Edit from March, 2011: If I could have known the moronic tempest that was brewing the tiny, black hearts of "tea party" rabble before I wrote this, I would have used all caps. The pace of active revision of history to serve a tiny plutocratic core at the heart of American politics has achieved Langolier speed. Perhaps in a few years, Fox news will be kind of enough to tell us every Monday night what the week's news will be. Now that's efficient!
I should not engage in pig wrestling. Both the pig and I get dirty, but the pig likes it.
I enjoy much of Ben Stein's non-political output, but I do think he speaks less from facts and more from emotion when it comes to economics and politics. Take his American Spectator "We've Figured Him Out". It's full of half-truths, insinuations and F.U.D. Normally, I wouldn't bother much with this kind of nonsense, but there is an increasingly angry, right-wing fringe that needs a reality check. If you don't like Obama's policies, that's a matter of political taste. If you need to invent insane conspiracy stories to support your opinions, you're simply mental.
Armed with wikipedia and the Google, I will try to illuminate the more obvious points of departure from reality Stein (and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Fox news) makes.
The red pullquotes are from Stein's article. The blue are quotes from Obama. The gray are from wikipedia
Item 1: Obama hates Whitey
They ignored his anti-white writings in his books. They ignored his quiet acceptance of hysterical anti-American diatribes by his minister, Jeremiah Wright.
Obama is anti-white? I suppose this is a matter of interpretation, but let's review some indisputable biographical data:
- Obama was born to a white mother (Stanley Ann Dunham of Kansas) and a black father (Barack Obama, Sr. of Kenya)
- From the age of 9, Obama was raised by his mother's parents, who were pretty durn white
- When his grandmother died, Obama was grieved
Obama held his grandmother in high esteem, as suggested by this quote from the Huffington Post:
[My grandmother] is one of those quiet heroes we have all across America, who are not famous, their names are not in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children, and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is do the right thing. And in this crowd, there are a lot of quiet heroes like that, people like that, mothers and fathers and grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives and the satisfaction that they get is in seeing their children or maybe their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren live a better life than they did. That is what America is about. That is what we are fighting for.
That doesn't sounds like Huey Lewis or Malcolm X to me. It sounds like John Kennedy or even Ronald Reagan.
As for whatever Reverend Wright is about, I'm more disappointed that Obama belongs to a church at all. All preachers are a little wacko in my book. They all claim to know the will of an invisible man who lives in the clouds. People with that kind of vocation who live under bridges are called "hobos."
And please note that the even Stein tacitly acknowledges that Obama spent years attending a Christian church. That's "church", not "mosque." Stop with the childish "he's a muslim" fear mongering.
Item 2: Ultra-left wing
They ignored his ultra-left record as a "community organizer,"...
This claim is pretty funny to me. You'd think that Obama was Che Guevara or Huhgo Chavez. So far, Obama has cowed more to Wall Street and the tiny, balling Republican minority in Congress than I can believe. But that's just my opinion.
Clearly what's more sinister to some is Obama's "community organizer" record. I know the G.O.P. doesn't like Government, except on paydays when they get their checks from it. I've been told that they are the "Law and Order" party, so you'd sort of think that they might actually want to see more non-governmental, private citizen making positive changes in their communities. But apparently, that's not the case. What was Obama organizing anyway? According to Wikipedia: (Emphasis added by me.)
After four years in New York City, Obama moved to Chicago, where he was hired as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes ... on Chicago's far South Side.
So he and the Catholic church were working together in this "community." I think the last person to accuse the Catholic church of ultra liberalism was Oliver Cromwell.
During his three years as the DCP's director, its staff grew from one to thirteen and its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000. He helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens.
Obama led an organization to help people get off welfare, go to college and get jobs. That's pretty Republican of him. You don't think the problem Stein has with Obama's record is the tenant rights group, do you? I mean, you'd have to be a total slum-lord D-bag to want to see poor renters get hosed even more badly than they already do.
But, OK. Stein can look at Obama's record in Chicago and call it liberal. That's an opinion. Surely, he wouldn't make a bald-face assertion that's easily dismissed?
Item 3: Obama has no academic achievements
The American people ignored his total zero of an academic record as a student and teacher, his complete lack of scholarship when he was being touted as a scholar.
Obama's academic record, or a portion of it, is cited on the linked to wikipedia pages. But here's a taste:
- Selected as editor of Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year
- Became president of the journal the following year
- Graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law
That's not the record of an academic slouch. That's the record of a superstar. Stein was Valedictorian for his class at Yale. Perhaps Stein's problems with Obama stem from the well-known Harvard-Yale rivalry. Stein's own academic record makes me jealous, but Obama's record is in all ways objectively superior.
Item 4: Obama hates America
Barack Obama is ... not a fan of this country, way, way too cozy with the terrorist leaders in the Middle East, way beyond naivete, all the way into active destruction of our interests and our allies and our future.
Why is it that Republicans, who lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddam Hussein's linked to Al Queda to get us into a costly and futile war, ceaselessly accuse all Democrats wanting to destroy America? I guess that's what psychologists call "projection."
Not only is there no evidence that Obama "is not a fan of this country," substantial evidence has been presented in this essay and elsewhere to the contrary. If you still believe Obama hates this country and likes terrorists, you're literally delusional. For your good and society's, get on some meds immediately.
Does Obama want to talk with Iran? Yes. That's called diplomacy and it's something that countries run by mentally stable adults engage in frequently and without controversy. Does Obama's willingness to talk to America's competitors mean that he seeks to harm the U.S.? No. On the contrary, you can often learn things from talking to competitors that benefit you and help you anticipate their future actions. Businesses do this all the time. When Bill Gates was CEO at Microsoft and he talked with Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison, no one accused him of treason. Diplomacy can be actually productive.
Item 5: The Stimulus Bill was a failure
The American people have already awakened to the truth that the stimulus bill -- a great idea in theory -- was really an immense bribe to Democrat interest groups, and in no way an effort to help all Americans.
Whether any awakening has been done by any American ever is a matter of debate, but that the stimulus bill has not helped America is untrue. Cast your mind back to the fall of 2008. The biggest financial institutions were either collapsing or about to collapse under the weight of toxic assets and a crippling web of interdependent credit default swaps. A bailout of Wall Street bankers was conceived called the Trouble Asset Relief Program of 2008 that was initiated and passed under the Bush administration. It gave Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson complete and auditless power to distribute $750 billion to whichever institution he deemed worthy. Now for bonus points, which interest groups do you think T.A.R.P. served and which party receives the most money from them? And was that party in power when T.A.R.P. was passed? Do you see a pattern?
But in fairness, Stein specifically mentions the Stimulus bill, referring to the one passed in Feburary, 2009 under the Obama administration. I am not qualified to say whether the stimulus was efficacious or not, but the economists I listen to (*cough* Krugman *cough*) say that it is too early to feel the full effects of it. It does appear to have blunted the free-fall of the U.S. and world economies. At least technically, the Fed believes that the Great Recession is over. So all Americans actually have benefited from the stimulus package already and are likely to benefit from it more in the future.
Was the stimulus a bribe? Certainly, it did benefit a lot of traditional Democratic interests groups. However, I recall the G.O.P. being a bunch of cry babies about the process and not participating in it. I heard them whine about Pelosi shutting them out of the process, but then again, they were the minority party. In American politics, to the victor goes the spoils. Certainly, I learned that in 2000 and 2004 when the G.O.P. gave tax breaks to the obscenely rich, rubber-stamped ugly civil rights intrusions and picked a fight with Iraq.
I believe James Brown said it best in the song Payback:
hey! Gotta gotta pay back! (The big payback)
Revenge! I'm mad (the big payback)
Got to get back! Need some get back! Pay Back! (the big payback)
That's it! Payback! Revenge!
Item 6: Health Reform is Bad
Now, Americans are waking up to the truth that ObamaCare basically means that every time you are sick or injured, you will have a clerk from the Department of Motor Vehicles telling your doctor what he can and cannot do.
Apparently, Stein doesn't have health problems or he'd be talking about the clerk from his health insurance company who tells his doctor what to do. Honestly, the critics of health care reform have some scifi insurance plan from the future that I've never had. Health care is a bureaucratic apocalypse right now. It needs to be cheaper and more efficient. Why would an honest Republican not want that? Here's a bit of Obama on the "efficiency" of our current system:
More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care.
That sure sounds like invasive bureaucracy to me. However, the bureaucrat isn't working for the government, so I guess that's better in Stein's book.
Finally, I'd like to note that Stein was on Fox news in 2007 happily yapping about the health of the financial market. He thought Merrill Lynch was an "astonishing well-run" company. 13 months later, Bank of America bought Merrill, which was fatally weakened by CDS liabilities, in a shotgun wedding forced by the Paulson. Even more interesting, Thane, head of Merrill, argued at literally the last minute for millions of dollars of compensation for Merrill's top brass.
So, Ben's not so good on predicting the future or frankly observing the present. Oh yeah, he hates atheists too. Still, I'd drink scotch with him anytime he wants and talk about what an ass Jimmy Kimble is.