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Archive for September, 2008

The news media have been shamefully stoking the idea that the only way Barack Obama could possibly lose the presidential election is if American racists have their way. Indeed, the fact that Obama isn’t leading in polls by a wide margin “doesn’t make sense … unless it’s race,” says CNN’s Jack Cafferty.

Slate’s Jacob Weisberg says Obama is losing among older white voters because of the “color of his skin.”

Many journalists are so committed to the racism-explains-everything line they are labeling any effective anti-Obama ad as an attempt by John McCain to “viciously exacerbate” America’s “race-fueled angst,” in the words of one New York magazine writer.

For example, a McCain ad noted that Franklin Raines, the Clinton-appointed former head of Fannie Mae who helped bring about the current Wall Street meltdown, advised the Obama campaign. Time’s Karen Tumulty gasped that because Raines is black, McCain is playing the race card.

Why, she wants to know, didn’t McCain attack Obama’s even stronger ties to the even more culpable former Fannie Mae chairman, Jim Johnson, who had to resign from Obama’s vice presidential search team because of his sketchy dealings with mortgage giant Countrywide Financial? “One reason might be that Johnson is white; Raines is black,” Tumulty suggests.

Or another reason might be that the McCain campaign was saving that attack for its next ad, which is what happened.

According to critics, McCain’s “celebrity” ads featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were nothing but tawdry race-baiting because they subliminally played on white America’s fear of black men violating the delicate flowers of white American womanhood. You’d think a cognitive warning bell would have gone off the moment anyone started suggesting that Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are icons of chastity.

This spectacle is grotesque. It reveals how little the supposedly objective press corps thinks of the American people — and how highly they think of themselves … and Obama. Obama’s lack of experience, his doctrinaire liberalism, his record, his known associations with Weatherman radical William Ayers and the hate-mongering Rev. Jeremiah Wright: These cannot possibly be legitimate motivations to vote against Obama, in this view.

Similarly, McCain’s experience, his record of bipartisanship, his heroism: These too count for nothing.

Racism is all there is. Obama wins, and America sheds its racial past. Obama loses, and we’re a nation of “Bull” Connors.

Much of the argument for the centrality of race in this election hinges on the so-called Bradley effect. In 1982, Tom Bradley, Los Angeles’ black mayor, was polling well among white voters in the race for California governor. Bradley lost, suggesting that large numbers of whites had lied to pollsters about their intention to vote for him.

I have no doubt that the Bradley effect is real. But the Bradley effect does not reflect racism; it captures voters’ fear of appearing racist. There’s no reason to assume those who lie to pollsters are racists. But for Obama supporters and the media, poll results are some kind of sacred, binding covenant. If voters don’t keep their promise, the media have no problem seeing racism at work.

The media’s obsession with race in this election is probably fueling the Bradley effect. Repeating over and over that voting against Obama is racist only makes non-racist people embarrassed to admit that they plan to vote for McCain.

Another rich irony is that the only racists who matter in this election are the ones in the Democratic Party. News flash: Republicans aren’t voting for the Democratic nominee because they’re Republicans. A new AP-Yahoo News poll claims that racial prejudice is a significant factor among the independents and Democrats Obama needs to win, specifically among Hillary Clinton’s primary voters. According to the pollsters’ statistical modeling, support for Obama may be as much as 6 percentage points lower than it would be if there were no white racism.

I’m skeptical about those findings, as well as the overemphasis on race generally. But to the extent that race is a factor, here’s the richest irony of all: Obama’s problem is with precisely those voters the Democratic Party claims to fight for, working- and middle-class white folks. Of course, Democrats can’t openly complain that their own vital constituency is racist.

If the media were more objective, we’d be hearing a lot more about the racism at the heart of the Democratic Party. (Imagine if the black nominee this year were a Republican!) But such objectivity would cause too much cognitive dissonance for a press corps that defines “racist” as shorthand for Republican and sees itself as the publicity arm of the Obama campaign.

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(NRO) – Before George Delano Bush unveils yet another vast, socialist scheme in response to today’s financial turmoil, his administration should try something as simple as ABC. While the following may not solve the problems of all the institutions in distress, it may be the best bet to minimize the damage from the implosion of two of the largest failed enterprises: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Now that these two entities have been fully nationalized, they should be divided into much smaller parts and sold off. This can be accomplished in six steps.

First, declare that Fannie and Freddie are dead. Make this painfully clear to everyone by using crowbars to pry the brass nameplates off of their respective headquarters buildings.

Second, pour their assets into a new, temporary agency whose legal authority expires within 90 days. The Asset Breakup Corporation will supervise Fannie and Freddie’s orderly dismemberment and sale in much smaller pieces.

Third, use Fannie’s and Freddie’s databases to create a list of their customers ranked alphabetically according to the individual homeowners’ surnames.

The first set will contain people whose surnames begin with the letter “A.” Americans named Aaronson, Adams, Alvarado, and Antonucci. The second will consist of those whose surnames begin with “B.” People named Baca, Benson, Berkowitz, and Brooks will compose this category. Next, people surnamed Caruso, Charles, Chavez, and Chung will populate the “C” group.

This simple method soon would divide Fannie’s and Freddie’s assets easily, fairly, and transparently into 26 distinct slices.

This method automatically would minimize risk. Rich people and poor folks, hard workers and slackers, cheapskates and spendthrifts, city slickers and country bumpkins, Southerners and Northerners, Pacific surfers and Atlantic lobstermen, blacks and whites, the young and the old, and everyone in between are scattered evenly and randomly across the alphabet. The “A” group, “D” group, or “W” group all will include many diligently paid mortgages and some turkeys. Some mortgage owners will live in thriving communities while others will reside in sleepy little towns. Some will bask in the Sunbelt while others endure endless rain.

By evenly spreading risk this way, any business that purchases these blocks of former Fannie and Freddie assets will be confident that there will be enough performing mortgages to compensate for those that have gone sour.

The alternative — selling these assets by geographic region, according to their current status, or by homeowners’ incomes — would yield a predictable and understandable result: Investors would line up to purchase mortgages belonging to creditworthy, high-income homeowners in affluent parts of the country. Taxpayers would get stuck with non-performing mortgages from, say, downtown Detroit or New Orleans’ embattled Lower Ninth Ward.

Fourth, each “lettered” company will contain hundreds of thousands of units across which to average risk. Similarly, each “lettered” company’s mortgages, on average, should approximate the balance due on a typical Fannie/Freddie loan. As of last June 30, according to slide 33 of its Investor’s Summary, the average Unpaid Principle Balance on a typical, single-family, Fannie Mae loan was $146,503. So, if the letter M group has 1 million such mortgages, it should be worth $146.5 billion. While the winning bidder will end up paying “too much” for mortgages with balances due of say, $125,000, those homeowners who owe $175,000 will have their debts purchased at a discount.

Auctioning off these 26 units will determine what proportion of this price the market is willing to bear. This price-discovery process would be far preferable to having the government cheat taxpayers out of potential cash by charging prices that are too low, or attenuating the current mess by charging prices that potential buyers will not pay, thus marooning these assets even longer.

Obviously, the A, E, I, M, S, and O groups will be larger than those for surnames starting with Q, X, and Z. The Q, X, and Z companies will be smaller, and thus cheaper, than the others. Thus, these 26 separate asset classes could be sold at a range of prices, which would make them affordable to market players of various sizes.

These 26 companies should be sold to the highest bidders in open outcry auctions accessible to the general public and members of the news media.

Fifth, once banks, hedge funds, private-equity companies, pension funds, or whoever purchases these assets, the new owners will be responsible for contacting mortgage holders and making payment arrangements. For many, it simply will mean giving them new addresses to which to direct their monthly checks. Other people will need to work out payment terms or take other actions to normalize their affairs.

Even if these loans need to be untangled and “de-securitized” in order to compensate various intermediaries between original borrowers and the winners of these auctions, far better to let 26 flowers bloom and manage this challenge privately than to leave a financial Katrina in the lap of the corrupt, spendthrift incompetents who are a nickel a dozen in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the new private “landlords” who run these 26 new companies will have an instant audience of homeowners to whom they can market insurance, roofing supplies, lawn care products, air conditioners, steak knives, or anything else homeowners may want to buy. If these companies can make money this way, more power to them. The prospect of former Fannie and Freddie customers suddenly getting junk mail about the latest innovations in attic insulation may not be immediately appealing. But far better an outpouring of catalogues and coupons than the outrage of watching Uncle Sam toss 200 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars onto a giant bonfire.

Sixth, once these 26 alphabetically divided former components of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are sold off, the Asset Breakup Corporation will expire, 90 days after it was born.

At that point, the U.S. federal government should declare itself out of the home mortgage business, once and for all. Having made a Doberman’s breakfast of things, Uncle Sam should walk away and redouble his efforts to keep our borders safe and kill Islamic terrorists before they try to kill us.

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(NRO) – On Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008, in a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools,” I offer a report on my research into the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), an education foundation once headed by Barack Obama. As I explained in “Chicago Annenberg Challenge Shutdown?” the Richard J. Daley Library of the University of Illinois at Chicago first agreed to grant, then abruptly denied me, access to the files of this foundation. Subsequently, the Daley Library again reversed their decision and made the CAC files available.

As I note in today’s Journal piece, I’ve conveyed the gist of my Annenberg findings to the Obama campaign and offered them a chance to respond. In reply, the Obama campaign has sent me an extended “on the record” statement about Obama’s role at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and about the nature of his relationship with Bill Ayers. I present that statement in its entirety here:

The Annenberg Challenge records only serve to establish clearly that while Barack Obama and Ayers had occasional contact during Obama’s 6 years of service on the bipartisan board, they did not work closely together to exchange and develop policy ideas. In fact, as these records show, Ayers attended a total 6 meetings of the Board during the 6 years of Obama’s Board service. And, as these same records also demonstrate, the advisory committee that Ayers co-chaired played no operational role whatsoever once the Challenge hired its Executive Director at the end of its first year.

Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s recruitment to the Board. Barack Obama was encouraged to run for Chair by Deborah Leff, with whom he served on another board, recommended by Pat Graham, and elected by the bipartisan founding board members: Susan Crown, Pat Graham, Stanley Ikenberry, Ray Romero, Arnold Weber, and Wanda White.

Barack Obama months ago confirmed that he had contact with Ayers during the course of his foundation work, and he pointed out that “We served on a board together that had Republicans, bankers, lawyers, focused on education”. Senator Obama also said earlier this year that Ayers was “not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis”, a fact that is not in any way contradicted by their contact through the Annenberg Challenge which ended 12 years ago, or by any of the Challenge records.

The suggestion that Ayers somehow dominated the policy or direction of the bipartisan Challenge Board, imprinting it with radical views, is absurd. The Annenberg Challenge was funded by Nixon Ambassador and Reagan friend Walter Annenberg. Republican Governor Jim Edgar, who wrote to Walter Annenberg to encourage the creation of the Challenge, joined Mayor Daley to announce the formation of the Challenge and his administration continued to work closely on education reform with the Board. John McCain has praised an initiative funded by the Challenge. The Challenge’s work is still carried on today through to the bipartisan Chicago Public Education Fund, which coordinates closely Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan and Mayor Daley to improve teacher performance and has included such board members as Illinois Republican Party Chair Andrew McKenna.

The Challenge was established to allocate grants targeted to improve student performance and promote teacher training and leadership development in the Chicago Public Schools. One objective of the Challenge was to improve education for the bottom quartile of students attending Chicago Public Schools — whose reading, math, and basic skills scores improved markedly during the years in which the Challenge invested in city schools. Due to the work of the Challenge and the Fund, the number of board certified teachers in Chicago Public Schools has increased by the hundreds.

As is well known, by the time Barack Obama met him, Ayers was a faculty member at the University of Illinois, and he has held the title of ‘distinguished scholar’ the University of South Carolina for many years — Ayers held both positions at universities while Republican Governors served on their Boards of Trustees. The detestable acts that Ayers committed decades before occurred when Senator Obama was 8 years old and the Senator has condemned them in no uncertain terms.

While I’ve addressed this statement in the “Radicalism” piece, I’ll extend my response here.

Let’s first review CAC’s initial setup. In the first year, 1995, Obama headed the board, which made fiscal decisions, and Ayers co-chaired the Collaborative, which set education policy. During that first year, Obama’s formal responsibilities mandated close cooperation and coordination with the Collaborative. As board chair and president of the CAC corporation, Obama was authorized to “delegate to the Collaborative the development of collaborative projects and programs . . . to obtain assistance of the Collaborative in the development of requests for proposals . . . and to seek advice from the Collaborative regarding the programmatic aspects of grant proposals.” All this clearly involves significant consultation between the board, headed by Obama, and the Collaborative, co-chaired by Ayers.

During this initial year of 1995, Ayers also sat as an ex officio member of the board. The Obama campaign is trying to minimize his cooperation with Ayers by counting the number of board meetings where both sat together. That will not do. For one thing, as long as we’re counting occasions on which Obama and Ayers were together, the Obama campaign omits Obama’s appearances before the Collaborative, when it was co-chaired by Ayers. In 1995, Obama and Ayers also sat together on the board’s Governance Committee, with at least one independently scheduled meeting, and who knows how many others. Ayers and Obama were also part of a group of four instructed to draft the bylaws that would govern CAC. Surely that endeavor would have involved significant interaction between them. Then there’s the question of unrecorded meetings of both the board and the Collaborative. For example, the archives contain an intriguing note indicating that, although a CAC board meeting took place on July 25, 1995, “No minutes were recorded.” Were Ayers and Obama both present at that meeting? More important, what took place there?

The partnership between Ayers and Obama is about much more than the number of occasions on which the two were recorded together in the same room. As CAC board chair, Obama was essentially authorizing the funding of Ayers’s own educational projects, and the projects of Ayers’s radical allies. And especially in CAC’s first year, Ayers was largely in charge of the process. One of CAC’s own evaluations notes that during 1995, CAC was a “Founder-Led Foundation.” That is, Ayers was not merely an ex officio board member that year, but as the key founder and guiding spirit of CAC, he was effectively running the show.

This is consistent with what I found in the documents, which, for example, show Ayers not only speaking for the Collaborative before the board, but speaking in place of absent board members when they couldn’t be present to make a report. In general, in 1995, Ayers seems to be deeply involved in the work of every important body and committee at CAC. Of the three CAC founders, Ayers, Anne Hallett, an urban school advocate, and Warren Chapman, a state school reformer, only two, Ayers and Hallett, were Collaborative co-chairs and ex officio members of the board. And in a letter, Hallett describes herself as “joined at the hip” with Ayers. Clearly Ayers was the senior partner of the pair, given his prominence as an author, and as a national spokesman for educators consciously committed to politicizing their classrooms. Ayers is not only an activist, but a sort of father-figure to radical educators, authoring not only books of his own, but editing collections of like-minded authors, and putting together coalitions of educators, as he did at CAC. Hallett and Ayers may have co-chaired the Collaborative and together been ex-officio on the board, but this was largely Ayers’s show.

So when CAC’s own evaluators call 1995 the period of the “Founder-Led Foundation,” they are essentially saying that, in 1995, Ayers was the most powerful individual at CAC. The Obama campaign treats that suggestion as “absurd,” yet it is effectively made by CAC’s own evaluators. This needs to be kept in mind when considering the Obama campaign’s minimization of the Ayers-Obama connection that year. Ayers’s outsized role at CAC also needs to be kept in mind when considering the Obama camp’s claim that Deborah Leff and Patricia Graham first suggested Obama’s name as board chair. Given the degree of Ayers’s power at this early stage, it’s hard to believe that the ultimate decision on Obama’s elevation to the board was not made by Ayers himself. After all, Ayers and his immediate ally, Michael Klonsky, would end up seeking major financial support from CAC for their own “Small Schools” network. Ayers could not have been indifferent to the choice of board chair, since his own funding, and that of his many allies, would depend on it.

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Two weeks ago, I explored the gap between Barack Obama’s rhetoric on pay equity and the reality of how he pays women in his Senate office. While Obama preaches equal pay for equal work, he does not practice it on Capitol Hill.

Well, it turns out that his running mate, Joe Biden, is even worse.

Based on calculations using Senate pay records posted by LegiStorm.com, a political transparency organization, between October 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008, Obama’s 28 male staffers divided among themselves total payroll expenditures of $1,523,120. Thus, Obama’s average male employee earned $54,397 on an annualized basis.

Obama’s 30 female employees split $1,354,580 among themselves, or $45,152, on average.

Among Obama’s top five highest-paid — and likely most senior — employees, one was female. Among his top 20, seven were women.

All told, for every dollar that Obama paid his average male staffer, his female counterpart made just 83 cents.

As for Biden, his 14 male staffers split a total payroll outlay of $1,077,128.40. So, Biden’s average male employee earned $76,937.74 per annum.

Biden’s 27 female employees divided $1,517,874.47, or $56,217.57, on average.

Among Biden’s top five highest-paid aides, one was a woman. Among the top 20, 11 were women.

All told, for every dollar that Biden paid his average male staffer, his female equivalent made only 73 cents.

This number is significant. Not only does Biden discount women by more than a quarter per dollar paid to men, on average. Biden collides into the standard by which his own campaign berates major companies for alleged pay discrimination.

Beneath the website banner “Fighting for Pay Equity,” Obama-Biden’s women’s issues page complains that, “Despite decades of progress, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. A recent study estimates it will take another 47 years for women to close the wage gap with men at Fortune 500 corporate offices.”

Biden actually pays his average female employees four cents less than the level that triggers outrage on his own campaign’s website!

Nevertheless, Obama and Biden have the gall to go after McCain on this topic. The Democrats Monday launched an ad in Ohio in which Lilly Ledbetter, a Supreme Court litigant on pay equity, attacks McCain because he “opposed a law to give women equal pay for equal work. And he dismissed the wage gap, saying women just need education and training.”

McCain told the Associated Press last April 23: “I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems…This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private-enterprise system.”

Far more important is that McCain actually follows Obama and Biden’s gospel on this issue, almost to a fault.

McCain’s 17 male staffers split $916,914, thus averaging $53,936. His 25 female employees divided $1,396,958 and averaged $55,878.

On average, these figures show, women in John McCain’s Senate office make $1.04 for every dollar a man makes — a full 31 cents higher than Biden pays. (For detailed figures see this chart. I outline my methodology in my previous piece.)

In short, when it comes to implementing pay equity on Capitol Hill, the Democratic nominees talk a great game. However, in a three-way match-up, McCain earns the gold medal while Obama and Biden score silver and bronze, respectively.

To hear Obama and Biden taunt McCain on this issue is like being at the Beijing Olympics and hearing 200-meter butterfly medalists Cseh Laszlo of Hungary (silver) and Matsuda Takeshi of Japan (bronze) tell America’s gold-plated Michael Phelps to go take swimming lessons.

By Deroy Murdock

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(NRO)  Barack Obama wants to tell a tale about turbulence in the financial markets, and like any good melodrama this story needs a villain. Sen. Obama believes he has found his mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash in the person of Phil Gramm, the candid-to-a-fault former senator from Texas who presided over a major reform of American banking laws a decade ago. Obama here displays a signal failure to understand the convulsions in the markets. And he also fails to identify the guilty parties — which is odd, since some of them used to sign his paycheck back in his community-organizing days and others are among his most important political donors.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 passed the Senate with 90 votes (8 against, 1 absence: John McCain, who supported the legislation) and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. It had little to do with the issues at play in the current crisis: lending standards and the amount of debt banks can take on relative to their equity. The upshot of the Gramm legislation is that it allows financial services companies to diversify their lines of business: Commercial banks can engage in investment banking, banks can offer brokerage services, and you can have an IRA at the same place you have your checking account.

What we have here is a case of what economist Paul H. Rubin calls “folk economics” — value-laden myths that do not reflect financial realities.

It is not at all clear what, if anything, Gramm’s legislation has to do with the current difficulties in the market, other than the fact that Democrats instinctively recoil when they hear the word “deregulation.”

Gramm-Leach-Bliley did not create securitization and collateralized debt obligations. It did not change the rules for banks’ leverage ratios. If anything, Gramm-Leach-Bliley mitigated some risks by allowing financial companies to diversify their businesses, and it is the most diversified firms that are best weathering the storm. Which makes sense: An investment portfolio is more stable the more diversified it is. The firms that have spectacularly imploded have mostly been non-diversified commercial banks, like Countrywide, or pure investment banks, like Lehman Brothers. But the broadly diversified megabanks are enduring — taking a hit from housing, sure, but they have other lines of business to sustain them. And we should not forget: Without the Gramm-Leach-Bliley reforms, Bank of America would have been legally forbidden to take over Merrill Lynch — very possibly leaving taxpayers on the hook for that one, too. Morgan would not have been able to buy Bear Stearns without Gramm’s reforms.

Much more problematic than Gramm-Leach-Bliley is the Community Reinvestment Act, a bit of legislative arm-twisting much beloved by Sen. Obama and his fellow Democrats. One of the reasons so many bad mortgage loans were made in the first place is that Barack Obama’s celebrated community organizers make their careers out of forcing banks to do so. ACORN, for which Obama worked, is one of many left-wing organizations that spent decades pressuring banks and bank regulators to do more to make mortgages available to people without much in the way of income, assets, or credit. These campaigns often were couched in racially inflammatory terms. The result was the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA empowers the FDIC and other banking regulators to punish those banks which do not lend to the poor and minorities at the level that Obama’s fellow community organizers would like. Among other things, mergers and acquisitions can be blocked if CRA inquisitors are not satisfied that their demands — which are political demands — have been met. There is a name for loans made to people who do not have the credit, assets, income, or down payment to qualify for a normal mortgage: subprime.

The bankers cannot blame CRA entirely; they made a lot of bad bets on rising home prices. But CRA did influence lending standards across the banking industry, even in those institutions that are not strictly liable to its jurisdiction. The subprime debacle is in no trivial part the result of lending decisions in which political extortion trumped businesses’ normal bottom-line concerns.

Along with these bad loans, the underlying problem is that there was a bubble in the price of housing — a bubble caused in no small part by politics, in the form of an easy-money/easy-credit policy from the Fed.

It was politics, too, that created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, enabled them to dominate the mortgage market, and implicitly took upon American taxpayers the risks of those business while the rewards were enjoyed, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, by largely Democratic political opportunists, who then gave generously to Democrats, the top recipients of their largesse being: Chris Dodd, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. And it was politics that unwisely nationalized Fannie and Freddie without resolving the underlying moral hazard — private profit, public risk — that makes those institutions problematic. From this Senator Obama takes away the lesson that there has been a failure of the market, and that what is needed is more politics. In this analysis Obama is as wrong as it is possible to be.

The only reason there are returns on investments is that there is risk involved. Obama talks as though the government can create new regulations that will remove risk from the markets. It cannot. Investors sometimes make bad decisions. Businesses sometimes borrow too much money. “Some of these investment banks look like hedge funds, they’re so leveraged,” says one longtime Wall Street hand. But the markets are addressing that problem, too, in their own brutally Darwinian way: That’s why Bank of America is acquiring  Merrill Lynch on the cheap.

Phil Gramm is a fine foil for Obama: a conservative Texan with a furry accent and an unsympathetic demeanor. He’s the perfect symbol — and Obama’s campaign is rooted in nothing but symbolism. The reality is the thousands of dollars in donations from Fannie Mae executives sitting in Obama’s campaign coffers. If Obama wants a villain, he doesn’t have far to look.

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(AC) – It’s another election season, so that means it’s time for Democrats to start uttering wild malapropisms about the Bible to pretend they believe in God!

In 2000, we had Al Gore inverting a Christian parable into something nearly satanic. Defending his nutty ideas about the Earth during one of the debates, Gore said: “In my faith tradition, it’s written in the book of Matthew, where your heart is, there is your treasure also.” And that, he said, is why we should treasure the environment.

First of all, people who say “faith tradition” instead of “religion” are always phony-baloney, “Christmas and Easter”-type believers.

Second, Jesus was making almost the exact opposite point, saying: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth,” where there are moths, rust and thieves, but in heaven, because, Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I guess that’s the kind of mix-up that can happen when your theological adviser is Naomi Wolf.

Then in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate and future Trivial Pursuit answer Howard Dean told an interviewer that his favorite part of the New Testament was the Book of Job. The reporter should have asked him if that was his favorite book in all three testaments.

And now in 2008, we have Democrats attacking Sarah Palin for being a Christian, while comparing Obama to Jesus Christ. (And not in the sarcastic way the rest of us do.)

Liberals have indignantly claimed that Palin thinks the founding fathers wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, which is Olbermannic in the sense that (a) if it were true, it’s trivial, and (b) it’s not true.

Their claim is based on a questionnaire Palin filled out when she was running for governor of Alaska in 2006, which asked the candidates if they were “offended by the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance.” Palin answered: “Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me, and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.”

As anyone can see, Palin was not suggesting that the founding fathers “wrote” the Pledge of Allegiance: She said the founding fathers believed this was a country “under God.” Which, um, it is.

For the benefit of MSNBC viewers who aren’t watching it as a joke, the whole point of the Declaration of Independence was to lay out the founders’ breathtaking new argument that rights came not from the king, but from God or, as the Declaration said, “Nature’s God,” the “Creator.”

That summer, in 1776, Gen. George Washington — a charter member of the founding fathers — rallied his troops, saying: “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves. … The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of the army.”

So Washington not only used the phrase “under God,” but gave us one of the earliest known references to the rights of the “unborn.” That’s right! George Washington was a “pro-life extremist,” just like Sarah Palin.

There is no disputing that a nation “under God” was “good enough” for the founding fathers, exactly as Palin said.

Meanwhile, on the House floor last week, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee compared Palin to Pontius Pilate — and Obama to Jesus. Cohen said: “Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus, who our minister prayed about. Pontius Pilate was a governor.” Yes, who can forget the Biblical account of how Jesus got the homeless Samaritan to register as a Democrat in exchange for a carton of smokes!

Rep. Cohen would be well-advised to stay away from New Testament references.

As anyone familiar with the New Testament can confirm for him, there are no parables about Jesus passing out cigarettes for votes, lobbying the Romans for less restrictive workfare rules or filing for grants under the Community Redevelopment Act. No time for soul-saving now! First, we lobby Fannie Mae to ease off those lending standards and demand a windfall profits tax on the money-changers in the temple.

David Freddoso’s magnificent new book, The Case Against Barack Obama describes the forefather to “community organizers” like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — the famed Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky is sort of the George Washington of “community organizers.” If there were an America-hater’s Mount Rushmore, Saul Alinsky would be on it. He tried to hire Hillary to work for him right out of Wellesley. A generation later, those who had trained with Alinsky did hire Obama as a community organizer.

In Freddoso’s book, he quotes from the dedication in the first edition of Alinsky’s seminal book, “Rules for Radicals,” where Alinsky wrote:

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: From all our legends, mythology and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

I suppose it could have been worse. He could have dedicated his book to George Soros.

Even liberals eventually figured out that they shouldn’t be praising Satan in public, so the Lucifer-as-inspiration paragraph was cut from later editions of Alinsky’s book. (But on the bright side, MSNBC adopted as its motto: “Who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which.”)

That’s exactly what happens to most Democratic ideas — as soon as they are said out loud, normal people react with revulsion, so Democrats learn to pretend they never said them: I was NOT comparing Palin to a pig! I did not play the race card! I did not say I would meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions!

Sarah Palin might be just the lucky break the Democrats need. As a staunch pro-lifer, Palin could give Democrats an excuse to steer away from topics they know nothing about, like the Bible, and onto a subject they know chapter and verse, like abortion.

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(PP) – Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has launched a new Spanish-language TV ad that seeks to paint Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as anti-immigrant, even tying the Republican to his longtime conservative talk-radio nemesis Rush Limbaugh.

As first reported by the Washington Post, Obama’s ad features a narrator saying: “They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with…the intolerance…they made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much.”

The screen then shows these two quotes from Limbaugh:

“…stupid and unskilled Mexicans”
—Rush Limbaugh

“You shut your mouth or you get out!”
—Rush Limbaugh

The narrator then says, “John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote…and another, even worse, that continues the policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families. John McCain…more of the same old Republican tricks.”

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has launched a new Spanish-language TV ad that seeks to paint Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as anti-immigrant, even tying the Republican to his longtime conservative talk-radio nemesis Rush Limbaugh.

As first reported by the Washington Post, Obama’s ad features a narrator saying: “They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with…the intolerance…they made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much.”

The screen then shows these two quotes from Limbaugh:

“…stupid and unskilled Mexicans”
—Rush Limbaugh

“You shut your mouth or you get out!”
—Rush Limbaugh

The narrator then says, “John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote…and another, even worse, that continues the policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families. John McCain…more of the same old Republican tricks.”

There are some real factual problems with this ad, which is titled “Dos Caras,” or two faces.

First of all, tying Sen. McCain – especially on the issue of immigration reform – to Limbaugh is unfair.

Limbaugh opposed McCain on that issue. Vociferously. And in a larger sense, it’s unfair to link McCain to Limbaugh on a host of issues since Limbaugh, as any even occasional listener of his knows, doesn’t particularly care for McCain.

Second, the quotes of Limbaugh’s are out of context.

Railing against NAFTA in 1993, Limbaugh said, “If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine ’cause those are the kinds of jobs NAFTA is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I’m serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do — let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.”

Not one of his most eloquent moments, to be sure, but his larger point was that NAFTA would mean that unskilled stupid Mexicans would be doing the jobs of unskilled stupid Americans.

I’m not going to defend how he said it, but to act as if this was just a moment of Limbaugh slurring Mexicans is not accurate. Though again, certainly if people were offended I could understand why.

The second quote is totally unfair. In 2006, Limbaugh was mocking Mexican law, and he wrote:

“Everybody’s making immigration proposals these days. Let me add mine to the mix. Call it The Limbaugh Laws:

“First: If you immigrate to our country, you have to speak the native language. You have to be a professional or an investor; no unskilled workers allowed. Also, there will be no special bilingual programs in the schools with the Limbaugh Laws. No special ballots for elections. No government business will be conducted in your language. Foreigners will not have the right to vote or hold political office.

“If you’re in our country, you cannot be a burden to taxpayers. You are not entitled to welfare, food stamps, or other government goodies. You can come if you invest here: an amount equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage. If not, stay home. But if you want to buy land, it’ll be restricted. No waterfront, for instance. As a foreigner, you must relinquish individual rights to the property.

“And another thing: You don’t have the right to protest. You’re allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our President or his policies. You’re a foreigner: shut your mouth or get out! And if you come here illegally, you’re going to jail.

“You think the Limbaugh Laws are harsh? Well, every one of the laws I just mentioned are actual laws of Mexico today! That’ how the Mexican government handles immigrants to their country. Yet Mexicans come here illegally and protest in our streets!

“How do you say ‘double standard’ in Spanish? How about: ‘No mas!’”

But even if one is uninclined to see Limbaugh’s quotes as having been taken unfairly out of context, linking them to McCain makes as much sense as running a quote from Bill Maher and linking it to Obama.

Asked for backup as to how Obama could link McCain to Limbaugh, the campaign provided this interview with McCain refusing to condemn the Minutemen from from the Kansas City Star:

Q:  ‘Are they a good thing?  The Civil Defense Corps, do you think — do they help in the immigration fight, or not?’

A:  ‘I think they’re citizens who are entitled to being engaged in the process.  They’re obviously very concerned about immigration.’

Q:  ‘Are they helpful?’

A:  ‘I think that’s up to others to judge.  I don’t agree with them, but they certainly are exercising their legal rights as citizens.’

Asked about the “lies” they’re accusing McCain of telling, the Obama campaign provided evidence that McCain in July 2008 told La Raza that he would have voted for the DREAM act, a bill that provides scholarships for the children of illegal immigrants, even thought he earlier in the campaign season said he would have voted against the bill.

Let’s delver further into this.

In the November 2007, Myrtle Beach Sun-News, McCain said of the DREAM Act, which he had cosponsored in the past, “I think it has certain virtues associated with it. And I think other things have virtues associated with it. But the message is they want the borders secured first.”

The newspaper noted that McCain said he’d vote against a temporary worker program, even though he supports the idea. “I will vote against anything until we secure the borders,” he said. “There is no way we’re going to enact piecemeal immigration reform.”

Before La Raza, McCain was asked by a young Latina if he’d support the DREAM Act, and he said, “Yes. Yes.”

The full exchange, however, goes like this:

QUESTIONER: Hi. I’m a part of One Dream 2009 and I am one of the 6 million who either have an undocumented parent or is undocumented and I wanted to know if you would support humanity all around the world and support our Dream Act that we are trying to pass.

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes. Thank you. But I will also enforce the existing laws of a country. And a nation’s first requirement is the nation’s security, and that’s why we have to have our borders secured. But, we can have a way and a process of people obtaining citizenship in this country. And, we cannot penalize people who come here legally and people who wait legally. And so, that’s a fundamental principle on which we have to operate. Thank you.

The Obama campaign also provided a number of seemingly conflicting comments McCain has made about offering greater funding for education programs in the No Child Left Behind act — telling the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in June that he “would fully fund those programs that have never been fully funded,” while not suggesting any greater funding for the bill when he’s talked about education in front of whiter audiences.

That ignores the fact that McCain has suggested reallocating the way the $23 billion for NCLB is spent.

McCain has changed his rhetoric and his emphasis when discussing immigration after almost losing the GOP presidential nomination because of it.

He now says the borders must be secured before anything else happens. And in that, he’s opened himself up to charges of flip-flopping, though the Obama campaign is quoting him selectively and unfairly to make their points.

The greater implication the ad makes, however, is that McCain is no friend to Latinos at all, beyond issues of funding the DREAM act or how NCLB money is distributed. By linking McCain to Limbaugh’s quotes, twisting Limbaugh’s quotes, and tying McCain to more extremist anti-immigration voices, the Obama campaign has crossed a line into misleading the viewers of its new TV ad. In Spanish, the word is erróneo.

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