If Only Obama Knew

Will Rogers used to preface his humorous observations on the political scene by stating that “All I know is what I read in the papers,” which always got a big laugh back in the Great Depression days, and it’s still a good line for a folksy humorist. President Barack Obama is fond of the same disclaimer, however, but it doesn’t suit his job as well.
The latest development that the president only became aware of by reading the morning papers was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account. The practice posed a security risk, kept records from public scrutiny, and seems in violation of federal regulations, so we can only imagine the the president’s alarm upon learning about such a serious matter. One might wonder how the president failed to notice it during the four Clinton served as his Secretary of State, during which time one can only assume there was some e-mail communication between the two, but so far no one in the press has been so rude as to ask about it. If they ever do, the president will probably have to await the morning papers to learn of his response.
If not for the press, a number of serious situations might have entirely escaped the president’s attention. The invaluable Sheryl Atkisson, demonstrating again the lese majeste that led to her departure from CBS News, has helpfully compiled a list of seven other times that the president professed to be shocked by press accounts of major stories. It starts way back in the early days of the Obama administration with Air Force One buzzing the State of Liberty and frightening the understandably skittish New Yorkers, continues with the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme at the Department of Justice, then the sex scandal involving Central Intelligence Agency director Gen. David Petraeus, and of course the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups, then the seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters, then the National Security Agency’s spying on foreign leaders, and then the phony record keeping to cover up the substandard care being provided by the Veterans Administration. One of the commenters at Atkisson’s site mentions several more, including the problems leading up to the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare web site, but they’re too numerous mention.
That portion of the public still devoted to the president seems willing to give him a pass on these problems, since he presumably didn’t know they were going on would surely have done something about it if he did, but the rest of us are entitled to some concern about his inability to keep abreast of what’s going on in his government. We suppose the president can’t keep up on everything, what with all the golfing and fund-raising and appeasing his job entails, but Air Force One and the DOJ and the CIA and the IRS and the NSA and the VA and the State Department are all under the purview of the executive brand and ultimately the responsibility of the chief executive. We can’t recall the heads of any high officials rolling for their failure to notify the president of the major developments unfolding on his watch, except for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, who also seemed surprised to find out about that Obamacare web site, and the president never seems at all embarrassed to say that some ink-stained wretches who have to file Freedom of Information Act requests and wait to get their phone calls returned and accept “no comments” on the first many tries somehow knew better than the president what was going on in the executive branch.
Perhaps the president was aware of these many problems as they occurred but was unable or unwilling to deal with them, but if so that is a problem. Perhaps the government is simply too vast for any one person to know what it is up to, but if so that’s also a problem, and one that the president seems determined to compound by vastly expanding both the government and the executive branch’s control over it. The biggest problem is that if you only know what you read in the papers, you don’t know much.

— Bud Norman

A Bittersweet Departure

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his resignation, yet we feel no glee. Holder was by far the worst Attorney General of our lifetime, which stretches back to the days of John Mitchell, but his departure provides no vindication and little hope.
The man’s execrable record began long before he assumed the office of Attorney General, from his days taking over campus buildings as a college radical to his role in the Clinton administration’s final days pardons of a Democrat-contributing expatriate scammer and some bomb-throwing Puerto Rican terrorists, and continued into his private sector work at a law firm that provided pro bono defense for Islamist terrorists. In the euphoria that followed the hope and change election of ’08 this record was insufficient to prevent the appointment of the first black Attorney General, however, and his outrages as Attorney General began immediately with his decision to drop charges against the paramilitary-garbed and club-weilding New Black Panther members who had already been convicted of intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station and an address that branded America a “nation of cowards” for declining to talk about race on his resentful terms, then continued with a disinclination to pursue hate crime charges on behalf of white victims, his insistence that school discipline be administered by racial quotas, his apparent approval of the “Fast and Furious” program that allowed gun sales to Mexican gangsters who wound up committing hundreds of murders that included the death of American law enforcement agents, his subsequent stonewalling of congressional investigations that led to a contempt charge, his refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of his party’s political opponents, his resistance to reasonable rules regarding eligibility for voting, his prejudicial statements concerning various racial contretemps playing out in the local justice systems, and other offenses so numerous that we can’t off the top of our head recall them all.
None of this was sufficient to remove the first black Attorney General from office, however, and so far as we can tell he is rather smugly leaving for a lucrative career in the private sector of his own accord. There is speculation in the conservative press that Holder is departing under duress of those still-lingering contempt of Congress charges stemming from the “Fast and Furious” scandal, but this seems wishful thinking. All those dead Mexicans and American law enforcement officers weren’t an issue in the re-election of Holder’s boss, and are now rarely mentioned in the public discourse, so we can’t imagine that Holder or his boss feel at all concerned by it now. Disturbingly enough the more plausible explanation is Holder’s statement that six years of bedeviling American justice is enough and that he’s ready to follow his wife’s advice and take on the less stressful and more remunerative life of a very well-connected private sector lawyer. He announced his resignation with a lachrymose farewell from the President of the United States and such polite press as the Politico web site admitting that his resignation is perfectly timed to allow a replacement to be confirmed by a lame duck Democratic Senate but still gushing that he is “leaving on arguably the highest point of his personal career, after a year of progress on his plan to reform sentencing laws and just after his well-received, calming-the-waters trip to Ferguson, Missouri, during the riots in August.”
That Holder is leaving as the least popular person in the Obama administration went unremarked, as was that his trip to Ferguson calmed the waters by promising the mob its preferred decision on the police shooting that prompted the riots and it wasn’t at all well-received by the vast majority of Americans who don’t write for Politico, but otherwise the article seems credible in its assertion that Holder is leaving on his own. The publication’s posterior-kissing approach to journalism has probably given it credible sources within the administration, too, so we take seriously their list of the equally-radical and racialist candidates being considered to replace Holder. One can hope that a more Republican Senate will refuse to confirm the first few put forth, but they’ll eventually have to agree to one of them and in the meantime Holder will stay on the job. We’ll be glad to be rid of Holder, but don’t expect that anything will soon get better.

— Bud Norman

Too Much News for a Summer’s Day

Summertime is when the living is supposed to be easy and the news slow, a time for the pundits to reach into the tickler file for a timeless think piece to fill up space, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. News is now flowing like a river of lava from a volcano, the living is not at all easy along its path, and there seems little time to mull what it all means.
The lazy, hazy days of summers of have brought Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine, the Syrian civil war spilling into Iraq and threatening to overwhelm Baghdad and all of America’s hard-fought gains in that ever-troublesome country, more provocations in the South China Sea, the release of five dangerous high-ranking terrorists in exchange for a soldier who seems to have deserted, and the rise of a wide range of grumpy political parties across Europe threatening to unravel that continent’s unpopular experiment in central planning and political correctness. On the domestic front there’s an invasion of unaccompanied minors on the southwest borders that is enjoying a White House reception, the shocking maltreatment of aging patriots by the Veterans Administration, a highly suspicious development in the slowly unfolding scandal of the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s “tea party” foes, and some notable successes by that “tea party” is making the Republican party an even grumpier foe of this country’s unpopular experiment in central planning and political correctness. If Hillary Clinton planned her book tour and presidential campaign launch for a slow news cycle she was probably disappointed by the competing news, but the fact it’s gone so badly she’s probably now glad of it is also an intriguing story. All of which obscures the same old story about the sputtering economy, and supersedes past scandals such as Benghazi and the National Security Agency and such golden oldies as Solyndra and Fast and Furious and the rest of it, but otherwise does little to bolster faith in a long, hot summer.
In addition to its dizzying quantity the summer’s news also has an unmistakably significant quality to it. Those Russian tanks herald a new Cold War, the Iraq debacle heralds the revival of an Islamist strain that had been prematurely declared dead, China’s bellicosity is causing tensions that cannot be soothed by a presidential tour of the region, the sort of mischief that those five released terrorists might cause is demonstrated by the released terrorists who’s leading that charge in Iraq, and those grumpy new political parties in Europe are a reminder that the west isn’t all unified in response to such existential challenges. The children’s crusade from the Third World into America and the dying veterans at the bureaucratic hospitals and the impeachable implications of the IRS’ misbehavior all deserve consideration, and merge into a broader story that explains why those “tea party” folks are so grumpy and even the oh-so-polite-to-Democrats journalists are giving Clinton a hard time. There seems to be a common theme to all this news, but we’ve too busy following links from one internet page of bad news to another to develop a unified field theory of it all.
All that bad news hasn’t been so plentiful that it kept the president from enjoying a round of golf at a swank Florida course over the weekend, and we suppose this is meant to be reassuring. Ike used to golf through a crisis, according to popular legend, and everybody liked Ike. Somehow we are not reassured, however, and find ourselves pining for those lazy, hazy days of summer when the living was easy. We even find ourselves looking forward to the chill of fall, when an even grumpier Republican party will be on the ballot with a promise to resist central planning and political correctness and all this damnable news.

— Bud Norman

If Only Obama Knew

The scandal about the Veterans Administration grows more infuriating by the day, and we are assured by a high ranking official that the President Barack Obama is “madder than hell than about it.” Whether he is angry about the off-the-books waiting lists and substandard service that possibly cost the lives of as many as 40 people or the potential political costs of their public revelation is unclear, but in either case his anger is at least somewhat reassuring.
That “madder than hell” declaration is accompanied by the usual promises that any problems will be forthrightly addressed and quickly solved, and some high-ranking VA official or another has already resigned shortly before his long-planned retirement date, but by now it’s hard to take all that seriously. The president is still standing by the VA Secretary, who haas politely declined to upstage his boss by declaring that he is merely “mad as hell” about what was going on during his watch, and the outrage has become increasingly unconvincing with repetition. Similar outrage was expressed by the president about the Fast and Furious scandal, and he still stands by the Attorney General who was cited for contempt of Congress for stonewalling an investigation into the truth of that deadly matter. More presidential anger attended the four deaths by terrorism at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but the high-ranking officials are now saying “Dude, that was, like, two years ago.” The president again waxed livid about a few Cleveland-based rogue agents of the Internal Revenue Service harassing his political enemies, but when a high-ranking official invoked a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and it became apparent that the plot seeped deep into Washington he dismissed it as one of those “phony scandals.” The pattern is so obvious that even the slow-witted wags of the Republican National Committee have noticed, putting together an amusing montage of the president’s recurring wrath, and it seems unlikely that this time around will yield actual results.
Even so, it’s heartening that the VA story has sufficient legs to force yet another statement of the president’s anger. Every time Obama goes into his angry mode he sounds so very convincing that the average voters wind up wishing that he could be president so he might do something about it, and one can only hope they’ll eventually notice that he has been president for more than five years. The president’s spokesmen are disputing reports that he knew about the VA’s deadly practices back in ’08, and insist that he only learned of it by reading the latest newspapers, and even if that date sticks he’ll have the ready excuse of blaming it on the all-purpose scapegoat of the George W. Bush administration, but there’s faint hope the public won’t buy it yet again. Presidents have traditionally been expected to know more than what they read in the newspapers, and for all his faults George W. Bush can’t plausibly be blamed for what Obama hasn’t done over the past five years.
The dangerous inadequacies of the VA certainly do stretch back to the Bush years, and probably all the way back to its very beginning. Congressional Republicans are responding to the problem with a proposal to allow the VA Secretary to actually fire someone, rather than risking any political problems by calling for the firing of a former Four Star General who became a Democratic darling by criticizing Bush’s Iraq War policies, and it demonstrates the inherent problems of efficiently running a federal government bureaucracy. This should raise questions about the ability of a federal government bureaucracy to administer health care for everyone, and not just a relatively small number of veterans, and we expect the president will be angry about that. Pretty much the entire Obama agenda is based on the argument that government knows best and can be trusted, and in any case Obama deserves such trust, and the argument is not bolstered by the latest revelations about the VA.

— Bud Norman

The Debate is Over

The debate about Obamacare is over, according to a presidential pronouncement, and it seems a shame. There was a lot more grousing about it that we’d plan to do, now we’ll have to cancel that sarcastic skit we’d written for the upcoming “Gridiron” show, and the public is stuck with a spectacularly stupid law.
Perhaps the debate will rage on, despite the president’s protests, but he does seem to have an eerie power to end any arguments that he’s losing. The Benghazi scandal disappeared from the news shortly after his Secretary of State declared “What difference, at this point, does it make?” The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups has been similarly ignored after the president dismissed it as a “phony scandal,” even though the woman at the middle of it of all has quite genuinely invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The arguments about fiascos from Fast and Furious to Solyndra to whatever happened to all that stimulus spending have all been as abruptly truncated.
All those cancellations of policies and increases in health insurance bills and the death panels passing judgment on grandma and the rest of it will make Obamacare harder to ignore, but the left’s power to put an end to losing arguments should not be underestimated. Even with the coldest winter in memory stubbornly stretching into April after a decade-and-a-half of global cooling the debate about anthropogenic global warming has been declared over, and most of the media have obediently obliged. A relatively recent bout over the five millennia-old tradition of marriage has also been stopped on a technical knock-out, and the half of the country with lingering doubts has effectively been banished from the mainstream of contemporary society. Any debate about the social acceptability of white racism has been thoroughly ceased, which is a good thing, but some very non-racist debate about affirmative action and inner-city crime and other issues that have baleful effects on minorities have also been stopped.
Around the time of the president’s first election Time Magazine declared on its cover that “We Are All Socialists Now,” and that seems to have settled that. If America isn’t quite yet socialist by consensus, we’re at least far enough along that the Majority Leader of the United States Senate can confidently slander the Koch brothers as “un-American” for their pro-capitalism activities and anybody with concerns about that $17 trillion of debt is easily dismissed a radical anti-government kook. Arguments about the basic assumptions of the New Deal welfare and regulatory state were declared over more than 60 years ago, with even such a stalwart Republican as Ronald Reagan being unwilling to do more than try to retain their old limits, and they’ve been barreling towards their illogical conclusions ever since.
We think that these debates never really go away, though, even if they have to be revived by catastrophe. We’d also like to think that Americans still have a stubborn unwillingness to submit to stupid laws, and that enough argument can avert catastrophes, but that’s debatable.

— Bud Norman

It’s News to Us

Maybe it’s just a post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas lull, but there didn’t seem to be any big news on Monday. There were more embarrassing revelations about Obamacare, and the stock market took a downturn on disappointing holiday sales figures as the economy limps along, and the nation’s foreign policy appears in disarray from the Senkaku Islands to the Iranian centrifuges, but nothing that dominated the day’s discussions.
Fortunately for the hard-core news junkie, there’s always a fix available at The Drudge Report. The widely-derided and far more widely-read website is remarkably astute in highlighting the most important stories of the day, and when there aren’t any it always finds fascinating filler. It’s most recent top headline concerned the latest Obamacare debacle, this time about the lack of security on the Healthcare.gov site where people are expected to reveal their Social Security numbers and dates of birth and most intimate health problems, but such outrages are now so commonplace that the real fascination lie further down page. Other Obamacare-related headlines had to do with citizens calling the cops on the beleaguered law’s door-to-door salesman, the Internal Revenue Service auditing a cancer patient who spoke out after losing his coverage, and a deliciously Drudge kind of stories about the prostitutes at a Nevada brothel calling the law “a blessing.”
There were more stories about the death of the star of the “Fast and Furious” movies in a car crash, an irresistibly ironic tale that Drudge has been following with rapt attention, but we haven’t seen any of the movies and have no reaction beyond the requisite condolences to the actor’s friends and family, assuming he has any. He was a fine fellow, for all we know, but the pictures indicate that he had that slightly-unshaven look we find so irritating and we doubt his pictures lived up to standards of the old Roger Corman “Fast and Furious” with the slick white convertible Jaguar.
We are fond of some of Bob Dylan’s music, however, and were therefore interested to see that the erstwhile Voice of His Generation is being charged with “fomenting hate” in France as the result of a year-old interview with Rolling Stone magazine in which he likened the Croats’ treatment of the Serbs with the Nazis’ treatment of their various enemies. Aside from the surprise of learning that Rolling Stone is still in publication, and that Dylan was simultaneously accepting the French government’s prestigious Legion d’Honneur, which is only bestowed on the likes of Jerry Lewis, the story also provided the satisfaction of knowing that ol’ Bob can still provoke the occasional contretemps. In the same interview that led to the charges he apparently griped that a significant numbers of his countrymen are pining for a return to slavery, but such absurd anti-Americanism isn’t likely stir French indignation or any controversy here.
The Drudge Report has an admirable willingness to report on racial controversies that the rest of the media would prefer to ignore, and Monday’s edition had headlines about the director of “The Butler” confessing his anger toward white people and another Jewish victim of the “knockout game” that has become popular among black youths.
News of the weird is another Drudge specialty, and his latest offerings include a lawsuit demanding “legal personhood” be bestowed upon a chimpanzee, mold and mildew being found on some samples of marijuana, and the state of Wisconsin’s recent problems with public sex on a nude beach. All seem intriguingly bizarre at first glance, but none are exceptional by contemporary standards. At a time when progressives are eager to deny personhood to any people who join together as a corporation it is not surprising to hear they would grant the honor to a chimpanzee. With the legalization of marijuana a growing trend it is inevitable that the authorities will find ample reason to regulate to an extent that pot-heads will soon yearn for the days when weed was illegal and out of reach of the authorities. Wisconsin’s worries about public sex on nude beaches have a prurient interest, but we expect it will all be solved by the onset of a Wisconsin winter.
These occasional absences of big news are a prime opportunity to present big ideas, but we’re fresh out of those at the moment and easily distracted by filler.

— Bud Norman

After the Scandals

Each of the various scandals swirling around Washington are important on their own terms, as well as a source of guilty pleasure to right-wing bastards such as ourselves, but they will also have important implications in the policy squabbles that will continue long after the accusatory headlines have faded.
The Internal Revenue Service’s outrageous targeting of conservative groups, for instance, will now figure in at least two ongoing debates. Advocates of the flat tax, the fair tax, and other simplified tax systems have always claimed their proposals would eliminate the possibility of such politicized IRS actions, among other advantages, and the argument is made stronger by the latest revelations. Critics of the Obamacare law were concerned from the outset about how it grows the size and scope of the IRS, which will be empowered to enforce the controversial individual mandate and its host of new taxes, and those critics will also become more persuasive in their attempts at repeal.
A Justice Department probe that sought a suspiciously broad range of phone records from the Associated Press will affect a broader debate about the media’s peculiar relationship with the government in much the same way. It might even affect the media’s previously adoring perception of the government, potentially having all sorts of ramifications on the next few years of politics, and it might even affect the public’s perception of the much-maligned conservative news sources. Past Justice Department scandals, ranging from the decision to let the New Black Panthers loose on voter intimidation charges and stonewalling the Fast and Furious fiasco, could also be seen in a newly harsh light.
Continuing revelations about the incompetence that led to the Benghazi tragedy and the dishonesty that followed it will similarly inform future discussions of foreign policy. Those who argue for a more frank resistance to radical Islamists, rather than the sort of cultural relativism that would appease them with the imprisonment of anyone who dares criticize their views, will surely be bolstered in their efforts.
The cumulative effect of all the scandals can only create a greater public skepticism about the government’s abilities and integrity, which in turn affects everything. Almost every political issue pits those who would expand the size, scope, and cost of government against those who would limit it to the traditional essential chores of national defense, issuing a sound currency, enforcing contracts, security the liberties of the people, and a few modest attempts at promoting the general welfare. The latter group might not prevail, but they will be energized and the scandals can only help their cause.

— Bud Norman

The Lowdown On Low Info Voters

The most popular political cliché of the past election was “low information voter.” This newly identified category seems to have replaced “Soccer moms,” “NASCAR dads,” and “angry white men” as the hot bloc that every campaign simply must have.
Despite our usual aversion to neologisms we rather like this coinage, certainly more than any of its recent predecessors. We’ve never met anyone who could be adequately defined as a “Soccer mom” or “NASCAR dad,” and the many angry white men we’ve known are no angrier than the angry people of other races and sexes, but we’ve encountered so many low information voters over the years that it seems necessary they should have a name. “Low information voter” has a drearily sociological ring to it, and we would have preferred something more acerbic, but it will do.
The term is neatly self-explanatory, at least, describing someone who persists in exercising his franchise despite having little knowledge of the issues or candidates that he’s voting about. No one knows precisely how much of the electorate matches this description, but everyone agrees that it’s a sizeable share. There are enough of them, we’re sure, to determine the outcome of an election.
For many years it was the consensus of liberal opinion that the more ignorant voters were inclined to vote for Republican candidates, and such snobbery still stubbornly persists in some quarters The would-be wags at the Urban Dictionary site, for instance, define a low information voters as “One who votes based on information gleaned from other low information voters, rumors, viral emails, and FOX ‘News,’” and cites as an example someone who “will vote against labor unions” despite the unalloyed wonders wrought by the labor movement. Since the past election, however, even such impeccably liberal publications as The Hill were forced to admit that the Democrats are now winning the lion’s share of the low information voters.
Some Democratic partisans even point with pride to the Obama campaign’s careful courtship of the low information vote, a strategy that included the president’s penchant for appearing mainly on such entertainment shows as The View, Late Night with David Letterman, The Daily Show, and, as we never tire of mentioning, The Pimp With a Limp’s radio program. We stand by our frequent criticism that such appearances demean the dignity of the president and his office, but are now forced to concede that it is apparently shrewd politics.
Even without the president’s participation, though, the mass entertainment media that low information voters flock to provide a constant flow of propaganda that is helpful to the Democrats. Businessmen are almost invariably depicted as villains, religious people are routinely ridiculed, class resentments are encouraged, and everywhere a notion of “cool” explicitly associated with liberalism is celebrated. Most of the news media are just as bad, hyping every Republican misstep to a point that even the most determinedly uninformed voters will hear of it while avoiding any mention of the numerous Democratic scandals that would be front-page material if they had happened during an earlier administration. Those few outlets that do report information critical of Obama are easily ignored, and wind up with the word news put in sneering quote marks.
We’ve spoken with numerous Obama supporters who were blissfully unaware of the Fast and Furious fiasco or the Solyndra debacle, to mention just two of the embarrassing stories that somehow haven’t dogged the administration, and these people include regular readers of The New York Times and other supposedly respectable publications. More apolitical acquaintances of ours don’t know that the federal government has been borrowing a trillion dollars every nine months for the past four years, and when informed of the fact they don’t seem to understand that a trillion dollars is a significant amount of money. They feel entitled to revel in their intellectual superiority to Sarah Palin, though, and know all about the Republicans’ racist and sexist ways even if they can’t cite any examples of these character flaws.
Wooing these voters will be difficult for the Republicans. The Democrats’ tax-the-rich philosophy has a natural appeal to voters who have come through the egalitarian indoctrination of the public schools, for instance, and refuting it requires facts about the exceptionally progressive nature of the current tax system and talk of Laffer Curves and capital flight that seem to have a painful effect on the brain of a typical low information voter. Almost all of the arguments for conservatism are complex and often counter-intuitive, and none have the low-brow entertainment value of the President of the United States slow-jamming the news on the Jimmy Fallon show. The Democrats’ argument that they will give free stuff and the stingy Republicans won’t is quite simply understood, on the other hand, and the counter-argument involves less immediate consequences that the low information voter is content to wait for so long as the goodies keep coming.
So far the best advice the consultants can offer is that conservatives start schmoozing on the talk shows more often, and being as hip as possible when doing so, and that’s probably a good start so long as they don’t embarrass themselves in the process. A more effective solution will require changing the culture, though, and that’s going to be a lot more difficult than just enduring the company of the late night comedians who provide the low information to all those voters.

— Bud Norman

Viva la Univision

The Univision network isn’t a staple of our sparse television diet, mostly because we don’t habla español or watch soccer, but we must now tip our hat to the same good folks that give the world Sãbado Gigante. Although the network serves a mostly Hispanic audience, it did the entire nation a favor on Thursday by actually lobbing a few tough questions at Barack Obama.

This is such an unusual occurrence that the combative nature of the questions proved more newsworthy than the questionable answers they provoked. Even the reliably liberal Politico, which has had plenty of opportunities to pose a tough question or two, was forced to concede that Obama “faced some of the toughest questioning of his reelection campaign to date.”

Host Jorge Ramos demanded to know why the president had failed to pass a promised immigration reform law even when his party held overwhelming majorities in both chambers of Congress, prompting Obama to go right ahead and blame the Republicans Ramos, but Ramos retorted that “You promised that, and a promise is a promise, and with all due respect, you didn’t keep that promise.” Ramos was as aggressive in asking about the botched Fast and Furious gunrunning operation, which resulted in the death of more than 200 Mexicans as well as an American law enforcement agent, and when Obama blamed the Bush administration and some unnamed low-level employees Ramos posed a follow-up question about why Attorney General Eric Holder shouldn’t be fired.

Proving that Hispanics also care about the same national security issues as the rest of the right-thinking people in America, Ramos also asked some unexpectedly tough questions about the deadly attack on the American consulate in Libya. Ignoring the query about why the United States wasn’t better prepared for the violence, Obama continued to blame the incident on a rarely-seen and amateurishly produced movie and said that he was awaiting the results of investigation before concluding if the attack was terrorism.

Numerous stories have been published lately detailing the lax security at the consulate and the warnings from foreign governments that were ignored, all of them embarrassing to the administration, but most have come from the foreign press and none of them have gotten the screaming headlines and indignant broadcasts that would have surely occurred if such a screw-up had been committed a Republican administration. If Obama seemed a big weak in his response, it can be attributed to his surprise that anyone should ask such impertinent questions.

Obama’s odd lament that the most important lesson he’s learned as president “is that you can’t change Washington from the inside” has been getting some ink, mostly due to Mitt Romney’s immediate ridicule of the claim, but the bigger story is that the president finally got a taste of the press treatment that his opponents have endured.

— Bud Norman

What Do You Know?

A few days ago we were splashing around a friend’s backyard pool, a much appreciated invitation in a Kansas summer, and a woman of our mutual acquaintance who had dropped by made a complimentary remark about the wooden gateway and concrete base that our friend had recently built. “You didn’t build that,” we teased him, “somebody else made that happen.” Our friend chuckled knowingly at the witticism, but the woman of our mutual acquaintance was clearly perplexed by it. We helpfully explained that the remark was an allusion to President Barack Obama’s recent speech in Roanoke, Virginia, where he made the very same comment about America’s business owners, and she was not the least embarrassed to admit that she had no idea what we were talking about.

Her ignorance of the speech left us looking perplexed. After all, the speech had been widely reported by almost all of the media, touched off a week’s worth of debate among the chattering classes, been highlighted by a widely disseminated advertisement from the Romney campaign, and it’s “You didn’t built that” line had immediately become as iconic an epigram for Obama’s administration as “I didn’t have sex with that woman” had been for Bill Clinton’s. We had assumed that the phrase was by then as ubiquitous as a catch phrase from “Laugh-In” or “Seinfeld,” and that even the most obstinately ignorant Americans would be aware of it, so it came a surprise that such a sentient woman could have somehow been aware of it.

People do manage to avoid hearing of such things, though, and often enough that we really shouldn’t have been surprised by the woman’s apparently blissful ignorance. We can recall another conversation with a young fellow who boasted of how the current administration had gone three years without a single scandal, which he clearly regarded as a most remarkable accomplishment. We asked if he didn’t consider the Fast and Furious operation, with its Keystone Kops plotline and massive body count, or find the Solyndra fiasco, with its mix of high-minded “green” idealism and corrupt cronyism, to be scandals. We then threw in the resignations of admitted communist Van Jones and the Mao-admiring Anita Dunn, the Justice Department’s lax attitude towards black supremacist voter intimidation, and a few other choice contretemps, asking if he didn’t find any of these the least bit scandalous. He was not only unfamiliar with any of the stories, but dubious that they had happened at all, and angrily demanded to know if we had heard these scurrilous lies on the Fox network.

An aversion to news outlets that provide news challenging to one’s own opinions is part of the problem. Politically-minded people who only want to hear things that deify their guy and impugn the others can now easily find a suitable magazine, network or internet site. This phenomenon leads some media critics to pine for the old days when everyone in the country got their news from the same three networks, a few newsweeklies, or the lone daily newspaper, but it’s likely that if the old order were still in place even right-wing news junkies such as ourselves wouldn’t have heard anything in the past four years or so that suggests the current administration hasn’t been scandal-free and wildly successful in all its efforts.

A larger part of the problem, alas, is that so many people don’t bother to seek out any information on current events even in the most sympathetic media. In some cases this is a result of cynicism, in others mere apathy, and oftentimes plain old stupidity, but in no cases does it ever prevent the ignorant from feeling entitled to an opinion and a vote.

The determinedly unaware segment of the population tends to vote Democrat, or so we have observed, and for a variety of reasons. Those who don’t follow the news still wind up hearing the generally left-leaning views of late night comedians, movie stars, and other opinion-makers, and never hear of the arguments advanced by the less glamorous but better-informed pundits. Hearing the anti-business tirade that Obama launched in Roanoke might not have dissuaded the woman at the pool from voting for him, as she shares the president’s resentment of the prosperous entrepreneurs, but at least it would have forced to her form some coherent argument for her envy.

On the other hand, she might never hear that Mitt Romney is a dog-torturing, woman-hating, tax-evading cad who somehow made money by sending his businesses into bankruptcy and then killed a factory worker’s wife. She’s also unlikely to avoid the mounting evidence of economic decline that daily confronts everyone who has to work for a living, whether they ever pick up paper or not, and no one will get the opportunity to explain that it’s all the fault of the people who have been out of power the past several years.

She might even be unaware of when the election is to be held, and we were careful not to let her know.

— Bud Norman


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