Barack Obama's new era of civility was over before it began. You wouldn't know it from reading The New York Times, watching Katie Couric or listening to the Democratic manners police. But America has been overrun by foul-mouthed, fist-clenching wildebeests.
Yes, the tea party movement is responsible — for sending these liberal goons into an insane rage, that is. After enduring two years of false smears as sexist, racist, homophobic barbarians, it is grassroots conservatives and taxpayer advocates who have been ceaselessly subjected to rhetorical projectile vomit. It is Obama's rank-and-file "community organizers" on the streets fomenting the hate against their political enemies. Not the other way around.
President Obama's brazenly calculated move to unilaterally abandon the federal Defense of Marriage Act showcases his attitude that he is above the law.
DOMA defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" for purposes of all federal laws, rules and regulations (Section 3). It specifies that no state shall be required to honor laws of other states that treat same-sex relationships as legal marriages — effectively carving out an exception to the Constitution's full faith and credit clause (Section 2).
Congress passed this law by enormous majorities (Senate 85-14, House 342-67) in response to political pressure in some states to redefine marriage, especially a Hawaiian court's decision suggesting the Hawaii Constitution conferred the right to same-sex marriage. Congress was worried that, among other things, same-sex couples living in other states might go to Hawaii to marry and demand that their home states recognize their marriages.
Why are Republicans waging war on contraception? It's not the first time the question has been asked, and it won't be the last. Truth be told, Republicans aren't engaging in battle on that front -- but the phrase gets close to a legitimate fight.
Congress, for its part, held an unprecedented vote in the House in February to end funding of Planned Parenthood. It's not a permanent or final vote; it was attached to a short-term move to keep the government funded. The debate in Congress was given momentum by the Live Action investigatory videos, which raised significant questions about what exactly Planned Parenthood is doing; but the rest of us need to discuss why we've let Planned Parenthood step in as a mainstream Band-Aid, throwing contraception and even abortion at problems that have much more fundamental solutions.
It's so easy to look at teenagers in general today and sigh. They’re more than a bit lazy, a bit spoiled, and more than a bit morally compromised. Two teenagers made national news. One showed common decency and sportsmanship, two virtues seemingly uncommon in that generation. Hope is restored.
Fifteen-year-old wrestler Joel Northrup faced a dilemma when he was scheduled to wrestle Cassy Herkelman, one of only two girls to make it to the state tournament. Even though he entered with a 35-4 record, Joel forfeited rather than violate his religious principles.
Cassy’s father, Bill Herkelman, praised the Northrup family: "That's their belief, and I praise them for sticking to it. This is the biggest stage in wrestling in the state, I would say, and they stuck to their beliefs when it probably tested it the most," he said. "It was probably a tough pill for him to swallow."
Frankly, I did not think of Chris Matthews as an episodic apologist until I watched his MSNBC documentary this week, "President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon." The episodic apologists are a familiar fixture of the Clinton administration, much as the court historians are a fixture of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Whereas the court historians always could be relied upon to spin history FDR's heroic way, the episodic apologists always end up slobbering all over the Clintons — albeit with a twist.
The court historians were always pretty straightforward. They adored FDR from the beginning to the end. The episodic apologists' lives are endlessly more complicated and melodramatic, as the Clintons are more complicated and melodramatic. There seems to be a script prepared for them. The apologists begin with high hopes and admiration for Bill and Bruno. Then Bill and Bruno fail them. The Clintons lie before grand juries or filch White House property while exiting for Chappaqua, or they are caught in Troopergate, in Travelgate, in Filegate or renting the Lincoln Bedroom. Of a sudden, the apologists suffer blighted hopes. First they become indignant. Then they feel used and abused. Some cry in public. Finally, hope springs anew.
NOTICE of REVISION: This column has been revised to correctly attribute The New York Times for data and reportage cited in its Feb. 16 story on the statistical value of human life.
Back in the American Wild West, federal and state governments often put a price on the heads of infamous outlaws like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Sam Bass, Belle Star and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Today, our government is not so selective. It's seeking to put a price on the head of every American. Not because they've robbed a train, but for a different reason that could lead to a very bad end.
A recent New York Times story summarizes how various government agencies have come up with formulas for determining how much we are worth. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Times notes, has set the value of a human life at $9.1 million, reaching this determination while proposing tighter restrictions on air pollution. During the Bush administration, EPA calculated our value at $6.8 million. Was the difference in price caused by inflation? The EPA didn't say.
At the risk of giddy over-optimism, I have the hunch that the American voting public is beginning to demand legislating that actually deals with the nation's problems. There is creeping — still ambiguous — evidence of this, starting with the national polling data.
I argued last December that President Barack Obama's support for the extension of the Bush tax cuts would not end up helping him once the 2011 legislating season started picking up steam, because by principle the president was toward the left side of the political spectrum — and the public was toward the right — particularly on the matter of public debt and deficit.
It is truly disgusting for me to hear politicians, national and international talking heads and pseudo-academics praising the Middle East stirrings as democracy movements. We also hear democracy as the description of our own political system. Like the founders of our nation, I find democracy and majority rule a contemptible form of government.
You say, "Whoa, Williams, you really have to explain yourself this time!"
First lady Michelle Obama said, "Let's Move!" Who knew Democratic politicians in Wisconsin and Indiana would take her literally?
Faced with stifling debt, bloated pensions and intractable government unions, liberal Midwestern legislators have fled those states — paralyzing Republican fiscal reform efforts. Like Monty Python's Brave Sir Robin and his band of quivering knights, these elected officials have only one plan when confronted with political hardship or economic peril: Run away, run away, run away.
When three-fourths of the Boston police department went on strike in 1919, leading to broken shop windows and looting, then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the state militia and broke the strike. Coolidge declared, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time."
His courage propelled him to the vice presidency and eventually to the presidency.
"The fate of our country won’t be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom." Do you believe that?
Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called on 14 state Senate Democrats, who had fled the state instead of voting on a deficit-cutting anti-teachers-union bill, to return and do their jobs. Senate Republicans hold a 19-14 majority there but can't vote on the bill unless at least one Democrat is present.
Does that sound like democracy at work to you? Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are the largest campaign contributors in the nation -- $55 million in just the past two years, more than the Teamsters, the National Rifle Association or any other organization -- and that 90 percent of those contributions fund only Democratic candidates?
Unfortunately, being called "Mr. Hannah Montana" in a glossy-magazine headline is far from Billy Ray Cyrus' biggest problem.
As many a headline has proclaimed, the former country music and television star may be suffering from a brutally true-life "Achy Breaky Heart." Cyrus is divorced and somewhat estranged from his famous daughter, Miley, born Destiny Hope.
Talking about his time co-starring as Hannah Montana's dad in his daughter's series by that name, he tells GQ: "You think, 'This is a chance to make family entertainment, bring families together ...' and look what it's turned into."
Welcome to the reckoning. We have met the fiscal apocalypse, and it is smack dab in the middle of the heartland. As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation. Let us pray it does not go the way of the decrepit welfare states of the European Union.
The lowdown: State government workers in the Badger State pay piddling amounts for generous taxpayer-subsidized health benefits. Faced with a $3.6 billion budget hole and a state constitutional ban on running a deficit, new GOP Gov. Scott Walker wants public unions to pony up a little more. He has proposed raising the public employee share of health insurance premiums from less than 5 percent to 12.4 percent. He is also pushing for state workers to cover half of their pension contributions. To spare taxpayers the soaring costs of Byzantine union-negotiated work rules, he would rein in Big Labor's collective bargaining power to cover only wages unless approved at the ballot box.
I knew we were in for real budgetary trouble with Obama, but his recent statements on the subject make me wonder whether he is so brainwashed with liberal ideology as to be divorced from reality — or worse.
Based on his tireless rhetoric, it would appear that he thinks — contrary to all evidence, including the failure of his $868 billion stimulus package to create jobs — that even more spending would finally lead to jobs. This, though even his economic advisers have warned us not to expect unemployment levels to reduce to acceptable levels for years.
In the meantime, as wrongheaded as he is about government spending's creating jobs, he's outright delusional about what he's doing to the national debt — and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt.
After the riots in Athens, the Greek authorities decided to enact new laws to deal with their obvious problems. The new laws, which treat rich and poor alike for the first time, have been seen has harsh. The name of the legislator who wrote the laws is a man called Draco. The date is believed to be 621 B.C. And more than 2,600 years later, the adjectival form of his name — draconian — is still tossed around here in Washington anytime someone proposes real budget cuts.
Of course, most of the Washington hands who hurl the "draconian" charge around probably do not know that Draco's laws were considered "just" according to Aristotle. For the first time in Athenian law, the codes were written down so that even poor people could know what was legal and what was illegal — thus they could avoid inadvertently breaking the law.
Now the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has joined the chorus. The other day, he said, "My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure." The "it" was multiculturalism, and he was on French national television. In pronouncing multiculturalism defunct, the French president joins German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia's former prime minister John Howard, Spain's former premier Jose Maria Aznar and, most recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron in heaving a failed policy into history's dustbin. The question is, What will replace it? Or actually another question, How did multiculturalism ever become a policy of these European countries, anyway?
On the home page of the Office of Management and Budget website, President Obama is quoted: "Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new."
If only he would, but the president's proposed $3.7 trillion budget is more of the same: taxing and spending for which liberal Democrats are known and "cuts" as in Pell Grants and home heating assistance for the poor he knows congressional Democrats are unlikely to approve. It is also full of assumptions about revenue and a rosy scenario on economic growth that is more than double current growth.
Why is it that Egyptians do well in the U.S. but not Egypt? We could make that same observation and pose that same question about Nigerians, Cambodians, Jamaicans and others of the underdeveloped world who migrate to the U.S. Until recently, we could make the same observation about Indians in India, and the Chinese citizens of the People's Republic of China, but not Chinese citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Let's look at Egypt. According to various reports, about 40 percent of Egypt's 80 million people live on or below the $2 per-day poverty line set by the World Bank. Unemployment is estimated to be twice the official rate pegged at 10 percent.
Much of Egypt's economic problems are directly related to government interference and control that have resulted in weak institutions vital to prosperity. Hernando De Soto, president of Peru's Institute for Liberty and Democracy (www.ild.org.pe), laid out much of Egypt's problem in his Wall Street Journal article (Feb. 3, 2011), "Egypt's Economic Apartheid." More than 90 percent of Egyptians hold their property without legal title.
I am not a sage, a soothsayer or even a wise man but it has been as obvious as the nose on my face, every since this upheaval in Egypt started that the country is going to end up in radical Islamic hands.
It may be less obvious, but never the less inevitable, that the rest of the Middle Eastern Muslim countries are going to follow suit sooner or later.
It's pretty hard to stomach when President Obama even talks in terms of cutting the deficit, because his entire economic philosophy compels him to keep spending as if his goal were to impoverish our children and because he continues, in fact, to spend at such bankrupting levels.
Reuters reports that Obama's proposed budget would cut the deficit by $1.1 trillion over 10 years. Are you kidding me? We wouldn't even come close to balancing the budget if we applied all those cuts in one year, but spread out over 10 years, they are insulting. Plus, many of these "cuts" would be solely the result of bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We also learned that Obama's deficit for 2011 would not be the outrageously obscene $1.5 trillion the Congressional Budget Office revealed last month, which was already substantially above last year's $1.3 trillion, but a staggering $1.65 trillion.