Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Obama/Murtha: Disastrous Choices for America

Here's what The Economist says about Barack Obama [the candidate of "hope"] in its Dec. 15-21 edition: "A President Obama would turn precoceptions upside down; indeed he might be able to achieve far more both at home and abroad than any other candidate. But hope does not balance budgets, craft alliances, or reform schools. It certainly does not prove that Mr. Obama would be the best -- or even a good -- President."

The Economist continues: "Mr. Obama cannot change his experience deficit, but he can change his substance deficit. His economic policies (like those of the other Democrats . . .) are crowd-pleasing stuff. He is iffy about free trade. He wants health insurance for all -- and expects the rich to pay for it. He wants schools to get better, but he panders to his leftist base by eschewing merit pay for teachers and independent charter schools."

Also, "On Iraq, he affects not to have noticed that the 'surge' in and around Baghdad is producing palpable successes, and clings to the idea, beloved of his Party base, that all troops should be withdrawn even before he putatively takes office."

The Economist frames its comments on Obama as being helpful. In fact, they're a devastating critique of the candidate's naivete and his penchant for demagoguery.

What about his stand on education? He refuses to take on the Teacher's Union and he refuses to support any real sort of choice for parents and students. Instead, he offers a vague "hope" that schools will somehow (perhaps by magic?) get better.

In other words, eights years of an Obama presidency would offer Americans an endless stream of rhetoric about the importance of education. But, aside from the teachers getting more money, NOTHING would change. Bad teachers would get the same pay as good ones. Parents would have no real opportunity to send their children to better schools.

On Iraq, Obama appeals to the small, activist segment (20%) of his Party that tells pollsters they think it would be best if the U.S. loses the War in Iraq. Like most Democratic presidential candidates, Obama seems to have no understanding of what motivate the mass murderers who call al-Qaida their "spiritual" home.

Yes, Obama "panders" to his Party's Leftist core. Apparently, that's his nature, and he would be a disastrous choice for America. He's so bad that he makes Hillary Clinton look good.

How do Obama's political and intellectual failures relate to someone like William Russell, who's opposing John Murtha? In fact, Murtha's approach to problems -- in Iraq, in education, in health care, in economic development -- closely resembles Obama's. In other words, the solution is to pay off some interest groups, such as the bosses of the Teacher's Union.

Russell wants to improve education and to resolve the situation in Iraq in a way favorable to the United States. The way to improve educational performance in America is to reach out -- to teachers, to parents, and to students -- to find ways to do things better. The implicit assumption of someone like Obama is that things can't be improved, which is ridiculous.

In fact, we shouldn't underestimate teachers. My mother was one for many years, and I also taught for 10 years. Granted, most teachers -- like "most" people generally -- are average. Many of them fear that steps designed designed to reward excellent teachers will somehow come at the determinet of the "average many."

But a rising tide lifts ALL boats. What do teachers generally -- the average and the above-average -- recommend to improve their own performance? What do they suggest to make them more a part of an economy and a society based on merit? In fact, most people in any occupation want to learn ways to make themselves better at their job.

What about identifying the best teacher in every school? Then, assign them to one or two teachers that are less skilled. In other words, let the top teachers share their expertise and mentor their colleagues. This happens all the time in business, but only rarely in education.

On Iraq, the real question (for Obama, Murtha, and others) is this: Where do we fight al-Qaida and how do we fight them? Presumably, the answer is NOT that we confront them in the streets of New York. "Redeploying" the troops to Okinawa, Murtha's solution, is a suggestion that's pitiful rather than helpful. If there's a better way to fight al-Qaida, then people like Obama and Murtha are obligated to tell us how -- and where.

In other words, let's come up with "win-win" solutions to our society's problems. We don't need to follow Obama's (and Murtha's) assumption that the only "problem" the world faces is how to make sure he gets elected.

(Note: I'm going to stick with this topic through Friday. One of the reason that so few people in the 12th Congressional District of PA vote is that they've given up hope. They clearly don't believe that their vote counts -- that it matters. A major underlying reason Russell is running is to explain to people that they should vote and, specifically, that they should vote for him.


One reason I like Rudy a lot is that his actions -- along with those of Police Commissioners Bratton and Kerik (yes, the much-maligned Bernie) -- dramatically reduced the crime rate in New York City. There are many people in local, state, and federal government that seemingly believe high-crime-rates are something that "just happens." They are dead wrong.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg, elected twice as a Republican, and Commissioner Kelly have continued the policies of Rudy Giuliani and earlier commissioners. They have had tremendous success at keeping crime -- especially the murder rate -- down.

I heard the other day that New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 murders this year, putting it about on a par with Philadelphia, a much-smaller (and Democrat-controlled) city.

How many murders were there in NYC before Giuliani and Bratton iniated their crime-fighting policies. There were 2,494 -- nearly five time as many as are projected to occur this year.

Gee, how on earth did that great accomplishment (a pro-life achievement, by the way) occur? It happened because Giuliani and Bratton had an extremely insightful view into why and where crimes occurred.

Specifically, they understood what happens when neighborhood have broken windows, when begarrs are panhandling, when public urination runs rampant, when public drunkeness is tolerated, when sex parlors open up, and where groups of drug users congregate. What happens is people assume nobody cares about the neighborhood. Good people move out -- and bad people move in. Crimes proliferate, and murders become a way of life.

Giuliani and Bratton understood that it's critical to "sweat the small things." You can read the whole story in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. There was an epidemic of crime -- and Giuliani innoculated the city against it. The approach is still paying great dividends and saving thens of thousands of lives. Other cities -- Philadelphia being one, Pittsburgh another -- should emulate "America's Mayor."

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