|No Consent from the Governed|
Democrats shoved ObamaCare through without the consent of the governed, and they're beginning to pay the price for it.
Top News Stories
1. No Consent from the Governed
2. The Real Crisis Begins
3. The Metaphysics of Marriage
4. India Plays the America Card
6. Learning to Love the Bomb
Submit articles, interesting links, letters to editor, or comments to editor@TIADaily.com.
Top News Stories
Commentary by Robert Tracinski
1. No Consent from the Governed
There was another round of primary elections on Tuesday, but the biggest election result was a ballot initiative in Missouri—discussed in the main article below—which amounts to a massive symbolic rejection, by a broad 2-1margin, of ObamaCare.
There is no reason to accommodate ourselves to ObamaCare or to assume that it cannot be repealed. Sure, no major welfare-state expansion has ever been repealed, but none of them has been passed by a raw partisan vote, against the clearly expressed will of the people. So we don't have to accept any of it. The Missouri vote is a reminder of that.
The Democrats shoved ObamaCare through without the consent of the governed, and they're going to pay the price for it.
In that vein, Michael Barone also analyzes the other election results, particularly the relative turnout of Democratic and Republican voters as a predictor of relative turnout in November, and the results suggest at least a 60-40 vote against the Democrats this fall.
But what really has me convinced that the Democrats are doomed is their strategy for turning back a defeat.
First, they're spending their precious time in the August recess avoiding the voters. Mark Kalinowski sent me a highly amusing item from New Jersey about a Democratic congressman who has decided to stop holding "town hall meetings" because the phrase has a "negative connotation." Well, maybe for Democrats, it does!
The other big Democratic brainwave? They're going to campaign against George Bush. Really.
Democratic strategists, from the White House down, say invoking the ex-president helps policies.
"God bless America that he's back in the conversation," a senior Democratic official on Capitol Hill said. "It's a blessing from the heavens. If this becomes a referendum on George Bush, we are in a much better spot than anyone could imagine."
But Bush is not back in any conversation I've been hearing, and this election is obviously going to be a referendum on Obama and the unpopular legislation the Democratic Congress shoved down our throats. Which brings me back to the main item below, which shows the results we can expect from such a referendum.
The other Democratic strategy, according to Howard Dean, is to associate the GOP with the Tea Parties. To which my answer is: the Republicans should be so lucky.
"The Show-Me State Sends a Message," Henry Olsen, National Review Online, August 4
President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership predicted soon after the passage of their health-care bill that the public would soon come to support it after they learned more about the law's provisions. Missouri's voters decisively rejected that argument yesterday, passing by a wide margin an initiative that would outlaw the individual mandate.
While some commentators have suggested this was fueled by high Republican turnout, the results suggest otherwise. The measure passed in every county save one, heavily Democratic St. Louis City. It was approved by over 70 percent in virtually every county, and by 60-62 percent even in strongly Democratic counties such as Jackson, which includes Kansas City, Boone, which includes the University of Missouri, and St. Louis and St. Genevieve counties.
As everyone knows, the Rube Goldberg contraption known as health-care reform falls apart if there is no individual mandate.
back to top
2. The Real Crisis Begins
The real crisis that no one is talking about is upon us. A little while ago, I linked to a warning that Social Security is going into the red this year, five years earlier than predicted. Now it's official. This is the point at which Social Security yawns wide open and starts to swallow the entire federal budget—and the wealth of the entire country.
The problem with the report below is that it takes at face value the claim that "The program has enough money in its trust fund to cover the annual deficit for two decades." Enough money where? What are the assets in this "trust fund"?
In fact, the "trust fund" consists of IOUs to be paid out of the rest of the federal budget—which is already sinking under trillion-dollar deficits. This is the crisis that Barack Obama has brought upon us sooner and made much, much worse.
"Social Security in the Red This Year," Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, August 5
Social Security will pay out more this year than it gets in payroll taxes, marking the first time since the program will be in the red since it was overhauled in 1983, according to the annual authoritative report released Thursday by the program's actuary....
Some of the grimmest immediate news comes in Social Security, where benefit payouts will exceed revenues this year for the first time since Democrats and Republicans came together to overhaul it in the 1980s.
The deficit will last through 2011, then an improving economy will put it back into balance for three years, then it will dip back into the red in 2015, the actuary said. The program has enough money in its trust fund to cover the annual deficit for two decades beyond that.
back to top
3. The Metaphysics of Marriage
My apologies for sending out an incorrect link for the recent "gay marriage" ruling. (The link I sent was for an earlier ruling.) Thanks to TIA Daily reader Kurt Wullenweber for sending a correct link that doesn't require registration.
On a closer look, the ruling also turns out to be worse than I thought. Its basic assumption is that the way to decide the question of "gay marriage" is to look at empirical evidence about competing "state interests." Does the state have a greater interest in preserving "traditional marriage" or in mandating "social equality" between homosexuals and heterosexuals?
The judge's unquestioned assumption is that it is the business of government to engage in social engineering, using the coercive power of the state to shape our lives according to our rulers' vision of what is best for us. The only question is whether we should engage in conservative social engineering or leftist social engineering. Hence, the whole decision turns on the judge's allegedly factual determination of which side has the better pragmatic case for its brand of social engineering.
Hidden in here is the collectivist premise that marriage is a creation of the state, that marriage is an institution created to serve the state's interests, and therefore that the state can "regulate" it to achieve its goals.
I don't know about you, but I'm not too keen on the state taking an "interest" in my marriage. In an individualist view, marriage exists to serve our interests—the interests of those individual who choose to get married. As with other kinds of contracts, we enter them under our own terms and in order to serve our own interests, and the only role for the state is to recognize the relationships we created.
The judge's ruling extensively quotes a homosexual couple complaining that they can't refer to themselves as being "married." Well, who's stopping them? They can have a ceremony and call themselves "married" any time they like, and if the government only chooses to call it a "domestic partnership," who cares? Only a collectivist would think that he needs the imprimatur of the state.
In practice, the best model is the way I've been told marriage works in Japan. Couples just go out and get married in a private ceremony, and only afterward do they register their marriage with the state. It's a good way of keeping clear who is in charge.
In the current debate, the closest thing I've seen to my view is the column below from David Harsanyi, who actually goes too far, declaring that the state should have no role at all in marriage. But of course, the courts have to decide cases that arise from divorce, from conflicts over custody of children, and so on, so it is proper for the state to develop a standardized body of law codifying the rules that govern these cases.
But what this implies, in my view, is that the form in which government chooses to recognize marriage should follow the lead of private practice. If the majority of Americans decide that they want to call homosexual unions "marriage," then the government should call it marriage. But it should not force the issue, because it should not presume to dictate to the American people what they ought to think and feel about homosexuality.
So I come to the same conclusion as some conservatives, but for different reasons. The only valid basis for calling homosexual unions "marriage" is if this is the usage already freely accepted by the majority of the American people—so the only proper way to decide the issue is by popular vote, by asking the majority what it thinks. But the premise of the recent ruling is that this should all be decided for us by a judge whose job is to determine which form of social engineering is best for us.
"Time for a Divorce," David Harsanyi, Denver Post via RealClearPolitics, August 6
In the 1500s, a pestering theologian instituted something called the Marriage Ordinance in Geneva, which made "state registration and church consecration" a dual requirement of matrimony.
We have yet to get over this mistake. But isn't it about time we freed marriage from the state?
Imagine if government had no interest in the definition of marriage. Individuals could commit to each other, head to the local priest or rabbi or shaman—or no one at all—and enter into contractual agreements, call their blissful union whatever they felt it should be called and go about the business of their lives.
I certainly don't believe that gay marriage will trigger societal instability or undermine traditional marriage—we already have that covered—but mostly I believe your private relationships are none of my business. And without any government role in the institution, it wouldn't be the business of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, either.
As the debate stands now, we have two activist groups trying to force their own ethical construction of marriage on the rest of us. And to enforce it, they have been using the power of the state—one via majority rule and the other using the judiciary.
back to top
4. India Plays the America Card
I've been a big advocate of "playing the India card"—pursuing a new strategic alliance with India as a counterbalance against the Muslim fanatics of the Middle East on the one side and the belligerent nationalism of China on the other. The Bush administration pursued this policy eagerly. The Obama administration has been passive and indifferent—its typical attitude when American interests are at stake.
But grand alliances like this one are pushed forward by forces greater than the policies (or passivity) of one president. In the case of India, the foundation for an alliance is the growing cultural and commercial connection between our two nations. And of course, it's not just that we have an interest in an alliance with India. They have an interest in an alliance with us.
So even though the current US administration has been passive on this issue, the Indians seem to be deciding—according to the report below—to actively pursue a "special relationship" with the United States. The administration may not be eager to play the India card, but India is eager to play the America card.
This is an example of what I have expected and hoped for to carry us through the awful foreign policy of the current administration. The global American alliance will be held together by our allies, until such time as we have a new president who believes in American leadership.
"India Eyes an American Special Relationship," Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Financial Times, July 26
The Indian government will be too polite to say it, but there is a lot of (perhaps premature) condescension in India towards Britain's shrinking role in the world. Where once Britain educated India's ruling classes, now most head to the US. The economist Amartya Sen's move from Harvard to become Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, was described in India as a move from a powerhouse to a museum. In subtle ways Indians are constantly comparing the ability of the US to cut imaginative deals that benefit India directly with that of other nations. And on the quiet, the dynamism of their new relationship with the Americans has inspired hope in many Indians that they may come to replace the United Kingdom as the US's special ally among the world's democracies....
India has a sense of itself as a rising power....
India's cultural and social ties with the US are now so deep that the ruling classes in the two countries are more seamlessly bound than India and Britain ever were. Despite some misgivings about the Obama administration, Indians believe the US has actively supported their arrival on to the world stage, offering in particular an unprecedented nuclear deal. American business, judged by attendance at the Indo-US Business Council at least, has also emerged as a lobbying force on India's behalf.
back to top
Following what's happening with US strategy in Afghanistan can be a bit confusing. On the one hand, there are some reports that the US is shifting from a counter-insurgency strategy to targeted strikes against Taliban leaders. On the other hand, there are reports that we are using the same population-control techniques in Kandahar that we used in Baghdad at the height of the counter-insurgency campaign there.
In fact, the two strategies are complementary, and targeted killings can help speed up counter-insurgency—a lot—by placing intolerable pressure on the enemy leadership and demoralizing the lower ranks. The report on the targeted strikes tells us that "American intelligence reporting has recently revealed growing examples of Taliban fighters who are fearful of moving into higher-level command positions." Being a Taliban commander is a bit like being the #3 man in al-Qaeda. It's a test of how badly you really want to meet all of those virgins.
The other good news is that General Petraeus has been strengthening the rules of engagement to lift some of the restrictions on our troops.
But notice that we have to act with a kind of desperate urgency to speed up the campaign in Afghanistan, because we're operating under a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawal by next summer.
The real danger in this war is not the Taliban. Like every insurgent force, the Taliban are weak—because insurgency is not a strategy you choose if you have any better alternatives. Just ask one of those nervous new Taliban commanders. The real danger in this war is defeatism at home, which unfortunately emanates from the White House down.
There is growing defeatism from the left, of course, including this absurd example, which describes the war in Afghanistan as something that Obama got "talked into" by the military—as if Democrats hadn't spent five years declaring that Afghanistan was the "real war" against terrorism, as opposed to Iraq.
But we also have to worry about defeatism on the right. This is an especially strong temptation with Obama in the Oval Office. When they have a commander-in-chief they like, who actually wants to fight and win—which was true of George Bush, for all of his faults—the right can rally behind the war even when things are going badly. But when they believe the commander-in-chief is not committed to victory, they begin to wonder whether our troops are going to be sacrificed in a losing cause—and whether it is better to just get out now.
That's why my ears perked up when I heard Sarah Palin hint that we should either be fighting to win, or we should go home. "We're in it to win it and if we're not, the American public needs to know that, too. We don't want to send our sons and daughters over there for some kind of futile effort."
If you are tempted to feel the same way, I have one piece of advice: fight it.
It is better to stay in Afghanistan for two and a half more years of floundering, if that's what we have to do, until we can get a decent commander-in-chief in office—because if we withdraw now, we would suffer a crippling blow to our military credibility. No one doubts America's military power. They doubt our will to persevere, and we can't afford to prove those doubts right.
That is the basic theme of Bret Stephens's latest Wall Street Journal column, which I've excerpted below. (The full thing requires a subscription.)
It is a distinctly secondary argument, but Stephens has also pointed out that a US withdrawal would be followed by the kind of orgy of mass death and suffering that was seen the last time America abandoned its allies, in Southeast Asia. TIME Magazine makes that real with their latest cover, which must be viewed. Centcom Commander James Mattis was right: when you've seen what the Taliban do, it must be personally very satisfying to kill them.
"Is Afghanistan Worth It?" Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, August 3
It's never easy to point out that, in the scale of American military sacrifice, Afghanistan does not figure large. But acknowledging a historical fact does nothing to belittle the cost the war has exacted on America's soldiers and their families: It merely offers some mental ballast to offset the swelling panic. What does belittle the sacrifice—both for those who have fallen and those who fight—is to suggest that the war is nothing but a misbegotten errand in a godforsaken land....
We are in Afghanistan now. So the choices before us are not what we should have done in 2001, when most Americans—and almost all conservatives—demanded we take Kandahar the way Sherman took Atlanta. The question is what we do in 2010.
For conservatives in particular, the answer ought to entail notions of consistency and responsibility. Consistency, in the sense of supporting a counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan similar to the one conservatives urged (and that worked) for Iraq after the abject failure of the "light footprint" approach advocated by Joe Biden. Responsibility, in the sense of keeping faith with those to whom we make commitments.
This is not just a moral argument: The US cannot remain a superpower if the suspicion takes root that we are a feckless nation that can be stampeded into surrender by a domestic caucus of defeatists. Allies or would-be allies will make their own calculations and hedge their bets. Why should we be surprised that this is precisely what Pakistan has done vis-a-vis the Taliban? It's not as if the US hasn't abandoned that corner of the world before to its furies.
How a feckless America is perceived by its friends is equally material to how we are perceived by our enemies. In his 1996 fatwa declaring war on the US, Osama bin Laden took note of American withdrawals from Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu a decade later. "When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged through the streets...you withdrew, the extent of your impotence and weakness became very clear." Is it the new conservative wisdom to prove bin Laden's point (one that the hard men in Tehran undoubtedly share), only on a vastly greater scale?
[T]he measure of success in Afghanistan isn't whether we create a new Switzerland, but whether we avoid another South Vietnam.
back to top
6. Learning to Love the Bomb
I get impatient when some conservatives (and a few Objectivists) complain that the war in Afghanistan has taken more than twice as long as World War II, because as Stephens points out, the intensity of this conflict is quite low by historical standards. Yes, we fought and won World War II in less than four years—but it cost us 400,000 men and more than 100 percent of one year's economic production.
That's why it's good, on August 6, to take a moment to remember and celebrate the end of that horrible conflict. Which means celebrating the atomic bomb that ended the war, and remembering all of the lives that were made possible because of that bomb. That's what Paul Kengor does in the perfectly guilt-free article below.
"Grateful to Harry," Paul Kengor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 4
This week marks 65 years since the United States dropped the atomic bomb.
As we mark the anniversary of this period, we should first and foremost think about those boys—our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, uncles, brothers, some now in their 80s and 90s—who lived lives of faith and freedom and family because of Truman's decision. I've met many of them. Any time I find myself in conversation with a World War II vet, I ask where he was when the first bomb hit.
"I'll tell you where I was!" snapped George Oakes of Churchill. "I was a 22-year-old kid on a troop transport preparing to invade the Japanese mainland.... We were sitting there as targets for kamikazes when they dropped the first one. All they told us was that there was a new weapon brought into the war that landed on Japan proper, and everything we were planning was on hold. A couple of days later, they dropped the other one."
George, who served with the Army combat engineers, didn't want to die. "I was engaged to an absolutely beautiful girl named Virginia. All I knew was that I wanted to go home."...
"Boy, were we thrilled," recalled George when they got the news on their boat. They were spared an apocalyptic invasion that would have made Normandy look like a picnic at the beach....
George Oakes of Churchill died on Dec. 12, 2001, at age 78, a half-century after Harry Truman dropped the bomb, and arguably because Harry Truman dropped the bomb....
George Oakes was far from alone. There were countless American boys-turned-men, husbands and dads and granddads, in the same boat.