June 24, 2012

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Fake memoirs have become a genre attracting the attention of Mark Steyn

Courtesy of David Maraniss’ new book, we now know that yet another key prop of Barack Obama’s identity is false: His Kenyan grandfather was not brutally tortured or even non-brutally detained by his British colonial masters. The composite gram’pa joins an ever-swelling cast of characters from Barack’s “memoir” who, to put it discreetly, differ somewhat in reality from their bit parts in the grand Obama narrative. The best friend at school portrayed in Obama’s autobiography as “a symbol of young blackness” was, in fact, half Japanese, and not a close friend. The white girlfriend he took to an off-Broadway play that prompted an angry post-show exchange about race never saw the play, dated Obama in an entirely different time zone, and had no such world-historically significant conversation with him. His Indonesian step-grandfather, supposedly killed by Dutch soldiers during his people’s valiant struggle against colonialism, met his actual demise when he “fell off a chair at his home while trying to hang drapes.”

David Maraniss is no right-winger, and can’t understand why boorish nonliterary types have seized on his book as evidence that the president of the United States is a Grade A phony. “It is a legitimate question about where the line is in memoir,” he told Soledad O’Brien on CNN. My Oxford dictionary defines “memoir” as “an historical account or biography written from personal knowledge.” And if Obama doesn’t have “personal knowledge” of his tortured grandfather, war-hero step-grandfather and racially obsessed theater-buff girlfriend, who does? But in recent years, the Left has turned the fake memoir into one of the most prestigious literary genres: Oprah’s Book Club recommended James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” hailed by Bret Easton Ellis as a “heartbreaking memoir” of “poetic honesty,” but subsequently revealed to be heavy on the “poetic” and rather light on the “honesty.” The “heartbreaking memoir” of a drug-addled street punk who got tossed in the slammer after brawling with cops while high on crack with his narco-hooker girlfriend proved to be the work of some suburban Pat Boone type with a couple of parking tickets. (I exaggerate, but not as much as he did.)

Oprah was also smitten by “The Education of Little Tree,” the heartwarmingly honest memoir of a Cherokee childhood which turned out to be concocted by a former Klansman whose only previous notable literary work was George Wallace’s “Segregation Forever” speech. …


Peter Wehner on the president’s “annus horribilis” that’s taking place in just this one month of June.

President Obama was already suffering one of the worst imaginable months for an incumbent president in an election year – including a dismal jobs report and declining factory orders, falling approval ratings (including in swing states), the overwhelming victory of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, the president’s widely ridiculed claim the private sector is “doing fine,” Bill Clinton’s various apostasies, the realization that Obama might be outspent in this election by Mitt Romney, and a major speech in Ohio that was panned even by sympathetic liberals. (Jim Geraghty provides a nice summary and analysis here.)

But it may be that the first half of June was a walk in the park compared to the latter part of the month. Because two events – one which just happened and one that will happen next week – may turn out to be powerful, and even crippling, body blows to the president. …


Just days before the Court decision on healthcare, Robert Samuelson reviews why it was such a mistake.

We pay our presidents for judgment, and President Obama committed a colossal error of judgment in making health-care “reform” a centerpiece of his first term. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and regardless of how the court decides — it’s clear that Obama overreached. His attempt to achieve universal health insurance coverage is a massive feat of social engineering that, by its sweeping nature, weakens the economic recovery and antagonizes millions of Americans.

Let’s review why the ACA (“Obamacare”) is dreadful public policy:

(1) It increases uncertainty and decreases confidence when recovery from the Great Recession requires more confidence and less uncertainty. …

… To all the ACA’s substantive defects is now added a looming political and constitutional firestorm. Whether the Supreme Court upholds the whole law, strikes it all down or discards only parts, anger and outrage will ensue. The court may be accused of usurping legislative powers or of cowering before White House intimidation. The ACA has become an instrument of the political polarization that the president regularly deplores.

When historians examine Obama’s first term, the irony will be plain. A president bent on burnishing his legacy acted in ways that did the opposite. It’s a case of bad judgment.


A poll of Supreme Court clerks shows they think the mandate will not pass muster. Alana Goodman has the story.

Via WaPo’s Sarah Kliff, this is a big shift from what we saw in the last poll of Supreme Court clerks:

A new poll of 56 former Supreme Court clerks finds that 57 percent think the individual mandate will be overturned. That’s a 22-point jump from the last time the same group of clerks was surveyed, right before oral arguments. Back then, 35 percent thought the court would toss out the required purchase of health insurance.

Most of the clerks found the Supreme Court’s questioning to be more skeptical than they had expected. As one clerk put it to Purple Strategies’ Doug Schoen, who conducted the research, “I feel like a dope, because I was one of those who predicted that the Court would uphold the statute by a lopsided majority…it now appears pretty likely that this prediction was way off.” …


Just in case the Court does not make a sensible ruling this week, Noemie Emery has drafted a speech for Mitt.

In the event the Supreme Court does not put Obamacare out of our misery next week, Mitt Romney ought be ready to roll with the punches and come out at once with Plan B. Plan A was to have the Court sever it neatly with one swing of the axe, but there was always the possibility the Court would not follow the returns of the recent elections. Plan B should be the political process, which involves not the minds of nine, but the intent of millions, expressed in the usual ways. Thus, Plan B should be to elect politicians who will undo Obamacare with the tools given their branches of government. And so, Romney ought to say this: 

MY FELLOW AMERICANS: It is now up to us. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—which protects no one, and which will bankrupt the country—is not unconstitutional, but that does not mean it is good. A number of things that are legal are in many ways bad: It is legal to lie (except under oath), or to stay home all day watching TV in your skivvies; but it’s best not to do so, and we’d rather you’d not. 

And legal or not, this health care act is a disaster—born in deceit, passed in arrogance in the face of the will and the rage of the people, it has caused dissent and contention since its inception, and this has hardly worn off over time. People have not learned to love it: Their anger has deepened. Resistance hasn’t diminished: It has grown. The problem is not that it expands coverage; that intention is laudable. The problem is that it is a 2,700 page blunderbuss that tries to assert central control over 16 percent of a $14 trillion economy, over the choices and actions of nearly six million health care professionals, and over the health care decisions and choices of the more than 300 million American citizens with whom they all interact. This country is drowning in debt, (along with everyone else in the first-world community), and this bill will cost much, much more than was claimed when they passed it, and that, let us remember, was quite bad enough. …


Mort Zuckerman on why we need a new approach to public unions.

It’s hard to dodge downpours in a wet season, and it is proving remarkably wet for the Democrats and public sector unions. Since losing the big effort to recall the Republican governor of Wisconsin, they have been trying hard to explain away the 1,334,450 raindrops Wisconsin voters deposited on their pro-union campaigners. The rain on their parade, we are told, is not really a protest against the disproportionate political power accumulated by public sector unions. It’s because voters dislike the idea of recalling someone they not so long ago voted into office. It’s because the Democratic candidate, the worthy mayor of Milwaukee, wasn’t as gifted an orator as the governor. It’s because big corporate money poured in from out of state thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates for wealthy donors to exert undue sway. It’s because….

Well, let’s concede there’s something in all these arguments, maybe adding up to as much as 46 percent of the vote against Gov. Scott Walker’s 53 percent. But you’d have to be remarkably impervious to being soaked to say, as a White House spokesman did, that the massive defeat of the recall has no implications for anywhere outside of Wisconsin (which went for Barack Obama by 14 points in 2008).

The central issue was the political power of the public service unions, which translates into salaries, benefits, and pensions far above those received by the median wage earner in the state. Wisconsin taxpayers understood that the state’s $3.6 billion deficit posed a mortal danger to continuing public services such as education and necessary infrastructure. So they said: Enough! They demanded that everybody contribute to putting the state back on track. In state after state, lavish, unaffordable over-promises have been made to public service employees; in fact, the cost of healthcare benefits and pensions is rising so fast that it is producing a fiscal crisis in virtually every state in the union.

How did the balance of power in the public sector become so out of whack? The public unions often elect the management that they negotiate with. They organize voting campaigns for politicians who, upon election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector employees, irrespective of whether they are sustainable, and the unions don’t worry about bankrupting those sitting opposite them at the table. The taxpayer-funded public service unions have essentially dictated the terms of their employment to the taxpayers they are supposed to serve.

Government employees are better off in almost every area than private sector employees, be it in paid benefits, time off, or job security. Pensions are particularly irritating, for many state workers can retire in their mid-50s at close to full pay and receive pensions for far more years than they have worked, even though they are young enough to take another job. If you take their pensions’ present value in terms of the cash you would need to buy an annuity making payments equal to the pension, we have created a new class of millionaires. …

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