Saturday, July 16, 2016


America’s Worst President?

I nominate Barack Obama, the anti-Lincoln.
July 10, 2016
Public safety
Politics and law

After Thursday’s terrorist slaughter of policemen in Dallas, it’s fair to say that Barack Obama might well be the worst president in U.S. history. Here’s why.
The keynote of America’s domestic politics for the last 60 or 70 years—from sometime between the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v Board of Education school desegregation decision and the 1964 Civil Rights Act—has been the nation’s effort to undo the heinous wrongs that slavery and Jim Crow perpetrated on black Americans ever since the first slave was brought here in the 1640s. I am old enough to have had friends who were Freedom Riders, white college kids who went to Mississippi to register black citizens to vote. One I’ll never forget returned with tales of old people, whom legal chicanery had blocked from voting all their lives, marveling in almost Biblical language that such a miracle could be occurring in their own lifetimes, in their own towns. I remember how Sherriff Bull Connor turned the fire hoses and German Shepherds on those civil rights protesters, black and white, in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, and how that same year governor George Wallace stood at the door of the University of Alabama to prevent the enrollment of two black students, proclaiming himself Jefferson Davis’s spiritual heir and vowing “segregation forever!” But what I most remember is skinny Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach walking heroically down that hostile Alabama street—alone, but followed by federal marshals—to force Wallace to stand aside and let the two students enter. It was as heart stopping as Gary Cooper walking toward the showdown on Main Street in High Noon.
I also remember how civil rights zeal turned into zealotry. We made the integration of our schools, and then the closing of the black-white achievement gap, our principal educational goal for half a century, with the unintended consequence that we neglected actual education and turned urban schools into machines for perpetuating black failure. Judge-ordained busing in Boston, completely contrary to the terms of the Civil Rights Act, made the schools more segregated than ever. A judge-ordained Kansas City school-funding-equalization order, forcing local taxpayers to shell out $2 billion  over  a decade, including building a bizarrely unnecessary Olympic swimming pool, produced no educational gains whatsoever and proved to anyone with eyes to see that money was not the key to racial equality in education.
Then, the colleges turned to affirmative action in admissions, the ed schools taught their students not how to teach or what facts they needed to transmit but only “social-justice” ideology, and deans of diversity began to outnumber actual teachers on college campuses. The professors themselves brought the stupendous achievements of Western culture under the suspicion of creating nothing but racial inequality (and later an unimaginably broad smorgasbord of inequity). They replaced Plato with Ta-Nehisi Coates.


Obama’s Biggest Failure

The president has substantially set back race relations in the United States.
July 9, 2016
Politics and law

When the country elected Barack Obama president in 2008, those of us who disagreed with many of his policy ideas were nonetheless consoled by the fact that his victory illustrated that America had moved well beyond institutional racism. Certainly the fact that Obama had succeeded in both a hard-fought Democratic primary and a general election meant that the country was ready to move past the intense focus on race in our national politics. Boy, were we wrong! Rather than seeing his own victory as a significant advance in American social life, Obama and those he appointed to his administration vigorously put forward the idea that America remains a deeply racist country, and they have redefined racism in the broadest terms possible. It’s not a coincidence, then, that more than seven years into the administration of the nation’s first black president, Americans are more deeply divided on race then they have been in decades. Their own president has fostered the divide.
Several Obama administration initiatives have distorted the national conversation on race. In 2010, for instance, the administration’s education and justice departments launched investigations against school districts around the country for disciplining black students more often, proportionately, than students of other races. A Department of Education study observed that black students were three and a half times more likely to be disciplined. The study alleged that, “everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity.” In making its charges, the department ignored compelling data showing that black students were more likely to misbehave in and around school—including crime statistics revealing that blacks were 25 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested at schools for serious offenses like battery.
Similarly, the administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, through a policy known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, now is essentially charging wealthier suburban communities like those in Westchester County, New York, with housing discrimination if their populations are not diverse enough for the administration’s taste. Under the new rules, the federal government no longer must prove that these communities are actively engaging in racial discrimination in order to compel them to cast aside local zoning rules and build housing that would attract low-income residents. The mere fact that a town’s population is not diverse suffices for the Obama administration to demand that the community make efforts to transform itself. “HUD’s power grab is based on the mistaken belief that zoning and discrimination are the same,” Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino wrote in 2013. What’s particularly ironic about this implication of racism in Westchester’s case is that the county voted by nearly a two-to-one margin for Obama in 2012.
The president himself has sadly made significant contributions to the notion that America remains deeply racist with his consistent attacks on the police, even in cases where officers’ actions against black perpetrators have subsequently been demonstrated to have been justified. “Too many young men of color,” the president said in November of 2014, “feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness. We know that, statistically, in everything from enforcing drug policy to applying the death penalty to pulling people over, there are significant racial disparities.” Later, he added that, “Communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. . . . These are real issues.” But the president has launched the charges while ignoring significant facts. As Heather Mac Donald has observed, more than 6,000 blacks die of homicides yearly, the overwhelming majority of which are committed by other blacks in minority neighborhoods. The police are more likely to patrol these neighborhoods because that’s where the crime is. And as the Dallas killings sadly illustrate, cops are far more likely to die at the hands of black perpetrators than black men are to be killed by cops. About 40 percent of all cop killings, in fact, are committed by black males. Data also reveal no significant racial component to police shootings. Black officers are far more likely to fire their guns at black citizens than are white officers.
The Obama administration’s tendency to see discrimination in so many crevices and corners of American life has created a new standard for what constitutes racism, as demonstrated by Minnesota governor Mark Dayton’s remarks in the wake of the tragic shooting of a black man, Philando Castile, by police in suburban Minneapolis last week. Implying that race played a role in the killing of Castile, who was legally licensed to carry a firearm, Dayton said that he doubted the shooting would have occurred if Castile had been white. But while the horrific video, taken by Castile’s girlfriend in the immediate aftermath of his shooting, shows that the officer was highly agitated, and the woman claims that the cop overreacted in firing on Castile, there is nothing in the video that is overly racist, and there is no reason to conclude that the outcome would have been different if Castile had been of another race. In America today, however, when a black man is killed by an officer of another color, that fact alone is prima facie evidence for some people that the killing was racially motivated.
Perhaps the most damning evidence against the president and his administration is that in the last four years alone, the percentage of Americans who believe racism is on the rise has nearly doubled. That sharp increase has come even amid little evidence that verified incidents of racism are on the rise. Indeed, efforts by the media to document a significant increase in police shootings of minorities have yielded little. New York City data, for instance, show that the number of times that police discharge their weapons every year has been declining for decades. And a close analysis of a Washington Postdatabase on current shootings by police across America, which describes them in detail, reveals that many were justified.
It’s difficult now to ignore the role that President Obama has played in our growing racial divisions. Elected on themes of hope and renewal, his very ascendancy a powerful statement about the country’s racial journey, he chose to use the White House as a vehicle to introduce a new era of racial grievance into our national discourse. Unfortunately, he succeeded in this effort—and failed America.
Believing that welfare payments constituted well-deserved reparations for 300 years of slavery and oppression, we New Yorkers created a come-and-get-it dole that ended up with one in eight of our neighbors on the welfare rolls—paid for by the rest of us and resulting in a multi-generational underclass. We entertained the foolish notion that black crime was a manly revolt against oppression—that black criminals were only protesting against the closure of all avenues of honest advancement for their race, as well as against the daily humiliation heaped on African-Americans.
The resulting depolicing of black neighborhoods and unwillingness of courts to punish black criminals drove crime to Hobbesian levels and turned minority neighborhoods into killing fields, where mothers put their kids to bed in the bathtub, trying to keep them safe from stray bullets. They would never send them out for a bottle of milk or take them into the street to learn to ride a bike. In those days, my upright, churchgoing cleaning lady had to pay the gang who controlled her block $20 of hard-earned money to allow Macy’s deliverymen to go past them to bring her the comfortable bed she had labored so long to earn. She lived, in other words, in something like the Middle Ages, when bands of ruffians ruled the land and extorted tribute from the peasants.
Thomas Jefferson had prophesied that God would punish America for black slavery, but he could never have foreseen how squalid that punishment would be.
As the Civil War, which cost 620,000 American lives, drew to a close, Abraham Lincoln gave his Second Inaugural Address, six weeks before one of the world’s perennial multitude of fanatics, this one opposed to votes for black citizens, blew the great president’s brains out. Lincoln had spoken in his address about the immense cost the country was paying for the sin of slavery. In the final accounting, he said, it might turn out that “all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and . . . every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” But as he looked toward the end of the war fought to end these wrongs, he urged reconciliation. He urged forgiveness. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” he prayed, “let us . . . bind up the nation's wounds.”
Well, we tried. Despite the evil men who derailed Reconstruction, America took up again Lincoln’s charge “to finish the work we are in.” My whole life coincided with that effort. And for all the resistance and unintended negative consequences, the nation had come very close to succeeding by 2008, when Barack Obama, a black man, was elected president of the United States. A friend had called from London shortly before and asked incredulously, “Surely, America would never elect a black man as president?” “Of course it would,” I said. And when it happened, the resounding shout of joy that went up from the buildings of my ultra-left-wing Manhattan neighborhood was something I had never heard before. My wife and daughter wept. And though no admirer of Obama’s politics, I too felt awe at the historical momentousness of it all.
Not everyone shared that sentiment—most notably the new president and his wife, who had sat for more than a decade in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s Chicago church listening to the reverend firebrand pray for God to damn America for its ineradicable racism. Though the new president had sworn his oath of office on Lincoln’s Bible, anyone who thought that his election marked the fulfilment of Lincoln’s dream soon heard him and his even more race-obsessed attorney general lambaste America for a racism so deep that white citizens couldn’t even see it, bred in the bone as it was. Colleges even made up a term for this molecular-level racism: micro-aggression. It was hard not to think of Robespierre’s fanatical vow that the revolution had indeed erased monarchy and aristocracy from France, but it wouldn’t end until it had erased the very idea of them from every man’s heart as well.
Central to the nation’s Herculean effort to end the wrongs of racism was the new determination of police departments, led by New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner William Bratton, to restore law and order to ghetto neighborhoods, so that civil society could come back to life there, and people wouldn’t have to pay tribute to armed thugs controlling their lives. The old policing had ignored all but the most heinous ghetto crimes. Its spirit was: If they want to kill each other uptown, fine, as long as it stays up there. But for the new policing, all victims deserved police attention, regardless of race. All neighborhoods deserved police protection, regardless of the color of their residents. And since the perpetrators of crime are overwhelmingly young minority men, they properly received a very large proportion of police scrutiny. The alternative, to repeat, was to let them kill each other.
But unlike Lincoln, America’s first black president didn’t bind up the nation’s wounds but scratched them open every time police killed a black man—rightly or sometimes wrongly, because when society arms men with guns and authority, it will inevitably attract some bullies, making a police chief responsible for policing his own men vigilantly, as the NYPD especially has striven to do, and as Plato told us was statecraft’s thorniest problem. Anytime a non-black man killed an African-American, Obama cried racism and said it could have been him or his son, if he’d had one. Every time a cop, white or black, killed a black American, Obama’s reflexive instinct was to blame the cop. About the mayhem of black-on-black murder in the nation’s ghettoes, he gave only a single speech.
When the president praises the Black Lives Matter demonstrators, as if they alone of his fellow countrymen know that platitudinous truth, he is only reinforcing black grievance, when his proper role is to convince ghetto blacks that their lives matter enough for them to take responsibility for them, to stop going around with chips on their shoulders and Glocks in their waistbands, to be fathers to the children they beget, and to set for them an example of the responsible citizenship that is theirs for the asking, thanks to the efforts of so many of their countrymen, white and black, living and dead.
True to form, Obama went into grievance-mongering mode on July 7, commenting on the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by cops in Louisiana and Minnesota. He noted that “all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, because these are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.” And he went on to detail law enforcement’s racial disparities, as if there were not even more stark and troubling racial disparities in lawbreaking. His familiar conclusion: “If you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population. Now, these are facts. And when incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same. And that hurts.”
Later that day, a black former soldier assassinated five Dallas police officers and wounded seven more, sniping from above with a semi-automatic rifle. A sympathizer of the New Black Panther Party, which professes hatred of whites and especially Jews, the sniper, Micah X. Johnson, 25, told police who cornered and killed him that he was avenging cop killings of blacks by killing whites and especially white cops.
If you want to ignite race riots, a sure-fire way to do it is to stir up black hatred and suspicion of cops, which will in turn make cops warier of blacks and more trigger-happy, and so on, until an explosion occurs. So thanks, President Obama. You have set back American race relations by 50 years.

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