- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 30, 2009



They say people mellow with age. However, the older I get, the less patience I have with cleverness.

If increased government spending with borrowed or newly created money is a “stimulus,” the Weimar Republic should have been stimulated to unprecedented prosperity instead of runaway inflation and then widespread economic desperation that ultimately brought Adolf Hitler to power.

Just days after former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell informed us that the American people were willing to pay higher taxes to get government services - and that Republicans therefore needed to stop their opposition to taxes - California voters resoundingly defeated a bill to raise taxes to pay for the many government services in that liberal state.

Who was it who said: “I cannot tell what powers may have to be exercised in order to win this war”? George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld? Actually, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a “fireside chat” broadcast on Sept. 7, 1942. He understood that survival was the No. 1 right, without which all other rights are meaningless.

They say adversity concentrates the mind. Now that Republicans have been beaten badly in two consecutive congressional elections, what Republican leaders in Congress are saying makes more sense than what they said when they were in power.

When my sister’s children were teenagers, she told them that if they got into trouble and ended up in jail to remember that they had a right to make one phone call. She added: “Don’t waste that call phoning me.” We will never know whether they would have followed her advice, because none of them was ever in jail.

One of the most important talents for success in politics is the ability to make nonsense sound not only plausible, but inspiring. President Obama has that talent. We will be lucky if we escape the catastrophes into which other countries have been led by leaders with that same charismatic talent.

When I think of the people with serious physical or mental handicaps who nevertheless work, I find it hard to sympathize with able-bodied men who stand on the streets and beg. Nor can I sympathize with those who give them money that subsidizes a parasitic lifestyle that enables such men to be a constant nuisance, or even a danger, to others.

How surprising is it that Mr. Obama, who spent decades hanging out with people who spewed out their hatred of America, did not say anything in the presence of foreign rulers such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega when they spewed out their hatred of America?

We seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a society where no one is responsible for what he himself did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did, either in the present or in the past.

Why let discussions with visiting celebrities be a constant distraction during a televised tennis match or baseball game?

If we each sat down and wrote out all the mistakes we have made in our lives, the paper needed would require cutting down whole forests.

Much discussion of the interrogation of captured terrorists ignores the inescapable reality of trade-offs. The real question is: How many American lives are you prepared to sacrifice to spare a terrorist from experiencing distress?

Governments should govern, not micromanage, the economy. A government unrealistic enough to think it can micromanage is likely to do a worse job than most.

Inspiring as it is to study the history of the struggles and sacrifices that created and preserved America, it also is painful to see how all those investments of effort and lives are being frittered away for shortsighted and self-centered reasons.

Why the mere relocation of imprisoned terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to prisons in the United States is a moral issue is by no means clear because morality deals with behavior rather than location. Putting them within the jurisdiction of liberal circuit court judges who can find reasons to turn them loose is a much more serious issue.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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