I tried to explain why I'm voting for Romney, but it wasn't really sufficient because it was more about why I'm not supporting Obama any longer -- he -- and more importantly, his supporters and comrades in office -- have lurched too far to the left. I don't usually blog on national politics, and I especially hate discussing them with people in Second Life with wildly variable degrees of knowledge, education and experience which you can't see in the anonymous virtual world. That's a strength and weakness of virtuality, but I don't expect to convince anyone in that shrill and raucous echo chamber. Rather, I merely seek to do my own thinking, find like-minded, and maybe, over their shoulders, reach somebody undecided.
The revelation of the "47%" tape by Mother Jones' Washington correspondent David Corn has the blogosphere roiling, but other news still percolates through -- 6 million people will have to pay fines of something like $1200 or more a year if they don't accept the coercion of Obama care, and a majority of people are unhappy with Obama's foreign policy. I'll say -- when our ambassador and diplomats are killed abroad!
I remember attending socialist meetings with David Corn 30 years ago (!), we were acquaintances long ago. Now we're both middle-aged and grey. I've always thought that he was an accomplished writer and journalist though his politics have always been too leftward for me. We used to have more in common, like concern for Poland's Solidarity and nuclear missile deployments in Europe. Today, I look at his piece and I frown -- it doesn't seem like journalism to me, but op research, that frenzied industry both parties pay for to discredit each other.
It starts -- like so many things these days -- with a Youtube snippet. The POV of the snippet is from behind the water carafe with caterers moving to and fro clanking dishes -- suggesting that it was filmed by one of the wait staff. (AP thinks it's the bartender, but the waiters could have planted it behind the water). The fund-raisers were all sitting at the table, and it's unlikely any of them would go all the way to the back of the room to set up a hidden camera -- but who knows. It's odd. Of all people, Jimmy Carter's grandson (!), James Carter IV, who is unemployed and apparently living off family wealth, found the snippet because he constantly trawls for stuff that could help the Democratic Party, to which he is fervently devoted. He then digs up the source -- not sure how, probably Googling and IRC channeling a lot or something. Finally, the reluctant source talks and eventually he gets him to give the whole tape to David Corn, who is in a race with MSNBC for it, as they've gotten on to it.
None of this has been covered critically except by Breitbart, but in Breitbart's hands, there's just too much chortling about how the left has suddenly endorsed hidden tapes, when they didn't like it when Bretibart did it, and too much of the sort of dark woven narrative you find on the right-wing sites. Fleep asked me if I endorsed what some American Spectator piece said. It was written in that same over-the-top dark narrative style seeing plots and malevolence everywhere. No, it doesn't resonate with me. Yes, some of it is persuasive. I get the Nation *and* Breitbart every day in my email box so I can compare and *think*. You know, like you all should be doing?
There are a lot of questions to ask about this film.The first thing I noticed is that Romney, a first-time presidential candidate, seems to make a lot of uses of percentages as a kind of rhetorical device -- "95 percent of life" is being born in America he says, and notes other percentages as you can see in the transcript.
But the big question is this, to the film-maker and others in the chain long before it got to Corn: You had it in May, guys. Why did you wait this long? Were you engaging in political activism to throw the election at a crucial time? Or really doing journalism here? It's original producer used it to bang on Romney over Bain's plant in China. Yet Bain had nothing to hide there, told the story honestly, and said honestly that the workers would rather be there, even under those conditions, than be worse off. Unless you want higher prices for your i-phones and other toys, kids, what's your solution?
Frustratingly, some of the tape is missing -- right at the mark about the 47%. I dont' think that Corn cut it out (Breitbart does) nor even James the IV. Did the original film-maker cut it? Quite possibly, for any number of reasons. He -- or she, and much more likely she as the wait staff in the film are females -- could have actually been *bored* when Romney began talking about what later became a sensation and forgot to change the tape. But wait. For a speech like this, you wouldn't risk a 30-minute cassette, you'd put in a 60 minute cassette. Or wait again. Casettes? Those are so 1990s. A digital tape recorder wouldn't need changing, and that's what you'd need to be able to upload to Youtube. So why is it missing? Likely it was cut, because it may have exonerated Romney, or at least put it into context. His response was not to duck and hide but to say "maybe it could have been more elegant," but for all of it to be put up. It wasn't, and likely won't be -- or is being saved for the October Surprise. But all in all, this entire strange social media operation with so many links in the chain is the sort of collectivized and dumbed-down journalism that new media in fact delivers, even to skilled hands. It's just not the Deep Throat story that one would expect to really be significant. And it won't be.
Romney is not ashamed, no. And I don't see what the big deal is. Yes, half the country voted for Gore, and half for Bush, and yes, the country is split and will be split again. And that split indeed does revolve on the faith question of whether you believe in redistributive economy or you believe in the generative economy -- full stop. Socialism or capitalism -- truly, that's what it's about. You cannot hide it. Timothy Noah tries to hide it. The "progressives" always do, because they know what a stigma rightly attaches to the s-word. Too bad. Noah can't face the end game of redistribution -- exhaustion of resources. The Soviet Union could tell you this. Without generative entities in the economy, there's nothing for the socialists even to get their paws on to redistribute. That's why socialism always leads to crime and corruption and collapse. Everyone in America knows this, even if everyone in Europe or Latin America doesn't.
All Romney did was call it correctly. He didn't call this percentage lazy, parasitic, moochers, blood-suckers, or anything of the sort luridly claimed in the liberal media. He just said they wouldn't vote for him because they were dependent -- and we are! -- and he had to target the swing votes among independents or disenchanted Democrats. And he does.
So lets look at foreign policy, which is paramount about why I'm switching my vote:
Iran is an authoritarian murderous state killing its own people and its emigres abroad as well as foreigners; it supports terrorism and violence in its region and around the world. It sharply contrasts with Israel, a democratic liberal state under the rule of law. In Iran, a few mullahs decide nuclear policy, much like Stalin and Beria. In Israel, there are powerful constituencies opposing any pre-emptive move. Israel having the bomb, surrounded by murderous, violent Arab states that attack it and undermine it constantly, isn't destablizing -- those Arab states' violence and extremism are. Iran having the bomb is scary for everybody. They might bomb Israel -- they might also -- or instead -- bomb countries in Central Asia with American presences, like Turkmenistan or Kyrgyzstan -- they might do anything. They are unpredictable and uncooperative -- the entire world community, even the third-worlders who hate America -- haven't gotten them to cooperate. Russia sort of tried for a time, even, although not really, under Medvedev -- now they are actively back to supporting their long-time fellow authoritarian ally.
Obama's "no conditions" approach to Iran, complete with a Novruz video tape greeting and largely silence on the crackdown on the democracy demonstrators, didn't work. It barely got our hikers out. Nothing works. The sanctions didn't work. Endless UN interventions don't work.
So I'm with Ed Koch, the quintessential Democratic New York mayor, who said the other day at a Jewish holiday talk at a synogogue that the US has to say that they have Israel's back. They have to say that if Iran bombs Israel, the US will bomb Iran.
Note what this is about. It's not about saying "let's all pre-emptively bomb Iran just in case". Or "let's bomb Iran just because we bomb things" (which is how the usual ignorant forums' lout describes it). It's "let's let Iran know its bad behaviour has consequences".
Romney hasn't exactly articulated the Koch position. But he's for taking a strong stand on Iran. And we need to, as they are bad in and of themselves, a threat to their people, a threat to Israel, and a fueler of conflict all over the place with support of terrorism. The only credible deterrent is to say IF they bomb Israel (or for that matter, anything), we will bomb them. I have no idea what the throw-weights and ballistics are on that, and obviously one reason the US wants installations in Europe is to repel Iranian missile attacks should it come to an exchange of that nature.
But saying that if Iran behaves badly, we will retaliate and treat an attack on Israel as an attack on the US, Israel's key ally, is a verbal and moral position. It requires no installation of anything. It just requires determination. And it needs to be done. Iran has to be contained and deterred because it's a threat to international peace and security. The UN can't cope with the double veto in practice more than ever before from Russia and China.
Obama will never say anything like this -- instead, his Administration has been busy helping Iran, consciously or passively. First, there was the theft of a contractor's laptop with the president's helicopter plans on it (!). There was -- as I said -- the silence around the elections and the endless quiet diplomacy. There was insufficient clarity to Israel. Then there was leaking of the Stuxnet story. That was sure imprudent. If you're going to attack another country's computer systems -- which, BTW, I'm not for doing, and I think we need to start a treaty against this -- then you shouldn't announce it. It got leaked, and not as a form of deterrence. Then there was yet another strange leak -- a claim that Israel and Azerbaijan were conspiring for Israel to put a base on Azerbaijan to help it make that strike on Iran, next door to Azerbaijan. I felt that was really odd, because Azerbaijan would never put in jeopardy one fourth of the population of Iran -- the Azeris of Iran -- who would suffer retaliation (and already do). They wouldn't get involved. And there's a problem if you study the flight patterns. Really, Israel is going on this bomb run over that much distance out of a foreign country? It didn't seem viable. And the story may have been fake, or only some think-tank hypothesis. But it was deliberately leaked by Obama-ites -- the White House is like a sieve -- to force the president's hand -- his own constantly tug him to the anti-Israel left -- or he himself ensured it was leaked, who knows...
Now, what if Israel says that they will unilaterally bomb Iran whenever they think its nuclear capacity is dangerous enough, to pre-empt it? Well, they may mutter this or even scold with this at times, but it's a function of another vacuum: ours. Once we say to the world, "Iran, if you bomb Israel, we bomb you," we fix that problem for Israel of uneasiness about what we might do and where our courage might wilt. And it's a deterrence, a credible once, and once it's in place, Israel will feel less need for pre-emptive bombing. In any event, the pressure that will need to be put on the parts of this equation belong overwhelmingly on Iran, not Israel.
So to gain progress, clarity, and effectiveness on Iran, we can't vote for Obama. And Iran is really our biggest problem because of the nuclear element and the murderous nature of this regime -- they already help attack our troops everywhere, as they did in Iraq for years and even in Afghanistan.
I've written about Russia extensively on my Minding Russia blog and how awful the Obama Administration has been in every way. In short, we have to simply concede that Russia has made us our enemy, admit -- as Romney has handsomely done already -- that Russia is our enemy, and resume the Cold War -- which was a good thing. Cold is what you need to be with murderous regimes -- and Russia has supported the worst mass murder in our time by backing the Syria regime with $1 billion in arms. We need to retire the Jackson-Vanik application (not the law itself, which is still relevant) because we need to follow the rule of law ourselves, but then we have to pass the Magnitsky Act which will be at least some hedge to impunity by sanctioning officials directly involved in the death of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in detention in a trumped-up case, and others like him.
Obama is personally opposed to the Magnitsky Act because it doesn't fit with his very long-held socialist politics that always see something faintly "progressive" about this "enemy of my enemy who is my friend". He also thinks there's something "statesmanlike" about getting along with Russia pragmatically. Baloney. Russia is an enemy. It has not made once concession to the US in endless talks and yet Obama -- outrageously -- adopted a position that in fact was a staple of Soviet propaganda circa 1982 in the Andropov era, when Obama was cutting his teeth at the Socialist Scholars Conference (which I also attended). That propagandistic fake claim was about "no first use of nuclear weapons". Easy to say for the Soviets when they had tank superiority in Europe. There's no objective need for the US to adopt this old Soviet chesnut and deprive itself of deterrence. It serves no value in peace talks as the Russians aren't cooperative. They are our enemies. That means a Cold War. A cold war is better than proxy wars or hot wars.
I certainly don't cry for USAID, and I call for the US to remove RT employee visas in the US because they in fact serve the function that the Kremlin imagines USAID served -- aiding and abetting the opponents of the US government, including Julian Assange, who is paid by this Kremlin TV station to run a talk show, featuring terrorists like Hezbollah.
What about Afghanistan, which Romney didn't even mention? Well, that's unfortunate but it doesn't mean he doesn't somehow support the troops there. Obama is supposedly bringing them home -- possibly for when he's no longer there. Romney might keep them there. I don't see that the way they've been there, they should be kept there, and I don't see any reason to stop the withdrawal. This is a longer discussion about how America needs to have a Cold War against Islamism and become smart about how to defeat it everywhere with means other than war. People think Cold Wars are evil and drain resources and cause extermism and blah blah. I might have been persuaded more of this in my youth -- no longer. Compare and contrast how much was spent under Reagan and Carter and the rest on the Cold War, and how much we've spent on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya -- and most importantly, compare the number of people who died. And don't just look at the Vietnam War period in isolation, compare the different periods -- detente, Reagan, etc. -- and see really what's involved.
We put extraordinarily dedicated, talented, and credentialed people like Ambassador Stevens into the field -- and they either fail or are killed. I feel this is because we have started from a premise that terrorists had unhappy childhoods, and if we can just open up more hospitals or reach more hearts and minds with farming or education programs, they will like us. Maybe some will, but we will always remain surrounded by those whose minds are crystallized, as Joseph Conrad character said in Heart of Darkness, "like a diamond". That means a Cold War against Islamist fundamentalism. And if we have four more years of Obama, that means further weakness and a Cold War coming *anyway*. The Democrats would do better to prepare their own Cold War Democrat in the coming four years. They will need him.
P.S. A comment in response to Luna Bliss, who is weeping in the comments that are now getting buried from view in the previous post. The case of the murder of the gay man Matthew Shepherd is indeed tragic. But it happend in 1998 under Bill Clinton's second term. So it's not about presidential politics. This gay man was murdered on Clinton's watch, although he did nothing hostile to gays whatsoever. Your notion that a Romney administration would mean the death of gays is unsupported. It's just ranting and raving. Also, please find a case of a teenager who has died in a back-alley abortion that dates from recent times, and not, oh, the 1960s. Again, get a grip. All of you, wherever you are in America, can have sex when you want, with whom you want, with or without birth control, and can seek timely abortions afterward. So no edge-casing and fear-mongering, please, it's irrelevant.
Below is the section on the notorious tape about foreign policy. And I have to say I agree with it, as a restorative of balance to undo the damage of Obama and even Bush. I agree with just about everything in it, although I'm not sure that expanded military might is necessarily the answer -- I think it really is more about rhetoric, law, actions at the UN, legislation at home, and a sturdy Cold War program of everything from language training to circumvention technology and assistant to dissidents.
I'll give the specifics about Iran, and then maybe talk more broadly about foreign policy. The specific on Iran is that we should have put in place crippling sanctions at the beginning of the president's term. We did not. He will say, "Yes, but Russian wouldn't go along with us." Well, he gave Russia their No. 1 foreign objective: For a decade, all they've cared about is getting the missile defense sites out of Poland, and he gave them that and got nothing in return. He could have—I presume—gotten them to agree to crippling sanctions on Iran. He did not, which is in my opinion, one of the greatest foreign policy errors of the modern time. And by the way, if he could not have gotten that from Russia, he should have kept the missile defense sites in Poland, just to keep a bargaining chip on table. I mean, put nothing in if he wants—I would have kept them, I wouldn't have traded them away, but that's where he was.
No. 2, we should have been aggressively supporting the voices of dissent in Iran, and when there was an effort towards revolution there we should been aggressively supporting. And finally we should have made it clear, at least by now, that we have military plans to potentially remove their nuclear capabilities. That doesn't mean we actually pull the trigger, but it means we communicate to them that we're ready to do so. And that it is unacceptable to America to have a nuclear Iran. Instead what this administration has done is communicate to the Iranians that we're more worried about Israel attacking them than we are about them becoming nuclear. It's extraordinary. So those are some thoughts directly at Iran.
I'll step back on foreign policy: The president's foreign policy, in my opinion, is formed in part by a perception that he has that his magnetism and his charm and his persuasiveness is so compelling that he can sit down with people like Putin, Chávez, and Ahmadinejad. And that they'll find we're such wonderful people that they'll go on with us. And they'll stop doing bad things. And it's an extraordinarily naive perception, and it has led to huge errors in North Korea, in Iraq, obviously in Iran, in Egypt, around the world. My own view is that that the centerpiece of American foreign policy has to be strength. Everything I do will be calculated to increasing America's strength. When you stand by your allies, you increase your strength. When you attack your allies, you become weaker. When you stand by your principles, you get stronger. When you have a big military—that's bigger than anyone else's—you're stronger. [Unintelligible.] When you have a strong economy, you build America's strength. For me, everything is about strength and communicating to people what is and is not acceptable. It's speaking softly but carrying a very, very, very big stick. And this president instead speaks loudly and carries a tiny stick. And that is, you know, that's not the right course for a foreign policy. I saw Dr. Kissinger in New York—you're not eating! [Audience laughs.]
Audience member: I'm mesmerized! [unintelligible]Romney: He's bored to tears. [Audience laughs.] I saw Dr. Kissinger; I said to him, "How are we perceived around the world?" And he said, "One word: VEAK!" [Audience laughs.] We are weak, and that's how this president is perceived, by our friends and, unfortunately, by our foes. And it's no wonder that people like Kim Jong Un, the new leader of North Korea, announces a long-range missile test only a week after he said he wouldn't. Because, it's like, what's this president going to do about it?