Comment Of The Day: “It’s Time To Play The Exciting New Broadcast Media Ethics Game…”

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Steve-O-in NJ, commenting on the post about President Obama’s weak response to the invasion of the Ukraine by an emboldened Russia. raises the broader ethical point of America’s duty to be militarily strong, one of the persistent areas of disagreement between liberals and conservatives, and one area where the right has it right, and the left is out in left field. It should be noted, however, that this problem is a direct consequence of the even greater one hanging over us: the relentlessly expanding National Debt, and the irresponsible lack of political courage and resolve to do anything about it other than let it get worse. This was most recently demonstrated by what we have learned about the President’s new budget proposal, which raised the ethical question, “Did Obama ever mean what he said about entitlement reform and serious debt reduction?”

Wrote Washington Post editorial chief Fred Hiatt—a liberal Democrat, like virtually all of his colleagues— last week:

It’s a relatively small thing, really, a fix to the calculation of cost-of-living benefits that would have helped save Social Security. But President Obama’s decision to drop the reform from his proposed budget hints at a bigger question: What does he believe in enough to really fight for?

To hear him in 2009, you would have thought that safeguarding Social Security was one such goal. “To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security,” he said. In 2010, he was even more determined: “Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we’ll still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. . . . I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.” Now the winds have shifted — his party wants to woo older voters by promising richer benefits, not reform — and Obama has moved on, too. Someone else will have to fix Social Security.

His turnabout on foreign policy has been even more dizzying. Three years ago, he was promising to support democracy movements throughout the Middle East and protect their advocates from government violence.

Hiatt, whom I generally respect, seems to be uncharacteristically slow on the uptake here. Many of us figured out way back in 2008 that Obama was a politician who would use whatever soaring rhetoric he thought would please the maximum number of voters, and that he had no idea how or whether to make his words reality….and does not yet.  Meanwhile, the Post’s fairest and most astute conservative pundit, Robert Samuelson, explained why Obama’s inaction on entitlements guarantees weakness in the world:

We are spending more and getting less, and — unless present trends are reversed — this will continue for years. It threatens the end of government as we know it.

The cause is no mystery. An aging population and higher health spending automatically increase budget outlays, which induce the president and Congress to curb spending on almost everything else, from defense to food stamps. Over the next decade, all the government’s projected program growth stems from Social Security and health care, including the Affordable Care Act. By 2024, everything else will represent only 7.4 percent of national income (gross domestic product), the lowest share since at least 1940, says Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office.

This is the central budget story, and it’s largely missed — or ignored — by political leaders, the media, political scientists and the public. The welfare state is taking over government. It’s strangling government’s ability to respond to other national problems and priorities, because the constituencies for welfare benefits, led by Social Security’s 57 million, are more numerous and powerful than their competitors for federal support. Politicians of both parties are loath to challenge these large, expectant and generally sympathetic groups.

With this as the depressing backdrop, here is Steve O’s excellent Comment of the Day on the post, It’s Time To Play The Exciting New Broadcast Media Ethics Game, “Biased, Lazy, or Incompetent!”:

It does not help that Obama said from the beginning that military action was “off the table,” so the worst Putin has to face from him is language and maybe we won’t attend the G8 in Russia, which means not a damn thing. The US may well not be willing to go to war over this, and it might well not be in our best interests to do so, but there’s no reason to tell Putin that from the get-go and take the big stick out of sight. If I were president I’d raise the alert status of our forces in Europe and send the 6th Fleet steaming east, with some rhetoric about being prepared to help the Ukrainian people keep their nation and their sovereignty. I might not actually intend to intervene, but Putin doesn’t need to know that, and the sight of American flattops might give him pause.

As it is, we look weaker than we did when Russian tanks rolled over Free Hungary and froze the Prague Spring before it could go anywhere. Couple this with the recent announcement of shrinking the military to the smallest level since before World War II, and I submit it’s not entirely out of line to ask whether or not the current administration is looking to significantly damage this nation’s military capability the way Frank Church trashed our intelligence capability 30-some-odd years ago.

I was only just out of college when the Cold War started to thaw, but I’d certainly spent enough time studying it and seeing its impact to know now that we had a classic tension between morality and ethics then as we do now. Oh, I read the US Bishops’ pastoral letter on the immorality of strategic weapons and the articles that talked about how moral it would be if the US led the way in disarming by doing so unilaterally. I also remember the out-and-out cowardice of the chattering classes when Reagan walked away from the table in Reykjavik and their mocking of the strategic defense initiative as “Star Wars.” The bottom line is that peace may be moral and desirable, and that the image of the lamb lying down with the lion might be nice, but national weakness was bad policy and bad ethics then, and it’s bad policy and bad ethics now. We stumbled pretty badly in the Cold War with Carter’s feckless and incompetent peace-with-everyone, Vietnam-is-over approach and we’re lucky we had Reagan to make it right. Who will make this right? Obama lost most of his credibility in Syria, the rest is about to go.

Just a thought – they say history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. Would I be out of line to say this time out the farce came first with Jimmy Carter’s feckless bumbling, while the real tragedy is going to be now, where Obama promised a future of hope, but led the US into a decline it probably won’t come out of?

11 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “It’s Time To Play The Exciting New Broadcast Media Ethics Game…”

  1. Indeed. Well written.

    On your point, Jack, the leftists will reply that they do believe in a strong military… Just that it doesn’t need to be as strong as the right claims…

    On that point they are wrong.

  2. Leftists must have had wonderful childhoods where they never met a bully they didn’t appease, never had to stand up for their friends, could always buy their way out of trouble, could lie without consequences, could use other people’s work without conscience, could disdain the competent, never fought and never lost, had whatever they wanted, and never paid for anything.

    • Since they are the ones enforcing “zero tolerance” policies in schools, I do have to wonder if you’re right there.

  3. “Hiatt, whom I generally respect, seems to be uncharacteristically slow on the uptake here. Many of us figured out way back in 2008 that Obama was a politician who would use whatever soaring rhetoric he thought would please the maximum number of voters, and that he had no idea how or whether to make his words reality….and does not yet.”

    Using soaring rhetoric is not in and of itself wrong, and it would not surprise me if the left might counter Jacks’ statement by saying that Reagan used his share of rhetoric, indeed most presidents did. I think it’s important to make the point that Reagan, though he used his share of rhetoric, didn’t try to make the unworkable workable. He knew his broader policy goals and was wise enought to appoint competent subordinates to work out the fine details of implementing them. He was also realistic enough to know when to at least bend. Obama used policy goals as empty rhetoric that he himself had no clue how to implement and wasn’t willing to accept help in implementing. I question whether he himself knew whether universal healthcare was workable in the United States as the system stood or whether making it workable was possible without doing a great deal of collateral damage. I question whether he himself knew how to handle the existing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan other than promising withdrawal and what the consequences would be.

    He DID manage to oversee the revolt in Libya with minimal risk to the US (apart from the Benghazi mess, but that’s a separate discussion), and I think that made him think he was good to go on handling conflicts that arose on his watch. Unfortunately, he led from behind and was able to put most of the burden on locals and Europe. Not so taking on Russia or China, and not so taking on a frankly ruthless figure like Putin who isn’t going to fall for charm and the fact that Obama’s not GWB. Obama’s in over his head here, and that’s a very bad place for the US to be.

    • In Libya, however, he dithered unforgivably, and if he had acted more quickly and decisively, it would have been over sooner with fewer killed. He also directly lied to Congress as he broke the law regarding the end of “hostilities.”

      • Agreed and agreed. My point is that I believe he thought after that crisis that he had won his foreign policy stripes and no other world leader could touch him. How wrong he was. BTW, thank you again for the distinction, I neglected to say so in this thread .

  4. Time magazine named the Hungarian Freedom Fighter its Man of the Year for 1956. Do you think it’s likely that they would do that for the Ukrainians this year? Not likely under the leftists that run the Magazine now. Obama now has a chance to make a dramatic flight to Moscow, get some meaningless concessions from Putin and proclaim it is peace for our time.

    • Not a chance. Kerry’s going to Kiev, though, for all the good that will do. I was back and forth with someone on facebook this morning who said that the world was tired of war, as if that were a justification to just look the other way on a crisis. The world was tired of war in 1918, and we stumbled and bumbled while dictators took root and grew strong. The world was tired of war in 1945, and we watched the Iron Curtain clang down and turn Eastern Europe into a giant prison for 50 years. One of these days I’m going to write a whole essay about exactly what we allowed to go on in the 20s and 30s because we were tired of war and pinning all our hopes on the League of nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact and all those other fake hopes.

      • Then again, Time actually meant something then, as did its cover choices. Now it is a sad, archaic disgrace to the Luce name and legacy, a desperate, struggling and doomed publication in a genre, weekly print news, that no longer makes sense or is relevant, mouthing progressive cant because the only journalists they can find don’t know anything else. It outlasted Newsweek—that was the magazine;s final victory. Now it should give up, hold a party, and go away.

      • Yeah…

        The world isn’t tired of war and never will be. Notionally good people are tired of not being able to actually finish off bad people. And lazy members of good nations are tired of having to actually do something about bad people.

        Bad people however will never tire of war.

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