May 2009

In what the media hyped as dueling speeches President Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney delivered back to back speeches on their view of national security yesterday in Washington,, D.C.

First up was President Obama standing in the National Archives speaking about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and how as a young boy in a foreign land his mother made him arise early each morning to learn the truths of those documents.

Obama wove those personal vignettes into his speech as he laid blame for the torture controversy and Guantanamo squarely at the feet of the Bush administration.  He even went as far to state that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”  even though we only started to hold terrorists there after we were attacked.

The president did a masterful job of weaving a story but it was short on answers and substance.  He wants to close Guantanamo and send detainees to the U.S.  A measure that the Democratically controlled Senate rejected by a 90-6 vote the day before.

Cheney chose to wait until Obama was finished before beginning his previously scheduled speech.  It is worth noting that the White House just recently scheduled the president’s speech which ABC’s George Stephanopoulos referred to as a coincidence.  George should check with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs who admitted that they were aware of the Cheney speech.  That’s not a coincidence, that’s a pre-emptive strike!

For those of us that were waiting at the American Enterprise Institute for the former veep, it was well worth the wait.

Whereas Obama gave one of his patented soaring oratorical speeches, Cheney gave a hard hitting speech that credited Obama for reversing his decision to release incendiary photos and his Afghanistan policy but at the same time criticizing him for being so willing to compromise when it comes to terrorism. Cheney told the audience that “in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground,” and “There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.”

If the White House thought that they were clever in scheduling the president’s speech at the same time as Cheney’s  and that it  would give them the edge in the national security debate they badly miscalculated as Cheney basically delivered the body blow to Obama’s missed punches at the Bush administration.

Congress has passed and the president is expected to sign a credit card reform bill that was largely backed by consumer advocates but one which will undoubtedly only make things worse for credit card holders.

As the economy has sunk to depths most people have never experienced in their lifetimes congress set its sights on the credit card industry as a villain for the reason many consumers are swamped with debt.

As in any industry there are dishonest or unscrupulous vendors but the bill congress passed yesterday tars all card issues with the same broad brush and holds them equally accountable for consumer misbehavior.

Groups backing the reform legislation point to the fees and interest that banks collect from credit card users which is close to $20 billion per year but have discounted the fact that the 19 largest banks have suffered $82 billion in losses in the last year as they were forced to write off balances that were no longer collectible due to the deteriorating economy.

But was this legislation necessary? After all the Federal Reserve along with the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Association issued new regulations in December that ban most if not all of the abusive practices that were the source of consumer complaints.

Some clarification of the rules and regulations governing the industry were probably in order as the industry expanded at a rapid rate and credit standards were lowered allowing people who wouldn’t have qualified a few years for a card to rack up huge bills that they couldn’t possibly pay.

At first that was fine with the banks as long as they were receiving the minimum payments but as the economy slowed the high credit risks started to default in droves.

Yet the legislation will actually do more harm than good in the long run.

Credit cards while not the cheapest source of financing has been a valuable tool for small businesses who either couldn’t qualify for a bank loan or who didn’t want to wade through the tedious SBA process and has allowed thousands of businesses to grow and expand.

For cardholders who pay their balances in full each month they are likely to bear the brunt of the new law as banks won’t be able to subsidize them with fees and interest paid by other cardholders and will face the re-imposition of annual fees and other charges that they have been largely immune from.

The bottom line is just like home mortgages; no one put a gun to the head of consumers and forced them to apply for a credit card.  It is the reckless behavior of the consumer and lack of personal responsibility that created this problem.  But as with most liberals, they won’t blame the consumer but chose instead to portray banks and card issuers as the bogey man.  In the end we will all pay for this folly.

On April 19th at the Miss USA pageant a new hero of the family values movement was crowned in the form of Miss California Carrie Prejean.

During the crucial question and answer portion of the pageant Prejean had the misfortune of being quizzed by gay blogger Perez Hilton who asked her whether or not she thought that all states should mirror states like Vermont and California  and legalize these unions.

In response Prejean said , “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other … same sex marriage or opposite marriage,” then added, “I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman … that’s how I was raised.”

Instead of finding her answer honest and refreshing Hilton and the other politically correct judges crowned Miss North Carolina Kristen Dalton the new Miss USA who to this day hasn’t commented on how she feels about same-sex marriage so she can remain a viable commodity in the eyes of pageant officials.

For Prejean the fallout has been mostly positive as she has become a media sensation and appearing at public events with groups opposed to gay marriage which sparked the state pageant officials to consider dethroning her for supposedly violating her contract.

Then yesterday came the fake drama when Donald Trump announced that Prejean would keep her title after all.

My first reaction to the controversy was that it was great to see someone stand up for their values even if they were politically incorrect.  But after photos surfaced of Prejean only partially clad for some underwear photos from several years ago and the revelation that she had breast implants I began to wonder why the conservatives, especially the family values groups would embrace her so readily.

Yes, she espoused their viewpoint on gay marriage, but she also claimed to be a Christian and that means living your values every day even if it means making professional sacrifices.  For me the photos were an example of a young woman more interested in her career than her faith and she only compounded that by getting the breast implants.  She obviously saw the pageant as nothing more than a women as sex objects contest and abandoned any pretense of Chritianity by seeking to augment her physical assets.

Prejean has capitalized on the controversy both pro and con and Donald Trump who owns the Miss USA pageant has been basking in all the attention on an event that is usually just a news footnote.  More publicity for the Donald will equal more money for the Donald.

It’s time that the media and the conservative movement move on and find something worthwhile to talk about and let Carrie Prejean fade to black as soon as possible.