Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

They Said It:

Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself.  While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof.  Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members.  Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth.  Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges — civic as well as economic — to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly.  This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy.  Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government — meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc.  Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming.  A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather.  But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.

Angelo Codevilla, “America’s Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution,” The American Spectator, Summer 2010.

 

A REPUBLIC…IF YOU CAN KEEP IT.

We know that we have been a bit pessimistic of late regarding the state of the world.  And while we believe that this pessimism is justified by a confluence of troublesome events, we still are, like most Americans, basically optimistic about the land of the free.  So this week, we will put on our rose-colored glasses and provide at least one reason to be hopeful, which, surprisingly enough, involves a group of people who have otherwise been a source of constant and almost unrelenting frustration for more than a quarter-century.  Or to put it in another way, a collection of men and women who have disappointed us and the nation at every turn almost without fail.  We speak here of the Republican Party.

Ronald Reagan, you may note, left office on January 20, 1989.  Since then, the GOP has produced one sorry excuse for a conservative after another.  George HW Bush raised taxes and gave us Bill Clinton.  Newt Gingrich led a “revolution” that ended up increasing the size and scope of government almost as much as the pre-revolutionary Democrats had done.  George W. Bush cut taxes, increased spending dramatically and then spent the rest of his presidency trying to democratize the least democratize-able people in the world.  And when Barack Obama squandered the public’s trust and handed Congress back to the Republicans, they elected John Boehner and Mitch McConnell as their respective leaders, two Washington lifers who are more enmeshed in the politics of power than they are in anything that might represent real conservatism or real reform of the government leviathan.  In short, the Republican Party has promised much but delivered little, becoming as much a part of the problem as the dead-headed Democrats.

Now, we will concede up front that we do not really expect much to change within the broader GOP.  That said, we truly believed that the current crop of Republican presidential contenders provide a ray of hope.  Indeed, we believe, contrary to many in the mainstream media, that this is unquestionably the most attractive and noteworthy group of hopefuls that the GOP has ever produced.  For the most part, they are smart, well-educated, exceptionally articulate, creative, and downright captivating.  Moreover, we think that the one who eventually wins the sweepstakes will likely be the most fundamentally conservative presidential candidate since perhaps 1964 and certainly since.

Think about it for just a minute.  In a normal year, the GOP would be rightly thrilled to find one Latino, son-of-immigrants, rags-to-riches conservative who wants to carry the party’s banner.  In this campaign the party already has TWO.  The other two official candidates right now include a libertarian-leaning son-of-a-capital-L-Libertarian, who just happens to bring to the campaign the most inventive and intriguing political mind in some time, as well as high-powered, extremely successful and exceptionally bright former Fortune 500 CEO, who also just happens to be a woman.  One woman, one libertarian, and two young Latinos.  For “diversity” the so called party-of-diversity, the Democrats, couldn’t touch this GOP field.

And there are more on the way.  Before the debate season gets under way this fall, the GOP will likely add to the roster a famous political scion, a union-busting reformer, an Indian-American Rhodes Scholar, an African-American neurosurgeon and medical pioneer, and a longtime conservative star who helped take over the House in 1994 and who has spent the last several years trying to reform and re-Republican-ize the swingingest of swing states.  All things considered, perhaps the worst choice in the field is a guy who was known throughout the country as the most effective and most conservative governor in America, but who sort of offends our republican spirits given that nearly everyone else in his family has already served as president.  Not half bad, if you ask us.  It’s far more diverse than ANY field the Democrats have ever produced or will produce in the near future.  And certainly, it’s better than the Juan and Eva Peron show the Democrats are putting on this year.

We could probably dedicate an entire piece to each of the candidates, debating their positives and negatives.  Instead, we will concentrate on just one, after briefly noting that each brings something positive to the campaign, and each has some serious potential drawbacks.  For both Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, that negative is, in part, familial.  For both Rubio and Kasich, the negative is the general perception of their proximity to the party establishment.  And for Carson and Fiorina, the problem is that even great men and women with fantastic resumes and sparkling personalities sometimes have trouble transitioning from the private to the political realm, especially when they hope to make the presidency the first elected office they have ever held.

In our opinion, this last concern is probably the biggest and the most serious.  Candidates with no prior political experience often have a big impact early but then fade fairly quickly, usually as a result of their political inexperience and their resultant propensity to make serious and irreparable mistakes.  And this brings us to Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and one of the most interesting women in business and politics.

Now, we do not believe that Fiorina will win the nomination.  And we are not endorsing her candidacy (not that it would make any difference if we did).  Nevertheless, she is an extraordinary woman, an appealing candidate, and more to the point, her pre-campaign announcement last week was fascinating in that it exposed one of the biggest weaknesses in the Obama administration, in the Democratic Party’s on-going campaign-by-default, and in the broader American political system.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Ms. Fiorina’s announcement addressed one of the principal causes of our general pessimism about the political system and especially its ruling class.

Last Wednesday (April 22), when she made the press aware of her plans, Ms. Fiorina also let them know that her plans would be a little different from those of her competitors – in BOTH parties.  The Wall Street Journal reported on the news as follows:

Carly Fiorina plans to launch her presidential campaign on May 4, in an online announcement that dispenses with the pageantry that has become de rigueur in 2016 White House runs.  Instead, Mrs. Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Co., will formally declare her Republican campaign online and hold a conference call for the national press, according to a person with knowledge of the campaign’s plans.

The lack of fanfare stands in contrast to GOP candidates who already have declared . . . . And instead of immediately heading to states with early nominating contests, Mrs. Fiorina will be in New York when her campaign formally launches.

As the article notes, Fiorina’s GOP competitors all put on big productions to announce their candidacies.  Likewise, Hillary staged a Cleopatra-like spectacle by having herself driven across the country to Iowa in a gaudy van followed by a large Secret Service detail and a massive gaggle of news hounds who were there to capture her every burrito-eating moment for posterity.  Strangely enough, she seemed to believe that his bizarre entrance made her appear to be like a “normal” American.

Carly Fiorina, on the other hand, despite being the second most accomplished individual on the political scene today, right behind Dr. Ben Carson, felt no need to present voters with some narcissistic paean to herself.  A quiet and simple announcement, followed by some questions, will, apparently, suffice.  And then it’s back to work.  She may not be the most polished candidate ever and she may not last long in the primary campaign, but her launch into the presidential race is refreshing, if for no other reason than it is restrained, simple, and devoid of the pomp and circumstance that has become de rigueur among the ruling class today.

You see, for most members of our ruling class – including those in the GOP – government of the people, by the people, and for the people has already perished from the earth.  Government of the special people, by the special people, and very much for those special people, however, is alive and well.  And if you are unhappy about it, that just means that you’re not particularly special.

As we said, this is a nearly universal phenomenon among the ruling class, but it is particularly pronounced among the Obamas and the Clintons.  Both families act as if the government is theirs to do with as they please, to mold as they choose, and to use for their own benefit.  Seven years ago, when her husband was running against Hillary, Michelle Obama told the world that Barack “will require you to work.  He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions.  That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones.”  This is rhetorical pap, of course.  But it is telling.  He will lead you.  He will tell you what to do.  And you, as his people, will do what you’re told.  One suspects that the Founders would be horrified by a President who thinks that the people serve him and do as he says rather than the other way around.

For several years now, the inimitable Mark Steyn has been complaining loudly and frequently about the Obamas and their rapid acculturation to the amenities provided by the modern presidency.  Steyn has been all over the world, observing the global elites and making note of their behavior.  He’s been feted by the heads of government throughout the Anglosphere.  He’s had the kind of access to the rich and powerful about which ordinary people – and even most journalists – can only dream.  And he’s noticed that the Obamas tend to behave like the rich, more than the powerful.  That they tend to focus more on the perquisites of Barack’s office than on the responsibilities of that office.  That the President and his family enjoy their luxury and their celebrity very much.

Steyn has noted, for example, that at global meetings – the G8 and such – most heads of government eat breakfast occasionally in the hotel restaurant, like normal people, with one or two staffers briefing them.  The Obamas, by contrast, rarely mingle with the commoners.  That’s just the way it is.  They are who they are and everyone else is everyone else.  Almost exactly a year ago, Steyn penned a short piece noting the absurdity of the Obamas and their use/abuse of their executive privileges, so to speak.  Forgive us for the extended quote, but his point is, we think, quite important:

A couple of weeks back, I remarked on the cost of President Obama’s day-trip to Brussels, accompanied by 900 flunkeys and a 45-car motorcade.  In fairness to Obama, the President is a public official of the Government of the United States: I do believe he’s even mentioned in the Constitution.  You will search that document in vain for any mention of the office of “First Lady” or “First Offspring”.  Nevertheless:

The documents reveal that taxpayers spent a total of at least $7,921,638.66 on the first lady’s trip.  She departed for the Dublin tour on Air Force Two after accompanying the president on a meeting with Northern Ireland youth.

So “Air Force Two” has to be on hand to get Mrs Obama, Sasha and Malia the one hundred miles from Belfast to Dublin.  For the purposes of comparison, flying the entire Royal Family around for a year costs taxpayers £3,101,771 (that’s the Queen, princes, dukes, the lot).  Three million quid plus change works out to about $5,194,347.37.  In other words, for the cost of two days in Dublin with three members of the Obama family you can keep the entire House of Windsor in the air for a year.

Ah, you say, but the Queen is Head of State, not a working Head of Government.  Not to be too pedantic about it, but neither Michelle, Sasha or Malia is America’s Head of Government.  Still, how does one of Her Majesty’s Prime Ministers get about when he’s in the mood for a well-deserved vacation break?

Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, has won praise for his frugality after travelling economy class on a long-haul flight to France.

Mr Abbott and his family travelled economy on a flight from Sydney to Paris, which normally takes a gruelling 24 hours in total.  His office did not apparently publicise his decision, but his presence at the back of the plane emerged after a fellow passenger broadcast the news on social media.

In similar fashion, Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has insisted on flying business class rather than first class, and last year rejected her department’s plans to book her in to a £1,000-a-night hotel suite in New York.  She has been branded “the iron lady” after choosing to do her own ironing while travelling. . . .

Ah, but, you say, Tony Abbott was only flying coach for his vacation.  What about when he’s on government buisness?  What’s the length of the motorcade then?  Well, the photograph above was emailed to me by Niels Jensen of Queensland.  It shows the Aussie PM arriving to meet with drought-stricken farmers.  As you can see, the 45-car motorcade stretches back all the way to the horizon.  I don’t know whether that rusty pick-up is officially designated Ground Force One, but Wally the driver is doing the work of 900 Secret Service agents.

The decadence and excess that attends the citizen-executive of a supposed republic of limited government is beyond parody.  Forty-five car motorcades are for banana republics, and Americans are the chumps of the planet for putting up with it.

Now, we know that part of this is the fact that Obama is the President of the United States, which means he is “the most powerful man in the world,” and thus a little more important, globally speaking, than, say, Tony Abbott.  We also know that roughly 9% of American presidents have been assassinated in office, meaning that presidential security is kind of a big deal.  Lastly, we know that Obama is kind of a big deal in his own right, which is to say that he could never travel by any other means than those reserved for the elitest of the elite, the royals of royalty, King and Queen types.  Which, of course, brings us to another point mentioned by Steyn and reported here by the Daily Mail of London:

Weddings can be expensive occasions not just for the bride and groom – but for their guests too.  But it was perhaps surprising to learn that even Prince William can feel the pinch – this weekend he was spotted in economy class when he took an internal flight in the US after celebrating his friend Guy Pelly’s marriage.

Prince William, who was in America with Prince Harry, took the American Airlines flight from Memphis to Dallas on Sunday. . . . The cost of the trip itself is being met privately by both the princes – Prince William is understood to have changed planes at Dallas Fort Worth to return to the UK.

On the American Airlines plane he took a window seat and is understood to have ordered water during the 1hour 30 domestic flight.  A similar flight was on sale today for £250. . .

It is not the first time that the royals have tried to save money when attending a wedding.  In 2011 passengers were surprised to see Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge settle into seats with the rest of the public after boarding a Flybe jet in Edinburgh for their hour long journey to Manchester following the wedding of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall in Edinburgh.  Meanwhile, a hungover Prince Harry chose EasyJet to make his way home to London – he also flew to the Scottish city with the airline – checking in his green army-issue bag for £10.

You add up all the golf vacations, all the trips to multi-thousand-dollar-a-night resorts in Spain, and all the other luxuries and you wind up with quite a tab.  You also wind up with an American royal family that seems to believe that all of this is their right – a divine right, if you will.  Unfortunately, the opulence, the extravagance, and the ridiculousness are merely the most visible but least important aspect to this coronation-of-the-ruling-class business.

Barack Obama has decided, you may note, that his priorities cannot and should not be trumped by anyone or any other power, including the Congress of the United States.  As such, he has spent the better part of the last four years at least ignoring the will of the people as expressed through the electoral process.   Indeed, he has spent the better part of the last nearly six months doing this in a highly radical fashion, i.e., by executive order.  And then he instructs his massive bureaucracy to ignore the written commands of the judicial branch tasked with review of his extra-legal activities.  Worse still, he punishes those who dare to challenge him and his priorities by bringing the immense power of the executive branch to bear on dissenters for the crime of mere dissension.  The IRS, recall, TARGETED CONSERVATIVE GROUPS who sought to educate voters about the Constitution and, one presumes, about the Obama administration’s violations thereof.  And the woman who ran the operation will not face any sort of criminal consequence – by decree of his majesty, Barack Obama.

As you may have seen, after her van trip to Iowa to listen to “voters” – which is to say campaign hacks bused in by the campaign – Hillary Clinton made a gesture of following in Prince William’s footsteps and flying home on a commercial flight and seated in coach.  A more absurd reminder of the power and privilege of the ruling class one could not ever hope to find.  Here is a woman who has, quite literally, not driven a car in nearly a quarter century, much less flown on a commercial airliner.  Now, all of sudden, with reports of her and her husband’s financial dealings making headlines, she tries to play the commoner by travelling like the rest of us.  Condescending” and “insulting” do not even begin to do justice to this stunt.

Consider the fact that since Bill left office, he and Hillary have “earned” – if that’s the proper word for it – more than $150 million by trading on their celebrity and proximity to power.  Recently, fast-food workers around the country walked out on their jobs, in the hope of forcing their employers to institute a $15/hour minimum wage.  For much of the last decade, Bill and Hillary have made ten times that – more than $150 – PER SECOND when they give speeches.  Of course, the ultimate power couple claims that it’s all for “charity,” but their definition of “charity” is, perhaps, stranger than their definition of what the word is is.  As the New York Post put it over weekend:

Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits, recently refused to rate the Clinton Foundation because its “atypical business model . . . doesn’t meet our criteria.”

Charity Navigator put the foundation on its “watch list,” which warns potential donors about investing in problematic charities.  The 23 charities on the list include the Rev. Al Sharpton’s troubled National Action Network, which is cited for failing to pay payroll taxes for several years.

Other nonprofit experts are asking hard questions about the Clinton Foundation’s tax filings in the wake of recent reports that the Clintons traded influence for donations.

“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” said Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group where progressive Democrat and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout was once an organizing director.

By now, the whole world is aware that the New York Times, of all papers, reported last week that Bill and Hill traded on their names and her ongoing connection to the corridors of power to “earn” tens of millions of dollars in return for giving control of a good chunk of this country’s uranium reserves to Vlad Putin and his pals.  Nor is it any longer a secret that it was all Bill’s idea to get Hill to take a job in the Obama administration in order to leverage that proximity for cash.  For years, some of us referred to this dynamic duo as a modern-day “Bonnie and Clyde” (or “Bonnie and Clod,” as Wesley Pruden used to call them), robbing the American people blind and living it up as they did so.  Little did we know that they may have had more in common with Julius and Ethel – as in Rosenberg – than with the Parker and Barrow.

Now, it should be obvious to anyone that Bill and Hillary are the biggest, most successful, most vile beneficiaries of the nexus between big government and big money.  But they are hardly alone.  Indeed, almost every topic we’ve covered over the last several years is, in part, tied to this disgraceful circumstance.

As Jay Cost recently noted, once upon a time, small government advocates, then known as “Jeffersonians,” won elections by convincing “the country that big government inevitably favors the most powerful interests in society.”  Then some 150 years ago, the Progressives convinced the country that there was something better, something more valuable to be gained by handing over more power – and thus more of their freedom – to their public servants.  Thus followed the bureaucratic state and its presumption of superior judgment and superior intellect.  And eventually, a permanent and pampered ruling class authorized itself to do as it pleased with little or no opportunity for the common folk to object.

Over the past several years, we’ve written about big government.  We’ve written about the bureaucratic state and its perversions of the ends and means of liberal democracy.  We’ve written about the Gnostic nature of big government and its advocates.  We’ve written about the ruling class and its disdain for the country class.  We’ve written about the nation’s swift and irreversible slide into Corporatism.  We’ve written about the “war over resources.”  We’ve written about the “new political paradigm” and the “new feudalism.”  We’ve written about political corruption, political opportunism, and political pretentiousness.  And every single one of these stories is connected to all of the others and to a broader political ethos that has turned this onetime republic into a low and oppressive oligarchy.  Every single one of these stories is an indictment of the American political class and of its abuse of power.  Every single one of these stories explains why we’ve been so pessimistic of late about the future of the American political system.

Some of you may know that we think Rand Paul’s views on foreign affairs are unformed and occasionally worrisome; that his views on civil rights matters show too much of his father’s influence and not enough reflection on reality; that much of what he says and believes is inimical to that which we know and understand as politically acceptable these days.  But we also know that those things are a large part of his appeal; that he is just nuts enough to think that he can tear down the system from within and restore to average Americans’ the liberty that has been stolen from them.  And that is, at this point in time, a powerful and appealing message.

Likewise, Scott Walker appeals to voters because of his willingness to jeopardize his own career and his own power in order to reduce the power of government and end the corruption of public-sector unionism.  Ted Cruz fascinates the electorate with his toughness, his willingness to become a national object of scorn in pursuit of a principle.  All of the Republicans – save perhaps Jeb Bush – appeal to that growing groups of Americans who are tired of being treated like a second-class citizen by their own government.

Of all of them, though, only one, Carly Fiorina, thought to appeal to voters by making even her campaign less about her and more about them.  Only she eschewed the big production befitting a celebrity or a monarch to launch a more humble campaign.

Last week, we noted in our conclusion that the only hope for this country lies in the GOP’s insurgent presidential candidates.  Only they, we argued, could possibly restore the liberty that befits a “republic.”  In his own piece last week, the aforementioned Mark Steyn made a similar argument.  To wit:

For me, the issue this US election season is the corruption.  Sure, I’d like a balanced budget and less debt and repeal of Obamacare, but I’m getting used to being sold out on those issues.  So I’m down to the bare minimum requirement for a politician: The corruption nauseates me, and, if it doesn’t nauseate the candidates, then that explains a lot about why nothing happens on any of those other matters.  It’s in the air, it’s in my nostrils, and I’m sick of choking on it.  We have a “justice” department that prosecutes a senator who made the mistake of crossing the President (Menendez) but declines to do anything about a tax collector who treats American taxpayers differently on the basis of how they vote (Lerner).  We have a revenue agency that regards itself as the paramilitary wing of the ruling party.  We have replaced equality before the law with a hierarchy of privilege, so that no-name ambassadors can be fired for breaking federal record-keeping requirements by a department whose boss outsources her federal records to her own server and then mass-deletes them with no more thought than when she’s parking her van in the handicapped space.  We have a federal police agency in which 26 out of its 28 hair analysts gave false testimony favorable to the prosecution.  We have a cabinet officer who managed to get more firepower deployed to toss her designated scapegoat videomaker into the county jail than she assigned to the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi.  We have a president who rules by decree on everything from immigration to health care – and a legislature of castrati too craven to object.

I would like a candidate who promises to hose out the sewer.

Our only correction to Steyn’s rant would be to note that all of this is beyond mere corruption.  The nation did not get into this position either by accident or by a prolonged process of decay among a handful of crooked politicians taking baby steps toward their goal until, eventually, the entire system was despoiled.  Rather, this was a conscious act undertaken by the entirety of the political class under the pretense of making life better for the people of the country while actually making life much, much better for themselves.

Breaking the permanent ruling class of its obsession with power will not be easy.  And to restate our position from last week, we do not expect it to happen without a breakdown of some sort happening first.

Still, if you’re looking for a ray of hope, the GOP presidential field actually presents one, hazy though it may be.  Last week, we put our hope for an unlikely recovery of American liberty in the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul.  Today, we think you can add Carly Fiorina to that list.  Her candidacy is a long shot, of course, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t provide a bracing dose of otherwise long-lost republican spirit while she sticks around.

Copyright 2015. The Political Forum. 8563 Senedo Road, Mt. Jackson, Virginia 22842, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.