Patterico's Pontifications


Writer: Don’t Use Term “Freedom” with Muslims

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:59 pm

10 terms not to use with Muslims:

As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them.

. . . .

“Freedom.” Unfortunately, “freedom,” as expressed in American foreign policy, does not always seek to engage how the local community and culture understands it. Absent such an understanding, freedom can imply an unbound licentiousness. The balance between the freedom to something (liberty) and the freedom from something (security) is best understood in a conversation with the local context and, in particular, with the Muslims who live there. “Freedom” is best framed in the context of how they understand such things as peace, justice, honor, mercy, and compassion.

This is insanity. Freedom is at the core of American principles, and telling an American president not to use the term “freedom” in a speech because it might offend someone is nuts. There’s no need to go around deliberately offending people for no reason.

Do I want Obama to go tell Muslims that we’re on a “crusade” against terrorism? No, not any more than I want him to go speak to a group of disabled people and crack jokes about the Special Olympics.

But if you must offend people in order to communicate your core principles, so be it. (And by the way, I’ve never said anything different.)

And if an American president can’t talk about “freedom” to the people of the world, we may as well hang it up.

Chait: Don’t Know Much About History

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:04 am

The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait writes about “Why the Democrats Can’t Govern”:

The last Democrat who held the White House, Bill Clinton, saw the core of his domestic agenda come to ruin, his political support collapse, and his failure spawn a massive Republican resurgence that made progressive reform impossible for a decade to come. The Democrat who last held the White House before that, Jimmy Carter, saw the exact same thing happen to him.

At this early date, nobody can know whether or not Barack Obama will escape this fate. But the contours of failure are now clearly visible. In Obama’s case, as with his predecessors, the prospective culprit is the same: Democrats in Congress, and especially the Senate. At a time when the country desperately needs a coherent response to the array of challenges it faces, the congressional arm of the Democratic Party remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege. Obama has made mistakes, as did his predecessors. Yet the constant recurrence of legislative squabbling and drift suggests a deeper problem than any characterological or tactical failures by these presidents: a congressional party that is congenitally unable to govern.

George W. Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, with only 50 Republicans in the Senate. After his disputed election, pundits insisted Bush would have to scale back his proposed massive tax cuts for the rich. Instead, Bush managed to enact several rounds of tax cuts that substantially exceeded those in his campaign platform, along with two war resolutions, a Medicare prescription drug benefit designed to maximize profits for the health care industry, energy legislation, education reform, and sundry other items. Whatever the substantive merits of this agenda, its passage represented an impressive feat of political leverage, accomplished through near-total partisan discipline.

Chait may be frustrated by the current situation, but not surprised.  That a Democratic Congress would pose problems for Pres. Obama’s “too much, too soon” agenda could have been predicted from the history of presidents elected on Hope and Change about every 16 years since WWII.

But Chait’s ignorance of history does not stop there, as his review of the Bush era demonstrates.  The Bush tax cuts were passed on partisan votes, but the rest of his examples fall apart on examination.  The first war resolution passed with broad bipartisan support.  The Iraq war resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 77-23.  The Medicare prescription drug program passed the Senate by a vote of 55-44, but 11 Democrats voted in favor and nine Republicans voted against it.  The 2005 energy bill passed the Senate 74-26, with help from then-Sen. Barack Obama.  The No Child Left Behind Act, on which Pres. Bush collaborated with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy, passed the Senate 87-10.  To the extent that partisan leverage was involved in the passage of these items, it was largely in terms of pressuring conservatives to expand the size and power of the national government.

Chait’s lack of grasp of history leads him to argue that the key to Democratic success is for Congress to blindly follow Pres. Obama, to project the image of strong leadership.  What history ought to teach him is that focusing on the immediate economic issues matters, and barring a foreign policy crisis, not much else does matter.


Rules (and Roles) for the Right

Filed under: General — Karl @ 8:36 am

The Washington Times gives Andrew Breitbart’s latest op-ed the somewhat misleading title, “Rules for Conservative Radicals.”  Breitbart writes about the Left’s use of Internet trolls and “seminar callers” to talk radio to spread disinformation, but he does not produce any “rules” for conservative radicals.

Of course, the title is a play on the “Rules for Radicals” promulgated by Leftist community organizer Saul Alinsky, so it may be useful to list them:

  • RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
  • RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
  • RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
  • RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
  • RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
  • RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
  • RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
  • RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
  • RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
  • RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
  • RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
  • RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

Alinsky may be an ideological touchstone for both Pres. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but Alinsky did not believe in working within the political system, whereas Obama and Clinton clearly do.  This means that the Obama Administration’s use of these tactics will tend to be covert, rather than overt — White House talks with partisan operatives and friendly media figures, White House authorized media attacks, messaging coordinated by the Sorosphere, preemptive attacks on rising GOP stars, etc.  It is a fair bet that Obama does not spend time analyzing reports on Internet trolling.

Conservatives or Republicans may be able to draw lessons from Alinsky’s rules, but the Obama example should suggest that roles can be as important as rules.  For example, having constructive alternatives will be more important to Republicans working inside the system than to activists organizing “tea parties” outside the system.  Ridicule will be more important to conservatives and libertarians in talk radio and the blogosphere than to Republican officeholders and party functionaries trying to appeal to the apolitical middle.  Storytelling can be valuable to a range of groups and blocs.  Recognizing that there will always need to be a variety of approaches, replacing “fun” tactics when they start to lose their punch, is also important.

Now that the Right is a low ebb in national politics, it is not surprising that its various factions are jockeying for position and quarreling over strategies and tactics.  The Right does not have (and by nature is not inclined to have) the sort of organized effort the interest groups of the Left can muster.  But the current competition just getting underway on the Right speaks to the fact that the Right generally believes in competition.  A competition of ideas and leadership should be part of the path back to a majority. 

The current factionalism also should remind us that the Right — contrary to The Narrative — has an appreciation for complexity.  For example, most on the Right believe in federalism, as opposed to a system where the national government effectively commands and controls state and local government in addition to regulating the private sector.  Similarly, the Right’s path back to majority will require a mix like that suggested above, with insiders and outsiders employing different strategies and tactics in the service of common objectives.

Eventually, these areas of competition and cooperation will become easier to see.  Until then, it should suffice to recognize that the disagreement among factions of the Right are generally smaller than their collective disagreement with the agenda of the Left.  In opposing that agenda, there is a role for everyone.


Patterico’s Shameful History of Attacking Rush Limbaugh

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:03 am

Andrew Klavan in the L.A Times:

If you are reading this newspaper, the likelihood is that you agree with the Obama administration’s recent attacks on conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. That’s the likelihood; here’s the certainty: You’ve never listened to Rush Limbaugh.

Oh no, you haven’t. Whenever I interrupt a liberal’s anti-Limbaugh rant to point out that the ranter has never actually listened to the man, he always says the same thing: “I’ve heard him!”

On further questioning, it always turns out that by “heard him,” he means he’s heard the selected excerpts spoon-fed him by the distortion-mongers of the mainstream media. These excerpts are specifically designed to accomplish one thing: to make sure you never actually listen to Limbaugh’s show, never actually give him a fair chance to speak his piece to you directly.

Putting aside any quibbles about the meaning of Rush’s recent comments, I agree with Klavan that, if you’re going to criticize someone, you should do them the favor of listening to their actual words.

I thought about this recently when a reader wrote me and asked:

Patrick: Just what is it about Rush that you dislike? . . . [T]here seems to be something in his personae that just has gotten under your skin?

Not at all. How could someone ask me that, when I have a long history of defending this man on my site?

If you’re going to criticize my attitude towards Rush, maybe you should do me the favor of looking at my actual words. Let me briefly set forth some of the history of my mentions of Rush Limbaugh on this site:

In August 2003, I attacked the Fairness Doctrine as the “Hush Rush” doctrine.

In April 2004, I praised the Dallas Morning News for noting that liberal media bias is not just a figment of Rush Limbaugh’s imagination.

In August 2005, Rush read from a piece I had published in the Los Angeles Times. I memorialized this proud moment on the blog.

In October 2006, I defended Limbaugh against an outrageous attack perpetrated on him by Glenn Greenwald.

In October 2007, I defended Limbaugh against a phony Tim Rutten attack regarding the use of the phrase “phony soldiers.”

In January 2008, I noted that Rush had mentioned an issue that I had done some work to popularize on this blog: thermostat madness, in which the government of California had arrogated to itself the right to control your thermostat in your home.

In February 2008, I mocked John McCain as indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton — in part because he was hated by Rush Limbaugh. That same month I busted Bill Maher for making the outrageous comment that he wished Rush Limbaugh had croaked from Oxycontin.

In September 2008, I boasted that the term “Tasergate,” which had originated on my site, had been used on the Rush Limbaugh program.

In October 2008, Rush read from a DRJ post on the site, which caused a bit of a meltdown with the site, .

In November 2008, I defended Rush against an unfair set of attacks by L.A. Times columnist James Rainey.

My valued guest blogger Jack Dunphy defended Rush in February in a spirited fashion.

In March of this year, I mocked David Frum for his unnecessarily personal attacks on Limbaugh.

Sometime after that came my posts about Rush’s “I hope he fails” formulation. In my first post on the issue, I said that “he articulates conservative principles very well” and added: “I love hearing the guy hold forth. I wish him all the success in the world for his radio program.” In my next post I added the observation: “Rush obviously doesn’t want to see Americans suffer.”

But, I argued, “he sacrificed clarity for controversy.” I also noted that Democrats had no right to be snooty on this issue, as they had said they wanted Bush to fail. (I believe this post was read on Mark Levin’s show.)

I’m sick of explaining why I thought Rush didn’t express himself in the best manner. I have made it clear that, in my view, “Speakers have no responsibility to self-censor to prevent unreasonable and bad faith misinterpretations of their words.” So don’t tell me that I’m covering for those who wish to distort Rush’s words. I’ve been quite clear I’m out to do no such thing.

I think my track record merits a defense, with links. Because I keep reading about how I hate the guy — even from my own readers like the one who e-mailed the question above — and I don’t. I don’t hate him. I have been a defender of Rush Limbaugh for almost 5 years on this blog. My track record is clear.

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