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Webb Withdraws and the Democrats Lurch Leftward

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb never did have a chance to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, so his withdrawal from the race on Tuesday won’t much affect the race. The reasons for his early departure say much about the current state of his party, however, so we do find it noteworthy.
Once upon a time, not so long ago that we can’t recall it clearly, Webb would have made a formidable candidate and an even more formidable nominee, but his parting speech frankly acknowledged that at this particular moment in history “my views on many of the issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party.” This should have been apparent to Webb even during his little-noticed campaign announcement speech, but it simply could not go unnoticed after the party’s first presidential debate. Webb was forced to defend his past support of the Second Amendment and his past opposition to race-based affirmative action policies, was the only candidate to voice any commonsensical skepticism about the last seven years of foreign policy in general and that awful Iran nuclear bomb deal in particular, and even as he went along with the rest of the candidates he was clearly the least enthused about providing subsidized health care and other expensive government benefits to the untold millions of illegal immigrants that the Democratic Party is intent on inviting to the country. Throw in a few other heresies against the latest Democratic orthodoxy he uttered during his few minutes of airtime, and Webb was the glaringly obvious answer to one of those “which one of these does not belong” questions on all the standardized tests.
Webb was even so gauche as to note that he not only fought in Vietnam but had also served his country as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, which one liberal Politico “tweeter” immediately characterized as “Jim Webb admitted he killed people.” We don’t remember any liberals being so critical of John Kerry, who “reported for duty” as the Democratic nominee on the basis of his dubious war record rather than the more indisputably documented anti-war activities that launched his career at another radical point in Democratic party history, or raising any objections to President Barack Obama’s boastful claims about killing Osama Bin-Laden, as if he’d rappelled down from the helicopter and done the deed with his own bare hands, but with Webb the reaction from the debate audience and the attending press was plainly apoplectic. We found ourselves almost liking the guy, despite his unenthused support for expensive benefits to untold millions of illegal immigrants and his many other heresies against conservative orthodoxy, but of course that only further confirmed his unsuitability to the current mood of the Democratic Party.
Our liberal friends love to repeat that old cliche about how the Republicans have lurched so far to the right during the past decades that even Ronald Reagan could no longer win its nomination, and we’re sure it seems so to them as they lurch ever further to the left. From our perspective, which has admittedly been fixed here in the middle of the country at the same rightward spot ever since we started reading National Review back in junior high, it is hard to see how GOP’s nominations of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole and George W. Bush and John McCain and Mitt Romney demonstrate any rightward lurching since Reagan, and we don’t see anyone in the current field that’s likely to lurch it the right of that sweet spot, and yet all that leftward lurching on the Democratic side seems apparent.
Our beloved Pop still likes to recall how President Harry Truman stood firm against the Commies, we were raised on tales of PT-109 and that John F. Kennedy speech about bearing any burden and paying any price to ensure the ultimate victory of democracy, and from our childhood we recall how President Lyndon Johnson had the hippies outside the White House chanting “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” despite all his Great Society liberalism. From our own adulthood we still remember when Washington Sen. “Scoop” Jackson and a few other hawkish Democrats had prominent standing in their party, not to mention the Bosnian-bombing President Bill Clinton and peacenik war hero Kerry and Bin-Laden-killing Obama among other recent Democratic warmongers, so the sudden Democratic repulsion to Webb’s much-decorated martial spirit strikes us as a significant development.
Webb’s admitted support for the right to self-defense and opposition to affirmative action policies that favor Obama’s Sidwell Friends-educated children over some Appalachian coal miner’s more promising kid were also respectable opinions within the Democratic circles of our relatively recent recollection, too, and even that unmistakable hesitancy about giving expensive benefits to untold millions of illegal immigrants and the rest of his unforgivable heresies he uttered would have easily been forgiven by the power structure and nominating base of the Democratic Party. At this particular point in the party’s history, though, the putative front-runner Hillary Clinton is running against her husband’s record of tough-on-crime measures and defense of traditional marriage and insouciance about sexual assault while the self-described socialist and surging insurgent and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is arguing that even after seven years of Obama the economy is horrible because we jut haven’t lurch far enough left yet, the party seems to agree that Black Lives Matter and others don’t, ¬†and from our fixed position seem awfully far left at the moment.
Although admittedly situated to the right, we suspect that our position and Webb’s is closer to the center than his former rivals. There are still an awful lot of white people and even among the Democrat kind of them there’s bound to be some resentment that Obama’s Sidwell Friends-educated children have some legal advantage over their own kids, and Americans of all colors and party affiliations have become accustomed to the right of self-defense, and a commonsensical appraisal of the past seven years of foreign policy in general and that awful Iran nuclear in particular will be skeptical, and it takes a certain sort of Democrat to be sufficiently enthused about paying expensive benefits for untold millions of illegal immigrants, so Webb’s departure does not seem to bode well for the Democratic Party’s general election fortunes. The Republicans seem intent on screwing up such a golden opportunity, of course, but it still does not bode well.
Webb’s much-decorated martial spirit was still on display as he retreated, saying that while his party is not comfortable with many of his policies “frankly I am not comfortable with many of theirs.” He hinted at a third party-challenge, a one-in-a-zillion shot that seems his best bet for the presidency at this point, and we’d like to think it might drain a few votes from Democrats who still believe all the traditional Democratic nonsense but aren’t so leftward lurched that they buy into all the latest nonsense. We’re not sure how many Democrats fit this projection, though, and he might wind up stealing a few Republican votes if Donald Trump wins the nomination, so at this point we’re not sure how noteworthy is withdrawal really is.

— Bud Norman

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Getting Back in Our Subprime

Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, according to George Santayana’s famous adage, but those who remember the past incorrectly are likely to create brand new catastrophes. The Obama administration’s current efforts to re-inflate the housing bubble through the same old subprime lending methods will eventually demonstrate the point.
Surely our youngest and most oblivious readers will vaguely recall the Crash of ’08, the unhappy effects of which still linger today, but even at the time it was not widely understood what had caused it. The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression occurred at the end of George W. Bush’s administration, and after eight years of relentless criticism of everything from his Iraq War policy to his decades-old Air National Guard service records to his mangling of the word “nuclear” most people readily accepted the explanation that he was solely responsible. How he had managed to bring down the American economy was never specified, but candidate Obama and his many friends in the American media were happy to allow a a consensus to form that it must have had something to with that Republican fetish for de-regulation or the tax-cuts-for-the-rich or just an inclination to let those greedy bankers get ever richer by making huge loans to people who would never be able to re-pay them. That there had been no significant de-regulation of the financial sector and instead thick book of new regulations from Sarbanes-Oxley had been added, along with a few new battalions of regulators to enforce them, did not matter. Nor did the fact that the tax cuts had been for everybody, including the half of the country that did not pay federal income taxes, or that they had increased the federal revenues as promised. The obvious illogic of greedy bankers giving hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgage loans to people who were bound to default didn’t make much difference, either.
Already forgotten at that point was the decades of criticism those greedy bankers had endured for failing to make loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, and that at some point in ’90s they were cajoled, incentivized, and ultimately compelled to do so. When it all started President Bill Clinton and his Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Andrew Cuomo, were quite pleased to let people know they had threatened legal action against various banks with the Community Re-Investment Act, which had been passed in the waning days of the Carter but lightly enforced during the years of Reagan and the elder Bush, and they even set up agencies to let targeted groups such as single women know that they banks were now obliged to dole out money to people with poor credit ratings. The mortgage kings Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were directed to invest half their portfolios in subprime loans, Activists groups such as ACORN also got in on the action, picketing and squatting in banks that were so stodgy they would only loan to the credit worthy, and an obscure civil rights attorney and former community organizer named Barack Obama was among those who sued banks to force loans to people who would wind up in default and disastrous financial circumstances. This was known as “affordable housing policy,” much as Obamacare would later be dubbed The Affordable Care Act, and when it’s only obvious effect was a suspiciously steep spike in property values it was considered proof of Clinton’s economic.
When interest rates finally rose and the prices finally flattened and those borrowers less-than-credit-worthy borrowers ran out of gimmicks and started defaulting in droves and leaving the banks with hundreds of billions of losses, it was naturally taken as proof of the younger Bush’s hilarious stupidity. Never mind that Bush and Senators John McCain and Elizabeth Dole had made a futile effort to reform the policy and was blocked by Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a Congressional Black Caucus that it racist to deny a minority member a loan just because he could not pay it back, and the rest of the Democratic party. the greedy banker and his laissez faire Republican enablers was just too familiar a cliche to resist. The man who had sued a bank to force them to make loans to his indigent clients won election to the presidency on a vow to fight “predatory lending,” Bush was vilified and McCain and Dole both went down to defeat, Cuomo became Governor of New York, Dodd and Frank got to re-write pretty much the entire financial code, and four years later Obama won re-election on the argument that electing a Republican would be like handing the keys over to the fool who had run the car into a ditch.
All in all, the “affordable housing policy” proved such a smashing success for the Democrats that they’ve decided to do it again. It didn’t work out so well for the country at large last time around, and there’s no reason to believe it will work out any better this time, but if history can repeat itself precisely the crash won’t come until some after Hillary Clinton has finished a second term and some Republican with peculiar pronunciations is conveniently installed in office. If all goes according to plan the public still won’t wise up, and that is something they really can bank on.

— Bud Norman