Letter to a Trump Supporter #5: Affirmative Action

This is the fifth in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about Barack Obama, he sent me a so-called “Newsweek” article blaming affirmative action for the Obama presidency.

Below is my response.

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Dear Mr. ——,

This is an interesting argument. Thank you for sending it. Before addressing it, I should note that it wasn’t published in the reputable Newsweek, but rather on a conservative website called “American Thinker.”

I also don’t think it’s fair to call Newsweek “liberal,” especially without any proof to back it up. It’s not easy to measure media bias, but the economists Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo came up with a clever way in the one of the top research journals in 2005. They rated each news outlet by how often they cited more conservative or liberal think tanks, where “conservative” or “liberal” was judged based on the legislators they were associated with. They came up with a score of 66 for Newsweek, making them more conservative than Republican Rep. Constance Morella and significantly more conservative than the average Democrat, but more liberal than the average Republican. Basically, middle of the road.

But that’s beside the point. The author, Matt Patterson, makes some astonishingly incorrect claims.

First, it’s not just Barack Obama who hasn’t released his transcripts from college. George W. Bush didn’t release his. John McCain didn’t release his. Donald Trump didn’t release his. Basically, no presidential candidate has done it.

Second, he did not have bad grades in school. On the contrary, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, which by the way is how I graduated from UPenn. In fact, his classmates said “he was a natural leader, an impressive student, a nice guy.” One of his professors said he was so smart that the professor once joked, “Barack, I’m teaching this class, not you!”

Third, he did not become president of the Harvard Law Review because of affirmative action. On the contrary, it was the conservatives on the editorial board who swung the election because, as one of them said, “they had a sense that he was more open-minded and would listen to the conservatives, and would value and accept their contributions in a way that some of the other candidates would not.”

And it turns out they were right. “He ended up upsetting many more of his colleagues on the far left than those of us who were on the right,” recalls this particular editor, “in part because the bottom line for him as president of the law review always remained putting out a first-class publication.”

I should note that the editor who said those things went on to work for George W. Bush’s administration. Hardly a biased source.

Fourth, it’s false that he “authored no signature legislation as legislator.” He crossed the aisle to co-sponsor the Lugar-Obama Act with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar to help our allies detect and interdict illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction. He also joined with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to sponsor the Coburn-Obama Transparency Act, which created a website to show Americans how all their money is being spent. He contributed key provisions to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, prohibiting lobbyists from flying Congress members on corporate jets for free and requiring them to disclose bundled campaign contributions. All three bills were signed into law by George W. Bush.

So, the truth is actually the opposite of what Patterson claims: Barack Obama was a high achiever for many years in multiple facets of life before he ran for president.

When you think about it, it’s pretty surprising that anyone would question his intellect. We all watch him on TV, and we hear how thoughtful, poised, and articulate he is — to the point that many Republicans have criticized him for being too professorial. He quotes the great philosophers off the top of his head. He never loses his temper, never engages in name-calling, always tries to see a problem from multiple angles.

In all these ways, he is the type of man I was raised to be — by my father and all the men I grew up around, including you.

The thing that amazes me the most, though, is that Patterson thinks any of these things is evidence of “affirmative action.” After all, he could make the exact same argument about plenty of white presidential candidates. George H. W. Bush, Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, and John McCain were all terrible students. Did they become successful because of affirmative action?

Well, actually, in part, they did. See, the thing we often forget is that black Americans were prohibited from occupying most high-paying professions until a few decades ago, and racial discrimination persists to this day. Experiments, statistical analyses, and surveys all show that employerslenders, and voters are less likely to choose a black person, even if they are slightly more qualified, than a white person.

Less likely, not more likely. Affirmative action exists, and has existed for centuries, but it’s been in favor of whites, not blacks.

Funny how Matt Patterson never wrote about that problem.

Best regards,
Anthony

Letter to a Trump Supporter #4: Barack Obama’s Christian Faith

This is the fourth in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about Christianity, he sent me a chain email accusing President Obama of silencing Christians and promoting Islam.

Below is my response.

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Dear Mr. ——,

Thanks for passing along this email on America’s relationship with prayer. Some of it is true, but not all of it.

President Obama did not encourage schools to teach the Quran for extra credit, for example, and the so-called “Muslim Prayer Day” was not an official event hosted by either Congress or the President, but rather an unaffiliated group of Muslims exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

Actually, I would expect most Americans to be thrilled at the news of Muslims gathering peacefully, since that’s exactly what we’ve been wanting them to do, rather than turning toward violent extremism. “We need to change the face of Islam,” said one of the event organizers, “because we love America.” That sounds to me like something a Republican politician would say.

Similarly, there’s only a grain of truth in the claim that President Obama dismissed the National Day of Prayer ceremony. He never said anything about “not wanting to offend anyone.” George W. Bush is the only president who consistently held a ceremony at the White House. George H. W. Bush only did it once in four years, and Ronald Reagan only did it once in eight years. So they “dismissed” it too.

I have to say, I’m continually shocked at how Christian Americans can accuse President Obama of being anti-Christian, when he has spoken more eloquently about his Christian faith than any president since Lincoln.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read either of his memoirs, but he writes about his conversion to Christianity in great depth and vulnerability. “I felt God’s spirit beckoning me,” he says. “I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Contrary to accusations that he’s against public prayer, he talks about his desire for it when he first joined a church, “I thought being part of a community and affirming my faith in a public fashion was important.”

He openly admits that his Christian beliefs shape his political decisions, “It’s hard for me to imagine being true to my faith — and not thinking beyond myself, and not thinking about what’s good for other people, and not acting in a moral and ethical way.”

He quotes Saint Augustine and the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, showing a rich understanding of the religion that few politicians can equal.

In fact, arguably the most memorable speech of the Obama presidency was his eulogy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, where he wove together the American experience and the Christian experience, tracing our Christian values from the Declaration of Independence through Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to today.

If you haven’t seen it, you really owe it to yourself. Not only is his oratory masterful, but he sings “Amazing Grace,” a testament to his Christian beliefs more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen from an American politician.

But the thing that Republicans should love about this speech, especially in this heated time of racial debate and protests, is how he argues that Christianity teaches us to forgive the white murderer who killed the innocent black Americans whom he’s eulogizing. “The essence of what is right about Christianity is embedded here,” he told his staff before the funeral. “They welcomed the stranger. They forgave the worst violence.”

Those words came from the heart. His speechwriter drafted different words for much of that speech, but the president scratched them out and wrote his own. He explained to the young speechwriter that he knew what he wanted to say because he’d been “thinking about this stuff for 30 years.” This is a man who has dedicated himself to a lifetime of faith with impressive study and contemplation.

It’s not difficult to understand why so many myths have been promulgated about Barack Obama’s faith. He doesn’t look like what many Americans think a Christian looks like, and he takes the freedom of religion enshrined in our Constitution seriously.

But it is difficult to watch him be persecuted for his heritage and his tolerance. At least we can say that, in these experiences, he is following in the steps of many great Christians who have come before him, paving the way toward a kinder, more peaceful future against all the odds.

Best regards,
Anthony

The Great “Fiscal Responsibility” Hoax

You’re probably worried about the federal budget deficit. Seven out of every ten American voters say the deficit plays a “very important” role in deciding whom to vote for.

And you probably think that Mitt Romney is the candidate who would do a better job of reducing the deficit. In this category, voters favor him over Obama, 51 to 37. That’s a big gap, considering the national polls are a statistical tie.

Even the South Florida Sun-Sentinel believes the hype. One of the reasons they gave for endorsing Romney was to “exercise…fiscal discipline” and “get government spending under control.”

They’ve been had. You all have.

The belief that Republicans are more fiscally conservative than Democrats is an old one. It’s so deeply ingrained in the American myth that it’s hard to know where it started. But it’s completely, factually, undeniably wrong — and has been so for awhile.

In their book Presimetrics: What the Facts Tell Us About How the Presidents Measure Up On the Issues We Care About, economist Mike Kimel and journalist Michael E. Kanell calculate the change in government spending under every president from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

They found that government spending, relative to the size of the economy, increased much faster under Republican administrations than under Democratic ones. George W. Bush presided over a greater increase in government spending than any president since Lyndon Johnson, and George H.W. Bush wasn’t far behind. Bill Clinton, in contrast, was the only president since Eisenhower to actually reduce government spending. Even Reagan didn’t do that.

Since Mitt Romney has promised to increase the Pentagon budget by $2 trillion over the next decade, I find it hard to believe that he would be any different from his Republican forebears.

Kimel and Kanell also report how the budget deficit fared under each president. Here’s where the “fiscal responsibility” myth really falls apart: The Republicans increased the deficit, while the Democrats reduced it!

The least “fiscally responsible” administrations were Bush Jr., Bush Sr., Ford, and Nixon. The most deficit reduction came under Clinton and — believe it or not — Jimmy Carter.

In fact, the only presidents in this group who added to our national debt burden were Reagan and the two Bush’s. Everyone else presided over a decline in government debt, relative to the size of the economy.

For goodness sake, they said so straight to your face.

“I am not worried about the deficit,” said Reagan. “It is big enough to take care of itself.”

“Deficits don’t matter,” said Dick Cheney.

So, when economists complain over and over and over that Romney’s math doesn’t add up, they’re not just making an academic point. When Obama asks him how he’d pay for a $5 trillion tax cut, the fact that he can’t answer — the fact that every fact-checker in the known universe has said that his tax plan will blow up the budget deficit — is a flashing red warning sign that he will do what Republican presidents have been doing for half a century.

Which brings me to his opponent, Barack Obama.

On January 7, 2009, two weeks before Obama was sworn into office, the Congressional Budget Office reported that George W. Bush was bequeathing a budget deficit of $1.2 trillion. This year, the deficit is $1.3 trillion.

In other words, 92 percent of the deficit that everyone blames on Obama was actually inherited from his predecessor.

Here are the facts: In Reagan’s first term, government spending grew 8.7 percent per year. In his second term, it grew 4.9 percent per year. Under Bush Sr., 5.4 percent per year. Under Clinton’s two terms, 3.2 percent and 3.9 percent. Under Bush Jr., 7.3 percent and 8.1 percent.

Got all those numbers? Okay. Brace yourself. Under Obama: 1.4 percent.

Our current budget deficit has nothing to do with out-of-control Democratic spending and everything to do with a massive recession, tax cuts, two wars, and a scare campaign that Republicans have been successfully waging for decades to cover up their serial fiscal irresponsibility. Whether you let them fool you again is entirely up to you.

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This op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The Charming Republicans: Issa, Ryan, and Cantor

by Norman Horowitz

In 1960, at Screen Gems International, I met a “tall, dark, and handsome” man named Larry Hilford.

Larry was very smart and very charming when he wanted to be. He was a Yale graduate, as well as a Harvard MBA, all of which I could tolerate. But I will never forgive him for his “movie star” good looks.

Larry and I both worked for Lloyd Burns, a South African/Canadian who was the personification of “two faced.” Lloyd had a farbissina punim, which, loosely translated from Yiddish, means that he was sourpuss. He saved his farbissina punim for people like me and other junior staff people. He was at his charming best when with our major customers and senior management.

Yes, he was smart, but to me smart is not enough for an executive (or politician) to function as effectively as possible.

Larry and Lloyd were a study in contrasts. Larry would cringe when anyone called him a salesman, but that’s what he was: a well educated man of vision who could sell what he believed.

I have noticed in my career that people like Larry, an actual operating executive and salesman, were not then, nor are they today, respected as they should be. America has bought into the notion that MBAs and lawyers are somehow qualified to run operating divisions or companies. Nowadays, it seems that senior management executives are mostly operationally inexperienced and sport their farbissina punims as a badge of honor.

The combination of intellect and charm and operating experience matters, and to me the political poster child for this would be Bill Clinton.

Antithetical to this would be Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Darrell Issa.

While I never agreed with the policies of the Bush boys or Ronald Reagan, none of them could be referred to as having a farbissina punim. The same cannot be said of these three infantile Republican Congressmen who, not too long ago, were setting sail for a witch hunt against Eric Holder, while a good deal of the world is falling apart.

Much to the chagrin of many of my Republican friends, our President Barack Obama is bright, charming, and ingratiating, and I would ask those who might be open to it to compare the countenance of Barack Obama to our three resident farbissina punim champions, Darrell Issa, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor.

I’m reminded of my days at MGM, where I was accused of being a bad manager because I was “too nice.”

Welcome to America.