What O believes, &c.

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address, February 12, 2013.



So, I’m reading this article about an interview Dick Cheney gave, and he said that Barack Obama became president looking “to reduce U.S. influence in the world.” (Article here.) I believe that. But I would like to hear Obama asked about it. “Did you come into office looking to reduce U.S. influence in the world? Do you think U.S. influence, on balance, has been bad for the world?” I think the answer might be interesting. I really do. But, in my observation, Obama is never asked interesting things, or seldom asked interesting things. He ought to be asked fundamental things — such as, “Do you believe the economy is a pie, meaning that, if one person’s slice is larger, another person’s slice is necessarily smaller?”

But I have been over this terrain before . . .

In his State of the Union address, Obama said, “Provocations of the sort we saw last night [from North Korea] will only isolate them further as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.”

I almost fell off my chair in 2008, when he said the following, in one of his debates with John McCain: “I actually believe that we need missile defense, because of Iran and North Korea and the potential for them to obtain or to launch nuclear weapons.”

As president, Obama has not only not advanced missile defense; he has set the program back. I’m not an expert. But I have talked to those who are. And, unfortunately, it’s true.

I was grateful for a blogpost by Pete Hegseth yesterday. (Here.) He said, in a nutshell, “We may think Barack Obama’s speeches are fatuous and repulsive; but they are effective, politically. They convince those who are not steeped in politics.”

This is a point I have been making — probably not very effectually — for years. I remember Obama’s speech at the convention in North Carolina last fall. All the righties said, “What a flopperoo!” I thought, and said (I think), “If only . . .”

Here is a piece from the Wall Street Journal — subscription only, I’m afraid. It’s about the Armed Services Committee, and its vote on Chuck Hagel. The piece says that Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, glared at Ted Cruz. Well, Ted is used to being glared at by liberals. I expect them to be doing it for years — while we conservatives grin like jack-o’-lanterns!

The article tells us, “Ms. McCaskill wrapped up her time lamenting the upcoming vote. ‘Am I sad this is going to be a party line vote? Yeah, I am.’”

If I had been there, I might have said, “Well, then vote against Senator Hagel!” Think she would have glared at me?

The resignation of the pope has provoked several thoughts in me. One of them is this: You can almost never get a U.S. senator to resign — or rather, to retire. Not to run for reelection. They’re loath to give up the status, the perks, and all the rest of it. Most of them, you have to carry out in a pine box. Remember how some Capitol Hill insiders used to refer to the Senate? “Strom’s nursing home.”

At far lower levels, a lot of us have trouble giving up our position, our little perks and whatnot. We cling for dear life. And this guy, Benedict, gives up the papacy? Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Humbling, in a way (in addition to humble).

I saw something, via Damian Thompson, of the Telegraph. He quotes Richard Dawkins — the scientist who seems to be the leading atheist in the world. Sort of the pope of atheism.

When Benedict announced his retirement, Dawkins tweeted, “I feel sorry for the Pope and all old Catholic priests. Imagine having a wasted life to look back on and no sex.”

As Thompson says, what a nasty man. If I were an atheist, I’d want a better pope.

I have a lot of time for Larry Summers, Democrat though he may be. (“Have time for” is an expression from our British cousins.) When Harvard president, he did some welcome things: such as embrace ROTC students. They had been something like pariahs before. And, needless to say — or is it necessary to say? — he is an impressive economist.

Last weekend, he had an op-ed piece, whose headline was “The growth agenda we need.” To me, he sounded rather like a great presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Wrote Summers, “There should be little disagreement across the political spectrum that growth and job creation remain America’s most serious national problem.”

Here is some more:

A weak economy and limited job creation make growth in middle-class incomes all but impossible, add pressure to budgets by restricting tax revenue and threaten essential private and public investments in education and innovation. Worse, they undermine the American example at a dangerous time in the world.

We can do better.

Romney said that often: “We can do better.”

More Summers:

The economy is already taking a significant hit from increases in payroll taxes. Sudden across-the-board slashing of military and civilian spending will hurt the economy and seriously damage military readiness.

Yes. And how about this?

We are in the worst of all worlds: U.S. companies have nearly $2 trillion in cash sitting abroad because of tax burdens on bringing it home . . .

Yes. And how about this?

. . . the transformation of the North American energy sector needs to be accelerated. This will have economic and environmental benefits. Those who will decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline . . . need to recognize that Canadian oil not flowing to the United States will probably flow to Asia, where it will be burned with fewer environmental protections.

Yup. Listen, a Romney presidency would have been a beautiful, and revivifying, thing. I think Summers would have approved, whether he could have said so out loud or not.