It’s all true about Gingrich

Peggy Noonan has a good column about the promise and perils of Newt Gingrich:

I had a friend once who amused herself thinking up bumper stickers for states. The one she made up for California was brilliant. “California: It’s All True.” It is so vast and sprawling a place, so rich and various, that whatever you’ve heard about its wildness, weirdness and wonders, it’s true.

That’s the problem with Newt Gingrich: It’s all true. It’s part of the reason so many of those who know him are anxious about the thought of his becoming president. It’s also why people are looking at him, thinking about him, considering him as president.

Ethically dubious? True. Intelligent and accomplished? True. Has he known breathtaking success and contributed to real reforms in government? Yes. Presided over disasters? Absolutely. Can he lead? Yes. Is he erratic and unreliable as a leader? Yes. Egomaniacal? True. Original and focused, harebrained and impulsive—all true.

Do you want evidence he’s a Burkean conservative? Start with welfare reform in 1996. A sober, standard Republican? Go to the balanced budgets of the Clinton era. Is he a tea partier? Sure, he speaks the slashing lingo with relish. Is he moderate? Yes, that can be proved. Michele Bachmann this week called him a “frugal socialist,” and there’s plenty of evidence of that, too.

One way to view this is that he is so rich and varied as a character, as geniuses often are, that he contains worlds, multitudes. One senses that would be his way of looking at it. Another way to look at it: In a long career, one will shift views, adapt to circumstances, tack this way and that. Another way: He’s philosophically unanchored, an unstable element. There are too many storms within him, and he seeks out external storms in order to equalize his own atmosphere. He’s a trouble magnet, a starter of fights that need not be fought. He is the first modern potential president about whom there is too much information.

via Gingrich Is Inspiring—and Disturbing –

Noonan goes on to say that those who have worked with him in the past tend not to support him.  But that those who do are pointing out that he was the last one to actually reform the government.  Her whole essay is worth reading.

Where do you come down on Gingrich at this point?

Christian groups aren’t allowed to require Christianity

Vanderbilt’s ruling that campus Christian groups may not require their leaders to be Christians would seem to violate every canon of reason, let alone the freedom of religion.   This happened awhile ago, but I noticed something about the story.  Consider this account:

Is Vanderbilt University flirting with the suppression of religion? Yes, according to Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Law School.

Specifically, Swain is referring to four Christian student groups being placed on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

Vanderbilt says the student organizations cannot require that leaders share the group’s beliefs, goals and values. Carried to its full extent, it means an atheist could lead a Christian group, a man a woman’s group, a Jew a Muslim group or vice versa.

If they remain in non-compliance, the student organizations risk being shut down.

So what’s behind this? Flashback to last fall. An openly gay undergrad at Vanderbilt complained he was kicked out of a Christian fraternity. The university wouldn’t identify the fraternity, but campus newspaper the “Hustler” reported it was Beta Upsilon Chi. As a result, the school took a look at the constitutions of some 300 student groups and found about a dozen, including five religious groups to be in non-compliance with Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy. All were placed on provisional status.

Among the groups threatened with shut down is the Christian Legal Society. It ran afoul with this language from its constitution. “Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.” CLS President Justin Gunter told me, “We come together to do things that Christians do together. Pray, and have Bible studies.”

To that, Rev. Gretchen Person – interim director of the Office of Religious Life at Vanderbilt – responded “Vanderbilt policies do not allow this expectation/qualification for officers.” Gunter has been negotiating with the university and has taken some language out of the CLS constitution – including the requirement that Student Coordinators “should strive to exemplify Christ-like qualities.” But he says he has to draw the line at the requirement regarding Bible studies, prayer and worship.

He told me, “At the point where they’re saying we can’t have Bible studies and prayer meetings as part of our constitution – if we go beyond that – we’re compromising the very identity of who we are as Christians and the very thing we believe as religious individuals.”

Vanderbilt officials refused to be interviewed, and instead released a statement saying in part “We are committed to making our campus a welcoming environment for all of our students.” In regard to the offending student organizations, officials said they “continue to work with them to achieve compliance.”

via Professor Says Vanderbilt Suppressing Christian Student Groups Amid Shutdown Threats | Fox News.

So is Vanderbilt opposed to religion?  Not really.  It’s a Methodist-related school.   It has an Office of Religious Life.  And the person laying down the hammer on these Christian organizations is the director of that office, a minister, the Rev. Gretchen Person.  In other words, this  suppression of religion in the name of tolerance is being perpetrated not by atheists but by liberal Protestants!

Just printing more money

Historian Richard Striner proposes a solution for our economic woes:

Using the monetary methods of Lincoln, updated to employ the inflation-fighting tools of the Federal Reserve, we could pay for a faster recovery and a great many worthy projects without higher taxes, without more national debt, and believe it or not, without inflation. How? By letting Congress exercise a little-known power that is used (very quietly indeed) by the Federal Reserve: the power to create new money.

If you’re skeptical about this assertion, ask Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. In an interview with 60 Minutes on March 15, 2009, Scott Pelley asked Bernanke to state the cost to American taxpayers of the Fed’s attempts to prop up banks.

Bernanke: “It’s not tax money. The banks have accounts with the Fed … so, to lend to a bank, we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account that they have with the Fed. It’s much more akin to printing money.”

Pelley: “You’ve been printing money?”

Bernanke: “Well, effectively.”

If the Federal Reserve can create new money, couldn’t Congress do the very same thing? The answer is yes, and here’s the precedent: the Legal Tender Act of 1862, in which the Republican-controlled Congress authorized creation of “United States Notes,” known as greenbacks, that were printed up and spent into use.

via The American Scholar: How to Pay for What We Need – Richard Striner.

He is serious.  His reasoning about how this could work defies excerpt, so read it yourself.

Obama’s Teddy Roosevelt strategy

President Obama gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, in which he wrapped himself in the mantle of Roosevelt.  Teddy Roosevelt, that is.  And, according to liberal columnist E. J. Dionne, laid out the strategy that will bring him re-election.

President Obama has decided that he is more likely to win if the election is about big things rather than small ones. He hopes to turn the 2012 campaign from a plebiscite about the current state of the economy into a referendum about the broader progressive tradition that made us a middle-class nation. For the second time, he intends to stake his fate on a battle for the future.

This choice has obvious political benefits to an incumbent presiding over a still-ailing economy, and it confirms Obama’s shift from a defensive approach earlier this year to an aggressive philosophical attack on a Republican Party that has veered sharply rightward. It’s also the boldest move the president has made since he decided to go all-out for health insurance reform even after the Democrats lost their 60-vote majority in the Senate in early 2010.

The president’s speech on Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kan., the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s legendary “New Nationalism” speech 101 years ago, was the Inaugural address Obama never gave. It was, at once, a clear philosophical rationale for his presidency, a straightforward narrative explaining the causes of the nation’s travails, and a coherent plan of battle against a radicalized conservatism that now defines the Republican Party and has set the tone for its presidential nominating contest.

In drawing upon TR, Obama tied himself unapologetically to a defense of America’s long progressive and liberal tradition. The Republican Roosevelt, after all, drew his inspiration from the writer Herbert Croly, whose book “The Promise of American Life” can fairly be seen as the original manifesto for modern liberalism. Thus has the tea party’s radicalism encouraged a very shrewd politician to take on a task that Democrats have been reluctant to engage since Ronald Reagan’s ascendancy.

Obama was remarkably direct in declaring that the core ideas of the progressivism advanced by Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were right, and that the commitments of Reagan-era supply-side economics are flatly wrong. He praised TR for knowing “that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whomever you can” and for understanding that “the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest.”

A White House that just a few months ago was obsessed with the political center is now not at all wary, as a senior adviser put it, of extolling “a vision that has worked for this country.” But this adviser also noted that Obama implicitly contrasted the flexibility of the Rooseveltian progressivism with the rigidity of the current brand of conservatism. The official pointed to Obama’s strong commitment to education reform, including his critique in Osawatomie of “just throwing money at education.”

“You can embrace it [the progressive tradition] if you can make the point that philosophies and political theories can evolve as facts on the ground change,” the adviser said. The liberalism Obama advocated thus contains a core of moderation that the ideology of the tea party does not. Finally, Obama has realized that the path to the doors of moderate voters passes through a wholesale critique of the immoderation of the right.

via Obama’s New Square Deal – The Washington Post.

First of all, I keep hearing Teddy Roosevelt, who was indeed a Republican,  being praised by conservatives.  But wasn’t he the leader of the ‘Progressive” movement?  Or did he represent a kind of conservatism that preserved free markets by reining in monopolies and trusts that destroy free markets?  Or what?

Second, do you see anything to prevent such a strategy of running against conservatism from working?

“Rudolph” accused of promoting bullying

Some experts are saying that the song and the cartoon “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” promotes bullying! See Does ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ Promote Bullying? « CBS Pittsburgh.

This is a classic example of confusing the content of a story with its meaning.  Yes, the other reindeers are mean to Rudolph because of his nose, making fun of him and not letting him play in any reindeer games.  But the story doesn’t teach its hearers to do likewise!  The sympathy of the story is all with Rudolph.  And Rudolph ends up triumphant over the bullies when the quality that they made fun of turns out to save Santa’s Christmas journey.

The meaning, the message, and the effect of the story is to teach children not to bully!

What other examples have you noticed of this confusion of content and meaning?

Payroll tax cut conundrum

An issue is before Congress that has both Republicans and Democrats tied up in ideological knots.  Republicans oppose deficit spending.  They also are in favor of tax cuts.  Democrats are usually fine with government spending, which they are willing to finance with higher taxes.  So what do they do about extending the payroll tax cuts?

Part of President Obama’s stimulus package was to cut the amount people have to pay into social security, thus adding some dollars to their paychecks.

Now that provision is expiring, and the Obama administration wants to extend it.  But some Republicans are arguing that social security is already being starved and is headed for bankruptcy.  So it isn’t responsible to just take even more out of social security funding.

So now Democrats, including the President, are accusing Republicans of wanting to increase taxes!

See Republicans split on Democratic plan to extend payroll tax cut – The Washington Post.

What would be the statesman-like thing to do, as opposed to the political-rhetoric thing to do?