Don’t Stop Thinking About Now

HIGH POINT, NC — Hillary Clinton just spoke at the train station here to a crowd of a few hundred for her last appearance in the Tar Heel State before tomorrow’s primary.

She hit on her standard themes — jobs, health care, pulling out of Iraq, etc. She wants to fight predatory college loan companies, predatory mortgage lenders, and big bad oil.

In an indication that she was somewhat sensitive to criticism that her proposal for suspending the gas tax this summer was just a short-term solution, she said that long-term solutions were important but we also have to be “living in the here and now” and come to the aid of those who are being pinched by rising costs.

Letting the Market Work–Energy Edition

I’m all for alternative energy. I would love for there to be a cleaner source of fuel, and would relish the oppourtunity for the U.S. to give the oppressive, terror-sponsoring governments of oil-rich countries the proverbial middle finger. But I also hate subisdies and mandates. The government shouldn’t choose winners and losers in the devopement of new forms energy, fund pork barrel projects, or take actions that distort the market.

The only way that we are ever going to reduce our dependency on foreign oil is for the price to stay high enough, long enough, to create incentives for Americans to change their consumption habits. So it is heartening for me to read in the NY Times that the market is starting to work, with Americans purchasing smaller cars to save money on gas.

In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car….

“It’s easily the most dramatic segment shift I have witnessed in the market in my 31 years here,” said George Pipas, chief sales analyst for the Ford Motor Company.

The trend toward smaller and lighter vehicles with better mileage is a blow to Detroit automakers, which offer fewer such models than Asian carmakers like Toyota and Honda. Moreover, the decline of S.U.V.’s and pickups has curtailed the biggest source of profits for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Once considered an unattractive and cheap alternative to large cars and S.U.V.’s, compacts have become the new star of the showroom at a time when overall industry sales are falling.

Sales of Toyota’s subcompact Yaris increased 46 percent, and Honda’s tiny Fit had a record month. Ford’s compact Focus model jumped 32 percent in April from a year earlier. All those models are rated at more than 30 miles per gallon for highway driving…

Automakers ignore the move to smaller vehicles at their own peril. G.M., for example, is playing catch-up by introducing a dozen new cars and crossovers in the next few model years.

This is classic economics–consumer demand shifting in response to the rising price of a complementary good. If a car company wants to remain competitive, it has to offer fuel effecient alternatives. This is all happening without any need for any government-imposed increase in fuel effeciency standards. If gas prices remain high, it’s only a matter of time before private investments in alternative fuel research become more and more pervasive. When politicians pander with short-term strategies for reducing the cost of a gallon of gas, it just postpones this day of reckoning.

If You Can’t Get Enough of The Two-Headed Monster

Occasional Spectator contributor Julia Gorin has a new humor book out, having done the yeoman’s (yeowoman’s?) job of sorting through some of the rather fanciful utterances of America’s most obnoxious couple. You can read more, and purchase a copy of Clintonisms: The Amusing, Confusing, and Even Suspect Musing, of Billary, here.

As far as this campaign season goes, given my ties to the casino industry, my favorite comment by Hillary still has to be: “The deck is stacked against the middle class, and under President Bush, that deck has gotten even bigger!”

It’s A Matter of Trust

This Rasmussen poll showing that by a 58 percent to 30 percent margin Americans believe Obama denounced Jeremiah Wright for political convienience, may be the most troubling poll I’ve yet seen for the Illinois senator. To win, Obama has to be able to convince people that he will be able to change Washington and transform its politics. Since he has a very thin public record, and no serious accomplishments he can point to in order to demonstrate he is capable of fulfilling this promise, he is asking voters to trust his words. If — to borrow a favorite word of Obama’s — voters have become too cynical, and now are beginning to view him as any other politician, on what basis can he make an appeal to voters? You expect people to take a leap of faith, if they don’t have faith in you.

Is There A Doctor In The Room?

Ben Smith reports that a widely circulated clip of Clinton advisor Mickey Kantor having some choice words for the people of Indiana, may have been altered. At least that’s according to D.A. Pennebaker, who directed the film War Room, from which the clip of Kantor in 1992 originated. If we’re getting to the point where the widespread access to video editing equipment will mean the proliferation of amateur videos fabricating quotes, it’s pretty troubling. For what it’s worth, the editor of the video said he didn’t dub over any new audio, but that he just “enhanced” what was already there.

Liberals: Talk to Dictators, But Not To Fox

Over at his other home, Peter Suderman wonders why liberals don’t want Democratic politicians to appear on FoxNews. But the real question is, why are liberals so eager to negotiate with foreign dicators, yet so appalled by the idea of their presidential candidates appearing on a cable network they don’t like? Meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — a Holocaust denier who fancies a world without America and vows to wipe Israel off the map — is good policy, but sitting down for a softball interview with Bill O’Reilly, is an abomination. Giving a propaganda victory to Kim Jong-il while he proliferates weapons, maintains gulags, and builds nukes, is worthwhile, but legitimizing Chris Wallace is beyond the pale.

What’s so silly about the left is not that they hate conservatives, but that their hatred is so out of proportion that they are more likely to cut slack to our nation’s real enemies than fellow Americans who they disagree with. As obnoxious as I may find Keith Olbermann, he’s no Pol Pot.

McCain, Did You Order The Code Red?

Hotair has the details and video of a HuffPo contributor and former Joe Biden campaign worker asking McCain at a townhall meeting if he ever called his wife a “c***.”

There are a lot of liberals out there who seem to think that they are going the get McCain to just snap, like Tom Cruise interrogating Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

Seems like they ought to get a different strategy.

It’s The Ethanol, Stupid

President Bush has proposed an additional $770 million in aid to poor countries to address the global food shortage, but as Deroy Murdock, and Ronald Bailey have reported, one of the causes of this food shortage is the fact that land that could be used to produce food for starving people is being diverted to produce biofuels because of subsidies and federal mandates.

Writing of these laws in both the U.S. and Europe, Bailey notes:

The result of these mandates is that about 100 million tons of grain will be transformed this year into fuel, drawing down global grain stocks to their lowest levels in decades. Keep in mind that 100 million tons of grain is enough to feed nearly 450 million people for a year.

Talk about an infuriating example of how the state gets incrementally bigger and bigger. The government sets policies that disrupt global markets, and then after those market disruptions cause problems, the solution is for the governmnt to spend more money to fix the mess it helped create — all the while maintaining the very policies that disruped the market in the first place.

Thanks a lot, President Bush.

Does Obama Agree With Wright?

That seems to be a hot topic on talk radio these days, and in my view, the answer is no. At least, there is nothing in his words or deeds to suggest that Obama shares Jeremiah Wright’s extreme views. I still, however, think the story is a completely legitimate campaign issue.

For me, there are several possible conclusions to be drawn from the Rev. Wright fiasco, and none reflect well on Obama. If you take Obama at his word that he was unaware of Wright’s hateful views, it really raises questions about his judgement — how could he know this man and attend his sermons for nearly 20 years without being able to size him up? Another possibility is that he did know that Wright held inflamatory views, but simply looked the other way, which (combined with his relationship with Bill Ayers, the anti-Israel views of his advisors, his sluggishness in criticizing Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas, his eagerness to meet with foreign dictators, etc.) suggest he is overly tolerant of abhorrent behavior. A moral relativist of the worst sort. That is a scary thought for a man who could lead America in the war on terrorism. The other option is that Obama was just doing whatever was politically expedient. He used his membership in the Church to help integrate himself with the black community in the South Side of Chicago, which helped launch his political career, but now that his relationship has damaged him at the national level, he’s decided to distance himself from Rev. Wright. That undercuts the central message of his campaign that he isn’t a typical politician.

There are Obama defenders out there who keep insisting that Wright is not on the ballot, so he shouldn’t be an issue. But once again we get to the heart of the problem with Obama’s candidacy. Because he has such a thin public record that he could point to as evidence of how he might govern, Americans are struggling to take the measure of a man who remains very much a mystery. That’s why controversial personal relationships take on a magnified importance.

Flashback:Obama Pandered on Ethanol, McCain Didn’t

Over the past several days, in a number of posts, Andrew Sullivan has touted Barack Obama’s opposition to suspending the gas tax as a profile in political courage, and chastized McCain together with Clinton for supporting the proposal. While I agree with Sullivan that the proposal is shameless pandering that doesn’t make economic sense, he should also be reminded that when it came to the mother of all shameless pandering — ethanol subsidies — Obama wasn’t quite as sensible. As an Investor’s Business Daily story from last week recounted, with the Iowa caucuses approaching, Obama opted for the pander, while McCain took a position almost unheard of for a presidential candidate — opposing the subsidies vigorously:

Attending a bioeconomy conference in Ames, Iowa, last November, he delivered some unwelcome words.

“I oppose subsidies,” McCain said. “Not just ethanol subsidies. Subsidies. And not just in Iowa either. I oppose them in my own state of Arizona. I am proud of the conservative tradition that the government can sometimes best serve the interests of the American people by knowing when to stay out of their way.”

Say what you want about McCain — the quirkiness and unpredictability of his policy stances can be maddening — but on ethanol and a host of other issues, he has taken positions that were against his immediate political interests. In Iowa, Obama had the opportunity to demonstrate political courage when his presidential ambitions were on the line, but instead he endorsed a policy that any analyst worth a dime knows is total crap. By praising Obama endlessly for his gas tax stance, while lumping McCain together with Clinton, Sullivan is being selective, shortsighted, and unfair.

As for Clinton, though, I’m with Sullivan, and all of the recent conservative love for her is nauseating. She remains a vile, contemptible, figure who will say anything that suits her political needs at any given instant.