Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Conservative for Obama

WICK ALLISON is no bleeding heart liberal. He once organized the Dallas Youth for Goldwater. Originally recruited by the legendary William F. Buckley, he became Publisher of the National Review and is currently editor in chief of the Dallas Magazine. He puts out a very thoughtful piece today, in which he makes both the case against John McCain and for Barack Obama -- both based NOT on the ideological and culture wars conducted for the benefit of the Religious Right, but on the matter of their personal CHARACTER:
THE MORE I LISTEN TO AND READ ABOUT “the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate,” the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan. To explain why, I need to explain why I am a conservative and what it means to me.

In 1964, at the age of 16, I organized the Dallas County Youth for Goldwater. My senior thesis at the University of Texas was on the conservative intellectual revival in America. Twenty years later, I was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to join the board of National Review. I later became its publisher.

Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.

Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.

But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.

This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.

Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.


From Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy:
Acting to avert a possible financial crisis worldwide, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board reversed course Tuesday and agreed to an $85 billion bailout that would give the U.S. government an ownership stake in the troubled insurance giant American International Group.

The decision, announced by the Fed only two weeks after the Treasury Department took over the quasi-government mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is the most radical intervention in private business in the central bank's history.
Now, Barack Obama has gotten a lot of flak for his "socialist" ideas (some of them deserved, I think.) But now that the United States Government will own the biggest insurance company (AIG), the biggest mortgage makers (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) -- and might be forced to "buy" more businesses to save them because they "are too big to fail"-- one wonders whether socialist ideas speak louder than socialist actions. The word "socialist" is of course purely pejorative here but here is a more sober analysis on the legality of the AIG bailout:
The AIG Deal.

True, the Fed statute says that loans can be issued with conditions. As a commenter asks, what loan doesn’t have conditions? See here also. But the Fed statute does not say that the Fed can purchase businesses, and it seems reasonable to interpret the statute to forbid the Fed to purchase businesses. So here’s the question, is the AIG deal a purchase or a loan? I suspect the deal is a loan in form but a purchase in substance. Unfortunately, the details are not available, but the press accounts suggest that the Fed is receiving AIG equity (more precisely, the option to obtain equity) as collateral for the loan but that it’s going to exercise the option more or less automatically. Here’s an analogy. Suppose that I lend you $100 and we agree that all of the equity in your business will be collateral for the loan. The contract provides, however, that you must pay me interest of a gazillion dollars, due one second after closing, and that if you fail, that counts as a default, whereupon the collateral is mine. The parties use the loan form but substantively a sale occurs. A court would almost certainly interpret the transaction as a sale, not a loan, if tax or other legal consequences turned on the distinction. If the AIG loan is like this, then it’s illegal. So: why aren’t our rule-of-law friends yowling?

There's probably an awful lotta folks out there whose ability to keep their jobs and homes wondering at the elementary fairness of this whole deal. And what of the "moral hazard" that has been created? After all, there are 29 other Dow Jones components, and lots of banks in trouble.


Pedestrian Observer GB said...

That was indeed a thoughtful piece and I couldn't agree more on how he sees Obama's pragmatism.

Pragmatism amidst the extremism of conflicting religion surely is what we need nowadays and revival of the cold war is definitely not something we can look forward to.

On another note, I think you will love errr laugh at this Saudi Islamic Cleric that issued a Fatwa against Mickey Mouse. It just shows how extremism in religion tends to make some people lose their marbles that makes this world a very dangerous place to live in.

blackshama said...

Obama and McCain have their presidential practicum cut out. How would they deal with the on going world economic collapse. So far its the blame game,

Islamic Fatwa against Mickey Mouse? That's no different from a Catholic bishop threatening excommunication for public personalities that won't toe the fundamentalist Catholic line, or Episcopalian liberal pansexualists threatening to silence "traditional" clergy who believe there are only two sexes, or scietistic atheistic chaps (a few Brits) who think those who believe in God are deluded and hence excommunicated from the intellectual circle.

The following people are peddling fundamentalist religion. The Fatwa has no empirical basis, as well as Catholic excommunication,Oxbridge scientism and Episcopalian pansexualism. Fundamentalism means junking reason,liberals and conservatives are not exempt. Some liberals in the Obama camp and Convervatives in the McCain side,have lost their marbles!

So as Galileo wrote

"Surely it is more harmful to souls to declare a heresy what has been proved."

So choose heresy and be sane.

And so concurs a theologian

"If faced between heresy and schism,choose the former!"

DJB Rizalist said...

who's next? porky pig?


Great piece.

This is a very relevant question: It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.

To entrust McCain with America's security and by extension, the globe's is a dangerous proposition.

The man can barely identify his friends from foes. And to think that he has acces to the most sophisticated war machine in the world, US nukes and troops in the 1 million strong or so count.

Btw, Dean, have you heard the latest McCain gaffe?

Out-of-his-depth McCain is incapable of identifying friends from foes! Either he didn't know that Spain's not in Latin America or he didn't know Spain's prime minister; all told, McCain is a dangerous man.

DJB Rizalist said...

haha, yes i have.

Que barbaridad este hombre!