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Obama Derangement Syndrome

Cutting Defense

Is Defense the one department that Barack Obama is cutting?  If so, is that a bad thing?

The Wall Street Journal's editorial writers said so earlier this month in an article titled "Declining Defense":

For all of his lavish new spending plans, President Obama is making one major exception: defense. His fiscal 2010 budget telegraphs that Pentagon spending is going to be under pressure in the years going forward.

The White House proposes to spend $533.7 billion on the Pentagon, a 4% increase over 2009. Include spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, which would be another $130 billion (or a total of $664 billion), and overall defense spending would be around 4.2% of GDP, the same as 2007.

However, that 4% funding increase for the Pentagon trails the 6.7% overall rise in the 2010 budget -- and defense received almost nothing extra in the recent stimulus bill.

Steve Chapman responded in an article titled "Mythical Defense Cuts":

Cindy Williams, a defense scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former assistant director of the Congressional Budget Office, points out that, leaving aside the two wars we are fighting, Obama wants to spend 2 percent more in the next fiscal year than President Bush allocated for this year, and 11 percent more than we spent last year.

Bush also planned for the defense budget (apart from Iraq and Afghanistan) to shrink slightly each year starting in 2010. Obama's blueprint calls for the defense budget to remain about the same. "Spending will actually be higher under Obama's plan than under Bush's," says Williams.

But as conservatives have been known to point out, Washington policymakers have funny ways with numbers. Last year, the Defense Department asked for an increase of nearly $60 billion in the 2010 budget over what had been planned. The Obama administration declined but agreed to a smaller increase.

So conservatives should be pleased, right? Wrong. Since the increase the Pentagon got is less than it wanted, they claim Obama is "cutting" defense spending. By that logic, if you ask for a 50 percent raise and get only 10 percent, you've suffered a pay cut.

The real question is not why Obama wants to spend so little on defense but why he wants to spend so much. Since 2001, our military outlays have soared by 40 percent, after adjusting for inflation. And that's not counting the costs of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We not only spend more than anyone else, we spend more than everyone else. reports that in 2004, the United States lavished $623 billion on the military. All the other governments on Earth together managed only $500 billion. Even this gap understates our dominance, because most of the other top spenders are U.S. allies.

No nation can dream of challenging us in the air or at sea. We have a huge nuclear arsenal capable of inflicting mass annihilation on a moment's notice.

Meanwhile, the demands on our military are easing rather than growing. Under the agreement Bush signed with the Iraqi government, which Obama has reaffirmed, we are supposed to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. The threat from Al Qaeda has been greatly reduced.

We spend more on the military than the combined total of every other country in the world, Obama proposes spending increases relative to what was spent previously and what Bush proposed, yet the WSJ chastises him for "cutting" defense?  I think that's "deranged."

Purchasing cigarettes, Haagen-Dazs and a Playboy

From Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush (link):

For politicians, the teleprompter has always been something of an embarrassing vice -- the political equivalent of purchasing cigarettes, Haagen-Dazs and a Playboy at the convenience store.

This derision is based on the belief that the teleprompter exaggerates the gap between image and reality -- that it involves a kind of deception. It is true that there is often a distinction between a president on and off his script. With a teleprompter, Obama can be ambitiously eloquent; without it, he tends to be soberly professorial. Ronald Reagan with a script was masterful; during news conferences he caused much wincing and cringing. It is the rare politician, such as Tony Blair, who speaks off the cuff in beautifully crafted paragraphs.

But it is a mistake to argue that the uncrafted is somehow more authentic. Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use "rhetoric" as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing -- expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order -- is essential to governing. For this reason, the greatest leaders have taken great pains with rhetoric. Lincoln continually edited and revised his speeches. Churchill practiced to the point of memorization. Such leaders would not have been improved by being "unplugged." When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined.

(h/t Political Punch)

Obama Derangement Syndrome

Familiar with the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome" as coined by Charles Krauthammer?

the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush

Well, in case you haven't noticed, the virus has mutated.  The new version is very similar, except now it's associated with Obama.

I've seen the symptoms cropping up everywhere lately.  Here are a few examples:

Freaking out because Notre Dame invited the POTUS to speak at commencement (because his views on abortion conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church), but a Catholic university awarding an honorary degree to a pro-choice, pro-death penalty, pro-Iraq-war (all of which are in conflict with the Catholic church) secretary of state is perfectly fine.

Delighting in the thought that Obama's extensive teleprompter use is a sign of some critical character flaw...despite the fact the previous POTUS was famous for inserting his foot in his mouth...thinking that Obama is an idiot despite being able to talk intelligently and extensively about policy with or without a teleprompter...despite the fact that he has a BA from Columbia and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law.

Believing that the stock market tanks every time Obama speaks, taking day to day stock market declines as a sign of his failure, yet being strangely silent as the stock market goes on an extended multi-week surge...even though it's now up since Obama took office.

Freaking out about a bill with bipartisan support that significantly expands the AmeriCorps program for national service...claiming he's planning to take away your kids for some sort of Hitler-esque youth squad.

Claiming that Obama's gallows-humor chuckles during a 60 Minutes interview are signs that he doesn't take the economic crisis and the suffering of the little guy seriously...that an unfortunate but self-deprecating reference to Special Olympics on Leno shows what a horrible guy he really is.

Obama proposes reducing taxes for 95 % of us and increasing the tax rate on the rest by a few percentage points, returning it to where it was under Clinton (a level that is low compared to some historical levels)...and it's proof-positive that he is a Marxist, a Socialist, a Communist, and this is clearly no longer the country we knew.

Ridiculing Earth Hour (in which people around the world are encouraged to take the symbolic act of turning off the lights for an hour) as childish and silly, while completely missing the childishness of encouraging folks to do the opposite (turn on every light in your house)...and calling Obama an "extremist tyrannical president."

Don't get me wrong.  I don't deny that there are plenty of philosophical and policy issues where many folks will have profound differences with Obama.  Even a guy like me (who is generally in agreement with Obama on many issues) can see plenty of mis-steps and imperfections in his brief presidency thus far (I'll write about those sometime soon)...but folks, remember how silly Bush Derangement Syndrome looked (looks; it's still out there)?  That's how you look now.  Derangement syndromes aren't admirable no matter who the target is.


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