the increase in the overall size of the federal government because of his education reforms, Medicare prescription drug benefit and return of massive farm subsidies, among other things, without the elimination of many significant federal agencies or programs, as well as an increase in the complexity of the tax code.

Although it is too early to judge Bush's response to the recent fiscal crisis, it appears that his Administration's policies have helped to prevent the recession from becoming a depression. That judgment will depend partially on whether the massive federal interventions are temporary or permanent, let alone successful.

In conclusion, Bush was a highly successful president whose policies were beneficial in many significant ways. If the legacy of the 43rd President is to be reduced to one sentence, it should be that he was the president who launched the War on Terrorism, promoted freedom, implemented missile defense, cut taxes and increased trade, appointed conservative Supreme Court justices, promoted the right to life and improved education. As George W. Bush would put it himself, history will record that he kept his charge.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Analysis of Bush's Second Term

As the Bush Administration ends in less than a week, it is an appropriate time to analyse the 43rd President's historical legacy.

Second presidential terms are never better than first terms, and are seldom even as good as first terms, for various reasons. For example, presidents tend to accomplish their most significant goals early on. People tend to tire of their leader, especially in this era of overexposure in the media. The party of the incumbent president tends to lose seats in Congress. Misfortune from external forces often contributes to the sense of disaster that characterizes typical second terms.

George W. Bush suffered a loss of popularity in his second term in particular because of his failure to obtain his major second term goal of Social Security reform, as well as public impatience with the war in Iraq, his Administration's perceived incompetence in responding to Hurricane Katrina, and economic problems beyond his responsibility or control, namely higher prices for oil and the collapse of the housing market.

The 2008 presidential election seems to confirm Bush’s loss of popularity – and even suggests a public repudiation of Bush’s second term. However, he did accomplish much good in his last four years in office. Among other accomplishments, in addition to continuing successfully the War on Terrorism and advancing the cause of freedom, Bush implemented missile defense, obtained the expansion of NATO, improved relations with Africa and India, won ratification of several free trade agreements and expanded trade to record levels, made two great appointments to the Supreme Court, ended the moratorium on off-shore drilling for oil, and responded to the fiscal crisis with alacrity.

In short, although Bush’s second term may or may not have been as successful as his first – it was not the disaster that public perception suggests, other than politically. In terms of the signficance of his accomplishments, despite his loss of popularity and the election defeats suffered by his party as a result, Bush’s second term was one of the most successful of any
two-term president in history.

Soon, I shall analyse Bush's entire presidency in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hold the Line on Holder

At least one nominee to each of the last three incoming administrations has either been rejected by the Senate or forced by pressure from the opposition party to withdraw his nomination because of ethical concerns. Already, one nominee to the incoming Obama Administration has withdrawn his name from consideration for such reasons: Bill Richardson. The loss of the experienced and Hispanic Richardson is significant for Obama, as well as embarrassing.

However, Richardson's withdrawal did not feel pressured. Although I have expressed some general relief at Obama's nominations thus far, I had intended to express particular concern about his nomination for Attorney General, Eric Holder. If there is one Obama nominee that deserves rejection, it is probably Holder.

Today, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter summarized on the Floor of the Senate three areas of concern about Holder. The first two are Holder's role in Bill Clinton's pardons of Marc Rich and the FALN terrorists. Rich was the biggest tax cheat in American history and also had violated the Trading with the Enemy Act in regard to Iran. Rich's wife had made significant donations to the Clinton library. The FALN is a pro-Puerto Rican independence terrorist organization that went on a memorable bloody bombing spree in New York City in 1983. Clinton pardoned the terrorists despite opposition from the FBI and others. Questions were raised as to the political expedience of having pardoned them for the political benefit of Senate candidate Hillary Clinton. Holder did not object to either infamous pardon.

The other concern about Holder is his role in opposing the appointment by Attorney General Janet Reno of an independent prosecutor for the Democratic fundraising scandal, despite pleas from the FBI and others do appoint one.

We should encourage Specter and his colleagues in the Senate to demand satisfactory answers to all questions about Holder's record. If they believe Holder to be unfit for the job of chief prosecutor in the United States, then they ought to reject him.

Although Obama's personal honesty has not been questioned seriously, the continued scandal regarding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment to replace Obama in the Senate, combined with the Richardson and Holder nominations, are creating a surprising ethical cloud over the incoming administration. Obama would be wise to distance himself from any scandals and withdraw Holder from consideration if the facts emerge that warrant Holder's rejection.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Analysis of Obama's Nominations

An additional reason that I have not posted as frequently of late is because I have been monitoring Obama's nominations to his incoming administration. Shortly before I launched my blog, I had sent an e-mail to friends in which I observed that Obama would either govern as a radical, and suffer both the policy and political ramifications of his own policies, or compromise and govern as more of a moderate.

His personnel selections thus far, combined with some of his comments, suggest that he is open to following the latter course, for the most part. For example, some of his nominees are in favor of free trade and are opposed to raising taxes during an economic downturn, while the continuation in office of President Bush's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will assure that there is at least one important voice in the Obama Cabinet to argue against precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. It is no surprise that Obama seems to be following more of a course of continuity than change, as "change" was more of a slogan meant to appeal to emotion than to convey serious policy intentions. Even he had to know that many of Bush's policies were successful and popular, despite the president's low overall public approval ratings. After all, most of Bush's controversial anti-terrorism legislation, for example had been approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, including the votes of Obama himself.

Obama will still be able to impose radical policies through executive orders, appointments to the federal judiciary (generally) and the conduct of military and foreign policy, but he will be resisted by at least a vocal minority in Congress on any radical legislative proposals (e.g. elimination of the absentee ballot for union elections, forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions, elimination of missile defense, drivers' licenses for illegal aliens, etc.). However, because few of his radical proposals are popular, he will face public resistance to the implementation of any of his policies. It is, after all, our duty as the loyal opposition to resist bad policies. I assure you that I shall do my part through this blog to do so.