It's good to be the king ... of class warfare hypocrisy. While he lectures his political opponents about their neglect of middle-class America, President Obama is headed to Martha's Vineyard. Again. Because nothing spells populist like a $7.6 million, 9.5-acre estate owned by one of Chicago's wealthiest corporate financiers.
The sprawling summer manse of David Schulte is actually a downgrade from the Obama family's previous summer digs. The $21 million, 28.5-acre Blue Heron Farm that had hosted Obama and his massive entourage since 2009 isn't available for rental anymore because a British mogul snapped it up.
But don't be bumming. The Obamas won't be slumming. Schulte's Chilmark, Mass., complex boasts pond and ocean views, an infinity pool and a basketball court (natch!). Cell towers were installed around Schulte's home to boost phone service. The Vineyard Gazette reports that the Secret Service has 70 rooms booked nearby.
Homeowner Schulte deserves special attention. If this deep-pocketed donor and private-equity whiz were a Republican, the Occupy hordes and left-wing super-PACs would have made him a household name by now. The SEIU already would have picketed his private residence. Cher, Bette Midler and Chris Rock would be tweeting furiously about this privileged white robber baron in all caps.
Schulte, you see, earned his money in much the same way the demonized Mitt Romney did: through corporate restructuring and rescuing debt-burdened companies. He and his former partner, Sam Zell, have happily embraced the nickname "grave dancers" since the early 1990s. By 1993, their billion-dollar "vulture fund" based in Chicago had purchased all or part of Jacor Communications, the embattled media conglomerate; Sealy Corporation, the mattress empire; and the distressed Schwinn Bicycle Company.
The duo also scooped up Santa Fe Energy Resources (an oil and gas company) through a partnership and refinanced Revco D.S., the drugstore chain. Schulte called his financial playground "the land of broken dreams," according to the Los Angeles Times, which described the partners as "bottom-fishing."
Team Obama had plenty of brutal depictions for GOP private-equity mavens during the 2012 campaign: "Looter." "Corporate raider." "Greedy Gekko." "Heartless profiteer." Liberal media outlets likened Romney's cohorts to mobsters, strip miners and cannibals. "Bain was just like the Donner Party," comedian Stephen Colbert snarked. "They ate the weak."
Super-PAC Priorities USA Action, run by former Obama spokesman Bill Burton, teamed with shameless campaign mouth turned CNN talker Stephanie Cutter to smear Romney's private-equity record. They falsely accused Romney and Bain Capital of allowing laid-off steelworker Joe Soptic's wife to die of cancer — even though she had insurance coverage after he lost his job, Romney was no longer with the company when Soptic's plant closed, and the wife died seven years after Romney's departure.
Like Schulte, Romney's Bain record includes many successful turnarounds that saved workers' jobs, pensions and health benefits — including Staples and Sports Authority. When Democrats do it, it's creative capitalism. But when Republicans do it, it's a criminal enterprise.
The double standards are rich. But Obama's coffers are richer. Democratic demagoguery means never having to say you're sorry for throwing stones at glass houses, while vacationing in the compounds that "vulture capitalism" built.
(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Can Huma save Anthony Weiner? Why Huma "stands by her man." What is Huma thinking? These and other pseudo questions top our political news these days.
One appreciates the enormous entertainment value of the repetitiously lewd former Rep. Anthony Weiner, as of this writing still a candidate for New York City mayor. But this obsession also reflects a political culture that turned our politicians' nephews, daughters, sons and wives into mini royals.
The conversation demotes the important consideration of whether these soap opera figures can serve the little people, the voters. Why Huma Abedin stays with her beyond-strange husband should be of no consequence to New Yorkers, except perhaps for the 0.001 percent of them who care about sexual propriety in others.
If the electorate concludes from his antics that Weiner is out of his mind and therefore unfit to run Gotham, that's another matter. How Huma is taking it all is her concern.
The parallel between the hyperventilating coverage of Britain's royal birth — third in line, third in line — and the forced celebration of our elected officials' relatives is disturbing.
Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick and product of the Washington suburbs, recently established primary residency in her father's home state of Wyoming to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Enzi for the Republican nomination. Liz's entree to politics, chiefly as a talking head on TV, comes from her close kinship to the former vice president. Her agenda, one suspects, is to bag a senatorial seat from which to advance the Cheney financial interests in Washington.
Of all the dusty towns to choose from for demonstrating her loyalty to Wyoming, Liz picked the posh ski resort of Jackson Hole. Proximity to the big money must be a comfort.
Caroline Kennedy, best known as the daughter of John F. Kennedy, is President Obama's nominee as next ambassador to Japan. It's true that academics, business leaders and other non-career diplomats have done the job well. But what makes Caroline Kennedy, a socialite, the best choice to represent the United States before our fourth-biggest trading partner?
We get it. This is Obama payback for the Kennedy family endorsement in his race for the Democratic nomination. That doesn't make it less aggravating.
Back in 2008, there was sickening talk about the Kennedy family "passing the torch" to Obama, rather than Hillary Clinton. Years of stories detailing various Kennedy boys' abuse of women blew that flame out long ago, except in some cliche-frozen corners of the media.
Still, the torches keep getting thrown at us, as in the recent headline crowning an unusually servile New York Times piece: "Caroline Kennedy, Catching the Torch."
Imagine, she deigns to converse with ordinary folk bothering her. "Ms. Kennedy is said to be patient and gracious during these encounters, as she deflects and gently parries, leaving the other person feeling as if he or she has had a significant conversation, even if almost nothing at all was really said."
Hope the reporter got an autograph.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale adds his two cents: "The Japanese will be thrilled with this news. They love the Kennedys over there. ... I think they will be honored."
I think they will be insulted. As for the American people, you wonder what kind of attention Joe Blow needing help in Tokyo is going to get from an Ambassador Caroline. At best, "a feeling" he has had a significant conversation.
This plea may be futile, but Americans need reminding that politicians are here to serve us. We, the little people, have no obligation to revere their relatives. We got rid of our royals over two centuries ago. We don't need mini royals now.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 08:54
It was nearly 100 years ago that Estelle Lindsey was the first woman elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council. It was 60 years ago that 22-year-old Roz Wyman was the youngest person elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council. By the 1990s, one-third of the city council — five of 15 — was comprised of women.
Today, it is one in 15.
And that's an improvement over last week — before Nury Martinez won a special election and became the only woman on the council.
No woman ever has served as mayor of Los Angeles. This year saw the first woman to make it to a runoff. She lost.
Los Angeles is 54 percent women. Its city council is 93 percent men. What is wrong with this picture? Why aren't people standing up and demanding an answer?
Oh, there have been a few articles since people woke up and realized the clock had been turned back a century, but most of them could have been written decades ago.
Why no women?
Because of the difficulties of raising money, some people say — this in a city with a system of public financing in city races (although of course private money still matters). Because women are more policy-oriented than power-oriented, some people say — but of course, the council does do policy, and LA is a weak mayor/strong council system. But in my own informal survey, when I bring it up, people mostly shrug or roll their eyes. Who knows? And, maybe, who cares?
Does it matter that there is only one woman in the room?
Having been the only woman in various rooms for the past few decades, I'm sure of the answer to that one. It does matter.
I don't pretend that all women think alike, that only a woman can represent other women, that men can't possibly understand. But as Martinez's own background makes clear, each of us brings our own experiences to the decisions we make and the positions we take, including experiences shaped by our gender.Under attack in the campaign for not taking a strong enough stand against child sex abuse by a teacher while she was serving on the school board (neither she nor anyone else knew about it), Martinez responded by making public something she did not tell her own parents until she was in her 20s: that she herself was the victim of abuse as a child at the hands of a neighbor.
It also matters because politicians are role models and because the city council can be a key stepping stone to higher office. The newly elected mayor, Eric Garcetti, previously served on the council.
There are lots of reasons not to run for office, but they apply equally to men. Sadly, it is still true that women running for elective office have a much easier time convincing voters to elect them to legislative positions than to executive positions. The old stereotypes about women not being "tough enough" or decisive enough, about not being "CEO" material, stereotypes that continue to plague women in corporate America (even those who are leaning in so far they are on the verge of falling flat), have long had their parallels in politics.
So it's no surprise, on that score, that California has two women senators but has never had a woman governor; that neither of our two largest cities has ever had a woman mayor; that women hold on so tightly (myself included) to the possibility that Hillary will run again in 2016 and finally crack the cement ceiling at the top.
If not Hillary, who? And what does that say?
We are supposed to be long past the old "years of the woman" that dominated the '80s and '90s, where during each cycle we would say, "This is it." It wasn't. It still isn't. And if we don't take notice, Los Angeles may not be the only place where we're heading backward instead of forward.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 July 2013 12:48
"Progressivism leads inevitably to utter irrationality and eventually political, as well as moral, chaos."
So writes editor R.V. Young in the summer issue of Modern Age, the journal of which Russell Kirk was founding editor.
The magazine arrived with the latest post from our cultural capital, where the now former front-runner in the mayoral race, Anthony Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, was again caught "sexting" photos of his privates, this time to a 22-year-old woman.
That broke it for The New York Times: "The serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City."
And Weiner's conduct does seem weird, creepy, crazy. But it was not illegal. And as it was between consenting adults, was it immoral — by the standards of modern liberalism?
In 1973, the "Humanist Manifesto II," a moral foundation for much of American law, declared: "The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered 'evil.' ... Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire."
Is this not what Anthony was up to? Why then the indignation?
Consider how far we are along the path that liberalism equates with social and moral progress. Ronald Reagan was the first and is the only divorced and remarried man elected president. But the former front-runner in the New York mayor's race quit Congress as a serial texter of lewd photos to anonymous women. The front-runner in the city comptroller's race was "Client No. 9" in the prostitution ring of the convicted madam who is running against him.
Weiner's strongest challenger for mayor is a lesbian about to marry another lesbian. The sitting mayor and governor are divorced and living with women not their wives. The former mayor's second wife had to go to court to stop his girlfriend from showing up at Gracie Mansion.
Weiner looks like a mainstream liberal.
On cable channels we hear cries that Weiner is "mentally sick." Ex-colleague Rep. Jerrold Nadler says Weiner needs "psychiatric help."
Whoa, Jerry. Up to 1973, the American Psychiatric Association said homosexuality was a mental disorder. The APA now regrets that. And why is Weiner's private sexting a sign of mental illness, when kids all over America are engaged in the same thing every day?
Are we, possibly, a mentally and morally sick society?
Thirty year ago, homosexual acts were crimes. The Supreme Court has since discovered sodomy to be a constitutional right. State courts are discovering another new right — of homosexuals to marry.
To call homosexuality unnatural, immoral or a mental disorder will soon constitute a hate crime in America.
Once we cast aside morality rooted in religion — as the "Humanist Manifesto II" insists we do — who draws the line on what is tolerable in the new dispensation?
Upon what moral ground do we stand to deny a man many wives, should he wish to leave behind many children, and the wives all consent to the arrangement? Biblically and historically, polygamy was more acceptable than homosexuality. The second is now a constitutional right. Why not the first?
Are we not indeed headed "inevitably to utter irrationality and eventually political, as well as moral, chaos"?
Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton marched in gay pride parades with the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Anyone doubt that NAMBLA will one day succeed in having the age of consent for sex between men and boys dropped into the middle or low teens?
The Federal Drug Administration has approved over-the-counter sales of birth control pills to 11-year-old girls. High schools have been handing out condoms, pills and patches to students for years. If sex among teenagers is natural and normal, and homosexual sex is natural and normal, upon what moral ground does liberalism stand to deny teens the right to consensual sex with the men and women they love?
Is denying this not age discrimination? What liberal can be for that?
Years ago, Dr. Judith Reisman exposed the fraud of Dr. Alfred Kinsey. The only way Kinsey could have gathered the data for his "Sexual Behavior and the Human Male," on how children and even infants supposedly enjoy and benefit from sex, is by interviewing perverts and child abusers, or conducting the perversions themselves. Yet, sex with sub-teens is surely on some future progressive agenda.
One suspects the Times does not really have any moral objection to what Weiner is up to on his cellphone. The Times just does not want the city it celebrates as America's citadel of progressivism to be made a staple of late night comedians — and a running joke for the rest of us out here in Cracker Country.
However, as America needs to see where progressivism is leading what we used to call God's country, perhaps it might be well if New York came out of the closet by electing the ticket of Carlos Danger and Client No. 9.
To borrow a political slogan from '72 : "Weiner & Spitzer — Now More Than Ever!"
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
We have a president who loves to give campaign speeches to adoring crowds, but who doesn't seem to have much interest in governing.
That was apparent Wednesday, when Barack Obama delivered the first of several promised "pivot to the economy" speeches at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he spoke eight years ago as a newly elected U.S. senator.
The hour-long speech started off with some characteristic self-referencing — he didn't have gray hair then, he noted, or a motorcade — and ended with a quotation from Galesburg native Carl Sandburg.
But in between there was not much in the way of serious public policy. Nothing much that seems likely to speed up the nation's sluggish economic growth or to increase the lowest-in-three-decades labor force participation.
Obama called for increasing the minimum wage. That always tests well in polls. But in real life it tends not to create but to destroy jobs, especially for young people with few skills and little work experience.
He also called for job retraining, a Community College to Career Initiative. Unfortunately, studies have shown for years that government job training programs aren't very effective.
In the meantime, the administration and congressional Democrats have been launching attacks on for-profit higher education firms, many of which do a better job of equipping young people for the job market.
Obama mentioned in passing his administration's efforts to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet. But it's not a lack of connectivity that is holding the economy back.
The president said more about his proposal for universal pre-school education. But the administration's own studies have shown that the four-decades-old Head Start program produces little in the way of lasting educational gains.
This looks more like an expensive attempt to create more jobs for teacher union members — and more union-dues money to help elect Democratic politicians — than a serious attempt to stimulate the economy.
Amazingly, Obama called for more money to create jobs in wind and solar energy. No mention was made of the hundreds of millions in loan guarantees lavished on the now bankrupt Solyndra and A123 Systems.
To that list he added natural gas. But the boom in natural gas has occurred more despite, not because of administration policies.
More serious perhaps was his call for more investment in infrastructure, and for once Obama did not tout his ludicrously expensive plans for high-speed passenger rail — a technology half a century old and liable to be rendered obsolete by self-driving cars. But neither his administration nor Congress has been able to come up with financing to supplement the gasoline tax, which no longer provides sufficient revenue for road-building.
Obama noted that Atlantic ports are not prepared to handle the supertankers that will be coming through the widened Panama Canal in 2015. What has his administration been doing about that?
Infrastructure was not the only policy on which the president provided slogans rather than specifics. He called for expansion of tax-free savings programs as part of tax reform. But has the administration made any serious effort to engage with the tax-writing committee chairmen on the subject?
Similarly, he decried high earners' "generous tax incentives to save" — whatever those may be. But any hope of increasing revenues from high earners depends on a Democratic takeover of the House next year.
Obama called for giving every homeowner a chance to refinance their mortgages, something that many have done, although administration programs to do so have helped far fewer than predicted.
And, ominously, he added, "I'm also acting on my own to cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage, but the bank says no." But didn't the granting of mortgages to non-creditworthy borrowers trigger the collapse of the housing market?
Inevitably, Obama talked about the Affordable Care Act and predicted gamely that people will be able to "comparison shop in an online marketplace, just like you would for TVs or plane tickets," even as fellow Democrats are predicting a train wreck.
But Obamacare is, as recent polling suggests, an increasingly hard sell. Voters seem to have gotten the idea that it's causing businesses not to hire or to cut back workers' hours.
The problem Obama faces on this latest pivot to the economy is that most voters believe his policies have retarded rather than stimulated economic growth and job creation. This speech is not likely to change their minds.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00