Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Obama Insult Tour

Mitt Romney makes much about Obama continually apologizing for America but I think the bigger story is the insults (large and small) Obama has doled out to our allies during his term.

The most recent and probably most egregious of these insults is his calling Nazi concentration camps, “Polish death camps”.  Throwing the brave and freedom loving Poles under the bus over missile defense apparently wasn’t enough he had to add in an historically ignorant slur into the mix. That he did it while honoring a brave resistance fighter just adds to the insult and the injury.

The following is a brief and not complete list of Obama insults:

Austria: A visiting President or anyone with half a brain should probably know what language they speak.

France: Kidding around is fine among friends. Insulting a fellow head of state in a formal setting? Not cool.

Honduras: Obama thinks he knows more about their legal system than they do, insists Chavez protege be returned to power.

The UK: He gave Prime Minister Brown lousy official gifts, the Queen an iPod full of his speeches but worst of all, takes the side of Argentina over the UK over the Falklands.

Israel: The list is long.

Mexico: Arming narco-terrorists is considered poor form among friends.

Japan: When your country is hit with a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, friends tend to be a bit more careful when expressing condolences.

Other than Germany and Australia, Obama’s managed to make a fool of himself in ways large and small when it comes to our allies. The next President is going to have to spend quite a bit of time apologizing and mending fences thanks to Barack Obama.

 

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes And The Obligatory Apology

After MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said calling servicemen and women (including the fallen) made him “feel comfortable” you knew it was a matter of time before the usual, “hey sorry if I offended anyone” apology would be issued.

“On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word “hero” to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don’t think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I’ve set for myself,” Hayes wrote on MSNBC.com. “I am deeply sorry for that.”

Personally, I don’t think he should have apologized.What he said clearly reflects what he thinks. He’s an opinion commentator and so he owe his employers and his audience his honest thoughts on matters of interest. If someone in his position isn’t willing to stand by his statements, no matter how loathsome they are, what is the point of having him on air?

The Veterans of Foreign Wars naturally demanded an apology from Hayes. Well they received it but I think they missed an opportunity. Instead of demanding a pro-forma apology why not challenge Hayes and his beliefs? I think an afternoon spent with one veteran from each of America’s wars touring the various monuments in DC and ending at Arlington National Cemetery would do a Hayes a world of good. Perhaps he might even be moved to share his new found understanding of the relationship of the soldier to war and the country with MSNBC viewers who could desperately use exposure to such things.

So how about it VFW and Chris Hayes….how about instead of the standard insult/outrage/apology cycle we try something a little different this time?

Media Bias In Word And Image

First the hors d’oeuvre….

Tommy Christopher considers himself a reporter, not an opinion journalist or columnist. Yet he’s strangely pleased when White House spokesman Jay Carney answers his question.

I then asked Carney to respond to the charge that it’s hypocritical for the President to attack Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, yet raise money from private equity donors like Blackstone Group president Tony James, and top Obama bundler Jonathan Lavine, currently a managing director at Bain. It was a question that a campaign spokesman inexpertly dodged last night, but that Carney nailed.

I was under the impression that “reporters” were unbiased fact finders who asked hard questions to keep public officials accountable. Yet here’s Tommy acting like a judge on Dancing With The Stars celebrating Carney for hitting his softball question out of the park.

That got me thinking maybe it’s time to contact the White House Correspondents Association about Tommy’s “cheering in the press box”.

Based on the group’s home page photo, something tells me that might be a waste of time.

Well, surely the WHCA had an equally flattering photo of George W. Bush? Er….

Smiling, happy Obamas vs. Under siege by the Guardians of the Republic.

The WHCA liked that picture of a besiged Bush so much, they left it on their contact page.

Guess I’ll skip that note of protest about Tommy.

Romney’s Big Education Speech

It’s safe to say...I’m not a fan of it.

On the other hand, I’m a conservative so I’m not the target audience. It will probably play well with the groups it was aimed at (Moms, mushy suburban voters, etc).

You can read the whole thing here, I’ll just pull out a few bits that illustrate my problem with his approach.

More than 150 years ago, our nation pioneered public education.  We’ve now fallen way behind.

Now coincidence isn’t causality but the federal government wasn’t involved in public education when it was pioneered and I bet if you look at the end of the golden age so many seem to yearn for, you’d find that the more the federal government got involved the worst things got. Now, I’m not saying the federal government is responsible for all the ills of public education or getting the feds out of it is a silver bullet fix but surely the “severely conservative” candidate would show some modesty about the ability the national government’s ability to do something in this area.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

Let’s not kid ourselves – we are in the midst of a National Education Emergency. The only reason we don’t hear more about it is because our economic troubles have taken our national attention away from the classroom.  But if unemployment was where it should be and home values were going up, there is no question that the crisis in American education would be the great cause of this campaign.

Of course, the jobs and housing failures of these past few years only make the need for educational improvement all the more critical.  So I’ll be blunt: I don’t like the direction of American education, and as President, I will do everything in my power to reverse this decline.

Much as you have in your own business careers, I’ve found that you can’t expect dramatically different results unless you are open to dramatic change.  As president, I will pursue bold policy changes that will restore the promise of our nation’s education system.

Oh good. Another national emergency that the President is going to take on. Because if there’s one thing this country has tried over the last half century it’s big “dramatic change” in what DC demands of local schools. Of course that’s always worked in the past so surely it will again.

As President, I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school.  For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted.  And I will make that choice meaningful by ensuring there are sufficient options to exercise it.

To receive the full complement of federal education dollars, states must provide students with ample school choice.  In addition, digital learning options must not be prohibited.  And charter schools or similar education choices must be scaled up to meet student demand.

I guess that sounds nice if you accept the premiss of federal funding  but I’m not sure how that work in reality. On many occasions Romney has said the answer to big problems is freeing states to be more creative and bloc-granting their federal funds. How would a state or local school district do any planning if they didn’t know how the parents would decide how to direct their personal federal money? If the money isn’t really in the control of the parents but just a requirement that state and local governments offer a menu of schools, how is this real reform and why is the federal government better placed to make the judgement on what’s sufficient than state or local governments?

Parental choice will hold schools responsible for results, but parents can only exercise that choice effectively if they have good information.  No Child Left Behind helped our nation take a giant step forward in bridging this information gap.  But the law is not without its weaknesses.  As president, I will break the political logjam that has prevented successful reform of the law.  I will reduce federal micromanagement while redoubling efforts to ensure that schools are held responsible for results.

For example, parents shouldn’t have to navigate a cryptic evaluation system to figure out how their kids’ schools are performing.  States must provide a simple-to-read and widely available public report card that evaluates each school.  These report cards will provide accurate and easy-to-understand information about student and school performance.  States will continue to design their own standards and tests, but the report cards will provide information that parents can use to make informed choices.

Huh?

Romney is going to reduce micro-management but then mandate “simple-to-read” report cards for schools. Obviously federal bureaucrats will write regulations about what “easy-to-read”, “easy-to-understand” and “widely available” mean. They will also pass judgements on the materials create at every level and then require changes as needed. No micro-managing here!

We will take bold steps to ensure our system welcomes and rewards the best teachers.  As president, I will make it my goal to ensure that every classroom has a quality teacher.

Oh good…more bold steps. The idea that a President can or even should “ensure” every teacher is a quality teacher is laughable on its face. Kind of like the idea the federal government (or any government) can ensure that no child is ever left behind.

Yes, that’s just goofy rhetoric but it’s important. For too long politicians, especially at the federal level, have overstated what they can provide and what people should rightfully expect from them. At some point if conservatives don’t start saying, “no” and explaining why, what’s the point of this exercise in republican government?

There are currently 82 programs in ten agencies that spend $4 billion on teacher quality.  As president, I will consolidate these programs, and block grant them to states that adopt innovative policies.  For example, states will be rewarded if they regularly evaluate teachers for their effectiveness and compensate the best teachers for their success.  Teaching is a highly valued profession that must attract and retain the best and brightest.

So a President Romney isn’t interested in scaling back the reach of the federal government, just “consolidating” and make existing programs more efficient. And help me out here, when did ensuring “teacher quality” become something the federal government is supposed to be doing? And why in the world does anyone think it’s even remotely qualified to do it?

In 2008, the National Education Association spent more money on campaigns than any other organization in the country.  And 90% of those funds went to Democrats.

That’s a great talking point and he should hammer the hell out of it.

When I became Governor, we were in the midst of instituting tough, bi-partisan education reforms.  They included the requirement that every student pass a test to graduate from high school.  The test came under attack from the unions.  But we stood our ground.

We also offered our best students a four-year, tuition-free scholarship to the state college of their choice.  I called it the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, after two Massachusetts citizens who understood the importance of education to our nation.

Every year I’d ask a school principal to invite the students who scored in the top 25% on the exam to a special assembly.  After some words about hard work, I’d ask them to reach under their chair and remove an envelope that had been taped there.  And I’d watch as each of them would open the enclosed letter.

Every year, I’d stand in front of the room and the same scene would unfold:

At first, you could hear a pin drop.  Then each student’s eyes would get big and proud smiles would creep across their faces as they found out how well they had done on the exam.  And then they would read the part of the letter where they learned they’d earned an Adams Scholarship.  The smiles turned into cheers – and the sound was deafening.

I got more hugs on Adams Scholarship day than I did at Christmas.  Kids would bring me their cell phones so I could tell their parents the exciting news.  And parents – more than once – told me that they had been worried they would not be able to afford college and that the scholarship would make a difference.

I can’t tell you how much I hate that crap.

First, it follows a section in his speech where he talks about government fueling the rising cost of college. So hey,  let’s celebrate giving out state funded degrees! What about tax payers who had to scrimp and save to send their kids to school and pay the freight for these “free” scholarships?

Which brings me to my biggest pet peeve…I hate politicians who get off on getting thanks for spending other people’s money. How about instead of all the hugs you got, you suggest these fortunate students write letters thanking random taxpayers who are actually footing the bill whether they like it or not?

I think Romney has the right instincts about school choice and his critique of Obama and the Democrats favoring teacher unions over students is spot on but I don’t see how his faith in his ability to develop a better technocratic, top-down solution is going to produce anything other than more money for those very unions.

Scott Walker and Chris Christie (and as I was quickly reminded, Bobby Jindal) have done more to advance the cause of education reform in the last two years than any President ever can. I’d rather see a plan that forces governors like them be responsible for the quality of education in their state and let the people demand action from them. No federal program, no matter how efficient, “bold” or “dramatic” can take the place of solid state and local leadership.

Why Romney Was Wrong, VERY WRONG, To “Repudiate” Wright Attack PAC Plan

By now you’ve probably heard about the proposed plan for a Super PAC to focus on Reverend Wright around the time of the DNC Convention this summer. The plan, since rejected, set off the predictable outrage.

Before being killed in the crib, the “plan” managed to snag the Romney campaign. First Romney’s spokesman and then Romney himself bluntly and explicitly said he “repudiates” the effort.

This is bad for a couple of reason.

First and foremost, it puts Romney in the position of being the hall monitor for the right. Every time someone on the right does something, the press will run to Mitt and ask him if he “repudiates” them. Now he’s going to be constantly choosing between elements of the coalition. A candidate needs to be uniting as much of the potential vote as possible. He should not be the hall monitor in charge of scolding wayward children.

This is a neat trick the media plays. They will never ask Obama about any of his supporters but they’ll run to Mitt and demand he chastise some county legislator in East Podunk but misogynist Bill Maher? Never heard of him.

If Romney thinks chastising every conservative who says something slightly off key about Obama will buy him any grace on his Mormonism or any issue, he’s nuts.

What should Romney have said about this? Something like, “We don’t control that group, support them or know them but everyone is welcome to participate in this process. For our part, we are focused on Obama’s many failures like…….” He would have distanced himself from the issue, not slapped around potential supporters and focused back on Obama.

Personally, I’m not at all convinced that any of this ancillary stuff (Wright, college transcripts, Bill Ayers, who wrote his books) is even remotely important. Maybe 4 years ago when people were learning about Obama but now they know and they don’t seem to approve.  Still if elements of the base want to go off and hit him on these things (Mitt shouldn’t get involved either way, stay focused on big ticket items) fine. We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. The division of labor will work nicely.

What really will annoy me is people who have been saying “McCain wanted to lose like a gentleman” and “Vet the President” suddenly proclaiming this move by Mitt to be a solid bit of tactics. Don’t be a hack and a shill.

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