Yes well Happy New Year, I've been travelling mostly, but had a very sore neck for the last 2 weeks so could hardly concentrate to do an end of year/new year post. Nevertheless, given today is the New Hampshire primaries I just had to write what has been concerning me about the US Presidential elections for the last year or so - it is Barack Obama.
Yes I'm a libertarian, and any Democratic Party candidate is about as inspiring as TV3 News, but is there ANYTHING behind this man, other than the fawning almost uncritical worshipping of him by the media? Do you ever see anyone substantively criticising him, besides Hilary Clinton?
Once you have a drink, calm down and stop cheering that he bet Hilary Clinton (yes yes, she's cold calculated and an evil statist), you find the vacuous nothing that represents what he is about. It's not even that being black is why he is popular, he is popular because he sounds charismatic even though he is saying next to nothing. Ignoring the specious irrelevancies about having the middle name Hussein and spending four years as a child in Indonesia (where he went to a Muslim school), what really disturbs me is that his campaign is about "real change".
What the hell is that about?
I could come to your home and say "give me the right to run your life and finances for three years and I'll show you real change". I could make your life better, or make you bankrupt, or just make it different, but it means nothing. So for the want of any information about what the hell he believes in, I went to wikipedia.
He says nothing interesting on economic policy, but rejects individual social security accounts - hmmm so he's a bit of a leftie. He promoted a law requiring companies to hold non binding votes on executive pay (so he like fiddling with businesses he doesn't own). He opposes education vouchers, clearly preferring the state monopoly on compulsorily funded education. He supports subsidising biofuels, and import tariffs on foreign biofuels - so he is as much a porkbarrel protectionist as any senator. He supports universal healthcare, although it is unclear how he would achieve this without regulation or higher taxes - nothing new there.
On foreign policy he is all over the place, wanting a bigger army and more presence in Afghanistan, but withdrawal from Iraq and the right to bomb Pakistan if it doesnt confront Al Qaeda. He didn't support the vote for Al Quds of Iran to be classified as a terrorist organisation - even though it trains terrorists.
So change. Really? He isn't some sort of hardcore socialist, he'll try to do something with healthcare but fail - a bit like Bill Clinton. He wont raise taxes, he wont cut spending, he wont deregulate or significantly regulate. In short he wont change anything substantial.
but here's another test, how does he fair against the three biggest philosophical threats to modern Western civilisation today? These are:
1. Islamist terrorism.
3. Christian fundamentalism.
On Islamist terror, he is mixed. He would cut and run from Iraq, but do more in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This sounds like policy on the fly frankly, so not a lot of great thinking there. Maybe gets a 3 out of 10 for showing some interest, but not a lot of depth.
On environmentalism, he believes in action on climate change including international commitments. He picks solutions like biofuels, although is also not opposed to nuclear power. However, in short there is little evidence he is willing to confront environmental issues rationally. He could be worse, he's not Jeanette Fitzsimons, but a bit like most issues it is hard to know what he really thinks. I'll give him 2 out of 10 for this too, because he isn't opposed to nuclear power and gets a point for not saying too much that is stupid - but then, he's not saying much at all.
On Christian fundamentalism, well he isn't one of those - which you should usually take for granted as a Democrat. He supports gay civil unions, wont ban abortion and the like, so he can get 7 out of 10 for that. However, as Huckabee and Romney are both unlikely to be the Republican candidates, this doesn't matter much.
So Obama at best will do very little, might maintain the war on terror, surrender a little of the US to the climate change agenda and fiddle at the edges. At the worst he will wimp out on the war on terror, signs up the US to subsidising and regulating all the latest environmental fetishes and continue the growth of the federal government.
In short, the change he promises is show business - a charismatic speaker who is less negative than Hilary, less calculating, but more vacuous.
Don't get me wrong, I would loathe a Hilary Clinton presidency. She not only is a statist collectivist through and through, but she quite clearly is willing to sacrifice her own dignity and self respect for the prospect of power over others - why else explain the tolerance of loose willie as her husband?
As for the Republicans? Huckabee has had his day, and John McCain is no great shrinker of the state - but he will fight Islamist terror. However the real primary battle has yet to occur. Remember those who cheer Obama because he beats Hilary - the truth is he is more likely to beat a Republican than Hilary is. While none of them are inspiring, be careful for what you wish for.