I’ve loved Dennis Miller since before he even became a conservative, and Ben Stein has written some very worthwhile stuff about economics and the culture wars (although he also made the movie Expelled, which I criticized here). These are both very smart and very entertaining guys, so I was excited to hear that the former was hosting the latter on his radio show this morning.
Audio of today’s interview is here. Stein spent his air time endorsing higher taxes, mostly saying, “Rich people can afford it–they won’t be hurt if they pay more.” It was almost shocking to hear such a brilliant thinker explain a point with no more intellectual grounding than a child would bother to use. Literally–I remember a class in junior high where the teacher discussed the national debt, and one clown announced that he could solve the problem: “Let’s mug Donald Trump!”
Miller, for his part, responded fairly well, but most of his time dwelt on the fact that government tends to waste money, and that new taxes would be largely wasted, also.
I’ve picked up from multiple sources in the conservative media speculation that President Obama might have purposely engineered the Gulf Coast oil spill as a means of discrediting oil-based energy and convincing people of the need to make a major shift to alternative energy plans. While he does clearly want to focus more on “green” energy, we must make no mistake about this dangerous accusation: it is irresponsible, reprehensible, and unacceptable.
It bothers me that so many on both sides of the political spectrum are comfortable slapping grossly wild labels on those on the other side. One might not have liked George W. Bush’s administration, but he did not deserve to be called an empty-headed warmonger for eight years. Similarly, President Obama deserves the same basic decency in our treatment of him. Are people really suggesting that he might have manufactured a crisis that has cost many human and countless animal lives, and will surely devastate the environment and parts of the economy for years? That’s not civic discourse, that’s not criticism–that’s childish demagoguery of the very worst sort.
Many have unfairly linked Obama to this oil spill personally, comparing the crisis to Bush’s public connection to Hurricane Katrina. But suggesting that he purposely caused the oil spill is far, far worse. Implying that Obama created this oil spill is no more reasonable nor humane than the “truthers” who swear up and down that Bush was behind 9/11.
I strongly disagree with many of Obama’s policy positions, but that does not make him a monster. At the very least, we need to give the benefit of the doubt to those with whom we disagree. Even if the worst fears of the Right about Obama are true and he really does have a hidden agenda to socialize our society as much as possible, I’m sure that he’s at least operating out of a good faith desire to help people and strengthen the country, not destroy it and sabotage our way of life. Such groundless assumptions about the motives of others are both warped and counterproductive.
We need to keep the criticism of politicians on the politics, not on shadowy speculations that they’re evil. I would hope that especially after seeing how half the country treated George W. Bush, that we conservatives would show more professionalism in our analysis of his successor. Obama may very well be a bad president, but that does not make him a bad man.
Last week I saw a popular wall post on Facebook that caught my attention. It’s a diatribe consisting of a list of perceived failures of George Bush, phrased to suggest that people should be angry about him, not at President Obama’s health care plan. (The beginning and closing references to people being angry now make this look like it’s aimed at tea parties.) All of these points needed clarification and some, frankly, were so off target that they begged for outright refutation. My notes on each are below:
YOU WANT TO GET MAD? We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, but now you get mad!
1. You didn’t get mad …when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President. The Supreme Court did not “appoint” a president; the U.S. Supreme Court merely stopped the Florida state Supreme Court from ordering an illegal recount after they had already illegally extended the deadline for a previous recount. Gore lost all of those recounts, anyway.
2. You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy. Allowing experts in a field to give input is now “dictating policy?” When did the administration copy and paste any company’s plan into law? Liberals are supposed to love “following the money”; where are the sudden surges in energy company profits because of these alleged shady deals?
3. You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got ousted. Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity was revealed by anti-Iraq war State department official Richard Armitage, who was not a member of Bush’s inner circle and who resigned when Colin Powell did, who told a reporter about it as part of a conversation about her husband’s visit to Africa. Even the Obama administration has rejected the Wilson’s attempt to sue Armitage and others for damages.
Like most Americans, I was impressed with the splendor and excitement of last week’s presidential inauguration and, like many Americans, I was disappointed by the universally sour attitude towards our outgoing president and the excessively silly pomp surrounding the ceremony.
Three days later, I was wandering around Las Vegas’s newest library, Centennial Hills, and browsed their used bookstore before leaving. I noticed a large hardcover with a picture of the White House on the cover. Picking it up, I saw that it was A Great New Beginning: The 1981 Inaugural Story. Feeling the mirthful hand of serendipity guiding me, I gave the librarian a dollar for it and left.
The first thing that struck me was the chapter on Vice President Bush’s family; the pictures of son George Bush, Jr. alone more than made my dollar worth it. I assume that, since this book has presumably been out of print for more than a quarter century, I’m OK reproducing a few pictures. In this family portrait, he’s on our left:
He’s leaning over in the back of this one, in front of his wife Laura. His paragraph in the chapter describes him as a 34-year-old business executive (a graduate of Harvard and Yale), who “owns his own company in Texas.”