Sep 13 2008

Foreign travel, foreign policy “experience” and judgment

Category: election 2008,Iraq,McCain,media,middle east,Obama,Palin,politics,White Househarmonicminer @ 11:19 pm

As usual, the Obama campaign is still playing catchup to Sarah Palin. Now the big question is whether she actually crossed the border into Iraq by a half-mile, or stayed at the border.   Obama camp suggests lies over Palin visit to Iraq – Yahoo! News

The question of whether Sarah Palin has ever been to Iraq pushed Obama aides Saturday to accuse the McCain campaign of outright lies, distortions and distractions to the American people.

Since Republican presidential nominee John McCain tapped the Alaska governor to be his running mate on Aug. 29, questions about her experience have been fueled by her relatively brief tenure in office, as well as a dearth of foreign travel.

What matters isn’t how many countries she’s visited, or even how many heads of state she knows on a first name basis.  What matters is the judgment and values of the candidate.

When Russia invaded Georgia, Obama’s first response was to hope that both sides would exercise restraint, in a perfect-pitch-for-the-left rendition of moral equivalence, the natural born instinct of leftists everywhere.  That tells us what we need to know about Obama’s judgment and values.  Obama’s warm reception during his grand international P.R. tour doesn’t change who he is, a person who can’t quite define evil, and isn’t quite sure what we should do about it….  in his own nuanced way, of course.

I doubt an academic study can be found to demonstrate that shaking hands and chatting about inconsequentials with foreign leaders (the usual meaning of “getting to know them”) has produced better decisions than are reached by simply considering the facts at hand.  Roosevelt “met” with Stalin, and still gave away half of Europe.  Bush met with Putin and “saw into his soul”, and still didn’t understand, it would seem, what a fascist Putin would turn out to be.  Kennedy “met” with Kruschiev, and that resulted in the Cuban missile crisis when the Communist dictator decided that Kennedy could be rolled.

It’s decisions based on evidence that matter, not face time.  And tourism is not a pre-requisite for the Presidency or vice-Presidency, much as the Left might wish it was.

In the meantime, whether Palin made it 2500 feet into Iraq, or stayed at the border, matters not a whit.  The Obama campaign must really be spooked by this lady.  They should be…  she is something beyond their experience, a genuine person who simply says what she means.

OH, and the lead sentence to the quoted article is truly hilarious:  Imagine, the Obama campaign was “pushed” into calling the McCain campaign liars.  Gee…  you mean they just couldn’t help themselves?

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Sep 13 2008

First, Do No Harm

Category: election 2008,Obama,politicsharmonicminer @ 8:54 am

Being a politician, and especially being President, has aspects in common with being a parent, and with being a physician.

Good parents, first and foremost, need to avoid damaging their children.  Maybe I have low standards for parenting.  But if you can raise a child to the age of 18 or so, and have helped them avoid doing damage to themselves (they aren’t substance abusers, high school dropouts, criminals, etc.), and if they know you love them, and they love you, you’ve probably won.  Sure, there are tons of nice things to try to do, but they depend at least as much on the nature of the child as on parenting magic.  The point: you are to raise the child, help where you can, not go against the fundamental nature of the child by trying to get things from them they can never do or simply hate (and you’ll have to be somewhat sensitive while discovering the child’s nature), and avoid messing the child up.  Everything else is gravy, and we all know how bad that is for your health, in excess.

There is a similar principle in medicine, sometimes attributed to Hippocrates, “First, do no harm.”  It means, generally, that if you can’t fix it, at least don’t make it worse, or create a new problem.  Medical doctors used to attach leeches to “bleed” patients to remove “ill humors” that were making them ill.  Of course, they were simply weakening their patients, in most cases.  Thalidomide babies of 1950s helped lead to the creation of the modern FDA drug approval process (which has created its own problems), another example of doctors causing harm while trying to do good.

What has this to do with politics?  It’s pretty simple: some problems are very complex, and are rooted in human nature and individual choice.  The attempt to use governmental power to “fix” them is likely to create new problems, frequently without making a serious dent in the old ones, and sometimes making the old ones worse.

So: beware of the politician who promises things that have never been, that sound too good to be true, that depend on very complex systems managed by governmental power and oversight, and that create incentives for individuals and organizations to behave in ways counter to the intent of the new program or policy.  Raise taxes on the rich, and they’ll change their behavior in ways that don’t lead to economic growth, and you’ll actually reduce tax receipts to the government.  Offer benefits to unwed mothers, and you’ll have more unwed mothers.  Fix prices at some “fair” level, and you’ll have shortages.  Provide “free” or “cost controlled” healthcare, and you’ll soon run out of healthcare services….  a special case of price fixing, in essence.  And so it goes.

I think it’s very likely that Obama plans huge, radical changes which will have unpredictable effects, not solve the problems he claims the changes are aimed at (or make them worse), and create new ones.  The article at the previous link makes it clear that the danger of Obama’s election is not that he won’t keep his promises; it’s that he will.  What else can you expect from someone whose ideological hero’s manifesto is titled Rules for Radicals?  And he is likely to appoint judges who have similar intentions, to make sure his radical changes are declared to be “constitutional”.

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