Monday, December 27, 2010

Establishing Credentials

Photograph of Robert DeNiro for Esquire by Nigel Parry

The January, 2011 issue of Esquire magazine is on the newsstands. The cover sports a photograph of Robert DeNiro.

In our family, my wife uses the Christmas issue as a “stocking stuffer.” Esquire is directed at a mostly male audience, so I am the one who receives it in my Christmas stocking.

The magazine is a guide for those of us who need to know what to wear, where to eat, and how to act, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Until a few years ago, it had a section titled “Dubious Achievement Awards” that was laugh-out-loud funny.

The magazine also includes a section called “The Meaning of Life.” It features prominent individuals who have been successful in their fields of endeavor. The participants are interviewed and encouraged to reveal their candid thoughts and impressions on what has been important to them.

The interviews are titled, “What I’ve Learned,” and in the January issue they feature a broad spectrum of people, from Chef Ferran Adria to Yoko Ono. Here is a transcript from one of them. It’s a spoof, but it gives you the style and flavor of the interviews:

Jesus H. Christ: What I've Learned
About to turn 2,011, the all-knowing son of God reflects on his early days — and that whole Mel Gibson thing

By Ross McCammon

Swarthier than you thought, right? I get that all the time.

Frequent? Are you kidding me? Okay, here's one ... and another one ... And there's a "Jesus Christo!" ... It's a lot of outcry. Off the hook, if you'll pardon the expression. It's a direct line.

We've become so rash all of a sudden. But I get it, I get it.

Yeah, 2010. I know. An earthquake, then hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, then the Tea Party, then Ohio State loses to Wisconsin. But here's the thing: I'm. Not. In. Charge.

It's just H. It doesn't stand for anything. Ulysses S. Grant was the same way.

Incidentally, when I'm having a hard time, I say, "Ulysses S. Grant!" I'm kidding, of course.

"Samuel L. Jackson!"

Those given the most credit are the ones who neither need it nor deserve it. Miley Cyrus thanking me for winning an MTV award, for instance — that was all you, sweetheart.

And Tony Romo. "God's plan"? Let me get this straight: God called a blitz package that a Cowboys guard didn't pick up, allowing a Giants linebacker to slam you into the turf, which fractured your clavicle, ending your season — that was part of God's plan? Here's a plan for Tony Romo: Check your Jesus complex, son.

Prosperity gospel? Please.

It's funny: On a philosophical level, I agree with Michael Pollan on pretty much everything. Personally, however, I find him an insufferable putz. Go figure.

They're all solid in their own ways: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and, I guess, John. But you should have heard me in the "Q Gospel." Never made it into the Bible. Lost to time. But it was like a "Jesus' Greatest Hits."

Mel. Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel.

Tax collectors. After all these years, they still get to me.

Shroud of Turin? Not me. The piece of toast, however ...

For the record, I wasn't a carpenter. I was a tekton. It's an old word for handyman. You need lots of stuff fixed, you call a tekton.

Never forget where you came from. I come from a small town in the country. Four hundred people tops. It shaped me.

A man should have a creed. And a mission. You have a creed and a mission, you'll be all right.

You want comfort? Look to the tunic.

The ones I like: Lord of Hosts, King of Kings, J. C., Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, Emmanuel, Sweet Jesus in Heaven, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the First and the Last, the Gate and the Way. But Jesus is fine. My friends call me Jesus.

I have no idea who the hosts are or why I'm lord of them.

Idiots have a way of killing themselves off. Most of the time you don't have to do it for them. I know it really doesn't seem like that right now.

The difference between love and sex? Pass.

It's either pre-Easter or post-Easter, if you know what I mean.

I've been ignoring the haters for years. I started that.

You become a man when you see the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove. At least that's how it happened for me.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with judgment you make, you will be judged. I'm reiterating, of course.

I'm here. I'm right here.

Can I get an Amen?
Well, maybe that is funny just to me. Let me get to the point of this post.

The interviews can take a political turn. The magazine is not meant to be particularly biased, except in the advice it delivers to its male readers. It reflects our culture and the beliefs of leadership figures within our culture. Here are some excerpts from the “What I’ve Learned” interviews…

Samuel L. Jackson, actor:
When they killed Kennedy, black people were thinking, Oh, my God, white people are gonna come down and kill us all today! All the rights that Kennedy gave us are going away! So they sent us home from school and said, “Stay in the house.”
Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter:
The only political experience I've ever had came in sixth grade when I had a crush on Jenny Lavin. Jenny was stuffing envelopes after school at the local McGovern-for-President headquarters. So I thought it'd be a good idea if I volunteered, too. One weekend they put us all in buses and took us to White Plains, the county seat, because the Nixon motorcade was coming through. We went with signs that said MCGOVERN FOR PRESIDENT. I was holding up one of these signs and a 163-year-old woman came up from behind, took the sign out of my hand, whacked me over the head with it, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. The only political agenda I've ever had is the slim hope that this woman is still alive and I'm driving her out of her mind.
Ted Danson, actor:
Why is it that we can make our sandwiches together, walk our dogs together, roll up our sleeves and make something in our community better, but as soon as we talk about ideas, whether it's religious or political, we become entrenched. I can't stand what looks to me like the selfish, shortsighted righteous far Right. They cannot stand my liberal dada dada. And we will fight to the death. When only two minutes ago we were making sandwiches together.
Danny DeVito, actor:
Karl Rove's dad was a homosexual. Why is he afraid of that? Why does he become one of these guys who stands in the way of gay rights?
Each of these individuals establishes his anti-Republican credentials as a way of validating his remarks with the reader and letting us know that he is a part of our popular culture. It is a reflexive action and is endorsed by Esquire.

The Editor in Chief of Esquire is David Granger. He sees to it that this point of view is uncontested within his magazine. Should this be cause for concern?

Maybe we can look to the “What I’ve Learned” interview of James L. Brooks, writer and director:

I have a rule in research: The third time you hear something, it’s generally true.

With that "truth" (and immersed in a culture of political indoctrination) James L. Brooks might be “an easy mark.”

UPDATE 12/28/2010:
Linked by Morning Beat at Left Coast Rebel: Blog/Post of the Day!  Thanks, Tim.
And now linked by GayPatriotDan sees the essence in the title of his post.

UPDATE 12/29/2010:
Some readers might be aware that the remarks of the individuals listed above are convenient restatements of the Six Themes of the Democratic Party.  Can you match them?  Here is a hint:

The themes NOT used are: "Republicans are destroying the environment", "Republicans are stealing from our Seniors", "Republicans are shredding the Constitution", and "Republicans are turning the economy into a disaster."

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Constitution

U. S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Virginia (2010)

Today, there is a lot of chatter around the blogosphere on a Virginia District Court decision by Judge Henry Hudson. On December 13, 2010, Judge Hudson declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

His decision is important because it points out how different justices come to different decisions based upon their political beliefs. Judge Hudson is a Republican. His decision puts him at odds with other recent legal decisions on Health Care.

Take Judge Hudson’s decision in the context of a recent article from Imprimus. The article is adapted from remarks by Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and is titled, “Outline of a Platform for Constitutional Government.”

The article is significant because it talks about the special nature of the U. S. Constitution, how it protects the rights of individuals, preserves economic liberty, upholds national security, and emphasizes the need for high standards amongst our public officials.

The Constitution sets standards, but individual courts interpret those standards. Here are some consequences to note:

--Christine O’Donnell remarked during her campaign that there is no language about separation of church and state in the Constitution. Although this is true, federal judges have interpreted the Constitution as directing that there be no public funding of institutions that are unduly influenced by religious thought.

--In 1857, the Dred Scott decision was handed down by a Supreme Court packed with justices affiliated with the Democratic Party. Those justices interpreted the Constitution as designating people with dark skin tone as being property, not citizens.

--In a recent interview, Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of our current Supreme Court, explained the Second Amendment to the Constitution. He pointed out that the right to keep and bear arms can be restricted, and should be restricted geographically! As an example, he pointed to the Heller decision overturning a ban on handguns in Washington D.C.

Justice Breyer clearly believes this decision was wrong. He thinks that if you feel strongly about your right to bear arms, you should go someplace else. The money quote from Justice Breyer is, “Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland.”

Professor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has reaction:

Wow, that solves all sorts of problems. You want an abortion, or a school without government sponsored prayer? Get on the subway! Desegregated schools? Same thing! (Why didn’t the Supreme Court think of that in Bolling v. Sharpe? — Oh, right, no subway back then. See, this is why people oppose mass transit. It’s an end-run around the Bill Of Rights . . . .)
Hang on to your Constitution, folks. It’s all we’ve got.

UPDATE 12/15/2010:
Featured as Blog Post of the Day on "Morning Beat" at Left Coast RebelThanks, Tim.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Complicated.

December has been a good month for cultural benchmarks.

First, we have the case of Private First Class Bradley Manning (shown above) who is accused of misusing classified information. Our military thinks that PFC Manning is the source of classified documents provided to WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange, and that he should be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

But it’s complicated. PFC Manning is “openly homosexual” and this revelation comes at a time when President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy is being debated in our country. The unauthorized release of classified information may simply have been an elevation of PFC Manning’s sexual identity above the dedication to duty, honor and country that is prescribed in the military. (Maybe it’s a mixed blessing, but The Berkeley City Council is on his side.)

Second, we have the case of Ward Churchill who is litigating to regain his position as a professor at the University of Colorado. Professor Churchill is accused of misconduct in teaching and research, and has lost a recent appeal.

But it’s complicated. Professor Churchill has a right to free speech, and as his attorney, David Lane says, “…it’s a shame that in America some of our most cherished freedoms are in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats in black robes…”

Then there is the case of Congressman Charlie Rangel. He was recently censured by the U. S. House of Representatives for ethics violations.

But it’s complicated. Congressman Rangel is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and its members think that he has suffered discrimination because of his dark skin tone. CBC Chairman Barbara Lee, in a 12/2/2010 statement, said “Today’s vote by the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Rangel was an overly harsh sanction…” and “The censure sanction is a departure from the customary sanctions in other cases that have been adjudicated over the years.”

And, finally, there is the case of Helen Thomas. She was recently forced into retirement after making anti-Semitic statements. Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto has an update.

But even this is complicated. Ms. Thomas is a longstanding professional journalist, and she has the sophistication to keep her private beliefs from tainting her work. Is it possible this is all an overreaction?

I suppose all of the people defending the actions of these four individuals have a point. Controversial actions do need to be assessed with deliberation and a sense of balance.

But that brings me to an example from the world of musical entertainment (h/t LeftCoastRebel):

The Week has a rundown on reaction to the video, but it fails to delve into the cultural aspects.

Here’s what I’m seeing: Listed above are four actions that receive the “benefit of doubt” treatment. The actions may be deplorable in some fashion, but they get a fair discussion in our culture.

Contrast that with the treatment of Sarah Palin in the Gwar video. There is no specific action that is being adjudicated. Simply because she is a Republican, it is fair game to disembowel her.

It’s not complicated. It’s not even controversial. It’s just a reflection of our culture.

UPDATE 12/15/2010:
In an 8-0 vote (with one abstention) The Berkeley City Council has tabled its Bradley Manning resolution for an indefinite period. The council apparently needs more time to determine if PFC Manning is "a hero or traitor."  The council members might be coming to the conclusion that "it's complicated."

UPDATE 8/22/2013:
CNN reports that Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in detention and is changing her name to Chelsea.  More than likely she will serve no more than seven years at Fort Leavenworth.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Identity Group Politics

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
(AP Photo by Paul Sancya)

The United States House of Representatives voted to censure one of its members yesterday. After an 18-month investigation, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) became the first Congressman in 27 years to be censured. The vote was 333-79. Smart Politics has a table showing the vote breakdown

If you go to the link, you will see that both Democrats and Republicans strongly supported the censure. However, with the exception of one member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), that particular group of Democrats voted overwhelmingly NOT to censure Congressman Rangel.

Here’s a statement from Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chairwoman of the CBC:

"Today's vote by the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Rangel was an overly harsh sanction, especially considering that after a 2-year investigation the Committee found no evidence of corruption or personal financial gain. Under House precedents, a reprimand would have been a fairer sanction for the lapses that he has long since admitted and corrected.

"The censure sanction is a departure from the customary sanctions in other cases that have been adjudicated over the years. According to the Committee’s counsel, Congressman Rangel’s misconduct resulted from overzealousness and sloppiness, not corruption.

"Today's action in no way diminishes Congressman Rangel’s distinguished 50-year history of service to his country and constituents who again overwhelmingly returned him to office in November. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are proud to call Congressman Rangel our colleague and friend."
Could it be identity politics at work in our Congress? Is it possible that a particular political party in America expects solidarity from its members based on skin tone?

Here is a link to more information on Congressman Artur Davis (pictured above). He is the one member of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against the will of the CBC. Even though he will not be returning to Congress next year, his vote reflects principle and courage.

That’s worth noting.

UPDATE 12/6/2010:
Andrew Breitbart at Big Government has a post on "The Pigford Shakedown."  This goes into some detail on an evolving story about the political expoitation of race in our culture.  The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is a political arm of the Democratic Party.  Artur Davis used this group to work for the election of Barack Obama in 2008.  With billions of taxpayer dollars now at stake, it's fascinating (and disconcerting) to see the political manipulation of groups such as the CBC and the NBFA.

Linked by Left Coast Rebel's Morning BeatThanks, Tim.

UPDATE 10/23/2011:
Artur Davis weighs in on Voter ID laws.  Identity group politics is still a strong influence, but it is good to see some pushback by individuals.

UPDATE 5/30/2012:
More courage.

UPDATE 8/15/2012:
And now this.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Must I be a Citizen to Vote? (Part II)

Statue of Thomas Jefferson inside the Jefferson Memorial. ©USDA

In America, people can vote in our elections without being a citizen of the United States.

In an earlier post, I noted how under current law (The National Voter Registration Act) you are required to state you are a citizen, but not required to prove you are a citizen.

Our newly elected Secretary of State in Colorado (Republican Scott Gessler) wants to change this. He thinks it will add integrity to the voting process if proof of citizenship is required when an individual registers to vote.

Cue the cultural furor. People are up in arms!

People are agitated today, but it’s worth noting that our Founding Fathers would have taken Scott’s side of the argument. Two hundred years ago, in a letter to his son-in-law John Wayles Eppes, Thomas Jefferson addressed the philosophical issue:
“No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only. If our government ever fails, it will be from this weakness.”
If Thomas Jefferson (in 1814) saw the necessity to put “teeth” in our principles, why is this no longer important?

The Denver Post editorializes about proof of citizenship: “That's a debate worth having, but we would have to be convinced that such a requirement wouldn't prove too burdensome.” The Post further expands on the issue by printing two “Letters to the Editor”:

Overly burdensome ID requirements block eligible voters from participating without solving any real problem. Colorado’s County Clerks Association has testified that there are no known instances of voter fraud in Colorado in recent years. Although most Americans have government-issued photo ID, studies show that as many as 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide do not; the percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income voters. Many citizens find it hard to get such IDs, because the underlying documentation required is often difficult to come by.

Secretary-elect Scott Gessler’s interest in proof of citizenship laws is misguided and will cost the state much in terms of resources and unjustified barriers to the ballot box. As this issue is debated, proponents of these burdensome requirements must demonstrate the requirements are worth the harms they cause, a tough task given the lack of evidence of fraud.

Jenny Flanagan, Executive Director, Colorado Common Cause

Efforts to require photo ID and proof of citizenship do nothing other than keep voters from engaging in our elections. In fact, Colorado is one of the most difficult states in which to obtain a photo ID.

There is a special project in Colorado funded by local foundations that has annually assisted about 3,900 people each year for the last three years. These individuals lack IDs and/or birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain picture IDs. Many more people who need such assistance often have to be turned away because the project lacks sufficient funding and staffing to serve them all. Many of these are elderly, disabled and/or homeless.

Voting is a sacred right in our country. Experience has shown that thousands of Coloradans would be pushed out of the voting process if these onerous requirements became law.

Nan Morehead, Centennial
And so, proving you are a citizen of the United States is “burdensome.” It harms the disadvantaged and creates an “onerous requirement” that pushes people out of the voting process. If you think proving citizenship should be a requirement for registering to vote, you are clearly mean-spirited.

What’s wrong with this picture? Are there other areas where proving you are qualified is “burdensome?” Must an airline pilot be licensed? How about Medical Doctors having to prove their qualifications? Is it too burdensome to prove you are authorized to carry a concealed weapon?

Why is it not enough to simply allow a person to state he or she is a citizen? Maybe it’s that vexing issue of Moral Hazard.

When we allow people to acquire mortgage loans by simply “stating” their assets and income, and then package these loans as being “underwritten,” is there an integrity issue? Does it not make a difference if the borrower has to prove what is stated in the application?

All good questions, but the fact remains that the only place where it is “burdensome” to provide the sufficient and necessary proof of your status is in registering to vote. Why is this?

We’ll cut to the chase: If everybody who finds it difficult to prove citizenship were inclined to vote for Republicans, the “onerous” and “burdensome” requirement would disappear in a heartbeat. Those who had trouble would immediately lose their disadvantaged status and be characterized as “dangerous people” who are bent on “shredding the Constitution.”

Does the refrain sound familiar?

UPDATE 11/29/2010:
Linked by Left Coast Rebel!

UPDATE 1/28/2011:
Nancy Lofholm in the Denver Post links Republicans to xenophobia!  Note the use of the words "fear" and "scare" in the lead paragraph and the idea that Republicans are harming the disadvantaged.  A legislative matter is being reported, but it is pretty clear who our culture believes is wearing "the black hats."

UPDATE 2/25/2011:
While this post is related to proving citizenship when registering to vote, another contentious issue is proving a voter's identity at the voting booth.  Jennifer Rubin points to court decisions in Georgia and Indiana on photo ID bills.  These courts find that, "There thus are no plaintiffs whom the law will deter from voting."  In stark contrast, our culture adamantly holds to exactly the opposite view: These laws will exclude regular people (non-Republicans) from exercising their right to vote.

UPDATE 3/31/2011:
The Colorado Department of State has released a report on this issue dated March 8, 2011.  This is the first paragraph from the report's summary:
The [Colorado] Department of Revenue shows 211,200 people who used a non-citizen credential to obtain a driver’s license or identification card. Comparing these names to the statewide voter database shows that 11,805 are currently registered to vote in Colorado. Of the 11,805 registrants, 4,214 voted in the 2010 election.
UPDATE 5/23/2011:
Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, writes in The Wall Street Journal about the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act.  Signed into law in Kansas last month,  it requires proof of citizenship for newly registered voters, driver's license signature verification of absentee voters, and a photo ID to be presented when voting.

Similar measures are being considered (or are already in place) in Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Arizona and Wisconsin.  It will be interesting to follow the court challenges to these initiatives.

UPDATE 6/16/2011:
Keesha Gaskins, writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, responds to Kris Kobach.  She characterizes her article as "debunking misinformation" and comments on five separate points made by Secretary Kobach.

It is interesting to note the frame of reference Ms. Gaskins uses in making her argument.  Her concluding sentence in the piece tells us that taking action to protect voting rights is "un-American."  She sees the act of protecting voting rights as "giving the government the power to block citizens from voting."

I think we need a reward posted for any American citizen of voting age without a photo ID who will come forward and claim that he or she will not vote because it is too burdensome to acquire the necessary ID.  Will the Brennan Center take the lead on this?  This is a list the Brennan Center must compile - as a public service!

Where is Andrew Breitbart when we need him?

UPDATE 6/22/2011:
James Taranto, writing in The Wall Street Journal Best of the Web Today makes this interesting point:

Today railroads and hotels, along with almost all providers of public accommodations in almost all circumstances, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race. So what happens when you ride on Amtrak, the government-subsidized railroad? You hear an announcement over the PA system advising you to be prepared to show your identification if the conductor asks to see it.

Likewise, these days there is a good chance you will be asked for identification when you check into a hotel. You need ID to board an airplane or to drive a car. Recently we visited a doctor whose office is in a hospital. Just to enter the premises, we needed to present ID to a security guard.

If black people have trouble producing identification, how come nobody ever claims that these requirements are discriminatory?

UPDATE 1/11/2012:
James O'Keefe at Project Veritas shows how easy it is to vote as a dead person in New Hampshire, a state not requiring voter identification.  As he notes on his site, "More to come..."

UPDATE 2/3/2012:
A reporter for WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, Florida discovers nearly 100 non-citizens who vote.

UPDATE 2/7/2012:
James O'Keefe shows how to register voters in Minnesota. (h/t InstaPundit)

UPDATE 8/5/2012:
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler writes an opinion piece for the Denver Post that updates us on Colorado's work to remove non-citizens from the voiting rolls.  It's reflective of our culture that this information is considered "opinion."

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Trying To Do The Right Thing

David Harsanyi does not want you to read President Bush’s memoir.

Decision Points” was released this month, and to describe Mr. Harsanyi as unappreciative of the work of the former President is an understatement. Mr. Harsanyi characterizes President Bush as “a preening dunce empowered by historical fluke and nepotism.”

Strong words! But if you follow Mr. Harsanyi’s advice, you might miss out on some interesting material:

--President Bush allowed the military to run the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was put off by the micromanagement style of President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in the Vietnam War, and knew the human costs of politicizing a conflict. (Page 195)

--The President wrote letters to the families of every service member killed in the war during his presidency. (Page 203)

--The idea that President Bush “rushed into war” should be analyzed against a timeline that includes more than a decade since the Gulf War resolutions had demanded that Saddam disarm, over four years since Saddam had kicked out weapons inspectors, six months since the UN ultimatum, four months since Resolution 1441 (the “final opportunity”), and three months after the deadline to fully disclose his WMD program. (Page 247)

--The concept of “natural disaster politics” is probed. A little-known anecdote is that Mayor Ray Nagin had gone without a hot meal or shower for four days after Katrina hit New Orleans. He was welcomed aboard Air Force One and showered in the President’s quarters. (Page 309)

--General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was thrown under the political bus. The poignant note he left at the Vietnam Memorial is cited on page 386.

This book is an “after-action report.” President Bush tells us what influenced his decisions, and provides a transparent roadmap for review and analysis. It is the story of a person trying to do the right thing for his country.

There are lessons here that can be applied to future national problems, and to disparage them as “preening” seems shortsighted. But then again, this is simply the duality of scrutiny in our political leaders. Our culture expects leaders on the Republican side to be attacked.

Contrast the American Dhimmitude treatment of Sarah Palin with the admiration shown to Madeleine Albright. U.N. Representative Albright assures us that she did all that could be done in Rwanda, and her assessment is not questioned. We simply appreciate her straightening out that “genocide” thing.

Fawning praise for one President’s book, and characterizations of ineptitude for another: If you are a Republican writing your memoirs, gird your loins, you preening dunce!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

How Can You Sleep at Night?

Candy Crowley, a CNN anchor, interviewed former President George W. Bush recently. The interview was broadcast on November 14, 2010 and coincides with the release of President Bush’s recently published memoir, “Decision Points.”

The interview was conducted in two segments: One with President Bush and his brother Jeb; the other with President Bush alone. The tone of the two segments is decidedly different. The segment with the two brothers is playful and upbeat. The segment with the President alone is somber and confrontational.

Ms. Crowley perfectly captures the desire for vengeance within the political forces still arrayed against the former President. She asked him about “taking his eye off the ball” and failing to properly pursue the fight in Afghanistan. She asked why no Republican was held accountable for Abu Ghraib and why Republicans were not punished for failing to find significant weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

She finished by asking President Bush how he could still sleep at night.

OK, I may be overstating the exact content of Ms. Crowley’s questioning. Like Keith Olbermann, she is sophisticated in her approach, and delivers careful impressions with her words.

Ms. Crowley used the devise of “The Banning Letter” to represent the pain felt by those who have lost loved ones in combat. It is akin to our modern-day Cindy Sheehan story. Mr. Banning had lost a son in the Korean War, and he sent a letter to President Truman in which he returned his son’s Purple Heart and wished that President Truman’s daughter could meet the same fate as his son.

The letter is tough, but it dramatically represents a parent’s anguish. Ms. Crowley’s question was similarly harsh. She asked, “I’m interested in how those who are so angry, and we understand their anger, how these affected you.”

She aligns herself with those whose anger she understands, and registers an accusatory tone. We can read the transcript to see her actual words, but what we hear is, “You b&*%*#d! How can you still sleep at night?”

Our anti-Republican culture approves.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moral Hazard

November 11, 2010.

It’s Veteran’s Day, and it’s a day for reflection.

The graphic at the top is the Purple Heart. It is an American military decoration presented to military or civilian citizens of the United States who are wounded or killed in action.

It makes you wonder, “Why would anyone do that?”

That’s a deeply personal question, but it helps if our military personnel are conducting missions they believe in.

Americans can accept the idea of dying for a cause. The problem comes when our military no longer believes in the cause.

When a service member dies “for the American way of life,” what does that mean?

Consider these life examples:

--We see politicians rise to high office to enjoy the fruits of political favoritism.

--We allow non-citizens to vote for our leaders.

--We task our military to “put in their time” fighting until a withdrawal date.

Each of these actions takes a time-honored American principle (public service, citizenship, military service) and turns it into a prop for political purposes.

On this Veteran’s Day let’s not forget to honor the relevancy of the Purple Heart.

UPDATE 11/12/2010:
Chris Smith at The Other McCain is preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.  There is nothing that gets the attention of a Reservist like an official DoD notice with your name on it, stating: "Please ensure your affairs are in order."  Godspeed, Smitty.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Progressives vs. Founders

Not too long ago, I referenced Michael Barone’s terminology for the current political argument taking place in our country. Here is his quote:

Over the past 14 months, our political debate has been transformed into an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives. The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government.
I think it’s important to keep that representation in mind as we watch “attempts at reconciliation” and “mending of fences” after the recent midterm elections. The theme being advanced by our culture is that we need to exhibit a cordial bipartisanship and move forward.

Not so fast…

Here’s an example of the quandary: President Obama’s 10/27/10 speech to the White House Council on Women and Girls.

You are probably wondering, “What could possibly be wrong with this? Everybody wants to end violence against women!”

The problem comes down to the contention between Progressives and Founders. Here’s a Pajamas Media piece by Carey Roberts that sheds some light on the issue.

And here’s my two cents…

Americans have a Constitution that includes Amendment XIV. That amendment defines what constitutes a citizen of the United States, and specifically states that any person within the United States has “equal protection of the laws.”

That’s the rub. How do you work the problem of domestic violence? Do you use the Constitution to go after those instances where individuals are denied equal protection, or do you set up special rules and regulations for a particular identity group?

President Obama takes the approach that women need to feel their government is watching out for them, and he is the one who will ensure special treatment for this group. It’s part of the rotational identity group syndrome where politicians emphasize a particular group identity by gender, skin tone, political affiliation, etc. and selectively inform the groups that the politician is “dedicated to fighting for their rights.”

The difference is stark: Founders want to ensure the protection of individual rights while Progressives want to ensure preferences for identity groups. How does one reconcile the two?

Maybe the underlying data show that the identity group is in fact suffering discrimination? Unfortunately, in the case of domestic violence, the facts do not show gender discrimination against women. The opposite is true!

And so things become complicated. We’ve now got the President of the United States basing an identity group appeal on a lie! He may believe that women are receiving unfair and longer sentences for their crimes, but it is the opposite gender (men) who are suffering that fate.

And then there’s this problem: Our government officials take an Oath of Office where they swear (or affirm) to defend the Constitution of the United States. When they choose to promote identity group rights to the exclusion of those individual rights specified in the Constitution, is that defending the Constitution? Are they reneging on their Oath?

It comes down to issues of principle. As stated in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s an extraordinary statement and an exceptional founding principle.

I’m siding with The Founding Principles. Will our new Republican leadership do the same?

UPDATE 11/10/2010:
James Ceaser at Real Clear Politics has an analysis of the recent midterm elections (h/t Power Line) that rings true.  He characterizes the election as the "Great Repudiation" and contrasts the Democratic Party analysis ("The election outcome was all the result of a misunderstanding.") with the Tea Party movement's introduction of the Constitution into the debate.  All of you Founders out there will find this article worthwhile.

UPDATE 2/24/2011:
David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy brings up that troubling issue of the Constitution in the context of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Our public officials take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.  Progressive leaders sincerely believe that the oath also gives them the power to not enforce the Constitution when it conflicts with their point of view.  It almost makes you want to look up the definition of "anarchy."

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

(Insert Republican) is Too Extreme for (insert State)

The Democratic Party won several close elections last night, employing campaign techniques that characterized Republican opponents as dangerous and too extreme for elective office.

Here’s an example from the campaign of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).

Here’s an example from the campaign of Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The characterizations are effective. They typically overstate a candidate’s point of view. A candidate wishing to limit the size of government is characterized as a candidate wishing to do away with government.

While a position overstatement is one type of misrepresentation, another is to distort the context of the candidate’s statement. A candidate wishing to replace the federal income tax with a flat tax is characterized as a candidate wishing to do away with exemptions on tuition and mortgage interest.

The distortions are a time-tested type of argument, and require a certain level of sophistication on the part of the viewer to understand what is being done. Political pundits dismiss those of us in the electorate as being too stupid to understand the required point of view. (We evidently missed the appropriate lectures in our high school debate class.)

I look at campaign activities from the anti-Republican mindset. I’m not so much concerned about the stupidity of our electorate as I am of a culture that accepts anti-Republican characterizations as fact.

Our culture warns us of Extreme Republicans, yet fails to classify other activities as “extreme:”

Philadelphia: November, 2008

St. Louis: August, 2009

Philadelphia: November, 2010

It almost makes you wonder, “What would the Founders think?"

UPDATE 11/6/2010:
Linked by Drunk Report.  (Think of Drudge Report but with a good dose of snark.)  Thank you!

UPDATE 3/30/2011:
Jennifer Steinhauer on her blog at The New York Times notes that the "extreme" theme is still de rigueur.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Conduct a Smear

With less than a week before our midterm elections, you’ve probably had your fill of negative campaign ads describing the most vile attributes of a particular candidate.

If you like the candidate, it irritates you. If you dislike the candidate, it still seems smarmy.

Have you ever stopped to analyze how it’s done?

There is a distinct pattern: Simply take a fact about a candidate and then “drill down” to a level of negativity. Here are some examples of a smear of “Candidate X”:

Candidate Fact: “I am a Catholic.”
Characterization: “Candidate X ignores pedophilia in an institution he supports!”

Candidate Fact: “I served in the military.”
Characterization: “Candidate X stood by while women and children became collateral damage!”

Candidate Fact: “I enjoy a turkey dinner.”
Characterization: “Candidate X relishes products from unsafe slaughter houses!”
The idea, of course, is to entice the candidate and his supporters into responding at the level suggested by the smear. (That typically doesn’t work out well for candidate X.)

It’s a fact of life that many activities we enjoy can be characterized with a negative aspect of that activity. It is fertile ground in the world of politics, and is a part of the chess game that makes politics so intriguing.

Unfortunately, “the ugliness” is what keeps most of us from ever wanting to become political candidates.

It is also what is so uplifting in the candidacy of ordinary citizens that we are seeing today.

UPDATE 10/29/2010:
Jonathan Karl at ABC News has some actual examples being used in the last few days of the election campaigns.

UPDATE 10/31/2010:
Sam Foster at Left Coast Rebel has a post that might be titled, "How to Attempt to Conduct a Smear."  It details another open mic incident similar to the one earlier this month from the Jerry Brown campaign in California (Meg Whitman as a "whore").  This time the smear is being plotted by supportive media rather than Democratic Party campaign staff, the issue is sexual predators rather than sexual services, and the location is Alaska instead of California.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Must I be a Citizen to Vote?

A recent story (10/26/2010) from the Arizona Daily Star reports that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Arizona’s requirement that individuals show proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

Can this be true? If you live in Arizona, you do not have to prove you are a U. S. citizen when you register to vote? Are you thinking, “This doesn’t make any sense. It must be true only in Arizona!”

I checked out the voter registration form in my home state of Colorado. Here is a link to a .PDF copy of the form we use.

Note that the Colorado Voter Registration Form requires you to state that you are a citizen, but it does not require you to prove you are a citizen. When you come to vote, you simply bring a copy of a recent electricity bill showing you live where you say you live, and you can vote.

Doesn’t that seem a little awkward? Colorado wants to confirm the jurisdiction in which you reside, but not whether you are a citizen of the country!

And we are not alone. Across the USA, this is one of those “litmus test” issues.

Do you believe in the sanctity of the voting process in America? If so, you are probably a Republican.

Linked by Left Coast Rebel!  Also, Michelle Malkin devotes a column to voter fraud in America.  Maybe we're starting to see some traction on this issue?

UPDATE 11/22/2010:
The Denver Post has an editorial today that addresses this issue.  The money quote is, "That's a debate worth having, but we would have to be convinced that such a requirement wouldn't prove too burdensome."

Can the act of presenting necessary and sufficient documentation to prove you are qualified ever be "too burdensome"?  Where else is this standard applied?  Does our Constitution actually say that proving American citizenship might be too burdensome when registering to vote?

Our regulation-prone culture appears to believe you've got to be licensed for everything except being a citizen.

UPDATE 6/26/2012:
Florida seems to have the same problem as Colorado: Non-citizens are voting.

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Friday, October 22, 2010


Two Republicans were in the news this week for “acting stupidly.”

Sarah Palin was criticized for proclaiming the year 1773 as an important date in the Tea Party movement. Christine O’Donnell was criticized for pointing out there is no “separation of church and state” clause in the United States Constitution.

As it turns out, both women were correct, but our anti-Republican culture jumped at the chance to exploit their perceived inadequacies.

Politico has a pretty good analysis of the attack on Christine O’Donnell. Michelle Malkin reports on who went after Sarah Palin.

The dust-up on Christine O’Donnell is an example of “the standard AP re-write.” This is where an Associated Press reporter releases a story and then updates it later in the news cycle. In the case of reporter Ben Evans, he released his story on Ms. O’Donnell at 12:54PM on October 19, and then posted a rewritten version at 9:27PM later in the same day.

Depending on which version you read, you received a different sense of the debate. It’s a good example of how early stories capture the stronger anti-Republican themes. Reporters typically will temper their bias as events unfold.

The fascinating thing about the criticism of Governor Palin is that it first appeared in the form of text messages on the Twitter accounts of commentators. Many pundits send short text messages – “tweets” - to a Web site to register their impressions of events. It is a remarkable window into the way they interpret their surroundings.

I’m betting that as time goes by, we will see more analysis of the way people in the political arena use Twitter to react to their world. If it is true that first impressions are the most honest, it will be enlightening to watch as they share their true feelings.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Big Issue

CSN at Red Rocks, 6/2/2010, photo by Buzz Person
Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills & Nash, wrote a song titled “Teach Your Children.” Readers of a certain age will hear the music in their heads, particularly the refrain of the first chorus:

Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
The song is from the early 1970s and was written against the backdrop of the “Big Issue” at the time: the war in Viet Nam.

We’ve got an election coming up in two weeks, and there is another big issue being debated. It has to do with the direction America is headed: whether it is toward a government based upon the domination of a single political party or “back to the future” of our Constitution with its checks and balances.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, has a vigorous stake in the election, and is featured either positively or negatively in the political debate. You might have seen video of her comments to the National Association of Counties (NACo) on March 9, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Here is the featured sentence:
But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
The subject is healthcare reform, and she is selling Democratic Party legislation to her listeners. I’ll include the paragraphs before and after the sentence, so that you can see the context:
You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. Furthermore, we believe that health care reform, again I said at the beginning of my remarks, that we sent the three pillars that the President’s economic stabilization and job creation initiatives were education and innovation—innovation begins in the classroom—clean energy and climate, addressing the climate issues in an innovative way to keep us number one and competitive in the world with the new technology, and the third, first among equals I may say, is health care, health insurance reform. Health insurance reform is about jobs. This legislation alone will create 4 million jobs, about 400,000 jobs very soon.
Speaker Pelosi is like one of the Sirens in “The Odyssey”. She is beckoning you to her politics, and has some compelling arguments:

--If you are a legislator, you don’t have to understand the legislation you are endorsing.
--If you are concerned about jobs, she knows where the jobs are.
--If you are concerned about money, she knows where there is easy money.

It’s all going to be “very, very exciting” and the only cost is the price of your allegiance.

I get it.

But I’m still hearing the refrain from “Teach Your Children” and wondering what Speaker Pelosi teaches her own children (or grandchildren). Does she teach them critical thinking or does she teach them allegiance?

There is an election coming up, and it will be interesting to see what America chooses. What’s the “Big Issue” this time?

It has to do with what we teach our children.

UPDATE 10/23/2010:
Linked by Left Coast Rebel!  Thanks, Tim.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This is Instructive

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, courtesy of

Hugh Hewitt brings our attention to a Stanford graduate being attacked by the student newspaper of his alma mater.

The Stanford Daily chastises alumnus Dr. Victor Davis Hanson (Ph.D. Stanford, 1980) for being, of all things, a raaaaacist! The source of the outrage is this 9/30/2010 post from Dr. Hanson’s blog.

Dr. Hanson addresses some cultural “absurdities” that seem to no longer be noticed. His article specifically references issues of political structure, education, and technology. In the second area, he makes the point that higher education is “politically intolerant” and points out some racial diversity constructs used in selecting students for college admission.

Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Not to the editors of The Stanford Daily. Their 10/7/2010 editorial characterizes Dr. Hanson’s analysis as “absolute trash” and calls on the Hoover Institution to censure him.

This is where the fun begins. Victor Davis Hanson writes a follow-up piece on 10/9/2010 for Pajamas Media and describes the editorial as “a McCarthyite attack.” Glenn Reynolds links to the reaction at The Stanford Review and Smitty from The Other McCain posts a comment on The Stanford Daily Web site.

What’s the take-away?

Be sure to read Dr. Hanson’s 10/9/2010 response. It showcases America’s style of cultural interchange: An individual challenges an issue of policy, and our culture responds with characterizations of intent. Dr. Hanson says, “Here are some anomalies in university recruitment policy,” and The Stanford Daily says, “Let us tell you who and what you are!”

UPDATE 10/14/2010:
Meredith Dake at Big Journalism has a post linking to a similar dust-up on the Rachel Maddow show last week (10/7/2010).  A scientist named Art Robinson is running for Congress in Oregon, and his encounter with Ms. Maddow is similar to Dr. Hanson's encounter with The Stanford Daily.  (What's with our Western Neighbors?  They've got research scientists and entrepreneurs running for political office!)

UPDATE 10/15/2010:
Tim Daniel from LeftCoastRebel comments that the language used by the editors of The Stanford Daily sounds suspiciously like that of "internet trolls."  Is he on to something?

I noted the incendiary adjectives used by liberal pundit David Sirota in this post, but you've got to admit the editors at TSD keep an abundance of troll-like, politically-charged adjectives at their fingertips:

"homogenous denigration"
"vitriolic ignorance"
"toxic assumption"
"mocking reference"
"callous and shrill remarks"
"gross generalities"
"racially charged language"
"despicable words"
"derisive, unfounded cheap shots"
"grossly generalizing remarks"

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Intellectual Discourse

Ron Radosh, an author and political commentator, has a post today (10/6/2010) on cultural hegemony (h/t Instapundit). Mr. Radosh discusses the ideological rigidity of “liberal intellectuals,” making the point that these individuals are unable to accommodate contrary evidence that disrupts their world view. It’s a cultural phenomenon, much like the ancient antipathy for non-Moslems in the Moslem world. The dominant culture establishes what is “right and natural.”

I got a taste of this the other day when I posted a comment on a site run by a gentleman in Vermont. The post was about the contention of author Jon Krakauer that 41 percent of the casualties in the current war in Iraq are attributable to “friendly fire.” Mr. Jack McCullough, the blogger in Vermont, had represented that statistic as being a fact.

Here’s my comment:
Mr. McCullough:

I would be interested in your take on a similar review I did of Mr. Krakauer’s book last year. For a work of non-fiction, I think his “facts” on friendly fire are distorted. See if your review of the Brookings data leads to a similar conclusion.

If you have better data, please let me know and I’ll post it at
Mr. McCullough commented back:
I didn’t jump into the ancient discussion on your blog, but I’d be curious if Krakauer has ever responded to your claims.

I also note that there is really no attempt to refute Krakauer’s central thesis: that Tillman was the victim of fratricide and the Bush administration lied and covered it up as long as it could possibly do so.
Oops—I should have said more.

There is also no question that the Bush administration lied about the Jessica Lynch incident, and that it did everything it could to make political hay of these twin tragedies.
My attempt to have Mr. McCullough evaluate contrary evidence was rebuffed, and in a distinctive pattern:
1. My citation was dismissed as “your claims.”
2. My question was skirted (other than to wonder if Jon Krakauer was interested).
3. My intent was derided through characterization of side issues.
Dismiss, Skirt, and Deride. Does that sound like intellectual discourse or what?

It reminds me of another pattern: The Apology.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Social Network

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network © Fox Searchlight

I’m going out on a limb here, but let me just say it: You need to see the movie “The Social Network.”

This is a film about Mark Zuckerberg, a young man played by Jesse Eisenberg, who creates the Facebook application on the Internet. Facebook allows you to post information about yourself and others, and share it with people of your choosing. The application is both welcoming and open while still being intimate and protected.

The movie, written by Aaron Sorkin and based on the book by Ben Mezrich, tells the story of Mr. Zuckerberg creating his application and posting in on the Internet. It starts with the program being restricted to just the students at Harvard University, and ends with it being available worldwide. In the process, Mr. Zuckerberg finds he has generated an asset worth billions of dollars, hence the name of Mr. Mezrich’s book: “The Accidental Billionaires.”

It’s a fascinating story, and affects each of us in different ways. Film critics see it as a story of intrigue in the digital age. Bloggers look a little more deeply. Some see it as a story of social upheaval. I see it as a celebration of something special.

That “something special” is the transformational achievements that occur when individuals pursue their dreams without compromise. I see people like Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, through this lens.

Mr. Gates had a dream of bringing mainframe computing power to individuals everywhere. This was not through terminals connected to mainframes, but through individual devices: “personal computers.” He developed an operating system to do this, and drove a complete industry along the path of his vision for several years. In the 1990s, Mr. Gates knew with certainty what was going to happen to the small computer industry in the next year, and had a pretty good idea of what it would look like three years out. He set a new industry in motion, and his vision and accomplishments were “something special.”

You get a sense of that in “The Social Network” movie. Mr. Zuckerberg has a vision that drives him relentlessly. People try to turn him from that vision no matter where he heads. At one point in the movie, he meets Sean Parker (founder of Napster and played by Justin Timberlake) who seems to understand the direction Mr. Zuckerberg is heading. You can feel Mr. Zuckerberg revel in the validation: “Finally, someone who gets it!”

We know that there must be “something special” going on, because our culture handsomely rewards the individuals associated with Facebook. But there’s something more.

Our culture often diminishes transformational accomplishments. Mr. Gates was scorned by competitors and subjected to antitrust litigation. Even though the world was dramatically changed as a result of his work, not everyone was happy. (For the record, the Internet and this blog are grateful.)

I’m now thinking about another transformational event that occurred over 200 years ago. It didn’t immediately create fantastic wealth and still doesn’t seem to earn much admiration and respect, but it was transformational.

It was the crafting of the United States Constitution and the creation of the American Republic.

The concept is still being tested. There is by no means universal acclamation that this was “something special.” However, I think people would have to agree it was transformational. It put in place a model for governing that elevates individual rights and secures freedom. It is constantly under challenge, and yet remains a beacon for others around the world.

Our Founding Fathers took great risks. They knew they had a vision of human governance that broke with tradition, and they were determined to give it a chance. We now enjoy the benefits of their foresight.

Let’s celebrate those people who have the vision to create “something special.”

UPDATE 10/6/2010:
Scott Johnson at Power Line draws our attention to an article by Michael Barone.  Mr. Barone describes our current political debate as "an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives."

I think I captured the mindset of the Founders pretty well in this post.

UPDATE 10/8/2010:
If you'd like to see a nice exposition of the Founders argument, take a look at this video by Bill Whittle.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Election Season

Yin-Yang symbol courtesy of

It’s about a month before the mid-term elections, and all political campaigns are in high gear. Here in Colorado, we have a contested race for a U. S. Senate seat. It features Ken Buck on the Republican side and Michael Bennet for the Democratic Party.

Negative ads are all over the airwaves. Here’s an example from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, promoting the candidacy of Mr. Buck:

In case the YouTube link is unavailable, here’s a transcript:

Sound bite from a Bennet ad: “I’ve been in Washington for only a year...”

Announcer voiceover: “And what’s Bennet done? He voted to gut Medicare, jeopardizing benefits for over 200,000 Colorado Seniors. Bennet’s scheme will raise premiums for hard-hit families. Bennet even raised taxes 525 billion dollars: a jobs killer. [He’s] gutting Medicare; Hurting Seniors; Killing Jobs.”

Sound bite from a Bennet ad: “Because I’m listening to Colorado.”

Announcer: “Oh really?”
Cynicism and scary music. That’s the ticket!

The ad feels deprecating and mean-spirited, and that is what Republicans reflexively do.

Contrast this with an ad for Michael Bennet from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

Mr. Buck has expressed his support for a ballot initiative in Colorado known as the “Personhood Amendment.” The idea before the voters is that an unborn child takes on legal protections prior to birth.

How is Mr. Buck’s support of this amendment characterized? Since Mr. Buck is a Republican, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is able to fathom his intent:

“Ken Buck wants to make common forms of birth control illegal… Ken Buck also wants to make a common fertility treatment illegal.” The point is punctuated with “on the street” quotes from concerned women:

--“This is ridiculous!”

--“I can’t believe that in 2010 Ken Buck wants to limit women’s access to birth control.”

--“This is reaching so far into people’s private lives.”

--“Who is he to make that choice?”

--“Ken Buck does not belong in my family planning.”

--“Women’s rights should not be taken backwards.”
The clear theme is that no woman in her right mind would vote for this person.

Why is it effective? It’s because of the use of characterization.

The individuals in the video tell us who Ken Buck is. They characterize him as a person who has no respect for privacy or personal dignity and who objectifies women. The announcer lets us know Mr. Buck’s intent: Ken Buck wants to make sure the actions of women are illegal.

It’s an important difference in our political culture. Republicans talk about issues. They tell you what a candidate did or is proposing to do. Democrats, on the other hand, highlight their perception of a candidate’s intent and tell us what we must believe about that candidate.

Republicans are fighting with “one hand tied behind their backs.” They (tragically) restrict themselves to “the issues.” Democrats are free to make accusations and characterizations that are directed at the emotional state of the target audience. Republicans are caught up in policy; Democrats “go for the gut!”

That’s why it is fun to see candidates like Tom Tancredo run for office. Mr. Tancredo is an iconoclast, breaking the established campaign rules of the Republican Party.

Mr. Tancredo may not win the election for Governor of Colorado, but he makes certain we enjoy the ride.

UPDATE 10/5/2010:
Left Coast Rebel has a post by RightKlik profiling an interesting development in this "negative ad" season.  It features an ad by Christine O'Donnell produced by Strategic Perception, Inc.  Is it possible that Republicans are becoming interested in the emotional component that drives voters?

UPDATE 10/15/2010:
Maybe Republicans are starting to "get it."  Here's a recent ad by Ken Buck.

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