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August 31, 2008 | 10 Comments

On taking pleasure in the misery of others

Conan the Barbarian was asked “What is best in life.” Arnie’s response: “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

Mike Royko, no conservative and man whose writing I admire deeply, talked of his love of John Wayne, the admiration then as now seen to be an embarrassment among the elite. Royko said that he was standing on the armrests of his chair and hollering encouragement when, in True Grit, one-eyed Wayne faced evil Ned Pepper and two of his henchmen across a glen and yelled “Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch!”

Admiral William “Bull” Halsey said that his life “reached a climax” when the dejected Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the treaty of surrender aboard the battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay 1945.

All of these men, real or approximate, took pleasure in the defeat of their enemies, real or adopted. I was with you Mike. I still jump on the couch when I see Wayne’s shocked look at Pepper’s last taunt (“Pretty bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!”). I admit to feeling part of Halsey’s pride. I can understand the surge of joy when victory is gained over the bad guys. This, after all, has driven the entire career of the Governator.

So are these emotions any different than those espoused by anti-American movie-maker Michael Moore who recently said that because a major hurricane is soon to hit the American coast, there was “proof there is a God in Heaven”?

See, Moore doesn’t want the Republican convention to pass without interruption and he delights in the idea that external events might force a suspension or cancellation in the GOP’s gathering.

Like a lot of his ilk, though, Moore would have his victory at the expense of hundreds or thousands of innocents, something John Wayne or Halsey would never have countenanced. Moore must have figured out his comments were asinine because he later added he hoped “nobody gets hurt” when the hurricane hits. This is nonsense, of course, because it is only the deadly destructive power of the storm that causes it to be of note in the first place. Even if nobody is physically injured, the storm will still cost everybody in its path a packet. Only a fool or an idiot doesn’t realize this. Moore knew what he was wishing for. He knew what would happen.

Moore is a member of the “Victory at Any Cost” club of the left. Whatever has to be said or done in order to gain power is acceptable. Because once in power, these elites reason, all will be put right. Utopia is just around the corner! And nobody or nothing should be allowed to stand in their way.

August 30, 2008 | 52 Comments

The importance of Palin’s experience

Update. I’ve been browsing the blogs to find out about Palin. Most fascinating of all is that fact that everybody is comparing here to Obama and not to Biden. Like I said below, people seem confused about who is actually the presidential candidate. It’s either fear, or people are tacitly admitting Obama’s experience.

Put it this way. Palin and Obama are about the same age (two years difference). Palin has served two years as Governor, Obama two years as Senator. They each had smaller, even similar, jobs before coming to their current one. Obama was an activist and organizer and Palin a city council member and mayor.

Of course, Obama spent about three-quarters of his senatorial service running for president, not actually serving as senator, where the majority of his votes were “NV”, or “No Vote.”

Palin served all of her time as governor, governing. And by all accounts accomplished quite a lot.

By any measure, Palin is better qualified for President than is Obama.

Which is why it is strange the only complaint heard so far against Palin is her “lack of experience” when she has more than Obama (especially on energy and oil).

Don’t forget, too, that we are selecting between McCain and Obama, not Palin and Obama. But you wouldn’t guess that by the commentary so far.

We can ask the Obama camp, why so nervous? I smell fear (I have a large, sensitive nose). Their reaction to Palin is an over-reaction.

Palin might turn out to be less than hoped for, but it’s unlikely. We’ll see when she debates plagiarist Biden.

I was charmed by the way she named her youngest son and impressed by the way she courted Hilary supporters.

August 29, 2008 | 15 Comments

The importance of Commander in Chief

Part II of the leadership comparison of McCain and Obama

How much of the President of the United States’ job has been in the capacity of Commander in Chief?

To start—but in no way to finish—answering this question, consider this (difficult) picture:
Wars of the USA

This charts all major military activity of the USA since its birth in 1776. Only wars and conflicts of importance are included; that is, not every use of military force if plotted. For example, Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan, while vastly influential, is not included. The Boxer Rebellion, because it directly used a minimal number of troops, was of tremendous consequence, and so is presented.

The political parties in power at the times of the conflicts are shaded (red for Republican; blue for Democrat; green for Whig; purple for Democrat-Republican; and yellow for Federalist or none). For example, Democrat presidents presided over the beginning of the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Republican presidents were there for the start of the Civil War, Grenada Invasion and both Gulf Wars.

Different wars and conflicts are colored variously, and the lengths of the activities are shown. There has only been one period in American history without major conflict: from roughly 1819 to 1831. Two men were President during this time: James Monroe (1817-1825) and John Qunicy Adams (1825-1829; both were Democratic-Republicans). Of these two men, only Adams did not govern the White House during a time of major military conflict (Monroe managed wars earlier in his administration).

Thus, of the 43 presidents so far, 42 of them had direct command over significant military events. Obviously, the military is in use even when not engaged with the enemy. Presidents regulate the military strategically and tactically, for example as a deterrent. A current instance is the placement of missile-defense batteries in Poland to annoy Russia. And the military cannot spring into action suddenly without adequate training and support in times of peace, tasks which require significant interaction.

Whether or not any conflict on this list was preventable or abhorrent or necessary or just, all of human history suggests it is rational to believe conflict and wars will happen in the future. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise. All this implies the obvious: the president must have adequate capabilities as Commander in Chief as it is very likely he will have to exercise these duties. The stated desires of the occupant of the White House also do not correlate with the occurrence of conflict.

It is true that only Congress has the power to declare outright war. Therefore, you might argue, the President’s role in warmaking is limited. But it is also only Congress who has the power to pass the budget: they control the purse strings. to be consistent you would also have the say the President’s domestic role is similarly limited.

To say that these powers belong to Congress obviously does not, and has not as history has shown, lessened the powers the President has and will have in guiding policy, both foreign and domestic.

Lastly, Obama’s own view on the subject are seen at the end of this video:

August 28, 2008 | 24 Comments

Comparing McCain’s and Obama’s experience

Don’t forget to see today’s post, which continues this one

Barack Obama served 143 days in the senate and no days in the military before he began his run for president. John McCain served 26 years in the senate and 22 years in the military before he began his campaign. (These numbers are from Roger Kimball’s blog.)

There are some immediate problems with these numbers. The “143 days” came about this way

From the time Barack Obama was sworn in as a United States Senator, to the time he announced he was forming a Presidential exploratory Committee, he logged 143 days of experience in the Senate.

That’s how many days the Senate was actually in session and working.

The one single Senate committee that he headed never even met — once.

After 143 days of work experience, Obama believed he was ready to be Commander In Chief, Leader of the Free World, and fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan.

But during the 26 years McCain was a senator, the upper house was not in session continually, so to be fair we would have to only count the number of days the senate was actually in session over those years. This is unnecessary, because we all know that government and political business does not stop just because the gavel sounds. Therefore, we should give Obama, just as we are giving McCain, full credit for his time in service, which is to say 3.5 years since his swearing in as a senator in January of 2005. He still gets 0 years (or days) for military service. We also have to, since we gave it to Obama, award McCain his extra half year for the first part of 2008.

Let’s put that in table form for easier comparison:

Obama McCain
Senate 3.5 26.5
Military 0 22
Total 3.5 48.5

Which is to say, McCain has about 14 times as much experience as Obama. However, this still isn’t an entirely fair comparison because McCain, who is 26 years older than Obama, has had a greater chance of gaining time on the job. To make the match up commensurable, we have to adjust for age.

Obama has had about 26 years opportunity to gain career knowledge (we don’t count the first 20 years of life for either man). McCain has had 50, or about twice as much time. So let’s redo the table dividing by the total amount of time available, which gives us the fraction of experience to available time. I’ll then multiply by 100 to turn the number into a percentage. We also have to be careful to note that when McCain was serving as a senator, he obviously could not serve in the military, and vice versa. For example, the amount of time McCain could have served in the senate was 50-22=28 years, of which he spent 26.

Obama McCain
Senate 13.5% 92.9%
Military 0% 91.7%
Total 13.5% 96%

The conclusion is that McCain spent nearly all his time in direct training for the position of Commander in Chief, and Obama has spent about a little less than one-seventh of his.

You could argue for the inclusion of Obama’s time spent in other activities, such as the 3.5 years when he served on the eight-person Chicago-based Woods Fund “Poverty” Board with terrorist bomber William Ayers (whose reward for calling for the killing of his fellow Americans was to be made distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago). But most people aren’t anxious to bring attention to this service. However, in the spirit of generosity, let’s award him the full time. That ups Obama’s experience percentage to 27%.

Also, Obama served on the Illinois state legislature, which affirmatively counts as government experience. He served 7 years there, but that time overlapped entirely the time he spent sitting next to, but certainly never approving of or chatting with, radical leftist Ayers. The final table is (remembering again, that when Obama was in the State house, he could not be in the senate, etc.):

Obama McCain
Local 31% 0%
Senate 18.4% 92.9%
Military 0% 91.7%
Total 40% 96%

Thus, even in a generous counting, McCain still has more than twice as much experience as Obama.

This analysis assumes that any government service counts for gaining experience to the position of Commander in Chief, but surely direct military experience should be weighted at least slightly higher. I do not attempt such calculations.

Update. Thanks to LarryA who notes “Senator McCain was sworn into the Senate for the first time on Jan 6, 1987, 21.6 years ago, not 26.5 years ago as stated in the article. He was elected to the House four years before that, but the article is comparing Senate experience.” So the tables above should be changed from “Senate” to “Congress”.