…is what the Republicans say the Democrats are.

First of all, why is this news? The Republicans always say that. Second, while his policies seem to be weaker, Obama’s track record against Jihadism compares favorably with George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s after their respective first years in office. 

I’ll agree his position on torture seems naive, and his foolish decision not to fire Napolitano immediately after the December 25th failed attack ought to be ridiculed. But these apparent flaws cannot negate his success in objective terms. The arguments against trying terrorists in civilian court are, in my opinion, fairly weak. 

As of this moment, the case against Obama himself as weak on terror is basically a joke. Now, the case against the Democrats in Congress, particularly Harry Reid, is a much better one. Reid is a weak person by nature, and his infamous assertion that the Iraq war was “lost” is one that should haunt him. 

The Democrats overall philosophy intuitively seems to be weaker, but that is not backed up by the data.

For that matter, what was something memorable that somebody said at a SOTU address?

Yeah, I can’t think of any either.

So, Obama certainly hasn’t got much in the way expectations to beat. I recommend he keep it short–about twenty minutes should do it–and make it consist solely of listing his accomplishments of the past year, and wind down by repeating a memorable catchphrase, such as: “Yes, we did.” There needs to be much fist-shaking and voice-raising while saying this phrase.

Arrogant? Yes. Divisive? Yes. But complete confidence in himself is what he needs to project. Obama is charismatic enough to talk people into agreeing with him if he seems sure of what he’s saying.

He won’t do this, I’m sure. He’ll probably try something bipartisan and conciliatory. Something like: “Well, this year sucked, and I know you’re all unhappy about it. In the coming year, I’ll reach across the aisle to work with Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate to pass bipartisan yadda yadda yadda.”

Oh, well.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that businesses and unions can spend their own money on political ads endorsing or opposing a candidate. This raises a question I have long wondered about: how effective are political ads?

Do you really base who you are going to vote for on what ads on TV say? If  there are a lot of people who are that gullible, the Nation is doomed no matter what the Supreme Court rules on this issue. Seriously, I can barely remember any ads from the last Presidential campaign. And I’m fairly confident that my decision was not swayed by them one way or another.

I can’t speak for most people on this issue. And let’s face it; if you’ve brainwashed someone correctly, they’ll swear up and down they were not brainwashed. So I can’t be sure the ads didn’t affect me. 

A friend of mine was telling me that the real danger here is that corporations will disguise the ads to look like authentic news broadcasts–like is sometimes done in infomercials. This will confuse people into believing they’re watching a unbiased newscast that’s saying “Candidate X eats babies.”

I don’t buy it. The only people stupid enough to fall for that are probably already watching their favorite propaganda network (Fox news or MSNBC) anyway. Their votes are locked in. The swing voters aren’t, for the most part, dumb enough to be tricked like that.

As I have discussed here and here, an attempt seems to be going on to subtly revise history so that people forget George W. Bush was President on 9/11. 

One question I didn’t address in the earlier posts is: Who is doing it? Now, you might think it’s obviously the Republican party doing it, as part of an effort to rehabilitate the image of Republicans as better at National Defense. This is quite likely, although it seems like it would be simpler to demonize Bush, and claim that his Presidency is not typical of Republican ideology. 

But is there any other group that would have an incentive to make this effort?

This little item deserves a bit more attention, I think. First of all, I must admit I have a personal bias against Giuliani because, quite frankly, I am biased against jerks. The man is barely even a Republican in terms of his actual political policies (he used to be a Democrat, in fact) yet he has been using some of the worst elements of the Republican party to gain power for himself. That’s my opinion of him. 

But, his personal character aside, what’s actually interesting about this is that it seems to be part of a concerted effort to absolve Bush from blame for negligence in allowing 9/11 to happen.

The theory behind this goes like this: everybody makes a claim. They make it a lot. The claim will be analyzed, and, often, proven false; but that is irrelevant. The important thing is, if you get enough people saying it, someone who is utterly uninformed will hear it, and assume it’s true because he hasn’t got time to research it in depth. 

Like I said in my previous post, this isn’t the first time prominent people try to hammer home a stock line. I remember a montage on Rush Limbaugh’s show that illustrated this technique perfectly. This sort of thing goes on all the time in politics, and once you know about it, it becomes incredibly obvious. (Remember how every speech at the ’08 Democratic convention pointed out the similarities between McCain and Bush?)

That said, I don’t know if anyone has ever attempted revisionist history on this scale. I know the USSR infamously cropped pictures of people who’d displeased Stalin after they were executed, but this is something else entirely. 

What I wonder is:

1. Who is making this concerted effort?

2. Could it work? Will people really start to forget who was President on 9/11?

To be continued…

This is a phrase that is tossed about by Democrats in forums, and often can lead to many irresolvable arguments between Democrats and Republicans.

Now, if you are a Democrat, you probably agree wholeheartedly with this post’s title. And if you are a Republican, you probably are thinking: “Oh, yeah? Well, then why did Democrats oppose overthrowing Saddam, whereas Republicans supported it? Where’s the empathy for all those poor people he oppressed?” Or: “What about having empathy for the working-class and wealthy people the Democrats want to make pay for social programs?” Or: “What about empathy for all those aborted babies?” Then you dismiss this blog altogether.

The trouble is that these responses come from a flawed understanding of empathy. Empathy does not imply compassion, or mercy, or charity. It is merely the ability to think like someone else, to put oneself in someone else’s position, to assume their values and beliefs. One need not maintain them forever. I can imagine, for example, what it was like for Saddam to be executed. I imagine that being executed was unpleasant. Yet merely comprehending this fact does not mean I object to Saddam being executed.

However, both of the typical responses I outlined above stem from the erroneous belief that empathy implies kindness and compassion. Empathy may frequently result in such things, but it need not always.

And so the Republicans problem arises: They see things simply in terms of: “Are the good guys in this scenario being hurt or helped?” Democrats, though, think like this: “What is it like to be Group A in this case? What is it like to be in Group B? Who’s hurt more? Who needs help more?”

Again, at this point I’m sure Republican readers are sceptical. If Democrats are really applying this reasoning, why do they seem to side with, say, pro-abortion activists who not only support what Republicans consider murder, but attack anti-abortion activists with, at times, vitriolic rhetoric? But again, they feel empathy, they simply don’t agree with their beliefs.

In short, to be absolutely clear, I am not saying the Democrats or their views are necessarily superior to the Republicans and their views. Nor am I saying that Republicans don’t want to help other people. (They just may not be as good at figuring out what is likely to help other people.)I am saying however, that the Democrats enjoy a tremendous strategic advantage because of this ability. I don’t think the Republicans are aware of it yet.

I am sure other people have noticed, and probably written about, this issue as well, though perhaps in different terms, as a Google search on the phrase “Republicans lack empathy” turns up little beyond the taunts-given and received without understanding their meaning-that I alluded to at the beginning of this post.