Archive for August 10th, 2011

The Next President

August 10, 2011

Michael Ledeen has six qualifications for the next president.

I don’t have a candidate yet, but I do have some traditional requirements.  Most of the time, we elect either state governors or generals who have won wars.  There are good and obvious reasons: We want leaders who have executive experience making difficult decisions, whether on the political or military battlefield, leaders who know how to manage a large and complex enterprise, leaders who have dealt with internal and external criticism, and who have kept together sometimes-fractious teams of advisers, colleagues and subordinates. That’s the overall requirement for me.

Second:  I don’t want someone from business who has no experience in politics or the military;  the worlds are too different, and we don’t have time for the next president to learn the basic rules.

Third:  I don’t want a legislator whose career has been almost exclusively in politics. Congressmen and senators only give speeches. If the speech doesn’t work out too well, they give a different one next time, they rarely pay a meaningful price for getting it wrong. And they don’t have management experience, they’ve never been tested as leaders. The only people they manage are personal (or sometimes committee) staffers, who rarely have the confidence to criticize the boss. But I think  it’s important that our leaders have a good record recruiting and keeping talented staffers. I would have doubts about a candidate whose staff has changed early and often.

Just look at the last two presidents we elevated from the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” the United States Senate:  John F. Kennedy and Barack H. Obama.  Disasters. And Kennedy had some military experience, even. It wasn’t nearly enough. You might be tempted to cite Harry Truman as a case in counterpoint, but he was Veep for a while…

Fourth: I have a strong preference for someone who has failed, learned from failure, and overcome it. One of my heroes is Thomas Edison, whose search for a workable filament for the first electric light bulb produced thousands of failures. He delighted in them, learning from each one. We are fallible; our presidents are going to make mistakes. I want a president who knows that going in, and who is quick to spot his blunder and will look for a better way.

Fifth and closely related to #4:  I don’t want a ditherer, I want a decision-maker. Years ago I asked one of my favorite Americans — a great success in business — how he’d done it. “Well it certainly wasn’t brain power,” he said (he’d had a mediocre college record at a middling school). “The most important thing was to keep making decisions. I knew most of them would be wrong, so I watched for them to fail, and then tried something else.”

Sixth:  I don’t want someone who is obsessed with doing the “right and proper and good thing.” Sometimes there is no good option and the president will have to choose among various poor, and sometimes even evil, options. It’s a legitimate and urgent choice, and I want a president who will make the best choice available. The president has to make some tough decisions.  Sometimes they are terrible decisions. But they have to be made, and only he or she can make them. Like justice, policy delayed is often policy denied. Ask the Syrian and Iranian people about that. Faster, please.

I have just one, that his name not be Barack Hussein Obama.

While I am hanging around Pajamas Media, let me link to Stephan Green aka Vodkapundit,  who has a good reason why Obama is worse than Jimmy Carter.

Obama isn’t just a failed leader. Unlike Carter, the Smartest Man in the Room™ has proven unable or unwilling to learn on the job. Obama can’t recognize mistakes — even though the evidence is as plain as last month’s hideous jobs report. He will continue to demand that reality conform to his theories, no matter what damage he does to this country. He doesn’t doge, he doesn’t weave — he keeps pursuing failure in the face of failure.

Why? I don’t care why. Maybe it’s his ego. Maybe he really believed all those stoned-out-of-his-mind late-night Harvard bull sessions. Maybe he really is trying to drive this country into the ground, for whatever reason. Maybe, Barack Obama is just a dumbass.

A problem for a lot of very smart people is that they think they are smarter than they actually are and do not feel that they have to learn anything from anyone. I do not know if this describes Obama precisely but it’s a possibility. Or, maybe he is not really very smart at all.

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Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

August 10, 2011

Walter Russel Mead is reading the handwriting on the wall. Our leadership all over the world, but especially in the four largest economies; America, Europe, Japan, and China, has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

The world’s leaders have been on trial these last few months. In Europe, a long running currency crisis has tested the commitment of Europeans to the social ideals they so often speak of, and to the community of nations they have worked to build since the 1940s.  TEKEL: weighed in the balance and found wanting.

In China they have been on trial as the accumulating evidence suggests that corruption, incompetence and malfeasance damaged the country’s vaunted high speed rail project and led to the deaths of dozens of passengers.  TEKEL.

In Japan they have been on trial since the tsunami last spring.  Would Japan’s bureaucracy tell the truth to the public?  After a lost generation of stagnation would Japan’s government come up with an effective plan to reconstruct the north and rebuild the country’s economy?  TEKEL.

And in the United States we have a stagnant economy, a mounting debt and no real idea of the way forward.  Would Washington come up with a constructive, future-oriented program to move the economy forward and start the adjustments necessary to prepare us to live within our means – and to grow our means so it wouldn’t be hard?  TEKEL again.

Europe, China, Japan, the United States: the leaders of the world’s four largest economies are nowhere near passing the tests that history has set them.  In all four places the instincts of the politicians are the same: to dissemble, to delay, to disguise and to deny.

But it is not just in financial matters and not just the leaders. It seems that there is a dearth of vision afflicting all of us these days. No one seems to be interested in doing great things, like going to the Moon. Instead our leaders squander our money and promise high speed rails. Mead puts it far better than I ever could.

The challenges the great powers face today run much deeper.  Behind Japan’s economic problems and the pathetic inadequacy of its political leadership is a much deeper question of identity and purpose.  What is Japan’s job in the world; what does Japan have to teach and to suffer and to do?  What is the special contribution that only Japan and the Japanese can make, and how does the country prepare itself for this?  Do thousands of years of Japanese culture and philosophy culminate in a cheap consumer culture and relentless demographic decline?

It is the same thing in Europe.  The financial problems, real and dangerous as they are, proceed from a vacuum in the hearts of the European peoples.  What is it to be a German, a French person, an Italian, a Greek, a Spaniard or a Swiss?  Is it a matter of blood, belief, or of culture?  What duties do the Europeans have to one another and to the world?  When Europeans talk about their decline in the world – and it is worth talking about, since for 100 years Europe has been steadily and sometimes catastrophically in decline – they too often look at questions of imperial power or relative wealth.  But what was extraordinary about Europe 100 and 200 years ago and is largely lost now was never imperial power or economic might.  It is the cultural energy and dynamism that once made Europe the greatest font of creativity and ideas since ancient times.  The art, the music, the philosophy and the science of Europe captured the world.  Now Europe designs very nice shoes, and its Michelin starred restaurants serve quite excellent meals.

Europe’s challenge isn’t to fix the euro or to reform its pensions.  And it is not to make clunkier shoes or less appetizing meals.  Its challenge is to become Europe once more: to be as adventurous, as profound, as creative and yes as dangerous as it once was.  The core European debate should not be over the constitutional provisions of the European Union or the financial arrangements behind the euro, important as those things are.  What matters in Europe is that the younger generation wakes from the materialist, conformist affluence – deep wells of listlessness, anomie and despair concealed under whatever ephemeral cultural fads and fashionable causes drift by.  They must begin to live, to take risks, to dare, to create and to build – and, among other things, that means they (like the other affluent peoples) must start having children again.

China too has bigger fish to fry than high-speed trains.  The convulsive transformation of the biggest society in the history of the world, the sudden rise of enormous wealth cheek by jowl with poverty made worse by the alienation and dangers of urban life: all taking place in a moral vacuum where neither tradition, reason nor culture softens the harshness of oppression and injustice.  This cannot endure; the people of China are struggling blindly for some better way.  Unless China becomes great it cannot live, but by great I do not mean building a blue water navy and winning the fearful awe of its neighbors.  I mean the interior greatness that comes from disciplined talent, ambition harnessed to service, creativity addressed to the task of healing, and strengthening a people still scarred by a century of war, revolution and soul-crushing oppression at the hand of foreigners and fellow countrymen alike.  China has within it the seeds of an excellence and greatness that the world has never seen.  It can become a garden in which all the beauties and aspirations of past millennia can be fulfilled – but that requires a deeper kind of leadership than one fixed on keeping the growth pot boiling lest popular revolt overthrow the regime.

I have written before of the challenges that face us in the United States and will not say more here except that stale quibbling over expense cutbacks that will not significantly reduce the deficits, and reforms that will change very little, is not what we need.  Americans have the opportunity and the duty and the urgent pressing need to move into the future, to do and be more than ever.  The thin rhetoric of a backward looking president, the obstreperous negativism of an opposition better at rejecting what it hates than building or even conceiving what it needs, the lotus-eating educational formation that cuts us off from our past, and the incessant noise of a superficial pop culture: none of this is worthy of America at its best and none of it will help us now.

I wonder, are our days numbered and will we be divided between the Medes and the Persians?

Pay TV Industry Loses Subscribers

August 10, 2011

From Yahoo News. Now we know the economy is bad. Record numbers of people are giving up cable and satellite television.

The weak economy is hitting Americans where they spend a lot of their free time: at the TV set.

They’re canceling or forgoing cable and satellite TV subscriptions in record numbers, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of the companies’ quarterly earnings reports.

The U.S. subscription-TV industry first showed a small net loss of subscribers a year ago. This year, that trickle has turned into a stream. The chief cause appears to be persistently high unemployment and a housing market that has many people living with their parents, reducing the need for a separate cable bill.

We gave up cable and satellite years ago. Considering the quality of almost everything that is on television, there seemed little point in paying for it. I wouldn’t pay for the privilege of crawling around in a dumpster, why should I pay for the garbage that’s on TV?

There is another explanation though, the Internet.

But it’s also possible that people are canceling cable, or never signing up in the first place, because they’re watching cheap Internet video. Such a threat has been hanging over the industry. If that’s the case, viewers can expect more restrictions on online video, as TV companies and Hollywood studios try to make sure that they get paid for what they produce.

I hope not, though I suspect that the entertainment industry will have its way in the end.

Tea Party Terrorists

August 10, 2011

I guess the golden age of civility is over. The latest meme coming from the Democrats is the the Tea Partiers are terrorists and hostage takers who brought the economy to the edge of ruin with their stubborn and unreasonable insistence that the government actually start to balance the budget.

First we have Joe Biden.

Biden, driven by his Democratic allies’ misgivings about the debt-limit deal, responded: “They have acted like terrorists.”

Biden’s office initially declined to comment about what the vice president said inside the closed-door session, but after POLITICO published the remarks, spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.”

He didn’t say it. He only agreed when other Democrats said it.

Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

Considering that we are $14 trillion in debt and rising, I would certainly wish it were impossible to spend any more money.

John Kerry not only thinks Tea Partiers are terrorist but also that the media shouldn’t cover them.

“And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.”

“It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t?”

It’s too bad we don’t have enlightened individuals to decide what should be covered and what shouldn’t. I suppose this would be a lot easier if the government owned all the newspapers and radio and television stations, like in China. I am sure the Chinese aren’t bothered by a lot of coverage of anti-government protests.

What bothers me about this name calling is that these are the same sort of people who wasted no time blaming Sarah Palin for the Tucson shooting, based on a map on her website. Now, what do you do with terrorists and hostage takers? Well, you shoot them. Does that mean that the next time some SEIU thug beats someone up at a Tea Party rally I can blame the Democrats for their intemperate remarks that produce a climate of hate?


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