Courage and the Absence of Courage
by Jeff Jacoby
Arlen Specter would never have made it into Profiles in Courage. Unlike the senators described in John F. Kennedy’s book — men who remained true to their principles, even when it meant paying a steep political price — Specter has never been celebrated for his backbone.
Forty-odd years ago, Specter abandoned the Democratic Party in order to win election to Congress as a Republican; five days ago, he abandoned the Republican Party in order to win re-election as a Democrat. As he announced his defection, Specter all but admitted that he was acting out of naked political expediency. “I have . . . surveyed the sentiments of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and public opinion polls,” he told reporters, “and have found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak.” According to a poll that had been released a few days earlier, only 30 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans were supporting Specter’s re-nomination, while 51 percent favored his conservative rival.
When Vermont Senator James Jeffords defected from the GOP in 2001, Specter blasted his perfidy, and wanted senators to be barred from changing parties in midsession. As recently as two weeks ago, he assured Pennsylvania voters that he wouldn’t do such a thing. Asked in an interview whether he might consider running as an independent or Democrat, Specter staunchly replied: “I am a Republican and I am going to run on the Republican ticket in the Republican primary.”
But if Specter is no profile in courage, there are others in the public eye who are, as two admirable American women have recently reminded us.
At first glance, Carrie Prejean and Mary Ann Glendon could hardly seem more dissimilar. Prejean is a 21-year-old California beauty queen and model; Glendon is a Harvard law professor and a former US ambassador to the Vatican. What they have in common is a greater respect for honesty than for political correctness, and for the obligations of moral witness than for their own personal prestige.
Glendon made news last week when she refused to accept the University of Notre Dame’s illustrious Laetare Medal, the oldest and most distinguished honor in American Catholic life. The medal was to have been presented on May 17, when President Barack Obama will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address. Notre Dame is the nation’s foremost Catholic university, and its decision to honor Obama — an ardent supporter of unrestricted abortion rights — has been sharply criticized, especially by Catholics who share their church’s deep opposition to abortion.
In a letter to Notre Dame’s president, Glendon expressed dismay that the university would bestow a high honor on someone so hostile to such a fundamental Catholic principle, in flat disregard of church guidelines. Worse, it was using her expected appearance to deflect criticism, suggesting in its “talking points” that Obama’s address to the graduates would be balanced by Glendon’s brief acceptance remarks. Unwilling to let her presence be exploited in this way, she chose to renounce the medal.
Unlike Glendon, who had weeks to reflect before making her decision, Prejean had only seconds. In the final round of the recent Miss USA Pageant, Prejean was asked by one of the judges — a homosexual gossip blogger who calls himself Perez Hilton — whether she thought every state should legalize same-sex marriage. It was, she later said, the question she dreaded most — “I prayed I would not be asked about gay marriage” — knowing that an honest answer would hurt her chances of winning.
Nevertheless, she gave the honest answer. “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other,” Miss California replied, but “I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be — between a man and a woman.”
As she foresaw, the crown went to another contestant. What she may not have foreseen was the wave of hostility and condemnation that followed. Immediately after the pageant, the judge who had asked the question publicly berated her, snarling in an online video: “Miss California lost because she’s a dumb b***.” (In an even uglier postscript, he later said that he had actually wanted to call Prejean “the C-word.”) California pageant officials slammed her, too; “religious beliefs,” one wrote, “have no place in politics in the Miss CA family.” The Miss California USA organization even issued a statement denouncing Prejean for “her opportunistic agenda.” Village Voice columnist Michael Musto went on Keith Olbermann’s TV show to slander Prejean as “dumb and twisted . . . a human Klaus Barbie doll.”
Throughout the uproar, Prejean has remained gracious and calm, steadfastly refusing to demonize those who have been demonizing her.
It is not always easy to have the courage of one’s convictions, to turn down honor for the sake of truth, or to resist the pressure to be politically correct. A law professor and a beauty queen have just shown us how it is done.
This article first appeared in the Boston Globe.
There are at least 2 New York City Mayors who have changed political partiesafter being elected to the mayoralty.
John Lindsey and, Michael Bloomberg.
“Notre Dame is the nation’s foremost Catholic university,”
As far as football goes-but not as far as academic quality-there are many with better academic reputations. Of course, Catholic universities are also non sectarian ones. Similar of course, to that university in Manhattan- YU- a non sectarian one. Does anyone doubt that YU wouldn’t give an honorary degree to a President of United States because of their support of abortion rights?
Freedom of expression is only tolerable if it supports the LW social agenda. Vulgar commentators and comedians are tolerated as long as they support BHO and the LW.What a crazy world we live in!
The absence of courage is fear.
“It is not always easy to have the courage of one’s convictions,”. Being one of the last Democrats in the orthodox world is also pretty hard. This article is here because ,unlike 88% of American Jews,most orthodox Jews are still strident in their Republicanism. I would like to add a different perspective.
Arlen Specter is a politician and getting elected is by definition what he prizes. He is an honest man, not for sale and loyal to his principles. Unfortunately for the Republican Party , it has been marginalized and is no longer representative of a wide swath of America.It is a regional party catering to an agenda that has been rejected by the voters. It bears little relation to the Republican Party of yore, the one tha included lots of moderates and was more concerned with lower taxes than what they call “values”. America’s loss is no longer having a true two party system . Arlen Specter is very popular in Pennsylvania and as he stated , 200,000 Republicans changed their registration to vote in the Democratic Primary for President and would not be able to support him. That is why he would have lost. The people like him, just not the small and very reactionary Republican base. I support him 100% and think he is a man of honor. Kacoby is wrong.
Now to Notre dame. I have heard Obama clearly explain his views on abortion. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with him. Notre Dame harms itself by applying this litmus test . It was not the desire of the university , but the pressure by the kanaim – the extremists – in the Catholic Church that makes it hard to be a Catholic politician today. As a Jew, I also have religious views, but I do not seek to impose my definitions on the secular state. Notre Dame doesn’t want to marginalize itself the way the Republican Party did, but they are in a bind. It has a lot to do with what being a citizen in a secular democracy means. It is not for the state to favor one religion over another and it is not right to dishonor the President, a non Catholic, because he isn’t in agreement with the Catholic Church. He is not their enemy but the element that uses these litmus tests doesn’t see the big picture, they are un American in my view.
As to the beauty queen, she is a nice girl and it’s a shame that one of the judges has an agenda. His question was out of line and should have been disqualified. He is unfit to be a judge because he applies a litmus test based on his personal views .That too is wrong . The girl got a lot of good publicity and it will help her in the long run because most Americans do not share this desire to reduce everything to one issue.
i hope that we who are still members of the orthodox world will also not be marginalized in the future by those who feel that their understanding is the only correct one. If so, it will be orthodoxy’s loss. The days when Galileo admited that the sun went around the earth are long gone, except in chareidi publications that still make that claim . Next, we will have to believe the earth is flat.
I wish that our leaders would have the courage to stand up against phoney tzedakah collectors.
One Christian: The absence of courage is fear.
Ori: I disagree. Courage is what you use when you are afraid, but you still do what needs to be done. Fear is often appropriate, but cowardly behavior, giving in to it, is not.
The hostile reaction that Carrie Prejean received for speaking the truth, reminds me of an incident recorded in the Talmud. Any of the details I get wrong in my following synopsis of it, is due to my imperfect memory:
A man died, but then somehow came back to life. Thus, he was one of the earliest recorded cases of such a phenomenon so famously recorded thousands of years later in the works of Raymond Moody (“Life After Life”). As this man’s Rabbi and other students gathered around this revived man, the first question the Rabbi asked was, “So? What was the After World like?”
“Rabbi, I do not understand,” said the confused man. “Those who are high and mighty over here, are the lowest of low in that future world. And those who are humble and hardly noticed here, are high on top over there. In that world, everything is upside down!”
“No, you do not understand,” replied the quickly-discerning Rabbi. “That world is not the world that has things upside down. It is OUR world where everything is the opposite of what it should be!”
Carrie Prejean stood up to her moral principles, principles that reflect G-d’s Eternal Values, and for that she was mocked. You can be sure that in the After World, she is riding high in G-d’s Eyes, while her mockers are destined to be the lowest of the low. G-d bless the moral courage of the beautiful soul by the name of Carrie Prejean.
Raymond – see pesachim 50a and bava batra 10b
Ori – See “Franklin goes to the hospital” -“But just because you are afraid doesn’t mean you aren’t brave. Being brave mean doing what you have to do, no matter how scared you feel.”
Loberstein: As a Jew, I also have religious views, but I do not seek to impose my definitions on the secular state.
Ori: You don’t? Imagine you lived in a society where the many people thought newborns shouldn’t have legal protection. Wouldn’t you campaign to outlaw what the Torah clearly considers murder, forbidden to any Noahide?
We had a recent president who displayed these stubborn and obstinate traits, too. Some like our former VP still seem to think, to paraphrase LOberstein, that the sun does indeed orbit the earth.
There is a fine line between ‘courage’ and being stubborn for its own sake. When Truman fired MacArthur…now there was true courage. He knew he had the goods on him…he had clear documentation of his insubordination…he knew there would be a tremendous public outcry….but he still went ahead with it.
Eventually the outcry subsided when the documented, factual truth emerged.
One can say what wants to about Specter…but clearly there are plenty of examples of Republicans, Democrats and Independents (Joe Lieberman, Mr. Jacoby?) who have done similar things over the years.
Aron Feldman notes that “Vulgar commentators and comedians are tolerated as long as they support BHO and the LW.” This is the reason why Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter can’t be heard anywhere in America, except maybe the “Noted and Quoted” page of the Yated Ne’eman.
The behavior of people attacking Prejean is definitely crass, but consider if her religious opinion was a medieval Christian position, i.e. Jews had to pay extra taxes or wear distinctive clothes, would we be up in arms to defend her?
Simply stating her honest opinion doesn’t make it right or defensible.
There is not a clear correspondence between Notre Dame’s position and the Jewish phenomenon of kanaim (zealots). Kanaim attack fellow Jews on marginal issues, whereas the issue of abortion is based on an admittedly debatable definition of when life begins and what is considered murder. It is a much more central moral issue. For a person who is a Catholic that would be a real problem. We Jews have our principles on this issue and our definitions are not the same, nevertheless we are generally against abortion. But if there were a blanket law against abortion, where would we be when there is a case where the halacha permits or indeed requires it?
If we don’t collectively have the moxie to publically oppose unrestricted abortion on demand and infanticide camouflaged as late-term abortion, we lack courage and other important virtues.
Yehoshua Friedman: But if there were a blanket law against abortion, where would we be when there is a case where the halacha permits or indeed requires it?
Ori: In the case of US Jews, on a plane to Canada. If abortion is outlawed in the US we’ll probably see a huge abortion industry in Canada catering to US clients.
Here are some observations. Regarding, Yehoshua Friedman’s question, it is not possible that abortion could be outlawed in even one state without a life of the mother exception–therefore, it seems important for the Jewish community to stand in common cause with the conservative Christians.
Regarding Reb Yid’s contention that Specter and Lieberman did similar things, this is not at all apparent. First, it may be true that Lieberman was out-voted by a Dem but the vote concerned Lieberman’s stand against the war on terror and the Dems punished Lieberman for being in favor a strong national defense. This was a very narrow and short-sighted mandate since Lieberman stood with the Dems very clearly. Further, Lieberman ran as an Independent and not as a Republican, keeping his political identity seamless. Specter ran as a Republican and was put into office as a Republican. He saw that he was out of step with the voters in PA who were going to punish him for a variety of matters–the most prominent was his vote in favor of the Obama ‘stimulus’ outrage opposed by every single House Republican and about 11 Dems as well and he changed affiliation simply BECAUSE he was going to lose as a Republican. This is a much bigger sin than Lieberman’s sin for wanting America to prosecute the war in Iraq, voted on by the majority of both Houses in a bi-partisan way and Lieberman did not preemptively reject his party, he successfully ran as an Independent. Arlen Specter has angered his Party and his constituency far more than Lieberman. Yes, Lieberman preferred McCain to Obama since McCain is more of a Democrat than Obama the socialist–Liberman’s stand therefore was simply being consistent over time while Specter flips and flops. Voting for that stimulus bill killed Specter’s career as a Republican–one might imagine that supporting a war in Iraq that initially had bi-partisan support should not harm Lieberman to a rational person.
Loberstein rejects the sense that a political party should have values and this is a sure shock. If Republicans refuse to stand for their values, they cannot look a single voter in the eye–lacking standards is no good way to advertise merit in the Democrat party. Regarding bestowing an honor to a man who stands opposed to basic positions of an institution–this is not at all hard to understand. Must Obama be invited everywhere, simply because he is President? An invitation and bestowing an honor is an affirmative gesture of commonality and agreement–Notre Dame needlessly angered their own constituents and in America we have freedom of association. I do not expect the Human Rights Campaign to give an invitation to speak and bestow an honor to my rabbi or any other Orthodox Rabbi. Obama is pleased to accept ND in the same way Iran’s leaders are pleased to accept an invite from the US.
Lastly, people complain that Miss California is expected to give the politically correct answer to questions since she represents the state. Yes, she offered that answer and it was rejected. After all, the state had just voted on a pro-marriage resolution, the winners of the past Presidential race publicly enunciated and support *her* own opinion (so did the losers for that matter, McCain /Palin).
It is amazing and disappointing to me that any of us would still bring up some of the distasteful practices of the Catholic Church as it existed in the Middle Ages. Wake up, my fellow Jews! That was then, and this is now.
Yes, of course as Jews we have to remain eternally vigilant about antisemitism rearing its ugly head from just about any source. However, for some time now, at least here in America, our best friends have been Christians, while our biggest opposition outside of the islamofascist world comes from secular liberals. Are all of you aware of the fact that in many of those anti-Iraq war rallies, it eventually became anti-Israel rallies? And maybe I am assuming too much here, but are all of you aware that when the gentile world expresses anti-Israel sentiments, that it is nothing but a thinly disguised, politically correct form of antisemitism?
As for abortion, in the overwhelming majority of cases, abortion in America is done for reasons that are absolutely forbidden according to Jewish law. While there may be some gray area in the first forty days after conception, the only case where Jewish law indisputably mandates abortion, is when the mother’s life is at stake. But such a situation occurs in an extremely miniscule percentage of cases. Meanwhile, millions of innocent, helpless, unborn babies are being murdered on the alter of so-called progress.
This issue goes to the heart of one of the biggest differences between our way of looking at the world, and the way that the islamofascists and secular liberals look at the world. I am talking here about the inherent value of human life. In the world of islamofascism, virtually any excuse is used to chop people’s heads off or to blow people up. Similarly, in the secular liberal mindset, it is considered progressive to permit millions of helpless, unborn babies to be murdered, and it is also considered progress to take the life of anybody who is too old and too feeble. But in our traditional, Jewish world, we value not only every single Jew, but every single human being, because each one of us have been created in the Image of G-d. This is one of the most importnt values which we share with our politically conservative, American Christian neighbors.
To David Friedman:
Don’t underestimate the great anger that most Democrats feel towards Joe Lieberman. This was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 2000, for goodness sakes. Fast forward six years later…no, he didn’t passively “prefer” McCain to Obama. He actively traveled and CAMPAIGNED with McCain, across America and the world (including Israel and Iraq).
After the recent elections where the Democrats took control of the Senate, he should consider himself very very fortunate that the Democrats have not stripped him of his powers.
If this had been a Republican Vice Presidential nominee who 6 years later pulled this stunt with Obama, we’d never hear the end of it from Jacoby and company.
Please allow one more observation regarding the theory Specter has honor and principle. This is not possible.
To say that Specter is true to “his principles” misleads us to believe that he is a principled person and that is to say that he has recognized principles held by others. But this is not the case and hence the phrase that he has “his principles”–but to have principles all to oneself is not a principle at all. No one can rightly rally to Arlen Specter based upon his honor to principle since only Arlen Specter knows what those principles are and they change from day to day. Last week, he was a Republican, this week he is a Democrat. In his speech discussing his latest big switch, he made the quip that several of his votes he disagrees with himself–some joke!
A conservative loves the Constitution, our liberty and our nation without spin and qualification. These are shared values and are not “mine” any more than any other proud American conservative. Similarly, as a Jew, I stand with our Torah and this means not just the parts I take more “to heart”– but *all* of it as it has always been understood and interpreted. Those that say they stand with Torah but only as it has been interpreted in the past 25 years and spun in a certain light–this is a personal stand and not an honorable or principled one.
Therefore, one supports Specter at his own risk since “Specterism” is not tied to a party, a tradition, or a set of core beliefs. He made this very plain to Obama when he vowed to look at issues on a case by case basis from his own sensibility. Now, it is fine to be a free agent I suppose but such freedom comes at a cost in the honor and principle department and he can’t have it both ways.
“most orthodox Jews are still strident in their Republicanism.”
Orthodox Jews like many of the core values espoused by the Republican Party and therefore they solidly voted Republican. Loberstein finds Orthodox Jews out of step with the latest and greatest. He is right. We have been out of step since Avraham Avinu. We endeavor to be in step with the Shulchan Aruch and the Torah world outlook. That’s why we are still around.
Loberstein, do you think was my voting for John McCain un-American?
Dovid, whoever you are, you cannot imagine how much your words ring so true for me. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt out of step with the crowd, whatever that crowd happens to be. I think a lot this has to do with my being a Jew; we Jews are always so out of touch with mainstream thought, and yet it is we who survive, while all of the other ideologies eventually fall by the wayside.
What is amazing to me is how we Jews continue to have the same kind of characteristics that motivated Abraham to stand up against the entire world; it is as if every one of us are not separate entities, but rather holograms of the same Abraham our Forefather. And so I have to wonder: has any Kabbalist expressed an idea similar to what I just said?
Rabbi Oberstein contends that it is difficult for a Jew to be a Democrat. I disagree. All that is necessary is a desire to help people, and a relentless unwillingness to understand how well-intentioned programs can have unwelcome consequences.
There needs to be a psychological study to understand why seemingly more than most Americans, some orthodox Jews are so caught up in politics to the extent that it is like a religion. Maybe it is the flip side of other Jews who are so liberal that they substitute the latest politically correct ideas for Jewish values. Both extremes are ludicrous. Normal people know that there is a lot of sheker (falsehood) in politics and don’t get so carried away. I think some Jews devotion to right wing nut case politics or left wing nut case politics is like the middle aged women who compete as to who loves Elvis more. Get a life.
“do you think was my voting for John McCain un-American?”
I, for one, do not. However, in our community, I find that my support for Barak Obama is not only considered un-American but kfira be’ikkur as well.
“Arlen Specter …… He is an honest man, not for sale…”
“Normal people know that there is a lot of sheker (falsehood) in politics”
So how is it Loberstein, is Specter a politician (not for sale) or something else? How about politics, is it honest or sheker? You can’t take two positions on the same issue (in the same thread!!!!!).
Did you mean by any chance to write that politics is זנות and its practitioners are …?
Since you asked… Mc Cain is a very good man and I considered voting for him myself for part of the long,much too long, campaign. He lost my vote because he ran a poor campaign and didn’t show promise of dealing with America’s problems effectively. The “real” Republicans like Rush Limbaugh want McCain cast out of the party, he said so on his show. He asked that Specter take McCain witgh him. So, for that element of the Republican Party, anyone, even a decorated hero like McCain isn’t kosher enough because he doesn’t toe the line 100%.Club For Growth Republicns may succeed in making the party so small that it will have no chance of getting its people elected in most of the country. The hope of the Republican Party is that the Democrats will mess up and who can count that out?
I am in favor of a two party system . The nut jobs on both sides are not.They feel that only their narrow view is good and delegitimize the rest of us.It is very true in Jewish life also.That is the only reason this topic should be on Cross-Currents.
There is at least one error in the article: Arlen Specter never ran for congress, much less changed his party registration to do so. He was elected Philadelphia District Attorney on the Republican line in 1965 while a registered Democrat. He ran unsuccessful races as a Republican for Mayor of Philadelphia, US Senate (losing the Republican primary to John Heinz) and Pennsylvania Governor (losing the Republican primary to Dick Thornburgh).
I voted for Obama, as did many (possibly the majority) of the Orthodox Jews in my community and 88.7% of the voters in my county. The Republican obstructionism since then in opposing every attempt to do anything at all to solve the nation’s current economic problems confirm that my vote was correct — that Specter was actually threatened by the Chairman of the Republican National Committee for being willing to discuss such issues with the Obama administration shows that the Republican party is quite willing to allow the economy to suffer if it looks like it can gain politically. And regarding abortion, the normative Republican anti-choice position is even less consistent with Jewish law because it would prohibit both embryonic stem cell research and abortions that are halachically mandated.
Reb Yid #19,
Frank Knox, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee of 1936, was serving in Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet by mid-1940. Wendell Willkie, Republican Presidential nominee of 1940, was working as Franklin Roosevelt’s personal ambassador a few years later. Back then, Republicans and Democrats put national interests ahead of party.
YU welcomed Howard Dean, an abortion rights supporter, to give the commencement address at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine a few years ago. No honorary degree was needed as he (a non-Jew) holds an earned doctorate from the institution — probably the most famous YU degree holder ever.
LOberstein: There needs to be a psychological study to understand why seemingly more than most Americans, some orthodox Jews are so caught up in politics to the extent that it is like a religion. Maybe it is the flip side of other Jews who are so liberal that they substitute the latest politically correct ideas for Jewish values. Both extremes are ludicrous.
Resp. The question here is NOT why Jews are interested in politics since politics is, in the words of a Rabbi I know, the practical expression of our deepest held moral values. Therefore, it is a problem that liberal secular Jews substitute PC ideas for Jewish values but it is not a problem that somehow Orthodox Jews confuse Judaism with a political process. OOberstein is correct o indicate that politics is a flawed (but not false) process. But we participate nonetheless.
IN response to Reb Yid, you will not find a Republican VP candidate switching political preferences. But your parallel is simply not equal since Lieberman did not switch to the GOP for political convenience–he merely expressed commonality with a close friend and had normal reservations about a Democratic party in full retreat from the war on terror. In every other extent, Lieberman is a loyal Democrat. What betrayal? Joe Lieberman has voted with Obama every time. Jeff Jacoby is correct to indicate there is no courage with Specter–only political opportunism. Lieberman’s stand was on principle and it is interesting that thus far, Dems might feel betrayed by Obama and not Lieberman since it is Obama who kept Gates, Obama who is backtracking on military tribunals, Obama who has kept the Bush policy for withrawal in Iraq and a surge in Afghanistan. If the Dems knew in advance this is how Obama might run his foreign policy, they would have never picked him over Hillary Clinton but it is apparent that this is how Obama manipulates issues. Indeed, the Dems could have kept Lieberman in the fold by not appearing to be such appeasers to the terrorists. Soon, however, Lieberman might finally wake up when Obama turns against Israel–let’s see how things unfold.
The frustration with Specter from the GOP is principled and final. The issue of our times is the fiscal spending of Obama and Specter refused to stand with the entire GOP and say NO. He said yes to a monstrous plan that is not stimulative and spends money we do not have in a way that will surely harm this nation for decades. No Republican could possibly say yes to such a reckless plan, made even more ridiculous by the fact that people did not even know what was in the bill. It is such an easy line to draw a line in the sand–his vote for that bill cost the GOP a chance to improve it. Lieberman’s courage to keep our country safe against those who want to destroy us is surely no dishonor and it was surely no “stunt.” Specter has no justification for his decision and he was plain that he merely did not want to stand in the way of a successful President and it is clear that he is loving all the attention that his switch has given him. Further, he never has indicated that there was something wrong in the GOP leadership that pushed him away from the GOP–to the contrary, he has high regard for Boehner and McConnell and the others. He said it clearly–he wants to stay a Senator and he feels he can do it by being a weisel and changing parties.
Again regarding Lieberman, by contrast, Ed Koch also bolted and went for Bush (in 2004)along with many other on the fence Dems after September 11.
A few comments back, somebody mentioned that they voted for Obama because the Republicans supposedly do nothing to help the economy and oppose stem cell research.
Both claims are false. The only thing that the government can do to effectively help our economy, is to cut our taxes, enabling us to keep as much money that we have earned, as is possible. That enables us to invest, to employ people, to generally stimulate the economy. Only in the private sector, can our economy truly thrive.
As for stem cell research, people like President Bush never said he opposed it. What he DID oppose is the government using our tax dollars to fund it. Socialists have this odd notion that the only way that anything can get done, is if the government does it, when the truth is actually the exact opposite: only through personal initiative, does anything get done.
And as for us Jewish conservatives needing to get a life, why is it okay for Jews to concentrate their energies in liberal causes, but not conservative ones? To me, politics is a way of bringing our religious principles from the rarified atmosphere of Mount Sinai, down to the public policy of everyday life.
Charlie Hall #29:
And this is precisely the relevance of this “political” thread to this blog….the same can be said about the (d)evolving relationship of Orthodoxy to other Jewish groups and denominations.
For the most part, the association with “others” is seen by institutional Orthodoxy as a stigma or plague to be avoided. This has also been part of the playbook of mainstream Republican politics for several decades (which is why they have become increasingly homogenous and marginalized).
Our current President is making a virtue out of reaching out to others, both domestically and abroad. In our current example, he as much as anyone was wronged by Lieberman, but he was the one who convinced Democratic Senate leadership to keep Lieberman in the Democratic caucus.
Hopefully the Jewish world can similarly learn lessons of inclusiveness and partnership, regardless of ideology. Lord knows it needs it.
Charlie Hall: The Republican obstructionism since then in opposing every attempt to do anything at all to solve the nation’s current economic problems confirm that my vote was correct.
Charlie, I think you’re wrong here. The problem for the Republicans is that they see Obama’s plans as being very destructive in the long run. It’s not obstructionism, it’s a policy disagreement.
And in this case, the Republicans are absolutely right.
One Christian: The absence of courage is fear.
Ori: I disagree. Courage is what you use when you are afraid, but you still do what needs to be done. Fear is often appropriate, but cowardly behavior, giving in to it, is not.
Ori, hi ! I read what you said and you are in agreement with many wise individuals: I did a search on courage and fear. I do not agree with their view because HaShem told the Israelites to have courage and do not fear. I believe the courage from HaShem is the ability to trust Him in all things and the passion to move forward in His power. Fear has no place in the Kingdom of God. If someone can move forward in fear because it is the right thing to do, then man gets the credit when ever he remembers what he did. If someone can move forward because they trust in God and not their own understanding, then God gets the glory and the outcome is far better all around. This example becomes a milestone of joy in your life and a reminder of what God did. Sometimes I do move forward in my own strength and am sorry later that I did not remember God who willingly carries the fear that was your burden if you ask Him.
Excellent post! And I might add that it should be noted that these brave people are Women and they are Goyim. “There is wisdom amongst the nations”. Courage and Honesty, too.
Reb Yid: In our current example, he as much as anyone was wronged by Lieberman…
Does Lieberman owe his support to the Democratic nominee, because he understands that what you term “reaching out” is viewed as weakness?
Did Colin Powell “wrong” McCain?
Regarding Charlie Hall’s fervent belief, stated at least three times on this blog that the majority of the Orthodox community voted for the radical Mr. Obama–I sure wish he could provide some kind of facts since such support in our community is simply very rare. But his belief that embryonic stem-cell research and abortion conforms to the halachic position requires some further comment. It may be true that by the precise facts, such research can be allowed, it is not at all that simple and further, abortion under Jewish law may well be different than the Catholic position, as long as the life of the mother position is included, the actual Jewish position on abortion is very close to those offered by conservatives Christians and very distant from the standard liberal Jewish abortion on demand standard.
The further point is that thus far after wasting literally billions of dollars, science has come up with only “potential” concerning embryonic stem cell miracles while by contrast, science has establish many exciting cures using stem cells from non-embryonic sources. Stem-cell research that does not involves the wasting of human embryos is paying huge dividends, while precious resources are thrown away chasing after the alleged versatility and potential of using embryos. It seems far more pragmatic, all morality aside, to go with the science and help steer the money where the actual remedies exist. Instead, here we have a President ignoring the science and throwing more money to make his cherished pro-abortion policy point, as the Jews cheer his supposed courage. If Federal funds should be used for any of this research it should be to save as many lives as possible and not to simply attempt to score points while the people are not paying attention to the actual science.
Regarding Reb Yid’s contention that Obama is making a virtue out of reaching out–I suppose he must be joking. We live in a nation that has quickly become incredibly polarized with far too many people angered by the President’s reckless spending and disinterest in the governmental failures which have brought our country to bankruptcy. Ignoring the pragmatic facts of a nation now in a tailspin cannot be sustained forever and at some point in the next several months, Obama will be forced to change his path. He has never sought the advice and counsel of the best and brightest of this nation, preferring to go with his own gang on the left. He won–it is his choice but let’s not pretend he has ever had a sit down with his opponents.
If you are going to be an apologist for a President who takes a position contrary to the normative Orthodox Jewish position, at least get that position right. Regarding embryonic stem cell research, President Bush said,
“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others….It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.”
Do you oppose all government sponsored medical research? Or just that of which Orthodox rabbis approve and Evangelical and Catholic Christians oppose?
And regarding tax cuts, remember that it was after seven years of tax cuts that the economy imploded.
Years ago, I was complaining about politicians to my boss. He asked if I knew why they behaved as they did. His answer was that they were people, just like us.
People change all the time. In each instance, we have to ask if it was for the good (theirs and ours) or the reverse. Obama’s theme notwithstanding, not all change is good.
There is a difference between Colin Powell and Joe Lieberman. Colin Powell is presently a private citizen, and he has no personal stake in his Republican affiliation. Joe Lieberman has 20 year of Senate seniority as a Democrat. If the Democrats had kicked him out of the caucus, he would have lost that seniority and the power it carried.
You write that “The only thing that the government can do to effectively help our economy, is to cut our taxes, enabling us to keep as much money that we have earned, as is possible. That enables us to invest, to employ people, to generally stimulate the economy. Only in the private sector, can our economy truly thrive.”
Your opinion, and those of like-minded conservatives. However, government spending has proven to be an effective stimulus. Further, the Bush administration’s cutting of taxes produced the most anemic recovery we’ve ever had. With all due respect to lower taxes, the country had its most sustained stable growth without inflation when the top income tax rate was 88%. And during the last recovery, European countries with marginal tax rates higher than our own had more robust economies than we did.
You ask “why is it okay for Jews to concentrate their energies in liberal causes, but not conservative ones?” I don’t consider it wrong for Jews to pursue Conservative causes nor do I consider Liberalism to be a foundation of our faith. However, I have come across too many in our community who feel the other way, that Conservatism is an ikkar of emunah, and anyone who disagrees is a heretic.
This is simply false. When tax rates were through the roof under the poisonous Carter administration, we had both high unemployment and high inflation. Then came the great President Ronald Reagen, who so wisely cut the top tax rate from 70% to 28%, resulting in the longest-sustained economic growth in our nation’s history at that time. And then when President Bush cut our taxes not just once but three times, our economy experienced the strongest economy ever.
Higher taxes by definition make the economy worse. The ideal is to provide the best service for the least cost. Yet nothing guarantees the exact opposite as does a monopoly. The government is inherently the ultimate monopoly, as it has endless taxpayers money at its disposal with no real accountability, with which no private company could possibly compete. This is one reason why public school teachers can get paid so much despite their lousy results, while private schools are in perpetual economic struggle despite producing far more positive results.
Contrary to popular belief, President Roosevelt with his endless government programs actually prolonged the Depression by twenty years. With Obama spending our hard-earned tax money like a drunken sailor, the economy will become worse and worse over time, unless and until some Reaganesque figure comes along to clean up the mess being created by our foolish and dangerous current leader.
Lawrence – I don’t see why the difference you noted between Liebermann and Powell has any bearing on whether it is appropriate for them to publicly endorse the candidate they believe would make the best president.
And regarding tax cuts, remember that it was after seven years of tax cuts that the economy imploded.
True, but irrelevant.
It was, on the other hand, after five years of Democrats wsorking assiduously to prevent any oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the housing market imploded, bringing the economy with it. And that’s causation, not simple correlation.
Lawrence M. Reisman: However, government spending has proven to be an effective stimulus.
Ori: There aren’t enough national economies around to even run the kind of clinical experiments doctors run for medicine, let alone the experiments run in the physical sciences. “Proven”, used in an economics debate, is misleading.
What is the evidence that leads you to think that increasing government spending and taxation, together, makes an effective stimulus? Alternatively, what is the evidence that leads you to think that increasing government spending and the public debt, together, makes an effective stimulus?
One Christian, you’re right – absolute trust in G-d would be better. I wish I had the ability to do that, and I envy you if you do.
Under Carter tax rates did not rise. They stayed where they were under Nixon. Under Eisenhower, the top rate was 88%, and our country had its longest period of stable growth without inflation. Kennedy lowered the top rate to 77%, over the objection of the Republican party. Of course, they might have been right. The tax cut, coupled with the Vietnam War, brought about massive inflation. Under Nixon, in 1969, the top rate lowered to 70%, where it stayed until the Reagan tax act of 1981.
“Contrary to popular belief, President Roosevelt with his endless government programs actually prolonged the Depression by twenty years” This is a mantra repeated endlessly by right wing think tanks. However, most economists think it’s utterly false.
I never said that government spending coupled with tax increases stimulate the economy. However, government spending provides more stimulation than a tax cut of equal amount. That is elementary economics.
“It was, on the other hand, after five years of Democrats wsorking assiduously to prevent any oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the housing market imploded, bringing the economy with it. And that’s causation, not simple correlation.”
Hardly. Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, Lehman, WaMU, et. al. got into trouble holding large pools of poisonous subprime mortgages which Fannie and Freddie refused to touch. They went into them knowing that Fannie and Freddie wouldn’t take them off their hands, and that they bore the risk of default. It was the private lending, outside the purview of Fannie and Freddie, that caused the implosion. And please remember that when Democrats wanted to regulate and rein in subprime predatory lending, it was the Republicans, led by Phil Graham, who sabotaged it.
“I don’t see why the difference you noted between Liebermann and Powell has any bearing on whether it is appropriate for them to publicly endorse the candidate they believe would make the best president.”
It doesn’t. However, Joe Lieberman is still a voting member of the Democratic caucus. You won’t hear any Democrat with the stature of Dick Cheney saying of him as Cheney said of Powell “I think on my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.” You won’t hear anyone in the Democratic media saying anything like what Rush Limbaugh said of Powell, “What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat, instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican party.”
Lawrence – two quick thoughts that I’d be happy to expand upon if I had the time:
1) The lack of regulatory oversight is, in fact, why Fannie and Freddie both went bust. I don’t know why you think there were mortgages that “they wouldn’t touch,” but that’s simply not true.
2) Most economists do, in fact, believe that FDR prolonged the Depression.
“lack of regulatory oversight is, in fact, why Fannie and Freddie both went bust. I don’t know why you think there were mortgages that “they wouldn’t touch,” but that’s simply not true.”
Alvin, do you even know how Fannie and Freddie work? They raise money in the public market and purchase mortgages from banks, who are then free to turn around and lend more money to other home buyers. Fannie and Freddie both have standards, which they relaxed in the 1990s at the behest of Congress. However, they still had standards.
Why did Lehman, WaMu, Merrill, Countrywide, Bear Stearns, et. al. go belly up? What did Fannie and Freddie have to do with it? The banks lent money on subprime mortgages to bad borrowers. They couldn’t sell the mortgages to Fannie or Freddie, so they bundled them together and sold slices of the bundle to investors. Hedge funds in particular bought them, but Merrill, Lehman and Bear Stearns were heavily involved in both selling pieces of the bundle and investing in it themselves. All of this took place outside of Fannie and Freddie. Neither bought up these mortgages or were involved in their placement to begin with.
As for the statement that “Most economists do, in fact, believe that FDR prolonged the Depression,” I would have to ask by doing what? By trying to fight it on every front with government programs? How about by cutting government spending in 1937 and sending the fragile economy into a tailspin? If you mean the latter, you would be right. But if you are using the latter action to say that economists believe that the “New Deal” prolonged the depression, you are certainly wrong.
Lawrence: I never said that government spending coupled with tax increases stimulate the economy. However, government spending provides more stimulation than a tax cut of equal amount. That is elementary economics.
Ori: You never said that government spending is coupled with anything. However, increased government spending cannot happen by itself, just as increased household spending cannot happen by itself. It has to be coupled with some source for the money. Where the government cannot just print the money (such as the US – the Federal Reserve is not the government), increased government spending has to be coupled with higher taxes and/or increased government borrowing.
You claim that greater efficiency of government spending as stimulus is elementary economics. Can you point me to an article that proves that? It’s common sense that that depends on what the government spends the stimulus money on, and what individuals whose taxes are cut would spend the tax cut money on.
Lawrence: You won’t hear any Democrat with the stature of Dick Cheney saying of him as Cheney said of Powell “I think on my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.” You won’t hear anyone in the Democratic media saying anything like what Rush Limbaugh said of Powell, “What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat, instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican party.”
That’s absolutely true. Politicians are, on the whole, a sordid lot. But to claim, as did Reb Yid, that Joe Liebermann “wronged” Obama is incorrect, and that was the only point I was making.
And to get back to your other point in more detail – the Democrats time and again wanted to increase, not rein in, subprime lending, which is a) why Fannie and Freddie went bust; b) why the $400 billion in Fannie and Freddie preferred stock went to zero, enormously exacerbating the banks’ balance sheets and c) the primary reason for the convolution in the housing markets that is the reason we had a housing bubble and bust in the first place.
The rating agencies also did a horrible job, to be sure. But this is just one of an extensive list of unanticipated destructive consequences of governmental intrusion in the financial markets. We’re going to see many more as Obama’s hurried policies unfold.
On the theme of courage:
The Chicago Tribune recently ran a story about what may become a landmark ruling about mezuzos
Why has there been no outcry on this blog, as there often is when matters of religious principle are at stake?
Is it because it’s the liberal judge Wood (possible Supreme Court selection) who is siding with the observant plaintiffs, while the more conservative judges (Easterbrook, Posner) are not?
I’ve seen too many postings on this blog that utilize threats against an Orthodox lifestyle as a jumping off point to attack liberalism, liberal justices, etc.
In this case, those on this blog and others in the Orthodox community should show the courage to stand with Justice Wood and her liberal views.
Lawrence – thanks for asking. I am intimately familiar with how Fannie and Freddie worked. I suspect from your comments that you are not, so I will again explain. When the government prodded Fannie and Freddie to relax their lending standards, there was a significant disruption to the information normally conveyed by housing prices. That distortion caused the analyses done by most investment firms to be overly optimistic in the valuation of mortgages in various pools. That led to excessive demand for securities backed by optimistic mortgages, which led to the housing bubble and bust.
“The rating agencies also did a horrible job, to be sure. But this is just one of an extensive list of unanticipated destructive consequences of governmental intrusion in the financial markets.”
This statement is not based on facts but ideology. There has been absolutely no gov’t intrusion in the rating agencies’ activities. The flawed and misleading ratings issued by the Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P were due to a flawed system that rewarded dishonesty and greed. This system is still in place.
The intrusion I mentioned was in the housing markets themselves. I never said that the government interfered with the rating agencies, so I’m a bit confused by your argument.
Dovid: The flawed and misleading ratings issued by the Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P were due to a flawed system that rewarded dishonesty and greed. This system is still in place.
I think you raise an important point here. I’m all for stamping out dishonesty (when the government controls everything, that makes it even more difficult, because there’s no-one to watch the watchers), but any political system that doesn’t reward honest greed will fail, because humans are greedy.
On an individual personal level, one hopes to improve beyond greed, of course, but when economic or regulatory policies that do not acknowledge that fundamental greed are set in place, the results are terrible.
I am not sure that labeling anything one disagrees with as coming from a Right Wing Think Tank is a valid way of refuting the truth of my statements. FDR did prolong the Depression by twenty years, and inflation and unemployment were sky high during the disastrous Carter administration, alleviated only when President Reagen took office and significantly lowered our taxes even when busy almost single-handedly bringing down the Soviet Union.
How could FDR have prolonged the great depression by 20 years when WWII brought us completely out of it by 1941? And could you please tell me which reputable economists believe that the new deal in fact prolonged the depression?
With regard to the inflation in the Carter years, what you had was the result of inflationary pressures on the economy on one hand and legal limits on interest rates pressing in the other. Inflation ended because fed chairman Paul Volker opened the pressure valve, letting interest rates rise to stratospheric levels before the pressure leveled off. It was Volker’s actions that stopped the inflation far more than anything that Reagan did while in office.
And before you give credit to Reagan for lowering our taxes, keep in mind that every major Reagan tax cut was followed by one or more major tax increases that to a great extent vitiated the effect of the cuts for most taxpayers. Thus, the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 was followed by TEFRA in 1982, the social security amendments of 1983 which subjected social security payments to income tax for the first time, and the 1984 deficit reduction act. The tax reform act of 1986 was followed by two ommibus budget acts (COBRA and OBRA) that increased taxes in little gimmicky ways. In fact, one could argue that Reagan signed more tax increases into law than any president in recent history.