Friday, August 31, 2012

Ryan did not "lie" about Janesville GM plant

The argument that Paul Ryan "lied' or "misrepresented" the closing of the Janesville GM plant is not even colorable.

Here is what the President said:
"And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years. The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive. I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your president." (emphasis supplied.)

Here is what Ryan said:

"My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight." (emphasis supplied.)
Let's make a few observations that seem to have eluded Ryan's critics.

First, Ryan does not "characterize" or "insinuate" anything about what the President said. He quoted him.

Second, while Ryan did not say that this constituted a "promise" to keep the plant open, the workers in Janesville might have reasonably understood it that way. The clear implication of Obama's words is that he would bring the government's resources to bear to retool plants like Janesville and that this would keep such plants - including this particular one - open.

Ryan's critics want to argue that the workers should have understand a jesuitical distinction. The President, they argue, only said that "if the government provided resources to the plant, then it would be open for a hundred years.'" He never said that he actually would do what he said he could do.

It was just a law professor's hypothetical, you see, an academic discussion with a group of people about to lost their jobs. Obama was saying that "we can help you" but bot that "you can expect that we will."

If that's what candidate Obama meant, then he is the one who misrepresented his intentions and mislead the Janesville workers. To suggest that Obama did not intend to imply anything about the Janesville plant beggars reality. That he has now been hoisted on his own petard is a product of his own doing.

But let's give him the benefit of what seems to be a rather infinitesimal doubt. Ryan did not say that Obama "promised" to keep the plant open, but only that he told voters that the resources of government could be used to keep plants like Janesville and keep them open. In Ryan's view (and he's got the numbers), that hasn't happened. The President has not brought those resources to bear or, if he has, it hasn't worked. The Janesville plant is closed as are many similarly situated plants across the country.

But what about the fact that this plant closure was announced before Obama took office? That is not relevant to Ryan's critique. Obama was arguing that government could retool plants and keep them operational. That didn't happen.

Beyond that, this criticism of Ryan's remarks is cynical and deceptive. Obama knew - everyone knew - the the Janesville plant was on the chopping block. That's why Obama made his remarks. If he thought it was too late to save this plant and keep it open for "a hundred years," why say anything at all?

The plant closed in April 2009. When that happened and for 18 months thereafter, the President of the United States, not only had strong majorities in the Congress. Not only that,  the federal govenment run by the President, also soon came to own a controlling interest in GM. Couldn't the government have retooled the shuttered plant that it now owned as the candidate told the people of Janesville it could do?

Maybe not. Maybe it is unreasonable to think that the President should have worried about a GM plant in little Janesville, Wisconsin or recall the hope he tried to give its embattled workers. After all, someone who is causing the waters to recede and the sick to heal can't be bothered with the pedestrian problems of a small town in Wisconsin.

But even if you believe that, it doesn't undercut Ryan's argument. It was fair for him to use Janesville as a metaphor for a promise that unequivocally was made (the President did promise - many time and in many places - that he could use government resources to turn the economy around) and not kept.

Of course, you can argue that the President ought to be excused from the consequences of presiding over the weakest recovery in the post-WWII era. You can join him in what seems to be the theme of his campaign: It's not my fault, America. You can even believe that the only problem with the President's policies is that we haven't had enough of them.

But the fact that you disagree with the implications of Ryan's remarks - theat the President's policies have failed - doesn't make them false.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's Wisconsin's world, the rest of you just live in it.

Wisconsin continues to be the “it” state of American politics.

Vice presidential candidates don’t normally have much impact on a ticket. It is generally more important to select someone who will not hurt the ticket than it is possible to select someone who can help it.  

I may be turned by Badger pride, but this time may be different.

If so, it won’t be so much be because of Ryan himself (although I think he’ll be a hit). It will be because of what his selection says about the campaign that Romney intends to run and how Ryan will help him run it.

Like him or not, Paul Ryan is one of the more serious politicians in America. People my age – and I am not young – have known for our entire adult life that an entitlement crack-up was on the way. Ryan has been one of the few national leaders who have taken that issue seriously and offered proposals to address it. He is one of the only politicians to have articulated a vision of limited government and an America that remains a place where government serves, rather than manages, its population. More fundamentally, he is willing to make the numbers of that vision – what the government takes in and sends out - add up.

He has been, frankly, an adult among children. He has repeatedly demonstrated, as he said this morning, “the courage to tell you the truth.” The fact that he has risen to prominence is one of the more encouraging things about the current political environment.

So it speaks well of Romney that he has selected Ryan. It tells us that he does not simply expect the voters to reject President Obama’s re-election, but to make a case for another view of our national government – one that recognizes that you do, in fact, “build it” and the government’s job is to create the conditions under which you can do so – and not to build it for you.

Ryan will not only help Romney make that case, but is an embodiment of Romney’s willingness to make it. This is a momentous selection.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Monday, August 06, 2012

A tragic Sunday

Last week, my wife and I had to go to one of those awful funerals. Funerals are never a good thing, but when someone dies too early or in a way that defies the uneasy accommodations we make with our own mortality, you don't know what to say or to do. I am not going to say more to respect the privacy of the family, but it was a bad one. A very good person taken too soon.

I have come to the view - schooled by loved ones who have experienced things far worse than I ever have or, please God, will ever have to - is that the worst thing that you can do is try to explain or look for "the bright side." The best thing you can do - and it is so frustrating - is to say that I am sorry and I will help you in any way that I can.

Early yesterday afternoon, I left the birthday party of one on my grandsons. Llittle Caleb Richard Esenberg turned 4 on Saturday and it was just another of those nice little milestones on a beautiful Sunday. Then I turned on the radio.

I can't think of anything to say to the families of those who have been lost and wounded other than that we are sorry and to ask how we can help. I can't think to offer any more than that suggested by my Purple Wisconsin colleague, Jim Rowen, “prayers for the victims and the community."

No more. But no less,

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Friday, August 03, 2012

President Obama stumbles

Back when he was a Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama said that ““I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.”
Fair enough, but I think he missed an opportunity to show that respect.

You may be familiar with the story. A number of big city mayors, including the Mayor of Chicago, former Obama aide Rahm Emmanuel, have suggested that they would place legal obstacles in the way of Chick fil-A’s entry into or expansion in their cities. The stated reason is the opposition of the restaurant chain's President, Don Cary, to same sex marriage.
State action aimed at a business because of its speech or that of its owners or officers would be – and there is really no question about this – blatantly unconstitutional. Numerous legal commentators on the left and right – as well as the American Civil Liberties Union – have pointed that out.
But not our Constitutional Law Professor in Chief.
Why not? It can’t be because he doesn’t have time to get involved in local controversies. He found ample time, for example, to inject himself (inaccurately and inappropriately in the view of many) into the arrest of Henry Louis Gates and the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  It shouldn't be because he opposes Mr. Cary's views on same sex marriage and human sexuality (Chick fil-A has apparently contributed to an organization that seeks to modify same sex orientation.) First amendment rights aren't lost because we disagree with the views expressed by those who exercise them.

This could have been the occasion for Barack Obama to have his first ever Sister Soulja moment – a chance to stand for principle against the excesses of his base.
But I guess not. 

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Climate convert remains in sin

One of the things that has frustrated me about the debate over global warming is the extent to which it has taken on the aspects of a religious dispute. This is reflected in the common formulation of the question. "Do you believe in global warming?" It has manifested itself in the outrageously dishonest conduct of some of the leading scientific proponents of warming.

And, if you do believe, it appears that you must accept the entire catechism. Global warming exists and proceeds from Man. It is a sin that threatens our existence and requires expiation through the renunciation of fossil fuels and the human flourishing that these have made possible.

And therein lies the problem. One can admit the theoretical possibility that greenhouse emissions could raise average temperatures. There seems to be a sound scientific basis for supposing this to be possible although determining whether it has happened -  given the complexity of the issue and the relative recency of direct temperature measurements - seems very difficult.

But let's put that aside. One can acknowledge the likelihood that man-made global warming has occurred and may continue to occur. Many scientists have so concluded althought there are significant dissenters.

But even that conclusion does not bring us to the Inconvenient World of world of Al Gore. (Actually, its been quite convenient for him.) Doomsday scenarios do not automatically follow from a "belief in" global warming.

Let's use a recent example from this very website. My Purple Wisconsin Jim Rowen wrote a post about a former warming skeptic, William Muller, who has come, praise Gaia, to believe. Dr. Muller came to the altar in a recent column in the New York Times.

In fact, Jim tells us, Muller, with all the fervor of a convert, believes the UN "hadn't raised the climate change alarm loud enough."

That's true in a limited sense. Muller claims to have found a stronger correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and less evidence for the contribution of solar activity than a 2007 report by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But,  in an another sense, it's not true at all. Alas, Dr. Muller persists in heresy. He continues to question, writing that "[t]hese facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism" although they do raise the bar for alternative explanations.

More significantly, Dr. Muller continues to deny fundamental doctrine. Here is how he concluded his piece:
It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.
Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.(Emphasis supplied.)

Just so you know. I guess Gaia is not through with Dr. Muller.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.