Legal Challenges to Health Insurance Reform

The prospects for success in the courts are certainly slim and the plaintiff's are surely as motivated by electoral politics as by concern for constitutional integrity, but on the whole I think these lawsuits serve a valid and valuable educational function.

As a civics educator the past year watching the tortured path of health insurance reform has been fantastic for students of government and politics. Real time legislative maneuvering beats textbooks and case studies every time. The next chapter in this real life saga will be judicial and will do doubt enliven and illuminate my efforts to demonstrate both the importance of seemingly arcane rules and procedures and to show the vital connections between aspects of government and policy making that students too often consider in isolation.

I would encourage supporters of the several legal challenges to tout the educational value of their efforts along with their political arguments. That would give them at least one uncontroversial motive.


The Tortoise and the Hare

Do you remember the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? I think the Obama Administration may have been counting on the lesson of The Tortoise and the Hare over the last 13 months or so. The question now may be whether the Republicans still need some extra help after class.


Principles and Consequences

Recently Stanley Fish wrote a column on the Supreme Court decision in F.E.C. v. United Citizens . In it he explained very clearly the difference in the arguments of the Court's liberal minority and conservative majority. The conservative majority, Fish explained, made a "principled" argument, while the liberals relied on a "consequentialist" approach. These two approaches are often present in left/right debates in the political arena as well. Health insurance reform provides a clear example of a debate between left and right to which the principled-consequentialist theoretical framework can be applied productively to sort through the complexity, confusion, and intensity of the clashing rhetoric.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Is the Right right?

The intensity and venom coming from conservative opponents of health insurance reform is so great that we simply must examine the conservative argument to find out how so many folks could be so adamant and resistant to compromise.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


The Dangers of Profitable Rage

The rhetoric that has dominated the year long effort to stop health care reform has ranged from ridiculous to very frightening. The "Tea Partiers" who yelled obscenities and spit on Members of Congress who support health care reform yesterday, reportedly calling several black Congressmen "niggers," ought to scare every reasonable American. The striking contrast between a legislative debate that is truly moderate over a bill filled with formerly Republican proposals, and the hyperbolic rhetoric of opponents is surreal. The bill is far from the comprehensive reform sought by progressives.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Political Argument versus Political Antagonism

This week, I will be trying to put together a whole lot of research, past writings, and new data for a conference paper/ presentation next month on civic knowledge, civility, and partisanship. My fascination with the intersection of personal opinions, styles of intercommunication, and political partisanship is stoked daily by the constant fixation of 24/7 radio & TV with "politics" programming, as well as the seemingly massive "new" media infrastructure built around political research and/or activism. I have regularly monitored and participated in political debate on the internet, both in my own social networks (like facebook) and in various interactive internet formats. The free three-month subscription to satellite radio that accompanied my recently purchased new car has pushed me even further into this strange world of hyper-politics.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Extremism and Lazy Thinking

Political extremism may not be a vice “in the defense of liberty,” but in most cases it is both cause and consequence of lazy thinking. Even brilliant ideologues, whose conclusions have been honed by a lifetime of scholarship and experience, often come to a place where the scholarly imperative of regularly questioning assumptions (however long held) is logistically impractical, if not impossible, in routine discourse. In fact, the reification of long held principles is probably inescapable given the limitations of human rationality.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Breaking News- "Ideas Matter" Blog is now accepting Reader comments!

From now on the millions of faithful "Ideas Matter" readers can contribute directly to the blog with comments, questions, and insights of their own.


Earmarks: good process, bad politics?

Are all "earmarks" corrupt? A recent New York Times article describes the House Democrats' plan to end "earmarks" to particular companies (i.e. no bid contracts). The article says that Republicans are calling for the end of "ALL" earmarks. Are they trying to seem more anti-corruption? Are they trying to stop earmarks that liberals are more likely to seek? Or, are they hoping to save some corporate earmarks by threatening non-corporate earmarks? My initial sense is that all three of these motives are afoot among both the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress on this issue.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Hand holding or arm wrestling?

President Obama was elected on an inspiring message of hope and change. The content of these wonderful things was left to the eye of the beholder. That’s how it’s done, and Obama did it very well. In his first year in office he has indeed changed things. He has steered a very moderate policy course and tried very hard to exemplify what he calls “post partisanship.” He has tried to live up to a rhetorical claim that everyone makes but no one seriously tries to fulfill, namely putting partisanship aside and trying to solve big problems by consensus. This was both a political and a policy mistake! He thought that the American people really did want bipartisan cooperation and compromised policy responses to serious problems, something Americans only claim when confronted with the false choice of gridlock or unprincipled compromise.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Civility versus Substance?

In a recent Washington Post op-ed UVA professor Garard Alexander asks; Why are liberals so condescending? His complaints about liberal intellectual condescension were not unreasonable. In fact, as a liberal who tries to avoid intellectual incompetence and condescension in public dialogue [ironically efforts to avoid of one sometimes lead to the other], I found myself nodding in agreement with much of Alexander's claims. The problem is that after reading the column one is left with what seems to liberals like a plausible answer to his query - because conservatives are stupid. Sadly, Alexander presents no argument or evidence to the contrary.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Longmeadow ain't what it used to be

Longmeadow became an upscale community with an exceptionally high quality of life because of its residents’ shared values, among them shared (participatory) governance and shared interests (economic and otherwise). The notion of “commonwealth” was deeply engrained in the people, institutions, and ethos of this place. The persistence of our participatory form of government (Town Meeting) serves as an institutional reminder of the Tocquevillian notions of citizenship and community that survived largely unchallenged in Longmeadow until at least the early 1980s.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Taking Stock in the Aftermath of Defeat

All political debates whether in elections or in governance are translated by the participants into an “us” versus “them” contest. The trick is to make the “us” bigger than the “them.” Even though a lot of college kids take poli sci to avoid math, the reality is that politics in a democracy is really about division and that is as it should be. The only time everyone in a democracy should be united is when everybody in a democracy has the very same interests and principles at stake. In other words, total unity in a democracy is only reasonable in the face of a real existential threat, or on questions with little or nothing at stake (i.e. should we go to war, or should we designate January “neuter your pet” month?). The rest of the time, which is most of the time, calls for national unity are at best an unintentional affront to the principles of individual rights and popular sovereignty.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


The "Scott" Heard Round the World

It’s January 20, 2010, one year to the day after Americans made history by electing Democrat Barack Obama President of the United States and just 17 hours (or so) after Massachusetts voters sent a very surprising and stern warning to President Obama by electing Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate seat occupied by liberal icon Ted Kennedy for more than four decades. I went to bed last night as a sad Democrat. I woke up this morning, still a sad Democrat. As I made the 40 minute commute to the office this morning I slowly went from just a sad Democrat to a sad Democrat and a very exited political science professor, who by a wonderful coincidence is teaching a course on American public opinion this semester.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Public Opinion Reality Check

Public opinion polls are only useful if read properly. The claims about Americans turning away from the Democratic healthcare reform bills are perfectly accurate, as far as I can tell. It is clearly true that many Americans who once supported the President on Healthcare reform are now unhappy about his approach.

Unfortunately for the opponents of reform, some of these same polls reveal that there is as much (or more) dissatisfaction with the present state of the reform legislation on the left as on the right. This means that the American public remains solidly in favor of liberal health care reform by a 2 to 1 margin, according to the latest CBS News Poll. The problem with media analysis of polls on healthcare reform is that it often doesn't clearly distinguish between those who oppose the present reform from the left and those who oppose it from the right, which creates a false positive of sorts for conservative opponents to reform.

The latest CBS Poll does make this distinction clear in the data, but not in the accompanying CBS news analysis, which is deceptively (but provocatively) titled "Obama Healthcare Marks Hit New Low." In fact, this accompanying analysis describes Americans as "divided" on whether the present reform package goes too far or not far enough. While technically accurate, this interpretation masks the reality that the percentage of respondents who said the reforms are either just right or don't go far enough in regulating the health insurance industry is 61% compared to just 27% who oppose it from the right (i.e. believing that reforms go too far). That's more than a two to one advantage for at least the weaker Senate bill.

The White House's apparently lack luster defense of the most liberal elements of the healthcare reform package may indicate that the Administration reads polls properly and understands that despite the headlines to the contrary, a solid majority of Americans support liberal healthcare reform. After more than six months of relentless attacks and millions of anti-reform dollars spent on turning Americans against liberal reform, the data that is apparently too complicated for the mass media to report reveals a much more accurate picture of what Americans think about healthcare reform.


Public Opinion; When does it matter?

The standing of American presidents in the polls has long been an every-day story in the national press. As the numbers creep up or down hand wringing about the loss or gain of influence fills the op-ed pages and the cable news airwaves. That a president's approval ratings impact his capacity to lead is clear, the nature and degree of this impact, however, is not. President George W. Bush recorded many of his policy victories while his poll numbers were subterranean, and President Obama's approach to his policy agenda seems anything but responsive to the polls. What's going on here? What has changed that would reduce the need for president's to jealously guard their public approval numbers?

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


The Intentions of the Founders

I recently heard Glenn Beck praising the recent uptick in popular interest in the political thought of America's founding generation of statesmen, marking one of the few times I agreed with him. Increased interest in understanding the ideas, motivations, and arguments of the men who designed our constitutional system is a very good thing, though I'm not sure it will work out very well for the Glenn Beck's of the world.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Mediscare: Republican Style

When the Newt Gingrich led Republican Congress of 1995 tried to slow the growth of Medicare payments, the Democrats employed hyperbolic scare tactics in an effort to prevent the reduction in growth to Medicare. Today, Senate Republicans are doing the same thing on the healthcare reform bill when they say over and over and over that the bill will "raid" Medicare and "cut benefits to seniors" and even "kill grandma." Republican Senators McCain and Alexander relished the opportunity to use the Democrats' opposition to cuts in growth in 1995 in their own attempt to prevent the cuts in growth that are part of the present Democratic healthcare reform bill. Every politician loves the opportunity to use the words of opponents against them.

Click HERE for the rest of the story


Democrats Must Choose Kennedy Successor

The choice of Democratic primary voters in a special election to fill Kennedy’s seat should be easy. Although all of the candidates are good and accomplished people, Congressman Capuano IS ALREADY ON THE JOB. There is absolutely no mystery about his legislative record, skills, or prowess. Despite their impressive credentials, none of the others has even one day of legislative experience and their campaigns show it.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Health Care Reform

The political debate over healthcare reform in the United States has been extremely heated despite the reality that the actual policy debate is rather tame, even boring. Constitutional, public policy, and healthcare policy experts are NOT really divided on the relevant legal and policy questions. The controversy and conflict over healthcare policy has been introduced and maintained by those with narrow economic and/or rigid ideological interests.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Who's up? Who's down?

The following New York Times op-ed columns represent the Republican and Democratic Parties interpretations of the 2009 elections. These are not skewed views of the present reality. They are sincere, but different, perspectives on the present political “mood” offered as opening arguments in each party’s case to the 2010 electorate.

I see the impact of off-year elections as primarily rhetorical and motivational. In my opinion, off-year results simply provide fodder for particular rhetorical arguments, and don’t represent the direction of voters’ actual policy preferences. They also serve to energize the base from which the 2010 election ground troops will come. If the spin is positive, it is used as momentum to generate confidence and enthusiasm among base supporters (especially for the out party). If a positive spin is impossible, then the base needs to be reassured and motivated to prepare for a tough, but all important, fight to come.

As for potentially persuadable 2010 voters, surveys eliciting substantive policy preferences do not presently show any significant shift in policy preferences. Nevertheless, both parties will, quite understandably interpret off year elections (publicly at least) either as showing increasing support for their policy perspectives, or at least do not show retreat from their policy perspectives.

Finally, an Authentic G.O.P., by Alex Castellanos

Relax, Democrats , by Ruy Teixeira


Tenacity v. Intelligence?

The following passage is from today's David Brooks column in the New York Times:
They [military experts] do not know if he [President Obama] possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.
David Brooks is a very talented columnist whose work is almost always cerebral and serious, which makes this column even more troubling. Does Brooks really think that "tenacity" is "in tension" with "intellectual sophistication?" Does he really see Presidents Bush and Obama as "war presidents" in the same way that Lincoln and Churchill were leaders of nations at war? Are we to believe that the American Civil War and World War II, wars that threatened the very existence of the nations led by Lincoln and Churchill, are even remotely analogous to present conflicts?

Lincoln and Churchill represent intellectual sophistication in the face of an imminent existential threat. Maybe President Kennedy's efforts during the Cuban missile crisis could be included in this category? The present situation, however, is not an imminent existential threat and the idea that Churchillian tenacity is required is what motivated President George W. Bush.

Need I say more?


Three kinds of Truth

The pursuit of THE TRUTH, A TRUTH, and TRUTH are the sine qua non of religion, politics, and philosophy, respectively. They are the ends that justify the means of pastors, politicians, and professors. The will and wisdom to see, understand, and respect the differences between these varieties of truth may be a good starting place in the effort to elivate our human conversation, which is too often beset by the failure (intentional and unintentional) to distinguish between truth premises.


X + Facts = A Reasonable Claim

Solve for X. I have always encountered resistance to theoretical discussion and debate, both in the classroom and in the public square. Students and politicians fear it, voters have no patience for it, and reporters and pundits can't sell it. Americans expect anyone with a valid argument to simply "cut to the chase," and to "let the facts speak for themselves." Efforts to interpret facts contextually (i.e. the only intellectually honest way to do it) are assumed to be efforts to manipulate facts for personal gain, which is itself assumed to be contrary to the public interest. In other words, a healthy scepticism has been replaced by a very unhealthy cynicism, which actually works very well for those who really are trying to "fool some of the people some of the time."

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


American Idol for Pundits

The Washington Post is having a pundit contest to find "America's next great pundit." As a longtime talking head wanna-be, I'll probably be unable to resist the urge to send an entry. As I thought about this earlier on my commute, it seemed to me that pundits have gone from analysts to guides, maybe even gurus for some, and that's just for those who take them seriously. For others they are entertainers, space & time fillers, or "nattering nabobs of negativism" (which I now know was actually coined by Bill Safire).

I think, ironically, that maybe the effort to make people think, either in general or to persuade on a specific issue, may best be left to artists. These days it seems impossible to sustain general credibility as an analyst, whereas for artists it seems like we more often let the art speak for itself and to tell us or teach us what it will without as much concern for its creator.

Maybe I'll submit a poem?


The Public Option Debate

I am fascinated by the responses from virtually all quarters to the President's approach to the public option element of the proposed health care insurance reforms. The media and supposedly "in the know" pundits are constantly heralding the imminent death of the public option. It appears that everyone has become so obsessed with reading between the lines, that they simply refuse to actually read the lines. The White House line on this has been very consistent. They have always maintained support for the public option, but have qualified that support by indicating that it's only a means to an end. If someone comes up with another way to achieve the goals of a public option, the White House is all ears.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


The Tortoise and the Hair

At present, the public relations war over health care reform appears to be going badly for President Obama's health care reform approach, at least if you consider public opinion polls as the definitive word on such things. Pundits from across the political spectrum have begun to pronounce the president's effort a political failure for having failed to heed the number one rule in marketing - "keep it simple, stupid." President Obama has not only refused to develop effective sound bites and slogans, he has even had the audacity to use a primetime news conference to actually discuss and explain the provisions of a health care reform bill he would like to sign.

Click HERE to read the rest of the story.


Whose crazies are crazier?

The considerable attention being given to conservative extremists protesting against the Democratic healthcare reform bills has raised protests from Republicans who feel that the media didn't highlight the bad behavior of liberal extremists during the Bush Administration. Are they right about that? While I have not seen any systematic media content analysis on the question, I do think their perception is reasonable. So the question is why? Why is the media (even Fox News) jumping at the chance to cover conservative citizens frothing at the mouth about things as ridiculous as the liberal conspiracy theory that Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks?

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Teachers? Students? Or, Scholars all?

The "teachable moment" presented by the Gates-Crowley affair has now become fodder for virtually every commentator. While listening to the radio yesterday I heard an insightful point (sadly,I missed the identity of the insight's author). The gentleman on the radio program argued that the problem with teachable moments is that everyone thinks that it's a time for their perspective to be taught to others. In other words, everyone recognizes the utility and potential of a teachable moment, but thinks themselves teachers, rather than students. The success of such a moment then would be measured by the degree to which other Americans become convinced that my perspective was the best one all along.

Click HERE for the rest of the story


How long is a "teachable moment?" & Who's willing to learn?

The debate surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates has created an unprecedented opportunity to engage in national conversations about the age old question infamously articulated by Rodney King; "Can't we all just get along?"

The confrontation between Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley is an example of two men who failed to get along. The debatable questions about the incident, those questions that will ostensibly be examined during this "teachable moment," are many, but the immediate reactions of whites, blacks, cops, civil rights activists, media commentators, politicians, political partisans, and the public-at-large (via polling data)do not bode well for either the quality or duration of this "teachable moment."

Click HERE for the rest of the story


The Gates Arrest: Its about Professionalism, not Race

The following discussion of the incident will proceed with the facts as described by the police report. In other words, the testimony of the arresting officer will, for the purposes of this analysis, be taken as entirely accurate. Based on the report filed by Sergeant Crowley, I believe that his conduct did not meet the standards of professionalism expected of him as a sworn law enforcement officer.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.

Lawrence O'Donnell's take


I call'em like I see'em.

The metaphor of a neutral umpire or referee is never far from the surface of any public policy debate. The politically immunizing aphorism, "I just call'em like I see'em," concisely conceals and perpetuates an assumption that is both ubiquitous in its practical adherence AND demonstrably impossible to achieve. Neat trick, right?

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Healthcare reform debate: Both sides say same thing

How can proponents and opponents of the president's healthcare reform proposal make the same claims about the advantages of their preferred approach?

Click HERE for the rest of the story

Parallel Universe Simulation

I would like to see (and participate in) a simulated confirmation hearing in which academics played the parts of the nominee and the Senators. Ideally, there would be at least two such simulations; one with a liberal jurist and conservative senators and one with a conservative jurist and liberal senators.

Ideally, these would be broadcast during the actual confirmation process in order to help Americans understand the real debate and the real issues in contention. The absurdity of a nominee pretending that there really is such a thing as neutral jurisprudential philosophy and opposition senators struggling mightily to maintain the same fiction even as they seek to reveal the nominee's infidelity to same is almost too much to bear.

Click HERE for the rest of the story


Principles ARE political

Will Sotomayor’s inquisitors focus on the kind of Justice she would be, or will they use her hearings to advance political agendas? This question pervades much of the analysis of the Sotomayor nomination and confirmation process, but is it a fair question? Why do we assume that the members of the US Senate are supposed to put their political philosophies, agendas, and interests aside when providing “advice and consent?”

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


What is she up to?

Governor Sarah Palin has decided to shed the responsibilities of public office, but not the goals and objectives of most who seek such offices. Gov. Palin seems to have come to a conclusion that, I must admit, seems pretty reasonable; that influence in public life can be greater without "official" responsibilities. Plus, unelected influence accumulation pays a hell of a lot better.

Though she will not be in a position to win the Republican nomination for president in 2012, she may well be able to influence the race and might even mount an independent run for the White House. Will she succeed? Not if success means becoming president, but why should it mean that? The presidency, after all, is just another elected office with responsibilities to large numbers and a wide variety of interests.

Sarah Palin appears to be on a path to celebrity-conservative stardom. Her story might be part of an increasingly clear realization about politics: Influence and office are not necessarily as interdependent as most suppose.

For a video of my analysis of Gov.Palin's resignation, click HERE.

One of my favorite public intellectuals, Stanley Fish, published his thoughts about Governor Palin's resignation on NYTimes.com yesterday afternoon. I am pleased to report that his analysis mirrors my own, though admittedly, Fish's take is both more substantial and more artfully presented.


More USC by Yankee's Manager

Yankee manager Joe Girardi, in yesterday's game against the Florida Marlins, noticed that the Marlins had made a substitution mistake by sending one wrong player into the field for the eighth inning. So what did he do? Did he call timeout and inform the Marlins of their error prior to the first pitch of the inning? Nope. He intentionally waited until after the first pitch and then called timeout to protest the mistake to the umpire and to announce that the Yankees would play the remainder of the game (which they were losing 6-3) under protest.

I'm well aware that Major League Baseball is a business and is hyper-competitive, and that many admire the Yankee skipper's clever exploitation of the Marlins' mistake. However, I cannot believe that such a move, while within the rules, is an example of good sportsmanship. For me, it may have been fair (according to the rules) but it was also ungentlemanly, maybe even unmanly.

The Marlins won the game, 6 to 5.


Unintended Social Commentary

I just saw a TV commercial for MassMutual Financial Services. In it a women approaches a street corner on a rainy day, notices the puddle in the road and backs up several steps. Just then, a passing bus soaks the poor fools who did not step back and thereby exhibit what the commercial portrays as "being smart" and "planning ahead."

Obviously,the intention was merely to portray a MassMutual financial services customer as someone smart enough to plan ahead. However,what struck me, especially when the women who didn't get soaked walks through the wet bystanders across the street with a smug look of self satisfaction, is that this exemplar of intelligence and savvy chose NOT to recommend to her fellow pedestrians that they also step back.

Am I nitpicking? Probably, but I have little doubt that the folks who wrote the commercial never even considered having the women warn her fellows. For one thing, the swamped bystanders provide a TV friendly stark visual of the difference between smart and dumb, which is key to their message. On the other hand, I also suspect that the subtle "every man for himself" message wouldn't raise an eyebrow among the ad men even if it were pointed out to them.


Rhetorical Attacks: Do they work?

The unhinged rhetoric of present day Republicans and conservative public figures generally may represent a fairly simple misunderstanding on their part. The last couple of elections have seen the convincing rebuke of Republicans and conservative ideas and rhetoric. I suspect the present conservative rhetorical offensive against the Obama Administration and Democratic congressional leaders is based on the assumption that the electoral decline of Republicans was the result of overheated liberal and Democratic rhetoric during the Bush Administration, rather than the perception of voters that Republican policies have failed.

What if the overheated attacks against Bush and Republicans merely coincided with the public’s rejection of Republican policies based on perceived failure? What if the political decline of Republicans would have happened (maybe more gradually) even if liberals had not employed crazy, over the top, rhetorical attacks? If this is the case, then the present administration will not be damaged by extremist rhetoric, at least until there is credible evidence that its policies are not succeeding. Staying with this assumption, the present conservative approach may only be succeeding in damaging the credibility of conservatives, who are not savaging a president with 30% approval ratings, but rather are savaging a president with approval ratings consistently in the 60s whose programs are not (at least not yet) perceived as failures.

Click HERE for thye rest of the story.


Democratic Theory and Local Government

Are the people of Longmeadow united by their membership in a community where citizens have broadly shared values, institutional obligations, and economic interests? Or, is Longmeadow a town where residents share resources, have overlapping cultural values, but see their relationship with town government as economic; the way consumers see producers in the marketplace, or employers see employees on the job?

My sense is that the latter better describes the perspective of most Longmeadow residents. Unfortunately, this model of citizenship is starkly at odds with both the actual form of government in Longmeadow (the New England town meeting) and its attendant theory of democratic citizenship; a theory to which virtually all of Longmeadow's 11,932 registered voters probably aspire and (ostensibly at least) subscribe.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


Bring back segregation!

When life was simpler it seems like we were better able to segregate the reasonable from the unreasonable, the passionate from the paranoid, the intense from the insane. Today, there is no longer a big bright line recognized by all separating the ridiculous from reality.

Presently, two ongoing stories in the national press bring this sad state of affairs into stark relief: the nomination battle over Sonia Sotomayor, and the Dick Cheney national speaking tour. In both cases, folks with national audiences and plenty of resources are saying things that ought to get them laughed off the stage for stupidity and naked dishonestly.

The strange part is that none of the absurd lies, distortions, and twisted interpretations are actually fooling anyone, even those who are repeating them out of political self interest. That's right, I'm saying that most of the ditto heads and O'Reilly Factor fans who dutifully parrot the lines of the day DO NOT ACTUALLY BELIEVE that their claims are "true," in the strictest sense. Rather, they believe their claims are "right" or "righteous" means to achieve larger, more important, ideological ends.

Extremists of all stripes perform this kind of mental gymnastics in order to maintain prejudices that form the core of their worldview in the minds of impressionable followers. For such folks, sober self reflection would be self destruction. This type of behavior used to be confined to marginal kooks like Lyndon LaRouche or cult leaders. Now, argument by oft repeated (and often untrue) assertion is the method of choice even for "mainstream" political activists, to say nothing of so-called "political pundits."

The good news for you is that if you are reading this it is very unlikely that you are persuaded by anti-intellectual arguments. As far as Sotomayor's nomination and Dick Cheney's revisionist tour, her confirmation and the sober judgement of history on the Bush-Cheney record would (and I think will)help confirm the popular political wisdom that in the long run the people are by and large reasonable and tend to get it right.


Obama's National Security Policy Approach

President Obama's speech on national security this week drew more criticism from the left than it did from the right, despite the fact that he eviscerated the previous administration on its handling of national security affairs. After decisively declaring an end to the Bush era of national security ineptitude and moral depravity, the president did not then throw red meat to his liberal base.

President Obama could have promised to reverse every constitutionally suspect Bush policy or tactic with civil libertarian bravado. He could have said that freedom must always trump fear and that security purchased at the price of justice is no security at all. Make no mistake, the president was eloquent and his rhetoric was soaring, but his substantive policy approach appears to be something much different.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.


The Theory and Practice of American Politics

People constantly ask me about the differences between left and right in American politics; what divides us as Americans? In some ways its an easy question to answer. The difficulty is, in fact, that there are so many useful (if incomplete) ways to explain it. The tricky thing is that every American can identify with elements of both wings of the American Eagle. Left and right revolve around the same fundamental philosophical/moral tenant, born of the Enlightenment, that each person possesses -or is endowed by their Creator with- individual freedom and self determination, natural rights thought justly limited only when they encroach on those of another.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.