Of Deficit Hawks and War Hawks
When John McCain – the national security president that never was – ran for the highest office in 2008, foreign policy received top billing in the Republican Party’s platform, affirmed by a pledge to “defend the nation, support our heroes, and secure the peace”. It is the sign of not just how much things have changed under Mitt Romney’s stewardship, but out in the country at-large as well, that notes pertaining to American exceptionalism in the world have slipped to the back of the book in the 2012 platform.
Jobs and the economy are much on everyone’s mind, and Osama bin Laden’s corpse having dissolved into the Arabian Sea, the War on Terror and international relations are suddenly of secondary import. Even the party’s foreign policy platform tacks back to matters fiscal, arguing that “the best way to promote peace and prevent costly wars is to ensure that we constantly renew America’s economic strength. A healthy American economy is what underwrites and sustains American power”, it concludes.
Whither Republican foreign policy remains nonetheless an essential and inescapable question. For, since recent polling data shows President Obama up only 1 percentage point over Romney nationwide, and engaged in dead heats in swing states like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, the matter of what a future Republican administration would do vis-à-vis China, Iran, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the transatlantic relationship becomes even more important.
It is immediately clear that, both as a party of the right and as the minority party in government, the Republican Party wishes to portray itself as far more hawkish than the Obama administration. “The current Administration has responded with weakness to some of the gravest threats to our national security”, including Russia, China, and Iran, and has fought House and Senate Republicans over “$500 billion in cuts through a sequestration in early 2013 that will take a meat axe to all major defence programs”. The Republican Party is, by contrast, “the advocate for a strong national defence as the pathway to peace, economic prosperity, and the protection of those yearning to be free”.
But today’s Republican Party has co-opted by economic libertarians, including the vice-presidential nominee, and this trend is reflected in the platform’s innate problem: that its two theoretical foundations are fundamentally antipodal and stand in direct contradiction with each other. On the one hand, in the name of “economic security and fiscal solvency”, the party pledges “articulate candidly to the American people our priorities for the use of taxpayer dollars to address those threats”. Put another way, the GOP tacitly acknowledges that rooting out the oft-mentioned trio of waste, fraud, and abuse are not enough to streamline the defence budget; cuts in real terms will need to be made to depress the national debt.
At the same time, the GOP remains wholly committed to the Reagan era axiom of peace through strength, and the idea, itself based on the false and downright ludicrous premise that the Berlin Wall was deconstructed on the back of having a bloated Defence Department, that “only our capability to wield overwhelming military power can truly deter the enemies of the United States from threatening our people and our national interests”. Thus the party commits itself to maintaining “military and technical superiority through innovation while upgrading legacy systems including aircraft and armoured vehicles” as well as “state-of-the-art surveillance, enhanced special operations capabilities, and unmanned aerial systems”.
Pride and Prejudice: Five Thoughts from the First Day of the RNC
- Chris Christie’s tenor was barnstorming, though the content was a little incoherent and hideously self-aggrandising. Having watched that speech in isolation, it would be reasonable to assert that Christie is the only person in the United States willing to tell the truth about anything. Moreover, if I were Mitt Romney as nominee I would be somewhat annoyed at a speech which concluded which the words, “If you’re willing to stand up with me for America’s future, I will stand up with you”. Romney was an after-thought in an appearance all about the Big Dog Christie.
- I consider it improper to criticise or demonise First Ladies, or prospective ones, so I will refrain from meanness with regard to Ann Romney personally. But her speech was a little strange, and from time to time occluded the truth. For example, Mrs Romney said, “I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success. He built it.” True to an extent, but only on the back of a private school education up to and including four years at the Harvard Business and Law Schools. His success was not predetermined, but it sure wasn’t down to luck or coincidence.
- The theme of “We built that” doesn’t work when the mascots you find to deliver your message received a lot of help from the federal government. One such man was Sam Sakata, whose agri-firm Sam Sakata Farms received subsidies from the USDA totalling $79,430 between 1995 and 2011.
- The perpetuation of untruths was worrying, the most egregious being this notion that President Obama has removed the work requirement from welfare reform, uttered by amongst many Rick Santorum and turncoat Artur Davis. Politifact labels this assertion “a drastic distortion of what the Obama administration said it intends to do. By granting waivers to states, HHS is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them”.
- Also strange were the issues which got delegates on their feet. During the speech given by Gov. Nikki Haley, attendees whooped and hollered for the disenfranchisement of the poor (in other words, the demand for photo ID in order to vote) and the state-v-state race to the bottom which is bad, above all, for the working class.
A Note on Jewish Values
According to the most recent survey of Jewish values, a majority of American Jews:
- Support the re-election of Barack Obama (62pc);
- View President Clinton either very or somewhat favourably (77pc);
- Believe Republican leaders are doing too little to compromise with President Obama (77pc);
- Believe the government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor (64pc);
- Favour the introduction of a new tax bracket for those earning over $1 million per annum (81pc);
- Believe American Muslims are an important religious community within the United States (66pc);
- Greatly distrust the Christian Right, ranking them 20.9 on a 1-100 unfavourable-favourable scale;
- Think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (90pc) and Iran (83pc) are the greatest threats to Israel’s future and security;
- Believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases (93pc);
- Support same-sex marriage (81pc);
- Favour tougher laws and regulations to protect the environment (69pc); and
- Oppose the Supreme Court potentially overturning Obamacare (58pc).
American Jewry, thus, is one of the essential minority groups that prevent the United States from becoming a banana republic.
The Future for Newton Leroy Gingrich
The punditocracy has spoken: Rick Santorum, by winning Colorado and Minnesota, has a fantastic night and may just be the new non-Romney. Romney had a setback, and Paul continues to do well in caucus states. But what of Newton Leroy Gingrich? The man who Joe Scarborough once said was “destined to survive a nuclear holocaust”, along with cockroaches and Cher.
Well, Gingrich’s professional life has been lived according to Gore Vidal’s maxim, “Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television”. Of late, Gingrich has spent more time on the latter than the former, popping up on the cable networks and Sunday shows, in order to denounce Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate”, and launch ever more fantastical campaign appeals.
The more he speaks, the more it reinforces the view that the man is a megalomaniac, prone to bombast and grandiosity. Just yesterday, Gingrich published a draft executive order permitting the construction of the Keystone pipeline, as if he were in fact the President of the United States, or at least the Republican nominee. It takes an individual of incredible steel, self-delusion, and little-to-no social awareness to commit such an act.
Who is Saul Alinsky, and why does he matter?
Who is Saul Alinsky? is the question I asked myself after watching Newt Gingrich’s victory speech in South Carolina Saturday night. He evokes Alinsky’s name frequently, and always with that awfully unattractive sneer, as in — “The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky” — from said celebratory address. Or — “Obama believes in a Saul Alinsky radicalism which the press corps was never willing to look at. When he said he was a community organizer, it wasn’t Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It was radicalism taught on the south side of Chicago by Saul Alinsky” — from a campaign stop in South Carolina prior to the primary.
Well, in brief, Saul Alinsky was a Chicago-born community organiser (an outside figure who joins neighbourhood residents together so that they may campaign collectively for their common good) who worked initially in the labor movement in the 1930s, before operating in the city’s ghettos in the 1940s and 50s.
Labelled “one of the great American leaders of the non-socialist left”, Alinsky published Rules for Radicals in 1971, which outlines the processes and machinations of community organising to the next generations, influenced by the struggles of the late-1960s. Alinsky advocated a confrontational method for curing economic inequality, stating: “Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take [power] away.”
This tome, according to Politico, is “said to have influenced Barack Obama’s thinking as a young community organiser”. Obama and Alinsky never met: the latter died in 1972, over ten years before Obama would move to Chicago to direct the Developing Communities Project.
Every Day a Little Death
My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security. …Israel also has a large stake in the success of a democratic Palestine. Permanent occupation threatens Israel’s identity and democracy. A stable, peaceful Palestinian state is necessary to achieve the security that Israel longs for. So I challenge Israel to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state.
The members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.
Santorum and the American worker
“My grandfather ended up continuing to work in the mines until he was 72 years old, digging coal. I’ll never forget the first time I saw someone who had died. It was my grandfather. I knelt next to his coffin. And all I could do was look at his hands. They were enormous hands. And all I could think was those hands dug freedom for me.” – Rick Santorum, January 3, 2012
On Morning Joe the dawn after the night before, Joe Scarborough waxed lyrical about Rick Santorum’s deeply moving speech following his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. The former Congressman stated that Santorum, coming from a working class, immigrant background and from western Pennsylvania – “ground zero of the gutting of the America industrial machine” – had “a message that resonates across America”.
Both parties – Democrats and Republicans – have long lionised the American working class as the hands which built their blessed and prosperous nation, based upon a work and political ethic which valued faith, family, flag, and above all fiscal and physical self-sacrifice over material gain.
Democrats view the working class through a unionised prism. The party has traditionally sought to aid these lower-income individuals and families through social programmes such as Medicaid, as well as legislative actions which promote better pay and working conditions including the minimum wage.
Moreover, liberals more widely tend to support the quasi-social democratic understanding of working class toil, one which emphasises a disconnection between those on the shop floor and the management elite. This sentiment has perhaps best been expressed in the James Taylor song, “Millworker”:
So may I work the mills just as long as I am able/And never meet the man whose name is on the label.
Republicans, on the other hand, take the sacrificial narrative central to working class life and extrapolate out as an example for the country at-large, as to say that people do not need government intervention to succeed in the United States of America. By this logic, the country would be better off if more people worked hard and kept for themselves and their families as much of the fruits of their labours as possible.