Presidents can’t stop the oil from flowing

Anne Applebaum, who is no conservative, points out that the notion that President Obama should “do something” about the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates this strange assumption held by both liberals and conservatives that our government should solve problems that are just impossible for it to solve:

In the Gulf of Mexico, plumes of black oil are gushing into the ocean, coating the wings of seabirds, poisoning shellfish, sending tar balls rolling onto white Florida beaches. It is an ecological disaster. It is a economic nightmare. And there is absolutely nothing that the American president can do about it. Nothing at all.

Here is the hard truth: The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks. Even the combined wisdom of the Obama inner circle — all of those Harvard economists, silver-tongued spin doctors and hardened politicos — cannot prevent tens of thousands of tons of oil from pouring out of hole a mile beneath the ocean surface. Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe has nothing in common with Hurricane Katrina: That was an unstoppable natural disaster that turned into a human tragedy because of an inadequate government response. This is just an unstoppable disaster, period. It will be a human tragedy precisely because no government response is possible.

Which leads me to a mystery: Given that he cannot stop the oil from flowing, why has President Obama decided to act as if he can? And given that he is totally reliant on BP to save the fish and the birds of the Gulf of Mexico, why has he started pretending otherwise — why is he, in his own words, looking for someone’s “ass to kick”? I suspect that there are many reasons for this recent change of rhetorical tone and that some of them are ideological. This is, of course, a president who believes that government can and should be able to solve all problems. Obama has never sounded particularly enthusiastic about the private sector either, and some of his congressional colleagues — the ones talking of retroactively raising the cap on BP’s liability, for example, or forcing BP to pay for the lost wages of other oil companies’ workers — are downright hostile.

A large part of the explanation, however, is cultural: Obama has been forced to take a commanding role in a crisis he cannot control because we expect him to — both “we” the media and “we” the bipartisan public. Whatever their politics, most Americans in recent years have come to expect a strong response — an invasion, massive legislation — from their politicians in times of crisis, and this one is no exception. We want the president to lead — somewhere, anywhere. A few days ago, the New York Times declared that “he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess” and should have started “putting the heat” on BP much earlier — as if that would have made the remotest bit of difference.

via Anne Applebaum – The oil spill isn’t Obama’s Katrina.

This is not to say that the government shouldn’t police such things and try to keep them from happening.  But the point is that to talk about limited government goes beyond thinking government should be limited.  It is also to recognize that government has intrinsic limitations, that there are things that it just cannot do.

Big night for conservative women

Yesterday featured a primary election throughout the country.  Many incumbents, though not all, were voted down by their own party members.  The tea-party of conservative populists scored big.  The tea-party equivalent on the left seeking to defeat Democratic moderates didn’t do so well:  Arkansas incumbent senator Blanche Lincoln turned back an opponent heavily funded by labor unions.  Conservative women in general were the big winners of the night.

Nikki Haley has won more votes than the incumbent in a vicious race for governor in South Carolina, though she faces a run-off.  A woman will run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, though it isn’t clear which of two that will be.  Ebay CEO Meg Whitman may be the Republican running for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office in California.

How do you account for the success of conservative women in today’s politics?  Aren’t liberals supposed to be the ones who are all feminist about everything?

The left’s case against Obama

Many liberals are turning on President Obama’s administration and the Democratic-held congress. From the Associated Press:

Progressive activists who helped elect Barack Obama president complained on Monday that the administration and congressional Democrats have been too timid and too willing to compromise.

Even though Obama’s major first-term achievement — an overhaul of the nation’s health care system — passed without a single Republican vote, progressive leaders who gathered in Washington criticized the president for failing to create a government-run insurance option to compete with private industry.

They faulted Obama for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the slow pace in repealing the ban on gays serving in the military and last year’s economic stimulus package, which they described as inadequate at $787 billion. They also criticized his handling of the Gulf oil spill.

“The White House has been an uncertain trumpet,” said Robert Borosage, a co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive organization. “The administration’s reforms were too often too timid from the start and too readily compromised along the way.”

Although leaders still spoke with admiration for Obama, it was clear he’s not as popular with unions, bloggers and other progressives.

Democrats already face an angry electorate this November. The frustration among the party’s liberal base could make the midterm elections even more difficult for Democrats and Obama’s own re-election bid.

Does this make President Obama a moderate? Still way too liberal for conservatives, but in the current polarized political scene occupying the middle ground?

Setting public policy according to the Word

Some politicians want to set public policy according to the teachings of the Word. In doing so, they are trying to set up a theocratic government. Right now, the most powerful of these Christian Taliban is evidently Nancy Pelosi. Here is what the pro-abortion Speaker of the House had to say:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she believes she must pursue public policies “in keeping with the values” of Jesus Christ, “The Word made Flesh.”

Pelosi, who is a Catholic and who favors legalized abortion, voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion that was enacted into law in 2003.

At a May 6 Catholic Community Conference on Capitol Hill, the speaker said: “They ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite this? What is your favorite that? What is your favorite that?’ And one time, ‘What is your favorite word?’ And I said, ‘My favorite word? That is really easy. My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word.”

“And that Word,” Pelosi said, “is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it? It just covers everything. The Word.

“Fill it in with anything you want. But, of course, we know it means: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ And that’s the great mystery of our faith. He will come again. He will come again. So, we have to make sure we’re prepared to answer in this life, or otherwise, as to how we have measured up.”

So what I want to know is this: Are all Christian right wingers now going to defend her? And are all secular leftists going to try to vote her out of office, knowing her true agenda?

Actually, liberal Christians have been talking this way since the Social Gospel of the 19th century and continuing into every convention of the National Council of Churches, which spends most of its time passing political and always leftwing resolutions.

Conservative Christians getting involved in politics are late-comers to that party, and they don’t always base their activism in a theonomic agenda, despite the left scaring itself with the prospect.

How does Speaker Pelosi’s statement show the problems with this approach? What is a legitimate way for a Christian to be guided by the Word in forming opinions about public policy?

An impeachable offense?

Did someone in the White House offer Rep. Joe Sestak a job in the administration if he would drop out of the Senate race against Arlen Specter?  That’s what Sestak claimed during his successful Democratic primary race against the White-House endorsed Specter.  If so, that would be a federal crime.  If the president did it, so people are claiming, that would be an impeachable offense.

The controversy revolves around an oft-repeated statement by Rep. Sestak, D-Pa., that he had been offered a job by the Obama administration in exchange for dropping out of the senatorial primary against Obama supporter Sen. Arlen Specter.

Sestak said he refused the offer. He continued in the Senate primary and defeated Specter for the Democratic nomination.

But Karl Rove, longtime White House adviser to President George W. Bush, said the charge is explosive because of federal law.

“This is a pretty extraordinary charge:  ‘They tried to bribe me out of the race by offering me a job,’” he said on Greta Van Susteran’s “On the Record” program on the Fox News Channel. “Look, that’s a violation of the federal code: 18 USC 600 says that a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government, in return for a political act.

“Somebody violated the law. If Sestak is telling the truth, somebody violated the law,” Rove said. “Section 18 USC 211 says you cannot accept anything of value in return for hiring somebody. Well, arguably, providing a clear path to the nomination for a fellow Democrat is something of value.

He continued, citing a third law passage: “18 USC 595, which prohibits a federal official from interfering with the nomination or election for office. … ‘If you’ll get out, we’ll appoint you to a federal office’ – that’s a violation of the law.”

via Sestak White House scandal called ‘impeachable offense’.

Is this just a tempest in a teapot brewed up by Fox News?  Or is it a tempest in a Teapot Dome-scale scandal?

Democrats seek new language

An exceedingly odd tidbit from The Washington Post’s political columnist Perry Bacon:

Democrats should not talk about “the environment,” “the unemployed” or “the uninsured.” Instead, they should replace those phrases with ones that have more appeal to voters, such as “the air we breathe and the water we drink,” “people who’ve lost their jobs” and “people who used to have insurance.”

That’s the advice of one of the party’s newest and more unusual gurus, Drew Westen. Westen is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who, unlike most political advisers, has never worked full time on Capitol Hill or for a political campaign.

But party leaders in the House and the Senate brought in Westen recently to discuss his expertise: “The Political Brain,” as he called it in his 2007 book. Westen argues that Democrats constantly try to sell policies to voters through reason and facts, ignoring research showing that people respond more to emotional appeals.

via Language lessons for Democrats, from the political brain of Drew Westen.

Democrats using reason and facts?  When was the last time that happen?  All I recall in their appeals is moralistic exhortation and guilt-tripping.  That was all we heard in the health care debate, but hardly any reasonable explanation of how the new system could possibly work and nary a fact about how we can pay for it.  The same goes for all of the bailouts, the environmental policies, and immigration policies they keep recommending.  Now I happen to think that moral exhortation is a legitimate appeal, one not necessarily counter to reason and facts.  But if Democrats think that they are the ones who trade in rationality and facts, they are delusional!  And if they think they can make their policies more palatable by manipulating the language, they are either cynical or naive.