[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your impregnably genial host John Derbyshire, with the news of the hour.
The news is pretty much all domestic this week. Foreigners have been falling down on their natural responsibility to keep us either amused or annoyed, so we're letting down our bucket this week into the well of U.S. politics. The water's kind of murky; but if you put it under the microscope, there's some interesting and colorful wildlife in there.
02 — Mitt Wins Florida … We had a Republican primary election in Florida, a big and electorally important state, with 27 electoral college votes — precisely ten percent of the 270 you need to win the presidency.
Of Florida's four million registered Republicans, 41 percent came out to vote. Nearly half of them chose Mitt Romney, with the rest dividing up their votes among other candidates. Newt Gingrich did respectably well, coming second with 32 percent of the vote — enough to keep the flame of hope still burning in Newt's bosom, though not enough to get him any convention delegates, as Florida's primary is winner-take-all. That 32 percent is, though, more than half a million souls, enough for quite a substantial lunar colony, so I guess Newt can take comfort in that.
Romney now looks strong for the nomination. I'll just remind him and his team of the old English saying that there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. It's 207 days to the convention, which will also be in Florida; and that's plenty of time for scandals to emerge, lethal gaffes to be committed, and the fickle finger of fate to give Mitt a poke in the eye.
Right now, though, the odds strongly favor him. The conservative Republicans I know all acknowledge this, with various degrees of sullen resignation, but with none of the kind of black despair that Bob Dole and John McCain inspired. Romney is not a congressional lifer like Dole, mumbling incoherently about cloture and supplementals. Nor is he a foam-flecked romantic crusader like McCain, lusting to send off expeditionary forces hither and yon financed by borrowed money.
For all our doubts and hesitations about Romney, let's try to look on the bright side. He at least understands that ends need to bear some relation to means. He at least has been chief executive of a state, haggling with legislators. He may have changed his position on this or that, but at least he has not shown a willingness to say absolutely anything, like Newt Gingrich, who was his principal adversary in Florida.
I have my doubts about Mitt; but at last, like other conservative Republicans, I'm going to be saying what mothers say when their thirtysomething daughters announce that they have finally talked a man into meeting them at the altar: He'll do.
03 — Concern for the poor. As I said, there's plenty of time for lethal gaffes. Mitt Romney gaffed this week, if "gaffe" may be used as a verb, which I hereby declare it may. I don't think this one was lethal, but it stirred up the media, and gave Newt Gingrich an opportunity to say something silly, not that Newt needs much inciting.
In an interview with limousine liberal Soledad O'Brien of CNN, Mitt Romney passed the following remarks. [Romney: "I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor …"]
O'Brien jumped right on that. [O'Brien: "I think there are lots of very poor Americans …"] You could see Willard thinking to himself: "Oops, darn it."
Now of course the thing Mitt said, taken in its entirety, is sensible and reasonable. Running for political office does require a candidate to say sensible and reasonable things. However, it also requires the candidate to say those things in sentences that cannot be chopped up into six-word fragments to be fired back at him from his enemies' potato guns.
Mitt of course knows this, and must have realized immediately that he'd made a gaffe. He probably also knows that you don't get through a months-long campaign, speaking on the fly a lot of the time, without occasionally committing some blooper like this, so I'd guess he's fairly philosophical about it. Let me tell you, as a writer turning out around ten thousand words a month, I probably utter six-word fragments as usable — I mean, as usable by a political enemy — as Romney's pretty much hourly. Fortunately I'm not trying to get elected to anything. Being a political candidate is somewhat like running through a rainstorm trying to dodge between the drops.
This particular gaffe would be utterly trivial, in fact, but for two magnifying factors. Magnifying factor one, Romney is rich: not as rich as John Kerry or Al Gore, nothing like as rich as the Clintons, but quite likely richer than Nancy Pelosi, richer than Barack Obama was in 2008, I'd guess maybe richer than Soledad O'Brien, who is a millionairess in her own right married to an investment banker. Second magnifying factor: Romney's a Republican, so not only will his political enemies use this as ammunition, the media will help those enemies all they can. If Romney were a Democrat, the media folk would already be out there with brooms sweeping it under the carpet.
Newt Gingrich was right behind Ms O'Brien, offering us this little nugget of Gingrichiana, quote: "I really believe that we should care about the very poor, unlike Gov. Romney. But I believe we should care differently than Barack Obama. Both Gov. Romney and Barack Obama seem to believe that a, quote, safety net is all the poor need. I don't believe that. What the poor need is a trampoline so that they can spring up … So I'm for replacing the safety net with a trampoline." End quote.
Typical Newt: Colorful and imaginative use of words, but totally without any meaning. I'm not even sure I know who the poor are any more. There's a neighborhood near me that everyone calls poor, but the inhabitants all seem to have hundred-dollar sneakers and Blackberries. I'd guess that the main drivers of poverty in the U.S.A. today are: one, single motherhood; two, floods of illegal immigrants depressing the wages of the unskilled; three, easy availability of welfare; and four, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. That's a behavioral problem, a law-enforcement problem, a social problem, and an economic problem. I don't know that a trampoline can encompass all those problem areas, but perhaps a bouncy castle might. [Boing!]
04 — … Including Florida Hispanics. There was a dog that did not bark in the Florida result. That was the Hispanic voters of the state turning against Mitt Romney for his firm words on illegal immigration.
Everyone had said they would, but they didn't. In fact, not only did they didn't, but Latino voters in Florida went for Romney over Gingrich in higher proportions than Republicans overall. The overall percentages were 46 Romney to 32 Gingrich; among Hispanics they were 54 Romney, 29 Gingrich.
A big factor there was that Florida Hispanics are mainly of Cuban and Puerto Rican origin. The actual percentages for Florida Hispanics, from the Pew Research Center, are: Cuban origin 32 percent, Puerto Rican 28 percent, Mexican 9 percent.
The Cubans are refugees from a socialist dictatorship, or the children or grandchildren of such, so they are naturally allergic to leftism, and probably, correctly, perceive amnesty programs like Gingrich's as leftist-inspired. The Puerto Ricans are citizens who never have to think about immigration, and regard Mexicans as foreign competition in the labor market.
Bottom line: Florida Hispanics don't care much about immigration. For those registered as Republicans that must be doubly true. The joke here is the cluelessness of elite white commentariat and political types, folk like Newt Gingrich, who think that Hispanics are a single herd that can be corraled this way or that. "Hey, that looks like a Hispanic voter — gimme my immigration flash cards!" Professional Hispanics like Congressman Luis Gutierrez or commentator Geraldo Rivera encourage this illusion, and lazy-minded pols like Gingrich fall for it.
Having said that, Florida Hispanics are somewhat atypical, and in campaigning elsewhere, Mitt Romney will be up against much more solid blocks of Mexican-origin and Central-American-origin voters, to whom the immigration issue is more salient.
But having said that, the whole issue of the Hispanic vote is inflated by the race lobbyists, and again, sloppy and ignorant pols like Newt Gingrich fall for the scam. In the 2008 presidential election, when minorities were exceptionally fired up by Barack Obama's candidacy, the Hispanic share of the vote was 7.4 percent. The non-Hispanic white share was 76.3 percent, more than ten times the Hispanic share.
Put it another way, if a candidate has only so much time and effort to put into winning votes, one non-Hispanic white vote is worth more than ten times one Hispanic vote. If you're a Republican politician, the relative worth of white and Hispanic votes is even greater, since Hispanics in the generality, with for example an over fifty percent illegitimacy rate and near twenty percent high school dropout rate, are more welfare-dependent than whites, and so more locked in to the Democratic Party. There are local considerations that skew the picture, but overall, so far as a Republican presidential candidate is concerned, the non-Hispanic white vote is a ten-course banquet while the Hispanic vote is a bag of nacho chips.
But having said that, as a swelling cohort of Hispanic citizens moves up through the school system and into adulthood, that seven percent will become ten, then twenty, then thirty percent, and by mid-century will be challenging the non-Hispanic white vote for demographic supremacy. By that time, however, the nation will be so tribalized and ethnic disaggregation will be so advanced, the U.S.A. will no longer have any real identity, and will probably have broken up, like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and Cyprus.
Well, sufficient unto the day the evil thereof. Let's concentrate on this electoral cycle, for which a key point Mitt Romney needs to remember is that Hispanic electoral influence, its size and coherence, is hugely exaggerated by Democratic race activists for strategic purposes. In most parts of the country, for a Republican candidate, the Hispanic vote is a bagatelle, and the black vote is of course solid for Obama. It's the white vote Romney needs to win. For that purpose, polite but firm talk about honoring and enforcing the people's laws on immigration is the way to go.
05 — Donald Trump blah blah. The nation was on tenterhooks all day Thursday waiting for Donald Trump to say something or other. What it was we were waiting for him to say, and what he eventually said, and what tenterhooks actually are, are all things that I may have known at one point but have since forgotten.
06 — Obama the Christian. OK, hands up those listeners who dis-agree with the following statement: Barack Obama is a typical early 21st-century leftist yuppie agnostic, who goes from one year's end to the next without having a religious thought, and whose twenty years of attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ [Jeremiah Wright clip: "God damn America!"] was motivated entirely by his need for networking in the black Chicago political establishment. Hands up if you dis-agree with that. Hands up anyone … anyone? … Nobody? … That's what I thought.
Now look: I have no window into men's souls. You won't find anyone more willing than I am to give a guy a pass on his notions about the supernatural. Mitt Romney, for example, presumably believes all the Angel Moroni stuff — the golden tablets, the magic spectacles, the Cherokees are Jewish, the whole nine yards. Jolly good luck to him.
I do, though, like everyone else in the world, try to form some working estimate of what a person believes by observing his behavior. On that basis, I have great difficulty understanding how a person who for twenty years — twenty blessed years, listeners — sat and listened uncomplainingly to the white-hating, antisemitic sermons of Jeremiah Wright, can be a faithful disciple of the Prince of Peace. Just four years ago, on his 2007 tax returns, Obama logged a $27,000 donation to Wright's church.
Wright's sermons were themselves inspired, according to Wright's own account, by the teachings of Black Liberation theologian James Cone, sample quote: "Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy," end quote. You don't need a window into men's souls to think that anyone who sits quietly listening to stuff like that for a thousand sabbaths is either (A) just as deranged by pathological loathing of the white man as Wright and Cone are, or (B) fathomlessly cynical. In the case of Barack Obama, I go with (B).
It was therefore mildly nauseating to see Obama at a National Prayer Breakfast telling the attendees that: [Obama: "We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him. Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him."] Yeah, heaven forbid we should fall into phony religiosity.
The president then went off into a ramble through the social gospel, arguing that Jesus of Nazareth — along with Moses, Mohammed, the Buddha, Zoroaster, and whoever it was wrote the Bhagavad Gita — all want us to increase student loans, offer mortgage relief, send more taxpayer money to barbarian dictators as so-called "foreign aid," and open up the nation's borders to more future Democrat voters — oops, I'm sorry, I mean "undocumented workers."
The great religious teachers wanted us, in other words, to creat a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, according to Obama. I can't speak to Zoroaster and the Bhagavad Gita author, with neither of whom I have any acquaintance, but my rather strong impression of the others is that a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is the exact opposite of what they sought. I am, however, no theologian, so you should form your own judgment here.
The whole emetic speech was seasoned with professions of patriotism [Obama: "as a country, we rise and fall together"]; — a bit hard to square with Jeremiah Wright's best-known remark … bogus humility [Obama: "I must try — imperfectly, but I must try — to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation"], and apt scriptural quotations [Obama: "John tells us that, 'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.'"]
What kinds of actions would St John like us to perform as testimony to our love of God? Well: [Obama: "Making sure insurance companies aren't discriminating against those who are already sick …"] Don't quite get that, Mr President. If insurance companies may not discriminate between those who have not yet encountered the eventuality being insured against, and those who have, how is it insurance? Does St John cover this point somewhere in his gospel? Please instruct me.
Is there any relevance to November's election here? Probably not: though it does say in the Good Book that the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment, which I take to be encouraging.
07 — College follies. A couple of stories here from the academy. I'll pack them together in one segment.
First there's the scandal at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, an expensive and highly-ranked liberal arts school with 1,300 undergraduates. College President Pamela Gann announced this week that the college admissions department had been gaming the U.S. News & World Report rankings for the past seven years by falsifying the SAT scores of admitted students. Richard Vos, who's been dean of admissions at the college since 1987, resigned in disgrace on Monday.
Why would an admissions officer at a high-priced, very selective college need to inflate incoming SAT scores? Affirmative action, that's why.
Claremont was caught in a bind. On the one hand they had to keep their position on the U.S. News & World Report list, which is the nation's gold standard for college rankings, and the first thing parents go to when selecting colleges. On the other hand, Claremont McKenna had made a strategic decision to improve campus diversity by accepting inner-city minority students with sub-standard SAT scores. The only way to square the circle was to cheat and lie, so that's what Claremont McKenna did.
You can read the whole sordid story at Andrew Breitbart's biggovernment.com, where Charles Johnson, a past editor of the Claremont McKenna conservative student newspaper, has dug out the facts. It illustrates yet again the deeply corrupting and dishonest nature of the whole "diversity" racket. Claremont McKenna's college motto is Crescit cum commercio civitas, "Civilization prospers with commerce." When false doctrines take over the minds of those in charge of key civilizational institutions like universities, civilization does not prosper; it rots.
Second story: Nearby Pomona College, also in Claremont, California, got itself into the New York Times by asking college workers to show proof that they were not working in the country illegally. Seventeen workers who couldn't do so were fired.
The Times story is naturally pro-scofflaw, with much lachrymose testimony from the laid-off illegals. Sample quote: "'We were here for a very long time and there was never a complaint,' said Christian Torres, 25, a cook who had worked at the college for six years. 'But now all of the sudden we were suspect, and they didn't want us to work here anymore.'" Well, yes, because the college authorities don't want to be in violation of immigration law. Duh.
Another sample quote, this one from 30-year-old Carmen, who'd been working at the college for $17 an hour, quote: "'I really don't know what I am going to do,' she said, adding that her options were to look for work that paid in cash or move back to Mexico with her 2-year-old son while her husband, an American citizen, stayed here."
Yo, Carmen: If your husband is a citizen, he can petition for a green card for you. You'll probably have to go back to Mexico for a while to regularize your situation, but that's the kind of inconvenience that comes upon you when you ignore the laws of a foreign country. Alternatively, you and your husband could relocate to Mexico, which is a pretty nice country, just not as nice as the U.S. Alternatively again, you could migrate to a really poor country like Ethiopia or Laos. Then you'd realize how lucky you were to have been born Mexican.
The really heartening thing about this New York Times story is the comment thread, which is almost uniformly unsympathetic to the scofflaws. Several commenters noted that $17 an hour would be a pretty good wage for any student who wanted to work his way through college, as used to be common. Even New York Times readers, apparently, are getting fed up with illegal immigration.
08 — Syria. Something happened in Syria again. Something else happened in Egypt.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Next year New York City will pass an interesting milestone: The cost of benefits for the four uniformed services — police, fire, prisons, and sanitation — will exceed the cost of salaries for those services. The long-term trend is for continued relentless divergence, the gap widening each year. Also rising are debt service costs. Here you have a paradigm for the nation at large, indeed for most of the developed world. The art of managing public finances in the years to come will be an ever more desperate struggle to cover debt service and geezer maintenance expenses with tax revenues from a dwindling pool of productive workers. As always, New York leads the way.
Item: An Afghan soldier, that is a member of the army we have been supplying and training this past ten years, shot and killed a NATO serviceman, nationality not revealed, on Tuesday. This is barely newsworthy: Afghan soldiers shoot NATO soldiers at a steady rate — there were 17 incidents last year, up from six the year before. Our loyal Afghan allies started off the tally this year by shooting dead four French soldiers in mid-January, all in one batch. Meanwhile, a leaked report on interrogations by the U.S. military showed widespread and growing support for the Taliban, even within the so-called Afghan government. It is now perfectly clear that when NATO forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will take over at once, with strong public support. So all those years, nineteen hundred young American lives, untold hundreds of billions of dollars, were for what? [Crickets] Any chance we might air-drop a few dozen members of Congress, along with key members of the Bush and Obama administrations, into the Hindu Kush? Parachutes optional, far as I'm concerned.
Item: Facebook's Initial Public Offering is in the news. The actual offering is some weeks away yet, but Facebook filed on Wednesday with the SEC and it's got everyone talking. I'll confess to mixed feelings here, both positive and negative. Positive: It's great to know capitalism still works — that smart college kids can get rich from building a better mousetrap. I especially like the story of the guy who did a paint job on Facebook's building and took payment in shares instead of cash. He'll never have to work again. Negative: Well, naturally envy at all the fortunes being made. Also incomprehension about the product itself. Three different friends have all tried to get me interested in Facebook, and all have failed. It just seems shallow and pointless, really just a vehicle for advertising. If you were to ask me to make a list of things I would rather spend half an hour doing than being logged into Facebook, it would be a mighty long list. I think a Facebook session might rank just ahead of clipping my toenails, but that's roughly where the crossover point is. If Facebook's a better mousetrap, what's the mouse? I just don't get it. Oh, and just a word for all you investors reaching for your wallets? "MySpace."
10 — Signoff. That's it, folks. Way over time again, and the suits are making frantic gestures at me through the producer's glass wall … Hey, that's one I haven't seen before. Is that really physically possible, though, without someone holding the other arm? Interesting … Gotta go …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]