Protectionism and President Barack Hoover

Hugh Hewitt | "The Hugh Hewitt Show" | Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Protectionism and President Barack Hoover


October 8, 2008

At an early point in the debate, John McCain scolded Obama for wanting to raise taxes in a time of deep economic uncertainty and shrinking growth.  He reminded the audience that Hoover had done the same thing, and mentioned protectionism only to put it aside with the remark that surely the debate would return to the issue of free trade in a world where economic growth is crucial to every nation's rise.

McCain overestimated Tom Brokaw's talents.  The debate never returned to a serious discussion of tax policy in the face of frozen credit markets or to a conversation about the need to keep the world moving towards one market and one rising standard of living.  It never got back to the first principles of freedom, nor dynamic democratic capitalism's amazing strengths and benefits.  McCain only got in one very tough punch on the origins of the financial crisis in Freddie and Fannie and Obama and the Democrats’ complicity in it. He promised more, but the rest of the bout was shadow boxing until it turned to foreign policy which, important though it is, isn't where the electorate is right now.

The argument about the disastrous economic policies being pushed by Obama must be made by McCain every day going forward, even as the campaign continues to hammer Obama for his past judgment and future inclinations when it comes to allies and associates.  Ayers-Rezko-Wright-Khalidi are part of a pattern that would certainly follow into the staffing of the vast federal establishment.  The Daily Kos-Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party wants its pages from the Plum Book, and the Pelosi-Reid staffers have all got their assistant secretary offices picked out. The Left is planning for a huge sweep, and a big party, and...

Then what? 

Obama-Pelosi-Reid will not be able to resist the massive tax hikes that have lurked behind their every scheme for the past 28 years since Reagan wrested the government from the last group of statists.  The unions have wanted protectionism since Bill Clinton signed on to NAFTA.  The environmentalists want the sort of global warming regime that will not merely curb but positively punish economic growth, and the anti-nuclear reflex within the Democratic Party is so deep that while Obama can make a few noises about the need for new nuke plants, none would begin under his tenure.  Obama said last night that we need new oil exploration off-shore.  Does anyone really believe that will happen?  Energy shortages would go from a predicament to a policy overnight.

High taxes, falling trade, declining energy use: These are the macro issues.  At every level of the government, though, the young Ayers-Rezkos-Wrights-Khalidis would be working their magic on the micro issues, and this without a House or Senate in the hands of a GOP majority to moderate their enthusiasms. 

When Bill Clinton roared into town with House and Senate majorities in 1993, he was a "New Democrat" inheriting a growing economy on the cusp of a technological revolution that would drive productivity forward at an amazing rate. His early energies were expended on a vast health care scheme too complicated even for his own party.  His tax hikes were modest, but he did no lasting legislative damage before Newt arrived to clamp down on the Democrats' worst instincts. Obama is no centrist, and the Dems have gone much farther to the left since 1993. The international economy is in the throes of a panic that everyone hopes eases soon but which could grow worse. 

International jihadism must sense this is a moment in which any strike they can muster would have enormous consequences for Western confidence. We can only hope that the blows dealt to al Qaeda in Iraq have crippled its reach for years to come, and that if he wins Obama will be so invested in his Afghanistan-first rhetoric that he will be obliged to fight on that front for as long he is president and to allow General Petraeus control of the strategy.

But that "if he wins" is a real “if,” as the American people are clearly engaged and watching every minute of this drama very closely.  The least consequential story of recent days is Obama's advertising advantage. It isn't an election that will be won on 30 second ads, not when the choice before us is all that anyone talks about when they aren't talking about the sudden shrinking of their retirement accounts.

Everyone wants their money back.  They want growth back.  They don't want to pay soaring taxes, and they don't want to pay $4 a gallon gas.

They don't want the financial estates that the Greatest Generation has accumulated over a lifetime of work to be transferred in bulk into the coffers of the government and not the grandkids.

They like Obama.  I like Obama.  Nearly everybody likes Obama.

But I don't want to put the country through Great Depression 2.0, and I don't want a vast army of academics and social engineers descending on D.C. with plans on how to remake America in their own extremist image.

The race is tight and very fluid. The electorate knows the enormous consequences of the choice before them even as McCain struggles to articulate it because McCain embodies it.  Lefty pundits can't believe how easy he went on Obama last night, and are left with "That one" to chew over as an outrage against their beloved leader.  Conservative pundits wanted McCain to press the choice on the country with much more clarity than he did and to demand of Obama specificity to the agenda they know he is carrying, but McCain only did that on a couple of occasions.  McCain committed no blunders.  All of his answers were correct (though some of the free market people grumble about the mortgage buy-up) and his foreign policy credibility was again on display.  But they wanted a devastating attack because that is what we do all day long -- argue the case.  McCain wasn't arguing the case so much as referring to it.

McCain expects the country to get this.  His 90 minutes was an extended reminder of his seriousness and the seriousness of the job and its difficulties.  His surrogates will continue to hammer the unexplored side of Obama and what it would portend for an Obama Administration when it came to staffing, but McCain is going to keep making the one big point: This is no time for a rookie with big tax hikes, huge tariffs, expanding bureaucracies and a retreat and defeat foreign policy to take the helm.


Hugh Hewitt is host of the nationally syndicated “Hugh Hewitt Show” and executive editor of Townhall.com. Contact Hugh at [email protected].

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