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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    One Conservative For Barack Obama. And One Against.

    By kyle | November 4, 2008

    My New York Post (editorial page) colleague Robert George checks in with a thoughtful essay on Barack Obama. I can’t say I agree. I genuinely am mystified why reasonable centrists and conservatives are supporting Obama so I frequently read what they have to say but I find that in virtually all cases the writer gets caught up in a sort of gauzy endorsement of biography and character–“I just like the guy deep down,” seems to be the main argument–as opposed to concrete policy proposals.

    I realize a lot of people on the right vote this way too. I don’t. I frequently vote for politicians who don’t share my tastes or come from my part of the country or belong to a similar educational or demographic group. I’m an Ivy Leaguer (possibly even an Ivy League snob) and a northeasterner. I think Bordeaux is better than Michelob, Elvis Costello is better than Garth Brooks and France is a lot more interesting a place to spend a vacation than Florida. I’m an atheist.

    Another habit some have in endorsing Obama is that they will choose some inconsequential policy proposal that they agree with and call it a big point in his favor or do the same in reverse with John McCain; the Economist, for instance, endorsed Obama and cited John McCain’s support for a “petrol tax holiday,” an idea so minor that I had forgotten it. Still another–and this one is really disingenuous–is to say they don’t like the campaign McCain has run. Campaigns often get dirtier than pundits would like but I don’t see anything particularly dirty about this one. Barack Obama did indeed pal around with a terrorist and did indeed spend many years in a church where vicious anti-American rhetoric was used. (He then lied about it.)

    You could argue these attack ads aren’t major policy points but they are at least true statements. Airing commercials that emphasized Obama’s middle name, likewise, would be perfectly legitimate from a truth standpoint, but McCain has chosen not to do so, presumably on the heretofore unprecedented notion that stating a candidate’s full name constitutes a low blow. (Remember how the Democrats scoffed at “George. Herbert. Walker. Bush”?) Meanwhile, Obama supporters–I again cite The Economist–continue to cite his middle name as some sort of geopolitical advantage. The implication seems to be that Hussein is a name associated with Muslims, therefore Obama is sort of Muslimish–therefore Muslim terrorists will be less antagonistic toward the U.S. Utter nonsense, say I. And if a conservative made the first two points yet drew a different conclusion, he would be denounced as practicing dirty, indeed racist, politics. Here is a particularly fatuous section of The Economist’s endorsement.

    Most of the hoopla about him has been about what he is, rather than what he would do. His identity is not as irrelevant as it sounds. Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein.

    A parallel point was made shortly before David Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City–that the criminals would be less antagonistic because many would take pride in his election. It’s the supply-side theory of crime, if you will. It was of course nonsense then as well. The four years of the Dinkins administration remain ranked nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the category of most annual murders in the history of this city. Obama’s fealty to the left wing of his party, despite his wise but obviously politically opportunistic choice to support last summer’s wiretapping law, means he is likely to take a position toward international crime, or terrorism, that is analagous to the one liberals have always taken to domestic crime–that we shouldn’t be too hard on the criminals because they have legitimate grievances that are partially the fault of the wealthy and powerful. I ask The Economist or anyone else making the point that Obama’s background is a national-security asset: Where is the evidence that people of similar skin color or of similar religion lay down their swords at each other’s feet? Is it in the India-Pakistan dispute? The Sunni-Shia rivalry? America’s inner-city gang wars or the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda or Sudan? Or did you just read this in a fairy tale and suppose that it trumped history?

    Moreover, Obama’s campaign rhetoric is not without its dishonorable points. It’s not true that McCain is a Bush clone–the idea was laughable until Obama started repeating it endlessly. McCain has opposed Bush in many notable ways. (I would prefer, in many cases, that that weren’t the case.) And it is certainly not true that he advocates fighting in Iraq for 100 years or that he wouldn’t meet with the prime minister of Spain. These are all just silly bits of campaign rhetoric.

    The fact is that Obama vows to massively increase taxes at a moment when that will surely increase the pain and duration of the looming recession. The rich are disproportionately responsible for the direction of the economy. I call it the Patrick Kennedy principle. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, partly on an absurd promise to stick it to the rich by raising taxes on yachts, young Kennedy discovered the boat-building business in his Rhode Island district took a huge hit and asked the president to reconsider the tax, which he promptly did. When the rich cut back, they don’t suffer as much as the people they employ do.

    It is possible, I would argue likely, that Obama will withdraw troops from Iraq in a precipitous and disorganized manner (in order to pay for his domestic programs) that will spell disaster for Iraq, dishonor and a heartbreaking waste of lives for the U.S. military and much chortling and general emboldenment for our enemies overseas. Obama will create the first-ever trillion-dollar budget deficits, in part with a national health care system that, on top of Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security, the country simply cannot afford, especially if a lengthy period of low economic growth ensues. And low economic growth is exactly Obama what is going to cause with his reflexively pro-regulation, pro-tax ideals as well as his belief, again characteristic of liberals, that government should pick economic winners and losers with subsidies for the former and punitive stances toward the latter. To a certain extent America has always been able to simply outgrow its problems with an economy that is dynamic like no other large one. (In part this is because of our rich renewable resource of people, our ability to add the equivalent of a midsized European country to our population every ten years.) This may not be the case going forward. The word Obama repeated so often in debates that it became a shibboleth was “regulations.”

    I don’t particularly care who Obama’s father was or whether he can give an inspiring speech. His ideas are, again and again, wrong on substance. His election will reroute the United States economy onto a path much like Europe’s, one of perpetual slow growth, where people simply get used to the idea of not being able to advance much in life. Obama is likely to be an FDR or LBJ type of president, not one in the Clinton mode. The country may never recover from the staggering weight of unncecessary additional government about to be saddled onto it as it has never fully shaken off the horrendous choices of FDR and LBJ.

    Topics: Barack Obama, John McCain, Magazines, Politics | 17 Comments »

    17 Responses to “One Conservative For Barack Obama. And One Against.”

    1. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 11:13 am

      So, in a nutshell:

      “You kids get the hell off of my lawn!”

    2. kishke Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 11:23 am

      You don’t get why some conservatives are supporting him? B/c he’s black, of course, and it makes them feel good about themselves to support a black for president.

    3. kyle Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 11:23 am

      @Hunter, Yes, that’s exactly what I just said. I commend your ability to process and summarize information.

    4. Brandon Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 11:31 am

      Well stated Kyle. One minor correction on the healthcare side; Medicaid is a state run program that receives partial federal funding.

      The fact is we’re not in a good place, I can’t see Obama losing this and the fact is the last time Democrats had a super majority and a President was in the late 70’s. We all know how well that went. The good news though is it gave us Reagan, maybe lightning can strike twice.

    5. jic Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 11:45 am

      I can’t see Obama losing this

      I can. I really don’t know who will be president tomorrow.

    6. Brandon Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 11:52 am


      Here is the million dollar question. If, and it’s a big if, Obama somehow loses this. Will there be violence from the Obama supporters? I say yes.

    7. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

      Maybe there will. However, unlike with the Republicans, the odds of them invading another nation because they want to steal their oil are minimal.

    8. Brandon Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 12:25 pm

      Hunter you can’t honestly still believe the oil arguement can you? Oil supply shrunk, prices escalated the evidence against that arguement is staggering and the evidence for is non-existent especially given all the oil from Iraq will be going to the Chinese.

    9. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

      Not only do I still believe it, almost everyone I know does too. It’s the number one reason that America is so despised around the world.

    10. Brandon Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 12:54 pm

      Of course “almost everyone” you know believes that you surround yourself with people who don’t challenge you. That’s part of the problem. If everyone you know believes the same as you then there is never any reason to question the logic or get distracted by silly things like facts. It’s a very insular way of life but most are guilty of it.

    11. Jules Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 12:57 pm

      Jizz – “I really don’t know who will be president tomorrow.”

      Yes, well, it can be a little confusing. We will try to explain it all to you tomorrow.

    12. jic Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

      Will there be violence from the Obama supporters? I say yes.

      I think there will be some petty assaults and vandalism if he loses, but I don’t think the race riot scenarios are very credible.

    13. jic Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

      Actually, my comment before was incorrect. I know exactly who will be president tomorrow: George W. Bush.

    14. Brandon Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 1:03 pm

      I’ve never been horribly concerned about race riots, though I do think there would be some violence, my concern has always been about leftist who are notoriously violent when they don’t get their way.

    15. Jules Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

      ‘I don’t think the race riot scenarios are very credible.’

      Neither are your predictions. As you say though, Dubya will still temporarily be President – even though he was illegally elected to office on two separate occasions.

    16. jic Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 1:59 pm

      my concern has always been about leftist who are notoriously violent when they don’t get their way.

      There wasn’t widespread violence in 2004. Sure, Kerry was never the messiah figure to the left that Obama is, but the narrative (as illustrated by Jules above) was that the election had been stolen and democracy was dead. If there weren’t riots and major leftist political terrorism then, why should there be now?

    17. Brandon Says:
      November 4th, 2008 at 2:05 pm

      I just think we are dealing with a different dynamic this time. The left has never been this close to absolute power before, at least not the modern incarnation of the left. I do think they will win but if they don’t Iam not sure they will handle it well. Fortunately the right is better armed 🙂