Market Reacts To Obama Win

Obama wins, stock market falls. The day after Barack Obama’s re-election victory, the Dow Jones industrial average, a popular gauge of the U.S. stock market, suffered its biggest loss in nearly a year, dropping 312.95 points. Even so, the fall wasn’t as bad as the day after Obama first won the White House. On Nov. 5, 2008, the Dow plummeted 486 points. Maybe we should be glad the drop wasn’t worse this time.

Will the U.S. become energy independent? A new report from the International Energy Agency says that the United States will become the world’s top producer of oil within the next five years and a net exporter of the fuel by 2030 or so.  According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, this country could be almost energy self-sufficient by 2035, thanks to dramatic increases in the production of oil, shale gas, natural gas and “clean” energies including solar, wind and hydropower.

Another Chicago politician faces jail time. Federal investigators have been looking into whether Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., son of the famous civil-rights crusader, spent campaign funds on personal items, including decorating his home in Washington, D.C. Jackson was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1995. Despite not campaigning this time around (he’s been treated for various health problems for most of the year), the Congressman won re-election handily last week.

What have they done to James Bond? “Skyfall,” the 23rd movie in the James Bond saga, is setting box-office records around the world. It looks as though it will be the most popular Bond film ever. But what’s this I hear about our favorite spy changing drinks? Instead of a vodka martini, he’s now asking for a Heineken. Even worse, he gets caressed by a former agent with a “sexually ambiguous” past. That never would have happened with Sean Connery as Bond.

–Chip Wood     

 

The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn

The fiscal cliff draweth nigh. A lame-duck Congress and a triumphant President have six weeks to effect a deal that will keep the country from plunging over it. And right now, while both sides pay lip service to the idea of compromise, it looks like they’ll play chicken right up to the edge.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama met with a bunch of left-wing labor leaders and social activists — all of whom were happy to take credit for his election victory. Afterward, the President doubled his demands for higher taxes. Instead of the $800 billion in additional tax increases that were on the table before the election, Obama now says he wants $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next decade.

Anyone who hoped we’d see a milder, more moderate occupant of the White House this time around just got a very loud wake-up message: It’s going to be war on the haves on behalf of the have-nots — and the bureaucrats who get to distribute the spoils, of course.

In case you’re just waking up from a Rip Van Winkle-type nap, the fiscal cliff is what will happen when the George W. Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year (they’ve been extended once already) and automatic spending cuts kick in. The spending cuts, known as “sequestration,” were part of the last agreement to raise the Federal debt ceiling. If they aren’t undone, the military budget will face $500 billion in cuts, starting in January.

It should come as no surprise that the Congressional Budget Office says that the combination could be devastating to our economy. The supposedly nonpartisan CBO says that economic growth in this country, which is already dreadfully anemic, will drop 0.5 percent. At same time, unemployment will climb from 7.9 percent to some 9.1 percent, the CBO predicts. Of course, the “official” unemployment figures are a cruel distortion of what has actually taken place; when the underemployed and long-term unemployed are counted, the actual number is more than 20 percent.

So, yes, we’re facing some pretty serious problems. Meanwhile, although Obama likes to say that he’s willing to compromise and that “all ideas are on the table,” there are a couple that he says absolutely won’t be considered. One is making significant cuts in spending on his favorite programs. The other is giving any sort of tax break to “millionaires and billionaires.”

Meanwhile, a majority of members of the House of Representatives have made a promise to their constituents not to vote for any tax increase. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, which created the no-tax pledge, reminds us that it has been signed by 271 members of the current Congress and 258 members of the one that will take office in January. The pledge promises that signers will “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses.”

And don’t look at closing deductions as a way to raise revenue, either. Signers have also pledged to “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

House Speaker John Boehner hinted at the possibility of compromise when he said: “For the purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.”

Boehner didn’t explain what those “right conditions” might be. But so far I haven’t heard any proposal that will satisfy the tax-and-spenders on the left and the no-tax crowd on the right. From what I’ve heard, compromise looks a long way off.

Oh, and did I mention that we are also approaching the ceiling for the Federal debt? The Treasury can do a little check kiting for a while. But sooner or later, we will reach a point where we won’t be able to add to the national debt. That’s going to be a heck of a problem, since that borrowing provides the funds for about 30 percent of Federal spending.

So what should our fearless leaders do? Let’s look at a few hard facts.

First, the Obama tax increases on the super-rich won’t solve our deficit problems. In fact, they won’t come anywhere close. The most generous estimates are that they will raise an additional $60 billion to $80 billion a year in revenue.

But the deficit has topped $1 trillion a year for every year that Obama has been in office. Washington will need to raise 15 to 20 times that much revenue if our leaders are serious about balancing the budget.

Here’s another example that should help bring some perspective to this discussion. It’s been estimated that repairing all the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy will come to something like $50 billion. That’s a staggering amount of money, isn’t it?  The devastation we’ve seen on our TV screens (and many people have witnessed in person) has been incredible.

But consider this: Obama’s deficits have amounted to 20 such hurricanes every year for the past four years.

That brings me to the second fact that the politicos in Washington — on both sides of the aisle — will have to face. This country doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. When you add together taxes collected by all levels of government, the combined bite from Federal, State and local taxes comes to more than half of the money the more successful people among us earn. What sort of incentives will successful people have to try even harder and do even better if the government grab goes even higher?

The answer can be found somewhere between “very little” and “none.”

But there’s even more bad news waiting for us around the corner. What happens when the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, becomes fully operational over the next two years?

Well, for one, an awful lot of us will be paying more in taxes, thanks to various fees and add-ons the bill includes. That’s bad enough. But even worse, a lot of full-time jobs in this country will vanish, as more and more companies replace them with part-time workers. Employers will not be required to provide health insurance for anyone working 30 hours a week or less. A lot of companies will prefer to hire four part-time workers to three full-time ones. Can you blame them?

A lot of these problems could be solved by a vibrant, growing economy that saw millions of new jobs being created — which also would mean billions more tax dollars being collected. It’s happened several times in the past, under both Republicans (see Ronald Reagan) and Democrats (see Bill Clinton’s second term).

What are the chances that an even more liberal Senate and a President who no longer has to worry about being re-elected will do the things necessary to get the economy growing again? I fear they are very, very small.

If I were a conservative legislator in Washington today, what would I do? I’d stick to the promises I made that got me there. I’d insist that our government needs to spend less and tax less, and I’d vote only for legislation that helps move the country in that direction.

More freedom, not more government, will produce the prosperity we once enjoyed — and can enjoy again. But that’s not what we’re going to get from Washington anytime soon.

Better batten down the hatches, folks. I’m afraid we’re in for a very rough ride.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Why We Lost And What It Will Take To Win

Well, so much for the seers, sages, pundits and prognosticators who predicted an easy victory for Republicans on Election Day. It turned out to be anything but.

For a lot of us, our worst fears are coming true: four more years of Barack Obama in the White House and at least two more years with Harry Reid and the Democrats controlling the Senate.

Ouch!

The one bright spot is that Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives. Since the Constitution requires that all spending bills originate in the House, that provides hope there will be at least some slight restraint as Big Government marches forward.

But then I remembered that Obamacare, one of the biggest spending bills in history, didn’t originate in the House — and that this was perfectly OK with the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts said this incredible usurpation of Federal power was legal because the mandate was a tax. His redefinition of the facts made it all hunky-dory, or so we were told.

The chance that Obamacare will be overturned or even substantially revised is now pretty close to zero. We won a few important victories in the Senate (I’m thinking particularly of Ted Cruz in Texas, Debbie Fisher in Nebraska, and Jeff Flake in Arizona). But Republicans lost all of the other races where victories were essential to give them control of the Senate.

Yes, I’m afraid we’ll be saddled with Harry Reid as Majority Leader for at least two more years. That means even if a decent bill is passed in the House, its chances of getting through the Senate are virtually nil. Not to mention what would happen if such a bill — to cut spending significantly, let’s say, or reform the tax code, or audit the Fed — did by some miracle make it to Obama’s desk. How many milliseconds would it take, do you think, before a veto sent it flying back to Capitol Hill?

So the chances of seeing some decent legislation get through the new Congress are about nil, I’m sad to say. About the best we can hope for is to delay some of the worst legislation and work and pray for more victories in 2014.

In the meantime, I shudder to think what sort of nominations Obama will make for our courts, since he needs approval only in the Senate, not the House. Or what sort of treaties he may submit for the Senate’s approval. How much of our sovereignty (and our money) will the internationalists in this Administration want to turn over to the United Nations? I don’t want to think about it.

We’re going to hear a lot of criticism of the sort of campaign that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan conducted. They didn’t “take it to the President” hard enough, tough enough or often enough, some will say. I think there’s a lot of truth to such accusations.

Romney scored a dramatic victory in the first Presidential debate. Finally, millions of Americans got to see that he was not the mean-spirited vulture capitalist that the Obama campaign had portrayed him as. Hey, he was actually human — and pretty impressive.

But the gains from that night weren’t enough. For some strange reason, both Romney and Ryan began to run a very cautious campaign. Oh, they made some decent speeches. But they spoke only in broad generalities; neither ever got the electorate inspired with the specifics of what they would do for this country.

I would have liked to see them tackle head-on some of the big issues that were being used against them. Where was the Romney-Ryan appeal to Latinos, who will work so hard to earn a piece of the American pie? Where was their outreach to women, who surely have bigger concerns than getting Uncle Sam to pay for their birth-control pills? We waited in vain to hear anything along these lines.

And while there’s no question but that the economy and other domestic issues were far more important to voters than foreign policy, I’ve got to wonder how much of a difference it might have made if Republicans had really hammered the White House over what happened in Benghazi, Libya.

We can debate these questions forever — or at least until the next election. But in the meantime, there are three other issues that I’m afraid will spell the doom of this Constitutional republic, if we can’t find some way to overcome them.

The first is the incredible bias of the mainstream media. I could fill a dozen columns with examples of how the media raked Romney or Ryan over the coals for the most trivial of misstatements, while giving Obama and Joe Biden a free pass on some of the most outrageous comments ever uttered during a political campaign.

You and I may wish that Romney had phrased his concerns a little different, when he spoke about “the 47 percent who don’t pay taxes” at a private fundraiser. But they paled in comparison to Obama’s statement that “you didn’t build that” or his dismissive remark that “the private sector is doing fine,” when everyone and his brother knew it wasn’t.

The mainstream media tried to turn Romney’s remarks into a national scandal. “Good Morning America” said it was a “bombshell rocking the Mitt Romney campaign.” Diane Sawyer called it “a political earthquake.” There was no such phony outrage over anything the President or his Vice President said during the campaign.

And don’t get me started on many of the so-called “fact checkers” on TV and in the press. Time after time, they allowed Obama and Biden to get away with some whoppers that would have had Pinocchio’s nose growing out the door, while they pounded the Republican candidates for every minor misstatement they could find or distort.

My second concern is how Republicans can counter the hundreds of millions of dollars the Democrats spent on an incredible barrage of attack ads. They were among the most dishonest and despicable commercials ever put on the air. They were targeted to very specific audiences: union workers in Cleveland, young women in metropolitan areas, blacks and Latinos wherever they were a large enough minority.

Sadly, the ads worked. Those of us on the right have to recognize that our opponents on the left did an incredibly effective job of targeting their message to very narrow and specific segments of their audience. They got a majority of the viewers to believe their propaganda. And then they got them to the polls.

How can the next Republican candidate for President overcome such a well-financed, brilliantly planned, expertly produced smear campaign? I confess I don’t know. I hope someone will come up with a solution. If you’ve got one, let me hear about it.

That brings me to my final and largest concern. In State after State and district after district, Democrats won by promising that government would do something for the people hearing their message. Subsidize their healthcare, pay for their prescriptions, finance their schooling, guarantee their retirement… the list goes on and on. It’s the 21st century version of promising a chicken in every pot.

And, folks, let’s face it. It worked. What happens when a majority of voters are told they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury, if they’ll only put the “right people” in charge?

We saw the answer Tuesday. They’ll stand in line for hours to vote to keep the goodies coming.

It’s going to be awfully hard to outwork, outspend and outvote them. The silent majority is being replaced by a “gimme” society. What’s going to prevent them from dragging this country over a fiscal cliff — and us along with them?

I don’t know. Do you?

Sorry to sound so pessimistic, but I’m stunned and saddened over the results of Tuesday’s elections. I thought it was one of the clearest choices between two different directions for this country I’ve ever seen. And I’m scared to death of the decision a majority of voters just made.

Ah, well, there is one positive thing I can say about the outcome. It will give this humble scribe — and the other writers here at Personal Liberty Digest™ — plenty to talk about for the next few years.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s Revenge

Are you ready for a little revenge? At a campaign rally the day before the election, Barak Obama told the crowd that “voting is the best revenge.” Really? What a strange thing to say. Now he’s got me worried about who he wants to take revenge on. Oh, I know: It’s all those “millionaires and billionaires” who aren’t paying their fair share. I guess we’d better get ready for the tax bite to cut a lot deeper.

A really expensive miss. Nobody has spent more money with less success to win a seat in the Senate than Linda McMahon, co-owner of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.). According to reports, the wrestling magnate dumped close to $100 million of her own money into her two campaigns for a Senate seat in Connecticut. This past Tuesday, Christopher S. Murphy handily defeated McMahon in the race for the seat being vacated by the retiring officeholder, Joe Lieberman.

So much for the Redskins Rule. No, I’m not talking about victories on the field by the NFL football team, but an interesting series of coincidences. If the Redskins won a home game before a national election, the Democrats won the Presidency. While if the team lost, so did the Democrats. According to the theory, the Redskins’ loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday meant that Barack Obama would lose, too. To the dismay of some 60 million Republicans, that turned out not to be true. Another theory goes down the drain.

A little political propaganda here. On Monday, the day before the election, CNNMoney’s article “Election 2012: What about the poor?” left no doubt what it meant: “One wants to strengthen the nation’s existing safety net. The other wants to overhaul it. President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney have vastly different views on how to help the 46.2 million Americans in poverty.” What the story doesn’t say, of course, is that Romney does his charity privately and personally, while Obama wants to force all taxpayers to “do the right thing.” What about the likelihood that the poor’s fate rests more with themselves than with any politician? Of course, that possibility is not mentioned at all.

–Chip Wood

These Senate Contests Are Crucial, Too

With all of the focus on the race for the White House, let’s not forget about some other crucial elections on Tuesday. It looks like the Republicans are a lock to retain control of the House. That’s encouraging, since the Constitution requires that all spending bills originate there. If the House won’t approve it, the President can’t spend it (not that this has had much impact on the big spenders in Washington in the past).

One of the blessings we got after the midterm elections in 2010 was that Nancy Pelosi was no longer the Speaker of the House of Representatives. One of the biggest disappointments was that Harry Reid retained his incredibly powerful post as Majority Leader of the Senate. He has used that position to keep every piece of reform legislation approved in the House from coming to a vote.

All of that could change on Tuesday — assuming the Republicans can win four more seats in the Senate than they hold now. Remember, unless there is a conservative majority in the Senate, there is not a chance that Obamacare will be repealed, that the bailouts will end, that any entitlements will be reformed, that the budget will be balanced or that the deficit will be reduced — even if Mitt Romney occupies the White House.

As Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) pointed out in an advertisement, “A president can campaign on good policies, but he doesn’t write the bills. As long as liberals are in charge of writing legislation, it will be difficult for a Republican president to sign the right bills into law.”

If Romney does enjoy the landslide victory that my colleague Wayne Allen Root has been predicting for months, the tide should be strong enough to carry a bunch of Republican Senatorial candidates to victory. That is far from a sure thing, however, so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

I did uncross them long enough to send some support to several candidates I thought deserved it and a couple of organizations that have been doing good work in some key elections. Two of my favorites in this category are Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund.

Here’s a look at some of the most important Senate races I’ll be watching the closest next week:

One victory we’re sure to be celebrating is Ted Cruz as the new junior Senator from Texas. The polls there are predicting that the Tea Party favorite will defeat his liberal opponent, Paul Sadler, by a huge margin. Texas has become one of the reddest of the red States in recent years — something that must have Lyndon B. Johnson spinning in his grave. The key to victory for Cruz was winning the Republican primary, where he enjoyed a come-from-behind victory over an establishment Republican.

Nebraska is another State that’s looking pretty good for conservatives. This where a political upstart, Deb Fischer, shot to the front of the pack in the Republican primary after she received a powerful endorsement from Sarah Palin. So much for all of the mudslinging that the 2008 Vice Presidential nominee and former Alaskan Governor doesn’t have any influence anymore in the Lower 48. Fischer’s opponent is Bob Kerry, a former Senator who moved to New York City after losing his seat in 2001. Kerry has a well-financed campaign and is running some nasty attack ads against Fisher. But so far, the polls say she has a comfortable lead over the liberal carpetbagger.

Things also look good in Arizona, where the latest Rasmussen poll says conservative Congressman Jeff Flake enjoys a six-point lead over his liberal opponent, Richard Carmona. The Democratic Senatorial Committee and Majority PAC, a political action committee linked to Reid, are pouring millions of dollars into this race and are running some incredibly dishonest ads. One doozy shows Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl appearing to endorse Carmona — without mentioning that the comments are from when he was up for appointment as surgeon general. Both men have endorsed Flake in the current election and have complained loudly about the misuse of their remarks. Here’s hoping that the deceitful strategy fails as badly as the Barack Obama campaign’s efforts to demonize Romney and Paul Ryan.

Things are neck and neck in Indiana between the Republican nominee, Richard Mourdock, and his Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly. Mourdock is the guy who knocked off a RINO icon, Dick Lugar, in the primary there. Hopefully, Romney will win the State’s 11 electoral votes by a wide margin and his success will help carry Mourdock to victory.

A lot of political prognosticators say that Ohio is the most important battleground State of all. “Whoever wins Ohio wins the Presidency” is the popular sentiment. I disagree. With enough Republican victories in other States, it’s mathematically possible for Romney to lose the popular vote and still win the White House. Still, a Republican victory in the Buckeye State will make things much, much easier. And it would also help conservative challenger Josh Mandel defeat the liberal incumbent, Sherrod Brown, in the Senate race there. If the Republicans are going to gain a majority in the Senate, it’s crucial to win this one.

Virginia is another key battleground State, both for the Presidency and for the Senate. As I write this, the Rasmussen poll indicates conservative challenger George Allen is trailing his liberal opponent, Tim Kaine, by just one point. That’s well within the margin of error and makes the State too close to call, the pollsters say. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Romney and Allen will both emerge as winners here.

A few months ago, I would not have included Pennsylvania in a “conservatives can win this” column. But even the Democrats acknowledge that there has been a huge surge for Romney in recent weeks. The rising Republican tide has also lifted the prospects of conservative challenger Tom Smith, who is running against liberal incumbent Bob Casey for the Senate seat there. Both sides and the super PACS are spending a fortune in the State. A Republican victory is pretty important, if not crucial, to win the White House and gain a majority in the Senate.

So there are seven Senate races I’ll be watching very closely next week. Conservatives have a very good chance to chalk up victories in all of them. If they do, I will be proud to have played some small part in making it happen.

I’m not nearly as optimistic about the outcome in Florida, where I currently live, or in Massachusetts, where I lived many years ago. It will be a cinch for Obama to carry the Bay State by a wide margin. And the Democratic victory there will probably be enough to enable that faux Indian, Elizabeth Warren, to take the Senate seat away from Scott Brown. Ah well, it was nice to see Ted Kennedy’s seat in Republican hands for a while.

I’m pretty sure the Romney/Ryan ticket will carry the day in Florida. There won’t even be enough hanging chads to fight over. But that doesn’t mean that Connie Mack will be able to move up from the House to the Senate. Right now, it appears that Bill Nelson, the Democrat incumbent, will win re-election by a narrow margin.

When all the results are known, I suspect we will be celebrating a wonderful early Christmas present when it’s confirmed that Reid will no longer be the Majority Leader of the Senate. That means he will no longer be able to prevent votes being taken on all of the good legislation (and even some of the not-so-good stuff) I expect to see passed in the House of Representatives.

That’s my take on some of the other crucial elections coming up Tuesday. If I’ve missed one that you think is important, please take a moment to click on the “comment” key below and tell us about it.

Next week, we’ll talk about what happened on Tuesday and what it means for our country. Until then, keep your hopes up — and some powder dry.

–Chip Wood       

Dictators For Obama

With friends like these… What do Russia’s near dictator Vladimir Putin, Cuba’s actual dictator Raul Castro and Venezuela’s almost dictator Hugo Chavez have in common? All of them have indicated that they want to see Barack Obama win his re-election bid. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any of these endorsements in an Obama campaign ad this year, do you?

Wait, is that a political ad? I’m still scratching my head over a very suggestive television ad the Barack Obama campaign has been using. This one features a young woman comparing voting for Obama to having sex. I’m not kidding. “Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,” she says. “You want to do it with a great guy.” The star of the ad is Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series “Girls,” who boasts in the commercial, “I voted for Barack Obama.” And this is supposed to help the President gain more female votes?

USA Today gets it backward. The Oct. 24 headline had it exactly wrong: “Chick-fil-A thrives despite gay rights controversy.” No, fellows, it isn’t despite the outcry against the chain by the gay-rights brigade that business for the chicken-sandwich purveyor has increased sharply. It was because of it and because thousands of new customers liked what Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said in defense of traditional marriage.

Happy birthday, Tarzan. One hundred years ago, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous character, Tarzan, first appeared in print. But it was not until 1932, when Johnny Weissmuller starred in “Tarzan the Ape Man,” that we got to hear Tarzan’s legendary yell. Tarzan has delighted generations of armchair adventurers who followed his exploits in scores of books, dozens of movies, a series of comic books and even a Broadway play.

–Chip Wood   

More For Less

This puts it in a nutshell. From a recent column by Ann Coulter: “Since Obama has been president, everything you own — your home, pension, savings accounts, weekly paychecks — are all worth less. Meanwhile, everything you need — gas, food and anything else that requires fuel to be transported to you — costs more.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Gee, just like the government. There’s a report out of Washington that the Barack Obama campaign has taken out a $15 million loan from Bank of America to finance some last-minute advertising against Mitt Romney. According to the story, the loan comes due on Nov. 14 — eight days after the election. Wonder who will pay it if he loses?

One less thing to worry about. Have you heard the rumor that Harry Reid will try to jam the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty through the Senate during a lame duck session in November? Apparently, it’s not going to happen. Two of my favorite Senators, Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), have gotten 35 other Senators to sign a letter promising to oppose any such efforts. Since a treaty requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate, this should be enough opposition to block ratification this year. But don’t relax; as you know, the left never gives up.

How much would George’s house fetch? The Wall Street Journal asked an appraiser to estimate the value of some historic properties. Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and its land were valued at $106.4 million. Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived, was appraised at $150.2 million. And hold onto your hats: The appraiser said the White House and its 18.8 acres are worth a staggering $1,457,736,190. By the way, none of these estimates include anything for the “historical significance” of the properties, since the appraiser said those numbers would be impossible to determine.

–Chip Wood 

 

What Foreign Policy Debate?

Phew! Aren’t you glad that the Presidential debates are finally over? Don’t you wish that all the political ads, phone calls and emails were as well? Is it just me or has the political season seemed extra-long this year — and extra-nasty, too?

The final debate last Monday turned out to be far different from what I expected. I was surprised that it was Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, who was cool, calm and collected. While it was Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent, who came across as the feisty street fighter, throwing all sorts of punches (a few of them below the belt).

Remember, Obama was supposed to have a huge advantage in this go-round, just because he is a sitting President and Commander in Chief. Instead, he came across as a snarling and snarky underdog — albeit one who was certainly well-prepared.

More on that in a bit. But first, I want to comment on the biggest surprise of the evening: how lightly Romney let Obama off the hook. I thought there would be a huge outcry over the murder of four Americans, including our ambassador, at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the fact that the Administration tried to disguise what really happened there. Indeed, Bob Schieffer, the moderator that night, must have expected the same thing, since this was the very first question that he asked.

Two days before the debate, I told a group of friends that I hoped when the subject came up, Romney would look directly into the camera and say something like: “When I am President, I promise the American people that I will never allow my press secretary, my ambassador to the U.N. or anyone in my Administration to mislead the public as happened after the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.”

That sure would have gotten the fur flying. Apparently, Romney decided that it was more important for him to “act Presidential” during the debate than to go for the jugular. Aside from one remark about an “apology” tour, I thought he was surprisingly gentle and restrained in his criticisms of Obama.

But all of that is really just an introduction to my main point today: It’s hard to have a meaningful debate about foreign policy when the two candidates agree with each other about 99 percent of the time. Let’s face it, folks: Both Romney and Obama are members in good standing of the establishment’s foreign-relations club. They both believe in an interventionist policy; their only disagreements are in relatively minor details.

Both supported sending our troops to Afghanistan. Both endorsed a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces there. Both insisted that the Afghans had to take responsibility for defending their own country.

But how about subjecting Germany to the same standard? Or Japan? Or Great Britain? Or any of the hundred-plus other countries around the globe where U.S. troops are stationed? How about insisting that some of these countries begin providing for their own self-defense? (Or maybe argue about Donald Trump’s suggestion that we at least bill them for our services.)

Foreign aid? They’re both in favor of it, with just minor disagreements between them. Our membership in the United Nations and its various regional subsidiaries? Nothing to argue about there, folks.

The whole “there’s nothing to debate here” attitude made me wish that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for President, had been on the stage Monday night. Or even better, that Ron Paul had won the Republican nomination. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, would have meant a real foreign policy debate.

Remember when George Wallace used to argue there wasn’t “a dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties? Well, when it comes to an internationalist foreign policy, you can knock eight pennies off the total. Today, there isn’t 2 cents’ worth.

So does it really make any difference who gets elected on Nov. 6? Yes, I believe it does. Let me tell you why.

I believe that the biggest issue of this election — in fact, the single biggest issue of my lifetime — is the growing power and cost of government. Here in the United States, we’ve allowed the Federal government to become dangerously large and inefficient. (Thank goodness we don’t get all the government we pay for.)

Now, I don’t expect Romney and Paul Ryan to lead a crusade to bring back Constitutional government. In fact, I think it is likely that the Federal government will be bigger and more expensive when they leave office than it will be at the beginning of their term. That’s what happened during Ronald Reagan’s two terms, and Romney is no Reagan.

So, no, I don’t expect miracles if Romney wins. But I know what will happen if he loses. Obama has already made it clear that his big-government redistributionist schemes will go into overdrive. The Barack Obama who campaigned as a moderate will not be the same person who takes the oath of office in January (an oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution that he has no intention of keeping).

If Obama wins, it will be Katy-bar-the-door time, folks.

Yes, it will definitely slow him down if he has to contend with a Republican majority in the House. It will be even better if Republicans win control of the Senate. But, frankly, the President won’t even need new legislation from Congress for much of what he wants to do. A lot of the increases are built into existing law.

And where he can’t get Congress to go along, he’s shown that he’s perfectly willing to appoint unConstitutional czars (he has 23 of them so far) and issue new executive decrees to achieve his aims.

So, yes, this election matters — maybe more than any other contest in my lifetime. Not because Romney is the greatest champion we could have; I hope I’ve made it pretty clear that I don’t think he is.

But he’s sure a lot better than the alternative. If you can’t vote for Romney with enthusiasm, then do what a neighbor of mine says he’s going to do: Hold your nose when you cast your ballot.

In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, a group of likely voters was asked, “How much difference [will] the election make to you?” In 1996, only 21 percent said “a great deal.” By 2004, that number had increased to 45 percent. But this year, a clear majority of 55 percent answered “a great deal.”

I think they’re right. And that’s why this year, I’m going to hold my nose and vote for Romney. I hope you will, too.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Watch This Before The Election

Powerful movie now available on DVD. Did you get to see “2016 Obama’s America” while it was playing in local movie theaters? In case you missed it or if you would like a copy so you can show it to friends, I’m happy to report that it’s now available on DVD. The list price is $19.99, but it’s available on Amazon.com for half that amount.

Another green boondoggle. One of Mitt Romney’s better lines in the first Presidential debate was about the Barack Obama Administration’s green energy subsidies: “I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right?” Add another one to the sad tally. When A123 Systems was awarded a $249 million grant in 2009 (it received $132 million of it), the battery maker expected to build two plants in Michigan and create 3,000 jobs. It didn’t quite work out that way. On Tuesday, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

How dare they! Mia Love is a black woman running for Congress in Utah. Since she’s a conservative Republican and not a liberal Democrat, she’s being deluged with hate mail and vicious emails. Stacey Dash, a black actress in Hollywood, dared to send out a tweet endorsing Mitt Romney for President. Suddenly she’s being denounced as “an indoor slave” and “jigaboo” who is “slutting [herself] to the white man.” Isn’t it amazing how intolerant the preachers of tolerance can be?

Another trillion-dollar deficit. The Treasury Department just confirmed what we all knew was going to happen: Barack Obama ran up a more than $1 trillion deficit for the fourth consecutive year. The deficit for fiscal year 2012 is down $207 billion from last year, but still hit a staggering $1.1 trillion. In February 2009, Obama pledged to cut the deficit in half. According to USA Today, he failed to do that. “The federal deficit has fallen slightly on Obama’s watch, but he fell far short of cutting it in half,” the newspaper reported.

–Chip Wood

Our Posturing, Prevaricating President

That sure was a different Barack Obama we saw in Tuesday night’s debate, wasn’t it? We were promised aggressive, and we sure got that. Many commentators are calling it the most confrontational Presidential debate ever. The lead story in The New York Times the next morning carried the headline “Rivals Bring Bare Fists to Rematch.”

While no one actually struck a blow that night, neither Mitt Romney nor Obama hesitated to challenge each other verbally — and sometimes physically. This was the most “in your face” Presidential debate I’ve ever seen.

Unlike the first debate, Obama had clearly done his homework this time. He was primed and prepared, rattling off one assertion after another. But while what we did get from him was aggressiveness, what we didn’t get was candor. The Obama who took the stage Tuesday night bore no resemblance to the big-spending liberal we’ve known (and opposed) for the past four years. In fact, anyone who didn’t know better could be forgiven for thinking he was the more conservative candidate up there.

Do you think I’m crazy? Consider some of the things Obama actually said that night:

  • He declared himself a fervent admirer of the free enterprise system.
  • On a question about gun control, he voiced his strong support for the 2nd Amendment, which guarantees our right to keep and bear arms.
  • He claimed to have done more to encourage drilling for oil and gas on government land than George Bush, whom he described as “an oil man.”

Where was the President who has increased government spending so much that we’ve run trillion-dollar-plus deficits every year that he’s been in office? Where was the man who caused the national debt to explode from $10 trillion to more than $16 trillion? Where was the leader who’s presided over massive unemployment, soaring numbers of food-stamp recipients and billions of dollars in new entitlement spending? That guy was nowhere to be seen.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. The real Obama sure wasn’t on stage at Hofstra University Tuesday night. If the recent debate had been my first exposure to the Obama record, I might have concluded the guy is a conservative — or at least a whole lot less liberal than his record proves him to be.

Ah, well, we’ve just got to hope that enough voters will remember what his Administration has actually done over the past four years, rather than how his handlers are positioning him now, when they vote on Nov. 6.

The talking heads on TV will be parsing what each candidate said (or didn’t say) virtually nonstop until they have something new to quibble about. And that is sure to happen four nights from now, when Obama and Romney meet in the third and final Presidential debate. That one will be devoted to foreign policy. And here is where I think our President is in really deep doodoo.

The Obama Administration has been deliberately deceptive with the American people about what happened at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. The official “line” — repeated ad nauseam by White House spokesman Jim Carney; our ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice; and even the President himself, in his address to the U.N. General Assembly — was that the assault on our consulate and the subsequent murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans grew out of a “spontaneous demonstration” against an anti-Muslim video on YouTube.

In Enough Lies About The Attack In Libya!, I wrote how ridiculous the assertions were. But for nearly two weeks, the Obama Administration stuck to that fairy tale and bitterly attacked anyone who dared to challenge it. The main target for the vituperation, of course, was the Republican challenger.

Now we know the truth. There was no demonstration and not a single protester. The attack on our consulate was a planned terrorist assault by a group with links to al-Qaida, armed with hand-held rockets and grenade launchers. The president of Libya confirmed what happened days before our own government finally began telling the truth about what really happened.

All of that is enough to give Obama’s campaign team a severe migraine. But now the campaign has something else to deal with: the president’s incredibly deceptive comments in Tuesday’s debate about his own remarks.

Obama claimed that the day after the murders in Libya, he called the assault a terrorist attack. And the debate moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, supported his assertion.

But it isn’t true. If you listen to Obama’s complete statement in the Rose Garden that afternoon, you will realize that he never called the attack in Benghazi a terrorist attack. He refers to it as an “outrage” and an “assault.” But he doesn’t use the word “terrorism” until the very end of his remarks, when he says that “no acts of terrorism” will lessen our resolve.

The truth is: Obama didn’t say what he claimed he said. Moreover, none of his spokesmen or spokeswomen did either for almost two weeks after the murders. As more and more Americans realize just how duplicitous our government has been, it’s going to be very hard for the Obama team to bluff and bluster its way past this one. Look for it to be one of the hottest topics Monday night.

I can’t end this column without saying a few words about the Vice Presidential debate, where Joe Biden set a record for ill-mannered and boorish behavior. Yes, his smirks and grins and constant interruptions were incredibly annoying.

But even worse than how he acted was what he said. Time after time, he’d lay a whopper on us while pointing his finger and angrily declaring, “This is a fact.”  And time after time, the moderator let him get away with it.

Biden claimed that the reason for the Administration’s misstatements about events in Libya was that the information it received from the intelligence community was wrong. That may have been true for a few hours. But we now know that less than 24 hours after Stevens’ death, Washington had been notified that there had been no demonstration outside our consulate in Benghazi and that his murder was the result of a planned attack.

Yet for another week, various White House spokesmen and spokeswomen and the President himself continued to blame angry crowds and an inflammatory video for what happened.

That isn’t true. We know it isn’t true. And we deserve to know why our government tried so hard to foist this falsehood off on us.

So far, all we’ve gotten is deception and obfuscation. I don’t believe this will still be the case after Monday’s debate. So stay tuned; there’s a lot more to come. And the result could go a long way to determining who sits in the White House in January.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood