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In order to keep up with the nature of free, spirited debate, I wanted to place the chat feature at the top of the homepage. This ensures people can come here and share their views on anything they wish and not have it be related to any specific discussion. Here, people can share ideas, links, and views "unmoderated" and an their own pace. To me, this makes The Elephant in the Room blog truly a place for debate.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time To Wake Up - Opening Monologue - Bill Bennett's Morning in America

The following transcript was sent to The Elephant in the Room by Bill Bennett's Morning nn America radio show. For those that don't know, Morning in America is a radio show that airs live Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 9:00am, EST. It is hosted by Dr. William Bennett, the former U.S. Secretary of Education. Bennett's radio show is an insightful one, and he runs it just as we run our blog: respectfully, and guided with truth and fact. Bill does not engage in shouting matches and he slings no insults. His show is nothing but intelligent, fact-based debate where all viewpoints are discussed and respected regardless of platform.


On Fridays, the show is run by a special guest host (usually Seth Leibsohn). The host runs the show in the same manner as Bill and never deviates from the values of thoughtful debate that Bill maintains throughout his broadcasts.

Below is the transcript from today's show. I found this particularly interesting because, as we are 9 months away from the general election, it asks the right questions and highlights key topics we should all be thinking about as November approaches. Regardless of his record, President Obama seems poised to win another four-year term in the White House, and I think Americans need to pause and think about the many points Seth brings up.

Time To Wake Up

February 24, 2012

As Broadcast on Bill Bennett's Morning in America

By: Seth Leibsohn

As most of you know, I do this broadcast almost every Friday from Phoenix, Arizona.  And here, in the skies of Arizona, seven Marines lost their lives in a training exercise this week.  These men of America were men who volunteered to train, fight, and perhaps even die for America.  And they did—all of that.  That their last full measure of devotion was given in a training exercise to defend this country rather than in a battlefield defending this country is of no significance—the point is they opted and chose to defend this special and unique place in the world, in history, and they and their families gave their all in training to do exactly that.  As the poet Stephen Spender wrote:  “The names of those who in their lives fought for life; Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.  Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun, And left the vivid air signed with their honor.”

These great men signed the air with their honor.  And today’s broadcast, while in no way representative of their work, not in any way, shape, or form, is dedicated to their lives, may they rest in peace—knowing a grateful nation thinks of them and their families this morning.

I say that, not knowing at all whether any of them were liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans.  They were, simply, Americans.  So having said that, let us just take a few moments to think about where America is right now and why this heated election season is so very heated.

Someone asked me the other day why people get so angry about politics.  I said you can do politics without anger, you should do it without anger, our best leaders were men of little anger, at least as against their fellow Americans or political opponents.  But I can understand the anger—not everyone is meant to lead, but everyone in this democracy should care about who does lead because we all have to live under that leadership and then do something about it if we find it objectionable down the line.  That is but one small point of the Declaration of Independence.  Professor Harry Jaffa put it this way:  equality is the basis of free government because self-government is human government by majority rule.  If we aren’t all equal, we cannot accept majority rule, and the temporary majority that we disagree with will not yield to our rule when we forge a majority, if we forge a majority—not if we’re not all equal.  Professor Jaffa goes on to say this is the essence of a national compact; consent implies a contract with each and all to be governed by certain laws for the common good.

That said, Thomas Jefferson said something else that is relevant here:  “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”  Of course that implies agreement on first principles: the maximally best way to achieve and perpetuate human freedom and safety—the kinds of things spoken of in the Preamble to our Constitution.  So, when it comes to presidential politics, we get to take these measures every four years, to examine what may or may not be objectionable.  And when we take this measurement, we, some of us, find that we do indeed find a great deal objectionable.

And we find something else, too.  That it is not enough to state our case once or twice or three times.  I’ve quoted Orwell before about the first task of the intelligent is to restate the obvious.  Here, I think is a good reason why.  I was surfing around the Pew Website and found a quiz, a survey, on knowledge of contemporary issues and events.  You can get a score they’ve come up with by taking this simple, 13 question survey.  So I took it—and I got all 13 questions right.  I thought it was a very easy quiz frankly.  Very.  One anyone would pass if they spent, oh, six minutes a week either with network or cable news or a newspaper.  

And yet I come to read further that only eight percent of Americans got all 13 questions right.  That is to say 92 percent of Americans are not generally aware of who Ben Bernanke is, how many people have died in Afghanistan (within a measure of tens of thousands), what political party the elephant represents, who the Speaker of the House is, and so forth.  When a super-majority of Americans don’t know these things, you understand how important it is to make your case…our case.  Again and again and again.

And it has to be done with empathy and patience.  So think about it, if a super-majority of Americans don’t know the facts of basic American life and government, they will not know the basic problems with their current politics either—the basic problems or objections with the current government.

So, last week I was giving a talk on the election and was asked to give the briefest account of my objections to President Obama.  Here is what I said:

Unemployment was 7.6 percent when President Obama took office.  His administration said we needed an 800 billion dollar stimulus to keep it from going to 8 percent.  We got the stimulus and unemployment went over 10 percent.  It's now still over 8.  There are 1.2 million less people working than when Obama took office.  He said in his second month in office he'd cut the deficit in half in his first term.  He's now submitted four budgets in a row that contain over 1 trillion dollars in deficit spending.  No president has ever done that.  George Bush's last budget, for what it's worth, had 450 billion dollars in deficit spending.  The debt when Obama took office was just over 10 trillion dollars.  It's now over 15 trillion.  Did not George Bush increase the debt the same amount, ie, by 5 trillion dollars?  Yes, but over eight years and with two wars.  Obama has done it in less than four years and after winding down one of those wars.  Egypt was an ally when Obama took office.  He called for our ally's ouster and now it is an enemy.  Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than when Obama took office.  And Israel has never been more sidelined by the United States, never.  

That was my brief case.  But we can of course say more, much more.  President Obama has offended a great many allies.  And, he has encouraged a great many of our enemies. And the world, even in just three years, has become more dangerous—from the Middle East to Asia to Latin America.  So now, just this week we come to learn the administration is studying cutting our strategic nuclear forces by as much as 80 percent.  We come to learn this as we have come to learn the President has decided to limit pay raises for troops, increase health insurance fees for military retirees and close bases in the United States, cutting by hundreds of billions of dollars our defense budget over the next several years.  

We come to learn this week that while gas prices have risen 83 percent during President Obama’s tenure thus far, he said this “We can’t drill our way to lower gas prices.”  Why can’t we?  We can’t because he won’t let us.  Let’s remind our fellow citizens that when gas prices were at record highs in 2008, President Bush lifted a moratorium on offshore drilling.  Gas prices fell immediately, from over $4.00 per gallon to $3.69 and to $1.66 by the end of the year.  Of course more oil means lower gas prices because as any economist will tell you, more supply equals less cost of the product being supplied.  When something is rare it is expensive.  Don’t all grooms know that when they buy diamond rings?

But here’s the rub, the Wall Street Journal puts it this way:

- According to the Greater New Orleans Gulf Permits Index for January 31, over the previous three months the feds issued an average of three deep-water drilling permits a month compared to the historical average of seven. Over the same three months, the feds approved an average of 4.7 shallow-water permits a month, compared to the historical average of 14.7.

- Approval of an offshore drilling plan now takes 92 days, 31 more than the historical average. And so far in 2012, an average of 23% of all drilling plans have been approved, compared to the average of 73.4%.

- Oh, and don't forget the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have increased the delivery of oil from Canada and North Dakota's Bakken Shale to Gulf Coast refineries, replacing oil from Venezuela.

This is all from an administration, a President, who selected as his Secretary of Energy a man who just months before he was selected said he wanted to drive the price of gas upward to the levels of Europe.

I think two things this morning.  1.  We should have car stickers with Obama’s face on them and place them on the gas tank covers of our cars so every time we go to the pump to fill our tanks we think about the cost of “Obama gas.”  2.  We need to start laying out these facts, all of them, to our fellow citizens and ask why would our President do this?

Why would the President want to make it more expensive to work and live in America?  Why would the President want to take down our missile defense shields in Europe when even the European countries they were being built in wanted them?  Why would our President warn Israel not to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities?  Why would our President turn a deaf ear to Iran’s democratic revolutionaries and continue to convey respect and reach out to Iran’s mullahs?  Why would our President tell our ally, the leader of Egypt, he had to go, only so he could be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood whose motto is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”  Why would our President make America weaker and at the same time drive our debt up?

These are just some of the questions we are now impelled to ask. There are a lot more.  And we ask them because the time for our judging objectionable or not our leadership is just nine months away.  We will do more of this and more on this.  But for now, let’s think on those questions.  They beg to be asked.  Because there’s another strong element of democracy staring us in the face:  it’s called accountability.


So... what do you think? Are these important issues/questions? Do you agree with Seth Leibsohn's opinions? Should these be the debates and the type of dialogue we should be having?

Please share your thoughts below. Thank you.


  1. Love Bill Bennett and love MIA. Didn't know this blog followed. Thank you for putting this up. It's a very strong piece and I missed it this morning.

  2. I like that you shared this. It is very relevant and brings up great points, all of which I agree with. And if you made that gas cap cover and sold it at the Elephant in the Room store, I'd buy it.

    Ted K

  3. Ted K - Lol, thank you.

    I'm surprised you know about The Elephant in the Room store. That's awesome, though we really don't sell much at all.

    I don't think I can take Mr. Leibsohn's idea, but there are other great products at the store:

    Thanks again.

  4. Very good read and well said.

    I do have to disagree though with one lightly mentioned aspect. I’ll always have trouble with the idea of how in the same breath, one can point out the major problem in our deficits/debt but still criticize reducing the size of our military.

    There’s no question that no matter what kind of deficit reduction plan we make, it has to include cuts to the military. If there’s disagreement in how we should cut back, that’s of course a different story. But they have to be made, just like entitlement reform has to be on the table for any serious address of our debt.

    And frankly, when it comes to cutting our military back, I’ll always believe it’s far more important to bring more of our focus on national security to within our borders/continent as opposed to maintaining a small presence in every country in the world.

    Additionally, considering the alternative to having Obama right now also called for sending troops to Libya, Syria, and now Iran… I’m also much happier with this reality, while acknowledging it could of course still be better.

    1. RKen - good morning! I hope you had a great weekend.

      I'm personally one of probably the few republicans out there that says no spending is immune. I would favor cuts in military spending, but probably not in the same manner those on the left would. Instead of cutting flat salaries, programs, units, etc, I would infuse economists into our military leadership to work with generals on the best way to cut military spending by purging inefficiencies. The military is very inefficient, and we can maintain our combat readiness and overall effectiveness if we just eliminate waste (I've seen it first hand) an inefficiencies that are intertwined in our military (and our government for that matter).

      I think cuts across the board are needed. I think our incentive-killing entitlement program needs to slowly fizzle away, and Americans should be given the choice and freedom to plan (or not plan) their own retirement, old-age medical treatment, etc. We have so much adverse selection and moral and morale hazard because of entitlement programs, and this is truly unsustainable. People don't save for retirement any more... why? Because the gov't will take care of it for them. To me, that is an awful way to spend money, and it kills the incentive of the people to work hard and plan for themselves. But yes... gov't spending in general needs to be curbed. We wouldn't need to tax so much if we didn't spend $122,000 every second. Tax dollars back in the hands of the people and not in the hands of the government, to me, is a good thing.

  5. Great article!


    I have to disagree about the target of cuts to our military. Sure, cut the waste at the Pentagon level... and I agree that we don't need so many overseas bases. you really think it's good to cut salaries and benefits to our soldiers? Do you think it's a great idea to reduce the equipment they need on the battlefield... to remove and destroy the very weapons that have kept America, not to mention the rest of the civilized world - safe from people like those in Iran?

    How about instead we START with cutting a little (or a lot) of the massive waste in DC! No one seems to notice or care that the starting salaries of the people in Congress is $174,000 per year... not counting bennies, including (but not limited to) LIFETIME pensions and Cadillac healthcare - paid for by We The People.

    No one seems to notice or care that these same people - stay in office for term after term - and many leave with millions in their bank accounts... (okay, I find it hard to believe, but...maybe they're VERY good with their OWN money... just not OURS)

    No one seems to notice or care that the rolls of bureaucratic Big Government 'czars' and employees - with similar benefits - have ballooned under this administration.

    I don't know about others - but when forced to make budget adjustments in OUR family... we START with those things that are a) expensive and b) we can do without.

    Yes, we need to trim the fat from our military... Obama's 'plan' borders on anorexia.

    @LME - Again, thanks for the great read!

  6. For those who havent't listened to Bill's show and can't get it locally, you can get it online as his website. I work for a state agency in Florida and can tell you that the ignorance of which Seth speaks is but the 'tip of the iceberg'. The show is everything the publisher describes.

    We cannot stand on the sidelines any longer...who ever you prefer in the primaries, you must vote in the General Election. We can only blame ourselves for the current catastrophe if the number of people who sat on the sidelines and didn't vote for McCain would have overturned the election. Are you one who did? Do you know one who did? And....if you know someone who voted the 'other way' as an 'independent'...get them to listen to Bill's it out, for yourself and for will give you hope and energy and weapons to fight this battle to take back our country.

  7. @Anonymous - Thanks for the information. I'll certainly log on to the website.

    I did vote in the last election, (McCain) and in 2010 (against Harry Reid - again!). Unfortunately, here in NV, in addition to a sad excuse for an (R) Senate candidate - we were over-run by illegals voting (w/ACORN's help and support) and 'broken' voting machines (no matter who you chose - Reid got the checkmark!) 'repaired' by union thugs. Along with union members in the south - threatened with their jobs, should they NOT vote Dirty Harry.

    We got our R governor and one (so far so good) R senator. It's too soon to tell about our new Rep Amodei (special election)... he voted yes on NDAA (all of them from NV did) - so they bear watching.

    I bug friends and relatives on a regular basis re: the importance of this next election, and now have our daughter and her friends following conservative blogs, radio shows and websites... one down - a jillion to go!

    Thanks again.