Mr. Wilders Comes To Washington

Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian/filmmaker who is facing prosecution in the Netherlands and constant death threats for his criticism of Islam, spoke at the National Press Club today and took questions after a screening of his documentary Fitna.

Wilders, who was denied entry to the United Kingdom earlier this month because of his statements about Islam, has been touring the U.S. all week, with stops in Boston, New York City, and Washington. Yesterday, he screened his film in the U.S. Senate at the invitation of Sen. Jon Kyl, and he also met with John Bolton after the former U.N. ambassador’s speech at CPAC.

In remarks at the Press Club this morning, Wilders said that his case was just a part of the broader struggle between Islamic radicalism and the West. Islamists, he said, use hate speech codes to silence criticism of Islam even while they themselves preach hate.

“They can say whatever they want, ‘throw gays from apartment buildings, kill Jews, slaughter the infidel, destroy Israel, jihad against the West,’ whatever their book tells them,” Wilders said. “Ladies and gentleman, make no mistake, my prosecution is a full-fledged attack by the Left on the freedom of speech in order to appease Muslims.”

The major culprit in all of this is the dominance of cultural relativism in Europe, according to Wilders.

“Cultural relativism is a serious and the most dangerous disease in Europe today,” he said. “Most of our politicians in Europe believe that all cultures are equal. Well let me tell you, they are not. Our Western culture, based on Christianity, on Judaism, on Humanism, is in every aspect better than the Islamic culture.”

He compared the struggle against Islamic ideology to the Cold War, and suggested the West needed to face up to reality, as Ronald Reagan did when he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

“You cannot runaway from history, you cannot escape the dangers of the ideologies that are out to destroy you,” he said. “Denial is not an option. Islam is the communism of today.”

Wilders’ 17-minute film (which you can watch in its entirety here), shows passages excerpted from the Koran, and intercuts them with hateful sermons from Imams and images of terrorist acts committed by Islamic extremists. He has come under fire for the film as well as for public statements critical of Islam. And his critics have attacked him as hypocritical for calling for a ban of the Koran.

In his defense, he said that this had to be viewed in the Dutch context, a country in which Mein Kampf was banned 20 years ago. His point, he said, is that if that was banned as hateful speech that incited violence, than a similar standard should be applied to the Koran.

Wilders has also proposed that the Netherlands stop accepting new immigrants from Muslim countries becuase of the affect that the explosion of their population has had on the country, and to deport those who commit crimes.

If convicted, he could face up to two years in jail, but he has enlisted a top lawyer in the Netherlands and said he was confident that he would triumph.

Huckabee’s Free Market Populism

Mike Huckabee just finished speaking here at CPAC, and what was pretty clear is that he’s trying to win over skeptical economic conservatives by reframing his populism in free market terms. He blasted the stimulus bill and the bailout, and emphasized that taxpayers shouldn’t be bailing out banking executives who messed up. He claimed he was “prophetic” during the campaign for warning about the dangers of the “Wall Street to Washington axis of power.”

It wouldn’t be a Huckabee speech, of course, without some bizzare metaphors and anecdotes. At one point, he told of a boy who brings teacher a leaking box that she assumes is an adult beverage from his father’s liquor store, but it’s actually a puppy. That was Huckabee’s way of saying that “things are not always the way they seem” when it comes to the plight of Republicans.

He also spoke about how you can’t just store a boat in the warehouse, you need to take it into the water and take risks. We have to learn to be “water conservatives, not warehouse conservatives,” he said.

Bolton on Obama: Deception is not Moderation

John Bolton just spoke here at CPAC, offering a blistering critique of President Obama’s foreign policies, insisting that, “If we get our act together, he is a one-termer.”

Bolton said that conservatives should not be comforted by the fact that Obama has backed off some of his campaign rhetoric on issues such as Gitmo, NAFTA, and CIA black sites. “Being inconsistent and deceptive is not the same as being moderate,” he said.

Bolton, echoing Joe Biden, said that Obama would be challenged internationally by foreign powers who seek to test the young administration. He said that Obama’s weak reaction to Georgia during the campaign coupled with his skepticism regarding missile defense has emboldened a resurgent Russia. Hillary Clinton’s decision to essentially take human rights off the table in her trip to China was a mistake. He explained that China is expanding its naval fleet, and will be in a position to challenge America in the western Pacific. An important test will come next month when it’s the 50th anniversary of the Dali Lama’s flight to Tibet — Bolton said to watch for whether Obama has the backbone to meet with him in the White House. He also noted the North Korea’s nuclear program would never be abandoned unless the U.S. puts more pressure on China. On Iran, he said that Obama is naive to believe that the issue can be resolved through negotiation. It has already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle, he said, and the only question is whether or not Israel will launch a military strike. That could present Obama with a major foreign policy crisis in the next 6 to 9 months.

Ryan Warns We’re At “Tipping Point” in Staving off Socialism

Rep. Paul Ryan, the opening speaker at CPAC, just warned that America is currently at a “irreversible tipping point” as it is on the verge of drastically remaking the individuals’ relationship with government. The stimulus bill, the housing bailout, the prospect of bank nationionalization, cap and trade, government-run health care, when you add them all up, he said, we could get to the point where more people depend on the government than free enterprise.

President Obama’s housing proposal, he said, is an update of Marx’s “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Instead, it’s “From the suckers who followed the rules to those who borrowed beyond their means.”

He said Republicans should focus on the following:

1) Sound Money

2) Tax Reform — calls for junking 64,000 page tax code and replacing it with a new one. Supports optional two bracket “flatter” tax code.

3) Health Care — Makes the case for consumer-based health care.

4) Federal Budget — Binding cap on federal spending. Says on our current course, taxes will have to double from 20 cents out of every dollar of GDP to 40 cents.

5) Regulatory reform

Obama Projects $1.75 Trillion Deficit for 2009, Savings “TBD”

Some highlights from the Washington Post story on his budget, to be released today (with some emphasis in parts by me):

President Obama will release a proposed budget today that sets aside up to $250 billion dollars to add to he existing bank bailout, which would bring the 2009 budget deficit to $1.75 trillion dollars…

It identifies $634 billion in tax increases and spending cuts to cover the cost of part of the program, but does not say how the administration hopes to raise the rest of the money — hundreds of billions of dollars more. “TBD” has been penciled into categories for cost savings and benefit reductions….

Obama’s budget also would make permanent a tax cut for the middle class enacted in the recent stimulus package. But to pay for it, the president counts on a big infusion of cash from a politically controversial cap-and-trade system, which would force companies to buy allowances to exceed pollution limits….

And though Obama told Congress on Tuesday that his budget team has “already identified $2 trillion in savings” to help tame record budget deficits, about half of those “savings” are actually tax increases, administration officials said. A big chunk of the rest of the savings comes from measuring Obama’s plans against an unrealistic scenario in which the Iraq war continues to suck up $170 billion a year forever.

Higher taxes, more spending, and mystery savings. Sounds like an Obama budget to me.

Re: The Anti-Liberty Spectator

I find that study especially ironic, given that I not only favor drug legalization and legalized gambling, but actually grew up in Atlantic City with a father in the casino business, and spent three summers working for casinos myself. I don’t think you could find many commentators who are more in the pocket of the gaming industry than I am, and yet my checks still seem to clear at the Spectator. I don’t write about drugs and gambling –not because I am intimidated by the powers that be — but because I am more concerned with greater threats to liberty posed by socialism and Islamic terrorism. At a time when we face the possibility of the federal government nationalizing banks and taking over the healthcare system, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran, delving into an esoteric debate about prostitution seems rather quaint.

Jindal Bombs

The substance of his speech read fine, but his delivery was absolutely awful. It’s true that whoever delivers the response from a quiet room somewhere is always at a disadvantage, and these type of speeches are rarely memorable. But I thought Jindal came off particularly bad. His delivery was flat and his jokes and anecdotes were awkward, his grin childish. He seemed more like a high school student giving a valedictory speech than a potential future leader of the party. He may be brilliant, but presentation matters too, and this was a lackluster performance. “Ya either got it, or ya ain’t,” according to a line from Gypsy. Sadly, Jindal aint got it. Or at least he didn’t tonight.

Obama’s Speech

President Obama gave a characteristically well-delivered speech, and one that demonstrates why he has the potential to be a transformational liberal leader. Sure, his contradictory goals don’t stand up to much scrutiny. He says we’ll all have to give up some of our priorities even while outlining the most expansive domestic agenda in decades.  He says he doesn’t believe in bigger government, but vows to pump more money into banks, bail out homeowners, set up a fund to provide auto loans, and spend billions more on education and energy. He creates the illusion of being a sober and realistic leader who understands that we face some hard choices and tradeoffs while he declares that the way to reduce the growth of government spending on health care is to have the government spend more money on health care. There’s simply no way that all of his policy claims add up. But they don’t have to. Not right now. President Obama remains popular and is in office at a time of crisis. After eight years of Bush, the American public is desperate and open to his arguments for a more robust role for the federal government.  Obama talks of the day of reckoning. Well, at some point, he’ll face his own day of reckoning, when his rhetorical flourishes will be swatted down by reality. But until that day comes, he’ll get much of what he wants. The big question is how much damage he can do before the public catches on to him.

White House Releases Excerpt from Obama’s Speech

Not much to remark on, but here’s the part they chose to highlight:

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:  We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before. 

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation.  The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach.  They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.  Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure.  What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Jindal to Echo Reagan in His Response

The RNC has released excerpts of Bobby Jindal’s speech responding the President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress. From what they released, it seems like he’s trying to echo Reagan in tone, using his background as a son of immigrants to convey an optimistic vision for America. And, in a jab at Obama’s statement that we may not be able to reverse the economic crisis, Jindal says, “don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover – or that America’s best days are behind her.” He talks about the need to restrain government growth and dings Republicans for having lost their way on spending when in power.

Here are the excerpts:

“As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country – and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America.   As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad.  Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty.  And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’  I still believe that to this dayâ€_.

“Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions.  Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people.  We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital.  All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper.  So where we agree, Republicans must be the President’s strongest partners.  And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.â€_

“The strength of America is not found in our government.  It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens.â€_

“To solve our current problems, Washington must lead.  But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians.  The way to lead is by empowering you – the American people.  Because we believe that Americans can do anything.â€_

“Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy.  What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt.  Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need?  That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did.  It’s irresponsible.  And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.â€_

“In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles.  You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility.   Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington.   Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so.â€_

“A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’  Our troubles are real, to be sure.  But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover – or that America’s best days are behind her.”