Thursday, August 30, 2012

The New Conrad Black: On the Stupidity of the Last Four US Administrations

What, one wonders, is the point of blogging when people like the founder of the National Post and the former proprietor of the Daily Telegraph writes stuff like this?

A few months behind bars seem to have done former Canadian Citizen, his Lordship, Conrad Black much good. Other newspaper proprietors would no doubt benefit from the same experience.

By Conrad Black

The Financial Times, August 29, 2012: It is an abiding mystery why the US, after leading the west to the greatest strategic victory in the history of the nation state in the cold war and the triumph of democracy in most of the world, has been for about 15 years, in public policy terms, an almost unrelievedly stupid country. America’s enemies could scarcely have devised a more suicidal programme than the one that was followed: outsourcing nearly 50m jobs while admitting 20m unskilled aliens; throwing American lives and $2tn after nation-building in the Middle East; and inundating the world with trillions of dollars of worthless real estate-backed debt, certified as investment-grade by the palsied lions of Wall Street. In comparison, even the hare-brained miscues that have endangered the eurozone seem Solomonic.

Americans realise their country has been mismanaged by both parties in all branches and levels of government and are frustrated that sweeping out the incumbents has not produced better politicians. This race is between a president most Americans think has done a poor job and a challenger most Americans think is not up to the great office he seeks. The Obama administration has generated almost $20,000 of increased deficit for every man, woman and child in the country, while net employment has declined in the absence of a real economic recovery.

Mr Obama retains some popularity in the world, mainly from those who like American leaders who rail against American capitalism and unilateralism, and don’t mind having America’s pockets picked by foreigners. This fits in with the usual eurohysteria that says all Republicans are knuckle-dragging robber barons and religious zealots. The Republican party is angry but it is generally sensible.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney has faced in all four directions on almost every major issue and has behaved like a consultant whose answer to everything is to assess the data, assemble the experts, deluge the public with platitudes and decide later. To be fair to WMR (Willard Mitt Romney – the initials haven’t caught on like FDR, JFK or LBJ but I have a cultural problem with the possible heir to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln being called Mitt), to succeed in Massachusetts he had to move well to the left of most Republicans (as Nelson Rockefeller did in New York a generation previously). But he has been steadily cutting and trimming his positions as the polls advised him of where his fellow Republicans stood. Unlike the president, he has an impressive CV: governor of an important state, a successful businessman and director of a winter Olympiad that was in difficulties when he took it over.

In the terrible year of 1968, with 200 to 400 draftees coming back in body bags from Vietnam every week, race and anti-war riots all the time and traumatising assassinations, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon all ran for president, and they were all more plausible candidates than the duo on offer this year. The most capable Republicans, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, didn’t seek the nomination; those who did were a ludicrous sequence of imposters, apart from the nominee. A truly dismal election was in prospect until last week.

Until he chose Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee and author of a serious plan to reform entitlements and roll back the deficit, as vice-presidential nominee, Mr Romney was being sabotaged by the Obama campaign’s assault on him as an outsourcing, tax-evading, asset stripper; and by the Democrats’ endless production of “wedge” issues: soak the rich; force the Roman Catholic Church to pay for the contraceptive, abortion-inducing and sterilisation needs of employees and students of Catholic institutions; gay marriage. It was a smokescreen to avoid the real issues: national solvency, uncompetitive education, a very costly and uneven healthcare system, incoherent energy and foreign policies and a rancid, unaffordable and unjust legal system.

The Tea Party does not control the Republicans; the fringes never do in America, despite the constant European fear that Washington will be taken over by lunatics. If anyone is pushing immoderation, it is Mr Obama. The Roman Catholic Church (80m Americans) is taking out television advertisements warning the country about the administration’s authoritarian impulses. The charge is not unfounded and the action is unprecedented. The archbishop of New York, the formidable Timothy Cardinal Dolan, is giving the closing invocation at the Tampa convention.

In choosing Mr Ryan, Mr Romney lifted the campaign from endless Democratic booby traps to issues that discomfort the administration. For the first time in history a vice-presidential selection has changed the tenor of a campaign, though the hysteria of the charges against Mr Ryan as a Catholic Inquisitionist and a harsh minion of the billionaires, from the bed-wetters of Washington’s left is deafening, though nonsense.

If Mr Romney and Mr Ryan can hold Mr Obama’s feet to the fire of his fiscal record and other failings, there could be a real battle for the intelligence, so long ignored, underestimated and disserved, of the voter. If WMR can get an identity at Tampa and keep the focus on real issues, he will have a good chance.

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