Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's Wabbit Season: Aussie PM Kevin J. Fudd Attacks Global Deniers of Climate Change Religion, Even Those 'Believed' To Be Within His Own Government

We're doomed without a green religion: Arguments about climate change show up the incoherence of any purely individual morality

The justification for burning heretics was perfectly simple: dissent threatened the survival of society.

Nothing was worse than anarchy. This is a viewpoint most people in the West today find pretty much incomprehensible. It is a self-evident truth to them that morality must be a matter of individual choice. And if you believe that, the arguments around the Tim Nicholson case are very difficult to resolve. If there is a moral imperative to preserve the human race, or as much of it as possible, collective consequences must follow. It is not enough for us to do the right thing. Others must as well. If you don't believe that, then there is no point in agitating for success in Copenhagen.

But if collective consequences follow, others must be forced to do things against their will by our moral imperatives. This is exactly the quality that is supposed to be so very obnoxious about religion.

The idea that morality is and must be a matter of individual choice is taken as axiomatic in these debates. It is thought true in the sense that it is held to describe a fact about the world. Very often the same people who believe this will also believe, and maintain with equal vehemence in other contexts the belief that morals are merely opinions, or at least that there couldn't in the nature of things be moral facts: true or false statements about whether something or someone is good or bad.

This was neatly if not nicely expressed by one of the commenters on Tim Nicholson's article here, who said

You may believe less flying and driving, and more wind farms, and so on to be moral imperatives. I don't. You are entitled to your beliefs, and should not be persecuted for them. But they are just beliefs. You want to argue the politics of how to respond to climate change: great. But you can stop wrapping your proposed solutions up in 'moral imperative' cotton wool.

These are not the only confusions which the Nicholson case raises. Many people who are upset by the court's equating a scientific opinion with a religion belief suppose that science is true and rational, religion is false and irrational, and that this division of the world is itself factual and rational. If this is how the world appears to you, then there is no question that climate change is not a religion. That would mean that it wasn't really happening, and that we were free to ignore it. Both supporters and opponents of environmentalism can often agree both that it might be a religion and that would be a bad thing. This is why, in general, the people who maintain that environmentalism is like a religion are opposed to it; while those in favour deny it is anything like a religion. (A further complication is supplied by right-wing Christians like Daniel Johnson who maintain that religion is a good thing, but environmentalism is a false religion.)

But can this sharp distinction between truth and falsity, fact and value, actually describe the world? The unexamined assumption is that we can split the world into a sphere of facts and a sphere of opinions and that the facts will speak for themselves. And, as a matter of fact, that is false. I'm not caliming here that there are no facts, or that there are only opinions, or that science is only socially constructed. I just need to point out that fact and opinion are not two distinct substances.

Myles Allen wrote yesterday: "I don't ask anyone to believe in human influence on climate because I do, or because thousands of other scientists do. I ask them to look at the evidence."

But while this is an admirable ideal, it is wholly impossible in practice. You cannot believe in science if you do not also believe in scientists. That is why the faking of results is such a terrible threat to the whole enterprise. Nor is "evidence" a a simple thing visible to the naked eye. Without quite a specialised education, the nature and force of scientific evidence is quite literally invisible. Even when the evidence is overwhelming there will always be smart and otherwise well-educated people to ignore it if they have other more powerful reasons to do so. The instinct of most scientists is to suppose that this can be cured by teaching people science. But that's never going to work, however desirable it is for other reasons. Scientists want to be believed becasuse of the truth they are telling is so overwhelming as to make trust unnecessary, but in practice they will either be trusted or ignored.

There is a strand of atheism, or perhaps of anti-theism, which redefines "religion" to include all forms of collective faith, chiefly communism. Although this may have originated as a rhetorical move in order to deny that the communists who killed millions of Christians were actually atheists, it does express something deeper: a conviction that compulsion in the name of any belief is itself immoral. Now whether anyone actually truly and consistently believes this is another question. What matters in this context is that lots of people believe that they do believe it.

Climate change makes that position entirely incoherent. Because it is a global tragedy of the commons, individual action cannot be enough. I cannot ensure the survival of my grandchildren, nor even yours, without compelling you to behave in ways that science tells me are necessary. Not to act, not to coerce, itself becomes immoral.

There is a further twist to the argument. Compulsion will be needed but compulsion alone won't do it. People aren't made like that. They need to believe in what they are forced to do. They need idealism, and that will also mean its dark side: the pressure of conformism, the force of self-righteousness, huge moral weight attached to practically useless gestures like unplugging phone chargers. They need, in fact, something that does look a lot like religion. But we can't engineer it. It can only arise spontaneously. Should that happen, the denialists, who claim that it is all a religion, will for once be telling the truth, and when they do that, they'll have lost. I just hope it doesn't happen too late.


Rudd wages war on Coalition climate deniers

By online parliamentary correspondent Emma Rodgers

ABC News

Nov 6, 2009 5:17pm AEDT Updated Fri Nov 6, 2009 7:32pm AEDT

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has upped the pressure on the Opposition over its emissions trading stance, accusing it of being full of climate change deniers intent on delaying action.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute today Mr Rudd launched a strongly worded attack on the Opposition and climate change sceptics worldwide for holding up countries' efforts to combat climate change.

"It is time to be totally blunt about the agenda of the climate change sceptics in all their colours, some more sophisticated than others," he said.

"It is to destroy the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme at home and it is to destroy agreed global action on climate change abroad.

"And our children's fate - our grandchildren's fate - will lie entirely with them. It is time to remove any polite veneer from this debate; the stakes are that high.

"The clock is ticking for the planet, but the climate change sceptics simply do not care."

His attack came as Climate Change Minister Penny Wong confirmed the Government could not accept all of the Coalition's proposed amendments to the scheme due to budgetary constraints.

Negotiations over changes to the scheme are continuing between the Government and Opposition and it will go to the Senate for a vote in the final parliamentary sitting week of the year.

Mr Rudd accused those who question climate change science of "holding the world to ransom".

"Climate change sceptics, the climate change deniers, the opponents of climate change action are active in every country," he said.

"They are a minority. They are however powerful and invariably they are driven by vested interests [and are] powerful enough to so far block domestic legislation in Australia."

Quoting several Opposition frontbenchers at length as proof of scepticism and a "do-nothing" attitude within the Coalition, Mr Rudd accused the Opposition of political cowardice and a "failure of logic" in so far refusing to pass the scheme.

"The tentacles of the climate change sceptics reach deep into the ranks of the Liberal Party and once you add the National party it's plain the sceptics and the deniers are a major force," he said.

With only around a month to go until the Copenhagen climate change conference Mr Rudd said if no countries acted on climate change the world would be locked in a permanent stand-off.

"As we approach Copenhagen, it becomes clearer that the domestic political pressure produced by the climate change sceptics now has profound global consequences by reducing the momentum towards an ambitious global deal," he said.

Mr Rudd also singled out Malcolm Turnbull in his speech, taking the Opposition Leader to task over his push to hold of passing ETS legislation until after Copenhagen.

"What absolute political cowardice," he said.

But the Opposition Leader refused to rise to Mr Rudd's bait

"I'm not going to run a commentary on, or take the bait from Kevin Rudd, who's obviously given this extraordinary speech in order to create a fight," Mr Turnbull said.

"Now the fact is, and he knows this as well, we are in good faith negotiations with the Government on the amendments we've proposed, and those negotiations should continue.

"He ought to calm down and concentrate on the negotiations; they have the potential to save thousands of jobs and produce a more effective environmental outcome."

Earlier today Senator Wong said the recently released updated economic forecasts showed there would not be as much revenue from carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) up to 2020.

"We have said consistently that we expect any amendments to the CPRS must be economically and fiscally responsible and environmentally credible," she said.

"In light of budget impacts released on Monday, it is clear that carte-blanche acceptance of the entirety of the Opposition's current proposals does not pass these tests."

The Opposition has put up several changes to the scheme including more compensation for heavy polluters and the exclusion of agriculture.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has to take the outcome of the negotiations back to the party room, which will decide whether or not to support the scheme.

But the Nationals and some Liberals have already said they will not support it regardless of any changes made.

The Government has committed Australia to cutting its emissions by 5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.
Kevin Rudd attacks 'climate change sceptics'

Reported by Samantha Hawley

November 6, 2009

PM with Mark Colvin

MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister, under fire in recent weeks for not presenting a strong and reasoned defence of his emissions trading scheme, went on the offensive today over climate change. He did so with a forceful speech attacking opponents of the scheme. Speaking at the Lowy Institute in Sydney this afternoon, Kevin Rudd described climate change sceptics and what he called 'deniers' as reckless gamblers who were playing with the future of Australia's children and grandchildren. Mr Rudd said they were radicals not conservatives, and were driven by vested interests. And he accused the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull of being a political coward. From Canberra, Samantha Hawley reports.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The Prime Minister knows the clock is ticking.

KEVIN RUDD: In around 20 days the Senate will vote on Australia's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: This afternoon at Lowy Institute address in Sydney Kevin Rudd abandoned what he calls political politeness by launching a stinging attack against the Liberal and National Parties and against so-called climate change sceptics.

KEVIN RUDD: They are a minority. They, however, are powerful, and invariably they are driven by vested interests; powerful enough so far to block domestic legislation in Australia; powerful enough so far to slow down the passage of legislation through the Congress of the United States.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And he went on...

KEVIN RUDD: It is time to be totally blunt about the agenda of the climate change sceptics in all their colours; some, more sophisticated than others. It is to destroy the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme at home, and it is to destroy agreed global action on climate change abroad. And our children's fate - our grandchildren's fate - will lie entirely with them. It is time to remove any polite veneer from this debate; the stakes are that high.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Then there was this:

KEVIN RUDD: The legion of climate change sceptics are active across the world, and they happily play with our children's future. The clock is ticking for the planet, but the climate change sceptics simply do not care. The vested interests at work are simply too great. Climate change sceptics in all their guises and disguises are not conservatives; they are in fact the radicals.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And as for the Opposition Leader's argument that Australia should wait to see what the rest of the world does on climate change:

KEVIN RUDD: What absolute political cowardice.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull spoke to PM after Mr Rudd's speech.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Kevin Rudd's policy on border protection has comprehensively failed. He's gone into a panic over that, and so he's trying to start a stoush with us on climate change. Now the fact is, and he knows this as well as anyone, we are in good faith negotiations with the Government on the amendments we've proposed, and those negotiations should continue. He ought to calm down and concentrate on the negotiations; they have the potential to save thousands of jobs and produce a more effective environmental outcome.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Well, he says you're a political coward for wanting to wait for the rest of the world to act on climate change.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I was meeting this morning with Ian McFarlane, my shadow energy minister, and his Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, in good faith negotiations. So we are sitting down endeavouring to find some common ground on the design of an emissions trading scheme.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Do you agree with the Prime Minister that climate change sceptics are radicals?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, I'm not going to run a commentary on, or take the bait from Kevin Rudd, who's obviously given this extraordinary speech in order to produce a… well, in order to create a fight. He wants to create a stoush over climate change at the very time that with his authority, his own Climate Change Minister, is sitting down and working through with us detailed, good faith negotiations on the design of the emissions trading scheme.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The chances of the ETS passing the Senate received another setback this morning. During a speech in Melbourne, the Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said accepting all of the Opposition's amendments would not be fiscally responsible or environmentally credible. The Prime Minister says the Opposition leader should take the advice of singer Kenny Rogers.

KEVIN RUDD: You've got to know when to hold 'em; you've got to know when to fold 'em; you've got to know when to walk away and you've got to know when to run.

My message to the climate change sceptics, to the big betters and the big risk takers, is this: you're betting on our children's future and the future of our grandchildren; the future of our economy, the future of our country; the future of our world. You've got to know when to fold 'em and that time has come.

MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ending Samantha Hawley's report.

Science, Policy, Politics and Occasionally Some Other Stuff

Nov. 6, 2009

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has given the most chilling speech (PDF here) with respect to open policy debate that I have ever heard from a leader of a democratic country. The focus of his speech is on "climate change deniers." Who are these people? They include people who are skeptical of climate change science, but remarkably, they also include people who believe that climate change is real and a problem, but disagree with the Prime Minister's preferred policy approach.

Rudd states that "climate change deniers" fall into one of three categories:

· First, the climate science deniers.

· Second, those that pay lip service to the science and the need to act on climate change but oppose every practicable mechanism being proposed to bring about that action.

· Third, those in each country that believe their country should wait for others to act first.

He says of these groups:

As we approach the Copenhagen conference these groups of climate change deniers face a moment of truth, and the truth is this: we will need to work much harder to reach an agreement in Copenhagen because these advocates of inaction are holding back domestic commitments, and are in turn holding back global commitments on climate change.

Rudd uses extremely strong terms to characterize those who disagree with his policy prescriptions:

Climate change deniers are small in number, but they are too dangerous to be ignored. They are well resourced and well represented by political conservatives in many, many countries.

And the danger they pose is this by collapsing political momentum towards national and global action on climate change, they collapse global political will to act at all. They are the stick that gets stuck in the wheel, that despite its size may yet bring the train to a complete stop.

And that is what they want, because they are driven by a narrowly defined self interest of the present and are utterly contemptuous towards our children's interest in the future.

This brigade of do nothing climate change skeptics are dangerous because if they succeed, then it is all of us who will suffer. Our children. And our grandchildren.

Rudd explains why it is that the Copenhagen meeting may fail:

If Copenhagen does not deliver the outcome we so urgently need, no individual climate change skeptic will be responsible, but each of them will have played their part.

Rudd explains that there is no place in government for people holding these views, a position seemingly reinforced this week when the CSIRO stands accused of censoring a paper critical of the Australian ETS:

Climate change skeptics in all their guises and disguises are not conservatives. They are radicals.

They are reckless gamblers who are betting all our futures on their arrogant assumption that their intuitions should triumph over the evidence.

The logic of these skeptics belongs in a casino, not a science lab, and not in the ranks of any responsible government.

Can witch trials and pogroms be far behind? What bothers me about the speech is not so much the criticism of people who reject mainstream science. Fine, criticism of them as rolling the dice on a minority view is fair and appropriate. What bothers me is the explicit equation of people who question a policy's effectiveness or desirability with the idea of being a "denier" and thus being "dangerous." Rudd is openly conflating views on science with views on politics. Not only does this further the politicization of science, but it also make a mockery of democratic governance. Imagine if George W. Bush had given this same speech in 2003 but about people who deny the merits of his desired policy of going to war in Iraq. There would have been national and international outrage, and rightfully so.

Rudd may be trying to set the stage for domestic failure of the CPRS and more generally that in Copenhagen. But he is doing so in a way that stomps on the notion of democracy and the fact that people have different values and perspectives that can only be reconciled through the democratic process. An observer at the Lowy Institute (where the speech was given) said afterward (emphasis added):

The implication was that these descriptions applied to anyone who opposed the Government's climate change agenda — the PM seemed to admit of no possibility that anyone of good will could be opposed to that agenda.

That is a pretty good description of the climate debate. Demonizing one's opponents and calling their views "dangerous" is a first step down a path we don't want to go.
The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion Versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America

By Robert H. Nelson

Penn State Univ. Press

416 pages 6.125 x 9.25 2010

ISBN 978-0-271-03581-9 cloth: $39.95 tr

“Nelson makes an overwhelmingly persuasive case that in our times the leading secular religion was once economics and is now environmentalism. . . . Out of that utterly original idea for scholarly crossovers—good Lord, an economist reading environmentalism and even economics itself as theology!—come scores of true and striking conclusions. . . . It’s a brilliant book, which anyone who cares about the economy or the environment or religion needs to read. That’s most of us.”—Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Nelson compellingly argues that religion is a powerful force in economic and social life, . . . even if that fact is seldom recognized by most academics and policy makers. The dominant religious influences are secularized versions of Catholicism and Protestantism, not because the leading scholars are piously trying to advance their faith by other means, but because their intellectual horizons have been shaped by worldviews that have framed their consciousness. He convinces me that unless these presuppositions are acknowledged, examined, broadened, and revised, the economic and ecological crises that the world now faces will not be understood or met at their deeper levels.”—Max L. Stackhouse, Princeton Theological Seminary

Robert Nelson argues that environmentalism is a religion. . . . This provocative thesis raises hard and embarrassing questions about the bases of environmentalism that every serious student of the subject must confront.”—Dan Tarlock, Director of the Program in Environmental and Energy Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law

"Anyone who wants to understand twenty-first century politics should begin with The New Holy Wars, which makes clear the fundamental conflict between how economists and environmentalists see the world.”—Andrew P. Morriss, H. Ross and Helen Workman Professor of Law and Business, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The present debate raging over global warming exemplifies the clash between two competing public theologies. On one side, environmentalists warn of certain catastrophe if we do not take steps now to reduce the release of greenhouse gases; on the other side, economists are concerned with whether the benefits of actions to prevent higher temperatures will be worth the high costs. Questions of the true and proper relationship of human beings and nature are as old as religion. Today, environmentalists regard human actions to warm the climate as an immoral challenge to the natural order, while economists seek to put all of nature to maximum use for economic growth and other human benefits.

Robert Nelson interprets such contemporary struggles as battles between the competing secularized religions of economics and environmentalism. The outcome will have momentous consequences for us all. This deep book probes beneath the surface of the two movements rhetoric to uncover their fundamental theological commitments and visions.

Robert H. Nelson is a professor at the School of Public Policy of the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow of The Independent Institute. Among his previous books is Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (Penn State, 2001).
Religion and the New Ecology: Environmental Responsibility in a World in Flux

Edited by David M. Lodge and Christopher Hamlin
Foreword by Peter H. Raven
Univ. of Notre Dame Press (c) 2006

“Ecology has experienced a major paradigm shift over the last half of the twentieth century. This shift requires major rethinking of the relation of religion and environmental ethics to ecology because our scientific understanding of the nature side of that relationship has changed. This book is the first, to my knowledge, that is meeting this challenge head on, and it is doing so in an exemplary way.” —J. Baird Callicott, University of North Texas

“Everything on Earth is becoming unbalanced—escalating populations and consumption, global warming, extinction, troubling ecosystems that by nature are fluxing, evolving, often disturbed, even chaotic. What can and ought we conserve, preserve, sustain on this planet in jeopardy? Here science and religion join in urgent dialogue, a seminal search for answers as we face an open future, with promise and peril.” —Holmes Rolston, III, Colorado State University

For many years, ecologists and the environmentalists who looked to ecology for authority depicted a dichotomy between a pristine, stable nature and disruptive human activity. Most contemporary ecologists, however, conceive of nature as undergoing continual change and find that “flux of nature” is a more accurate and fruitful metaphor than “balance of nature.”

The contributors to this volume address how this new paradigm fits into the broader history of ecological science and the cultural history of the West and, in particular, how environmental ethics and ecotheology should respond to it. Their discussions ask us to reconsider the intellectual foundations on which theories of human responsibility to nature are built. The provisional answer that develops throughout the book is to reintegrate scientific understanding of nature and human values, two realms of thought severed by intellectual and cultural forces during the last two centuries.

DAVID M. LODGE is professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame.
CHRISTOPHER HAMLIN is professor of history at the University of Notre Dame.

CONTRIBUTORS: David M. Lodge, Christopher Hamlin, Elspeth Whitney, Mark Stoll, Eugene Cittadino, Kyle S. Van Houtan, Stuart L. Pimm, Gary E. Belovsky, Peter S. White, Patricia A. Fleming, John F. Haught, and Larry Rasmussen.


“The book reflects the conviction that we must establish significant coherence between our historical, scientific, and religious understandings of nature if we are to effectively address current and emerging environmental problems . . . The editors effectively frame the overarching problems and the essays are serious, although still accessible to readers from various backgrounds.” — The Quarterly Review of Biology

“Christians in environmental studies can use this book as an additional source of opinions on moral and ethical questions.” — Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

“. . . [T]he authors firmly believe that religion has much to offer to modern environmentalism. They pragmatically argue that we need to engage with American Christians specifically, simply because of their prominence. More important, the authors genuinely believe that Christianity has the potential to contribute to a renewed environmental ethic; they unanimously dismiss Lynn White’s infamous thesis that Chirstianity is essentially the cause of ecological degredation.” — BioScience

“Contributors to this volume address the question of how the new paradigm of continual change in ecology (‘flux in nature’) fits into the broader history of ecological science and the cultural history of the West, and, in particular, how environmental ethics and eco-theology should respond.” — Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Friday, October 2, 2009

European Centrists Are Socialist Wolves in Conservative Sheeps' Clothing - Are We Americans All Socialists Now?

Europe’s centre-left suffers in the squeezed middle

By John Lloyd

Financial Times

October 3, 2009

September was the cruellest month for Europe’s centre-left. The greatest bloodbath came a week ago, when the Social Democratic party – Germany’s oldest, the foundation stone of social democracy across the continent – garnered less than a quarter of votes cast. Britain’s Labour party, whose polls are little better than the SPD’s result, put on a creditable show at its annual conference. But Gordon Brown’s generally well-received speech was instantly undercut by The Sun newspaper, which ended a 12-year policy of New Labour support with a front page proclaiming: “Labour’s lost it.”

In Italy, the continuing weakness of the left was exacerbated by a book published this past week – La Svolta (the turning point) – in which Francesco Rutelli, a former leader of the left in the 2001 parliamentary elections and co-founder of the Democratic party, the main left group, flatly states that “if the party turns to the left, it’s finished”. In a talk in Rome last week, Mr Rutelli told me he thought such a turn was overwhelmingly likely.

In France, the Socialist party remains transfixed by the feud between its former leader, Ségolène Royal, and the woman who narrowly secured a fiercely disputed succession, Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille. The latter has sought a working truce with her rival; but, as the commentator Michel Noblecourt wrote in Le Monde, this “will be tainted with distrust, each doubting the legitimacy of the other and staying on guard”.

The irony – that the left fails together with the banks – has been much noted, but may be less of a contradiction than is apparent. In different ways, European social democracy was pro-market and pro-globalisation – especially New Labour, which in Tony Blair’s early years in power was both leader and exemplar. Liberal social reforms, a lesser role for trade unions and, above all, mass immigration were all part of centre-left politics and were broadly acceptable to the mass of the people so long as living standards rose and public services improved. Now, that implicit deal is threatened.

In this situation, it is not only the right that exults. The left, within these mainstream parties and outside, now sees a chance. The times are propitious: those charged with writing a manifesto for a party such as Die Linke (The Left, founded by Oskar Lafontaine, the renegade former SPD finance minister whose vote increased last week) would have a pleasant task. The widely mooted collapse of capitalism; rapidly rising unemployment; the determined resumption of the habits of greed by bankers and others able to skim off fresh supplies of cream; the present or coming cuts in public services and pay; the continuing human cost and fiscal drain of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistanthese are a rich menu on which to make a meal of a centre-left that did well out of a successful capitalism’s surplus and now struggles in its decline. John Harris, the left-Labour commentator, encapsulated his position’s scorn for New Labour in the current issue of Prospect magazine, describing its policies as “a mishmash of beliefs that only entrenched the changes wrought by Margaret Thatcher”.

It will be no balm to centre-left leaders to observe that they are victims of the success of many of their central projects – in particular, the maintenance of generous welfare states. No governing party of the right in Europe, from Sweden to Italy, has sought radically to reduce taxes or make cuts to big social programmes; and though the latter may increasingly be the order of the day as the cost of anti-recessionary measures must be paid, the centre-left governments of Britain and Spain are as much implicated in this as the right.

Further, the right steals leftist clothes: an anti-elitist populism in Italy; a co-option of admired figures of the left into government in France; and in Britain, a resurgent Conservative party rails against Labour’s “top down” and “bureaucratic” reforms and talks of helping communities to help themselves. In ground long scorched for Conservatives – the constituency of Glasgow Central – the Tory candidate John Bradley brought in young Conservative students to work with local residents to clean up the Strathbungo area of the constituency. Mr Bradley claimed, on the website Conservative Home, that “bringing in local communities, and seeing their delight at what all of us have achieved at the end of a day’s work, is simply magnificent.”

The great causes – race, women’s and homosexual equality, community involvement, the spread of democratic practice – which had been significantly dominated by the left, are now largely uncontroversial on the western European right, except on its fringes and in parts of Italy’s governing coalition. The very success of decades of struggle render archaic the feminist rhetoric of Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, and has caused a debilitating split in Britain’s Equality Commission between those who, like Ms Harman, believe the struggle must continue and those who seek a targeted, post-equality agenda.

Neither success nor failure are permanent in politics; and in the gross inequalities of contemporary market societies, the centre-left may – as Mr Brown sought to do with his appeal to the “squeezed middle” of British society – recover a cause. But a remedy will be harder. For now, their party is over.

Europe’s Socialists Suffering Even in Downturn


New York Times

September 28, 2009

PARIS — A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Socialism’s slow collapse.

Even in the midst of one of the greatest challenges to capitalism in 75 years, involving a breakdown of the financial system due to “irrational exuberance,” greed and the weakness of regulatory systems, European Socialist parties and their left-wing cousins have not found a compelling response, let alone taken advantage of the right’s failures.

German voters clobbered the Social Democratic Party on Sunday, giving it only 23 percent of the vote, its worst performance since World War II.

Voters also punished left-leaning candidates in the summer’s European Parliament elections and trounced French Socialists in 2007. Where the left holds power, as in Spain and Britain, it is under attack. Where it is out, as in France, Italy and now Germany, it is divided and listless.

Some American conservatives demonize President Obama’s fiscal stimulus and health care overhaul as a dangerous turn toward European-style Socialism — but it is Europe’s right, not left, that is setting its political agenda.

Europe’s center-right parties have embraced many ideas of the left: generous welfare benefits, nationalized health care, sharp restrictions on carbon emissions, the ceding of some sovereignty to the European Union. But they have won votes by promising to deliver more efficiently than the left, while working to lower taxes, improve financial regulation, and grapple with aging populations.

Europe’s conservatives, says Michel Winock, a historian at the Paris Institut d’Études Politiques, “have adapted themselves to modernity.”

When Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Germany’s Angela Merkel condemn the excesses of the “Anglo-Saxon model” of capitalism while praising the protective power of the state, they are using Socialist ideas that have become mainstream, he said.

It is not that the left is irrelevant — it often represents the only viable opposition to established governments, and so benefits, as in the United States, from the normal cycle of electoral politics.

In Portugal, the governing Socialists won re-election on Sunday, but lost an absolute parliamentary majority. In Spain, the Socialists still get credit for opposing both Franco and the Iraq war. In Germany, the broad left, including the Greens, has a structural majority in Parliament, but the Social Democrats, in postelection crisis, must contemplate allying with the hard left, Die Linke, which has roots in the old East German Communist Party.

Part of the problem is the “wall in the head” between East and West Germans. While the Christian Democrats moved smoothly eastward, the Social Democrats of the West never joined with the Communists. “The two Germanys, one Socialist, one Communist — two souls — never really merged,” said Giovanni Sartori, a professor emeritus at Columbia University. “It explains why the S.P.D., which was always the major Socialist party in Europe, cannot really coalesce.”

The situation in France is even worse for the left. Asked this summer if the party was dying, Bernard-Henri Lévy, an emblematic Socialist, answered: “No — it is already dead. No one, or nearly no one, dares to say it. But everyone, or nearly everyone, knows it.” While he was accused of exaggerating, given that the party is the largest in opposition and remains popular in local government, his words struck home.

The Socialist Party, with a long revolutionary tradition and weakening ties to a diminishing working class, is riven by personal rivalries. The party last won the presidency in 1988, and in 2007, Ségolène Royal lost the presidency to Mr. Sarkozy by 6.1 percent, a large margin.

With a reputation for flakiness, Ms. Royal narrowly lost the party leadership election last year to a more doctrinaire Socialist, Martine Aubry, by 102 votes out of 135,000. The ensuing allegations of fraud further chilled their relations.

While Ms. Royal would like to move the Socialists to the center and explore a more formal coalition with the Greens and the Democratic Movement of François Bayrou, Ms. Aubry fears diluting the party. She is both famous and infamous for achieving the 35-hour workweek in the last Socialist government.

The French Socialist Party “is trapped in a hopeless contradiction,” said Tony Judt, director of the Remarque Institute at New York University. It espouses a radical platform it cannot deliver; the result leaves space for parties to its left that can take as much as 15 percent of the vote. The party, at its summer retreat last month at La Rochelle, a coastal resort, still talked of “comrades” and “party militants.” Its seminars included “Internationalism at Globalized Capitalism’s Hour of Crisis.”

But its infighting has drawn ridicule. Mr. Sarkozy told his party this month that he sent “a big thank-you” to Ms. Royal, “who is helping me a lot,” and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a prominent European Green politician, said “everyone has cheated” in the Socialist Party and accused Ms. Royal of acting like “an outraged young girl.”

The internecine squabbling in France and elsewhere has done little to position Socialist parties to answer the question of the moment: how to preserve the welfare state amid slower growth and rising deficits. The Socialists have, in this contest, become conservatives, fighting to preserve systems that voters think need to be improved, though not abandoned.

“The Socialists can’t adapt to the loss of their basic electorate, and with globalism, the welfare state can no longer exist in the same way,” Professor Sartori said.

Enrico Letta, 43, is one of the hopes of Italy’s left, currently in disarray in the face of Silvio Berlusconi’s nationalist populism. “We have to understand that Socialism is an answer of the last century,” Mr. Letta said. “We need to build a center-left that is pragmatic, that provides an attractive alternative, and not just an opposition.”

Mr. Letta argues that Socialist policies will have to be transmuted into a more fluid form to allow an alliance with center, liberal and green parties that won’t be called “Socialist.”

Mr. Winock, the historian, said, “I think the left and Socialism in Europe still have work to do; they have a raison d’être, and they will have to rely more on environment issues.” Combined with continuing efforts to reduce income disparity, he said, “going green” may give the left more life.

Mr. Judt argues that European Socialists need a new message — how to reform capitalism, “recognizing the centrality of economic interest while displacing it from its throne as the only way of talking about politics.”

European Socialists need “to think a lot harder about what the state can and can’t do in the 21st century,” he said.

Not an easy syllabus. But without that kind of reform, Mr. Judt said, “I don’t think Socialism in Europe has a future; and given that it is a core constitutive part of the European democratic consensus, that’s bad news.”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama's Mea Culpa Madness: Both Ineffective & Unsupported by the Majority of Americans

Stop The Apologizing

By Claudia Rosett


July 23, 2009

Hillary Clinton shouldn't blame the U.S. for climate concerns.

In a year that has not lacked for absurd moments, one of the most bizarre just passed almost unnoticed. That would be the spectacle of the U.S. secretary of state apologizing to India for the climate of the planet.

Hillary Clinton was speaking in Mumbai, making remarks last Saturday at the Taj Mahal hotel--which was one of the sites hit last November by Islamic radicals from Pakistan. During a three-day rampage, wielding AK-47s, pistols and grenades, they terrorized the city, killing more than 160 people and wounding more than 300, at locations including another hotel, the train station, a hospital and a Jewish community center.

For Clinton to speak at the Taj was a potent reminder of the very real and urgent concerns of our time, which Clinton talked about under the label of "violent extremism." This formulation has become standard American diplo-speak, in which there are no specific actors, just generic forces of "extremism" and "violence."

But at the same press conference, when asked about "climate change," Clinton in assigning blame for the woes of mankind did not hesitate to name names--or at least one name: the United States. She said: "Our point is very simple: that we acknowledge, now with President Obama, that we have made mistakes--the United States--and we, along with other developed countries, have contributed most significantly to the problems that we face with climate change."

Such U.S. breast-beating, of which there has been plenty in recent times, may start to sound like mere ritual; a sort of diplomatic throat-clearing. In the six months since taking office, Barack Obama has made a habit of offering apologies abroad--in places such as Istanbul, Cairo and Moscow--for the "mistakes" and "flaws" of the United States.

Even speaking from the American Cemetery in Normandy, at commemorations last month of the 65th anniversary of the World War II Allied campaign to liberate [OLD] Europe, Obama threw in a note about the "mistakes" of the liberators.

But there are real consequences and vast costs riding on some of this self-blame, not least the idea that America now owes apologies and compensation to the rest of the world for changes in the weather. [???] At the crux of this is a fixation on limiting carbon emissions. America is a big per-capita emitter. And low emission has become a new measure of virtue, propagated for years now by the ever-expanding climate bureaucracy of the United Nations and currently embraced by much of official Washington.

In a recent editorial headlined "King Canute at the G-8," The Wall Street Journal ridiculed, with good reason, the declaration from a recent meeting of the world's major industrialized nations that they would not permit the global average temperature of the earth to rise more than two degrees Celsius. (The colossal costs of this ambition would be imposed in rising scale over the next four decades on many folks who are now not yet old enough to vote.)

At the U.N., in locations from Bali to Rio de Janeiro to New York, slews of conferences in recent years have been honing demands that high carbon emitters, such as the U.S., both limit their activities and pay compensation to low carbon emitters, such as Bangladesh, Bolivia or Tanzania. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has most recently led the charge, decrying "global warming," or now, as global cooling has begun inconveniently manifesting itself, "climate change." Ban is now campaigning for countries such as the U.S. to "seal the deal" at a United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen this December, which aims to produce a global protocol of rules and wealth transfers. These would constrain and penalize Americans in service of U.N. dreams of controlling the climate and--yes, a la King Canute--the tides.

The problem with all this is not simply that despite U.N. claims of "consensus" on "climate change," there is actually plenty of dissent from well-qualified scientists over what causes the climate to change, and whether carbon, or mankind, is responsible at all. That is, in itself, a big glitch, and I find the skeptics persuasive. But even if we assume for purposes of argument that the U.N. version is correct, and global temperature and sea level can be fine-tuned to the decimal point by a vast political web of carbon regulation, there is yet another aspect to all this--which U.S. apologies utterly fail to take into account.

That would be the myriad ways in which human beings have been at work for millennia, and especially over the past century or two, inventing, creating, building and adapting to cope with climate and the broad forces of nature.

A prime contributor to the success of those efforts has been the United States. During those same two recent centuries, in which--not so coincidentally --America's free enterprise system has prospered, the world has benefited in leaps and bounds. Out of America have come such inventions as the light bulb, the internal combustion engine, the airplane, the telephone and medical progress on many fronts. American ingenuity, motivated by free markets, took the technology of computers from vacuum tubes to laptops. And though Al Gore did not invent the Internet, America did.

In many faraway places that most Americans rarely hear about and many will never visit, such U.S.-born bounty has helped illuminate the night, connect people with the world, raise productivity and living standards, and enhance health and extend lives. Nor has it been entirely inconsequential to human progress that America--with its mighty productive powers and dedication to democracy, as well as its carbon output--played a vital part in winning World War II and the Cold War. The U.S. is now on the front line of the Overseas Contingency Operation, until recently known as the Global War on Terror.

If you believe that for the welfare and future of mankind, nothing matters but carbon emissions, then Ban Ki-Moon is right; and Hillary Clinton was right to apologize on behalf of America for the world's weather.

Of course, that would actually make Clinton, and every other member of Obama's cabinet, a de facto Secretary of Combustion, because--remember--in this scheme, nothing matters but carbon emissions. From there, policy prescriptions unroll more naturally than apologies out of Obama's Cabinet. The U.S. can easily become the most virtuous country in the world simply by banning all human activity. There'd be no one left to apologize, but that's OK, because there'd also be nothing to apologize for.

In such a world, genocide would be a virtue, and poverty would be a good thing; all tending toward lower carbon emissions. Judged strictly by low carbon count, some ofthe admirable countries today, according to World Bank statistics, are Afghanistan, Albania, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Not coincidentally, the full roster of low emitters includes a large number of brutal dictatorships, or countries recovering from horrible misrule. In these countries, people are poor, and carbon emissions are low because individuals have (or had) no freedom to choose, to create or to pursue their dreams.

Obviously, however, Clinton and Obama do not think poverty is a good thing. Also while in India, Clinton pointed out that the G-8, of which the U.S. is a member, has just pledged another $20 billion to fight global poverty. The State Department and White House are flush with projects and programs aimed at fighting poverty.

It seems that even in today's Washington, carbon is not the sole determinant of goodness and human well-being on earth. Trade-offs matter. And just in case mankind, via U.N. protocols and Washington edicts, cannot succeed in transforming the planet into one vast, serene, unchanging and pleasantly cool Club Med, those trade-offs will matter a lot.

It may well be that whatever the climate brings, for whatever reasons, the most valuable resource will be the creativity of mankind--which, carbon emissions and all, flourishes best with minimal constraints from government. America, at least until now, has been an excellent example of this, and that is a point an American secretary of State, or president, can be proud of. Political leaders could much better serve their country by repeating it clearly and often, in place of this parade of apologies for America's "mistakes."

Claudia Rosett, a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.


Obama’s foreign policy: Groveling for goodwill


Washington Examiner

July 23, 2009

On her recent trip to India, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned yet another lesson about how much international goodwill President Obama has earned with his incessant apologies and submissive attitude in international affairs. Clinton delivered to the Indians a ridiculous soliloquy apologizing for America's Industrial Revolution and our world-shaping technological achievements (which so often feed the hungry, cure the sick, and house the poor around the world). “We acknowl edge now with President Obama, that we have made mistakes – the United States – and we, along with other developed countries, have contributed most significantly to the problems that we face with climate change,” she said. “We are hoping that a great country like India will not make the same mistakes.”

The groveling was in line with Obama’s foreign policy, both in its embarrassing nature and in its ineffectiveness. For no amount of groveling could move Indian Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh to sacrifice his people's well-being in order to bolster the Obama administration’s self-defeating domestic program to curb global warming. “I would like to make it clear and categorical,” Ramesh declared, “India's position is that we are simply not in a position to take on legally binding emission reduction targets.”

India's importance here cannot be overstated. If the United States follows Obama's plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions, the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs it will lose as a result will migrate to India and other developing nations. That will insure growing economies for p laces like India and China, even as they emit the carbon that Americans choose to forego. Thus, without India and other developing nations joining us in the economic self-immolation of Obama’s cap-and-trade program, there will be no net reduction in carbon emissions.

Just in the last month, Obama has kept mostly quiet as Iranians sought freedom from the despotic mullahs who oppress them, and he has offered to trade our missile defense capabilities in return for meaningless arms reductions by the thugs running the Kremlin. And the Indian incident -- in which Obama’s Secretary of State sought India's cooperation on an economic policy certain to inflict great harm on America's economy -- appears to epitomize Obama's apparent lack of regard for legitimate U.S. security and economic interests around the world. As Obama begs for goodwill, leaders like Ramesh stand firm for their nations’ best interests. Shouldn’t Americans have a president who does the same?

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Romney Condemns Obama's 'Tour of Apology'

By Chris Cillizza

The Fix

Washington Post Blog

June 1, 2009

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) roundly condemned the approach President Obama has taken to redefining America to the world, describing it as a "tour of apology" in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation today.

In an address through which he sought to lay out his broad vision for national security -- a $50 billion per year increase in the defense modernization budget, "regime-crippling sanctions" against North Korea, and full funding for a missile defense system -- Romney saved his harshest criticism for the current president.

"This is the time for strength and confidence, not for apologizing to America's critics," said Romney at one point; at another, he said that "arrogant, delusional tyrants can not be stopped by earnest words and furrowed brows."

Romney's speech is part of a stepped-up effort by the former Massachusetts governor to draw contrasts with Obama in expectation of challenging him for the presidency in 2012.

Less than 24 hours before hitting Obama on defense and national security, Romney was on "Fox News Sunday" taking issue with the administration's plan to put General Motors into bankruptcy to restructure the company.

"We don't want a president and a head of the [United Auto Workers] running General Motors," Romney said at the time. "The American public ought to own that enterprise."

Romney's increasing willingness to speak out against Obama is an indication that he sees himself as far better suited than former vice president Dick Cheney or even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) to fill the leadership void in which the GOP currently finds itself.

Romney, while derided by many Democrats, is one of the most popular figures among the party faithful, many of who believe his decision to step aside for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and subsequent work on behalf of the GOP presidential nominee last year proved his mettle.

Republicans also regard Romney as their most effective economic messenger, able to draw on his successes in the private sector to combat the bully pulpit afforded to Obama.

Seeking to move into that leadership vacuum also has obvious benefits for Romney who is making little secret of his interest in running for national office again in 2012. The more he can emerge as Obama's foil, the more he will solidify his place as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in three years time.

Romney is also working tirelessly behind the scenes to line up support for such a bid, campaigning all over the country -- most recently in Virginia -- on behalf of Republican candidates.

No one in the GOP is fighting on the policy and political fronts like Romney at the moment. It's why he holds down the number one slot on the Fix's Friday Line of the most influential Republicans in the country.


Obama’s ‘apologies’ are a strength [??]

By Gideon Rachman

Financial Times

May 4 2009

“I will never apologise for the United States, ever. I don’t care what the facts are.” President George H.W. Bush’s statement in 1988 was more than just a “Bushism”, of the sort that his son later made famous. It was also a pithy summary of a whole school of thought in the US.

For many conservative Americans, one of the besetting sins of their liberal rivals is a tendency to go around apologising for their country. Jeane Kirkpatrick, a combative conservative, memorably excoriated liberals as the “blame America first” crowd.

Now conservatives are complaining loudly that one of those namby-pamby, self-flagellating liberals is sitting in the Oval Office – abasing himself and the country before foreigners. President Barack Obama, they complain, has turned himself into “global apologiser-in-chief”. Rush Limbaugh, the doyen of conservative talk radio, rages that “everywhere he goes, he’s just apologising for the United States”.

In the Los Angeles Times, the political commentator James Kirchik lambasted Mr Obama for his “grand, global apology tour this spring”. It all started, according to Mr Kirchik, when the president gave an interview to Al Arabiya television and called for “mutual respect” between the US and the Muslim world. Mr Obama repeated the sin when, in a speech calling for nuclear disarmament, he said: “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” Then in Turkey, the president “apologised some more” by talking of “strained trust” between the US and the Muslim world. And to compound his sins, at the Summit of the Americas, Mr Obama “calmly sat through a 50-minute anti-American tirade by the communist leader of Nicaragua ... and was disturbingly ebullient in glad-handing Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chávez”.

The alert reader will have noticed that none of the examples cited by the outraged Mr Kirchik actually contains the word “sorry”. Nor is it clear what Mr Obama was expected to do with Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua – deck him? Even when Mr Obama has been unambiguously apologetic, his opponents often quote him out of context. So Mr Kirchik cites the president’s remark to a European audience that “there have been times when America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive”. But he carefully omits the next line – “But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious”.

For many of Mr Obama’s critics, however, this kind of detail is beside the point. They believe that the president is running his country down – and that such a policy is weak, unpatriotic and ultimately dangerous. Newt Gingrich, a leading Republican, worries that Mr Obama is sending the wrong signal, arguing that “the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators – when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead”.

This kind of debate is not unique to the US. John Howard, a conservative Australian prime minister, decried what he called “the black armband version of Australian history”, which saw his country’s history as “little more than a disgraceful story of imperialism, exploitation, racism”. It took 40 years to elapse before a Frenchpresident, Jacques Chirac, was able to acknowledge in public that Vichy France had collaborated in the Holocaust and to apologise.

Many patriotic defenders of the US would bridle at any such comparison. In their view, other countries apologise because they have a lot to apologise for. But America is, as Ronald Reagan liked to say, “a shining city on a hill”the nation that restored freedom to Europe in 1945 and then faced down the threat of the Soviet empire.

It is true that modern America has more to be proud of than most other nations. But it would be absurd for Mr Obama, whose wife is descended from slaves, to deny that America, too, has shameful episodes in its past.

What America thinks about its recent history, in particular, is of more than academic interest. The US is the global superpower – and what it says about its past tells us something about what it will do in the future. So when Mr Obama suggests that the US has made mistakes in its dealings with Europe or the Muslim world, he is quite deliberately sending a signal.

[The US has NOT made mistakes when dealing with Europe. Europe is fortunate just to be alive and free. If Europe seeks an apology, it should look within itself, not to America.]

To his conservative critics, the signal he is sending is one of weakness. But no fair reading of Mr Obama’s various comments suggest that he is ashamed of his country, or that he intends to sacrifice American interests. What he is doing is trying to improve some of the poisonous relationships that he inherited from President George W. Bush by acknowledging, usually in rather coded language, that the US, too, can make mistakes. [LAUGHABLE] In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and the torture scandal, this is not an unreasonable point to make. Proclaiming that the US is always right and virtuous may go down well in the American heartland, but it tends to antagonise foreigners – and that is simply counter-productive.

More important, a willingness to discuss your country’s history self-critically is a mark of an open society.

Vladimir Putin has had Russian history textbooks rewritten to take a more positive view of Stalinism. The Chinese ferociously repress any challenges to the official version of the history of Taiwan. Mature democracies do things differently. They are not afraid of open discussion.

Mr Obama’s willingness to acknowledge past American errors is a sign of strength, not of weakness.



The President's Apology Tour

Great leaders aren't defined by consensus.

By Karl Rove

Wall Street Journal

April 22, 2009

President Barack Obama has finished the second leg of his international confession tour. In less than 100 days, he has apologized on three continents for what he views as the sins of America and his predecessors.

Mr. Obama told the French (the French!) that America "has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" toward Europe. In Prague, he said America has "a moral responsibility to act" on arms control because only the U.S. had "used a nuclear weapon." In London, he said that decisions about the world financial system were no longer made by "just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy" -- as if that were a bad thing. And in Latin America, he said the U.S. had not "pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors" because we "failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas."

By confessing our nation's sins, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama has "changed the image of America around the world" and made the U.S. "safer and stronger." As evidence, Mr. Gibbs pointed to the absence of protesters during the Summit of the Americas this past weekend.

That's now the test of success? Anti-American protesters are a remarkably unreliable indicator of a president's wisdom. Ronald Reagan drew hundreds of thousands of protesters by deploying Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe. Those missiles helped win the Cold War.

There is something ungracious in Mr. Obama criticizing his predecessors, including most recently John F. Kennedy. ("I'm grateful that President [Daniel] Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old," Mr. Obama said after the Nicaraguan delivered a 52-minute anti-American tirade that touched on the Bay of Pigs.) Mr. Obama acts as if no past president -- except maybe Abraham Lincoln -- possesses his wisdom.

Mr. Obama was asked in Europe if he believes in American exceptionalism. He said he did -- in the same way that "the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism." That's another way of saying, "No."

Mr. Obama makes it seem as though there is moral equivalence between America and its adversaries and assumes that if he confesses America's sins, other nations will confess theirs and change. But he won no confessions (let alone change) from the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Russia. He apologized for America and our adversaries rejoiced. Fidel Castro isn't easing up on Cuban repression, but he is preparing to take advantage of Mr. Obama's policy shifts.

When a president desires personal popularity, he can lose focus on vital American interests. It's early, but with little to show for the confessions, David Axelrod of Team Obama was compelled to say this week that the president planted, cultivated and will harvest "very, very valuable" returns later. Like what?

Meanwhile, the desire for popularity has led Mr. Obama to embrace bad policies. Blaming America for the world financial crisis led him to give into European demands for crackdowns on tax havens and hedge funds. Neither had much to do with the credit crisis. Saying that America's relationship with Russia "has been allowed to drift" led the president to push for arms negotiations. But that draws attention away from America's real problems with Russia: its invasion of Georgia last summer, its bullying of Ukraine, its refusal to join in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, and its threats of retaliation against the Poles, Balts and Czechs for standing with the U.S. on missile defense.

Mr. Obama is downplaying the threats we face. He takes comfort in thinking that Venezuela has a defense budget that "is probably 1/600th" of America's -- it's actually 1/215th -- but that hasn't kept Mr. Chávez from supporting narcoterrorists waging war on Colombia (a key U.S. ally) or giving petrodollars to anti-American regimes. Venezuela isn't likely to attack the U.S., but it is capable of harming American interests.

Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoir "Years of Renewal": "The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies' painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital."

A superstar, not a statesman, today leads our country. That may win short-term applause from foreign audiences, but do little for what should be the chief foreign policy preoccupation of any U.S. president: advancing America's long-term interests.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.