This. To the deficit, spending one dollar is exactly as irresponsible as a one dollar tax cut.
Wed 15 Sep 2010
Please focus on economic issues. This is your competitive advantage over Republicans — they are perfectly willing to compete with you on social conservatism — they’ve certainly had a lot of practice. But you’ll have a much better advantage trumpeting fiscal policy — that is, after all, the genesis of the name “Tea Party.” There’s a reason this name was chosen, rather than one loaded with social or religious meaning. You can be socially conservative, but remember what makes you different and focus on it.
Plus, it’ll give you an advantage when you actually have to face Democrats in the real election. There are moderate Democrats (and libertarians) who are willing to vote for fiscally conservative people, but if you focus too much on social or religious issues, they won’t, and it’ll only motivate the non-moderate Democrats to vote in droves. Remember, you have to beat both other Republicans and Democrats — not just one. Social issues can’t do that for you, but economic ones can. Stick to your core competencies.
David Boaz says essentially the same thing to social conservatives in general, but of course, vastly more eloquently.
Tue 14 Sep 2010
CNN runs this headline:
Lessons from the whole Quran episode
The first “story highlight” is:
One viewpoint: Media coverage of crackpot publicity seeker was vastly out of proportion
Gee, you think? I’m glad that CNN, media and publicity behemoth that it is, has just now realized it. This is like the article they ran in the 2008 election about how black women were confused about whether or not to vote for Obama or Clinton, and the first highlight was “stop characterizing black women as forced to vote their racial/gender identity!” The double hilarious part is that a lot more than one of the “viewpoints” outlined in this CNN article vote for the “stop giving this idiot so much air time, fools!” position.
Regrettably, the saga of the Rev. Terry Jones and his Quran-burning threat proves that many journalists and news organizations too easily abandon news judgment, professionalism and ethical standards in a zealous quest for a controversial story. [...] However, the coverage of this small band of publicity seekers was vastly out of proportion to the value of the news story.
Usually in America, when a lone crackpot of any political or religious persuasion threatens to commit a publicity stunt that will needlessly enrage millions of other innocent people, our basic common sense tells us that our national media should not even give that person the time of day.
Sadly, not only did Terry Jones successfully receive media attention, but because of the overexposure of this one man, we are beginning to see other “copycat” Quran burnings around the country.
Before the last few weeks, nobody would even know the pastor existed. Then why did his reckless and self-serving threats to burn hundreds of copies of the Quran become a national and international story that, according to Google news, was in more than 12,000 articles? The secretary of state, defense secretary and many other serious people put aside their real work to placate this man’s ego.
How could this situation, with the potential to have had very damaging effects here and elsewhere been avoided? Simple — don’t let obscure people, whose actions have the potential to incite violence, dominate the news cycle.
It’s obvious that he was playing us — the media, politicians, activists, all of us. Whatever it took to get him the most attention at any given time — make a threat, try to make a deal, cancel a threat, catch a flight to New York, etc. — he did it.
They’re literally running an article overflowing with criticism for their choice of covering a specific event so much — in an article that is continuing to cover that event, even after it is over — even to the extent of conscripting tons of their own contributors into saying “don’t cover this so much!” Why the hell didn’t they just listen to these people at the time, instead of now? If you’re CNN, you’re not allowed to stand back and comment on how tragic it is that these big media people gave this obscure idiot so much attention. You are those people. Be part of the solution.
Mon 13 Sep 2010
Stop having pointless debates. Bryan Caplan seems to inspire a lot of them!
The fact that Nigerians and Bolivians don’t spend more of their hard-earned money on education is a solid free-market reason to conclude that additional education would be a waste of their money.
Conclusion: everywhere is over-educated.
If I think of the Mexican village where I have done field work, the education sector “works” as follows. No one in the village is capable of teaching writing, reading, and arithmetic. A paid outsider is supposed to man the school, but very often that person never appears, even though he continues to be paid. Children do have enough leisure time to take in schooling, when it is available. I am told that most of the teachers are bad, when they do appear. You can get your children (somewhat) educated by leaving the village altogether, and of course some people do this. In the last ten years, satellite television suddenly has become the major educator in the village, helping the villagers learn Spanish (Nahuatl is the indigenous language), history, world affairs, some science from nature shows, and telenovela customs. The villagers seem eager to learn, now that it is possible.
That scenario is only one data point but it is very different than the “demonstrated preference” model which Bryan is suggesting. Bolivia and Nigeria are much poorer countries yet and they have dysfunctional educational sectors as well, especially in rural areas. Bad roads are a major problem for “school choice” in these regions, just as they are a major problem for the importation of teachers.
Conclusion: lots of places have bad education. But here’s the thing. Cowen is very smart, and I don’t mean to disagree with him lightly, but surely he’s missing the point here. If the existing (and that’s the key here) education is poor, then that just fits in with Caplan’s model of people saying “well this education isn’t worth it, so I’ll buy food/housing”, or in Cowen’s Mexico case: “I’ll get satellite tv and get entertainment and education!” But that’s the exact point: Cowen and Caplan are using two different definitions of “education.” Which is precisely why Cowen says this:
I consider most countries in today’s world to be undereducated.
Cowen means an actual education, a final product — actual knowledge in your brain. If the school attempting to provide this does it poorly, that is under-education — an insufficient attempt to achieve “education.” And yes, with this definition, most countries of the world are under-educated, because as he ably points out, they don’t invest much in it, and the quality is poor. Caplan is using it as “formal education process,” in which case that Mexican village is indeed “over-educated,” because as Cowen notes, that product isn’t very good — so it’s entirely possible that they would be better off spending their resources on things they consider more important. And those villagers seem to agree, based on Cowen’s description of their purchasing choices.
This entire debate rests on the definition of the word “educated.” Cowen also lists a large number of other very good points that, while being very smart and relevant to the discussion of education in developing countries, don’t really refute Caplan’s point if we use his definition. Caplan’s definition may be stupid, and you can definitely say “your definition makes people think that developing countries shouldn’t ever spend on education,” but given the obvious way in which he’s using it, his theory is sound. Here’s the kicker from Cowen’s piece:
Of course Bryan favors rising wealth and falling fixed costs, as do I.
That’s the point. Both people want developing countries to get richer, so that they can have more food, more housing, more education. Caplan is just saying that if apparently people don’t value it much, we shouldn’t provide it to them to the exclusion of things they want more (opportunity cost always being implicit when an economist is speaking) and Cowen believes it is a thing distinct from the actual implementation, and that poor education is under-education. Both definitions are valid.
James Joyner also disagrees, but he picks a perfect example that illustrates the difference in defining “education”:
Even at lowly Jacksonville State, I had Nigerian students in my classes. Rich Nigerians. Their illiterate countrymen aren’t spending more of their hard-earned money on education because they’re wasting it on food, not because they think they’re better off uneducated.
That’s precisely the point of contention. There is no debate that every single person on the planet values food more than education — or at least, they won’t fail to do so for long. Joyner is of course correct to point this out. But if you have to decide between some vital thing like food and education (as Joyner implies that they are, because he says that they can’t spend on education because of the need to buy food) you better choose food — and if you either spend more on education yourself (private education) or someone else comes in and provides it (public or charity education) even though you’d prefer food, you are, by Caplan’s definition, over-educated. However, by Joyner’s definition of a standard of education that would improve the qualify of life for a Nigerian or Ethiopian, they are indeed under-educated. It’s almost like different definitions of concepts lead to different conclusions about whether or not one should have more of that concept!
But Andrew Sullivan isn’t really concerned with the definitions. To him, this is just another sign of crazy extremist libertarians :
Bryan [C]aplan believes that there is no country on earth that is under-educated. Here is where you end up when libertarianism becomes dogma:
Or maybe just where you end up when a number of very smart people define a very complex concept freighted with thousands of years of intellectual baggage in different ways. Six of one, half-dozen of the other, right?
Every one of the four people above want the same thing: for developing countries to have more resources so they can have more things they want — food, education, housing, whatever. The entire debate is over the definition of the term “educated,”
— and one that can easily be divined by just looking at how the other person is using the word. But it’s apparently much more productive to call Caplan crazy (I haven’t seen if he has responded to any critics by calling them crazy; yet) — Cowen is of course excluded from this, as he approaches the debate in a professional manner, as usual. (This is unfair of me, I’m complaining about people assigning bad motives to others by assigning bad motives to them. Not good.)
Now, for myself, I disagree with Caplan too! I think using the same word to define “education” in the US and in the developing world obscures much of the important differences between the two situations that need to be considered when making decisions about them. But he started the conversation, so I’m willing to grant him the privilege of defining the basic terms. If I want to disagree, I need to focus on that definition — not just use my own and pretend Caplan’s an idiot for not recognizing it.
Fri 10 Sep 2010
A ‘permanent” tax cut is a fiction. No tax cuts are forever. Congress amends the Internal Revenue Code annually, and sometimes more than once a year. Since World War II, it has done a major overhaul about once a decade, and is overdue for its next renovation.
At the same time, our recent experience with four dozen allegedly time-limited tax cuts that Congress extends more or less routinely each year suggests the word “temporary” does not carry the same meaning in Washington as it does elsewhere.
What about all the “temporary” tax increases, spending increases and subsidies that we still have? Sure, I suppose it’s true they’re not “permanent,” but they sure seem to be. It seems strange to be bringing this point up now, as opposed to at some point in the last few decades.
Wed 8 Sep 2010
Tue 7 Sep 2010
Is Paul Krugman insane? Isn’t this column a huge plea for extending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? If spending trillions on the military “saved us” from the Great Depression, then why wouldn’t… spending trillions on the military today do the same thing, given how Krugman spends an entire column making the comparison? Isn’t he also saying that Bush saved us from a deeper recession in the early 2000′s by getting us involved in two expensive wars?
Can you imagine how liberals (and rightly so!) would jump on a Republican for saying something like this? They would scream, as I would, that this is precisely the kind of “war is the health of the economy” crap that we should all condemn. Yet we’re just supposed to take Krugman’s word (though I can’t actually find anything in the article that says “well I don’t really advocate spending trillions more on the military) that he’s really not advocating war capitalism. This is like walking up to an alcoholic and mentioning that – hey, you know what’s been a really good plan for getting more booze in the past? shooting people and taking theirs! — and then feigning shock when they hold up a liquor store.
Sure, he could counter that he actually prefers spending on things like roads and bailouts, but it is extremely reckless to be one of the most influential economic policy advisors in this country (it nauseates me to type that) and say things like “Hey, you know what really got us out of that Great Depression I keep comparing this recession to? (And even named my column “1938 in 2010″!) A gigantic war! Man, if only we could have something like that today!” to a current government that has proven far less dovish than it should, and a future 2010 government that (and Krugman states he is aware of this) is likely to hold a much larger percentage of Republicans that have such a reputation for fondness towards the military industrial system and still think both of our current wars are super-swell ideas. There is a non-trivial group of people who think fighting Iran or China would be a great idea, and we don’t want to be giving them any ideas that it would be an economic solution as well.
Update: Peter Schiff rather humorously rips the “we need a new WW2!” idea to shreds in a column written even before Krugman’s! Now that’s prescient.
Sun 5 Sep 2010
Ran into Dennis Kucinich at the Cleveland Oktoberfest today. Managed to successfully restrain myself from thanking him for being such a tireless advocate of UFO research.
Thu 2 Sep 2010
You’re doing it right: (via Boing Boing)
Make sure to click on “shoot” or “don’t shoot.”
Wed 1 Sep 2010
For all the people debating private prisons, I want to point out that this exists:
Prison Tycoon: Alcatraz
- Never underestimate the limitations of Alcatraz- from staff to prisoners you need to plan for everything!
- Expand your walls that house the most dangerous and diabolical criminals on earth- all for the bottom line.
- Anticipate escape attempts by hiring the baddest guards and staff around to manage the hardened criminals.
- Brick by brick. Steel door by steel door. Build your prison from the ground up in Free Play mode or take on preset objectives in Challenge mode.
- Keep ‘em busy- put your prisoners to work around the prison cleaning, cooking and maintaining your prison.
I guess it’s, uh, like Sim City?
Fri 27 Aug 2010
I want to express my complete agreement with everything here:
But his column, and the libertarian donors he is channeling, make the same mistake (one he astutely recognizes in their case): operating on an inadequately short time horizon. I don’t know if a liberaltarian alliance is ever going to be a reality, or if the project is doomed to fail, but it’s folly to evaluate it based on two years of a single presidency.
Libertarian donors ought to fund efforts to oppose President Obama in the short term. They also ought to invest in intellectual projects with longer time horizons that only bear on particular electoral and legislative outcomes indirectly.
I feel like Mr. Carney is like someone who, during the early years of the draft during the Vietnam War, bemoaned that no matter how cogent the libertarian arguments for ending conscription were, attempting to convince the people in charge was a futile pursuit. For many years his pessimism would have been vindicated. But eventually the libertarian side won, in no small part to the relentless advocacy of explicitly libertarian voices.
I would go so far as to say that despite some very public anti-libertarian policies in the US over the past 10 years, the world wide trends over the past 20 years have had a dominantly libertarian nature, (my opinions on the economic issues here are very influenced by Scott Sumner, and for social issues, any opinion poll you wish to consult) which is, hilariously, something upon which only the lunatic left agrees.
Wed 25 Aug 2010
Specialization of labor! The Daily Mail (via Instapundit) is not impressed:
More than half of young people lack the skills they need to maintain their homes, with many relying on their parents to carry out basic tasks, a survey suggested today.
Around 50 per cent of people aged under 35 admitted they did not know how to rewire a plug, while 54 per cent did not know how to bleed a radiator and 63 per cent said they would not attempt to put up wallpaper, according to Halifax Home Insurance.
Oh no! The knife twists:
Nearly two-thirds of young people admitted that their father was far better at DIY than they were.
Guess what? This describes me perfectly. I am pretty incompetent at house maintenance, (but even I can manage shelves and basic gardening, unlike some of the people described in the article), but that’s not the point. The point is, I do things I am good at and enjoy so that I don’t have to do the things I’m bad at and dislike.
I’m a computer programmer, and like all computer oriented people, I ‘enjoy’ the attention lavished upon me whenever someone in the family needs computer help. Why is it wrong for me to call upon the more expert members of my family (some of whom have extensive professional homebuilding experience!) when I need something done in the home maintenance field?
We could similarly write an article about how old people are incompetent with computers and constantly need to call their kids to come help with their interwebs, but again, it wouldn’t matter. So long as the average person knows someone who can do X, there’s no reason to learn it — unless you really want to, or enjoy doing it, or for whatever reason require doing it so often that it’s worth it. This is community and familial cooperation to maximize utility! This is good news, not bad news.
Edit: Let me specifically focus on the wallpaper example. Have you ever taken down/put up wallpaper? It is boring, stupid, messy and immensely not fun. Even if I were a wallpapering expert, I would never admit it around any who might possibly one day ask me to help do it.
Edit 2: Okay, still on wallpaper. Why would you even want to know how to PUT UP wallpaper? Wallpaper is terrible. You should not have it. Even the word itself, in a purely aesthetic context, is revolting. Sure I don’t know how to wallpaper, because I can never imagine wanting any surface to have wallpaper on it. I don’t know how to wallpaper just like I don’t know how to burn down my house — because I figure home prices have dropped enough, thank you very much. The only thing you should ever do with wallpaper is tear it out (and that’s no party either), while screaming obscenities at the past generations who thought it was acceptable. Get some goddamn paint. Painting is actually sort of fun!
Tue 24 Aug 2010
This isn’t painful until you see the date:
Without the high stakes of U.S.-Soviet conflict, national-greatness conservatives are desperately seeking the moral equivalent of the Cold War. Their pursuit is in vain, for Americans go to war reluctantly and are happy to be at peace. At this point in our history, American nationalism is a secure ideal. Its meaning evolves, certainly, but no one who has ever been abroad–or spent much time outside the Beltway–can doubt its vigor. It is absurd to think we require central direction to feel American.
Americans don’t need to concoct grand national struggles merely to prove their mettle. They prove it every day, in their own private pursuits.
Well said, I bet they had those jerks who are constantly invoking the war on terror in mind when they said that!
This article was published in the September 25, 1997 Wall Street Journal.
Fri 20 Aug 2010
3 in 4 Americans believe stupid things, via Yglesias. I thought the funniest was this:
The “cumulative percent” column shows that more than one-fifth of all Americans, 22%, believe in five or more items, 32% believe in at least four items, and more than half, 57%, believe in at least two paranormal items. Only 1% believe in all 10 items.
I’m especially interested in the 2% who believe 9 out of the 10 things. Which was the one idea that they said “no way, that’s just going too far?”:
Believe in % Extrasensory perception, or ESP 41 That houses can be haunted 37 Ghosts/that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places/situations 32 Telepathy/communication between minds without using traditional senses 31 Clairvoyance/the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future 26 Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives 25 That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died 21 Witches 21 Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death 20 Channeling/allowing a ‘spirit-being’ to temporarily assume control of body 9
I assume that for most people, it was most likely to be “channeling” since the fewest % of people believed that one. I just think it’s funny that a non-zero quantity of people were cool with all the rest, but that “channeling” was right out. ”That’s not at ALL how spirits work, what kind of idiot would believe that?”
Fri 20 Aug 2010
Mr. Friedersdorf’s take on the debate. (Starring Reihan again!)
Thu 19 Aug 2010
So, lots of people are talking about the traditional conservative-libertarian alliance and wondering: why? I think one reason this worked for as long as it did is highlighted by things like this:
Earlier this summer, Grover Norquist agreed to join the group’s board and he immediately came under fire for betraying the conservative movement and the same thing has been happening to Ann Coulter, who agreed to speak at GOProud’s Homocon 2010, leading WorldNetDaily to drop her from its own upcoming Taking Back America conference[.]
This would be unthinkable a few decades ago, not that a conservative group would write someone out for being “too gay friendly,” but that any conservatives would have fit that description. The same situation exists with dozens of other socially liberal issues — from general polls to conservative politicians themselves, there has been a massive (though obviously not as massive as people who already self-defined as liberal) sea change on social issues. You see Republican politicians saying (and even more telling, implicitly accepting as fact) tons of things that would have gotten them purged as evil liberals years ago.
So, if you buy the 2-axis version of US politics, conservatives and Republicans have been moving quite a bit to the left on the social axis over the past few decades. Might this be another reason why libertarians (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) felt comfortable with the alliance? After all, what defines “social conservatism” has changed a great deal – for the better, in my opinion. We could imagine that in another few decades, if the opinion poll trendlines on issues like gay marriage and pot use continue, a “social conservative” could find themselves in favor (or perhaps at least grudgingly accepting) of such things. So maybe allying with conservatives is a-ok, because whatever social policy disagreements libertarians may have with them will probably be resolved (in the libertarian’s favor) in another generation or two.
Now, a bigger question is: regardless of social issues, is an alliance with conservatives even worth it on fiscal matters? I’m looking at you, Mr. Bush.
Thu 19 Aug 2010
When I wrote previously about the issue, I didn’t know Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim cleric who leads the Cordoba Initiative, had said this:
We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic faiths.
If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul: “Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.”
If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.
And I am here to inform you, with the full authority of the Quranic texts and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, that to say “La ilaha illallah Muhammadun rasulullah” is no different.
It expresses the same theological and ethical principles and values.
But if I had, it would have only reinforced my confidence in what I felt.
I am not a religious person, nor even a spiritual one, so I won’t comment on the actual theological content. But I do know my history, and how at odds that statement is (to its credit) with the blood-spattered catalog of interactions between Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and the repudiation (oh how I wanted to put an ‘f’ there) of the largely imaginary differences that provoked those conflicts is a moving one.
But one day I want to see a world where Christians, Jews and Muslims do not consider themselves antagonists. And this is a non-trivial step towards that goal.
Wed 18 Aug 2010
Wait, sorry, that’s step 3! Conor is trying to figure out step 2, in discussing the political likelihood of a Gary Johnson presidency:
Then the Republican base embraced Sarah Palin, and all the same people who mocked Obama’s celebrity enthused about her star quality. One step forward, three steps back. Gene Healy’s book The Cult of the Presidency (magazine version here) is a great first step in pushing back against this trend. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the right second step is.
I do! If Conor and Marc (Ambinder) think Johnson would be a good president, and a suitable tonic to the cult of Palin or Obama, they should do the same things everyone else does when they find someone they think would be good for the job. Start a website advocating for him. Write articles on their blogs describing his wonderful policy points. Talk to their contacts in Johnson’s party about him. Show how he’s better than the other candidates. Do all the things Ambinder mentions in his post:
Johnson has plenty of tools available to build a grassroots following. Doing so requires creativity, work, charm, and a bit of luck, but it does not require the media.
Marc and Conor could help do that. And finally:
People vote for politicians who sparkle, or who harness their anger; politicians who make them proud to be Republicans … or proud to be Americans.
Agreed. So, for people who prefer Johnson to the alternatives: get to it! Show how much he sparkles. Show how voting for him will be an expression of anger at, well, whatever things anger you. Show how his policies exemplify what America stands for, so a voter could be proud of their choice. Sure, this all sounds tacky and formulaic, but if it’s works in today’s politics, then go for it. While you’re at it, play up the non-visceral qualities that appeal to the same people who dislike Palin.
There is a sizable group of people in this country who don’t like Obama or Palin that much — and even more who might be convinced that the parts of those two they do like could also be accomplished by a different candidate. Maybe a candidate named Gary. Get to work!
Tue 17 Aug 2010
(CNN) — Airport police in Albuquerque, New Mexico are expected to release details Tuesday about an “incident” aboard a Southwest Airlines flight during which a mother may have slapped a young child.
The Albuquerque International Sunport’s police chief told CNN affiliate KRQE that a flight attendant took the child from its mother.
“I think it was a solid move from the part of the flight attendant to take custody of the child,” [Police Chief Marshall] Katz said. “It neutralized the situation. It calmed everybody down.”
Wait, what? You can calm down a mother by taking their child away? I realize it’s a logical fallacy to come to a conclusion purely from anecdotal evidence, but I’m pretty sure that based on my experience, I can confidently claim that kidnapping a baby is not a situation neutralizing tactic. But then, I haven’t had the same training that Chief Katz has.
Mon 16 Aug 2010
It’s frustrating to see Roger Pilon of Cato, an institution I normally like, buy into the anti-Cordoba viewpoint:
It is the ground where some 3,000 people of all faiths lost their lives in a brutal attack by radical Muslims acting in the name of their religion, however distorted their beliefs may have been. Those who lost loved ones that day, to say nothing of the rest of us, cannot be indifferent to that fact — as those who support the mosque’s location near Ground Zero seem to be.
Yeah, and if radical Muslims were setting up shop, I might be willing to take a harder look at it. But this is explicitly the work of moderate Muslims who publicly, frequently, reject violence. There is absolutely no contention that they they’re anything but — and I think that Pilon understands that, because at no point in the three posts on the topic does he attempt to accuse them of extremism, like some other commenters.
This gets back to the concept that moderate Muslims are our greatest weapon (in the comments, Sarah notes that using the term “weapon” to describe advocacy of peace is probably a poor choice of words) against Muslim fundamentalism. If another ally of ours, such as England (a theocratic state, I might add!), wanted to put up a building expressly dedicated to peacefulness regarding religion, then I would salute it — and Muslim moderates are just as important an ally (if not more so!) in fighting fundamentalism. I consider our alliance with Muslim moderates to be the ultimate insult that we can level — not to us, or our memory of September 11th — but to the backwards thugs who committed that crime. The fact that we consider their greatest enemy (Muslim fundamentalists have been fighting moderates far longer than Americans) to be our esteemed allies is a gigantic “fuck you” to their medieval concept of the world, and that’s something that can’t be yelled at them often enough. Cordoba House is indeed a symbol — that we consider moderate Muslims to be partners in the great alliance against fundamentalism that encompasses the vast majority of humanity.
The only thing I really agree with Mr. Pilon on is this:
After all, the president isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the moral compass of the nation — certainly not this president. [I'd argue that he's no worse or better than any other] But it’s rather late in the day to be ducking out on this one, now that it’s been elevated to the presidential level.
Definitely. We have a division of powers for a reason — this is, legally, a local zoning issue — and “legally” is certainly the standard by which we should judge whether a president should get involved. He has no reason or jurisdiction here. Though I don’t think it’s some great crime by itself, I think we would be all be better off if we exercised a little more restraint about presidential involvement. There are actual tasks a president should be doing, and I certainly don’t think his execution of them has been so perfect that there is time to spend giving speeches on little things like this.
But when it comes down to it, I don’t want to convince conservative opponents of Cordoba that they should merely be allowed to build, though I respect those who are willing to allow it based on principles of property rights and religious freedom, I want to convince them to enthusiastically support it, for the precise reason we all hate violent fundamentalists. For the past 9 years we’ve actually sent thousands of our soldiers into battle, some losing their lives, alongside moderate Muslims who categorically reject the extremism of idiots like Al Qaeda. Whether or not you think that specific policy is a good idea, we are actually sacrificing lives to achieve the triumph of moderation over extremism within Islam. If we can ask men and women to lay down their lives for the idea that moderate Muslims are our allies, we should be able to accept a far smaller burden (if the construction offends you) ourselves — nor should we hesitate to stand beside those who are already the epitome of that idea’s victory.
Edit: as Cato is not a monolithic organization, here is Christopher Preble with a much better viewpoint.
Edit 2: I decided that “CATO” should be the mythical Central Atlantic Treaty Organization.