Saturday, September 29, 2012

Recent Articles on Politics 2012

Recent articles I've written as the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner include Labor Day interviews with Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode; U.S. Senate candidates from Virginia Tim Kaine and George Allen; U.S. Senator Mark Warner; Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte; and Goodlatte's Democratic opponent, Andy Schmookler.

Two-part interviews were necessary for Libertarian vice presidential candidate Jim Gray ("Libertarian VP candidate Jim Gray warns of ‘obese federal government’" and "Libertarian VP nominee Jim Gray reflects on electing judges, Gary Johnson") and for George Mason University economist Peter Boettke ("GMU economist Peter Boettke asserts the ‘dismal science’ can be 'entertaining'" and "Economist Peter Boettke deflates candidates’ concept of ‘energy independence’").

Charlottesville-based historian and prolific author Arthur Herman merited an interview divided into three parts: "Historian Arthur Herman explores America’s World War II industrial effort," "On D-Day anniversary, historian Arthur Herman recalls WWII industrial effort," and "World War II industry effort led by Ayn Rand-type characters, says historian." The Herman interview is also available as a Bearing Drift podcast and in consolidated form on Book Reviews by Rick Sincere.

Intermixed with all this are interviews with Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling,Governor Bob McDonnell, Northern Virginia businessman Tim Donner (on his remarkable recollections of the events of September 11, 2001), and Delegate David Toscano.

Other authors who have spoken into my microphone include Jonah Goldberg (who talked about his fascination with witch hunts). political commentator Michael Barone, pollster Scott Rasmussen, and David Lampo (on his book, A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights).

 There were several articles on reactions to the Supreme Court's Obamacare ruling ("Conservatives decry Supreme Court’s health-care ruling," "Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says Obamacare decision is 'a win for liberty,'" "More Virginia politicians react to Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling," and "Gay and libertarian GOP groups critique SCOTUS Obamacare ruling").

Congressman Robert Hurt (R-VA5) reflected on the meaning of the Fourth of July and reacted negatively to calls to impeach Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts.  And Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reacted positively to the idea of marriage equality for gay men and lesbians.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Finding the Praiseworthy in Warren Harding

In last Saturday's print edition of the Washington Post, an op-ed column by conservative commentator Michael Gerson offered a critique of President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.

One paragraph, in particular, caught my eye:

Washington Post, print edition, September 12, 2012
Obama made almost no mention of the continuing jobs crisis. He offered nothing new or creative on a fiscal and debt crisis that undermines economic confidence. Much of Obama’s agenda — lowering tuition costs, recruiting math and science teachers, “long-lasting batteries” — sounded like a seventh-year State of the Union address, a collection of policy leavings and leftovers. One of Obama’s more ardent defenders called this a “return to normalcy after a long period of emergency.” And so Obama has gone in four years from being compared to Abraham Lincoln to carrying forward the legacy of Warren Harding.
It was the dig at President Harding that ruffled my feathers a bit, because I have over the last few months become familiar with the work of historians and economists who have been trying to rehabilitate Harding's reputation.

I specifically remembered an article from The Freeman by Burton W. Folsom with the title, "The Strange Presidency of Warren G. Harding," which begins:
Who is the worst president in U.S. history? The answer is Warren G. Harding if you believe most presidential polls. For example, in the prestigious Arthur Schlesinger poll, conducted in 1948, 1962, and 1996, the participating historians ranked Harding each time as the worst U.S. president ever.

Should we trust the judgment of these historians? No, we should not. Actually, Harding was often a successful president, and his actions helped trigger a decade of prosperity for America.
I also recalled seeing an opinion column by Amity Schlaes (which I can't seem to dig up today), similar to one she co-wrote with Ryan Cole for National Review called "Reassessing Warren G. Harding."

With a few statistics in mind, I left the newspaper lying on the floor and rushed to my keyboard to write a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, which the editors accepted and published on line earlier this evening, intended for tomorrow's print editions.

The Post headlined the letter "Mr. Obama could do worse than follow Warren Harding’s lead" and it reads in part:
Harding was elected during the “panic” (depression) of 1920, when unemployment grew from 4 percent to 11.7 percent, the gross domestic product fell by 24 percent, and the production of goods and services dropped by 21 percent...

Under Harding’s leadership, federal spending was cut in half by 1922 and, unlike Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama, he did not seek nor implement a stimulus policy. With these policies in place, the post-World War I depression ended by the summer of 1921. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in 1922 and then to an astonishing 2.4 percent in 1923...
Consider this as a small contribution to the effort to renew interest in the presidents of the 1920s, including my previous column on Calvin Coolidge.

Update:  The Post published a letter in response to mine under the headline, "Giving Warren Harding undue credit." It was written by Richard S. Smith of Triangle, Virginia, who is otherwise unidentified, although a little digging came up with FEC documents showing that someone with that name in that town gave $2,500 to the Democratic National Committee in 2010.  The response was published on September 18, 2012.

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