"Ad hate-a-man" argumentation

Nothing is more vital to a healthy body politic than reasoned debate. But that hardly means it is very welcome, as the side with the least defensible argument has the most to lose. The fallacious argument known as "to the man," or "ad hominem," is the most common weapon resorted to when an advocate can’t win an argument on the merits. It attacks a person rather than his argument. In this era of unprincipled politics, ad hominem argument has long since morphed into what I’m calling "ad hate-a-man," or the claim that arguments disliked are really based on hatred of members of groups rather than on any legitimate points. Since races, genders, "lifestyles" and religions distinct from the presumed white, male, Christian majority in America have become privileged, minions of the far left castigate their critics as racist, sexist, homophobic bigots.

Criticism of racial preference schemes, such as affirmative action or racial diversity, in which members of minority races are given the edge in hiring, college admission and contracting, is invariably put down to racism. The initial and wholly defensible goal of the civil rights movement half a century ago was a color-blind society in which merit rather than race was the basis for distributing jobs, schooling and business. But that was abandoned before the ink was dry on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and honored today only by those who oppose racial preference.

Similarly, if anyone suggests that the natural differences between men and women are of more than passing significance, especially where strength, endurance and decency are relevant, they are dismissed as sexists wanting to keep women "barefoot and pregnant." Nor do the interests of women themselves matter very much to advocates of "liberation" if they are so benighted as to prefer marriage and family to a lifelong career in the marketplace.

The most potent form of "ad hate-a-man" currently concerns the homosexual agenda. Routinely, whenever anyone argues that the natural division of the human race into men and women indicates that homosexuality, lesbianism, etc. are not a basis for marriage, it is often the occasion for screaming and, at times, violence. Homosexuals who keep their relations private but do not support "gay marriage" are not uncommonly "outed" for their apostasy.

There was a time, not long ago, when the Judaeo-Christian tradition in America, which combined government neutrality regarding religious denominations with robust Biblical faith among our people, was a solid basis for both good government and good citizenship. As statesmen from George Washington to George Bush emphasized, morality does not exist in a vacuum and, for us, is the beneficent contribution of Biblical faiths.

Nothing symbolized this tradition more than public ceremonies, such as graduations, where pastors, priests and rabbis alternated in the offering of invocations and benedictions. That this is not unconstitutional is attested to by the fact that our Declaration of Independence teaches that our rights as human beings derive from our Creator, Who is referred to as lawgiver, Divine Providence and Supreme Judge of the World.

The Old and New testaments teach a morality based on piety and emphasizing reverence for parents, self control and respect for the rights of others. The American founders did not need to conjure up some "new morality" that was appropriate to life in the new republic. The morality of the Bible was more than sufficient.

Nothing is more central to the practice of that morality than love. Believers are taught that sin, or falling short of the glory of God, is to be avoided and certainly not to be loved. But nothing in that teaching prescribes or even implies hatred for the sinner. Those who insist otherwise are mistaken.

There is much concern about torture, or alleged torture, these days, which may be seen by some as simply being subjected to something they dislike. Would it be torture for those who believe that Christians and Jews are hateful, particularly those who reject abortion and same-sex marriage, to sit through a service and be subjected to all that alleged hatred?

Or would they be shocked to find out that believers are admonished to "judge not, lest [they] be judged?" Indeed, past critics of Christianity feared that its "nonjudgmental" attitude was inconsistent with the requirements of citizenship. But believers have long appreciated the fact that greater freedom of religion exists in this country than in any other and their patriotism runs deep.

All that "hatred" which some profess to see in those who disagree with them exists only in their imaginations.

Prepping McCain for final debate

Tonight is John McCain's last best chance to address the American people. Granted, this will likely be the smallest of the debate audiences, but it will still be substantial -- 50 million plus I would guess. Its far more than any advertising buy will reach, and its a chance for McCain to speak directly to the voters. Its a chance that he has had twice before and largely squandered. If he has any chance of winning, he cannot squander it tonight. But its a tall order for McCain -- who has both been hampered by an inane campaign (Bill Kristol says McCain should "fire" the lot of them), and his unwillingness to go for the jugular against Obama's obvious weaknesses. McCain sees it as beneath his dignity to play "dirty" with Obama -- as if going after the Senator's associations and past are off limits. This is noble in a game of chess, but not when the presidency of the United States is on the line. While McCain sees it as somehow honorable to not bring up the Reverend Wright because it touches on Obama's religion, he is really doing a disservice to the very people he wants to represent as president. As Tony Blankley writes today, McCain's unwillingness to go strongly after Obama and his past is a very critical and relevant issue that most Americans don't know anything about:

During the past few weeks, as I have been traveling extensively across the country, I have yet to find anyone (including a few reporters and producers at local news stations in Florida, California and New York) who has heard of these facts. The response when I recite the facts is always about the same. More or less: "Really? Wow!"

For those who follow politics closely, this may seem shocking. But it really isn't -- a huge part of the population is both uninterested in politics and uninformed. To me it is unreal that people actually are "undecided" up until the time they actually cast their ballot -- but that is because I understand the stark differences between the candidates and follow it closely. But many do not. They don't know ANYTHING about Barack Obama except that he is black, smooth, well-spoken and young -- all things that are, at first glance, attractive. And this is as far as most people get. That's why Obama's whole schtick about "hope and change" and "post-partisanship" had so much traction in the beginning. And even now, people look at Obama and think he represents change and a new style of politics.

But it is all a farce; Obama is a standard-issue liberal with an even more radical left-wing background than probably 95% of those in Washington. He's left of the left in Congress. He's just packaged himself perfectly. As I've written previously this is a great hoodwinking of the American people.

What McCain must say is this: Barack Obama is not like "you and me". He sat in an openly racist, anti-American church for 20 years. He's worked with a domestic terrorist who set-off bombs designed to kill Americans. He has had financial dealings with a known felons. He was the attorney for ACORN in Chicago and his campaign has recently given them $800,000 to register voters -- which they are doing illegally. He needs to make it clear: Barack Obama is a radical, not a mainstream Democrat. He's no Bill Clinton. And he's certainly no Jack Kennedy.

And he must say this as well: the history of one party rule in this country has not been successful. It is a blank check for the party in power to legislate its agenda. And in this case it will be big spending and big tax increases -- never mind what Barack Obama is saying on the campaign trail. If the Democrats are in charge of both branches of government, hang on to your wallet!

That's a message that will resonate with people.

Tax increases aren't popular -- and McCain must make the case that if Obama is president with Pelosi and Harry Reid in charge of the Congress, the country is going to get tax increases like never before. Why? Because Obama's stated tax plan is a lie -- he'll say and do anything to get elected. But once in the Oval Office, "circumstances" will have suddenly changed, and he'll be "forced" to raise taxes on everyone "for the good of the country". Oh, and to pay for his massive health care program and ten-year energy boondoggle.

That's what McCain must say tonight. And he must say it with confidence, warmth and compassion.

Look Obama in the eye and let him have it -- Just the facts, ma'am. In this case, the facts are all he needs.

America needs President McCain

Tuesday night’s town hall debate format between John McCain and Barack Obama was supposed to be advantageous to the Arizona Senator, and perhaps for the first hour or so when domestic economy was the chief topic, it was. But between the Illinois Senator’s clever speaking, "moderator" Tom Brokaw’s unwelcome intrusion with his own questions at the expense of those being asked by the citizens present or from the Internet, and McCain’s own inability to articulate adequately his thoroughly defensible positions, the public interest in sound deliberation was not served. In what follows, I will attempt, from fresh and not-so-fresh memory, to flesh out the issues at stake. Even though McCain staked out a much more credible position on domestic economy than Republicans traditionally have been able to do when public concerns about high prices, tight credit, growing unemployment and fears of massive losses are dominant, he failed to make as clear, as he needed to, that the Democratic party in general and the government-backed mortgage industry in particular are the cause of the current debacle. As my friend Prof. Richard Williams of Glendale Community College recently reminded me, only the United States government has the power to cause a massive economic crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as the quasi-governmental agencies that dominate the housing market are affectionately known, have put into effect Gresham’s Law, or "bad money drives out good."

It begins with federal legislation that permits so-called "subprime" (translation: bad) loans to be made to people who do not qualify because of low income, poor credit history or lack of collateral, or all three. Yet trillions of dollars in such housing loans were made in the name of diversity or increasing opportunities for enjoyment of the American dream, especially to members of racial minorities. When, beginning in 2003, Republicans raised questions in Congress about this impending runaway train wreck, they were stiffed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives by Democrats who not only unwisely supported the financial bubble but were receiving huge campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, chief among them Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Obama, a rising political star and a member in good standing of the Congressional Black Caucus. Cries of racism, designed to intimidate those who raised questions, were thrown at conscientious Republicans, who, in one of history’s greatest ironies–if not one of politics’ greatest deceptions–are now condemned by the Democrats for their failure to regulate Wall Street bankers and investment houses!

Obama recites this claim like litany, hoping that public ignorance will enable him to take advantage of the made-to-order economic distress that promises to deliver him the lofty office which he now seeks. He says that the free market is the culprit, when any fair-minded analysis will demonstrate that the trillion-dollar colossus constituted by Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac is the one. McCain is right to single out greed, but the guilty parties in question are not private investors both caught up in and affected by the much larger transactions of their government-backed competition, but powerful men in the government. When private entrepreneurs make bad investments, they must pay for them. When government "entrepreneurs" make them, the taxpayers are on the hook.

The term sub prime reminds the historically minded of the sub treasury scheme of the Democratic party in its earliest days 170 years ago during the era of Jacksonian democracy. President Andrew Jackson vetoed the charter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832, which helped win him the election by an electorate suspicious of bankers, but which left an unstable financial system to his successor, Martin Van Buren. Whereas the federal government had once invested its surpluses in the National Bank, the absence of that institution led to storage of excess cash in the basement of the Treasury building. There it sat "winking" at officials in charge of safekeeping it, several of whom decided to abscond with funds and flee to foreign countries. As Abraham Lincoln shrewdly observed, the interest of these officials was in conflict with their duty, for they could not make money for anyone from investments so they simply helped themselves to it rather than let it go to waste!

Similarly, current Democratic party hacks presiding over federal mortgage agencies saw a way to profit even as surpluses from a previous administration offered the hope that guarantees for bad loans could be made in an expanding economy. McCain has the duty, as well as the opportunity, to make the case plain to his fellow citizens that the cause of our current credit contraction is not the multitude of decisions made by free people in a free market but by a handful of well-placed profiteers who used governmental power for their own financial aggrandizement. As Franklin Raines and Timothy Johnson walked off with millions of dollars, the nation suddenly found itself on the short end of the stick. The great virtue of republican government is public accountability, precisely what is needed now.

McCain’s taxing and spending policies are the best antidotes to the wild spending spree generated by the Democrats. He proposes to raise no one’s taxes so that private individuals, rather than government-protected financial manipulators, can risk their money in enterprises governed by traditional standards of lending. Lowered tax rates generate more economic activity than higher rates, even as they generate more revenue for the government from the most successful entrepreneurs. Refreshingly, however much he may deplore greed, McCain sees no reason to punish anyone for being successful. Obama professes to be for the "little guy," promising a tax cut for 95 percent of our citizens. That appears to be based on the calculation that those who make $250,000 annually are in the remaining five percent. The large majority, according to Obama, work hard for their money, but those in the top five percent apparently just play with other people’s money.

When McCain was asked at Saddleback Church by Rev. Rick Warren what was his definition of "rich," (the question lurking behind this was, who gets taxed the most) he jokingly said "$5 million." Democrats saw this as more evidence that Republicans simply want to avoid taxation. But more likely McCain was signaling that the definition of wealth is not, and cannot be, static, and there’s nothing shameful about success in business. All the more reason to regard with suspicion Obama’s fixation on a quarter of a million dollars as the indicator of taxable wealth.

To maintain that the moment an American grosses $250,000 through long hours, hard decisions, high costs of doing business, in an unpredictable marketplace he becomes "rich," is both absurd and unjust. Thus far and no farther? Be successful but not too successful? Don’t make the transition from small business to big business or else we have license to commandeer as much of your income as we decree? We Americans have every right to ask, Why should we strive to provide an increasing amount of goods or services when our reward is to be treated like an enemy of the people?

Under all "progressive" income tax schemes, at least one of the two things happens. Either people rein in their dreams and settle for less than they are capable of, or they examine tax laws carefully for legal ways to avoid paying taxes. McCain is right therefore to prefer taxing and spending policies that reward rather than punish entrepreneurship, and Obama is wrong to flatter the prejudices of those who covet the wealth and resent the success of merchants, bankers and investors. Worse, Obama is discouraging the very virtues that have made America the most prosperous nation on earth. Government has an important function to protect all of us in a fairly regulated marketplace. But government cannot of itself generate prosperity. It can only facilitate it by low taxing and spending

Early Debate Returns: Bad for McCain

I watched the debate tonight with growing frustration at John McCain's failure to attack Obama squarely on his confiscatory economic policies. I've finally come to the conclusion that John McCain is unable (or unwilling) to promote the kind of conservative economic message that I think much of this country is wanting to hear.  Instead, he's splitting hairs with Barack Obama on the economy -- and losing in the process. I'm always interested in the views of Steven Hayes at the Weekly Standard -- he's a smart, reasonable writer who I read frequently.  His review of the debate is that Obama won. Here's part of what he had to say:

"John McCain had a very strong debate tonight. It’s too bad for him that it came on a night when Barack Obama was nearly flawless.

The debate began with questions on the economy and for thirty minutes Obama answered those questions with the kind of substance that I suspect anxious voters wanted to hear and with exactly the right tone – empathic, aggravated and determined. Most important, he spoke to voters in their own language. In his first answer, in response to a question about things the government can do to help average Americans through these tough economic times, Obama spoke of a $400,000 junket that AIG executives took after the government bailed them out. “Treasury should get that money back,” he said, “and those executives should be fired.” Sure, a little demagoguery. But it’s exactly the kind of story – in a debate that included back-and-forth accusations and lots of statistics – that voters will remember and talk about tomorrow with their neighbors.

McCain took that first question and he turned immediately to energy. “Americans are angry, they’re upset and they’re a little fearful. And it’s our job to fix the problem. Now, I have a plan to fix this problem and it’s got to do with energy independence.  It didn’t work. Two months ago, when gas prices were nearing $5 and the cost of oil dominated the headlines, the McCain campaign deftly used anxieties about energy as a proxy for anxieties about the economy. So when McCain proposed to lift the ban on offshore drilling, voters responded positively and the polling reflected their enthusiasm."

This is what I was afraid of: McCain being unable to clearly articulate why Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress is a danger to our economy. The reflexive return of McCain and Palin to the energy issue is a comfort zone and understandable -- but not good enough in this economy. McCain seems unable to explain to the American people that Obama's tax policies and his liberal record will be a poison pill to an economy that needs liquidity. It needs low taxes to fuel growth -- something that simply isn't possible with Obama's tax-and-spend plan.

Even worse, McCain's populist instincts are taking him down the wrong path. Rather than returning to a free-market solution to what should be a free market problem, his instinct is to increase regulation and government control -- exactly what Obama and the Democrats want to do. He again misses a chance at differentiation. Here's Hayes again:

"But while energy issues remain important and cannot be separated from the broader economic picture, the convulsions in world markets over the past two weeks and the need for a $700 billion federal bailout have rendered worries about gas prices and energy independence to second-tier status. It’s not that these issues don’t matter, it’s just that they matter less now than they did over the summer. He later broadened his answer to include spending, tax cuts and his jaw-dropping plan to have the federal government buy up “the bad home loan mortgages in America” to “let people make those payments and stay in their homes.” So bigger government is bad, quasi-governmental entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “ignited” the current economic crisis, too much government spending is leaving us broke and we want the U.S. Treasury to renegotiate individual home mortgages? Seriously? No thanks."

No thanks is right. The correct and powerful answer here is to reignite the economy through lower taxes to stimulate jobs and growth so people can pay their mortgages -- NOT to have the government take over that role. This mess in the housing market is partly an issue of personal behavior -- not simply predatory lending. I, for one, am not interested in my tax dollars going to bail out people who made bad decisions. I think many Americans would agree with that. Unfortunately, McCain's instincts don't lead him down that path. He's still in the "Wall Street greed" mode.

I hate to throw in the towel here, is now clear that the issues that many conservatives have with McCain are legitimate and real. That despite his great personal story, his maverick personality often betrays a message that would greatly appeal to a great swath of America. He's actually give people less of a choice by co-opting the position of Obama on so many issues.

My guess is that the polls are not going to be good for McCain after this performance tonight. In a debate where he really needed to help himself, I'm afraid he's come up short.

We'll see.

Biden's dubious 'expertise'

For a supposed foreign policy guru with 35 years of senatorial experience, Joe Biden embarrassed himself in the Vice Presidential debate with a startling number of gaffes, misstatements, errors, and out-and-out falsehoods. Or maybe Joe’s just a proponent of the school of “you can fool all of the people some of the time…”

Biden’s statement that “Pakistani missiles threaten Israel and the Mediterranean basin” was just plain ludicrous. Given that Pakistan IS a nuclear power, and does have missile technology – the potential threat is pretty much limited to their immediate neighbors, India and China. Pakistan does NOT have the reach to threaten the entire wider region – Biden displays a startling ignorance on a critical issue. But don’t take my word for it – look it up yourself.

Likewise, his contention that the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has stated that the “surge philosophy” would not work in Afghanistan is just flat wrong. General McKiernan (yeah, Palin goofed on the name; but so did Biden) has in fact called for both more troops, and expanded non-military activity (construction, infrastructure expansion, and various economic development and educational programs). Sounds kinda like a surge, eh?

Biden is trying to parse words here, rather than focus on the issue (sound familiar?). Palin got the basic thrust here correct – “The counterinsurgency strategy going into Afghanistan, clearing, holding, rebuilding, the civil society and the infrastructure can work in Afghanistan.”

Here’s McKiernan according to the New York Times:

The top American military commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that he needs more troops and other aid ''as quickly as possible'' in a counter-insurgency battle that could get worse before it gets better.

Gen. David McKiernan said it's not just a question of troops — but more economic aid and more political aid as well.

''The additional military capabilities that have been asked for are needed as quickly as possible,'' he said.

Continuing on the area of Afghanistan: Joe Biden further characterized the strategy in Afghanistan over the last six years as a strictly military approach, that was doomed to fail. This displays either shocking ignorance or willful mischaracterization of what has actually been happening in Afghanistan.

Having served over there, I can speak from personal experience on this one: the U.S. military has had a broad-based approach in Afghanistan, including constructing infrastructure (roads, mine-clearing), building schools and training teachers, and training the Afghan military from a VERY early date. ( My experience covers the period Sep 02 – Apr 03, during which time ALL of these initiatives and activities were in effect). The first multi-disciplinary Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) were formed and deployed in early 2003; I saw this firsthand.

Joe Biden is either ignorant or lying on this point; neither bodes well for his foreign policy "expertise".