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Ross vs. Jonah

At his eponymous Atlantic blog (http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/) Ross Douthat wondered aloud last week why so many conservatives, including "Joe the Plumber" and "John the Candidate" were stating that plans to "spread the wealth" were "socialist."

"Is opposition to wealth-spreading in principle really now a litmus test for being a conservative? I thought that being on the right meant that you wanted a welfare state that's small in size and limited in scope," he wrote.

"For instance, when John McCain proposed … that we should consider means-testing the Medicare prescription drug benefit, he justified the proposal on the grounds that 'people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett don't need their prescriptions underwritten by taxpayers.' In other words, Mr. McCain was proposing a leaner Medicare that spreads the wealth to seniors who can't afford their prescription, and uses Warren Buffett's tax dollars to do it — rather than a more bloated, inefficient Medicare that makes less of a distinction between rich and poor in how it spends taxpayer dollars. I thought that was a conservative proposal. But maybe it's just creeping socialism."

However, at National Review's flagship blog, the Corner (http://corner.nationalreview.com) Jonah Goldberg said Mr. Douthat was missing why conservatives were alarmed by what Sen. Barack Obama told Joe Wurzelbacher on that Ohio rope line.

"I think what Ross isn't hearing in Obama, and isn't getting in conservative opposition to his spread the wealth line, is the belief that spreading the wealth in and of itself is a good idea. My understanding of the new crusade for more activist government from [several conservative writers] was that it was good public policy (and politics) to help certain people for a wide array of reasons. … The fact that some wealth gets spread around is a necessary consequence of these actions, but not a good in and of itself."

But "if you believe that spreading the wealth around is the point of public policy, you are getting very close to a socialist worldview. Indeed, Barack Obama made it sound like he thinks spreading the wealth isn't the consequence of good public policy but it is in fact the chief aim of public policy. That was even more clear, I think, when he told Charlie Gibson that he would consider raising capital gains taxes for 'purposes of fairness' whether or not they increased revenues."

Follow the money

George Soros has developed an interest in Catholicism. Or rather, in pro-choice and pro-Democratic Catholic groups trying to present Sen. Barack Obama as an acceptable candidate according to church teaching.

"Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, released a statement [recently] with the evidence (tax records) showing Catholics in Alliance is funded by leftwing billionaire George Soros. The same tax records list Catholics United as an 'affiliate' of Catholics in Alliance," Deal Hudson wrote at the Inside Catholic blog (http://insidecatholic.com), going on to note that Mr. Soros "is well-known for his animosity toward the Catholic Church, is the founder of MoveOn.org" and also a donor to Catholics for Free Choice.

"In 2006, Soros' Open Society Institute gave Catholics in Alliance $100,000 (double the amount he gave in 2005), and in the same year Catholics in Alliance listed Catholics United on its 990 (line 80b) as an organization with which it has a formal relationship," Mr. Donohue reported at his group's site (www.catholicleague.org/).

Spread the wealth

The Constitution is a constraint on the redistribution of wealth, and legislatures and "community organizing" are the best way to get around those constraints. Or so said then Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama in 2001.

His interview on Chicago public radio station WBEZ hit YouTube.com on Sunday night. The video — actually illustrations and title cards to accompany the audiotape — was linked and excerpted at Stop the ACLU (www.stoptheaclu.com) and throughout the conservative blogosphere.

In the interview, Mr. Obama goes beyond his "spread the wealth" remarks to "Joe the Plumber," acknowledging that courts have been reluctant to do it. He intended this point as criticism of the courts or at least a limitation of them, and not as praise.

"The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted," Mr. Obama says. "One of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was … [it] became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground … through which you bring about redistributive change."

Later in the interview, a caller asks Mr. Obama how he would achieve "reparative economic work."

Mr. Obama says he is "not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts," attributing this in part to his bias as a legislator.

Michelle Malkin dryly notes this "redistribution/spread-the-wealth" discussion on Chicago NPR was "Not whether, but how" to redistribute. "Joe the Plumber, you barely scratched the surface," she wrote at her site (www.michellemalkin.com).

The race card

Columnist Lewis Diuguid of the Kansas City Star (http://voices.kansascity.com/) has a very sensitive ear for code. Even calling a man a "socialist" is a racist smear.

According to him, "the 'socialist' label that Republican Sen. John McCain and his vice-presidential running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, are trying to attach to Sen. Barack Obama actually has long and very ugly historical roots.

"J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972, used the term liberally to describe African Americans who spent their lives fighting for equality. … McCain and Palin have simply reached back in history to use an old code word for black."

La Shawn Barber noted at his site (http://lashawnbarber.com) that at least two of the men invoked as having been labeled "socialists" by Mr. Hoover were very much that. "W.E.B. DuBois, who helped found the NAACP, was a member of the Communist Party. Paul Robeson, singer, actor and activist, was a Marxist and a Communist."

Rick Honcho (http://smithfiles.com/) notes that "if, historically, American socialists tended to be black, Diuguid's Syllogism might have one leg to stand on. But that's not the case." He goes on to point out that the most prominent American socialists, however suspiciously regarded by the FBI and American society, have been white: Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington.

"Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Karl Marx, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, Mao Tse-tung, Adolph Hitler and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were or are all black … Thank you Mr. Diuguid for re-educating me," wrote Joe at Right Wing Rebel (http://rightwingrebel.com), though he added, "I'm a little confused though looking at this picture of Sanders, who is an admitted socialist, he sure doesn't look black to me."

Contact Victor Morton at vmorton@washingtontimes.com

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