There's the old joke about an economist's plan to get out of a pit he was thrown into: "First, we assume a ladder." There has been a whole lot of assuming going on, from alternate energy to non-harsh interrogations.
Regarding interrogations, a principled person who, for moral reasons, is against grabbing a person by his shirt collar and pulling him suddenly toward you (the "attention grasp," now proscribed), would accept the downside of his stance: potential failure to obtain actionable intelligence that could save many lives. A principled person would accept this tradeoff. That's what "principled" means. But our current leaders reject that there is a tradeoff. Robert Gibbs, President Obama's spokesperson, said, "Nobody could ever likely tell you that any information derived couldn't also have been derived from another means." Our leaders simply assume there are other methods, non-harsh, that would obtain that information. Do they have any evidence to support the contention that other methods would work? It seems just about everything was tried on KSM, yet nothing worked until he was waterboarded. Is there some non-harsh, untried, technique that would have persuaded KSM to tell us about the plot to kill everyone in the 73-story Library Tower in Los Angeles? Mr. Gibbs leaves that as an exercise for the reader.
See? No need for tradeoffs. You can have your cake and eat it too. You can save your country and salve your conscience at the same time.
Paying too much for gas? Dependence on foreign oil got your foreign policy knickers in a twist? Come to Crazy Dave's Alternate Energy Store! The shelves are empty right now, but with enough investment, we'll fill those shelves with cheap energy in just a few more years. And don't worry, none of your money will go to people already experienced in energy production. It will go to green start-ups.
Do you notice something about alternate energy sources? Just as one gets close to reality, reality bites.
Windmills, for example, kill birds -- lots of them, even endangered birds of prey. They spoil the view; just ask Ted Kennedy or Walter Cronkite. They are noisy and upset the squirrels. They don't work so well except in areas where the wind is steady all year -- not too fast, not too slow, and mostly in the same direction. Plus, you need proper terrain, support facilities, buffer zones with neighbors, etc. You need batteries or something to store the energy when you generate too much, and back-up energy sources when you generate too little. And it would take about 2,000 to 11,000 windmills to replace a single normal electricity generating plant - coal, nuclear or whatever - at perhaps two acres per windmill.
Electric cars? They're still working on the battery problem I believe -- after about three decades. Whatever we use on US Navy submarines is not good enough, but we're sure we're close. Another huge government subsidy ought to just about do it, trust us.
Go down the list of "alternate" energy sources. At first glance, they are all wonderful. Just put up a windmill, tell your power company to screw itself, and have the smallest carbon footprint in your neighborhood. But funny thing, just as it is about to become real, you'll find yourself sued by, of all people, environmentalists!
Despite research into alternate energy sources, from wind to geothermal and solar, for about the last 40 years, nothing really seems to work yet except the old reliables: oil, coal, natural gas and nukes. But if we all close our eyes, wish really hard, assign a czar and spend a trillion dollars, one of those magic "alternatives" will make all the bad things go away.
Speaking of bad things going away, how about that Ahmadinejad? It sure looks like he's well on the road to having nuclear weapons. Even President Obama thinks so. How will we stop such a thing? Our National Intelligence Director, Admiral Blair, has the answer: "They want a nuclear program and, quite likely, a nuclear weapon, and there isn't much that will stop them." Oops. Time to start wishing harder. Let's wish that diplomacy works. As Jon Soltz says in an article titled, "Diplomacy, Diplomacy, Diplomacy" at the Huffington Post, "The answer comes down to one word: Diplomacy." And when plain old diplomacy doesn't work, try "tough" diplomacy. "We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran", said President Obama on Meet the Press. Can anyone tell me the difference between diplomacy and tough diplomacy? Obama sent the US Women's Badminton Team to Iran, only for Iran to deny their visas). Was that tough diplomacy, or merely diplomacy? Let's say Israel wants Hamas to remove the clause from its charter that says, "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."
Here is my guess how this diplomacy thing works: with diplomacy, the Israeli diplomat says to Hamas, "Please remove those words from your charter. Oh, and please stop launching rockets into our civilian population centers." With tough diplomacy, the Israeli diplomat says, "I'm going to ask you again ..."
The common theme of the wishful thinking method (aka "hope") is that there never need be a tradeoff. There is always some other method, one never before tried, of dealing with life's problems. And funny thing: only Democrats seem to have these methods.
We don't need to send our young men into harm's way, or even sanction anyone (except Apartheid South Africa); just turn up the volume a bit on our diplomacy machine.
Nuclear power Russia invades tiny Georgia, or denies us key supply centers in Kyrgyzstan for our troops in Afghanistan? No sweat; give Russia a toy button that was meant to say "reset" in Russian. (Our leaders had a little problem translating a single word into Russian, but I'm sure they know how to deliver tough diplomacy that will deliver us from evil and nuclear proliferation.)
Does a captured enemy combatant know the details of a plan to kill thousands of Americans? Just apply the non-harsh interrogation techniques that Republicans were too stupid to try in eight years of their so-called War On Terror.
There are countries like China and Japan which have severe energy needs and money to invest, are full of people who are good at math and work hard, and are under virtually no influence from Republicans. Yet they have found no cost-effective sources of "alternate" energy. Instead, they use tried and true sources like coal, oil, nukes and hydroelectric dams. But Democrats, knowing Republicans are the only thing between us and nirvana, are sure the solution is just around the corner -- if only we spend enough money and get the Republicans, and real energy companies, out of the way.
Name a problem, and the Democrats have a "solution." Don't call it "wishful thinking" though. Call it "hope."
- Instead of harsh interrogation techniques, non-harsh ones.
- Instead of war, diplomacy.
- Instead of all the sources of energy that work today and made us the richest people in history, alternate sources.
- Recession problem? Stimulus spending is the answer. It never worked before, but we can't just do nothing.
- Banks in trouble? Regulate them. Of course, we already had all the New Deal regulation, plus Sarbanes-Oxley and about 80,000 pages worth of other regulations. But we'll come up with some new, sensible regulation we're sure will work next time, with zero harmful side-effects.
- Did Bush spend too much and run up big deficits? We'll fix that by spending so much that our first year deficit will be more than Bush's first seven, combined! We'll more than quadruple Bush's biggest deficit ever.
- Future deficits too big? Just assume GDP growth and future revenues to be higher than ever experienced in history.
But here's the real kicker: Democrats know all this is baloney. They are not going to solve these problems with those "solutions," and they know it. All they need to do is convince you that they are solving those problems.
And that's the difference between liberals and conservatives in "public service." Conservatives think solutions should solve problems. Liberals know their "solutions" need only convince you they are solving problems.
It appears to be working for them. But how much longer? In 100 days, Obama's approval rating went from 65% to 54%, and his "Presidential Approval Index" went from 28% to 2%. And for just the second time in five years, Republicans lead Democrats, 41-38, in a Generic Congressional Ballot.
That's more cause for hope than I've seen in months. Or is it just wishful thinking?