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Patrick Henry on Experience and How it Informs the 2012 Race

Patrick Henry—you know, patriot, founding father, revolutionary, etc.—once said: “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” He was looking at the lot of the common man under European monarchies and he knew, like his fellow enlightenment thinkers Donne, Locke, and others, that it was time for a change. Of course, this was when the idea of representative democracy was coming into its own, and its great experiment, the United States of America, was about to erupt as a great beacon of hope in the West. Henry’s words were a call for change, in his case revolutionary change. In last night’s debate, we that same message, though not quite as simply nor as eloquently put.

As he has in his previous debates, Mitt Romney stuck to a simple, straightforward message: The foreign and economic policies of the past four years have left us weakened and unable to properly meet the challenges we face around the world. He backed up that assertion in a way that would make Patrick Henry proud; he cited the experiences of the last four years.

Obama had a slightly more difficult job: He had to defend his policies in the face of Iran’s constantly developing nuclear technology; our obscene levels of national debt, unemployment, and general economic ruin; the resolute resurgence of Russia and China; our inability to properly deal with Al Quida…in other words, the experiences of the last four years that were the direct result of his policies. As a result, he did his best to go on the offensive, citing apparent flip-flops on the Romney side and doing his best to criticize his proposals for the navy, at one point reminding Romney that we no longer use bayonets as much (he’s wrong about that), and describing the aircraft carrier in terms that made me wonder whether or not he’d actually seen one. I have to wonder whether or not that kind of snarky absurdity helped or hurt him.

We’ll learn that as the dust settles and we look for changes in the polls. However, partisanship aside, this debate was instructive in one respect. Experience counts. We have all experienced the last four years, we have all seen what has happened both here and overseas, and we have all felt the direct consequences of Obama’s economic policies in our wallets. For true believers on either side, the actual results don’t matter, they will argue that their guy has won. Happily, neither group is enough of a voting block to elect a president. For the rest of us, this debate was a reminder to look at the experiences of the last four years and ask a question: Do we want more of the same?

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.–Patrick Henry

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The Honest Politician

Everyone likes to think that their guy is honest. If you are a democrat, odds are you thought that Joe Biden was more honest than Paul Ryan; if you are a republican, odds are good you took the opposite position. That goes to two things: the credibility of the candidate, and the bias of the audience.

In my October 4, 2012 entry, Romney and the Joy of the Simple Message, I discussed how a simple, straightforward message that can pass the test posed by Ockham’s Razor by relying on the fewest number of assumptions is best, and how Romney’s jobs first message, in passing that test, was the more credible, a fact that certainly contributed to Romney’s victory. We saw much the same from Ryan, though he dealt with more topics than Romney faced, and that approach served him well; but we saw something in Biden’s performance that can serve as an example to writers, orators, or anyone else who tries to convince others that their point of view is correct.

Early in the debate, the issue of the terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, came up. When confronted with the issue, Biden made up excuses, including a slowly evolving intelligence assessment that began as the “riots against that anti-Islam film” story but eventually settled on the truth, that it was a terrorist attack that had nothing to do with any film, Islam-related or not. He claimed that no one asked for more security, and then went on to attack Romney for his reaction to the killings.

This exchange is so telling, and makes such a clear object lesson on the necessity of honesty, because the truth came out a week before the vice-presidential debate! The news has been filled with stories of the spin that the Obama Administration has tried to put on the Benghazi attack, along with proof that the embassy staff were begging for additional security as well as proof that those pleas fell on deaf ears in Obama’s State Department and, likely, elsewhere in the Executive Branch.

When so confronted, Biden had two choices: He could argue and lie, knowing that the truth was already out there; or he could admit everything and have a mea culpa moment on behalf of Obama and himself. Biden chose the former, and that was a fatal mistake. The history of politics has taught us that the cover-up is always worse than the shame or guilt being hidden; the lie is always more damaging to the liar. The old biblical canard, “the truth shall set you free” is true, and ought to be the watchword of writers, artists, and politicians alike.

For most folks who do not fall within the “democrat true believer” camp, the obvious lie about the embassy attack destroyed any credibility Biden had. Therefore, the question to be asked is, given the notoriety of the issue, and the fact that the truth is already out there, why not make the integrity move, take responsibility, and seek forgiveness? Also, why not do that on some of the other issues, where we already know the truth in spite of the Obama Administration’s various explanations. Biden would have done his ticket a real favor by being honest with the American People, and he would have bolstered his own credibility in the debate, perhaps to a point where his grins and grimaces would not be front page news this morning.

So, how does this apply to writers? Simple: Readers know when you are lying. Treat them with respect and tell them the truth, and you will be amazed at how your work takes off!

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Shock and Dismay at the Daily Beast

I may have mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that when writing an expository piece, it is good to use actual data to bolster your argument. That way, you don’t seem to just be flapping your gums and praying no one notices that the only thing coming out from between them is hot air. Now that we have some distance from the first presidential debate, also known as the Night of the Living Dead for those expecting some animation from the Obama side of the stage, we can see how the Left has taken it.

Badly, to say the least.

Now, bear in mind that Romney did little more than what one might expect at a spirited board of directors meeting. It was not rocket science. The man had one message, jobs, and he stuck to it. His rhetoric was not even particularly compelling. He let the message itself carry the load, and it worked. Now, several days later, the leftist media has finally settled on a reason for his resounding win: He lied!

That is the explanation we find all over the media, now that Al Gore’s altitude excuse and the “magic hankie” excuse have been debunked, and it is peppered throughout Andrew Sullivan’s latest rant at The Daily Beast called Did Obama Just Through the Entire Election Away? True, the brunt of his dismay and anger is aimed squarely at Obama, but he does accuse Romney of lying his way to victory, saying in one part, “Lies work when they are unrebutted live on stage,” to try and explain the massive swing in support away from Obama. Later on in the piece he laments Obama’s inability to recover from the debate losses by adding, “…when a president self-immolates on live TV, and his opponent shines with lies and smiles, and a record number of people watch, it’s hard to see how a president and his party recover.”

The problem that Sullivan and his cohorts in the Left Wing have is that they cannot pinpoint Romney’s great lies. When you call someone a liar, it helps to actually describe the lie. They have not done that. Let me, therefore, give them a hand:

  • Was it when Romney said jobs were his priority? He is a businessman, a jobs guy, if you will, so that seems pretty much in character.
  • Was it when Romney linked jobs to energy production? Any first year economics student can tell you there is a connection between low energy costs and higher economic output.
  • Maybe it was when he said Obamacare would destroy jobs? That is a tricky one, since few people if any have actually read all 2,700 pages of the Affordable Care Act and fewer still understand it. However, since it includes a large number of tax increases, and we know taxes on business inhibits hiring, it makes sense.

The bottom line is that Romney looked at Obama’s first term through the lens of a businessman and simply reported what was wrong with what he saw. If he actually was lying, I would love for someone on the Left to point out the lie. Until then, it is little more than whining and fingerpointing.

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Your Programs Failed: Some Thoughts on Tonight’s Debate

I was having a fairly animated conversation with a friend of mine who is so far to the right he makes me seem almost liberal. He was smug about how Obama’s policies have entirely failed and how that is all he has to run on. I asked him, “What makes you think his policies failed?”

After a moment of sputtering, he answered, “Look at gas prices! Look at the unemployment rate! You know the only reason it’s so low is that so many people dropped off the unemployment lines. Look at the taxes, the way businesses are going down the tubes, Government Motors….” he went on like this for a while and eventually wound down, finally asking me how I could find even a little achievement, a little victory, in anything this man has done since taking the presidency.

At the heart of this issue is the fuzzy, imprecise language that Orwell was railing against. People keep talking about Obama’s policies as if they actually know what those policies are. They assume that what they hear in the media is the truth, rather than propaganda, that Obama is trying and that his hands are tied by Republicans and the problems he inherited from Bush are so much worse than anyone could have imagined. They accept all this and fail to ask the one question that would explain everything we have seen since 2008. That question is, simply put, “What are the actual policies that has Obama been pursuing since his election in 2008?”

If we assume the man is not stupid, which he clearly is not; and we assume that he had a plan for the nation, which he did (remember Joe the Plumber and “spread the wealth” or “energy prices would skyrocket under my plan” from the last election?) then it has to be assumed that what we are seeing is part of an overall vision that Obama has for the country. I will leave it to you to decide what that vision is, but tonight I will be listening for Romney to ask the right question, and to demand the honest answer.

I hope he does, but I have my doubts. After all, isn’t he a politician, too?

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