Rick Santorum Compares Mandela's Fight Against Apartheid to the Fight Against Obamacare
In which Rick Santorum ensures an inevitable, totally apt comparison gets made:
"What he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice," Santorum told Bill O'Reilly. "And I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center of that."
Santorum, to his credit, is keenly self-aware of his tendency to speak out of turn, as he told Byron York in August:
Would he be more disciplined if he ran again? Yes and no. Yes, he’ll have better answers. “I’m going to say I don’t believe we should change the laws on contraception in this country,” Santorum says. And he won’t talk about throwing up. Or call the president a snob. But with Santorum, discipline can only go so far. “Sure, it was a breakdown of discipline,” he says, “but to suggest that Rick Santorum is a disciplined candidate — show me any time in the history of my career that I was disciplined in this regard.”
In 20 years, look for the Oscar noms to start pouring in for Cruz: Long Walk To #FullRepeal.
This Holiday Poem About Congressional Gift Rules Will Restore Your Faith in Christmas
Why Conservatives Should Respect Nelson Mandela
Many conservative politicians and journalists who may have opposed Nelson Mandela in the 1980s have come around to recognizing him as a noble freedom fighter. In a great tribute, Deroy Murdock over at the National Review grapples with his past belief that Mandela would become the next Castro or Pol Pol. (Spoiler alert: He didn't!)
But a peek into the comments section on Murdock's story shows just how far the rift between conservative leaders and the members of their base can stretch:
"South African blacks had it better under apartheid, by far, than any other sub-Saharan blacks, and indeed better than most non-blacks in North Africa. By far. No comparison. Not even close."
"Mandela had his grievances, but they led him generally to be aligned with the forces of evil in the 20th century, with men and movements with murderous hostility to my own beloved country. I will get weepy about him when Howard Zinn is thrown out of our classrooms and those Americans who are so full-throated in their love of Mandela can find love, forgiveness, and reconciliation with our own great patriotic fathers."
"Good riddance to a murderous terrorist who waded through the blood of innocents to get to power. South Africa would be a better and prosperous nation had the Mandela and the ANC never come to power."
When talking about Mandela, even Ted Cruz is light-years ahead of his hard-core supporters. A post on Cruz's Facebook page memorializing Mandela has similar comments: "Sen Cruz, you need to study your history. He was a glorified terrorist!" Another: "Nelson Mandela was a socialist terrorizer of white Africans, hated Capitalism and didn't think commoners had a right to private property." Actually, it was the South African government that didn't allow black women to own property, or to get an education. The Dutch Reformed Church even tried to restrict black birthrates.
Granted, as apartheid wore on Mandela became more Malcolm X than MLK in his activism—he believed they "had no alternative to armed and violent resistance." But the people who label Mandela a "terrorist"—as the U.S. government did up until 2008—neglect to remember (or look up) the 69 unarmed South Africans who were gunned down by police in the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, or the death of 13-year-old Hector Pieterson along with upward of 176 protesters—many of them students—in the Soweto Uprising in 1976. Or Steve Biko, the 30-year-old founder of the Black Consciousness Movement who was clubbed to death by police for organizing the Soweto protest.
Saying South African blacks had it better under apartheid compared with other African countries is sort of like saying black people living in Georgia under Jim Crow were better off than those living in other parts of the South. Oppression is oppression, and apartheid in South Africa remains a classic example of the dangers of an overreaching state. If apartheid happened today, it would be a rightful cause for conservative furor. The conservative leaders who recognize Mandela as a freedom fighter are the bannermen for their party's evolution.
Idris Elba, Call Your Office!
Entertainment reporter/Internet hate object Nikki Finke reacted to the death of Nelson Mandela by tweeting that the icon was the subject of a movie, out now in theaters, and brimming with "award buzz." Because the Internet is what it is, this sparked a hate-wave of tweets attacking Finke's callousness. I think Sonny Bunch gets the story exactly right:
Nikki Finke is an entertainment reporter who is myopically focused on the business. A key part of her job is talking about awards season. There is a movie about Nelson Mandela out now. It is, in fact, garnering awards buzz. This is her beat. It’s what she covers. What would you have preferred? Yet another RIP tweet? A deep examination of the geopolitics of the United States’ reluctance to support him during the Cold War? A personal story about how he changed her life?
Also, it's getting to that time of year when members of the academy nominate actors, editors, costume designers, and sound editors for Oscars. Insofar as the Oscars are a media story, the death of Mandela right before voters decide whether to honor Idris Elba for playing Mandela is an interesting wrinkle. Will it help him get a nod for a movie that's being gently panned by critics as a "lesson in how not to make a historical biopic?" Probably, yeah, sure. The Iron Lady was a cinematic shonda, which reduced the career of Margaret Thatcher to some voice lessons and yelling, and it nabbed an Oscar for Meryl Streep.
This should be a warning: The 2014 Oscar race for Best Actor threatens an avalanche of think-pieces. If the five nominations came down today, they'd probably look like this.
Idris Elba, for playing world hero and racism-defeater Nelson Mandela
Chiwetel Ejiofor, for playing a man kidnapped and sold into slavery
Matthew McConaughey, for playing a straight man who caught AIDS and became a FDA-beating hero drug smuggler
Tom Hanks, for playing a captain who was kidnapped by Somali pirates and rescued by American military power
Forrest Whitaker, for playing a humble black butler who served white presidents and saw the civil rights struggle up close
All five of these characters are based on real people; only Whitaker's is highly fictionalized, but the concept was taken from a profile of an actual butler. Four of them portray epic moral victories over oppression and bigotry. Compare that to the 2013 field, which pit Jean Valjean against Joaquin Phoenix's creepy cult member (The Master), or the 2012 field, which asked voters to choose between a statistics-obsessed baseball manager (Moneyball), a guy negotiaiting a real estate sale (The Descendents), and an out-of-luck actor (The Artist). Is there any way to pick a winner this time and not re-enact 2004's outrage over the defeat of Brokeback Mountain?
Go Ahead, Politicize Mandela
Every major news event, no matter how sad or epochal, is transformed by the power of social media into a way to carp about politics. Some among us want people to stop doing that.
Of all days, for this man, +1 @ElaheIzadi: Can we place a moratorium on all political sniping for the rest of the day? Is that possible?”— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) December 5, 2013
With respect, let's just ignore all of that well-meant advice. Nelson Mandela was a political activist. He ran in the first election he was allowed to run in—and won, obviously. When politics failed him, he joined the African National Congress, which engaged in infrastructure terrorism against an oppressive state. Just this one time I've got to agree with Bill Ayers: Mandela was not some safe, muppety "civil rights activist." He was a "loving revolutionary" and "officially a 'terrorist' according to the U.S. government until long after" he'd been freed and was touring the world as a hero. Actually, better to say I agree with Max Boot about this. The point: We should keep Mandela in context, as a freedom fighter. (It's quite annoying that posters for the upcoming Mandela biopic, starring Idris Elba, refer to him as a "TROUBLEMAKER," like he dropped fireworks in P.W. Botha's bidet or something.*)
No, I think there are two political lessons you can take from Mandela straightaway. One: The U.S. sometimes identifies the wrong guy as the black hat. In 1990, when Mandela was finally being released from prison, Cox News Service broke the news that, err, the CIA helped put him there.
The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela's activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service.
The report, scheduled for publication on Sunday, quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior C.I.A. officer told him shortly after Mr. Mandela's arrest: ''We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.''
At that time—we're talking decades—the United States propped up quite a few horrendous regimes that were anti-Communist. Our intelligence helped leak the names, and thereby condemn, the Communist resistence to the Iranian mullahs. From 1965 to 1990, the years Mandela was in prison, the U.S. also poured money into the treasury of Mobutu Sese Seko, who did a fine job turning what we now call the Democratic Republic of the Congo into a failed state. But hey, he was anti-Communist! This stuff is so easy to condemn in retrospect. Mandela reminded us to catch it in real time.
The second lesson follows naturally from that: It's really worth listening to what rebels say they want. Sometimes, sure, they're going to lie or pivot toward tyranny. (Look at South Africa's neighbor to the north and the tragedy of Robert Mugabe.) Sometimes they defy demonization. You don't hear many of the (minority of) Republicans who voted against sanctions on South Africa reminiscing about it, but at the time they weighed anti-Communism against racial oppression and anti-Communism won out. In 1986, as Sam Kleiner remembered recently, Ronald Reagan asked Pat Buchanan to spice up a draft of a foreign policy speech to reinforce his line against Mandela's African National Congress.
Night after night, week after week, television has brought us reports of violence by South African Security Forces, bringing injury and death to peaceful demonstrators and innocent bystanders. More recently, we read of violent attacks by blacks against blacks. Then there is the calculated terror by elements of the African National Congress - the mining of roads, the bombings of public places, designed to bring about further repression, the imposition of martial law, and eventually creating the conditions for racial war.
Read now, that's some remarkable on-the-one-hand-ism. Sure, the apartheid state was heavy-handed; but the African revolutionaries were doing just as much to bring about the race war!
They weren't. A lot of that has to do with Mandela, who, freed from prison, did exactly what he'd promised and completely opposed any black retribution for apartheid. But Mandela surprised so many people that there grew up a new theory: Mandela was the only reason the ANC, or South African blacks, wasn't all-in for retribution. In 2004, WorldNetDaily informed readers of a rumor that the death of Mandela (a spry 86 years old at that point) would finally inaugurate the race war.
One of the operations planned entails 70,000 armed black men “being transported to the Johannesburg city center within an hour” in taxicabs to attack whites.
The plans are variously dubbed “Operation Vula,” “Night of the Long Knives,” “Operation White Clean-up,” “Operation Iron Eagle” and “Red October campaign.”
Operation “Our Rainy Day” was to be carried out after the death of Nelson Mandela and would have entailed blacks being transported to the largest cities in taxis.
The assailants were expected to “take over” fuel points and massacre whites. The attacks would lead to a coup.
Sources say most blacks in the country are aware of the plans. When racial disputes occur, blacks often tell whites, “Wait until Mandela dies.”
It's been more than an hour, but, hey—no reports of armed blacks taking out whitey in Johannesburg. It's a bigger bust than those "George Zimmerman verdict riots" we were promised this year. But that's the kind of cracked thinking you fall into when you take someone out of politics and make him a saint, someone totally sui generis, impossible to keep in context. How about keeping the context? We can learn plenty from what Mandela got right and we only got right much, much later.
UPDATE: "Operation Vula" has yet to meet expectations, but this Daily Mail dispatch on the "looming threat of a race war" in South Africa is zipping around social media. The lede tells us of a white farmer murdered this week, and of how "Afrikaner protest groups claim that more than 4,000 have been killed since Mandela came to power." If you're a fan of textured, unsensationalized writing on the struggles of white South African farmers, read Eve Fairbanks. If not, read this story, I guess.
The real problem with the dispatch comes when we're told about Julius Malema:
A bogeyman to white South Africans, Malema is popular among young blacks, and has also been an enthusiastic singer of Kill The Boer and another song called Bring Me My Machine-Gun.
Polls this week showed a huge surge in support among young black South Africans for his policies, which he says will ignore reconciliation, and fight for social justice in an ‘onslaught against [the] white male monopoly’.
Well, "Bring Me My Machine Gun" was a song sung by members of Spear of the Nation, the militant wing of the ANC. President Jacob Zuma has been known to belt it out, knowing that he courts controversy; he has not gone on to pillage whites in his four years in power. More importantly, the claim of the surging poll numbers for Malema doesn't have a link. Can't we find a poll gauging Malema's support?
Opinion polls suggest that the ANC’s vote could decline by as much as ten per cent. The party will win 56.2 per cent of the votes, down from 65.9% in 2009, Nomura South Africa predicted in August. They suggest the DA share of the poll will rise from 16.7 per cent to 27 per cent percent and predicts a 6 per cent share for Agang and 4 per cent for Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters.
The DA is the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition party, a centrist coalition that won 10 percent of the vote in its first election (1999) and won control of the Western Cape in 2009. Agang is a protest party, basically center-left. So the crazy anti-white politician the Daily Mail's warning us about commands less than one-fourteenth the support of the ANC and one-sixth the support of the centrists. That's the sort of information you might want in an informative article about the post-Mandela state of South African politics, isn't it? Unless you're just trying to scare people.
*Nancy Scola reminds me that Mandela's given name, Rolihlahla, meant "Troublemaker," so, ah, I get the poster now. It still looks sort of soft.
A Fake Nelson Mandela Quote Is Already Making the Rounds
There have already been some pretty cynical responses to the death of Nelson Mandela. But as eagle-eyed Future Tense editor Torie Bosch pointed out, many people have been tweeting out this quote in memoriam: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
The only problem is, Mandela didn't say that. The American self-help author Marianne Williamson did. Mandela did not even quote Williamson's words—as the NYT points out, how this misconception became popular is a mystery.
Here's the original quote, from Williamson's book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
An Ominous New Ad Commemorates the Anniversary of Newtown
Elementary school children stand quietly at their desks. A school principal stares solemnly into space. A woman traces a child's photo with her hand. These are the scenes from a new ad called "No More Silence" that commemorates the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Aside from the ominous sound of a ticking clock, the only words are "On December 14, we'll have a moment of silence for Newtown. But with 26 more school shootings since that day, ask yourself: Is silence what America needs right now?"
The ad was produced by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns as part of the groups' "No More Silence" campaign, which will culminate in a week of grassroots events promoting gun control. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers are struggling to extend a national ban on (real, metal-detector-evading) plastic guns.
Rand Paul and the Ghost of Jack Kemp
Sen. Rand Paul is heading to Detroit on Friday to open the Michigan GOP office. In 2012, Detroit residents voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 73–26 percent, so opening a GOP office in the city is a bit of a #slatepitch to begin with.
But Paul's real mission in Detroit is his new plan to stimulate the bankrupt city's economy. In a call with reporters Thursday, Paul announced a bill that he insists is not a stimulus. The gist: radically lower taxes for areas that have 1.5 times the national unemployment rate, or roughly 11 percent. As of August, unemployment in Wayne County was at 11.1 percent, and 17.7 percent in Detroit proper.
Would insanely low corporate taxes convince Jeff Bezos to build Amazon's next warehouse in some long-abandoned Detroit building? Would they even convince business owners in adjacent Macomb County—which has an only 9.5 percent unemployment rate—to venture into the city? Critics (as they are wont to be) are skeptical:
“Enterprise zones are not especially effective at increasing overall economic activity or raising incomes for the poor,” said Len Burman, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and a former Clinton administration official. “They just seem to move the locus of activity across the zone’s boundary — reducing activity outside the zone and increasing it inside.”
Paul's plan is akin to Jack Kemp's urban enterprise zones, which Paul says didn't go far enough. But reading this New York Times Magazine piece on Jack Kemp from 1993, it's clear the "new" slate of compassionate conservative causes hasn't changed all that much:
Debating the meaning of "empowerment" was one of the more consuming activities of the Bush domestic planners. When pressed, Kemp and Pinkerton would fall back on a familiar roll call of policies: enterprise zones; vouchers that let parents choose their children's schools; tax credits for the poor; and the HOPE program. They had a hard time coming up with other examples, but championing the phrase was a way of sounding activist and conservative at once.
Kemp was able to pass the enterprise zones through the House, but it was largely watered down in the Democratic Senate and vetoed by Bush I. To Paul's thinking, the solution is to dream ever bigger.
Why Do Younger Millennials Like Obama Less Than Older Millennials?
Harvard's Institute of Politics, which specializes in gauging the political leanings of young people, came out with a poll today showing that millennials are not too keen on Obamacare. As my colleague John Dickerson writes, 57 percent of young people disapprove of the law, and a plurality thinks it will make their health care worse. This is bad news for the White House, since it wants more than a third of Obamacare enrollees to be strapping young adults.
Obama's approval rating among young people is the lowest it's ever been in his administration, down 10 points from IOP's last survey. But I found a further rift between millennials interesting—younger millennials dislike Obama even more than their older counterparts.
Check out the chart below:
Intuitively, you'd think younger millennials would be more supportive of Obama because his health law allows them to stay on their parents' plan longer for free. Why is it the opposite? My working theory: Older millennials are more supportive of the president because they were around to vote for him in 2008, and so have a more visceral tie to his policies.
I asked IOP pollster-in-chief John Della Volpe if he thought my theory was plausible. He responded, "Not only is that plausible but I agree!" So it may not be so much that the 18–24 set likes Obama less; they just don't risk their egos as much by not supporting him.
Conservatives' Improbable New 'Convention of States' Project
The Grand Hyatt in downtown D.C. is like any other hotel designed to host conventions—huge and as inoffensive as possible. In its basement, advocacy groups like the Family Research Council and Americans United for Life set up booths, giving away run-of-the-mill swag like branded frisbees, beer koozies, pens, and sunglasses. They and a host of other conservative groups, along with state lawmakers and corportate interests, are gathered at the Hyatt this week for a conference hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
Consider this the more level-headed, policy-oriented brother of a Tea Party rally. ALEC, for those unfamiliar, is a conglomeration of corporate interests and conservative state lawmakers that works to influence which laws get passed at the state level. The group, which supports state "stand your ground" laws, has lost a host of powerful corporate members since the death of Trayvon Martin.
In the basement ballroom, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson made the case to a luncheon crowd that despite the federal government's recent failings, Democrats are still winning the budget narrative with Americans. "They are giving away candy, and it is tasty stuff," he said. "We've got the drill and the Novocain to fix the cavity."
At this year's conference, ALEC isn't just working to promote conservative state laws, but to dismantle the federal government's control over the states. Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, spoke at an afternoon workshop to sell his and ALEC's latest project: calling for a "convention of states." The way it would work, state lawmakers would use Article V of the Constitution to introduce a suite of constitutional amendments with the goal of severely restricting federal power.
Citizens for Self-Governance, Meckler's group heading up the Convention of States Project, described the endeavor thusly:
By calling a convention of states, we can stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power. The current situation is precisely what the Founders feared, and they gave us a solution we have a duty to use.
In his new book The Liberty Amendments, conservative talk show host Mark Levin argues that Article V is an "emergency cord" of sorts to restore jurisdiction to the states. To pull that cord, two-thirds of state legislatures—34 of them—would have to meet and propose amendments on the same subject. Each amendment would then have to be approved by three-quarters of the states to be ratified. And therein lies one of the big problems with the project, aside from the small issue of constitutional interpretation—only 27 state legislatures are Republican-controlled.
But shouldn't conservatives be more focused on winning national elections anyway? Michael Farris, a states' rights advocate, made the case that, in order to build grassroots support for Republican campaigns in 2014 and 2016, conservative groups like ALEC must first produce tangible policy results. To rebuild the federal government in its image, ALEC must first destroy it.