[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your epideictically genial host John Derbyshire with news from the four quarters of the compass. First, from Iowa, where we left off last week's broadcast waiting with bated breath for the results from the Ames straw poll.
02 — Iowa straw poll. And the winner is … Michele Bachmann, with 28 percent of the vote. The result was very nearly a tie, Congressman Ron Paul pulling in 27 percent.
Nobody else came anywhere much. Tim Pawlenty was third, but with a dismal 13 percent — so dismal, Pawlenty pulled out of the presidential contest that evening.
The Iowa straw poll, involving as it does 0.7 percent of the electorate in our nation's 30th-ranked state by population, should by no means be taken as dispositive. It is, though, indicative. Lots of Iowa Republican voters like Mrs. Bachmann. Very nearly as many like Dr. Paul. Mitt Romney wasn't on the ballot, though he got a few write-in votes anyway. In fact he got more votes as a write-in candidate than Jon Huntsman got as an actual candidate, causing TV lefty Jon Stewart to quip with malicious glee that the only Mormon on the ballot polled second among the Mormons.
Hey, it all helps with fund-raising going forward — one reason Mitt Romney could afford to stay off the ballot: his fund-raising's going pretty nicely as things are.
And as well as helping with fund-raising, the straw poll helps keep ideas out there. This is especially important in the case of the two winners, Mrs. Bachmann and Dr. Paul. Mrs. Bachmann's ideas are Tea-Party conservative; Dr. Paul's are ideological libertarian.
So far as the latter is concerned, Dr. Paul has no hope of winning the presidency because, as Charles Krauthammer noted, this is not a libertarian nation. Or as I had expressed it somewhat more bluntly on Radio Derb a couple of days earlier, quote: "Paul could never get elected President because the number of Americans who desire liberty is now smaller … than the number who desire a dole." End quote.
Winning the presidency isn't all of presidential politics, though. Just getting ideas out there and being a focus of interest also counts, as Barry Goldwater showed. Here is the blogger identified only as "W.W." on The Economist website. He is by no means, by no means, a Ron Paul supporter, but he concedes this, long quote:
Ron Paul is a goofily avuncular non-comformist ideologue who speaks unutterable truths about American foreign policy and delivers incessant indignant harangues about the monetary system that approximately no one in the media understands. I think Mr Paul's influence on the ideological cast of American conservatism has been underestimated and underreported, but to take even his influence, if not his candidacy, more seriously would require the talking haircuts and the newspaper typing corps to wrestle with a charged set of geopolitical and economic topics they would rather continue helping Americans not understand. So Ron Paul's a proven loser we can neglect with a clear conscience.
End long quote. As for Mrs. Bachmann, she is much nearer to the heart of populist American conservatism. If Ron Paul is the Barry Goldwater figure here, Michele Bachmann is closer to being the Ronald Reagan. Whether she can carry less committed conservative voters the way Reagan did, remains to be seen.
In any case, the cup of victory was snatched from Mrs. Bachmann's lips on Saturday even as she bent to sip from it. On the very day of her straw poll victory, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that he is in the race. Some fast polling showed him already out ahead of the field — ahead of both Bachmann and Romney. The graybeards of political commentary shook their heads knowingly and murmured, "Ah, wait till they get to know him."
OK, let's get to know Rick Perry.
03 — Getting to know Rick Perry. So Rick Perry's officially a candidate for the Republican nomination.
Checking back through Radio Derb transcripts, I see we gave Perry the Radio Derb Seal of Approval way back in January. Then in our June 24 broadcast we called him, quote: "a strong and attractive candidate," and furthermore, quote: "a real athlete with the veto pen." So I guess you could say we've declared pro-Perry already.
There are downsides to Perry, though, and it's only fair to take note of them.
First off there's the Texas thing, or thang. No, it's not George W. Bush that bothers me. W was a new England preppie who got himself a dude ranch and played at being Texan. I'm more bothered by that other Texan president, Lyndon Johnson — the guy who gave us the Great Society, mass Third World immigration, and the Vietnam War. One of those per century is enough, far as I'm concerned. Please don't get me wrong, you folk down there. Some of my best friends are Texans, honestly. If you can produce one LBJ, though, you can produce another, and I have every right to be wary.
(And yes, I know Dwight Eisenhower was born in Texas. He left as an infant, though, and called Kansas his home state.)
More directly to Perry himself, there's the crony capitalism business. Michelle Malkin highlighted one aspect of this in her column this week: Perry's having mandated the vaccination of pubescent girls against venereal infections, to the outrage of many social-conservative groups. It turns out that Merck Corporation, who were to supply the drugs, are a big Perry donor.
Some of this problem is systemic. Politics nowadays is a very expensive business, and no politician can afford to tick off big donors. Showing favor to donors very easily slips off into crony capitalism. Some American could do his country a tremendous service by figuring out a way to drain some of this money out of politics.
There is also Perry's apparent lack of seriousness on immigration. NumbersUSA scores him a D-minus, the same as Mitt Romney. Depressing to report, that's pretty much in the middle of the field for Republican candidates; only Michele Bachmann gets better than a C. If you think American citizenship is a precious thing to be cherished and defended, rather than cheap bling to be handed out to anyone who strolls in and asks for it, Mrs. Bachmann is wellnigh your only choice this election season.
Along with inviting the world there goes of course invading the world. If you're not willing to keep out crazy people from crazy places, logic demands that you send armies to those crazy places to straighten them out. Perry has tendencies in the neocon invade-the-world direction, but since the scope of his political activity so far has been entirely domestic, it's hard to be sure what position he'd take as President.
Those are all the big negatives I can see. Weighed against them are the success of Perry's Texas, with a big steady inflow of Americans from other states all through his term; then his aforementioned vigor at wielding the veto pen, his sturdy resistance to the trial lawyers, his enthusiasm for the Tenth Amendment, his even keener enthusiasm for the Second, and his former support of Rudy Giuliani (for whom I have a soft spot, his own lengthy list of negatives notwithstanding).
Not bad: enough, anyway, to put Rick Perry up there with Mrs. Bachmann as a serious contender for the title Next Conservative President. And for a little splash of icing on the cake, there's the fact that the Bush-Rove "compassionate conservatism" crowd all hate him. That's the clincher for me. If the open-borders, Medicare-Part-D, kinder'n'gentler war-making, when-someone's-hurting-government-must-move, condoms-for-Africa busybodies hate Rick Perry, I'm going to do my darnedest to like him. My voting preferences henceforth are Bachmann, Perry, Romney.
Just a footnote here if you want to catch up on Governor Perry: I recommend two pieces by actual Texans, both full of valuable insights. One, from National Review's own Kevin Williamson, is titled "Rick Perry's Tenth Commandment." It was in the April 4th print issue of the magazine, but it's also on NRO somewhere — do a search on the title. The other, by our friend and occasional contributor Will Cain, is posted at The Blaze, title "I'm Not a Rick Perry Fan, But He Could Get My Vote," posted this week.
04 — Anti-Perry forces gather. Whatever those Perry poll numbers mean for the long run, they've got the attention of the political Left, who are wasting no time unleashing the dogs of war.
MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz was the first dog out of the gate with a nasty piece of Soviet-style editing on a Rick Perry speech. In this speech, Perry said the following thing, quote: "That big black cloud that hangs over America, that debt that is so monstrous." Schultz cut out the second part of that from the TV clip, leaving only the first: "That big black cloud that hangs over America." Then he editorialized that, quote, "That black cloud Perry is talking about is President Barack Obama."
That's really Stalinist stuff, up there with air-brushing Trotsky out of photographs. What's the take-away here: that Republican presidential candidates can't use the word "black" in a sentence? Yep, we're at war.
Rick Perry can take it, and he can also dish it out. At a campaign stop in Iowa Monday he said the following thing about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, quote: "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all will do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, treasonous in my opinion." End quote.
That got the desired reaction from the lefties. They all jumped on chairs, clutched their skirts, and squealed like so many maiden aunts. Not just the lefties, either: the Bush-Rove RINOs were squealing too. Bush speechwriter Pete Wehner honked that, quote: "Perry should offer a substantive critique of Bernanke's policies, not libel the man," end quote. Way to go, you Bushies, backing up the lefties there. I'm sure they appreciate it.
Substantive, schmubstantive: Let's have a little less of mincing preppie self-righteousness and a little more Texas eye-gouging. For what it's worth, I think Bernanke's a decent guy doing his best in a nearly impossible job. Be that as it may, rough talk from candidates is part of the political game, and I'd hate to see it schoolmarmed out of our political life. Let battle commence.
The MSNBC-Karl Rove axis is just warming up. There'll be plenty more sneering and vituperation in the months to come. Conservatives should take a leaf from Rick Perry's book and give as good as they get. After what the lefty commissars and RINO schoolmarms have done to the country this past few years, we should show them no mercy.
05 — The whitewater economy. Listeners emailed in after last week's broadcast to grumble that it was all politics, that I should have had something to say about the stock market and the economy.
Well, what is one to say? As Radio Derb's been telling you, we're in a whitewater economy. Guys like me, with a modest portfolio of savings to nurse through to retirement, are being swept this way and that, sometimes finding ourselves facing the wrong way, sometimes in terror of capsizing, and all the time heading downward, down.
Looking at things from a wider perspective — from the river bank, if you like — there is a world-wide loss of confidence in the future. Long-term thinking, long-term planning, have vanished from the face of the earth. The reason for this is that huge nation-scale economies — the U.S.A. and Britain, Japan, much of the Eurozone — are seen as over-leveraged. They have obligations which they have no real idea how to meet.
These economies have reacted to their troubles with short-term fixes: "quantitative easing" and bailouts with public funds, those public funds in the case of the Eurozone sometimes flowing from one country to another. Longer-term, though, nobody can see clearly. The situation's been made worse by the natural disaster in Japan impacting global growth and political churning in the Middle East pushing up energy prices.
It all makes for a vicious cycle of uncertainty. Businesses and individuals don't want to spend or invest, or else they just can't afford to. Whatever funds they have, they sock away somewhere safe: in gold, which is heading fast for two thousand dollars an ounce, or in bonds issued by the least-shaky big national economies — which still includes, at this point, the U.S.A., downgrade notwithstanding, along with Britain, riots notwithstanding, and Germany, Euro obligations notwithstanding.
You'll remember from Economics 101 that when demand for something rises, so does the price. And you'll remember from Bonds 101 that the price of bonds moves in the opposite direction to their interest rates. Ergo, with U.S. Treasuries in demand as a safe haven, their prices will rise and their interest rates will fall, and that will make it cheaper for the U.S. government to borrow more money.
But if we can borrow so cheaply, why don't we channel old John Maynard Keynes: borrow like crazy, then spend the money we've borrowed on pump-priming — building roads and bridges and wind farms all over? Ah, because the very reason we can borrow cheaply is because people see our bonds as comparatively safe; and the reason they see them as safe is that we are comparatively fiscally responsible. If we start sending out helicopters to drop money all over the landscape, the perception will be that we're just a big Greece or Italy. That is a perception we really don't want to encourage.
From an even higher perspective — climbing up from the river bank to the bluff, if you like — what's going on is a big historic realignment. The extravagant welfare states of Europe and the Anglosphere are facing obligations in pensions and health-care costs that they can't possibly meet, while newer industrial powers with smaller welfare burdens and younger populations are forging ahead.
People with money to invest are looking for signs that we have a clue what to do about that. So far there aren't any signs. So: no investment, no growth, no jobs, no spending.
Starting thirty years ago, three billion hungry Third Worlders, mostly Asians, joined the world's workforce. That changed everything. We papered over the changes for a while with financial conjuring tricks, but now the game is up. We're not in Kansas any more; we're not in 1980 any more. Let's figure out how to cope. Until we do, uncertainty and chaos will rule.
06 — Jobs, jobs, jobs. The talk from the administration is all about jobs. As of course it should be. Citizens who can't find word add to the welfare rolls. The fewer jobs, the less growth, etc., etc.
So let's get our citizens working, right? Wrong, so far as the administration is concerned. Their actual response to the jobs crisis is to keep handing out unemployment pay to non-working citizens, while meanwhile bringing in foreigners to do the dwindling number of jobs available.
No, it doesn't make sense to me, either, but that is our actual national policy. Story from the New York Times, Tuesday, headline: "Foreign Students in Work Visa Program Stage Walkout at Plant". Story, quote:
Hundreds of foreign students, waving their fists and shouting defiantly in many languages, walked off their jobs on Wednesday at a plant here that packs Hershey's chocolates, saying a summer program that was supposed to be a cultural exchange had instead turned them into underpaid labor.
End quote. What's happened is, companies bring in cheap summer labor on a type of visa called a J-1. Young people from, in this case, China, Nigeria, Romania and the Ukraine work for two months then travel around on the wages they've earned. Except they're not earning much, what with low rates and, quote from the Times story, "paycheck deductions for fees associated with the program and for their rent." So they're protesting. In many languages.
You might be wondering why, with unemployment among our own citizens nudging ten percent, we are bringing in Chinese and Nigerian kids to pack chocolates into boxes. If you are wondering that, shame on you. Don't you know that immigration is a wonderful, wonderful thing that can only strengthen our economy? Of course, if local people in Palmyra, Pennsylvania — that's the dateline for this story — if local youngsters, or for that matter oldsters, are shut out from these jobs because the foreign kids work cheaper, that's a tragedy; but if our diversity becomes a casualty, that would be worse.
In slightly related news, the administration announced this week that 300,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation will be amnestied and given eligibility to apply for work permits. This is just another installment in the rolling "administrative amnesty" the government is enacting after having failed to get a proper lawful amnesty through Congress. The previous installment was the June 17 memo urging, quote, "prosecutorial discretion" in dealing with illegal immigrants who haven't been in trouble with the police.
So there you are: with a stroke of the pen, Obama has added 300,000 new bodies to the workforce this week — a workforce suffering chronically high levels of unemployment. It would of course be disgracefully cynical of me to observe that on the evidence here, the administration's desire to add jobs is way lower on the priority list than its desire to fortify ethnic lobbies and future Democrat voter rolls. I therefore shall not observe it.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: After David Letterman made a quip about the termination of Osama bin Laden, a jihadist named Umar al-Basrawi issued a call to fellow jihadists to cut out Letterman's tongue. Quote from Mr. al-Baswari, who writes from Basra in pacified Iraq, addressing his co-religionists, quote: "Isn't there among you a man … who can cut off the tongue of this lousy Jew and silence him forever?" Hey, you know, Umar, if you don't like the show, you don't have to watch it.
We classical scholars were reminded of the fate of the great Roman blogger Marcus Tullius Cicero, who, after getting on the wrong side of Mark Antony, had his tongue and hands cut off and nailed up in the Forum. Mark Antony then went on to marry Elizabeth Taylor. Just an excuse for a little classics lesson there. Personally, Letterman sets my teeth on edge; but I shall now sit all the way through one of his shows, just to show solidarity with Western Civ. And Mr. al-Baswari: If you were hoping this will somehow end up with you marrying Liz Taylor — you're too late. Sorry, pal.
Item: One immutable rule of news-gathering is, it never rains but it pours. You get some off-the-wall story about an unusual occurrence, then five days later you get another on the same topic, which then quiesces for ten years or so.
The shower in this case was a golden shower — a weird outbreak of urinary incontinence on the world's civilian air transport. The heavens first opened up August 10th when 18-year-old Sandy Vietze, a member of the U.S. ski team, was on his way home to New York from a training camp in Oregon. Sandy, who seems to have been imbibing some aprés-ski refreshments, got out of his seat on the plane, staggered forward five rows, then turned and recycled those liquid refreshments on an 11-year-old girl.
Then a week later the French actor Gerard Depardieu felt the call of nature while sitting waiting for his Paris-to-Dublin flight to take off. Use of the bathrooms is of course prohibited until the plane is airborne, but the formidable Monsieur Depardieu could not wait. "Je veux pisser, je veux pisser," he roared with his best acting-school enunciation, and without further adieu — sorry, I mean ado — without further ado took out l'instrument and relieved himself into a handy bottle, which however unfortunately overflowed.
Memo to the world's airlines: Along with the barf bag in your seat pockets, perhaps you should include a complementary adult diaper.
Item: I'm a little late with this one: it's from the June 28th edition of the London Daily Telegraph. Headline: Radio makes Britons happier than TV and web. Subheading: "Listening to the radio makes people happier and gives them higher energy levels than watching TV or browsing the internet, new research has found." Well, didn't we know it? Quote from the researchers: "Our latest research highlights the immense potential of radio to influence emotions." Radio Derb doesn't get an explicit mention — a regrettable oversight on the part of the Telegraph, my ex-employer, but we take satisfaction in knowing that we have influenced your emotions, listeners. I only hope we have influenced them in the right direction: away from frivolous sunny optimism, towards grave and thoughtful reflection. Onward and downward!
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents: Mayhem, madness, and multiple mischievous micturitions. Tune in again next week for more from Radio Derb!
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]